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Update August 2016


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3 hurt as suicide bomber hits Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz police officers stand outside gates to the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tuesday, Aug. 30. (AP Photo/ Vladimir Voronin)

Leila Saralayeva

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (AP) — A suspected suicide bomber on Tuesday crashed a car through the entrance of the Chinese Embassy in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek, detonating a bomb that killed the attacker and wounded three embassy employees.

China denounced the attack and appealed to Kyrgyz authorities to identify and harshly punish anyone involved. No group claimed responsibility.

The Central Asian nation's interior ministry said the person who drove the vehicle through the gate died when the bomb detonated. The three people injured are Kyrgyz nationals: two 17-year-old embassy gardeners and an unidentified woman.

Almaz Kubatbekov, chief physician at the Bishkek National Trauma and Orthopedics Institute, said the three victims suffered concussions and multiple bruises.

Photos from the scene showed the inner courtyard of the embassy compound littered with debris. Windows of one building were smashed and the plastered walls pockmarked with shrapnel.

The embassy in Bishkek's southern suburbs neighbors the U.S. embassy.

Kyrgyzstan's interior ministry described it as a terrorist attack. Deputy Prime Minister Zhenish Razakov told the Interfax news agency it was a suicide bombing.

Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked former Soviet republic that borders China, has a predominantly Muslim population that is considered moderate in outlook.

A Kyrgyz news website, Kloop.kg, quoted Razakov as saying that he would lead a meeting Tuesday on tightening security ahead of Kyrgyz Independence Day on Wednesday and a summit of former Soviet nations in mid-September.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying described the three victims' injuries as minor but called for a stern security response.

"China is appalled and strongly condemns the violent act," Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

She said China's foreign ministry has "demanded that Kyrgyz authorities take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel in Kyrgyzstan, launch a thorough investigation to find out the truth of the incident and harshly punish the perpetrators."

Kyrgyz authorities offered no guidance on the attacker or a possible motive.

The Chinese regularly have blamed separatists and religious extremists for attacks in China's northwest region of Xinjiang, which borders Kyrgyzstan. Al-Qaida and the Islamic State group also have threatened to attack Chinese targets in retaliation for alleged repression of Chinese Muslims, particularly those from the Turkic-speaking Uighur majority native to Xinjiang.


Cambodia nabs 64 from China, Taiwan in alleged internet scam

A Cambodian police officer stands by arrested Taiwanese and Chinese nationals in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Aug. 30. (Cambodian Police via AP)

Sopheng Cheang

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian police arrested 64 people from mainland China and Taiwan on Tuesday, accusing them of taking part in an internet scam, officials said.

Initial information shows that at least 12 of the suspects are from Taiwan, while the rest are mainland Chinese, said Gen. Ouk Haiseila, chief of the Cambodian Interior Ministry's Immigration Investigation Bureau.

The general said the suspects were arrested in a rented house in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. They are accused of defrauding victims in China using phone calls made over the internet, he said.

"These suspects are now detained by immigration police for questioning and then we will deport them back to China," Gen. Ouk Haiseila said.

In June, Taiwan protested after Cambodia deported 25 Taiwanese internet scam suspects to rival China in the latest snub of the self-ruled island. Cambodia regards Taiwan to be part of China.

Although Taiwan's constitution formally decrees that it and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation, Taiwan functions like an independent country and does not acknowledge Beijing's claim of authority over it.

Rights activists and Taiwanese authorities say such deportations reflect the great influence China exercises over Cambodia through aid and investment.

China is a key ally and economic partner of impoverished Cambodia. It has provided millions of dollars in aid and investment over the past decade, agreed to write off debts and granted it tariff-free status for hundreds of items.

Kenya and Malaysia have also deported Taiwanese internet scam suspects to China despite protests by Taiwanese officials.


Singer arrested on suspicion of assault with deadly weapon

Rapper Chris Brown is shown in this June 7, 2015, file photo. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

Derrik J. Lang, Amanda Lee Myers

Los Angeles (AP) — Police arrested singer Chris Brown on Tuesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon after a woman called hours earlier from outside his Los Angeles home and said she needed help.

The arrest followed an hours-long standoff and lengthy search of Brown's home after police produced a search warrant.

Baylee Curran told the Los Angeles Times that Brown had pointed a gun at her face in his home early Tuesday. She said Brown and another man at his home became angry with her when she admired the man's diamond necklace.

Curran said she and her friend ran outside as one of Brown's associates gave chase and hid under a neighbor's SUV.

She hasn't responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Earlier, Brown sent messages via social media proclaiming his innocence and rebuffing reports that he had barricaded himself in his home.

"I don't care. Y'all gonna stop playing with me like I'm the villain out here, like I'm going crazy," he said in one Instagram video Tuesday, waving a cigarette and looking at the camera. "When you get the warrant or whatever you need to do, you're going to walk right up in here and you're going to see nothing. You idiots."

Officers first responded to his hilltop estate around 3 a.m. Tuesday after a woman called for help from outside the residence. Police Lt. Chris Ramirez did not identify the woman or elaborate on the assistance she needed. He did not know if she was injured.

Brown's attorney, Mark Geragos, arrived at the house shortly before police served the search warrant. Geragos has not responded to AP's request for comment.

Brown has been in repeated legal trouble since his felony conviction in the 2009 assault of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna.

After several missteps, Brown completed his probation in that case last year.

In 2013, Brown struck a man outside a Washington, D.C., hotel and was charged with misdemeanor assault. The singer was ordered into rehab but was dismissed from the facility for violating its rules.

He spent 2˝ months in custody, with U.S. marshals shuttling him between Los Angeles and the nation's capital for court hearings.

In another incident while in treatment, Brown was accused of throwing a brick at his mother's car following a counseling session. It came after Brown had completed court-ordered anger management classes.


Myanmar to hold historic peace talks with ethnic armies

Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, center, sits with members of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) as they pose for photographs following a meeting of armed ethnic groups in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo/File)

Yangon  (AP) - Peace talks aimed at ending more than half a century of conflict between Myanmar's army and an array of armed ethnic rebel groups are due to start in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Wednesday.

The talks are the first formal peace negotiations since Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party swept elections last November and took office in April, vowing that national unity would be its top priority.

Suu Kyi is expected to address the five-day conference, along with the powerful head of the nation's military, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and representatives of at least 17 of the 20 main armed groups. Hundreds of delegates are expected to attend.

The rebel armies control a patchwork of remote territories rich in jade and timber that are located mostly in the north and east along the borders with China and Thailand. They represent various ethnic groups that for decades have been fighting for autonomy while resisting "Burmanization," a push by the Burman ethnic majority to propagate its language, religion and culture in ethnic minority regions.

A look at why this week's meeting is significant:

___

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Armed ethnic conflict has plagued Myanmar for decades. The first uprising — launched by ethnic Karen insurgents — began shortly after the country gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Restoring stability nationwide is crucial to Myanmar's long-term political and economic health. Ethnic minorities make up about 40 percent of the population, and stability can't be achieved without their support.

Fighting is not only bad for business, it's a threat to the fragile democratic reform process that began in earnest when the military ceded some of its formal power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.

Skirmishes, particularly in northern zones where Kachin insurgents are fighting the army, have displaced more than 100,000 civilians since 2011 alone. At least 100,000 more have sought refuge in squalid camps in neighboring Thailand, and are unlikely to return home until true peace takes hold.

___

WHY NOW

Suu Kyi promised that bringing peace would be her top priority when her government assumed power.

The previous military-backed government brokered individual truces with various insurgent groups and oversaw a cease-fire covering eight minor insurgencies last year that fell short of a nationwide deal.

Suu Kyi's administration is hoping to build on those gains, but there are still skirmishes between the army and rebels, particularly in Kachin and Shan states.

___

WHO IS TAKING PART, AND WHO ISN'T

Suu Kyi said all ethnic armed groups would be invited to the talks, and most of the main rebel movements are taking part, including the Karen, Kachin, Shan and Wa ethnic groups.

At least three smaller groups are not: the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army. The MNDAA, made up of ethnic Chinese Kokangs, waged fierce battles with the army in 2015 that displaced tens of thousands of people.

___

THE HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

This week's talks are called the "21st Century Panglong Conference," a reference to the Panglong Agreement brokered in 1947 by Suu Kyi's late father, independence hero Gen. Aung San.

The deal granted ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain together.

Aung San was assassinated the following year and the deal fell apart. Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military governments of failing to honor the 1947 pact.

___

PROSPECTS FOR PEACE IN THE NEAR TERM

The short answer: slim.

Although the formal start of negotiations is a positive step, this week's meeting is likely to be largely ceremonial, with discussions of contentious issues delayed until later rounds.

That has happened plenty of times before — including in January, when Suu Kyi met leaders of the ethnic groups a few months before taking office. An official representing a coalition of rebel groups, the United Nationalities Federal Council, called those talks "a meeting that led to constructive intentions for the future meeting."

Some ethnic rebel groups have said they are not fully prepared for talks yet, and complained the government set the date without consulting them. It's also not clear whether the handful of rebel groups not attending will join later; the ethnic minorities believe that only a comprehensive agreement including all can succeed.

Part of the problem is that distrust between ethnic groups and the army is profound, and the military has retained enormous influence even though Suu Kyi's party has assumed nominal control of the government. Rebel representatives in Naypyitaw also said Tuesday that Suu Kyi was playing her cards close, and they could not clearly gauge her government's stance.


Europe hits Apple with a $15 billion-plus tax bill

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The European Union says Ireland has given illegal tax benefits to Apple Inc. and must now recover the unpaid back taxes from the U.S. technology company, plus interest. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

John-Thor Dahlburg, Brandon Bailey, Shawn Pogatchnik

San Francisco (AP) — The European Union ordered Apple on Tuesday to pay nearly $15 billion in back taxes to Ireland, plus billions more in interest, in a move that dramatically escalates the fight over whether America's biggest corporations are paying their fair share around the world.

While Apple could easily afford the bill, the tech giant said it will challenge the EU decision, which found that Ireland granted a sweetheart deal that let Apple pay almost no taxes across the European bloc for 11 years. And Ireland, which has long used low taxes to attract foreign businesses, said it will stand with Apple.

"We now find ourselves in the unusual position of being ordered to retroactively pay additional taxes to a government that says we don't owe them any more than we've already paid," Apple CEO Tim Cook complained in a statement.

The White House also blasted the ruling as unfair and disruptive to its own efforts at tax reform. But the decision was welcomed by groups that have long criticized the practices used by Apple and other large companies to legally reduce their tax obligations.

The ruling was the latest in a series of aggressive moves by European officials to hold U.S. businesses, particularly big tech companies, accountable under the EU's rules on taxation, competition and privacy.

"They're going after Apple, which means a big name and big dollars," said Brad Badertscher, a corporate tax expert at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. "It's a big shot across the pond to U.S. companies."

California-based Apple reported over $53 billion in profit in its last fiscal year on worldwide sales of more than $233 billion. It says it paid $13 billion in corporate income taxes globally.

But EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Ireland granted such lavish tax breaks to Apple that the company's effective corporate tax rate on its European profits dropped from 1 percent in 2003 to a mere 0.005 percent in 2014.

While Apple disputed her figures, Vestager argued that Ireland violated EU rules by essentially giving subsidies to selected companies.

Under its current arrangement, Apple treats virtually all sales of iPhones and other goods and services in the EU's 28 nations as revenue generated by its Irish subsidiaries.

Vestager ordered Ireland to recover the unpaid taxes for the years 2003 to 2014, plus interest, which one analyst said could amount to an additional 6 billion euros.

For Ireland, a country of barely 4.6 million people, the sum would be a huge windfall — equivalent to over 2,800 euros ($3,150) for every man, woman and child. And yet the government said it will appeal the decision, arguing it granted no special treatment to Apple.

Ireland has for years offered low corporate tax rates to multinationals, a common strategy among Europe's smaller countries, including Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Multinationals have such huge revenue that these countries can reap big gains even from low taxes. They also benefit from the jobs created. Apple has 5,500 workers in Ireland, making it one of the biggest private-sector employers.

"It is important that we send a strong message that Ireland remains an attractive and stable location of choice for long-term substantive investment," said Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan. "Apple has been in Ireland since the 1980s and employs thousands of people in Cork."

Apple likewise argued that it followed the law and paid every cent of what it owed.

"We are confident the commission's order will be overturned," Cook said, while also warning: "Beyond the obvious targeting of Apple, the most profound and harmful effect of this ruling will be on investment and job creation in Europe."

Badertscher agreed the ruling could discourage U.S. companies from investing in Europe. But others applauded the crackdown on what they described as a "race to the bottom" by individual nations offering lower tax rates than their neighbors.

"To its credit, the European Union understands that when member nations act as tax havens, as Ireland has, there are casualties far beyond the borders of Ireland," said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a liberal research group in Washington.

"It's not a good economic development strategy for Ireland in the long run, and it also subverts the tax system of every other member nation and nations around world," he added.

But the EU's move risks the ire of the United States. In recent weeks, the Obama administration warned European officials that their investigations seemed to be unfairly singling out U.S. companies.

U.S. Treasury officials also complained that imposing European taxes retroactively could hurt American taxpayers, since U.S. companies can receive a tax credit in this country for taxes paid overseas.

Apple, along with other big U.S. multinationals, has built a vast stockpile of cash from its foreign operations, but it has left the money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes that it would owe if it brought that money home.

The company reported this summer that it holds nearly $215 billion in cash and securities overseas, much of it generated by its Irish subsidiaries. Cook has complained that high U.S. taxes have discouraged the company from bringing those earnings home.

Apple said the EU ruling will have no immediate effect on its finances. Wall Street analysts agreed, noting the potential tax bill is a small fraction of the company's cash stockpile. Apple stock declined by less than 1 percent Tuesday.


Locally transmitted Zika virus infects 41 in Singapore

A traveller walks past a travel advisory on the Zika virus infection in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, Aug. 28. The Singapore Ministry of Health and National Environment Agency has informed that a Malaysian woman living in Singapore became the first patient to be infected by locally-transmitted Zika virus. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Annabelle Liang

Singapore (AP) — More than 40 people have been infected locally by the Zika virus in Singapore, but most have fully recovered, officials say.

Singapore announced its first Zika infection in May, with the virus imported by a 48-year-old man who had traveled to Brazil. On Sunday, the Ministry of Health confirmed 41 locally transmitted cases of the virus.

The ministry said in a statement that the patients were "not known to have traveled to Zika-affected areas recently, and are thus likely to have been infected in Singapore. This confirms that local transmission of Zika virus infection has taken place."

Of the group, 34 people have recovered, while seven remain at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the statement said.

The ministry named two residential districts of Singapore where the disease was transmitted and said that the bulk of those infected were foreign construction workers. The virus was mostly detected through tests on Saturday.

Among those still hospitalized is a 47-year-old Malaysian woman, identified by authorities as the first locally transmitted case.

Zika has mild effects on most people, but can be fatal for unborn children. Infection during pregnancy can result in babies with small heads — a condition called microcephaly — and other brain defects.


Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

The Associated Press
Today is Wednesday, Aug. 31, the 244th day of 2016. There are 122 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 31, 1886, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.3 devastated Charleston, South Carolina, killing at least 60 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

On this date: 

In 1881, the first U.S. tennis championships (for men only) began in Newport, Rhode Island. 

In 1916, the musical revue "The Big Show," featuring the song "Poor Butterfly" by Raymond Hubbell and John Golden, opened at New York's Hippodrome. 

In 1939, the first issue of Marvel Comics, featuring the Human Torch, was published by Timely Publications in New York. 

In 1941, the radio program "The Great Gildersleeve," a spinoff from "Fibber McGee and Molly" starring Harold Peary, debuted on NBC.

In 1954, Hurricane Carol hit the northeastern Atlantic states; Connecticut, Rhode Island and part of Massachusetts bore the brunt of the storm, which resulted in some 70 deaths. 

In 1965, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in voting to establish the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

In 1972, at the Munich Summer Olympics, American swimmer Mark Spitz won his fourth and fifth gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly and 800-meter freestyle relay; Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won gold medals in floor exercise and the balance beam. 

In 1980, Poland's Solidarity labor movement was born with an agreement signed in Gdansk (guh-DANSK') that ended a 17-day-old strike. 

In 1986, 82 people were killed when an Aeromexico jetliner and a small private plane collided over Cerritos, California. The Soviet passenger ship Admiral Nakhimov collided with a merchant vessel in the Black Sea, causing both to sink; up to 448 people reportedly died. 

In 1991, Uzbekistan (ooz-bek-ih-STAHN') and Kyrgyzstan (keer-gih-STAHN') declared their independence, raising to ten the number of republics seeking to secede from the Soviet Union. 

In 1996, three adults and four children drowned when their vehicle rolled into John D. Long Lake in Union, South Carolina; they had gone to see a monument to the sons of Susan Smith, who had drowned the two boys in Oct. 1994. 

