Bosnian Serbs vote in referendum banned by top court
Bosnian people wave flags during the speech of
Milorad Dodik, President of the Bosnian Serb region of Republic of Srpska,
during celebrations after the result of the referendum in the Bosnian town
of Pale, Bosnia, on Sunday Sept. 25. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP)
— Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country's
constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous
region and criminal charges against their leaders.
The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as
a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian
Serbs declared the creation of their own state, igniting the ruinous 1992-95
war. It comes despite the top court's ruling that the date, which falls on a
Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against Muslim
Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Bosnia.
Authorities said turnout was between 56
and 60 percent. Preliminary results after 30.76 percent of the ballots were
counted say 99.8 percent of the voters were in favor of the holiday.
The vote has raised tensions and fears
of renewed fighting as Bosniaks and Croats see the referendum as an attempt
to elevate the Serb region above the country's constitutional court. It is
also a test for a more serious referendum that Bosnian Serb leaders have
announced for 2018 — one on independence from Bosnia.
During the 1992-95 war that killed
100,000 people and turned half of the country's population into refugees,
Bosniaks and Croats were persecuted and almost completely expelled from
Republika Srpska territory.
After the war, Republika Srpska ended
up not independent but an autonomous region of Bosnia. Bosniaks and Croats
who returned there view the holiday as a celebration of their expulsion.
Republika Srpska, a region of 1.2 million, marks the day with religious
ceremonies, hinting the region is still meant just for Serbs.
The constitutional court has banned
both the holiday and the referendum, a ruling that Bosnian Serbs see as an
attack on their autonomy.
The West has urged that the illegal
referendum not be held, but Bosnian Serbs are backed by Russia. Western
officials said they might consider halting projects in the mini-state or
impose travel bans on its leaders and freeze their assets.
Tomislav Stajcic, a resident of Banja
Luka, the capital of Republika Srpska, compared the holiday with a birthday.
"There is no force on this earth,
political or divine or any other really, which can change the date of your
birth," he said, calling the constitutional court's decision "senseless."
Opposition leaders have dismissed the
idea of a new conflict, saying the Bosnian Serb ruling party scheduled the
referendum a week before a local election to divert campaign topics from
corruption to nationalism.
The Bosnian Serb member of the
country's presidency and one of the opposition leaders in Republika Srpska,
Mladen Ivanic, said he doesn't understand the "circus" about the referendum.
"Who wants to celebrate it should and
who doesn't does not have to," he said.
But the Bosniak member called for
prosecutors to act, saying Bosnian Serbs have been pushing the limits for
"Now they reached a new level of
spitefulness, exceeding all limits," Bakir Izetbegovic said.
"These people pull the rope until it
snaps and then, of course, they land on their back."
Hungary manhunt in Budapest blast that wounded 2 officers
officers cordon off the area of the scene in central Budapest, Hungary,
early Sunday, Sept. 25, after an explosion injured two patrolling policemen.
(Zoltan Mihadak/MTI via AP)
Budapest (AP) — Hungarian
authorities are hunting for a man who set off a homemade fragmentation bomb
that seriously wounded two officers in central Budapest, the country's
police chief said Sunday.
Police were the targets in the blast
late Saturday near the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, national police chief
Karoly Papp said.
"We have established without a doubt
that our police officers were the targets of the attack," Papp said. "They
wanted to execute my police officers."
Papp didn't say why the suspect wanted
to harm police officers. But he didn't rule out terrorism, one of seven
working theories established by investigators in the case categorized as
Papp offered a 10-million-forint
($36,700) reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect,
believed to be 20-25 years old and 170 centimeters (around 5'6") tall.
"We will find the perpetrator and
discover his motivation," Papp said, adding that several hundred officers
and investigators were working on the case.
Several streets and an important avenue
near the site of the explosion were still closed to traffic late Sunday as
investigators searched for evidence. Papp couldn't say when they would be
A 23-year-old female officer suffered
life-threatening injuries while her 26-year-old male partner was also
seriously wounded while they were on foot patrol. Both were recuperating in
intensive care after surgery.
At least 26 killed in Aleppo as UN meets over Syria
Syrians inspect damaged
buildings after airstrikes hit the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood of
Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Sept. 25. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via
Philip Issa, Edith M. Lederer
Beirut (AP) — At least 26
civilians were killed in fresh government airstrikes on the contested
city of Aleppo, Syrian activists said Sunday, as the United Nations
Security Council convened an emergency meeting on the spiraling violence
At the start of that meeting the
U.N.'s top envoy to Syria accused the government of unleashing
"unprecedented military violence" against civilians in Aleppo.
Staffan de Mistura said Syria's
declaration of a military offensive to retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo
has led to one of the worst weeks of the 5 1/2-year war with dozens of
airstrikes against residential areas and buildings causing scores of
He said the offensive targeting
civilians with sophisticated weapons including incendiary devices may
amount to war crimes.
Medical workers and local officials
reported airstrikes on neighborhoods throughout Aleppo's rebel-held
eastern districts as an announced government offensive entered its
The Britain-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights reported 26 civilians had been killed by
7:30 p.m. and said it expects the toll to rise.
Ibrahim Alhaj of the Syrian Civil
Defense search and rescue outfit said hospitals and rescuers have
documented the deaths of 43 people so far.
Hospitals are overwhelmed with
casualties and medical workers are expecting many of the wounded to die
from a lack of treatment, according to Mohammad Zein Khandaqani, a
member of the Medical Council, which oversees medical affairs in the
city's opposition quarters.
"I've never seen so many people
dying in once place," he said from a hospital in the city. "It's
terrifying today. In less than one hour the Russian planes have killed
more than 50 people and injured more than 200."
The Observatory, which relies on a
network of contacts inside Syria, said earlier in the day that 213
civilians have been killed by airstrikes and shelling on opposition
areas in and around Aleppo since a U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire
collapsed Monday evening.
De Mistura, at the Security Council
meeting, warned that if the Syrian government is intent on taking
Aleppo, it is going to be "a grinding" a street-by-street fight where
all the infrastructure in the city will be destroyed, but it won't lead
"A so-called military solution is
impossible, including in Aleppo," he stressed.
He urged the United States and
Russia to go "that extra mile" and save the Sept. 9 cessation of
hostilities agreement "at the 11th hour."
On the sidelines of the meeting,
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to force a
halt to the hostilities in Aleppo, and he condemned Russia and the
Syrian government's alleged use of bunker busting bombs, which are
designed to penetrate underground facilities.
"Let us remember: The fighting has
forced hospitals and schools to operate in basements. These bombs are
not busting bunkers, they are demolishing ordinary people looking for
any last refuge of safety," Ban said.
"International law is clear: The
systematic use of indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas is a
war crime," he said.
Prior to the start of the U.N.
meeting, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia should be
investigated for war crimes following a Monday attack on a Syrian aid
convoy that claimed 20 lives.
Johnson said that Russia's air
force may have deliberately targeted the civilian convoy on Sept. 19.
Russia denies involvement and instead suggests Syrian rebels or a U.S.
drone were responsible.
France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc
Ayrault said Russia and Iran will be guilty of war crimes if they don't
pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop escalating violence.
Ayrault said the emergency Security
Council meeting Sunday is a "moment of truth" for the U.N.
The meeting was requested by the
United States, Britain, and France, as pro-government forces extend
their bombardment of the contested city of Aleppo. They are widely
believed to be accompanied by Russian air strikes.
Rebels meanwhile shelled Masyaf, a
government stronghold near the central city of Hama, for the second day
in a row, according to the Observatory.
Masyaf is home to a large number of
Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad's sect. Assad has rallied
Syria's minorities behind his government behind fears of the
The U.S., Britain, and France are
aligned on the Security Council against Russia and China, which back
Assad in the country's protracted war, now in its sixth year.
But a broad coalition of Syrian
rebels denounced international negotiations for peace as "meaningless,"
The statement released jointly by
33 factions called on the government and Russian forces to halt
airstrikes and lift sieges on opposition areas. The U.N. estimates
600,000 Syrians are trapped in various sieges enforced by the
government, rebels, and the Islamic State group across the country.
"Negotiations under the present
conditions are no longer useful and are meaningless," the statement
The factions said they would not
accept to have Russia mediate any negotiations, calling it a "partner to
the regime in the crimes against our people."
The statement was signed by some of
the largest factions from across Syria but did not include the powerful,
ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham nor the al-Qaida-linked Fatah Sham
Efforts to revive the truce have
floundered. An airstrike destroyed a U.N.-backed humanitarian convoy
Monday inside opposition territory shortly after the Syrian military
announced the agreement had expired. The U.N. says the attack could
amount to a war crime if proven deliberate, though it has not assigned
responsibility yet. The U.S. says it believes Russian jets were behind
Meanwhile, a set of four towns, two
besieged by government forces and two by rebels, were reached by aid
convoys for the first time in nearly six months, the International
Committee for the Red Cross announced.
The organization said Sunday it had
reached 60,000 residents trapped in the towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Foua,
Government forces and rebels have
so far blocked the U.N. from establishing regular aid access to besieged
areas in Syria. The U.N. estimates 600,000 Syrians are trapped in
Fuel tanker continues to burn off Mexico's Gulf coast
The fuel tanker Burgos continues to burn a day
after it erupted in flames off the coast of the port city of Boca del Rio,
Mexico, Sunday Sept. 25. (AP Photo/Felix
Mexico City (AP) — A fuel
tanker carrying gasoline and diesel continued to burn off the Gulf coast of
Mexico on Sunday, a day after it erupted in flames.
Firefighting boats were battling the
blaze aboard the Burgos, which is owned by state oil company Petroleos
Mexicanos, or Pemex. A large plume of smoke from the burning ship could be
seen from the port of Veracruz.
A Pemex statement said a team of
international experts in putting out fires and transferring fuel arrived to
The company said the Burgos' double
hull had prevented a fuel spill. It said that the volatility of the fuel on
the ship would aid in its evaporation and that the Mexican navy evaluated
the area Sunday morning and did not find traces of oil in the sea.
Firefighters have been using a chemical
extinguisher against the fire, according to the Veracruz Port Authority.
Officials declined to speculate on when the fire may be put out.
Mexico's environmental protection
agency, Profepa, said Sunday in a statement that a mile (1½ kilometers) of
containment booms were deployed to prevent any fuel from reaching the coast.
Pemex said fuel seen on the water was
what mixed with the water used to fight the fire and will dissipate. The
Burgos was carrying about 168,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel.
The ship was anchored about 7 miles off
the coast when it called for help at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. All crew members
were rescued without injury. Pemex said the fire was in two of the ship's
At the time of the incident, the Burgos
was sailing from Coatzacoalcos in eastern Veracruz state to the Pemex
terminal, Port Authority Director Juan Ignacio Fernandez said late Saturday.
China begins operating world's largest radio telescope
An aerial view shows the Five-hundred-meter
Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in the remote Pingtang county in
southwest China's Guizhou province. (Liu Xu/Xinhua via AP)
Beijing (AP) — The world's
largest radio telescope began searching for signals from stars and galaxies
and, perhaps, extraterrestrial life Sunday in a project demonstrating
China's rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international
Beijing has poured billions into such
ambitious scientific projects as well as its military-backed space program,
which saw the launch of China's second space station earlier this month.
Measuring 500 meters in diameter, the
radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of
lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years
and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo
Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a
The official Xinhua News Agency said
hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the
Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of
Researchers quoted by state media said
FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars
and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
"The ultimate goal of FAST is to
discover the laws of the development of the universe," Qian Lei, an
associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the
Chinese Academy of Sciences, told state broadcaster CCTV.
"In theory, if there is civilization in
outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can
receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us," Qian said.
Installation of the 4,450-panel
structure, nicknamed Tianyan, or the Eye of Heaven, started in 2011 and was
completed in July.
The telescope requires a radio silence
within a 5-kilometer (3-mile) radius, resulting in the relocation of more
than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the
facility, state media said. Reports in August said the villagers would be
compensated with cash or new homes from a budget of about $269 million from
a poverty relief fund and bank loans.
CCTV reported that during a recent
test, the telescope received radio signals from a pulsar that was 1,351
light-years from Earth.
The radio telescope has double the
sensitivity of the Arecibo Observatory, and five to 10 times the surveying
speed, Xinhua said.
China has also completed the
construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby
mountain, reports said. Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — the one
in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each
Earlier this month, China launched the
Tiangong 2, its second space station and the latest step in its
military-backed program that intends to send a mission to Mars in the coming
years. In August, the country launched the first quantum satellite experts
said would advance efforts to develop the ability to send communications
that can't be penetrated by hackers.
MH370 Investigators cast doubt on catastrophic fire evidence
American wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson talks to the
media in Canberra, Australia, after handing over to Australian searchers
five pieces of debris that he suspects could be from the missing Malaysian
airliner. (AP Photo/Rod McGuirk)
Canberra, Australia (AP)
— Accident investigators on Thursday cast doubt on the possibility that
blackened debris found on Madagascar is evidence of a catastrophic fire
aboard the missing Malaysian airliner that went down more than two years
Wreckage hunter Blaine Gibson
hand-delivered five pieces of debris last week to officials at the
Australian Transport Safety Bureau who are searching for Malaysia Airlines
The bureau said in a statement that
investigators had yet to determine whether the pieces were from the Boeing
777 that is thought to have plunged into the Indian Ocean with 239 people on
board southwest of Australia on March 8, 2014.
But a preliminary examination found
that two fiberglass-honeycomb pieces were not burnt, but had been discolored
by a reaction in resin that had not been caused by exposure to fire or heat,
the statement said.
There were three small areas of heat
damage on one of the pieces which created a burnt odor. However, that odor
suggested the heat damage was recent, it said.
"It was considered that burning odors
would generally dissipate after an extended period of environmental
exposure, including salt water immersion, as expected for items originating
from" the missing plane, the statement said.
Gibson has collected 14 pieces of
debris potentially from the missing plane, including a triangular panel
stenciled "no step" that he found in Mozambique in February. Officials say
that panel was almost certainly a horizontal stabilizer from a Flight 370
Gibson had said the darkened surfaces
of the latest debris could be evidence that a fire ended the flight far from
its scheduled route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. But he conceded
he had no idea when the apparent heat damaged had occurred.
A sonar search of 120,000 square
kilometers (46,000 square miles) of seabed which is calculated to be the
most likely crash site in the southern Indian Ocean is almost complete
without any trace of the plane being found.
Video shows deadly encounter between police, black man
image taken from video recorded by Rakeyia Scott on Tuesday, Sept. 20,
Charlotte police squat next to Keith Lamont Scott as Scott lies face-down on
the ground after being shot by officers in Charlotte, N.C. (Rakeyia
Scott/Curry Law Firm via AP)
Meg Kinnard, Jonathan Drew
Charlotte, N.C. (AP) — Video of
a deadly encounter between Charlotte police and a black man shows his wife
repeatedly telling officers he is not armed and pleading with them not to
shoot her husband as they shout at him to drop a gun.
The footage, recorded by Keith Lamont
Scott's wife and released Friday by his family, offers a raw look at how the
situation unfolded but does not show whether Scott had a gun as police have
said. Uncertainty about the case prompted a fourth night of demonstrations
through Charlotte's business district.
After darkness fell, dozens or people
carried signs and chanted to urge police to release dashboard and body
camera video that could show more clearly what happened. Police have said
Scott was armed, but witnesses say he held only a book.
The 2½-minute video released by the
family does not show the shooting, though gunshots can be heard. In the
video Scott's wife, Rakeyia Scott, tells officers that he has a TBI, or
traumatic brain injury. At one point, she tells her husband to get out of
the car so police don't break the windows. She also tells him, "don't do
it," but it's not clear exactly what she means.
As the encounter escalates, she
repeatedly urges police, "You better not shoot him."
After the gunshots, Scott can be seen
lying face-down on the ground while his wife says "he better live." She
continues recording and asks if an ambulance has been called. The officers
stand over Scott. It's unclear if they are checking him for weapons or
attempting to give first aid.
In the footage, Scott's wife states the
address and says, "These are the police officers that shot my husband."
Representatives for the police
department and the mayor's office didn't return emails from The Associated
Press seeking comment on the family's video.
