Amnesty says Myanmar army killed 100s of Rohingya
Newly arrived Rohingya Muslims rest on
embankments after spending a night in the open at Palong Khali in
Bangladesh, Tuesday, Oct. 17. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Bangkok (AP) — Myanmar security forces killed hundreds of men, women
and children during a systematic campaign to expel Rohingya Muslims, Amnesty
International said in a new report Wednesday that calls for an arms embargo
on the country and criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.
More than 580,000 refugees have arrived
in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar security forces began a
scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages. Myanmar's government has
said it was responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents, but the United
Nations and others have said the response was disproportionate.
The continuing exodus of Rohingya
Muslims has become a major humanitarian crisis and sparked international
condemnation of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which still denies atrocities are
Based on interviews with more than 120
fleeing Rohingya, Amnesty International said at least hundreds of people
were killed by security forces who surrounded villages, shot fleeing
inhabitants and then set buildings alight, burning to death the elderly,
sick and disabled who were unable to flee.
In some villages, women and girls were
raped or subjected to other sexual violence, according to the report.
The witnesses repeatedly described an
insignia on their attackers' uniforms that matched one worn by troops from
Myanmar's Western Command, Amnesty International said.
When shown various insignia used by
Myanmar's army, witnesses consistently picked out the Western Command patch,
The 33rd Light Infantry Division and
border police, who wear a distinctive blue camouflage uniform, were also
frequently involved in attacks on villages, along with Buddhist vigilante
mobs, witnesses said.
Matthew Wells, an Amnesty crisis
researcher who spent several weeks at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, said
the rights group plans to issue another report in the coming months
examining individual criminal responsibility, including specific commanders
and others that may be involved in abuses.
He said hundreds of Rohingya have been
treated for gunshot wounds and doctors say that the injuries are consistent
with people being shot from behind as they fled.
There were credible indications that a
total of several hundred people had been killed in just five villages that
were the focus of Amnesty's reporting. Wells said that given that dozens of
villages across northern Rakhine State have been targeted in a similar
fashion, the death toll could be much higher.
He said satellite imagery, corroborated
by witness accounts, show that Rohingya homes and mosques have been burned
entirely in villages, while non-Rohingya areas just one or two hundred yards
(meters) away were untouched.
"It speaks to how organized, how
seemingly well-planned this scorched-earth campaign has been by the Myanmar
military and how determined the effort has been to drive the Rohingya
population out of the country," Wells said.
Among almost two dozen recommendations,
the human rights group called for the U.N. Security Council to impose a
comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar and financial sanctions against senior
officials responsible for violations that Amnesty says meet the criteria for
crimes against humanity.
It said the council should explore
options for bringing the perpetrators to justice under international law if
Myanmar authorities do not act swiftly.
"It is time for the international
community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign
of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of
Myanmar," Amnesty International said.
On Aug. 25, a Rohingya insurgent group
known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked at least 30 security
posts on Aug. 25, causing dozens of casualties, according to Myanmar
authorities. The brutal attacks against Rohingya that followed has been
described by the U.N. as "textbook ethnic cleansing."
The exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh
has continued, with a few small breaks, over the last eight weeks.
New arrivals, almost all terrified and
starving, have described scenes of incredible violence with army troops and
Buddhist mobs attacking Rohingya homes.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has denied
citizenship for the Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135
ethnic groups officially recognized, which effectively renders them
stateless. They have long faced discrimination and persecution with many
Buddhists in Myanmar calling them "Bengalis" and saying they migrated
illegally from Bangladesh, even though they have lived in the country for
US-backed forces celebrate fall of IS 'capital' of Raqqa
Fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic
Forces (SDF) celebrate victory over the Islamic State occupying forces in
Raqqa, Syria, Tuesday, Oct. 17. (Hawar News Agency via AP)
Sarah El Deeb and Zeina Karam
Beirut (AP) — U.S.-backed Syrian
forces celebrated in the devastated streets of Raqqa on Tuesday after
gaining control of the northern city that once was the heart of the Islamic
State's self-styled caliphate, dealing a major defeat to the extremist group
that has seen its territory shrink ever smaller since summer.
Militants took over the vibrant
metropolis on the Euphrates River in 2014, transforming it into the
epicenter of their brutal rule, where opponents were beheaded and terror
It took thousands of bombs dropped by
the U.S.-led coalition and more than four months of grueling house-to-house
battles for the Syrian Democratic Forces to recapture Raqqa, marking a new
chapter in the fight against the group whose once vast territory has been
reduced to a handful of towns in Syria and Iraq.
"Liberating Raqqa is a triumph for
humanity, especially women," who suffered the most under IS, said Ilham
Ahmed, a senior member of the SDF political wing.
"It is a salvation for the will to live
an honorable life. It is a defeat to the forces of darkness," said Ahmed,
speaking to The Associated Press from Ein Issa, just north of Raqqa.
Fighters from the SDF celebrated by
chanting and honking their horns as they spun doughnuts with their Humvees
and armored personnel carriers, and hoisting yellow SDF flags around Naim,
or Paradise Square.
The infamous square was the site of
public beheadings and other killings by the militants. Bodies and severed
heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with
their alleged crimes, according to residents who later dubbed it "Hell
Crumbled and flattened buildings stood
behind the fighters as they drove around the square, a sign of the massive
destruction the city has suffered since the militants took over. It was in
Naim Square that the extremists paraded tanks and military hardware in 2014
in a chilling show of force that was a sign of things to come.
SDF commanders later visited Raqqa's
sports stadium, which IS had turned into a notorious prison. Dozens of
militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Tuesday
holed up inside.
"Immortal martyrs!" chanted the men and
women in SDF uniforms, saluting their comrades who died battling for the
city. According to the coalition, about 1,100 SDF forces have been killed
fighting IS in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour.
"Military operations in Raqqa have
ceased and we are now combing the city for sleeper cells and cleaning it
from land mines," Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told the AP earlier in the day.
A formal declaration that Raqqa has
fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations,
Col. Ryan Dillon, the Baghdad-based
spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, was more cautious, saying only that
"more than 90 percent" of Raqqa had been cleared. He estimated about 100 IS
militants were still in the city and said he expects the SDF to encounter
"pockets of resistance" during the clearing operations.
The battle of Raqqa has killed more
than 1,000 civilians, many of them in coalition airstrikes in recent months,
and displaced tens of thousands of people who face the prospect of returning
to ruined homes. The coalition and residents who managed to escape accused
the militants of using civilians as human shields and tried to stop them
from leaving the city.
In a reminder of the humanitarian
catastrophe unleashed by the fighting, the international charity group Save
the Children said that camps housing tens of thousands of people who fled
Raqqa are "bursting at the seams."
It said about 270,000 people from Raqqa
are still in critical need of aid. With the high level of destruction
reported in and around Raqqa, most families have nowhere to go and are
likely to be in camps for months or years.
Ahmed, the SDF official, said the
hardest part will be administering and rebuilding Raqqa. The group has
appointed a civilian administration of locals to rebuild the city, but
larger questions loom.
The SDF is a multi-ethnic force, but
its Kurdish leadership harbors ambitions of autonomous rule over a Kurdish
region in Syria that now includes the Arab-majority Raqqa, leading to
concerns of a possible backlash among the city's Sunni Arab population.
Brett McGurk, the top U.S. presidential
envoy to the anti-IS coalition, arrived in northern Syria and met Tuesday
with members of the Raqqa Civil Council and members of the reconstruction
He also met tribal leaders and urged
them to work closely with the SDF, preventing the government of Syrian
President Bashar Assad from using any divisions between them, according to
the Furat FM, an activist-run news agency.
An immediate challenge was clearing
Raqqa of thousands of land mines and booby traps that have killed returning
civilians and senior SDF commanders in recent days. One of those killed
Monday was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF.
Another challenge for the troops is
searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city, Dillon
"This will take some time, to say that
the city is completely clear," he told AP. "We still suspect that there are
still (IS) fighters that are within the city in small pockets."
The loss of Raqqa will deprive the
militants of a major hub for recruitment and planning, Dillon said, because
the city attracted hundreds of foreign fighters and was a place where
attacks in the Middle East and Europe were planned. The militants remain
active in Syria, he said, farther south around the eastern province of Deir
In recent months, the Islamic State has
steadily lost ground in Iraq and Syria, including Iraq's second-largest city
of Mosul. It has also lost major territory to Syrian government forces who
have been marching against the group in a simultaneous but separate
offensive, mainly in Deir el-Zour province.
Syria's state news agency said
government forces and their Russian and Iranian-backed allies captured the
Deir el-Zour villages of Mouhassan, Bouomar and Bouleil that were once
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights also reported that government forces now control more than
90 percent of the city of Deir el-Zour, where a major offensive is underway
to capture remaining IS-held neighborhoods.
The battle for Raqqa began in June and
the SDF met with stiff resistance from the militants. It began its final
assault on Sunday after nearly 300 IS fighters surrendered. Naim Square was
The force seized the hospital Tuesday,
taking down the last black IS flag, according to the Kurdish-run Hawar news
agency. A video from Hawar showed the clashes around the hospital, which
appeared riddled with bullets and partly blackened from a fire.
Ophelia batters UK after pummeling Ireland, leaves 3 dead
Waves break around the
church in the harbour at Porthleven, Cornwall southwestern England, as
the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia hit parts of Britain and Ireland. (Ben
Birchall/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Storm Ophelia is battering
Scotland and northern England after leaving three people dead and
hundreds of thousands without power in Ireland.
The former Atlantic hurricane
downed trees and power lines, sent waves surging over coastal defenses
and disrupted transport again Tuesday, a day after making landfall on
Ireland's south coast with gusts of almost 100 miles an hour (160
kilometers an hour).
Britain's Met Office weather
service said Scotland could see heavy rain and gusts of up to 70 mph
(113 kph), with winds gradually diminishing.
Schools in Northern Ireland and the
Republic of Ireland were closed for a second day as authorities assessed
the damage from the worst storm to hit Ireland in decades.
Irish authorities said it could
take several days to restore power to 330,000 homes.
Commuters faced delays and downed
trees blocked rail lines.
Train services between the Scottish
cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and from London to Aberdeen, Dundee and
Perth were slowed down by trees that were blown onto the tracks.
In Dumfries and Galloway in western
Scotland, a scout hall roof was blown off amid winds of up of up to 77
mph (124 kph). In Cumbria in northwest England, part of a soccer club's
stand was ripped off by the wind.
Some areas hit by the storm were
affected by water shortages.
By Tuesday, the UK Met Office
reduced the area covered by a yellow weather warning, though it said
windy weather is still likely.
Parts of southern Norway reported a
smoky smell on Tuesday morning, which the local meteorological institute
said it was likely carried there by Ophelia from the wave of forest
fires in Portugal and Spain that killed at least 41 people over the
In Sweden, people in the capital of
Stockholm and elsewhere launched a flurry of calls to authorities,
saying the skies were much darker than usual Tuesday morning.
That was also probably due to
Ophelia's strong winds, which carried a mix of red sand from the Sahara
and tiny particles from the Iberian forest fires across western Europe.
Taliban launch wave of attacks in Afghanistan, kill 74
Afghan National Amy commandos open fire during a
military exercise in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Oct. 17. (AP Photo/Massoud
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — The
Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, targeting
police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers in the
country's south, east and west, and killing at least 74 people, officials
Among those killed in one of the
attacks was a provincial police chief. Scores were also wounded, both
policemen and civilians.
Afghanistan's deputy interior minister,
Murad Ali Murad, called the onslaught the "biggest terrorist attack this
Murad told a press conference in Kabul
that attacks in Ghazni and Paktia provinces killed 71 people.
In southern Paktia province, 41 people
— 21 policemen and 20 civilians — were killed when the Taliban targeted a
police compound in the provincial capital of Gardez with two suicide car
bombs. Among the wounded were 48 policemen and 110 civilians.
The provincial police chief, Toryalai
Abdyani, was killed in the Paktia attack, Murad said.
The Interior Ministry said in a
statement earlier Tuesday that after the two cars blew up in Gardez, five
attackers with suicide belts tried to storm the compound but were killed by
Afghan security forces.
Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majroo
said the Gardez city hospital reported receiving at least 130 wounded in the
Hamza Aqmhal, a student at the Paktia
University, told The Associated Press that he heard a very powerful blast
that shattered glass and broke all the windows at the building he was in.
The university is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the training academy,
said Aqmhal, who was slightly injured by the glass.
A lawmaker from Paktia, Mujeeb Rahman
Chamkani, said that along with the provincial police chief, several of his
staff were killed. Most of the casualties were civilians who had come to the
center, which also serves a government passport department, Chamkani said.
In southern Ghazni province, the
insurgents stormed a security compound in Andar district, using a suicide
car bomb and killing 25 police and five civilians, Murad said. At least 15
people were wounded, including 10 policemen, he added.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the
provincial governor in Ghazni, said the Taliban attack there lasted nine
hours. By the time the attackers were repelled, there were 13 bodies of
Taliban fighters on the ground, Noori added.
And in western Farah province, police
chief Abdul Maruf Fulad says the Taliban attacked a government compound in
Shibkho district, killing three policemen.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for
all three attacks.
Despite the staggering numbers, Murad
said Afghan forces are confident in their "readiness to fight terrorists and
eliminate them from Afghanistan." He said the Taliban have suffered heavy
defeats over the past six months at the hands of Afghan forces and were
Later on Tuesday, an Afghan official
said drone strikes killed 35 Taliban fighters in the country's east, near
the border with Pakistan.
Abdullah Asrat, spokesman for the
governor of Paktia province, said drones fired missiles at four locations in
Anzarki Kandaw, killing the insurgents and wounding 15 others. He said a
commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Abu Bakr, and other senior insurgents
were among the dead. He did not provide further details.
Chamkani, the lawmaker from Paktia,
said the drones struck as the Taliban were collecting the bodies of 20
militants killed in a strike Monday on a militant base near the border.
Pakistani intelligence officials say
Monday's drone strike hit a militant compound on the Pakistani side of the
border, but Pakistan's army later denied any such strike on its territory.
It was not immediately possible to reconcile the two accounts.
Catalans protest sedition case, court declares vote illegal
Holding signs reading in Catalan 'freedom',
people gather to protest against the National Court's decision to imprison
civil society leaders without bail, in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 17.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Aritz Parra and Ciaran Giles
Barcelona, Spain (AP) — Spain's
top court ruled Tuesday that an independence referendum in Catalonia was
unconstitutional, adding weight to government efforts to block the region
from breaking away from the rest of the country but not persuading
demonstrators demanding the release of two jailed separatist activists.
The Constitutional Court's ruling was
not a surprise. The Spanish government had repeatedly insisted the
referendum was illegal. Regional leaders defied the Madrid-based central
government and held the Oct. 1 vote even after police seized millions of
ballots and used force to close polling stations.
Supporters of secession maintain the
"Yes" vote won and Catalan officials have a mandate to declare independence.
Portraying the central government as repressive, they showed no signs of
giving up despite the court ruling that concluded the referendum was
Thousands of people holding candles and
banners flooded a main avenue in Barcelona on Tuesday night to demand the
release of the two Catalan activists jailed by Spanish authorities on
possible sedition charges a day earlier.
Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the
leaders of grassroots organizations Catalan National Assembly and Omnium
Cultural, are being investigated for organizing rallies last month that
allegedly hampered a judicial probe of preparations for the secession vote.
"We are facing an executive power in
the state that uses the judiciary branch to block the legislative," Catalan
government spokesman Jordi Turull told reporters shortly after the
Constitutional Court ruling was announced.
Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala
said Sanchez and Cuixart, were jailed because they are suspected of
committed crimes by interfering with a judge's orders. Catala rejected the
term "political prisoners" to describe the two, saying it could be
considered a case of "politicians in prison."
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont
made an ambiguous statement about the region's future last week, saying he
has the mandate to declare independence but adding that he would not
immediately move to implement it in order to allow time for talks with the
Spain has said that no dialogue can
take place with independence on the table because a reform of the country's
Constitution with an ample majority in the national parliament is the only
legal way to achieve secession.
On Monday, a Madrid judge provisionally
jailed Sanchez and Cuixart, leaders of different grassroots groups promoting
independence for Catalonia. The judge ruled they were behind huge
demonstrations Sept. 20-21 in Barcelona that got in the way of a police
operation designed to prevent the referendum.
Participants in the Tuesday protest
chanted, "Political prisoners, freedom."
Meanwhile, Agusti Alcoberro, the man
who standing in for Sanchez as head of the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, said
peaceful protests would be the local response to what he said was the
Spanish government's heavy-handed approach.
"No modern state in the 21st century
can survive if it bases its legitimacy on subjugating politically and
dominating part of its population with the police and military," Alcoberro
told The Associated Press. "That is suicidal, and somebody should explain it
to the Spanish government."
Xi says China's prospects are bright but challenges severe
President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 19th
Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China,
Wednesday, Oct. 18. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Beijing (AP) — Chinese President
Xi Jinping trumpeted his nation's prospects as bright but made a rare
acknowledgement of severe economic challenges as he opened the Communist
Party's twice-a-decade national congress on Wednesday.
Other Chinese leaders have regularly
warned since the 2008 financial crisis that China's economic growth faces
"downward pressure" due to weak global demand that threatens export
industries in the world's second-largest economy. But Xi's comments were
unusual in a keynote speech meant to highlight the party's confidence and
Among the grave issues Xi said were
insufficiently addressed are a widening income gap and problems in
employment, education, medical care and other areas.
Xi has been consolidating his already
considerable power and is expected to get a second five-year term as party
leader at the gathering.
In his speech, he also hailed China's
island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea as well as his
signature foreign policy initiative, the "One Belt, One Road" infrastructure
investment project aimed at improving connections between China, Europe and
He praised the party's tightened grip
over domestic security, saying that social stability had been maintained and
national security strengthened.
Observers will be watching the congress
meeting this week for signs of whether Xi may be looking to appoint a
successor to take over after his traditional second five-year term in
office. While he is limited to two five-year terms as president, the office
of general secretary is bound by no such restrictions. Xi, 64, could also
step aside for a younger leader while maintaining ultimate control from
behind the scenes.
Whatever the outcome, most analysts say
Xi has largely completed the task of sidelining his competitors in other
cliques, including those surrounding his immediate predecessor Hu Jintao and
former leader Jiang Zemin.
Today in History, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017
Today is Wednesday, Oct. 18, the 291st day of 2017.
There are 74 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 18, 1767, the Mason-Dixon line, the boundary
between colonial Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware, was set as astronomers
Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey.
On this date:
In 629, Dagobert I is crowned King of the Franks.
In 1009, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a Christian
church in Jerusalem, is completely destroyed by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim
bi-Amr Allah, who hacks the Church's foundations down to bedrock.
In 1685, King Louis XIV signed the Edict of
Fontainebleau, revoking the Edict of Nantes that had established legal
toleration of France's Protestant population, the Huguenots.
In 1867, the United States took formal possession of
Alaska from Russia.
In 1892, the first long-distance telephone line between
New York and Chicago was officially opened (it could only handle one call at
In 1922, the British Broadcasting Co., Ltd. (later the
British Broadcasting Corp.) was founded.
In 1931, inventor Thomas Alva Edison died in West
Orange, New Jersey, at age 84.
In 1944, Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia during
World War II.
In 1954, Texas Instruments unveiled the Regency TR-1,
the first commercially produced transistor radio.
In 1967, the Soviet probe Venera 4 reaches Venus and
becomes the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.
In 1977, West German commandos stormed a hijacked
Lufthansa jetliner on the ground in Mogadishu, Somalia, freeing all 86
hostages and killing three of the four hijackers.
International Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova
is 61. Boxer Thomas Hearns is 59. Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme is 57. Jazz
musician Wynton Marsalis is 56. Actor Vincent Spano is 55. Rock musician
Peter Svenson (The Cardigans) is 43. Rhythm-and-blues singer-actor Ne-Yo is
38. Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn is 33. Actor Zac Efron is 30.
Actress Joy Lauren is 28.
Thought for Today:
"I do not prize the word cheap. It is not a badge of
honor ... it is a symbol of despair. Cheap prices make for cheap goods;
cheap goods make for cheap men; and cheap men make for a cheap country!" —
President William McKinley (1843-1901).
North Korea says 'a nuclear war may break out any moment'
A U.S. F-35
stealth fighter is seen during the 2017 Seoul International Aerospace and
Defense Exhibition at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, South Korea, Monday, Oct.
16. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Edith M. Lederer
New York (AP) — North Korea's
deputy U.N. ambassador warned Monday that the situation on the Korean
peninsula "has reached the touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break
out any moment."
Kim In Ryong told the U.N. General
Assembly's disarmament committee that North Korea is the only country in the
world that has been subjected to "such an extreme and direct nuclear threat"
from the United States since the 1970s — and said the country has the right
to possess nuclear weapons in self-defense.
He pointed to large-scale military
exercises every year using "nuclear assets" and said what is more dangerous
is what he called a U.S. plan to stage a "secret operation aimed at the
removal of our supreme leadership."
This year, Kim said, North Korea
completed its "state nuclear force and thus became a fully-fledged nuclear
power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges, including the
atomic bomb, H-bomb and intercontinental ballistic rockets."
"The entire U.S. mainland is within our
firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an
inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe," he
Kim's speech follows escalating threats
between North Korea and the United States, and increasingly tough U.N.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said
Monday that his country is curtailing economic, scientific and other ties
with North Korea in line with U.N. sanctions, and the European Union
announced new sanctions on Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean
crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops." His commitment to
diplomacy came despite President Donald Trump's tweets several weeks ago
that his chief envoy was "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he derisively referred to as "Little Rocket
North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador
called his country's nuclear and missile arsenal "a precious strategic asset
that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything."
"Unless the hostile policy and the
nuclear threat of the U.S. is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our
nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any
circumstances," Kim said.
He told the disarmament committee that
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — North Korea's official name —
had hoped for a nuclear-free world.
Instead, Kim said, all nuclear states
are accelerating the modernization of their weapons and "reviving a nuclear
arms race reminiscent of (the) Cold War era." He noted that the nuclear
weapon states, including the United States, boycotted negotiations for the
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was approved in July by
122 countries at the United Nations.
"The DPRK consistently supports the
total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of
the entire world," he said. But as long as the United States rejects the
treaty and "constantly threatens and blackmails the DPRK with nuclear
weapons ... the DPRK is not in position to accede to the treaty."
Portugal wildfires kill at least 35; 4 dead in Spain
a wildfire raging near houses in the outskirts of Obidos, Portugal, in the
early hours of Monday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Lisbon, Portugal (AP) — Late
season wildfires that broke out over the weekend in Portugal have killed at
least 35 people, including a 1-month-old infant, authorities said Monday,
making 2017 by far the deadliest year on record for forest blazes in the
In neighboring Spain, wildfires have
also killed at least four people and prompted the evacuation of thousands in
the northwest region of Galicia, as the remnants of winds from Hurricane
Ophelia fanned the flames along Iberia's Atlantic coast.
The fires returned to Portugal four
months after a summer blaze claimed 64 lives in one night. The year's
current total of 99 deaths is far higher than the previous annual record of
25, in 1966.
A one-month-old baby was among the
dead, the Civil Protection Agency said Monday. The infant's body was found
near Tabua, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Lisbon. The parent's
bodies reportedly were found nearby. Officials did not provide further
Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman
Patricia Gaspar said the death toll could rise.
"We are still searching burnt areas to
see if there are any more victims," Gaspar told The Associated Press.
She said 56 people were injured, 16 of
them seriously, and nine people were reported missing in the blazes that
broke out over the weekend.
More than 5,300 firefighters with more
than 1,600 vehicles were still battling the fires through dense pine and
eucalyptus forests Monday.
Portugal endures widespread forest
blazes every summer. Most fires are set deliberately, officials say, and
spread quickly due to poor forest management which leaves debris that fuels
Emergency services recorded 523
wildfires Sunday, the highest number in a single day this year and the
highest on one day in more than a decade. "You don't see that in any other
country in the world," said Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia
A prolonged drought has made the
calamity worse this year.
"We have all our firefighters out there
doing everything they can," said Home Affairs Minister Constanca Urbano de
Sousa, who is in charge of emergency services and has been the target of
criticism for her handling of the tragedy.
She said climate change has brought an
additional factor into the battle against woodland fires. Due to climate
change, "large-scale catastrophes are now a reality all over the world,"
Urbano de Sousa said. That meant more effort has to be put into preventive
measures, she said.
Spain's prime minister focused on
criminal intent, and said authorities were certain the fires were caused by
"What we are seeing here doesn't happen
accidentally. This has been induced," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is
from Galicia, said during a visit to a Galician fire department.
Officials in both countries said they
expected that rain and cooler weather forecast for later Monday would help
put out the fires.
Court jails 2 Catalan independence leaders in sedition probe
Jordi Cuixart, president of the Catalan Omnium
Cultural organization, left, and Jordi Sanchez, president of the Catalan
National Assembly wave to supporters on arrival at the national court in
Madrid, Spain, Monday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Aritz Parra and Ciaran Giles
Barcelona, Spain (AP) — Spain's
confrontation with its independence-seeking region of Catalonia intensified
Monday when a judge ordered the leaders of two pro-independence groups
jailed while they are investigated on possible sedition charges for
organizing demonstrations before the region's disputed secession vote.
jailing of Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the heads of grassroots
organizations Catalan National Assembly and Omnium Cultural, sparked an
immediate outcry in Barcelona, Catalonia's capital. People banged on pots
and pans, honked car horns and clapped in the streets.
judge's order came nearly 12 hours after a Monday morning deadline passed
without the president of Catalonia clarifying whether he has declared
independence from Spain.
President Carles Puigdemont now has until Thursday to backtrack on any steps
the region has taken toward secession. If he refuses, the government has
said it would invoke constitutional authority to restrict or revoke the
areas of self-governance Catalonia has now.
judge ordered Sanchez and Cuixart jailed while their roles in organizing
Sept. 20-21 demonstrations in Barcelona are investigated. Spanish police
arrested several Catalan officials and raided offices on those two days to
prevent an independence referendum from taking place on Oct. 1.
Monday's court ruling, the Spanish National Court judge said Sanchez and
Cuixart led the demonstrations, ignored some police recommendations for
maintaining safety, and helped form a cordon to keep Spanish police from
carrying out their duties, among other actions.
indicted, tried and convicted of sedition, they could face prison terms of
up to 15 years.
actions of Catalonia's police chief and a senior deputy during the September
demonstrations also are being investigated. However, the judge ruled Monday
that police chief Maj. Josep Lluis Trapero and Lt. Teresa Laplana, could
remain free with restrictions, including revocation of their passports and
orders to appear come back to court every two weeks.
Earlier, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and Spanish Prime Minister
Mariano Rajoy exchanged letters but made no headway in the solving the
region's conflict, one of the deepest political crises the country has faced
in the four decades since democracy was restored.
Catalonia's government held the Oct. 1 referendum over the Spanish
government's insistence the vote was illegal and a court suspending it so
its constitutionality could be considered. Those who voted were
overwhelmingly in favor of secession, but fewer than half of eligible voters
on the referendum results, Puigdemont made an ambiguous declaration of
independence last week, but said he would not immediately move to put it
into effect to allow time for talks and mediation.
Responding to the Spanish government's demand to state explicitly by Monday
morning whether he had declared independence, Puigdemont instead sent a
four-page letter seeking two months of negotiations and mediation.
priority of my government is to intensively seek a path to dialogue,"
Puigdemont said in his letter. "Our proposal for dialogue is sincere and
conservative prime minister, in a response less than two hours later,
lamented that Puigdemont declined to answer the question and said he had
until Thursday morning to fall in line.
extend this situation of uncertainty is only favoring those who are trying
to destroy civic concord and impose a radical and impoverishing project in
Catalonia," Rajoy wrote in his letter.
has repeatedly said it's unwilling to sit down with Puigdemont if calls for
independence are on the table. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de
Santamaria said Puigdemont's request for dialogue was "not credible."
wasn't very difficult to say yes or no," Saenz de Santamaria told reporters
in Madrid. "That was the question that was asked, and the response shouldn't
the judge's decision in the sedition case, Puigdemont described the jailing
of the pro-independence group leaders as "very bad news."
try to imprison ideas but they make stronger the need for freedom" he
Catalonia is home to 7.5 million people and contributes a fifth of Spain's
1.1 trillion-euro ($1.3 trillion) economy. Polls have shown about half of
the people in the wealthy region don't want to break away from Spain.
Spanish government is lowering the country's economic growth forecast for
2018 from 2.6 to 2.3 percent, blaming the political uncertainty in Catalonia
for the slowdown.
more modest growth target appears in the budget plan that Spain's
conservative government has submitted to European authorities. It was shared
with The Associated Press early Tuesday.
plan, Spanish authorities also forecast a public deficit level of 2.3
percent, 0.1 percent higher than earlier estimates. Authorities blame the
revisions both on a slower global economic cycle and less consumer spending
domestically as a result of the deadlock in Catalonia.
Bomb kills reporter who covered Malta's 'Panama Papers' link
of the car of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia lies next to a
road in the town of Mosta, Malta, Monday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Rene
Valletta, Malta (AP) — A
Maltese investigative journalist who exposed the island nation's links to
offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers was killed Monday when
a bomb exploded in her car, the prime minister said.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, had just
driven away from her home in Mosta, a large town on Malta's main island,
when the bomb went off, sending the vehicle's wreckage spiraling over a wall
and into a field, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
Caruana Galizia's death resulted from a
"barbaric attack" that also amounted to an assault on freedom of expression,
Muscat said. He described her as "one of my harshest critics, on a
political and personal level" as he denounced her slaying.
One of the topics the veteran reporter
examined was what the documents from the 2016 leak said about Malta. She
wrote that Muscat's wife, the country's energy minister and the government's
chief-of-staff had offshore holdings in Panama to receive money from
Muscat and his wife, Michelle, denied
they had companies in Panama.
Caruana Galizia filed a police report
two weeks ago saying she was receiving threats, law enforcement officials
told Malta news outlets on Monday.
The slain journalist had been a regular
columnist for The Malta Independent, writing twice weekly for the
newspaper since 1996. She also wrote a blog called "Running Commentary,"
which was followed in Malta.
