Make Chiangmai Mail | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

 

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update December 2016


Home
World News
Thailand News
Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles
Odds & Ends
Science & Nature
Technology
World Sports
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
World News
 

Governor raises death toll to 29 in Mexico blast

This image made from video shows a view from a drone of smoke billowing from the San Pablito Market.(Pro Tultepec via APTN)

Christpher Sherman, Associated Press
Peter Orsi, Associated Press


TULTEPEC, Mexico (AP) — The governor of the State of Mexico says three more people have died from a massive chain-reaction at a fireworks market near the capital, raising the death toll to 29.

Gov. Eruviel Avila says that in addition to the 26 people who perished at the market, three more died after being hospitalized.

A powerful chain-reaction explosion ripped through Mexico's best-known fireworks market on the northern outskirts of the capital Tuesday, initially killing at least 26 people, injuring scores more and sending a huge plume of charcoal-gray smoke billowing into the sky.

The blast leveled the open-air San Pablito Market in Tultepec in the middle of the afternoon as it bustled with shoppers stocking up on fireworks to celebrate Christmas and New Year's, reducing vendors' stands to piles of rubble, ash, and charred metal. It was the third devastating explosion and fire to ravage the market since 2005.

A man walks through the debris.(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

Crescencia Francisco Garcia said she was in the middle of the grid of stalls along with a few hundred others when the thunderous explosions began. She froze, reflexively looked up at the sky and then took off running through the smoke once she realized everyone was doing so. As she ran she saw people with burns and cuts, and lots of blood.

"Everything was catching fire. Everything was exploding," Francisco said. "The stones were flying, pieces of brick, everything was flying."

"Mexico is in mourning," Mexico State Gov. Eruviel Avila said in an interview with Foro TV.

Sirens wailed and a heavy scent of gunpowder lingered in the air well after the explosion at the market, where most of the stalls were destroyed. The smoking, burned out shells of vehicles ringed the perimeter, and first responders and local residents wearing blue masks over their mouths combed through the ash and debris. Firefighters hosed down still-smoldering hotspots.

Cesar Ornelas of Atizapan de Zaragoza was only 10 minutes into shopping with his son and his father when he heard the first explosions. He tried to run, but something knocked him to the ground from behind. He tried several times to get up, unsuccessfully, and ultimately his 15-year-old son Francisco had to drag him out.

"We didn't look back," said Ornelas, who suffered light burns and a large bruise over his left kidney. His white tank top had a fist-size burn on the chest. "We heard how the explosion was kind of going off bit by bit."

Nearly four hours later, he and Francisco limped gingerly out of the market area. Francisco said paramedics told him his leg was likely fractured by flying debris. Ornelas said his 67-year-old father, Ernesto, had run in a different direction and sought refuge in a nearby home. All the father's clothing was burned, and his face and arm were bloodied. An ambulance had spirited him to a hospital, but Ornelas wasn't sure where it was or how serious his injuries were.

The Mexican Red Cross said it sent 10 ambulances with 50 paramedics to the scene.

"My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident and my wishes for a quick recovery for the injured," President Enrique Pena Nieto said via Twitter.

Local policemen walk through the scorched ground of the open-air San Pablito fireworks market.(AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

National Civil Protection Coordinator Luis Felipe Puente told Milenio television that some nearby homes were also damaged. The scene remained dangerous and he asked people not to come within 3 miles (5 kilometers) to avoid hampering the emergency response.

A similar fire engulfed the San Pablito Market in 2005, touching off a chain of explosions that leveled hundreds of stalls just ahead of Mexico's Independence Day. A year later a similar incident at the same market also destroyed hundreds of stands.

Many in Mexico traditionally celebrate Christmas, New Year's and other holidays by setting off noisy firecrackers and rockets.

___

Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman reported from Tultepec, Mexico, and Peter Orsi reported from Mexico City.

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


10 Chinese men charged with drug smuggling in Australia

SYDNEY (AP) — Ten Chinese nationals were charged on Tuesday with drug smuggling in Australia after officials said they found a stash of cocaine worth more than 60 million Australian dollars ($44 million) on their ship.

Last week, the Australian Defense Force intercepted the 50-meter (160-foot) former research vessel off the island state of Tasmania, and escorted the boat to the state capital, Hobart. During a subsequent search, police found 186 kilograms (410 pounds) of cocaine on board, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a statement.

The 10 crew members, all men aged between 23 and 50, were charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. If convicted, they could face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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


Volkswagen deal gives some diesel car owners buyback option

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Sudhin Thanawala, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Volkswagen reached a deal that will give at least some owners of the remaining 80,000 diesel vehicles caught in the company's emissions cheating scandal the option of a buyback and provide compensation to all of them on top of any repurchase or repairs, U.S. regulators and a federal judge said Tuesday.

The $1 billion settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will give owners of 20,000 3-liter diesel cars the choice of a buyback. The figure does not include additional payments to owners.

Volkswagen believes it can bring the other 60,000 vehicles into compliance with pollution regulations and will not offer a buyback if that's the case, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said in San Francisco.

The deal includes $225 million the German automaker will contribute to an environmental fund to offset the cars' excess pollution, Cynthia Giles of the EPA said in a conference call with reporters.

Additional compensation for car owners will be substantial, according to the judge, but he did not provide a figure and said the sides still had more work to do.

"I am optimistic the parties will resolve the remaining issues," Breyer said, without elaborating on what was left to be done.

The settlement was a major step toward rectifying lawsuits stemming from the global scandal that erupted last year, damaging Volkswagen's reputation and hurting its sales. The company previously reached a nearly $15 billion deal for 475,000 2-liter diesel cars also programmed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hinrich J. Woebcken, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America Inc., said the agreement announced Tuesday was part of Volkswagen's "efforts to make things right" for its customers.

"We are committed to earning back the trust of all our stakeholders and thank our customers and dealers in the United States for their patience as the process moves forward," he said in a statement.

The deal protects the environment "by removing the cars from road and by offsetting harmful emissions that resulted from their cheating," said Giles with the EPA.

It requires the company to buy back or terminate leases on 2009-2012 Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 diesels. The EPA says it's unlikely those can be fixed to meet clean-air standards.

For newer 3-liter vehicles — such as the 2013-2016 Volkswagen Touareg, 2013-2015 Audi Q7, 2013-2016 Porsche Cayenne, and 2014-2016 Audi A6 quattro, A7 quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 — a fix is possible, so buybacks won't be offered.

Giles said the fix should be submitted soon.

The new settlement appears to mirror the terms for the cars with smaller engines. The previous deal gives 2-liter owners the option to have the automaker buy back their vehicle or pay for repairs.

Volkswagen also will pay those owners $5,100 to $10,000 each.

The company has agreed to spend up to $10 billion compensating those consumers. That settlement also includes $2.7 billion for unspecified environmental mitigation and $2 billion to promote zero-emissions vehicles.

The settlements emerged out of lawsuits from car owners and the U.S. Department of Justice after the EPA said Volkswagen had fitted many of its cars with software to fool emissions tests.

The software recognized when the cars were being tested on a treadmill and turned on pollution controls. The controls were turned off when the cars returned to the road. The EPA alleged the scheme let the cars spew up to 40 times the allowable limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in humans.

The company has reached a separate $1.2 billion deal with its U.S. dealers and is still facing potentially billions more in fines and penalties and possible criminal charges.

AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit.

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


Island nation of Sao Tome breaks ties with Taiwan

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan.(AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan says the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe has broken their diplomatic ties.

Just 21 countries and governments now have diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Most of the world and the United Nations do not formally recognize Taiwan as a condition of maintaining relations with Beijing, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory.

China's foreign ministry on Wednesday said it welcomed Sao Tome's decision to "break the so-called 'diplomatic' ties with Taiwan."

China did not say whether it would resume its own diplomacy with Sao Tome. Beijing suspended relations between the two sides in 1997, after Sao Tome established relations with Taipei.

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


Today in History - Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 21, the 356th day of 2016. There are 10 days left in the year. Winter arrives at 5:44 a.m. Eastern time.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 21, 1891, the first basketball game is believed to have been played at the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts; devised by James Naismith, "Basket Ball" involved the use of a soccer ball and two peach baskets, with nine players on each team. (The final score of this experimental game: 1-0.)

On this date:

In 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman concluded their "March to the Sea" as they captured Savannah, Georgia.

In 1879, the Henrik Ibsen play "A Doll's House" premiered at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen.

In 1937, Walt Disney's first animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," had its world premiere in Los Angeles.

In 1940, author F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Hollywood, California, at age 44.

In 1945, U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, 60, died in Heidelberg, Germany, 12 days after being seriously injured in a car accident.

In 1958, Charles de Gaulle was elected to a seven-year term as the first president of the Fifth Republic of France.

In 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon.

In 1971, the U.N. Security Council chose Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as Secretary-General.

In 1976, the Liberian-registered tanker Argo Merchant broke apart near Nantucket Island, off Massachusetts, almost a week after running aground, spilling 7.5 million gallons of oil into the North Atlantic.

In 1988, 270 people were killed when a terrorist bomb exploded aboard a Pam Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.

In 1991, eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the death of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Ten years ago: At Camp Pendleton, California, four Marines were charged with murder in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha (hah-DEE'-thuh); four Marine officers were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths. (Of the eight, six had charges dismissed, and one was acquitted of making false statements; Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich (WOO'-tur-ich), who had his unpremeditated murder charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter, ended up pleading guilty to negligent dereliction of duty.) Final results showed opponents of Iran's ultra-conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (ah-muh-DEE'-neh-zhahd), winning nationwide elections for local councils.

Five years ago: The U.S. Army announced charges against eight soldiers related to the death of a fellow GI, Pvt. Daniel Chen, who apparently shot himself in Afghanistan after being hazed. (Of the eight, five received prison sentences and two received demotions; four of the eight faced dismissal from the service.) Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was selected the 2011 AP Male Athlete of the Year. Baylor's Robert Griffin III was selected The Associated Press college football player of the year.

One year ago: A Taliban attacker rammed a bomb-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO and Afghan patrol near the Bagram Airfield, killing six Americans in the deadliest attack on foreign troops since the previous August. The nation's three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men was formally lifted, but major restrictions continued to limit who could give blood in the U.S. Clemson's Dabo Swinney was named The Associated Press college football coach of the year.

Today's Birthdays: Country singer Freddie Hart is 90. Talk show host Phil Donahue is 81. Movie director John Avildsen is 81. Actress Jane Fonda is 79. Actor Larry Bryggman is 78. Singer Carla Thomas is 74. Musician Albert Lee is 73. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 72. Actor Josh Mostel is 70. Actor Samuel L. Jackson is 68. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is 66. Actor Dennis Boutsikaris is 64. Singer Betty Wright is 63. International Tennis Hall-of-Famer Chris Evert is 62. Actress Jane Kaczmarek is 61. Country singer Lee Roy Parnell is 60. Entertainer Jim Rose is 60. Former child actress Lisa Gerritsen is 59. Actor-comedian Ray Romano is 59. Country singer Christy Forester (The Forester Sisters) is 54. Rock musician Murph (The Lemonheads; Dinosaur Jr.) is 52. Actor-comedian Andy Dick is 51. Rock musician Gabrielle Glaser is 51. Actress Michelle Hurd is 50. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is 50. Actress Karri Turner is 50. Actress Khrystyne Haje is 48. Country singer Brad Warren (The Warren Brothers) is 48. Actress Julie Delpy is 47. Country singer-musician Rhean (rehn) Boyer (Carolina Rain) is 46. Contemporary Christian singer Natalie Grant is 45. Actor Glenn Fitzgerald is 45. Singer-musician Brett Scallions is 45. World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is 42. Rock singer Lukas Rossi (Rock Star Supernova) is 40. Actress Rutina Wesley is 38. Rock musician Anna Bulbrook (Airborne Toxic Event) is 34. Country singer Luke Stricklin is 34. Actor Steven Yeun is 33. Actress Kaitlyn Dever is 20.

Thought for Today: "Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it." — Richard Adams, English author.

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


3 injured in gunman's attack at Zurich mosque

Police secure the area in front of the Islamic center, in Zurich, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. A Zurich police official says a gunman has injured several people in Switzerland's largest city and police were swarming to the scene in pursuit of the gunman who remains at large. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)

Franziska Scheven, Associated Press

ZURICH (AP) — A gunman dressed in black stormed into the prayer hall of a mosque frequented by Somali immigrants and opened fire, wounding three people before fleeing, a Zurich police spokesman said Monday.

Police, who rushed to the scene in a central neighborhood known for trendy cafes and the city's red-light district, were also investigating a possible connection to the discovery of a corpse at nearby Gessner bridge over the Sihl River, police spokesman Marco Bisa said.

Authorities weren't considering the attack as terrorism, he said. Police also said it was too early to determine whether there might be any link to an incident in Berlin also on Monday, where a truck rammed into a Christmas market, killing at least nine people.

"The unknown person fired several shots and fled from the building," Bisa told reporters near the mosque, which was cordoned off by police. "The shooting took place inside a prayer room with several people in it. Two victims were severely injured."

Bisa said the injured were hospitalized and were aged 30, 35 and 56 years old, but did not specify their nationalities. He said witnesses described the attacker as clad head to foot in black, and was believed to be aged about 30 years old.

At the scene, Abukav Abshirow, a 30-year-old Somali man who works at a Zurich car dealership, said his friend was among the injured. He recalled how they had been celebrating a religious occasion at the center the night before.

"I am under shock," he said. "We've had great times here. The atmosphere was always friendly and happy at the center ... I am very, very sad this happened. We never had problems here before. We spend the weekend here with our children in peace."

"I am waiting to find out what happened, and who is responsible," he said.

Attacks by gunmen are rare in Switzerland. The country was shaken in 2013 by at least two multiple-fatality shootings.

The country has a long-standing tradition for men to keep their military rifles after completing compulsory military service — which partly explains a high rate of gun ownership in the country of about 8.2 million people.

Jamey Keaten contributed from Geneva.

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


Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated in front of shocked gathering

Mevlut Mert Altintas shouted slogans about Syria's civil war after he killed Russia's ambassador to Turkey in front of stunned onlookers at a photo exhibition in the Turkish capital on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, according to an Associated Press photographer who witnessed the shooting. Police later killed the assailant, Turkish station NTV reported. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Burhan Ozbilici, Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish policeman fatally shot Russia's ambassador to Turkey on Monday in front of a shocked gathering at a photo exhibit and then, pacing near the body of his victim, appeared to condemn Russia's military role in Syria, shouting: "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!"

Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, pauses during a speech at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, moments before a gunman opened fire on him. Karlov was rushed to a hospital after the attack and later died from his gunshot wounds. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

The leaders of Turkey and Russia said the attack in Ankara, the Turkish capital, was an attempt to disrupt efforts to repair ties between their countries, which have backed opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.

An Associated Press photographer and others at the art gallery watched in horror as the gunman, who was wearing a dark suit and tie, fired at least eight shots, at one point walking around Ambassador Andrei Karlov as he lay motionless and shooting him again at close range.

The assailant, who was identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas, a 22-year-old member of Ankara's riot police squad, was later killed in a shootout with police. Three other people were wounded in the attack, authorities said.

The assassination came after days of protests by Turks angry over Russia's support for President Bashar Assad in the Syrian conflict and Russia's role in the bombardment and destruction of Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

The gunman shouted about Aleppo in Turkish, and also yelled "Allahu akbar," the Arabic phrase for "God is great," continuing in Arabic: "We are the descendants of those who supported the Prophet Muhammad, for jihad."

The attack, condemned by the White House and the United Nations, was another sign of how Turkey, a NATO member and a partner in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group, is struggling to contain multiple security threats. The war in Syria has been a major problem for years, sending several million refugees into Turkey and, more recently, drawing in Turkish troops.

Turkey has become accustomed to deadly attacks — Kurdish militants claimed responsibility for Dec. 10 bombings in Istanbul that killed 44 people, many of them police.

The spectacle of 62-year-old Karlov's assassination by a member of the Turkish security forces at a photography exhibit meant to highlight Russian culture reinforced the sense of unease over the region's conflict and complex web of alliances and relationships.

It came a day before a key meeting about Syria to be held in Moscow. Those attending include the foreign and defense ministers from Turkey, an opponent of Assad, and Russia and Iran, backers of the Syrian regime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the killing of Karlov as an attempt to damage Russia-Turkey ties "and to thwart a peace process in Syria which Russia, Turkey and Iran have been actively trying to promote."

Putin said he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a phone call that Russian investigators would fly to Ankara to conduct a joint probe with their Turkish counterparts.

"We must know who was directing the killer," Putin said in televised remarks. He ordered top officials to strengthen protection of the Turkish Embassy in Moscow and asked Turkey to increase security at the Russian mission in Ankara.

In a video message shown on several Turkish TV channels, Erdogan said: "This is a provocation to damage the normalization process of Turkish-Russian relations. But both the Russian and Turkish administrations have the determination not to fall for this provocation."

Karlov was several minutes into a speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in Ankara when he was gunned down.

Altintas, the gunman, also fired shots in the air, sending panicked audience members running for cover, and smashed several of the framed photos hung for the exhibition. The floor was splattered with blood, and the ambassador's eye glasses lay a few feet from his body.