The video emerged hours before the
protesters took to the streets Friday night, monitored by rifle-toting
members of the National Guard. The group appeared smaller than previous
Protesters called on police to release
video that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting earlier
this week. Marchers at the front of the group carried a banner that said
"Just Release the Tapes."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr
Putney said Friday that there is footage from at least one police body
camera and one dashboard camera.
The family of Scott, 43, was shown the
footage Thursday and demanded that police release it to the public. The
video recorded by Scott's wife had not been previously released.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper also
called on Charlotte officials to release the video, saying doing so would
help bring the community and law enforcement together. Cooper, a Democrat,
is running for governor in November.
Charlotte is the latest U.S. city to be
shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at the
hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New
York and Ferguson, Missouri. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, prosecutors
charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man
on a city street last week.
Thursday's protests in Charlotte lacked
the violence and property damage of previous nights, and a curfew enacted by
the city's mayor encouraged a stopping point.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts signed
documents to keep the curfew in effect from midnight until 6 a.m. each day
until the state of emergency declared by the governor ends.
After the curfew took effect, police
allowed the crowd of demonstrators to thin without forcing them off the
street. Police Capt. Mike Campagna told reporters that officers would not
seek to arrest curfew violators as long as they were peaceful.
Putney said Friday that releasing the
footage of Scott's death could inflame the situation. He has said previously
that the video will be made public when he believes there is a "compelling
reason" to do so.
"It's a personal struggle, but I have
to do what I think is best for my community," Putney said.
During the same news conference,
Roberts said she believes the video should be released, but "the question is
on the timing."
Earlier in the week, the Charlotte
protests turned violent, with demonstrators attacking reporters and others,
setting fires and smashing windows of hotels, office buildings and
Forty-four people were arrested after
Wednesday's protests, and one protester who was shot died at the hospital
Thursday. City officials said police did not shoot 26-year-old Justin Carr.
A suspect was arrested, but police provided few details.
Putney said he has seen the video and
it does not contain "absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm that a
person was pointing a gun." But he added: "When taken in the totality of all
the other evidence, it supports what we said."
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott's
family, said it's "impossible to discern" from the videos what, if anything,
Scott is holding in his hands.
Scott never aggressively approached
officers and was shot as he walked slowly backward with his hands by his
side, Bamberg said.
Queen guitarist Brian May protests Japanese dolphin hunts
Brian May, guitarist of British rock group
Queen, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Tokyo,
Friday, Sept. 23. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Tokyo (AP) — Brian May,
guitarist of British rock group Queen, is taking a stand against Japan's
dolphin killing, saying the slaughter of animals should end in the same way
society has turned against slavery or witch-burning.
"Every species, and every individual of
every species, is worthy of respect," May told The Associated Press on
Friday while in Tokyo for Queen's sell-out concerts at Budokan arena.
"This is not about countries. It's
about a section of humanity that doesn't yet understand that animals have
Protesting the dolphin hunt in the
small Japanese town of Taiji, documented in the Oscar-winning "The Cove,"
has become a cause for celebrities including Sting and Daryl Hannah. Taylor
McKeown, a silver medalist swimmer in the Rio Olympics, who has long been
fascinated with dolphins, is now in Taiji to monitor the hunts.
Ric O'Barry, the dolphin trainer for
the "Flipper" TV series, started the protests against the Taiji dolphin
kill, and stars in "The Cove," which depicts a pod of dolphins getting
herded into an inlet and getting bludgeoned to death, as blood turns the
The hunters in Taiji and their
supporters defend the custom as tradition, although eating dolphins is
extremely rare in Japan. The Japanese government also defends whaling as
May, who founded the "Save Me Trust" in
2009 to lobby governments on wildlife policy, said he opposes cruelty
against all animals, including Britain's fox hunt and Spain's bullfights.
Both were also defended as tradition, but that was a mere excuse, he said.
"I know Japanese people — so many.
They're decent. They're kind. They're compassionate, but they don't know
this is going on," May said of the dolphin killing. "These are mammals,
highly intelligent sensitive creatures, bringing up their children like we
do, and they are being slaughtered and tortured."
Obama vetoes 9/11 bill; possible override by Congress looms
Barack Obama has vetoed a bill that would have allowed the families of 9/11
victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Darlene Superville, Josh Lederman
Washington (AP) — President
Barack Obama rejected a bill Friday that would have allowed the families of
9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, arguing it undermined
national security and setting up the possibility Congress may override his
veto for the first time in his presidency.
Obama's move escalates the fight over
an emotional issue that has overlapped with the campaign debate over
terrorism and the Middle East. The bill had sailed through both chambers of
Congress with bipartisan support, clearing the final hurdle just days before
the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in
New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The president said the bill, which
doesn't refer specifically to Saudi Arabia, could backfire by opening up the
U.S. government and its officials to lawsuits by anyone accusing the U.S. of
supporting terrorism, rightly or wrongly.
"I have deep sympathy for the families
of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," Obama wrote to
the Senate in a veto message about the bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of
Terrorism Act. But, he said, "the JASTA would be detrimental to U.S.
national interests more broadly."
Congress is determined to try to
overturn the veto, which requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.
Previous attempts to overturn Obama's vetoes have all been unsuccessful.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi,
D-Calif., has said an override would pass in the Republican-controlled
House. Yet the Senate would be the greater challenge. After furious lobbying
to try to peel off supporters, the White House said Friday it was unclear
whether enough had defected to avert an override.
With lawmakers eager to return home to
campaign, a vote could come early next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell's office said the Senate would vote "as soon as practicable in
this work period."
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the
Senate's No. 3 Democrat and a traditional Obama ally, came out swinging
against Obama while predicting lawmakers would reverse it "swiftly and
"The families of the victims of 9/11
deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn't be
thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns," Schumer said.
A coalition of 9/11 victims' families,
meanwhile, said they were "outraged and dismayed." In a response circulated
by their lawyers, the families insisted the bill would deter terrorism, "no
matter how much the Saudi lobbying and propaganda machine may argue
Though the concept of sovereign
immunity generally shields governments from lawsuits, the bill creates an
exception that allows foreign governments to be held responsible if they
support a terrorist attack that kills U.S. citizens on American soil.
Opponents say that's a slippery slope considering that the U.S. is
frequently accused wrongly by its foes of supporting terrorism.
"Americans are in countries all over
the world," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a
Republican, wrote Friday in a letter urging colleagues to support a veto.
"Many of those countries do not respect the rule of law, and we cannot
expect their responses to be as measured and narrow as ours."
Fifteen of the 19 men who carried out
9/11 were Saudi nationals. Families of the victims spent years lobbying
lawmakers for the right to sue the kingdom in U.S. court for any role
elements of Saudi Arabia's government may have played. Saudi Arabia, a key
U.S. ally, strongly objected to the bill.
Obama long had objected, too, warning
that foreign countries might reciprocate by dragging American government,
diplomats and military members before courts. The administration was also
apprehensive about undermining a difficult yet strategic relationship with
Saudi Arabia. The U.S. relies on the Saudis to counter Iran's influence in
the Middle East and help combat the spread of terrorism.
Since the bill's passage, the White
House has lobbied aggressively to persuade lawmakers to withdraw support,
and found some sympathetic listeners. The bill had passed by voice vote -
meaning lawmakers didn't have to go on the record with their positions — and
the White House was hoping the prospect of a recorded vote would lead some
Democrats to reconsider publicly rebuking their president.
Debate about the bill has spilled onto
the presidential campaign trail, as candidates vie to appear tough on
terrorism. The issue is one of a few where Democrat Hillary Clinton, who
supports the bill, has publicly disagreed with Obama. Trump, too, backs it,
and said Obama's veto was "shameful and will go down as one of the low
points of his presidency."
The bill had triggered a perceived
threat by Saudi Arabia to pull billions of dollars from the U.S. economy if
it was enacted. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said in May
the kingdom never issued threats, but had merely warned that investor
confidence in the U.S. would shrink if the bill became law.
The House vote on Sept. 9 came two
months after Congress released 28 declassified pages from a congressional
report into 9/11. The pages reignited speculation over links that at least a
few of the attackers had to Saudis, including government officials. The
allegations were never substantiated by later U.S. investigations.
Indian airline says Samsung Note 2 emitted smoke in plane
A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is shown in this July
28, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
New Delhi (AP) — An Indian
airline said Friday that a Samsung Note 2 phone emitted smoke and sparks on
a flight from Singapore to the southern Indian city of Chennai.
IndiGo said the phone was found in the
bag of a passenger in an overhead bin after other passengers reported
smelling smoke in the plane.
The airline said there was no fire but
sparks and smoke were coming from the phone.
It said in a statement that the crew
used a fire extinguisher and then placed the Samsung Note 2 in a container
filled with water in a lavatory.
The aircraft made a normal landing at
Chennai airport and all passengers deplaned normally, it said.
The phone will be examined to determine
the cause of the incident, the airline said.
A Samsung spokesman could not
immediately be reached for comment.
Samsung has recalled 2.5 million newer
Note 7 phones after dozens of reports of battery fires attributed to a
manufacturing flaw. Authorities in several countries have banned their use
Monty Python's Terry Jones diagnosed with dementia
Terry Jones is shown in this Aug. 21, 2010 file
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
London (AP) — Terry Jones,
one of the founding members of comedy troupe Monty Python, has been
diagnosed with dementia.
In a statement released by Britain's
film academy, a representative says the 74-year-old has primary progressive
aphasia, which erodes the ability to use language. As a result, Jones can no
longer give interviews.
News of Jones' illness came in a
statement announcing he is to receive an award for outstanding contribution
to film and television from the academy's Welsh branch.
In the late 1960s Jones, John Cleese,
Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and the late Graham Chapman formed
the surreal and anarchic Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Jones directed the Python films "Life
Of Brian" and "Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life." With Gilliam, he
co-directed "Monty Python and The Holy Grail."
Laos promises to phase out tiger farms: Conservation groups
In this Jan. 29, 2008 file photo, Thai Navy
officers and forestry officials display dead tigers, leopards and pangolins
seized after a raid on an illegal wildlife trade on the bank of Mekong river
in That Phanom district of Nakhon Phanom province, northeastern Thailand.
Johannesburg (AP) — Laos has
promised to phase out farms that breed endangered tigers for their body
parts, a positive step from a country believed to be a major hub of wildlife
trafficking in Asia, conservation groups said Friday.
The announcement by Laotian officials
in South Africa came one day before the start of a meeting of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or
If implemented, the move could help to
curb the illegal trade in tiger bones and other parts used in traditional
medicine in areas of Asia, and protect the depleted population of tigers.
Conservation groups say there are about 3,900 tigers in the wild.
Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese criminal
networks are also involved in tiger farming and trading, according to the
London-based Environmental Investigation Agency.
The New York-based Wildlife
Conservation Society, which works with Laos on tiger protection, urged other
Asian countries with commercial tiger breeding centers to follow the example
"This commitment is a great example of
a nation showing leadership to end the practice of breeding tigers, and we
hope as well bears, to supply the demand for their body parts," said Susan
Lieberman, head of the society's delegation at the meeting in Johannesburg
of the 183 member countries of CITES.
The countries in the U.N. group have
pledged to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does
not threaten their survival.
A CITES delegation traveled to Laos in
July and concluded that criminal groups use Laos as a transit point to
smuggle wildlife parts to other Asian countries. It also said the import and
export of such items allegedly occurs in violation of CITES rules.
"Law enforcement authorities (in Laos)
stated that no arrests or prosecutions related to illegal trade in rhino
horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens have occurred in the
country since 2012," a CITES document said. Laotian officials said other
nations in the trafficking chain should use their more abundant resources to
help Laos and stop illegal trade, according to the document.
TRAFFIC, a conservation group, said the
illegal trade in two other species — the pangolin, a burrowing mammal, and
the helmeted hornbill, a rainforest bird — is also rife in Laos.
Pangolins are targeted for their meat,
as well as scales that are used in traditional medicine to promote blood
circulation, reduce swelling and treat other illnesses.
In Beijing, a practitioner of
traditional medicine said his practices developed over thousands of years,
but he and his colleagues are thinking of replacements for parts of
"It's no problem to use some bugs in
the medicine if it can treat diseases," said Hu Guang, who writes
prescriptions for his patients with an ink brush. "Why would you use some
endangered animals as medicine? It is just not necessary."
Today in History - Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Today is Saturday, Sept. 24, the 268th
day of 2016. There are 98 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 24, 1996, the United States,
represented by President Bill Clinton, and 70 other countries signed a
treaty at the United Nations to end all testing and development of nuclear
weapons. (To date, 183 countries have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test
Ban Treaty, but the agreement has yet to enter into force because of the
refusal so far of eight nations — including the United States — to ratify
On this date:
In 1789, President George Washington
signed a Judiciary Act establishing America's federal court system and
creating the post of attorney general.
In 1869, thousands of businessmen were
ruined in a Wall Street panic known as "Black Friday" after financiers Jay
Gould and James Fisk attempted to corner the gold market.
In 1890, the president of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Wilford Woodruff, wrote a manifesto
renouncing the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy.
In 1929, Lt. James H. Doolittle guided
a Consolidated NY-2 Biplane over Mitchel Field in New York in the first
In 1934, Babe Ruth made his farewell
appearance as a player with the New York Yankees in a game against the
Boston Red Sox. (The Sox won, 5-0.)
In 1948, Mildred Gillars, accused of
being Nazi wartime radio propagandist "Axis Sally," pleaded not guilty in
Washington D.C. to charges of treason. (Gillars, later convicted, ended up
serving 12 years in prison.)
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower
suffered a heart attack while on vacation in Denver.
In 1957, the Los Angeles-bound Brooklyn
Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field, defeating the Pittsburgh
In 1960, the USS Enterprise, the first
nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was launched at Newport News, Virginia.
"The Howdy Doody Show" ended a nearly 13-year run with its final telecast on
In 1976, former hostage Patricia Hearst
was sentenced to seven years in prison for her part in a 1974 bank robbery
in San Francisco carried out by the Symbionese Liberation Army. (Hearst was
released after 22 months after receiving clemency from President Jimmy
In 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson
won the men's 100-meter dash at the Seoul (sohl) Summer Olympics — but he
was disqualified three days later for using anabolic steroids. Members of
the eastern Massachusetts Episcopal diocese elected Barbara C. Harris the
first female bishop in the church's history.
In 1991, kidnappers in Lebanon freed
British hostage Jack Mann after holding him captive for more than two years.
Children's author Theodor Seuss Geisel (GY'-zul), better known as "Dr.
Seuss," died in La Jolla, California, at age 87.
Ten years ago: In a combative taped
interview on "Fox News Sunday," former President Bill Clinton defended his
handling of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, and accused host Chris
Wallace of a "conservative hit job." Democrats seized on an intelligence
assessment that said the Iraq war had increased the terrorist threat, saying
it was further evidence Americans should choose new leadership in upcoming
elections. The Europeans turned the Ryder Cup into another rout, winning 18
1/2-9 1/2 to make history as the first European team to win three straight
Five years ago: Russian President
Dmitry Medvedev proposed Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate for
2012, paving the way for Putin's return to office four years after he was
legally forced to step aside. NASA's dead six-ton Upper Atmosphere Research
Satellite fell to Earth, 20 years after being deployed from the space
One year ago: Pope Francis finished his
whirlwind visit to the nation's capital, becoming the first pope to address
a joint meeting of Congress and calling on the lawmakers to help immigrants
"and embrace the stranger in our midst." The pope then traveled to New York
for an evening prayer service in St. Patrick's Cathedral. Chinese President
Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) arrived in Washington, where he and President
Barack Obama met for dinner at Blair House, the guest residence near the
White House. A stampede and crush of Muslim pilgrims occurred at an
intersection near a holy site in Saudi Arabia; The Associated Press
estimates that at least 2,426 people were killed, while the official Saudi
at 769. A
boat" carrying passengers swerved into an oncoming charter bus on
Seattle's Aurora Bridge; five international college students were killed in
Today's Birthdays: Rhythm-and-blues
singer Sonny Turner (The Platters) is 77. Singer Barbara Allbut Brown (The
Angels) is 76. Singer Phyllis "Jiggs" Allbut Sirico (The Angels) is 74.
