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Update August 2016


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Experts: Mexico storms led to deaths of millions of monarchs

A guide holds up a damaged and dying butterfly at the monarch butterfly reserve in Piedra Herrada, Mexico State, Mexico.
(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Mark Stevenson

Mexico City (AP) — Storms earlier this year blew down more than a hundred acres of forests where migrating monarch butterflies spend the winter in central Mexico, killing more than 7 percent of the monarchs, experts reported Tuesday.

Rain, cold and high winds from the storms caused the loss of 133 acres (54 hectares) of pine and fir trees in the forests west of Mexico City, more than four times the amount lost to illegal logging this year. It was the biggest storm-related loss since the winter of 2009-10, when unusually heavy rainstorms and mudslides caused the destruction of 262 acres (106 hectares) of trees.

This year's storm also appears to have frozen or killed about 6.2 million butterflies, almost 7.4 percent of the estimated 84 million butterflies that wintered in Mexico, said Alejandro Del Mazo, the attorney general for environmental protection.

"Never had we observed such a combination of high winds, rain and freezing temperatures," monarch expert Lincoln Brower said of the storms, which struck March 8-9.

Two big storm losses within five years may suggest changes in the climatic conditions that have allowed the survival of patches of mountaintop forests. An additional 16 acres (6.5 hectares) of trees were lost to drought this year.

"This points up just how fragile these forests are, and how fragile the monarchs are, and it makes clear the importance of reforestation efforts," said Omar Vidal, director of the conservation group World Wildlife Fund Mexico, which carried out the forest survey along with experts from Mexico's National Autonomous University and the government.

The monarchs depend on finding relatively well-preserved forests, where millions of the orange-and-black butterflies hang in clumps from the boughs. The trees, and the clumping, help protect the butterflies from cold rains and steep drops in temperature.

That is why illegal logging in the 33,484-acre (13,551-hectare) nucleus of the reserve is so damaging. Conservationists have tried to convince the largely impoverished farm and mountain communities which actually own most of the land that the forest is worth more to them in terms of tourism when left standing instead of being cut down.

In April, Mexico's government announced it would create a special national police squad to patrol nature reserves and fight environmental crimes. While the force has not yet formally deployed, illegal logging in the monarch reserve dropped this year, from almost 49.4 acres (20 hectares) in 2015 to about 29.6 acres (12 hectares).

Unlike in past years, when most logging was done in the farming communities, about three-quarters of the tree-cutting this year occurred on public lands in the reserve's core area — precisely the kind of terrain that environmental police could most effectively protect.

"This is why we insist that illegal logging in the reserve has to be eliminated, and that the destruction of (the butterfly's) milkweed habitat in the United States has to be stopped, so that the monarchs have the ability to better respond to these extreme climate events" like the March storms, Vidal said.

Brower criticized authorities' decision to quickly approve "salvage" logging of trees downed by the storms, suggesting it strengthened logging interests and disturbs the forest's chances for natural regrowth.

He wrote that the "decision to authorize the very extensive salvage logging was possibly the worst management mistake that could have been made."

Environmentalist and author Homero Aridjis said, "The negative impacts of this logging on the forest cover will become all too apparent when the monarchs begin arriving (usually in November) just as the 'salvaging' comes to an end. "

"The Mexican government should be taking measures to mitigate the probable effects of climate change on the reserve, instead of turning a blind eye to illegal logging, such as the virtual clear-cutting" of the forest on government-owned land, Aridjis wrote.

The damage comes after a rebound for the monarch. The area covered by the butterflies this winter was more than 3 1/2 times that of a year earlier. They clump so densely in the pine and fir forests that they are counted by the area they cover rather than by individual insects.

The number of monarchs making the 3,400-mile (5,500-kilometer) migration from the United States and Canada had been declining steadily before recovering in 2014. This winter was even better. In December, the butterflies covered 10 acres (about 4 hectares), compared to 2.8 acres (1.13 hectares) in 2014 and a record low of 1.66 acres (0.67 hectares) in 2013. That is still well below the 44 acres (18 hectares) they covered 20 years ago.


Seoul: North Korea fires submarine-launched missile

In this May 31, 2016, file photo, a man watches a TV news program in Seoul, South Korea reporting about a missile launch by North Korea. Seoul; says the North fired a submarine launched missile, Wednesday, August 24 off the eastern coastal town of Sinpo that flew about 500 kilometers before crashing into the Sea of Japan. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Hyung-Jin Kim

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday fired a ballistic missile from a submarine into the sea in an apparent protest against the start of annual South Korea-U.S. military drills, Seoul's military said.

The missile fired from a submarine off the eastern coastal town of Sinpo flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles), the longest flight of a North Korean submarine-launched missile, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. U.S. Strategic Command said it had tracked the North Korean submarine launch of the presumed KN-11 missile over and into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea fired two other missiles from submarines earlier this year but they were believed to have exploded in midair after flying several kilometers, according to South Korean defense officials.

The North acquiring the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be an alarming development because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance. The U.S. Strategic Command statement said the North Korean launch did not pose a threat to North America but that the U.S. military "remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations."

North Korea's missile and nuclear programs are a source of regional security concerns. Outside experts say the North doesn't yet have a reliable long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. but they acknowledge the North has been making steady progress on its weapons programs and could one day acquire such a weapon.

Some civilian experts said they believe the North already has the technology to put warheads on shorter-range missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan.

Wednesday's launch comes two days after the U.S. and South Korea began their 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, prompting North Korean threats of retaliation.

The South Korean military statement said it considers the North Korean missile launch as an "armed protest" against the military drills and a challenge to peace on the Korean Peninsula. It also noted that the launch violated U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban any ballistic missile activities by North Korea.

The launch also comes at a time of intensified animosities between the rival Koreas over the defection of a senior North Korean diplomat in London and a U.S. plan to install a sophisticated missile defense system in South Korea.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

North Korea usually responds to the regular South Korea-U.S. military drills with weapons tests and fiery warlike rhetoric.
 


Obama vows support for Louisiana after the 'cameras leave'

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with Quincy Snowden as he tours Castle Place, a flood-damaged area of Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kevin Freking

Zachary, La. (AP) — Standing amid piles of waterlogged debris, President Barack Obama on Tuesday promised a sustained national effort to rebuild flood-ravaged southern Louisiana "even after the TV cameras leave" on a visit aimed in part at stemming campaign-season criticism that he's been slow to respond to the disaster.

As he toured a battered neighborhood and spoke to local officials, Obama tried to buck up beleaguered residents of the water-soaked region.

"This is not a one-off, this is not a photo-op issue. I need all Americans to stay focused on this," he said. "I know how resilient the people of Louisiana are and I know that you will rebuild again."

Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Obama's visit was a reminder of the political dangers and opportunities natural disasters pose for politicians. The president has been criticized for waiting until after he returned from his New England vacation to tour the Gulf Coast flooding. The timing, amid a heated presidential campaign, drew barbs from some local officials and Republicans political opponents, including GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump visited Baton Rouge on Friday, enjoying a warm reception and allowing him to cast the president as golfing while Louisianans suffered. It was a sentiment echoed by many in the area, many of whom have said they feel their plight has been ignored by the media.

"Too little too late," Mona Gaspard said of Obama's visit. The resident of Ascension Parish said she saw her home filled with 4 feet of water and resented what she saw from Obama. "I saw him play golf, not helping out over here. Trump was over here, but he wasn't," she said.

Others welcomed Obama and the spotlight he brought.

"It means a lot to know you have that support from the highest level," said Chrisena Brown, as the president surveyed the piles of discarded mattresses, broken appliances and heaps of clothing that line the curbs of her street. The college administrator says she's staying with family while she cleans up, working late into the night in stifling humidity.

Going door to door and trailed by cameras, Obama offered sympathy to residents as they took a break from the cleanup.

"I wish I was coming at a better time," he told one resident, as he put his arm around her and walked into her home for a brief tour. "But I'm glad to see everybody is safe, at least."

Obama is hardly new to the potent politics such moments. As a candidate in 2008, he was a sharp critic of President George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. And in 2012, the year of his re-election effort, he rushed to Louisiana to show solidarity with victims of Hurricane Isaac.

Now a president eying the end of his second term, Obama was neither emotional nor particularly defensive in relaying his message to residents. He said flatly he doesn't "worry too much about politics" and that he is focused on improving the speed and efficiency of the federal response.

The White House said $127 million in federal aid had been designated for temporary rental assistance, essential home repairs, and flood insurance payments. More than 115,000 people have registered for federal disaster aid, with the state saying $20 million has been distributed to individuals so far. At least 40 state highways remained closed.

Louisiana officials aimed for bipartisan support and unity as they turned to the task of rounding up federal money for their state. A large group of officials met the president at the airport, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat; Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican; and Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy and David Vitter.

In a letter to Obama, Edwards asked the president to reduce Louisiana's share of the response costs from 25 percent to 10 percent, to fully cover the Louisiana National Guard's response costs and to seek disaster block grant aid for the state from Congress.

The governor estimated flooding has ravaged "well over 100,000 homes" across south Louisiana — on top of 29,000 homes that received damage in a March flood in northern parts of the state.

Edwards had said Obama was better off timing his visit until after the cleanup was underway, so as not to pull resources away from the effort. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton issued a statement Monday saying she would visit "at a time when the presence of a political campaign will not disrupt the response, to discuss how we can and will rebuild together."

Before leaving Louisiana, Obama paid another visit he has been criticized for delaying. The president met privately with the family of Alton Sterling, a black man whose death last month in a police shooting sparked protests and mass arrests. Obama also met with the families of officers killed or injured nearly two weeks later by a gunman, apparently in response to Sterling's killing, the White House said.

Obama was criticized for not visiting Baton Rouge after those two incidents, although he went to Dallas to eulogize five police officers killed in another attack targeting law enforcement.


Turkey, Syrian Kurds on track for conflict in northern Syria

A Turkish army tank and an armored vehicle are stationed near the border with Syria, in Karkamis, Turkey, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016. (IHA via AP)

Suzan Fraser, Philip Issa

Ankara, Turkey (AP) — Turkey signaled Tuesday it would step up its engagement in the Syrian war, as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels massed along the border to assault one of the last Syrian frontier towns held by Islamic State militants.

Foreign Minister Mevlet Cavusolgu pledged "every kind" of support for operations against IS along a 100-kilometer (62-mile) stretch of Syrian frontier, putting the NATO member on track for a confrontation with U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, who have been the most effective force against IS and who are eyeing the same territory.

Cavusolgu said Turkey would support twin operations stretching from the Syrian town of Afrin in the northwest, which is already controlled by Kurdish forces, to Jarablus, in the central north, which is held by the Islamic State group.

"It is important that the terror organizations are cleansed from the region," Cavusolgu said in a joint news conference with his Hungarian counterpart.

Turkish artillery shelled Jarablus for the second consecutive day as reports circulated that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were preparing to storm the town, a vital supply line and the last border point that directly connects the Islamic State group with Turkey and the outside world.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said some 500 Syrian rebels were massed on the Turkish side of the border in preparation for an assault, including local fighters from Jarablus. One rebel at the border told the BBC the number was as high as 1,500 fighters.

The latest developments have thrust the town into the spotlight of the ongoing Syrian civil war. Jarablus, which lies on the western bank of the Euphrates River where it crosses from Turkey into Syria, is one of the last important IS-held towns standing between Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria.

Located 20 miles (33 kilometers) from the town of Manbij, which was liberated from IS by Kurdish-led forces earlier this month, taking control of Jarablus and the IS-held town of al-Bab to the south would be a significant step toward linking up border areas under Kurdish control east and west of the Euphrates River.

Turkey has increased security measures on its border with Syria, deploying tanks and armored personnel carriers in recent days. On Tuesday, residents of the Turkish town of Karkamis, across the border from Jarablus, were told to evacuate after three mortars believed to be fired by IS militants landed there, Turkey's Dogan news agency said.

Turkey has vowed to fight IS militants at home and to "cleanse" the group from its borders after a weekend suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding in southern Turkey killed at least 54 people, many of them children. Turkish officials have blamed IS for the attack.

Ankara is also concerned about the growing power of U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces, who it says are linked to Kurdish groups waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

The Kurdish-led group known as the Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, recaptured Manbij from IS earlier this month, triggering concerns in Ankara that Kurdish forces would seize the entire border strip with Turkey. The U.S. says it has embedded some 300 special forces with the SDF, and British special forces have also been spotted advising the group.

Syrian activists, meanwhile, said that hundreds of Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters were gathered in the Turkish border area near Karkamis in preparation for an attack on Jarablus.

Nasser Haj Mansour, an SDF official on the Syrian side of the border, said the fighters gathering in Turkey include "terrorists" as well as Turkish special forces. He declined to comment on whether the SDF would send fighters to the town, but an SDF statement said the Syrian Kurdish force was "prepared to defend the country against any plans for a direct or indirect occupation."

The reports and rhetoric appeared to set up a confrontation between the SDF, the most effective U.S. proxy in Syria, and NATO ally Turkey.

A rebel commander affiliated with the SDF was killed shortly after broadcasting a statement announcing the formation of the so-called Jarablus Military Council and vowing to protect civilians in Jarablus from Turkish "aggression."

Abdel-Sattar al-Jader was shot by unknown gunmen late Monday, an hour after he accused Turkey of mobilizing fighters and "terrorists" for an assault on Jarablus. Al-Jader had pledged to resist Turkish efforts to take control of the city and warned Ankara against further aggression.

The Jarablus Military Council blamed the killing on Turkish security agents. There was no immediate comment from Turkey. Haj Mansour said two suspects were in custody but declined to comment on their identities.

The Kurds' outsized role in the Syrian civil war is a source of concern for the Syrian government as well. Fierce clashes erupted between the two sides over control of the northeastern province of Hasakeh last week, and Syrian warplanes bombed Kurdish positions for the first time, prompting the U.S. to scramble its jets to protect American troops in the area.

The Syrian government and the Kurds agreed on a cease-fire Tuesday, six days after the clashes erupted. The Kurdish Hawar News Agency said government forces agreed to withdraw from Hasakeh as part of the truce.

Syrian state media did not mention any withdrawal, saying only that the two sides had agreed to evacuate the wounded and exchange detainees. Government and Kurdish forces have shared control of Hasakeh since the early years of the Syrian war.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army and its allies intensified their attacks on militant positions around the so-called military college in the northern city of Aleppo.

A video obtained by The Associated Press showed air raids, shelling and firing on the complex, which was taken over by al-Qaida-affiliated fighters earlier this month. Plumes of smoke were seen billowing overhead.

Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in emailed comments on Tuesday that Russia and the Syrian government will announce "the first 48-hour humanitarian break in hostilities" in Aleppo as soon as they receive an official request from the U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.
 


Rio police expand scalping probe of Irish Olympic Council

Ireland's Olympic secretary general Dermot Henihan arrives at police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 23. Rio police are interrogating three of Ireland's top Olympic executives as a ticket scalping investigation widens even after the Summer Games ended. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Adriana Gomez Licon

Rio de Janeiro (AP) — The man named to head Ireland's Olympic committee after its president was arrested in a ticket-scalping case during the Rio Games is also suspected of participating in the scheme but left Brazil before he could be questioned, police said Tuesday.

Authorities said William O'Brien, who took responsibility for the Irish committee after Patrick Hickey was detained last week, departed from Brazil one day before authorities obtained a warrant to seize his passport and mobile devices in a Sunday raid.

"There are a lot of messages mentioning William O'Brien along with Patrick Hickey," Aloysio Falcao, one of the investigators in the case, said after a news conference.

Falcao said Brazilian investigators will be requesting help from the Irish government.

Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland and a member of the International Olympic Committee's executive board, is being held in Rio's Bangu prison complex as the investigation expands.

Charged with conspiracy, ticket scalping and ambush marketing, Hickey is accused of plotting with other members of the Ireland committee and two companies to sell tickets above face value in a scheme that authorities say could have netted about $3 million in profits. More than 1,000 tickets have been seized in the investigation.

Authorities say the Irish company Pro 10 Sports Management was created to facilitate the transfer of tickets between that country's committee and an unauthorized vendor called THG Sports that would sell them for high fees disguised as hospitality services. THG Sports was accused of a similar scheme in the World Cup.

Investigators determined last week that the choice of Pro 10 as the authorized ticket reseller for Ireland was a joint decision by the Irish committee.

On Sunday, hours before the Rio Games' closing ceremony, police executed search warrants at the Olympic Village to seize passports and other items from three members of the Ireland committee, including Ireland team leader Kevin Kilty, chief executive Stephen Martin and secretary-general Dermot Henihan. Police confiscated 228 tickets for the ceremony from Kilty's room.

Henihan appeared at police headquarters Tuesday to answer questions. Investigators said they had ruled out his involvement in the alleged scheme, saying there was no evidence.

Kilty and Martin had been expected to also testify Tuesday, but officials said their lawyers had asked for a postponement to have more time to review documents in the case.

The investigation has been unfolding since the Olympics began Aug. 5, when the head of THG Sports was arrested with tickets allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland.

The council declined to comment Tuesday.


Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, Aug. 24, the 237th day of 2016. There are 129 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 24, A.D. 79, long-dormant Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in volcanic ash; an estimated 20,000 people died. 

On this date: 

In 1572, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of French Protestants at the hands of Catholics began in Paris. 

In 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces invaded Washington, D.C., setting fire to the Capitol (which was still under construction) and the White House, as well as other public buildings. 

In 1821, the Treaty of Cordoba (kohr-DOH'-buh) was signed, granting independence to Mexico from Spanish rule. 

In 1912, Congress passed a measure creating the Alaska Territory. Congress approved legislation establishing Parcel Post delivery by the U.S. Post Office Department, slated to begin on January 1, 1913. 

In 1932, Amelia Earhart embarked on a 19-hour flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, making her the first woman to fly solo, non-stop, from coast to coast. 

In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty came into force. 

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Communist Control Act, outlawing the Communist Party in the United States. 

In 1968, France became the world's fifth thermonuclear power as it exploded a hydrogen bomb in the South Pacific. 

In 1970, an explosives-laden van left by anti-war extremists blew up outside the University of Wisconsin's Sterling Hall in Madison, killing 33-year-old researcher Robert Fassnacht. 

In 1981, Mark David Chapman was sentenced in New York to 20 years to life in prison for murdering John Lennon. (Chapman remains imprisoned.) 

In 1989, Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti (juh-MAH'-tee) banned Pete Rose from the game for betting on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds. 

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida, causing $30 billion in damage; 43 U.S. deaths were blamed on the storm. 

Ten years ago: The International Astronomical Union declared that Pluto was no longer a full-fledged planet, demoting it to the status of a "dwarf planet"; Patricia Tombaugh, the widow of Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, called the decision "disappointing" and "confusing." 

Five years ago: A defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed from hiding to fight on "until victory or martyrdom" and called on residents of the Libyan capital and loyal tribesmen across his North African nation to free Tripoli from the "devils and traitors" who had overrun it. Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple Inc.; he was succeeded by Tim Cook. Mike Flanagan, a Cy Young winner and part of the Baltimore Orioles' 1983 World Series championship team, was found dead outside his home in Monkton, Maryland; he was 59. 

One year ago: U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, their longtime friend Anthony Sadler and British businessman Chris Norman were presented with the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND'), who credited them with tackling a heavily armed attacker and preventing carnage on a high-speed train headed to Paris. Driver Justin Wilson, 37, died one day after he was struck in the head by a piece of debris during the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway. 

Today's Birthdays: Composer-musician Mason Williams is 78. Rhythm-and-blues singer Marshall Thompson (The Chi-Lites) is 74. Rock musician Ken Hensley is 71. Actress Anne Archer is 69. Actor Joe Regalbuto is 67. Actor Kevin Dunn is 61. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is 61. Actor-writer Stephen Fry is 59. Actor Steve Guttenberg is 58. Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is 56. Actor Jared Harris is 55. Talk show host Craig Kilborn is 54. CBS News correspondent Major Garrett is 54. Rock singer John Bush is 53. Actress Marlee Matlin is 51. Basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miller is 51. Broadcast journalist David Gregory is 46. Country singer Kristyn Osborn (SHeDaisy) is 46. Movie director Ava DuVernay is 44. Actor-comedian Dave Chappelle is 43. Actor James D'Arcy is 43. Actor Carmine Giovinazzo is 43. Actor Alex O'Loughlin is 40. Actress Beth Riesgraf is 38. Actor Chad Michael Murray is 35. Christian rock musician Jeffrey Gilbert (Kutless) is 33. Singer Mika is 33. Actor Blake Berris is 32. Actor Rupert Grint ("Harry Potter" films) is 28. 

Thought for Today: "Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things." — Lawrence D. Bell, American aircraft manufacturer (1894-1956).   

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Sarkozy to run for French presidency next year

France’s conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy has formally announced he is running again to become French president in next year's elections. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Sylvie Corbet

Paris (AP) — France's former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy announced Monday he is running for the presidency again in next year's elections, an awaited move that is expected to lead to a tough battle with rivals from his own camp.

In an extract of a book released on his Facebook page and Twitter account, Sarkozy wrote: "I have decided to be a candidate to the 2017 presidential election."

"I've felt I had the force to wage this battle at a so tormented time of history," he added.

Sarkozy, 61, is expected to lead a campaign based on hardline ideas on immigration and security in a country marked by recent attacks carried out by Islamist extremists.

The attacks have prompted a national debate about the place of Islam — France's No. 2 religion — in a strictly secular society. With his strategy, Sarkozy hopes to grab some votes from the far-right National Front, whose leader Marine Le Pen has already announced her candidacy for the presidency.