After shooting the ambassador, the gunman got into a 15-minute shootout with police before he was killed, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The shooter's family home in the western province of Aydin was later searched and his mother, father and sister were detained, the news agency said, without citing sources. The man's house in Ankara was raided and his roommate, also a police officer, was also taken into custody, it said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Altintas, who was born in 1994, had been an officer with Ankara's riot police squad for more than two years. He did not give a motive for the attack.

"It's a tragic day in the history of our country and Russian diplomacy," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

"Ambassador Karlov has made a lot of personal contributions to the development of ties with Turkey. He has done a lot to overcome a crisis in bilateral relations," she said. "He was a man who put his heart and his soul into his job. It's a terrible loss for us and also the world."

Karlov joined the diplomatic service in 1976. He served as Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang from 2001-2006, and later worked as the chief of the Foreign Ministry's consular department. He had served as the ambassador to Turkey since 2013.

The White House condemned the assassination, saying "this heinous attack on a member of the diplomatic corps is unacceptable," President Barack Obama was briefed by his national security team while on vacation in Hawaii

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned what he called a "senseless act of terror," for which "there can be no justification."

Relations between Russia and Turkey were badly strained by the downing of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border in November 2015, but Turkey's apology earlier this year helped overcome the rift. Putin and Erdogan have held several meetings in recent months and spoken frequently over the phone.

Russia and Turkey have co-sponsored the evacuation of civilians and rebels from Aleppo and also discussed the prospect of organizing a new round of peace talks in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

Security threats to Turkey include the Islamic State group, and which has been blamed for attacks in Turkey. Additionally, Turkish security forces and courts remain preoccupied with purging state institutions of the supporters of an exiled Islamist cleric whom the government accuses of staging a failed coup attempt in July.

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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


Truck rams into German Christmas market, killing 12 people

Police officers stand beside a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Kirsten Grieshaber, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — A truck rammed into a crowded Christmas market in central Berlin on Monday evening, killing 12 people and injuring nearly 50 as it smashed through tables and wooden stands. Police said a suspect believed to be the driver was arrested nearby and a passenger died as paramedics were treating him.

The popular Christmas market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church was filled with a mix of tourists and locals when the large Scania truck hurtled into it. Germany's top security official said initial evidence pointed to an intentional act, and the White House condemned "what appears to have been a terrorist attack."

A firefighter attends an injured person after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Police said early Tuesday that 48 people were in hospitals, some of them with serious injuries.

Mike Fox, visiting from Birmingham, England, told The Associated Press that the truck missed him by about three meters (yards). Fox said he helped people who appeared to have broken limbs, and that others were trapped under Christmas stands.

"You do what you can to help who you can, really. It happened so fast that there was nothing we could do to stop it — if we'd tried to stop it we would have been crushed," Fox said.

Forensic experts of the police investigate the crime scene after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The truck, which was loaded with steel beams, came to a halt on a sidewalk on one side of the market. It had just rammed a large stand called "Fascination Christmas," tearing off one side and knocking down a large Christmas tree. The three-meter tree lay in the street, red and gold ornamental balls still attached to its limbs and a golden star at the top.

The crash came less than a month after the U.S. State Department called for caution in markets and other public places across Europe, saying extremist groups including Islamic State and al-Qaida were focusing "on the upcoming holiday season and associated events."

Firefighters inspect the site after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The Islamic State group and al-Qaida have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack crowds. On July 14, a truck plowed into Bastille Day revelers in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France.

Following that attack there were calls to block off and better protect high-profile public gatherings. There were no barriers around the Christmas market on Monday.

Police guard a Christmas market after a truck ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

After the attack, dozens of ambulances lined the streets waiting to evacuate people, and heavily armed police patrolled. Authorities on Twitter urged people to stay away from the area, saying they need to keep the streets clear for rescue vehicles.

Among the dead was a passenger in the truck, who succumbed as paramedics treated him, Berlin police spokesman Winfried Wenzel said. Police said later that the man was a Polish national, but didn't give further details of who he was or what happened to him.

A suspect believed to be the driver was picked up about 2 kilometers (1 miles) away, near the Victory Column monument. He was being interrogated, Wenzel said. The truck was registered in Poland, and police said it was believed to be stolen from a building site there. They didn't give a specific location.

The Polish owner of the truck said he feared the vehicle, driven by his cousin, may have been hijacked. Ariel Zurawski said he last spoke with the driver around noon, and the driver told him he was in Berlin and scheduled to unload Tuesday morning. "They must have done something to my driver," he told TVN24.

Firefighters stand beside a truck which ran into a crowded Christmas market and killed several people in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Federal prosecutors, who handle terrorism cases, took over the investigation, according to German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the United States was in contact with German officials and ready to help in the investigation and response.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump blamed Islamist terrorists, though it was unclear what that assessment was based on. He said Islamic extremists must be "eradicated from the face of the earth" and pledged to carry out that mission with all "freedom-loving partners."

But German officials said it was too early to call the crash intentional.

"I don't want to use the word 'attack' yet at the moment, although a lot speaks for it," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told ARD television. "There is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation."

Even so, some politicians were pointing fingers. Marcus Pretzell, a prominent member of the anti-migration Alternative for Germany party, lashed out at the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying on Twitter: "When will the German state of law strike back? When will this cursed hypocrisy finally stop? These are Merkel's dead! #Nice #Berlin."

Germany has not experienced any mass-casualty attacks by Islamic extremists, but has been increasingly wary since two attacks by asylum-seekers in the summer that were claimed by the Islamic State group. Five people were wounded in an ax rampage on a train near Wuerzburg and 15 in a bombing outside a bar in Ansbach, both in the southern state of Bavaria. Both attackers were killed.

Those attacks, and two others unrelated to Islamic extremism in the same weeklong period, helped stoke tensions in Germany over the arrival last year of 890,000 migrants.

Associated Press writers David Rising, Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.

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


Smog chokes China cities, grounding flights, closing roads

A woman puts on a mask for protection against air pollution while walking on a pedestrian overhead bridge in Beijing as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press
Helene Franchinau, Associated Press


BEIJING (AP) — Thick, gray smog fell over Beijing on Tuesday, choking China's capital in a haze that spurred authorities to cancel flights and close some highways in emergency measures to cut down on air pollution.

Beijing and much of industrial northern China are in the midst of a "red alert," the highest level in China's four-tiered pollution warning system. The red alert affected 460 million people, according to Greenpeace East Asia, which calculated that about 200 million people were living in areas that had experienced levels of air pollution more than 10 times above the guideline set by the World Health Organization.

Members of the public closely watch levels of PM2.5, particles measuring 2.5 microns across that are easily inhaled and damage lung tissue. The World Health Organization designates the safe level for the tiny, poisonous particles at 25 micrograms per cubic meter. On Tuesday morning, the PM2.5 reading in Beijing climbed above 300. In many northern Chinese cities, the reading has exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

State media reported that 169 flights have been canceled at Beijing Capital International Airport, where visibility fell at one point to 300 meters (984 feet). Sections of Beijing's sixth ring road, the outermost highway encircling the city of more than 20 million people, were shut down in a bid to keep cars off the roads.

Authorities have even removed charcoal grills from restaurants and banned spray painting in parts of the city, state media reported.

China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads. Beijing and other cities have tried to improve air quality by switching power plants from coal to natural gas and rolling out fleets of electric buses and taxis.

But despite its public commitment to reduce carbon emissions, China remains the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, with plans to build new factories and increase production. Government officials, facing rising energy prices earlier this year, lifted caps on production days for many mines.

Since the red alert went into effect, more than 700 companies stopped production in Beijing and traffic police were restricting drivers by monitoring their license plate numbers. Dozens of cities closed schools and took other emergency measures.

"The smog has serious repercussions on the lungs and the respiratory system, and it also influences the health of future generations, so under a red alert, it is safer to stay at home rather than go to school," said Li Jingren, a 15-year-old high school student in Beijing, on Monday.

In nearby Tianjin, authorities canceled 350 flights and closed all highways in the municipality. Public transportation services were increased as restrictions on cars were imposed.

Authorities in the northern province of Hebei ordered coal and cement plants to temporarily shut down or reduce production. Elsewhere, hospitals prepared teams of doctors to handle an expected surge in cases of pollution-related illnesses.

"If you are tracking back to the first day of this episode, you can see that the layer of the smog (in Beijing) is moving slowly from the south to the urban area in Beijing and then to the north," said Dong Liansai, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace in Beijing. "You can easily find the large deployment (of smog) in the regions south of Beijing."

On Sunday, news websites said the number of children being taken to Beijing hospitals with breathing trouble soared. Photos showed waiting rooms crowded with parents carrying children who wore face masks.

The alert is expected to end Wednesday.

Associated Press researcher Liu Zheng contributed to this report.

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


MH370 officials: Crash site could be north of search area

In this March 31, 2014 file photo, the shadow of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion is seen on low level cloud while the aircraft searches for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, near the coast of Western Australia. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

Kristen Gelineau, Associated Press

SYDNEY (AP) — A team of international investigators hunting for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 said Tuesday it has concluded the plane is unlikely to be found in a stretch of the Indian Ocean search crews have been combing for two years, and may instead have crashed in an area farther to the north.

The conclusion raises the possibility that the search for the Boeing 777 could continue well beyond next month, when crews are expected to finish their deep sea sonar hunt of the current search zone west of Australia. But Australia's transport minister suggested that was unlikely.

The latest analysis of the plane's whereabouts comes in a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search for the aircraft. The report is the result of a November meeting of international and Australian experts who re-examined all the data used to narrow down the search area for the plane, which vanished during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

In the years since the plane disappeared, experts have analyzed a series of exchanges between the aircraft and a satellite to estimate a probable crash site along what's known as the seventh arc — a vast arc of ocean that runs through the southern hemisphere. A deep sea search of a 120,000-square kilometer (46,000-square mile) stretch of water along the seventh arc has so far come up empty.

In November, the experts went back over the satellite data, along with the results of a new ocean drift analysis of the more than 20 items of debris likely to have come from the plane that have washed ashore on beaches throughout the Indian Ocean. The analysis, which looked at where the items washed ashore and when, suggested the debris originated in an area farther north along the arc from the current search zone.

Given the number of aircraft parts found so far, the team concluded that there must have been a debris field floating on the surface of the water when the plane crashed. So they eliminated an area that had already been the subject of a surface search by air crews in the early stages of the hunt.

That left a 25,000-square kilometer (9,700-square mile) area immediately to the north of the current search zone as the most likely place where the plane hit the ocean, the ATSB report said.

The investigators concluded that there is "a high degree of confidence" that the plane is not in the current search area. And they agreed that the new area needs to be searched.

"The experts concluded that, if this area were to be searched, prospective areas for locating the aircraft wreckage, based on all the analysis to date, would be exhausted," the report said.

However, a new search would require fresh funding commitments from the countries involved in the hunt. Malaysia, Australia and China agreed in July that the $160 million search will be suspended once the current stretch of ocean is exhausted unless new evidence emerges that would pinpoint the plane's exact location.

Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester suggested an extension of the hunt based on the latest analysis was unlikely, noting that the report "does not give a specific location of the missing aircraft."

"As agreed at the Tripartite Ministers meeting in Malaysia in July we will be suspending the search unless credible evidence is available that identifies the specific location of the aircraft," Chester said in a statement. "The search for MH370 has been the largest in aviation history and has tested the limits of technology, and the capacity of our experts and people at sea."

Australian government oceanographer David Griffin, who worked on the drift analysis, said he is confident the plane is in the newly identified search area, though he conceded it doesn't completely rule out the possibility that the plane rests in the current search area and was somehow missed by search crews.

"It could have been where we were searching, absolutely, but the new information does clarify that immediately north is more likely," Griffin said.

As part of their analysis, Griffin and his team built replicas of the first piece of debris that was found — a wing fragment known as a flaperon that was discovered on Reunion Island off the African coast in July last year. The team then set the replicas adrift, measuring how fast they traveled and noting how much the wind influences their rate of speed. They then ran computer simulations of how several of the debris pieces could have drifted, which helped give them a picture of where they originated.

The newly identified search zone does include an area that was searched very early on in the hunt, but crews didn't comb a wide enough area to rule it out, Griffin said. "They didn't go quite far enough away from the arc to cover all possibilities," he said.

Associated Press reporter Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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


2 Nigerian citizens sentenced for $2 million romance scam

HOUSTON (AP) — Two Nigerian citizens living outside Houston and posing as South African diplomats have been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud in a $2 million romance scam conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett on Monday also ordered 49-year-old Kunle Mutiu Amoo and 62-year-old Lanre Sunday Abeobad to pay more than $86,000 in restitution.

Federal prosecutors say the two used romantic overtures on their victim and then falsely promised to repay. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson says one person would pose as manager of a South African construction company who needed money to transfer $42 million in profits from there to the United States.

Magidson says the scam cost the victim about $2 million.

Prosecutors say the two likely face deportation proceedings following their release from prison.

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


Man wins OK to wear goat horns in driver's license photo

Phelan Moonsong shows a portrait of himself in Portland, Maine. (Phelan Moonsong via AP)

Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — An ordained Pagan priest finally has gotten the OK to sport goat horns in his Maine driver's license photo.

Maine resident Phelan Moonsong said that unless he's sleeping or bathing, he always wears his goat horns, which serve as his spiritual antennae and help him educate others about Paganism.

But Moonsong is questioning why he had to appeal his driver license's photo to the state after explaining his religious beliefs to Bureau of Motor Vehicle staff. Plus, he adds, the horns didn't obstruct his face.

The Maine Secretary of State's office said the state was not familiar with his choice of headdress and had asked Moonsong for more information to review the issue. A spokeswoman said the state allowed the goat horns because Moonsong cited their religious purposes and also because they didn't obstruct his face.

Maine motor vehicle staff can hold license photos for review if they have a concern about religious headdress.

Moonsong said after he applied for an updated driver's license in August and explained his religion to a motor vehicles employee, he was told to appeal his photo to the Secretary of State's office.

He said he provided more information to the Secretary of State's office. But when he contacted the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in late November, he said he was told his ID was rejected — which was news to him.

Moonsong then filled out an application for legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, which recently told him it was unable to take his case.

"What I was requesting should have been accepted according to what was written in statute and in guidelines," he said.

It should be no different than a nun wearing a habit, or a Sikh wearing a Turban, Moonsong said.

But, he said, he was happy to receive his new driver's license last week.

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


Today in History - Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 20, the 355th day of 2016. There are 11 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 20, 1946, the Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life," starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, had a preview showing for charity at New York's Globe Theatre, a day before its official world premiere.

On this date:

In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.

In 1812, German authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of the first edition of their collection of folk stories, "Children's and Household Tales."

In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union as all 169 delegates to a special convention in Charleston voted in favor of separation.

In 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Georgia, as Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman nearly completed his "March to the Sea."

In 1924, Adolf Hitler was released from prison after serving nine months for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch; during his time behind bars, he'd written his autobiographical screed, "Mein Kampf."

In 1945, the Office of Price Administration announced the end of tire rationing, effective Jan. 1, 1946.

In 1963, the Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners, who were allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector for the holidays.

In 1976, Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago since 1955, died in office at age 74.

In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.

In 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.

In 1995, an American Airlines Boeing 757 en route to Cali, Colombia, slammed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 163 people aboard. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO began its peacekeeping mission, taking over from the United Nations.

Ten years ago: Acknowledging deepening frustration over Iraq, President George W. Bush told a news conference he was considering an increase in American forces and warned that the next year would bring more painful U.S. losses. Recently sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced visit to Iraq.

Five years ago: Lori Berenson, an American paroled after 15 years behind bars in Peru for aiding leftist guerrillas, arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport for her first visit home since her arrest in 1995. (After a 17-day visit, Berenson returned to Peru to serve out the rest of her parole; she was expelled from Peru on Dec. 2, 2015 and returned to the U.S.) LSU's Les Miles was selected The Associated Press college football coach of the year. Soccer player Abby Wambach was voted the AP Female Athlete of the Year.

One year ago: A strong showing by a pair of upstart parties in Spain's general election upended the country's traditional two-party system, with the ruling center-right Popular Party winning the most votes but falling far short of a parliamentary majority. Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach of the Philippines was crowned Miss Universe at the pageant in Las Vegas (in a bizarre finale, first-time host Steve Harvey mistakenly identified first-runner up Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo of Colombia as the winner before correcting himself and apologizing for the error). Tony Award-winning actress Patricia Elliott, 77, died in New York.

Today's Birthdays: Actor John Hillerman is 84. Original Mouseketeer Tommy Cole (TV: "The Mickey Mouse Club") is 75. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 72. Rock musician Peter Criss is 71. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 70. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 70. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 68. Actress Jenny Agutter is 64. Actor Michael Badalucco is 62. Actress Blanche Baker is 60. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 59. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 59. Actor Joel Gretsch is 53. Country singer Kris Tyler is 52. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 50. Actress Nicole deBoer is 46. Movie director Todd Phillips is 46. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 34. Actor Jonah Hill is 33. Actor Bob Morley is 32. Singer JoJo is 26.

Thought for Today: "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." — G.K. Chesterton, English poet-essayist (1874-1936).