Singer Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers) is 74. News anchor Lou Dobbs
is 71. Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Joe Greene is 70. Actor Gordon
Clapp is 68. Songwriter Holly Knight is 60. Former U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy
II, D-Mass., is 64. Actor Kevin Sorbo is 58. Christian/jazz singer Cedric
Dent (Take 6) is 54. Actress-writer Nia Vardalos is 54. Rock musician Shawn
Crahan (AKA Clown) (Slipknot) is 47. Country musician Marty Mitchell is 47.
Actress Megan Ward is 47. Singer-musician Marty Cintron (No Mercy)
is 45. Contemporary
(Casting Crowns) is 41. Actor Ian Bohen is 40. Actor Justin Bruening is 37.
Olympic gold medal gymnast Paul Hamm (hahm) is 34. Actor Erik Stocklin is
34. Actor Kyle Sullivan is 28.
Thought for Today: "The easiest way to
get a reputation is go outside the fold, shout around for a few years as a
violent atheist or a dangerous radical, and then crawl back to the shelter."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald (born this date in 1896, died 1940).
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
Tensions loom in the Balkans over Bosnian Serbs' referendum
Milorad Dodik, President of the Bosnian Serb region of Republic of Srpska,
sings song during a protest of his political party in the Bosnian town of
Banja Luka in this file photo taken May 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Radivoje
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) —
Bosnia's Serb mini-state is holding a referendum this weekend that has
turned into a proxy political battle between the West and Russia, stoking
ethnic tensions and triggering fears of new clashes more than 20 years after
the end of the Balkans War.
Sunday's vote asks residents of
Republika Srpska whether to maintain a national holiday on Jan. 9, despite a
ruling of Bosnia's constitutional court that the date discriminates against
On January 9, 1992 — a Serb Christian
Orthodox religious holiday — the Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of
their own state within Bosnia, fueling a war that resulted in at least
100,000 people dead and millions homeless. During the worst carnage in
Europe since World War II, the Serbs — helped by neighboring Serbia —
expelled Bosniak Muslims and Catholic Croats from the territory they
occupied, with the aim of making it part of Serbia.
A U.S.-brokered peace deal signed in
1995 created Republika Srpska, an autonomous region within Bosnia. For
Bosniaks and Croats — whose federation represents the other half of Bosnia —
Jan. 9 still symbolizes their expulsion and a sign that the Bosnian
Serb-controlled territory is still meant just for Serbs.
Bosnia's constitutional court has
banned the referendum, but the Serbs said they will hold it anyway.
The vote sparked the most heated
exchange between Bosniaks and Serbs since the war in the 1990s. Serbian
officials said they were ready to defend Republika Srpska if it was
attacked, and ordered the Serbian army to be more vigilant.
Apart from challenging the country's
rule of law, Bosniaks also fear this referendum is a test for a more serious
one in 2018 — on independence — which would not go down peacefully,
officials in Sarajevo warned.
"Nobody is more ready to defend this
country all the way to the end," said Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic.
"Nobody should ... force people who love this country to prove it again," he
The referendum also reflects the wider
tensions between Western nations — which are supporting the Bosniaks and
Croats — and Russia, which is backing the Serbs.
The U.S. embassy in Sarajevo threatened
unspecified "consequences" if the referendum is not canceled, while the
Russian ambassador openly supported the referendum, saying it is an act of
democracy. Russia is a traditional backer of Orthodox Slavic Serbs.
"Russia's economy has been hurt badly
by Western sanctions imposed because of Ukraine," said Balkans expert and
author Tim Judah. "If Russia can cause the West problems in return, which it
seems determined to do in Bosnia now, then so be it. Never mind if this tips
Bosnia back into conflict, never mind that Russia has nothing to offer the
Balkans, this is simply a good way to cause problems to the West."
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who
initiated the referendum and went to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin
this week, called Bosniak reactions "hysteria."
"This is not a referendum about
secession as many want to portray it," he said. "It is not even a beginning
of such a process."
International officials overseeing
Bosnian peace accords were outraged by Dodik's defiance and threats of new
"In the past 20 years we have not heard
such language," said the High Representative for Bosnia, Austrian diplomat
The Peace Implementation Council, an
international body overseeing Bosnia, said there will be no redrawing of
borders and called on everybody "to refrain from reactive measures and
divisive rhetoric." It also urged the Bosnian Serbs to cancel the vote, but
Council member Russia distanced itself from the statement.
The referendum is "both a test for
state institutions as well as an attack on them," Inzko told the AP in an
interview, noting also that Bosnia's criminal law foresees jail terms from
six months to five years for those who disobey the constitutional court.
The sanctions could also include travel
bans, asset freezes and the halting of international projects in the
country, Inzko said. "All options are open," he said.
Charlotte police refuse to release video of deadly shooting
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police chief Police Chief Kerr Putney answers
questions during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 22 after a second night
of violence following Tuesday's fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott
in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Mitch Weiss, Meg Kinnard
Charlotte, N.C. (AP) —
Charlotte police refused under mounting pressure Thursday to release video
that could resolve wildly different accounts of the shooting of a black man,
as the National Guard arrived to try to head off a third night of violence
in this city on edge.
The family of 43-year Keith Lamont
Scott demanded police release the video after showing them the footage at
their request. The family's lawyer said he couldn't tell whether Scott was
holding a gun.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr
Putney said that releasing police dashcam and body camera footage of Scott's
killing could undermine the investigation. He told reporters the video will
be made public when he believes there is a "compelling reason" to do so.
"You shouldn't expect it to be
released," Putney said. "I'm not going to jeopardize the investigation."
Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of
National Guardsmen assembled in Charlotte, sent in by Gov. Pat McCrory after
a second straight night of racial unrest that seemed at odds with
Charlotte's image as a diverse, forward-looking banking capital of the New
Charlotte is just the latest U.S. city
to be shaken by protests and recriminations over the death of a black man at
the hands of police, a list that includes Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, New
York, and Ferguson, Missouri. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday, prosecutors
charged a white officer with manslaughter for killing an unarmed black man
on a city street last week.
In Charlotte, scores of rioters
Wednesday night attacked reporters and others, set fires and smashed windows
of hotels, office buildings and restaurants in the city's bustling downtown
section. The NASCAR Hall of Fame was among the places damaged.
Forty-four people were arrested, and
one protester who was shot died at the hospital Thursday; city officials
said police did not shoot the man and no arrests have been made in
26-year-old Justin Carr's death.
On Thursday, in a measure of how tense
things had become, three of Charlotte's major employers — Bank of America,
Wells Fargo and Duke Energy — told thousands of employees not to venture
into the city.
Hours before nightfall Thursday, the
police chief said he saw no need for a curfew. In addition to the National
Guardsmen, North Carolina state troopers and U.S. Justice Department
conflict-resolution experts were sent to keep the peace.
Demonstrators have been demanding
answers in Scott's killing, with some carrying signs that read "Release the
Police have said that Scott was shot to
death Tuesday by a black officer after he disregarded loud, repeated
warnings to drop his gun. Neighbors, though, have said he was holding only a
book. The police chief said a gun was found next to the dead man, and there
was no book.
Putney said that he has seen the video
and it does not contain "absolute, definitive evidence that would confirm
that a person was pointing a gun." But he added: "When taken in the totality
of all the other evidence, it supports what we said."
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for Scott's
family, watched the video with the slain man's relatives. He said Scott gets
out of his vehicle calmly.
"While police did give him several
commands, he did not aggressively approach them or raise his hands at
members of law enforcement at any time. It is impossible to discern from the
videos what, if anything, Mr. Scott is holding in his hands," Bamberg said
in a statement.
Scott was shot as he walked slowly
backward with his hands by his side, Bamberg said.
The lawyer said at a news conference
earlier in the day that Scott's wife saw him get shot, "and that's something
she will never, ever forget." That is the first time anyone connected with
the case has said the wife witnessed the shooting. Bamberg gave no details
on what the wife saw.
Experts who track shootings by police
noted that the release of videos can often quell protest violence, and that
the footage sometimes shows that events unfolded differently than the
"What we've seen in too many situations
now is that the videos tell the truth and the police who were involved in
the shooting tell lies," said Randolph McLaughlin, a professor at Pace
University School of Law. He said it is "irresponsible" of police not to
release the video immediately.
Other cities have released footage of
police shootings. Just this week, Tulsa police let the public see video of
the disputed Sept. 16 shooting, though the footage left important questions
Last year, a Chicago police officer was
charged with murder the same day the city released dashcam video that showed
him shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times, footage that
contradicted the accounts of officers who said the teen swung a knife at
"We all stand together declaring there
must be transparency and the videos must be released," the Rev. William
Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, said at a news conference.
"At this point, there is speculation because the videos have not been
released. Be clear: There is unrest in Charlotte and across America because
of what we do know."
The police chief acknowledged that he
has promised transparency in the investigation, but said, "I'm telling you
right now, if you think I say we should display a victim's worst day for
consumption, that is not the transparency I'm speaking of."
Section of Great Wall of China marred in name of restoration
A villager walks across a restored section of
the Great Wall in Suizhong County in northeastern China's Liaoning Province,
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Chinatopix via AP)
Beijing (AP) — Chinese officials
are being pilloried over the smoothing-over of a crumbling but much-loved
700-year-old section of the Great Wall of China — a UNESCO World Heritage
Site — in the name of restoration.
The widely mocked project involved an
8-kilometer (5-mile) unrestored Xiaohekou section of the wall that has
become known as the "most beautiful wild Great Wall."
Defensive works and guard towers were
knocked flat as part of the project, officially launched to prevent further
deterioration caused by the elements. Reports said sand and other materials
were poured on top, protecting it but giving it the appearance of an
elevated bike path running through steep forested hills.
The head of the Liaoning Provincial
Antiquities Bureau, Ding Hui, was quoted by the newspaper Beijing News on
Wednesday as saying the work was completed two years ago over the course of
three months as part of a government restoration plan.
"It really was an ugly repair job,"
The wall section built during the Ming
Dynasty in 1381 lies in Liaoning's Suizhong county along the border with
An official reached by phone at the
government's Culture Bureau in Huludao city, which oversees Suizhong, said
he had been told the restoration plan had been approved at the central
government level by the State Administration of Cultural Relics.
"The old wall was badly damaged over a
long period of history and the restoration work was aimed at preventing it
from falling apart and being washed away by the rain," said the official,
who like many Chinese government bureaucrats declined to give his name
because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.
Phones were not answered at county and
provincial government cultural relics offices.
Many of the reports on the restoration
lamented its inconsistency, with different materials, including lime, mortar
and concrete, used in different places.
Dong Yaohui, vice chairman of the Great
Wall Studies Society, called the restoration work "basic and crude."
"This sort of repair work harms the
people's appreciation of the Great Wall's history and culture, severing a
channel of dialogue between the people and cultural heritage," Dong was
quoted as saying by the Beijing News.
"This sort of behavior is ridiculous,"
Online, commentators were scathing in
China has passed legislation in recent
years to protect the Great Wall, large sections of which have been
bulldozed, pillaged for building materials or heavily restored and
The wall dates from 220 B.C., when
China joined existing walls and fortifications to defend against invasions
from northern tribes.
Construction continued up through the
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) until the wall became the world's largest military
structure, allowing troops and couriers to move long distances quickly.
Estimates of its overall length vary,
but according to UNESCO, which named it a World Heritage Site in 1987, it
once ran for more than 20,000 kilometers (12,500 miles).
Dozens drown after migrant boat capsizes off Egypt's coast
wait on shore as a coast guard boat arrives carrying the bodies of migrants
from a Europe-bound boat that capsized off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, in
Rosetta, Egypt, Thursday, Sept. 22. (AP Photo/Eman Helal)
Mohammed Salah, Maggie Hyde
Rosetta, Egypt (AP) — Survivors,
some handcuffed to hospital beds, described watching women and children
drown after an overcrowded migrant boat capsized off Egypt's coast, as
Egyptian authorities said Thursday 51 bodies had been recovered and an
international NGO estimated that over a hundred people were still missing at
Fishermen in boats were first at the
scene early Wednesday, an Egyptian official said, and in the more than five
hours it took the coast guard to arrive, they rescued dozens of survivors
and retrieved bodies.
The capsizing could potentially rank
among the deadliest incidents in the migrant route across the Mediterranean.
However, the final death toll will require first obtaining a reliable figure
for how many people were on board the boat, and more bodies could yet be
recovered at sea or along the coast.
Estimates for the number of passengers
aboard the boat ranged between 250, 350 and 600. Survivors said most of
those who died were women and children.
The International Organization for
Migration said the boat carried 350 migrants, but cautioned that the figure
was an estimate, according to IOM spokesman Joel A. Millman in Rome. He did
not say how the agency arrived at that figure. Quoting unidentified sources,
he said the Egyptian coast guard had rescued 163 migrants and recovered 42
bodies, leaving 145 unaccounted for.
"We're still working to verify what has
happened to survivors. I'm sure you can appreciate the difficulties in
gathering accurate information in cases like this,' said Jenny Sparks of IOM
Mohammed Sultan, the governor of
Beheira province, where Rosetta is located, told The Associated Press that
authorities did not have a precise number for those who were on board the
vessel, but that 250-400 seemed likely. He said 157 people were rescued.
Egypt's state-run Middle East News
Agency, MENA, on Wednesday put the number at 600, but did not say where the
figure came from.
The U.N. refugee agency said it had
received preliminary estimates of around 450 people aboard, with 150
survivors. Spokeswoman Barbara Molinario said the agency hadn't yet
interviewed survivors, which is often a crucial piece of the puzzle in
determining passenger numbers. The estimates came from UNHCR's contacts with
The head of the local council in the
area, Ali Abdel-Sattar, said the loss of life would have been much heavier
had a fishing vessel not been close by when the boat capsized. He identified
the skipper of the fishing boat as Mohammed Abu Hamid.
"If this man wasn't there, if this man
wasn't sent by God, the entire group of migrants would have been dead by
now," said Abdel-Sattar.
He said the coast guard did not start
its rescue operations until 11 a.m. on Wednesday, more than five hours after
the boat capsized.
Hassan Suleiman, a relative of one of
those who were on board, said authorities were slow to rescue the migrants
and that fishing boats were first at the scene, plucking bodies from the
water and rescuing survivors. He also claimed that traffickers in the area
were known to police by name and that some policemen were paid by them to
look the other way.
"This is shameful. This is shameful for
our children and our young people that go to them."
He said migrants go out to sea in small
groups and gather at bigger boats, which begin the journey to Europe when
traffickers believe they have gathered enough passengers. He said on bigger
boats, the space below deck at the front of the vessel is often packed tight
with people. "Those are dead, for sure."
He said smugglers were charging
migrants around 35,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly US$4,000) each for the
perilous journey to Europe. "They paid money to go and die," he said.
Egyptian authorities, meanwhile,
arrested four people in connection with the incident and issued arrest
warrants for five more. They said the four were members of the vessel's crew
and were remanded in police custody for four days pending further
investigation. They face charges of human trafficking and manslaughter.
An initial breakdown of the
nationalities of the migrants showed that they included 111 Egyptians,
mostly teenagers and men in their 20s, said Sultan, the Beheira governor.
There were also 25 Sudanese, while the rest were sub-Saharan Africans and
Thousands of illegal migrants have made
the dangerous sea voyage across the Mediterranean in recent years, fleeing
war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The number of migrants trying to cross
the Mediterranean from Egypt to Europe has increased significantly in the
past year, EU border agency Frontex recently said. More than 12,000 migrants
arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September, compared to 7,000
in the same period last year, it said.
Many of the survivors in the latest
tragedy were detained briefly by police, before they were released. Some of
those rescued after suffering injuries were taken to hospitals, where they
lay handcuffed to beds under police guard.
One survivor, Ahmed Darwish, blamed
traffickers for the tragedy, saying overcrowding caused the boat to capsize,
and accused authorities of not reacting quickly enough.
"The boat is meant to hold 200, and
they put 400 in it. And this is what caused the catastrophe," he said. Many
of the dead, he explained, were women and children who could not swim.