A half hour before she was killed, she
posted to her web site an item about a libel claim the prime minister's
chief of staff had brought against a former opposition over comments the
latter made about corruption.
Caruana Galizia herself had been sued
for libel over articles she wrote for her blog. Opposition leader Adrian
Delia sued her over a series of stories linking him to a prostitution racket
in London. Economy Minister Chris Cardona claimed libel when she wrote that
he visited a brothel while in Germany on government business.
Monday evening's Parliament session was
scrapped, except for briefings about the bombing given by Muscat and Delia,
who called the reporter's slaying a "political murder."
Muscat said he has asked the U.S.
government and the FBI for help investigating the car bombing.
Caruana Galizia is survived by her
husband and three sons. One son, Matthew, was on the International
Consortium of Investigative Journalists team that won the Pulitzer Prize for
its work on the Panama Papers scandal.
The leak exposed the identities of rich
and powerful people around the world who allegedly had offshore holdings in
Caruana Galizia's family has asked the
Courts of Malta to have the magistrate assigned to conduct the inquiry into
the journalist's death replaced.
The family said the magistrate,
Consuelo Scerri Herrera, "in her personal capacity, had launched judicial
procedures against (Caruana Galizia) regarding comments she had written."
Caruana Galizia for many years was a
harsh critic of Malta's Labor party and government. More recently she had
expanded her criticism to include the opposition Nationalist Party.
Her slaying drew swift denunciations in
the tiny EU nation.
"Daphne played a vitally important role
in unearthing serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in
Malta, including those involving senior figures in the Maltese government,"
said Sven Giegold, a Greens member in the European Parliament.
Italian newsweekly L'Espresso, which
has also written about alleged corruption linked to Malta, said the
reporter's murder demonstrated that a well-documented expose' "is perceived
as a danger by the powerful and by organized crime."
European Parliament President Antonio
Tajani in a tweet called the development a "tragic example of a journalist
who sacrificed her life to search for the truth."
UK, EU leaders agree on need for speed in Brexit talks
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, center right, embraces British
Prime Minister Theresa May, center left, after a meeting at EU headquarters
in Brussels on Monday, Oct. 16. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Danica Kirka and Raf Casert
Brussels (AP) — Britain's
prime minister capped a day of Brexit diplomacy Monday with hugs from the
chief of the European Union's executive arm and an agreement that
negotiations on the U.K.'s departure from the EU need to be sped up.
Prime Minister Theresa May and
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said after dining together
in Brussels that the stalled talks "should accelerate over the months to
Earlier in the day, May spoke by
telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel
Macron and Irish leader Leo Varadkar to build support before the working
dinner with senior European Union officials.
Britain is set to cut its membership
with the EU in March 2019. Officials have said the negotiations should be
concluded by November 2018, making haste a necessity.
May and Juncker said their dinner
"took place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere," a stark contrast to
increasingly bad-tempered barbs the two sides exchanged in recent weeks.
British Chancellor Philip Hammond on
Friday described the EU as "the enemy" in the Brexit negotiations. Hammond
Juncker said ahead of the dinner
there would be an "autopsy" at the end, but that the negotiations did not
appear dead yet.
At the end of their Monday night
dinner, he escorted May to her car and warmly embraced her. He also gave
Britain's chief Brexit negotiator, David Davis, a big hug.
May is scheduled to join the leaders
of the 27 other EU countries at a Brussels summit later this week. The
remaining countries were set to announce there was insufficient progress in
the talks to begin negotiating a future trade relationship, a step Britain
The dinner came only days after EU
chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the latest round of Brexit talks
ended in a "disturbing deadlock" over Britain's financial obligations to the
EU estimates suggest Britain must
pay from 60 billion euros to 100 billion euros ($80 billion to $120 billion)
to settle commitments it made while part of the EU, such as development
projects and the pensions of civil servants. Britain has rejected such
May's Downing Street office
downplayed any suggestion that new proposals were on the table, arguing that
her recent speech in Florence, Italy constituted her latest offer.
The EU is demanding progress on the
so-called divorce issues — the financial settlement, citizens' rights and
the status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland — before talks can move on to issues such as future trading and
By speaking with EU heads of state
in advance, May is likely trying to re-position the country in the talks,
said Victoria Honeyman, a lecturer in British politics at the University of
"If May can try to get some leverage
with Merkel, Macron etc. then she might be able to reach a deal ... that
will require (Barnier) to be given new instructions," said Honeyman.
British Foreign Secretary Boris
Johnson on Monday urged the EU to speed up talks and start a discussion of
the future relationship with the U.K.
Johnson said it was time for the
negotiators to get moving and "stop letting the grass grow under our feet."
The pressure is on for May and her
government. Big business, and in particular the financial services industry,
is pressuring the country's leaders to act, arguing that further delays will
force companies to relocate.
Financial firms with EU headquarters
in London worry about losing the automatic right to do business in the rest
of the EU if Britain crashes out of the bloc without agreeing on a new trade
TheCityUK, a lobbying group for
financial services, warned Monday that firms will start relocating jobs in
the new year unless a transitional deal is struck soon.
"They can still take their foot off
the accelerator if a transitional deal is agreed, but without progress soon,
it may be too late," the group's chief executive, Miles Celic, said. "Once
businesses start moving, there is no reverse gear."
Egypt says Ramses II temple unearthed southwest of Cairo
photo shows the remains of a recently discovered temple for King Ramses II,
in Abusir, southwest of Cairo. (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities via AP)
Cairo (AP) — Egypt's antiquities
agency says archaeologists have unearthed remains of a temple belonging to
King Ramses II southwest of Cairo, which may shed light on the life of the
19th Dynasty pharaoh, over 3,200 years ago.
Mustafa Waziri, the head of agency, told The Associated
Press on Monday that the discovery was made by an Egyptian-Czech mission in
the village of Abusir near the step pyramid of Saqqara.
In a statement on Sunday, Miroslav Barta, the head of
the Czech team, said the temple is the only evidence of the presence of
Ramses II in the Badrashin area in Giza, part of Greater Cairo.
He said the discovery confirms the continued worship of
the sun god "Ra" in Abusir, which started in the 5th Dynasty, over 4,500
Today in History, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017
Today is Tuesday, Oct. 17, the 290th day of 2017. There
are 75 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 17, 1931, mobster Al Capone was convicted in
Chicago of income tax evasion. (Sentenced to 11 years in prison, Capone was
released in 1939.)
On this date:
In 1091, a tornado thought to be of strength T8/F4
strikes the heart of London.
In 1604, German astronomer Johannes Kepler observes a
supernova in the constellation Ophiuchus.
In 1610, French King Louis XIII, age nine, was crowned
at Reims, five months after the assassination of his father, Henry IV.
In 1771, the opera Ascanio in Alba premieres in Milan,
composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, age 15.
In 1777, British forces under Gen. John Burgoyne
surrendered to American troops in Saratoga, New York, in a turning point of
the Revolutionary War.
In 1807, Britain declared it would continue to reclaim
British-born sailors from American ships and ports regardless of whether
they held U.S. citizenship.
In 1888, Thomas Edison files a patent for the Optical
Phonograph (the first movie).
In 1933, Albert Einstein arrived in the United States
as a refugee from Nazi Germany.
In 1943, the Burma Railway (Burma–Thailand Railway) is
In 1956, the first commercial nuclear power station is
officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in Sellafield, in Cumbria, England.
In 1957, the movie "Jailhouse Rock," starring Elvis
Presley, had its world premiere in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1967, Puyi, the last emperor of China, died in
Beijing at age 61.
In 1979, Mother Teresa of India was awarded the Nobel
In 1989, the East German Politburo votes to remove
from his role as
Socialist Unity Party
Actress Marsha Hunt is 100. Actress Julie Adams is 91.
Singer Gary Puckett is 75. Actress Margot Kidder is 69. Actor George Wendt
is 69. Reggae singer Ziggy Marley is 49. Singer Wyclef Jean is 48. South
African golfer Ernie Els is 48. Singer Chris Kirkpatrick ('N Sync) is 46.
Rapper Eminem is 45. Actress Felicity Jones is 34. Actor Chris Lowell is 33.
Thought for Today:
"To talk to a child, to fascinate him, is much more
difficult than to win an electoral victory. But it is also more rewarding."
— Colette, French author (1873-1954).
276 killed in deadliest single attack in Somalia's history
react at the scene of Saturday's blast, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, Oct.
15. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
Mogadishu, Somalia (AP) — The
most powerful bomb blast ever witnessed in Somalia's capital killed 276
people with around 300 others injured, the country's information minister
said early Monday, making it the deadliest single attack in this Horn of
Africa nation. The toll was expected to rise.
In a tweet, Abdirahman Osman called the
attack "barbaric" and said countries including Turkey and Kenya had already
offered to send medical aid. Hospitals were overwhelmed a day after a truck
bomb targeted a crowded street near key government ministries, including
As angry protesters gathered near the
scene of the attack, Somalia's government blamed the al-Qaida-linked
al-Shabab extremist group for what it called a "national disaster." However,
Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, which often targets high-profile
areas of the capital, had yet to comment.
Al-Shabab earlier this year vowed to
step up attacks after both the Trump administration and Somalia's recently
elected president announced new military efforts against the group.
The Mogadishu bombing is one of the
deadliest attacks in sub-Saharan Africa, larger than the Garissa University
attack in Kenya in 2015 and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania
Doctors at Mogadishu hospitals
struggled to assist badly wounded victims, many burned beyond recognition.
"This is really horrendous, unlike any other time in the past," said Dr.
Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina hospital.
Inside, bleary-eyed nurses transported
a man whose legs had been blown off. He waited as surgeons attended to
another badly injured patient. Exhausted doctors struggled to keep their
eyes open, while screams from victims and newly bereaved families echoed
through the halls.
"Nearly all of the wounded victims have
serious wounds," said nurse Samir Abdi. "Unspeakable horrors." The smell of
blood was strong.
A teary-eyed Hawo Yusuf looked at her
husband's badly burned body. "He may die waiting," she said. "We need help."
Ambulance sirens echoed across the city
as bewildered families wandered in the rubble of buildings, looking for
missing relatives. "In our 10 year experience as the first responder in
#Mogadishu, we haven't seen anything like this," the Aamin Ambulance service
Grief overwhelmed many.
"There's nothing I can say. We have
lost everything," wept Zainab Sharif, a mother of four who lost her husband.
She sat outside a hospital where he was pronounced dead after hours of
efforts by doctors to save him.
The country's Somali-American leader,
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of mourning and
joined thousands of people who responded to a desperate plea by hospitals to
donate blood. "I am appealing all Somali people to come forward and donate,"
Mogadishu, a city long accustomed to
deadly bombings by al-Shabab, was stunned by the force of Saturday's blast.
The explosion shattered hopes of recovery in an impoverished country left
fragile by decades of conflict, and it again raised doubts over the
government's ability to secure the seaside city of more than 2 million
"They don't care about the lives of
Somali people, mothers, fathers and children," Prime Minister Hassan Ali
Khaire said of the attackers. "They have targeted the most populated area in
Mogadishu, killing only civilians."
Rescue workers searched for survivors
trapped under the rubble of the largely destroyed Safari Hotel, which is
close to Somalia's foreign ministry. The explosion blew off metal gates and
blast walls erected outside the hotel.
The United States condemned the
bombing, saying "such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the
United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the
scourge of terrorism." It tweeted a photo of its charge d'affaires in
Somalia donating blood.
But the U.S. Africa Command said U.S.
forces had not been asked to provide aid. A spokesman told The Associated
Press that first responders and local enforcement would handle the response
and "the U.S. would offer assistance if and when a request was made."
The U.S. military has stepped up drone
strikes and other efforts this year against al-Shabab, which is also
fighting the Somali military and over 20,000 African Union forces in the
The United Nations special envoy to
Somalia called the attack "revolting," saying an unprecedented number of
civilians had been killed. Michael Keating said the U.N. and African Union
were supporting the Somali government's response with "logistical support,
medical supplies and expertise."
In a tweet, U.N. Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres said he was "sickened" by the attack, and his spokesman
urged all Somalis to unite against extremism and work together to build a
"functional" federal state.
Saturday's blast occurred two days
after the head of the U.S. Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with
Somalia's president, and two days after the country's defense minister and
army chief resigned for undisclosed reasons.
Amid the chaos, the stories of victims
began to emerge. Amino Ahmed said one of her friends, a female medical
student, was killed on the eve of her graduation. The explosion also killed
a couple returning from a hospital after having their first child, said
Dahir Amin Jesow, a Somali lawmaker.
"It's a dark day for us," he said.
Ophelia to bring hurricane-force wind, heavy rain to Ireland
This satellite image released by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Ophelia, top center,
on Sunday, Oct. 15. (NOAA via AP)
London (AP) — Irish authorities
ordered all schools in the country to close Monday and warned cyclists and
motorists to stay off roads as Hurricane Ophelia bore down on Ireland and
the U.K. with potentially deadly winds.
Ophelia weakened to a Category 1
hurricane Sunday as it moved north-northeast across the Atlantic, with
sustained winds of 85 mph (140 kph).
It is expected to be downgraded to a
post-tropical storm before making landfall in southern Ireland Monday
morning, but U.K. Met Office forecaster Luke Miall said it could still pack
"hurricane force" winds.
Ireland's Met Eireann weather service
warned of "violent and destructive gusts" of up to 80 mph (130 kph) along
with heavy rain and storm surges, as the storm crosses the country.
The Irish weather service issued a red
warning, the highest level, for the whole country, and officials said
schools and colleges across Ireland would be closed Monday. Cyclists and
motorists were warned to stay off the roads during the height of the storm,
and most ferry crossings between Ireland and Britain were canceled.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said
the storm could bring two to three inches (50 to 75 millimeters) of rain in
western Ireland and Scotland, with coastal flooding and "large and
destructive waves" where it makes landfall.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
tweeted: "Defence forces being deployed in Red weather alert areas and on
standby for further action tomorrow."
Dublin and Shannon airports advised
passengers to check flight information before travelling, while Cork airport
in southwest Ireland said cancellations were likely.
Britain's Met Office said 80-mph gusts
could hit Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and warned of
potential power cuts, flying debris and disruption to transport and phone
signals. Strong winds could also hit Scotland, Wales and England.
Wild elephants attack Rohingya camp, killing 4 in Bangladesh
Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh is shown in this Sept. 26,
2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP) — Wild
elephants attacked a new camp where Rohingya refugees were sleeping, killing
a woman and her three children in southern Bangladesh, an official said
A herd of elephants entered the
Balukhali camp in Ukhiya town early Saturday and trampled tents where
several refugees were sleeping, said district forest official Mohammed Ali
Four other people, including the
woman's husband, were injured in the attack, Kabir said. Many others fled to
safety when they heard the elephants approaching.
Officials said the new camp was built
in a forest area that was earlier frequented by elephant herds.
The woman's husband, Abu Bakar
Siddique, said Sunday that he had been released from the hospital, but that
one of his children and some other relatives were still hospitalized.
More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have
fled from Myanmar's Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25,
when Myanmar security forces responded to attacks by a militant Rohingya
group with a broad crackdown on the long-persecuted Muslim minority. Many
houses were burned down.