In 1997, a car crash in Paris claimed the lives of Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul. 

Ten years ago: Iran defied a U.N. deadline to stop enriching uranium. President George W. Bush, addressing an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, predicted victory in the war on terror, likening the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism with the fight against Nazis and communists. Police in Norway recovered the Edvard Munch (AYD'-vart moongk) masterpieces "The Scream" and "Madonna" two years after masked gunmen grabbed the national art treasures in front of stunned visitors at an Oslo museum. 

Five years ago: The Wartime Contracting Commission issued a report saying the U.S. had lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stood to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awarded and managed contracts for battlefield support and reconstruction projects. Betty Skelton Erde (ur-dee), 85, an aviation and auto racing pioneer once called the fastest woman on Earth, died in The Villages, Florida. 

One year ago: President Barack Obama, opening a three-day visit to Alaska, painted a doomsday scenario for the Arctic and beyond if climate change wasn't dealt with fast: entire nations submerged underwater, cities abandoned and refugees fleeing in droves as conflict broke out across the globe. The State Department released roughly 7,000 pages of Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails, including about 150 emails that were censored because they contained information deemed classified. Frazier Glenn Miller, a white supremacist who admitted killing three people at two suburban Kansas City Jewish sites, gave jurors in Olathe, Kansas, a Nazi salute after they convicted him of murder and other charges for the shootings. (The same jury sentenced Miller to death.) 

Today's Birthdays: Japanese monster movie actor Katsumi Tezuka is 104. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson is 81. Actor Warren Berlinger is 79. Rock musician Jerry Allison (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) is 77. Actor Jack Thompson is 76. Violinist Itzhak Perlman is 71. Singer Van Morrison is 71. Rock musician Rudolf Schenker (The Scorpions) is 68. Actor Richard Gere is 67. Olympic gold medal track and field athlete Edwin Moses is 61. Rock singer Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze) is 59. Rock musician Gina Schock (The Go-Go's) is 59. Singer Tony DeFranco (The DeFranco Family) is 57. Rhythm-and-blues musician Larry Waddell (Mint Condition) is 53. Actor Jaime P. Gomez is 51. Baseball pitcher Hideo Nomo is 48. Rock musician Jeff Russo (Tonic) is 47. Singer-composer Deborah Gibson is 46. Rock musician Greg Richling (Wallflowers) is 46. Actor Zack Ward is 46. Golfer Padraig Harrington is 45. Actor Chris Tucker is 44. Actress Sara Ramirez is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Tamara (Trina & Tamara) is 39. 

Thought for Today: "Every man in the world is better than someone else and not as good someone else." — William Saroyan, American author (1908-1981).   

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


Brazil's president proclaims innocence at impeachment trial

Brazil's suspended President Dilma Rousseff holds up a chart as she speaks at her own impeachment trial, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 29. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Mauricio Savarese, Peter Prengaman

Brasilia, Brazil (AP) — Brazil's suspended president proclaimed her innocence Monday, branding her vice president a "usurper" and warning senators that history would judge them harshly if they ousted a democratically elected leader on false charges.

Dilma Rousseff's much anticipated speech to the lawmakers who will decide this week whether to permanently remove her from office was characterized by the same defiance she has shown throughout an impeachment process that has divided Latin America's most populous nation.

"I know I will be judged, but my conscience is clear. I did not commit a crime," Rousseff told senators, who listened intently in contrast to the chamber's usual raucousness.

In the middle of her second term, the left-leaning leader has been accused of breaking fiscal rules to hide problems in the federal budget. She has denied any wrongdoing, accusing her opponents of a "coup d'état."

Rousseff reminded those in attendance that she was re-elected in 2014 by more than 54 million votes, asserting that at every moment since she has followed the constitution and sought to do what was best for the country.

Brazil's first female president is a former guerrilla fighter who was jailed and tortured during the country's dictatorship, and Rousseff drew a connection between her past and the situation today.

"I can't help but taste the bitterness of injustice," she said of the process that will decide not only her fate but the nation's political future.

During her 30-minite speech, Rousseff argued that in early 2015 opposition lawmakers began creating a climate of instability by refusing to negotiate and throwing what she called "fiscal bombs" in the face of declining revenues.

She said the impeachment process had exacerbated the recession in Latin America's largest economy, placing the blame on the opposition, which has argued that she has to be removed for the financial climate to improve.

Rousseff blasted interim President Michel Temer as a "usurper." Her vice president turned arch-enemy, Temer took over when the Senate voted in May to impeach and suspend Rousseff for up to 180 days while a trial was prepared. He will serve out Rousseff's term if she is removed.

Referring to Temer, Rousseff said Brazilians would never have elected a man who named a Cabinet of all white men in a country that is more than 50 percent non-white. The Cabinet that Temer put in place in May has been roundly criticized for its lack of diversity, and three of his ministers were forced to step down within a month of taking office because of corruption allegations.

Rousseff asserted she had paid a price for refusing to quash a wide-ranging police investigation into the state oil company Petrobras, saying that corrupt lawmakers conspired to oust her to derail the investigation into billions in kickbacks at the oil giant.

The investigation has led to the jailing of top businessmen and politicians, including in her Workers' Party. But they have plenty of company: Watchdog groups estimate 60 percent of the 594 lawmakers in both chambers are being investigated for wrongdoing, many for corruption related to the Petrobras probe.

Rousseff said it was "an irony of history" that she would be judged for crimes she did not commit, by people who were accused of serious crimes.

"I ask that you be just with an honest president," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Watching the proceedings, Rousseff's mentor and predecessor as president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is himself under investigation, said: "She said what she had to say."

After Rousseff's speech, senators from both the opposition and her bloc of supporters began questioning her, a process that was expected to extend late into Monday night. Her appearance is to be followed by a Senate vote on whether to remove her permanently from the presidency, expected as early as Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday.

For Rousseff to be removed, at least 54 of the 81 senators need to vote in favor. Counts by local media find that 52 senators have said they plan on voting for removal, while 18 are opposed and 11 have not said one way or another. In May, the same body voted 55-21 to impeach and suspend her.

One of the sharpest exchanges came with Sen. Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost the presidential election to Rousseff in 2014. Neves charged that Rousseff won by lying to voters and "committing illegalities" with the budget maneuvers. While the impeachment measure focuses only on 2015, many senators accuse Rousseff of fiscal improprieties before that.

Rousseff brushed Neves off, saying that the day after she was re-elected "several measures were taken to destabilize my government."

As questioning of the suspended leader wore on Monday night, only a few senators were paying attention to Rousseff's answers, which tended to be lengthy.

Rousseff's appearance came on the fourth day of a trial that has seen name-calling, shouting and a declaration by Senate President Renan Calheiros that "stupidity is limitless."

The process began late last year, with the Chamber of Deputies approving impeachment charges in April and the Senate in May.

The drama has consumed Brazil, with the proceedings continuing even during the Aug. 5-21 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. On Monday, several hundred supporters demonstrated outside Congress, cheering when Rousseff arrived. A huge wall was erected to separate her supporters and pro-impeachment activists.

Before Rousseff spoke, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, who is presiding over the trial, warned senators and spectators to remain silent.

When Rousseff finished speaking, many senators applauded, prompting Lewandowski to temporarily suspend the session.

"We are holding a judgment trial here, not a political debate," he said.


European ships rescue thousands of migrants off Libyan coast

Migrants, most of them from Eritrea, jump into the water from a crowded wooden boat as they are helped by members of an NGO during a rescue operation at the Mediterranean Sea, Monday, Aug. 29. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Emilio Morenatti

Off the coast of Libya (AP) — Italian naval ships and vessels from non-government groups rescued thousands of migrants off the Libyan coast on Monday, the latest surge in desperate attempts to flee to Europe driven by war, poverty, and human traffickers.

The dramatic operation took place just 21 kilometers north of the town of Sabratha in Libya. Groups such as Proactiva Open Arms and Doctors Without Borders helped take on some 3,000 people who had been travelling in some 20 small wooden boats.

In images and video by The Associated Press, migrants from Eritrea and Somalia cheered as the rescue boats arrived, with some jumping into the water and swimming toward them while others carefully carried babies onto the rescue ships.

Their boats too weak and technically unequipped for a voyage across the stretch of the Mediterranean to the shores of Italy, the migrants had set off with a bit of gasoline in the overcrowded vessels, hoping to make it at least 15-20 miles out to sea and reach awaiting rescuers.

Tens of thousands of Africans take the dangerous Mediterranean Sea route as a gateway to a better life in Europe, alongside those fleeing wars from Syria to Afghanistan.

Libya's chaos and lack of border controls have made it into a transit route. Since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the country has sunk into lawlessness, facing a myriad of militias vying for influence and an emerging Islamic State affiliate.

In June, the European Union expanded its anti-smuggling operation in the central Mediterranean to include training Libyan coastal and naval forces, which are intercepting boats and returning migrants to Libya, where some are being held in abusive conditions.

Rights groups and experts estimate that there are about 3,500 migrants held in roughly 20 official detention facilities across Libya. Others are held in informal detention centers controlled by criminal gangs or armed groups.


15 Philippine troops killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels

15 Philippine army troops have been killed in a fierce gun battle with Abu Sayyaf rebels in Sulu province, Monday, August 29. (AP Photo/file)

Jim Gomez

Manila, Philippines (AP) — Abu Sayyaf extremists killed 15 Philippine army soldiers in fierce fighting Monday in the country's restive south, dealing the government its largest single-day combat loss under President Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered the militants to be crushed for their brutality.

Military officials said five other soldiers were wounded in the nearly two-hour gun battle that also killed at least two militants in Sulu province's mountainous Patikul town, where the Abu Sayyaf have detained many of their kidnap victims.

The estimated 70 militants were led by Abu Sayyaf commander Radulan Sahiron, a one-armed fighter long wanted by Philippine and U.S. authorities for his role in bombings, kidnappings and other acts, according to regional military commander Maj. Filemon Tan and police officials.

Duterte ordered troops to hunt down and destroy the militants in their jungle bases last week after the extremists beheaded a kidnapped villager whose family was too poor to pay a ransom. The tough-talking president has pursued peace talks with two larger Muslim rebel groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front whose fighters have been suspected of providing sanctuary and combat support to the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu in the past.

The military's battle setback came after troops killed at least 21 Abu Sayyaf gunmen, including an influential commander, in the jungles of Patikul on Friday and Saturday in assaults that followed the beheading.

The United States and the Philippines have blacklisted the Abu Sayyaf, which is estimated to have more than 400 armed members, for deadly bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. Although the militants have been weakened by years of U.S. military-supported Philippine offensives, they remain a national security concern and have been implicated in the recent kidnappings of Indonesian and Malaysian crewmen of tugboats plying the area around the sea borders of the three countries.


Actor Gene Wilder, star of Mel Brooks movies, dies at 83

Actor Gene Wilder is shown during an interview with Jean Claude Bouis in this Dec. 9, 1977 file photo. Wilder died late Sunday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Sandy Cohen

Los Angeles (AP) — Gene Wilder, the frizzy-haired actor who brought his deft comedic touch to such unforgettable roles as the neurotic accountant in "The Producers" and the mad scientist of "Young Frankenstein," has died. He was 83.

Wilder's nephew said Monday that the actor and writer died late Sunday at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Jordan Walker-Pearlman said in a statement that Wilder was diagnosed with the disease three years ago, but kept the condition private so as not to disappoint fans.

"He simply couldn't bear the idea of one less smile in the world," Walker-Pearlman said.

Wilder started his acting career on the stage, but millions knew him from his work in the movies, especially his collaborations with Mel Brooks on "The Producers," ''Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein." The last film — with Wilder playing a California-born descendant of the mad scientist, insisting that his name is pronounced "Frahn-ken-SHTEEN" — was co-written by Brooks and Wilder.

"Gene Wilder, one of the truly great talents of our time, is gone," Brooks wrote in a statement Monday. "He blessed every film we did together with his special magic and he blessed my life with his friendship. He will be so missed."

With his unkempt hair and big, buggy eyes, Wilder was a master at playing panicked characters caught up in schemes that only a madman such as Brooks could devise, whether reviving a monster in "Young Frankenstein" or bilking Broadway in "The Producers." Brooks would call him "God's perfect prey, the victim in all of us."

But he also knew how to keep it cool as the boozing gunslinger in "Blazing Saddles" or the charming candy man in the children's favorite "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." His craziest role: the therapist having an affair with a sheep in Woody Allen's "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex."

"The greatest comedic mind of my childhood is now gone," actor Josh Gad wrote on Twitter. "#RIP #GeneWilder & thank you 4 your pure imagination. This one hits hard."

Tweeted Jim Carrey: "Gene Wilder was one of the funniest and sweetest energies ever to take a human form. If there's a heaven he has a Golden Ticket."

Wilder was close friends with Richard Pryor and their contrasting personas — Wilder uptight, Pryor loose — were ideal for comedy. They co-starred in four films: "Silver Streak," ''Stir Crazy," ''See No Evil, Hear No Evil" and "Another You." And they created several memorable scenes, particularly when Pryor provided Wilder with directions on how to "act black" as they tried to avoid police in "Silver Streak."

But Wilder would insist in a 2013 interview that he was no comedian. He told interviewer Robert Osborne it was the biggest misconception about him.

"What a comic, what a funny guy, all that stuff! And I'm not. I'm really not. Except in a comedy in films," Wilder said. "But I make my wife laugh once or twice in the house, but nothing special. But when people see me in a movie and it's funny then they stop and say things to me about 'how funny you were.' But I don't think I'm that funny. I think I can be in the movies."

In 1968, Wilder received an Oscar nomination for his work in Brooks' "The Producers." He played the introverted Leo Bloom, an accountant who discovers the liberating joys of greed and corruption as he and Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) conceive a Broadway flop titled "Springtime For Hitler" and plan to flee with the money raised for the show's production. Matthew Broderick played Wilder's role in the 2001 Broadway stage revival of the show.

Though they collaborated on film, Wilder and Brooks met through the theater. Wilder was in a play with Brooks' then-future wife, Anne Bancroft, who introduced the pair backstage in 1963.

Wilder, a Milwaukee native, was born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933. His father was a Russian emigre, his mother was of Polish descent. When he was 6, Wilder's mother suffered a heart attack that left her a semi-invalid. He soon began improvising comedy skits to entertain her, the first indication of his future career.

He started taking acting classes at age 12 and continued performing and taking lesson through college. In 1961, Wilder became a member of Lee Strasberg's prestigious Actor's Studio in Manhattan.

That same year, he made both his off-Broadway and Broadway debuts. He won the Clarence Derwent Award, given to promising newcomers, for the Broadway work in Graham Greene's comedy "The Complaisant Lover."

He used his new name, Gene Wilder, for the off-Broadway and Broadway roles. He lifted the first name from the character Eugene Gant in Thomas Wolfe's "Look Back, Homeward Angel," while the last name was clipped from playwright Thornton Wilder. A key break came when he co-starred with Bancroft in Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage," and met Brooks, her future husband.

"I was having trouble with one little section of the play, and he gave me tips on how to act. He said, 'That's a song and dance. He's proselytizing about communism. Just skip over it, sing and dance over it, and get on to the good stuff.' And he was right," Wilder later explained.

Before starring in "The Producers," he had a small role as the hostage of gangsters in the 1967 classic "Bonnie and Clyde." He peaked in the mid-1970s with the twin Brooks hits "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein."

He went on to write several screenplays and direct several films. In 1982, while making the generally forgettable "Hanky-Panky," he fell in love with co-star Gilda Radner. They were married in 1984, and co-starred in two Wilder-penned films: "The Woman in Red" and "Haunted Honeymoon."

After Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989, Wilder spent much of his time after promoting cancer research and opened a support facility for cancer patients. In 1991, he testified before Congress about the need for increased testing for cancer.

That same year, he appeared in his final film role: "Another You" with Pryor.

Wilder worked mostly in television in recent years, including appearances on "Will & Grace" — including one that earned him an Emmy Award for outstanding guest actor — and a starring role in the short-lived sitcom "Something Wilder." In 2015, he was among the voices in the animated "The Yo Gabba Gabba! Movie 2."

As for why he stopped appearing on the big screen, Wilder said in 2013 he was turned off by the noise and foul language in modern movies.

"I didn't want to do the kind of junk I was seeing," he said in an interview. "I didn't want to do 3D for instance. I didn't want to do ones where there's just bombing and loud and swearing, so much swearing... can't they just stop and talk instead of swearing?"

Wilder is survived by his wife, Karen, whom he married in 1991, and his daughter from a previous marriage, Katherine, from whom he was estranged.


Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

The Associated Press 

Today is Tuesday, Aug. 30, the 243rd day of 2016. There are 123 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 30, 1861, Union Gen. John C. Fremont instituted martial law in Missouri and declared slaves there to be free. (However, Fremont's emancipation order was countermanded by President Abraham Lincoln). 

On this date: 

In 1862, Confederate forces won victories against the Union at the Second Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia, and the Battle of Richmond in Kentucky. 

In 1905, Ty Cobb made his major-league debut as a player for the Detroit Tigers, hitting a double in his first at-bat in a game against the New York Highlanders. (The Tigers won, 5-3.) 

In 1935, the film "Anna Karenina," MGM's version of the Tolstoy novel starring Greta Garbo, opened in New York. 

In 1945, U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur arrived in Japan to set up Allied occupation headquarters. 

In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which was intended to promote private development of nuclear energy. 

In 1963, the "Hot Line" communications link between Washington and Moscow went into operation. 

In 1967, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In 1983, Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first black American astronaut to travel in space as he blasted off aboard the Challenger. 

In 1984, the space shuttle Discovery was launched on its inaugural flight. 

In 1986, Soviet authorities arrested Nicholas Daniloff, a correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, as a spy a week after American officials arrested Gennadiy Zakharov, a Soviet employee of the United Nations, on espionage charges in New York. (Both men were later released.) 

In 1989, a federal jury in New York found "hotel queen" Leona Helmsley guilty of income tax evasion, but acquitted her of extortion. (Helmsley ended up serving 18 months behind bars, a month at a halfway house and two months under house arrest.) 

In 1991, Azerbaijan (ah-zur-by-JAHN') declared its independence, joining the stampede of republics seeking to secede from the Soviet Union. 

Ten years ago: Hurricane John lashed tourist resorts with heavy winds and rain as the dangerous Category 4 storm marched up Mexico's Pacific coast. Actor Glenn Ford died in Beverly Hills, California, at age 90. Naguib Mahfouz (nuh-GEEB' mah-FOOS'), the first Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize in literature, died in Cairo, Egypt, at age 94. 

Five years ago: National Guard helicopters rushed food and water to a dozen cut-off Vermont towns after the rainy remnants of Hurricane Irene washed out roads and bridges in a deluge that had taken many people in the landlocked New England state by surprise. Libyan rebels said they were closing in on Moammar Gadhafi and issued an ultimatum to loyalists in his hometown of Sirte (surt), his main remaining bastion: Surrender, or face attack. 

One year ago: The White House announced that President Barack Obama would change the name of North America's tallest mountain peak from Mount McKinley to Denali, bestowing the traditional Alaska Native name on the eve of a historic presidential visit to Alaska. Jake Arrieta pitched the sixth no-hitter of the season and second against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 days, leading the Chicago Cubs to a 2-0 victory. Tokyo won the Little League World Series, defeating Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, 18-11. Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, 82, author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat," died in New York. Movie writer-director Wes Craven, 76, who startled audiences with suburban slashers like "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream," died in Los Angeles. 

Today's Birthdays: Actor Bill Daily is 89. Actress Elizabeth Ashley is 77. Actor Ben Jones is 75. Cartoonist R. Crumb is 73. Olympic gold medal skier Jean-Claude Killy is 73. Actress Peggy Lipton is 70. Comedian Lewis Black is 68. Actor Timothy Bottoms is 65. Actor David Paymer is 62. Jazz musician Gerald Albright is 59. Actor Michael Chiklis is 53. Music producer Robert Clivilles is 52. Actress Michael Michele is 50. Country musician Geoff Firebaugh is 48. Country singer Sherrie Austin is 45. Rock singer-musician Lars Frederiksen (Rancid) is 45. Actress Cameron Diaz is 44. Rock musician Leon Caffrey (Space) is 43. TV personality Lisa Ling is 43. Rock singer-musician Aaron Barrett (Reel Big Fish) is 42. Actor Raul Castillo (TV: "Looking") is 39. Actor Michael Gladis is 39. Rock musician Matt Taul (Tantric; Days of the New) is 38. Tennis player Andy Roddick is 34. Singer Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive) is 31. Rock musician Ryan Ross is 30. Actress Johanna Braddy (TV: "Quantico") is 29. Actor Cameron Finley is 29. 

Thought for Today: "If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction." — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian (1906-1945).   

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


Today in History - Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Aug. 29, the 242nd day of 2016. There are 124 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 29, 1966, the Beatles concluded their fourth American tour with their last public concert, held at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. 

On this date: 

In 1533, the last Incan King of Peru, Atahualpa (ah-tuh-WAHL'-puh), was executed on orders of Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro. 

In 1877, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Brigham Young, died in Salt Lake City, Utah, at age 76. 

In 1910, Korean Emperor Sunjong abdicated as the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty went into effect. 

In 1935, the film "Top Hat," starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York. 

In 1944, 15,000 American troops of the 28th Infantry Division marched down the Champs Elysees (shahms ay-lee-ZAY') in Paris as the French capital continued to celebrate its liberation from the Nazis. 

In 1952, the composition 4'33" ("Four Minutes, Thirty-three Seconds") by avant-garde composer John Cage premiered in Woodstock, New York, as David Tudor sat down at a piano, shut the keyboard lid, and, for four minutes and 33 seconds, played ... nothing. 

In 1958, pop superstar Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana. 

In 1965, Gemini 5, carrying astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles "Pete" Conrad, splashed down in the Atlantic after 8 days in space. 

In 1972, swimmer Mark Spitz of the United States won the third of his seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics, finishing first in the 200-meter freestyle. 

In 1981, broadcaster and world traveler Lowell Thomas died in Pawling, New York, at age 89. 

In 1996, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago nominated Al Gore for a second term as vice president. Earlier in the day, President Bill Clinton's chief political strategist, Dick Morris, resigned amid a scandal over his relationship with a prostitute. 

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast near Buras, Louisiana, bringing floods that devastated New Orleans. More than 1,800 people in the region died. 

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush visited New Orleans one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region to offer comfort and hope to residents. Tropical Storm Ernesto's leading edge drenched Miami and the rest of southern Florida. 

Five years ago: In a sign Moammar Gadhafi had lost grip on his country, his wife and three of his children fled Libya to neighboring Algeria. Grammy-winning blues musician David "Honey Boy" Edwards, believed to be the oldest surviving Delta bluesman, died in his Chicago home at age 96. 

One year ago: Church bells rang marking the decade since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast; local and congressional leaders laid wreaths at a memorial in New Orleans holding the unclaimed and unidentified bodies from the deadly storm. An Egyptian court sentenced three journalists for Al-Jazeera English to three years in prison for broadcasting "false news," sparking an international outcry. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah lost to Keen Ice in the $1.6 million Travers Stakes before a stunned crowd at Saratoga Race Course. Author and motivational speaker Wayne W. Dyer, 75, died in Hawaii. 

Today's Birthdays: Actress Betty Lynn (TV: "The Andy Griffith Show") is 90. Movie director William Friedkin is 81. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is 80. Actor Elliott Gould is 78. Movie director Joel Schumacher is 77. TV personality Robin Leach is 75. Actress Deborah Van Valkenburgh is 64. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is 61. Dancer-choreographer Mark Morris is 60. Country musician Dan Truman (Diamond Rio) is 60. Actress Rebecca DeMornay is 57. Singer Me'Shell NdegeOcello (n-DAY'-gay-OH'-chehl-oh) is 48. Rhythm-and-blues singer Carl Martin (Shai) is 46. Actress Carla Gugino is 45. Rock musician Kyle Cook (Matchbox Twenty) is 41. Actor John Hensley is 39. Actress Kate Simses (TV: "Dr. Ken") is 37. Rock musician David Desrosiers (Simple Plan) is 36. Rapper A+ is 34. Actress Jennifer Landon is 33. Actor Jeffrey Licon is 31. Actress-singer Lea Michele is 30. Actress Charlotte Ritchie (TV: "Call the Midwife") is 27. Actress Nicole Gale Anderson is 26. Rock singer Liam Payne (One Direction) is 23. 

Thought for Today: "Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising." — Cyril Connolly, British journalist-writer (1903-1974)   

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


More than 100 arrested, dozens hurt at Notting Hill Carnival

Dancers perform during the Children's Day parade at the Notting Hill Carnival in west London, Sunday, Aug. 28. (Isabel Infantes/PA via AP)

Shawn Pogatchnik

London (AP) — London police arrested more than 100 people amid sporadic violence Sunday at the annual Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture in the British capital that often includes trouble on the sidelines.

The Metropolitan Police reported at least four knife attacks during the opening day of the two-day festival in west London. It said four males aged 15 to 20 were wounded, with one 15-year-old boy hospitalized in critical condition.

Sunday's festivities included a colorful child-oriented parade through west London that attracted tens of thousands of revelers, many of whom danced in the streets to the sound of steel drums and reggae bands.

Scores of paramedics were on hand to provide MASH-style units for carnival-goers injured or unwell from alcohol or drugs. Medical beds were deployed at roadsides in some locations.

The London Ambulance Service reported shortly before midnight that 411 people had received medical care at the carnival, 77 of whom needed to be hospitalized.

Police said 105 people were arrested on charges that included drug possession, carrying knives, assault, sexual offenses and theft.

The carnival, founded in 1966 by West Indian immigrants following the Notting Hill race riots of 1958, has frequently involved clashes with police. Many local businesses have closed during the event since 1977, when police stormed the carnival amid looting of shops. The 2008 festivities ended in a street riot. Last year, police arrested 407 people, a record for an event where knifings committed by youth gangs have become a troubling trend. This year police have deployed a 7,000-strong force to keep the peace.

The carnival remains one of Europe's biggest street parties with hundreds of thousands attending each year. It takes place at the end of August on the last two days of a three-day weekend.


FARC sets permanent cease-fire under Colombia peace deal

Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC, Rodrigo Londono, better known as Timochenko or Timoleon Jimenez talks to the press, accompanied by Ivan Marquez, right, chief negotiator of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Pablo Catatumbo, left, chief of the FARC's western bloc, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, August 28. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Andrea Rodriguez

Havana (AP) — The commander of Colombia's biggest rebel movement said Sunday its fighters will permanently cease hostilities with the government beginning with the first minute of Monday, as a result of their peace accord ending one of the world's longest-running conflicts.

Rodrigo Londono, leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, made the announcement in Havana, where the two sides negotiated for four years before announcing the peace deal Wednesday.

"Never again will parents be burying their sons and daughters killed in the war," said Londono, who also known as Timoshenko. "All rivalries and grudges will remain in the past."

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Friday that his military would cease attacks on the FARC beginning Monday.

Colombia is expected to hold a national referendum Oct. 2 to give voters the chance to approve the deal for ending a half-century of political violence that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and driven more than 5 million people from their homes

Top FARC commanders are planning to gather one final time in mid-September to ratify the accord.

FARC guerrillas are supposed to turn over their weapons within six months after the deal is formally signed. In return, the FARC's still unnamed future political movement will be given a minimum 10 congressional seats — five in the lower house, five in the Senate — for two legislative periods.

In addition, 16 lower house seats will be created for grassroots activists in rural areas traditionally neglected by the state and in which existing political parties will be banned from running candidates. Critics of the peace process contend that will further boost the rebels' post-conflict political power.

After 2026, both arrangements would end and the former rebels would have to demonstrate their political strength at the ballot box.

Not all hostilities are ending under the deal with the FARC. The much-smaller National Liberation Army remains active in Colombia, although it is pursuing its own peace deal with the government.


Ganges overflows its banks in Indian holy town

In this Friday, Aug. 26, 2016 photo, boats are docked at the Manikarnika Ghat, submerged by the flood waters in Varanasi, India. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

Tsering Topgyal

Varanasi, India (AP) — As the mighty Ganges River overflowed its banks this past week following heavy monsoon rains, large parts of the Hindu holy town of Varanasi were submerged by floodwaters, keeping away thousands of devotees.

Varanasi, located in northern India, is a pilgrim town that Hindus visit to take a dip in the holy Ganges. Devout Hindus believe that if they are cremated on Varanasi's ghats, or steps leading to the river, they earn immediate salvation and are freed from the cycle of birth and death.

The ones most affected by the floods are those who have come to the town to cremate their loved ones. The floodwaters have submerged the popular Manikarnika ghat and several others, forcing local officials to appeal to people not to bring their dead for a traditional cremation in Varanasi.

On Friday, some funeral pyres were lit on the roofs of the houses located near the ghats because lower areas were under water. Groups of people carrying the bodies of their relatives thronged the single stretch of the river where funerals were still being held as the Ganges' raging waters swirled nearby.

Meanwhile, local boatmen who ferry pilgrims and grieving family members to the cremation sites have hiked their rates, realizing that people could not carry the dead to the ghats. Lumber traders have upped the price of wood used for the funeral pyres.

More than 200,000 people in Uttar Pradesh state, where Varanasi is located, have been evacuated and are living in relief camps, with floodwaters entering homes in about 800 villages across large swaths of the state. Floods are an annual occurrence in many parts of northern and eastern India during the June-September monsoon season.


Would-be bomber's explosives fail in Indonesia church

Indonesian police officers guard a church compound following an attack during Sunday Mass in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 28. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — A would-be suicide bomber's explosives failed to detonate in a packed church in western Indonesia during Sunday Mass, and he injured a priest with an axe before being restrained, police said.

The 18-year-old assailant left a bench and ran toward the priest at the altar, but a bomb in his backpack only burned without exploding, said national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar.

Before he was restrained by members of the congregation, the man managed to take an axe from the backpack and attacked the Rev. Albert Pandiangan, causing a slight injury to the 60-year-old priest's hand, Amar said.

The motive for the attack at the Roman Catholic St. Yoseph Church in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, was not clear, but the perpetrator carried a symbol indicating support for the Islamic State group.

Police were interrogating the man, who told them he was not working alone, Amar said, without providing details.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has carried out a sustained crackdown on militant networks since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.


Italy probes whether negligence played role in quake toll

Firefighters stand by an excavator in Amatrice, central Italy, Sunday, Aug. 28. Bulldozers with huge claws pulled down dangerously overhanging ledges in Italy's quake-devastated town of as investigators worked to figure out if negligence or fraud in building codes had added to the quake's high death toll. (Roberto Salomone/ANSA via AP)

Vanessa Gera, Frances D'emilio, Hakan Kaplan

Amatrice, Italy (AP) — Italian authorities are vowing to investigate whether negligence or fraud in adhering to building codes played a role in the high death toll in last week's earthquake in Italy.

They also called for efforts to ensure organized crime doesn't infiltrate lucrative construction contracts to eventually rebuild much of the picturesque towns leveled in the disaster.

Meanwhile, rescue workers pressed on with the task of recovering bodies from the rubble, with hopes of finding any more survivors virtually vanished more than four full days after the powerful quake.

Over the past two days, they found six more bodies in the rubble of Hotel Roma in Amatrice, the medieval hill town in mountainous central Italy that bore the brunt of destruction and loss of life in the powerful quake. They recovered three and by late Sunday were still working to retrieve others that were hard to reach.

It wasn't clear if those six were included in the overall 290 death toll given by authorities. The Civil Protection agency, which combines the figures it receives from different provinces affected by the quake, said the number is lower than the previous toll of 291 dead due to a correction in the numbers from the province of Rieti, where most of the victims died.

The quake that struck before dawn Wednesday also injured nearly 400 people as it flattened three medieval towns near the rugged Apennines. Prosecutor Giuseppe Saieva, based in the nearby provincial capital of Rieti, said the high human death toll "cannot only be considered the work of fate."

"The fault lines tragically did their work and this is called destiny, but if the buildings had been built like in Japan they would not have collapsed," Saieva said in comments carried by Italian media.

Investigations are focusing on a number of structures, including an elementary school in Amatrice that crumbled despite being renovated in 2012 to resist earthquakes at a cost of 700,000 euros ($785,000). With schoolchildren's summer vacations in their final weeks, the school wasn't yet in use. Many were shocked that it didn't withstand the 6.2 magnitude quake.

After an entire first-grade class and a teacher were killed in a 2002 quake in the southern town of San Giuliano di Puglia, Italian officials had pledged citizens that the safety of schools, hospitals and other critical public buildings would be guaranteed.

Questions also surround a bell tower in Accumoli that collapsed, killing a family of four sleeping in a neighboring house, including a baby of 8 months and a 7-year-old boy. That bell tower also had been recently restored with special funds allocated after Italy's last major earthquake, which struck nearby L'Aquila in 2009.

Italy's national anti-Mafia prosecutor, Franco Roberti, vowed to work to prevent organized crime from infiltrating public works projects which will be eventually begun to rebuild the earthquake zone.

"This risk of infiltration is always high," he said in comments Sunday in La Repubblica newspaper. "Post-earthquake reconstruction is historically a tempting morsel for criminal groups and colluding business interests."

