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Update July 2017


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Update July 24, 2017

Victory for 'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' at the box office

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Fionn Whitehead in a scene from "Dunkirk." (Melissa Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

By Lindsey Bahr, AP Film Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It's victory for "Dunkirk" and "Girls Trip" at the box office this weekend. Both original and well-reviewed films smashed expectations and enticed diverse audiences to the theaters, even though cumulatively summer remains down from last year.

Christopher Nolan's World War II epic brought in an estimated $50.5 million to easily top the charts, according to Warner Bros., while the raucous comedy "Girls Trip" broke the R-rated comedy slump of 2017 with $30.4 million to take second place.

"Dunkirk" was far from an inevitable summer success. But stellar reviews, awards buzz and hype around the film's large-scale production helped drive people to the theater and large-format screens.

"We're beyond thrilled with this exceptional achievement for 'Dunkirk,' " said Jeff Goldstein, who heads distribution for Warner Bros. "The critical reception worldwide has been consistently effusive. It really propelled this movie that wasn't an obvious win."

Audiences were 60 percent male and 76 percent over the age of 25 for the PG-13 rated film, while IMAX audiences represented 23 percent of the market share (or $11.7 million of the total grosses from only 402 screens).

"It became a must-see event," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for comScore.

Drawing quite a different audience was the buddy comedy "Girls Trip," starring Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah as a group of girlfriends who head to New Orleans for a weekend of fun. The Universal film drew in an audience that was 79 percent female and 50 percent under the age of 30. Fifty-nine percent of attendees were estimated to be African-American.

Notably, audiences gave the film a stellar A+ CinemaScore, suggesting the film will have long-term playability.

" 'Girls Trip' was a perfectly counter-programmed box office surprise," Dergarabedian said. "It broke the R-rated comedy curse that has afflicted this summer with 'Baywatch,' 'Snatched,' 'Rough Night' and 'The House.' "

For Universal, the formula is more simple: "Girls Trip," unlike the aforementioned comedies, is resonating with audiences.

"When the taste for entertainment and comedy has been somewhat underserved, it is not because people aren't interested in laughing, it's that they're waiting for something funny to come along," said Nick Carpou, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "One of the great things about this comedy is that it's really funny."

Not so successful was Luc Besson's nearly $180 million sci-fi epic "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," which earned $17 million from North American theaters over the weekend for a fifth-place start. It came in behind "Spider-Man: Homecoming," in third in its third weekend with $22 million and "War for the Planet of the Apes" in fourth place in its second weekend with $20.4 million.

Besson's film, starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne and based on the French comic "Valerian and Laureline," was produced by EuropaCorp. STX Entertainment distributed it in North America.

The film's financial exposure was limited, however. EuropaCorp says 90 percent of the budget was already covered by foreign pre-sales, equity financing and tax subsidies.

Dergarabedian said it's more about the international returns for "Valerian," but it's hard not to see Besson's return to sci-fi as a disappointment. Not adjusted for inflation, "Valerian" earned basically the same as "The Fifth Element," which came out 20 years ago. For comparison, his film "Lucy," starring Scarlett Johansson, opened to $43.8 million in 2014.

Overall, the year remains around flat from last year, and the summer season looks unlikely to make up for its deficit through the end of July and August.

Still, Dergarabedian thinks there is a silver lining in the quality of the films that have come out this summer.

"Despite the weekend being down close to 10 percent, the currency that was most valuable is the currency of goodwill," Dergarabedian said. "Nobody can say that Hollywood threw the same old stuff at the wall this weekend."

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

1."Dunkirk," $50.5 million ($55.4 million international).

2."Girls Trip," $30.4 million.

3."Spider-Man: Homecoming," $22 million ($33.2 million international).

4."War for the Planet of the Apes," $20.4 million ($17.3 million international).

5."Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," $17 million ($3.9 million international).

6."Despicable Me 3," $12.7 million ($47.5 million international).

7."Baby Driver," $6 million ($8.3 million international).

8."The Big Sick," $5 million.

9."Wonder Woman," $4.6 million ($1.8 million international).

10."Wish Upon," $2.5 million ($1.1 million international).

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

1."Dunkirk," $55.4 million.

2."Despicable Me 3," $47.5 million.

3."Spider-Man: Homecoming," $33.2 million.

4."Transformers: The Last Knight," $24.9 million.

5."War for the Planet of the Apes," $17.3 million.

6."Brotherhood of the Blades II: The Infernal," $16 million.

7."Wukong," $12.3 million.

8."Cars 3," $11.4 million.

9."Farther And Son," $11.1 million.

10."Baby Driver," $8.3 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 Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr


Book about Nelson Mandela's medical treatment stirs dispute

In this Jan. 31, 2006 file photo former South African President Nelson Mandela smiles during his meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)

By Christopher Torchia, Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A new book by a former South African military doctor that documents Nelson Mandela's medical treatments before his 2013 death violates doctor-patient confidentiality, according to some relatives of the anti-apartheid leader and Nobel laureate.

But the retired doctor, Vejay Ramlakan, said in an interview this weekend on the eNCA news channel that the Mandela family had requested that the book be written. While Ramlakan declined to say which family members had given permission for the book, his remarks could indicate continuing rifts in a family whose members have feuded over the years on issues such as inheritance.

The book, "Mandela's Last Years," covers Mandela's health while he was imprisoned during white minority rule, during his tenure as South Africa's first black president and in retirement. It also focuses on the dramatic final months of Mandela's life, when he was suffering a lung infection and other ailments before dying at age 95.

"It documents the complex medical decisions; disputes between family members and staff; military, political, financial and security demands; constant scrutiny from the press; and the wishes of Mandela himself, all of which contributed to what he and those closest to him would experience in his final days," according to Penguin Random House, the publisher.

Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, said she is considering legal action and will consult with the executors of Mandela's will, South African media reported.

"We are deeply disappointed that the doctor appears to have compromised himself and the man whom he had the privilege to serve," Nkosi Mandela, a grandson of the anti-apartheid leader, said in a statement. He said the book might contain ethical violations.

In the eNCA interview, Ramlakan said he had permission to write the book and that "all parties who needed to be consulted were consulted."

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela's ex-wife and a prominent figure in the anti-apartheid movement, was with her former husband when he died, according to Ramlakan, a former surgeon general of South Africa who headed Mandela's medical team.

"She's the one who was there when he passed on," he said. "I think Mrs. Machel was in the house or busy with other issues. But I have no idea because I was focusing on my patient."
___
Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris
 


Divided UK, inconclusive election could put brakes on Brexit

In this Saturday, June 25, 2016 file photo, the front pages of Britain's newspapers report on the EU referendum result, London.(AP Photo/Tim Ireland, file)

By Jill Lawless, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Lucy Harris thinks Britain's decision to leave the European Union is a dream come true. Nick Hopkinson thinks it's a nightmare.

The two Britons — a "leave" supporter and a "remainer" — represent the great divide in a country that stepped into the unknown just over a year ago, when British voters decided by 52 percent to 48 percent to end more than four decades of EU membership.

They are also as uncertain as the rest of the country about what Brexit will look like, and even when it will happen. Since the shock referendum result, work on negotiating the divorce from the EU has slowed to a crawl as the scale and complexity of the challenge becomes clearer.

Harris, founder of the pro-Brexit group Leavers of London, says she is hopeful, rather than confident, that Britain will really cut its ties with the EU.

"If we haven't finalized it, then anything's still up for grabs," she said. "Everything is still to play for."

She's not the only Brexiteer, as those who support leaving the EU are called, to be concerned. After an election last month clipped the wings of Britain's Conservative government, remainers are gaining in confidence.

"Since the general election I've been more optimistic that at least we're headed toward soft Brexit, and hopefully we can reverse Brexit altogether," said Hopkinson, chairman of pro-EU group London4Europe. "Obviously the government is toughing it out, showing a brave face. But I think its brittle attitude toward Brexit will break and snap."

Many on both sides of the divide had assumed the picture would be clearer by now. But the road to Brexit has not run smoothly.

First the British government lost a Supreme Court battle over whether a vote in Parliament was needed to begin the Brexit process. Once the vote was held, and won, Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government officially triggered the two-year countdown to exit, starting a race to untangle four decades of intertwined laws and regulations by March 2019.

Then, May called an early election in a bid to strengthen her hand in EU negotiations. Instead, voters stripped May's Conservatives of their parliamentary majority, severely denting May's authority — and her ability to hold together a party split between its pro-and anti-EU wings.

Since the June 8 election, government ministers have been at war, providing the media with a string of disparaging, anonymously sourced stories about one another. Much of the sniping has targeted Treasury chief Philip Hammond, the most senior minister in favor of a compromise "soft Brexit" to cushion the economic shock of leaving the bloc.

The result is a disunited British government and an increasingly impatient EU.

EU officials have slammed British proposals so far as vague and inadequate. The first substantive round of divorce talks in Brussels last week failed to produce a breakthrough, as the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain must clarify its positions in key areas.

Barnier said "fundamental" differences remain on one of the biggest issues — the status of 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1 million U.K. nationals who reside in other European countries. A British proposal to grant permanent residency to Europeans in the U.K. was dismissed by the European Parliament as insufficient and burdensome.
There's also a fight looming over the multibillion-euro bill that Britain must pay to meet previous commitments it made as an EU member. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently asserted the bloc could "go whistle" if it thought Britain would settle a big exit tab.

"I am not hearing any whistling. Just the clock ticking," Barnier replied.

EU officials insist there can be no discussion of a future trade deal with Britain until "sufficient progress" has been made on citizens' rights, the exit bill and the status of the Irish border.

"We don't seem to be much further on now than we were just after the referendum," said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. "I'm not sure anybody knows just how this is going to go. I'm not sure the government has got its negotiating goals sorted. I'm not sure the EU really knows what (Britain's goals) are either.

"I think we are going to find it very, very hard to meet this two-year deadline before we crash out."

The prospect of tumbling out of the bloc — with its frictionless single market in goods and services — and into a world of tariffs and trade barriers has given Britain's economy the jitters. The pound has lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar in the last year, economic growth has slowed and manufacturing output has begun to fall.

Employers' organization the Confederation of British Industry says the uncertainty is threatening jobs. The group says to ease the pain, Britain should remain in the EU's single market and customs union during a transitional period after Brexit.

That idea has support from many lawmakers, both Conservative and Labour, but could bring the wrath of pro-Brexit Conservatives down on the already shaky May government. That could trigger a party leadership challenge or even a new election — and more delays and chaos.

In the meantime, there is little sign the country has heeded May's repeated calls to unite. A post-referendum spike in hate crimes against Europeans and others has subsided, but across the country families have fought and friendships have been strained over Brexit.

"It has created divisions that just weren't there," said Hopkinson, who calls the forces unleashed by Brexit a "nightmare."

On that, he and Harris agree. Harris set up Leavers of London as a support group after finding her views out of synch with many others in her 20-something age group.

"I was fed up with being called a xenophobe," she said. "You start this conversation and it gets really bad very quickly."

She strongly believes Britain will be better off outside the EU. But, she predicts: "We're in for a bumpy ride, both sides."
___
Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless


Australian consumer watchdog investigates air bag recall

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia's consumer watchdog says it is urgently seeking information from the government regulator and car manufacturers after a magazine reported that recalled Takata air bags were being replaced by faulty air bags.

Australian consumer magazine Choice said on Monday it had discovered car makers were refitting faulty Takata air bags in recalled vehicles as a temporary solution after questioning 14 car manufacturers in Australia.

The Japanese-manufactured air bags have been linked to 18 deaths around the world by firing metal shards when deploying.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the consumer watchdog, said some of the 2.3 million recalled cars in Australia had been fitted with Takata air bags treated with a water-absorbing chemical designed to address the problem. But these may also degrade.


Today in History - Monday, July 24, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, July 24, the 205th day of 2017. There are 160 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 24, 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate by Scottish nobles in favor of her infant son James, who became King of Scotland at the age of one.

On this date:

In 1783, Latin American revolutionary Simon Bolivar (see-MOHN' boh-LEE'-vahr) was born in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1862, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States, and the first to have been born a U.S. citizen, died at age 79 in Kinderhook, New York, the town where he was born in 1782.

In 1866, Tennessee became the first state to be readmitted to the Union after the Civil War.

In 1915, the SS Eastland, a passenger ship carrying more than 2,500 people, rolled onto its side while docked at the Clark Street Bridge on the Chicago River; an estimated 844 people died in the disaster.

In 1937, the state of Alabama dropped charges against four of the nine young black men accused of raping two white women in the "Scottsboro Case."

In 1952, President Harry S. Truman announced a settlement in a 53-day steel strike. The Gary Cooper western "High Noon" had its U.S. premiere in New York.

In 1959, during a visit to Moscow, Vice President Richard Nixon engaged in his famous "Kitchen Debate" with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

In 1967, French President Charles de Gaulle stirred controversy during a visit to Montreal, Canada, when he declared, "Vive le Quebec libre!" (Long live free Quebec!)

In 1974, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon had to turn over subpoenaed White House tape recordings to the Watergate special prosecutor.

In 1987, Hulda Crooks, a 91-year-old mountaineer from California, became the oldest woman to conquer Mount Fuji, Japan's highest peak.

In 1998, a gunman burst into the U.S. Capitol, killing two police officers before being shot and captured. (The shooter, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., is being held in a federal mental facility.)

In 2002, nine coal miners became trapped in a flooded tunnel of the Quecreek (KYOO'-kreek) Mine in western Pennsylvania; the story ended happily 77 hours later with the rescue of all nine.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, speaking at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina, sought to justify the Iraq war by citing intelligence reports he said showed a link between al-Qaida's operation in Iraq and the terror group that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. A grand jury in New Orleans refused to indict Dr. Anna Pou (poh), who was accused of murdering four seriously ill hospital patients with drug injections during the desperate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, sentenced to life in prison in Libya for allegedly infecting children with HIV, were released after 8ฝ years behind bars. The U.S. minimum wage rose 70 cents to $5.85 an hour, the first increase in a decade.

Five years ago: In his first foreign policy speech since emerging as the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney called for an independent investigation into claims the White House had leaked national security information for President Barack Obama's political gain; the White House replied that the president "has made abundantly clear that he has no tolerance for leaks." Actor Chad Everett died in Los Angeles at age 75. Actor Sherman Hemsley died in El Paso, Texas, at age 74.

One year ago: Thousands of demonstrators took to Philadelphia's sweltering streets, cheering, chanting and beating drums in the first major protests ahead of the Democratic National Convention. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. British rider Chris Froome celebrated his third Tour de France title in four years. Hollywood "ghost singer" Marni Nixon, 86, died in New York.

Today's Birthdays: Actor John Aniston is 84. Political cartoonist Pat Oliphant is 82. Comedian Ruth Buzzi is 81. Actor Mark Goddard is 81. Actor Dan Hedaya is 77. Actor Chris Sarandon is 75. Comedian Gallagher is 71. Actor Robert Hays is 70. Former Republican national chairman Marc Racicot (RAWS'-koh) is 69. Actor Michael Richards is 68. Actress Lynda Carter is 66. Movie director Gus Van Sant is 65. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is 64. Country singer Pam Tillis is 60. Actor Paul Ben-Victor is 55. Basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone is 54. Retired MLB All-Star Barry Bonds is 53. Actor Kadeem Hardison is 52. Actress-singer Kristin Chenoweth is 49. Actress Laura Leighton is 49. Actor John P. Navin Jr. is 49. Actress-singer Jennifer Lopez is 48. Basketball player-turned-actor Rick Fox is 48. Actress Jamie Denbo (TV: "Orange is the New Black") is 44. Actor Eric Szmanda is 42. Actress Rose Byrne is 38. Country singer Jerrod Niemann is 38. Actress Summer Glau is 36. Actress Elisabeth Moss is 35. Actress Anna Paquin is 35. Actress Megan Park is 31. Actress Mara Wilson is 30. Rock singer Jay McGuiness (The Wanted) is 27. Actress Emily Bett Rickards is 26. TV personality Bindi Irwin is 19.

Thought for Today: "I think all great innovations are built on rejections." — Louise Nevelson, Russian-American artist (1900-1988).


Update July 22 - 23, 2017

Today in History -Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, July 23, the 204th day of 2017. There are 161 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 23, 1967, five days of deadly rioting erupted in Detroit as an early morning police raid on a "blind pig" (an unlicensed bar) at the intersection of 12th Street and Clairmount Avenue resulted in a confrontation with local residents that escalated into violence that spread into other parts of the city; 43 people, mostly blacks, were killed.

On this date:

In 1829, William Austin Burt received a patent for his "typographer," a forerunner of the typewriter.

In 1885, Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States, died in Mount McGregor, New York, at age 63.

In 1892, Emperor Haile Selassie (HY'-lee suh-LAH'-see) of Ethiopia was born.

In 1914, Austria-Hungary presented a list of demands to Serbia following the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serb assassin; Serbia's refusal to agree to the entire ultimatum led to the outbreak of World War I.

In 1945, French Marshal Henri Petain (ahn-REE' pay-TAN'), who had headed the pro-Axis Vichy (vee-shee) government during World War II, went on trial, charged with treason. (He was convicted and condemned to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison. On this date in 1951, Petain died in prison.)

In 1952, Egyptian military officers led by Gamal Abdel Nasser launched a successful coup against King Farouk I.

In 1962, the first public TV transmissions over Telstar 1 took place during a special program featuring live shots beamed from the United States to Europe, and vice versa.

In 1977, a jury in Washington, D.C. convicted 12 Hanafi (hah-NAH'-fee) Muslims of charges stemming from the hostage siege at three buildings the previous March.

In 1982, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, 7-year-old Myca Dinh Le and 6-year-old Renee Shin-Yi Chen, were killed when a helicopter crashed on top of them during filming of a Vietnam War scene for "Twilight Zone: The Movie." (Director John Landis and four associates were later acquitted of manslaughter.)

In 1986, Britain's Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson at Westminster Abbey in London. (The couple divorced in 1996.)

In 1997, the search for Andrew Cunanan, the suspected killer of designer Gianni Versace (JAH'-nee vur-SAH'-chee) and others, ended as police found his body on a houseboat in Miami Beach, an apparent suicide.

In 2011, singer Amy Winehouse, 27, was found dead in her London home from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Ten years ago: In the first political debate of its kind, all eight Democratic Party contenders, appearing on CNN, fielded questions submitted by the public on YouTube. A violent home invasion in Cheshire, Connecticut, resulted in the deaths of a prominent doctor's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and their daughters, Hayley and Michaela; two suspects were almost immediately arrested (both were convicted and received death sentences which were later changed to life without parole). Comic Drew Carey was tapped to replace legend Bob Barker on the CBS daytime game show "The Price is Right."

Five years ago: His hair dyed a shocking comic-book shade of orange-red, James Holmes, the former doctoral student accused of killing 12 moviegoers at a showing of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, appeared in court for the first time. (Holmes was convicted of murder and attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.) Penn State's football program was all but leveled by penalties for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal as the NCAA imposed an unprecedented $60 million fine, a four-year ban from postseason play and a cut in the number of football scholarships it could award. Sally Ride, 61, the first American woman in space, died in La Jolla (lah HOY'-ah), California.

One year ago: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed clothing among a large crowd of demonstrators in the Afghan capital, killing at least 80 people; the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. A guitar owned by Eric Clapton sold at auction in Dallas for $45,000.

Today's Birthdays: Concert pianist Leon Fleisher (FLY'-shur) is 89. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is 81. Actor Ronny Cox is 79. Radio personality Don Imus is 77. Actor Larry Manetti is 74. Country singer Tony Joe White is 74. Rock singer David Essex is 70. Singer-songwriter John Hall is 69. Actress Belinda Montgomery is 67. Rock musician Blair Thornton (Bachman Turner Overdrive) is 67. Actress Edie McClurg is 66. Actress-writer Lydia Cornell is 64.
Actor Woody Harrelson is 56. Rock musician Martin Gore (Depeche Mode) is 56. Actor Eriq Lasalle is 55. Rock musician Yuval Gabay is 54. Rock musician Slash is 52. Actor Juan Pope is 50. Model-actress Stephanie Seymour is 49. Actress Charisma Carpenter is 47. Rhythm-and-blues singer Sam Watters is 47. Country singer Alison Krauss is 46. Rhythm-and-blues singer Dalvin DeGrate is 46. Rock musician Chad Gracey (Live) is 46. Actor-comedian Marlon Wayans is 45. Country singer Shannon Brown is 44. Actress Kathryn Hahn is 44. Retired MLB All-Star Nomar Garciaparra is 44. Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky is 44. Actress Stephanie March is 43. Country musician David Pichette is 40. Rhythm-and-blues singer Michelle Williams is 37. Actor Paul Wesley is 35. Actress Krysta Rodriguez is 33. Actor Daniel Radcliffe is 28. Country musician Neil Perry is 27. Country singer Danielle Bradbery (TV: "The Voice") is 21.