In recent interviews, Sarkozy has said he wants to widen the 2004 ban on the Muslim headscarf in public schools to also include universities. In the name of secularism, he has also said he opposes pork-free options proposed by many school canteens for Muslim and Jewish children, and he has suggested that children born in France to parents staying illegally in the country shouldn't be granted French nationality.

Sarkozy must first win the primaries organized by the French right in November where he's expected to face tough competition.

The former prime minister under Jacques Chirac in the 1990s, Alain Juppe, 71, is the current favorite in the polls. Other contenders from the conservative party include Sarkozy's own former prime minister, Francois Fillon.

Sarkozy lost the presidential election to Socialist Francois Hollande in 2012 after his first term.

When he left the Elysee Palace, he said he was leaving politics and would find a different way to serve his country.

Yet he made a successful comeback in 2014, winning the leadership of the conservative party, known at the time as the UMP. He explained he was moved to return to politics by the "hopelessness, anger and lack of future" that he sensed among the French. Since then the party changed its name to "the Republicans."

Since 2010, Sarkozy's name has been mentioned in several legal cases relating to corruption and influence-peddling, but he has never been convicted of wrongdoing or been sent to trial. Last February he was handed preliminary charges for suspected illegal overspending on his failed 2012 re-election campaign.

The French presidential election will take place in two rounds in April and May next year.

The race remains wide open with primaries to be organized by the left in January. Unpopular Hollande has not said if he will run for re-election.


Typhoon Mindulle shuts Tokyo's Narita airport control tower

People walk in a strong winds caused by Typhoon Mindulle, in Tokyo Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. (Akiko Matsushita/Kyodo News via AP)

Tokyo (AP) — Strong winds from a typhoon forced air traffic controllers to temporarily abandon the control tower at Narita International Airport on Monday, shutting down one of Tokyo's two main airports for about an hour. Hundreds of domestic flights were canceled at the city's other major airport.

Narita was closed at 2:20 p.m. after the controllers left the tower when wind speeds reached 126 kilometers (78 miles) per hour, said a Transport Ministry official at the airport who would give only his surname, Matsumoto. The airport reopened around an hour later.

It was the first time the tower had been closed because of a typhoon. It closed once before, because of shaking during the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami in March 2011.

Typhoon Mindulle, which made landfall south of Tokyo early Monday afternoon, brought heavy rain and strong winds to Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Eleven people were injured, three seriously, said Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

South of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture, a woman was unconscious after being washed away on a flooded road, and another woman, in her 80s, was blown over by strong winds and seriously injured. Further southwest on the Izu Peninsula, a man in his 30s was knocked over by winds and broke a rib bone.

Narita, which is located outside of Tokyo, said that 88 international and 34 domestic departures and arrivals had been canceled. More than 400 domestic flights were canceled to and from Tokyo's other major airport, Haneda.

Mindulle had sustained winds of 108 kilometers per hour Monday evening, down from 126 kph when it made landfall, and gusts of up to 162 kph (100 mph). It was forecast to move north over the Tohoku region and reach Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido on Tuesday.

Japanese television showed scattered damage around the region. One house had lost much of its roof. A train on a small commuter line in western Tokyo had to be evacuated after the earth under the tracks gave way, leaving the tracks, train and overhead lines tilted, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. No one was injured.

Heavy rains have swollen rivers, and authorities warned of the possibility of flooding and landslides.


Global travel spending still growing but at a slower pace

Global travel spending is still growing, although at a slower pace, according to a report Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, by the World Travel and Tourism Council. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

Scott Mayerowitz

New York (AP) — Global travel spending is still growing, although at a slower pace, despite weakening economies and fears over terrorism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council, a group backed by travel providers with the mission to promote tourism, said in a report Monday that global travel spending for 2016 is expected to grow by 3.1 percent. That is down from a March forecast of 3.3 percent but still outpacing global economic growth, which the group expects to be 2.3 percent.

Macroeconomic problems have a much bigger impact on travel than terrorist attacks, the group's president, David Scowsill, said.

"Travelers aren't going to allow isolated terrorist attacks to put them off traveling," he said. Tourists worried about safety in France have chosen Spain or Italy instead, for example.

Scowsill said destinations with tourist-specific attacks usually take two years to recover, while other types of attacks lead to a faster resumption of travel.

Other travel groups are also seeing the slowdown in travel spending.

The International Air Transport Association recently noted that while more people are flying, the upward trend "has moderated since January" and the percent of seats occupied has actually slipped slightly.

"The fragile and uncertain economic backdrop, political shocks and a wave of terrorist attacks are all contributing to a softer demand environment," said the group's head, Tony Tyler, in a statement.

And back in April, the Global Business Travel Association warned of slowing volume from U.S.- originating business travelers.

Of course, not each part of the world is facing the same growth or problems. The World Travel and Tourism Council breaks down expected 2016 travel spending this way:

— South Asia leads growth at 5.9 percent, driven by strong economic prospects in India.

— Latin America is expected to be the worst performer, with an anticipated decline of 0.9 percent, driven by weakness in Brazil.

— Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia are seen growing at 4.7 percent and 4 percent respectively, stimulated by China growing at 6.3 percent.

— North America matches the global growth rate of 3.1 percent.

— Europe is expected to face challenges and only grow by 2.2 percent.

It's a different story in the United Kingdom, which recently voted to leave the European Union. Growth there is actually expected to exceed the rest of Europe at 3.6 percent. The travel group expects weaker domestic spending and a 3 percent drop in outbound U.K. trips. However, it expects all of that to be offset by higher spending in the U.K. by international visitors benefiting from greater spending power as a result of the weaker British pound.


Trump vows 'fair, but firm' approach to illegal immigration

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is signaling that he is ready to tone down his fiery rhetoric on illegal immigration - at least behind closed doors. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Jill Colvin, Jonathan Lemire

Akron, Ohio (AP) — Republican Donald Trump promised Monday to be "fair, but firm" toward the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally, a shift in tone that raised questions on whether he's backtracking from previous pledges to push for mass deportations.

The billionaire businessman, whose hard-line approach to immigration and fierce rhetoric propelled him to the GOP presidential nomination, insisted that he's not "flip-flopping" on the divisive issue as he works to broaden his support two-and-a-half months before the general election.

But in a meeting with Hispanic activists Saturday, Trump indicated he was open to considering allowing those who have not committed crimes, beyond their immigration offenses, to obtain some form of legal status — though attendees stressed Trump has yet to make up his mind.

"The impression I got was that the campaign is working on substantive policy to help the undocumented that are here, including some type of status so they would not be deported," said Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition, who was in attendance.

Any walk-back would mark a dramatic reversal for Trump. During the GOP primary, Trump vowed to use a "deportation force" to round up and deport the millions of people living in the country illegally — a proposal that excited many of his core supporters, but alienated Hispanic voters who could be pivotal in key states.

Trump said in an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Monday that he was "working with a lot of people in the Hispanic community to try and come up with an answer."

"We want to come up with a really fair, but firm answer. It has to be very firm. But we want to come up with something fair," he said.

Later, he told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, "I just want to follow the law."

"The first thing we're gonna do, if and when I win, is we're gonna get rid of all of the bad ones. We've got gang members, we have killers, we have a lot of bad people that have to get out of this country. We're gonna get them out," he said.

"As far as everybody else, we're going to go through the process," he said, citing the policies of President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush as examples.

Asked whether Trump's plan still included a deportation force, his new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Sunday it was "to be determined."

"Even Sen. Jeff Sessions," a hard-liner on immigration, "he doesn't deport 11 million people in his plan," Conway said on CNBC Monday.

Trump had been scheduled to deliver a speech on the topic Thursday in Colorado, but has postponed it.

There have been signs for weeks now that Trump was shifting course. Hispanic business and religious leaders who would like to see Trump move in a more inclusive direction have reported closed-door conversations with Trump in which they say he has signaled possibly embracing a less punitive immigration policy that focuses on "compassion" along with the rule of law.

At last month's GOP convention, the Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic communications, Helen Aguirre Ferre, told reporters at a Spanish-language briefing that Trump had already said he "will not do massive deportations" — despite the fact that Trump had never said so publicly.

Instead, Aguirre Ferre said, "he will focus on removing the violent undocumented who have criminal records and live in the country."

Indeed, Trump's first television ad of the general election specifically singles out illegal immigrants with criminal records, claiming that, if Clinton is elected, "Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay."

Trump's campaign has pushed back on the notion that he's reversing course. "Mr. Trump said nothing today that he hasn't said many times before, including in his convention speech," rapid response director Steven Cheung said after the meeting.

At a rally in Akron, Ohio, Monday evening, many Trump supporters seemed unfazed by Trump's potential shift.

"Mr. Trump is a smart man who uses common sense," said Jennifer Carter, a small business owner from Barberton, Ohio. "He knows he can't break up families and round up people on buses to kick them out."

But Robin Luich, 52, a stay-at-home mother from Medina, Ohio, said those who've broken the law should be permanently barred. "There can be no exceptions. If you are here illegally, you have to stay out." she said.

When asked how she would feel if Trump softened his stance to allow some illegal immigrants to remain, she said: "That would be a disappointment. That's not what he is supposed to be about."

And amid talk of a shift, Trump made clear he had no interest in compromising another piece of his immigration plan — a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We're going to build the wall, folks," Trump said at the rally. "That wall will go up so fast your head will spin. You're going to say 'He meant it!'"

Clinton, meanwhile, is spending the next three days fundraising across California. She'll stop by the home of actors Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel in Los Angeles, address donors with NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson in Beverly Hills and join Apple CEO Tim Cook and other business leaders in Silicon Valley.

But Clinton's email scandal continues to haunt her. In the latest revelations, the State Department said Monday it is reviewing nearly 15,000 previously undisclosed emails. They were recovered as part of the FBI's now-closed investigation into the handling of sensitive information that flowed through Clinton's private home server during her time as secretary of state.

Lawyers for the department said they anticipate releasing the first batch of these new emails in mid-October, raising the prospect new messages sent or received by Democratic nominee could become public just before Election Day.


Turkey vows to 'cleanse' border of IS after deadly attack

People carry a victim's coffin Sunday, August 21 as they attend funeral services for dozens of people killed in last Saturday's bomb attack targeting an outdoor wedding party in Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey. (AP Photo/Mahmut Bozarslan)

Suzan Fraser

Ankara, Turkey (AP) — Turkey vowed Monday to fight Islamic State militants at home and to "cleanse" the group from its borders after a weekend suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding, an attack that came amid recent gains by Syrian Kurdish militia forces against the extremists in neighboring Syria.

The bombing Saturday in the southern city of Gaziantep, near the border with Syria, killed at least 54 people — many of them children. Nearly 70 others were wounded in the attack, the deadliest in Turkey this year.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but officials said it appeared to be the work of the Islamic State group. Authorities were trying to identify the attacker, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan initially said was a child. However, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday that it was unclear whether the bomber was "a child or a grown-up."

"A clue has not yet been found concerning the perpetrator," Yildirim told reporters following a weekly Cabinet meeting. He said the earlier assertion that the attacker was child was a "guess" based on witness accounts.

At least 22 of those killed were children younger than 14, according to a Turkish official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government rules.

The attack came after the Syria Democratic Forces, a coalition led by the main Kurdish militia groups in Syria, captured the former IS stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.

"It appears to be an act to punish the PYD," said Nihat Ali Ozcan a security and terrorism expert at the Ankara-based Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, referring to a Syrian Kurdish group whose militia is fighting IS. "It's the cross-border settlement of scores by two actors fighting in Syria."

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Monday that Turkey would press ahead with its fight against the Islamic State group inside Turkey and support efforts to remove IS fighters from its borders.

"Our border has to be completely cleansed of Daesh," Cavusoglu said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremists. IS "martyred our ... citizens. It is natural for us to struggle against such an organization both inside and outside of Turkey."

Cavusoglu said Turkey had become a main IS target because of measures it has implemented to stop recruits from crossing into Syria to join the fighting, as well as hundreds of arrests of IS suspects in Turkey.

"Turkey has always been Daesh's primary target, because Turkey has dried out the source of Daesh's supply of foreign fighters. ... It has stopped them from crossing into Syria," he said.

The deadly attack also came amid ongoing struggles between the government and Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, known as the PKK, and as the country was still reeling from the aftermath of last month's failed coup attempt, which the government has blamed on a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, and his followers.

The bombing follows a suspected IS attack in June on Istanbul's main airport that killed 44 people; a double suicide bombing blamed on IS at a peace rally in Turkey's capital, Ankara, in October killed 103 people.

Ozcan, the security expert, said Saturday's attack was likely carried out by a local IS cell whose members would have known the wedding was a Kurdish one and targeted the wedding party for the "shock" value.

The bride and groom, who survived the bombing, urged authorities to act to prevent future bloodshed.

"They turned our best day to hell. We have no relatives left. They all died," said the groom, Nurettin Akdogan. "I hope this will be the last one. Let no one else get hurt."

"From now on, find a solution," added the bride, Besna Akdogan, sobbing.

One of the wedding guests, Nursel Saglam, was on a rooftop overlooking the outdoor celebrations when the bomb went off. When she looked down after the explosion, everyone below was hurt or dead, she said.

"I can't forget that moment," she said, adding that she hasn't been able to return to her house near the scene of the attack and was staying with her sister.

Halil Ilter said he was at home when he heard the blast and rushed to the scene to check on his relatives.

"I cannot recount what I saw," said Ilter, who lost five young cousins. "I am not myself since. There is nothing to say. It was murder."

"My uncle's children died. They were aged 13, 14. One was only 5," he said.


Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Aug. 23, the 236th day of 2016. There are 130 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 23, 1926, legendary silent film star Rudolph Valentino died in New York at age 31.

On this date:

In 1305, Scottish rebel leader Sir William Wallace was executed by the English for treason.

In 1775, Britain's King George III proclaimed the American colonies to be in a state of "open and avowed rebellion."

In 1858, "Ten Nights in a Bar-room," a play by Timothy Shay Arthur about the perils of alcohol, opened in New York.

In 1913, Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue, inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story, was unveiled in the harbor of the Danish capital.

In 1914, Japan declared war against Germany in World War I.

In 1927, amid protests, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed in Boston for the murders of two men during a 1920 robbery.

In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to a non-aggression treaty, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in Moscow.

In 1944, Romanian Prime Minister Ion Antonescu was dismissed by King Michael, paving the way for Romania to abandon the Axis in favor of the Allies.

In 1960, Broadway librettist Oscar Hammerstein (HAM'-ur-STYN') II, 65, died in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

In 1973, a bank robbery-turned-hostage-taking began in Stockholm, Sweden; the four hostages ended up empathizing with their captors, a psychological condition now referred to as "Stockholm Syndrome."

In 1982, Lebanon's parliament elected Christian militia leader Bashir Gemayel president. (However, Gemayel was assassinated some three weeks later.)

In 1989, in a case that inflamed racial tensions in New York, Yusuf Hawkins, a 16-year-old black teen, was shot dead after he and his friends were confronted by a group of white youths in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. (Gunman Joey Fama was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison; he will be eligible for parole in 2022.)

Ten years ago: A previously unknown militant group released the first video of two Fox News journalists who'd been kidnapped in Gaza. (Reporter Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were later freed.) The Citadel released the results of a survey in which almost 20 percent of female cadets reported being sexually assaulted since enrolling at the South Carolina military college. Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died in Ventura, California, at age 78.

Five years ago: A pair of judges in New York put an end to the sensational sexual assault case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, setting him free after prosecutors questioned the credibility of the hotel housekeeper who'd accused the French diplomat. A magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered near Mineral, Virginia, the strongest on the East Coast since 1944, caused cracks in the Washington Monument and damaged Washington National Cathedral.

One year ago: Islamic State militants destroyed a temple at ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria, realizing the worst fears of archaeologists had for the fate of the 2,000-year-old Roman-era city after the extremists seized it and beheaded a local scholar. The United Arab Emirates said its military had freed a British hostage, Robert Douglas Semple, who was kidnapped 18 months earlier ago by al-Qaida in Yemen. Ohio State became the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll. Roger Federer remained perfect in Cincinnati finals, winning an unprecedented seventh championship, 7-6 (1), 6-3, while denying Novak Djokovic the one title that had always eluded him.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Vera Miles is 86. Actress Barbara Eden is 85. Political satirist Mark Russell is 84. Pro Football Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen is 82. Actor Richard Sanders is 76. Ballet dancer Patricia McBride is 74. Former Surgeon General Antonia Novello is 72. Pro Football Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright is 71. Country singer Rex Allen Jr. is 69. Actor David Robb is 69. Singer Linda Thompson is 69. Actress Shelley Long is 67. Actor-singer Rick Springfield is 67. Country singer-musician Woody Paul (Riders in the Sky) is 67. Queen Noor of Jordan is 65. Actor-producer Mark Hudson is 65. Actor Skipp Sudduth is 60. Retired MLB All-Star pitcher Mike Boddicker is 59. Rock musician Dean DeLeo (Army of Anyone; Stone Temple Pilots) is 55. Country musician Ira Dean (Trick Pony) is 47. Actor Jay Mohr is 46. Actor Ray Park is 42. Actor Scott Caan is 40. Country singer Shelly Fairchild is 39. Figure skater Nicole Bobek is 39. Rock singer Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) is 38. Retired NBA player Kobe Bryant is 38. Actress Joanne Froggatt is 36. Neo-soul musician Andy Wild is 35. Actress Annie Ilonzeh is 33. Dance musician Sky Blu is 30. Actress Kimberly Matula is 28. NBA player Jeremy Lin is 28.

Thought for Today: "A wise man without a book is like a workman with no tools." — Moroccan proverb.   

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Palestinian rocket strikes Israel, drawing Israeli reprisal

Palestinian masked members from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, hold their rocket-propelled grenade launchers during a rally along the street of Rafah refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Sunday, Aug. 21. Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades". (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Sunday, targeting Hamas positions in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town earlier in the day.

Palestinian Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Qidra said two Palestinians, including a 17-year-old boy, were lightly wounded.

Palestinian officials said nearly all of the airstrikes took place in northern Gaza, near the Israeli border. While most of the attacks targeted Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, one struck a military camp used by the smaller Islamic Jihad group.

Lt. Col Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the operation was meant "to bring quiet to the people of southern Israel." He accused Hamas of trying to "inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize" Israelis in the middle of the summer vacation period.

Sunday's rocket attack struck the Israeli border town of Sderot in the middle of the day and disrupted what has been a quiet summer in the volatile area. The rocket landed in a residential area, exploding next to a house. There were no injuries.

Israel responded quickly with airstrikes and tank fire, and then carried out a second round of airstrikes shortly before midnight.

Israel and Hamas fought a 50-day war in the summer of 2014. Since then, a cease-fire has largely held. But militants in Gaza occasionally launch rockets toward Israel. Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory. Despite Sunday's flareup, neither side appears to be interested in an escalation.

In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, hundreds of masked Hamas militants held a parade to mark the anniversary of the deaths of three senior members killed during the 2014 war. The camouflaged fighters displayed rockets, guns and other weapons as they marched.

Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the group's military wing, said Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, would continue its struggle against Israel until "victory is achieved."


S. Korea, US start drills despite N. Korea's nuclear threat

South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally demanding to stop the joint military exercises, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, or UFG, between the U.S. and South Korea near U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 22. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Hyung-Jin Kim

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — South Korea and the United States began annual military drills Monday despite North Korea's threat of nuclear strikes in response to the exercises that it calls an invasion rehearsal.

Such fiery rhetoric by Pyongyang is not unusual. But the latest warning comes at a time of more tension following the defection of a senior North Korean diplomat and a U.S. plan to place a high-tech defense missile system in South Korea.

The North's military said in a statement Monday that it will turn Seoul and Washington into "a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike" if they show any signs of aggression toward the North's territory.

The North's "first-strike" units are read to mount retaliatory attacks on South Korean and U.S. forces involved in the drills, according to the statement, carried by Pyongyang's state media.

South Korea's Unification Ministry expressed "strong" regret over the North's warning, saying the drills with the U.S. are defensive in nature. Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said they have no intentions of invading Pyongyang.

This year's Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills that began Monday for a 12-day run are largely computer-simulated war games. The training involves 25,000 American troops and 50,000 South Korean soldiers, according to the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

The drills come just days after Seoul announced that Thae Yong Ho, No. 2 at the North's embassy in London, had recently defected to South Korea because he was disillusioned with the North's leadership. Pyongyang's state media called him "human scum" and a criminal who had been ordered home for a series of alleged criminal acts, including sexually assaulting a minor.

South Korea's president said Monday there were signs of "serious cracks" in the North's ruling elite class, and that Pyongyang could carry out some action to divert public attention away from such domestic problems.

Many analysts said Thae's defection was an embarrassment to the North Korean government of leader Kim Jong Un, but would not weaken the unity of the country's elite class.

Previous South Korea-U.S. military drills have brought threats of war.

North Korea has already boosted such war rhetoric because of the planned deployment of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea, which Washington and Seoul says is needed because of the increasing North Korean threats.


Rio Games closes with samba-fueled Carnival

Fireworks explode above the Maracana stadium during the closing ceremony for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Peter Prengaman, Mauricio Savarese

Rio de Janeiro (AP) — Shaking to samba and sharing reflections in uniquely Brazilian ways, Olympians and fans said goodbye to the Rio Games Sunday with one last big bash that was both revelatory and a sigh of relief.