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


France, Russia reach compromise as Aleppo rescue uncertain

Syria's permanent representative to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, left, speaks to others on the floor of the U.N. Security Council chamber at United Nations headquarters Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, before an anticipated vote on a resolution demanding immediate and unconditional access for the United Nations and its partners to besieged parts of Aleppo and throughout Syria to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Karin Laub, Associated Press
Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press



BEIRUT (AP) — France struck a compromise Sunday with Russia on a U.N. resolution that it said would prevent "mass atrocities" in besieged areas of Aleppo, where thousands of trapped civilians and rebel fighters await evacuation in freezing temperatures.

On the ground, prospects for swift evacuations from Aleppo and other besieged areas were thrown into doubt again Sunday after militants burned buses assigned to the rescue operation, although one convoy of five buses was reported to have reached safety from the city late Sunday.

The Aleppo evacuations were to have been part of a wider deal that would simultaneously allow more than 2,000 sick and wounded people to leave two pro-government villages that have been besieged by Syrian rebels. Most villagers are Shiite Muslims, while most rebels are Sunni Muslims.

Six buses that were among those poised to enter the villages of Foua and Kfarya on Sunday were set on fire by unidentified militants, presumably to scuttle any deal.

A video posted online showed armed men near the burning buses as celebratory gunshots rang out. "The buses that came to evacuate the apostates have been burned," the narrator of the video said. He warned that no "Shiite pigs" would be allowed to leave the towns.

The video could not be verified independently, but was in line with Associated Press reporting from the area.

Earlier Sunday, pro-Syrian government TV stations showed dozens of buses on stand-by at a crossing near eastern Aleppo, reportedly poised to resume evacuations from the opposition's last foothold in the city.

Later, a Syrian opposition war monitoring group said the first civilians and fighters to evacuate eastern Aleppo in over 48 hours arrived safely in the countryside from the city. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shortly before midnight Sunday that government forces allowed five buses to leave Aleppo.

Evacuations were suspended two days earlier amid mutual recriminations after several thousand people had been ferried out of the war zone. Thousands more desperate civilians are believed trapped in the city.

About 2,700 children were evacuated in the first rescue mission earlier this week, but hundreds more "are now waiting in freezing temperatures, close to the front lines," said Shushan Mebrahtu of the U.N. agency for children, UNICEF. "We are deeply worried."

The troubled evacuations are throwing into disarray an Aleppo deal that was brokered last week by Syria ally Russia and opposition supporter Turkey.

The deal marked a turning point in the country's civil war. With the opposition leaving Aleppo, Syrian President Bashar Assad has effectively reasserted his control over Syria's five largest cities and its Mediterranean coast nearly six years after a national movement to unseat him took hold.

At the United Nations, France and Russia announced agreement on a compromise U.N. resolution to deploy U.N. monitors to eastern Aleppo to ensure safe evacuations and immediate delivery of humanitarian aid.

France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters the compromise was reached after more than three hours of closed consultations on Sunday and the Security Council would vote on the resolution at 9 a.m. EST on Monday.

He said some countries want to report to their capitals overnight. He said he hoped for a positive vote, but that he remained cautious.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters before consultations that Moscow could not accept the French draft resolution unless it was changed. He presented council members with a rival text.

After the consultations, Churkin said a "good text" had been formulated.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, said the resolution would quickly put more than 100 U.N. personnel on the ground to monitor evacuations. "The text contains all the elements for safe, secure, dignified evacuation, for humanitarian access to those who choose to remain in eastern Aleppo" and for protecting civilians, she said.

She said that following the siege in eastern Aleppo, there have been "many, many reports of people being pulled off buses and disappeared, whether into conscription or into torture chambers or killed outright." Deploying U.N. monitors would deter "some of the worst excesses," she said.

Delattre agreed. Approval of the resolution, he said, "would give us collectively the tools to avoid ... a situation in which, after the end of major military operations, forces including militias, would commit mass atrocities."

He said the resolution could also offer leverage to negotiate a broader cease-fire.

Associated Press writer Karin Laub reported this story from Beirut and AP writer Edith M. Lederer reported from the United Nations. AP writer Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.

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


'Rogue One' soars to second-best December debut with $155M

This image released by Lucasfilm Ltd. shows Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in a scene from, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." (Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm Ltd. via AP)

Sandy Cohen, AP Entertainment Write

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" soared to the top of the weekend box office as expected, scoring the second-best December opening ever with $155 million in estimated ticket sales.

After the biggest Thursday night debut of the year, the intergalactic adventure blasted past industry expectations for a $130 million weekend, according Sunday's studio estimates. "Rogue One" opened at No. 1 in all markets globally, though it has yet to bow in China and Korea.

"We're in uncharted territory for December," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box office tracker comScore. "It's going to be really hard for any movie to catch up to this movie. ... This is only the second time a movie has opened this big in December."

The record-setter was "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the space saga's seventh installment, which debuted to $247.9 million in the U.S. and Canada last December.

Like "The Force Awakens" did in 2015, "Rogue One" could top the box office for the rest of the year, Dergarabedian said.

Set before the events of the original 1977 "Star Wars," it stars Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as leaders of a rebel faction that steals plans for its imperial enemy's master weapon, the Death Star.

"Rogue One" knocked the No. 1 movie for the past three weeks, Disney's "Moana," to a distant second with $11.6 million, followed by "Office Christmas Party" with $8.4 million.

The weekend's other new wide release, the critically panned Will Smith drama "Collateral Beauty," opened in fourth place with $7 million.

"This is one of the most intense marketplaces for movies I've ever seen," Dergarabedian said. "You have a 'Star Wars' movie out there looming like the Death Star over everything, and a really great crop of Oscar contenders that keeps expanding."

Denzel Washington's "Fences" opened in limited release this weekend and expands on Christmas Day. "Manchester by the Sea," ''La La Land" and "Arrival," which all earned awards nominations recently, remain in the box office top 10.

Moviegoers who see "Rogue One" will also get a peek at next year's anticipated blockbusters: Trailers for the new "Guardians of the Galaxy," ''Spider-Man" and "Fast & Furious" films play before the feature.

"Rogue One" is the "perfect lead-in for 2017, which looks absolutely massive," Dergarabedian said.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. The latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," $155 million ($290.5 million international).

2. "Moana," $11.66 million ($27.16 million international).

3. "Office Christmas Party," $8.4 million ($17.5 million international).

4. "Collateral Beauty," $7 million ($11.6 million international).

5. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," $5 million ($19.5 million international).

6. "Manchester by the Sea," $4.1 million ($4.66 million international).

7. "La La Land," $4 million ($8.7 million international).

8. "Arrival," $2.77 million ($5.97 million international).

9. "Doctor Strange," $2 million ($2.8 million international).

10. "Nocturnal Animals," $1.39 million ($1.99 million international).

___

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to comScore:

1. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," $290.5 million.

2. "The Great Wall," $57 million.

3. "Moana," $27.16 million.

4. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," $19.5 million.

5. "Office Christmas Party," $17.5 million.

6. "Collateral Beauty," $11.6 million.

7. "Hacksaw Ridge," $9.46 million.

8. "The Wasted Times," $9.1 million.

9. "La La Land," $8.7 million.

10. "Pandora," $7.6 million.

___

Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

___

Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

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


Australia's projected annual deficit worsens by $3.2 billion

Rod McGuirk, Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's projected budget deficit for the current fiscal year has increased by 4.4 billion Australian dollars ($3.2 billion) to AU$41.5 billion as the economy continues to slow following a China-driven mining boom, the government's latest forecasts showed Monday.

The deficit for the year ending June 30, 2017, had been forecast to reach AU$37.1 billion when the annual budget was released in May.

But updated economic forecasts released Monday said growth in the AU$1.7 trillion economy had slowed to 2 percent for the year from the 2.5 percent expected in May.

Higher prices for iron ore and coal — Australia's biggest exports — would increase profits in the mining sector and increase the tax paid by mining companies, documents said.

"However this will be more than offset by the impact of weaker growth in aggregate wages and non-mining profits," the forecast said.

Analysts say Australia risks losing its coveted triple-A credit rating by early 2017 due to the worsening economic performance. Fewer than a dozen countries have a triple-A rating from Moody's Investors Service, Standard and Poor's Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Inc.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said in a statement that the budget would return to surplus in 2020-21.

The budget forecast comes after the Australian Bureau of Statistics said earlier this month that the economy contracted in the September quarter for the first time since early 2011.

The economy contracted by 0.5 percent over the three months, pushing the annual growth rate down to 1.8 percent, the bureau said.

Growth in the year through June had been 3.1 percent.

Morrison would not speculate on whether the December quarter would also contract, technically creating Australia's first recession in 25 years.

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


Jet-setting Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at age 99

In an Aug. 15, 1986 file photo, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor is shown Los Angeles.(AP Photo/File)

In a July 14, 1955 file photo, Zsa Zsa Gabor arrives at London Airport from Paris, in a Crimson dress and a straw hat. (AP Photo)

Hillel Italie, Associated Press

Zsa Zsa Gabor, the jet-setting Hungarian actress and socialite who helped invent a new kind of fame out of multiple marriages, conspicuous wealth and jaded wisdom about the glamorous life, died Sunday at her home, her husband said. She was 99.

The middle and most famous of the sisters Gabor died of a heart attack at her Los Angeles home, Frederic von Anhalt said.

Gabor had been hospitalized repeatedly since she broke her right hip in July 2010 after a fall at her home. She already had to use a wheelchair after being partly paralyzed in a 2002 car accident and suffering a stroke in 2005. Most of her right leg was amputated in January 2011 because of gangrene and the left leg was also threatened. Her misfortunes were duly reported to the media by von Anhalt.

The great aunt of Paris Hilton and a spiritual matriarch to the Kardashians, Simpsons and other tabloid favorites, she was the original hall-of-mirrors celebrity, famous for being famous for being famous. Starting in the 1940s, Gabor rose from beauty queen to millionaire's wife to minor television personality to minor film actress to major public character. With no special talent, no hit TV series such as her sister Eva's "Green Acres," Zsa Zsa nevertheless was a long-running hit just being Zsa Zsa — her accent drenched in diamonds, her name synonymous with frivolity and camp as she winked and carried on about men, dahling, and the droll burdens of the idle rich.

She was like popcorn for the public and, for sociologists, the seeming fulfillment of the mindless future imagined in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World," a creation made possible by mass, electronic media; her words and image transcribed and beamed into theaters and living rooms, on the Internet and the shelves of newsstands and supermarket checkout lines.

Her secret, in part, was being in on the joke, once saying about a 1956 TV role, "I play a fabulously rich woman who has just bought her fifth husband; she is very unhappy. I won't tell you who it's supposed to be." Ever game for a laugh, Gabor spoofed her image in a videotaped segment on David Letterman's "Late Show," which had the two stars driving from one fast-food restaurant to another, sipping sodas and digging into burgers like they were slabs of wedding cake.

Amid all the trivia, she had a peripheral part in two big scandals of the early 21st century: the death of Anna Nicole Smith (von Anhalt claimed to have had an affair with her) and the alleged financial scam of Bernard Madoff (a lawyer said she might have lost $10 million through him). And she was in the spotlight for a dustup from the late 20th century: "The slap heard 'round the world."

In June 1989, Gabor smacked Paul Kramer, a police officer, on a Beverly Hills street, after he pulled over her Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible for a traffic violation. She was convicted of misdemeanor battery on a police officer, driving without a driver's license and having an open container of alcohol in the car. She served three days in jail, performed community service at a woman's shelter and paid $13,000 in fines and restitution.

When she was freed, she told reporters the jailers were kind but "at first I was petrified. They even took my makeup away."

Gabor kept up the act in the advice book "How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man," and in the exercise video, "It's Simple Darling," in which she banters and stretches with a pair of muscular young trainers. Her memoir, "One Life Is Not Enough," came out in 1991 and dished about everything from her virginity (gone at 15) to the endless men who came on to her (She would claim that William Paley of CBS promised Gabor her own show if only she would spend an afternoon with him.)

Gabor had one child, Francesca Hilton, from her marriage to hotelier Conrad Hilton. (She would allege the child was conceived after Hilton raped her.) In later years, Gabor, von Anhalt and Francesca battled in court over family finances. Francesca Hilton died of an apparent stroke in 2015.

___

Former Associated Press Writer Polly Anderson and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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


Today in History - Monday, Dec. 19, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Dec. 19, the 354th day of 2016. There are 12 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 19, 1946, war broke out in Indochina as troops under Ho Chi Minh launched widespread attacks against the French.

On this date:

In 1777, Gen. George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to camp for the winter.

In 1813, British forces captured Fort Niagara during the War of 1812.

In 1843, "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens, was first published in England.

In 1907, 239 workers died in a coal mine explosion in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania.

In 1932, the British Broadcasting Corp. began transmitting overseas with its Empire Service to Australia.

In 1957, Meredith Willson's musical play "The Music Man" opened on Broadway.

In 1961, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., 73, suffered a debilitating stroke while in Palm Beach, Florida.

In 1974, Nelson A. Rockefeller was sworn in as the 41st vice president of the United States in the U.S. Senate chamber by Chief Justice Warren Burger with President Gerald R. Ford looking on.

In 1975, John Paul Stevens was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1986, the Soviet Union announced it had freed dissident Andrei Sakharov (AHN'-dray SAHK'-ah-rawf) from internal exile, and pardoned his wife, Yelena Bonner. Lawrence E. Walsh was appointed independent counsel to investigate the Iran-Contra affair.

In 1996, the television industry unveiled a plan to rate programs using tags such as "TV-G" (suitable for all ages), "TV-Y" (suitable for all youngsters) and "TV-M" (for mature audiences only). Actor Marcello Mastroianni died in Paris at age 72.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican-controlled House for perjury and obstruction of justice (he was subsequently acquitted by the Senate).

Ten years ago: A Libyan court convicted five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor of deliberately infecting 400 children with HIV and sentenced them to death. (The six later had their death sentences commuted, and were transferred to Bulgaria, where they were pardoned and set free.)

Five years ago: North Korea announced the death two days earlier of leader Kim Jong Il; North Koreans marched by the thousands to mourn their "Dear Leader" while state media proclaimed his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, a "Great Successor." Paroled American Lori Berenson, who had stirred international controversy after being convicted of aiding Peruvian guerrillas, left Lima on a flight to the United States for her first visit back home since her arrest in 1995.

One year ago: Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debated in Manchester, New Hampshire, where they engaged in a pointed but polite discussion of national security, Americans' heightened terrorism fears and the economy. Conductor Kurt Masur, 88, died in Greenwich, Connecticut. Spain's Mireia Lalaguna Royo was named the winner of the Miss World 2015 competition in a Chinese island resort, an event dogged by controversy over China's refusal to allow Canada's entrant to attend.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Cicely Tyson is 92. Former game show contestant Herb Stempel is 90. Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is 75. Actress Elaine Joyce is 73. Actor Tim Reid is 72. Paleontologist Richard E. Leakey is 72. Musician John McEuen is 71. Singer Janie Fricke is 69. Jazz musician Lenny White is 67. Actor Mike Lookinland is 56. Actress Jennifer Beals is 53. Actor Scott Cohen is 52. Actor Robert MacNaughton is 50. Magician Criss Angel is 49. Rock musician Klaus Eichstadt (Ugly Kid Joe) is 49. Actor Ken Marino is 48. Actor Elvis Nolasco is 48. Rock musician Kevin Shepard is 48. Actor Derek Webster is 48. Actress Kristy Swanson is 47. Model Tyson Beckford is 46. Actress Amy Locane is 45. Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp is 44. Actress Rosa Blasi is 44. Actress Alyssa Milano is 44. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal (JIH'-lihn-hahl) is 36. Actress Marla Sokoloff is 36. Rapper Lady Sovereign is 31. Actor Iain de Caestecker is 29.

Thought for Today: "Serious-minded people have few ideas. People with ideas are never serious." — Paul Valery, French poet and critic (1871-1945).

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


Today in History - Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, Dec. 18, the 353rd day of 2016. There are 13 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 18, 1916, during World War I, the 10-month Battle of Verdun ended with French troops succeeding in repulsing a major German offensive.

On this date:

In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1863, in a speech to the Prussian Parliament, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck declared, "Politics is not an exact science."

In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.

In 1892, Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In 1912, fossil collector Charles Dawson reported to the Geological Society of London his discovery of supposed early human remains at a gravel pit in Piltdown. (More than four decades later, Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax.)

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast while at the same time ruling that "concededly loyal" Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained.

In 1956, Japan was admitted to the United Nations. The controversial movie "Baby Doll," starring Carroll Baker, was released by Warner Bros. The panel game show "To Tell the Truth" debuted on CBS-TV.

In 1962, "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol," an animated musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens story, first aired on NBC-TV.

In 1966, the animated TV special "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" starring Boris Karloff as the narrator as well as the voice of the Grinch, first aired on CBS.

In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)

In 1980, former Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin died at age 76.

In 1992, Kim Young-sam was elected South Korea's first civilian president in three decades.

Ten years ago: Robert Gates was sworn in as U.S. defense secretary. President George W. Bush signed legislation to let America share its nuclear know-how and fuel with India. The NBA suspended seven players for their roles in a brawl between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks; each team was fined $500,000. Animator Joe Barbera died in Los Angeles at age 95.