Thought for Today: "The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud." — Coco Chanel, French fashion designer (1883-1971).


Mexico murders up with deadliest month in at least 20 years

In this July 1, 2017 file photo, Isabel Osorio Luna, the great-grandmother of the murdered Martinez children, walks past homemade concrete crosses being painted to adorn the simple tombs of the family of six, in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz State, Mexico.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

By Christopher Sherman, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's spiraling violence reached new heights with 2,234 murders in June, the country's deadliest month in at least 20 years, according to government data.

Killings rose in states ranging from the tourist haven of Baja California Sur to the Gulf coast state of Veracruz and even in Mexico City, long considered a relative oasis from drug gang violence. For the first six months of 2017, authorities nationwide recorded 12,155 homicide investigations, or 31 percent more than the 9,300 during the same period last year.

Just Friday, the same day the report was released, a marine and four other people were killed when armed forces moved against the leader of the principal fuel-theft ring in the central state of Puebla.

Four of the dead were alleged members of "Los Bukanas," a violent gang that sells gasoline stolen through illegal taps in the government oil company's pipelines. It's a business that has been estimated to cost the government $1 billion annually and which has grown increasingly violent as authorities try to control it.

Also Friday, the top prosecutor in the western state of Jalisco, Eduardo Almaguer, said authorities discovered two drug cartel training camps where they believe about 40 people had been trapped and trained after being tricked by online job advertisements. An unknown number of human remains were also found.

The victims were apparently lured by job offers for private security guards or municipal police and were then forced to build their own shelters from wood and branches and train in tactics and shooting — using paintball guns — while under guard by gang members, Almaguer said. The investigation that led to the camps started with six similar reports of missing people in June.

"They are recruiting good people who look for employment," Almaguer said.

On Thursday, a neighborhood on the south side of Mexico City exploded in gunfire and eight people were killed as marines tried to capture the leader of a drug gang that controlled street-level drug sales in part of the city. The gang's semi-automatic rifles and burning vehicle barriers set up to block authorities were reminiscent of perennial hotspots like the border city of Reynosa, but almost unheard of in the capital.

Those events underscore the growing struggles between or against organized crime groups from one end of the country to the other.

Murders remain high in states that have traditionally struggled with violence like Guerrero and Mexico state. But they have also shot up in states unaccustomed to such bloodshed, like Baja California Sur — home to the Los Cabos tourist resorts — and the Pacific coast state of Colima.

The border state of Chihuahua, which had found some relief from violence that peaked in 2010, has found its murders in 2017 running about 55 percent ahead of where they were last year.


Historian asks Australian court to reveal Queen's letters

 

In this Nov. 7, 2005 file photo, former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam watches as a film clip of his resignation speech plays behind him during a lunch in Sydney, Australia. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

By Rod McGuirk, Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A historian is going to court this month in an attempt to force Australian authorities to release secret letters that would reveal what Queen Elizabeth II knew of her representative's shocking scheme to dismiss Australia's government more than 40 years ago.

The National Archives of Australia has categorized the correspondence between the British monarch, who is also Australia's constitutional head of state, and her Australian representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr, as "personal" and might therefore never be made public.

The letters would disclose what, if anything, the queen knew of Kerr's plan to dismiss Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's government in 1975 to resolve a month-old deadlock in Parliament.

It remains the only time in Australia's history that a democratically elected federal government has been dismissed on the British monarch's authority. Kerr's surprise intervention placed unprecedented strain on Australia's democracy and bolstered calls for the nation to split from its former colonial master by becoming a republic. Suspicions of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency conspiracy persist.

Jenny Hocking, a Monash University historian and Whitlam biographer, will argue in the Federal Court in Sydney on July 31 — the only hearing day of the case — that the letters should be released regardless of the queen's wishes because Australians have a right to know their own history.

"To me, it's a point of national humiliation that we have to be even considering asking the queen whether we can look at these key records in our own history," Hocking told The Associated Press.

She started the case in October last year, is represented by lawyers free of charge and has raised more than $28,000 through crowd funding in case she loses and is ordered to pay the Archives' legal costs. The legal argument has been presented so far in written submissions.

While Hocking is taking on the Archives alone, she has a powerful ally in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who agrees that the communication between two such key figures in Australia's constitution should not be secret.

The Archives, Buckingham Palace and the governor-general's official residence, Government House, have all declined AP's requests for comment.

The court is being asked to remove the letters from their "private" and "personal" classification, so that they could become public 30 years after they were written like other government documents held in the Archives.

Under an agreement struck between Buckingham Palace and Government House months before Kerr resigned in 1978, the letters covering three tumultuous years of Australian politics will remain secret until 2027. The private secretaries of both the sovereign and the governor-general in 2027 would have the option of vetoing their release indefinitely.

The British royal family is renowned for being protective of their privacy and keeping conversations confidential.

The family went to considerable lengths to conceal letters written by the queen's son and heir, Prince Charles, in a comparable case in Britain that was fought through the courts for five years.

Britain's Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that 27 memos written by Charles to British government ministers could be made public despite objections that their publication might damage public perceptions of the future king's political neutrality.

Years of dogged research by journalists and historians have pieced together answers to many of the questions surrounding how and why Whitlam's government was dismissed and who was behind it.

Kerr, who died in 1991, rejected in his memoirs media speculation that the CIA ordered Whitlam's dismissal over fears that his government would close the top secret U.S. intelligence facility that still exists at Pine Gap in the Australian Outback. In the 1985 Hollywood spy drama "The Falcon and the Snowman," a CIA plot to oust Whitlam motivated a disillusioned civilian defense contractor played by Sean Penn to sell U.S. security secrets to the Soviet Union.

Australia's governor-general, who is chosen by the prime minister and appointed by the monarch, is a largely ceremonial role. Turnbull, as a journalist in 1975, described Kerr as an "unelected ribbon cutter."

Few realized before 1975 that the role carried unwritten constitutional powers to sack a prime minister in a crisis. Lawyers still argue about whether the so-called reserve powers even exist.

The constitutional crisis came in 1975 when the opposition tried to force Whitlam to call general elections by blocking in the Senate routine legislation that allowed the government to pay public servant salaries and deliver services.

Kerr fired Whitlam during a brief meeting at Government House, called an election and appointed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as prime minister. Weeks later, Fraser's coalition won a resounding election victory. But his eight-year tenure was always tainted by how it began. Whitlam branded Fraser "Kerr's cur" and the insult stuck.

Kerr's critics argue that he should have warned Whitlam of what he was planning and given the prime minister an option of remaining the government's leader if he agreed to an election.

Former High Court Chief Justice Anthony Mason, who secretly assured Kerr he had the power to sack Whitlam, only revealed in media interviews in 2012 that he had also advised the governor-general that Whitlam should be warned.

Kerr explained that he chose an ambush because Whitlam might have fired him first if the governor-general had shown his hand.

Turnbull, who believes an Australian president rather than a British monarch should be Australia's head of state, argues that Kerr should not have been worrying about saving his own job when deciding how to act as governor-general.

Weeks after becoming prime minister in 2015, Turnbull said he would ask the Palace and the current Governor-General Peter Cosgrove to release the letters. But Turnbull has remained tight-lipped on progress since then.

Philip Benwell, a leading advocate for the British monarch remaining Australia's head of state, argues that the letters should remain private. The political system would become untenable if the queen's opinions were known to be at odds with her government, he said.

"It would cause a constitutional crisis if the queen's personal opinions became known," Benwell said.


Qatar's ruler voices willingness to talk to solve Arab rift

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani talks late Friday, July21, 2017 in his first televised speech since the dispute between Qatar and three Gulf countries and Egypt, in Doha, Qatar.(Qatar News Agency via AP)

By Adam Schreck, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar's ruling emir said on Friday that his embattled Gulf nation remains open to dialogue with four Arab countries that have isolated it, but that any resolution to the crisis must respect his country's sovereignty.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani made the comments in his first televised speech since a diplomatic dispute among the U.S. allies erupted more than a month and a half ago. He hailed the solidarity and resolve that Qataris have shown in the face of the crisis, and said it would make the tiny country, which will host soccer's World Cup in 2022, even more resilient.

"We are open to dialogue to iron out all the pending issues, not only for the benefit of our peoples and governments, but also to spare our region the pointless efforts to dissipate our gains," he said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and severed air, land and sea links with it on June 5 after accusing it of backing extremist groups. Qatar strongly denies the charge and argues the isolation effort is politically motivated.

They later issued a tough 13-point list of demands needed to resolve the crisis, including shutting down news outlets including Al-Jazeera, cutting ties with Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.

Qatar refused to bow to the demands within a 10-day deadline, and the anti-Qatar bloc has begun to shift its focus toward six principles on combatting extremism and terrorism.

In his televised address late on Friday, the emir said any resolution must respect Qatar's sovereignty and will, and cannot be based on the acceptance of orders dictated from outside.

The United States and other Western countries have dispatched senior envoys to the region to press both sides to resolve the dispute, which the Gulf nation of Kuwait attempted to mediate.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Qatar's neighbors earlier in the day to lift a land blockade as a "sign of good faith." Qatar's only land border is with Saudi Arabia, and its closure has dramatically driven up import costs by cutting a major route for food and other supplies into the country.

During a round of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf earlier this month, Tillerson sealed a deal with Qatar that calls for the Gulf state to bolster its fight against terrorism and address shortfalls in policing terrorism funding. The anti-Qatar quartet has said that agreement does not go far enough in addressing their concerns.

Tillerson, however, said Friday while meeting with the visiting foreign minister of Oman that the U.S. is satisfied with Qatar's efforts to address concerns about terror financing and counterterrorism.

Sheikh Tamim reiterated his country's willingness to fight terrorism on Friday. On Thursday, he issued a decree revising the country's counterterrorism laws — a move UAE Minister of State for Foreign Relations Anwar al-Gargash called a "positive step" in a Twitter post.

Qatari officials on Thursday linked the UAE to a cyberattack in May that sparked the crisis, saying it was coordinated with one of the members of the anti-Qatar quartet and that the UAE benefited the most from it.

The attack involved what Qatar says were fabricated comments attributed to the emir posted on the official state news agency and affiliated social media accounts in which he supposedly called Iran an "Islamic power" and said Qatar's relations with Israel are "good." Qatar swiftly disavowed the comments but state-owned and semi-official media in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain continued to report the remarks for days.

"The smear campaign and the unlawful measures that followed were preplanned and predesigned," Qatar's emir said in his speech Friday. "The perpetrators have undermined our sovereignty and independence by fabricating false statements to mislead international public opinion."

The UAE denies playing any role in the hacking.

Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck .


UN, aid group: Cholera in Yemen to worsen in rainy season

CAIRO (AP) — The U.N. health agency and an international aid organization warned on Friday that Yemen's cholera epidemic, the world's worst since Haiti's 2010 outbreak, is likely to worsen in the rainy season.

The World Health Organization stressed that Yemen's cholera outbreak is "far from being under control, with the rainy season having begun, and possibly increasing the pace of transmission," U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The United Kingdom-based OXFAM group said in a statement that cholera in Yemen is now "the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year."

The warnings came a day after the World Health Organization reported nearly 370,000 suspected cases of cholera and over 1,800 deaths since April 27.

"Cholera has spread unchecked in a country already on its knees after two years of war and which is teetering on the brink of famine," said Nigel Timmins, Oxfam's humanitarian director who has just returned from a fact finding mission to Yemen.

WHO reported a decline in suspected cases over the past two weeks in some of the worst hit areas, including the capital Sanaa, but warned it's too early to tell if this is becoming a trend.

OXFAM warned that Yemen's rainy season from July to September will accelerate the outbreak.

The conflict in Yemen worsened in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally-recognized government waged an extensive air campaign aimed at dislodging Houthis, whom the coalition accuse of acting as an Iranian proxy, from northern Yemen.

The war has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, displaced 3 million people, and pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the verge of famine.

International aid organizations are struggling to deliver aid amid fighting and the closure of the country's main airports and port.

In Geneva, WHO said that 5,000 Yemenis fall ill with cholera symptoms every day.

While the disease is easily treatable, people's access to health services is limited because half of the country's health facilities are out of service. The U.N. health agency said children under age 15 account for 41 percent of all suspected cases and people over age 60 account for a third of deaths.

Malnutrition is one of the main challenges in containing the disease.

"We need to break the vicious cycle of malnutrition and diarrhea," WHO said. "Seventeen million people in Yemen are currently food insecure. Malnutrition exacerbates diarrhea, and diarrhea leads to malnutrition."

Haq said WHO and its partners are working to reduce the spread of cholera by scaling up access to clean water and sanitation, setting up treatment centers, training health workers and working with communities on prevention.

They have provided more than 800,000 bags of intravenous fluids as well as other supplies and medicine to treat Yemenis with cholera symptoms, he said.

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
 


Today in History - Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2017. There are 162 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On July 22, 1942, the Nazis began transporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp. Gasoline rationing involving the use of coupons began along the Atlantic seaboard.

On this date:

In 1587, an English colony fated to vanish under mysterious circumstances was established on Roanoke Island off North Carolina.

In 1796, Cleveland, Ohio, was founded by General Moses Cleaveland (correct).

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln presented to his Cabinet a preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In 1916, 10 people were killed when a suitcase bomb went off during San Francisco's Preparedness Day parade; two anti-war labor radicals, Thomas Mooney and Warren K. Billings, were jailed but eventually released amid doubts about their guilt.

In 1934, bank robber John Dillinger was shot to death by federal agents outside Chicago's Biograph Theater, where he had just seen the Clark Gable movie "Manhattan Melodrama."

In 1937, the U.S. Senate rejected President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court.

In 1946, the militant Zionist group Irgun blew up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people.

In 1967, American author, historian and poet Carl Sandburg died at his North Carolina home at age 89.

In 1977, Elvis Costello's debut album, "My Aim Is True," was released by Stiff Records.

In 1983, Samantha Smith and her parents returned home to Manchester, Maine, after completing a whirlwind tour of the Soviet Union.

In 1992, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar escaped from his luxury prison near Medellin (meh-deh-YEEN'). (He was slain by security forces in December 1993.)

In 2011, Anders Breivik (AHN'-durs BRAY'-vihk), a self-described "militant nationalist," massacred 69 people at a Norwegian island youth retreat after detonating a bomb in nearby Oslo that killed eight others in the nation's worst violence since World War II.

Ten years ago: A bus carrying Polish Catholic pilgrims from a holy site in the French Alps plunged off a steep mountain road, killing 26 people. Padraig Harrington survived a calamitous finish in regulation and a tense putt for bogey on the final hole of a playoff to win the British Open. Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs ("Easy Rider") died in Beverly Hills, California, at age 74.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama made a quick trip to Colorado to meet with families of those gunned down in an Aurora movie theater and to hear from state and local officials about the shooting that left 12 people dead and dozens more injured. The International AIDS Conference opened in Washington, D.C. with the goal of "turning the tide" on HIV. Fifteen people were killed in South Texas when a pickup truck ran off the road and hit trees about 90 miles southeast of San Antonio. Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. Ernie Els won his fourth major championship in an astonishing finish, rallying to beat Adam Scott in the British Open when the Australian bogeyed the last four holes. Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson ("Dog Day Afternoon"; "Cool Hand Luke") died in Los Angeles at age 87.

One year ago: Democrat Hillary Clinton told supporters in a text message that she had chosen Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate. A gunman opened fire at a mall in Munich, Germany, killing nine people before taking his own life. Thomas Sutherland, a teacher who was held captive in Lebanon for more than six years until he was freed in 1991, died in Fort Collins, Colorado, at age 85.

Today's Birthdays: Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., is 94. Actor-comedian Orson Bean is 89. Author Tom Robbins is 85. Actress Louise Fletcher is 83. Rhythm-and-blues singer Chuck Jackson is 80. Actor Terence Stamp is 79. Game show host Alex Trebek is 77. Singer George Clinton is 76. Actor-singer Bobby Sherman is 74. Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is 74. Movie writer-director Paul Schrader is 71. Actor Danny Glover is 71. Singer Mireille Mathieu is 71. Actor-comedian-director Albert Brooks is 70. Rock singer Don Henley is 70. Movie composer Alan Menken is 68. Singer-actress Lonette McKee is 64. Jazz musician Al Di Meola is 63. Actor Willem Dafoe is 62. Rhythm-and-blues singer Keith Sweat is 56. Actress Joanna Going is 54. Actor Rob Estes is 54. Folk singer Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls) is 54. Actor John Leguizamo is 53. Actor-comedian David Spade is 53. Actor Patrick Labyorteaux is 52. Rock musician Pat Badger is 50. Actress Irene Bedard is 50. Actor Rhys Ifans (rees EYE'-fanz) is 50. Actress Diana Maria Riva is 48. Actor Colin Ferguson is 45. Actor/singer Jaime Camil is 44. Retired NFL player Keyshawn Johnson is 45. Rock musician Daniel Jones is 44. Singer Rufus Wainwright is 44. Actress Franka Potente (poh-TEN'-tay) is 43. Actress A.J. Cook is 39. Actor Keegan Allen is 30. Actress Camila Banus is 27. Actress Selena Gomez is 25. Britain's Prince George of Cambridge is four.

Thought for Today: "If America forgets where she came from, if the people lose sight of what brought them along, if she listens to the deniers and mockers, then will begin the rot and dissolution."— Carl Sandburg (1878-1967).


Update July 21, 2017

Seoul calls for Pyongyang to respond to overture for talks

 

South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun speaks during a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, July 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By Kim Tong-Hyung, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Friday urged North Korea to accept its offers for talks as Pyongyang continued to ignore Seoul's proposal for a military meeting to ease animosities along their tense border.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it has become difficult to hold the meeting Seoul had originally proposed for Friday and called for the North to "quickly accept" the overture for talks.

"Easing the military tension between the South and North and restoring the military dialogue channel are very urgent tasks for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula," the ministry said in a statement.

North Korea has yet to respond to South Korea's proposal to hold the military meeting and a separate meeting next month to resume the temporary reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

If realized, the talks would be the first inter-Korean dialogue since December 2015. Ties between the Koreas have worsened since over North Korea's expanding nuclear and missile programs, but South Korea's new liberal President Moon Jae-in, who took office in May, has expressed a desire to reach out to the North.

Despite North Korea apparently passing over the Friday meeting, some experts say it is likely to agree to military talks at some point, as it has been calling for the suspension of South Korean loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts that began after the North's fourth nuclear test in January 2016. It's possible that the North is taking time mulling its options and could make a counter-proposal seeking more concessions from the South in exchange for opening dialogue, the experts say.

The prospects for the meeting on the family reunions are murkier as the North has been tying the issue to its demands for the South to send back 13 North Korean restaurant workers who defected to the South last year. Pyongyang, which often makes extreme claims over defectors, has insisted that the women were abducted to the South, an accusation Seoul denies.


Quake damages buildings on Greek island; 2 killed, 120 hurt

 

A man lies on the ground as other tourists stand outside a bar after an earthquake on the Greek island of Kos early Friday, July 21, 2017.(Kostoday.gr via AP)

Firefighters and rescuers try to clean a road from the stones after an earthquake on the Greek island of Kos early Friday, July 21, 2017.(Kostoday.gr via AP)

KOS, Greece (AP) — A powerful earthquake shook the Greek island of Kos early Friday morning, damaging several buildings and the main port, killing at least two people and causing more than 120 injuries, authorities said.

The 6.5-magnitude quake rattled Turkey's Aegean coast as well, but Kos was nearest to the epicenter and appeared to be the worst-hit, with all of the deaths and injuries reported there. Buildings with damage included the old mosque and a 14th-century fortress at the entrance to the main port.