The Rio Games, the first in South America, were a 16-day spectacle that combined numerous highlight reel moments with ugly and even bizarre episodes that sometimes overshadowed the competitions. And Rio residents, known as Cariocas, were not about to let sporadic rains and strong wind gusts get in the way of a final hurrah.

"These were marvelous Olympic Games in the 'marvelous city,'" said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, playing off the "cidade maravilhosa" nickname of Brazil's postcard city of inviting coastlines, year-round sun and lush tropical vegetation.

While the stadium erupted in applause at that designation, a few minutes later there were boos of sadness when he announced: "I declare the Games of the XXXI Olympiad closed."

The closing ceremony in iconic Maracana Stadium was also meant to take care of some business — formally signaling the transition to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

But Sunday's party was all about Brazil, designed to be more low-key than the opening, which focused heavily on Rio.

The ceremony featured original footage of Alberto Santos Dumont, the man that Brazilians recognize as the inventor of the airplane. The theme, "Brazilians can do with their bare hands," was a nod to the emerging economy of the world's fifth most populous nation.

Dressed in colorful feathers, dozens of dancers formed in the shape of the arches of Lapa, a popular area of Rio akin to Roman ruins, then morphed to make the shape of iconic Sugarloaf before quickly changing again, this time to the official 2016 symbol.

Samba legend Martinho da Vila, whose tunes make their way into many popular telenovelas, sang "Carinhoso," or "Affectionate."

The athletes poured in under light rain, waving their flags while many shook their bodies to samba-infused pop that made the stadium feel like a Carnival parade. Britain's athletes wore shoes with soles that lit up in changing colors of red, white and blue, while Tongan taekwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua danced onstage in a grass skirt as a DJ performed, reprising a moment that captured attention when he carried the flag for his country during the opening ceremony.

The show widened its lens to greater Brazil, a massive country with a land mass slightly larger than the continental United States. There was a tribute to cave paintings of some of the first inhabitants of the Americas, in Serra da Capivara, in Northeastern Brazil, today the nation's poorest region.

Spectators got to see performers shake it to frevo, a frenetic dance that — if it's even possible — makes high-octane samba seem like a staid ballroom affair. Holding small umbrellas, dancers jumped and marched while performing acrobatics.

They shook it to "Vassourinhas," which means "small brooms," a popular song that was also the name of a famous club in the northeastern city of Recife.

The show also built performances around "saudade," which means anything from longing for someone to sadness to remembering good times. It is one of the most important words in Brazilian Portuguese. Lights flashed translations for the word in many languages, and a group of women sang "Mulher Rendeira," or "Lace-making Woman," a nod to the country's African heritage. Brazil was the last country in the Americas to outlaw slavery, in 1888.

The games had many memorable moments, both for Brazilian competitors at home and athletes from around the world.

Soccer-crazed Brazil got partial payback against Germany, winning gold two years after a 7-1 World Cup final shellacking that left many in Latin America's largest nation fuming. American gymnast Simone Biles asserted her dominance with four golds, swimmer Michael Phelps added five more to up his staggering total to 23 and the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, put on his usual show with three golds just days before turning 30 years old.

But there were also ugly episodes, like American swimmer Ryan Lochte's fabricated story about a harrowing robbery that was actually an intoxicated-fueled vandalism of a gas station bathroom, and bizarre issues like Olympic diving pools going from crystal blue to gunky, algae green — at a time when Rio's water quality in open waters is one of the biggest local environmental issues.

There's widespread expectation that the games in Tokyo, one of the world's richest, most recognizable, cosmopolitan cities, will run more smoothly than they have in Rio. But there's also worry in Japan over whether the Olympics will eventually further drag down an economy that has been struggling for decades.

The governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, accepted the flag from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, signaling the transition.

Many people, from Brazilians to IOC members, will analyze how things went for the Rio Games in the months ahead. But on Sunday, one strong sentiment was relief — that despite some problems, overall the games went well.

That wasn't a given going in. The Zika virus scared away some competitors and tourists, rampant street crime in Rio and recent extremist attacks around the world raised fears about safety and Brazil's political crisis, and the economic angst behind it, threatened to cast a pall over the competitions.

"We are very resilient, we didn't leave anything important unaddressed," said Augusta Porto, 36, a translator and Rio resident. "We can welcome people despite the serious problems that we have faced in the recent past."


Duterte threatens to withdraw Philippines from UN, hits US

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is shown in this Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016 file photo,. (Noel Celis/Pool Photo via AP)

Davao, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' brash-talking president threatened Sunday to withdraw his country from the United Nations and lashed out at U.S. police killings of black men in his latest outburst against critics of his anti-drug campaign, which has left hundreds of suspects dead.

President Rodrigo Duterte pointed to the haunting image of a bloodied child being pulled from the rubble of a missile-struck building in the Syrian city of Aleppo to note the inability of the U.S. and the U.N. to stop such deadly conflicts, complaining that he comes under fire for the killings of criminals.

The U.S. State Department and two U.N. human rights experts have urged Duterte and Filipino authorities to stop extrajudicial killings in the fight against illegal drugs and ensure law enforcement compliance with international human rights obligations. Philippine police say more than 500 drug suspects have been killed in gunbattles with police since Duterte was sworn in eight weeks ago.

Agnes Callamard, the new U.N. Special Rapporteur on summary executions, suggested that Philippine officials could be held liable, saying in a recent statement that "claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield state actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings."

Criticisms against Duterte's crusade against a problem that he says has become a pandemic provoked an angry outburst from Duterte, who held a news conference after midnight Saturday that dragged on for more than two hours.

"Maybe we'll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations. If you're that rude, son of a bitch, we'll just leave you," Duterte told reporters in Davao, where he first built a reputation for his tough crime-busting style while serving as the southern city's longtime mayor.

Duterte also belittled U.N. work in the Philippines without providing facts, raising questions, for example, about the performance of the world body's agency that fights hunger.

If the Philippines breaks off from the U.N. — which Duterte called "inutile" and "stupid" — he said he would invite other countries like China and African nations to form a new international body. The U.N., he said, should return Manila's financial contributions.

"Look at the iconic boy that was taken out from the rubble and he was made to sit in the ambulance and we saw it," Duterte said, referring to the photo of a 5-year-old Syrian boy, Omran Daqneesh, that has gone viral online.

"Why is it that United States is not doing anything? I do not read you," Duterte said. "Anybody in that stupid body complaining about the stench there of death?"

When asked about the possible repercussions of his remarks, Duterte replied: "I don't give a shit about them. They are the ones interfering."

Duterte wondered whether U.N. officials were threatening to put him in prison and repeated that he was ready to sacrifice his life and presidency for his country.

Reacting to U.S. criticisms, Duterte cited the string of shootings involving police and black men that have sparked protests in the U.S.

"Why are you Americans killing the black people there, shooting them down when they are already on the ground?" he asked. "Answer that question, because even if it's just one or two or three, it is still human rights violations."

Duterte's drug crackdown has left more than 500 suspected dealers dead and more than 4,400 arrested since he took office on June 30. Nearly 600,000 people have surrendered to authorities, hoping to avoid getting killed. The arrests have further overwhelmed the Philippines' overcrowded jails.


Today in History - Monday, Aug. 22, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Aug. 22, the 235th day of 2016. There are 131 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 22, 1485, England's King Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field, effectively ending the War of the Roses. 

On this date: 

In 1787, inventor John Fitch demonstrated his steamboat on the Delaware River to delegates from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. 

In 1846, Gen. Stephen W. Kearny proclaimed all of New Mexico a territory of the United States. 

In 1851, the schooner America outraced more than a dozen British vessels off the English coast to win a trophy that came to be known as the America's Cup. 

In 1910, Japan annexed Korea, which remained under Japanese control until the end of World War II. 

In 1922, Irish revolutionary Michael Collins was shot to death, apparently by Irish Republican Army members opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty that Collins had co-signed. 

In 1932, the British Broadcasting Corp. conducted its first experimental television broadcast, using a 30-line mechanical system. 

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon were nominated for second terms in office by the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. 

In 1968, Pope Paul VI arrived in Bogota, Colombia, for the start of the first papal visit to South America. 

In 1972, President Richard Nixon was nominated for a second term of office by the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. 

In 1985, 55 people died when fire broke out aboard a British Airtours charter jet on a runway at Manchester Airport in England. 

In 1986, Kerr-McGee Corp. agreed to pay the estate of the late Karen Silkwood $1.38 million, settling a 10-year-old nuclear contamination lawsuit. The Rob Reiner coming-of-age film "Stand By Me" was put into wide release by Columbia Pictures. 

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed welfare legislation ending guaranteed cash payments to the poor and demanding work from recipients. 

Ten years ago: A Russian Pulkovo Airlines jet carrying 170 people crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all aboard. Paramount Pictures severed its ties to actor Tom Cruise after 14 years, citing what it called unacceptable conduct, such as jumping on Oprah Winfrey's couch and aggressively advocating Scientology. 

Five years ago: Hurricane Irene cut a destructive path through the Caribbean, raking Puerto Rico with strong winds and rain and then spinning just north of the Dominican Republic. Nick Ashford, one-half of the legendary Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, died in New York at age 70. Lyricist Jerry Leiber, who with composer Mike Stoller wrote "Hound Dog," ''Jailhouse Rock," ''Yakety Yak" and other hits, died in Los Angeles at age 78. 

One year ago: A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy traveling through a crowded neighborhood in Afghanistan's capital, killing at least 12 people, including four American civilian contractors. A military jet taking part in a British airshow crashed into a busy main road near Brighton in southern England, killing 11 people. 

Today's Birthdays: Heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley is 96. Broadcast journalist Morton Dean is 81. Author Annie Proulx (proo) is 81. Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski is 77. Actress Valerie Harper is 77. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells is 75. Writer-producer David Chase is 71. CBS newsman Steve Kroft is 71. Actress Cindy Williams is 69. Pop musician David Marks is 68. International Swimming Hall of Famer Diana Nyad is 67. Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is 60. Country singer Holly Dunn is 59. Rock musician Vernon Reid is 58. Country singer Ricky Lynn Gregg is 57. Country singer Collin Raye is 56. Actress Regina Taylor is 56. Rock singer Roland Orzabal (Tears For Fears) is 55. Rock musician Debbi Peterson (The Bangles) is 55. Rock musician Gary Lee Conner (Screaming Trees) is 54. Singer Tori Amos is 53. Country singer Mila Mason is 53. Rhythm-and-blues musician James DeBarge is 53. International Tennis Hall of Famer Mats Wilander is 52. Actress Brooke Dillman is 50. Rapper GZA (JIHZ'-ah)/The Genius is 50. Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (ah-day-WAH'-lay ah-kih-NOY'-yay ah-BAH'-jay) is 49. Actor Ty Burrell is 49. Celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis is 46. Actress Melinda Page Hamilton is 45. Actor Rick Yune is 45. Rock musician Paul Doucette (Matchbox Twenty) is 44. Rap-reggae singer Beenie Man is 43. Singer Howie Dorough (Backstreet Boys) is 43. Comedian-actress Kristen Wiig is 43. Actress Jenna Leigh Green is 42. Rock musician Bo Koster is 42. Rock musician Dean Back (Theory of a Deadman) is 41. Talk show host James Corden (TV: "The Late Late Show with James Corden") is 38. Rock musician Jeff Stinco (Simple Plan) is 38. Actor Brandon Adams is 37. Actress Aya Sumika is 36. 

Thought for Today: "Charming people live up to the very edge of their charm, and behave as outrageously as the world lets them." — Logan Pearsall Smith, Anglo-American essayist (1865-1946).

   

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Today in History - Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016

The Associated Press

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 21, 1831, Nat Turner launched a violent slave rebellion in Virginia resulting in the deaths of at least 55 whites. (Turner was later executed.)

On this date:

In 1858, the first of seven debates between Illinois senatorial contenders Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas took place.

In 1911, Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris. (The painting was recovered two years later in Italy.)

In 1940, exiled Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky died in a Mexican hospital from wounds inflicted by an assassin the day before.

In 1944, the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and China opened talks at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington that helped pave the way for establishment of the United Nations. (The talks concluded on Oct. 7.)

In 1945, President Harry S. Truman ended the Lend-Lease program that had shipped some $50 billion in aid supplies to America's allies during World War II.

In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order making Hawaii the 50th state.

In 1963, martial law was declared in South Vietnam as police and army troops began a violent crackdown on Buddhist anti-government protesters.

In 1972, the Republican National Convention opened in Miami Beach. 

In 1983, Philippine opposition leader Benigno S. Aquino Jr., ending a self-imposed exile in the United States, was shot dead moments after stepping off a plane at Manila International Airport. The musical play "La Cage Aux Folles" opened on Broadway.

In 1986, more than 1,700 people died when toxic gas erupted from a volcanic lake in the West African nation of Cameroon.

In 1991, the hard-line coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev collapsed in the face of a popular uprising led by Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin.

In 1993, in a serious setback for NASA, engineers lost contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft as it was about to reach the red planet on a $980 million mission.

Ten years ago: A defiant Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea on genocide charges and dismissed the court as illegitimate at the start of his second trial, this one concerning the widescale killings of tens of thousands of Kurds in 1987-88. British prosecutors announced that 11 people had been charged in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners bound for the U.S. (Nine British Muslims were later convicted in connection with the plot.) A train crash on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, killed at least 58 people. A bomb blast tore through a Moscow market, killing at least 14 people.

Five years ago: Euphoric Libyan rebels raced into Tripoli and took control of the center with little resistance as Moammar Gadhafi's defenses collapsed and his four-decade regime appeared to be crumbling. In a statement from Martha's Vineyard, where he was vacationing with his family, President Barack Obama called on Gadhafi to acknowledge reality and step down.

One year ago: A trio of Americans, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and college student Anthony Sadler, and a British businessman, Chris Norman, tackled and disarmed a Moroccan gunman on a high-speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. First Lt. Shaye Haver of Copperas Cove, Texas, and Capt. Kristen Griest of Orange, Connecticut, became the first female soldiers to complete the Army's rigorous Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Mike Fiers pitched the second no-hitter in the major leagues in nine days, leading the Houston Astros to a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Today's Birthdays: Former NFL player and general manager Pete Retzlaff is 85. Actor-director Melvin Van Peebles is 84. Playwright Mart Crowley is 81. Singer Kenny Rogers is 78. Actor Clarence Williams III is 77. Rock-and-roll musician James Burton is 77. Singer Harold Reid (The Statler Brothers) is 77. Singer Jackie DeShannon is 75. College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Lanier is 71. Actress Patty McCormack is 71. Pop singer-musician Carl Giammarese (jee-ah mah-REE'-see) is 69. Actress Loretta Devine is 67. NBC newsman Harry Smith is 65. Singer Glenn Hughes is 64. Country musician Nick Kane is 62. Actress Kim Cattrall is 60. College Football Hall of Famer and former NFL quarterback Jim McMahon is 57. Actress Cleo King is 54. Retired MLB All-Star pitcher John Wetteland is 50. Rock singer Serj Tankian (TAN'-kee-ahn) (System of a Down) is 49. Figure skater Josee Chouinard is 47. Actress Carrie-Anne Moss is 46. MLB player-turned-manager Craig Counsell is 46. Rock musician Liam Howlett (Prodigy) is 45. Actress Alicia Witt is 41. Singer Kelis (kuh-LEES') is 37. Actor Diego Klattenhoff is 37. TV personality Brody Jenner is 33. Singer Melissa Schuman is 32. Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain (yoo-SAYN') Bolt is 30. Actor Carlos Pratts is 30. Actor-comedian Brooks Wheelan is 30. Actor Cody Kasch is 29. Country singer Kacey Musgraves is 28. Actress Hayden Panettiere (pan'-uh-tee-EHR') is 27. Actor RJ Mitte is 24. Actor Maxim Knight is 17.

Thought for Today: "Paradoxical as it may seem, to believe in youth is to look backward; to look forward we must believe in age." — Dorothy L. Sayers, English author (1893-1957).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More people go home as progress made against California fire

The Blue Cut fire burns in Upper Lytle Creek near Wrightwood, Calif., Friday, Aug. 19. Firefighters were on the offensive Friday as they worked to expand significant gains against a huge wildfire that chased thousands of people from their homes in Southern California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Christopher Weber, Christine Armario

Phelan, Calif. (AP) — More people returned to their homes Friday as firefighters made significant progress against a huge wildfire burning in Southern California's San Bernardino National Forest, but that was tempered by the announcement that at least 96 homes and 213 outbuildings were destroyed.

Johanna Santore was among those left homeless. She was running an errand Tuesday when the fire charged through her neighborhood. She tried to rush home to rescue the family's four dogs, six cats and hamster but was blocked by closed roads.

Frantic for answers, she posted messages about her pets on Facebook. A group of animal rescue volunteers saw her pleas and offered to check on the animals.

They found the house in smoldering ruins — with no signs of the pets.

"I'm actually feeling numb," said Santore, who fled with her husband and granddaughter to an evacuation center. "It's like a nightmare."

Thousands of residents chased from their mountain and desert homes were slowly beginning to take stock of their losses as the preliminary damage assessment was released for the blaze that erupted Tuesday in drought-parched canyons 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Firefighters initially struggled to get the towering flames under control but later made dramatic progress in corralling the fire that scorched nearly 58 square miles and was 26 percent contained. Plans were underway to demobilize some of the nearly 1,600 firefighters.

Fire spokesman Brad Pitassi said crews were in defensive posture until Thursday night when they reached a turning point, aided by a buildup of ground forces and a fast-paced air attack with retardant and water drops.

"That number could have been much higher," he said of the destroyed homes and buildings, noting that at one point the fire had grown by 30,000 acres in 24 hours.

Katie and Johnathon Havens piled their 1-year-old son and teacup Chihuahua into their RV as flames neared.

The Havens thought they had lost everything when a map of the fire was released. They later discovered their house was intact after they were able to access a camera they had placed inside the home.

"It's very comforting to know the house is still there," Katie Havens said. "I'm pretty sure we're going to go back and have neighbors who don't have homes anymore. The community is never going to be the same."

A prolonged drought has transformed swaths of California into tinderboxes, ready to ignite. Several other wildfires were burning in the state, including a blaze in rural Santa Barbara County that prompted the evacuation of a pair of campgrounds.

In the southern Sierra Nevada, another blaze feeding on dense timber in Sequoia National Forest forced the evacuation of several tiny hamlets.

In mountains north of San Francisco, a 6-square-mile blaze was 65 percent contained after destroying at least 268 structures, including 175 homes and eight businesses, in the working-class community of Lower Lake. All evacuation orders have been canceled.

At the height of the fire east of Los Angeles, some 82,000 people were under evacuation orders. A small number of residents have been allowed to return home, but fire officials could not say when all the evacuations would be lifted.

No deaths have been reported and the cause of the fire was under investigation. Crews continued to sift through burned regions to tally the damage.

Michelle Keeney took a double-whammy hit. Not only did the fire level her house, but it also engulfed the Summit Inn, a popular Route 66 diner where she was the general manager.

"I was in utter disbelief," said Keeney, who managed to salvage her father's silver ID bracelet and an antique gun he had from World War II.

Max Torres didn't know whether his house was safe until he and his wife returned Thursday night. A decade ago, another wildfire narrowly missed the couple's home.

"They saved our house last time. They saved everything," he said. "And they did it again."

The Santores weren't as lucky. Volunteers who drove to their house found a moonscape. Some of the neighbors' homes were still standing, seemingly intact.

Before the fire roared through, Johanna Santore had redecorated her granddaughter's room in a zebra pattern and added a loft bed.

"We don't plan on rebuilding," she said. "We plan on leaving."


Mexican drug lord's kidnapped son potential bargaining chip

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is shown in this Jan. 8, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Christopher Sherman

Mexico City (AP) — For the ambitious Jalisco New Generation cartel, it must have seemed like a gift: Imprisoned Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's son, partying at a gourmet restaurant deep in their territory.

Seven gunmen swept into La Leche restaurant in Puerto Vallarta's hotel district early Monday, taking the 16 people gathered there by surprise. Without firing a shot, they marched six men out.

In a flash, 29-year-old Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar became a valuable potential bargaining chip — or a high-profile casualty — in the cartel turf battles that are wreaking havoc in large swaths of Mexico. Analysts say Jalisco New Generation could try to use him as leverage to win territory or other gains from what has been the country's dominant gang.

"They can use him, if they're astute ... to get concessions from the Sinaloa cartel and expand their moneymaking enterprise," said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Jalisco New Generation formed from a splinter of the Sinaloa cartel after the death of Sinaloa boss Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel in 2010, and has rapidly expanded from its home base in the western state of Jalisco to the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, among others.

It has done so in part through liberal use of violence. In a series of attacks last year, cartel henchmen killed 20 police officers in two ambushes and used a rocket-propelled grenade to down an army helicopter, killing 10 aboard.

What Jalisco New Generation does not have is its own trafficking corridors along the U.S. border — most of which are controlled by the Sinaloa cartel, the beneficiary of weakened regional gangs from the Gulf to the Pacific.

Violence has surged in recent months in Baja California Sur state as Jalisco New Generation fights for a foothold in Sinaloa cartel territory. Killings have also risen in the key border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, suggesting that Sinaloa's control is being challenged there as well.

"Now they're starting to move northward because they want to control some of the principal drug-smuggling routes along the U.S.-Mexico border," Vigil said. "So they know that in order to expand, they have to control some of these pipelines into the U.S. consumer market."

Enter the young Guzman.

Jalisco state Attorney General Eduardo Almaguer said this week that authorities have no reason to believe he or the other abducted men have been killed.