The United Nations has called the
violence "textbook ethnic cleansing."
Siddique said he and his family made
the perilous journey from Rakhine state to reach Bangladesh some four days
They found a place and were living in a
tent in one of the camps where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have taken
"I fled Myanmar to avoid attacks by the
military. But the elephants have killed my wife and children," Siddique
said. "It is painful to live this way. I have lost everything."
Kabir, the forest official, said that
the elephant habitat was under threat and that the passages used by the
animals to move from one place to another have been encroached by human
Bangladesh's government had earlier
declared around 27,000 hectares (66,720 acres) of land as reserve forests
where herds comprising some 117 elephants had been spotted in the past,
It was the third attack by wild
elephants on the refugees in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, which
borders Myanmar. At least three people died in the two previous attacks.
Austrian poised to become Europe's 1st millennial leader
Kurz, head of the Austrian People's Party, speaks during the election party
in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Oct. 15. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Vienna (AP) — At age 31,
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is poised to become the first
millennial to lead a European country following his party's victory in a
national election Sunday.
While no party won a majority, the
telegenic Kurz is most likely to be sworn in as Austria's next chancellor —
and Europe's youngest leader — after the tough coalition government
negotiations that lie ahead.
Near-final results from Sunday's
balloting put his People's Party comfortably in first place, with 31.4
percent of the vote. The right-wing Freedom Party came in second with 27.4
percent. The center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria, which now
governs in coalition with People's Party, got 26.7 percent.
Becoming head of government would be
the next leap in a political career that started eight years ago when Kurz,
then studying law, was elected chairman of his party's youth branch.
Smart and articulate, he eventually
caught the eye of People's Party elders. He was appointed state secretary
for integration, overseeing government efforts to make immigrants into
Austrians, in 2011.
After a Social Democratic-People's
Party coalition was formed four years ago, Kurz, then 27, became Austria's
foreign minister — the youngest top diplomat in Europe.
He hosted several rounds of talks
between Iran and six other countries on Tehran's nuclear program, meeting
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
and other powerbrokers. Other international events further boosted his
visibility and party influence.
When a new wave of migrants and
refugees seeking to relocate to Europe became a continent-wide concern in
2015, Kurz recognized Austrian voters' anxiety over unchecked immigration
involving large numbers of Muslim newcomers.
He called for tougher external border
controls, better integration and stringent control of "political Islam"
funded from abroad. He also organized the shutdown of the popular overland
route through the West Balkans many newcomers were using to reach the EU's
By now, Kurz and his traditionally
centrist party had drifted considerably to the right of their Social
Democratic government partners, making governing difficult. Kurz's moment
came when both agreed this spring to an early national election.
The People's Party, then lagging in
third place and long seen as a stodgy old boys network, made him leader.
Kurz set out to reinvent the party's image after securing guarantees for
The youthful, Vienna-born politician
turned out to be the tonic the party needed, helping it shrug off criticism
that it's been part of the political establishment for decades. He mostly
goes without a tie, works standing behind a desk and flies economy class. He
has a girlfriend, but is private about his life outside politics.
Noting that his center-right party had
triumphed over the rival Social Democrats only twice since the end of World
War II, Kurz called Sunday's election a "historic victory."
Opposition vies for landmark victory in polarized Venezuela
in line to cast their ballots outside a polling station during regional
elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, Oct. 15, (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
Fabiola Sanchez and Christine
Caracas, Venezuela (AP) —
Sunday’s elections in Venezuela could tilt a majority of the country' 23
governorships back into opposition control for the first time in nearly two
decades of socialist party rule — though the government said the newly
elected governors will be subordinate to a pro-government constitutional
The election was being watched closely
as an indicator of how much support President Nicolas Maduro and the
socialist movement founded by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez,
maintain amid soaring inflation and crippling food and medical shortages
that continue to wreak havoc in Venezuelans' daily lives.
Anti-government candidates were
projected in polls to win more than half the races, but this success
depended heavily on their ability to motivate disenchanted voters.
Voting got off to a relatively slow
start in Miranda, the country's second most populous state that surrounds
the capital. Some polling centers were nearly empty in the morning, but
voting appeared to pick up in the afternoon. Some people were still in line
waiting to cast ballots after the official closing time. Venezuelan law
requires election officials to keep voting centers open until everyone still
in line has voted.
Both Venezuela's opposition and
pro-government leaders reported high levels of participation as voting
counting got underway, but no official results had been released early
Socialist party leader Jorge Rodriguez
said participation was "much higher" Sunday than during the last regional
vote in 2012, when 9.2 million Venezuelans cast ballots.
Opposition leader Ramon Guillermo
Aveledo described the election as "a gigantic popular victory of historic
"The Venezuelan people have expressed
their desire with their vote," he said at the opposition's headquarters.
"They have expressed their protest and they have expressed their hope."
The election comes during one of the
most turbulent years in recent Venezuelan history. Four months of
anti-government protests that began in April left at least 120 people dead.
In August, the new pro-government constitutional assembly ruling with
virtually unlimited powers was installed after a vote that opposition
leaders refused to participate in and that the National Electoral Council
was accused of manipulating.
With few checks and balances remaining,
a rising number of foreign leaders are calling Venezuela a dictatorship.
In a taped message released Sunday,
Maduro urged Venezuelans to vote in what he said would be a demonstration
that the nation maintains a "vigorous democracy."
"They've said we are a dictatorship,"
Maduro said, walking calmly while holding a cup of coffee. "No. We are a
democratic people, rebellious, and with an egalitarian sensibility."
Opposition leaders scoffed at Maduro's
suggestion the election would be held up as proof that Venezuela remains a
"We are fighting to recover our
democracy," said Henrique Capriles, one of the opposition's most
recognizable figures. "Democracy is not just voting."
Maduro has warned that new governors
will have to take a loyalty oath submitting to the authority of the assembly
that is re-writing the nation's constitution. Opposition candidates have
vowed not to submit themselves to an assembly they consider illegal.
The regional elections were originally
scheduled to take place last December, but the pro-government National
Electoral Council postponed the vote after polls showed socialist candidates
were widely slated to lose. The vote was rescheduled for this December, but
delegates at the new constitutional assembly later moved it up to October.
Days before the vote, the electoral
council announced it was moving more than 200 voting centers, predominantly
in opposition strongholds. Council officials defended the relocations as a
security measure in areas where violent protests took place in July.
The opposition accused the council of
trying to suppress turnout among its base — a significant portion of which
has grown disillusioned about the possibility of change and lost faith in
leaders they perceive as disorganized and divided.
Opposition-arranged buses were
transporting voters to the new sites Sunday — some of which were nearly an
hour away. Other voters from middle-class neighborhoods were being sent to
vote in poor communities where crime is high.
Susana Unda, a homemaker who voted for
Carlos Ocariz, the opposition's candidate in Miranda, used her truck to
transport voters whose polling sites were relocated.
"I was born in a democracy and I want
to die in a democracy," she said.
Electoral council president Tibisay
Lucena said the election was proceeding with the lowest number of reported
irregularities that Venezuela had seen in an election, though the
independent Venezuelan Electoral Observatory reported several incidents of
harassment and voter intimidation.
Luis Lander, the group's director, said
those incidents included reports of pro-government supporters on motorcycles
threatening voters gathered at polling sites. He said the number of voting
centers that opened late was also higher than in previous elections.
Socialist candidates urged Venezuelans
to stick with the egalitarian principles installed by Chavez while also
"People don't want more protests," said
Hector Rodriguez, the young, charismatic pro-government candidate
challenging Ocariz in Miranda. "They want us to work to improve the economy
Rodriguez's message resonated with
Sergio Camargo, a private security guard who said he hoped his vote would
set Venezuela on the right path.
"I hope that after this vote, the
people against the government of President Nicolas Maduro are more sensible
and let him govern," he said.
Philippine, Australian forces stage sea drill as ties deepen
Australian Navy’s HMAS Adelaide cruises alongside landing crafts with
Philippine Marines and Australian troops as they conduct a joint
Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise off Subic Bay in
northwestern Philippines Sunday, Oct. 15. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Subic Bay, Philippines (AP) —
Filipino and Australian naval forces darted across the sea and landed on a
Philippine wharf in a disaster-response drill Sunday that reflects their
deepening security ties in a region prone to calamities, piracy and
Lt. Col. Daniel Turner of the
Australian Defence Force said the naval maneuvers in Subic Bay, northwest of
Manila, will strengthen the two countries' ability to jointly respond to
typhoons and other disasters when roads, bridges and ports are damaged or
The drills reflect the strengthening
security relations between the two U.S. allies despite Philippine President
Rodrigo Duterte's often antagonistic stance toward American security policy.
Australia and the United States have deployed surveillance aircraft to help
Filipino troops quell a disastrous siege by pro-Islamic State group
militants in southern Marawi city.
During the maneuvers, more than 100
Philippine marines and Australian naval personnel took off from an
Australian navy ship, the HMAS Adelaide, on board troop carriers then rushed
to a port at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base. Two Associated Press
journalists were allowed to witness the exercises from a helicopter.
When typhoons and floods happen,
"traditional infrastructure is damaged and the only way we could get to the
affected area is through helicopters and landing craft," Turner said. "Our
militaries can operate together, support those affected people."
Australia signed a 2007 accord that
allows its forces to train in the Philippines. Australia is the only country
aside from the United States with which Manila has forged such a defense
pact, commonly known as a status of forces agreement.
Subic Bay faces the South China Sea,
where China, the Philippines and four other governments have long-unresolved
territorial disputes, but Australian officials stressed that Sunday's
exercises were aimed only at improving the ability of Australian and
Philippine forces to deal jointly with natural catastrophes.
Australia does not take sides in the
disputes, but Captain Jonathan Earley, commanding officer of the Adelaide,
said his government has an interest in keeping regional stability and the
rule of law.
"What that includes is our ability to
conduct freedom of trade, so trade is unimpeded, and that countries do have
that ability to exercise freedom of navigation," Earley said.
Today in History, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017
Today is Monday, Oct. 16, the 289th day of 2017. There
are 76 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 16, 1987, a 58-1/2-hour drama in Midland,
Texas, ended happily as rescuers freed Jessica McClure, an 18-month-old girl
trapped in a narrow, abandoned well.
On this date:
In 456, Magister militum Ricimer defeats Emperor Avitus
at Piacenza and becomes master of the Western Roman Empire.
In 690, Empress Wu Zetian ascends to the throne of the
Tang dynasty and proclaims herself ruler of the Chinese Empire.
In 1793, during the French Revolution, Marie
Antoinette, the queen of France, was beheaded.
In 1813, the Sixth Coalition attacks Napoleon Bonaparte
in the Battle of Leipzig.
In 1834, much of the ancient structure of the Palace of
Westminster in London burns to the ground.
In 1847, the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontė is
published in London.
In 1869, the Cardiff Giant, one of the most famous
American hoaxes, is "discovered".
In 1934, Chinese Communists, under siege by the
Nationalists, began their "long march" lasting a year from southeastern to
In 1946, ten Nazi war criminals condemned during the
Nuremberg trials were hanged.
In 1950, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.
Lewis is published, starting The Chronicles of Narnia series.
In 1957, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
began a visit to the United States with a stopover at the site of the
Jamestown settlement in Virginia.
In 1968, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos
sparked controversy at the Mexico City Olympics by giving "black power"
salutes during a victory ceremony after they'd won gold and bronze medals in
the 200-meter race.
In 1978, the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic
Church chose Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to be the new pope; he took the name
John Paul II.
In 1984, Desmond Tutu is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1991, a deadly shooting rampage took place in
Killeen, Texas, as a gunman opened fire at a Luby's Cafeteria, killing 23
people before taking his own life.
In 1998, former Chilean dictator General Augusto
Pinochet is arrested in London on a warrant from Spain requesting his
extradition on murder charges
Actress Angela Lansbury is 92. Actor Peter Bowles is
81. Actor-producer Tony Anthony is 80. Rock musician C.F. Turner
(Bachman-Turner Overdrive) is 74. Actress Suzanne Somers is 71. Rock
singer-musician Bob Weir is 70. Producer-director David Zucker is 70.
Actor-director Tim Robbins is 59. Actor-musician Gary Kemp is 58. Rock
musician Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) is 55. Singer Wendy Wilson (Wilson
Phillips) is 48. Rapper B-Rock (B-Rock and the Bizz) is 46. Rock singer Chad
Gray (Mudvayne) is 46. Actor Paul Sparks is 46. Actress Kellie Martin is 42.
Singer John Mayer is 40. Actor Jeremy Jackson is 37. Actress Caterina
Scorsone is 37. Actress Brea Grant is 36. Australian motorcycle racer Casey
Stoner is 32.
Thought for Today:
"What is time? The shadow on the dial, the striking of
the clock, the running of the sand, day and night, summer and winter,
months, years, centuries — these are but arbitrary and outward signs, the
measure of Time, not Time itself. Time is the Life of the soul." — Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet (1807-1882).
Update October 14 - 15 , 2017
Floods and landslides kill 54, leave 39 missing in Vietnam
damage a house in the northern province of Hoa Binh, Vietnam on Friday Oct.
13. (Nhan Sinh/Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Hanoi (AP) — Floods and
landslides have killed at least 54 people in Vietnam and left another 39
missing since a tropical depression hit the country earlier this week, in
one of its worst natural disasters in years, officials said Friday.
The heavy rain in the central and
northern regions disrupted transportation in some areas, hampering efforts
to rescue the missing.
The storm, which hit central Vietnam on
Tuesday, also injured 31 people, submerged more than 30,000 houses, and
damaged infrastructure and crops, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority
said in a statement Friday.
Disaster official Nguyen Thi Lien from
northern Yen Bai province, where six people died from the floods, said 580
soldiers and police and more than 2,000 residents have been mobilized to
search for 16 others still missing in the province.
"Transportation to and from the
southern district of Tram Tau was cut off by landslides and floods, making
it impossible to send additional search forces to look for six people still
missing there," Lien said, adding that the search operations in the district
are relying on local military, police and villagers.
Another tropical depression has been
upgraded to a tropical storm, Khanun, which swept through the Philippines'
northern island of Luzon early Friday and is moving in the South China Sea
toward Vietnam, according to national weather forecasters.
The storm could bring more rain and
misery to the central and northern regions already soaked by rain and
Vietnam is ranked the seventh most
disaster-prone country in the world, and disasters over the past two decades
have caused more than 13,000 deaths and property damage in excess of $6.4
billion, according to Achim Fock, acting country director for the World Bank
Speaking at a conference in Hanoi on
Friday marking International Day for Disaster Reduction, Fock said it is
time for Vietnam to prepare seriously to reduce its climatic vulnerability.
"If Vietnam does not invest in disaster
resilience today, it misses an opportunity for social, economic and
environmental progress that will have impacts for years to come," he said,
according to a copy of the speech provided by the World Bank.
Freighter sinks off Philippine coast; 10 crew missing
This photo shows a damaged lifeboat, which is
believed to be off the Emerald Star near its sinking site, off the
Philippines' eastern coast Friday, Oct. 13. (The 11th Regional Coast Guard
Headquarters via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — A Hong
Kong-registered freighter sank Friday in rough seas off the Philippine
coast, leaving 10 crewmembers missing, Japan's coast guard said.