Fallen bricks and other damage were seen in Kos's "old town" area, full of bars and other nighttime entertainment. Hundreds of tourists were spending the rest of the night outdoors, resting on beach loungers with blankets provided by staff.

Minor damage — cracks in buildings, smashed windows and trashed shops — appeared widespread, according to city officials.

Rescuers were checking for trapped people inside houses after the quake struck in the middle of the night and were heading to outlying villages to check for damage. Kos Mayor Giorgos Kyritsis said the army was mobilized along with emergency services. The island's port was among structures that sustained damaged and a ferry en route there was not docking, the coast guard said.

"The buildings affected were mostly old, and were built before the earthquake building codes were introduced," Kyritsis told state-run Greek media.

Giorgos Halkidios, Kos regional government official, said the injured included people who were underneath a building that collapsed. Ferry services were suspended due to damage at Kos's main port, and coastal roads were flooded.

Greek officials said the quake was 6.5-magnitude. It was centered 6 miles (10 kilometers) south of Bodrum, Turkey, and 10 miles (16 kilometers) east-northeast of Kos with a depth of 6 miles (10 kilometers), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

According to Turkish disaster officials, the earthquake had a magnitude of 6.3, and more than 20 aftershocks have been recorded.

Esengul Civelek, governor of Mugla province, said there were no casualties according to initial assessments. She said "there were minor injuries due to fear and panic."

In Bitez, a resort town about 6 kilometers (4 miles) west of Bodrum, the quake sent frightened residents running into the streets.

Hotel guests briefly returned to their rooms to pick up their belongings but chose to spend the rest of the night outside, with some using sheets and cushions borrowed from nearby lounge chairs to build makeshift beds, according to an AP reporter on the scene.

Greece and Turkey lie in an especially earthquake-prone zone.

Associated Press journalists Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, Ayse Wieting in Bitez, Turkey, and Elena Becatoros in Saranda, Albania, contributed to this report.


In surrealist twist, Dali exhumed in paternity lawsuit

In this file photo taken on Nov. 4, 1942 Spanish surrealist painter, Salvador Dali is pictured in New York. (AP Photo, File)

Workers bring a casket to the Dali Theater Museum in Figueres, Spain, Thursday, July 20, 2017.(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

By Hernan Munoz, Aritz Parra, Associated Press

FIGUERES, Spain (AP)
— Salvador Dali's eccentric artistic and personal history has taken yet another bizarre turn with the exhumation of his embalmed remains in order to find genetic samples that could settle whether one of the founding figures of surrealism fathered a girl decades ago.

Pilar Abel, a 61-year-old tarot card reader, claims her mother had an affair with Dali while working as a domestic helper in the northeastern Spanish town of Figueres, where the artist was born and later returned with his Russian wife Gala.

Catalonia's High Court said late Thursday that biological samples were found 27 years after Dali's body was embalmed and interred in a museum dedicated to the painter*s memory also in Figueres. The samples need to travel to a legal medicine lab in Madrid for analysis, which could take weeks, officials said.

The sensitive exhumation by a team of forensic experts followed two decades of court battles by Abel. In June, a Madrid judge finally ruled that a DNA test should be performed to find out whether her allegations were true.

"I am amazed and very happy because justice may be delivered," she had told The Associated Press when the judge ruled in her favor. Abel said a desire to honor her mother's memory was motivating her paternity lawsuit. "I have fought a long time for this and I think I have the right to know."

Her lawyer, Enrique Blanquez, said a judicial victory for Abel would give her a chance to seek one-fourth of Dali's estate in further lawsuits, in accordance with inheritance laws in Spain's Catalonia region.
Dali and his wife had no children of their own although Gala — whose name at birth was Elena Ivanovna Diakonova and who died seven years before the painter — had a daughter from an earlier marriage to French poet Paul Eluard.

Upon his death in 1989 at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state. His body was buried in his hometown's local theatre, which had been rebuilt to honor the artist in the 1960s. The building now hosts the Dali Theater Museum.

After the gates of the premises closed Thursday, a 1.5-ton stone slab was removed to open the crypt with Dali's remains. In order to respect the privacy of the artist's remains and to lessen the risk of contaminating any biological samples, only five people — a judge, three forensic experts and an assistant— stayed during the hour and 20 minutes that the coffin stayed open.

It remains to be seen if the chemicals used for preserving the artist's body have damaged his genetic information, said Narcis Bardalet, the forensic expert who embalmed Dali back in 1989.

Regional Catalan officials previously told the AP that experts planned to remove four teeth, some nails and the marrow of a long bone, if the corpse's condition allowed it. A coffin from a funeral home was delivered earlier in the day to the museum premises.

The public foundation that manages Dali's estate failed to halt the exhumation but convinced the judge to reschedule it out of visiting hours. Extra measures were taken to prevent images of the process. A marquee inside the museum's glass dome was installed to avoid any possible photography or video taken from drones.

Dali's paternity lawsuit was a topic of discussion Thursday among the lines of visitors at the museum.

"I think the woman has the right to know who her father is," said 33 year-old Miguel Naranjo. "But I think it is surreal that they have to unearth his body after such a long time."

Since the judge ordered the exhumation many have raised doubts about Abel's story. In an article published by Ian Gibson last month in Spanish daily El Pais, the Dali biographer concluded that the artists' complex sexual appetites raised serious doubts about the existence of any offspring.

Among the skeptics is Joan Vehi, who started working as a carpenter for Dali and his wife, Gala, but with the time became a close friend of the couple and one of the painter's personal photographers.

"I've never heard of this woman, Dali never talked to me about her, and now suddenly all this fuss," Vehi said on Thursday. "This is self-publicity."

AP correspondent Aritz Parra contributed from Madrid.


Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington dies in LA at 41

In this May 16, 2015 file photo, Chester Bennington, left, performs during the MMRBQ Music Festival 2015 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

By Anthony McCartney, Mark Kennedy, AP Entertainment Writers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington, whose screeching vocals helped the rock-rap band become one of the most commercially successful acts in the 2000s, was found dead in his home near Los Angeles on Thursday, the Los Angeles County coroner said. He was 41.

Coroner spokesman Brian Elias said authorities are investigating Bennington's death as an apparent suicide at Palos Verdes Estates, but no additional details are available.

Band co-founder and producer Mike Shinoda said on Twitter he was "shocked and saddened."

"Chester Bennington was an artist of extraordinary talent and charisma, and a human being with a huge heart and a caring soul. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beautiful family, his band-mates and his many friends," Warner Bros. Records CEO and Chairman Cameron Stang said in a statement.

The Grammy Award-winning group sold more than 10 million copies of their 2000 debut, "Hybrid Theory," which featured the megahit and anthem, "In the End." They sold another 6 million with 2003's multiplatinum "Meteora." Both albums explored feelings of frustration and fury.

The success helped Linkin Park become Billboard's No. 1 act of the decade for rock songs and alternative songs.

Bennington's voice could soar with piercing strength or descend to a whisper. Rolling Stone once called it a "shrapnel-laced howl that sounds like it comes from someone twice his size."

The band also sold millions with its remix album, "Reanimation," and its mash-up record with Jay-Z, "Collision Course." They won Grammys for best hard rock performance in 2001 for "Crawling" and best rap/sung collaboration for "Numb/Encore" in 2005. Linkin Park was scheduled to begin its tour next week.

Bennington struggled with drug and alcohol addictions at various times during his life. He said he had been sexually abused as a child and was homeless for months before the band found fame.

Linkin Park released their most recent album, "One More Light," in May. It was a CD that divided critics and fans alike for its embrace of moody pop. One song on the album, "Heavy," opens with the words: "I don't like my mind right now."

Although the band had always experimented with different sounds, some claimed Linkin Park had sold out, which Bennington denied. "One More Light" became the band's fifth No. 1 album debut on the Billboard 200.

"If you like the music, fantastic. If you don't like it, that's your opinion too. Fantastic. If you're saying we're doing what we're doing for a commercial or monetary reason, trying to make success out of some formula. then stab yourself in the face!" Bennington told NME magazine.

Bennington was close friends with Chris Cornell, who died by hanging earlier this year, and performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at the Soundgarden singer's memorial in late May. He was the godfather of Cornell's 11-year-old son, Chris. Cornell's 53rd birthday would have been Thursday.

"The Cornell family is overwhelmed by the heartbreaking news about Chester Bennington which tragically comes so soon after their family's own loss," said a Cornell family spokesperson. "They open up their loving arms to Chester's family and share in the sorrow with all those who loved him."

When he got his big break in 1999, Bennington was an assistant at a digital-services firm in Phoenix. A music executive sent him a demo from the band Xero, which needed a lead singer. (He had been recommended by his attorney.) Bennington wrote and recorded new vocals over the band's playing and sent the results back. He soon got the gig and the band then changed its named to Hybrid Theory, then Linkin Park.

Bennington told The Associated Press in 2010 that because of the sound the band is known for — fusing sounds from nu-metal, punk, rock, pop and hip-hop — it was virtually impossible to satisfy their many kinds of fans.

"We're making music for us, that we like. We're not making music for other people," he said. "We're not thinking, 'Let's make a pie-graph of all our fans and find out how many people fit in whatever category and then make the perfect album for them.' Like, that would be absolutely ridiculous."

Bennington was married to his second wife, Talinda, and is survived by six children.
___
AP Music Writer Mesfin Fekadu in New York contributed to this report. Kennedy also reported from New York.
 


Today in History - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, July 21, the 202nd day of 2017. There are 163 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 21, 1925, the so-called "Monkey Trial" ended in Dayton, Tennessee, with John T. Scopes found guilty of violating state law for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution. (The conviction was later overturned on a technicality.)

On this date:

In 1773, Pope Clement XIV issued an order suppressing the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. (The Society was restored by Pope Pius VII in 1814.)

In 1861, during the Civil War, the first Battle of Bull Run was fought at Manassas, Virginia, resulting in a Confederate victory.

In 1930, President Herbert Hoover signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Administration (later the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).

In 1944, American forces landed on Guam during World War II, capturing it from the Japanese some three weeks later.

The Democratic national convention in Chicago nominated Sen. Harry S. Truman to be vice president.

In 1949, the U.S. Senate ratified the North Atlantic Treaty.

In 1955, during a summit in Geneva, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented his "open skies" proposal under which the U.S. and the Soviet Union would trade information on each other's military facilities and allow aerial reconnaissance. (The Soviets rejected the proposal.)

In 1961, Capt. Virgil "Gus" Grissom became the second American to rocket into a sub-orbital pattern around the Earth, flying aboard the Liberty Bell 7.

In 1967, actor Basil Rathbone, remembered for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in a series of films, died in New York at age 75.

In 1973, Israeli agents in Lillehammer, Norway, killed Ahmed Bouchikhi, a Moroccan waiter, in a case of mistaken identity, apparently thinking he was an official with Black September, the group that attacked Israel's delegation at the 1972 Munich Olympics and killed 11 athletes.

In 1980, draft registration began in the United States for 19- and 20-year-old men.

In 1997, the USS Constitution, which defended the U.S. during the War of 1812, set sail under its own power for first time in 116 years, leaving its temporary anchorage at Marblehead, Massachusetts, for a one-hour voyage marking its 200th anniversary.

In 2011, the 30-year-old space shuttle program ended as Atlantis landed at Cape Canaveral, Florida, after the 135th shuttle flight.

Ten years ago: Doctors removed five polyps from President George W. Bush's colon after he temporarily transferred the powers of his office to Vice President Dick Cheney under the rarely invoked 25th Amendment. Ruediger Diedrich, one of two Germans kidnapped in southern Afghanistan on July 18, was found dead. David Beckham made his debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000. (Beckham got into the exhibition game in the 78th minute of Chelsea's 1-0 victory.) "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the final volume of the wizard series by J.K. Rowling (ROHL'-ing), went on sale.

Five years ago: The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge (zhahk ROH'-geh), rejected the latest calls for a minute of silence for the Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich massacre at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, an Air Force training instructor at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for crimes that included rape and sexual assault. (Walker died in August 2014.)

One year ago: Donald Trump accepted the GOP presidential nomination with a speech in which he pledged to cheering Republicans and still-skeptical voters that as president, he would restore the safety they feared they were losing, strictly curb immigration and save the nation from Hillary Clinton's record of "death, destruction, terrorism and weakness." The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of its objections to a North Carolina law that limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. Former NFL head coach Dennis Green, 67, died in San Diego.

Today's Birthdays: Movie director Norman Jewison is 91. Actor David Downing is 74. Actor Leigh Lawson is 74. Actor Wendell Burton is 70. Singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) is 69. Cartoonist Garry Trudeau is 69. Actor Jamey Sheridan is 66. Rock singer-musician Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) is 64. Comedian Jon Lovitz is 60. Actor Lance Guest is 57. Actor Matt Mulhern is 57. Comedian Greg Behrendt is 54. Rock musician Koen Lieckens (K's Choice) is 51. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is 50. Soccer player Brandi Chastain is 49. Rock singer Emerson Hart is 48. Rock-soul singer Michael Fitzpatrick (Fitz and the Tantrums) is 47. Actress Alysia Reiner is 47. Country singer Paul Brandt is 45. Christian rock musician Korey Cooper (Skillet) is 45. Actress Ali Landry is 44. Actor-comedian Steve Byrne is 43. Actor Justin Bartha is 39. Actor Josh Hartnett is 39. Contemporary Christian singer Brandon Heath is 39. Actress Sprague Grayden is 39. Reggae singer Damian Marley is 39. Country singer Brad Mates (Emerson Drive) is 39. MLB All-Star pitcher CC Sabathia is 37. Singer Blake Lewis ("American Idol") is 36. Rock musician Will Berman (MGMT) is 35. Rock musician Johan Carlsson (Carolina Liar) is 33. Actress Vanessa Lengies (LEHN'-jeez) is 32. Actor Rory Culkin is 28. Actor Jamie Waylett ("Harry Potter" films) is 28. Figure skater Rachael Flatt is 25.

Thought for Today: "Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get." — Ingrid Bergman, Swedish-born actress (1915-1982).


Update July 20, 2017

Senator John McCain has brain tumor

This July 11, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

By Donna Cassata, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee with a well-known maverick streak that often vexes his GOP colleagues, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, his office said in a statement Wednesday.

The 80-year-old lawmaker has glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, where McCain had a blood clot removed from above his left eye last Friday.

"Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot," his office said in a statement.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, more than 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive type of tumor. The American Cancer Society puts the five-year survival rate for patients over 55 at about 4 percent.

It's the same type of tumor that struck McCain's close Democratic colleague in legislative battles, the late Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The tumor digs tentacle-like roots into normal brain tissue. Patients fare best when surgeons can cut out all the visible tumor, which happened with McCain's tumor, according to his office. That isn't a cure; cancerous cells that aren't visible still tend to lurk, the reason McCain's doctors are considering further treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation.

In a statement on Twitter, his daughter, Meghan McCain, spoke of the shock of the news and the anxiety over what happens next. "My love for my father is boundless and like any daughter I cannot and do not wish to be in a world without him. I have faith that those days remain far away," she said.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he spoke to McCain Wednesday evening. Graham said McCain told him: "Yeah, I'm going to have to stay here a little bit longer, take some treatments. I'll be back."

The senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee had been recovering at his Arizona home. His absence had forced Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to delay action on health care legislation. McCain had been slated to oversee debate of the sweeping defense policy bill in the coming weeks.

As word spread of his diagnosis, presidents past and present along with McCain's current and former Senate colleagues offered support in an outpouring rarely seen in Washington.

"Senator John McCain has always been a fighter. Melania and I send our thoughts and prayers to Senator McCain, Cindy, and their entire family. Get well soon," President Donald Trump said.

Barack Obama, who dashed McCain's dreams of the presidency, said in a tweet: "John McCain is an American hero & one of the bravest fighters I've ever known. Cancer doesn't know what it's up against. Give it hell, John."

McCain has a lifetime of near-death experiences — surviving the July 1967 fire and explosion on the USS Forrestal that killed 134 sailors; flying into power lines in Spain; the October 1967 shoot-down of his Navy aircraft and fall into Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi; and 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prison.

"The Hanoi Hilton couldn't break John McCain's spirit many years ago, so Barbara and I know — with confidence — he and his family will meet this latest battle in his singular life of service with courage and determination," said former President George H.W. Bush.

McConnell called McCain a "hero to our conference and a hero to our country." Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said McCain "is a fighter, and I am hopeful he will once again beat the odds." Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey described McCain as "undoubtedly the toughest man in the United States Senate."

Politics aside, McCain and Bill Clinton developed a strong friendship, and the former president said: "As he's shown his entire life, don't bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery."

McCain's office disclosed the removal of the blood clot late Saturday and said the senator was awaiting pathology reports. In the past, McCain had been treated for melanoma, but a primary tumor is unrelated. Doctors said McCain is recovering from his surgery amazingly well and his underlying health is excellent.

With his irascible grin and fighter-pilot moxie, McCain was elected to the Senate from Arizona six times, but twice thwarted in seeking the presidency.

An upstart presidential bid in 2000 didn't last long. Eight years later, he fought back from the brink of defeat to win the GOP nomination, only to be overpowered by Obama. McCain chose a little-known Alaska governor as his running mate in that race, and helped turn Sarah Palin into a national political figure.

After losing to Obama in an electoral landslide, McCain returned to the Senate, determined not to be defined by a failed presidential campaign. And when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2015, McCain embraced his new job as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, eager to play a big role "in defeating the forces of radical Islam that want to destroy America."

Throughout his long tenure in Congress, McCain has played his role with trademark verve, at one hearing dismissing a protester by calling out, "Get out of here, you low-life scum."

He tangled with McConnell over campaign finance, joined forces with Democrats on immigration and most recently had a very public spat with Sen. Rand Paul. McCain said the Kentucky Republican was working for Russian President Vladimir Putin after he blocked a vote on allowing Montenegro into NATO. Paul said McCain had gotten "unhinged."

Early in the 2016 campaign, McCain largely held his tongue when Trump questioned his status as a war hero by saying: "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."

McCain stuck by Trump at times seemingly through gritted teeth — until the release a month before the election of a lewd audio in which Trump said he could kiss and grab women. Declaring that the breaking point, McCain withdrew his support and said he would write in "some good conservative Republican who's qualified to be president."

In an interview with The Associated Press in 2013, McCain spoke of his decades in Congress, legislative achievements and political defeats.

"The last thing I am is bitter and angry. ... I've had the most full life. I would compare my life to anybody that I've ever known and it's been one of great good fortune and I'm grateful every day," he said.

AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard and writer Nancy Benac contributed to this report.


Australia to help Sri Lanka fight worst-ever dengue outbreak

In this July 18, 2017, file photo, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj as they leave for a delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup, File)

By Bharatha Mallawarachi,Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Australia is contributing funds to help Sri Lanka combat its worst outbreak of dengue fever, which has claimed 250 lives and infected nearly 100,000 people so far this year in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Visiting Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Wednesday night that Australia is giving 475,000 Australian dollars (US $377,000) to the World Health Organization to implement immediate dengue prevention, management and eradication programs in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's hospitals are overcrowded with patients, and the government has deployed soldiers, police and health officials to inspect houses and clear rotting garbage, stagnant water pools and other potential mosquito-breeding grounds across the country. Health officials blamed the public for their failure to clear puddles and piles of trash after last month's heavy monsoon rains.

The number of infections nationwide is already 38 percent higher than last year, when 55,150 people were diagnosed with dengue and 97 died, according to the Health Ministry. Cases were concentrated around the main city of Colombo, though they were occurring across the tropical island nation.

In this July 4, 2017 file photo, a Sri Lankan municipal worker fumigates during Dengue fever irradiation work in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

Bishop is on a two-day visit and will meet Thursday with government leaders

She said Australia is offering an additional 1 million dollars (US $795,000) for a research partnership between Australia's Monash University and Sri Lanka's Health Ministry to test the introduction of naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria to eradicate dengue fever from Sri Lanka.

She said the bacteria "prevent transmission of dengue virus between humans" and that it has shown success during the last six years in countries such as Brazil, Columbia, Australia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia where it was piloted.

The bacteria have the ability to block other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and Chikungunya, the Australian embassy said in a statement.