But his kidnapping is a huge blunder by Sinaloa regardless of whether responsibility lies with Jesus Alfredo himself or with "El Chapo" associate Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, who is believed to be running the cartel's operations following the elder Guzman's recapture earlier this year.

"It's a grave error that is going to cost them a lot, either in life or in a very costly negotiation," said Guillermo Valdes, former director of Mexico's intelligence services. "If you're in a fight with these gentlemen of the Jalisco New Generation, you don't go to their territory without bodyguards."

Valdes also called Jesus Alfredo Guzman's abduction the latest sign that rivals see "El Chapo" as weakened following his third arrest, in January, after two brazen prison escapes in 2001 and 2015. Fed-up Mexican officials now appear willing to grant a U.S. request for his extradition, and the case is currently wending its way through the courts.

Authorities have tightened the drug lord's prison conditions this time, and since May he's been in a federal penitentiary near Ciudad Juarez — far from his lawyers and apparently less able to communicate with underlings.

Earlier this year Mexican media reported an attack on Guzman's mother's home in the state of Sinaloa, and in July two of his wife's nephews were killed, both events signaling that rivals are less afraid to tangle with the man long known as Mexico's most notorious drug lord.

"This perception of weakness that 'El Chapo's' adversaries have speaks to a process of realignment and reorganization of drug trafficking in the country," Valdes said.

There have been rumors that Guzman's older son Ivan Archivaldo was also kidnapped in the Puerto Vallarta incident, but authorities have not confirmed that and Valdes said he, too, does not know if that's true.

But, he said, "kidnapping the sons could lead to, 'I'll trade you the life of your sons for the Manzanillo port or for Tijuana.'"

If there are no negotiations, or if there are and Guzman's son is killed anyway, it would likely bring the full wrath of "El Chapo" and the Sinaloa cartel to bear on Jalisco New Generation.

"It is going to unleash a very violent war," Valdes said.

On Friday, National Security Commissioner Renato Sales announced the arrest of a man believed to handle finances for Jalisco New Generation, but he said it was unrelated to the kidnapping.

Asked if Guzman had been told of his son's abduction, Sales said, "he found out through his lover."


Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to foster peace talks

The first batch of communist rebel leaders to be released, from left, Adelberto Silva, Concha Araneta-Bocala and Alan Jasminez, display a hashtag during a news conference following their release on bail Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Teresa Cerojano

Manila, Philippines (AP) — Philippine communist rebels declared a weeklong cease-fire Friday to promote the resumption of long-stalled peace talks aimed at ending one of Asia's longest-raging rebellions, adding they were open to discussing an extension of the truce if the government frees all political prisoners.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, said in a statement that the unilateral cease-fire would be in effect next week. Government and rebel negotiators are to resume talks in the Norwegian capital of Oslo on Monday.

The Maoist guerrillas expressed hope the government would reciprocate with a similar cease-fire "as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations," but said the rebel truce would proceed even if the government does not declare its own cease-fire.

To further bolster peace talks, the rebels said they are "open to discuss the possibility of a longer cease-fire upon completion of the release of all political prisoners."

Two top rebel leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, were freed from a maximum-security jail Friday to participate in the Norwegian-brokered peace talks. The rebels have welcomed the releases of several detained rebels who are to take part in the negotiations as consultants.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende will open the talks on Monday at an Oslo hotel, his ministry said in a statement.

The Tiamzons smiled and raised their fists as they stepped out of detention at the national police headquarters, where their supporters greeted them.

In a news conference, they thanked Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for their release and for a restart of talks that will tackle wide-raging reforms in a bid to end the decades-long conflict.

"These releases are goodwill measures that will create a positive environment for the progress of the peace talks," Benito Tiamzon said. His wife called on young people to become more involved in fighting the "monsters" of society.

"For the Filipino youth and other countrymen now hooked on catching monsters in 'Pokemon Go,' you know, there are so many real monsters in our country," Wilma Tiamzon said to laughter in the room. "Instead of 'Pokemon Go,' what is better is Revolution Go."

The insurgency has left about 150,000 combatants and civilians dead since it broke out in the late 1960s, drawing support from the ranks of those dissatisfied with economic inequality and the Philippines' alliance with the U.S. It also has stunted economic development, especially in areas of the countryside where the rebels are active.

Benito Tiamzon is chairman of the CPP and the New People's Army, according to the military. Wilma is said to be the secretary general.

Their release after posting bail on charges including multiple murders comes after an initial setback to the rebels' friendly ties with Duterte, who calls himself a leftist president.

Duterte declared a cease-fire on July 25 but withdrew it five days later after the guerrillas killed a government militiaman and failed to declare their own truce within Duterte's deadline.

But on Monday, Duterte met with the rebels' lawyers and allies at the presidential palace, smiling for cameras with linked arms.

"The president said that while he was hurt by the sharp exchanges between him and CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison ... he gave assurances that he will walk the extra mile for peace," presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said after that meeting.

Under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, peace talks stalled over the government's refusal to heed a rebel demand for the release of some captured guerrillas. Duterte, however, has agreed to the release of rebels who would be involved in peace talks, and appointed two allies of the guerrillas to Cabinet posts in concessions aimed at fostering the talks.


IOC's Hickey moved to Rio prison in ticket-scalping case

Patrick Hickey, the head of the European Olympic Committee is shown in this June 11, 2015 file photo. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Rob Harris

Rio de Janeiro (AP) — European Olympic head Patrick Hickey of Ireland is spending the closing days of the Rio Games in a prison after his arrest in a ticket-scalping scandal, authorities said Friday.

The 71-year-old International Olympic Committee executive was denied bail after his legal team argued unsuccessfully that he was being detained illegally following his early-morning arrest Wednesday at his hotel.

Police only began questioning Hickey on Thursday because he was hospitalized for a day with chest pains following his arrest. Hickey has now been transferred to the sprawling Bangu prison complex in Rio, a police statement said. Hickey's Brazilian lawyers did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Hickey has temporarily stepped down from his IOC duties, including his post on the ruling executive board and heading the influential umbrella group for Europe's Olympic bodies.

The former judo athlete is facing charges of conspiracy, ticket scalping and ambush marketing after Brazilian authorities alleged he was part of a plot to make $3 million by illegally selling Rio Games tickets above face value.

Police said Ireland's Olympic body helped transfer tickets to an unauthorized vendor who would set high fees and disguise the transaction as a hospitality package.

The Olympic Council of Ireland board said it will not comment Hickey's criminal case, adding that he is "receiving his own legal advice and is entitled to natural justice and due process."

Hickey built his power base through judo, going on to lead the Irish Olympic team at the 1988 and 1992 Games before being elected to the IOC in 1995. He joined the executive board four years ago.

The OCI has halted the earlier internal investigation established by Hickey before his arrest and set up an independent one. The Dublin-based organization said it will "cooperate fully" with a non-statutory government inquiry at home into the scandal.

Rio police made their first arrests in the investigation last week when Kevin James Mallon, from the British hospitality provider THG, was held in Rio. Authorities have also issued warrants for four more executives at the company.

Some Irish tickets for the Olympics' opening ceremony with a face value of $1,400 were sold for $8,000, police said.

"The board of the Olympic Council of Ireland regrets that recent events in Brazil have overshadowed the many great performances of Team Ireland at the Rio Olympic Games," the organization said.


Today in History - Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, Aug. 20, the 233rd day of 2016. There are 133 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 20, 1866, months after fighting in the Civil War had ended, President Andrew Johnson issued Proclamation 157, which declared that "peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole of the United States of America." 

On this date: 

In 1833, Benjamin Harrison, 23rd president of the United States, was born in North Bend, Ohio. 

In 1882, Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" had its premiere in Moscow. 

In 1914, German forces occupied Brussels, Belgium, during World War I. 

In 1940, during World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force before the House of Commons, saying, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Exiled Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Coyoacan, Mexico by Ramon Mercader. (Trotsky died the next day.) 

In 1953, the Soviet Union publicly acknowledged it had tested a hydrogen bomb. 

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, a nearly $1 billion anti-poverty measure. 

In 1968, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations began invading Czechoslovakia to crush the "Prague Spring" liberalization drive. 

In 1972, the Wattstax concert took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

In 1977, the U.S. launched Voyager 2, an unmanned spacecraft carrying a 12-inch copper phonograph record containing greetings in dozens of languages, samples of music and sounds of nature. 

In 1986, postal employee Patrick Henry Sherrill went on a deadly rampage at a post office in Edmond, Oklahoma, shooting 14 fellow workers to death before killing himself. 

In 1989, entertainment executive Jose Menendez and his wife, Kitty, were shot to death in their Beverly Hills mansion by their sons, Lyle and Erik. Fifty-one people died when a pleasure boat sank in the River Thames (tehmz) in London after colliding with a dredger. 

In 1994, Benjamin Chavis Jr. was fired as head of the NAACP after a turbulent 16-month tenure. 

Ten years ago: John Mark Karr, the suspect in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, sipped champagne and dined on fried king prawns in business class of Thai Airways as he was flown to the U.S. (Although he'd implicated himself in JonBenet's slaying, Karr was later cleared.) Former Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, who'd taken the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising picture during World War II, died in Novato, California, at age 94. Tiger Woods won the PGA Championship, closing with a 4-under 68 for a 5-shot victory over Shaun Micheel and his 12th career major. 

Five years ago: Israel issued a rare apology for the deaths of three Egyptian soldiers who were killed during a cross-border attack blamed on Palestinians. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arrived in Russia's Far East on a nearly weeklong visit. Jordyn Wieber won her first title at the U.S. gymnastics championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, in a rout, finishing with 121.30 points, 6.15 points ahead of McKayla Maroney. 

One year ago: With a broad smile and an upbeat attitude, former President Jimmy Carter told a news conference in Atlanta that he had cancer in his brain, and felt "perfectly at ease with whatever comes." (In March 2016, Carter announced that recent scans had shown no signs of cancer and that he no longer needed to receive doses of an immune-boosting drug.) 

Today's Birthdays: Writer-producer-director Walter Bernstein is 97. Boxing promoter Don King is 85. Former Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, is 83. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is 81. Former MLB All-Star Graig Nettles is 72. Broadcast journalist Connie Chung is 70. Musician Jimmy Pankow (Chicago) is 69. Actor Ray Wise is 69. Actor John Noble is 68. Rock singer Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) is 68. Country singer Rudy Gatlin is 64. Singer-songwriter John Hiatt is 64. Actor-director Peter Horton is 63. TV weatherman Al Roker is 62. Actor Jay Acovone is 61. Actress Joan Allen is 60. Movie director David O. Russell is 58. TV personality Asha Blake is 55. Actor James Marsters is 54. Rapper KRS-One is 51. Actor Colin Cunningham is 50. Actor Billy Gardell is 47. Rock singer Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit) is 46. Rock musician Brad Avery is 45. Actor Jonathan Ke Quan is 45. Actor Misha Collins is 42. Rock singer Monique Powell (Save Ferris) is 41. Jazz/pop singer-pianist Jamie Cullum is 37. Actor Ben Barnes is 35. Actress Meghan Ory is 34. Actor Andrew Garfield is 33. Actor Brant Daugherty is 31. Actress-singer Demi Lovato is 24. 

Thought for Today: "Idleness is not doing nothing. Idleness is being free to do anything." — Floyd Dell, American writer (1887-1969).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Mexico's rights agency says police executed 22 at ranch

In this May 22, 2015, file photo, Mexican state police stand guard near the entrance of Rancho del Sol, where a shootout with the authorities and suspected criminals happened near Vista Hermosa, Mexico. (AP Photo/Refugio Ruiz)

Lulu Orozco, Christopher Sherman

Mexico City (AP) — Federal police executed at least 22 people on a ranch last year, then moved bodies and planted guns to corroborate the official account that the deaths happened in a gunbattle, Mexico's human rights commission said Thursday.

One police officer was killed in the confrontation in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015. The government has said the dead were drug cartel suspects who were hiding out on the ranch in Tanhuato, near the border with Jalisco state.

The National Human Rights Commission said there were also two cases of torture and four more deaths caused by excessive force. It said it could not establish satisfactorily the circumstances of 15 others who were shot to death.

"The investigation confirmed facts that show grave human rights violations attributable to public servants of the federal police," commission President Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez said.

Mexico's national security commissioner, Renato Sales, who oversees the federal police, denied the accusations, holding his own news conference before the rights commission had finished its own.

Sales said federal police ordered the suspects to drop their weapons and surrender, but were answered with gunfire.

"The use of weapons was necessary and proportional against the real and imminent and unlawful aggression," Sales said. "That is to say, in our minds they acted in legitimate defense."

The lopsided death toll had led to suspicions that officers might have arbitrarily killed people during the operation against suspected members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

The rights commission questioned the government's explanation of what led to the clash in the first place.

Federal police had said they encountered a truck and took fire from its passengers before being led to the ranch.

The commission's report said the government did not produce evidence supporting that account and it said witness statements suggested 41 federal police had sneaked onto the ranch as early as 6 a.m. Officers started their assault at least an hour earlier than they maintained in reporting on the incident, the commission said.

According to the agency's report, after the federal police officer was shot, police called for backup. Fifty-four more federal police officers arrived along with a helicopter.

The helicopter fired some 4,000 rounds at the ranch house and a nearby warehouse, which caught fire. The helicopter was also hit by gunfire, the report said. One victim died of burns that the commission believes came after he was shot but still alive.

In total, five people were killed by the helicopter, the commission found. One victim was hit by a bullet that entered around his left pectoral muscle and exited his groin, but there were no bloodstains on the jeans he was found wearing, the commission said.

Thirteen of the 22 people the commission said were executed had been shot in the back, it said.

Two witnesses interviewed by the commission said federal police officers told one heavily tattooed man to run outside the ranch house and then the witnesses heard gunshots.

By the time investigators from the state Attorney General's Office arrived at the scene, "the Federal Police had approximately four hours to manipulate the scene," the report said.

Eighteen of the victims were found barefoot and one just in his underpants, leading the commission to conclude most were asleep when police arrived. The commission's investigation said 40 civilians were killed by bullets, one died in the fire and one was run over.

The government had initially refused to release autopsy reports on those killed. The commission criticized the autopsies performed by the Michoacan Attorney General's Office as being sloppy and incomplete and said the morgue turned over the wrong body to a family.

The case is reminiscent of a 2014 incident in which the commission found that soldiers executed at least a dozen suspected criminals after they surrendered in a warehouse in Tlatlaya west of Mexico City.

The army's version was that 22 suspects died in a gunfight in which only one soldier was wounded. But The Associated Press found evidence at the scene did not match that account. The warehouse wall showed signs that suspects were lined up and shot.

In that case, three women who survived were tortured by agents of the state prosecutor's office to corroborate the army's version.

On Thursday, the commission said two survivors of the bloodshed in Tanhuato had been forced to watch three executions and were then tortured. Police threatened their lives and the lives of their families, it said..


Massive dam project at center of China-Myanmar talks

Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, left, and China's Premier Li Keqiang, right, stand during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Nomaan Merchant

Beijing (AP) — Efforts by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week to bolster ties with her country's dominant northern neighbor China may hinge on whether she can resolve the fate of a massive, Chinese-funded dam project blocked by overwhelming local opposition.

Suu Kyi was welcomed by Premier Li Keqiang at a formal ceremony Thursday at part of a visit that will include talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The trip ending Sunday is her first to China since her party won a historic majority last year.

Now leading Myanmar with the title of state counselor, Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent more than 15 years in detention, mostly in house arrest, under Myanmar's former military junta, which was supported for years by the authoritarian Communist Party-led government in Beijing. But analysts say Suu Kyi has shown pragmatism and a desire to re-order Myanmar's relationship with China, its top trading partner and a major investor, while also reaching out to the United States, Europe and Japan.

In opening remarks in her meeting with Li, Suu Kyi said she hoped her visit would promote "feelings of friendship" between the countries.

Key to both sides is the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam project in northern Myanmar, funded by Chinese power interests but suspended in 2011 by Myanmar's former military-backed president, Thein Sein. A spokesman for Myanmar's foreign affairs department said China was expected to raise the dam dispute this week.

China sees the dam as an important part of a national strategy to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and meet its targets to cut pollution. It has pursued a charm offensive in Myanmar partly to push for construction to resume.

But opponents in Myanmar say the reservoir created by the Myitsone dam would create massive flooding on the Irrawaddy River, endangering ecologically sensitive areas and displacing thousands of people. They also question the previous arrangement in which China would take 90 percent of the dam's power, while nearly 70 percent of Myanmar has no access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

The dam is one of several Chinese-backed projects stalled due to protests from Myanmar citizens newly emboldened to speak out following democratic reforms, part of a larger backlash against China's economic domination of its poor southern neighbor.

Suu Kyi's government recently announced a commission to review all hydroelectric projects along the Irrawaddy. Zhao Gancheng, director of the Asia-Pacific Center at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said that announcement might be a signal that a compromise was possible.

"To handle it well will help create a favorable condition for future trade and economic development between the two countries," Zhao said. "Otherwise, obstacles will emerge in attracting investment from China in the future and that is not what the new Burmese government and Aung San Suu Kyi want to see."

Aaron Connelly, a research fellow for East Asia at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, said Suu Kyi could offer an alternative plan that mollifies China and at least some of the opposition in Myanmar.

"That would be the question on the Myanmar side," Connelly said. "Is there something that can be offered that meets the expectations, but does not create a lake the size of Singapore on the Irrawaddy?"

Suu Kyi remains an icon to many people in Myanmar, and that may give her the standing to seek a deal that allows the dam to go forward under different circumstances, Connelly said.

She is also likely to seek more cooperation from China as her government begins a peace conference at the end of August with ethnic minorities from the region where the dam is planned, and may tie the two issues together, Connelly said. China has been involved previously in negotiations between the government and Kachin rebels, who have fought for decades in regions near the Chinese border.

"She constantly surprises in what she's willing to do in terms of political agreements that she's willing to strike, and because she's such a singularly popular figure," he said. "She can potentially make a deal here that would be very unpopular and bounce back from that."

Beijing supports the peace process because "a politically stable and economically prosperous Myanmar is in China's best interests," China's official Xinhua News Agency said in an editorial Wednesday.

"Given the fact that a strong China-Myanmar partnership is important for both sides, it is welcome that Suu Kyi, a key figure in the Myanmar government and the leader of the ruling party, plays a greater role in helping secure a healthy Myanmar-China relationship," Xinhua said.

China considers Myanmar strategically important as a gateway to the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and wants to secure oil and gas pipelines running across the country to the Chinese border.

Along with stalled projects, friction between the countries has erupted over fighting between Myanmar's military and ethnic minority rebels along the border that has killed Chinese farmers and sent a flow of refugees into China.


2 Indonesians make rare, daring escape from Filipino captors

Indonesian kidnap victim Mohammad Safyan talks to officers during an interview conducted by the Joint Task Force Sulu, at military headquarters, in Mindanao, southwest Philippines, Thursday, Aug. 18. (WESTMINCOM via AP)

Teresa Cerojano

Manila, Philippines (AP) — Threatened with beheadings, two Indonesian sailors made a daring escape from Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines after almost two months of captivity. One was rescued by villagers who found him entangled in fishnets and the other picked up by Philippine troops on a village road, officials said Thursday.

Their flights were a rare bright spot in a long and bloody military campaign to root out the militants who have gained notoriety with ransom kidnappings and beheadings. Indonesia's senior security minister Wiranto welcomed the escapes as gifts for the country's 71st Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.

Ismail and Mohammad Safyan were among seven tugboat crewmen who were abducted near Philippine waters in June, part of the Abu Sayyaf's kidnapping spree that captured some two dozen Indonesian sailors, Westerners and other Asians.

Ten of the hostages were freed earlier this year reportedly after ransoms were paid, but others remained in the hands of the militants who beheaded two Canadians in April and June.

On Wednesday, the two Indonesians escaped together on Jolo Island, an Abu Sayyaf jungle stronghold, but fled in separate directions as their captors chased them, said Maj. Filemon Tan, a regional military spokesman.

"They said they were fired upon when they escaped but were not hit," Tan said.

Safyan, a sailor, was found by villagers floating and trapped in fishnets. Troops looking for other Indonesians saw Ismail, the chief officer of the tugboat Charles, on a nearby road, Tan said. He identified himself as a kidnap victim.

Photos released by the Philippine military showed the two men appearing in good health and being debriefed by army officials.

It is not uncommon for hostages to try to escape, but very few succeed because they are unfamiliar with terrain and don't speak the local language.

"Hopefully the progress will be better in coming days since the Philippine government has seriously threatened the kidnappers through military and psychological pressures," Wiranto, who uses a single name, told reporters at the state palace in Jakarta.

He called for prayers for the other hostages to gain freedom soon.

The Philippines says it has stepped up a military offensive against the militants after the beheadings of the two Canadians.

Sixteen other foreign hostages — nine Indonesians, five Malaysians, one Norwegian, and a Dutchman — are still held by the Muslim extremist group in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades. At least five Filipinos are also being held.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed in May to carry out coordinated patrols following a series of kidnappings and piracy attacks that have undermined commerce in the Celebes Sea, where their sea borders overlap.
 


Brazilian police say Lochte, US swimmers were not robbed

American Olympic swimmers Gunnar Bentz, left, and Jack Conger leave a police station in the Leblon neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 18. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Mauricio Savarese, Peter Prengaman, Luis Andres Henao

Rio de Janeiro (AP) — Brazilian police said Thursday that swimmer Ryan Lochte and three U.S. teammates were not robbed after a night of partying, and the intoxicated athletes instead vandalized a gas station bathroom and were questioned by armed guards before they paid for the damage and left.