"Those ... that knew how to swim moved away (from the boat), leaving behind
women and small children," he said.
Mina Fawzi, a 19-year-old survivor,
told AP that there were already about 250 people on the boat when the
smugglers brought along another 250. "With the large number of people, the
boat sank," he said.
Kerry admits diplomacy at impasse as Syrian truce collapses
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left,
and United States Secretary of State John Kerry talk during a meeting of the
International Syria Support Group, Thursday, Sept. 22, in New York. (AP
Bradley Klapper, Matthew Lee
New York (AP) — The United
States and Russia ended any pretenses Thursday of their cease-fire for Syria
remaining in force after days of increased violence and the Syrian
military's announcement of a new offensive in Aleppo.
"We can't go out to the world and say
we have an agreement when we don't," Secretary of State John Kerry said
after meeting the top diplomats from Russia and more than a dozen European
and Middle Eastern countries.
Kerry's statement, after three days of
private and public diplomacy on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly,
provided an ominous endnote to a week diplomats had hoped would be a major
capstone toward peace.
Instead, Kerry and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, who negotiated the truce two weeks ago, went their
separate ways as violence in Syria flared up anew and the relationship
between the two key foreign powers in the conflict appeared to reach a new
No one spoke of being able to quickly
resuscitate the cease-fire. While Kerry and Lavrov were set to hold more
talks Friday, even confidence-building measures seemed beyond their reach at
As the diplomats huddled in a New York
hotel, Syria's military command said it would restart operations in the
northern city of Aleppo, scene of some of the bitterest fighting in recent
According to one official present in
the gathering, Kerry was informed of the news when his chief of staff showed
him a headline on his BlackBerry.
A furious Kerry then told the entire
room, Lavrov included, that "even while we are meeting here, they are doing
this," said the official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the
matter and demanded anonymity.
Lavrov told Russian media that
consultations would continue to "guarantee" the cease-fire.
But even as Kerry vowed to press on
with all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the war between Syrian
President Bashar Assad's Russian-backed government and U.S.-backed rebels,
the American acknowledged the current strategy wasn't working.
"We can't be the only ones trying to
hold this door open," Kerry told reporters. "Russia and the regime must do
their part or this will have no chance."
He called for the immediate grounding
of planes and helicopters that have launched airstrikes, including a Russian
one earlier this week that the U.S. says hit an aid convoy, killing 20
civilians. Russia has denied responsibility, while raising a range of
ulterior scenarios for how the caravan might have been struck.
"Absent a major gesture like this, we
don't believe there is a point to making more promises or issuing more plans
or announcing something that can't be reached," Kerry said, describing a
"moment of truth" for Syria, Russia and all those trying to halt the
The meeting came after Assad told the
AP in an interview in Damascus that the United States was to blame for the
deal's failure. He cited U.S. inability to control "terrorist" groups and a
weekend attack that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers. The U.S. apologized
for what it described as a mistake.
Lavrov had sought a three-day pause in
fighting to revive the cease-fire.
But U.S. officials said there was no
point returning to a situation in which rebels would be pressed to hold
fire, while the Syrian and Russian military's could violate the agreement.
American officials described the
two-and-a-half-hour meeting in the Palace Hotel as "contentious."
Kerry and others made the point
repeatedly to Lavrov that Russia had to undertake new steps that went beyond
previous agreements to salvage the process. Lavrov pushed only for all sides
to recommit to the Sept. 9 truce, according to officials.
Russia provided "unsatisfactory"
answers, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said.
Kerry said he would wait for Lavrov to
tell him Friday if Russia would suspend airstrikes for a significant period
At the U.N., Assad's other major
supporter also rejected the U.S.-led call for aircraft to be grounded.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said
doing so would aid "terrorists."
"This course has no foundation, no
logic," said Rouhani, whose country has directed Iranian troops and
Hezbollah forces in support of Assad.
The war has killed as many as a
half-million people, contributed to Europe's worst refugee crisis since
World War II and allowed the Islamic State group to emerge as a global
Yahoo hack steals personal info from at least 500M accounts
People walk in front of a Yahoo sign at the
company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez,
San Francisco (AP) —
Computer hackers swiped personal information from at least 500 million Yahoo
accounts in what is believed to be the biggest digital break-in at an email
The massive security breakdown
disclosed Thursday poses new headaches for beleaguered Yahoo CEO Marissa
Mayer as she scrambles to close a
$4.8 billion sale to
The breach dates back to late 2014,
raising questions about the checks and balances within Yahoo — a fallen
internet star that has been laying off staff and trimming expenses to
counter a steep drop in revenue during the past eight years.
At the time of the break-in, Yahoo's
security team was led by Alex Stamos, a respected industry executive who
left last year to take a similar job at Facebook.
ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH
Yahoo didn't explain what took so long
to uncover a heist that it blamed on a "state-sponsored actor" — parlance
for a hacker working on behalf of a foreign government.
The Sunnyvale, California, company
declined to explain how it reached its conclusions about the attack for
security reasons, but said it is working with the FBI and other law
enforcement. Yahoo began investigating a possible breach in July, around the
time the tech site Motherboard reported that a hacker who uses the name
"Peace" was trying to sell account information belonging to 200 million
Yahoo didn't find evidence of that
reported hack, but additional digging later uncovered a far larger,
allegedly state-sponsored attack.
"We take these types of breaches very
seriously and will determine how this occurred and who is responsible," the
FBI said in a Thursday statement.
MOST ACCOUNTS EVER STOLEN
The Yahoo theft represents the most
accounts ever stolen from a single email provider, according to computer
security analyst Avivah Litan with the technology research firm Gartner Inc.
"It's a shocking number," Litan said.
"This is a pretty big deal that is probably going to cost them tens of
millions of dollars. Regulators and lawyers are going to have a field day
with this one."
Yahoo says it has more than 1 billion
monthly users, although it hasn't disclosed how many of those people have
email accounts. In July, 161 million people worldwide used Yahoo email on
personal computers, a 30 percent decline from the same time in 2014,
according to the latest data from the research firm comScore.
The data stolen from Yahoo includes
users' names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, scrambled
passwords, and the security questions — and answers — used to verify an
accountholder's identity. The company said the attacker didn't get any
information about its users' bank accounts or credit and debit cards.
Security experts say the Yahoo theft
could hurt the affected users if their personal information is mined to
break into other online services or used for identity theft. All affected
users will be notified about the theft and advised how to protect
themselves, according to the company.
that all users change their passwords if they haven't done so since 2014. If
the same password is used to access other sites, it should be changed too,
along with any security questions similar to those used on Yahoo.
THE VERIZON IMPACT
News of the security lapse could cause
some people to have second thoughts about relying on Yahoo's services,
raising a prickly issue for the company as it tries to sell its digital
operations to Verizon.
That deal, announced two months ago,
isn't supposed to close until early next year. That leaves Verizon with
wiggle room to renegotiate the purchase price or even back out if it
believes the security breach will harm Yahoo's business. That could happen
if users shun Yahoo or file lawsuits because they're incensed by the theft
of their personal information.
Verizon said it still doesn't know
enough about the Yahoo break-in to assess the potential consequences. "We
will evaluate as the investigation continues through the lens of overall
Verizon interests, including consumers, customers, shareholders and related
communities," the company said in a statement.
DELAY OF SALE?
At the very least, Verizon is going to
need more time to assess what it will be getting into if it proceeds with
its plans to take over Yahoo, said Scott Vernick, an attorney specializing
in data security for the law firm Fox Rothschild.
"This is going to slow things down.
There is going to be a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed on this," Vernick
said. "A buyer needs to understand the cybersecurity strengths and
weaknesses of its target these days."
Investors evidently aren't nervous
about the Verizon deal unraveling yet. Yahoo's stock added a penny Thursday
to close at $44.15. But the Verizon sale represents a sliver of Yahoo's
total market value, which primarily consists of a stake in Chinese
e-commerce leader Alibaba Group currently worth $42 billion.
Today in History - Friday, Sept. 23, 2016
Today is Friday, Sept. 23, the 267th
day of 2016. There are 99 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 23, 1846, Neptune was
identified as a planet by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle
On this date:
In 1779, during the Revolutionary War,
the American warship Bon Homme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones,
defeated the HMS Serapis in battle off Yorkshire, England; however, the
seriously damaged Bon Homme Richard sank two days later.
In 1780, British spy John Andre was
captured along with papers revealing Benedict Arnold's plot to surrender
West Point to the British.
In 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition
returned to St. Louis more than two years after setting out for the Pacific
In 1926, Gene Tunney scored a ten-round
decision over Jack Dempsey to win the world heavyweight boxing title in
In 1939, Sigmund Freud (froyd), the
founder of psychoanalysis, died in London at age 83.
In 1952, in what became known as the
"Checkers" speech, Sen. Richard M. Nixon, R-Calif., salvaged his
vice-presidential nomination by appearing on television to refute
allegations of improper campaign fundraising.
In 1955, a jury in Sumner, Mississippi,
acquitted two white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, of murdering black
teenager Emmett Till. (The two men later admitted to the crime in an
interview with Look magazine.)
In 1957, nine black students who'd
entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw
because of a white mob outside.
In 1962, New York's Philharmonic Hall
(later renamed Avery Fisher Hall) formally opened as the first unit of the
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. "The Jetsons," an animated cartoon
series about a Space Age family, premiered as the ABC television network's
first program in color.
In 1973, former Argentine president
Juan Peron won a landslide election victory that returned him to power; his
wife, Isabel, was elected vice president.
In 1987, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.,
withdrew from the Democratic presidential race following questions about his
use of borrowed quotations and the portrayal of his academic record.
In 1996, space shuttle Atlantis left
Russia's orbiting Mir station with astronaut Shannon Lucid, who ended her
six-month visit with tender goodbyes to her Russian colleagues.
Ten years ago: Three young children
were found dead in an East St. Louis, Illinois, apartment, hours after
Tiffany Hall was charged with killing their pregnant mother and her fetus in
a grisly attack. (Hall later pleaded guilty to four counts of murder and one
count of intentional homicide in the death of the fetus and was sentenced to
life in prison without parole.) Barry Bonds hit his 734th career home run in
the Giants' 10-8 loss to the Brewers, breaking Hank Aaron's NL record.
Five years ago: Palestinian leader
Mahmoud Abbas (mahk-MOOD' ah-BAHS') took his people's quest for independence
to the United Nations, seeking the world body's recognition of Palestine and
sidestepping negotiations that had foundered for nearly two decades. Pope
Benedict XVI, visiting his native Germany, met with victims of sexual abuse
by priests and expressed "deep compassion and regret," according to the
Vatican. After 41 years, the soap opera "All My Children" broadcast its
final episode on ABC-TV.
One year ago: In the first canonization
on U.S. soil, Pope Francis elevated to sainthood Junipero Serra, an
18th-century missionary who's brought Catholicism to the American West
Coast. Earlier in the day, the pontiff met with President Barack Obama at
the White House and was greeted by adoring crowds during an outdoor
procession. Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng), visiting
Seattle, addressed Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, billionaire investor
Warren Buffett and other top American and Chinese business leaders, vowing
his country would work to remove barriers to foreign investment
and improve intellectual property protections. Volkswagen CEO Martin
Winterkorn resigned, days after admitting that the world's top-selling
carmaker had rigged
diesel emissions to pass U.S. tests during his tenure; Winterkorn denied any
Today's Birthdays: Singer Julio
Iglesias is 73. Actor Paul Petersen (TV: "The Donna Reed Show") is 71.
Actress-singer Mary Kay Place is 69. Rock star Bruce Springsteen is 67.
Director/playwright George C. Wolfe (Film: "Nights in Rodanthe") is 62. Rock
musician Leon Taylor (The Ventures) is 61. Actress Rosalind Chao is 59.
Golfer Larry Mize is 58. Actor Jason Alexander is 57. Actor Chi McBride is
55. Country musician Don Herron (BR549) is 54. Actor Erik Todd Dellums is
52. Actress LisaRaye is 50. Singer Ani (AH'-nee) DiFranco is 46. Rock singer
Sarah Bettens (K's Choice) is 44. Recording executive Jermaine Dupri is 44.
Actor Kip Pardue is 40. Actor Anthony Mackie is 38. Pop singer Erik-Michael
Estrada (TV: "Making the Band") is 37. Actress Aubrey
Dollar is 36. Pop singer Diana Ortiz (Dream) is 31. Tennis player Melanie
Oudin (oo-DAN') is 25.
Thought for Today: "Education is
hanging around until you've caught on." — Robert Frost, American poet
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
Cambodia deports 63 Chinese, Taiwanese over alleged web scam
Chinese police escort an internet fraud suspect
at Lukou International Airport in Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu
Province after being deported from Cambodia, Sept. 20, 2016. (Han
Yuqing/Xinhua via AP)
Phnom Penh (AP) — Cambodia has
deported 50 Chinese and 13 Taiwanese citizens to China over an alleged
internet scam, complying with demands from Beijing, a senior police official
The suspects were flown out of Cambodia
on Tuesday, said Gen. Ouk Haiseila, chief of the Cambodian Interior
Ministry's Immigration Investigation Bureau. He said the Chinese government
sent a special plane from Beijing to take them back.
In June, Taiwan protested after
Cambodia deported 25 Taiwanese internet scam suspects to rival China in the
latest snub of the self-ruled island. Cambodia regards Taiwan to be part of
The latest group of 63 suspects was
arrested late last month in a rented house in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's
capital. They were accused of defrauding victims in China using phone calls
made over the internet.
Since 2012, at least 982 Chinese and
Taiwanese accused of taking part in internet scams have been arrested and
deported back to China, according to Ouk Haiseila.
Although Taiwan's constitution formally
decrees that it and the Chinese mainland are part of a single Chinese
nation, Taiwan functions like an independent country and does not
acknowledge Beijing's claim of authority over it.
Rights activists and Taiwanese
authorities say such deportations reflect the great influence China
exercises over Cambodia through aid and investment.
China is a key ally and economic
partner of impoverished Cambodia. It has provided millions of dollars in aid
and investment over the past decade, agreed to write off debts and granted
it tariff-free status for hundreds of items.
Kenya and Malaysia have also deported
Taiwanese internet scam suspects to China despite protests by Taiwanese
Argentine leader mentions Falklands in chat with British PM
A Union Jack flag flies above Port Stanley,
capital of the Falkland Islands. (AP Photo/file)
United Nations (AP) — Argentine
President Mauricio Macri said he spoke informally with British Prime
Minister Theresa May on Tuesday and brought up the dialogue the countries
have re-established in hopes of resolving the dispute over the Falklands
Macri told reporters the encounter
after a United Nations lunch was "a minute" and "very informal." The two
leaders had a similar encounter 10 days ago at the G-20 summit in China.
He separately told the official
Argentine news agency Telam that he greeted May and told her that "he is
ready to start an open a dialogue that includes, of course, the issue of the
sovereignty of the Malvinas." The islands are referred to as the Malvinas in
Macri said the British leader responded
with a "yes, that we should start to talk," according to Telam.
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana
Malcorra later cautioned that while the sovereignty of the disputed islands
is something to be discussed with Britain, it would be "a big step to say
that the issue is on the table."
There was no comment from the British
Tensions between Argentina and Britain
have eased since Argentine President Cristina Fernandez left office and
Macri assumed the post promising a less-confrontational stance.
Last week, the two governments
announced that they had agreed to lift restrictions affecting the islands,
in a thawing of relations. The sides agreed to increase the number of
flights between the Falklands and Argentina, adding one new stop a month in
Argentina lost a 1982 war with Britain
after Argentine troops seized the South Atlantic archipelago.
Argentina claims Britain has illegally
occupied the islands since 1833. Britain disputes the claim and says
Argentina is ignoring the wishes of the 3,000 residents, who wish to remain
Hungarian inmates working around the clock on border fence
Prison inmates manufacture razor wire to be used
on the fences Hungary has built on its borders with Serbia and Croatia to
stop the flow of migrants and refugees, in Marianosztra, Hungary,
Wednesday,. Sept. 21. (AP Photo/Andras Nagy)
Pablo Gorondi, Andras Nagy
Marianosztra, Hungary (AP) —
Hungarian prison inmates are ramping up their production of razor wire,
working around the clock as Hungary prepares to build a second fence on the
border with Serbia to keep out refugees and other migrants.