It said a distress call was received
early Friday from the 33,205-ton Emerald Star from a location about 150
nautical miles (280 kilometers) off the Philippines' eastern coast. It said
26 crewmembers, all Indians, were aboard.
The coast guard said three passing
freighters rescued 16 of the crewmembers from the sea, and a fourth
freighter later also joined the search in the area where the Hong Kong ship
is believed to have sunk.
Two patrol aircraft dispatched by the
coast guard are searching from the sky, while three patrol boats are still
on their way, slowed down by a storm in the area.
Photos taken by coast guard aircraft
showed a damaged lifeboat believed to be from the sunken ship floating in
choppy waters, along with traces of an oil leak.
The coast guard said the cause of the
sinking was not known.
Teams report first progress against California wildfires
City firefighter walks in front of flames during a backburn operation
Friday, Oct. 13, in Glen Ellen , California. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Paul Elias and Jocelyn Gecker
Santa Rosa, Calif. (AP) — A
fifth day of desperate firefighting in California wine country brought a
glimmer of hope Friday as crews battling the flames reported their first
progress toward containing the massive blazes, and hundreds more
firefighters poured in to join the effort.
The scale of the disaster also became
clearer as authorities said the fires had chased an estimated 90,000 people
from their homes and destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses. The
death toll rose to 36, making this the deadliest and most destructive series
of wildfires in California history.
In all, 17 large fires still burned
across the northern part of the state, with more than 9,000 firefighters
attacking the flames using air tankers, helicopters and more than 1,000 fire
"The emergency is not over, and we
continue to work at it, but we are seeing some great progress," said the
state's emergency operations director, Mark Ghilarducci.
Over the past 24 hours, crews arrived
from Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, North and South
Carolina, Oregon and Arizona. Other teams came from as far away as Canada
Since igniting Sunday in spots across
eight counties, the blazes have reduced entire neighborhoods to ash and
rubble. The death toll has risen daily as search teams gain access to
previously unreachable areas.
Individual fires including a 1991 blaze
in the hills around Oakland killed more people than any one of the current
blazes, but no collection of simultaneous fires in California ever led to so
many deaths, authorities said.
People remained on edge, worried about
the wind shifting fires in their direction, said Will Deeths, a Sonoma
middle school principal helping to supervise volunteers at Sonoma Valley
High School, now an evacuation shelter.
"In the afternoons we start looking up
at the flag pole and we start looking to see, is the wind blowing? Is the
flag moving?" he said. "It's been really crazy."
Dozens of search-and-rescue personnel
at a mobile home park in Santa Rosa, also in Sonoma County, carried out the
grim task Friday of searching for remains. Fire tore through Santa Rosa
early Monday, leaving only a brief window for residents to flee, and
decimated the park, which was known as Journey's End and was home to
hundreds of people.
Workers were looking for two missing
people who lived at the park. They found one set of remains, mostly bone
fragments, and continued looking for the other, said Sonoma County Sgt.
To help in the search, the Alameda
County Sheriff's Office near San Francisco sent specialized equipment,
including drones with three-dimensional cameras and five dogs trained to
sniff out human remains.
Authorities have said that some victims
were so badly burned they were identified only by metal surgical implants
found in the ashes that have ID numbers on them.
The influx of outside help offered
critical relief to firefighters who have been working with little rest since
the blazes started.
"It's like pulling teeth to get
firefighters and law enforcement to disengage from what they are doing out
there," CalFire's Napa chief Barry Biermann said. "They are truly passionate
about what they are doing to help the public, but resources are coming in.
That's why you are seeing the progress we're making."
In addition to manpower, equipment
deliveries have poured in. Crews were using 840 fire engines from across
California and another 170 sent from around the country.
Two of the largest fires in Napa and
Sonoma counties were at least 25 percent contained by Friday, which marked
"significant progress," said Ken Pimlott, chief of the California Department
of Forestry and Fire Protection. But he cautioned that crews would face more
gusty winds, low humidity and higher temperatures. Those conditions were
expected to take hold later Friday and persist into the weekend.
Smoke from the blazes hung thick over
the grape-growing region and drifted south to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Face masks were becoming a regular accessory, and sunsets turned blood-red
from the haze.
"It's acrid now," said Wayne Petersen
in Sonoma. "I'm wearing the mask because I've been here two or three days
now. I live here. It's starting to really affect my breathing and lungs."
Fire officials were investigating
whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the
fires, but they say they are far from determining how the blazes began.
Russia launches European atmosphere monitoring satellite
carrying the atmosphere-monitoring satellite for Europe’s Copernicus
programme, Sentinel-5P, lifts off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern
Russia Friday, Oct. 13. (ESA via AP)
Moscow (AP) — Russia
successfully launched a satellite into orbit Friday that will monitor
Europe's atmosphere, helping to study air pollution.
The European Space Agency's Sentinel-5P
satellite was launched by a Rokot missile from the Plesetsk launch pad in
northwestern Russia. The satellite will map the atmosphere every day.
After separating from the upper stage
booster, the satellite deployed its solar panels and began communications
with Earth, the ESA said. The first signal was received 93 minutes after
launch as the satellite passed over the Kiruna station in Sweden.
Controllers at ESA's operations center
in Darmstadt, Germany, then established command and control links allowing
them to monitor the satellite's condition.
"The Sentinel-5P satellite is now
safely in orbit so it is up to our mission control teams to steer this
mission into its operational life and maintain it for the next seven years
or more," ESA Director General Jan Woerner said in a statement.
The mission will contribute to volcanic
ash monitoring for aviation safety and for services that warn of high levels
of UV radiation causing skin damage. The measurements also will help
understand processes in the atmosphere related to the climate and to the
formation of holes in the ozone layer.
It's the sixth satellite in the ESA's
Copernicus program. Other Earth-observing Sentinel satellites launched
earlier provide radar and optical imagery of the Earth, and monitor the
condition of the world's oceans and ice sheets.
"Having Sentinel-5P in orbit will give
us daily and global views at our atmosphere with a precision we never had
before," ESA quoted Josef Aschbacher, the head of its earth observation
programs, as saying.
Philippe Gaudy, who oversees the
Sentinel project for the European Space Agency, said data collected by
Sentinel 5P would help scientists to better monitor air pollution, such as
for nitrogen oxide emitted by cars.
A recent report estimated that more
than 400,000 people die prematurely in Europe alone because of air
Orbital observation can be used to
compare reported air pollution by governments with actual data, to see
whether countries are living up to their commitments under international
treaties, Gaudy said.
The data from Sentinel-5P will be made
available for free to anyone who wants it, he added.
It will take engineers several months
to calibrate and validate the measurements, meaning data will start to
become available in the first half of next year.
Weah maintains lead in Liberia election's early results
Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, file photo, former soccer star George Weah, casts
his vote during the presidential election in Monrovia, Liberia. (AP
Monrovia, Liberia (AP) — Former
international soccer star George Weah maintained an early lead in Liberia's
election Friday as the West African nation released a second round of
provisional results of the vote to succeed Africa's first female president.
With 20 candidates, observers expect a
runoff election. National Election Commission Chairman Jerome Korkoya has
warned candidates' supporters against declaring victory until final results
are announced, which must be done by Oct. 25. A candidate must get just over
50 percent to avoid a runoff.
Based on about 33 percent of the votes
cast at more than 5,300 polling stations, Weah had 39.6 percent of the
ballots counted. He held a slight lead over Vice President Joseph Boakai,
who received 31.1 percent, according to election commission data. Charles
Brumskine was third with 9.3 percent.
Liberia seeks a successor to Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf, who led the country as it recovered from civil war and the
Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians.
The 51-year-old Weah is a former
striker for AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. His youthful Congress for
Democratic Change party is in a coalition with two others, including the
National Patriotic Party of now-jailed former President Charles Taylor.
Weah's running mate is Jewel Howard-Taylor, Taylor's ex-wife.
Boakai, who has been vice president for
nearly 12 years, is running for the ruling Unity Party.
One of Liberia's largest political
parties has called for a halt to vote-counting, alleging voting
irregularities and fraud. The Liberty Party claims that polls opened late
and that ballot-tampering occurred in at least one location in the capital,
The Liberty Party's candidate is
Brumskine, a corporate lawyer who placed third in 2005 elections and fourth
The election commission is ready to
listen to official complaints but the vote-counting will continue, spokesman
Henry Boyd Flomo said. He said he could not address the accusation of
ballot-tampering but acknowledged that many voters found it difficult to
find their voting station. Everyone was allowed to vote, he added.
The Carter Center, which observed
elections, has commended Liberians "for the calm and peaceful atmosphere" of
the vote. It noted difficulties with long lines and management of voter
lists but said it could not give a final assessment until vote counting is
"No matter the outcome of this
election, it will result in a transfer of power from one democratically
elected government to another for the first time in the lives of many
Liberians," it said in a statement.
Today in History, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017
Today is Saturday, Oct. 14, the 287th day of 2017.
There are 78 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles E.
("Chuck") Yeager became the first test pilot to break the sound barrier as
he flew the experimental Bell XS-1 (later X-1) rocket plane over Muroc Dry
Lake in California.
On this date:
In 1066, Normans under William the Conqueror defeated
the English at the Battle of Hastings.
In 1322, Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeats King
Edward II of England at Byland, forcing Edward to accept Scotland's
In 1773, just before the beginning of the American
Revolutionary War, several of the British East India Company's tea ships are
set ablaze at the old seaport of Annapolis, Maryland.
In 1926, "Winnie-the-Pooh" by A.A. Milne was first
published by Methuen & Co. of London.
In 1944, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel committed
suicide rather than face trial and certain execution for allegedly
conspiring against Adolf Hitler.
In 1959, actor Errol Flynn died in Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada, at age 50.
In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis begins after a U.S.
Air Force U-2 reconnaissance plane flies over the island of Cuba and takes
photographs of Soviet SS-4 Sandal missiles being installed and erected in
In 1964, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was
named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev
was toppled from power; he was succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev as First
Secretary and by Alexei Kosygin as Premier.
In 1968, Jim Hines of the United States of America
becomes the first man ever to break the so-called "ten-second barrier" in
the 100-meter sprint in the Summer Olympic Games held in Mexico City with a
time of 9.95 seconds.
In 1977, singer Bing Crosby died outside Madrid, Spain,
at age 74.
In 1987, a 58-hour drama began in Midland, Texas, as
18-month-old Jessica McClure slid 22 feet down a narrow abandoned well at a
private day care center; she was rescued on Oct. 16.
In 1997, novelist Harold Robbins died in Palm Springs,
California, at age 81.
In 2012, Felix Baumgartner successfully jumped to Earth
from a helium balloon in the stratosphere in the Red Bull Stratos project.
Fashion designer Ralph Lauren is 78. Singer Sir Cliff
Richard is 77. Singer-musician Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues) is 71. Actor
Harry Anderson is 65. Singer-musician Thomas Dolby is 59. Actor Steve Coogan
is 52. Actress-singer Shaznay Lewis (All Saints) is 42. Singer Usher is 39.
Thought for Today:
"To think is to speak low. To speak is to think aloud."
— F. Max Mueller, German philologist (1823-1900).
Myanmar's Suu Kyi urges unity, creates new aid committee
People on a motorbike watch a televised speech
by Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, by a roadside Thursday, Oct.
12, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)
Yangon (AP) — Myanmar's
embattled leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for national unity Thursday and
said she has created a committee that will oversee all international and
local assistance in violence-struck Rakhine state.
More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have
fled from the state to neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when security
forces responded to attacks by a militant Rohingya group with a broad
crackdown on the long-persecuted Muslim minority. Many houses were burned
The U.N. has called the violence
"textbook ethnic cleansing."
Suu Kyi acknowledged in a speech on
state-run television that the country is facing widespread criticism over
the refugee crisis and called for unity in tackling the problem. She said
her government is holding talks with Bangladesh on the return of "those who
are now in Bangladesh." She gave no details, but officials have suggested
they would need to provide residency documents, which few have.
Myanmar's Buddhist majority denies that
Rohingya Muslims are a separate ethnic group and regards them as having
migrated illegally from Bangladesh, although many families have lived in
Myanmar for generations. Suu Kyi did not use the word "Rohingya" in her
speech but referred to several other ethnic minorities by name.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate
and former political prisoner, has been widely criticized outside Myanmar
for not speaking out on behalf of the Rohingya.
She said in her speech that those who
return from Bangladesh would need to be resettled, without providing
details, and that development must be brought to Rakhine, one of the
country's poorest areas, to achieve a durable peace.
She said she would head the new
committee, the "Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement
and Development in Rakhine," and that it would coordinate all efforts to
create a "peaceful and developed Rakhine state."
The government has tightly restricted
access to Rakhine for international aid groups and journalists.
Suu Kyi said her government has invited
U.N. agencies, financial institutions such as the World Bank, and others to
help develop Rakhine.
Myanmar officials deny there has been
Myanmar's ambassador to Japan, Thurain
Thant Zin, told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday that his government was
providing humanitarian aid to all affected by the violence and denied
reports of human rights abuses by the military.
"To say the Myanmar military conducted
those illegal acts is untrue and cannot be true," he said. "The Myanmar
government protests the use of such terms as ethnic cleansing and genocide."
At U.N. headquarters in New York, U.N.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesman said he is sending
Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Myanmar for
several days starting Friday to meet government officials and others to
address urgent issues the U.N. chief has raised regarding the Rohingyas.
These issues include Guterres' repeated
calls for an end to military operations and violence in northern Rakhine
state, unfettered humanitarian access, and the voluntary and "sustainable
return" of refugees who fled to Bangladesh, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, met Myanmar's National Security Ambassador U Thaung Tun and
raised the same issues.
She urged an immediate end to violence
by all sides and access to all those affected by the fighting and appealed
to Myanmar "to facilitate the safe, dignified return of all those displaced
as quickly as possible."
The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile,
has invited former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who headed a
commission on Rakhine state, to an informal meeting Friday to discuss its
findings and recommendations. The commission, which disbanded last month,
focused on long-term solutions to improve people's lives and addressed many
of the root causes of the current crisis.
Rivals Hamas, Fatah reach preliminary deal on governing Gaza
Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, center
right, and Hamas' representative, Saleh al-Arouri, center left, sign a
reconciliation agreement during a press conference at the Egyptian
intelligence complex in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Oct. 12. (AP Photo/Nariman
Hamza Hendawi and Fares Akram
Cairo (AP) — Rival Palestinian
groups Hamas and Fatah have reached a preliminary, partial agreement that
could pave the way for President Mahmoud Abbas to resume governing the Gaza
Strip a decade after Hamas overran the territory, officials said Thursday.
Details of the deal were announced at a
news conference in Cairo, where the negotiators were meeting. Hamas leader
Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the deal was reached under "generous
Egyptian auspices," without elaborating.
A senior Palestinian official said
Abbas, the leader of Fatah, might visit Gaza in the coming weeks, depending
on the successful implementation of the agreement. The official spoke on
condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.