Five years ago: The last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war. Vaclav Havel (VAHTS'-lahv HAH'-vel), 75, the dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia's first democratically elected president, died in the northern Czech Republic. Medical student Sophie Clarke was crowned the winner of CBS' "Survivor: South Pacific."

One year ago: Congress ended a chaotic year on a surprising note of bipartisan unity and productivity as it overwhelmingly approved a massive 2016 tax and spending package and sent it to President Barack Obama, who promptly signed it. United Nations Security Council members unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a peace process for Syria.

Today's Birthdays: Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 89. Actor-producer Roger Smith is 84. Blues musician Lonnie Brooks is 83. Actor Roger Mosley is 78. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 73. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 73. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 70. Blues artist Ron Piazza is 69. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 66. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 66. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 63. Actor Ray Liotta is 61. Comedian Ron White is 60. R&B singer Angie Stone is 55. Actor Brad Pitt is 53. Professional wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is 52. Actor Shawn Christian is 51. Actress Rachel Griffiths is 48. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 48. Actor Casper Van Dien is 48. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 46. Rapper DMX is 46. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 45. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 44. Pop singer Sia is 41. Country singer Randy Houser is 40. Actor Josh Dallas is 38. Actress Katie Holmes is 38. Actor Ravi Patel is 38. Singer Christina Aguilera is 36. Christian rock musician Dave Luetkenhoelter (Kutless) is 34. Actress Ashley Benson is 27. Actress-singer Bridgit Mendler is 24. Actress Isabella Cramp is 12.

Thought for Today: "When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others." — Anais Nin, French-born author (1903-1977).

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


Philippines' Duterte to US over aid issue: 'Bye-bye America'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to the Filipino community in Singapore on Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Jim Gomez, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP)
— President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to terminate a pact that allows U.S. troops to visit the Philippines as he reacted with rage to what he thought was a U.S. decision to scrap a major aid package over human rights concerns.

A U.S. government aid agency said this week that its board deferred a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package for the Philippines "subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties."

Duterte, whose administration has been criticized by Washington over a bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, unleashed a barrage of expletives-laden tirade.

He said the Philippines can do without U.S. aid, called Americans "sons of bitches" and "hypocrites," while praising China for offering what he said was a huge financial assistance.

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


Protests, looting erupt as Venezuelans fume over cash chaos

A customer who tried to make a purchase with 100-bolivar notes leaves a shop with a message posted in Spanish: "not accepting the 100 bank note "(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Hannah Dreier, Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP)
— Venezuela became a country mostly without cash on Friday, sparking scattered protests and looting around the country as people fumed at having their already limited purchasing power cut off almost entirely.

As the nation's most widely used banknote went out of circulation, the higher-denomination bills that were supposed to replace the 100-bolivar note had not yet arrived at banks or ATMs. That forced people to rely on credit cards and bank transfers or to try to make purchases with bundles of hard-to-find smaller bills often worth less than a penny each.

Indignation at having to deal with an economy even more paralyzed than usual sparked social unrest. Police put down looting near a bank building in the large western city of Maracaibo with several arrests. Young men marched down the street after growing tired of waiting outside the bank to turn in their money. They waved their 100-bolivar bills in the air and chanted "they're useless," then turned and ran as police in full riot gear began firing tear gas canisters.

Mobs looted several businesses in the remote eastern state of Bolivar. In total, authorities said there were protests and looting in six cities, leading to 32 people being detained and one injured.

In Caracas, some people passed the day banging on pots and cursing the government's apparent lack of planning. There was no cash to be seen changing hands on the street or inside shops, and no sign that the new bills were on their way.

President Nicolas Maduro made a surprise announcement Sunday that the 100-bolivar note would go out of circulation by the week's end amid the world's highest inflation. He also temporarily closed the border with Colombia and Brazil, and then on Thursday night extended the border closure for another 72 hours.

Maduro said the closure was needed to thwart "mafias" who hoard bolivars. Critics mocked the notion that gangsters would choose to keep their wealth in the world's fastest-devaluing currency. The 100-bolivar bill - until now the country's largest denomination - is worth little more than 2 cents, down from 10 cents at the start of the year.

The embattled president held up a new 500-bolivar bill on his television show Thursday, promising the new banknotes would soon be in wide circulation and offering to temporarily cut sales tax for credit card transactions. But on Friday, ATMs were still issuing only the now-worthless 100-bolivar notes.

Maduro also said the government has begun to circulate new 100- 50- and 10-bolivar coins, but few seem to have reached the public.

On Friday, Maduro said the ploy to undermine the criminals had worked.

"We've burned the mafia's hands," he said. "That there were some difficulties, and that there may be some difficulties going forward was inevitable."

Venezuelans waited in lines hundreds of people long all week to deposit their cash. On Thursday, shopkeepers put up signs saying 100-bolivar bills would no longer be accepted. That meant many people looking to buy groceries or take taxis were out of luck, as banks had run out of lower-denomination bills like 50- and 20-bolivar notes during the week, and had not yet received the higher-denomination replacements.

Amid the currency chaos, the U.S. cautioned citizens against visiting the economically spiraling South American country.

"Political rallies and demonstrations occur with little notice, and are expected to occur with greater frequency in the coming months," the State Department said in a travel warning. "If security climate worsens, US citizens should note they're responsible for arranging their own travel out of Venezuela."

But there was little sign of political activity of any kind Friday, as people scrambled to figure out how to exchange bolivars for goods and services in an economy essentially operating without paper money.

Hannah Dreier is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hannahdreier . Her work can be found at https://www.ap.org/explore/venezuela-undone .

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


Uber says it will keep self-driving cars in San Francisco

An Uber driverless car heads out for a test drive in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Justin Pritchard, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Uber's self-driving cars will keep ferrying passengers around San Francisco, the ride-hailing company said Friday — a few hours before state prosecutors threatened to haul Uber before a judge if the service is not suspended immediately.

In a sharply worded letter, attorneys with the California's Department of Justice demanded that Uber get a special state permit if it wants to continue. If not, "the attorney general will seek injunctive and other appropriate relief," according to the letter.

Though there was no deadline in the letter, a spokeswoman for California transportation regulators, Melissa Figueroa, told The Associated Press in a text that the state would take action "early next week" if Uber doesn't comply.

Uber began the pilot project Wednesday with a few Volvo SUVs that are tricked out with a suite of sensors allowing them to steer, brake and accelerate. A person sits behind the wheel, just in case.

Officials with Uber and the state have talked several times this week after the state Department of Motor Vehicles issued a similar legal threat. The leader of the company's self-driving program, Anthony Levandowski, described those as "frank conversations" which left him unswayed .

State lawyers insist that Uber's cars are "autonomous vehicles" which need the permit to ply public roads.

Levandowski said he respectfully disagrees, arguing Uber does not require the permit that 20 other companies testing the technology in California have gotten because the Volvos have backup drivers behind the wheel monitoring the cars. That means the Volvos are not "autonomous vehicles" under the state's definition, he argued.

Levandowski likened the Volvos' abilities to those of Tesla cars that have the Autopilot feature which allows them to steer without a person touching the wheel and to brake and accelerate without a person touching the pedals. He questioned why the thousands of Teslas on California roads don't need a permit if Uber's cars do.

San Francisco's mayor has sided with the state. And a consumer advocacy group suggested that the state should do more than force Uber to stop.

"We believe their activity is a criminal offense under the motor vehicle code, punishable with up to six months in jail," John Simpson of the group Consumer Watchdog said in a written statement. "CEO Travis Kalanick should be arrested immediately."

But in a sign of the level of interest in the technology, the mayor of Beverly Hills on Friday voiced his support for Uber testing without the state permit.

___

Contact Pritchard at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman.

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


S. Koreans to rally for President Park's immediate removal

Lee Joong-hwan, center, a lawyer for impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye, speaks during a press conference at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Kim Tong-Hyung, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Large crowds were expected to gather in South Korea's capital again on Saturday to call for impeached President Park Geun-hye to immediately quit and press the Constitutional Court to formally remove her from office.

The massive protests against Park in recent weeks have been peaceful, but there was concern on Saturday about the demonstrators clashing with thousands of Park's supporters who planned their own protest near the court.

South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament last week voted to impeach Park over an explosive corruption scandal that saw millions protest over consecutive weekends.

Prosecutors accuse Park of colluding with a longtime confidante to extort money and favors from companies and allowing her friend to manipulate state affairs.

The impeachment suspended Park's powers until the court rules whether she should permanently step down or be reinstated. The court has up to six months to decide, and if Park is formally removed from office, the country will hold a presidential election within 60 days.

Park has apologized for putting trust into her jailed friend, Choi Soon-sil, whose criminal trial begins on Monday, but has denied any legal wrongdoing.

On Friday, lawmakers attempted to inspect records at the president's office but were denied entry. The lawmakers had planned to look into allegations that Blue House security officials allowed Choi and her key associates to easily move in and out of the presidential offices and residence.

Park's lawyer, Lee Joong-hwan, said the court should restore Park's powers because there is insufficient evidence to justify her unseating. He and other members of Park's legal team submitted a statement to the court explaining why the case should be decided in the president's favor.

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


Today in History - Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, Dec. 17, the 352nd day of 2016. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted the first successful manned powered-airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.

On this date:

In 1777, France recognized American independence.

In 1865, Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8, known as the "Unfinished" because only two movements had been completed, was first performed publicly in Vienna, 37 years after the composer's death.

In 1925, Col. William "Billy" Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial in Washington of insubordination for accusing senior military officials of incompetence and criminal negligence; he was suspended from active duty.

In 1939, the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee was scuttled by its crew, ending the World War II Battle of the River Plate off Uruguay.

In 1944, the U.S. War Department announced it was ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

In 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

In 1969, the U.S. Air Force closed its Project "Blue Book" by concluding there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings. An estimated 50 million TV viewers watched singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancee, Miss Vicky (Budinger), on NBC's "Tonight Show."

In 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in Sacramento, California, to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Gerald R. Ford. (Fromme was paroled in Aug. 2009.)

In 1979, Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally injured after leading police on a chase with his motorcycle in Miami. (Four white police officers accused of beating McDuffie were later acquitted, sparking riots.)

In 1981, members of the Red Brigades kidnapped Brig. Gen. James L. Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. Army official in southern Europe, from his home in Verona, Italy. (Dozier was rescued 42 days later.)

In 1986, Eugene Hasenfus, the American convicted by Nicaragua for his part in running guns to the Contras, was pardoned, then released.

In 1996, Peruvian guerrillas took hundreds of people hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima (all but 72 of the hostages were later released by the rebels; the siege ended April 22, 1997, with a commando raid that resulted in the deaths of all the rebels, two commandos and one hostage). Six Red Cross workers were slain by gunmen in Chechnya. Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed United Nations secretary-general.

Ten years ago: Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped some 30 people at the Red Crescent offices in downtown Baghdad (about half were released the same day). Searchers on Mount Hood in Oregon found the body of missing climber Kelly James (two other climbers, Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, were never found). Dodgers reliever Larry Sherry, the most valuable player of the 1959 World Series, died in Mission Viejo (vee-AY'-hoh), California, at age 71. Yul Kwon, a management consultant from San Mateo, California, emerged as the winner of CBS' "Survivor: Cook Islands."

Five years ago: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (kim jawng eel) died after more than a decade of iron rule; he was 69, according to official records, but some reports indicated he was 70. Advocates for immigrants gathered outside Alabama's state Capitol in Montgomery to call for repeal of a controversial law they said harkened back to the state's segregationist past.

One year ago: Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged that he sometimes used a personal, unsecured email account to conduct official business after he took office, a practice he called "entirely my mistake." Representatives of Libya's s two rival factions signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form a unity government.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 86. Pope Francis is 80. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 80. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 79. Actor Bernard Hill is 72. Actor Ernie Hudson is 71. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 71. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 70. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 69. Actor Wes Studi is 69. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 68. Actor Joel Brooks is 67. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 67. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 65. Actor Bill Pullman is 63. Actor Barry Livingston is 63. Country singer Sharon White is 63. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 60. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 58. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 55. Country musician Tim Chewning is 54. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 50. Country musician Duane Propes is 50. Actress Laurie Holden is 47. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 46. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 46. Actress Claire Forlani is 45. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 43. Actress Sarah Paulson is 42. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 42. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 42. Actress Milla Jovovich (YO'-vuh-vich) is 41. Singer Bree Sharp is 41. Singer-songwriter Ben Goldwasser (MGMT) is 34. Rock singer Mikky Ekko is 33. Actress Shannon Woodward is 32. Actress Emma Bell is 30. Actress Vanessa Zima is 30. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 27. Actor Graham Rogers is 26. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 22.

Thought for Today: "Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order." — Ilka Chase, American author, actress, humorist (1905-1978).

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

 


California, Uber meet amid self-driving car legal showdown

Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber's self-driving program, speaks about their driverless car in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Justin Pritchard, Associated Press

California regulators are meeting privately Thursday with officials from Uber to hammer home their demand that the ride-hailing company immediately stop picking up San Francisco passengers in self-driving cars — or face legal action.

Safety was sure to be front and center: Dash cam video posted online showed a self-driving Uber run a red light Wednesday, the same day the company launched the pilot program with several Volvo SUVs.

Publicly, both sides have dug into opposing positions. The state insists Uber must shut down the new self-driving service until it obtains a special permit for testing on public roads, while Uber says the cars are exempt from the permit requirement because they have a backup driver behind the wheel.

RED LIGHT WARNING

On Thursday, Uber said the driver was suspended and attributed the infraction in front of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to "human error." That was an apparent reference to the company's policy that employees behind the wheel of the cars must constantly monitor them and be prepared to take over if the technology stops working, or is about to do something dangerous or illegal.

Far from playing defense, Uber offered the driver's failure as evidence of the need to continue pushing ahead a technology that proponents say will one day drive far more safely than humans.

"This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers," the company said in a written statement, which said the red light-running car was not one of those in its pilot program and was not carrying passengers.

Meanwhile, Uber continued to defy regulators by running the cars on the streets of San Francisco.

Getting a permit is not a complicated or lengthy process, and regulators would likely approve Uber's application, as they have permits for 20 other companies.

Instead, Uber has insisted it will not apply out of principle, saying its cars do not meet the state's legal definition of an "autonomous vehicle" and therefore do not need a permit.

Though the cars are tricked out with sensors so they can steer, accelerate and brake, and even decide to change lanes, Uber says they are not nearly good enough to drive without human monitoring. And, according to Uber's reading of state law, that means they are not, legally speaking, "autonomous vehicles" that need special state permission.

PUSHING THE LEGAL LIMIT

Pushing legal boundaries is a proud tradition at Uber. During its meteoric rise into a multibillion dollar company, Uber has argued with authorities in California and around the world about issues including driver criminal background checks and whether those drivers should be treated as contractors ineligible for employee benefits.

Both the California Department of Motor vehicles and its parent transportation agency insist Uber is wrong — and hours after the self-driving service's launch the state sent a letter saying the service was illegal because.

"If Uber does not confirm immediately that it will stop its launch and seek a testing permit, DMV will initiate legal action," DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet wrote the company. He referenced the possibility of taking Uber to court.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee joined the chorus of officials denouncing the move, calling it unlawful and ill-advised in a statement. Lee said he was worried about the safety of the city's cyclists and pedestrians, especially with the experiment launching in a week when the city is slick with rain.

Getting a permit for prototype testing is part of a process intensely negotiated between the state and industry, and DMV lawyer Soublet argued in an interview that the permits helps maintain public confidence that the technology is safe.

Operating without a permit could give Uber a competitive advantage, Soublet noted. Companies with one must report to the state all crashes and every instance in which a person takes control during testing. All that information is public.

Meanwhile, the company is sending another message to California: Other places want us if you don't.

In a blog post Wednesday, the leader of its self-driving efforts, Anthony Levandowski, warned that "complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation" and named several places outside California he characterized as being "pro technology."

___

Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. Contact him at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman.

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


81-year-old Italy native first to buy legal pot in Anchorage

Anna Ercoli, 81, a native of Italy who has lived in Alaska for 45 years, was the first person to legally buy marijuana when the initial pot retail store opened Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.(AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Possibly the unlikeliest customer of all became the first person to legally buy marijuana in Alaska's largest city.

Anna Ercoli, 81, pulled into Arctic Herbery's small parking lot at 8:30 a.m., 3 1/2 hours before the store was to open and become the first legal retail marijuana store in Anchorage.

She was waiting at the store when owner Bryant Thorp pulled in Thursday morning. He gave her a red ticket stamped with No. 1601, indicating she would be the first in line. He told her she didn't have to wait around for hours in the 15-degree weather and could come back closer to the noon opening.

"I need this medication for me because it works better than taking anti-pain or sleeping pills, and not really solving anything," said Ercoli, a native of Italy who has lived in Anchorage for 45 years.

Just before noon, she was escorted into the cramped retail location located in an industrial and residential area of midtown Anchorage.