The razor wire manufacturing at the
prison in Marianosztra, northern Hungary, has increased from two shifts
earlier this year, to three. Besides its domestic use, Hungary has also sold
or donated fence elements, including wire and steel posts, to other
countries in the region, including Slovenia and Macedonia.
"The inmates are manufacturing razor
wire in three shifts a day, with 13 inmates in each shift producing the
wire," Lt. Tamas Szep, the prison's press officer, said Wednesday. "The
capacity of the plant is around 100 wire spools per day, which is heavily
influenced by the fact that most of the work is done by hand."
Human rights organizations consider
Hungary's fences erected last year as the first step in efforts by Prime
Minister Viktor Orban's government to dismantle the country's asylum system.
Hungary's Helsinki Committee says the
fence, the closure of asylum centers and other measures are destroying the
"The asylum system, over the past year,
has been basically emptied of its capacity to provide protection," said
Helsinki Committee co-chair Marta Pardavi. "There is a clear policy of zero
migration, of zero refugees coming to Hungary."
Other steps taken by Hungary in recent
months to destroy its asylum system include the closure of refugee reception
centers, the elimination or reduction of subsidies to assist the integration
of people granted asylum, the deterioration of legal safeguards for refuges
and new measures which allow the summary return across the fence of migrants
caught near the border.
Orban's anti-migrant policies have been
building toward a referendum to be held Oct. 2 in which the prime minister
hopes to gather political support for his opposition to any future EU plan
to resettle migrants among its member states.
Separately, Hungary is also challenging
the EU in court, hoping to prevent having to temporarily take in 1,294
refugees until their asylum claims are decided.
The government's relentless referendum
campaign includes a ubiquitous galaxy of anti-migrant posters, television
ads, multiple daily statements and forums held by government officials and
from Orban's Fidesz party, as well as a pamphlet distributed to voters
warning about the alleged risks of migration.
One of the claims is that there are
hundreds of "no-go" zones which "authorities are incapable of keeping under
control" in cities of countries with large numbers of immigrants like
Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. According to the pamphlet,
"the written and unwritten norms of the host societies do not apply" in
In its own way, the Hungarian
government has already achieved its goal, as many of the few hundred
refugees a year granted asylum in the country prefer to leave.
Africa divided over ivory trade, as some states want to sell
In this Thursday, June, 2, 2016 file photo, a
Zimbabwe National Parks official holds an elephant task during a tour of the
country's ivory stockpile at the Zimbabwe National Parks Headquarters in
Harare. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Johannesburg, S. Africa (AP) —
Villagers and elephants are competing for scarce water in a remote part of
Namibia, one of a minority of African nations that will push for the right
to sell millions of dollars' worth of ivory at an international wildlife
meeting that starts Saturday.
"We at times have to go without water
when the elephants are at the water points and wells the whole day,"
villager Iningirua Musaso told the Namibia Press Agency this month.
Conflict between wildlife and some
rural communities, particularly during the worst drought in southern Africa
in several decades, is often overshadowed by grim news about the
continent-wide slaughter of elephants by poachers.
The number of Africa's savannah
elephants dropped by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014, to 352,000, because
of poaching, according to a recent study.
The southern African countries that
want to sell their ivory stockpiles argue that it's OK to profit from
elephants so that their people see wildlife as a natural resource worth
African countries, however, are divided
over how to conserve elephants. While Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa
favor selling ivory stockpiles, they are opposed by about 30 nations that
want to tighten an international ban on the ivory trade.
The world's main ivory consumer, China,
plans to close its domestic market. The United States has announced a
near-total ban on the domestic sale of African elephant ivory.
Namibia has said it does not expect the
discussions at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, to go in its favor.
South Africa supports Namibian and
Zimbabwean proposals for international ivory sales, said Edna Molewa, the
country's environment minister. Southern African countries with robust
elephant populations should not be treated the same way as other nations hit
hard by elephant poaching, she told reporters this week.
South Africa has about 27,000
elephants; Zimbabwe has 82,000; and Namibia has 20,000 or more. The
countries say they can make millions of dollars by selling ivory stockpiles.
Some 3,500 delegates are expected to
attend the meeting of the CITES group, which has 183 member countries and
aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not
threaten their survival. Proposals that are put to a vote require a
two-thirds majority to be accepted.
CITES allowed a one-off sale of
elephant ivory that was completed in 2009. In that sale, ivory from
Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe went to China and Japan. The
sale of 102 tons of ivory raised $15.4 million for elephant conservation,
according to CITES.
Frank Pope, operations manager at Save
the Elephants, a Kenya-based group, said elephant populations will suffer if
African countries don't unite to oppose the ivory trade.
"If one of the nations that wants to
sell ivory decides to sell ivory and manages to put that onto the market,
that creates a smoke screen for an illegal trade to flourish across the
whole of the rest of the continent," he said.
World leaders rage against neighbours on 2nd day of UN debate
Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the 71st session of the
United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Wednesday, Sept. 21.
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
United Nations (AP) — World
leaders from Pakistan to Ukraine unleashed their regional grievances
Wednesday, taking the stage of the U.N. General Assembly to rage against
their neighbours and presenting a picture of a chaotic world consumed by
A few paces from the General Assembly
hall, the United States and Russia bitterly attacked each other during a
Security Council meeting meant to salvage Syria's faltering cease-fire.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implored Syria's warring parties to lay down
In the midst of the anger, a few bright
spots emerged on the second day of the annual U.N. gathering of heads of
states. Colombia basked in world praise when it presented its newly reached
peace agreement with leftist rebels to the Security Council. Former
political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi made her first General Assembly speech
since she formed a democratically elected government in Myanmar.
But on the International Day of Peace,
tensions from all parts of the planet filled the halls of the United
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang voiced his
country's mounting frustration with ally North Korea's pursuit of nuclear
weapons, highlighting the urgency of reaching "a comprehensive political
solution on the Korean nuclear issue."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
devoted about half of his address to North Korea, which earlier this month
conducted its fifth nuclear test in defiance of repeated Security Council
resolutions intended to constrain its weapons development.
Abe said North Korea this year fired
three missiles into Japan's exclusive economic zone and it was a matter of
luck that no ships or aircraft were damaged. He urged unity in the Security
Council to confront the North Korean threat.
"We must concentrate our strengths and
thwart North Korea's plans," Abe said.
Some of the angriest words came from
the rivalries between Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
delivered a blistering attack on neighboring India while, across the world,
gunbattles raged for a second day between Indian soldiers and suspected
rebels in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Sharif demanded a U.N. investigation
against "brutalities perpetrated by the Indian occupying forces," saying
"innocent Kashmiri children, women and men" have been killed, blinded and
Moments earlier, Pakistan came under
attack from Afghanistan.
Vice President Sarwar Danesh said
"merciless attacks from terrorist groups" against its civilians are being
planned and organized on Pakistani territory. He said Afghanistan has
repeatedly asked Pakistan to destroy known terrorist safe havens but there
has been no change in the situation.
Sharif shot back that Pakistan has
suffered from spillover of Afghanistan's internal conflicts for more than
three decades and "progress will be assured only when the Afghan parties
themselves conclude that there is no military solution to the Afghan war."
There was positive news in Ukraine,
where the government and separatist rebels agreed Wednesday to pull back
troops and weapons from several areas in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to
uphold a fragile peace agreement reached last year.
But at the United Nations, Ukrainian
President Petro Poroshenko lambasted Russia for being "the instigator and
major participant" in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"The terrorist component of the
undeclared hybrid war that Russia wages against Ukraine is evident,"
Respite from the invective came from
Colombia, which appeared at the annual U.N. gathering as a country in peace
for the first time in five decades.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
devoted almost his entire speech to the peace deal reached with the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which will be signed in Cartagena
later this month and must be submitted to a national referendum on Oct. 2.
"A new Colombia greets the
international community today," Santos said. "A Colombia full of hope. A
Colombia that, without a war, is ready to reach its highest potential and to
be a positive factor in the global context."
He later met with President Barack
Obama, who praised the peace accord as an "achievement of historic
Ban commended Santos for his "vision
"In a time of armed conflicts in many
other places, peace in Colombia sends a powerful message of hope in the
world," Ban said.
Zuckerberg, Chan pledge $3B to end disease
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife,
Priscilla Chan smile as they prepare for a speech in San Francisco, Tuesday,
Sept. 20. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
San Francisco (AP) — Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a goal that's even more ambitious than connecting
the entire world to the internet: He and his wife want to help eradicate all
disease by the end of this century.
Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are
committing $3 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate basic scientific
research. That includes creating research tools — from software to hardware
to yet-undiscovered techniques — they hope will ultimately lead to
scientific breakthroughs, the way the microscope and DNA sequencing have in
The goal is to "cure, prevent or manage
all disease" in the next 80 or so years, a timeframe the 30-something couple
are unlikely to live to see. They acknowledge that this might sound crazy,
but point to how far medicine and science have come in the last century —
with vaccines, statins for heart disease, chemotherapy, and so on —
following millennia with little progress.
At current rates of progress,
Zuckerberg reckons, it will be possible to solve most of these problems "by
the end of this century." Zuckerberg and Chan have spent the past two years
speaking to scientists and other experts to plan the endeavor. In an
interview, Zuckerberg emphasized "that this isn't something where we just
read a book and decided we're going to do it."
Through their philanthropic
organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the commitment includes $600
million to fund a new research center in San Francisco where scientific and
medical researchers will work alongside engineers on projects spanning years
or even decades. The goal is not to focus narrowly on specific ailments,
such as bone cancer or Parkinson's disease, but rather to do basic research.
One example: a cell atlas that maps out all the different types of cells in
the body, which could help researchers create various types of drugs.
Chan's work as a pediatrician seems to
be a big driver in the couple's decision to take up this latest cause.
"I've been with families where we've
hit the limit of what's possible through medicine and science," Chan said.
"I've had to tell families devastating diagnoses of leukemia, or that we
just weren't able to resuscitate their child."
The couple spoke with The Associated
Press in their home in Palo Alto, California, where their infant daughter,
Max, had just woken from a nap. Their dog, Beast, came by to sit briefly
during the 25-minute interview.
Zuckerberg and Chan hope that their
effort will inspire other far-reaching efforts and collaboration in science,
medicine and engineering, so that basic research is no longer relegated to
"We spend 50 times more on health care
treating people who are sick than we spend on science research (to cure)
diseases so that people don't get sick in the first place," Zuckerberg said.
Eric Lander, a professor of biology at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he's had some 20
conversations with Zuckerberg and Chan over the past year about the
initiative and called it "the right kind of goal for thinking about that
kind of timeframe." He is not involved with the project itself, but
expressed confidence in it.
"Mark has brought new models to
industry with Facebook," he said.
Zuckerberg said it has been difficult
with today's scientific funding to build scientific teams of the scale "you
would find at a world-class technology company."
Nobel laureate David Baltimore
wrote in the journal
Science that private efforts such as Zuckerberg and Chan's could
help supplement government funding and "initiate research thrusts into
unproven directions, which generally do not draw government funding."
Their new center, Biohub, will run as
an independent research center at the University of California, San
Francisco in collaboration with UC Berkeley and Stanford University.
The Chan Zuckerberg science initiative
will be headed by Cori Bargmann, a neuroscientist who is best known in
scientific circles for her research on the behavior of a tiny worm called C.
elegans. Bargmann said the idea of bringing engineers and scientists
together presents a "unique opportunity to take science in a new direction."
Zuckerberg and Chan, who have committed
donating 99 percent
of their wealth , stressed that they believe that their goal can
be accomplished, if not in their lifetime, then in their child's lifetime.
It was Max's birth last November that inspired the billionaire couple to
give away nearly all their money to help solve the world's problems.
At the time, this was valued at more
than $45 billion worth of Facebook stock, which the couple transferred to
the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The couple's philanthropy plan won't affect
Zuckerberg's status as controlling shareholder of Facebook.
Zuckerberg and Chan often draw
comparisons to Bill and Melinda Gates, whose philanthropic work also focuses
on health and education. In an emailed statement, the Gates said investing
"in basic science research is at the root of the world's most important
innovations and achievements." Zuckerberg and Chan, the Gates added, "are
making an incredible commitment to research and development that will lead
to the breakthroughs to cure disease and lift millions out of poverty."
Today in History - Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
The Associated Press
Today is Thursday, Sept. 22, the 266th day of 2016.
There are 100 days left in the year. Autumn arrives at 10:21 a.m. Eastern
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 22, 1776, during the Revolutionary War, Capt.
Nathan Hale, 21, was hanged as a spy by the British in New York.
On this date:
In 1792, the first French Republic was proclaimed.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the
preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in rebel states
should be free as of Jan. 1, 1863.
In 1911, pitcher Cy Young, 44, gained his 511th and
final career victory as he hurled a 1-0 shutout for the Boston Rustlers
against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Forbes Field.
In 1927, Gene Tunney successfully defended his
heavyweight boxing title against Jack Dempsey in the famous "long-count"
fight in Chicago.
In 1938, the musical comedy revue "Hellzapoppin',"
starring Ole (OH'-lee) Olsen and Chic Johnson, began a three-year run on
In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic
In 1950, Omar N. Bradley was promoted to the rank of
five-star general, joining an elite group that included Dwight D.
Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall and Henry H. "Hap" Arnold.
In 1964, the musical "Fiddler on the Roof," starring
Zero Mostel, opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 3,242 performances. The
secret agent series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," starring Robert Vaughn and
David McCallum, premiered on NBC-TV.
In 1975, Sara Jane Moore attempted to shoot President
Gerald R. Ford outside a San Francisco hotel, but missed. (Moore served 32
years in prison before being paroled on Dec. 31, 2007.)
In 1985, rock and country music artists participated in
"Farm Aid," a concert staged in Champaign, Illinois, to help the nation's
In 1991, the London newspaper The Mail published an
interview with former intelligence agent John Cairncross, who admitted being
the "fifth man" in the Soviet Union's notorious British spy ring.
In 1996, actress-singer Dorothy Lamour died at her
North Hollywood home at age 81.
Ten years ago: A high-speed maglev train crashed in
northwestern Germany, killing 23 people in the first fatal wreck involving
the high-tech system. Three Christian militants were executed in Indonesia
for leading attacks on Muslims in May 2000 that left at least 70 people
dead. Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn resigned in the wake of
the company's ill-fated investigation of boardroom media leaks. Actor Edward
Albert died in Malibu, California, at age 55.
Five years ago: A group of European researchers at the
world's biggest physics lab in Switzerland claimed to have measured a
subatomic particle, a neutrino, traveling faster than the speed of light, a
finding that challenged Einstein's theory of relativity (however, the
results were refuted by other scientists). American diplomats led a walkout
at the U.N. General Assembly as Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
(ah-muh-DEE'-neh-zhahd) fiercely attacked the United States and major West
European nations as "arrogant powers" ruled by greed and eager for military
adventurism. Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Germany on his first state visit
to his homeland.
One year ago: Pope Francis arrived from Cuba on the
first visit of his life to the United States; President Barack Obama, his
wife and daughters personally welcomed the pontiff at Andrews Air Force Base
outside Washington. Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) arrived
in Seattle for a three-day visit before heading to Washington. Volkswagen AG
acknowledged putting emissions-cheating software in millions of vehicles
worldwide. Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, 90, died in West Caldwell, New
Today's Birthdays: Baseball Hall of Fame manager Tommy
Lasorda is 89. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern is 74. Actor Paul Le Mat
is 71. Musician King Sunny Ade (ah-DAY') is 70. Capt. Mark Phillips is 68.
Rock singer David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake) is 65. Actress Shari
Belafonte is 62. Singer Debby Boone is 60. Country singer June Forester (The
Forester Sisters) is 60. Singer Nick Cave is 59. Rock singer Johnette
Napolitano is 59. Actress Lynn Herring is 59. Classical crossover singer
Andrea Bocelli (an-DRAY'-ah boh-CHEL'-ee) is 58. Singer-musician Joan Jett
is 58. Actor Scott Baio is 56. Actress Catherine Oxenberg is 55. Actress
Bonnie Hunt is 55. Actor Rob Stone
is 54. Musician Matt
Sharp is 47.