The Western-backed Abbas hasn't set
foot in Gaza since 2007, when the Islamic militant Hamas, his main
ideological rival, seized the territory after days of factional street
battles. The Hamas takeover, which came a year after the group defeated
Fatah in Palestinian parliamentary elections, left Abbas with autonomous
enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Over the past decade, each side
deepened control over its territory, making it increasingly difficult to
forge compromises, and repeated attempts at reconciliation failed.
Under the emerging agreement, Hamas
would hand over responsibilities of governing Gaza to the West Bank-based
government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah
delegation, said Abbas' Palestinian Authority would assume control of the
crossing points between Gaza and Israel by Nov. 1. He said Abbas'
presidential guard would assume control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza
and Egypt, but did not specify a timetable.
Egypt has kept the Rafah border
crossing closed for most of the last decade. Before the Hamas takeover,
Abbas' presidential guard administered the crossing under EU monitoring.
"The Rafah crossing needs some measures
to improve and renovate the buildings in a way that is worthy of Egypt and
the Palestinian people so as it can operate smoothly," al-Ahmad said during
the announcement of the deal.
A senior Hamas official, who spoke
earlier on condition of anonymity pending the formal announcement, said both
sides agreed that European monitors could be posted at the crossing, a
measure that might assuage Israeli concerns about weapons smuggling.
A permanent opening of the Rafah
crossing would mean an end to the crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade
imposed on Gaza after the Hamas takeover, which prevents free trade and bars
the vast majority of Gaza's 2 million people from leaving the territory.
Only one of Gaza's four commercial
crossings to Israel, Kerem Shalom, is currently operating, down from four
before 2007. A small number of people, mainly medical patients, business
people and aid workers, use the Erez crossing to enter Israel, usually bound
for the West Bank.
Hamas has indirectly run the
Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom commercial crossing, collecting taxes and
fees on imports. At Erez, Hamas maintained security control from a
checkpoint near the crossing, while the Palestinian Authority had a small
office to coordinate with the Israeli side.
Officials close to the talks said the
sides agreed to set up committees to work out other details. In the past,
such mechanisms quickly led to deadlock.
One committee would have four months to
determine who among thousands of Hamas civil servants would be able to join
the new government. Another committee would merge 3,000 Palestinian
Authority loyalists into Gaza's Hamas-run police force.
Saleh al-Arouri, the head of the Hamas
delegation in Cairo, said "we in Hamas are determined, serious and sincere
this time and every time to end the division."
"We have adopted the strategy of one
step at a time so that the reconciliation will succeed," he added.
Key issues were not addressed in the
A major sticking point has been the
Hamas military wing and its arsenal, which Hamas has said is not up for
discussion. Hamas officials have assured the Fatah negotiators that the
military wing would maintain a low profile as part of any deal. It's not
clear if this will satisfy Abbas, or if the dispute will re-emerge later on.
The Hamas official said Hamas, Fatah
and smaller Palestinian factions would meet next month to discuss other
issues related to reconciliation, including holding long-overdue
parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas and Fatah would return to
Cairo in early December to assess implementation of the agreement, the
Struggling with the fallout from the
border blockade, Hamas has found it increasingly difficult to govern or
provide basic services, such as electricity.
The 82-year-old Abbas, meanwhile, might
be thinking about his legacy. The political split has been a major stain on
his rule, and there have been no negotiations with Israel since the peace
process last collapsed in 2014.
Abbas heads the political camp that
seeks to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, lands
Israel captured in the 1967 war.
Hamas suggested in a new political
manifesto earlier this year that it might consider a state in pre-1967 lines
as an interim option, but also endorses an Islamic state in historic
Palestine, including what is now Israel. The group refuses to renounce
violence or recognize Israel.
EU laments Brexit progress amid divorce bill deadlock
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis left, and
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier participate in a media
conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 12. (AP
Lorne Cook and Jill Lawless
Brussels (AP) — Brexit talks have made little
progress, the European Union's chief negotiator said Thursday, meaning they
cannot yet be broadened beyond the terms of Britain's exit to include key
issues like future trade relations.
Michel Barnier said that despite the
"constructive spirit" shown in this week's fifth round of talks, "we haven't
made any great steps forward." On the question of how much Britain has to
pay to settle its financial commitments, he said: "We have reached a state
of deadlock, which is disturbing."
Barnier said he would not be able to
recommend to EU leaders meeting next week that "sufficient progress" has
been made to broaden the talks to future EU-British relations, including
The leaders meet in Brussels on Oct.
19-20, and with time short to seal a deal it had been hoped they would agree
to widen the talks.
The EU says this can only happen when
there has been progress on the issues of the financial settlement, the
rights of citizens affected by Brexit and the status of the Northern
Many businesses are worried that
Britain could leave the EU without a trade deal in place, which would mean
tariffs on exports from both sides, reams of red tape and chaos at ports.
The pound fell Thursday on news of the slow progress, trading 0.6 percent
lower at $1.3142.
Britain says its exit terms are closely
intertwined with those on future relations like trade and must be discussed
"I hope the member states will see the
progress we have made and take a step forward" next week, British Brexit
envoy David Davis told reporters.
"We would like them to give Michel the
means to broaden the negotiations. It's up to them whether they do it.
Clearly I think it's in the interests of the United Kingdom and the European
Union that they do," Davis said.
Despite the lack of progress, Barnier
said the two would work to achieve "sufficient progress" in time for a
subsequent meeting of EU leaders in December.
Around one third of the negotiating
time has already elapsed. Britain must leave the EU on March 29, 2019, but
the talks must be completed within about a year to leave time for EU states'
national parliaments to ratify the Brexit agreement.
European estimates on the size of the
divorce bill have varied from around 60 billion euros to 100 billion euros,
but Prime Minister Theresa May's government has rejected such numbers
without clearly explaining how the amount should be calculated.
"The U.K. repeated that it was still
not ready to spell out these commitments," Barnier said. "There have
therefore been no negotiations on this subject."
The negotiations appear to be moving at
a snail's pace, and each round leaves a sense of deja vu, with Barnier
lamenting the lack of movement, and Davis appealing for more European
flexibility. Thursday's news conference, though, was brightened briefly by
an unexpected visitor dressed as a superwoman promoting her book on why
Europe needs one.
Mindful that the clock is ticking,
Barnier reaffirmed that parting with "no deal will be a very bad deal."
"To be clear, on our side, we will be
ready to face any eventualities, and all the eventualities," he said.
The British government is under
pressure from euroskeptic lawmakers to increase planning for a "no deal"
Brexit, without a trade agreement.
Pro-Brexit lawmakers are urging May's
government to set aside money for new customs posts and other infrastructure
that would be needed in the event of no deal. Some even say Britain should
walk away from the negotiations if the EU does not agree to start the next
phase by the end of the year.
The Brexit spokesman for Britain's
opposition Labour Party, accused the government of risking a collapse in the
talks with its infighting.
Keir Starmer said crashing out without
a deal "would be catastrophic for jobs and living standards and must be
rejected as a viable option."
He urged Davis to ask for an emergency
round of talks before next week's EU summit in an attempt to unblock the
US to pull out of UNESCO amid Palestinian tensions
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization logo is pictured on
the entrance at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Matthew Lee and Angela Charlton
Paris (AP) — U.S. officials have
said that the United States is pulling out of UNESCO, after repeated
criticism of resolutions by the U.N. cultural agency that Washington sees as
While the U.S. stopped funding UNESCO
after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State
Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and
sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. The withdrawal was confirmed
Thursday by U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because they
weren't authorized to be publicly named discussing the decision. It was not
clear when the move would be formally announced.
The decision comes as the U.N.
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is voting to choose a new
director this week, in tense balloting overshadowed by the agency's funding
troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership.
Many saw the vote to include Palestine
as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United
Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries
and their supporters.
UNESCO is best known for its World
Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions around the world.
The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor
countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding of the
horrors of the Holocaust and to defend media freedom, among other
The Trump administration has been
preparing for a likely withdrawal for months, and a decision was expected
before the end of the year, according to U.S. officials. Several diplomats
who were to have been posted to the mission this summer were told that their
positions were on hold and advised to seek other jobs.
In addition, the Trump administration's
proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the
possibility that UNESCO funding restrictions might be lifted.
The lack of staffing and funding plans
for UNESCO by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of
UNESCO by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United
Nations Nikki Haley.
The U.S. pulled out of UNESCO in the
1980s because Washington viewed it as mismanaged and used for political
reasons, then rejoined it in 2003.
Volcanic eruption in Japan spreads ash in 4 cities, towns
smoke rises from the Shinmoedake volcano after its eruption in the border of
Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, southwestern Japan, Thursday, Oct. 12.
(Tomoaki Ito/Kyodo News via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — A volcano in
southwestern Japan is erupting for the first time in six years, spewing ash
over nearby farms, cities and towns.
Japanese broadcaster TBS showed
elementary school students wearing helmets and masks Thursday on the way to
their school at the foot of the Shinmoedake volcano. Residents also
described hearing rumbles from the volcano and ash fell in at least four
cities and towns in Miyazaki prefecture.
Street cleaners swept ash from city
streets, and farmers used leaf blowers to clear the growing piles of ash
from the tops of their plastic greenhouses.
The volcano on the border of Kagoshima
and Miyazaki prefectures started erupting Wednesday for the first time in
On Thursday, an ash plume rose 2,000
meters (6,560 feet) from the crater, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The agency has raised the volcanic
alert level from 2 to 3 on a scale of 5. Level 3 warns people to not
approach the volcano.
It said pyroclastic flow, which is an
emission of hot gases and volcanic matter at high speed, is possible within
2 kilometers of the crater. Emissions of ash and volcanic rocks were
forecast through Friday for a wider area, but the locations at risk would
depend on wind conditions and altitude.
The seismically active area around the
Pacific known as the "Ring of Fire" includes active volcanoes in Japan as
well as two causing mass evacuations in Indonesia and Vanuatu in recent
Today in History, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017
Today is Friday, Oct. 13, the 286th day of 2017. There
are 79 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 13, 1792, the cornerstone of the executive
mansion, later known as the White House, was laid by President George
Washington during a ceremony in the District of Columbia.
On this date:
In A.D. 54, Roman Emperor Claudius I died, poisoned
apparently at the behest of his wife, Agrippina.
In 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrests
of the Knights Templar on charges of heresy.
In 1773, the Whirlpool Galaxy was discovered by Charles
In 1821, the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican
Empire is publicly proclaimed.
In 1884, the International Meridian Conference votes on
a resolution to establish the meridian passing through the Observatory of
Greenwich, in London, as the initial meridian for longitude.
In 1917, the "Miracle of the Sun" is witnessed by an
estimated 70,000 people in the Cova da Iria in Fįtima, Portugal.
In 1923, Ankara replaces Istanbul as the capital of
In 1943, the new government of Italy sides with the
Allies and declares war on Germany.
In 1962, Edward Albee's four-character drama "Who's
Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" opened on Broadway.
In 1972, a Uruguayan chartered flight carrying 45
people crashed in the Andes; survivors resorted to feeding off the remains
of some of the dead in order to stay alive until they were rescued more than
two months later.
In 1981, voters in Egypt participated in a referendum
to elect Vice President Hosni Mubarak the new president, one week after the
assassination of Anwar Sadat.
In 2010, rescuers in Chile using a missile-like escape
capsule pulled 33 men one by one to fresh air and freedom 69 days after they
were trapped in a collapsed mine a half-mile underground.
Greek singer and politician Nana Mouskouri is 83.
Singer-musician Paul Simon is 76. Singer-musician Sammy Hagar is 70. Singer
Marie Osmond is 58. Former NFL football player Jerry Rice is 55. Actress
Kelly Preston is 55. Olympic silver medal figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is
48. Actor Sacha Baron Cohen is 46. Singer Ashanti is 37. Olympic gold medal
swimmer Ian Thorpe is 35.
Thought for Today:
"Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low
opinion of himself." — Anthony Trollope, English author (1815-1882).
Pressure mounts for Vegas police to explain response time
candles and other items surround the famous Las Vegas sign at a makeshift
memorial for victims of a mass shooting Monday, Oct. 9, in Las Vegas. (AP
Las Vegas (AP) - Pressure
mounted Wednesday for Las Vegas police to explain how quickly they reacted
to what would become the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history
after two hotel employees reported a gunman spraying a hallway with bullets
six minutes before he opened fire on a crowd at a musical performance.
On Monday, Clark County Sheriff Joe
Lombardo revised the chronology of the shooting and said the gunman, Stephen
Paddock, had shot a hotel security guard through the door of his suite and
strafed a hallway of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino with 200 rounds six
minutes before he unleashed a barrage of bullets into the crowd.
That account differed dramatically from
the one police gave last week when they said Paddock ended his hail of fire
on the crowd in order to shoot through his door and wound the unarmed guard,
"These people that were killed and
injured deserve to have those six minutes to protect them," said Chad
Pinkerton, an attorney for Paige Gasper, a California college student who
was shot under the arm in the attack. "We lost those six minutes."
Maintenance worker Stephen Schuck told
NBC News that he was checking out a report of a jammed fire door on the 32nd
floor of Mandalay Bay when he heard gunshots and the hotel security guard
who had been shot in the leg peeked out from an alcove and told him to take
"It was kind of relentless so I called
over the radio what was going on," Schuck said. "As soon as the shooting
stopped we made our way down the hallway and took cover again and then the
shooting started again."
Gunshots can be heard in the background
as Schuck used his radio to report the shooting, telling a dispatcher: "Call
the police, someone's firing a gun up here. Someone's firing a rifle on the
32nd floor down the hallway."
Campos also used his radio and possibly
a hallway phone to call hotel dispatchers for help, police have said. It was
unclear if and when the hotel relayed the reports of shots being fired to
Las Vegas authorities did not respond
to questions about whether hotel security or anyone else in the hotel called
911 to report the gunfire.
"Our officers got there as fast as they
possibly could and they did what they were trained to do," Las Vegas
assistant sheriff Todd Fasulo said previously.
The parent company of the hotel has
raised concerns that the revised timeline presented by police may be
"We cannot be certain about the most
recent timeline," said Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts
International. "We believe what is currently being expressed may not be
DeShong declined to comment on a
lawsuit filed Tuesday by lawyers for Gasper against the company, concert
promoter, gunman's estate and the manufacturer of the "bump stocks" used by
the gunman to help mimic a fully automatic firearm.
Undersheriff Kevin McMahill earlier
defended the hotel and said the encounter between Paddock and the security
guard and maintenance man disrupted the gunman's plans, but he would not
comment on the revised timeline.
"MGM and the people associated with the
MGM and people involved that night at the event did a fantastic job,"
The six minutes wouldn't have been
enough time for officers to stop the attack, said Ron Hosko, a former FBI
assistant director who has worked on SWAT teams.
Rather than rush in without a game
plan, police would have been formulating the best response to the barricaded
gunman, he said.
"Maybe that's enough time to get the
first patrolman onto the floor but the first patrolman is not going to go
knock on that customer's door and say 'What's going on with 200 holes in the
door?'" Hosko said.
Floods caused by tropical depression kill 15 in Vietnam
walk a pig through flood water in northern province of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam,
Wednesday, Oct. 11. (Trinh Duy Hung/Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Hanoi (AP) — Floods triggered by
a tropical depression in Vietnam have killed 15 people and left eight others
missing, officials said Wednesday.