A clerk helped her pick out a 2.5 gram vial of Afghan Kush flour to mix with an ointment to provide pain relief. She paid the $52.50 bill ($50 vial, $2.50 tax) in cash after being told she could only buy one vial on this trip. She then scurried out the store, trying to avoid a crush of reporters.

"This is really the only thing that when I put it on my skin, I can go to sleep and I can sleep because I have no pain," she said before boarding a shuttle bus to get back to her car.

"Wasn't she cute?" Thorp asked reporters. "That was the perfect first customer I could ask for."

It was a muted yet festive atmosphere for the store's opening. The store has limited parking, and state law says only eight people — including employees — can be inside the cramped store at any given point. Parking was a problem, with business neighbors complaining to Thorp that his customers were using their spaces.

Thorp reminded about 50 people standing in line that they would be towed if they parked in the neighboring strip mall, and he reminded them he had arranged a shuttle service from a shopping area about three miles away so this wouldn't happen. Plus, those who took the shuttle would be entered into a drawing for a large Double Perk Water Bong, valued at $200.

Thorp has arranged to sell three different strains of marijuana from Black Rapids LLC, a cultivation facility located in North Pole. "One of them is some of the best that AK has seen at 22% THC," Thorp wrote in a text to The Associated Press earlier this week.

While this is Anchorage's first legal retail store, others have opened in cities across the state. The first was Herbal Outfitters in Valdez, on Oct. 29.

Since then, fewer than 10 other stores have opened in Alaska, but more are planned.

"We got more stores opening in town, they're coming," Thorp said. "We got more cultivators that are coming. We got manufacturers that will be making edibles at some time in the future. It will happen, it's starting to happen right here, so it's a good day."

Alaskans in November 2014 approved the recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older. State regulators have spent the time since setting up the new industry.

The Alaska Marijuana Control Board is still wrestling with proposed rules that would allow onsite consumption of marijuana or marijuana products in authorized retails stores. The board is taking public comment until Jan. 13.

Donavan Brown, 31, was among the first in line Thursday at Arctic Herbery. He said it was "pretty exciting" to see Anchorage's first dispensary open, a day he said he never thought he'd see.

"It's a piece of history, however small it may be," he said. "I just kind of wanted to be here."

Plus, it was a good chance to stock up.

"I got some friends coming back into town, they're going to be here for Christmas," he said. "We're going to have a great taco night."

___

Mark Thiessen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MThiessen

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


China's 1st aircraft carrier carries out live-fire exercise

BEIJING (AP) — China's Defense Ministry says the country's first aircraft carrier battle group has carried out its first live-fire exercise.

It said Thursday that dozens of ships and aircraft took part in the exercise "a few days ago" in the Bohai Sea in eastern China to test weapon performance and training levels.

The aircraft carrier, destroyers and frigates carried out exercises covering air interception, sea-based attacks and air-defense as well as reconnaissance, early warning and anti-missile systems.

The ministry posted photos on its website of China-developed J-15 fighters on the deck of the carrier, Liaoning.

China said last month that the Liaoning was ready to engage in combat, marking a milestone for a navy that has invested heavily in its ability to project power far from China's shores.

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


British company fine increased for misleading Australians

SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian court ordered a British consumer goods company on Friday to pay 6 million Australian dollars ($4.4 million) in penalties for misleading consumers about the effectiveness of a popular painkiller.

The full-bench of the Federal Court upheld an appeal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the watchdog which launched the court action, against a smaller fine of AU$1.7 million imposed on Reckitt Benckiser in April.

The watchdog argued that that penalty was too lenient to deter companies from breaching consumer law.

The Federal Court ruled a year ago that Reckitt Benckiser deceived Australians by selling Nurofen painkillers that were marketed to relieve specific ailments, such as back pain and period pain, when all of the products contained an identical amount of the same active ingredient, ibuprofen lysine. The court ordered the company to remove the products from Australian stores.

The watchdog had asked the court to impose a penalty of AU$6 million, arguing consumers had been tricked into unnecessarily paying more for the drugs. The watchdog said the price of the specific pain products was nearly double that of Nurofen's standard ibuprofen painkiller and other general pain relief products sold by competitors.

Reckitt Benckiser has since changed the packaging for its specific pain line to indicate the drugs are also effective for general pain relief.

The Nurofen brand said in a statement it was disappointed by Friday's ruling because it considered the original penalty appropriate.

Nurofen accepted that the representations made on its webpage and packaging may have misled consumers, although it was intended to provide easy navigation of pain relief options.

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


Today in History - Friday, Dec. 16, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, Dec. 16, the 351st day of 2016. There are 15 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 16, 1991, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.

On this date:

In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest tea taxes.

In 1809, the French Senate granted a divorce decree to Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine (the dissolution was made final the following month).

In 1811, the first of the powerful New Madrid earthquakes struck the central Mississippi Valley with an estimated magnitude of 7.7.

In 1907, 16 U.S. Navy battleships, which came to be known as the "Great White Fleet," set sail on a 14-month round-the-world voyage to demonstrate American sea power.

In 1930, golfer Bobby Jones became the first recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award honoring outstanding amateur athletes.

In 1944, the World War II Battle of the Bulge began as German forces launched a surprise attack against Allied forces through the Ardennes Forest in Belgium and Luxembourg (the Allies were eventually able to turn the Germans back).

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed a national state of emergency in order to fight "world conquest by Communist imperialism."

In 1956, Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, personally denounced the about-to-be released movie "Baby Doll" starring Carroll Baker, saying Catholics would be committing a sin if they saw it.

In 1960, 134 people were killed when a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided over New York City.

In 1976, the government halted its swine flu vaccination program following reports of paralysis apparently linked to the vaccine.

In 1985, at services in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, offered condolences to families of 248 soldiers killed in the crash of a chartered plane in Newfoundland.

Ten years ago: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (mahk-MOOD' ah-BAHS') called for early elections to end his violent standoff with Hamas. Ten players, including NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony, were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl near the end of a game between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. (Denver won, 123-100.) Terrell Owens spat in the face of Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall during the Cowboys' 38-28 victory over the Falcons. (Owens was fined $35,000 by the NFL.) Time magazine named everyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web its "Person of the Year."

Five years ago: Former Penn State graduate assistant Mike McQueary testified that he believed he saw ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy and that he fully conveyed what he had seen to two Penn State administrators; a judge sent the cases of Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, accused of lying to a grand jury, to trial. (The perjury charges were dismissed by a Pennsylvania appeals court in Jan. 2016.) An investigative report showed that thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Roman Catholic institutions over the previous 65 years, and that church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims. In San Francisco, eight years of being investigated for steroid allegations ended for home run king Barry Bonds with a 30-day sentence to be served at home. (Bonds never served the sentence; his conviction for obstruction of justice was overturned.) British actor Nicol Williamson, 75, died in Amsterdam.

One year ago: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, lifting its key rate by a quarter-point to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. The first attempt to find a Baltimore police officer criminally responsible for Freddie Gray's death from a broken neck in a police van ended with a hung jury and a mistrial in the case of William Porter.

Today's Birthdays: Civil rights attorney Morris Dees is 80. Actress Joyce Bulifant is 79. Actress Liv Ullmann is 78. CBS news correspondent Lesley Stahl is 75. TV producer Steven Bochco is 73. Former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is 72. Pop musician Tony Hicks (The Hollies) is 71. Pop singer Benny Andersson (ABBA) is 70. Actor Ben Cross is 69. Rock singer-musician Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) is 67. Rock musician Bill Bateman (The Blasters) is 65. Actor Xander Berkeley is 61. Actress Alison LaPlaca is 57. Actor Sam Robards is 55. Actor Jon Tenney is 55. Actor Benjamin Bratt is 53. Country singer-songwriter Jeff Carson is 53. Actor-comedian JB Smoove is 51. Actress Miranda Otto is 49. Actor Daniel Cosgrove is 46. Rhythm-and-blues singer Michael McCary is 45. Actor Jonathan Scarfe is 41. Actress Krysten Ritter is 35. Actress Zoe Jarman is 34. Country musician Chris Scruggs is 34. Actor Theo James is 32. Actress Amanda Setton is 31. Rock musician Dave Rublin (American Authors) is 30. Actress Hallee Hirsh is 29. Actress Anna Popplewell is 28. Actor Stephan James is 23.

Thought for Today: "Somewhere in the world there is an epigram for every dilemma." — Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Dutch-born journalist and lecturer (1882-1944).

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


Separated conjoined twins meet for first time since surgery

The formerly conjoined twin girls, Eva, left, and Erika, right, reunite for the first time since separation surgery with their parents, Arturo Sandoval and his wife, Aida, in Palo Alto, California.(Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford via AP)

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — The conjoined California twins that were separated last week following a 17-hour marathon surgery have been reunited for the first time since the operation.

Eva and Erika Sandoval have been recovering in separate beds in the same room, but they could not see each other well. On Monday, their parents and intensive care team carefully carried Erika and placed her in Eva's bed to say hello, officials at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford said Wednesday.

It's the closest the twins have been since they were separated on Dec. 6.

"It was such a thrill for us to see the girls next to one another again," said the twins' mother, Aida Sandoval.

Dr. Meghna Patel, who is caring for Erika in the pediatric intensive care unit, said both are doing well. "They have had no significant complications," she said.

Before surgery, the girls shared a bladder, liver, parts of their digestive system and a third leg. Each girl retains portions of the organs they shared, and each still has one leg. The third limb was used for skin grafts to cover surgical wounds. Both girls would likely need a prosthetic leg, doctors said.

The 2-year-old Sacramento area girls are awake and breathing without ventilators and are expected to continue recovering from surgery in the hospital for another week before moving out of intensive care to an acute care unit.

As few as one of every 200,000 births results in conjoined twins. About 50 percent of such twins are born stillborn, and 35 percent survive only one day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Only a few hundred surgeries have been performed successfully to separate conjoined twins. Stanford doctors had calculated a 30 percent chance that one or both twins wouldn't make it through the operation.

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


Japan moves to allow casino gambling at 'integrated resorts'

 

Lawmakers stand to approve a law on "integrated resorts" at the parliament's lower house in Tokyo early Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.(Yoshinobu Shimizu/Kyodo News via AP)

Kelvin Chan, AP Business Writers
Elaine Kurtenbach, AP Business Writers


TOKYO (AP) — Japan's parliament approved Thursday a law on "integrated resorts" that is the first major hurdle in allowing casinos to set up shop in the wealthy nation.

Supporters of the casino legislation say it would enhance Japan's allure as a tourism destination and draw in wealthier travelers. Big players in the industry welcomed the news, with Wynn Resorts saying it was "extremely pleased" by its passage.

Opponents object to an expansion of legalized gambling, saying it will fuel organized crime and encourage gambling addiction. Surveys have shown a majority of Japanese oppose the plan.

Casinos are unlikely to start operating in Japan until 2021 or beyond, after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The new legislation would authorize the drafting of regulations for details such as the number and location of casinos, entry restrictions for Japanese and tax rates, which are expected to take up to a year to gain approval.

The approval of the final version of the legislation came in the wee hours Thursday, after a failed attempt by opposition lawmakers to pass a no-confidence motion against its top supporter, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe has sought passage of the long-delayed legislation for years, over the objections of many in his own ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama are among the cities said to be planning to seek casino licenses.

Casino operators view Japan as a lucrative "final frontier." In a report this month, analysts at investment bank CLSA estimated the potential market at $30 billion a year in gross revenue.

"This is a landmark occasion and should be a shot in the arm as it relates to investor sentiment in all gaming names that could be players in Japan," Grant Govertsen, a Macau-based analyst at investment firm Union Gaming, said in a commentary.

CLSA's forecast is based on revenues from Japan's existing forms of gambling, which include lotteries, pachinko — a kind of pin-ball machine — and wagering on horse, auto, bicycle and power boat racing, which combined rake in more than $30 billion.

Billionaire U.S. casino moguls such as Sheldon Adelson, head of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts, or their representatives have often visited Japan to lobby for legalization.

The American Gaming Association, a trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, said it had been working to inform Japanese lawmakers about various issues.

Facing down fierce objections from opposition lawmakers, Abe argued that gambling would amount to only a small fraction of the total business of the hoped-for integrated resorts, which combine casinos with hotels, convention space, theme parks and shopping malls.

"It's not like the whole city will be taken over by casinos," Abe said in response to sharp jibes from Renho, an opposition leader. "These facilities will attract investment and do much to help create jobs.

Japan could become the world's second largest gambling market behind No. 1 Macau, Govertsen said.

"Quite simply, it represents the next and perhaps only other large opportunity to develop large-scale integrated resorts in Asia for a lot of these companies," said Govertsen. "Some of these companies, their revenues and cash flow are so large today that it would take an opportunity like Japan to move the needle for them."

Adelson told analysts in 2014 that his company was "willing to commit substantial capital investment to develop large-scale, truly iconic integrated resorts" if Japan legalizes casinos.

"The reason why everyone's spending the time on this is that the potential is absolutely enormous," James Murren, chairman of Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International, said in a recent conference call with analysts.

Japan is taking a gamble as the market cools elsewhere.

A sweeping anti-graft campaign by Chinese President Xi Jinping has crimped lavish spending by high-rollers from mainland China, causing gambling revenue in Macau, which provides the bulk of profits for companies like Wynn and Sands, to fall for 26 straight months until August.

Macau raked in about $29 billion in casino revenue last year, about five times more than the Las Vegas strip, but down about a third from the year before.

Japan's casinos are expected to follow Singapore's model in some areas, perhaps charging an entry fee to local residents. Some other Asian nations with legalized gambling, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, have tighter restrictions on their own citizens visiting casinos. Other places like the Philippines and Macau have no restrictions.

Public opposition to the casinos is mainly based on concerns over gambling addiction. In a 2014 study, researchers with Japan's health ministry found that nearly 5 million people, or 5 percent of the adult population, were thought to be addicted to gambling. That's far higher than the 1 percent rate found in many other countries, said the researchers, who said pachinko was the main problem.

Chan reported from Hong Kong.

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


CDC issues Texas city warning for pregnant women after Zika

Darryl Nevins, sprays a backyard to control mosquitoes, in Houston. Texas.(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

Jamie Stengle, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Brownsville, Texas, because of concerns about mosquitoes there spreading the Zika virus, federal health officials said Wednesday.

The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises doctors to tell pregnant women and their sex partners to take precautions and to consider putting off travel to the city while the advisory is in place. It comes after five cases of Zika virus infection spread locally were recently diagnosed in people living near each other in the city located on the state's border with Mexico.

"We're recommending pregnant women not travel to Brownsville, and if they do travel to that area, to ensure that they avoid mosquito bites and they avoid the risk of sexual transmission," the CDC's Dr. Denise Jamieson said. "And that when they return from the area, that they undergo testing for Zika virus infection."

Florida is the only other state in the U.S. that has had homegrown Zika cases. The CDC has issued a similar warning there in Miami-Dade County.

The CDC notes that temperatures in the Brownsville area are still conducive to mosquito breeding, so the risk of more cases can't be ruled out.

Zika is primarily transmitted to humans by mosquitoes that have previously bitten an infected person, though sexual transmission can also occur. Most infected people don't have symptoms, but for those who do, it's usually a mild illness with fever, rash and joint pain.

But the disease is especially dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects, including babies born with unusually small heads. None of the people with homegrown Zika cases in Texas is pregnant, officials said.

Texas Department of State Health Services officials on Wednesday recommended that all pregnant Brownsville residents and those who have traveled there on or after Oct. 29 be tested for Zika.

"The recommendation is now to test pregnant women more broadly in that area," department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said.

The CDC says that people living in the Brownsville area should be counseled on the possible risk of Zika before getting pregnant.

The locally transmitted Florida cases were detected over the summer. Until then, all U.S. cases had been connected to people traveling to countries with outbreaks, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Health officials note that because areas of active Zika transmission have been reported in Mexico near the U.S. border, they've been recommending since last year that pregnant women shouldn't travel to any low-elevation area in Mexico, where the virus-spreading mosquitoes thrive.

___

Associated Press writer Mike Stobbe contributed from New York.

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


Yahoo suffers world's biggest hack affecting 1 billion users

The Yahoo sign at the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
— Yahoo has discovered a 3-year-old security breach that enabled a hacker to compromise more than 1 billion user accounts, breaking the company's own humiliating record for the biggest security breach in history.

The digital heist disclosed Wednesday occurred in August 2013, more than a year before a separate hack that Yahoo announced nearly three months ago . That breach affected at least 500 million users, which had been the most far-reaching hack until the latest revelation.

"It's shocking," security expert Avivah Litan of Gartner Inc.

Both lapses occurred during the reign of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, a once-lauded leader who found herself unable to turn around the company in the four years since her arrival. Earlier this year, Yahoo agreed to sell its digital operations to Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion — a deal that may now be imperiled by the hacking revelations.

TWO HACKS, MORE THAN A BILLION ACCOUNTS

Yahoo didn't say if it believes the same hacker might have pulled off two separate attacks. The Sunnyvale, California, company blamed the late 2014 attack on a hacker affiliated with an unidentified foreign government, but said it hasn't been able to identify the source behind the 2013 intrusion.

Yahoo has more than a billion monthly active users, although some have multiple accounts and others have none at all. An unknown number of accounts were affected by both hacks.