Rhythm-and-blues singer Big Rube (Society of Soul) is 45. Actress
Mireille Enos is 41. Actress Daniella Alonso is 38. Actor Michael Graziadei
(GRAHT'-zee-uh-day-ee) is 37. Actress Ashley Drane (Eckstein) is 35. Actress
Katie Lowes is 34. Rock musician Will Farquarson (Bastille) is 33. Actress
Tatiana Maslany (TV: "Orphan Black") is 31. Actor Tom Felton is 29. Actress
Juliette Goglia is 21.
Thought for Today: "Delicious autumn! My very soul is
wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the
successive autumns." — George Eliot, English author (1819-1880).
Copyright 2016 The Associated
Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
Ex-Serb commander pleads not guilty to war crimes charges
Dragan Vasiljkovic, center, a former Serb
military commander sits between guards in a courtroom at the beginning of
his trial in Split, Croatia, Tuesday, Sept. 20. (AP Photo)
Zagreb, Croatia (AP) — A
Serb paramilitary commander during the Balkan wars of the 1990s pleaded not
guilty on Tuesday at the start of his war crimes trial in Croatia, saying
the accusations against him are trumped-up.
Dragan Vasiljkovic, also known as
Captain Dragan and Daniel Snedden, is charged with the killings and torture
of civilians and imprisoned Croatian police and army troops while he was a
rebel Serb commander during the 1991-95 Croatian war.
The charges carry a maximum 20-year
prison sentence in Croatia.
Vasiljkovic's trial is being held in
the coastal town of Split under heavy security. The proceedings opened with
the reading of the indictment before Vasiljkovic entered his plea.
"It's all a lie," Vasiljkovic told the
court, according to Croatia's state HINA news agency. "The only crime here
has been committed against me because I have been in jail for 11 years
without a verdict,"
"This is a staged story. ... The
indictment is comical, shameless and insolent" he added. "I defended my
homeland Yugoslavia which I loved very much."
Vasiljkovic, 61, who was born in
Serbia, went to Australia at the age of 15 but returned to the Balkans to
train Croatian Serb rebels in 1991, when Serbs took up arms against
Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia.
The indictment alleges that Vasiljkovic
was responsible for the torture and killings of prisoners in the rebel
stronghold of Knin, and the attack in 1991 on a police station in the town
of Glina in which civilians were expelled, robbed and killed, including a
Vasiljkovic has remained in custody
since he was extradited from Australia in July last year after fighting a
10-year legal battle against being handed over to the Croatian judiciary.
HINA said the prosecution will present
55 witnesses in the coming months of the trial. Defense lawyers said they
will seek to prove that Vasiljkovic was not in command but was an adventurer
and an instructor for the special troops.
Some 10,000 people died in the Croatian
Earth smashes yet another heat record; 16th month in a row
A youth takes a drink on a hill overlooking
Madrid on a hot day in Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 6. Spain's weather agency says
some places in the south of the country are smashing September heat records,
with one site near Seville logging 45.4 degrees Celsius (113.72 Fahrenheit)
while 10 weather stations across the south measured temperatures above 44
degrees Celsius (111.2 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Paul White)
Washington (AP) — Another
month, another global heat record smashed.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration on Tuesday
August's temperature of 61.74 degrees (16.52 Celsius) was 0.09 degrees (0.05
Celsius) warmer than the old August record set last year, and was the 16th
consecutive month of record-breaking heat. NOAA monitoring chief Deke Arndt
said it was also the hottest summer, with 2016 on pace to smash last year's
record for the hottest year.
August 2016 was also 1.66 degrees (0.92
Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average. It was the fifth hottest
month of any kind recorded, going back to 1880. Six of the 17 hottest months
on record have been the summer months of 2015 and 2016.
The June-through-August summer was 2.18
degrees (1.21 Celsius) warmer than the 20th-century average and beat the old
summer heat record, set last year, by one-fifth of a degree (0.11 Celsius),
"The needle has been shoved all the way
over into the red by greenhouse gases," Arndt said.
NOAA's announcement came on a day when
375 members of the National Academy of Sciences, including Stephen Hawking
and 30 Nobel laureates, released an
urging American leaders not to pull out of an international agreement to
curb global warming.
Organizer and MIT climate scientist
Kerry Emanuel said the scientists wrote the letter in response to the
Republican party platform that rejects the Paris climate agreement reached
last December. The letter said presidential nominee Donald Trump's advocacy
of withdrawing from that agreement would "send a clear signal to the rest of
the world: The United States does not care about the global problem of
human-caused climate change."
Pulling out of the Paris accord,
Emanuel said, "will accelerate our head-long plunge into a riskier and
"Everywhere we look we see signs that
the climate really is changing," Emanuel said. "We're getting wake-up calls
more frequently and we really have to do something about this."
Indian soldiers battle suspected militants in Kashmir
Indian army soldiers give a gun salute to their
colleague Gangadhar Dalai, who was killed in a militant attack in Uri,
Kashmir, prior to his cremation in Jamuna Balia village, west of Kolkata,
India, Tuesday, Sept. 20. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
Srinagar, India (AP) — Indian
soldiers on Tuesday battled two groups of suspected militants along the
highly militarized de facto border dividing the disputed Himalayan region of
Kashmir between India and Pakistan, leaving one soldier dead, the Indian
Army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said
the two groups infiltrated into the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir
from the Pakistani-held portion.
Both gun battles were continuing and
one soldier had been killed in the fighting, an army officer said on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier Tuesday, Kalia said Pakistani
soldiers violated the 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan by
firing bullets at an Indian military position from across the heavily
fortified frontier in Uri region, where early Sunday four suspected rebels
killed 18 Indian soldiers in an audacious attack on a crucial military base.
The militants were also killed in the attack.
Kalia did not give more details about
the reported cease-fire violation.
In Pakistan, two senior army officers
dismissed the Indian allegation as baseless. The officers, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk on the
record, said no Pakistani troops had fired at any Indian military position
Kalia said soldiers were exchanging
fierce gunfire with the two groups of militants in Uri region and Nowgam
Kashmir is divided between India and
Pakistan by a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier called the Line
The two nuclear-armed rivals have
fought three wars, including two over their competing claims to the
Himalayan territory, though the 2003 cease-fire has largely held despite
small but regular skirmishes.
They use separate paramilitary forces
to guard their lower-altitude frontier, defined by coils of razor wire that
snake across foothills marked by ancient villages, tangled bushes and fields
of rice and corn.
Sunday's attack heightened tensions
between India and Pakistan and provoked calls for revenge, with New Delhi
blaming Islamabad-backed militants for the deadly strike, an allegation
Pakistan strongly denied.
The latest hostility between the
neighboring countries comes amid the largest protests against Indian rule in
Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel
commander by Indian soldiers.
The protests, and a sweeping military
crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir. More
than 80 people have been killed in the protests.
Jolie files for divorce from Pitt 'for health of the family'
Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are
shown together in this June 5, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Jake Coyle, Anthony McCartney
New York (AP) — Angelina
Jolie Pitt has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, bringing an end to what
began as the world's most tabloid headline-generating romance before
morphing into a glamorous engine of family and philanthropy.
Jolie Pitt, 41, cited "irreconcilable
difference" in divorce papers filed Monday in Los Angeles. She is seeking
physical custody of their six children, with visitation rights for Pitt.
An attorney for Jolie Pitt, Robert
Offer, said Tuesday that her decision to divorce was made "for the health of
the family." The filing dated the couple's separation to last Thursday.
"I am very saddened by this, but what
matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids. I kindly ask the press to
give them the space they deserve during this challenging time," Pitt said in
a statement to People.
Mark Vincent Kaplan, a veteran divorce
attorney who was Kevin Federline's attorney in his divorce from Britney
Spears and has handled several high-profile cases, reviewed the filing at
the AP's request.
"There is no indication on the face of
the petition filed by Ms. Jolie that there is a prenuptial agreement, or
that if there is a prenup, she is asking the court to consider whether or
not to invalidate it," said Kaplan.
Though together for 12 years, Pitt and
Jolie Pitt — known as "Brangelina" — only wed in August 2014. They married
privately at their French chateau in the Provence hamlet of Correns with
their children serving as ring bearers and throwing flower petals. They
announced the ceremony days later.
Their children are: 15-year-old Maddox,
12-year-old Pax, 11-year-old Zahara, 10-year-old Shiloh, and 8-year-old
twins Knox and Vivienne.
This is the second marriage for Pitt,
52, who previously wed Jennifer Aniston. It's the third for Jolie Pitt, who
was previously married to Billy Bob Thornton and Jonny Lee Miller.
Their initial romance sparked a tabloid
avalanche unlike any in recent memory. Pitt and Jolie became close while
filming 2005's "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," prompting widespread speculation —
consistently denied by the couple — that Jolie prompted Pitt's divorce from
Aniston. Pitt and Aniston announced their separation in January 2005.
But after the media upheaval, Jolie
Pitt and Pitt eventually settled into their own unique kind of
globe-trotting domesticity. They were seldom-seen Hollywood royalty, their
image predicated more on parenting than partying.
The pair adopted children from
Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia. In 2006, they formed the Jolie-Pitt
Foundation, to which they funneled many of the millions they made selling
personal pictures to celebrity magazines.
Jolie Pitt, who became special envoy
for the United Nations in 2012, became an outspoken voice for refugees, as
well as for breast cancer treatment after undergoing a double mastectomy
herself. Pitt built homes in New Orleans for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Jolie Pitt also launched herself as a
film director. Last year, the couple starred together in her "By the Sea,"
playing a glamorous couple vacationing together in France while their
marriage was on the rocks. It made a mere $538,000 at the box office
In a 2014 interview with The Associated
Press, Jolie Pitt said playing a couple with marital problems was cathartic.
"It almost makes you get past those
issues because you can laugh at them," Jolie Pitt said. "You do a film about
bad marriage and you witness that behavior. You study it, you let it out,
you attack each other and then you just want to hold each other and make
sure you never behave that way."
Jolie Pitt earlier this year finished
shooting her fourth feature as director, "First They Killed My Father." The
film, about the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime, was shot in Cambodia.
The pair was seen publicly together as
recently as July, when they were spotted taking their twins to breakfast in
Pitt stars with Marion Cotillard in
Robert Zemeckis' upcoming spy thriller "Allied" and narrates Terrence
Malick's IMAX documentary "Voyage of Time."
In recent years, Pitt's production
company, Plan B, has been behind a growing number of acclaimed releases,
including the Academy Award best-picture winner "12 Years a Slave," last
year's "The Big Short" and the recently debuted festival hit "Moonlight."
UN suspends Syria aid convoys after 'savage' attack
provided by the Syrian anti-government group Aleppo 24 news, shows damaged
trucks carrying aid, in Aleppo, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (Aleppo 24
news via AP)
Philip Issa, Jamey Keaten
Beirut (AP) — Volunteers were
still dousing the fires from an overnight attack on an aid convoy that
killed 20 civilians as the U.N. announced Tuesday it was suspending overland
aid deliveries in Syria, jeopardizing food and medical security for millions
of besieged and hard-to-reach civilians.
Confusion continued about who struck
the convoy, but the White House insisted it was either Russia or Syria.
White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said either way, the
U.S. held Russia responsible, because it was Russia's job under the week-old
cease-fire to prevent Syria's air force from striking in areas where
humanitarian aid was being transported.
"All of our information indicates
clearly that this was an airstrike," Rhodes said, rejecting the claim by
Russia's Defense Ministry that a cargo fire caused the damage. Both Russia
and Syria have denied carrying out the bombing.
Within one minute of the strike, the
U.S. tracked a Russian-made Su-24 directly over the region of the attack,
U.S. officials said. Even that revelation failed to definitively implicate
Russia because both the Russian and Syrian air forces fly the Su-24,
although the U.S. officials said there were strong indications that the jet
was flown by the Russian military.
The officials spoke anonymously because
they were not authorized to comment publicly on the incident.
Witnesses described the Monday attack
on a Syrian Arab Red Crescent warehouse and convoy in the rebel-held town of
Uram al-Kubra in Aleppo province as prolonged and intense, saying the aerial
bombardment continued as rescue workers rushed to pull the wounded from the
flaming wreckage and rubble.
The convoy was part of a routine
interagency dispatch operated by the Syrian Red Crescent, which U.N.
officials said was delivering assistance to 78,000 people in Uram al-Kubra,
west of Aleppo city. It was carrying food, medicines, emergency health kits,
IV fluids, and other essentials supplied by the U.N. and the World Health
Local paramedic and media activist
Mohammad Rasoul, who was among the first to arrive at the scene, said over
100 tons of food, medicine, and baby formula had gone up in flames. He said
18 of the convoy's 31 trucks were completely destroyed.
The attack "erased the convoy from the
face of the earth," Rasoul said.
"I've never seen anything like this
attack," he said. "If this had been a military position, it wouldn't have
been targeted with such intensity."
He said the attack began around 20
minutes after sunset on Monday and continued for two hours.
Pointing to the fact that Syria's
rebels don't possess an air force, the White House said process of
elimination indicated that either Syria's military or Russia's launched the
attack. Both Syrian and Russian aircraft operate over the province, while
the U.S.-led coalition targets the Islamic State group in other parts of the
At the same time the attack took place
on Uram al-Kubra, presumed Syrian or Russian jets launched a wave of attacks
in and around the nearby city of Aleppo, minutes after Syria's military
announced a weeklong cease-fire had expired.
A cargo fire would not explain the
footage filmed by rescuers of torn flesh being picked from the wreckage, or
the witness accounts of a sustained, two-hour barrage of missiles, rockets,
and barrel bombs — crude, unguided weapons that the Syrian government drops
Hussein Badawi, the head of the town's
Syrian Civil Defense search and rescue group — also known as the White
Helmets — said that on the night of the attack he heard the sounds of
overhead ballistic missiles, helicopters and fighter jets. He and other
witnesses reported seeing a reconnaissance aircraft observing the convoy
before the attack.
"There were reconnaissance flights
before the airstrikes," said Badawi. "They filmed and combed the area, and
they knew there was a Red Crescent (facility). The target was the Red
Crescent, central and direct."
Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed
Tuesday that a drone had followed the convoy from a warehouse in the
government-side of Aleppo to its destination in Uram al-Kubra.
The International Committee of the Red
Cross said that 20 civilians were killed in the attack, many of them killed
as they were unloading the trucks. Syrian activists and paramedics had said
earlier that the airstrikes killed 12.
Witnesses said some of the remains were
charred beyond recognition.
Among those killed was Omar Barakat,
38, the local director for the Red Crescent and a father of nine. His
brother, Ali Barakat, who was also present at the attack, said it took him
three hours to reach Omar, who was trapped in his vehicle.
"I stayed with my face on the floor for
about an hour because of the intensity of the strikes," said Barakat.
Omar Barakat died in an ambulance on
the way to a hospital.
The U.N. stressed that they had
"deconflicted" the delivery with all parties before the operation, by
obtaining the necessary permits from the government and supplying combatants
with the relevant coordinates for the move.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
called it a "sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack," in his
address to world leaders at the General Assembly Tuesday. "Just when we
think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower," he said,
describing the bombers as "cowards" and those delivering aid as "heroes."
The U.N.'s humanitarian agency, OCHA,
announced earlier in the day it had suspended relief convoys in Syria,
pending a review of the security situation. OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke
called it "a very, very dark day... for humanitarians across the world."
But the U.N. appeared to carry on with
air drops to government-held areas.
World Food Programme spokeswoman
Bettina Luescher said in a statement that the U.N. food agency had
airdropped aid to the besieged eastern city of Deir el-Zour earlier Tuesday
"as part of the planned schedule of deliveries."
Reached for clarification, OCHA's
Damascus office said only interagency convoys had been suspended, without
A member of the Syrian Civil Defense
criticized the U.N. humanitarian aid agency for suspending the convoys.