The robbery that was or wasn't has become the biggest spectacle outside of the Olympic venues in Rio, casting a shadow over American Olympians amid an otherwise remarkable run at the Summer Games. The ordeal was also a blow to Brazilians, who for months endured scrutiny about whether the city could keep athletes and tourists safe given its long history of violence.

"No robbery was committed against these athletes. They were not victims of the crimes they claimed," Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso said during a news conference.

The police account came in direct contrast to claims from Lochte's attorney earlier in the week. The attorney, Jeff Ostrow, had insisted the swimmer had nothing to gain by making the story up. He, as well as Lochte's father and agent, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The swimmers could potentially face punishment — probation, suspension, a fine or expulsion — under USA Swimming's code of conduct. It was not clear if the swimmers would face criminal charges, though police said the athletes could be charged with destruction of property, falsely reporting a crime or both.

Veloso said it's up to the courts, but as far as he's concerned the athletes should be able to leave the country. AP journalists saw two of the swimmers, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger, check in for a flight out of Brazil late Thursday. The pair was ushered through airport security without waiting in line.

Lochte initially said that he and Conger, Bentz and teammate Jimmy Feigen were held at gunpoint and robbed several hours after the last Olympic swimming races ended. Police said earlier this week that they couldn't find evidence to substantiate the claim, and a judge ordered the swimmers' passports held as the investigation continued. Lochte had already returned to the U.S. but the others stayed, and Conger and Bentz were pulled off a plane at the Rio airport and asked to speak with authorities.

While some details in the official account of the story changed on Thursday — police first said no guns were involved, then backtracked and said two guards pointed weapons at the swimmers — security video confirmed the athletes vandalized parts of the gas station, leading to an encounter with station employees.

The closed-circuit video shows one of the swimmers pulling a sign off of a wall and dropping it onto the ground. A gas station worker arrives, and other workers inspect the damage. Veloso said the swimmers broke a door, a soap dispenser and a mirror.

The swimmers eventually talk with station workers as their cab leaves.

As they talk, two of the swimmers briefly raise their hands and all four sit down on a curb. After a few minutes, the swimmers stand up and appear to exchange something — perhaps cash, as police said — with one of the men.

The footage doesn't show a weapon, but a police official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said two guards pointed guns at the swimmers. Veloso said the guards did not use excessive force and would have been justified in drawing their weapons because the athletes "were conducting themselves in a violent way."

A station employee called police, and the guards and employees tried to get the swimmers and the taxi driver to stay until authorities arrived, some even offering to help interpret between English and Portuguese, Veloso said. But he said the athletes wanted to leave, so paid 100 Brazilian reals (about US $33) and $20 in U.S. currency and left.

Conger and Bentz told authorities that the story of the robbery had been fabricated, said the police official who spoke to the AP about the guns.

Bentz and Conger gave testimony late Thursday. Upon leaving a police station, they walked through a crowd of dozens of journalists and onlookers without stopping or answering questions. A few people in the crowd shouted at them, calling them "liars" and "shameful."  

Police said the swimmers were unable to provide key details in early interviews, saying they had been intoxicated. The police official said officers grew suspicious when security video showed the swimmers returning to the athletes village wearing watches, which would have likely been taken in a robbery.

"We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over," Lochte told NBC's "Today" the morning after the incident. "They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn't do anything wrong, so — I'm not getting down on the ground.

"And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, 'Get down,' and I put my hands up, I was like 'whatever.' He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cellphone, he left my credentials."

But Lochte backed off some of those claims as the week went on, saying the taxi wasn't pulled over, and that the athletes were robbed after stopping at a gas station. Lochte also said a man pointed a gun toward him, but not at his head.

The swimmers did not call police, authorities said, and officers only began investigating after they saw news coverage with Lochte's mother speaking about the incident. Lochte also said the swimmers didn't initially tell U.S. Olympic officials what happened because "we were afraid we'd get in trouble."

The debacle prompted both wild speculation and social media mockery, which quickly turned to scorn after the official account went public. #LochteGate was trending on Twitter, with users sharing video footage and posting comments about white privilege and rude Americans.

David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia, said the incident touched a nerve in Brazil because of the country's history and cases of people committing crimes while impersonating police.

"The story did have some sense of validity but it didn't bear out and it made them look bad worldwide," he said.

While he's medaled often, Lochte's accomplishments have long been overshadowed by teammate Michael Phelps — the most decorated Olympian in history. Lochte, a 12-time medalist, won a gold in Rio in a relay race alongside Phelps.


Vietnam lifts ban on Australian commemoration of 1966 battle

Australian veteran Keith Payne waits on a bus to visit Long Tan Cross in Vung Tau, Vietnam on Thursday, Aug., 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Vung Tau, Vietnam (AP) — Under pressure from Australia, Vietnam lifted a sudden ban on veterans who had traveled to the country to mark the 50th anniversary of Australia's most costly battle of the Vietnam War, but officials prevented hundreds from paying their respects at a monument to Australian casualties, Australia's prime minister said Friday.

About 1,500 Australian and New Zealand veterans and their families traveled to Vietnam to commemorate the anniversary on Thursday of the Battle of Long Tan at a cross marking the site where 18 Australian soldiers and hundreds of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops died on a rubber plantation on Aug. 18, 1966, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

Turnbull said he spoke to his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc for an hour on Wednesday night to persuade the Vietnamese government to lift a ban on all commemorations announced that day.

But officials at the memorial, insisting that only small groups gathered and without uniforms, medals, flags or banners, turned away all but 700 veterans, Turnbull said.

"We're very disappointed that not all of the Australians and their families were able to go to the Long Tan complex and reverently commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day before the Long Tan Cross," Turnbull told Radio 3AW.

"We respect the right of the Vietnamese government to determine what ceremonies and observances are held in their country, but to change the rules literally the day before was very unreasonable," he said.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan earlier said Vietnam had informed Australia of the ban late Tuesday.

Tehan on Wednesday called that "a kick in the guts." He told reporters the veto reflected "deep sensitivities" within Vietnam and was not a response to problems in the bilateral relationship.

The Long Tan anniversary is Australia's official Vietnam Veterans Day and has been commemorated by Australians at the battle scene since 1989.

Turnbull said the rules for next year's commemoration would be agreed with Vietnam "very, very clearly and very publicly so there is absolutely no possibility for any misunderstanding."

On Thursday, hundreds of veterans and their families gathered in the Australian capital to mark the anniversary at the Australian War Memorial.


Today in History - Friday, Aug. 19, 2016

The Associated Press 

Today is Friday, Aug. 19, the 232nd day of 2016. There are 134 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 19, 1991, Soviet hard-liners stunned the world by announcing that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev had been removed from power. (The coup attempt collapsed two days later.) 

On this date: 

In A.D. 14, Caesar Augustus, Rome's first emperor, died at age 76 after a reign lasting four decades; he was succeeded by his stepson Tiberius. 

In 1812, the USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere off Nova Scotia during the War of 1812, earning the nickname "Old Ironsides." 

In 1814, during the War of 1812, British forces landed at Benedict, Maryland, with the objective of capturing Washington D.C. 

In 1918, "Yip! Yip! Yaphank," a musical revue by Irving Berlin featuring Army recruits from Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York, opened on Broadway. 

In 1934, a plebiscite in Germany approved the vesting of sole executive power in Adolf Hitler. 

In 1936, the first of a series of show trials orchestrated by Soviet leader Josef Stalin began in Moscow as 16 defendants faced charges of conspiring against the government (all were convicted and executed). 

In 1942, during World War II, about 6,000 Canadian and British soldiers launched a disastrous raid against the Germans at Dieppe, France, suffering more than 50-percent casualties. 

In 1955, torrential rains caused by Hurricane Diane resulted in severe flooding in the northeastern U.S., claiming some 200 lives. 

In 1964, The Beatles opened their first full-fledged U.S. tour as they performed at San Francisco's Cow Palace. 

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford won the Republican presidential nomination at the party's convention in Kansas City. 

In 1980, 301 people aboard a Saudi Arabian L-1011 died as the jetliner made a fiery emergency return to the Riyadh airport. 

In 1991, rioting erupted in the Brooklyn, New York, Crown Heights neighborhood after a black 7-year-old, Gavin Cato, was struck and killed by a Jewish driver from the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch community; three hours later, a gang of blacks fatally stabbed Yankel Rosenbaum, a rabbinical student. 

Ten years ago: Israeli commandos raided a Hezbollah stronghold deep in Lebanon. (Israel said the raid was launched to stop arms smuggling from Iran and Syria to the militant Shiite fighters; Lebanon called the operation a "flagrant violation" of a U.N. truce.) 

Five years ago: Three men — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley — who'd spent nearly two decades in prison for the nightmarish slayings of three Cub Scouts in Arkansas, went free after they agreed to a legal maneuver allowing them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging prosecutors had enough evidence against them. Danell Leyva beat two-time defending champion Jonathan Horton for his first title at the U.S. gymnastics championships in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

One year ago: Longtime Subway pitchman Jared Fogle agreed in federal court in Indianapolis to plead guilty to allegations that he'd paid for sex acts with minors and received child pornography. (Fogle pleaded guilty in Nov. 2015 to one count each of distributing and receiving child porn and traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a child, and was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.) Islamic State militants beheaded 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, a leading Syrian antiquities scholar who'd spent most of his life looking after the ancient ruins of Palmyra. 

Today's Birthdays: Actor L.Q. Jones is 89. Actress Debra Paget is 83. USTA Eastern Tennis Hall of Famer Renee Richards is 82. Former MLB All-Star Bobby Richardson is 81. Actress Diana Muldaur is 78. Rock musician Ginger Baker (Cream, Blind Faith) is 77. Singer Johnny Nash is 76. Actress Jill St. John is 76. Singer Billy J. Kramer is 73. Country singer-songwriter Eddy Raven is 72. Rock singer Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) is 71. Former President Bill Clinton is 70. Actor Gerald McRaney is 69. Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President Al Gore, is 68. Actor Jim Carter is 68. Rock musician John Deacon (Queen) is 65. Actor-director Jonathan Frakes is 64. Political consultant Mary Matalin is 63. Actor Peter Gallagher is 61. Actor Adam Arkin is 60. Singer-songwriter Gary Chapman is 59. Actor Martin Donovan is 59. Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Anthony Munoz is 58. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ivan Neville is 57. Actor Eric Lutes is 54. Actor John Stamos is 53. Actress Kyra Sedgwick is 51. Actor Kevin Dillon is 51. Country singer Lee Ann Womack is 50. TV reporter Tabitha Soren is 49. Country singer-songwriter Mark McGuinn is 48. Actor Matthew Perry is 47. Country singer Clay Walker is 47. Rapper Fat Joe is 46. Olympic gold medal tennis player Mary Joe Fernandez is 45. Actress Tracie Thoms is 41. Actor Callum Blue is 39. Country singer Rissi (REE'-see) Palmer is 35. Actress Erika Christensen is 34. Actress Melissa Fumero is 34. Pop singer Missy Higgins is 33. Actor Peter Mooney is 33. Actress Tammin Sursok is 33. Country singer Karli Osborn is 32. Olympic silver medal snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis is 31. Actor J. Evan Bonifant is 31. Rapper Romeo is 27. 

Thought for Today: "Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." — Howard H. Aiken, American computer pioneer (1900-1973)

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


California wildfire burns with ferocity never seen by fire crews

A San Bernardino County Fire captain looks for a better place for his crew while fighting the Bluecut Fire, Wednesday Aug. 17, in Cajon Pass, Calif. (James Quigg/The Daily Press via AP)

Christopher Weber, Christine Armario

San Bernardino, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire with a ferocity never seen before by veteran California firefighters raced up and down canyons, instantly engulfing homes and forcing thousands of people to flee, some running for their lives just ahead of the flames.

By Wednesday, a day after it ignited in brush left bone dry by years of drought, the blaze had spread across nearly 47 square miles and was raging out of control. The flames advanced despite the efforts of 1,300 firefighters.

Authorities could not immediately say how many homes had been destroyed, but they warned that the number will be large.

"There will be a lot of families that come home to nothing," San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said after flying over a fire scene he described as "devastating."

"It hit hard. It hit fast. It hit with an intensity that we hadn't seen before," he said.

No deaths were reported, but cadaver dogs were searching the ruins for anyone who was overrun by the flames.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known.

Five years of drought have turned the state's wildlands into a tinder box, with eight fires currently burning from Shasta County in the far north to Camp Pendleton just north of San Diego.

"In my 40 years of fighting fire, I've never seen fire behavior so extreme," Incident Commander Mike Wakoski said a day after the latest blaze broke out Tuesday in Cajon Pass, a critical highway and rail corridor through mountain ranges that separate Southern California's major population centers from the Mojave Desert and Las Vegas.

Residents like Vi Delgado and her daughter April Christy, who had been through a major brushfire years before, said they had never seen anything like it either.

"No joke, we were literally being chased by the fire," a tearful April Christy said in a voice choked with emotion as she and her mother sat in their minivan in an evacuation center parking lot in Fontana. They did not go inside because their dogs, three Chihuahuas and a mixed-breed mutt, were not allowed.

"You've got flames on the side of you. You've got flames behind you," Christy said, describing a harrowing race down a mountain road. She was led by a sheriff's patrol car in front while a California Highway Patrol vehicle trailed behind and a truck filled with firefighters battled flames alongside her.

She and her mother, onsite caretakers at the Angels and Paws animal rescue shelter in Devore Heights, said it was only moments after they smelled smoke that flames exploded all around them. They grabbed their pets and tried to rescue nine other shelter dogs and three cats, but a sheriff's deputy told them there was no time.

"You won't make it. Save yourself. Take your truck and leave," Delgado said the deputy shouted at her, adding that he and others would try to rescue the animals. She learned later that authorities did save the animals, but officials could not tell her if her home survived.

More than 34,000 homes and some 82,000 people were under evacuation warnings as firefighters concentrated their efforts on saving homes in the mountain communities of Lytle Creek, Wrightwood and Phelan. They implored residents not to think twice if told to leave, but it appears many were staying.

"From reports that we were hearing, possibly up to half didn't leave," said Lyn Sieliet, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

"It does change the way that we can fight fire," she added, "Now we have to worry about the people in there as well as trying to protect the structures and trying to build a line of defense as the fire comes toward that area."

Six firefighters were briefly trapped by flames during the fire's early hours, when occupants of a home refused to leave and the crew stayed to protect them.

"This moved so fast," said Darren Dalton, 51, who along with his wife and son had to get out of his house in Wrightwood. "It went from 'Have you heard there's a fire?' to 'mandatory evacuation' before you could take it all in. This is a tight little community up here. Always in rally mode. Suddenly it's a ghost town."

Hundreds of cars packed with belongings and animals left the town. The air for miles around the blaze was filled with smoke.

Although there was no official count on how many homes were lost, Eric Sherwin of the San Bernardino County Fire Department said Tuesday that he had seen at least a dozen buildings go up in flames, some of them homes. Among them was the Summit Inn, a historic Route 66 diner near Interstate 15. Countless big rigs were parked along both sides of the highway on Wednesday, waiting for it to reopen.

Less than 24 hours after the blaze began 60 miles east of Los Angeles, authorities had assembled a fleet of 10 air tankers, 15 helicopters and an army of 1,300 firefighters, many of them just off the lines of a wildfire that burned for 10 days just to the east.

At a dawn briefing, half the firefighters raised their hands when asked how many had just come from one of the other infernos burning across California. In all, 10,000 firefighters are fighting the eight ongoing blazes.

One major fire, north of San Francisco, was fading and about 4,000 people in the town of Clearlake were allowed to return home.

Their relief was tempered by anger at a 40-year-old man authorities believe set the blaze that wiped out several blocks of the small town of Lower Lake over the weekend. That fire destroyed 175 homes and other structures in the working-class community.

Damin Pashilk is charged with 14 counts of arson in connection with 12 separate fires dating back to July 2015 and one count of attempted arson. He appeared in court on Wednesday but did not enter a plea.


Senior N. Korean diplomat based in London defects

People watch a TV news program showing a file image of Thae Yong Ho, minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Aug. 17. Thae has defected to South Korea, becoming one of the highest Northern officials to do so. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Hyung-Jin Kim, Kim Tong-Hyung

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — A senior North Korean diplomat based in London has defected to South Korea, becoming one of the highest Northern officials to do so, South Korea said Wednesday.

Thae Yong Ho, minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, has arrived in South Korea with his family and is under the protection of the South Korean government, Seoul's Unification Ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said Thae told South Korean officials that he decided to defect because of his disgust with the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his yearning for South Korean democracy and worries about the future of his children.

Jeong said Thae was the second-highest official in North Korea's embassy, and is the most senior North Korean diplomat to defect to South Korea. In 1997, the North Korean ambassador to Egypt fled but resettled in the United States.

Jeong refused to give further details about Thae's defection, citing possible diplomatic problems with a concerned country he didn't identify. Britain's Foreign Office declined to comment.

The highest-level North Korean to seek asylum in South Korea is Hwang Jang-yop, a senior ruling Workers' Party official who once tutored Kim Jong Un's late father, dictator Kim Jong Il. Hwang's 1997 defection was hailed by many South Koreans as an intelligence bonanza and a sign that the North's political system was inferior to the South's. Hwang died in 2010.

Thae's defection will likely enrage North Korea, which often accuses South Korea of kidnapping or enticing its citizens to defect.

South Korea doesn't always make high-level defection cases public. Its revelation of Thae's defection came as ties between the rivals are at one of their lowest points in decades over the North's nuclear ambitions. North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January, and South Korea has been working hard to apply more international pressure on the North.

Jeong said Thae's defection could be a sign that unity in Kim Jong Un's ruling class is weakening.

Analyst Chang Yong Seok at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies disputed that assessment, saying there are no tangible signs that Kim's grip on power is being challenged. "Senior North Korean officials have defected before, but these have all been isolated cases that weren't followed by a chain of defections by other officials," he said.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo, senior lecturer in international relations at King's College London, said a diplomatic defection "could prove very valuable to South Korea, the U.S. and other countries."

"Most North Korean defectors have limited access to the inner workings of the North Korean regime," he said. "The defection of a diplomat would allow intelligence services and military forces in other countries to learn more about the level of support that Kim Jong Un enjoys, recent developments in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs or the extent to which real economic reforms are being implemented.

"The defection of a high-level diplomat could also signal growing internal skepticism about the strength of the Kim Jong Un regime, since they are a rare occurrence."

Thae, 55, is a veteran diplomat who is experienced in dealing with countries in Western Europe. He led a North Korean delegation that held talks with European Union representatives over the North's human rights situation in Brussels in 2001, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Thae had worked at the North Korean Embassy in London for about 10 years, Yonhap said. Previously, he worked at its now-closed embassy in Denmark and spent a short period of time at its embassy in Sweden, it said.

More than 29,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to South Korean government records. Many defectors have said they wanted to leave North Korea's harsh political system and poverty.

In April, 13 North Koreans working at a North Korean-operated restaurant in China defected to South Korea in the largest group defection since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011. Later in April, South Korea also revealed that a colonel in North Korea's military spy agency had defected to the South last year.

Wednesday's announcement came as North Korea is responding angrily to a U.S. plan to place an advanced missile defense system in South Korea. The North has warned of unspecified retaliation and fired several missiles into the sea earlier this month.


Trump turns to conservative flame-thrower as campaign CEO

Stephen Bannon is shown in this Jan. 24, 2013 file photo.
 (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP)

Nancy Benac

Washington (AP) — Donald Trump's new campaign CEO is a flame-thrower in cargo shorts.

Steve Bannon's career path has been an improbable journey from Goldman Sachs insider to conservative filmmaker to media provocateur to campaign chieftain.

The shaggy-haired Harvard MBA partial to shorts and Timberland boots is moving to the Trump campaign from the top of Breitbart News, a conservative website that has emerged in recent years as a social media colossus in politics — one that has been unabashedly supportive of Trump's campaign lately.

The Breitbart website's hiring section says it's looking for media junkies willing to "walk toward the fire" — an apt description of Bannon himself.

His installation at the top of the Trump campaign offers fresh evidence that the GOP nominee has no intention of reining in his brash, outsider's style or cozying up to the GOP establishment despite his campaign's recent struggles.

"There has been no bigger cheerleader in the media for Donald Trump than Breitbart News, and he just hired his biggest cheerleader to continue massaging him," said Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor. Shapiro resigned in March, saying Breitbart had shaped the website into "Trump's personal Pravda" and had failed to defend one its own reporters who said she'd been roughed up by Trump's then-campaign manager.

Bannon "may focus Trump, because he's good at working with talent," Shapiro said Wednesday. "He may also just confirm to Trump that he ought to double down on being Trump."

Shapiro described Bannon's skill set as that of a knife fighter — one with a "vicious, unstable quality."

"There are very few people who have ever worked with Steve Bannon who have escaped without a Steve Bannon thoroughly blue tirade," Shapiro said.

Keith Appell, a political consultant whom Bannon hired to promote a movie he'd made about Sarah Palin, describes Bannon as a hard-driving perfectionist with both strong organizational skills and a film-maker's gift for storytelling.

"He gets the need to personalize and humanize what Trump wants to do," Appell said.

The Breitbart website's founder, the late Andrew Breitbart, once admiringly described Bannon as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party movement, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek profile of Bannon. Riefenstahl was a filmmaker vilified after World War II for her propaganda pieces about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Trump, who this week brought on Bannon and elevated pollster Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, said he'd known both for a long time.

"They're terrific people, they're winners, they're champs, and we need to win it," Trump told the AP.