Deadly quakes that have led to criminal investigations into alleged misuse of funds or corruption involving awarding of construction contracts include the 1980 temblor in the Naples area and a 2009 quake in L'Aquila, central Italy.

Roberti noted he wasn't involved in the local prosecutors' probes into last week's quake. But he added that if buildings are well-constructed according to regulations for earthquake-prone zones, "parts of buildings can be damaged and cracked but they don't pulverize and implode."

Italy's national museums, meanwhile, embarked on a fundraising campaign, donating their Sunday proceeds to relief and reconstruction efforts in the quake-stricken areas.

Besides homes and low-rise apartment buildings, Wednesday's quake badly damaged scores of churches, town halls, bell towers and other centuries-old cultural treasures. The idea is to use art for art — harnessing the nation's rich artistic heritage to help repair and restore other objects of beauty in the hard-hit towns.

"It's a way to rediscover our cultural heritage, to give our small but significant contribution so that endangered artwork that was gravely damaged may have a new chance, be restored and recovered," Cristiana Collu, the director of Rome's National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Also Sunday, Pope Francis told faithful in St. Peter's Square he hopes to soon visit people in the quake-ravaged regions to bring them "the comfort of faith."

Amatrice bore the brunt of earthquake's destruction, with at least 229 fatalities and its medieval heart nearly obliterated. Eleven others died in nearby Accumoli and 50 more in Arquata del Tronto, 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Amatrice.

On Saturday, a state funeral took place for 35 of the victims in the town of Ascoli Piceno, which escaped the heavy damage of other towns in the region. That funeral involved most of the dead from Arquata del Tronto. Some of the dead from Amatrice were still in the town's makeshift morgue. Identified bodies were being kept in refrigerated trucks in an airport hangar in Rieti, 65 kilometers (40 miles) away. On Tuesday, a memorial service — without the bodies — will be held for the dead of Amatrice on the town's outskirts.

The last survivor was extracted from rubble on Wednesday evening, and hopes have virtually vanished of finding any living in the ruins.

The number still missing is uncertain, due to the many visitors seeking a last taste of summer in the cool hill towns when the quake struck.

The quake left a few thousand people without homes, with nearly 2,700 hosted in a total of 58 tent "towns" set up on the outskirts of the ravaged areas, or improvised shelters, like a gym with a basketball court in Amatrice.

They continue to be rattled by aftershocks. There have been more than 2,000 since the initial quake, one having a magnitude higher than 5 and 12 between 4- and 5-magnitude. A tremor Saturday afternoon caused further damage to the school in Amatrice.

Countless more who fled damaged homes — or even the ones without any heavy damage — went to stay with relatives in Rome and other Italian cities.


Scientists exit Hawaii dome after yearlong Mars simulation

Six scientists celebrate as they exit from their Mars simulation habitat on slopes of Mauna Loa on the Big Island, Hawaii, Sunday, Aug. 28. (University of Hawaii via AP)

Hilo, Hawaii (AP) — Six scientists have completed a yearlong Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in a dome in near isolation.

For the past year, the group in the dome on a Mauna Loa mountain could go outside only while wearing spacesuits.

On Sunday, the simulation ended, and the scientists emerged.

Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, said the simulation shows a mission to Mars can succeed.

"I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic. I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome," Verseux said.

Christiane Heinicke, a crew member from Germany, said the scientists were able to find their own water in a dry climate.

"Showing that it works, you can actually get water from the ground that is seemingly dry. It would work on Mars and the implication is that you would be able to get water on Mars from this little greenhouse construct," she said.

Tristan Bassingthwaighte, a doctor of architecture candidate at University of Hawaii, served as the crew's architect.

"The UH research going on up here is just super vital when it comes to picking crews, figuring out how people are going to actually work on different kinds of missions, and sort out the human factor element of space travel, colonization, whatever it is you are actually looking at," Bassingthwaighte said.

Kim Binsted, principal investigator for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS), said the researchers are looking forward to getting in the ocean and eating fresh produce and other foods that weren't available in the dome.

"HI-SEAS is an example of international collaborative research hosted and run by the University of Hawai'i. So it's really exciting to be able to welcome the crew back to earth and back to Hawai'i after a year on Mars," Binsted said.

NASA funded the study run through the University of Hawaii. Binsted said the simulation was the second-longest of its kind after a mission that lasted 520 days in Russia.

Scientists in the Hawaii simulation managed limited resources while conducting research and working to avoid personal conflicts.


Turkey-backed rebels expel Kurdish forces from Syrian towns

Turkish troops head to the Syrian border, in Karkamis, Turkey, Saturday, Aug. 27. (AP Photo/Halit Onur Sandal)

Sarah El Deeb

Beirut (AP) — Rebels backed by Turkey made major gains Sunday in northern Syria, expelling Kurdish-led forces from towns and villages as part of a determined campaign by Ankara to push the militants east of the Euphrates River.

At least 35 civilians were killed, according to activists. The dramatic escalation of Turkey's involvement in the Syrian civil war last week aimed to help the Syrian rebels drive the Islamic State group out of the border town of Jarablus. But it also is aimed at U.S.-allied Kurdish forces that have gained control in recent months of most of the territory along the Turkey-Syria border.

The fighting pits Turkey, a NATO ally, against a U.S.-backed proxy that is the most effective ground force battling IS militants in Syria in the 5-year-old civil war. It leaves Washington in the tough spot of having to choose between two of its allied forces, and is likely to divert resources from the fight against IS.

A Turkish soldier was killed by a Kurdish rocket attack late Saturday, the first such fatality in Turkey's ground offensive dubbed Euphrates Shield that began Aug. 24.

Speaking at a rally in the border town of Gaziantep, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his military is committed to fighting terrorism in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey, he said, also is determined to "uproot" the Syrian Kurdish group, calling it a terrorist organization. But he didn't specify a goal for the fight against the Kurdish forces.

Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militants of the Islamic State group, but the airstrikes that began Saturday marked the first time it has targeted Kurdish-led forces in Syria.

"We will support all work to clean Syria and Iraq of Daesh," Erdogan told the rally, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group. "That's why we are in Jarablus, that's why we are in Bashiqa (in Iraq). If necessary, we will not shy away from taking responsibility in the same way in other areas."

Turkey has troops stationed in Bashiqa in northern Iraq, and it was not clear if his reference to Jarablus means he intends to base his troops there.

Erdogan then turned his focus to the main Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, known as the PYD.

"We are as determined about the PYD, the separatist terror organization's Syrian wing," he said. Ankara views the PYD and the militia affiliated with it, which forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency that is raging in southeastern Turkey.

"We will continue until we uproot this terror organization," Erdogan told the rally.

A spokesman for a Syrian rebel group said the Turkish-backed offensive will continue south of Jarablus to clear IS and Kurdish forces from northeastern Aleppo. Turkish leaders have vowed to drive both IS and the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, away from the border.

Turkey's military said Sunday its warplanes killed 25 Kurdish "terrorists" and destroyed five buildings used by the fighters in response to attacks on advancing Turkish-backed rebels in the Jarablus area.

Various factions of the Turkey-backed Syrian rebels said they had seized several villages and towns from Kurdish-led forces south of Jarablus, including Amarneh, where fighting was fiercest in recent days.

The Kurdish-led forces "must pull back to the east of the Euphrates. We will fight all terrorist groups, including (the Kurdish-led fighters) ... in all of northeast Aleppo," said Capt. Abdel-Salam Abdel-Razzak, a spokesman for the Nour el-Din el-Zinki group.

Turkish-backed fighters will move south of Jarablus, toward Manbij and beyond, he said.

Earlier this month, the Kurdish-led SDF crossed the Euphrates and drove IS militants out of Manbij, a key supply hub south of Jarablus, after a 10-week campaign. Both Turkey and the United States have ordered the YPG militia to withdraw to the east bank of the river. YPG leaders say they have, but their units advise the Syrian Democratic Forces, and it is not clear if any remain west of the Euphrates.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bombing killed at least 20 civilians and four Kurdish-led fighters in Beir Koussa, a village about nine miles (15 kilometers) south of Jarablus, and left another 15 dead in a village to the west.

SDF spokesman Shervan Darwish said the airstrikes and shelling began overnight and continued Sunday along the front line, killing many civilians in Beir Koussa and nearby areas. He said the bombing also targeted the village of Amarneh. He said 50 Turkish tanks were taking part.

The Kurdish Democratic Union Party condemned the attack on the village. It also condemned what it said was international silence regarding "Turkish occupation" of Syria.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported that 20 civilians were killed and 50 wounded by Turkish artillery and airstrikes, calling it "encroachment" on Syrian sovereignty under the pretext of fighting IS. Turkey is a leading backer of the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, but both Ankara and Damascus share concerns over Kurdish ambitions for autonomy.

Syrian warplanes renewed their bombing of the besieged al-Waer neighborhood in the central city of Homs. An activist in the neighborhood of Bebars al-Talawy said there were at least a dozen airstrikes, killing one person.

The neighborhood came under attack Saturday, including incendiary bombs that killed two children, a brother and sister. Images of doctors treating other children for their burns were posted on social media sites. The district's hospital was bombed and taken out of operation earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented the use of incendiary weapons in at least 18 different instances between June and August in rebel-held areas. The group blamed Russian and Syrian joint military operations room for the use of such weapons in violation of international law.

The al-Waer neighborhood of nearly 75,000 people has been under siege since March and has been one area that U.N agencies have reported difficult to access. An aid convoy reached the area Aug. 25.

According to residents, the escalation followed recent threats by soldiers at checkpoints that the Syrian government's patience was running out with the district, the last rebel holdout in the city.

It also follows the evacuation of Daraya, a Damascus suburb, as part of a deal struck between the government and rebels after a bombing campaign and siege.

The Homs Local Council appealed to the U.N. envoy to Syria to negotiate a truce for al-Waer, condemning the government's "siege policy" that aims to force residents and fighters to surrender.


Top French court rules burkini bans violate basic freedoms

A bylaw forbidding women to wear burkini is posted on an information panel at a public beach in Villeneuve-Loubet, French Riviera, southern France, Friday, Aug. 26. France's top administrative court has overturned Villeneuve-Loubet's burkini ban after some Muslim women were ordered to remove body-concealing garments on French Riviera beaches. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

Philippe Sotto

Paris (AP) — France's top administrative court on Friday overturned a ban on burkinis in a Mediterranean beach resort, effectively meaning that towns can no longer issue bans on the swimsuits that have divided the country and brought world attention to its fraught relationship with Muslims.

The ruling by the Council of State specifically concerns a ban on the Muslim garment in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but the binding decision is expected to impact all the 30 or so French resort municipalities that have issued similar decrees.

The bans grew increasingly controversial as images circulated online of some Muslim women being ordered to remove body-concealing garments on French Riviera beaches.

Lawyers for a human rights group and a Muslim collective challenged the legality of the ban to the top court, saying the orders infringe on basic freedoms and that mayors have overstepped their powers by telling women what to wear on beaches.

Despite the court victory, the debate was unlikely to go away. Prime Minister Manual Valls, who supported the bans, called the debate "fundamental" for secular France, where religious displays are unwelcome in the public space.

Valls wrote on his Facebook page that denouncing the burkini "in no way puts into question individual freedom" and is really about denouncing "fatal, retrograde Islamism." The burkini, he wrote, "is the affirmation of political Islam in the public space."

Mayors had cited multiple reasons for the bans, including security after a string of Islamic extremist attacks, risk to public order, and France's strict rules on secularism in public life.

The Council of State ruled that, "The emotion and concerns arising from the terrorist attacks, notably the one perpetrated in Nice on July 14, cannot suffice to justify in law the contested prohibition measure."

It ruled that the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet overstepped his powers by enacting measures that are not justified by "proven risks of disruptions to public order nor, moreover, on reasons of hygiene or decency."

"The contested decree has thus brought a serious and manifestly illegal infringement on basic freedoms such as freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience and personal freedom," the ruling read.

Lawyer Patrice Spinosi, representing the Human Rights League, said that women who have already received fines can protest them based on Friday's decision. He told The Associated Press the group plans to ask all French mayors who banned burkinis to withdraw their orders and, if they refuse to do so, he will systematically take each case to court.

"It is a decision that is meant to set legal precedent," Spinosi said to reporters earlier outside the court. "Today all the ordinances taken should conform to the decision of the Council of State. Logically the mayors should withdraw these ordinances. If not, legal actions could be taken" against those towns.

The head of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, the other group that appealed to the top court, hailed the decision but lamented that the crackdown "will remain engraved in the history of our country."

"One cannot take back the harm which was caused, humiliations that were provoked," Marwan Muhammad told reporters outside the court.

The bans have become a symbol of tensions around the place of Islam in secular France and the heated debate has brought about divisions even among cabinet ministers.

While Valls argued that burkinis oppress women, two ministers in his cabinet, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Health Minister Marisol Touraine, have said banning burkinis is not a good option. Vallaud-Belkacem, a feminist with North African roots, argued that while she doesn't like the burkini swimsuit, banning the garment amounted to a politically driven act that encouraged racism.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who is also in charge of faiths, said that "it is now up to everyone to seek calm."

The conservative mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca, said that "far from calming, this decision can only heighten passions and tensions, with the risk of trouble we wanted to avoid."

Luca, also a lawmaker, said that now only a law can stop troubles. He denounced a "rampant Islamization" in the country and said that, with Friday's ruling, "they've gained a small additional step."

While addressing only one local ban, the Council of State sets general principles in its ruling that any mayors will now have to abide by when using their powers in the future.

Technically, other local bans are still in effect until mayors revoke them or groups contest them in courts. But de facto the town decrees are hollow because burkini fines can be contested.

Nevertheless, the mayor of the Corsican town of Sisco said he wouldn't lift the ban he imposed after an Aug. 13 clash on a beach. "Here the tension is very, very, very high and I won't withdraw it," Ange-Pierre Vivoni said on BFM-TV.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced this week he's seeking the conservative nomination for the 2017 race, said at a rally Thursday night in southern France that he wants a law banning the burkini "on the entire territory of the Republic."

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said the battle is not over. She said in a statement that lawmakers must vote "as quickly as possible" to extend a 2004 law that bans Muslim headscarves and other ostentatious religious symbols in classrooms to include all public spaces.

"The burkini would obviously be part of it," said Le Pen, who is running for president in the 2017 race.

President Francois Hollande has remained neutral on the issue, arguing that society "presumes that each person conforms to the rules, and that there is neither provocation nor stigmatization."

But critics said the bans had been feeding a racist political agenda.

Amnesty International praised the court decision Friday, calling the local decrees "invasive and discriminatory" and saying their enforcement has led to "abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls."


Today in History - Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Today is Sunday, Aug. 28, the 241st day of 2016. There are 125 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 28, 1963, as more than 200,000 people listened, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

On this date: 

In 1609, English sea explorer Henry Hudson and his ship, the Half Moon, reached present-day Delaware Bay. 

In 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run (also known as Second Manassas) began in Prince William County, Virginia, during the Civil War; the result was a Confederate victory. 

In 1916, Italy declared war on Germany during World War I. 

In 1922, the first-ever radio commercial aired on station WEAF in New York City; the 10-minute advertisement was for the Queensboro Realty Co., which had paid a fee of $100. 

In 1941, Japan's ambassador to the U.S., Kichisaburo Nomura, presented a note to President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the Japanese prime minister, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, expressing a desire for improved relations; Roosevelt responded that he considered the note a step forward. 

In 1945, the Allies began occupying Japan at the end of World War II. 

In 1955, Emmett Till, a black teen-ager from Chicago, was abducted from his uncle's home in Money, Mississippi, by two white men after he had supposedly whistled at a white woman; he was found brutally slain three days later. 

In 1968, police and anti-war demonstrators clashed in the streets of Chicago as the Democratic National Convention nominated Hubert H. Humphrey for president. 

In 1972, Mark Spitz of the United States won the first two of his seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics, finishing first in the 200-meter butterfly and anchoring the 400-meter freestyle relay. The Soviet women gymnasts won the team all-around. 

In 1988, 70 people were killed when three Italian stunt planes collided during an air show at the U.S. Air Base in Ramstein (RAHM'-shtyn), West Germany. 

In 1990, an F5 tornado struck the Chicago area, killing 29 people. 

In 1996, Democrats nominated President Bill Clinton for a second term at their national convention in Chicago. The troubled 15-year marriage of Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially ended with the issuing of a divorce decree. 

Ten years ago: Prosecutors in Colorado abruptly dropped their case against John Mark Karr in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, saying DNA tests had failed to put him at the crime scene despite his insistence that he killed the 6-year-old beauty queen in 1996. President George W. Bush visited the Gulf Coast on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Columbus, Georgia, beat Kawaguchi City, Japan, 2-1 to win the Little League World Series championship game. 