In Suu Kyi's Myanmar, concern rises over press freedom

In this image made from video released by the Democratic Voice of Burma, left to right, Burmese journalists La Wei, from the Irrawaddy.(Democratic Voice of Burma via AP)

By Esther Htusan, Todd Pitman, Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — In the old, military-ruled Myanmar, it would not have been a surprising scene: three journalists, bound together in chains, raising shackled hands in unison and speaking out against their repressive government.

But this moment, captured on video by a local news organization, the Democratic Voice of Burma, was not from another era. It was recorded Tuesday, and it underscores how little has changed in the Southeast Asian country since the party led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and longtime opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won elections a year and a half ago.

"Just look at these chains. This is what we get for being journalists," said Lawi Weng, one of three reporters detained by the military on June 26 for covering a drug-burning ceremony organized by an ethnic rebel group in the northeast.

"How can we say this is democracy?" Weng asked before entering a police van headed back to jail after a brief court hearing in Shan state's Hsipaw township.

The reporters each face three years in prison for violating the nation's Unlawful Associations Act, which was designed to punish people who associate with or assist "illegal" groups — in this case, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army, one of more than a dozen small rebel armies that control patches of territory in the north and east. The rebels burned a cache of narcotics to mark the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse.

Members of various rebel groups, along with their sympathizers and some aid workers, have been prosecuted under the Unlawful Associations Act. But rarely, if ever, have journalists — many of whom travel regularly to zones controlled by the Ta'ang and other insurgent groups.

It's unclear why these journalists were singled out. Suu Kyi's government, which is struggling to broker a nationwide cease-fire with the country's rebel armies, simply says they broke the law and should have informed security forces before visiting a conflict zone.

The arrests, combined with the prosecution of critics who have spoken out against the nation's military and civilian authorities, have surprised many who thought Suu Kyi's rise would herald a new era of freedom of expression.

Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during the nation's long era of military rule, and she was praised worldwide for leading the struggle for democracy. Although her administration is officially in charge, the military still wields most power.

Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Suu Kyi's administration continues to use "antiquated laws to threaten and imprison journalists."

"Reporters are still being targeted for reprisals and imprisoned for their reporting," Crispin said. "Frankly, that's not what we thought an Aung San Suu Kyi-led government would condone or promote. It's been massively disappointing."

The New York-based press freedom group, which has called for the reporters to be released, had hoped the administration would "prioritize amending or scrapping these draconian provisions," Crispin said. "To our dismay, they've chosen to use them to suppress criticism instead."

Since Suu Kyi's party swept elections in November 2015, at least 67 lawsuits have been filed under the controversial Telecommunications Law, which had been employed by the former military governments to punish dissent and prosecute those who took part in the pro-democracy struggle.

The law targets anyone "extorting, coercing, restraining, wrongfully defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any person."

At least a dozen people have been charged so far, according to the Telecom-Law Research Team, an independent research group. Several suits have involved alleged insults against Suu Kyi, among them a woman now serving a six-month jail term for criticizing her on social media.

In addition to Lawi Weng, who works for the Irrawaddy media outlet, the two other journalists detained after crossing into rebel territory in Shan state are Aye Nai and Pyae Bone Naing, both from the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Their court appearances have repeatedly been changed without notice, fueling speculation authorities want to minimize media coverage.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who chairs the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, said that "covering developments in conflict areas is already dangerous work."

"Journalists shouldn't have to add to their list of worries the possibility that the military might imprison them based on a century-old law that clearly wasn't intended to apply to them and should have been repealed altogether long ago," he said.

Speaking after their court appearance Tuesday, journalist Aye Nai said Democratic Voice of Burma reporters had traveled repeatedly to other rebel zones controlled by insurgent groups like the Kachin, the Karen and other minorities fighting for greater autonomy.

They had not been charged before, and should not be now, he said.

The government has reached provisional cease-fires with many of the rebel groups. The Ta'ang are among several still fighting, however, along with allies Kachin Independence Army and the Shan State Army-South.

"The government that was elected by the people should ... amend these laws," Aye Nai said. And even though they have detained us, "the belief we have in media will never fade away. We (will) do our job."
___
Pitman reported from Bangkok, Thailand.


US criticizes Africa for 'failure' on famine threat

 

In this March 11, 2017, file photo, acutely malnourished child Sacdiyo Mohamed, 9 months old, is treated at the Banadir Hospital after her mother Halima Hassan Mohamed fled the drought in southern Somalia and traveled by car to the capital Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor, File)

By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley sharply criticized African nations on Tuesday for their "collective failure" to respond to the threat of famine facing more than 14 million people — and for nominating Congo for a seat on the U.N.'s top human rights body despite its serious rights violations.

Haley said the looming famines in northeast Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan are primarily caused by armed conflict and represent "a tragic example" of the failure of those governments to address the causes, and of the combatants to allow access to alleviate suffering.

She reiterated to a U.N. Security Council meeting on Africa that there is a critical relationship between human rights violations and conflict, and when African nations put forward a country like Congo for a seat on the Human Rights Council "it adds to the conflict."

The council voted in June to send international experts to look into abuses and killings in central Congo, where thousands of deaths and mutilations have been reported in recent months. Two U.N. experts were murdered in the area and dozens of mass graves have been discovered. Peaceful protesters have also been detained.

The United States is debating whether to pull out of the Geneva-based council and when Haley addressed its members last month she was highly critical of many members with poor human rights records.

"This is a pivotal time for the Human Rights Council," Haley said. "It has the potential to be an asset to the men, women and children suffering in Africa today but it can only play a role if its membership consists of nations committed to promoting and upholding universal human rights."

"That in turn depends on African states putting forward credible candidates with strong human rights records," she said. "The nomination of (Congo) is an inexcusable failure of this process."

As for famine in Africa, Haley said the United States has committed $1.4 billion to help those threatened with starvation in fiscal 2017, and she thanked other donors and countries including Uganda for hosting millions fleeing conflict and needing food.

"Famine in Africa is an issue of peace and security," she said. "People are dying of hunger, not due to acts of God but acts of man."

In Somalia, Haley said, more than half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance but attacks by al-Shabab extremists linked to al Qaida, and logistical and administrative obstacles are cutting off access to hard-hit rural areas.

She said efforts to help millions suffering from the man-made crisis in South Sudan, which has created the largest number of refugees in Africa since the 1994 Rwanda genocide, "are being actively obstructed by the government and other parties."

"These famines are a sign of a collective failure, and any effective response must begin with the nations of Africa themselves," Haley said. "African Union member states must ramp up their response to this crisis."

But she warned that progress toward peace and security in Africa "cannot be achieved unless the efforts of the United Nations and others are accompanied by accountability on the parts of governments involved in conflict."


Today in History - Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, July 20, the 201st day of 2017. There are 164 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On July 20, 1917, America's World War I draft lottery began as Secretary of War Newton Baker, wearing a blindfold, reached into a glass bowl and pulled out a capsule containing the number 258 during a ceremony inside the Senate office building. (The drawing of numbers by various officials continued until shortly after 2:00 a.m. the next day.) The Corfu Declaration called for creation of a unified Yugoslav state.

On this date:

In 1861, the Congress of the Confederate States convened in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1871, British Columbia entered Confederation as a Canadian province.

In 1923, Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa was assassinated by gunmen in Parral.

In 1942, the first detachment of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps — later known as WACs — began basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. The Legion of Merit was established by an Act of Congress.

In 1944, an attempt by a group of German officials to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb failed as the explosion only wounded the Nazi leader. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for a fourth term of office at the Democratic convention in Chicago.

In 1954, the Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into northern and southern entities.

In 1968, the first International Special Olympics Summer Games, organized by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, were held at Soldier Field in Chicago.

In 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon after reaching the surface in their Apollo 11 lunar module.

In 1976, America's Viking 1 robot spacecraft made a successful, first-ever landing on Mars.

In 1977, a flash flood hit Johnstown, Pennsylvania, killing more than 80 people and causing $350 million worth of damage. The U.N. Security Council voted to admit Vietnam to the world body.

In 1982, Irish Republican Army bombs exploded in two London parks, killing eight British soldiers, along with seven horses belonging to the Queen's Household Cavalry.

In 1990, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, one of the court's most liberal voices, announced he was stepping down.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush signed an executive order prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment, including humiliation or denigration of religious beliefs, in the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. Tammy Faye Messner, who as Tammy Faye Bakker helped her husband, Jim, build a multimillion-dollar evangelism empire, then watched it collapse in disgrace, died at age 65 near Kansas City, Missouri.

Five years ago: Gunman James Holmes opened fire inside a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and wounding 70 others. (Holmes was later convicted of murder and attempted murder, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.) After years of preparation and months of buildup, London's Olympic moment finally arrived as Royal Marine Martyn Williams carried the Olympic torch from a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter into the Tower of London on the shore of the River Thames (tehmz).

One year ago: Undercutting calls for Republican unity, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz stubbornly refused to endorse Donald Trump as he addressed the GOP convention in Cleveland, igniting thunderous boos from furious delegates as he encouraged Americans to simply "vote your conscience" in November. A federal appeals court ruled that Texas' strict voter ID law discriminated against minorities and the poor and had to be weakened before the November elections. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (REH'-jehp TY'-ihp UR'-doh-wahn) declared a three-month state of emergency following a botched coup attempt.

Today's Birthdays: Actress-singer Sally Ann Howes is 87. Author Cormac McCarthy is 84. Rockabilly singer Sleepy LaBeef is 82. Former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., is 81. Actress Diana Rigg is 79. Artist Judy Chicago is 78. Rock musician John Lodge (The Moody Blues) is 74. Country singer T.G. Sheppard is 73. Singer Kim Carnes is 72. Rock musician Carlos Santana is 70. Rock musician Jay Jay French (Twisted Sister) is 65. Rock musician Paul Cook (The Sex Pistols, Man Raze) is 61. Actress Donna Dixon is 60. Rock musician Mick McNeil (Simple Minds) is 59. Country singer Radney Foster is 58. Actor Frank Whaley is 54. Actor Dean Winters is 53. Rock musician Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam) is 51. Actor Reed Diamond is 50. Actor Josh Holloway is 48. Singer Vitamin C is 48. Actor Omar Epps is 44. Actor Simon Rex is 43. Actress Judy Greer is 42. Actor Charlie Korsmo is 39. Singer Elliott Yamin (yah-MEEN') (American Idol) is 39. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is 37. Rock musician Mike Kennerty (The All-American Rejects) is 37. Actor Percy Daggs III is 35. Actor John Francis Daley is 32. Country singer Hannah Blaylock (Edens Edge) is 31. Dancer-singer-actress Julianne Hough is 29. Actress Billi Bruno is 21.

Thought for Today: "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." — Albert Einstein, German-American physicist (1879-1955).


Update July 19, 2017

'Game of Thrones' debut draws record 10.1 million viewers

This file image released by HBO shows Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (HBO via AP, File)

By Lynn Elber, AP Television Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Women dominate Westeros as never before, and it's the same with the "Game of Thrones" ratings.

The HBO drama's seventh-season premiere last weekend drew a record-setting 10.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen company figures released Tuesday.

That eclipsed previous top-rated "Game of Thrones" episodes, including the 8.11 million who watched the season five finale in 2015 and the 8 million who tuned in to that year's opener.

The numbers represent viewers who watched the episodes as they first aired. Many more join the party through streaming and DVR viewings.

As the new season opened, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) is atop the Iron Throne as queen of Westeros; Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) commands an extensive army, and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is exacting revenge for Red Wedding family deaths.

There was one eye-catching new man: Pop star Ed Sheeran had a cameo in the premiere.

The glittering ratings will have to make up for a lack of 2017 Emmy gold. The series returned outside the awards' eligibility window, so "Game of Thrones" was missing from the field of nominees announced last week after it dominated last year's Emmys.

Viewer fascination clearly is building as the fantasy saga based on George R.R. Martin's books draws toward its end. After this penultimate season of seven episodes, fewer than the usual 10, HBO has said there will be one more with an expected eight episodes.

That doesn't mean Martin's imagination will be absent from HBO. The channel previously announced that four scripts are in development for possible series, and Martin disclosed in May that a fifth project is in the mix — but how much of a "Game of Thrones" pedigree they'll have is unclear.

On his website, Martin said that each of the concepts under development is a prequel rather than a sequel, and may not even be set on the mythical continent of Westeros. Rather than the terms "spinoff" or "prequel," Martin said he prefers "successor show."

Online:

http://www.hbo.com/game-of-thrones


Auction of Madonna's panties, love letter from Tupac halted

 

In this July 11, 2017 file photo, Madonna, left, sits with her adopted children David, Stella and Mercy, at the opening of The Mercy James Institute for Pediatric Surgery and Intensive Care, located at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in the city of Blantyre, Malawi. (AP Photo Thoko Chikondi, File)


By Tom McElroy, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — An impending auction of pop star Madonna's personal items, including a love letter from her ex-boyfriend the late rapper Tupac Shakur, a pair of previously worn panties and a hairbrush containing her hair, was halted by a judge on Tuesday.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Judge Gerald Leibovitz ordered Gotta Have It! Collectibles to pull 22 items from its rock-and-roll-themed auction scheduled for Wednesday.

The Material Girl had earlier sought an emergency court order saying she was "shocked to learn" of the planned online auction of the Tupac letter and had no idea it was no longer in her possession.

"The fact that I have attained celebrity status as a result of success in my career does not obviate my right to maintain my privacy, including with regard to highly personal items," Madonna said in court papers. "I understand that my DNA could be extracted from a piece of my hair. It is outrageous and grossly offensive that my DNA could be auctioned for sale to the general public."

Court papers said the Tupac letter was expected to fetch up to $400,000. Tupac, one of the best-selling rappers of all time, dated Madonna in the early 1990s and died of injuries suffered in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting in 1996.

Madonna, behind such hit songs as "Like a Virgin" and "Vogue," has sold hundreds of millions of albums. Other Madonna items scheduled to be auctioned were private photographs taken at a bachelorette party at her Miami home, personal letters and cassette tapes of unreleased recordings.

Madonna's court papers name Darlene Lutz, a former friend, art consultant and "frequent overnight guest" in Madonna's home when she was "not in residence," as behind the sale of the property.

A spokesman for Lutz and the auction house said the allegations will be "vigorously challenged and refuted" in court.

"Madonna and her legal army have taken what we believe to be completely baseless and meritless action to temporarily halt the sale of Ms. Lutz's legal property," spokesman Pete Siegel told the New York Post. "We are confident that the Madonna memorabilia will be back."


Australians see woman's shooting by police as US nightmare

Family and friends gather on Sydney's Freshwater Beach, Wednesday, July 19, 2017, following a candlelight vigil, where they threw hundreds of pink flowers into the ocean for Justine Damond who was shot by a Minneapolis last weekend. (Dean Lewins/AAP Image via AP)

By Kristen Gelineau, Associated Press

SYDNEY (AP) — Half a world from where an Australian woman was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, a front-page headline in her hometown Sydney newspaper summarized Australia's reaction in blunt terms: "AMERICAN NIGHTMARE."

In Justine Damond's native country, news of the meditation teacher's baffling death has dominated the airwaves, newspapers and websites for days, feeding into Australians' long-held fears about America's notorious culture of gun violence.

"The country is infested with possibly more guns than people," said Philip Alpers, a gun policy analyst with the University of Sydney who has studied the stark differences in gun laws between the nations. "We see America as a very risky place in terms of gun violence — and so does the rest of the world."

While police officers carry guns in Australia, deadly shootings by police are exceedingly rare; there are only a handful reported each year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. And though the U.S. doesn't keep a national database of deadly police-involved shootings, even incomplete statistics show there are hundreds every year.
America's reluctance to strengthen its gun regulations and its seemingly endless stream of shooting deaths have long been a source of confusion and concern in Australia, which instituted tough gun ownership laws in 1996 following a deadly mass shooting. At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard — a conservative — warned Australians against following America's lead on gun control, saying: "We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path."

The Australian government's official travel advice to those heading to the U.S. specifically warns tourists to be on guard for gun crime, and urges Australians living in the U.S. to be familiar with "active shooter" training drills.

Australian media coverage of America's frequent mass shootings is often tinged with disbelief — "another day, another shooting in America" is a common refrain on newscasts.

The death of Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher who was reportedly dressed in her pajamas when she was shot by a police officer late Saturday, has sparked a similarly stunned reaction. The story has led network newscasts and was splashed across newspapers' front pages. Sydney's Daily Telegraph ran an editorial headlined "A senseless and tragic death."

The shooting occurred after Damond called police to report what she believed to be an active sexual assault in an alley near her home.

"We thought yesterday was our worst nightmare, but we awoke to the ugly truth and it hurt even more," Damond's father, John Ruszczyk, told reporters on Tuesday. "Justine was a beacon to all of us. We only ask that the light of justice shine down on the circumstances of her death."

On Wednesday, the family and nearly 300 friends of Damond gathered on a Sydney beach for a silent vigil. Dozens carried candles in the early morning light on Freshwater Beach and each mourner tossed a single pink blossom into the Pacific Ocean, in honor of Damond's favorite color.

"We're here to come together as a community around our beautiful Justine to honor her life, share our love and mourn her death," the family said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday demanded answers in Damond's death, saying something "clearly went tragically wrong."

"How can a woman out in the street in her pajamas seeking assistance from police be shot like that? It is a shocking killing," Turnbull said in an interview with Australia's "Today Show." ''We are demanding answers on behalf of her family. And our hearts go out to her family and all of her friends and loved ones. It's a truly tragic, tragic killing there in Minneapolis."


Arabs urge Qatar to accept 6 principles to combat extremism

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Four Arab nations that cut ties with Qatar are urging the tiny Gulf nation to commit to six principles on combatting extremism and terrorism, and to negotiate a plan with specific measures to implement them — a step that could pave the way for an early resolution of the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain broke diplomatic relations with Qatar in early June over allegations that it supports extremist groups — a charge Qatar rejects. They initially made 13 demands, which Qatar also dismissed.

Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al Mouallimi told correspondents Tuesday that the four countries are now committed to the six principles agreed to by their foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo on July 5 — and to having Qatar support them.


Today in History - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, July 19, the 200th day of 2017. There are 165 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 19, 1961, TWA became the first airline to begin showing in-flight movies on a regular basis as it presented "By Love Possessed" to first-class passengers on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.

On this date:

In 1553, King Henry VIII's daughter Mary was proclaimed Queen of England after pretender Lady Jane Grey was deposed.

In 1848, a pioneering women's rights convention convened in Seneca Falls, New York.

In 1903, the first Tour de France was won by Maurice Garin.

In 1941, Britain launched its "V for Victory" campaign during World War II.

In 1944, the Democratic national convention convened in Chicago with the nomination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt considered a certainty.

In 1952, the Summer Olympics opened in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1967, the movie "Up the Down Staircase," an adaptation of the Bel Kaufman novel starring Sandy Dennis as an idealistic schoolteacher, opened in Los Angeles.

In 1979, the Nicaraguan capital of Managua fell to Sandinista guerrillas, two days after President Anastasio Somoza fled the country.

In 1980, the Moscow Summer Olympics began, minus dozens of nations that were boycotting the games because of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.

In 1989, 111 people were killed when United Air Lines Flight 232, a DC-10 which suffered the uncontained failure of its tail engine and the loss of hydraulic systems, crashed while making an emergency landing at Sioux City, Iowa; 185 other people survived.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush joined former presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald R. Ford and Richard M. Nixon at ceremonies dedicating the Nixon Library and Birthplace (since redesignated the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum) in Yorba Linda, California.

In 1992, anti-Mafia prosecutor Paolo Borsellino was killed along with five members of his security detail in a car bombing in Palermo, Sicily.

Ten years ago: A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by former CIA operative Valerie Plame, who was demanding money from Bush administration officials she blamed for leaking her agency identity. Taliban gunmen abducted 23 South Koreans who worked at an aid organization in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Two hostages were shot to death; the rest were later freed.) "Mad Men," a cable TV series about a New York advertising agency, premiered on AMC.

Five years ago: A controversy pitting gay rights against religious freedom began as a cake shop owner in Lakewood, Colorado, refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple; the case has since reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear arguments. Omar Suleiman (OH'-mahr SOO'-lay-mahn), 76, Egypt's former spy chief, died in Cleveland, Ohio. Sylvia Woods, 86, founder of the famed soul food restaurant in New York's Harlem district that carries her name, died in Mount Vernon, New York.