Bannon took over Breitbart News after the sudden death of its founder in 2012 left people wondering what would become of the website. By then, Bannon had left investment banking behind, capitalized on an entertainment industry deal that left him with a share of "Seinfeld" royalties, founded the Government Accountability Institute to ferret out "crony capitalism" and government corruption, and created a number of his own films, including paeans to Palin, the tea party movement and Ronald Reagan.

The Breitbart website has expanded under his tenure. It ranked No. 1 in Facebook and Twitter engagement on political content in May and June, with more than 9 million interactions over that two-month period, far outstripping both conservative and liberal rivals and mainstream news sites. That's according trending news tracking site NewsWhip.

Unafraid to play favorites, Breitbart early last year prominently featured positive stories about Ted Cruz, including an exclusive behind-the-scenes photo shoot with his family the night before the Texas senator announced his presidential run. As Trump gained steam later in the year, the media site began pumping out pro-Trump stories.

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, said the website has figured out how to push political story angles that animate "an audience of a particular orientation," in this case an angry subset of Republicans that predates the tea party movement and now overlaps with Trump's base.

"It's almost a throwback to an era when media outlets and political organizations were closely aligned," Rosenstiel said.

He said it's an open question whether Trump, in turning to Bannon, can use the Internet "as an animating structure" for his campaign without embracing more traditional methods involving party structure, get-out-the-vote efforts and a political ground game.

"There's a larger question here," Rosenstiel said. "Can you use the Internet to win a general election?"


Turkey to release 38,000 from jail; frees space for plotters

 

A bus exits from a high security prison complex in Silivri, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Istanbul, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Suzan Fraser

Ankara, Turkey (AP) — Turkey began releasing inmates on Wednesday in an apparent move to reduce its prison population to make space for thousands of people who have been arrested as part of an investigation into last month's failed coup.

The discharges started just hours after the government issued a decree for the conditional release of some 38,000 prisoners under Turkey's three-month long state of emergency that was declared following the coup.

The decree allows the release of inmates who have two years or less to serve of their prison terms and makes convicts who have served half of their prison term eligible for parole. People convicted of murder, domestic violence, sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes against the state are excluded from the measures.

Also, they would not apply for crimes committed after July 1, excluding any people later convicted of involvement in the failed July 15 coup.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on his Twitter account the measure would lead to the release of some 38,000 people. He insisted it was not a pardon or an amnesty but a conditional release of prisoners.

The government says the attempted coup, which led to at least 270 deaths, was carried out by followers of a movement led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who have infiltrated the military and other state institutions. Gulen has denied any prior knowledge or involvement in the coup but Turkey is demanding that the United States extradite him.

The Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on Gulen's supporters in the aftermath of the coup. Some 35,000 people have been detained for questioning and more than 17,000 of them have been formally arrested to face trial, including soldiers, police, judges and journalists.

Tens of thousands more people with suspected links to Gulen have been suspended or dismissed from their jobs in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government.

In a separate decree, also issued Wednesday, the government dismissed 2,300 more officers from the police force, in addition to another 136 military officers and 196 employees from its information technology authority.

Wednesday's decrees also allow the air force to hire new pilots or take back pilots who had resigned or were discharged before the coup to replace pilots who have been arrested or dismissed for alleged participation in the coup or links to Gulen.

The government crackdown has raised concerns among European nations and human rights organizations, who have urged the Turkish government to show restraint.

Soon after the decree was announced, families began arriving at prison gates to wait for loved ones who were set to be released.

Among those released from Silivri prison, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Istanbul, was Emrah Pasa Alissoy, 27, who was sentenced to two years in prison for fraud and was set free four days earlier than scheduled.

"We are very happy. We get back to our family. It was our families who were punished," Alissoy said.

Turkey's 180,000-person prisons were already filled to capacity before the crackdown on Gulen's movement, with some rights groups claiming that inmates were forced to take turns to sleep on beds. Turkey has issued several prison amnesties over the past decades to ease conditions in its prisons, but the measures proved unpopular with the public.

Bozdag insisted Wednesday that those being released would still be supervised.

"I hope that the arrangement is beneficial to the prisoners, their loved ones, our people and our country," the minister wrote on Twitter.


Australia says Vietnam cancels commemoration of 1966 battle

Australian veteran Jeffrey Morris shows a photo of himself taken when he served in Long Tan during the Vietnam war in Vung Tau city, Vietnam on Wednesday, 17 August 2016. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Rod McGuirk

Canberra, Australia (AP) — Australia was making top-level appeals to Vietnam on Wednesday to lift a sudden ban on veterans commemorating the 50th anniversary of Australia's most costly battle of the Vietnam War.

More than 1,000 Australian veterans and their families have traveled to Vietnam to observe the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan on Thursday at a cross marking the site where 18 Australian soldiers and hundreds of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops died in a rubber plantation on Aug. 18, 1966.

But after 18 months of negotiations between Vietnamese and Australian officials over the commemoration, which has drawn some Australian veterans back to the Communist country for the first time since the war, Vietnam told Australia late Tuesday the event was canceled, Veterans' Affairs Minister Dan Tehan said Wednesday.

Tehan said Australian and Vietnamese foreign ministers would discuss the decision and Australia's prime minister had requested a telephone conversation with his Vietnamese counterpart to ask that the ceremony be allowed.

"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the over 1,000 veterans who have traveled to Vietnam to mark this commemoration with respect and with dignity," Tehan told reporters.

"For us, to be given such short notice of the cancellation is — to put it in very frank terms — a kick in the guts," he added.

The Long Tan anniversary is Australia's official Vietnam Veterans Day and has been commemorated by Australians at the battle scene since 1989.

In the fighting, a company of 105 Australian soldiers plus three New Zealanders supported by artillery survived a rain-drenched, three-hour battle by driving off wave after wave of attacks by more than 2,000 enemy troops.

Ken Foster, president of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, said former soldiers would be "shattered" by the cancellation.

"I do have concerns for the mental welfare of not only those Vietnam veterans in Vietnam, but also those here in Australia," Foster said.

Tehan said the veto reflected "deep sensitivities" within Vietnamese and was not a response to problems in the bilateral relationship.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that despite the ban, an official party including the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors would lay a wreath Thursday and small groups would have access to the site during the day.

In Vietnam's southern seaside town of Vung Tau, where Australian veterans gathered for events including a Wednesday night banquet, Ernie Gimm was perplexed at the news. He had planned to go to the service at Long Tan, where he served for 13 months as an air controller in 1966 and 1967.

"I understand that there had been rumors circulating to indicate there is an Australian victory celebration in Vietnam, which is wrong, totally wrong. It's a get-together of the Vietnamese and the Australians after 50 years and that is very important," said Gimm, who lives in Queensland.

Ken Dann, who served as an army engineer in Vietnam for a year in 1967, said the get-together was an occasion to ponder the lessons of the past.

"There's no point in being disappointed," he said. "It's not a celebration really. We just want to think about what did happen to both sides in the war."

The planned banquet was held, but Vietnamese authorities axed an entertainment program.

Australian singer Patricia Amphlett, better known as Little Pattie, said she was "very sad" when her performance was canceled at the last minute.

The battle of Long Tan occurred just two days after Amphlett, then 17, performed for troops at Nui Dat, one of Australia's two bases during the war.

"There should not be any indication of a celebration," explained a Vietnamese diplomatic official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Australia deployed more than 60,000 military personnel to Vietnam between 1962 and 1973, of whom 521 were killed.


Today in History - Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, Aug. 18, the 231st day of 2016. There are 135 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 18, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, U.S. forces led by Gen. Stephen W. Kearny occupied Santa Fe in present-day New Mexico. 

On this date:

In 1587, Virginia Dare became the first child of English parents to be born in present-day America, on what is now Roanoke Island in North Carolina. (However, the Roanoke colony ended up mysteriously disappearing.) 

In 1838, the first marine expedition sponsored by the U.S. government set sail from Hampton Roads, Virginia; the crews traveled the southern Pacific Ocean, gathering scientific information. 

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued his Proclamation of Neutrality, aimed at keeping the United States out of World War I. 

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing all American women's right to vote, was ratified as Tennessee became the 36th state to approve it. 

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King dedicated the Thousand Islands Bridge connecting the United States and Canada. 

In 1954, during the Eisenhower administration, Assistant Secretary of Labor James Ernest Wilkins became the first black official to attend a meeting of the president's Cabinet as he sat in for Labor Secretary James P. Mitchell. 

In 1958, the novel "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov was first published in New York by G.P. Putnam's Sons, almost three years after it was originally published in Paris. 

In 1963, James Meredith became the first black student to graduate from the University of Mississippi. 

In 1969, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, New York, wound to a close after three nights with a mid-morning set by Jimi Hendrix. 

In 1976, two U.S. Army officers were killed in Korea's demilitarized zone as a group of North Korean soldiers wielding axes and metal pikes attacked U.S. and South Korean soldiers. 

In 1983, Hurricane Alicia slammed into the Texas coast, leaving 21 dead and causing more than a billion dollars' worth of damage. The Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Yankees, 5-4, in the completion of the "pine-tar" game in just 12 minutes. 

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush accepted the presidential nomination of his party at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. 

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush criticized a federal court ruling the day before that his warrantless wiretapping program was unconstitutional, declaring that opponents did not understand "the nature of the world in which we live." Financially struggling Ford Motor Co. said it would temporarily halt production at ten assembly plants. 

Five years ago: President Barack Obama and European leaders demanded that Syrian President Bashar Assad resign, saying his brutal suppression of his people made him unfit to lead. Vice President Joe Biden met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing. A storm swept through a popular open-air music festival in Hasselt, Belgium, killing five people. 

One year ago: The Food and Drug Administration approved Addyi, the world's first prescription drug designed to boost sexual desire in women. Bud Yorkin, a director and producer who helped forge a new brand of topical TV comedy with the 1970s hit "All in the Family," died in Los Angeles at age 89. 

Today's Birthdays: Former first lady Rosalynn Carter is 89. Movie director Roman Polanski is 83. Olympic gold medal decathlete Rafer Johnson is 81. Actor-director Robert Redford is 80. Actor Henry G. Sanders is 74. Actor-comedian Martin Mull is 73. Rhythm-and-blues singer Sarah Dash (LaBelle) is 71. Rock musician Dennis Elliott is 66. Country singer Jamie O'Hara is 66. Comedian Elayne Boosler is 64. Country singer Steve Wilkinson (The Wilkinsons) is 61. Actor Denis Leary is 59. Actor Reg E. Cathey is 58. Actress Madeleine Stowe is 58. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (GYT'-nur) is 55. ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff is 55. The former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, is 54. Bluegrass musician Jimmy Mattingly is 54. Actor Adam Storke is 54. Actor Craig Bierko (BEER'-koh) is 52. Rock singer-musician Zac Maloy (The Nixons) is 48. Rock singer and hip-hop artist Everlast is 47. Rapper Masta Killa (Wu-Tang Clan) is 47. Actor Christian Slater is 47. Actor Edward Norton is 47. Actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner is 46. Actress Kaitlin Olson is 41. Actor-writer-director Hadjii is 40. Rock musician Dirk Lance is 40. Actor-comedian Andy Samberg (TV: "Saturday Night Live") is 38. Country musician Brad Tursi (Old Dominion) is 37. Actress Mika Boorem is 29. Actress Maia Mitchell is 23. Actress Parker McKenna Posey is 21 

Thought for Today: "In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy." — Learned Hand, American jurist (born 1872, died this date in 1961).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Ford says it will have a fully autonomous car by 2021

Ford Motor Company President and CEO, Mark Fields, says his company plans to have a fully autonomous vehicle ready for road use by 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Dee-Ann Durbin

Detroit (AP) — Ford Motor Co. intends to have a fully driverless vehicle — no steering wheel, no pedals — on the road within five years. The car will initially be used for commercial ride-hailing or ride-sharing services, with sales to consumers coming later.

"This is a transformational moment in our industry and it is a transformational moment for our company," said CEO Mark Fields, as he announced the plan Tuesday at Ford's Silicon Valley campus in Palo Alto, California.

Ford's approach to the autonomous car breaks from many other companies, like Mercedes-Benz and Tesla Motors, which plan to gradually add self-driving capability to traditional cars. Just last month, BMW AG, Intel Corp. and the automotive camera maker Mobileye announced a plan to put an autonomous vehicle with a steering wheel on the road by 2021.

Instead, Ford is taking the same approach as Alphabet Inc.'s Google, which supports moving directly to self-driving cars once the technology is perfected.

"We abandoned the stepping-stone approach of driver-assist technologies and decided we were going to take the full leap," said Raj Nair, Ford's chief technical officer.

Nair says Ford will continue developing systems that assist the driver, like automatic emergency braking or lane departure warning. But he said semi-autonomous systems that can operate the car but then cede control back to the driver when an obstacle is encountered are actually dangerous in Ford's view. Engineers couldn't figure out how to make sure drivers stay engaged and ready to take over. So, Ford decided to remove the driver altogether.

"We learned that to achieve full autonomy, we have to take a completely different path," Nair said.

Jeremy Carlson, a senior analyst with IHS Automotive, says he doesn't know of another automaker that is taking Ford's approach. But there are challenges either way, he said. Riders may have a hard time trusting fully autonomous cars, for example, but semi-autonomous cars can be dangerous because drivers may not understand what the vehicles can and cannot do.

"I don't think there's going to be any one right answer," he said.

But Dillon Blake, senior director of business development for Runzheimer, a transportation consulting firm, says Ford's approach could go wrong very quickly.

"When you do it in steps, you get to make tweaks along the way. When you go all or bust, it's like going 'all in' in Vegas," Blake said.

Ford's vehicle will be specifically designed for commercial mobility services, like taxi companies, and will be available in high volumes. Ford says personal ownership of self-driving cars will come later.

Ford didn't say whether it would work with a ride-sharing partner or try to establish services on its own. Rival General Motors Co. has a partnership with the ride-hailing company Lyft and has also bought a self-driving software company called Cruise Automation.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford also said it plans to double the staff at its Palo Alto research center by the end of next year to nearly 300 people. It will buy two more buildings next to its current building in order to expand its campus, Fields said.

Ford will also make several investments and partnerships to speed its development of autonomous vehicles.

Ford and Chinese search engine company Baidu will each invest $75 million in Velodyne, a company that makes laser sensors that help guide self-driving cars. Velodyne, based in Morgan Hill, California, says it will use the $150 million investment to expand design and production and reduce the cost of its sensors. Laser sensors — dubbed Lidar, which stands for light, detection and ranging — can also be used in conventional vehicles as part of driver assist systems.

Ford said it has acquired Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company SAIPS for its expertise in artificial intelligence and computer vision. It also invested in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps for its three-dimensional mapping capabilities.

Ford has also formed a partnership with New York-based Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, a machine vision company that has developed devices for restoring sight to patients with degenerative eye diseases.


Search resumes for Nazi gold train that might not even exist

Heavy machinery begins the excavation work as explorers hope to find a legendary Nazi train laden with treasure and armaments in Walbrzych, Poland, Tuesday Aug. 16. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Vanessa Gera

Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Explorers in Poland began digging Tuesday for a legendary Nazi train said to be laden with treasure and armaments.

They're not dissuaded by decades of fruitless searches, a scientific determination that no train is there and warnings by historians that such a train might not even exist.

The search in southwestern Poland attests to the power of a local legend claiming a Nazi "gold train" disappeared in a mountain tunnel as the Germans escaped the advancing Soviet army at the end of World War II.

As the dig got underway, a yellow excavator moved earth along railroad tracks above the spot where two explorers —Andreas Richter, a German, and Piotr Koper, a Pole — believe the train is buried. Richter and Koper, joined by several other volunteers, expect the search to last several days.

The two men claimed last year to have located the elusive train with radar equipment deep in the bowels of the earth in the city of Walbrzych, sparking a gold rush to the castle city and the surrounding area.

A government official initially said he was "99 percent sure" the train was there, helping to feed the frenzy. The arrival of treasure hunters and curiosity seekers from across Europe gave a welcome financial boost to the coal mining region of Silesia, which has struggled since unprofitable mines in the area were closed after the fall of communism.

Late last year, geological experts from a university in Krakow, using magnetic equipment, found no train on the spot.

But the explorers refused to give up.

Andrzej Gaik, a spokesman for the search team, said six independent companies using various radar devices have detected anomalies indicating the shape of a tunnel underground on an elevated area running along railroad tracks.

"The results of the ground-penetrating radar examinations are very promising," Gaik said. "It's so exciting and we count on success."

Historians say the existence of the train, which is said to have gone missing in May 1945, never has been conclusively proven. Polish authorities nonetheless have seemed eager to pursue any chance of recovering treasures that have sparked the imaginations of local people for decades.

At the height of the frenzy last year, the World Jewish Congress reminded Poland's authorities that, in the case of a discovery of a treasure-laden train, any valuables belonging to Jews killed in the Holocaust must be returned to their rightful owners or their heirs.

Legend holds the train was armed and loaded with treasure and disappeared after entering a complex of tunnels under the Owl Mountains, a secret project known as "Riese" — or Giant — which the Nazis never finished.

The area belonged to Germany at the time, but has been part of Poland since the borders were moved in the postwar settlement.

A man credited with being the main living source of the legend is a retired miner, Tadeusz Slowikowski. He heard from a German man in the 1970s of a train that left the German city of Breslau (today Poland's Wroclaw) in the spring of 1945, as the Soviet army approached. He said the man told him the train disappeared before ever making it to Waldenburg (now Walbrzych) some 65 kilometers (45 miles) to the west.

However, a local historian, Pawel Rodziewicz, told The Associated Press last year that documentation leaves no doubt that gold in Breslau was evacuated to the German central bank in Berlin and elsewhere, so there would have been no reason to take any to Waldenburg, where the approaching Soviets could find it.

He thinks it is impossible that a secret railway tunnel could have been built into the hill near railroad tracks in frequent use. No documents have ever been found to indicate such a project was undertaken, while documents exist even for the most top-secret projects of the Third Reich, including some for the subterranean tunnels beneath the Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Rodziewicz argued.


Troops kill 5 civilians at anti-India protests in Kashmir

Kashmiris shout pro freedom slogans during a joint funeral of four civilians at Aripanthan village, west of Srinagar in Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Aug.16. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Aijaz Hussain

Srinagar, India (AP) — Government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir fatally shot five civilians and injured at least 15 others Tuesday as clashes with anti-India protesters intensified in the troubled region, police said.

Four people were killed when troops fired live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas to control hundreds of people throwing stones and chanting slogans in Aripanthan village, west of the main city of Srinagar, a police official said on condition of anonymity because of department policy. Three of the injured were in critical condition, police said.

News of the killings brought thousands of other Kashmiris from neighboring villages into the streets chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom." Large crowds continued anti-India chants at a funeral for the four dead civilians Tuesday afternoon.

More protests erupted across the region as thousands of people took to the streets in defiance of curfew orders.

A fifth civilian was killed as government forces fired on stone-throwing protesters in the southern Anantnag area.

Residents of Kurhama village in eastern Kashmir said soldiers in trucks came into the village and entered dozens of homes, beating men and women. They said the soldiers also ransacked houses and broke into shuttered shops.

A local police officer said the action occurred after a group of youths pelted an army convoy with stones. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said at least 15 villagers were hospitalized with various injuries.

The disputed Himalayan region has been extremely tense since government troops killed a popular rebel leader nearly six weeks ago.

Tuesday's deaths raised the death toll from the largest protests in years to 64, including two policemen. Thousands more have been injured.

Shops, businesses and schools have remained closed because of the security lockdown and protest strikes called by separatists, who challenge India's sovereignty over Kashmir. Residents have struggled to cope with shortages of food, medicine and other necessities. Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the many injured.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in entirety by both. Anti-India feelings run strong in the Muslim-majority region, where most people favor independence or merger with Pakistan.

More than 68,000 people have been killed since rebel groups began fighting Indian forces in 1989 and in the subsequent Indian military crackdown.


NASA: Last month was Earth's hottest in recorded history

The sun sets beyond visitors to Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo on Thursday, July 21, 2016. NASA calculated that last month was the Earth’s hottest in recorded history. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Seth Borenstein

Washington (AP) — Earth just broiled to its hottest month in recorded history, according to NASA.

Even after the fading of a strong El Nino, which spikes global temperatures on top of man-made climate change, July burst global temperature records.

NASA calculated that July 2016 was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit (0.84 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1950-1980 global average. That's clearly hotter than the previous hotter months, about 0.18 degrees warmer than the previous record of July 2011 and July 2015, which were so close they were said to be in a tie for the hottest month on record, said NASA chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt.

Scientists blame mostly man-made climate change from the burning of fossil fuel with an extra jump from the now-gone El Nino , which every few years is a natural warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide.

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said this is significant "because global temperatures continue to warm even as a record-breaking El Nino event has finally released its grip."

NASA's five hottest months on record are July 2016, July 2011, July 2015, July 2009 and August 2014. Only July 2015 was during an El Nino. Records go back to 1880.

This is the 10th record hot month in a row, according to NASA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which calculates temperatures slightly differently, will come out with its July figures on Wednesday. NOAA has figured there have been 14 monthly heat records broken in a row, before July.

"The scary thing is that we are moving into an era where it will be a surprise when each new month or year isn't one of the hottest on record," said Chris Field, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University.

This new record and all the records that have been broken recently years tell one cohesive story, said Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies: "The planet is getting warmer. It's important for what it tells us about the future." 


Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 17, 20166

The Associated Press
Today is Wednesday, Aug. 17, the 230th day of 2016. There are 136 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 17, 1807, Robert Fulton's North River Steamboat began heading up the Hudson River on its successful round trip between New York and Albany.

On this date:

In 1863, Federal batteries and ships began bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor during the Civil War, but the Confederates managed to hold on despite several days of pounding.

In 1915, a mob in Cobb County, Georgia, lynched Jewish businessman Leo Frank, 31, whose death sentence for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan had been commuted to life imprisonment. (Frank, who'd maintained his innocence, was pardoned by the state of Georgia in 1986.)

In 1943, the Allied conquest of Sicily during World War II was completed as U.S. and British forces entered Messina.

In 1945, Indonesian nationalists declared their independence from the Netherlands. The George Orwell novel "Animal Farm," an allegorical satire of Soviet Communism, was first published in London by Martin Secker & Warburg.

In 1962, East German border guards shot and killed 18-year-old Peter Fechter, who had attempted to cross the Berlin Wall into the western sector.

In 1969, Hurricane Camille slammed into the Mississippi coast as a Category 5 storm that was blamed for 256 U.S. deaths, three in Cuba.

In 1978, the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight ended as Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman landed their Double Eagle II outside Paris.

In 1982, the first commercially produced compact discs, a recording of ABBA's "The Visitors," were pressed at a Philips factory near Hanover, West Germany.

In 1985, more than 1,400 meatpackers walked off the job at the Geo. A. Hormel and Co.'s main plant in Austin, Minnesota, in a bitter strike that lasted just over a year.

In 1987, Rudolf Hess, the last member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle, died at Spandau Prison at age 93, an apparent suicide.

In 1996, the Reform Party announced Ross Perot had been selected to be its first-ever presidential nominee, opting for the third-party's founder over challenger Richard Lamm.

In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed when a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck Turkey.

Ten years ago: In a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, a federal judge in Detroit ruled that President George W. Bush's warrantless surveillance program was unconstitutional. (A divided federal appeals court threw out the lawsuit in July 2007, and the U.S. Supreme Court later let the appeals court decision stand.) President Bush signed new rules to prod companies into shoring up their pension plans. Jordan became the first Arab state to send a fully accredited ambassador to Iraq.

Five years ago: Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

One year ago: A bomb exploded within a central Bangkok shrine that was among the city's most popular tourist spots, killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 100. (Two men are facing trial for the bombing, but one has maintained he was tortured to obtain a confession.) The National Labor Relations Board dismissed a historic ruling that Northwestern University football players were school employees entitled to form the nation's first union of college athletes. Actress-dancer Yvonne Craig, 78, who played the sexy, crime-fighting Batgirl in the 1960s TV hit "Batman," died in Los Angeles.

Today's Birthdays: Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin is 90. Author V.S. Naipaul is 84. Former MLB All-Star Boog Powell is 75. Actor Robert DeNiro is 73. Movie director Martha Coolidge is 70. Rock musician Gary Talley (The Box Tops) is 69. Actor/screenwriter/producer Julian Fellowes is 67. Rock musician Sib Hashian is 67. Actor Robert Joy is 65. International Tennis Hall of Famer Guillermo Vilas is 64. Rock singer Kevin Rowland (Dexy's Midnight Runners) is 63. Rock musician Colin Moulding (XTC) is 61. Country singer-songwriter Kevin Welch is 61. Olympic gold medal figure skater Robin Cousins is 59. Singer Belinda Carlisle is 58. Author Jonathan Franzen is 57. Actor Sean Penn is 56. Jazz musician Everette Harp is 55. Rock musician Gilby Clarke is 54. Singer Maria McKee is 52. Rock musician Steve Gorman (The Black Crowes) is 51. Rock musician Jill Cunniff (kuh-NIHF') is 50. Actor David Conrad is 49. Singer Donnie Wahlberg is 47. College Basketball Hall of Famer and retired NBA All-Star Christian Laettner is 47. Rapper Posdnuos is 47. International Tennis Hall of Famer Jim Courier is 46. Retired MLB All-Star Jorge Posada is 45. TV personality Giuliana Rancic is 42. Actor Mark Salling is 34. Actor Bryton James is 30. Actor Brady Corbet is 28. Actress Taissa Farmiga is 22. Olympic bronze medal figure skater Gracie Gold is 21.

Thought for Today: "Experience is a good school, but the fees are high." — Heinrich Heine, German poet and critic (1797-1856).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 


Third French town bans 'burkini' swimwear after tense clash

In this Aug.4 2016 file photo, a woman gets into the sea wearing traditional Islamic dress, in Marseille, southern France. Sisco on the island of Corsica has become the latest French town to ban the burkini-style swimsuits following violent clashed over the weekend. (AP Photo)

Paris (AP) — The mayor of a Corsican town has banned full-body swimsuits known as "burkinis" after a clash between local residents and Muslim bathers of North African origin.

Ange-Pierre Vivoni is the latest French mayor to prohibit the swimwear, which is worn by some Muslim women, in the wake of Islamic extremist attacks this summer.

Vivoni said on France-Info radio Monday that the ban in his town of Sisco is aimed at calming religious tensions and protecting Muslims.

The Interior Ministry says a clash Saturday in Sisco that left at least four people injured and three cars torched reportedly started over the presence of women in burkinis.

Cannes and the town of Villeneuve-Loubet also recently banned the burkini. Critics say the bans are discriminatory and could worsen tensions.


Mexico: Gunmen abduct presumed gang members in resort city

The entrance of the restaurant "La Leche" stands closed after armed men abducted as many as 16 people who were dining in the upscale restaurant in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Monday, Aug. 15. (AP Photo/David Diaz)

Christopher Sherman

Mexico City (AP) — Armed men abducted 10 to 12 presumed members of a crime gang who appeared to be celebrating at an upscale restaurant in the popular Mexican beach resort city of Puerto Vallarta, authorities said Monday.

Jalisco state prosecutor Eduardo Almaguer said at a news conference that preliminary results of the investigation indicated that all involved — kidnappers and kidnapped — were members of criminal organizations.

"They were not tourists or residents who work in legal activities," Almaguer said. "They were people tied to a criminal group we can very clearly presume."

He said authorities believe they know which groups were involved, but declined to name them.

The Jalisco New Generation cartel has become the dominant criminal force in the state. It has battled the powerful Sinaloa cartel for supremacy in other parts of the country, such as Baja California Sur.

Almaguer said two SUVs carrying five gunmen arrived around 1 a.m. at La Leche restaurant on the city's main boulevard, which runs through the hotel zone between the old beach city and the airport.

Witnesses reported that four women in the targeted group were not taken by the gunmen, he said. He said authorities were looking for those women.

All of those abducted were from the western states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco, Almaguer said.

He said some of those abducted had been vacationing in Puerto Vallarta for a week and authorities found lots of drinks and luxury items inside the restaurant. Five vehicles were abandoned at the restaurant, among them one with Jalisco license plates, but a false registration.

"Obviously, those who acted (the kidnappers) — we presume with the information we have — also belonged to a criminal group that acted against members of another criminal group they located here in Puerto Vallarta," Almaguer said.

Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope said that without knowing who was taken, it was impossible to say what the fallout could be.

He recalled some violence last year in Puerto Vallarta but said the city had been quiet recently. He added that while Jalisco New Generation controls the area, it would be possible for another group to enter the city.

Hope also called it odd that a group of alleged cartel members would be taken without a shot being fired.

"It's a bit surprising that in effect they were drug traffickers but didn't have any security," Hope said.

Jalisco Gov. Aristoteles Sandoval said through his official Twitter account that such violence would not be tolerated and that a search was underway for the victims and the kidnappers.

"To the residents and tourists of Puerto Vallarta, I inform you that we have reinforced security so that you can go on as usual," Sandoval wrote.


33 killed, 28 injured as crowded bus veers off Nepal road

Family members of passengers of a bus that crashed in a mountain highway, look at a list of survivors airlifted for treatment at a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, Aug. 15.
(AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

Binaj Gurubacharya

Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — A bus filled with people traveling to their home villages in Nepal to receive the first government payments for victims of last year's devastating earthquake slipped off a narrow mountain road Monday, killing at least 33 people and injuring 28 others.

The bus was heading to Kartike Deurali village, among the worst hit by the quake, which killed nearly 9,000 people in the country. The road — little more than a trail — was only wide enough for one vehicle to pass at a time and was slippery because of continuous rain.

Home Ministry official Chiranjivi Nepal said 33 people were killed, but victims and relatives said many more may have died because the wreckage was scattered along the slope below the road and some areas were inaccessible.

"The bus stalled while climbing the hill and the driver tried to restart it, but the vehicle rolled backward and then slipped off the road," passenger Kopila Gautam said from a bed at the National Trauma Center in Kathmandu.

Gautam said about 85 passengers were riding inside the bus and on its roof. It was also packed with bags of rice, lentils, flour and other supplies being taken to villages. Gautam was sitting on a sack of rice because there were no seats available.

She said she and other survivors struggled to climb back up to the road.

Pustak Guatam, a villager who reached the site about an hour after the accident to rescue his nephew, said bodies and wreckage were scattered over a large area.

"It appeared that the bodies were ejected as the bus rolled down the slope, so I am sure more bodies will be found," Gautam said.

Mohan Giri, another villager who rushed to the hospital after hearing about the accident, said the bus was unusually crowded because many people were heading from Kathmandu to their villages to receive the first government grants for earthquake victims.

The accident occurred near Khare Khola, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of the capital. Officials said the bus plunged off the road and rolled about 150 meters (500 feet).

Army and police personnel were searching the area for bodies.

Nepal's mountainous terrain, extreme weather and poorly maintained roads and vehicles often make for treacherous travel conditions. Many of the bus accidents in the country happen during the monsoon season, which begins in June and ends in September.


Rampaging South Sudan troops raped foreigners, killed local

Debris lies in the Terrain compound after it was looted July 11in the capital Juba, South Sudan. (Adriane Ohanesian via AP)

Jason Patinkin

Nairobi, Kenya (AP) — The soldier pointed his AK-47 at the female aid worker and gave her a choice.

"Either you have sex with me, or we make every man here rape you and then we shoot you in the head," she remembers him saying.

She didn't really have a choice. By the end of the evening, she had been raped by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

On July 11, South Sudanese troops, fresh from winning a battle in the capital, Juba, over opposition forces, went on a nearly four-hour rampage through a residential compound popular with foreigners, in one of the worst targeted attacks on aid workers in South Sudan's three-year civil war. They shot dead a local journalist while forcing the foreigners to watch, raped several foreign women, singled out Americans, beat and robbed people and carried out mock executions, several witnesses told The Associated Press.

For hours throughout the assault, the U.N. peacekeeping force stationed less than a mile away refused to respond to desperate calls for help. Neither did embassies, including the U.S. Embassy.

The Associated Press interviewed by phone eight survivors, both male and female, including three who said they were raped. The other five said they were beaten; one was shot. Most insisted on anonymity for their safety or to protect their organizations still operating in South Sudan.

The accounts highlight, in raw detail, the failure of the U.N. peacekeeping force to uphold its core mandate of protecting civilians, notably those just a few minutes' drive away. The Associated Press previously reported that U.N. peacekeepers in Juba did not stop the rapes of local women by soldiers outside the U.N.'s main camp last month.

The attack on the Terrain hotel complex shows the hostility toward foreigners and aid workers by troops under the command of South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, who has been fighting supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar since civil war erupted in December 2013. Both sides have been accused of abuses. The U.N. recently passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution to send more peacekeeping troops to protect civilians.

Army spokesman Lul Ruai did not deny the attack at the Terrain but said it was premature to conclude the army was responsible. "Everyone is armed, and everyone has access to uniforms and we have people from other organized forces, but it was definitely done by people of South Sudan and by armed people of Juba," he said.

A report on the incident compiled by the Terrain's owner at Ruai's request, seen by the AP, alleges the rapes of at least five women, torture, mock executions, beatings and looting. An unknown number of South Sudanese women were also assaulted.

The attack came just as people in Juba were thinking the worst was over.

Three days earlier, gunfire had erupted outside the presidential compound between armed supporters of the two sides in South Sudan's civil war, at the time pushed together under an uneasy peace deal. The violence quickly spread across the city.

Throughout the weekend, bullets whizzed through the Terrain compound, a sprawling complex with a pool, squash court and a bar patronized by expats and South Sudanese elites. It is also in the shadow of the U.N.'s largest camp in Juba.

By Monday, the government had nearly defeated the forces under Machar, who fled the city. As both sides prepared to call for a cease-fire, some residents of the Terrain started to relax.

"Monday was relatively chill," one survivor said.

What was thought to be celebratory gunfire was heard. And then the soldiers arrived. A Terrain staffer from Uganda said he saw between 80 and 100 men pour into the compound after breaking open the gate with gunshots and tire irons. The Terrain's security guards were armed only with shotguns and were vastly outnumbered. The soldiers then went door to door, taking money, phones, laptops and car keys.

"They were very excited, very drunk, under the influence of something, almost a mad state, walking around shooting off rounds inside the rooms," one American said.

One man wore a blue police uniform, but the rest wore camouflage, the American said. Many had shoulder patches with the face of a tiger, the insignia worn by the president's personal guard.

For about an hour, soldiers beat the American with belts and the butts of their guns and accused him of hiding rebels. They fired bullets at his feet and close to his head. Eventually, one soldier who appeared to be in charge told him to leave the compound. Soldiers at the gate looked at his U.S. passport and handed it back, with instructions.

"You tell your embassy how we treated you," they said. He made his way to the nearby U.N. compound and appealed for help.

Meanwhile, soldiers were breaking into a two-story apartment block in the Terrain which had been deemed a safe house because of a heavy metal door guarding the apartments upstairs. Warned by a Kenyan staffer, more than 20 people inside, most of them foreigners, tried to hide. About 10 squeezed into a single bathroom.

The building shook as soldiers shot at the metal door and pried metal bars off windows for more than an hour, said residents. Once inside, the soldiers started ransacking the rooms and assaulting people they found.

Some of the soldiers were violent as they sexually assaulted women, said the woman who said she was raped by 15 men. Others, who looked to be just 15 or 16 years old, looked scared and were coerced into the act.

"One in particular, he was calling you, 'Sweetie, we should run away and get married.' It was like he was on a first date," the woman said. "He didn't see that what he was doing was a bad thing."

After about an hour and a half, the soldiers broke into the bathroom. They shot through the door, said Jesse Bunch, an American contractor who was hit in the leg.

"We kill you! We kill you!" the soldiers shouted, according to a Western woman in the bathroom. "They would shoot up at the ceiling and say, 'Do you want to die?' and we had to answer 'No!'"

The soldiers then pulled people out one by one. One woman said she was sexually assaulted by multiple men. Another Western woman said soldiers beat her with fists and threatened her with their guns when she tried to resist. She said five men raped her.

During the attack on the Terrain, several survivors told the AP that soldiers specifically asked if they were American. "One of them, as soon as he said he was American, he was hit with a rifle butt," said a woman.

When the soldiers came across John Gatluak, they knew he was local. The South Sudanese journalist worked for Internews, a media development organization funded by USAID. He had taken refuge at the Terrain after being briefly detained a few days earlier. The tribal scars on his forehead made it obvious he was Nuer, the same as opposition leader, Riek Machar.

Upon seeing him, the soldiers pushed him to the floor and beat him, according to the same woman who saw the American beaten.

Later in the attack, and after Kiir's side declared a ceasefire at 6 p.m., the soldiers forced the foreigners to stand in a semi-circle, said Gian Libot, a Philippines citizen who spent much of the attack under a bed until he was discovered.

One soldier ranted against foreigners. "He definitely had pronounced hatred against America," Libot said, recalling the soldier's words: "You messed up this country. You're helping the rebels. The people in the U.N., they're helping the rebels."

During the tirade, a soldier hit a man suspected of being American with a rifle butt. At one point, the soldier threatened to kill all the foreigners assembled. "We're gonna show the world an example," Libot remembered him saying.

Then Gatluak was hauled in front of the group. One soldier shouted "Nuer," and another soldier shot him twice in the head. He shot the dying Gatluak four more times while he lay on the ground.

"All it took was a declaration that he was different, and they shot him mercilessly," Libot said.

The shooting seemed to be a turning point for those assembled outside, Libot said. Looting and threats continued, but beatings started to draw to a close. Other soldiers continued to assault men and women inside the apartment block.

From the start of the attack, those inside the Terrain compound sent messages pleading for help by text and Facebook messages and emails.

"All of us were contacting whoever we could contact. The U.N., the U.S. embassy, contacting the specific battalions in the U.N., contacting specific departments," said the woman raped by 15 men.

A member of the U.N.'s Joint Operations Center in Juba first received word of the attack at 3:37 p.m., minutes after the breach of the compound, according to an internal timeline compiled by a member of the operations center and seen by AP.

Eight minutes later another message was sent to a different member of the operations center from a person inside Terrain saying that people were hiding there. At 4:22 p.m., that member received another message urging help.

Five minutes after that, the U.N. mission's Department of Safety and Security and its military command wing were alerted. At 4:33 p.m., a Quick Reaction Force, meant to intervene in emergencies, was informed. One minute later, the timeline notes the last contact on Monday from someone trapped inside Terrain.

For the next hour and a half the timeline is blank. At 6:52, shortly before sunset, the timeline states that "DSS would not send a team."

About 20 minutes later, a Quick Reaction Force of Ethiopians from the multinational U.N. mission was tasked to intervene, coordinating with South Sudan's army chief of staff, Paul Malong, who was also sending soldiers. But the Ethiopian battalion stood down, according to the timeline. Malong's troops eventually abandoned their intervention too because it took too long for the Quick Reaction Force to act.

The American who was released early in the assault and made it to the U.N. base said he also alerted U.N. staff. At around dusk, a U.N. worker he knew requested three different battalions to send a Quick Reaction Force.

"Everyone refused to go. Ethiopia, China, and Nepal. All refused to go," he said.

Eventually, South Sudanese security forces entered the Terrain and rescued all but three Western women and around 16 Terrain staff.

No one else was sent that night to find them. The U.N. timeline said a patrol would go in the morning, but this "was cancelled due to priority." A private security firm rescued the three Western women the staffers the next morning.

"The peacekeepers did not venture out of the bases to protect civilians under imminent threat," Human Rights Watch said Monday in a report on abuses throughout Juba.

Asked why U.N. peacekeepers didn't respond to repeated pleas for help, the U.N. said it is investigating.

"Obviously, we regret the loss of life and the violence that the people who were in Hotel Terrain endured, and we take this incident very seriously," the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters Monday. "As you're aware, we have called on the national authorities to investigate this incident thoroughly and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The U.S. Embassy, which also received requests for help during the attack, "was not in a position to intervene," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters Monday. She said the U.S. ambassador instead contacted local government officials, and she noted that the Terrain area was controlled by South Sudanese government forces at the time.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that "during the fighting throughout the city, the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan responded to distress calls from the compound and urgently contacted South Sudanese government officials, who sent a response force to the site to stop the attack."

"We are deeply concerned that United Nations peacekeepers were apparently either incapable of or unwilling to respond to calls for help. We have requested and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the United Nations and demand swift corrective action in the event that these allegations are substantiated," she said in a statement.

The assault at the Terrain pierced a feeling of security among some foreigners who had assumed that they would be protected by their governments or the hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers almost next door.

One of the women gang-raped said security advisers from an aid organization living in the compound told residents repeatedly that they were safe because foreigners would not be targeted. She said: "This sentence, 'We are not targeted,' I heard half an hour before they assaulted us."


Trump calls for 'extreme vetting' of immigration applicants

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Youngstown, Ohio, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Jill Colvin, Julie Pace

Youngstown, Ohio (AP) — Donald Trump called Monday for "extreme" ideological vetting of immigrants seeking admission to the United States, vowing to significantly overhaul the country's screening process and block those who sympathize with extremist groups or don't embrace American values.

"Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into our country," Trump said in a foreign policy address in Youngstown, Ohio. "Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued visas."

Trump's proposals were the latest version of a policy that began with his unprecedented call to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from entering the country — a religious test that was criticized across party lines as un-American.

The Republican nominee has made stricter immigration measures a central part of his proposals for defeating the Islamic State, a battle he said Monday is akin to the Cold War struggle against communism. He called for parents, teachers and others to promote "American culture" and encouraged "assimilation."

Trump's address comes during a trying stretch for his presidential campaign. He's struggled to stay on message and build a consistent case against Democrat Hillary Clinton, repeatedly roiling the White House race with provocative comments that have deeply frustrated many in his own party.

Clinton has seized on Republican concerns about Trump, highlighting the steady stream of GOP national security experts who say their party's nominee is unfit to serve as commander in chief. She kept up that argument Monday as she campaigned alongside Vice President Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a working class area where both have family ties.

Biden called Trump's views "dangerous" and "un-American." He warned that Trump's false assertions last week about President Barack Obama founding the Islamic State could be used by extremists to target American service members in Iraq.

"The threat to their life has gone up a couple clicks," Biden said.

Trump has since said he was being sarcastic in accusing Obama of founding IS. Still, he directly blamed the president and Clinton, who served as secretary of state, for backing policies that "unleashed" the group, including withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in late 2011.

He also challenged Clinton's fitness to be president, declaring she lacks the "mental and physical stamina" to take on the Islamic State.

Trump was vague about what he would do differently to decimate IS in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. He vowed to partner with any country that shares his goal of defeating the extremist group, regardless of other strategic disagreements, and named Russia as a nation he would like to improve relations with.