Five years ago: A suicide bomber blew himself up inside Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque, killing 29 people during prayers. California returned the Little League World Series title to the United States with a 2-1 victory over Hamamatsu City, Japan. Katy Perry won three MTV Video Music Awards, including video of the year for the inspirational clip "Firework"; during the broadcast, Beyonce announced she was pregnant with her first child (Blue Ivy Carter was born in Jan. 2012). 

One year ago: President Barack Obama compared tensions between the U.S. and Israel over the Iranian nuclear deal to a family feud, and said in a webcast with Jewish Americans that he expected quick improvements in ties between the longtime allies once the accord was implemented. A jury in Concord, New Hampshire, acquitted Owen Labrie, a prep school graduate, of rape but convicted him of committing lesser sex offenses against a 15-year-old freshman girl in a case that exposed a tradition in which seniors competed to see how many younger students they could have sex with. 

Today's Birthdays: Actor Sonny Shroyer is 81. Actor Ken Jenkins is 76. Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen is 76. Actor David Soul is 73. Former pop singer-musician Honey Lantree (The Honeycombs) is 73. Former MLB manager and player Lou Piniella is 73. Actress Barbara Bach is 70. Actress Debra Mooney is 69. Singer Wayne Osmond (The Osmonds) is 65. Actor Daniel Stern is 59. Olympic gold medal figure skater Scott Hamilton is 58. Actor John Allen Nelson is 57. Actress Emma Samms is 56. Actress Jennifer Coolidge is 55. Movie director David Fincher is 54. Actress Amanda Tapping is 51. Country singer Shania (shah-NY'-uh) Twain is 51. Actor Billy Boyd is 48. Actor Jack Black is 47. Actor Jason Priestley is 47. Olympic gold medal swimmer Janet Evans is 45. Actor J. August Richards is 43. Rock singer-musician Max Collins (Eve 6) is 38. Actress Carly Pope is 36. Country singer Jake Owen is 35. Country singer LeAnn Rimes is 34. Actress Kelly Thiebaud (TV: "General Hospital") is 34. Actor Alfonso Herrera (TV: "The Exorcist") is 33. Actress Sarah Roemer is 32. Actor Armie Hammer is 30. Rock singer Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine) is 30. Actress Shalita Grant (TV: "NCIS: New Orleans") is 28. Country-pop singer Cassadee Pope (TV: "The Voice") is 27. Actress Katie Findlay is 26. Actor/singer Samuel Larsen is 25. Actor Kyle Massey is 25. Actress Quvenzhane (kwuh-VEHN'-zhah-nay) Wallis is 13. Reality TV star Alana Thompson, AKA "Honey Boo Boo," is 11. 

Thought for Today: "One starts to get young at the age of 60 and then it is too late." — Pablo Picasso, Spanish artist (1881-1973).   

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


Clinton says controversies behind her; Trump begs to differ

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses as she speaks at a campaign event at Truckee Meadows Community College, in Reno, Nev., Thursday, Aug. 25. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Lisa Lerer, Ken Thomas

New York (AP) — Hillary Clinton vigorously defended her family's foundation against Donald Trump's criticism on Friday and declared she's confident there will be no major further accusations involving the foundation, her emails or anything else that could undermine her chances of defeating him in November.

She said the private Clinton Foundation's charitable programs would continue if she's elected, even as Trump and other critics argue they would present a conflict of interest.

In an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the Democratic presidential nominee kept up her verbal assault on Trump's campaign, asserting it is built on "prejudice and paranoia" and caters to a radical fringe of the Republican Party.

Clinton is looking to counter Trump's attempts to win over moderate voters who have been unsettled by some of his remarks and policy proposals. In the meantime, he has been softening his tone on immigration and reaching out to African-Americans, a traditional Democratic constituency.

Clinton is also targeting moderate voters — and especially Republicans — by depicting Trump and his supporters as extremists, and casting the race as "not a normal choice between a Republican and a Democrat." She has contrasted Trump with former Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Bob Dole, and former President George W. Bush, praising their decisive steps to counter racism and anti-Muslim sentiment.

In turn, Trump is trying to paint Clinton as the racist.

He has released an online video that includes footage of the former first lady referring to some young criminals as "super predators" in the 1990s. The video also shows Clinton's former Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, denouncing the phrase as "a racist term." Clinton has since apologized.

Trump tweeted Friday: "How quickly people forget that Crooked Hillary called African-American youth "SUPER PREDATORS" - Has she apologized?"

Trump says Clinton is trying to distract from questions swirling around donations to the Clinton Foundation and her use of her private email servers for official business while secretary of state. On Friday, he also continued his recent push to broaden his base of support among minority voters, convening a roundtable with Latino backers at his hotel in Las Vegas.

But his new outreach comes amid his own mixed signals on his immigration plan, including whether or not he would stick with a primary campaign promise to deport 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

In her phone interview with MSNBC, Clinton was asked if she was certain there are no emails or Clinton Foundation ties to foreign entities that would affect her presidential prospects. She replied, "I am sure," and mentioned her strong understanding about the foundation's work.

But neither that issue nor her emails appears to be going away soon.

The State Department now says it doesn't expect to publicly produce all the detailed daily schedules showing meetings by Clinton covering her time as secretary of state before Election Day.

The agency told The Associated Press it expects to release the last of the files around Dec. 30. The AP's lawyers asked the department late Friday to hasten its efforts and provide all of her minute-by-minute schedules by Oct. 15. The department did not immediately respond.

The schedules took on new importance this week after the AP analyzed the ones released so far and found that more than half the people outside the government who met or spoke by telephone with Clinton during the first half of her time as secretary of state had given money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. The AP's analysis focused on people with private interests and excluded her meetings or calls with federal employees or foreign government representatives.

On Friday, Clinton promised to put in place additional safeguards to prevent conflicts of interest with her foundation should she win the White House.

"I appreciate the concerns that people have expressed, and that's why I have made it clear that if I'm successful in November we are going to be taking additional steps," she said. She said the foundation's charitable programs has been "in line with American interests and values" and must continue, perhaps through partnerships with other organizations.

Top Republicans have found common ground with Trump in his criticism of the Clinton Foundation and her use of the email server. But they have been noticeably quiet in defending Trump against Clinton's charges of racism in his campaign.


Hungarian PM Orban urges EU to build an army of its own

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right, welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, before the Visegrad Group Prime Ministers' meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Monika Scislowska

Warsaw, Poland (AP) — Hungary's prime minister urged the European Union on Friday to make security a priority and build an army of its own.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke in Warsaw before heading into talks on EU's future with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of three other central European nations. The talks, in preparation for an EU summit next month, focused on security concerns and migrants.

"We must give priority to security and so let's start setting up a joint European army," Orban said.

He was seconded by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who said building a joint army will not be an "easy project" but added that the 28-nation EU needed better cooperation on defense issues and border protections.

Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, meanwhile, called for setting up a European border guard to protect the external border.

Merkel said many security projects have been neglected, like registering travelers into and out of the visa-free Schengen zone.

Earlier in the day, Orban told Hungarian state radio that Hungary will build a new, "more massive" fence on its southern border to defend against a possible surge in the number of migrants. He has previously called migrants "poison."

Merkel's meeting in Warsaw with the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary came ahead of an EU summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, next month without Britain. One of the main topics was to discuss Britain's vote to leave the group.

The four central European nations have been critical of many EU policies, including ones pressing for nations to accept more migrants. They are also pushing for changes that would give individual EU members more leeway, saying that the EU's rigid policies have led to the British departure.

Merkel said holding a summit at a place different than Brussels will give EU leaders a better feeling for "what makes Europe."


Indonesia steps up fire response as haze blankets Singapore

A river taxi is dwarfed against the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort on a hazy day, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, in Singapore.
(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Niniek Karmini, Stephen Wright

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Six Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency as forest fires blanketed a swath of Southeast Asia in a smoky haze.

Singapore's air quality deteriorated to unhealthy levels on Friday as winds blew smoke from fires on Sumatra, where millions of people are already affected by haze, across the city-state and into southern Malaysia.

The number of hotspots detected in Sumatra and Borneo by weather satellites has increased in the past month though they are below levels last year when massive fires in Indonesia caused a regional crisis.

Singapore's three-hour air pollution index was at 157 by late afternoon, after peaking at 215. Its environment agency doesn't give a health warning with the limited duration index, but on a 24-hour basis it says levels above 100 are unhealthy and above 200 very unhealthy.

"The smell of smoke woke me up. I thought something was burning outside," said Singaporean copywriter Lim Jia Ying, who put on a mask for her commute to work. "I'm having a cough and it's getting worse. Luckily, I found a face mask at home," she said.

Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency said six provinces which have a combined population of more than 23 million people have declared emergencies, allowing firefighting measures to go into full effect including aerial water drops.

The haze is an annual problem for Southeast Asia, but last year's fires were the worst since 1997, straining relations between Indonesia and its neighbors. About 261,000 hectares (644,931 acres) burned, causing billions of dollars in economic losses for Indonesia.

Many of the fires are deliberately set by agricultural conglomerates and small-time farmers to clear forests and peatland for plantations.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said Friday that 85 people have been arrested this year for starting fires.

About 2,800 hectares (6,918 acres) have burned so far this year, according to Indonesia's Forestry Ministry.

Separately, Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a palm oil company PT Kallista Alam that was ordered to pay compensation of 366 billion rupiah ($28 million) for burning peatlands, according to a decision published this month on the court's website.


Quake damaged roads threaten access to Italy town

Rescuers carry away a body of a woman found in a collapsed house, in Amatrice, central Italy, Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. Strong aftershocks rattled residents and rescue crews alike Friday as hopes began to dim that firefighters would find any more survivors from Wednesday's earthquake. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Paolo Santalucia, Nicole Winfield

Amatrice, Italy (AP) — Rescue workers acknowledged Friday they might not find any more survivors from Italy's earthquake as they confronted a new obstacle to their recovery work: a powerful aftershock that damaged two key access bridges to hard-hit Amatrice, threatening to isolate it.

Mayor Sergio Pirozzi, warned that if new roads weren't quickly cleared to bypass the damaged ones, Amatrice risked being cut off at a time it needs as many transport options as possible to bring emergency crews in and some of the 281 dead out.

"With the aftershocks yesterday but especially this morning the situation has worsened considerably," Pirozzi told reporters. "We have to make sure Amatrice does not become isolated, or risk further help being unable to get through."

The biggest aftershock struck at 6:28 a.m., one of the more than 1,000 that have hit the area since Wednesday's quake. The U.S. Geological Service said it had a magnitude of 4.7, while the Italian geophysics institute measured it at 4.8.

It left one key access bridge to Amatrice unusable, and damaged another one. Crews began clearing trees to create an alternate bypass road to avoid the nearly 40-kilometer (25-mile) detour up and down mountain roads that they were forced to use Friday, slowing the rescue effort.

Even before the roads were shut down, traffic into and out of Amatrice was horribly congested with emergency vehicles and dump trucks carrying tons of concrete, rocks and metal down the single-lane roads.

Multiple ambulances were also bringing the dead to an airport hangar in the provincial capital of Rieti, where four big white refrigerated trucks created a makeshift morgue to which relatives came in a steady stream Friday.

Premier Matteo Renzi declared a state of emergency and authorized 50 million euros ($56 million) for immediate quake relief. The Italian government also declared Saturday a day of national mourning and scheduled a state funeral to be attended by President Sergio Mattarella.

Thirty-four caskets were lined up in a gym in Ascoli Piceno ahead of Saturday's Mass. A memorial service for the Amatrice victims is scheduled for next week.

The first private funeral took place in Rome on Friday for the son of a provincial police chief who was honored at one of Rome's most important basilicas. One of Pope Francis' top advisers celebrated a funeral Mass for seven other victims south of Rome.

Rescue efforts continued, but by nightfall, two full days had passed since the last person was extracted alive from the rubble.

"There is still hope to find survivors under the rubble, even in these hours," Walter Milan, a rescue worker, said Friday. But he conceded: "Certainly, it will be very unlikely."

The head of the firefighting squad, Bruno Frattasi, said there was always hope of finding someone alive. But by Friday he was talking more about time running out and recovery efforts.

"We hope to recover all the bodies," he said. "It's necessary because even if they didn't make it, they must be returned to their families."

He said the toll had stabilized in the Arquata area of eastern Le Marche region, with 49 dead and no one else unaccounted for. In Amatrice, the situation was more uncertain; Mayor Pirozzi has estimated there could still be 15 people unaccounted for.

The vast majority of the dead were found in leveled Amatrice, the medieval hilltop town famous for its bacon and tomato pasta sauce. On Friday, three more bodies were pulled from the rubble in Amatrice, bringing the death toll there to 221.

On Friday, Pirozzi insisted the historic center of the town would be rebuilt as it was — not left to rubble and a "New Town" built. That was the strategy used in L'Aquila in nearby Abruzzo, where the historic center was demolished in the 2009 quake and modern housing built miles away for residents.

"I don't want — and this is shared by everyone — a ghetto," Pirozzi said of the widely criticized "New Town" model. "Each community must remain where it is because what is needed is a sense of belonging."

He said local and regional leaders also agreed that temporary housing for the homeless will involve pre-fab Alpine-style villas in the places where existing communities were, complete with schools, saying the important thing was to give residents hope and keep their sense of community.

"I'm convinced Amatrice will be reborn, because no night is long enough to prevent the sun from rising," he


US, Russia fall short on deal to restore Syria truce

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, brief the media after their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 26. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Matthew Lee, Jamey Keaten

Geneva (AP) — The United States and Russia said Friday they had resolved a number of issues standing in the way of restoring a nationwide truce to Syria and opening up aid deliveries, but were unable once again to forge a comprehensive agreement on stepping up cooperation to end the brutal war that has killed hundreds of thousands.

After meeting off-and-on for nearly 10 hours in Geneva on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could point to only incremental progress in filling in details of a broad understanding to boost joint efforts that was reached last month in Moscow.

Their failure to reach an overall deal highlighted the increasingly complex situation on the ground in Syria — including new Russian-backed Syrian government attacks on opposition forces, the intermingling of some of those opposition forces with an al-Qaida affiliate not covered by the truce and the surrender of a rebel-held suburb of Damascus — as well as deep divisions and mistrust dividing Washington and Moscow.

The complexities have also grown with the increasing internationalization of what has largely become a proxy war between regional and world powers, highlighted by a move by Turkish troops across the Syrian border against Islamic State fighters this week.

Kerry said he and Lavrov had agreed on the "vast majority" of technical discussions on steps to reinstate a cease-fire and improve humanitarian access. But critical sticking points remain unresolved and experts will remain in Geneva with an eye toward finalizing those in the coming days, he said.

"We are close," Kerry said. "But we are not going to rush to an agreement until it satisfies fully the needs of the Syrian people."

Lavrov echoed that, saying "we still need to finalize a few issues" and pointed to the need to separate fighters from the al-Nusra Front, which has ties to al-Qaida, from U.S.-backed fighters who hold parts of northwest Syria.

"We have continued our efforts to reduce the areas where we lack understanding and trust, which is an achievement," Lavrov said. "The mutual trust is growing with every meeting."

Yet, it was clear that neither side believes an overall agreement is imminent or even achievable after numerous previous disappointments shattered a brief period of relative calm earlier this year.

The inability to wrest an agreement between Russia and the U.S. — as the major sponsors of the opposing sides in the stalled Syria peace talks — all but spells another missed deadline for the U.N. Syria envoy to get the Syrian government and "moderate" opposition back to the table.

The U.N. envoy, Staffan de Mistura, briefly sat in Friday with Kerry and Lavrov. After missing an initial target date of Aug. 1, de Mistura had hoped to restart the intra-Syrian discussions toward political transition in late August. He suspended the talks in late April after a resurgence in the fighting.

Friday's meeting came a month after the Kerry and Lavrov met in Moscow and agreed on a number of unspecified actions to get the all-but-ignored truce back in force. However, as in Moscow, neither Kerry nor Lavrov would describe them in detail.

In a nod to previous failed attempts to resurrect the cessation of hostilities, Kerry stressed the importance of keeping the details secret.

"We do not want to make an announcement ... that is not enforceable, that doesn't have details worked out, that winds up in the place that the last two announcements have wound up," Kerry said. "Until we have, neither of us are prepared to make an announcement that is predicated for failure. We don't want a deal for the sake of the deal, we want a deal that is effective."

And, underscoring deep differences over developments on the ground, Kerry noted that Russia disputes the U.S. "narrative" of recent attacks on heavily populated areas being conducted by Syrian forces, Russia itself and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. Russia maintains the attacks it has been involved in have targeted legitimate terrorist targets, while the U.S. says they have hit moderate opposition forces.

Expectations had been low for the talks, particularly given how efforts to forge a new U.S.-Russia understanding have fallen short virtually every month for the past five years.