Ibrahim Alhaj told The Associated Press
that Syrian civilians will pay the price for the decision — and that the
U.N. should have condemned the attacks on the convoy rather than suspending
The U.N. says over 6 million Syrians
are living in besieged or hard-to-reach areas and require humanitarian aid.
Media activist Wassim al-Ahmad sent a
text message to The Associated Press from the besieged town of Madaya,
outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, saying residents were asking whether
the reports were true that the U.N. was suspending its aid convoys. The
town, the scene of some of the most distressing images of starvation to
emerge from Syria last winter, was expecting its first delivery since June.
"So, in the end, the burden falls on
the besieged," lamented al-Ahmad.
Obama says nations vow to take in twice as many refugees
States President Barack Obama speaks during the 71st session of the United
Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 20, at U.N. headquarters in New
York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
New York (AP) — World leaders
gathered at the United Nations pledged Tuesday to take in 360,000 refugees
next year, President Barack Obama said, roughly doubling the previous year's
allowance in a bid to mitigate the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The United States said 52 countries
taking part in a U.S.-led summit were stepping up to accelerate resettlement
and boost financial support for refugees. The White House did not release a
full list of participating countries or a breakdown of their pledges, making
Obama's boast of major headway impossible to confirm.
Obama, in an emotional event designed
to invoke empathy for the plight of refugees, called it a "crisis of epic
proportions" that tested both the international order and the world's
humanity. He drew a parallel to the Holocaust, calling the U.S. move to turn
away Jews fleeing Nazi Germany a stain on America's collective conscience.
"I believe history will judge us
harshly if we do not rise to this moment," Obama said.
The commitments announced Tuesday fell
far short of what aid groups say is needed to address the crisis. Some 65
million people around the world have fled their homes because of war or
persecution or to seek a better life, including about 21.3 million
considered refugees by the U.N. Refugee Agency. Millions of Palestinian
refugees are registered with the U.N.
The key driver of the modern crisis has
been Syria's long-running civil war, though large numbers have also fled
instability in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an oblique reference to Republican
presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has suggested temporarily banning
Muslim immigrants, Obama said buying into the notion that Muslim immigrants
pose an inherent risk would reinforce terrorists' propaganda. He said that
would send the message that countries like the U.S. were "somehow opposed to
"It is an ugly lie that must be
rejected in all our countries," Obama said.
Last week, the White House announced
that the U.S. would resettle 110,000 refugees in the coming year, a 30
percent increase over the 85,000 allowed in this year. Obama called on
wealthier nations to step up, adding that "we all have to do more."
The U.S. said countries taking part
were also pledging to increase humanitarian aid by $3 billion. China said it
was pledging $300 million, while the United Kingdom said it would resettle
20,000 and provide almost $2 billion in aid — a roughly 10 percent bump.
Argentina vowed to resettlement of Syrian refugees but said the exact
figures would depend on how much global assistance was provided.
"Your compassion will really help these
helpless people," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told world leaders. "If
not us, who can do it?"
Private companies were stepping up,
too. The White House said more than four dozen U.S. businesses had pledged
$650 million, including Facebook, Twitter, MasterCard, Johnson & Johnson and
yogurt maker Chobani.
Meeting with CEOs of some of the
companies and actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, before the summit,
Obama welcomed the pledges as more than an "extraordinary gesture of
"I want to emphasize that from their
perspective this isn't charity. This is part of their overall mission. It
makes good business sense," he said.
Today in History - Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016
Today is Wednesday, Sept. 21, the 265th
day of 2016. There are 101 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 21, 1996, President Bill
Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act denying federal recognition of
same-sex marriages a day after saying the law should not be used as an
excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against gays and
lesbians. (Although never formally repealed, DoMA was effectively overturned
by U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2013 and 2015.)
On this date:
In 1792, the French National Convention
voted to abolish the monarchy.
In 1866, English novelist H.G. Wells
was born in Bromley, Kent.
In 1897, the New York Sun ran its
famous editorial, written anonymously by Francis P. Church, which declared,
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."
In 1925, the Rudolf Friml operetta "The
Vagabond King" opened on Broadway.
In 1938, a hurricane struck parts of
New York and New England, causing widespread damage and claiming some 700
In 1948, Milton Berle made his debut as
permanent host of "The Texaco Star Theater" on NBC-TV.
In 1957, Norway's King Haakon VII died
in Oslo at age 85. The legal mystery-drama "Perry Mason," starring Raymond
Burr, premiered on CBS-TV.
In 1964, Malta gained independence from
In 1970, "NFL Monday Night Football"
made its debut on ABC-TV as the Cleveland Browns defeated the visiting New
York Jets, 31-21.
In 1976, Orlando Letelier
(leh-tel-YEHR'), onetime foreign minister to Chilean President Salvador
Allende (ah-YEN'-day), was killed when a bomb exploded in his car in
Washington D.C. (The bombing, which also killed Letelier's assistant, Ronni
Moffitt, was blamed on Chile's secret police.)
In 1989, Hurricane Hugo crashed into
Charleston, South Carolina (the storm was blamed for 56 deaths in the
Caribbean and 29 in the United States). Twenty-one students in Alton, Texas,
died when their school bus, hit by a soft-drink delivery truck, careened
into a water-filled pit.
In 1996, John F. Kennedy Jr. married
Carolyn Bessette in a secret ceremony on Cumberland Island, Georgia. The
board of all-male Virginia Military Institute voted to admit women.
Ten years ago: The Bush White House and
rebellious Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona, announced
agreement on rules for the interrogation and trial of suspects in the war on
terror. Space shuttle Atlantis and its six astronauts safely returned from a
12-day mission to install a big new piece of the orbiting outpost. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans
ages 13 to 64 be routinely tested for HIV.
Five years ago: Josh Fattal and Shane
Bauer, two Americans jailed in Iran as spies, left Tehran for the Gulf state
of Oman, closing a high-profile drama that brought more than two years of
hope and heartbreak for their families. The state of Texas executed Lawrence
Russell Brewer for his role in the gruesome dragging death of James Byrd Jr.
The state of Georgia executed Troy Davis, who used his last words to declare
his innocence in the killing of police officer Mark MacPhail. Alternative
rock group R.E.M. announced on its website that it had "decided to call it a
day as a band."
One year ago: Pope Francis traveled to
Cuba's fourth-largest city, Holguin, where he celebrated a Mass marking the
anniversary of the day he decided as a teenager to become a priest by
pressing a subtle message to Cubans: Overcome ideological preconceptions and
be willing to change. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker abandoned his bid for the
2016 Republican presidential nomination. A federal judge in Albany, Georgia,
sentenced former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell to 28
years in prison for his role in a deadly 2008-9 salmonella outbreak blamed
for nine deaths.
Today's Birthdays: Poet-songwriter
Leonard Cohen is 82. Author-comedian Fannie Flagg is 75. Producer Jerry
Bruckheimer is 73. Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is 72. Musician Don
Felder is 69. Author Stephen King is 69. Basketball Hall of Famer Artis
Gilmore is 67. Actor-comedian Bill Murray is 66. Hall of Fame jockey Eddie
Delahoussaye is 65. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is 59. Movie
producer-writer Ethan Coen is 59. Actor-comedian Dave Coulier is 57. Actor
David James Elliott is 56. Actress Serena Scott-Thomas is 55. Actress Nancy
Travis is 55. Actor Rob Morrow is 54. Retired
MLB All-Star Cecil Fielder
is 53. Actress Cheryl Hines is 51. Country singer Faith
Hill is 49. Rock musician
is 49. Country
singer Ronna Reeves is 48. Actress-talk show host Ricki Lake is 48. Rapper
Dave (De La Soul) is 48. Actor Rob Benedict is 46. Actor James Lesure is 45.
Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is 45. Actor Luke Wilson is 45. Actor Paulo Costanzo
is 38. Actor Bradford Anderson is 37. Actress Autumn Reeser is 36. TV
personality Nicole Richie is 35. Actress Maggie Grace is 33. Actor Joseph
Mazzello is 33. Actress Ahna O'Reilly is 32. Rapper Wale (WAH'-lay) is 32.
Actor Ryan Guzman is 29. Actors Lorenzo and Nikolas Brino are 18.
Thought for Today: "The crisis of
yesterday is the joke of tomorrow." — H.G. Wells, English author
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
Pressure builds on India gov't to retaliate against Pakistan
Activists of India's Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena
party burn a Pakistan flag and photographs of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif in New Delhi, Monday, Sept. 19 as they protest against Sunday's
attack at an Indian army base in Kashmir. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
New Delhi (AP) — India's prime
minister came under increasing pressure Monday from within his own party, as
many in the country demanded a strong response to a deadly weekend attack
that the government blames on Pakistan-based militants.
But amid the calls for revenge, many
analysts warned that a military response would be extremely dangerous, and
that diplomatic and trade restrictions were far more likely.
Early Sunday, fighters slipped into an
army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing at least 15 soldiers. Four
militants were killed in the attack, which occurred near the highly
militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Indian investigators say maps, weapons and other evidence indicated the
fighters were from Jaish-e-Mohammed, an outlawed militant group based in
India's many all-news TV channels have
been filled with outrage since the attack, with commentators demanding that
India respond forcefully against Pakistan. The calls for punitive action
have spread across social media and into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's own
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, and among his Hindu nationalist supporters.
Ram Madhav, the party's general
secretary, said India needed to hit back hard. "For one tooth, the whole
jaw," he wrote on Twitter.
Modi has tried to assuage the anger,
tweeting that, "I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack
will not go unpunished."
The attack came amid the largest
protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in years, sparked by the July 8
killing by Indian soldiers of a popular rebel commander.
The protests, and a sweeping military
crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Kashmir. More than 80 people,
nearly all of them protesters, have been killed in the violence.
India has for decades accused Pakistan
of funding, training and equipping Islamic militants and then helping them
cross into the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir. Pakistan says it only
gives the militants diplomatic and moral support.
Pakistan denied any role in Sunday's
attack, with the Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that it "has noted
with serious concern the recent spate of vitriolic and unsubstantiated
statements emanating from Indian civil and military leadership."
India and Pakistan have fought three
wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir. Both nations
claim the Himalayan province in its entirety. The two countries have held
numerous rounds of talks over the years, but never have reached agreement on
In the past, when it was in the
opposition, Modi's party loudly criticized responses to terror attacks by
the then-ruling Congress party, calling its leaders weak-kneed and timid.
During the bitter 2014 election
campaign that brought him to office, Modi often taunted the Congress by
saying that if he became prime minister Pakistan would not dare to provoke
A similar attack on an Indian military
installation occurred in January, when six gunmen entered an air force base
in the town of Pathankot close to the Pakistan border. The rebels paralyzed
the massive base for nearly four days, and killed seven soldiers.
India responded by suspending talks
with Pakistan, a reaction that also angered many in Modi's party.
"The government has been trapped by its
own rhetoric," said K.C. Singh, a former diplomat and expert on
But analysts cautioned Monday that
electoral bombast is not supposed to define state policy. If India
retaliated militarily, especially with the annual United Nations General
Assembly about to begin, global condemnation would be immediate, they said.
"The pressure on the Modi government to
act decisively now is visible, but this should be tempered by objective
cost-benefit operational analysis," C. Uday Bhaskar, a defense analyst,
wrote in the Indian Express.
No matter how strongly many in India
demand a forceful retaliation, analysts say New Delhi's options are probably
limited to imposing diplomatic and trade restrictions on Islamabad.
Some experts have suggested that New
Delhi recall its envoy from Islamabad and expel the Pakistani high
commissioner. Others say India should close its skies to Pakistani flights
or hold military exercises near the Pakistan border.
But whatever measures India decides on,
New Delhi will have to consider their implications.
"India has to ensure that the options
it exercises — particularly the military ones — do not leave it worse off
than before in terms of casualties and costs," said Manoj Joshi with the
Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.
Merkel takes some blame for poor Berlin election performance
German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German
Christian Democratic Party (CDU), Angela Merkel, attends a press conference
in Berlin, Germany, Monday, Sept. 19. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Frank Jordans, Kirsten Grieshaber
Berlin (AP) — German Chancellor
Angela Merkel took partial responsibility for her party's worst-ever
performance in a Berlin state election, acknowledging Monday that her
government's policies at the national level were a factor.
Merkel pledged to work harder to
address people's concerns, particularly on migrants. Her Christian
Democratic Union party, or CDU, received just 17.6 percent of the vote in
the German capital.
"That's very bitter," Merkel told
reporters in Berlin, referring to the drop of almost 6 percentage points her
The result means that Berlin state's
current coalition government, in which the CDU is the junior partner to the
center-left Social Democrats, or SPD, has no majority going forward. A
three-way coalition of Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party
is now likely in the capital.
While the Berlin vote was partly seen
as a referendum on Merkel's handling of the migrant crisis, the state
government has no control over Germany's immigration policy. The
left-leaning coalition that could now take over office would likely be more
welcoming of refugees than the current state government.
Both CDU and SPD — which saw its share
of the vote drop 6.7 points to 21.6 percent — lost voters to the nationalist
Alternative for Germany, which has campaigned heavily against immigration.
The party, known as AfD, entered its 10th state parliament Sunday with 14.2
percent of the vote. The nationalists' strong result is particularly
remarkable because the city of 3.5 million is usually known for its liberal
"I take responsibility as party leader
and chancellor," Merkel said at a news conference alongside her party's
mayoral candidate, Frank Henkel.
Speaking in unusually self-critical
terms, Merkel edged away from her oft-repeated mantra — first uttered during
the height of the migrants crisis last year — that "we will manage."
Merkel said that while she stands by
the sentiment, some voters had taken it as a provocation in view of the
massive challenge that the country faces integrating hundreds of thousands
Merkel added that she's prepared to
address voters' concerns about the unprecedented influx of migrants over the
past year, but that if people simply don't want Muslim asylum-seekers
because of their religion, then that would be counter to her Christian
Democratic Party's basic principles, as well as Germany's.
"The CDU and I can't go along with
that," she said.
Henkel, who has been in charge of
security matters in Berlin for the past five years, added it was wrong to
think there had been no improvement over the past year. He noted that last
fall up to 1,000 refugees were arriving in the capital each day, while that
figure is down to between 25 and 30 now.
Berlin's notoriously inefficient
bureaucracy, rising rents and ailing transport infrastructure — especially
the much-delated new airport — dominated the election campaign in Germany's
biggest city, driving voters away from the centrist coalition toward the
left and right.
The anti-capitalist Left Party, a
descendant of the former East German communists, gained 3.9 points to 15.6
percent. The Green Party received 15.2 percent, down by 2.4 percentage
Many disillusioned Berliners who didn't
vote in the last election backed the nationalist Alternative for Germany,
however, driving turnout up to 66.9 percent from 60.2 percent in 2011.
The three-year-old party came fresh
from election success in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western
Pomerania two weeks ago, where it beat Merkel's CDU into third place.
Party leaders announced Monday that
they are now setting their sights on next year's federal election and aiming
for a double-digit result. AfD narrowly missed clearing the 5-percent
threshold to enter the national Parliament in 2013. Since then, the party
has shifted rightward and campaigned heavily against immigration.
Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry cited
recent opinion polls predicting the party could receive 14 to 15 percent at
the national level and suggested that AfD would be prepared to take on
government responsibility from 2021 if it gets sufficient backing from
AfD has been dogged by revelations
about members espousing extremist views and having ties to far-right groups
— including two candidates who stood for the party in Berlin. Co-chairman
Joerg Meuthen said AfD was trying to solve the problem and stressed that the
party wouldn't tolerate anti-Semitism in its ranks.
Merkel said her party would reach out
to disaffected voters, including those who had backed AfD in recent
elections due to fears about the impact that migrants will have on the
"Germany will change, as we will all
change, if we're not of stone," she said. "But its foundations won't be
She declined to declare whether she
will seek a fourth term in next year's election, though she is widely
expected to do so.
Merkel indicated that she was willing
to offer an olive branch to the CDU's Bavaria-only sister-party, which is
part of her government at the national level together with the Social
Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, who
has been sharply critical of the chancellor on the migrants' issue, told
Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday that the situation for his and
Merkel's Union bloc "has never been so difficult."