Russia and the U.S. have been discussing greater coordination in Syria, where IS is part of a volatile mix of groups fighting for power. But they have been unable to reach an agreement on which militant groups could be targeted.

Trump also vowed to end "our current strategy of nation-building and regime change" — a criticism that extends to policies of both parties. He panned the long, expensive Iraq War started under Republican President George W. Bush, as well as Obama's calls for new leadership in some Middle East countries during the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings.

Obama has held up Bush's years-long commitment to setting up and securing a new government in Iraq after the initial invasion as a reason to avoid U.S. military intervention in countries like Syria.

Trump's most specific anti-Islamic State proposals centered on keeping those seeking to carry out attacks in the West from entering the United States. He said attacks involving "immigrants or the children of immigrants" underscore the need to implement "extreme vetting."

Trump aides said the government would use questionnaires, social media, interview with family and friends or other means to vet applicants' stances on issues including religious freedom, gender equality and gay rights. Trump did not clarify how U.S. officials would assess the veracity of responses to the questionnaires or how much manpower it would require to complete such arduous vetting.

He did say that implementing the policy overhaul would require a temporary halt in immigration from "the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism." He did not identify those regions, saying instead that he would ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to do so once he is elected.

"We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures," Trump said.

Trump's first announced his call for banning Muslims last year during the GOP primary. He introduced a new standard following the June massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, vowing to "suspend immigration from areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats."

That proposal raised numerous questions that the campaign never clarified, including whether it would apply to citizens of countries like France, Israel, or Ireland, which have suffered recent and past attacks.

Trump had promised to release his list of "terror countries" soon. His announcement Monday that government agencies would create the list appeared to indicate that would not happen before the November election.


Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016

The Associated Press
Today is Tuesday, Aug. 16, the 229th day of 2016. There are 137 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 16, 1777, American forces won the Battle of Bennington in what was considered a turning point of the Revolutionary War. 

On this date: 

In 1812, Detroit fell to British and Indian forces in the War of 1812. 

In 1858, a telegraphed message from Britain's Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan was transmitted over the recently laid trans-Atlantic cable. 

In 1937, the American Federation of Radio Artists was chartered. 

In 1948, baseball legend Babe Ruth died in New York at age 53. 

In 1954, Sports Illustrated was first published by Time Inc. 

In 1956, Adlai E. Stevenson was nominated for president at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. 

In 1962, The Beatles fired their original drummer, Pete Best, replacing him with Ringo Starr. 

In 1976, the ABBA single "Dancing Queen" was released in Sweden. 

In 1977, Elvis Presley died at his Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 42. 

In 1978, James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told a Capitol Hill hearing he did not commit the crime, saying he'd been set up by a mysterious man called "Raoul." 

In 1987, 156 people were killed when Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed while trying to take off from Detroit; the sole survivor was 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan (SHEE'-an). 

In 1991, Pope John Paul II began the first-ever papal visit to Hungary. 

Ten years ago: A former American school teacher, John Mark Karr, was arrested in Thailand as a suspect in the 1996 slaying of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado. (Karr's confession that he had killed JonBenet was later discredited.) New York City officials released new tapes of hundreds of heart-wrenching phone calls from the World Trade Center on 9/11, along with other emergency transcripts. Alfredo Stroessner, the anti-communist general who'd ruled Paraguay for decades, died in Brasilia, Brazil, at age 93. 

Five years ago: President Barack Obama, on a Midwest bus tour, implored Iowans during a stopover in Peosta to share ideas with him about how leaders could give an economic jolt to the nation's heartland. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, meeting in Paris, called for greater economic discipline and unity among European nations but declined to take immediate financial measures. 

One year ago: Trigana Air Service Flight 257, an Indonesian ATR 42-300, crashed during a domestic flight; all 54 people on board were killed. Tens of thousands of Brazilians demonstrated their discontent with President Dilma Roussef. 

Today's Birthdays: Actress Ann Blyth is 88. Actor Gary Clarke is 83. Actress Julie Newmar is 83. Actor John Standing is 82. College Football Hall of Famer and NFL player Bill Glass is 81. Actress Anita Gillette is 80. Actress Carole Shelley is 77. Country singer Billy Joe Shaver is 77. Movie director Bruce Beresford is 76. Actor Bob Balaban is 71. Ballerina Suzanne Farrell is 71. Actress Lesley Ann Warren is 70. Actor Marshall Manesh is 66. Rock singer-musician Joey Spampinato is 66. Actor Reginald Vel Johnson is 64. TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford is 63. Rhythm-and-blues singer J.T. Taylor is 63. Movie director James Cameron is 62. Actor Jeff Perry is 61. Rock musician Tim Farriss (INXS) is 59. Actress Laura Innes is 59. Singer Madonna is 58. Actress Angela Bassett is 58. Actor Timothy Hutton is 56. Actor Steve Carell (kuh-REHL') is 54. Former tennis player Jimmy Arias is 52. Actor-singer Donovan Leitch is 49. Actor Andy Milder is 48. Actor Seth Peterson is 46. Country singer Emily Robison (The Dixie Chicks) is 44. Actor George Stults is 41. Singer Vanessa Carlton is 36. Actor Cam Gigandet is 34. Actress Agnes Bruckner is 31. Singer-musician Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) is 31. Actress Cristin Milioti is 31. Actor Shawn Pyfrom is 30. Country singer Ashton Shepherd is 30. Country singer Dan Smyers (Dan & Shay) is 29. Actor Kevin G. Schmidt is 28. Actress Rumer Willis is 28. Actor Parker Young is 28. Actor Cameron Monaghan is 23. Singer-pianist Greyson Chance is 19.

Thought for Today: "Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action." — Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman (1804-1881).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 


Iraqi Kurds advance near Islamic State-held city

In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces are stacked against a building during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from Islamic State militants. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Balint Szlanko, Qassim Abdul-Zahra

Irbil, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have retaken five villages east of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in an operation launched early Sunday.

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces known as peshmerga aim to "clear several more villages" in "one of many shaping operations" that will increase pressure on the extremist group, the Kurdish region's Security Council said in a statement.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq described the operation outside Mosul as "ongoing." Rudaw, a local television network, showed footage of smoke rising from a village in the distance as armored vehicles pushed across a field.

The council's statement said the area cleared is about 50 square kilometers (20 square miles). It said the U.S.-led coalition is supporting the operation with airstrikes, one of which destroyed a car bomb.

Iraq's Health Ministry meanwhile said a fire which swept through the maternity ward of a hospital in Baghdad last week was a "crime" and not an accident, without providing further details. The blaze in the capital's Yarmouk hospital killed 13 people, according to the ministry's statement.

Also on Sunday, Iraqi President Fuad Masoum approved the death sentences of 36 men sentenced to hang over the June 2014 massacre of hundreds of military recruits based near the central city of Tikrit. The Islamic State group massacred the soldiers and buried them in mass graves during its lightning advance across Iraq that summer.

Iraqi forces have made steady progress against the extremists in recent months, and Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is the group's last remaining urban stronghold in the country.


Hundreds protest hero burial for Philippine dictator Marcos

Protesters display placards as they gather for a rally at Rizal Park to oppose the burial of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes' Cemetery Sunday, Aug. 14, in Manila.
(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Jim Gomez

Manila, Philippines (AP) — Hundreds of Filipinos rallied in stormy weather Sunday against President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to allow dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a heroes' cemetery, but Duterte remained firm in his stance despite growing opposition.

About 1,500 protesters carrying a large streamer that read "Marcos not a hero" braved the rain, wind and mud at Manila's seaside Rizal Park to call on Duterte to reconsider his decision. They launched a signature campaign to try to stop the burial, tentatively set for next month.

Loretta Ann Rosales, who formerly headed the government's Commission on Human Rights, said she was tortured and molested along with thousands of other detained left-wing activists under Marcos during a dark era that clearly shows why the brutal leader does not deserve to be accorded any state honors.

"Is that not enough evidence? ... Is Marcos a hero?" Rosales asked, with the crowd yelling back: "No!"

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who was among the protesters, said she has filed a Senate resolution opposing a hero's burial for Marcos, adding that Duterte should not commit "this atrocious mistake" of bestowing honors to the dictator.

"Marcos went down in history as an unrepentant enemy of our heroes," Hontiveros said. "To honor the man a hero and bury his remains in a place reserved for the brave and martyred is an inimitable political abomination."

Burying a dictator accused of massive rights violations and plunder at the heroes' cemetery has long been an emotional and divisive issue in the Philippines, where Marcos was ousted by a "people power" revolt in 1986. He was flown to Hawaii, where he lived with his wife and children in exile until he died in 1989.

His remains were later returned to his northern Philippine hometown and displayed in a glass coffin. His wife, Imelda, and two of their three children gradually regained political influence after being elected to public office.

Duterte, who was sworn in as president in June, argues that Marcos is qualified to be buried at the military-run cemetery as a former soldier and president. He has disclosed that he once voted for Marcos and that his late father, a politician, served in Marcos's Cabinet.

Duterte's communications secretary, Martin Andanar, said Sunday that the president's position "remains firm," arguing that military rules allow Marcos to be buried at the hollowed cemetery as a former president and soldier.

A group of former political detainees and rights victims under Marcos called Selda said in a statement that it plans to ask the Supreme Court to stop what it calls a "grave injustice" to thousands of human rights victims.

Communist guerrillas, who are set to restart peace talks with Duterte's government this month, condemned his move for its "extreme insensitivity."

"Duterte is virtually deleting Marcos' bloody record as a military despot and the fascist violence, human rights violations, corruption and economic hardships he made the Filipino people suffer through 14 years of dictatorship," the rebels said in a statement.


Swiss train attack suspect, female victim die of wounds

In this Aug. 13, 2016 picture a police car stands at the train station following an attack onboard a train in Salez, Switzerland. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

David Rising

Berlin (AP) — The man who attacked passengers on a crowded Swiss train with a knife and burning liquid died of his wounds Sunday, as did one of his victims, a 34-year-old woman, Swiss police said. Three others remain hospitalized with serious wounds.

Police are still searching for a motive but said there's no indication the suspect, identified only as a 27-year-old Swiss man from a neighboring region, had ties to extremist groups.

A 43-year-old woman, a 6-year-old girl and 17-year-old girl remained hospitalized Sunday with serious injuries, one in critical condition, St. Gallen canton (state) police spokesman Hans-Peter Kruesi told The Associated Press. A 17-year-old youth and 50-year-old man wounded in the attack have been treated and released, he said.

Kruesi said all the victims lived in the St. Gallen canton.

Swiss police searched the suspect's home after the Saturday afternoon attack on the train as it neared the station in Salez, close to the Liechtenstein border. Kruesi would not comment on what evidence was seized at the home, but said "so far there are no indications this was a terrorist or politically motivated crime."

Police were not able to question the suspect before he died, Kruesi said, adding that the man had no criminal record and was not previously known to police.

According to a video of the attack evaluated by police, the assailant acted alone, attacking passengers on the train between Buchs and Sennwald with a knife and then burning liquid, which is now being analyzed by a police forensics team.

The train driver was being credited with quick thinking, continuing into the Salez station before stopping, a move that allowed police and rescue crews to get on board easier.

Five passengers on the train were wounded in the attack and a sixth person on the train platform, the 50-year-old man, was wounded as he pulled the burning suspect off the train, police said. The 50-year-old was treated for smoke inhalation and burns, Kruesi said.


Boko Haram video appears to show Chibok schoolgirls

Esther Yakubu, left, mother of one of the kidnapped school girls, watches a video released by Boko Haram during a briefing in Abuja, Nigeria. Sunday Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)

Michelle Faul, Haruna Umar

Maiduguri, Nigeria (AP) — The mother of one of the Chibok girls kidnapped more than two years ago by Nigeria's Islamic extremists on Sunday saw the first proof her daughter is alive — a video of her begging Nigeria's government to exchange detained militants for the girls' freedom.

Chibok community leader Pogu Bitrus told The Associated Press the video was being watched at the weekly rally of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign at Unity Fountain in Abuja, the capital.

Some of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls have been killed by Nigerian military air strikes, according to a new video from Boko Haram, which shows one kidnap victim pleading for authorities to bow to the extremists' demands that they release detained militants in return for the girls.

It's not clear how many schoolgirls have died among the 218 who remain missing.

The video posted Sunday on Twitter shows a young woman, covered in a hijab with just her face showing, who was one of the students abducted from a remote school in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014. She claims that some of her kidnapped classmates died in aerial bombardments by the Nigerian Air Force. She also said that 40 have been "married" to fighters.

The video shows a militant warning in the Hausa language that if President Muhammadu Buhari's government battles Boko Haram with firepower, the girls won't be seen again.

"Presently, some of the girls are crippled, some are terribly sick and some of them, as I had said, died during bombardment by the Nigerian military," the fighter says, appearing before a group of more than 40 young women in hijabs, some holding babies.

"If our members in detention are not freed, let the government and parents of the Chibok girls know that they will never find these girls again," he said.

The video, cited by the SITE Intelligence Group, was posted by Ahmad Salkida, a Nigerian journalist known to have good contacts in Boko Haram. Salkida says he was given the video by associates of Abubakar Shekau, who is in a leadership battle with a lieutenant named by the Islamic State group as the new leader of what it calls its West Africa Province.

The mass abduction brought Boko Haram to the world's attention and even got the participation of U.S. first lady Michelle Obama in the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign, promising her husband would do all in his power to help liberate them.

The government came under increased pressure from parents and Bring Back Our Girls campaigners after the May escape of one young woman, a proof of life that they said should encourage the military and government to redouble rescue efforts. The escapee said some of the girls had died but scores remained in captivity under heavy guard.

Sunday's video is another proof of life.

"The girl in the video spoke in the Chibok language and identified her mother by name. Her mother has now seen the video and identified her daughter," Chibok leader Pogu Bitrus told the AP.

The young woman in the video, probably speaking under duress, begs for help.

"Oh you, my people and our parents, you just have to please come to our rescue: We are suffering here, the aircraft have come to bombard us and killed many of us. Some are wounded. Every day we are in pains and suffering, so are our babies ... No one cares for us.

"Please go and beg the government of Nigeria to release the members of our abductors so that they too can free us to let us come home."

The video goes on to show bodies from an alleged air raid, including that of a girl whose eyes flicker open briefly.

Nigeria's Air Force has reported near-daily bombardments of Boko Haram camps and the military of increased ground assaults in which they have freed thousands of captives, though none of the Chibok girls.

Boko Haram has been forced out of most towns and has turned to assaulting remote villages and using suicide bombers to attack soft targets such as mosques and marketplaces.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the 7-year-old Islamic uprising that has spread from Nigeria to neighboring countries and driven 2.2 million people from their homes.

Aid workers say there is a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in newly freed but still dangerous areas where half a million people are starving and babies dying daily. There has also been a resurgence of polio in areas that had been under Boko Haram's control.


Today in History - Monday, Aug. 15, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Aug. 15, the 228th day of 2016. There are 138 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 15, 1945, in a pre-recorded radio address, Japan's Emperor Hirohito announced that his country had accepted terms of surrender for ending World War II.

On this date:

In 1057, Macbeth, King of Scots, was killed in battle by Malcolm, the eldest son of King Duncan, whom Macbeth had slain.

In this Aug. 15, 1945, file photo, Japanese people lower their head toward the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, as then Japan's Emperor Hirohito announces on radio that Japan was defeated in the World War II. (Kyodo New via AP, File)

In 1483, the Sistine Chapel was consecrated by Pope Sixtus IV.

In 1812, the Battle of Fort Dearborn took place as Potawatomi warriors attacked a U.S. military garrison of about 100 people. (Most of the garrison was killed, while the remainder was taken prisoner.)

In 1914, the Panama Canal officially opened as the SS Ancon crossed the just-completed waterway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. 

In 1935, humorist Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post were killed when their airplane crashed near Point Barrow in the Alaska Territory.

In 1939, the MGM musical "The Wizard of Oz" opened at the Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

In 1946, the DuMont television network made its debut over two stations, WABD in New York and WTTG in Washington, D.C. (The network lasted a decade, folding in 1956.) 

In 1947, India became independent after some 200 years of British rule. 

In 1965, The Beatles played to a crowd of more than 55,000 at New York's Shea Stadium.

In 1969, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair opened in upstate New York.

In 1974, a gunman attempted to shoot South Korean President Park Chung-hee during a speech; although Park was unhurt, his wife, Yuk Young-soo, was struck and killed, along with a teenage girl. (The gunman was later executed.)

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk was sworn in as acting president of South Africa, one day after P.W. Botha resigned as the result of a power struggle within the National Party. 

Ten years ago: Israel began withdrawing its forces from southern Lebanon. Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu (teh-ah-ree-kee-noo-ee, Dame teh-ah-ty-rung-ee-kah-hoo), the queen of New Zealand's indigenous Maori population, died on North Island, New Zealand, at age 75.

Five years ago: Hitting back against an emboldened GOP, President Barack Obama launched a rare direct attack on the Republican presidential field, criticizing his potential 2012 rivals for their blanket opposition to any deficit-cutting compromise involving new taxes during a town hall-style meeting in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Jim Thome (TOH'-mee) hit his 600th home run an inning after he hit No. 599 to help the Minnesota Twins outslug the Detroit Tigers 9-6. (Thome became the eighth major league player to reach 600.)

One year ago: Japanese Emperor Akihito expressed rare "deep remorse" over his country's wartime actions in an address marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a day after the prime minister fell short of apologizing to victims of Japanese aggression. Civil rights leader Julian Bond, 75, died in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Rose Marie is 93. Political activist Phyllis Schlafly is 92. Actor Mike Connors is 91. Actress Abby Dalton is 84. Actress Lori Nelson is 83. Civil rights activist Vernon Jordan is 81. Actor Jim Dale is 81. Actress Pat Priest is 80. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is 78. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is 78. Musician Pete York (Spencer Davis Group) is 74. Author-journalist Linda Ellerbee is 72. Songwriter Jimmy Webb is 70. Rock singer-musician Tom Johnston (The Doobie Brothers) is 68. Actress Phyllis Smith is 67. Britain's Princess Anne is 66. Actress Tess Harper is 66. Actor Larry Mathews is 61. Actor Zeljko Ivanek is 59. Actor-comedian Rondell Sheridan is 58. Rock singer-musician Matt Johnson (The The) is 55. Movie director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is 53. Philanthropist Melinda Gates is 52. Country singer Angela Rae (Wild Horses) is 50. Actor Peter Hermann is 49. Actress Debra Messing is 48. Actor Anthony Anderson is 46. Actor Ben Affleck is 44. Singer Mikey Graham (Boyzone) is 44. Actress Natasha Henstridge is 42. Actress Nicole Paggi is 39. Christian rock musician Tim Foreman (Switchfoot) is 38. Figure skater Jennifer Kirk is 32. Latin pop singer Belinda (cq) is 27. Rock singer Joe Jonas (The Jonas Brothers) is 27. Actor-singer Carlos PenaVega is 27. Actress Jennifer Lawrence is 26. Rap DJ Smoove da General (Cali Swag District) is 26. 

Thought for Today: "Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it." — George Carlin, American comedian (1937-2008).

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Experts: Mexico storms led to deaths of millions of monarchs

Seoul: North Korea fires submarine-launched missile

Obama vows support for Louisiana after the 'cameras leave'

Turkey, Syrian Kurds on track for conflict in northern Syria

Rio police expand scalping probe of Irish Olympic Council

Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016


Sarkozy to run for French presidency next year

Typhoon Mindulle shuts Tokyo's Narita airport control tower

Global travel spending still growing but at a slower pace

Trump vows 'fair, but firm' approach to illegal immigration

Turkey vows to 'cleanse' border of IS after deadly attack

Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016


Palestinian rocket strikes Israel, drawing Israeli reprisal

S. Korea, US start drills despite N. Korea's nuclear threat

Rio Games closes with samba-fueled Carnival

Duterte threatens to withdraw Philippines from UN, hits US

Today in History - Monday, Aug. 22, 2016


Today in History - Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016

More people go home as progress made against California fire

Mexican drug lord's kidnapped son potential bargaining chip

Philippine rebels declare cease-fire to foster peace talks

IOC's Hickey moved to Rio prison in ticket-scalping case

Today in History - Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016


Mexico's rights agency says police executed 22 at ranch

Massive dam project at center of China-Myanmar talks

2 Indonesians make rare, daring escape from Filipino captors

Brazilian police say Lochte, US swimmers were not robbed

Vietnam lifts ban on Australian commemoration of 1966 battle

Today in History - Friday, Aug. 19, 2016


California wildfire burns with ferocity never seen by fire crews

Senior N. Korean diplomat based in London defects

Trump turns to conservative flame-thrower as campaign CEO

Turkey to release 38,000 from jail; frees space for plotters

Australia says Vietnam cancels commemoration of 1966 battle

Today in History - Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016


Ford says it will have a fully autonomous car by 2021

Search resumes for Nazi gold train that might not even exist

Troops kill 5 civilians at anti-India protests in Kashmir

NASA: Last month was Earth's hottest in recorded history

Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016


Third French town bans 'burkini' swimwear after tense clash

Mexico: Gunmen abduct presumed gang members in resort city

33 killed, 28 injured as crowded bus veers off Nepal road

Rampaging South Sudan troops raped foreigners, killed local

Trump calls for 'extreme vetting' of immigration applicants

Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016


Iraqi Kurds advance near Islamic State-held city

Hundreds protest hero burial for Philippine dictator Marcos

Swiss train attack suspect, female victim die of wounds

Boko Haram video appears to show Chibok schoolgirls

Today in History - Monday, Aug. 15, 2016

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