One year ago: Republicans meeting in Cleveland nominated Donald Trump as their presidential standard-bearer; in brief videotaped remarks, Trump thanked the delegates, saying: "This is a movement, but we have to go all the way." Writer-director Garry Marshall, 81, whose deft touch with comedy and romance led to a string of TV hits that included "Happy Days" and "Laverne & Shirley" and the box-office successes "Pretty Woman" and "Runaway Bride," died in Burbank, California.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Helen Gallagher is 91. Country singer Sue Thompson is 91. Singer Vikki Carr is 77. Blues singer-musician Little Freddie King is 77. Country singer-musician Commander Cody is 73. Actor George Dzundza is 72. Rock singer-musician Alan Gorrie (Average White Band) is 71. International Tennis Hall of Famer Ilie Nastase is 71. Rock musician Brian May is 70. Rock musician Bernie Leadon is 70. Actress Beverly Archer is 69. Movie director Abel Ferrara is 66. Actor Peter Barton is 61. Rock musician Kevin Haskins (Love and Rockets; Bauhaus) is 57. Movie director Atom Egoyan is 57. Actor Campbell Scott is 56. Actor Anthony Edwards is 55. Country singer Kelly Shiver is 54. Actress Clea Lewis is 52. Percusssionist Evelyn Glennie is 52. Country musician Jeremy Patterson is 47. Classical singer Urs Buhler (Il Divo) is 46. Actor Andrew Kavovit is 46. Rock musician Jason McGerr (Death Cab for Cutie) is 43. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch is 41. Actress Erin Cummings is 40. TV chef Marcela Valladolid is 39. Actor Jared Padalecki is 35. Actor Trai Byers is 34. Actor Steven Anthony Lawrence is 27.

Thought for Today: "I want to live my life, not record it." — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, American first lady (1929-1994).


Update July 18, 2017

Brexit talks begin in earnest with citizens' rights in focus

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, welcomes British Secretary of State David Davis for a meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Talks to extricate Britain from the European Union began in earnest Monday with both sides still seemingly far apart on citizens' rights after Brexit officially takes place in less than two years.

After an initial meeting last month where the structure of the talks was determined, Britain's Brexit minister, David Davis, met up with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels ahead of four-days of discussions.

Progress on citizens' rights is one of the three main issues that have to be resolved before the two sides can start talking about a wide-ranging free trade deal, the others being the bill Britain has to pay to meet existing commitments and the border issue in Ireland.

The British proposal offers EU nationals who have lived in Britain for at least five years — as of an unspecified cutoff date — the right to live, work and access benefits.

The estimated 3 million EU nationals in Britain would all have to apply individually for permission to stay, and it's unclear what the plan would mean for those who have been in the U.K. for a shorter time or what rights family members will have.

European officials have said the British proposal to give EU citizens "settled status" does not go far enough. The European Parliament warned last week it could veto the final deal if Britain doesn't give EU citizens more rights if they choose to stay in Britain after Brexit, which is due to take place in March 2019.

The issue is the first to be tackled at four days of talks that started Monday. Whatever emerges will likely be replicated for the 1 million or so British citizens who currently live in EU countries.

"It is incredibly important we now make good progress," Britain's Brexit minister David Davis said after launching the talks with chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Civil servants will do the bulk of the negotiating. After opening the talks with Barnier Monday, Davis returned to London and is due back in Brussels Thursday for a press conference with the EU negotiator.

At a separate meeting of foreign ministers, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted that a recent offer by Prime Minister Theresa May for EU citizens in Britain is "a very fair, serious offer."

"I hope very much that people can look at that offer in the spirit it deserves," he told reporters. "It's a great offer."


Qatar: Alleged UAE hacking 'unfortunate,' violation of law

This June 6, 2017, file photo shows a parked Qatari plane in Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Qatar, the tiny Gulf state being isolated by its neighbors, said Monday the reported involvement of the United Arab Emirates in hacking its government news site in May is "unfortunate" and a breach of agreements among the Gulf countries.

The Washington Post, quoting unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, reported Sunday that the UAE orchestrated the hacking and planted a false story that was used as a pretext for the crisis between Qatar and four Arab countries.

The report said senior members of the Emirati government discussed the hacking plan a day before a story appeared on the official Qatar News Agency quoting Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, allegedly praising Iran and saying Qatar has a good relationship with Israel.

The UAE has denied involvement, calling the Post report "false" and insisting that the UAE "had no role whatsoever" in the alleged hacking.

The UAE along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and severed air, land and sea links with Qatar in early June over allegations that it supports extremist ideology — a charge Qatar denied. The crisis has dragged on for more than a month with neither side showing signs of backing down.

Qatar maintained from the beginning that the quotes attributed to its ruler were the result of a hacking. It said in a statement Monday that the Post report "unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place."

Sheikh Saif bin Ahmad Al Thani, the head of Qatar's government communications office, said "it is especially unfortunate that this shameful act of cyber terrorism is being attributed to a fellow member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

"This criminal act represents a clear violation and breach of international law and of the bilateral and collective agreements signed between the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as collective agreements with the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the United Nations," he said.

The GCC is a six-member bloc that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Kuwait has been serving as a mediator in trying to resolve the current Gulf crisis.

Sheikh Saif said a Qatari government investigation into the hacking is ongoing and that prosecutors will "take all necessary legal measures to bring to justice the perpetrators and instigators of this crime."


American scholar jailed in Iran is innocent, professor says

This 2009 handout photo released by a friend of Xiyue Wang shows Xiyue Wang at his apartment in Hong Kong, China. (Friend of Xiyue Wang via AP)

By Adam Schreck, Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly "infiltrating" the country and sending confidential material abroad is innocent of all charges against him, his professor said Monday.

Xiyue Wang's arrest, which happened nearly a year ago, only came to light Sunday when Iran's judiciary announced his sentence and the detention of President Hassan Rouhani's brother in an unrelated case.

Princeton said that it is "very distressed" by the charges leveled against Wang while he was carrying out scholarly research in the Islamic Republic.

It has been working with Wang's family, the U.S. government, lawyers and others to secure his release, it said, adding that it hopes he will be released on appeal.

"Xiyue Wang is a remarkable, linguistically gifted graduate student," Princeton University professor Stephen Kotkin, who has served as Wang's doctoral adviser, told The Associated Press. "He is innocent of all the charges."

An article posted on Mizan Online, a website affiliated with Iran's judiciary, said 37-year-old Wang was born in Beijing and is a dual national of the United States and China.

He has already filed an appeal to his sentence, according to the website.

Wang was arrested on Aug. 8, 2016 and is accused of passing confidential information about Iran to the U.S. State Department, Princeton's Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, the Harvard Kennedy School and the British Institute of Persian Studies, Mizan Online said.

It alleged he scanned some 4,500 pages of digital documents, paid thousands of dollars to access archives he needed and sought access to confidential areas of Tehran libraries.

He was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton.

He was expecting to continue his research in Russia and needed to get as much work done in Iran as he could before taking up a fellowship there, Kotkin said.

That included scanning large volumes of documents that he could access later — something Kotkin described as "normal, standard scholarly practice." The documents he accessed were roughly 100 years old, the professor said.

"We saw nothing out of the ordinary on anything that he undertook or did," Kotkin said. "He's a graduate student in good standing."

A photo on Princeton's history department website shows Wang posing under a plaque at the entrance of China's official Xinhua News Agency bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A short bio on the Princeton in Asia website said Wang had been a fellow in Hong Kong in 2008-2009, had completed a bachelor's degree in South Asian studies at the University of Washington and did Russian and Eurasian studies at Harvard.

In addition to Mandarin and English, Wang was able to communicate in Persian, Turkish and Pashto, and had worked as a Pashto translator in Afghanistan, Kotkin said. It was his first trip to Iran.

"He is unbelievably committed to the life of the mind," Kotkin said. "You have to hand it to this guy, this kind of ambition."

The U.S. State Department has not provided details on the case but called on Tehran to immediately release "all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran." The U.S. does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Tehran and warns its citizens traveling there that they risk arrest or being barred from leaving.

"The Iranian regime continues to detain U.S. citizens and other foreigners on fabricated national-security related changes," it said.

Other Americans who remain in Iranian custody include Iranian-American art gallery manager Karan Vafadari, who was detained along with his Iranian wife last year. They have yet to be convicted.

Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, are each serving 10-year sentences for "cooperating with the hostile American government."

Another Iranian-American, Robin Shahini, was released on bail last year after staging a weeks-long hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for "collaboration with a hostile government." He is believed to still be in Iran.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains unaccounted for.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocates for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars last year after being accused of espionage-related charges.

Zakka has been on a hunger strike for three weeks to protest his confinement and his supporters believe he was taken to the hospital Sunday for treatment, said Jason Poblete, a Washington-based lawyer representing him.

Poblete said authorities have repeatedly tried to get Zakka to sign documents in Persian said to be for his medical care, but he has refused, fearing they could be a false confession.

Wang's sentence was announced the same day authorities said they had detained President Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereidoun, on allegations of financial misconduct.

Fereidoun is a close confidante of the moderate president, a cleric who changed his surname to Rouhani, meaning "spiritual," after joining the seminary decades ago.

Fereidoun was part of the Iran's negotiating team during the final phases of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He has long been a target of hard-liners, who have accused him of misdeeds, including money laundering and misappropriation of government funds.

He appeared briefly in court on Monday but had to be taken away by ambulance for an undisclosed heath concern. He is known to suffer from lung problems dating from the Iran-Iraq War during the 1980s.

The Tasnim news agency reported later Monday that Fereidoun was released on $15 million bail.

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran and Didi Tang in Beijing contributed to this report.

Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck


PBS' 'Photo Ark' is a wake-up call for endangered animals

This undated image released by PBS shows an endangered Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) at Lemuria Land in Madagascar.(Joel Sartore/PBS via AP)

This image released by PBS shows National Geographic Joel Sartore covered with Monarch butterflies in the Sierra Chincua monarch sanctuary in Mexico. (Joel Sartore/PBS via AP)

By Lynn Elber, AP Television Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The conventional wisdom is that public sympathy is evoked by seeing one person in need of help, not the many.

Photographer Joel Sartore has staked a decade of his life, and counting, that the same holds true for animals and the imperiled wonder they represent.

As detailed in PBS' "Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark," Sartore is on a quest to capture images of the roughly 12,000 species in captivity around the world, including rare and endangered ones, to persuade us they are worth protecting.

The three-part series debuts at 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday (check local listings) on PBS stations and online.

Sartore's subjects, ranging from majestic elephants to comical insects, are placed against an elegantly spare black or white background. There is an unsettling challenge in the gaze of mammals, or so Sartore's artistic lens makes it seem.

"The animals are the poetry. They're beautiful works of art," Sartore said in an interview. "They do all the talking. My job is to get out of the way."

But if his images of beauty and vulnerability fail to sway people, he said, maybe self-interest will.

"We really want to get people in the tent of conservation, and make them realize you can't lose half of all species and not have it come back and affect humanity in a very detrimental way," Sartore said.

In his quest to build a virtual ark that captures the world's biodiversity, the National Geographic fellow has visited nearly 40 countries to make digital images of more than 6,000 species that include, roughly, 900 mammals, 600 amphibians, 1,800 birds, 700 fish and 1,200 reptiles.

He works with zoos, wildlife habitats, aquariums and other facilities caring for animals, although he ventures into the wild when needed. He and Chun-Wei Yi, the PBS series' director and producer, focused on rare species, including New Zealand's kakapo, a flightless bird, and the Yangtze giant softshell turtle in China. The latter has dwindled to three ancient survivors, Sartore said, with one rescued from being sold for meat decades ago by a circus owner impressed with her size.
"We hope audiences find it an important story that we're looking to tell in ways that are beautiful, heartfelt, and often funny," said John Bredar, programming executive at series producer WGBH Boston. National Geographic is presenting exhibits at major zoos nationwide as a complement to the series, he said.

Sartore's appreciation of the wild was nurtured by his parents during his Nebraska youth, in which he hunted and fished with his father and shared his mother's love of nature. A book she owned on birds included a chapter on extinct species, including the passenger pigeon that once filled America's skies.

"I was always amazed by that, and I didn't think that I would live long enough to see another animal go extinct.

Well, in the 11 years I've been doing the photo ark project, I've probably seen 10 go extinct," Sartore said.

It was a personal crisis that gave rise to the building of the ark. Sartore was a long-time, globe-trotting contract photographer for National Geographic when his wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Anchored at home to care for her and their three children he mulled a new course, one inspired in part by John James Audubon's documentation of the birds and mammals of North America.

Aware that his animal photos resonated with National Geographic readers, Sartore decided to amass a "giant catalog" that would show the grand diversity of the most modest animals.

"My wife's fine now but it was kind of a close call, and the photo ark was born out of wanting to do something that stuck," Sartore said.

While his path is set for the next 10 to 15 years he estimates it will take to complete the ark project, he has a few less arduous tips for those who interested in protecting the Earth and those who dwell on it: Support your local zoo or aquarium, which help keep some animals from extinction; buy less, reuse more; plant gardens that attract butterflies and bees, critical to the environment; avoid lawn chemicals, which end up in the water supply and are fatal to fish and frogs.

Sartore insists on remaining hopeful about the future, even as he sees species vanish.

"I don't get sad but I do get mad," he said. "I think, 'Let's use this as a shining example of what not to do.' And surely this time, people will care. Surely they'll care."

Online:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rare/
https://www.joelsartore.com/photo-ark/
__
Lynn Elber can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.


Today in History - Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, July 18, the 199th day of 2017. There are 166 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 18, 1947, President Harry S. Truman signed a Presidential Succession Act which placed the speaker of the House and the Senate president pro tempore next in the line of succession after the vice president.

On this date:

In A.D. 64, the Great Fire of Rome began, consuming most of the city for about a week. (Some blamed the fire on Emperor Nero, who in turn blamed Christians.)

In 1536, the English Parliament passed an act declaring the authority of the pope void in England.

In 1792, American naval hero John Paul Jones died in Paris at age 45.

In 1817, English novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester at age 41.

In 1927, Ty Cobb hit safely for the 4,000th time in his career during a game between the Philadelphia Athletics (his new team) and the Detroit Tigers (his old one) at Navin Field. (The Tigers won, 5-3.)

In 1932, the United States and Canada signed a treaty to develop the St. Lawrence Seaway.

In 1944, Hideki Tojo was removed as Japanese premier and war minister because of setbacks suffered by his country in World War II. American forces in France captured the Normandy town of St. Lo.

In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Soviet Premier Nikolai Bulganin, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and French Premier Edgar Faure held a summit in Geneva.

In 1969, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., left a party on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha's Vineyard with Mary Jo Kopechne (koh-PEHK'-nee), 28; some time later, Kennedy's car went off a bridge into the water. Kennedy was able to escape, but Kopechne drowned.

In 1976, 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci, competing at the Montreal Olympics, received the first-ever perfect score of 10 with her routine on uneven parallel bars. (Comaneci would go on to receive six more 10s in Montreal.)

In 1984, gunman James Huberty opened fire at a McDonald's fast food restaurant in San Ysidro (ee-SEE'-droh), California, killing 21 people before being shot dead by police. Walter F. Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination in San Francisco.

In 1994, a bomb hidden in a van destroyed a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, killing 85. Tutsi rebels declared an end to Rwanda's 14-week-old civil war.

Ten years ago: Senate Republicans torpedoed legislation to force the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq. An underground steam pipe exploded on a New York City street, swallowing a tow truck and claiming the life of a woman who suffered a heart attack. Armed men kidnapped two Germans and five Afghans working on a dam project in central Afghanistan. (One of the Germans, Ruediger Diedrich, was found shot dead three days later; the others were later released.) Opera tenor Jerry Hadley, 55, died at a hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York, a week after shooting himself with an air rifle.

Five years ago: Rebels penetrated the heart of Syria's power elite, detonating a bomb inside a high-level crisis meeting in Damascus that killed three leaders of the regime, including President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law and the defense minister. A bus bombing at the Burgas airport in Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists, the bus driver and the suspected perpetrator.

One year ago: Republicans opened their national convention in Cleveland as they prepared to nominate Donald Trump for president; Trump's wife, Melania, delivered a speech in which she assured delegates and voters that her husband had the character and determination to unite a divided nation. (Mrs. Trump's well-received address was marred by two passages with similarities to a speech first lady Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic convention; a speechwriter accepted responsibility for the passages in question.) President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War credited with helping rescue more than 40 American soldiers under heavy fire. A 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker wounded five people with an ax before being killed by police near the German city of Wuerzburg in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Today's Birthdays: Skating champion and commentator Dick Button is 88. Olympic gold medal figure skater Tenley Albright is 82. Movie director Paul Verhoeven is 79. Musician Brian Auger is 78. Singer Dion DiMucci is 78. Actor James Brolin is 77. Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre is 77. Singer Martha Reeves is 76. Pop-rock musician Wally Bryson (The Raspberries) is 68. Country-rock singer Craig Fuller (Pure Prairie League) is 68. Business mogul Richard Branson is 67. Actress Margo Martindale is 66. Singer Ricky Skaggs is 63. Actress Audrey Landers is 61. World Golf Hall of Famer Nick Faldo is 60. Rock musician Nigel Twist (The Alarm) is 59. Actress Anne-Marie Johnson is 57.

Actress Elizabeth McGovern is 56. Rock musician John Hermann (Widespread Panic) is 55. Rock musician Jack Irons is 55. Talk show host-actress Wendy Williams is 53. Actor Vin Diesel is 50. Actor Grant Bowler is 49. Retired NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway is 46. Bluegrass musician Jesse Brock (The Gibson Brothers) is 45. Alt-country singer Elizabeth Cook is 45. Actor Eddie Matos is 45. MLB All-Star Torii Hunter is 42. Dance music singer-songwriter M.I.A. is 42. Rock musician Daron Malakian (System of a Down; Scars on Broadway) is 42. Rock musician Tony Fagenson (Eve 6) is 39. Movie director Jared Hess is 38. Actor Jason Weaver is 38. Actress Kristen Bell is 37. Actor Michiel Huisman (MIHK'-heel HOWS'-man) is 36. Rock singer Ryan Cabrera is 35. Actress Priyanka Chopra is 35. Christian-rock musician Aaron Gillespie (Underoath) is 34. Actor Chace Crawford is 32. Actor James Norton is 32. Musician Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) is 31. Actor Travis Milne is 31. Bluegrass musician Joe Dean Jr. (Dailey & Vincent) is 28.

Thought for Today: "It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do." — From "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen (1775-1817).


Update July 17, 2017

Israel reopens Jerusalem holy site after deadly assault

Israeli border police officers stand guard as Muslim men pray outside the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in Jerusalem Sunday, July 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

By Aron Heller, Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Muslim worshippers visited a Jerusalem holy site Sunday after Israel reopened the compound following a rare closure in response to a deadly shooting last week that raised concerns about wider unrest.

For the first time in decades, Israel closed the site — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — on Friday after three Arab citizens of Israel opened fire from the sacred site with automatic weapons, killing two police officers. The three were later shot dead inside the compound.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that following consultations with security officials the site would be reopened Sunday afternoon with increased security measures that included metal detectors at the entrance gates and additional security cameras.

At midday, Israeli police opened two of the gates to the compound to allow worshippers to enter through the newly erected detectors. Police said some worshippers refused to go through them and knelt to pray outside instead. But despite concerns that the new measures could slow movement and spark renewed tensions, police said they appeared to be working fine and that 200 people had already passed through.

Israel did not coordinate the changes with Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the Muslim-administered site, according to a Jordanian government official.

Jordan's stance is that anything installed at the site must be approved by the Waqf, or Muslim administration, and cannot change the status quo, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the still developing situation with reporters.

The Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Adnan Husseini called for the security arrangements to return to how they were before the deadly attack, saying it "shouldn't be an excuse for making changes."

The attack triggered a rare phone conversation between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the attack and called for the site to be reopened. Netanyahu sought to allay Muslim fears, saying that the status quo at the Muslim-administered site "will be preserved." But Gaza's Hamas rulers called the act a "religious war" and urged Palestinians to carry out more attacks.