The storm hit central Vietnam on
Tuesday, bringing heavy rain to the region and to parts of northern Vietnam.
Eight people, including two children,
were killed in central Nghe An province, disaster official Nguyen Thi Kim
Provincial officials said three people
died and five others were missing in the northern province of Yen Bai. In
Thanh Hoa province, north of Nghe An, two people were killed and three
others were missing. Disaster officials said two people died in the northern
province of Hoa Binh.
Vietnam is prone to storms and floods
which kill hundreds of people each year.
Spain gives ultimatum to Catalonia: Back down or be punished
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks
during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday,
Oct. 11. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra
Madrid (AP) — Spanish
authorities gave Catalonia's separatist leader five days to explain whether
his ambiguous statement on secession was a formal declaration of
independence and warned Wednesday that his answer dictated whether they
would apply never-used constitutional powers to curtail the region's
Threatening to invoke a section of the
Spanish Constitution to assert control over the country's rogue region,
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Catalan president Carles Puigdemont's
response to the central government's ultimatum would be crucial in deciding
"events over the coming days."
Puigdemont announced on Tuesday that he
was using the victory in a banned Oct. 1 referendum to proceed with a
declaration of Catalan independence, but proposed freezing its
implementation for a few weeks to allow for dialogue and mediation with the
government in Madrid.
His equivocal position seemed designed
to appease the most fervent separatists, but also to build support —both in
Catalonia and internationally — by provoking another tough response from
Rajoy's Cabinet. Spanish police used force to try to stop the referendum
vote, producing images that elicited sympathy for the separatists.
Speaking in the national parliament in
Madrid on Wednesday, Rajoy said the referendum Catalonia's regional
parliament and Puigdemont's government held in violation of a court order
was illegal and part of a strategy "to impose independence that few want and
is good for nobody."
The ensuing crisis, he said, was "one
of the most difficult times in our recent history."
Rajoy, whose government has been under
fire for the police violence, blamed the Catalan separatists for inciting
recent street protests and said that "nobody can be proud of the image"
Spain has projected to the rest of the world with the referendum.
Lawyers, civil society groups and
politicians in Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain have offered to mediate
between the two sides, but the prime minister rejected the offers. He said
he refused to engage in dialogue with a disobeying Catalan government.
"There is no possible mediation between
democratic law and disobedience and unlawfulness," Rajoy said, throwing the
ball back to the Barcelona-based Catalan authorities for the next move.
If Puigdemont replies before Monday
that he indeed proclaimed independence with his Tuesday announcement, he
would have three more days to rectify the situation, according to a formal
demand submitted by the central government Wednesday. That would mean
abandoning implementation of the declaration Catalan separatist lawmakers
signed establishing a new Catalan republic, the government said.
A refusal to backtrack or providing no
response will lead Madrid to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish
Constitution, which allows central authorities to take some or total control
of any of the country' 17 regions if they rebel or don't comply with their
The warning issued Wednesday was the
first step required before Rajoy's Cabinet can invoke the article for
approval from the Senate, where Rajoy's ruling Popular Party has an absolute
The measure has never been invoked
during the nearly four decades since the 1978 Constitution restored
democracy in post-dictatorship Spain.
The central government "wants to offer
certainty to citizens," Rajoy said, adding that it was "necessary to return
tranquility and calm."
There was no immediate response by
Marta Rivas, a regional lawmaker with
the Catalonia Si Que es Pot anti-establishment party, warned that applying
Article 155 to curb the region's autonomy could backfire and produce more
"If the Spanish state repeats its
actions and enforces the clause, we will be in full confrontation with the
state," Rivas said.
About 2.3 million Catalans — or 43
percent of the electorate in the northeastern region — voted in the
independence referendum. Regional authorities say 90 percent were in favor
of secession and declared the results valid. Opponents of the referendum
being held had said they would boycott the vote.
Rajoy's government previously had
refused to grant Catalonia permission to hold a referendum on the grounds
that it would only poll a portion of Spain's 46 million residents and was
A window to change the law that
authorizes regional referendums only with the central government's approval
opened Wednesday. Opposition Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez announced that
he was backing Rajoy's efforts to quell the Catalan separatists' defiance,
but said the premier had agreed to open talks on amending the constitution
in six months.
The deal between the Socialists and
Rajoy's People's Party primarily is aimed at appeasing the Catalans by
reforming the system that governs all the autonomous regions. Many regions —
Catalonia most of all — regard the system as outdated.
In Catalonia, the decades-long desire
for more self-governance has evolved into a growing push to break the
region's century-old ties with Spain. The separatist camp swelled during the
country's recent economic crisis and with Madrid's repeated rejection of the
region's attempts to strengthen self-rule.
Sanchez said his party would
nevertheless strive to change the current regional arrangements to "allow
for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain."
On the streets of Barcelona, residents
followed developments closely.
"They both keep on repeating the same
things," resident Alicia Gallego said, referring to Rajoy and Puigdemont.
"The best would be if they could sit
down and make some clarity and decide something, maybe a bit more autonomy.
I don't know. I am not a politician," she said. "But it is clear that this
must have a more reasonable solution."
Another Barcelona resident, Jose
Alfaro, said he does not expect any decisive developments to happen any time
"There is enough time to reopen
dialogue. Now we are starting a new chapter," he said. "We have to wait and
see. I don't think that in the short term something will happen."
2 Indian air force commandos, 2 rebels killed in Kashmir
Villagers carry the body of Kashmiri rebel
Nasrullah Mir in Hajin town, 38 kilometers north of Srinagar in Indian
controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Oct. 11. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
Srinagar, India (AP) — Two
Indian air force commandos and two rebels were killed on Wednesday in a
fierce gun battle in the disputed region of Kashmir, officials said.
Soldiers began an anti-militant
operation by cordoning off northern Hajin town on a tip that rebels were
hiding in the area, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman. He
said the deaths occurred in the ensuing intense fighting.
It is the first time the Indian army
has said that air force personnel were participating in ground combat
against rebels in Kashmir.
Kalia said the two air force commandos
"were operating with the army for operational experience and training."
In 1990, at least four air force
officers were killed in an ambush by Kashmiri rebels, but they were not
participating in any operation.
Street clashes erupted in Hajin shortly
after the fighting ended as hundreds of residents demanded an end to Indian
rule in Kashmir. Government forces fired tear gas and shotgun pellets to
quell the rock-throwing protesters.
Protesters later marched in the town
carrying the body of one of the dead militants. They chanted anti-India and
pro-rebel slogans while women sang dirges.
Meanwhile, police said they have
detained two Kashmiri policemen for allegedly supplying ammunition to
Police Director-General S.P. Vaid said
the two detained officers are being questioned after ammunition was
recovered from them.
After the outbreak of an anti-India
armed rebellion in Kashmir in 1989, police, including local officers,
initially fought against it. However, within a few years, most Kashmiri
police abandoned the task and stayed at their posts and barracks after
rebels began targeting their families. Dozens even joined the rebel ranks,
rising to become militant commanders, including one former police constable
who was killed in a gunbattle last year.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan
each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in
its entirety. Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under
Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and
training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in
Kashmir's mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels' cause
while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed
in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
UK finance chief: Worst-case Brexit could ground all flights
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond answers questions at the
parliamentary Commons Treasury Select Committee in London on Wednesday Oct.
11. (PA via AP)
London (AP) — A worst-case
Brexit scenario could see all air traffic between the U.K. and the European
Union grounded the day after Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019,
Britain's finance minister said Wednesday.
Philip Hammond said he considers that
outcome highly unlikely, but he said there must be rapid progress on divorce
negotiations to stop uncertainty acting as a dampener on the British
Leaving the EU means untangling four
decades of laws, regulations and agreements covering everything from food
standards to aviation.
Hammond said it's conceivable "there
will be no air traffic between the U.K. and the European Union on the 30th
of March 2019, but I don't seriously think anybody believes that is where we
will get to."
He said uncertainty about Brexit is
weighing on the economy, and "we need to remove it as soon as possible by
making progress" in talks with Brussels.
Hammond said there was a "need for
speed" from the 27 other EU nations.
"We are being affected by uncertainty
around the negotiating process we are engaged in at the moment," Hammond
said. "There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that businesses and consumers
are waiting to see what the outcome is, or at least what the direction of
travel is, before firming up investment decisions and consumption
Hammond was answering questions from
lawmakers, a day after the International Monetary Fund downgraded its
forecast of U.K. economic growth to 1.7 percent this year and 1.5 percent in
2018. Britain was the only major economy not to have its forecast raised by
A fifth round of negotiations is being
held this week, with talks bogged down in details of the divorce settlement,
including the amount of money Britain owes the bloc.
Hammond said the government is
"planning for all scenarios including a no-deal scenario" in which divorce
talks end without a deal on trade, security and other relations.
"At the moment, although of course we
hope for a different outcome, we cannot be certain of that different
outcome," he said.
But he said he was not committing large
sums to set up infrastructure such as truck parks and English Channel ports,
as some Brexit-backing lawmakers have demanded.
He said that "every pound we spend on
contingent preparations for a hard customs border is a pound we can't spend
on (health care), social care, education, or deficit reduction."
Russia scores temporary win against US on cybercrime suspect
In this Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 file photo,
police officers escort Alexander Vinnik, center, as they leave a courthouse
at the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Thessaloniki, Greece (AP) —
Russia on Wednesday won the latest round in a judicial tug-of-war with the
U.S. over who should try a Russian cybercrime suspect arrested during a
holiday in Greece.
Last week, a panel of judges in the
city of Thessaloniki agreed to send Alexander Vinnik to the U.S. to face
charges he laundered $4 billion worth of bitcoins through BTC-e, one of the
world's largest digital currency exchanges, which he allegedly operated.
On Wednesday, a different panel of
judges accepted a Russian extradition request, which followed the initial
U.S. one. In Russia, Vinnik is accused of a 667,000-ruble ($11,500) fraud.
The final decision will rest with
Greece's justice minister once Vinnik, 37, has exhausted the process of
appealing his extradition to the U.S.
"When both requests from two different
countries are accepted (in court), like in this case, it's up to the Justice
Minister to decide which request to comply with," said Xanthippe Moissidou,
one of Vinnik's lawyers.
Vinnik denies both sets of charges, but
said he wants to be tried in Russia. He has appealed his U.S. extradition,
and Greece's Supreme Court is expected to rule on that appeal in coming
"If the Supreme Court rejects the U.S.
request, as our client wants, the minister is obliged to follow (its)
decision," Moissidou said.
The U.S. Justice Department says that
Vinnik has been indicted by a grand jury in the Northern District of
California, on charges including money laundering, conspiracy to commit
money laundering and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.
The charges, if proved in court, carry
maximum sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
Following a U.S. request, Vinnik was
arrested in July while on holiday with his family in the Halkidiki area of
northern Greece, which is popular with Russian tourists.
Today in History, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Today is Thursday, Oct. 12, the 285th day of 2017.
There are 80 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 12, 1492 (according to the Old Style calendar),
Christopher Columbus' expedition arrived in the present-day Bahamas.
On this date:
In 1792, the first recorded U.S. celebration of
Columbus Day was held to mark the tricentennial of Christopher Columbus'
In 1810, the German festival Oktoberfest was first held
in Munich to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and
Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
In 1823, Charles Macintosh of Scotland sells the first
In 1915, English nurse Edith Cavell was executed by a
German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium
during World War I.
In 1917, the First Battle of Passchendaele takes place
resulting in the largest single day loss of life in New Zealand history.
In 1933, bank robber John Dillinger escaped from a jail
in Allen County, Ohio, with the help of his gang, who killed the sheriff,
In 1957, the Dr. Seuss Yuletide tale "How the Grinch
Stole Christmas!" was first published by Random House.
In 1960, Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on
a desk at United Nations General Assembly meeting to protest a Philippine
assertion of Soviet Union colonial policy being conducted in Eastern Europe.
In 1964, the Soviet Union launched a Voskhod space
capsule with a three-man crew on the first mission involving more than one
crew member (the flight lasted just over 24 hours).
In 1973, President Richard Nixon nominated House
minority leader Gerald R. Ford of Michigan to succeed Spiro T. Agnew as vice
In 1984, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
escaped an attempt on her life when an Irish Republican Army bomb exploded
at a hotel in Brighton, England, killing five people.
In 1997, singer John Denver was killed in the crash of
his privately built aircraft in Monterey Bay, California; he was 53.
In 2000, 17 sailors were killed in a suicide bomb
attack on the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.
In 2002, bombs blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants
destroyed a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 202 people,
including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
Actress Antonia Rey is 90. Singer Sam Moore (formerly
of Sam and Dave) is 82. Carlos the Jackal, Venezuelan terrorist and murderer
is 68. Susan Anton, American actress and model is 67. Actor Hugh Jackman is
49. Olympic gold medal skier Bode Miller is 40. Rock singer Jordan Pundik
(New Found Glory) is 38.
Thought for Today:
"Christopher Columbus, as everyone knows, is honoured
by posterity because he was the last to discover America." — James Joyce,
Irish author and poet (1882-1941).
Catalan leader stakes claim to independence, then delays it
Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont
signs an independence declaration document after a parliamentary session in
Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Aritz Parra and Joseph Wilson
Barcelona, Spain (AP) — Catalan
separatists on Tuesday signed what they called a declaration of independence
from Spain to cheers and applause in the regional parliament. Catalonia's
president said he would delay implementing it for several weeks to give
dialogue a chance.
Spain, however, called an emergency
Cabinet meeting for Wednesday morning and gave little indication it is
willing to talk.
In his highly anticipated speech,
regional President Carles Puigdemont said the landslide victory in a
disputed Oct. 1 referendum gave his government the grounds to implement its
long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.
But he proposed that the regional
parliament "suspend the effects of the independence declaration to commence
a dialogue, not only for reducing tension but for reaching an accord on a
solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people."
"We have to listen to the voices that
have asked us to give a chance for dialogue with the Spanish state,"
The central government in Madrid
responded that it did not accept the declaration of independence by the
separatists and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said an emergency
Cabinet meeting had been called for Wednesday.
The Catalan leader "doesn't know where
he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go," she said.
Saenz de Santamaria said the government
couldn't accept the Catalan government's validation of its referendum law
because it is suspended by the Constitutional Court, or the results of the
Oct. 1 vote because it was illegal and void of guarantees.
She said Puigdemont had put Catalonia
"in the greatest level of uncertainty seen yet."
One of the government's options at the
Wednesday meeting could be to set about applying Article 155 of the
Constitution, which allows the central government to take some or total
control of any of its 17 regions that don't comply with their legal
obligations. This would begin with a Cabinet meeting and a warning to the
regional government to fall into line. Then, the Senate could be called to
approve the measure.
Puigdemont also could be called in for
questioning in court and possibly arrested.
Following his speech, the Catalan
leader was the first to sign the document titled "Declaration of the
Representatives of Catalonia." Dozens of other separatist lawmakers signed
it after him.
The signatories said the document was a
full declaration of independence.
Joan Barcelo, a researcher on political
conflicts at Washington University in St. Louis, said the mixed messages
sent by Puigdemont's speech did little in his effort to rally international
"It's a mess and a mistake in political
communication strategy," Barcelo said. "He was trying not to burn bridges to
dialogue, but he's going to create doubts among his supporters."