At the same time, the Obama administration is not of one mind regarding the Russians. The Pentagon has publicly complained about getting drawn into greater cooperation with Russia even though it has been forced recently to expand communication with Moscow. Last week, the U.S. had to call for Russian help when Syrian warplanes struck an area not far from where U.S. troops were operating.

U.S. officials say it is imperative that Russia use its influence with Syrian President Bashar Assad to halt all attacks on moderate opposition forces, open humanitarian aid corridors, and concentrate any offensive action on the Islamic State group and other extremists not covered by what has become a largely ignored truce.

For their part, U.S. officials say they are willing to press rebels groups they support harder on separating themselves from the Islamic State and al-Nusra, which despite a recent name change is still viewed as al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria.

Those goals are not new, but recent developments have made achieving them even more urgent and important, according to U.S. officials. Recent developments include military operations around the city of Aleppo, the entry of Turkey into the ground war, Turkish hostility toward U.S.-backed Kurdish rebel groups and the presence of American military advisers in widening conflict zones.

Meanwhile, in a blow to the opposition, rebel forces and civilians in the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya were to be evacuated on Friday after agreeing to surrender the town late Thursday after four years of grueling bombardment and a crippling siege that left the sprawling area in ruins.

The surrender of Daraya, which became an early symbol of the nascent uprising against Assad, marks a success for his government, removing a persistent threat only a few miles from his seat of power.

Referring to Daraya, Lavrov said: "This is an example I think will get some following." He said the Russian military's reconciliation center in Syria has received a request from another area to organize a similar operation — with Russian mediation.


Today in History - Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Today is Saturday, Aug. 27, the 240th day of 2016. There are 126 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Aug. 27, 1883, the island volcano Krakatoa erupted with a series of cataclysmic explosions; the resulting tidal waves in Indonesia's Sunda Strait claimed some 36,000 lives in Java and Sumatra.

On this date:

In 1776, the Battle of Long Island began during the Revolutionary War as British troops attacked American forces, who ended up being forced to retreat two days later.

In 1908, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, was born near Stonewall, Texas.

In 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in Paris, outlawing war and providing for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

In 1939, the first turbojet-powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, went on its first full-fledged test flight over Germany.

In 1949, a violent white mob prevented an outdoor concert headlined by Paul Robeson from taking place near Peekskill, New York. (The concert was held eight days later.)

In 1957, the USS Swordfish, the second Skate Class nuclear submarine, was launched from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

In 1962, the United States launched the Mariner 2 space probe, which flew past Venus in December 1962.

In 1965, influential Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier, 77, died in Cap Martin, France.

In 1975, Haile Selassie (HY'-lee sehl-AH'-see), the last emperor of Ethiopia's 3,000-year-old monarchy, died in Addis Ababa at age 83 almost a year after being overthrown.

In 1979, British war hero Lord Louis Mountbatten and three other people, including his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas, were killed off the coast of Ireland in a boat explosion claimed by the Irish Republican Army.

In 1989, the first U.S. commercial satellite rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida — a Delta booster carrying a British communications satellite, the Marcopolo 1.

In 2008, Barack Obama was nominated for president by the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Ten years ago: A Comair CRJ-100 crashed after trying to take off from the wrong runway in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 people and leaving the co-pilot the sole survivor. Two Fox News journalists, Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig, were freed by militants nearly two weeks after being kidnapped in Gaza City. The action series "24" won Emmys for best drama series and best actor for Kiefer Sutherland; "The Office" was honored as best comedy.

Five years ago: Hurricane Irene, after striking Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, pushed up the U.S east coast, prompting evacuations in New York City and leaving major flood damage in Vermont. Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents raided a casino in Monterrey in northern Mexico, two days after an arson attack on a gambling house killed 52 people.

One year ago: Visiting residents on tidy porch stoops and sampling the fried chicken at a corner restaurant, President Barack Obama held out the people of New Orleans as an extraordinary example of renewal and resilience 10 years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Ex-NBA star Darryl Dawkins, 58, whose board-shattering dunks earned him the moniker "Chocolate Thunder" and helped pave the way for breakaway rims, died in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Today's Birthdays: Author Lady Antonia Fraser is 84. Actor Tommy Sands is 79. Bluegrass singer-musician J.D. Crowe is 79. Musician Daryl Dragon is 74. Actress Tuesday Weld is 73. Actor G.W. Bailey is 72. Rock singer-musician Tim Bogert is 72. Actress Marianne Sagebrecht is 71. Country musician Jeff Cook is 67. Actor Paul Reubens is 64. Rock musician Alex Lifeson (Rush) is 63. Actor Peter Stormare is 63. Actress Diana Scarwid is 61. Rock musician Glen Matlock (The Sex Pistols) is 60. Golfer Bernhard Langer is 59. Country singer Jeffrey Steele is 55. Gospel singer Yolanda Adams is 55. Country musician Matthew Basford (Yankee Grey) is 54. Writer-producer Dean Devlin is 54. Rock musician Mike Johnson is 51. Rap musician Bobo (Cypress Hill) is 48. Country singer Colt Ford is 47. Actress Chandra Wilson is 47. Rock musician Tony Kanal (No Doubt) is 46. Actress Sarah Chalke is 40. Actor RonReaco (correct) Lee is 40. Rapper Mase is 39. Actress-singer Demetria McKinney is 38. Actor Aaron Paul is 37. Rock musician Jon Siebels (Eve 6) is 37. Actor Shaun Weiss is 37. Contemporary Christian musician Megan Garrett (Casting Crowns) is 36. Actor Kyle Lowder is 36. Actor Patrick J. Adams is 35. Actress Karla Mosley is 35. Actress Amanda Fuller is 32. Singer Mario is 30. Actress Alexa PenaVega is 28. Actor Ellar Coltrane is 22. Actress Savannah Paige Rae is 13.

Thought for Today: "Doing what's right isn't the problem. It is knowing what's right." — Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States (1908-1973).

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


Aftershocks rattle Italian quake zone; toll rises to 250

Rescuers make their way through destroyed houses following Wednesday's earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 25. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Trisha Thomas, Frances D'emilio, Nicole Winfield

Pescara del Tronto, Italy (AP) — As the search for survivors ground on, Premier Matteo Renzi pledged new money and measures Thursday to rebuild quake-devastated central Italy amid mounting soul-searching over why the seismic-prone country has continually failed to ensure its buildings can withstand such catastrophes.

A day after the deadly quake killed 250 people, a 4.3 magnitude aftershock sent up plumes of thick gray dust in the hard-hit town of Amatrice. The aftershock crumbled already cracked buildings, rattled residents and closed already clogged roads.

It was only one of the more than 470 temblors that have followed Wednesday's pre-dawn quake.

Firefighters and rescue crews using sniffer dogs worked in teams around the hard-hit areas in central Italy, pulling chunks of cement, rock and metal from mounds of rubble where homes once stood. Rescuers refused to say when their work would shift from saving lives to recovering bodies, noting that one person was pulled alive from the rubble 72 hours after the 2009 quake in the nearby town of L'Aquila.

"We will work relentlessly until the last person is found, and make sure no one is trapped," said Lorenzo Botti, a rescue team spokesman.

Worst affected by the quake were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, 25 kilometers (15 miles) further to the east.

Many were left homeless by the scale of the destruction, their homes and apartments declared uninhabitable. Some survivors, escorted by firefighters were allowed to go back inside homes briefly Thursday to get essential necessities for what will surely be an extended absence.

"Last night we slept in the car. Tonight, I don't know," said Nello Caffini as he carried his sister-in-law's belongings on his head after being allowed to go quickly into her home in Pescara del Tronto.

Caffini has a house in nearby Ascoli, but said his sister-in-law was too terrified by the aftershocks to go inside it.

"When she is more tranquil, we will go to Ascoli," he said.

Charitable assistance began pouring into the earthquake zone in traffic-clogging droves Thursday. Church groups from a variety of Christian denominations, along with farmers offering donated peaches, pumpkins and plums, sent vans along the one-way road into Amatrice that was already packed with emergency vehicles and trucks carrying sniffer dogs.

Other assistance was spiritual.

"When we learned that the hardest hit place was here, we spoke to our bishop and he encouraged us to come here to comfort the families of the victims," said a priest who gave his name only as Father Marco as he walked through Pescara del Tronto. "They have given us a beautiful example, because their pain did not take away their dignity."

Italy's civil protection agency said the death toll had risen to 250 by Thursday afternoon, with more than 180 of the fatalities in Amatrice. At least 365 others were hospitalized, and 215 people were pulled from the rubble alive since the quake struck. A Spaniard and five Romanians were among the dead, according to their governments.

There was no clear estimate of how many people might still be missing, since the rustic area was packed with summer vacationers. The Romanian government alone said 11 of its citizens were missing.

As the search effort continued, the soul-searching began.

Premier Renzi authorized a preliminary 50 million euros in emergency funding and the government cancelled taxes for residents, pro-forma measures that are just the start of what will be a long and costly rebuilding campaign. He announced a new initiative, "Italian Homes," to answer years of criticism over shoddy construction across the country, which has the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe.

But he also said that it was "absurd" to think that Italy could build completely quake-proof buildings.

"It's illusory to think you can control everything," he told a news conference. "It's difficult to imagine it could have been avoided simply using different building technology. We're talking about medieval-era towns."

Those old towns do not have to conform to the country's anti-seismic building codes. Making matters worse, those codes often aren't applied even when new buildings are built.

Armando Zambrano, the head of Italy's National Council of Engineers, said the technology exists to reinforce old buildings and prevent such high death tolls when quakes strike every few years. While he estimated that it would cost up to 93 billion euros ($105 billion) to reinforce all of the historic structures across the country, he said targeted efforts in the riskiest areas could be done for less.

"We are able to prevent all these deaths. The problem is actually doing it," he told The Associated Press. "These tragedies keep happening because we don't intervene. After each tragedy we say we will act but then the weeks go by and nothing happens."

Some experts estimate that 70 percent of Italy's buildings aren't built to anti-seismic standards, though not all are in high-risk areas.

Funding shortfalls and bureaucracy are obstacles to making the country's buildings quake-resistant. A new law tries to encourage homeowners to make their homes earthquake-proof by reimbursing 65 percent of the cost over 10 years, but it isn't enough to push Italians, who are facing years of economic stagnation, to put up the cash to make the upgrades.

Compounding the problem, many of the oldest and most vulnerable structures are in remote villages inhabited mostly by retired Italians getting by on pensions with no cash to spare. In the cities, upgrades are stifled by the condominium-style rules of buildings requiring the agreement of multiple owners for such investments.

"We're among the best in the world in managing emergencies," Renzi said, praising the men and women, many of them volunteers, who jump into action when crises hit. "But it's not enough to be in the vanguard in emergencies."

Geologists surveyed the damage Thursday to determine which buildings were still inhabitable, while Culture Ministry teams were fanning out to assess the damage to some of the region's cultural treasures, especially its medieval-era churches.

Italian news reports said prosecutors investigating the quake were looking in particular into the collapse of Amatrice's "Romolo Capranica" school, which was restored in 2012 using funds set aside after the last major quake in 2009.

In recent Italian quakes, some modern buildings — many of them public institutions — have been the deadliest. Those included the university dormitory that collapsed in the 2009 L'Aquila quake, killing 11 students, and the elementary school that crumbled in San Giuliano di Puglia in 2002, killing 27 children — the town's entire first-grade class — while surrounding buildings survived unscathed.

Major quakes in Italy are often followed by criminal charges being filed against architects, builders and officials responsible for public works. In the case of the L'Aquila quake, prosecutors also put six geologists on trial for allegedly failing to adequately warn residents about the temblor. Their convictions were overturned on appeal.

In Pescara del Tronto, rescue crews were looking Thursday for three people believed crushed in a hard-to-reach area.

"The dogs from our dog rescue unit make us think there could be something," said Danilo Dionisi, a spokesman for the firefighters.

Emergency services set up tent cities around the quake-devastated towns to accommodate the homeless, housing about 1,200 people overnight. In Amatrice, 50 elderly people and children spent the night inside a local sports facility.

"It's not easy for them," said civil protection volunteer Tiziano De Carolis, who was helping to care for the homeless in Amatrice. "They have lost everything: the work of an entire life, like those who have a business, a shop, a pharmacy, a grocery store."


NKorea missile test adds to 'Military First' celebration

In this undated photo distributed on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits the site of a submarine-launched missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Eric Talmadge

Pyongyang, North Korea (AP) — North Korea marked its "Military First" holiday on Thursday with mass dancing, outdoor concerts and boasts of a successful — and potentially game-changing — submarine-launched ballistic missile test it hopes will serve as a warning to Washington and Seoul to stop holding joint military exercises Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

Television news broadcasts and the front pages of morning newspapers Thursday showed images of the launch, conducted in the early hours the day before. The test, which brought immediate condemnation from the United States and North Korea's neighbors, sent a "Pukguksong" missile soaring from a submerged position off the North's port city of Sinpo. It flew an estimated 500 kilometers (310 miles) toward the seas around Japan, the longest distance North Korea has yet achieved in a submarine launch.

Kim was shown smiling and hugging officials after watching the test from an observation deck. He was quoted by state media as calling it the "success of all successes."

Launching long-range ballistic missiles from submarines is stealthier than land launching. Having that capability could significantly strengthen North Korea's ability to conduct strikes on U.S. positions in South Korea, and possibly on U.S. bases in Japan as well.

The North has attempted two such launches before, but neither was seen as successful by outside experts.

As the news of the missile test was broadcast on a large screen outside Pyongyang's main train station Thursday, dozens of people stood in the rain to watch.

"This shows that our national defense strength has reached a new level," said Choe Kum Chol, a 42-year-old factory worker. "We are a nuclear power and everything is ready, so we have nothing to fear."

The test came as the U.S. and South Korea are conducting their annual, 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises south of the Demilitarized Zone.

Though North Korea has protested such exercises for decades, prompting regular spikes in tensions on the divided peninsula, it has been particularly alarmed by reports that the maneuvers have recently started to include training for an invasion of the North and precision strikes, or "beheading operations," against its top leaders.

North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development programs have brought heavy international sanctions down on its head, but it says they are justified because of the threat posed by the U.S. and South Korea.

"They are not military exercises, but war preparations to invade our country," said Kim Kyong Ik, a 44-year-old Pyongyang resident. "Our country is getting more prosperous and they don't like that, so they are stepping up their moves to stifle us."

He said South Korea should "wake up and kick the Americans out."

The United Nations Security Council agreed at an emergency meeting late Wednesday requested by the United States and Japan to consider issuing a statement on the missile launch.

Malaysian counselor Johan Ariff Abd Razak, whose country holds the council presidency, said Thursday the United States circulated a draft statement to members and China asked for more time to consider it.

Peter Wilson, Britain's deputy U.N. ambassador, said this was the fourth missile launch where "something has not been agreed" to by the Security Council in response. "We want to see a press statement agreed," he said.

Diplomats say China, which has close ties to North Korea, has blocked council action or insisted on changes in previous proposed texts that were unacceptable to other members.

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said in a statement that the U.S. strongly condemned the launch and called on North Korea to "refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region." She said the missile launch marked the latest in an "accelerating campaign" of missile tests that violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

South Korea's military condemned the launch but acknowledged it was an improvement over previous tests of similar missiles.

Washington and Seoul say the military exercises North Korea opposes are defensive in nature.

Thursday marks the anniversary of the "Military First" policy initiated by Kim Jong Un's father, the late Kim Jong Il, and the priority position the military continues to enjoy in North Korea was on full display.

Mass dancing demonstrations — a holiday staple in North Korea — were to be held on Kim Il Sung Square and other places around the country. Though the atmosphere in Pyongyang was more festive than tense, convoys carrying troops to various gatherings have been speeding through the broad avenues of the capital all week.

Television air time has been dominated by military footage even more than usual, with soldiers seen advancing through chest-deep mud, braving ice-covered lakes and staging fight scenes featuring taekwondo moves atop a moving train.

North Korea is one of the most militarized countries in the world, with a million-man army in a nation of only 25 million people.

Military service is mandatory — along with being long and arduous — and maintaining such a large number of troops is a major draw on the North's very limited economic resources. Its nuclear program is also costly, especially given the sanctions that result.

North Korean strategists believe that developing nuclear weapons and a reliable arsenal of long-range missiles is necessary and, in the end, a more cost-effective means of keeping Washington at bay and the ruling regime secure than maintaining a large conventional army.

Despite the price they pay in sanctions, officials sometimes cite the example of Libya, and the killing of strongman Moammar Gadhafi, as what happens to leaders who cave in to international pressure to give up their nuclear ambitions.

North Koreans are also quick to point out that, although their country has received military assistance in the past from the Soviet Union and China, which helped it stave off the U.S. during the 1950-53 Korean War, it no longer has any foreign troops based on its soil.