Early Sunday, Israeli police said security forces shot dead a Palestinian assailant behind a pair of recent shooting attacks. Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police tracked down the 34-year-old suspect in a joint operation with the military. The suspect opened fire with an automatic weapon, prompting the troops to return fire, killing him.

In the past two years, Palestinians have killed 45 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. During that period, Israeli forces have killed more than 255 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to be attackers while others were killed in clashes with Israeli forces.

Israel blames the violence on incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders compounded on social media sites that glorify violence. Palestinians say the attacks stem from anger over decades of Israeli occupation of territories they claim for their future state.

The Jerusalem shrine has been the scene of repeated confrontations, including during the current wave of violence.

Israel has previously accused Palestinians of stockpiling rocks and other projectiles in one of the mosques in the holy compound. Israeli security forces have fired tear gas and stun grenades at the compound to disperse Palestinian stone throwers, who have at times targeted Jews praying at the adjacent Western Wall.

In September 2000, Israel's then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the site, sparking Palestinian protests that quickly escalated into armed clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers.

The incident was one of the triggers of an armed Palestinian uprising and an Israeli military crackdown. The violence claimed several thousand victims, most of them Palestinians, and only began to ebb in 2005.
___
Associated press writer Karin Laub in Jericho, West Bank, contributed to this report.


Biggest snowfall in decades blankets Chile's capital

A man wraps a scarf on a snowman decked out with sunglasses, a knitted cap and an orange serving as a nose, as others play in a snow-covered park in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, July 15, 2017.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chile's capital was blanketed this weekend by the biggest snowfall in decades, with some residents grumbling about blocked roads and downed power lines, while others made snowmen or tossed snowballs.

Tens of thousands of people had their power knocked out in Santiago's metropolitan area with some parts receiving up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) of the white stuff, according to the National Emergency Office.

Residents woke up Saturday to find their city covered with snow and by late Sunday thousands of homes still lacked electricity. Andres Rebolledo of the energy ministry said power should be restored by Sunday night or Monday. A worker at a Santiago hospital died when he slipped and hit his head.

Chile's Meteorological Office said it was the biggest snowfall in the capital in 46 years.


George A. Romero, father of the zombie film, is dead at 77

In this Sept. 12, 2009, file photo, director George Romero poses with some fans dressed as zombies after accepting a special award during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

By Jake Coyle, AP Film Writer

NEW YORK (AP)
— George Romero, whose classic "Night of the Living Dead" and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and who saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages, has died. He was 77.

Romero died Sunday following a battle with lung cancer, said his family in a statement provided by his manager Chris Roe. Romero's family said he died while listening to the score of "The Quiet Man," one of his favorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, by this side.

Romero is credited with reinventing the movie zombie with his directorial debut, the 1968 cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead." The movie set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.

Romero's zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals. They were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.

"The zombies, they could be anything," Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. "They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It's a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That's the part of it that I've always enjoyed."

"Night of the Living Dead," made for about $100,000, featured flesh-hungry ghouls trying to feast on humans holed up in a Pennsylvania house. In 1999, the Library of Congress inducted the black-and-white masterpiece into the National Registry of Films.

Romero's death was immediately felt across a wide spectrum of horror fans and filmmakers. Stephen King, whose "The Dark Half" was adapted by Romero, called him his favorite collaborator and said, "There will never be another like you." Guillermo del Toro called the loss "enormous."

"('Night of the Living Dead') was so incredibly DIY I realized movies were not something that belonged solely to the elites with multiple millions of dollars but could also be created by US, the people who simply loved them, who lived in Missouri, as I did," wrote James Gunn, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" director, who penned the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead."

Romero's influence could be seen across decades of American movies, from John Carpenter to Edgar Wright to Jordan Peele, the "Get Out" filmmaker. Many considered "Night of the Living Dead" to be a critique on racism in America. The sole black character survives the zombies, but he is fatally shot by rescuers. Peele on Sunday tweeted a photo of that character, played by Duane Jones, and wrote: "Romero started it."

Ten years after "Night of the Living Dead," Romero made "Dawn of the Dead," where human survivors take refuge from the undead in a mall and then turn on each other as the zombies stumble around the shopping complex.

Film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the best horror films ever made — and, as an inescapable result, one of the most horrifying. It is gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling. It is also ... brilliantly crafted, funny, droll, and savagely merciless in its satiric view of the American consumer society."

"He really was what you didn't expect. He was incredibly gentle," said Gaylen Ross, who starred in "Dawn of the Dead" and 1982's "Creepshow." ''He had this optimistic purity about friendship and honor. No matter how insane the demands were on the film, I never saw a crew that was so willing to do whatever they needed for George."

Romero had a sometimes combative relationship with the genre he helped create. He called "The Walking Dead" a "soap opera" and said big-budget films like "World War Z" made modest zombie films impossible. Romero maintained that he wouldn't make horror films if he couldn't fill them with political statements.

"People say, 'You're trapped in this genre. You're a horror guy.' I say, 'Wait a minute, I'm able to say exactly what I think,' " Romero told the AP. "I'm able to talk about, comment about, take snapshots of what's going on at the time. I don't feel trapped. I feel this is my way of being able to express myself."

The third in the Romero's zombie series, 1985's "Day of the Dead," was a critical and commercial failure. There wouldn't be another "Dead" film for two decades.

"Land of the Dead" in 2005 was the most star-packed of the bunch — the cast included Dennis Hooper, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento and Simon Baker. Two years later came "Diary of the Dead," another box-office failure.

There were other movies interspersed with the "Dead" films, including "The Crazies" (1973), "Martin" (1977), "Monkey Shines" (1988) and "The Dark Half" (1993). There also was 1981's "Knightriders," Romero's take on the Arthurian legend featuring motorcycling jousters. Some were moderately successful, others box-office flops.

George Andrew Romero was born on Feb. 4, 1940, in New York City. He grew up in the Bronx, and he was a fan of horror comics and movies in the pre-VCR era.

"I grew up at the Loews American in the Bronx," he wrote in an issue of the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine in 2002.

His favorite film was Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Tales of Hoffman," based on Jacques Offenbach's opera. It was, he once wrote, "the one movie that made me want to make movies."

He spoke fondly of traveling to Manhattan to rent a 16mm version of the film from a distribution house. When the film was unavailable, Romero said, it was because another "kid" had rented it — Martin Scorsese.

Romero graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1960. He learned the movie business working on the sets of movies and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which was shot in Pittsburgh.

The city became Romero's home, and many of his films were set in western Pennsylvania. "Dawn of the Dead" was filmed in suburban Monroeville Mall, which has since become a popular destination for his fans.

Romero struggled to get films made late in life. The last film he directed was 2009's "Survival of the Dead," though other filmmakers continued the series with several sequels, including a recently shot remake of "Day of the Dead."

But Romero held strong to his principles. A movie with zombies just running amok, with no social consciousness, held no appeal, he often said. "That's not what I'm about."
___
Former Associated Press reporter Ramesh Santanam contributed to this report.


Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89

In this March 2, 2014, file photo, Martin Landau arrives at the 24th Night of 100 Stars Oscars Viewing Gala at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Annie I. Bang /Invision/AP, File)

By DAISY NGUYEN, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Martin Landau, the chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show "Mission: Impossible," then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994's "Ed Wood," has died. He was 89.

Landau died Saturday of unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Dick Guttman said.

"Mission: Impossible," which also starred Landau's wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show's third season amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series "Space: 1999" from 1975 to 1977.

Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn't play — the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. "Star Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.

"A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized," he explained in 2001.

Instead, he chose "Mission: Impossible," and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.

Ironically, Nimoy replaced Landau on "Mission: Impossible."

After a brief but impressive Broadway career, Landau had made an auspicious film debut in the late 1950s, playing a soldier in "Pork Chop Hill" and a villain in the Alfred Hitchcock classic "North By Northwest."

He enjoyed far less success after "Mission: Impossible," however, finding he had been typecast as Rollin Hand, the top-secret mission team's disguise wizard. His film career languished for more than a decade, reaching its nadir with his appearance in the 1981 TV movie "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island."

He began to find redemption with a sympathetic role in "Tucker: The Man and his Dream," the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film that garnered Landau his first Oscar nomination.

He was nominated again the next year for his turn as the adulterous husband in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors."

His third nomination was for "Ed Wood," director Tim Burton's affectionate tribute to a man widely viewed as the worst Hollywood filmmaker of all time.

"There was a 10-year period when everything I did was bad. I'd like to go back and turn all those films into guitar picks," Landau said after accepting his Oscar.

In "Ed Wood," he portrayed Lugosi during his final years, when the Hungarian-born actor who had become famous as Count Dracula was ill, addicted to drugs and forced to make films with Ed Wood just to pay his bills. A gifted mimic trained in method acting, Landau had thoroughly researched the role.

"I watched about 35 Lugosi movies, including ones that were worse than anything Ed Wood ever made," he recalled in 2001. "Despite the trash, he had a certain dignity about him, whatever the role."

So did the New York-born Landau, who had studied drawing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and worked for a time as a New York Daily News cartoonist before switching careers at age 22.

He had dabbled in acting before the switch, making his stage debut in 1951 at a Maine summer theater in "Detective Story" and off-Broadway in "First Love."

In 1955, he was among hundreds who applied to study at the prestigious Actors Studio and one of only two selected. The other was Steve McQueen.

On Broadway, Landau won praise for his work in "Middle of the Night," which starred Edward G. Robinson. He toured with the play until it reached Los Angeles, where he began his film career.

Landau and Bain had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. They divorced in 1993.
___
The late Associated Press entertainment writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.


Today in History - Monday, July 17, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, July 17, the 198th day of 2017. There are 167 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On July 17, 1967, after seven dates, Jimi Hendrix quit as the opening act for the Monkees following a concert at Forest Hills Stadium in New York. (Although greatly admired by the Monkees, Hendrix had received a less than enthusiastic reception from their fans.) Jazz composer-musician John Coltrane died in Long Island, New York, at age 40.

On this date:

In 1717, George Frideric Handel's "Water Music" was first performed by an orchestra during a boating party on the River Thames (tehmz), with the musicians on one barge, and King George I listening from another.

In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States.

In 1917, during World War I, Britian's King George V issued a proclamation decreeing that the royal family adopt the name "Windsor" while relinquishing "the Use of All German Titles and Dignities." Comedian and actress Phyllis Diller was born in Lima, Ohio.

In 1918, Russia's Czar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks.

In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began as right-wing army generals launched a coup attempt against the Second Spanish Republic.

In 1944, during World War II, 320 men, two-thirds of them African-Americans, were killed when a pair of ammunition ships exploded at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine in California.

In 1955, Disneyland had its opening day in Anaheim, California.

In 1975, an Apollo spaceship docked with a Soyuz spacecraft in orbit in the first superpower link-up of its kind.

In 1981, 114 people were killed when a pair of suspended walkways above the lobby of the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed during a tea dance.

In 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Europe-bound Boeing 747, exploded and crashed off Long Island, New York, shortly after departing John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 230 people on board.
In 1997, Woolworth Corp. announced it was closing its 400 remaining five-and-dime stores across the country, ending 117 years in business.

In 2014, all 298 passengers and crew aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Ten years ago: Senate Democrats launched an all-night debate on the Iraq war. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson abruptly resigned in the wake of charges of shoddy health care for veterans injured in the Iraq war. A Brazilian passenger jet crashed while landing in Sao Paulo, Brazil, killing all 187 people aboard and 12 on the ground. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury in Richmond, Virginia, on charges related to competitive dogfighting. (Vick later admitted bankrolling the dogfighting operation and helping to kill six to eight dogs; he served 23 months in federal custody, the last 60 days in home confinement.) The Dow Jones industrial average crossed 14,000 for the first time before ending the day at 13,971.55.

Five years ago: Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke painted a bleak picture of where the U.S. economy was headed if Congress failed to reach agreement soon to avert a budget crisis. Israel plunged toward a political crisis after the largest party in the government quit, leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in charge of a hard-line coalition opposed to most Mideast peace moves. Basketball sensation Jeremy Lin returned to Houston after the New York Knicks decided they wouldn't match the Rockets' three-year, $25 million offer for the restricted free agent.

One year ago: Three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers investigating a report of a man with an assault rifle were killed, less than two weeks after a black man was shot and killed by police in the city in a confrontation that sparked nightly protests that reverberated nationwide. (The gunman was killed by tactical officers.) Henrik Stenson shot an 8-under 63 to beat Phil Mickelson by three strokes, becoming the first man from Sweden to win the British Open.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Donald Sutherland is 85. Actress-singer Diahann Carroll is 82. Rock musician Spencer Davis is 78. Sportscaster Verne Lundquist is 77. Comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor is 77. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is 70. Rock musician Terry "Geezer" Butler is 68. Actress Lucie Arnaz is 66. Actor David Hasselhoff is 65. Rock musician Fran Smith Jr. (The Hooters) is 65. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl) is 63. Television producer Mark Burnett is 57. Actress Nancy Giles is 57. Singer Regina Belle is 54. Rock musician Kim Shattuck is 54. Country singer Craig Morgan is 53. Rock musician Lou Barlow is 51. Contemporary Christian singer Susan Ashton is 50. Actor Andre Royo is 49. Actress Bitty Schram is 49. Actor Jason Clarke is 48. Movie director F. Gary Gray is 48. Singer JC (PM Dawn) is 46. Rapper Sole' is 44. Country singer Luke Bryan is 41. Actor Eric Winter is 41. Hockey player Marc Savard is 40. Actor Mike Vogel is 38. Actor Tom Cullen is 32. Actor Brando Eaton is 31. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jeremih (jehr-uh-MY') is 30. Actress Summer Bishil (BIHSH'-ihl) is 29. Actress Billie Lourd is 25. Actor Leo Howard is 20.

Thought for Today: "Sometimes it's worse to win a fight than to lose." — Billie Holiday, American jazz singer (born 1915, died this date in 1959).


Update July 15 - 16, 2017

Today in History - Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, July 16, the 197th day of 2017. There are 168 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 16, 1945, the United States exploded its first experimental atomic bomb in the desert of Alamogordo, New Mexico; the same day, the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis left Mare Island Naval Shipyard in California on a secret mission to deliver atomic bomb components to Tinian Island in the Marianas.

On this date:

In 1557, Anne of Cleves, who was briefly the fourth wife of England's King Henry VIII, died in London at age 41.
In 1790, a site along the Potomac River was designated the permanent seat of the United States government; the area became Washington, D.C.

In 1862, Flag Officer David G. Farragut became the first rear admiral in the United States Navy.
In 1935, the first parking meters were installed in Oklahoma City.

In 1951, the novel "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger was first published by Little, Brown and Co.

In 1957, Marine Corps Maj. John Glenn set a transcontinental speed record by flying a Vought F8U Crusader jet from California to New York in 3 hours, 23 minutes and 8.4 seconds.

In 1964, as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in San Francisco, Barry M. Goldwater declared that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice" and that "moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

In 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Kennedy on the first manned mission to the surface of the moon.

In 1973, during the Senate Watergate hearings, former White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield publicly revealed the existence of President Richard Nixon's secret taping system.

In 1980, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination at the party's convention in Detroit.

In 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, Carolyn, and her sister, Lauren Bessette, died when their single-engine plane, piloted by Kennedy, plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

In 2002, the Irish Republican Army issued an unprecedented apology for the deaths of "noncombatants" over 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

Ten years ago: Declaring a "moment of choice" in the Middle East, President George W. Bush said he would call Israel, the Palestinians and others in the region to a peace conference. (The summit took place in November 2007.) A man carrying a gun and declaring "I am the emperor" was shot and killed by a state trooper outside the offices of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. (The man was identified as 32-year-old Aaron Snyder.) A 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Japan's northwest coast killed 11 people and caused radioactive leaks at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

Five years ago: North Korea announced a reshuffling of its military, dismissing its army chief — a key mentor to young ruler Kim Jong Un — and promoting a little-known general to an important position in the million-man force.

Singer Kitty Wells, whose hits such as "Making Believe" and "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" made her the first female superstar of country music, died at age 92.

One year ago: Republican presidential nominee-apparent Donald Trump formally introduced his running mate, Mike Pence, during an event in New York, hailing the Indiana governor as his "first choice" and "my partner in the campaign" a day after announcing the selection on Twitter. Basketball Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond, 74, died in San Francisco. Country singer Bonnie Brown, 77, died in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Today's Birthdays: Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh is 85. Soul singer Denise LaSalle is 83. Soul singer William Bell is 78. International Tennis Hall of Famer Margaret Court is 75. College Football Hall of Famer and football coach Jimmy Johnson is 74. Violinist Pinchas Zukerman is 69. Actor-singer Ruben Blades is 69. Rock composer-musician Stewart Copeland is 65. Playwright Tony Kushner is 61. Dancer Michael Flatley is 59. Actress Phoebe Cates is 54. Actor Paul Hipp is 54. Actor Daryl "Chill" Mitchell is 52. Actor-comedian Will Ferrell is 50. Actor Jonathan Adams is 50. College and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders is 49. Actress Rain Pryor is 48. Actor Corey Feldman is 46. Rock musician Ed Kowalczyk (Live) is 46. Rock singer Ryan McCombs (Drowning Pool) is 43. Actress Jayma Mays is 38. Actress AnnaLynne McCord is 30. Actor-singer James Maslow is 27. Actor Mark Indelicato is 23. Pop singer-musician Luke Hemmings (5 Seconds to Summer) is 21.

Thought for Today: "There is a tendency to mistake data for wisdom, just as there has always been a tendency to confuse logic with values, intelligence with insight." — Norman Cousins, American author and journalist (1915-1990).


China cremates body of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

People attend the funeral of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner and Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at a funeral parlor in Shenyang in northeastern China's Liaoning Province. (Shenyang Municipal Information Office via AP)

By Gillian Wong, Ng Han Guan, Associated Press

SHENYANG, China (AP) — China cremated the body of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died this week after a battle with liver cancer amid international criticism of Beijing for not letting him travel abroad as he had wished.

The government of the city of Shenyang in northeastern China, where Liu had been treated for advanced liver cancer, said in a briefing that the cremation took place Saturday morning in a ceremony attended by family and friends.

The wife and other family members of China's best-known political prisoner have been closely guarded by Chinese authorities and largely out of contact with the outside world.

Liu died Thursday from multiple organ failure that followed a battle with liver cancer while serving an 11-year sentence for incitement to subvert state power. He was 61.

Foreign governments and Liu's supporters had urged China to release Liu and his wife to allow them to seek treatment abroad but Beijing dismissed those requests.

Tributes have rolled in from around the world to mourn Liu, but there is little mention of him in China's heavily-censored state media and social networking platforms. One notable exception was a report by a newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party, which on Friday dismissed Liu as a pawn of the West whose legacy will soon fade.

The newspaper's editorial marked a rare mention of Liu in the Chinese-language media, possibly indicating a desire to guide popular opinion amid widespread reporting of his death overseas s and on social media platforms such as Twitter that are blocked in China.

Liu lived a "tragic life" because he sought to confront Chinese mainstream society with outside support, The Global Times said in its editorial headlined "Liu Xiaobo a victim led astray by West."

"Liu's last days were politicized by the forces overseas. They used Liu's illness as a tool to boost their image and demonize China," the paper said.

"The West has bestowed upon Liu a halo, which will not linger," it said. "By granting him the Nobel Prize, the West has 'kidnapped' Liu. However, the West only puts a halo on those useful to them."

While Liu did have considerable renown abroad — official censorship made him virtually a non-person at home — the party frequently uses the specter of Western manipulation to demonize its critics.

"Liu lived in an era when China witnessed the most rapid growth in recent history, but he attempted to confront Chinese mainstream society under Western support. This has determined his tragic life," the paper continued. "If he could live longer, he would never have achieved political goals that are in opposition to the path of history."

President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were among Western leaders offering praise for Liu. Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer called Liu a "poet, scholar, and courageous advocate," who "dedicated his life to the pursuit of democracy and liberty."

They also urged China to free Liu's wife, the artist and poet Liu Xia, from the strict house arrest she has lived under for years even though she has not been convicted of any crime.

Responding to such calls early Friday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang chastised foreign officials for "making improper comments on Liu Xiaobo's death of illness."