In his remarks, Puigdemont was highly
critical of the Spanish government's response to the referendum and the
violent police reaction that left hundreds injured on voting day, but said
Catalans have nothing against Spain or Spaniards, and that they want to
understand each other better.
"We are not criminals, we are not
crazy, we are not pulling off a coup, we are not out of our minds. We are
normal people who want to vote," he said.
Opposition leader Ines Arrimadas of the
Ciutadans (Citizens) party slammed the speech.
"This is a coup. Nobody has recognized
the result of the referendum. Nobody in Europe supports what you have just
done," she said.
"The majority of Catalans feels they
are Catalans, Spanish and European. ... We won't let you break our hearts
into bits," Arrimadas said.
Socialist leader Miquel Iceta also was
"You are proposing to suspend a
declaration that hasn't been made, that's pretty tough," he said with irony,
adding that "you can't claim a mandate from the Oct. 1 vote ... a vote that
had no guarantees."
Puigdemont's speech marked a critical
point in a decade-long standoff between Catalan separatists and Spain's
central authorities. Security was tight in Barcelona and police cordoned off
a park surrounding the legislative building.
In Brussels, European Council President
Donald Tusk pleaded directly with the Catalan leadership ahead of the speech
to choose dialogue rather than a divisive call for independence.
"I ask you to respect in your
intentions the constitutional order and not to announce a decision that
would make such a dialogue impossible," he said.
Some 2.3 million Catalans — or 43
percent of the electorate in the northeastern region — voted in the
referendum. Regional authorities say 90 percent were in favor and declared
the results valid. Those who opposed the referendum had said they would
boycott the vote.
Rajoy's government had repeatedly
refused to grant Catalonia permission to hold a referendum on the grounds
that it was unconstitutional, since it would only poll a portion of Spain's
46 million residents.
Catalonia's separatists camp has grown
in recent years, strengthened by Spain's recent economic crisis and by
Madrid's rejection of attempts to increase self-rule in the region.
The political deadlock has plunged
Spain into its deepest political crisis in more than four decades, since
democratic rule was restored following the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco
Thousands rallied in Barcelona's
streets and watched Puigdemont's speech. For some, his move to not declare
outright secession was disappointing.
"I feel a little sad because now is not
independence," said 55-year-old Maria Gill. "We must wait a few weeks, a few
weeks we must talk with the government of Spain."
Others took a more stoic approach.
"Perhaps it isn't the decisive
declaration, declaring the republic and breaking away (from Spain) from
today before any negotiation," said Oscar Baldes. "But it's a first step and
Any declaration of independence won't
immediately lead to the creation of a new state because the Catalan
government will need to figure out how to wrest control of its sovereignty
from a Spanish government that has the law, and international support, on
its side, said Barcelo, the researcher on political conflicts.
He said any declaration must be viewed
through the lens of "the Catalan government's long-term strategy of
provoking an extraordinary and even clumsy reaction from central
authorities" to build support.
Hundreds of thousands have turned out
for protests in Barcelona and other towns in the past month to back
independence and protest against police violence during the vote. Those
committed to national unity have also staged separate, large-scale rallies.
Polls indicate that Catalonia's 7.5
million residents are evenly divided over secession, although a majority
support holding a referendum on independence authorized by central
The tension has already affected the
economy, with dozens of companies relocating their corporate addresses to
remain under Spanish and European laws if Catalonia secedes. The moves of
the firms' bases have not so far affected jobs or investments, but they
don't send a message of confidence in the Puigdemont government.
S. Korean lawmaker says North Korea hacked war plans
In this Sept. 18, 2017, file photo, a U.S. Air
Force B-1B bomber drops a bomb as it flies over the Korean Peninsula during
joint military drills with South Korea. (South Korea Defense Ministry via
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — A
South Korean lawmaker says North Korean hackers stole highly classified
military documents that include U.S.-South Korean wartime "decapitation
strike" plans against the North Korean leadership.
The United States, meanwhile, staged
another show of force meant to deter any North Korean aggression by flying
two B-1B supersonic bombers Tuesday night from an air base in the U.S.
territory of Guam to the South for drills with South Korean jets. Such
flights by the powerful aircraft based in Guam incense the North, which
claims they are preparation for war; Pyongyang has threatened to send
missiles into the waters around Guam.
If confirmed, the reported hacking
attack by the North would be a major blow for South Korea at a time when its
relations with rival North Korea are at a low point. The South has taken an
increasingly aggressive stance toward the North's belligerence amid
back-and-forth threats of war between North Korea and U.S. President Donald
Trump. North Korea's possession of secret war plans would require a major
overhaul of how South Korea and its ally Washington would respond if there's
another war on the Korean Peninsula.
An unusually aggressive approach to the
North by Trump, which has included rhetoric hinting at U.S. strikes and
threatening the destruction of North Korea's leadership, has some South
Koreans fearful that war is closer than at any time since the Korean War
ended in 1953 in a shaky ceasefire, leaving the Korean Peninsula still
technically in a state of war.
Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker for the
ruling Democratic Party who sits on the National Defense Committee, said
defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the
classified U.S.-South Korean war plans, including parts of Operational Plan
5015, which includes procedures for a decapitation strike on the North's
leadership if a crisis breaks out or appears imminent.
The Defense Ministry after an
investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of
the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, but had refused
to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was
compromised. Defense officials refused to comment Wednesday.
Lee, who didn't specify his sources,
said the plans allegedly stolen by the North include operations for tracking
the movement of the North's leadership, isolating their hideouts, executing
air assaults and follow-up actions for securing and eliminating targets,
which would obviously include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"There is an urgent need for the
military to change and update parts that were stolen by North Korea," Lee
A pre-emptive strike against
Pyongyang's leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it's widely seen
as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a
nuclear attack from its rival.
Outside governments and international
human rights organizations say Kim rules as a tyrant over a largely
malnourished and abused population while enjoying a luxurious lifestyle
backed up by a weapons program nearly advanced enough to viably target the
U.S. mainland with nuclear-tipped missiles. But Kim, the third generation of
his family to rule, is officially revered in the North, and any suggestion
of removing him from power is taken extremely seriously in Pyongyang.
Lee said that 235 gigabytes of military
documents were taken, but the military has yet to identify 80 percent of the
documents that were compromised. Other stolen data included contingency
plans for South Korean special forces and information on military facilities
and power plants, he said.
Seoul says North Korea has repeatedly
staged cyberattacks on South Korean business and government websites. North
Korea routinely denies responsibility.
Not long after the news of the alleged
cyberattacks broke, two B-1B bombers few from Guam to conduct drills with
two South Korean fighter jets Tuesday night, a South Korean Defense Ministry
official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules.
The U.S. bombers staged simulated
air-to-ground missile striking drills off the peninsula's east coast before
flying across the country accompanied by the two South Korean jets. The
aircraft then conducted similar simulated air to ground striking drills off
the peninsula's west coast, the official said.
North Korea has yet to comment on
either the bombing drills or the hacking claims.
Video in Malaysian court shows practice before Kim attack
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police
as she leaves after the court hearing at Shah Alam court house in Shah Alam,
outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday, Oct. 10. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)
Shah Alam, Malaysia (AP) — The
Vietnamese suspect in the assassination of the estranged half brother of
North Korea's leader was seen on airport security video presented in court
Wednesday smearing something on a person's face two days before Kim Jong Nam
was killed in that manner.
The footage showed Doan Thi Huong
running toward a person from behind and wiping his face, then clasping her
hands and slightly bowing before moving away.
Describing other security videos the
day of the murder, police officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz testified
Huong was more "aggressive" when she approached Kim Jong Nam compared to the
Wan Azirul, the chief police
investigator, said Huong arrived at the Kuala Lumpur airport two hours
before the attack and bought a taxi voucher.
The attack on Kim took place about 9
a.m. on Feb. 13 in the airport's departure hall. After smearing Kim's face,
Huong hurried away from Kim and "her hand gestures showed she was
uncomfortable," wan Azirul said. She walked swiftly to a restroom one floor
below, keeping her hands partially raised and her palms away from her body
as if to avoid contact.
Prosecutors said previously they would
present evidence the two murder suspects knew they were handling poison when
they killed Kim. Their defense lawyers have said the women were duped by
suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless
prank for a TV show.
"She seemed to be anxious. From my
observation, Doan has been informed and knew what needed to be done. Even
though she seemed to be in panic, she knew what to do," wan Azirul told the
Huong was in the restroom for just over
a minute, and the police investigator testified she was more relaxed and her
hands were in normal position after she left the restroom. She then headed
to the taxi queue and was joined by the second suspect, Siti Aisyah from
Indonesia, shortly afterward.
Other witnesses have testified that VX
nerve agent was detected on Kim's face and on the suspects' clothing and on
Huong's fingernails clippings. Witnesses also testified that washing hands
could remove the oily substance.
Huong and Aisyah have pleaded not
guilty to murder charges that carry a mandatory death sentence if they are
Smoke, ash from wildfires blanket California cities
A cruise ship passes beneath the Golden Gate
Bridge as smoke from wildfires blankets the San Francisco skyline Tuesday,
Oct. 10. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Olga R. Rodriguez and Amy Taxin
San Francisco (AP) — Millions of
Californians on Tuesday saw their lawns covered in ash and air filled with
smoke as firefighters battled ferocious wildfires in the northern and
southern parts of the state.
The fast-moving blazes produced thick,
gray clouds that hovered over densely-populated areas in Northern and
Southern California, forcing many schools to keep students inside and air
quality agencies to issue smoke advisories calling on residents to limit
At Disneyland, visitors snapped photos
of hazy, orange skies late Monday that gave an ominous glow to a theme park
already decked out for Halloween. Ash fell like snow over seaside Southern
California communities more than a dozen miles from the hillside
neighborhoods where the fire raged.
"My eyes tear and it's uncomfortable
for me to breathe," said Yolanda Ramos, 66, who had driven to Santa Ana from
her Los Angeles County home to visit her 91-year-old father. "I wanted to
take my father out in the wheelchair, and they said no."
At least 15 people have been killed and
as many as 2,000 homes and businesses destroyed in an onslaught of fires
stretching across Northern California.
The West this year has been hit hard by
dozens of fires that have blanketed the air with choking smoke, prompting
officials to issue air quality advisory alerts throughout the region.
The fires in Napa and Sonoma counties,
home to dozens of world-renowned wineries, sent smoke as far south as San
Francisco, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away. Air quality concerns
prompted schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to cancel outdoor
football, soccer and other sports practices.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management
District issued a warning saying the wildfires north of San Francisco are
causing very unhealthy air quality throughout the region, and advised
residents to stay inside if possible and keep windows and doors closed.
San Francisco officials put air filters
in four public libraries for those seeking relief from the smoke.
Some workers in San Francisco's
financial district wore masks as they went to the street from their offices.
To the south, the wind-driven brush
fire that burned 12 square miles (31 square kilometers) in northeastern
Orange County led officials to close more than a dozen schools. Schools as
far away as Long Beach limited outdoor activity as a precaution or have kept
children inside for physical education and recess.
"We're trying to keep them indoors,"
said Annie Brown, a spokeswoman for Irvine Unified School District. "It's
kind of like a rainy day."
In the 24 hours since the fire began,
Orange County health officials recorded a 7.5 percent uptick in emergency
respiratory transports to emergency rooms compared with the daily average
for such cases last week. Most of these cases were related to asthma.
The South Coast Air Quality Management
District issued an advisory in effect through Wednesday morning that warns
the air quality may be unhealthy in large stretches of Orange and Riverside
US Navy relieves of duties top officers of wrecked warship
This Aug. 22, 2017 file
photo shows the damaged port aft hull of the USS John S. McCain while docked
at Singapore's Changi naval base. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Tokyo (AP) — The commander and executive officer
of the USS John S. McCain were relieved of their duties Wednesday due to
lost confidence after the warship and an oil tanker collided near Singapore
The cause of the Aug. 21 collision is
still under investigation but the U.S. Navy described it as preventable. The
Navy statement said Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez and the ship's executive
officer, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, were reassigned.
The crash killed 10 U.S. sailors and
injured five more. It was one of several accidents in the region that raised
concern over the safety and operational effectiveness of U.S. naval vessels.
Some Navy officials have cited strains
from frequent extended deployments, delayed maintenance and nearly a decade
of budget constraints and reductions in resources devoted to training as
But the Navy statement said it also was
"evident the collision was preventable, the commanding officer exercised
poor judgment and the executive officer exercised poor leadership of the
ship's training program."
The Navy fired the then-commander of
the Japan-based 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, shortly after the
It followed the collision of the USS
Fitzgerald and a container ship in waters off Japan in June, which killed
seven sailors. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground near Yokosuka base
in Japan, and in May the USS Lake Champlain had a minor collision with a
South Korean fishing boat.
McCain Cmdr. A. Sanchez, was reassigned
to the headquarters of Naval Forces Japan and Cmdr. J. Sanchez was
reassigned to the Ship Repair Facility at Yokosuka, home port of the 7th
Fleet, the Navy said.
It said Cmdr. Ed Angelinas, former
commanding officer of the USS McCampbell, was named acting commanding
officer of the McCain. Lt. Cmdr. Ray Ball, chief engineer of USS Antietam,
is acting executive officer.
Today in History, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2017
Today is Wednesday, Oct. 11, the 284th day of 2017. There are 81 days
left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Oct. 11, 1942, the World War II Battle of Cape
Esperance began in the Solomon Islands, resulting in an American victory
over the Japanese.
On this date:
In 1634, the Burchardi flood (the
second Grote Mandrenke) killed around 15,000 men in North Friesland,
Denmark and Germany.
In 1649, after a ten-day siege,
English New Model Army troops (under Oliver Cromwell) stormed the town
of Wexford, killing over 2,000 Irish Confederate troops and 1,500
In 1779, Polish nobleman Casimir
Pulaski, fighting for American independence, died two days after being
wounded during the Revolutionary War Battle of Savannah, Georgia.
In 1899, the Second Boer War
begins: In South Africa, a war between the United Kingdom and the Boers
of the Transvaal and Orange Free State erupts.
In 1954 in the First Indochina War,
the Viet Minh take control of North Vietnam.
In 1958, the lunar probe Pioneer 1
was launched; it failed to go as far out as planned, fell back to Earth,
and burned up in the atmosphere.
In 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned
Apollo mission, was launched with astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Fulton
Eisele and R. Walter Cunningham aboard. The government of Panama was
overthrown in a military coup.
In 1986, U.S. President Ronald
Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavķk, Iceland,
in an effort to continue discussions about scaling back their
intermediate missile arsenals in Europe.
In 2002, former President Jimmy
Carter was named the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Former England footballer Bobby
Charlton is 80. Actor Amitabh Bachchan is 75. Singer Daryl Hall (Hall
and Oates) is 71. Actress-writer-comedian Dawn French is 60. NFL
Football Hall of Famer Steve Young is 56. Actor Luke Perry is 51. Rapper
MC Lyte is 46. Golfer Michelle Wie is 28.
Thought for Today:
"Life was meant to be lived, and
curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn
his back on life." — Eleanor Roosevelt, American first lady (born this
date in 1884, died 1962).