There are about 28,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea, and tens of thousands more in Japan, including the U.S. 7th Fleet and two major fighter bases that could be used as staging areas for attacks on the North if hostilities broke out.


Quake damages scores of Myanmar's heritage Bagan temples

Myanmar Military personnel examine the Htilominlo Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar, Thursday, Aug. 25. Using brooms and their hands, soldiers and residents of the ancient Myanmar city began cleaning up the debris Thursday from a powerful earthquake that shook the region and damaged nearly 200 temples. (AP Photo/Hkun Lat)

Min Kyi Thein, Grant Peck

Bagan, Myanmar (AP) — It was a time of conquest and conversions. Above all, it was a time of construction, on a scale never seen before. Over 250 years, from the 11th century onwards, the rulers of Bagan built more than 10,000 magnificent religious monuments.

The stupas, temples and monasteries became the defining emblems of Bagan, the capital of the Pagan (pronounced PUH'-gahn) empire that ruled Myanmar from roughly 1044 to 1287.

On Wednesday, scores of the monuments — of which only about 2,200 remain — were damaged in a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake. Yet much of what fell was modern material, sanctioned by Myanmar's former army rulers who had put top priority on restoring the temples with little regard for the original architectural styles.

King Anawratha, who unified the country formerly known as Burma, and his successors built the temples in a frenzy, believing they would gain spiritual merit. Still, piety didn't stop them from making war or killing to gain power.

One king, Narathu, slew his father, elder brother, and one of his wives. He also killed the architect of the magnificent Dhammayangi temple so he couldn't repeat the feat, and chopped off the hands of sloppy workmen.

As more and more monuments rose in the dusty plains of central Myanmar, Bagan became the political, economic and cultural center of the empire, promoting religious as well as secular studies, including philosophy, astrology, medicine, law and Pali, the language of Buddhist scriptures. The city became an educational destination for monks from as far away as India, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.

But Bagan declined as rapidly as it rose.

It was abandoned around 1287 for reasons not entirely clear, and the city — once home to up to 200,000 people — was reduced to the status of a small town. Some historical accounts cite Mongol invasions but others dispute that, saying the Mongol armies may not have reached the city.

But the dead city left a legacy that future generations are benefiting from.

Bagan covers more than 80 square kilometers (32 square miles) of a flat plain. It is the country's biggest tourist attraction, and along with Cambodia's Angkor Wat and Indonesia's Borobudur temple, the temples of Bagan are considered one of Southeast Asia's major historical landmarks.

Yet unlike those Southeast Asian archaeological cousins, Bagan is not listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to a tangled modern tale of neglect followed by a fervid if misguided effort at renovation in the 1990s, partly to restore damage from a 1975 earthquake.

As the ground shook on Wednesday, the tremors dislodged spires, loosened bricks and cracked the mortar, revealing modern material that was the result of haphazard restoration by the former military regime.

These efforts drew widespread international condemnation and forced UNESCO to deny Bagan the World Heritage Site stamp, even though it acknowledged that "these monuments represent the outstanding artistic and technical achievement of an original and innovative Buddhist school of art."

Much of the blame lies with the junta that took power in 1988, after crushing a pro-democracy movement. By 1995, restoration was in full swing to complete the work before the Visit Myanmar Year in 1996, which the generals of this once-pariah nation hoped would bring in much-needed tourist income.

The plan was a limited success, due to still underdeveloped infrastructure and a boycott call by human rights groups against the military regime, which had placed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. The country emerged from military rule this year after Suu Kyi's party won to become the country's de facto leader.

Pierre Pichard, a UNESCO consultant who had long been associated with Bagan, said impressing visiting generals rather than cultural priorities dictated restoration while military-ordered excavation has been done "hastily, without proper preparation and without the requested scientific methodology and records."

UNESCO was even more disturbed when a 60-meter (198-feet) -high viewing tower opened in 2005, saying it's out of scale and detracts visually from the historical monuments.

State tourism authorities responded that the tower would prevent tourists from climbing on fragile pagodas and stupas and damaging them.


Study: Man-made warming may have started decades earlier

Scientist Oliver Grah measures the speed of a melt water stream from Sholes Glacier on one of the slopes on Mount Baker in Washington to study the effects of global warming. A new study suggests man-made global warming may have started earlier than previously thought. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)

Seth Borenstein

Washington (AP) — Man-made global warming may have started a few decades earlier than scientists previously figured, a new study suggests.

Instead of the late 1800s, a slight almost imperceptible warming can now be tracked to around the 1850 in North America, Europe and Asia, according to a new study based on coral, microscopic organisms, ice cores, cave samples, tree rings and computer simulations.

And that happened when heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels were tiny compared to now, which means "the speed at which the climate responds to even a small change in greenhouse gases appears to be quite fast," said study lead author Nerilie Abram, a paleoclimate scientist at the Australian National University.

From about 1850 to 1880, Earth probably warmed around a third of a degree Fahrenheit (about 0.2 degrees Celsius). Still, that pales compared to about nine-tenths of a degree (half a degree Celsius) in the last 30 years or so, Abram said.

Determining when warming started is more than just a historical question. An early heating could mean either worse future climate than previously predicted if heat trapping gases aren't controlled or, more optimistically, faster recovery by Earth if international efforts to cut greenhouse gases succeed, Abram said.

Abram's results differ from past studies, including the iconic "hockey stick" , that didn't show a dramatic spike in warming until around the start of the 20th century, and other studies that even showed unusual cooling around the late 1800s. Abram said computer simulations are better and go back centuries longer in their calculations than they used to, and she uses more proxy data — tree rings, coral and the like — to get temperatures before historical temperature records started being kept regularly in the 1880s.

But Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who is credited with the hockey stick concept, said Abram makes unsupported claims. In an email, he wrote that the Abram team misinterprets the cooling of the early 1800s from two giant volcanic eruptions as a cooler baseline instead of something unusual. That makes it look like human-forced warming started earlier than it did instead of climate naturally recovering from volcanoes putting cooling particles in the air, Mann wrote. John Fasullo, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agreed.

Abram said her team initially thought they saw a bounce back from the volcanic eruptions, but their reconstruction and computer simulations showed that wasn't the case. The only way the computer model simulated the proper temperature was with the man-made greenhouse gas effect, she said.

Jonathan Overpeck, a University of Arizona climate scientist who wasn't part of the Abram team, said he found the study's combination of proxy data and computer simulations convincing and the concept of an early start to warming intriguing and significant.


Today in History - Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, Aug. 26, the 239th day of 2016. There are 127 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 26, 1968, the Democratic National Convention opened in Chicago; the four-day event was marked by a bloody police crackdown on anti-war protesters in the streets and a tumultuous nominating process that resulted in the choice of Hubert H. Humphrey for president. 

On this date: 

In 1789, France's National Assembly adopted its Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. 

In 1883, the island volcano Krakatoa began cataclysmic eruptions, leading to a massive explosion the following day. 

In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing American women's right to vote, was certified in effect by Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. 

In 1939, the first televised major league baseball games were shown on experimental station W2XBS: a double-header between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. (The Reds won the first game, 5-2, the Dodgers the second, 6-1.) 

In 1944, French Gen. Charles de Gaulle braved the threat of German snipers as he led a victory march in Paris, which had just been liberated by the Allies from Nazi occupation. 

In 1958, Alaskans went to the polls to overwhelmingly vote in favor of statehood. 

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated for a term of office in his own right at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

In 1972, the summer Olympics games opened in Munich, West Germany. 

In 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani (al-BEE'-noh loo-CHYAH'-nee) of Venice was elected pope following the death of Paul VI; the new pontiff took the name Pope John Paul I. (However, he died just over a month later.) 

In 1986, in the so-called "preppie murder case," 18-year-old Jennifer Levin was found strangled in New York's Central Park; Robert Chambers later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 15 years in prison. 

In 1996, Democrats opened their 42nd national convention in Chicago. 

In 2009, authorities in California solved the 18-year disappearance of Jaycee Lee Dugard after she appeared at a parole office with her children and the Antioch couple who'd kidnapped her when she was 11. 

Ten years ago: Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (mahk-MOOD' ah-muh-DEE'-neh-zhahd), inaugurated a heavy-water production plant, a facility the West feared would be used to develop a nuclear bomb. Chad's President Idriss Deby ordered California-based Chevron Corp. and Malaysian company Petronas to leave the country, saying neither had paid taxes. (The dispute over taxes was later resolved, with the two companies agreeing to pay $289 million.) 

Five years ago: More than 2 million people along the Eastern Seaboard were ordered to move to safer ground as Hurricane Irene approached the coast. A Boko Haram sect member detonated a car loaded with explosives at the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja, killing 25 people and wounding more than 100 others. 

One year ago: Alison Parker, a reporter for WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were shot to death during a live outdoor interview with Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce, by Vester Lee Flanagan, a disgruntled former station employee who then fatally shot himself while being pursued by police. (Gardner was seriously wounded in the attack.) Amelia Boynton Robinson, 104, who was widely considered the mother of the American civil rights movement, died in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Today's Birthdays: Actress Francine York is 80. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is 71. Rhythm-and-blues singer Valerie Simpson is 71. Pop singer Bob Cowsill is 67. Broadcast journalist Bill Whitaker is 65. Actor Brett Cullen is 60. NBA coach Stan Van Gundy is 57. Jazz musician Branford Marsalis is 56. Country musician Jimmy Olander (Diamond Rio) is 55. Actor Chris Burke is 51. Actress-singer Shirley Manson (Garbage) is 50. Rock musician Dan Vickrey (Counting Crowes) is 50. TV writer-actress Riley Weston is 50. Rock musician Adrian Young (No Doubt) is 47. Actress Melissa McCarthy is 46. Latin pop singer Thalia is 45. Rock singer-musician Tyler Connolly (Theory of a Deadman) is 41. Actor Mike Colter is 40. Actor Macaulay Culkin is 36. Actor Chris Pine is 36. Country singer Brian Kelley (Florida Georgia Line) is 31. Rhythm-and-blues singer Cassie Ventura is 30. Actor Evan Ross is 28. Actor Dylan O'Brien is 25. Actress Keke Palmer is 23. 

Thought for Today: "When the political columnists say 'Every thinking man' they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to 'Every intelligent voter' they mean everybody who is going to vote for them." - Franklin P. Adams, American journalist-humorist (1881-1960).   

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


Italy earthquake kills at least 159, reduces towns to rubble

A victim is carried on a stretcher from a collapsed building caused by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Amatrice, central Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 24. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Paolo Santalucia, Frances D'emilio, Nicole Winfield

Amatrice, Italy (AP) — Rescue crews using bulldozers and their bare hands raced to dig out survivors from a strong earthquake that reduced three central Italian towns to rubble Wednesday. The death toll stood at 159, but the number of dead and missing was uncertain given the thousands of vacationers in the area for summer's final days.

Residents wakened before dawn by the temblor emerged from their crumbled homes to find what they described as apocalyptic scenes "like Dante's Inferno," with entire blocks of buildings turned into piles of sand and rock, thick dust choking the air and a putrid smell of gas.

"The town isn't here anymore," said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of the hardest-hit town, Amatrice. "I believe the toll will rise."

The magnitude 6.2 quake struck at 3:36 a.m. and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents woke to a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor shook the Lazio region and Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast, a highly seismic area that has witnessed major quakes in the past.

Dozens of people were pulled out alive by rescue teams and volunteers that poured in from around Italy.

In the evening, about 17 hours after the quake struck, firefighters pulled a 10-year-old girl alive from the rubble in Pescara del Tronto.

"You can hear something under here. Quiet, quiet," one rescue worker said, before soon urging her on: "Come on, Giulia, come on, Giulia. ... Watch your head."

Cheers broke out when she was pulled out.

And there were wails when bodies emerged.

"Unfortunately, 90 percent we pull out are dead, but some make it, that's why we are here," said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer from Rieti who was working in devastated Amatrice where flood lights were set up so the rescue could continue through the night.

Premier Matteo Renzi visited the zone Wednesday, greeted rescue teams and survivors, and pledged that "No family, no city, no hamlet will be left behind." Italy's civil protection agency reported the death toll had risen to 159 by late Wednesday; at least 368 others were injured.

Worst affected were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, some 25 kilometers further east. Italy's civil protection agency set up tent cities around each hamlet to accommodate the thousands of homeless.

Italy's health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, visiting the devastated area, said many of the victims were children: The quake zone is a popular spot for Romans with second homes, and the population swells in August when most Italians take their summer holiday before school resumes.

The medieval center of Amatrice was devastated, with the hardest-hit half of the city cut off by rescue crews digging by hand to get to trapped residents.

The birthplace of the famed spaghetti all'amatriciana bacon and tomato sauce, the city was full for this weekend's planned festival honoring its native dish. Some 70 guests filled its top Hotel Roma, famed for its amatriciana, where five bodies were pulled from the rubble before the operation was suspended when conditions became too dangerous late Wednesday. Among those killed was an 11-year-old boy who had initially shown signs of life. The fate of the dozens of other guests wasn't immediately known.

Amatrice is made up of 69 hamlets that teams from around Italy were working to reach with sniffer dogs, earth movers and other heavy equipment. In the city center, rocks and metal tumbled onto the streets and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as more than 200 aftershocks jolted the region throughout the day, some as strong as magnitude 5.1.

"The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me," marveled resident Maria Gianni. "I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn't hit, luckily, just slightly injured my leg."

Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a blanket over her shoulders, said she didn't know what had become of her loved ones.

"It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there's nothing left," she said, too distraught to give her name. "I don't know what we'll do."

As the August sun turned into a nighttime chill, residents, civil protection workers and even priests dug with shovels, bulldozers and their bare hands to reach survivors. A steady column of dump trucks brought tons of twisted metal, rock and cement down the hill and onto the highway toward Rome, along with a handful of ambulances bringing the injured to Rome hospitals.

"We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars and jacks to remove beams. Everything, we need everything," civil protection worker Andrea Gentili told The Associated Press in the early hours of the recovery. Italy's national blood drive association appealed for donations to Rieti's hospital.

Despite a massive rescue and relief effort — with army, Alpine crews, carabineri, firefighters, Red Cross crews and volunteers, it wasn't enough: A few miles (kilometers) north of Amatrice, in Illica, residents complained that rescue workers were slow to arrive and that loved ones were trapped.

"We are waiting for the military," said resident Alessandra Cappellanti. "There is a base in Ascoli, one in Rieti, and in L'Aquila. And we have not seen a single soldier. We pay! It's disgusting!"

Agostino Severo, a Rome resident visiting Illica, said workers eventually arrived after an hour or so. "We came out to the piazza, and it looked like Dante's Inferno," he said. "People crying for help, help."

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake's magnitude was 6.2, while the Italian geological service put it at 6 and the European Mediterranean Seismological Center at 6.1. The quake had a shallow depth of between four and 10 kilometers, the agencies said. Generally, shallow earthquakes pack a bigger punch and tend to be more damaging than deeper quakes.

"The Apennine mountains in central Italy have the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe and earthquakes of this magnitude are common," noted Richard Walters, a lecturer in Earth sciences at Durham University in Britain.

The devastation harked back to the 2009 quake that killed more than 300 people in and around L'Aquila, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the latest quake. The town, which still hasn't fully recovered, sent emergency teams Wednesday to help with the rescue and set up tent camps for residents unwilling to stay indoors because of aftershocks.

"I don't know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy," said a tearful Rev. Savino D'Amelio, a parish priest in Amatrice. "We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on."

Another hard-hit town was Pescara del Tronto, in the Le Marche region, where the main road was covered in debris.

Residents were digging their neighbors out by hand before emergency crews arrived. Aerial photos taken by regional firefighters showed the town essentially flattened and under a thick gray coat of dust; Italy requested EU satellite images of the whole area to get the scope of the damage.

The mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, said a family of four had died there, one of the few young families who had decided to stay in the area. He wept as he noted that the tiny hamlet of 700 swells to 2,000 in the summer months, and that he feared for the future of the town.

"I hope they don't forget us," he told Sky TG24.

President Barack Obama, speaking by telephone to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, said the U.S. sent its thoughts and prayers to the quake victims and saluted the "quick action" by first responders, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

A 1997 quake killed a dozen people in central Italy and severely damaged one of the jewels of Umbria, the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, filled with Giotto frescoes. The Franciscan friars who are the custodians of the basilica reported no immediate damage from Wednesday's temblor.

Pope Francis skipped his traditional catechism for his Wednesday general audience and instead invited the thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to recite the rosary with him. He also sent a six-man squad from the Vatican's fire department to help with the rescue.
 