In both attacks, the stolen information included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates and security questions and answers. The company says it believes bank-account information and payment-card data were not affected.

But hackers also apparently stole passwords in both attacks. Technically, those passwords should be secure; Yahoo said they were scrambled twice — once by encryption and once by another technique called hashing. But hackers have become adept at cracking secured passwords by assembling huge dictionaries of similarly scrambled phrases and matching them against stolen password databases.

That could mean trouble for any users who reused their Yahoo password for other online accounts. Yahoo is requiring users to change their passwords and invalidating security questions so they can't be used to hack into accounts. (You may get a reprieve if you've changed your password and questions since September.)

Security experts said the 2013 attack was likely the work of a foreign government fishing for information about specific people. One big tell: It doesn't appear that much personal data from Yahoo accounts has been posted for sale online, meaning the hack probably wasn't the work of ordinary criminals.

That means most Yahoo users probably don't have anything to worry about, said J.J. Thompson, CEO of Rook Security.

QUESTIONS FOR VERIZON

News of the additional hack further jeopardizes Yahoo's plans to fall into Verizon's arms. If the hacks cause a user backlash against Yahoo, the company's services wouldn't be as valuable to Verizon, raising the possibility that the sale price might be re-negotiated or the deal may be called off. The telecom giant wants Yahoo and its many users to help it build a digital ad business.

After the news of the first hack broke, Verizon said it would re-evaluate its Yahoo deal and in a Wednesday statement said it will review the "new development before reaching any final conclusions." Spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to answer further questions.

At the very least, the security lapses "definitely will help Verizon in its negotiations to lower the price," Litan predicted. Yahoo has argued that news of the 2014 hack didn't negatively affect traffic to its services, strengthening its contention that the Verizon deal should be completed under the original terms.

"This just adds to fuel to the fire and it won't help Yahoo's cause," said Eric Jackson, a longtime critic of the company's management. Although he has in the past, Jackson doesn't currently own Yahoo stock.

Investors appeared worried about the Verizon deal. Yahoo's shares fell 96 cents, or 2 percent, to $39.95 after the disclosure of the latest hack.

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


Today in History - Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, Dec. 15, the 350th day of 2016. There are 16 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, went into effect following ratification by Virginia.

On this date:

In 1814, the "Hartford Convention" began as New England Federalists opposed to the War of 1812 secretly gathered in the Connecticut capital. (America's victory in the Battle of New Orleans and the war's end effectively discredited the Convention.)

In 1864, the two-day Battle of Nashville began during the Civil War as Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas attacked Confederate troops led by Gen. John Bell Hood; the result was a resounding Northern victory.

In 1890, Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull and 11 other tribe members were killed in Grand River, South Dakota, during a confrontation with Indian police.

In 1938, groundbreaking for the Jefferson Memorial took place in Washington, D.C. with President Franklin D. Roosevelt taking part in the ceremony.

In 1939, the Civil War motion picture epic "Gone with the Wind," starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, had its world premiere in Atlanta.

In 1944, a single-engine plane carrying bandleader Glenn Miller, a major in the U.S. Army Air Forces, disappeared over the English Channel while en route to Paris.

In 1965, two U.S. manned spacecraft, Gemini 6A and Gemini 7, maneuvered to within 10 feet of each other while in orbit.

In 1966, movie producer Walt Disney died in Los Angeles at age 65.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter announced he would grant diplomatic recognition to Communist China on New Year's Day and sever official relations with Taiwan.

In 1989, a popular uprising began in Romania that resulted in the downfall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu (chow-SHES'-koo).

In 1995, European Union leaders meeting in Madrid, Spain, chose "euro" as the name of the new single European currency.

In 2001, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy, was reopened to the public after a $27 million realignment that had dragged on for over a decade.

Ten years ago: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld bid farewell to the Pentagon in a splashy sendoff featuring lavish praise from President George W. Bush. Gov. Jeb Bush suspended Florida executions two days after the prolonged death of a condemned inmate because the needles had been wrongly inserted. (Florida's moratorium was lifted in July 2007.) Executions in California were effectively put on hold when a federal judge in San Francisco declared the state's lethal-injection procedure unconstitutional.

Five years ago: The flag used by U.S. forces in Iraq was lowered in a low-key Baghdad airport ceremony marking the end of a war that had left 4,500 Americans and 110,000 Iraqis dead and cost more than $800 billion. The Senate, in an 86-13 vote, joined the House in passing a massive $662 billion defense bill. British-born author, essayist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens, 62, died at a Houston hospital.

One year ago: Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio clashed over U.S. military intervention, government spying on Americans' communications and immigration as front-runner Donald Trump defended his provocative call for banning Muslims from the United States during a Republican presidential debate held in Las Vegas. In a major policy change, Secretary of State John Kerry accepted Russia's longstanding demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad's future be determined by his own people.

Today's Birthdays: Actor-comedian Tim Conway is 83. Singer Cindy Birdsong (The Supremes) is 77. Rock musician Dave Clark (The Dave Clark Five) is 74. Rock musician Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge) is 70. Actor Don Johnson is 67. Actress Melanie Chartoff is 66. Movie director Julie Taymor is 64. Movie director Alex Cox is 62. Actor Justin Ross is 62. Rock musician Paul Simonon (The Clash) is 61. Movie director John Lee Hancock is 60. Acting Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile is 57. Country singer Doug Phelps (Brother Phelps; Kentucky Headhunters) is 56. Movie producer-director Reginald Hudlin is 55. Actress Helen Slater is 53. Actress Molly Price is 51. Actor Garrett Wang (wahng) is 48. Actor Michael Shanks is 46. Actor Stuart Townsend is 44. Figure skater Surya Bonaly is 43. Actor Geoff Stults is 40. "Crowd-hyper" Kito Trawick (Ghostown DJs) is 39. Actor Adam Brody is 37. Actress Michelle Dockery is 35. Actor George O. Gore II is 34. Actress Camilla Luddington is 33. Rock musician Alana Haim (HYM) is 25. Actress Maude Apatow (AP'-ih-tow) is 19. Actress Stefania Owen is 19.

Thought for Today: "History is the record of an encounter between character and circumstances." — Donald Creighton, Canadian historian (1902-1979).

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


As Aleppo falls, Trump faces test on posture toward Russia

Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen marching walk inside the destroyed Grand Umayyad mosque in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. (SANA via AP)

Josh Lederman, Associated Press
Bradley Klapper, Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — Aleppo's fall to Syrian government forces is shaping up as the first major test of President-elect Donald Trump's desire to cooperate with Russia, whose military support has proven pivotal in Syria's civil war. The death and destruction in the city is only renewing Democratic and Republican concern with Trump's possible new path.

Though Trump has been vague about his plans to address this next phase in the nearly six-year-old conflict, he's suggested closer alignment between U.S. and Russian goals could be in order. His selection Tuesday of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has extensive business dealings with Russia and ties to President Vladimir Putin, fueled further speculation that Trump will pursue a rapprochement with Moscow.

Indeed, Trump was already trying to portray Tillerson's connections with Russia as a plus. In talking points circulated on Capitol Hill and obtained by The Associated Press, Trump's transition team said Tillerson would "work closely" with Russia on "defeating radical Islam" but would "easily challenge Russia and other countries when necessary."

"President Putin knows Mr. Tillerson means what he says," the talking points say.

A warmer relationship could alter U.S. policy on nuclear weapons, sanctions, Ukraine and innumerable other issues — but none so clearly or quickly as Syria, where President Bashar Assad's defeat of U.S.-backed rebels in Aleppo is poised to be a turning point. Assad and Russia are expected seize the moment to try to persuade the U.S. to abandon its flailing strategy of trying to prop up the rebels in their battle to oust Assad.

That decision will fall to Trump.

The president-elect has not commented or tweeted about the crisis in Aleppo and widespread fears of humanitarian disaster. Yet his previous comments on the broader conflict suggest he's more than open to a policy shift.

During the campaign, Trump asserted that defeating the Islamic State group in Syria, not Assad, must be the top priority, a position that mirrors Russia's.

"I believe we have to get ISIS. We have to worry about ISIS before we can get too much more involved," Trump said in October, using an acronym for the extremist group.

Prioritizing the fight against IS could put the U.S. in closer alignment with Russia's public position, in a Middle Eastern take on the adage that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." It's a point Trump appeared to make during the second presidential debate when he noted that he didn't like Assad, but added, "Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS."

And in his first days as the president-elect Trump suggested he might withdraw U.S. support for the various rebel groups that make up Assad's opposition, telling a newspaper that "we have no idea who these people are."

Trump's posture doesn't just buck President Barack Obama's policy, it conflicts with his party's stance, as well.

Trump's running mate, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, argued during the campaign that the U.S. should strike Assad's forces if needed to prevent devastation in Aleppo. Trump took the remarkable step of contradicting him. "I disagree," Trump said, and Pence quickly backed off the threat of military action.

Both Democratic and Republican critics say Trump's brushstroke analysis of Syria's internal conflicts paints a far rosier picture of Russia's aims than reality — and even endorses some of the propaganda Assad has used to delegitimize his opponents.

"Putin is a thug, a bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said after word emerged that Trump was picking Tillerson as his chief diplomat.

While Moscow has attacked IS at times, the U.S. and its allies say most Russian airstrikes have targeted rebel-dominated areas where IS isn't active. American officials accuse Assad of a soft approach toward IS, and even of colluding with the group in hopes of marginalizing U.S.-backed rebels.

Though the U.S. under Obama has tried to work diplomatically with Russia, Syria cease-fire deals have repeatedly collapsed, with the U.S. accusing Moscow of failing to use its influence to prevent Assad from violating them. Meanwhile, Russia's military intervention has been successful in helping Assad reclaim the upper hand, making Putin a key player in Syria's future.

So closely aligned are Russia and Syria that it was Russia that negotiated a cease-fire to evacuate the last civilians and opposition fighters from eastern Aleppo, rebels said. The rebels had been squeezed for months into smaller and smaller areas of Aleppo. The city's status as Syria's commercial hub makes its capture a key victory for Assad.

As world leaders debate what to do next, all eyes are on Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20. Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria and a Middle East Institute scholar, said the horrifying images of suffering emanating from Syria would force Trump to outline a more detailed response.

"While the Trump administration may want to avoid getting into the business of regime change, it's still going to have to address what it does about grotesque violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes," said Ford. "Just saying 'we're not interested in regime change' is not a response."

Aligning with Russia would make it harder for the U.S. to corral the rebels' more strident supporters into supporting peace mediation. Assad foes like Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia might become more inclined to give extremists advanced weaponry despite U.S. protestations.

Concerns that Trump may soften U.S. policy toward Russia, currently under tough U.S. sanctions over its actions in Ukraine, burgeoned during the campaign amid signs of Russian hacking of political groups. U.S. intelligence agencies now say the hacking was intended to help Trump win.

Those concerns grew louder still Tuesday when Trump tapped Tillerson for secretary of state despite his history of arguing against sanctions on Russia, which could affect Exxon's joint ventures with Russia's state oil company. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in honor of his efforts to improve U.S.-Russia ties.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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


UNICEF: 80,000 children will starve to death in Nigeria

A doctor feeds a malnourished child at a feeding centre run by Doctors Without Borders in Maiduguri, Nigeria.(AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)

Michelle Faul, Associated Press

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP)
— Nearly a half million children will face starvation in northeastern Nigeria next year and 80,000 will die if they don't get treatment in the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram's Islamic uprising, the U.N. Children's Agency warned Tuesday.

"What is already a crisis can become a catastrophe," UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said.

His statement said the 400,000 children at risk of starvation represent just a fraction of the suffering among some 2.6 million refugees in the seven-year insurgency that has killed more than 20,000 people.

"If they do not receive the treatment they need, one in five of these children will die," Lake said.

"Large areas of Borno state are completely inaccessible to any kind of humanitarian assistance. We are extremely concerned about the children trapped in these areas," he added.

Boko Haram attacked a military-escorted humanitarian convoy in July about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Maiduguri, the birthplace of the insurgency, wounding a UNICEF worker, two other aid workers and two soldiers.

A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into the windshield of a bullet-proof vehicle, one that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has accused the agency of buying instead of spending money on people in need. UNICEF said the vehicle was a donation.

Lake spoke just days after Buhari accused the U.N. and private international aid agencies of exaggerating the crisis to seek donations. Buhari declared that Boko Haram was "technically defeated" a year ago and appears fixed on maintaining that fiction.

While soldiers from a multinational force of Nigeria and neighboring countries have pushed the extremists out of towns and many villages they occupied, attacks on military outposts and suicide bombings of soft targets continue.

The Associated Press has reported since September that children already are dying of starvation in Maiduguri, the biggest city in Nigeria's northeast that is easily accessible. Doctors Without Borders said in November that thousands of kids already have died, including 10 percent to 25 percent of children admitted to its 110-bed Maiduguri emergency treatment center.

Nigeria's Senate is investigating allegations that government agencies are diverting food aid that could help prevent those deaths.

Buhari was elected in March 2015 on a platform that pledged to finish off Boko Haram and halt endemic corruption.

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


US military Osprey crash-lands off Okinawa, no fatalities

Wreckage of a U.S. military MV-22 Osprey is seen in shallow waters off Nago, Okinawa, southern Japan.(Ryukyu Shimpo/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. military Osprey aircraft has crash-landed off Japan's southern island of Okinawa, but its five crewmembers were safely rescued.

The U.S. Marine Corps. said Wednesday that an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft landed in shallow water off Okinawa's east coast late Tuesday. They said in a statement that the crewmembers were airlifted to a Navy hospital at the Kadena Air Base for treatment. Japanese defense officials said two of them sustained injuries that were not life-threatening.

The crash just off Nago City triggered protests on Okinawa, where anti-U.S. military sentiment is already strong. It also comes one week after a Marine Corps pilot died after his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed off western Japan.

Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has asked the U.S. military to suspend Osprey flights until the cause of the accident is known.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the crash was extremely regrettable, and said that safety must be guaranteed.

More than half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa — less than 1 percent of Japanese land mass — under the Japan-U.S. security treaty. Many on the island complain about noise, pollution and crime linked to the U.S. military and has demanded their burden reduced.

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


Sydney swelters through hottest December night in 148 years

People gather on the sand at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.(Joel Carrett/AAP Image via AP)

SYDNEY (AP) — Sydney residents sweltered through the city's second hottest night on record and its hottest December night in 148 years, with many cooling off at beaches long after dark.

A minimum of 27.1 degrees Celsius (80.8 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded in Australia's largest city early Wednesday, Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jordan Notara said.

The only hotter overnight minimum temperature recorded in this city of 5 million people was 27.6 degrees Celsius (81.7 degrees Fahrenheit) on Feb. 6, 2011.

The hottest December minimum nighttime temperature on record had been Christmas Day in 1868, when the temperature dipped to 26.3 degrees Celsius (79.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Records have been kept at Sydney's Observatory Hill weather station since 1859.

"It was mainly due to the hot day yesterday when we didn't have the sea breeze cool things down as significantly as it could have," Notara said of Wednesday's minimum.

Sydney was forecast to reach 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) during the daytime on Wednesday, after hitting 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday. Sydney's December average is a maximum of 25.2 degrees Celsius (77.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and a minimum of 17.5 degrees Celsius (63.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Beaches, rivers and swimming pools have been crowded with people cooling off.

Electricity supplier Endeavour Energy was able to cope with the increased demand from Sydney air conditioners on Tuesday and was prepared for Wednesday's heat, company spokesman Peter Payne said.

A cool change was forecast late Wednesday afternoon with southerly winds expected to substantially cool the city, Notara said.

Daytime temperatures peaked above 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the southeast capitals of Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne for the first time since 1965.

Like Sydney, the other three cities were expecting cool changes late Wednesday.

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


Today in History - Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 14, the 349th day of 2016. There are 17 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 14, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson vetoed an immigration measure aimed at preventing "undesirables" and anyone born in the "Asiatic Barred Zone" from entering the U.S. (Congress overrode Wilson's veto in Feb. 1917.)

On this date:

In 1799, the first president of the United States, George Washington, died at his Mount Vernon, Virginia, home at age 67.

In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state.

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (ROH'-ahl AH'-mun-suhn) and his team became the first men to reach the South Pole, beating out a British expedition led by Robert F. Scott.

In 1918, "Il Trittico," a trio of one-act operas by Giacomo Puccini, premiered at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. (The third opera, "Gianni Schicchi (SKEE'-kee)," featured the aria "O Mio Babbino Caro," which was an instant hit.)

In 1936, the comedy "You Can't Take It With You" by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart opened on Broadway.

In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish the U.N.'s headquarters in New York.

In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, ruled that Congress was within its authority to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against racial discrimination by private businesses (in this case, a motel that refused to cater to blacks).

In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan concluded their third and final moonwalk and blasted off for their rendezvous with the command module.

In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria in 1967.

In 1986, the experimental aircraft Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California on the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world.

In 1996, a freighter lost power on the Mississippi River and barreled into the Riverwalk complex in New Orleans; miraculously, no one was killed.

In 2012, a gunman with a semi-automatic rifle killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, then committed suicide as police arrived; 20-year-old Adam Lanza had also fatally shot his mother at their home before carrying out the attack on the school.