"China is a country under the rule of law. The handling of Liu Xiaobo' s case belongs to China's internal affairs, and foreign countries are in no position to make improper remarks," Geng said.

Geng's comments were issued by the ministry's official social media account. But the statement did not appear on its website, where transcripts of daily news briefings have been scrubbed clean of all mentions of Liu.

Liu rose to prominence during the 1989 pro-democracy protests centered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, and became one of hundreds of Chinese imprisoned for crimes linked to the demonstrations after they were crushed by the military. It was the first of four imprisonments. His last was for co-authoring "Charter 08," a document circulated in 2008 that called for an end to one-party rule.

He was in prison when he was awarded the Nobel in 2010 by a committee that lauded Liu's "long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."

The government condemned the award as an insult to its political and legal systems and put Liu's wife under house arrest even though she has never been charged with any crimes.

Liu was only the second Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in prison, a fact pointed to by human rights groups as an indication of the Chinese Communist Party's increasingly hard line against its critics. The first, Carl von Ossietzky, died from tuberculosis in Germany in 1938 while serving a sentence for opposing Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.
___
Wong reported from Beijing.


Bastille Day: Macron vows merciless fight against terror

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in Nice, southern France, Friday, July 14, 2017. . (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

By Elaine Ganley, Milos Krivokapic, Associated Press

NICE, France (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday vowed to "fight without mercy" inside and outside France to end extremist attacks like the one that killed 86 revelers on Bastille Day in the Riviera city of Nice one year ago.

In a speech on the anniversary of the atrocity, Macron said "this is what we owe you." Some of the victims and their families present as well as dignitaries and the corps of first responders, from police to rescue crews and hospital workers, were among those he addressed.

Commemorations followed celebrations on Bastille Day for Macron, who traveled to Nice for a solemn remembrance of the lives lost on July 14, 2016, when a huge truck barreled down a famed beachside promenade, running over revelers awaiting the fireworks display on France's national day.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, though it remains unclear whether the Tunisian at the wheel of the truck, a longtime Nice resident, had any formal links to the organization.

Fireworks were lighting up the Paris sky on Friday night near the Eiffel Tower, but they were banned in Nice.

The solemnity in a city still coping with the aftermath of the attack was in sharp contrast to the pomp and display of French military might at the Bastille Day parade hours earlier in the French capital before Macron's guest of honor, President Donald Trump. There, U.S. soldiers joined the traditional military parade, a bow to the centennial of the entry of U.S. soldiers into World War I, fighting and dying alongside the French, and to French-U.S. friendship.

In Nice, the honors went to victims of the carnage last year as the city, which is considered the jewel of the Riviera and best known as a center of carefree urban life, tries to move forward without forgetting.

In a deeply moving sequence of the day-long commemoration, the names of the victims, from toddlers to a 92-year-old, were read aloud and posted on a board to form the shape of a heart. The sequence, accompanied by a choir, with at least one member holding back tears, ended with a minute of silence.

The reading of names underscored the nature of a threat that leaves everyone a potential target and is blind to the military power like that on display in Paris in the morning.

The Nice attack wasn't the first to hit France, nor the last. More than 230 people have been killed in extremist violence since 2015.

As in Paris, security was tight, the city heavily guarded on land and in the Mediterranean Sea. Place Massena, the central square where Macron spoke, was protected by cement barriers.

"What our attackers want is to simply see us cry, and you responded with dignity," Macron told the crowd. "We'll respond by a fight without mercy outside and inside our borders against terrorism, everywhere."

The president was echoing the firmness he promised in a speech Thursday to military personnel, vowing to work "until those who organized attacks in Paris, in Nice and elsewhere are definitively vanquished."

"My determination is total," Macron said.

Then and again in Nice, he said the combat goes beyond firepower to a long-term effort to partner with countries where extremism breeds and fight it back via education, economic and social means so "fanaticism can't grow in the terrain of misery."

Despite the solemnity, French fighter jets streamed the national colors — blue, white and red — over the crowd, hours after flying over the Champs-Elysees to open the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

Two former French presidents, conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande, Macron's predecessor, arrived together. Among other dignitaries present was Prince Albert of Monaco.

Hundreds gathered on the famed Promenade des Anglais, where the truck careened into crowds. They laid plaques in the national colors, bearing names of the victims, which at day's end would form a 160-meter-long (525-foot-long) message — "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity."

Nice resident Jean-Paul Collona, 36, was among those attending the commemoration "because my parents were present during the attack, and their names could simply have been on those plaques."

Macron addressed ambient anger visible in the days after the attack with many saying the promenade had been poorly protected and the truck simply wheeled over a sidewalk to get through, saying "I understand your rage."

Some of the most robust applause came when Franck Terrier was awarded the Legion of Honor. He had chased the enormous truck on his scooter in a vain bid to stop it.
___
Elaine Ganley reported from Paris. Philippe Sotto in Paris contributed to this report.


UN envoy flays continued rights violations in Sri Lanka

In this Oct. 21, 2016 file photo, Ben Emmerson, U.N. special investigator on counter-terrorism and human rights, holds a news conference on migration policies, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

By Krishan Francis, Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A visiting United Nations envoy said that torture remains "endemic and routine" in Sri Lanka's counterterrorism methods and a number of persons being detained without trial under a harsh anti-terror law is a stain on the country's international reputation.

Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, said at the end of a five-day visit to Sri Lanka Friday that he is concerned that even those arrested as recently as late last year had been subjected to torture despite a new government promising to end such practices.

The abuses continued even after Sri Lanka's bloody civil war ended in 2009 when government troops crushed ethnic Tamil rebels' 26-year campaign for an independent state. Both sides were accused of serious human rights violations in the conflict.

"In Sri Lanka, however, such practices are very deeply ingrained in the security sector and all of the evidence points to the conclusion that the use of torture has been, and remains today, endemic and routine, for those arrested and detained on national security grounds," Emmerson, a British lawyer, said.

The number of deaths in the conflict is not clear, and a conservative U.N estimate suggests 100,000 had died. A subsequent U.N. report said at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the fighting.

Emmerson said that he heard "distressing stories" during his interviews with former and current detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They included asphyxiation using plastic bags drenched in kerosene, the pulling out of fingernails, the insertion of needles beneath the fingernails, the use of various forms of water torture, the suspension of individuals for several hours by their thumbs and the mutilation of genitals.

He said he obtained official figures that said 70 persons detained under the terrorism act had been in detention for more than five years without trial, with 12 for more than 10 years.

"These staggering figures are a stain on Sri Lanka's international reputation. Steps should be taken to release these individuals on bail immediately, or bring them to trial within weeks or months, not years or decades," he said.

Sri Lanka was facing international sanctions for refusing to investigate allegations of human rights violations and war crimes. But the country's outlook changed after the election of a new president, Maithripala Sirisena, whose government co-sponsored a U.N resolution in 2015 promising to address the past and ensure accountability and reconciliation.

According to a March report by the International Truth and Justice Project — an evidence-gathering organization administered by a South Africa-based nonprofit foundation — 47 of the abuse victims who later fled abroad described being tortured at a Sri Lanka security forces' headquarters. They said the military's chief aim was to learn of any ongoing rebel activity as well as the location of hidden weapons caches, according to the report.

Emmerson said that the fulfillment of the Sri Lankan government's commitments to the U.N human rights council has virtually ground to a halt.


Today in History - Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, July 15, the 196th day of 2017. There are 169 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 15, 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace (ver-SAH'-chay), 50, was shot dead outside his Miami Beach home; suspected gunman Andrew Phillip Cunanan, 27, was found dead eight days later, a suicide. (Investigators believed Cunanan killed four other victims before Versace in a cross-country spree that began the previous March.)

On this date:

In 1799, French soldiers in Egypt discovered the Rosetta Stone, which proved instrumental in deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In 1870, Georgia became the last Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union. Manitoba entered confederation as the fifth Canadian province.

In 1916, Boeing Co., originally known as Pacific Aero Products Co., was founded in Seattle.

In 1932, President Herbert Hoover announced he was slashing his own salary by 20 percent, from $75,000 to $60,000 a year; he also cut Cabinet members' salaries by 15 percent, from $15,000 to $12,750 a year.

In 1942, "The Pride of the Yankees," Samuel Goldwyn's biopic starring Gary Cooper as baseball star Lou Gehrig, premiered in New York.

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman was nominated for another term of office by the Democratic national convention in Philadelphia.

In 1964, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona was nominated for president by the Republican national convention in San Francisco.

In 1976, a 36-hour kidnap ordeal began for 26 schoolchildren and their bus driver as they were abducted near Chowchilla, California, by three gunmen and imprisoned in an underground cell. (The captives escaped unharmed; the kidnappers were caught.)

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered his "malaise" speech in which he lamented what he called a "crisis of confidence" in America.

In 1985, a visibly gaunt Rock Hudson appeared at a news conference with actress Doris Day (it was later revealed Hudson was suffering from AIDS).

In 1992, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was nominated for president at the Democratic national convention in New York.

In 2002, John Walker Lindh, an American who'd fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to two felonies in a deal sparing him life in prison. Five-year-old Samantha Runnion was kidnapped outside an apartment complex in Stanton, California. (Samantha's body was found the next day; factory worker Alejandro Avila (ah-lay-HAHN'-droh AH'-vee-lah) was later convicted of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault and sent to death row, where he remains.)

Ten years ago: Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese, apologized to the hundreds of people set to receive a share of a $660 million settlement over allegations of clergy sex abuse. The Philadelphia Phillies became the first team in professional sports to lose 10,000 games as they fell 10-2 to the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.

Five years ago: Syria's 16-month bloodbath crossed an important symbolic threshold as the international Red Cross formally declared the conflict a civil war, a status with implications for potential war crimes prosecutions. A Russian Soyuz craft launched into the morning skies over Kazakhstan, carrying three space travelers, including NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, to the International Space Station. Oscar-winning actress Celeste Holm, 95, died in New York. Microsoft pulled out of the joint venture with NBC News that owned MSNBC.com, which was rebranded as NBCNews.com. The video of "Gangnam Style," the hit single by South Korean rapper PSY, was released on YouTube where, to date, it's been viewed more than 2.8 billion times.

One year ago: Republican Donald Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, an experienced politician with deep Washington connections, as his running mate. An attempted military coup in Turkey failed. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on Facebook he would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block his four-game "Deflategate" suspension.

Today's Birthdays: Author Clive Cussler is 86. Actor Ken Kercheval is 82. Actor Patrick Wayne is 78. Actor Jan-Michael Vincent is 73. Rhythm-and-blues singer Millie Jackson is 73. Rock singer-musician Peter Lewis (Moby Grape) is 72. Singer Linda Ronstadt is 71. Rock musician Artimus Pyle is 69. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post, is 67. Actress Celia Imrie is 65. Actor Terry O'Quinn is 65. Rock singer-musician David Pack is 65. Rock musician Marky Ramone is 61. Rock musician Joe Satriani is 61. Country singer-songwriter Mac McAnally is 60. Model Kim Alexis is 57. Actor Willie Aames is 57. Actor-director Forest Whitaker is 56. Actress Lolita Davidovich is 56. Actress Shari Headley is 54. Actress Brigitte Nielsen is 54. Rock musician Jason Bonham is 51. Actress Amanda Foreman is 51. Actor Kristoff St. John is 51. Rock musician Phillip Fisher is 50. Rhythm-and-blues singer Stokley (Mint Condition) is 50. Actor-comedian Eddie Griffin is 49. Actor Stan Kirsch is 49. Actor Reggie Hayes is 48. Actor-screenwriter Jim Rash is 46. Rock musician John Dolmayan is 45. Actor Scott Foley is 45. Actor Brian Austin Green is 44. Rapper Jim Jones is 41. Actress Diane Kruger is 41. Actress Lana Parrilla (LAH'-nuh pa-REE'-uh) is 40. Rock musician Ray Toro (My Chemical Romance) is 40. Actress Laura Benanti is 38. Actor Travis Fimmel is 38. Actor Taylor Kinney is 36. Rhythm-and-blues singer Kia Thornton (Divine) is 36. Actor-singer Tristan "Mack" Wilds is 28. Actor Iain Armitage (TV: "Big Little Lies" ''Young Sheldon") is nine.

Thought for Today: "There are two kinds of worries — those you can do something about and those you can't. Don't spend any time on the latter." — Duke Ellington, American jazz artist (1899-1974).
 


Update July 14, 2017

Trump caught on tape complimenting Macron's wife's body

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron his wife Brigitte Macron, tour Marechal Foch's Tomb with David Guillet, director of the Army Museum, at Les Invalides in Paris, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

By Jill Colvin, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was captured complimenting the French president's wife's appearance Thursday as he toured a famous Paris landmark.

Video footage posted on the French government's official Facebook page showed Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and their wives chatting after their tour of the museums at Les Invalides.

As they were saying their good-byes, Trump turned to Brigitte Macron and gestured toward her body.

"You know, you're in such good shape," Trump said, before repeating the observation to her husband. "Beautiful," he added.

Brigitte Macron was her husband's former high school teacher and their relationship has drawn international attention because of their significant age difference.

But feminists and President Macron have denounced that attention as sexist, arguing that nobody would blink an eye if he were the older spouse.

The Macrons' age difference is identical to that of Donald and Melania Trump, who were spending two days in Paris in celebration of Bastille Day.

Trump has drawn criticism in the past for comments some say objectify and demean women, including the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women and boasted, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."
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Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this story from Paris.


North Korea's nuclear weapons advancements under the 3 Kims

In this combination of file photos, North Korean leaders from past to present, from left to right: Kim Il Sung in 1980; Kim Jong Il in 2010; and Kim Jong Un in 2017; in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, AP Photo/Vincent Yu, Wong Maye-E, Files)

 By Hyung-Jin Kim, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After North Korea's first test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, has moved one step closer to perfecting a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States, a weapons program launched by his grandfather and nurtured by his father.

The three generations of the Kim family have run North Korea with an absolute rule that tolerates no dissent. They have devoted much of the country's scarce resources to its military but have constantly feared Washington is intent on destroying their dynastic rule. They concluded that a powerful nuclear deterrent against potential U.S. aggression would guarantee their survival.

A look at how North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have evolved under each of the three Kims.
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THE PATRIARCH: KIM IL SUNG (1948-1994)

1948: Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla leader fighting against Japan's colonial rule, establishes the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula.

1950: Kim's army invades South Korea, triggering the three-year Korean War. The United States fights alongside South Korea while China backs North Korea.

1985: North Korea joins the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the country doesn't allow inspections required by the pact, arousing suspicions that it's engaging in clandestine work to develop atomic weapons.

1993: North Korea announces its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, touching off an international nuclear crisis.

July 1994: Kim Il Sung dies of a heart attack at age 82. His son and longtime heir apparent, Kim Jong Il, takes power.
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THE SON: KIM JONG IL (1994-2011)

October 1994: North Korea and the United States sign a landmark nuclear disarmament deal in Geneva. North Korea pledges to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for international aid to build two power-producing nuclear reactors.

1998: North Korea stuns the region by firing a suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

2002: Assistant U.S. Secretary of State James Kelly says North Korean officials admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons program during his visit to Pyongyang. The 1994 pact subsequently falls apart and a nuclear crisis flares again.

2003: North Korea attends Beijing-hosted disarmament talks that also involve Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow. The on-and-off talks continue until late 2008, producing two major now-stalled disarmament-for-aid deals.

July 2006: North Korea launches a three-stage rocket with a potential range of 6,700 kilometers (4,100 miles) but it fizzles after liftoff, according to U.S. and South Korean officials. North Korea has never acknowledged the launch.

October 2006: North Korea conducts its first underground nuclear test blast, citing "extreme threat of a nuclear war" from the United States.

2009: North Korea conducts its second nuclear test explosion.

2011: Kim Jong Il dies of a heart attack at 69. Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong Un, succeeds him as leader.
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THE GRANDSON: KIM JONG UN (2011-present)

2012: North Korea puts a satellite in orbit with a long-range rocket. The United States, South Korea and others condemn the launch as a cover for testing long-range missile technology. It is the North's first successful satellite launch.

2013: North Korea carries out its third nuclear test.

January 2016: North Korea says it has conducted a hydrogen bomb test. It's the North's fourth nuclear test, but many outsiders are skeptical that it was a hydrogen bomb explosion.

February 2016: North Korea succeeds in its second satellite launch.

August 2016: North Korea fires a ballistic missile from a submarine that flies 500 kilometers (310 miles) before crashing into waters near Japan. Missiles launched from submarines are generally harder to detect than land-based ones.

September 2016: North Korea stages its fifth nuclear test, its most powerful atomic bomb explosion to date.

February 2017: North Korea tests a new midrange ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2. It says the missile used solid fuel, an advance that increases a weapon's mobility and makes it harder for outsiders to detect a coming launch. The North tests this missile again in May.

July 4, 2017: North Korea test-fires its first ICBM at an extremely lofted angle. The missile, called Hwasong-14, is capable of reaching Alaska and beyond if launched at a normal trajectory, according to outside experts. After the launch, Kim says he won't put his weapons programs on the negotiating table unless the United States ends its hostility and nuclear threat.
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Follow Hyung-jin Kim on Twitter at twitter.com/hyungjin1972


Minnesota judge cancels Universal deal with Prince estate

In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Prince performs at the Forum in Inglewood, California. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File)

By Jeff Baenen, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota judge ruled Thursday that Universal Music Group should be released from a music rights deal with Prince's estate.

Universal struck a deal with the estate in January, but the estate later sought to cancel the deal after Warner Bros. Records claimed it conflicted with a contract it signed with Prince in 2014.

Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide granted the estate's request in a ruling late Thursday. The judge wrote that interpreting the contracts is difficult, and it's in the best interest of the estate to avoid costly litigation that could result if the deal isn't canceled.

"As previously noted, this Court believes that the Estate must proceed in a cautious manner to preserve the assets of the Estate," Eide wrote. He said while rescinding the Universal agreement "may certainly be seen as proceeding with a lack of caution, the Court believes that the other option of long and potentially expensive litigation while tying up the music rights owned by the Estate makes the other option more treacherous."

The judge said he allowed Universal Music Group's attorneys to see the Warner Bros. Records agreements, which contain a confidentiality clause, to try to resolve the conflict. But attorneys for Universal Music Group filed a letter last month saying their review only confirmed that Universal should be released, Eide wrote.

Eide noted that it has been suggested Universal is bluffing and would not really file a lawsuit in California if he did not rescind the contract. But based on the letter from Universal's attorneys, "this does not appear to be a bluff," the judge wrote.

Prince died of an accidental opioid overdose last year. In May, Eide confirmed Prince's six siblings to be his rightful heirs, bringing them a big step closer to collecting their shares of the megastar's multimillion-dollar estate.

In a joint statement Thursday night, Universal and Prince's estate said they "welcome the court's approval of our amicable resolution to this matter."

Corporate publicist James Steven said Warner Music Group had no comment on the ruling.


Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong to be sold at auction

In this July 20, 1969 file photo, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, right, trudges across the surface of the moon leaving behind footprints. (AP Photo, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong during the first lunar landing is being sold at a New York auction.

The lunar dust plus some tiny rocks that Armstrong also collected are zipped up in a small bag and are worth an estimated $2 million to $4 million.

They're just some of the items linked to space travel that Sotheby's is auctioning off to mark the 48th anniversary of the first lunar landing on July 20.

Armstrong's snapshot of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin standing on the moon could go for up to $4,000. Also on the block, is a documented flight plan that astronauts used to return to Earth.

Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. He died in 2012 in Ohio.


Today in History - Friday, July 14, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, July 14, the 195th day of 2017. There are 170 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 14, 1789, in an event symbolizing the start of the French Revolution, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille prison and released the seven prisoners inside.

On this date:

In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it a federal crime to publish false, scandalous or malicious writing about the United States government.

In 1881, outlaw William H. Bonney Jr., alias "Billy the Kid," was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner in present-day New Mexico.

In 1913, Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr., the 38th president of the United States, was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1917, CBS newsman Douglas Edwards, who in 1948 became network television's first nightly news anchor, was born in Ada, Oklahoma.

In 1921, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts, of murdering a shoe company paymaster and his guard. (Sacco and Vanzetti were executed six years later.)

In 1933, all German political parties, except the Nazi Party, were outlawed. Cartoon character Popeye the Sailor made his movie debut in the Fleischer Studios animated short, "Popeye the Sailor."