Powerful earthquake shakes central Myanmar

A powerful earthquake in central Myanmar on Wednesday, Aug. 24 killed at least 4 people and damaged scores of ancient Buddhist pagodas in the former capital of Bagan. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)

Esther Htusan, Min Kyi Thein

Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Rescue workers surveyed the damage Thursday after a powerful earthquake shook Myanmar, killing at least four people and damaging 185 ancient Buddhist pagodas in the former capital of Bagan, a major tourist site.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.8 quake on Wednesday was centered about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Chauk, a town south of Bagan. It was located fairly far below the Earth's surface at a depth of about 84 kilometers (52 miles), it said. Deep earthquakes generally cause less surface damage.

At least 185 brick pagodas in Bagan were damaged, the state newspaper reported. Bagan, also known as Pagan, has more than 2,200 structures, including pagodas and temples constructed from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Many are in disrepair while others have been restored in recent years, aided by the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.

The vast site is the country's premier attraction for tourists, who can view a panorama of temples stretching to the horizon flanked by the mighty Irrawaddy River, an especially impressive experience at sunset.

Dr. Myo Thant, general secretary of the Myanmar Earthquake Committee, said other areas apparently were not badly affected.

Police officer Htay Win in Pakokku, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the epicenter, said one person there had been killed and one injured. "The person was killed by falling bricks from a building," he said.

The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement reported two other deaths in nearby Thitapwe village.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "saddened" by the loss of life and damage from the earthquake and expressed his condolences to the "people and government" of Myanmar.

He said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was in contact with authorities in Myanmar and along with its partners stands ready to support the government and local organizations.

Vincent Panzani, a staff member in Pakokku for the aid agency Save the Children, said several of his colleagues from the area described the earthquake as the strongest they have experienced.

"We felt quite heavy shaking for about 10 seconds and started to evacuate the building when there was another strong tremor," he said in comments sent by email. "Most of the reports of damage have been to the pagodas in the area with dozens impacted. There have also been reports of damage to smaller, more basic buildings, including a collapsed wall and a destroyed roof."

Worried residents of Yangon, the country's main city, rushed out of tall buildings, and objects toppled from tables and from Buddhist shrines in homes. However, there were no reports of serious damage in the city.

The quake was felt in a half dozen states in neighboring India, where people rushed out of offices and homes at several places. It caused buildings to sway in Bangkok, Thailand's capital, several hundred kilometers (miles) to the east. There were no reports of damage in either country.

The last major quake in the area — which is often affected by smaller tremors — occurred in April about 300 kilometers (180 miles) further north, and measured magnitude 6.9. It caused no reported casualties and only minor damage.


Duterte: 'It will be bloody' if Philippine territory breached

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses troops during his visit to the Philippine Army's Camp Mateo Capinpin at Tanay township, Rizal province east of Manila,Philippines Wednesday, Aug. 24. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Bullit Marquez

Tanay, Philippines (AP) — The tough-talking Philippine president said Wednesday he will walk the extra mile for peace but warned China "it will be bloody" if the militarily superior Asian neighbor infringes on his country's territory.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued the warning in comments on his country's territorial disputes with China in a speech before troops at an army camp east of Manila. He has been seeking talks with China on the long-unresolved conflict.

Duterte said China has been conciliatory and he did not want any fight.

"We do not want a quarrel," he said. "I would walk the extra mile to ask for peace for everybody."

He expressed fears, however, about what will happen if the peaceful efforts fail, saying Filipino troops are ready to defend their country's sovereignty despite its weak military.

"I guarantee to (China), if you enter here, it will be bloody," he said. "And we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, you can include mine."

An international arbitration tribunal ruled last month that China's extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea were invalid under a 1982 U.N. treaty, in a major setback for Beijing, which has ignored the decision.

Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, initiated the arbitration case against China. Duterte has not pressed for Chinese compliance and does not plan to raise the decision at an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders with his Chinese counterpart in Laos next month.

Duterte said, however, that "whether we like it or not, that arbitral judgment will be insisted not only by the Philippines" but by other countries in Southeast Asia, suggesting China should take steps to resolve the territorial issues now while conditions are conducive.

"We will not raise hell now because of the judgment, but there will come a time that we have to do some reckoning about this," Duterte said.


France's Sarkozy brands burkinis a 'provocation'

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, poses prior to a TV interviews at French TV station TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, Wednesday, Aug. 24. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Paris (AP) — France's former conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has branded the full-body burkini swimsuits worn by some Muslim women a "provocation" that he says supports radicalized Islam.

A series of local town bans on burkinis in France has set off a heated debate in the strictly secular country. Sarkozy said in a TV interview Wednesday night that "we don't imprison women behind fabric."

As a leading opposition figure, Sarkozy announced this week that he is running for the presidency again in next spring's election. He must first win the primaries organized by the French right in November, where he's expected to face tough competition.

Sarkozy says if he wins, he will ban every visible religious sign in French universities.

Sarkozy, 61, is expected to campaign on a hard-line platform on immigration and security issues in a country marked by recent attacks carried out by Islamist extremists.

In the TF1 channel interview, Sarkozy insisted that Muslims in France are French people "exactly like any other ones" but, when living in the country, they must "assimilate" the French language and way of life, the French regions and the history of France.

Muslim people shouldn't "impose their differences on the majority," he said.

Regarding his social and economic platform, Sarkozy said he wants to set up decreasing unemployment benefits but assured at the same time that the "French social model" will remain intact if he is elected.

"Here, it's not the United States where people end up living in a mobile home when they lose their jobs", he said.

Recently, Sarkozy has said that, in the name of France's secularism, he opposes pork-free options proposed by many school canteens for Muslim and Jewish children. He has also suggested that children born in France to parents staying illegally in the country shouldn't be granted French nationality.


Turkey makes first major foray into Syria with assault on IS

Turkish artillery is shown stationed near the Syrian border in Karkamis, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 24. Turkey's military launched an operation before dawn Wednesday to clear the Syrian border town of Jarablus from Islamic State militants. (AP Photo)

Suzan Fraser, Zeina Karam

Ankara, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Wednesday launched its first major ground assault into Syria since the country's civil war began, sending in tanks and special forces backed by U.S. airstrikes to help Syrian rebels retake a border town from Islamic State militants.

The surprise incursion to capture the town of Jarablus was a dramatic escalation of Turkey's role in Syria's war. But its objective went beyond fighting extremists. Turkey is also aiming to contain expansion by Syria's Kurds, who are also backed by the United States and have used the fight against IS and the chaos of the civil war to seize nearly the entire stretch of the border with Turkey in northern Syria.

That raises the potential for explosive frictions between two American allies. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew into Ankara hours after the offensive, and he backed Turkey with a stern warning to the Kurds to stay east of the Euphrates River, which crosses from Turkey into Syria at Jarablus.

Kurdish forces "must move back across the Euphrates River. They cannot, will not, under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment," he said.

The Turkish assault, launched in retaliation after a string of militant bombings in Turkey, adds yet another powerhouse force on the ground in an already complicated war.

It appeared Turkish forces would remain for at least the near term. A senior Turkish official told journalists that operations would continue until "we are convinced" imminent threats to Turkey are neutralized. He said the aim is to create a "terror-free zone" in northern Syria to prevent militants from entering Turkey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

The Turkish assault began around 4 a.m. with a furious barrage by artillery and warplanes. Then around 20 Turkish tanks, a team of Turkish special forces, and hundreds of Syrian rebels surged across the border, according to Turkish media and Syrian opposition activists.

Only hours later, the rebels burst into Jarablus, posting photos from the town's center. IS militants withdrew apparently without a fight, retreating to the IS-held town of al-Bab further south.

In the evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that rebels had retaken the city, saying they seized "government and official residences." He spoke alongside Biden, who said Washington backed the offensive with airstrikes, adding, "We believe very strongly that the Turkish border should be controlled by Turkey."

Much of what happens next depends on whether the Turkish offensive goes deeper and what they move against: IS-held towns or nearby Kurdish-controlled areas, including the town of Manbij which Kurdish forces retook from IS earlier this month. Manbij lies west of the Euphrates, and Ankara has demanded the Kurds hand it over to Syrian rebels and withdraw.

Turkey has been deeply concerned by the advances along the border of the main U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, fearing it is setting up a Kurdish entity. The YPG is also linked to Kurdish rebels waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.

Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, said Turkey is trying to "block the ultimate creation of a contiguous zone of territorial control under the authority of the PYD," using the acronym for the Democratic Union Party, the YPG's political arm.

Earlier, Erdogan said the military operation aims to prevent threats from "terror" groups, pointing specifically to the Islamic State group and the PYD. He said the operation was in response to a string of attacks in Turkey, including an IS suicide bombing at a wedding party near the border which killed 54 people.

Saleh Muslim, the co-president of the PYD, warned that Turkey will pay the price, tweeting that "Turkey is in Syrian Quagmire. Will be defeated as Daesh" will be. He used the Arabic language acronym for IS.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu shot back saying Muslim's opposition to the operations proved the PYD's "secret agenda" to form a Kurdish state.

Despite the tough talk, the Kurds may decide to pull back from Manbij to appease their U.S. allies, handing it over to the so-called Manbij Military Council. The predominantly Kurdish Syria Democratic Forces created the council to lead the battle for Manbij, giving it an Arab and local membership to assuage Ankara's concerns.

Jarablus is a key lynchpin in the Turkish-Kurdish rivalry. The town lies on the western bank of the Euphrates River at the Turkish border in a pocket controlled by the Islamic State group.

The YPG and other Syrian Kurds stand on the east bank of the river, and from there they hold the entire border with Turkey all the way to Iraq. They also hold parts of the border further west, so if they ever took control of Jarablus, they would control almost the entire stretch.

Pointedly, Turkey codenamed its cross-border assault "Euphrates Shield," suggesting the aim was to keep the YPG east of the Euphrates River.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that in Biden's talks in Ankara, the two sides reached agreement that that the Syrian Kurdish forces "should never spread west of the Euphrates and not enter any kind of activity there."

Cavusoglu said Syrian Kurdish forces must cross back to the east side of the Euphrates as soon as possible. "Otherwise, and I say this clearly, we will do what is necessary."

Turkey has backed rebels against Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout Syria's civil war. It has carried out some airstrikes and artillery barrages against militants in the past.

But Wednesday's assault was its first major ground incursion.

Some 1,500 Syrian opposition fighters were involved, said Ahmad al-Khatib, an activist embedded with the rebels. The fighters came from the U.S.-backed Hamza brigade, as well as rebel groups fighting government forces in Aleppo, such as the Nour el-Din el Zinki brigade, the Levant Front, and Failaq al-Sham.

Fighters from the powerful and ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham brigade are also present, he said.

The Syrian government denounced the Turkish military incursion and called for an immediate end to what it described as a "blatant violation" of Syrian sovereignty.

But there is little potential for friction between the Turkish forces and Assad's troops, which are not in the immediate area. Moreover, Assad shares Turkey's goals of pushing back the Islamic State group and the Kurds.

With Syria's civil war now in its sixth year, Turkey's foray adds another item in a list of combatants that already includes Assad's military and his allies — Revolutionary Guard troops from Iran and Hezbollah guerrillas from Lebanon, Russian military experts and airstrikes — Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and jihadi militants from around the world in the Islamic State group.


Today in History - Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, Aug. 25, the 238th day of 2016. There are 128 days left in the year. 

Today's Highlight in History: 

On Aug. 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed an act establishing the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior. 

On this date: 

In 1718, hundreds of French colonists arrived in Louisiana, with some settling in present-day New Orleans. 

In 1825, Uruguay declared independence from Brazil. 

In 1921, the United States signed a peace treaty with Germany. 

In 1944, during World War II, Paris was liberated by Allied forces after four years of Nazi occupation. Romania declared war on former ally Germany. 

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a measure providing pensions for former U.S. presidents and their widows. 

In 1960, opening ceremonies were held for the Summer Olympics in Rome. 

In 1975, the Bruce Springsteen album "Born to Run" was released by Columbia Records. 

In 1981, the U.S. spacecraft Voyager 2 came within 63,000 miles of Saturn's cloud cover, sending back pictures of and data about the ringed planet. 

In 1989, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to Neptune, its final planetary target. 

In 1998, retired Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell died in Richmond, Virginia, at age 90. 

In 2001, Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby (meh-tay mar-it shes-em hoy-bee), a single mother and former waitress, married Norway's Crown Prince Haakon (hoh-uh-kahn) in Oslo. Rhythm-and-blues singer Aaliyah (ah-LEE'-yah) was killed with eight others in a plane crash in the Bahamas; she was 22. 

In 2009, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy died at age 77 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a battle with a brain tumor. 

Ten years ago: A college student's checked luggage on a Continental Airlines flight that had arrived in Houston from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was found to contain a stick of dynamite, one of six security incidents that day that caused U.S. flights to be diverted, evacuated or searched. Joseph Stefano, who wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," died in Thousand Oaks, California, at age 84. 

Five years ago: Fifty-two people were killed in a fire at a casino in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey that was allegedly targeted by a drug cartel. The New York Yankees became the first team in major league history to hit three grand slams in a game, with Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson connecting in a 22-9 romp over the Oakland Athletics. 

One year ago: French authorities formally opened a terrorism investigation into a foiled attack four days earlier; a prosecutor said minutes before he slung an assault rifle across his chest and walked through a high-speed train, suspect Ayoub El-Khazzani of Morocco watched a jihadi video on his cellphone. 

Today's Birthdays: Game show host Monty Hall is 95. Actor Sean Connery is 86. Actor Page Johnson is 86. TV personality Regis Philbin is 85. Actor Tom Skerritt is 83. Jazz musician Wayne Shorter is 83. Movie director Hugh Hudson is 80. Author Frederick Forsyth is 78. Movie director John Badham is 77. Filmmaker Marshall Brickman is 77. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is 74. Rhythm-and-blues singer Walter Williams (The O'Jays) is 73. Actor Anthony Heald is 72. Rock singer-actor Gene Simmons is 67. Actor John Savage is 67. Country singer-musician Henry Paul (Outlaws; Blackhawk) is 67. Rock singer Rob Halford is 65. Rock musician Geoff Downes (Asia) is 64. Rock singer Elvis Costello is 62. Movie director Tim Burton is 58. Actor Christian LeBlanc is 58. Actress Ashley Crow is 56. Actress Ally Walker is 55. Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus is 55. Actress Joanne Whalley is 55. Rock musician Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard) is 54. Actor Blair Underwood is 52. Actor Robert Maschio is 50. Rap DJ Terminator X (Public Enemy) is 50. Alternative country singer Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) is 49. Actor David Alan Basche (BAYSH) is 48. Television chef Rachael Ray is 48. Actor Cameron Mathison is 47. Country singer Jo Dee Messina is 46. Model Claudia Schiffer is 46. Country singer Brice Long is 45. Actor Eric Millegan is 42. Actor Alexander Skarsgard is 40. Actor Jonathan Togo is 39. Actor Kel Mitchell is 38. Actress Rachel Bilson is 35. Actress Blake Lively is 29. Actor Josh Flitter is 22. 

Thought for Today: "History is the sum total of the things that could have been avoided." — Konrad Adenauer, German statesman (1876-1967).   

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]

3 hurt as suicide bomber hits Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan

Cambodia nabs 64 from China, Taiwan in alleged internet scam

Singer arrested on suspicion of assault with deadly weapon

Myanmar to hold historic peace talks with ethnic armies

Europe hits Apple with a $15 billion-plus tax bill

Locally transmitted Zika virus infects 41 in Singapore

Today in History - Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016


Brazil's president proclaims innocence at impeachment trial

European ships rescue thousands of migrants off Libyan coast

15 Philippine troops killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels

Actor Gene Wilder, star of Mel Brooks movies, dies at 83

Today in History - Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Today in History - Monday, Aug. 29, 2016


More than 100 arrested, dozens hurt at Notting Hill Carnival

FARC sets permanent cease-fire under Colombia peace deal

Ganges overflows its banks in Indian holy town

Would-be bomber's explosives fail in Indonesia church

Italy probes whether negligence played role in quake toll

Scientists exit Hawaii dome after yearlong Mars simulation

Turkey-backed rebels expel Kurdish forces from Syrian towns


Top French court rules burkini bans violate basic freedoms

Today in History - Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Clinton says controversies behind her; Trump begs to differ

Hungarian PM Orban urges EU to build an army of its own

Indonesia steps up fire response as haze blankets Singapore

Quake damaged roads threaten access to Italy town

US, Russia fall short on deal to restore Syria truce

Today in History - Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016


Aftershocks rattle Italian quake zone; toll rises to 250

NKorea missile test adds to 'Military First' celebration

Quake damages scores of Myanmar's heritage Bagan temples

Study: Man-made warming may have started decades earlier

Today in History - Friday, Aug. 26, 2016


Italy earthquake kills at least 159, reduces towns to rubble

Powerful earthquake shakes central Myanmar

Duterte: 'It will be bloody' if Philippine territory breached

France's Sarkozy brands burkinis a 'provocation'

Turkey makes first major foray into Syria with assault on IS

Today in History - Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

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