Ten years ago: South Korea's Ban Ki-moon was sworn in as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations. A British police inquiry concluded that the deaths of Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, in a 1997 Paris car crash were a "tragic accident," and that allegations of a murder conspiracy were unfounded. Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun (AH'-meht EHR'-teh-guhn) died in New York at age 83. Actor Mike Evans, who played Lionel Jefferson on "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," died in Twentynine Palms, California, at age 57.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama, visiting Fort Bragg in North Carolina, saluted troops returning from Iraq, asserting that the nearly nine-year conflict was ending honorably. The House voted 283-136 to approve a massive $662 billion defense bill (the Senate gave its approval the following day). The NFL renewed its television deals with CBS, Fox and NBC for nine years through the 2022 season. Singer Billie Jo Spears, 73, whose performance of "Blanket on the Ground" went No. 1 on the country charts in 1975, died in Vidor, Texas.

One year ago: Bill Cosby fired back at seven women who were suing him for defamation, accusing them in a federal countersuit of making false accusations of sexual misconduct for financial gain. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Pete Rose, serving a lifetime ban for betting on baseball, would continue to be banned from working in the sport. Lillian Vernon, 88, creator of a multimillion dollar catalog business that sold specialized gifts and home goods, died in New York. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" had its world premiere at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theater.

Today's Birthdays: Singer-actress Abbe Lane is 85. Actor Hal Williams is 82. Actress-singer Jane Birkin is 70. Pop singer Joyce Vincent-Wilson (Tony Orlando and Dawn) is 70. Entertainment executive Michael Ovitz is 70. Actress Dee Wallace is 68. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ronnie McNeir (The Four Tops) is 67. Rock musician Cliff Williams is 67. Actor-comedian T.K. Carter is 60. Rock singer-musician Mike Scott (The Waterboys) is 58. Singer-musician Peter "Spider" Stacy (The Pogues) is 58. Actress Cynthia Gibb is 53. Actress Nancy Valen (TV: "Baywatch") is 51. Actor Archie Kao is 47. Actress Natascha McElhone is 47. Actress-comedian Michaela Watkins is 45. Actress-comedian Miranda Hart is 44. Rhythm-and-blues singer Brian Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 41. Actress KaDee Strickland is 41. Actress Tammy Blanchard is 40. Actress Sophie Monk is 37. Actress Vanessa Hudgens is 28. Rock/R&B singer Tori Kelly is 24.

Thought for Today: "You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories." — Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish author (1909-1966).

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

 


MH370 search ship leaves Australia for perhaps final time

In this March 31, 2014, file photo, HMAS Success scans the southern Indian Ocean, near the coast of Western Australia, as a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3 Orion flies over, while searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith, File)

PERTH, Australia (AP) — A lone survey vessel has left an Australian port for perhaps the final time to search for the Malaysian airliner that mysteriously crashed into the southern Indian Ocean two years ago, officials said Tuesday.

The Dutch survey ship Fugro Equator left Fremantle on Monday night to continue the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 alone, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester's office said.

Whether the voyage is the ship's final monthlong deployment from Fremantle before the search was completed after more than two years would depend on the weather, Chester's office said.

Chester thanked China for the services of a Chinese ship that in February joined the search of a 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) area where authorities calculate that the Boeing 777 crashed with 239 people aboard on March 8, 2014. The Chinese ship started making its way back to Shanghai this month.

Fugro Equator is using a highly maneuverable drone known as an autonomous underwater vehicle to get sonar images of difficult terrain that could not be reliably searched with towed sonar equipment.

The deep sea search has failed to find any trace of the airliner that flew far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. But debris confirmed or suspected to be from Flight 370 has washed ashore on the western Indian Ocean at Reunion Island, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mauritius.

Australia is overseeing the search on Malaysia's behalf. The two governments agreed with China in July that if the aircraft was not located in the current search zone, the search would be suspended in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location.

Passengers' relatives hope that drift analysis of the washed-up debris will provide the new evidence to continue the search.

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


Gorbachev says US was short-sighted on Soviets

In this photo taken Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev speaks to the Associated Press during an interview at his foundation's headquarters, in Moscow, Russia.(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Kate De Pury, Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP)
— As the Soviet Union was breaking up 25 years ago, Mikhail Gorbachev expected the United States and its Western allies to provide vital aid. The former Soviet president thinks their failure to offer significant help wasted a chance to build a safer world and resulted from short-sighted gloating at a Cold War rival's demise.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, the 85-year-old Gorbachev voiced hope that Russia and the United States would do better and ease current tensions during Donald Trump's presidency.

"The relations between us are so important and concern everyone else, so we must take the interests of others into account," said the leader credited with helping to end the Cold War.

Gorbachev said he had expected Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidential race and was surprised by Trump's victory. He declined to offer an assessment of Trump, saying it remains to be seen what policies the new U.S. administration will pursue.

"He has little political experience, but, maybe, it's good," he said.

Gorbachev walked slowly with a cane, but his smile was as captivating as always, his wits as sharp as usual and his reactions quick during the rare, hour-long interview at his foundation's office in Moscow.

Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War by launching sweeping liberal reforms, cutting nuclear stockpiles and allowing Soviet bloc nations in Central and Eastern Europe to break free from Moscow's diktat, spoke bitterly about the West's failure to embrace a new era of friendly cooperation he said his policy of "perestroika" offered.

"They were rubbing their hands, saying, 'How nice! We had been trying to do something about the Soviet Union for decades, and it ate itself up!'" Gorbachev said.

He blasted what he described as Western "triumphalism," saying it remains a key factor in tensions between Russia and the West.

Ties between Russia and the West are worse than they have been at any time since the Cold War following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and its support for a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. and the European Union responded with several rounds of economic sanctions, which along with low oil prices have driven Russia's economy into recession.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of trying to isolate and weaken the nation, pointing to the deployment of NATO forces near Russia's borders as a sign of hostile intentions. The war in Syria, where Russia has waged an air campaign in support of the President Bashar Assad, has added to the tensions.

Gorbachev said Russian and U.S. leaders must sit down for talks and "stay at the table until they reach agreement."

"The world needs Russia and the United States to cooperate," Gorbachev said. "Together, they could lead the world ... to a new path."

He defended Russia's action to annex Crimea, pointing out that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily transferred Crimea from Russian to Ukrainian administrative control in 1954, a decision that mattered little until the Soviet collapse.

He also noted that the annexation followed a popular vote in which the residents of the Black Sea peninsula overwhelmingly backed joining Russia.

"When people say yes, a decision must be made," he said.

The Crimean referendum was held after Russian troops flooded the peninsula, and the West has rejected the vote's outcome due to the troops' presence.

While he squarely backs Putin on the Ukrainian crisis, Gorbachev, who was born in southern Russia, is full of admiration for Ukrainian culture. After an interview, he sang a Ukrainian song he learned from his mother, who was Ukrainian.

Gorbachev also praised outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama. But he deplored what he described as a misguided policy toward Russia pursued by the U.S. and its allies both during his presidency and now.

"They have been badgering Russia with accusations and blaming it for everything," Gorbachev said. "And now, there is a backlash to that in Russia. Russia wants to have friendly ties with America, but it's difficult to do that when Russia sees that it's being cheated."

Gorbachev pointed to the productive relationship he built with U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s and the arms control agreements they reached despite sharp ideological differences.

"We accomplished a lot," he said. "We could talk openly, in a real partner-like way. It's necessary to take that approach again."

Asked his opinion of Putin's leadership, Gorbachev said he sees him as a "worthy president," even though he has criticized some of his policies.

In the past, Gorbachev assailed the Kremlin for a crackdown on freedom of speech and rigid political controls. He also was critical of Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 after term limits forced him to switch to the premier's seat for four years.

"I almost fully supported him first, and then I began to voice criticism," Gorbachev said of Putin. "I can't renounce my views."

He added, however, that he approved of Putin's recent state-of-the-nation address. The speech sent a conciliatory message to the West, and some observers also saw signs that the Kremlin may ease some of its rigid domestic policies.

"It was different from his previous speeches," Gorbachev said. "The speech showed that he's strongly worried."

Gorbachev has received global accolades for his policy of "perestroika," which eased government economic controls, and his role in ending the Cold War. At home, he has faced stinging criticism. Many held him responsible, and still do, for economic hardships, political turmoil and the loss of superpower status resulting from the Soviet Union's collapse.

Gorbachev's voice trembled with emotion as he recalled the waning days of the Soviet Union, when his arch-foe, Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, and leaders of other Soviet republics plotted his ouster while pretending to support his efforts to negotiate a treaty that would give the republics broader powers.

"Yeltsin took part in that and supported it, but he was conspiring behind my back how to get rid of Gorbachev," he said, alleging that a hunger for power motivated the Russian leader. "Russia was spearheading the Soviet breakup."

Leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, meeting secretly at a government residence in a forest in Belarus, signed an agreement on Dec. 8, 1991, pronouncing the Soviet Union dead and setting up the Commonwealth of Independent States. The move caught both Gorbachev and the West by surprise. Two weeks later, other ex-Soviet nations joined the newly-created CIS.

Driven into a corner, Gorbachev stepped down on Christmas Day 1991. Hours later, Yeltsin and his lieutenants took over his office in the Kremlin, giving him no time to pack his personal belongings in a calculated gesture of humiliation.

Amid the Soviet meltdown, loyalties of the 4 million-strong Soviet army and the massive KGB apparatus were split between the central authorities and the newly-assertive governments of Russia and other republics who were proclaiming their independence.

Asked if he considered using force to prevent the Soviet breakup, Gorbachev said launching a violent domestic conflict in a nuclear superpower was never an option for him.

"The country was loaded to the brim with weapons," he said. "And it would immediately have pushed the country into a civil war."

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


UN efforts against malaria 'off-track'; more money needed

Meghu Tanti, left, a health assistant collects blood samples of an elderly woman worker suspected to have Malaria on the outskirts of Gauhati, India.(AP Photo/Anupam Nath, file)

Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer

LONDON (AP)
— Malaria remains a nagging problem in Africa and efforts to curb the killer disease are "off-track," the World Health Organization said in a new report issued on Tuesday.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on malaria programs, the U.N. health agency said too many people are missing out on available resources like medicines and bed nets that protect against mosquitoes that spread the disease.

WHO had set a goal of cutting malaria cases to "near zero" by the end of last year. It fell far short, and now is aiming to reduce malaria cases and deaths by at least 90 percent by 2030.

"We're far from having completed the job," said Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of WHO's malaria department. "The hardest is yet to come."

He said gains could be hurt by a lack of funding, which has stagnated in the last six years.

According to Tuesday's report, there were 212 million new cases of malaria and 429,000 deaths in 2015, a slight drop from the previous year. But the figures were based largely on patchy data and modeling; the report said surveillance systems catch fewer than 20 percent of cases.

The vast majority cases are in Africa. About 70 percent of deaths are in children under 5.

WHO said children and pregnant women in Africa now have better access to malaria tests and drugs. But more than 40 percent of people still do not sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net or have their homes sprayed with insecticides, the main strategies to protect against malaria.

Chris Drakeley, director of the malaria center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that even the incremental drop in malaria cases was significant. He noted that new approaches to fighting malaria — like giving out medicines to children during high season to prevent infections— were proving effective.

Other experts said WHO should rethink its priorities when it comes to malaria spending.

"They're looking at innovative ideas and investing in new tools like vaccines but they're missing the basics," said Sophie Harman, a public health expert at Queen Mary University in London.

She said more money should be put into bed nets and health services instead.

"Even if you have a new vaccine, how will you even deliver it if there's no infrastructure?"

Harman questioned whether WHO's latest 2030 goal was realistic.

"It has symbolic meaning that WHO is still committed to this," she said. "But probably nobody in public health thinks this is really achievable."

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


'Deadpool' in, 'Silence' out and more Globes film surprises

This image released by Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios shows Lucas Hedges, right, and Casey Affleck in a scene from "Manchester By The Sea."(Claire Folger/Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios via AP)

Lindsey Bahr,AP Film Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Hollywood Foreign Press Association never fails to disappoint with their assortment of nominees, which always seem to include some expected picks, some inspired ones and some headscratchers too. The nominations for the 74th annual Golden Globes announced Monday certainly had some bombshells, too. Here are a few notable snubs and surprises:

OLD GUARD OUT

Past Globes glory didn't seem to matter this year for Hollywood legends Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Warren Beatty, none of whom received directing nominations despite all having won in that category at least once. In fact, Eastwood's "Sully" (that means no Tom Hanks nomination either) and Scorsese's "Silence" were shut out completely, while Beatty's big return to directing and acting, "Rules Don't Apply," scored only one nomination — for actress Lily Collins.

NO LOVE FOR 'LOVE & FRIENDSHIP'

Whit Stillman's Jane Austen adaptation "Love & Friendship" charmed audiences and critics, but was left without a single nomination — especially surprising in the case of Kate Beckinsale, whose performance as the conniving and ambitious Lady Susan Vernon has been widely regarded as one of her best. Instead, in the musical or comedy category, the HFPA singled out the little-seen John Carney musical "Sing Street."

THE NAUGHTIEST SUPERHERO

Besides being a superhero movie, the irreverent and very R-rated "Deadpool" is about as far away as one can get from a stereotypically tasteful awards choice, but somehow still scored two nominations — one for best motion picture in the musical or comedy category and another for star Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps they draw the line at animated food orgy, though — "Sausage Party," despite a big awards push, was left out of the fun.

LEFT FIELD ACTING CHOICES

The comedy and drama distinction always allows for a few out-of-nowhere contenders, but the best performance by an actor in a musical or comedy was stacked with unexpected picks, including Colin Farrell for his performance as a single guy looking for love in the dark as night comedy "The Lobster," Ryan Reynolds for "Deadpool," and Jonah Hill as a bro arms dealer in the generally panned "War Dogs." In the supporting category, Aaron Taylor-Johnson sneaked in with a nod for his portrayal of a sadistic Texan in "Nocturnal Animals" and Simon Helberg for his crowd-pleasing piano player in "Florence Foster Jenkins," which elicited a gasp from those in the room at the Beverly Hilton while the nominations were being announced.

MISS SLOANE TAKES CHARGE

"Miss Sloane," the Jessica Chastain-led lobbying thriller, might have bombed at the box office this weekend and received generally tepid reviews from critics, but it didn't stop the HFPA taking notice of Chastain's performance as the always three steps ahead of the competition Elizabeth Sloane. Since 2012, Chastain has been nominated for four Golden Globes and won once, in 2013, for "Zero Dark Thirty."

WOMEN BEHIND THE CAMERA

With the statistics of female representation behind the camera as dismal as they are, it might not be that much of a surprise to find zero films directed by women up for best picture or best director this year. Yet it is notable, especially with critically acclaimed fare like Andrea Arnold's "American Honey" and Mira Nair's "Queen of Katwe," both of which were shut out completely. The one saving grace is in the foreign category, where Maren Ade's comedy "Toni Erdmann" is the nominee from Germany and Uda Benyamina's "Divines" is nominated from France.

Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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


Today in History - Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 13, the 348th day of 2016. There are 18 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 13, 1981, authorities in Poland imposed martial law in a crackdown on the Solidarity labor movement. (Martial law formally ended in 1983.)

On this date:

In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sighted present-day New Zealand.

In 1769, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire received its charter.

In 1862, Union forces led by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside launched futile attacks against entrenched Confederate soldiers during the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg; the soundly defeated Northern troops withdrew two days later.

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson arrived in France, becoming the first chief executive to visit Europe while in office.

In 1928, George Gershwin's "An American in Paris" had its premiere at Carnegie Hall in New York.

In 1937, the Chinese city of Nanjing fell to Japanese forces; what followed was a massacre of war prisoners, soldiers and citizens. (China maintains as many as 300,000 people were killed; Japan says the toll was far less.)

In 1944, during World War II, the light cruiser USS Nashville was badly damaged in a Japanese kamikaze attack off Negros Island in the Philippines that claimed 133 lives.

In 1962, the United States launched Relay 1, a communications satellite which retransmitted television, telephone and digital signals.

In 1974, Malta became a republic. George Harrison visited the White House, where he met President Gerald R. Ford.

In 1994, an American Eagle commuter plane crashed short of Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, killing 15 of the 20 people on board.

In 1996, the U.N. Security Council chose Kofi Annan (KOH'-fee AN'-nan) of Ghana to become the world body's seventh secretary-general.

In 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole under a farmhouse in Adwar, Iraq, near his hometown of Tikrit.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush held high-level talks at the Pentagon, after which he said he would "not be rushed" into a decision on a strategy change for Iraq. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., underwent emergency surgery after suffering bleeding in his brain. (Johnson later resumed his Senate duties.) Lamar Hunt, 74, the owner of football's Kansas City Chiefs who coined the term "Super Bowl," died in Dallas.

Five years ago: Early sound recordings by Alexander Graham Bell that were packed away at the Smithsonian Institution for more than a century were played publicly for the first time using new technology that read the sound with light and a 3D camera. (In one recording, a man recites part of Hamlet's Soliloquy; on another, a voice recites the numbers 1 through 6.) In the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, ex-assistant coach Jerry Sandusky waived a preliminary hearing on the charges, which he denied. (Sandusky was later convicted of abusing several boys, some on campus.) In Liege, Belgium, six people were killed when a 33-year-old man threw grenades and fired on a crowd of people in the city's main square before committing suicide. In Florence, Italy, a man opened fire in an outdoor market, killing two vendors from Senegal, then critically wounding three other Senegalese immigrants before killing himself.