In 1945, Italy formally declared war on Japan, its former Axis partner during World War II.

In 1958, the army of Iraq overthrew the monarchy.

In 1966, the city of Chicago awoke to the shocking news that eight student nurses had been brutally slain during the night in a South Side dormitory. Drifter Richard Speck was convicted of the mass killing and condemned to death, but had his sentence reduced to life in prison, where he died in 1991.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter won the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention in New York.

In 1980, the Republican national convention opened in Detroit, where nominee-apparent Ronald Reagan told a welcoming rally he and his supporters were determined to "make America great again."

In 1999, race-based school busing in Boston came to an end after 25 years.

Ten years ago: North Korea told the United States it had shut down its nuclear reactor, hours after a ship cruised into port loaded with oil promised in return for the country's pledge to disarm. Former presidents, fellow first ladies and about 1,800 other people attended a private funeral in Austin, Texas, for Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Five years ago: A suicide bomber blew himself up among guests at a wedding hall in northern Afghanistan, killing 23 people, including a prominent ex-Uzbek warlord turned lawmaker who was the father of the bride. Nick Buckles, the boss of British security group G4S, went on BBC Television to say he was sorry that his company had bungled the contract to help protect the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games.

One year ago: Terror struck Bastille Day celebrations in the French Riviera city of Nice (nees) as a large truck plowed into a festive crowd, killing 86 people in an attack claimed by Islamic State extremists; the driver was shot dead by police.

(Stations: "taboo," lower case, is correct)

Today's Birthdays: Actor Harry Dean Stanton is 91. Actress Nancy Olson is 89. Former football player and actor Rosey Grier is 85. Actor Vincent Pastore is 71. Music company executive Tommy Mottola (muh-TOH'-luh) is 69. Rock musician Chris Cross (Ultravox) is 65. Actor Jerry Houser is 65. Actor-director Eric Laneuville is 65. Actor Stan Shaw is 65. Movie producer Scott Rudin is 59. Singer-guitarist Kyle Gass is 57. Country musician Ray Herndon (McBride and the Ride) is 57. Actress Jane Lynch is 57. Actor Jackie Earle Haley is 56. Actor Matthew Fox is 51. Rock musician Ellen Reid (Crash Test Dummies) is 51. Rock singer-musician Tanya Donelly is 51. Actress Missy Gold is 47. Olympic gold medal snowboarder Ross Rebagliati is 46. Rhythm-and-blues singer Tameka Cottle (Xscape) is 42. Country singer Jamey Johnson is 42. Hip-hop musician taboo (Black Eyed Peas) is 42. Actor Scott Porter is 38. Rock singer Dan Smith (Bastille) is 31. Actress Sara Canning (TV: "The Vampire Diaries") is 30. Rock singer Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons) is 30.

Thought for Today: "If the government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have." — President Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006).


Update July 13, 2017

Brazil's once-adored ex-president convicted of corruption

Demonstrators celebrate the decision by Judge Sergio Moro to convict former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

By Mauricio Savarese, Sarah DiLorenzo, Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering Wednesday and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison, the highest-profile conviction yet in the sprawling graft investigation that has jailed dozens of Brazil's elite.

The decision by Judge Sergio Moro was widely expected, even by Silva's own defense team, but was still stunning. The charismatic leader left office on Dec. 31, 2010, with sky-high popularity and is credited with pulling millions of Brazilians out of poverty and turning Latin America's largest nation into an important player on the world stage.

Brazil's first working class president will remain free while an appeal is heard, but he is now also the country's first ex-president to be convicted in a criminal proceeding at least since democracy was restored in the 1980s.

In many quarters, the man known to Brazilians simply as Lula remains revered — both for his economic policies and his role in fighting for democracy during the country's dictatorship. The 71-year-old has been considered a front-runner for next year's presidential election.

Silva's defense team issued a scathing statement after the ruling, calling the charges an attack on democracy and vowing to prove the former president's innocence.

"President Lula has been the victim of lawfare, the use of the law for political ends, the famous method used to brutal effect in various dictatorships throughout history," the lawyers said.

The case is part of the huge "Operation Car Wash" corruption investigation centered on state-run oil giant Petrobras that has led to the convictions of dozens of business executives and politicians, and threatens current President Michel Temer.

Silva was accused of receiving a beachfront apartment and repairs to the property as kickbacks from construction company OAS. Silva never owned the apartment, but prosecutors argued it was intended for him. Prosecutors also alleged that OAS paid to store Silva's belongings, but Moro dismissed that part of the case.

This screen grab of a video recorded on May 10, 2017, released by the Parana Federal Justice department, shows Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva testifying in the Car Wash investigation in Curitiba, Brazil.(Parana Federal Justice department via AP)

Silva also faces charges in four other cases. The former union leader has said all the charges are completely unfounded, and his defiant testimony in the case decided Wednesday was billed as a showdown between himself and Moro. Both men are viewed as national heroes by some parts of Brazilian society.

"The present conviction does not bring this judge any personal satisfaction. Quite the contrary, it is regrettable that a former president be criminally convicted," Moro wrote in his decision. "It doesn't matter how high you are, the law is still above you."

Moro said he did not order Silva's immediate arrest because the conviction of a president is such a serious matter that he felt the former leader's appeal should be heard first.

"This makes Lula's situation much worse since it is much more than a mere investigation," said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank. "But now he will do something he likes: Until the appeal is decided, he will rally his allies and supporters against a decision that is controversial."

A few hundred supporters gathered in Sao Paulo on Wednesday night to denounce the ruling, while a smaller group of people took to the streets to celebrate Silva's conviction.

"It was an obviously political decision to prevent Lula from becoming president," said Armando Teixeira, an unemployed auto worker. "Everyone knows he will win if he runs."

The case now goes before a group of magistrates. If they uphold the conviction, Brazilian law says Silva would be barred from seeking office. In addition to sentencing Silva to 9 1/2 years in prison, Moro also ruled that the politician should be barred from public office for 19 years.

The prosecutor's office that handled the case said it would appeal the sentence to ask for it to be increased.
Silva's presidency coincided with an economic boom fueled by high commodity prices and he used the profits to fund generous social programs that made him a hero among Brazil's poor. He left office with popularity ratings of up to 87 percent and Brazilians elected his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, to succeed him.

But a subsequent fall in commodity prices and economic mismanagement by Silva and Rousseff led Brazil's economy to implode, and with it Rousseff's popularity. Rousseff was later impeached and replaced by Temer.

The news of Silva's conviction took the focus off of Temer, who himself is accused of taking bribes from a meatpacking executive in exchange for helping the company obtain favorable government decisions. Temer denies wrongdoing, and the lower house of Congress will decide if he should be suspended from office and put on trial.

A close Temer ally got some relief Wednesday. A judge ordered former Legislative Affairs Minister Geddel Vieira Lima released from jail and instead put under house arrest while he faces an obstruction of justice charge.
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Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese reported this story in Rio de Janeiro and AP writer Sarah DiLorenzo reported from Sao Paulo. AP writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.
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Mauricio Savarese on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MSavarese
Sarah DiLorenzo on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/sdilorenzo


UN envoy says the conflict in Yemen is intensifying daily

A girl carries a bucket filled with water from a well that is allegedly contaminated with cholera bacteria, on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Yemen warned Wednesday that conflict in the Arab world's poorest nation is intensifying daily, with terrorist groups expanding, 14 million people in desperate need of food and the worst cholera epidemic in the world.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed called on all parties "to act for the sake of peace," stressing that "their excuses are unacceptable and their justifications are unconvincing, especially when the solutions are in plain sight."

"The opportunity to reach peace is not yet lost," he told the Security Council. But "the political leadership must recognize that the continuation of the war can only lead to more human and physical loss, and complicate crucial questions on the future of the country, including the grievances of the south."

Yemen, which is on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been engulfed in civil war since September 2014, when Houthi Shiite rebels swept into the capital of Sanaa and overthrew President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognized government.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States, began a campaign against Houthi forces allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in support of Hadi's government. Since then, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been dislodged from most of the south, but remain in control of Sanaa and much of the north.

In the southern part of the country, the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi-led coalition, has set up its own security forces, running virtually a state-within-a-state and fueling the south's independence movement.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien said the warring parties and their outside backers should feel "deeply guilty" at driving a worsening conflict that has exposed millions of Yemenis civilians "to unfathomable pain and suffering" — including 7 million people now "on the cusp of famine" and more than 320,000 suspected cholera cases.

He urged the Security Council to "lean much more heavily and effectively on the parties, and those outside Yemen who are leading this policy and action."

O'Brien said suspected cholera cases have been reported in nearly all the country's districts and at least 1,740 people have already died.

The $2.1 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen is only 33 percent funded, and the response to the cholera epidemic requires an additional $250 million, of which just $47 million has been received, he said.

"This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen's borders who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and fighting," O'Brien said. "Just for the sake of reaching all the millions with cholera vaccines, the people of Yemen need stability so we can reach them at all."

Cheikh Ahmed said he plans to invite the parties to restart discussions "as soon as possible" on agreements he proposed several months ago.

The proposal calls for continuing the flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies through the Red Sea port of Hodeida, where there has been a threat of fighting, and ending the diversion of customs revenues and taxes. Those funds would be used to pay salaries of government workers who haven't been paid in many months and to preserve essential government services in all areas of the country.

Cheikh Ahmed said the Hadi government "has reacted positively and has agreed to negotiate on the basis of my proposals."

He said China played "an instrumental role" in putting him in direct contact in the past few days with the Houthis, who refused to meet him on his last trip to Sanaa. He said this is "cause for optimism."

Cheikh Ahmed said agreement on the proposal would hopefully be a preliminary step to a nationwide cease-fire and peace agreement.

The Security Council called on the parties "to immediately agree on the modalities for a durable cessation of hostilities" and to resume peace talks. It also called for "the immediate mobilization of additional funds to cover acute humanitarian needs," including for the rapidly spreading cholera epidemic.


Royal Bank of Scotland in $5.5B settlement over US mortgages

 

This is a Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 file photo of People as they walk past one of the headquarters buildings showing the logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant/File)

By Danica Kirka, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Royal Bank of Scotland said Wednesday it has reached a $5.5 billion settlement in the United States over the mis-selling of mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis — a key milestone in the institution's efforts to put its past sins behind it.

The deal with the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — resolves claims regarding the issuance and underwriting of approximately $32 billion (25 billion pounds) of residential mortgage-backed securities. The bank must still resolve outstanding civil and criminal claims with the Department of Justice.

RBS CEO Ross McEwan characterized the settlement as a "stark reminder" of the heavy price British taxpayer and the bank itself paid for the global ambitions of the institution under disgraced former boss Fred Goodwin.

"It's never a great experience for a CEO to effectively be writing such a large check — 4.2 billion pounds," McEwan said on a conference call with reporters. Nonetheless, he said that the bank was "nearly through" with issues that have dogged efforts to return to profit.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency sued 18 major U.S. and foreign banks in 2011 over their sales of mortgage securities to Fannie and Freddie. The total price for the securities sold was $196 billion.

The settlement with Royal Bank of Scotland was the 17th agreement reached by the agency.

The 18 banks included two other British banks, Barclays and HSBC. They agreed to pay $280 million and $550 million, respectively, in settlements with the FHFA in 2014.

The U.S. government rescued Fannie and Freddie at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008 when they were on the verge of collapse. The companies received taxpayer aid totaling $187 billion. They have since become profitable and repaid the bailouts.

McEwan has been at pains in recent months to insist RBS has put its legacy issues behind it. The bank was bailed out at the height of the financial crisis and is still owned by the British taxpayer.

The settlement follows a deal last month with thousands of investors who sued amid allegations they were misled into buying shares in the Edinburgh-based bank in a 12 billion pound cash-call. The bank's shares collapsed soon after it was bailed out by the government.

Under the settlement Wednesday, RBS will pay $5.5 billion, but be reimbursed for $754 million under indemnification agreements with third parties. The cost is largely covered by money it had already set aside in anticipation of a settlement.

RBS had already put $8.3 billion to cover U.S. mis-selling claims, from which the Wednesday settlement will be deducted. It may need to take further provision for the civil and criminal claims by the U.S. justice officials.

Joseph Dickerson, an analyst at Jefferies, predicted RBS will need to set aside another $2.5 billion for the Department of Justice deal in the fourth quarter.

Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this story.


Gay man wins UK court battle for equal pension rights

In this file photo dated March 8, 2017, ex-cavalry officer now retired John Walker, poses outside Britain's highest court in London.

LONDON (AP) — A gay British retiree has won a legal battle to secure the same occupational pension rights for his husband that a wife would enjoy.

Five judges at the Supreme Court, Britain's highest court, ruled that if John Walker died, his husband would be entitled to a spouse's pension, provided they stay married.

The 66-year-old launched a discrimination lawsuit when the company he worked for said it would not pay out spouse benefits because his pension plan predated 2005, when gay civil partnerships became legally recognized.

The Court of Appeal ruled against Walker in 2015, but the Supreme Court overturned that decision Wednesday. The decision means that Walker's partner will be entitled to spousal benefits of around 45,000 pounds ($57,800) a year — instead of about 1,000 pounds a year.


Today in History - Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, July 13, the 194th day of 2017. There are 171 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On July 13, 1977, a blackout hit New York City in the mid-evening as lightning strikes on electrical equipment caused power to fail; widespread looting broke out. (The electricity was restored about 25 hours later.)

On this date:

In 1787, the Congress of the Confederation adopted the Northwest Ordinance, which established a government in the Northwest Territory, an area corresponding to the eastern half of the present-day Midwest.

In 1793, French revolutionary writer Jean-Paul Marat was stabbed to death in his bath by Charlotte Corday, who was executed four days later.

In 1863, deadly rioting against the Civil War military draft erupted in New York City. (The insurrection was put down three days later.)

In 1939, Frank Sinatra made his first commercial recording, "From the Bottom of My Heart" and "Melancholy Mood," with Harry James and his Orchestra for the Brunswick label.

In 1955, Britain hanged Ruth Ellis, a 28-year-old former model convicted of killing her boyfriend, David Blakely (to date, Ellis is the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom).

In 1960, John F. Kennedy won the Democratic presidential nomination on the first ballot at his party's convention in Los Angeles.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to be U.S. Solicitor General; Marshall became the first black jurist appointed to the post. (Two years later, Johnson nominated Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court.)
In 1972, George McGovern received the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention in Miami Beach.
In 1978, Lee Iacocca was fired as president of Ford Motor Co. by chairman Henry Ford II.

In 1985, "Live Aid," an international rock concert in London, Philadelphia, Moscow and Sydney, took place to raise money for Africa's starving people.

In 1999, Angel Maturino Resendiz (ahn-HEHL' mah-tyoo-REE'-noh reh-SEHN'-deez), suspected of being the "Railroad Killer," surrendered in El Paso, Texas. (Resendiz was executed in 2006.)

In 2013, a jury in Sanford, Florida, acquitted neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman of all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager; news of the verdict prompted Alicia Garza, an African-American activist in Oakland, California, to declare on Facebook that "black lives matter," a phrase that gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Ten years ago: Former media mogul Conrad Black was convicted in Chicago of swindling the Hollinger International newspaper empire out of millions of dollars. (Black was sentenced to 6ฝ years in federal prison, but had his sentence reduced to three years; he was freed in May 2012.) Family prayer services and a huge public outpouring in Austin, Texas, ushered in three days of memorial ceremonies honoring the late Lady Bird Johnson.

Five years ago: His credibility under attack, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney insisted he had "no role whatsoever in the management" of Bain Capital, a private equity firm, after early 1999, and demanded that President Barack Obama apologize for campaign aides who persisted in alleging otherwise. JPMorgan Chase said its traders may have tried to conceal the losses from a soured investment bet that embarrassed the bank and cost it almost $6 billion — far more than its chief executive first suggested. Movie producer Richard Zanuck, 77, died in Beverly Hills, California.

One year ago: With emotions running raw, President Barack Obama met privately at the White House with elected officials, law enforcement leaders and members of the Black Lives Matter movement with the goal of getting them to work together to curb violence and build trust. Theresa May entered No. 10 Downing Street as Britain's new prime minister following a bittersweet exit by David Cameron, who resigned after voters rejected his appeal to stay in the European Union.

Today's Birthdays: Game show announcer Johnny Gilbert (TV: "Jeopardy!") is 93. Actor Patrick Stewart is 77. Actor Robert Forster is 76. Actor Harrison Ford is 75. Singer-guitarist Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) is 75. Actor-comedian Cheech Marin is 71. Actress Daphne Maxwell Reid is 69. Actress Didi Conn is 66. Singer Louise Mandrell is 63. Rock musician Mark "The Animal" Mendoza (Twisted Sister) is 61. Actor-director Cameron Crowe is 60. Tennis player Anders Jarryd is 56. Rock musician Gonzalo Martinez De La Cotera (Marcy Playground) is 55. Comedian Tom Kenny is 55. Country singer-songwriter Victoria Shaw is 55. Bluegrass singer Rhonda Vincent is 55. Actor Kenny Johnson is 54. Roots singer/songwriter Paul Thorn is 53. Country singer Neil Thrasher is 52. Actor Ken Jeong is 48. Bluegrass musician Mike Barber (The Gibson Brothers) is 47. Singer Deborah Cox is 44. Actress Ashley Scott is 40. Rock musician Will Champion (Coldplay) is 39. Actor Fran Kranz is 36. Actress Aya Cash is 35. Actor Colton Haynes is 29. Actor Steven R. McQueen is 29. Soul singer Leon Bridges is 28. Actor Kyle Harrison Breitkopf (BRYT'-kahpf) is 12.

Thought for Today: "Individuality is freedom lived." — John Dos Passos, American author (1896-1970).
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Victory for 'Dunkirk' and 'Girls Trip' at the box office

Book about Nelson Mandela's medical treatment stirs dispute

Divided UK, inconclusive election could put brakes on Brexit

Australian consumer watchdog investigates air bag recall

Today in History - Monday, July 24, 2017


Today in History -Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mexico murders up with deadliest month in at least 20 years

Historian asks Australian court to reveal Queen's letters

Qatar's ruler voices willingness to talk to solve Arab rift

UN, aid group: Cholera in Yemen to worsen in rainy season

Today in History - Saturday, July 22, 2017


Seoul calls for Pyongyang to respond to overture for talks

Quake damages buildings on Greek island; 2 killed, 120 hurt

In surrealist twist, Dali exhumed in paternity lawsuit

Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington dies in LA at 41

Today in History - Friday, July 21, 2017


Senator John McCain has brain tumor

Australia to help Sri Lanka fight worst-ever dengue outbreak

In Suu Kyi's Myanmar, concern rises over press freedom

US criticizes Africa for 'failure' on famine threat

Today in History - Thursday, July 20, 2017


'Game of Thrones' debut draws record 10.1 million viewers

Auction of Madonna's panties, love letter from Tupac halted

Australians see woman's shooting by police as US nightmare

Arabs urge Qatar to accept 6 principles to combat extremism

Today in History - Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Brexit talks begin in earnest with citizens' rights in focus

Qatar: Alleged UAE hacking 'unfortunate,' violation of law

American scholar jailed in Iran is innocent, professor says

PBS' 'Photo Ark' is a wake-up call for endangered animals

Today in History - Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Israel reopens Jerusalem holy site after deadly assault

Biggest snowfall in decades blankets Chile's capital

George A. Romero, father of the zombie film, is dead at 77

Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau dies at 89

Today in History - Monday, July 17, 2017


Today in History - Sunday, July 16, 2017

China cremates body of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo

Bastille Day: Macron vows merciless fight against terror

UN envoy flays continued rights violations in Sri Lanka

Today in History - Saturday, July 15, 2017


Trump caught on tape complimenting Macron's wife's body

North Korea's nuclear weapons advancements under the 3 Kims

Minnesota judge cancels Universal deal with Prince estate

Moon dust collected by Neil Armstrong to be sold at auction

Today in History - Friday, July 14, 2017


Brazil's once-adored ex-president convicted of corruption

UN envoy says the conflict in Yemen is intensifying daily

Royal Bank of Scotland in $5.5B settlement over US mortgages

Gay man wins UK court battle for equal pension rights

Today in History - Thursday, July 13, 2017

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