One year ago: Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front collapsed in French regional elections, failing to take a single region after dominating the first round of voting. A bomb in a market killed at least 22 Shiites in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region. Pope Francis called on humanity not to let sadness prevail because of the many forms of violence afflicting the world.

Today's Birthdays: Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz is 96. Actor-comedian Dick Van Dyke is 91. Actor Christopher Plummer is 87. Country singer Buck White is 86. Music/film producer Lou Adler is 83. Singer John Davidson is 75. Actress Kathy Garver (TV: "Family Affair") is 71. Singer Ted Nugent is 68. Rock musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter is 68. Country musician Ron Getman is 68. Actor Robert Lindsay is 67. Country singer-musician Randy Owen is 67. Actress Wendie Malick is 66. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is 66. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is 63. Country singer John Anderson is 62. Singer-songwriter Steve Forbert is 62. Singer-actor Morris Day is 60. Actor Steve Buscemi (boo-SEH'-mee) is 59. Actor Johnny Whitaker (TV: "Family Affair") is 57. Rock musician John Munson (Semisonic; Twilight Hours) is 54. Actress-reality TV star NeNe Leakes is 50. Actor-comedian Jamie Foxx is 49. Actor Bart Johnson is 46. Actor Jeffrey Pierce is 45. TV personality Debbie Matenopoulos is 42. Rock singer-musician Thomas Delonge is 41. Actor James Kyson Lee is 41. Actress Chelsea Hertford is 35. Rock singer Amy Lee (Evanescence) is 35. Actor Michael Socha is 29. Neo-soul musician Wesley Watkins (Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats) is 29. Country singer Taylor Swift is 27. Actress Maisy Stella is 13.

Thought for Today: "My theory is to enjoy life, but the practice is against it." — Charles Lamb, English essayist (1775-1834).

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


Bill English chosen as New Zealand's prime minister

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English answers questions during a press conference at Parliament in Wellington, following the resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP)

Nick Perry, Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP)
— Bill English, New Zealand's finance minister and a former farmer, will be sworn in as the country's 39th prime minister on Monday after his colleagues in the Parliament chose him as their new leader.

English emerged victorious from a meeting of the conservative National Party caucus. Two other candidates for the job withdrew last week after English gained more support than them. He is to be officially sworn in on Monday afternoon.

His ascension from deputy prime minister follows the surprise resignation last week of John Key after eight years as prime minister.

Key was a popular leader and was expected to contest a fourth straight election next year. But he said he wanted to leave while he was on top and to spend more time with his wife and two children.

English, 54, has degrees in commerce and literature. He has been praised for his handling of the country's economy in his role as finance minister.

A practicing Roman Catholic, English has been a politician for 26 years, after he was first elected to the parliament in 1990. He had a previous unsuccessful stint as party leader, taking his party to a big election defeat in 2002. He said he's gained wisdom and experience since then.

"I was 39 years old then, with six children under 13," he said last week. "So if nothing else, I've got the opportunity to focus much more on the job now."

Under English, New Zealand has been enjoying relatively robust annual GDP growth of more than 3 percent and the unemployment rate has fallen below 5 percent. English has also managed to return small surpluses on the government's books over the past couple of years.

English said he will deliver tax cuts and spread the country's growing wealth to where it is needed.

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


Man held for allegedly stabbing worshipper near mosque

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — A man has been arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime after police say he stabbed a worshipper near a Simi Valley mosque.

Police said reports of people fighting sent them to a shopping center parking lot near the mosque around 11:15 p.m. Saturday. Officers separated the combatants and found that one person had been stabbed.

The fight began after a man confronted a worshipper and got into a verbal dispute, police said.

John Matteson, 29, was arrested nearby, police said.

The victim had non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital in stable condition, police said.

Matteson remained jailed Sunday on suspicion of making criminal threats, violating civil rights and disturbing the peace by fighting, according to a Ventura County sheriff's website.

"We're investigating whether or not this was instigated by (the victim's) appearance and the association with the mosque," Sgt. Adam Darough told the Los Angeles Times. "We're quite concerned that this occurred. We want to keep people of all faiths safe in the city."

Members of the community said that the stabbing had occurred near a prayer area where locals had gathered, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the newspaper.

Ayloush said he did not know the exact address or type of building where the gathering took place.

Since election day, CAIR has received almost 200 reports of hate incidents directed at Muslims in America, Ayloush said.

"It's hard to believe that in this day and age we still have to deal with such hate and violence in our country, and especially in a place as diverse as Southern California," Ayloush said.

Matteson is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

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


Myanmar town wants the secret out: George Orwell slept here

Nyo Ko Naing, center, leaves the house of the former British commissioner in Katha with the caretaker, right, and Kyal Ni, member of the local office of the National League for Democracy, in Katha, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Naing Soe)

Amateur George Orwell scholar Nyo Ko Naing points to a portrait of a former British colonial official inside a planned museum.(AP Photo/Aung Naing Soe

Joe Freeman, Associated Press
Aung Naing Soe, Associated Press


KATHA, Myanmar (AP) — In the 1990s, Nyo Ko Naing noticed that the handful of foreign tourists who made it to his remote hometown were carrying their own maps and looked like they were searching for something. Someone, it turns out, by the name of George Orwell.

Katha was Eric Blair's last posting in the Imperial Police before he sailed back to England in 1927, adopted the nom de plume Orwell and launched a writing career that would produce powerful novels and commentary. Seven years after leaving the sleepy town on the Irrawaddy River, he immortalized it as the setting of his first novel, the vehemently anti-colonial "Burmese Days," though he called it not Katha but "Kyauktada."

The British Club, where much of the novel's scheming, fighting, drinking and sweating takes place, still stands, as do other sites mentioned including a tennis court, a pagoda and a prison. A house believed to have been Orwell's home in Katha remains in use.

Nyo Ko Naing, a graphic designer and cartoonist, didn't know much about "Burmese Days" at first, but soon grasped how important it was to the future of the town.

He has since become the town's preservationist, in-house historian, amateur Orwell scholar and literary tour guide, keen to market Katha as a tourist destination. He's helping to renovate the 19th-century house of the former British commissioner for use as a museum that is expected to open next year.

"It is not easy to get attention from the world," the 45-year-old said in a recent interview. "So it's like Katha won the lottery."

Orwell-related tourism has grown in Myanmar, also known as Burma, since a half-century of military rule ended in 2011, though numbers remain small. Nyo Ko Naing estimates that Katha sees 300 to 400 such visitors per month.

In 2012, he founded the Katha Heritage Trust and mounted a campaign through the media to save the commissioner's house from a local businessman who wanted to turn the property into a skating rink.

The first floor is now full of archival photos, including one of Orwell as a young policeman, and several portraits of the writer painted recently by local artists.

"We're collecting materials for the museum right now, such as photos, data and other heritage of Katha. And we're also renovating that house by maintaining its own original style. That's why it takes time," he said.

"Now we have spent 4 million kyats ($3,000) and some tourists have donated," he added. "We will renovate more whenever we get money."

The museum will also focus on Katha's history, with information about nearby battles during World War II and other aspects of the area deemed significant.

Nyo Ko Naing hopes Orwell will be a magnet for foreign tourists who will linger for other attractions, such as Katha's traditional elephant camps, which the government is exploring turning into eco-tourism destinations amid a wide-ranging ban on logging.

A 12-hour train ride from Mandalay, Katha is a small, idyllic town in the Sagaing region. The atmosphere is as tranquil as the flowing Irrawaddy. As the sun sets, visitors and families stroll along the promenade as mountains darken in the distance.

In the past five years, Myanmar has been rapidly modernizing, and Katha is no exception. There are shiny new bank branches and new hotels. Mobile phone shops proliferate. Many colonial buildings have been left alone, giving the place a timeless feel, though many structures are dilapidated.

Both the tennis court and the prison are still in use. The British Club is now a local business cooperative.

The Hotel Katha, which opened last year, has seized on the Orwell connection. Built to resemble a red-brick colonial home, it offers brochures at the front desk with maps guiding visitors to key sites from the novel. Guests can read copies of "Burmese Days" and Orwell's essays in the lobby or dine at the Kyauktada Cafe & Restaurant. Meeting rooms are named "Flory," ''Elizabeth," and "Macgregor," after three of the book's characters.

"I want visitors to feel like they are in the book," said the owner, Bran Aung, in a phone interview. "I want to add more about Orwell. I am still collecting."

Best known for "1984" and "Animal Farm," Orwell is also admired for his condemnation of colonialism in "Burmese Days," depicting the British denizens of Kyauktada largely as racist exploiters. Yet the novel was more read and celebrated abroad than in Burma.

Censorship was lifted in 2012. A year later, Maung Myint Kywe won the government's most prestigious literary award for his Burmese translation of "Burmese Days."

"He told me that his translation had been sleeping in the hands of the publisher for more than 30 years," Thurein Win, who has translated Orwell's essays, wrote in an email interview. Maung Myint Kywe died in 2014.

Orwell wrote darkly about British and Burmese alike. "Some Burmese don't like him for his provocative words, but others love his writing," Thurein Win said.

Nyo Ko Naing's most impressive Orwellian work may be tracking down the author's house, which he had previously confused with the commissioner's. He used a colonial-era map to pinpoint the residence as a two-story teak home on the main road, not far from the Katha Hotel.

In a twist that might amuse Orwell, it is still occupied by a police officer.

"My colleagues said that the house you are going to stay in belongs to the English writer George Orwell," said Police Chief Myint Aung, who was recently transferred to Katha. He didn't know anything about the writer, but he is embracing the former resident.

Although the home isn't officially open to tourists, he lets curious visitors poke around, and he has allowed the trust to hang a banner on the porch explaining some basic history.

"The town of George Orwell is lovely as well as interesting," the sign says.

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


Big crowd turns out for colorful gay pride parade in Rio

People carry a giant gay movement flag during the Gay Pride Parade. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A man poses for the picture during the Gay Pride Parade.(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

A man holds a colored umbrella as he participates in the Gay Pride Parade.(AP Photo/Leo Correa)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Tens of thousands of people have celebrated at Rio de Janeiro's annual gay pride parade at Copacabana beach.

Under a blazing sun, revelers wearing feathery costumes and wigs held up rainbow flags and danced along the promenade Sunday as music blasted from a half dozen sound trucks.

Organizers said this year's parade was focusing on passing legislation in Brazil that would allow adults to legally change their gender on identity documents and eliminate bureaucracy involved in sex reassignment surgery.

The event saw periodic scuffles as police chased thieves who targeted the large crowd to steal golden chains and cellphones. At one point beachgoers watching the parade grabbed one suspect and beat him.

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


Today in History - Monday, Dec. 12, 2016

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Dec. 12, the 347th day of 2016. There are 19 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 12, 1946, a United Nations committee voted to accept a six-block tract of Manhattan real estate offered as a gift by John D. Rockefeller Jr. to be the site of the U.N.'s headquarters.

On this date:

In 1787, Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1870, Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina became the first black lawmaker sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Oscar Straus to be Secretary of Commerce and Labor; Straus became the first Jewish Cabinet member.

In 1915, singer-actor Frank Sinatra was born Francis Albert Sinatra in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In 1917, Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town outside Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1925, the first motel — the Motel Inn — opened in San Luis Obispo, California.

In 1937, Japanese aircraft sank the U.S. gunboat Panay on China's Yangtze River. (Japan apologized, and paid $2.2 million in reparations.)

In 1947, the United Mine Workers union disaffiliated from the American Federation of Labor.

In 1963, Kenya became independent of Britain.

In 1975, Sara Jane Moore asked a federal court in San Francisco to allow her to plead guilty to trying to kill President Gerald R. Ford. (After the judge ruled Moore competent to change her plea, she was sentenced to life. Moore was released on parole on New Year's Eve 2007 after serving 32 years behind bars.)

In 1985, 248 American soldiers and eight crew members were killed when an Arrow Air charter crashed after takeoff from Gander, Newfoundland.

In 2000, George W. Bush became president-elect as a divided U.S. Supreme Court reversed a state court decision for recounts in Florida's contested election.

Ten years ago: A suicide bomber struck a crowd of mostly poor Shiites in Baghdad, killing some five dozen people and wounding more than 200. A two-day conference questioning the existence of the Nazi Holocaust ended in Tehran. Actor Peter Boyle died in New York at age 71.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama met at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (NOO'-ree ahl-MAHL'-ih-kee); afterward, the president declared that U.S. troops were leaving Iraq "with honor and with their heads held high." Bert Schneider, 78, a producer credited with inspiring a "New Hollywood" band of independent filmmakers in the 1970s and 1980s, died in Los Angeles.

One year ago: Nearly 200 nations meeting in Paris adopted the first global pact to fight climate change, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that didn't do so. Women across Saudi Arabia marked a historic milestone, both voting and running as candidates in government elections for the first time; voters elected 20 women for local government seats. Fire at a Russian home for mentally ill patients killed 23 men. Derrick Henry became the second Alabama player to receive the Heisman Trophy.

Today's Birthdays: Former TV host Bob Barker is 93. Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Pettit is 84. Singer Connie Francis is 79. Singer Dionne Warwick is 76. Rock singer-musician Dickey Betts is 73. Hall of Fame race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi is 70. Actor Wings Hauser is 69. Actor Bill Nighy (ny) is 67. Actor Duane Chase (Film: "The Sound of Music") is 66. Country singer LaCosta is 66. Gymnast-turned-actress Cathy Rigby is 64. Author Lorna Landvik is 62. Singer-musician Sheila E. is 59. Actress Sheree J. Wilson is 58. Pop singer Daniel O'Donnell is 55. International Tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin is 54. Rock musician Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors) is 53. Rock musician Nicholas Dimichino (Nine Days) is 49. Author Sophie Kinsella is 47. News anchor Maggie Rodriguez is 47. Actress Jennifer Connelly is 46. Actress Madchen Amick is 46. Actress Regina Hall is 46. Country singer Hank Williams III is 44. Actress Mayim Bialik is 41. Model Bridget Hall is 39.

Thought for Today: "I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt." — Charles Horace Mayo, American surgeon and co-founder of the Mayo Clinic (1865-1939).

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

 


DAILY UPDATE

|

Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Governor raises death toll to 29 in Mexico blast

10 Chinese men charged with drug smuggling in Australia

Volkswagen deal gives some diesel car owners buyback option

Island nation of Sao Tome breaks ties with Taiwan

Today in History - Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016


3 injured in gunman's attack at Zurich mosque

Russian ambassador to Turkey assassinated in front of shocked gathering

Truck rams into German Christmas market, killing 12 people

Smog chokes China cities, grounding flights, closing roads

MH370 officials: Crash site could be north of search area

2 Nigerian citizens sentenced for $2 million romance scam

Man wins OK to wear goat horns in driver's license photo

Today in History - Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016


France, Russia reach compromise as Aleppo rescue uncertain

'Rogue One' soars to second-best December debut with $155M

Australia's projected annual deficit worsens by $3.2 billion

Jet-setting Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor dies at age 99

Today in History - Monday, Dec. 19, 2016


Today in History - Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016

Philippines' Duterte to US over aid issue: 'Bye-bye America'

Protests, looting erupt as Venezuelans fume over cash chaos

Uber says it will keep self-driving cars in San Francisco

S. Koreans to rally for President Park's immediate removal

Today in History - Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016


California, Uber meet amid self-driving car legal showdown

81-year-old Italy native first to buy legal pot in Anchorage

China's 1st aircraft carrier carries out live-fire exercise

British company fine increased for misleading Australians

Today in History - Friday, Dec. 16, 2016


Separated conjoined twins meet for first time since surgery

Japan moves to allow casino gambling at 'integrated resorts'

CDC issues Texas city warning for pregnant women after Zika

Yahoo suffers world's biggest hack affecting 1 billion users

Today in History - Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016


As Aleppo falls, Trump faces test on posture toward Russia

UNICEF: 80,000 children will starve to death in Nigeria

US military Osprey crash-lands off Okinawa, no fatalities

Sydney swelters through hottest December night in 148 years

Today in History - Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016


MH370 search ship leaves Australia for perhaps final time

Gorbachev says US was short-sighted on Soviets

UN efforts against malaria 'off-track'; more money needed

'Deadpool' in, 'Silence' out and more Globes film surprises

Today in History - Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016


Bill English chosen as New Zealand's prime minister

Man held for allegedly stabbing worshipper near mosque

Myanmar town wants the secret out: George Orwell slept here

Big crowd turns out for colorful gay pride parade in Rio

Today in History - Monday, Dec. 12, 2016

Advertisement

 



Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. Ltd.
189/22 Moo 5, T. Sansai Noi, A. Sansai, Chiang Mai 50210
THAILAND
Tel. 053 852 557, Fax. 053 014 195
Editor: 087 184 8508
E-mail: [email protected]
www.chiangmai-mail.com
Administration: [email protected]
Website & Newsletter Advertising: [email protected]

Copyright © 2004 Chiangmai Mail. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.