Merkel said she wouldn't accept a
"static" cap on the number of migrants coming to Germany, leaving open the
possibility that some sort of flexible maximum could be introduced — a
position she has previously rejected.
Suspect is shot and captured in New York-area bombings
Rahami is taken into custody after a shootout with police Monday, Sept. 19,
in Linden, N.J. Rahami was wanted for questioning in the bombings that
rocked the Chelsea neighborhood of New York and the New Jersey shore town of
Seaside Park. (Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston Herald via AP)
Deepti Hajela, Jake Pearson
Linden, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey police officer
responding to a call about a hoodied vagrant curled up asleep in a bar
doorway roused him and quickly recognized the bearded face of perhaps the
most wanted man in America.
Ahmad Khan Rahami — identified in an
FBI bulletin just hours earlier as a man wanted in the weekend bombings in
New York City and New Jersey — pulled a gun, shot the officer and triggered
a running gun battle in the street that ended with Rahami wounded and in
custody Monday, authorities said.
A bloodied Rahami was loaded into the
back of an ambulance, just 50 hours after the first blast that started it
Rahami, 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen
from Afghanistan who lived with his Muslim family in Elizabeth, New Jersey,
underwent surgery for a gunshot wound to the leg as authorities began
drawing up charges in a case that spread fear across the New York area and
revived anxiety about homegrown terrorism.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said
officials have every reason to believe the series of bombings "was an act of
terror," though investigators said Rahami's exact motive isn't yet clear.
With Rahami's arrest, officials said
they have no indication there are more bombs or suspects to find, though
they cautioned that they are still investigating.
Still, after a whirlwind investigation
that put Rahami in custody in just two days' time, "I'm a lot happier today
than I was yesterday," New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said.
The probe started when a pipe bomb blew
up Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey, before a charity race to
benefit Marines. No one was injured.
Then a shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker
bomb similar to those used in the Boston Marathon attack exploded Saturday
night in New York's Chelsea section, wounding 29 people, none seriously. An
unexploded pressure-cooker bomb was found blocks away.
Late Sunday night, five explosive
devices were discovered in a trash can at an Elizabeth train station.
Investigators said they are still gathering evidence and have not publicly
tied Rahami to those devices.
Late Monday, a hospitalized Rahami was
charged in New Jersey with five counts of attempted murder of police
officers in connection with the shootout and was held on $5.2 million bail.
Federal prosecutors said they were still weighing charges over the bombings.
It wasn't known if Rahami had an
attorney. Messages left for family members were not immediately returned.
Rahami lived with his family above
their fried-chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, and his relatives have clashed
with the city over closing times and noise complaints they said were tinged
with anti-Muslim sentiment. A childhood friend, Flee Jones, said Rahami had
become more religious after returning from a trip to Afghanistan several
years ago. Still, some of the family restaurant's customers said that while
Rahami was devout, he was more likely to talk about his interest in cars
than to mention faith.
William Sweeney Jr., the FBI's
assistant director in New York, said there were no indications Rahami was on
law enforcement's radar at the time of the bombings.
Authorities zeroed in on him as the
potential bomber after a fingerprint and DNA obtained from one of the New
York sites and "clear as day" surveillance video from the bombing scene
helped identify him, according to three law enforcement officials who spoke
on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the
Five people were pulled over Sunday
night in a vehicle associated with Rahami but were questioned and released,
Sweeney said, declining to say whether they might later face charges. The
law enforcement officials said at least one of Rahami's relatives was in the
car, which appeared headed toward Kennedy Airport in New York after coming
from New Jersey.
Linden Mayor Derek Armstead said the
break in the case came late Monday morning, when a bar owner reported
someone asleep in his doorway.
Jack Mazza, co-manager of nearby
V.C.M.R. Truck Services, said the bar owner came over exclaiming about the
sleeping man, and Mazza walked over to see a man curled up with a sweatshirt
hood pulled over his head in the rain.
"He looked like a bum," Mazza said.
After an officer arrived and recognized
Rahami, Rahami shot the officer, who was saved by his bulletproof vest,
authorities said. More officers joined in a gun battle that spilled into the
Another police officer was grazed by a
bullet. Authorities said neither officers' injuries were life-threatening.
Peter Bilinskas said he was standing by
his desk at his Linden bowling-supply shop when he heard what sounded like
gunfire and saw a man walking down the street with a gun in his hand.
As a police car pulled up at the
traffic light in front of the shop, the man fired about six shots at the
cruiser, then continued down the street with police following him, Bilinskas
As the East Coast was rattled by the
bombings, a man who authorities say referred to Allah wounded nine people in
a stabbing rampage at a Minnesota mall Saturday before being shot to death
by an off-duty police officer. Authorities are investigating it as a
possible terrorist attack but have not drawn any connection between the
bloodshed there and the bombings.
The Council on American-Islamic
Relations, a national Muslim advocacy group, welcomed Rahami's arrest. The
organization and the Afghan Embassy in Washington condemned the bombings.
Around the time Rahami was captured,
President Barack Obama was in New York on a previously scheduled visit for a
meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. He called on Americans to show the
world "we will never give in to fear."
Republican presidential candidate
Donald Trump called for using "whatever lawful methods are available" to get
information from Rahami, mocked the fact that he would receive quality
medical care and legal representation, and called for profiling foreigners
who look like they could have connections to terrorism or certain Mideastern
Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton said
her rival's anti-Muslim rhetoric gives "aid and comfort" to Islamic
terrorists by helping them recruit fighters.
Rahami's father, Mohammad, and two of
Rahami's brothers sued the city of Elizabeth in 2011 after it passed an
ordinance requiring their restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, to close
early because of complaints from neighbors that it was a late-night
The Rahamis charged in the lawsuit that
they were targeted by neighbors because they are Muslims. The lawsuit was
terminated in 2012 after Mohammad Rahami pleaded guilty to blocking police
from enforcing the restrictions on the restaurant.
Ryan McCann, of Elizabeth, said that he
often ate at the restaurant and recently began seeing Ahmad Rahami working
"He's always in there. He's a very
friendly guy, that's what's so scary. It's hard when it's home," McCann
Philippine senators oust colleague who led killing inquiry
Senator Leila De Lima, Chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human
Rights, is shown in this Sept. 15, 2016 file photo. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Manila (AP) - A Philippine
senator who led an investigation into the president's bloody anti-drug
campaign was ousted Monday from the justice committee in a vote that human
rights advocates said could derail accountability in the crackdown.
President Rodrigo Duterte's allies led
the vote that removed Sen. Leila de Lima from the Committee on Justice and
Human Rights, which has spearheaded an inquiry into the widespread killings
of drug suspects that have alarmed President Barack Obama, U.N. officials
and human rights watchdogs.
More than 3,000 drug suspects have died
in the crackdown since Duterte assumed the presidency on June 30. More than
600,000 others have surrendered to authorities for fear they also would be
De Lima's ouster "is a blatant and
craven move to derail accountability for the appalling death toll from
President Rodrigo Duterte's abusive 'war on drugs,'" U.S.-based Human Rights
Watch said. "The Senate is showing greater interest in covering up
allegations of state-sanctioned murder than in exposing them."
The group called on senators opposed to
Duterte's tough tactics to seek de Lima's reinstatement.
Senators allied with Duterte, however,
said the investigation into possible police abuses in the killings would
continue under Sen. Richard Gordon, who was designated to replace de Lima.
De Lima has had a running feud with
Duterte. As the former head of the government's human rights commission, she
investigated Duterte's alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings of
criminals when he was mayor of southern Davao city, where he built a name
for his tough crime-busting style.
"I know that the president is behind
this," de Lima told reporters.
Duterte has accused de Lima of
involvement in illegal drugs, alleging that her former driver took money
from detained drug lords. She has denied the allegations, but the
president's allies in the House of Representatives are to launch an inquiry
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a key ally of
Duterte, said in a speech that de Lima used her committee to tarnish the
image of the president before the international community. Boxing star Sen.
Manny Pacquiao, who backs Duterte's crackdown, then initiated a move to
remove de Lima and her members from the committee.
In a committee hearing last week, de
Lima presented a former Filipino militiaman who testified that Duterte, when
he was mayor, ordered him and other members of a hit squad to kill criminals
and opponents in gangland-style assaults that left about 1,000 dead.
Cayetano and other senators, however,
questioned the credibility of the witness, Edgar Matobato, and de Lima's
intentions. Duterte has not given any reaction to Matobato's allegations,
although his spokesman, Martin Andanar, said past investigations have failed
to produce any evidence against Duterte.
Duterte said in a speech late Monday
that threats to investigate him locally or by international organizations
like the United Nations over possible human rights violations would not stop
him from proceeding with the drug crackdown.
"I don't care whether there are a
thousand hearings everywhere," Duterte said. "I will not stop until the last
pushers on the street are fully exterminated."
Aid convoy attacked as Syria calls cease-fire finished
buildings and rubble line a street in Homs, Syria, Sept. 19, 2016. Syria’s
military command has declared the U.S-Russian brokered cease-fire over,
blaming the rebel groups for undermining it. (AP Photo)
Sarah el Deeb, Vladimir Isachenkov
Beirut (AP) — A U.N.
humanitarian aid convoy inside Syria was hit by airstrikes Monday, U.N.
officials said, as the Syrian military declared that the week-long
U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire had failed.
With the truce apparently teetering,
the U.S. brushed off Damascus' assertions and said it's prepared to extend
the agreement, while Russia — after blaming rebels for the violations —
suggested it could still be salvaged.
U.N. officials said the U.N. and Red
Crescent convoy was delivering assistance for 78,000 people in the town of
Uram al-Kubra, west of Aleppo city. Initial estimates indicate that at least
18 of the 31 trucks in the convoy were hit, as well as the Red Crescent
warehouse in the area.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights said at least 12 were killed in the attack, mostly truck
drivers and Red Crescent workers. The Syrian Civil Defense, the volunteer
first responder group also known as the White Helmets, confirmed that
Jan Egeland, humanitarian aid
coordinator in the office of the U.N. envoy for Syria, told The Associated
Press in a text message that the convoy was "bombarded."
Egeland added, "It is outrageous that
it was hit while offloading at warehouses."
U. N. Humanitarian Chief Stephen
O'Brien called on "all parties to the conflict, once again, to take all
necessary measures to protect humanitarian actors, civilians, and civilian
infrastructure as required by international humanitarian law."
The convoy, part of a routine
interagency dispatch operated by the Syrian Red Crescent, was hit in rural
western Aleppo province. The White Helmets first responder group posted
images of a number of vehicles on fire in the dead of the night. A video of
the attack showed huge balls of fire in a pitch black area, as ambulances
arrive on the scene.
A Red Crescent official in Syria
confirmed the attack, but said no further information was available.
Elsewhere at least 20 civilians,
including a 1-year-old girl, were killed in fresh airstrikes on rebel-held
Aleppo city and the surrounding areas, according to the Observatory. And
Russia said government positions in southwestern Aleppo came under attack
from militant groups, including a massive barrage of rockets.
With the week old cease-fire in danger
of unraveling, both Moscow and Washington have indicated a desire to try and
salvage the agreement — which had brought a brief respite to at least some
parts the war-torn country.
In the wake of the Syrian military
declaration, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the first
stage of the truce — which called for a week of calm and the delivery of
humanitarian aid to several besieged communities — had never really come to
fruition. Earlier in the day, Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of the
U.N. General Assembly that the truce was "holding but fragile."
The State Department said that it was
ready to work with Russia to strengthen the terms of the agreement and
expand deliveries of humanitarian aid. Spokesman John Kirby said Russia,
which is responsible for ensuring Syria's compliance, should clarify the
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement
late Monday night appeared to signal that the deal could still be salvaged,
saying that the failure by the rebels in Syria to respect the cease-fire
threatens to thwart the agreement.
The cease-fire came into effect on
Sept. 12. Under terms of the agreement, the successful completion of seven
days of calm and humanitarian aid deliveries would be followed by an
ambitious second-stage plan to set up a joint U.S.-Russian coordination
center to plan military strikes against the Islamic State group and a
powerful al-Qaida-linked militant faction.
But from the start, the truce has been
beset by difficulties and mutual accusations of violations.
Aid deliveries to the besieged eastern
districts of Aleppo have not reached their destination. The U.N. accused the
government of obstructing the delivery while Russian officials said rebels
opened fire at the delivery roads.
Rebel forces and activists say
government planes have bombed areas that are under the truce agreement,
including rebel-held parts of Aleppo. At least 22 civilians were killed in
government bombings over the last week, according to the Britain-based
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group. The
group said four civilians were killed in government-held areas. There were
no independent reports of deaths of civilians on the government-side since
the cease-fire came into effect.
By Monday, both the Syrian government
and prominent opposition activists were speaking of the truce as if it had
George Sabra, of the opposition High
Negotiations Committee, told The Associated Press on Monday that the truce
has been repeatedly violated and did not succeed in its main objective or
opening roads for aid.
"Hundreds of thousands of people in
Aleppo are waiting for this truce to allow aid to enter the city," he said,
adding that there are aid trucks still waiting on the Turkey-Syria border.
"I believe that the truce is clinically dead."
The Syrian military statement placed
the blame on the rebel groups. Damascus refers to all armed opposition
groups as terrorists.
"This step (cease-fire) was to
constitute a real chance to stop the bloodshed. But the armed terrorist
groups didn't take it seriously and didn't commit to any of its articles,"
the military command statement said. "The armed terrorist groups took
advantage of the declared truce system and mobilized terrorists and weapons
and regrouped to continue its attacks on civilian and military areas."
One of the major rebel groups in Syria,
Nour el-Din el-Zinki, said soon after the Syrian military declaration that
the government, Russia and Iran, another major ally of President Bashar
Assad, are responsible for the truce's failure.
"The regime of Bashar Assad had no real
intention to commit to the truce. Instead it worked to undermine it with
organized violations during the week as well as preventing aid from reaching
Aleppo," the group said in a statement sent to reporters.
Earlier Monday, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi
of the Russian military's General Staff said in a briefing that Damascus had
fulfilled its obligations.
"With the rebels failing to fulfill
conditions the cease-fire agreement, we consider its unilateral observance
by the Syrian government forces meaningless," Rudskoi said.
Rudskoi said the rebels violated the
truce 302 times since it took effect a week ago, killing 63 civilians and
153 Syrian soldiers. The opposition reported on Monday 254 violations by
government forces and their allies since the truce started.
The current tensions come on the heels
of the weekend air strike by the U.S.-led coalition on Syrian army positions
near Deir el-Zour. Syria and Russia blasted Washington over the attack.
The Saturday airstrikes involved
Australian, British and Danish warplanes on Syrian army positions. The U.S.
military said it would not intentionally hit Syrian troops, and that it came
as it was conducting a raid on IS positions.
Russia's military has said that it was
told by the Syrian army that at least 62 Syrian soldiers were killed in the
Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded. The Observatory gave a
different death toll, saying 90 troops were killed in the strikes.
Assad said Monday the airstrikes of the
U.S.-led coalition against his troops was meant to support the Islamic State
group, calling the attack a "blatant American aggression."
Today in History - Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016
Today is Tuesday, Sept. 20, the 264th
day of 2016. There are 102 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 20, 1946, the first Cannes
Film Festival, lasting 16 days, opened in France. Among the films honored
with the Golden Palm were "The Lost Weekend," ''Brief Encounter," ''Rome,
Open City" and "Pastoral Symphony"; "The Battle of the Rails" won the
International Jury Prize.
On this date:
In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand
Magellan and his crew set out from Spain on five ships to find a western
passage to the Spice Islands. (Magellan was killed en route, but one of his
ships eventually circled the world.)
In 1870, Italian troops took control of
the Papal States, leading to the unification of Italy.
In 1884, the National Equal Rights
Party was formed during a convention of suffragists in San Francisco; the
convention nominated Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood for president.
In 1911, the British liner RMS Olympic
collided with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight;
although seriously damaged, the Olympic was able to return to Southampton
under its own power.
In 1947, former New York City Mayor
Fiorello La Guardia died.
In 1958, Martin Luther King Jr. was
seriously wounded during a book signing at a New York City department store
when he was stabbed in the chest by Izola Curry. (Curry was later found
mentally incompetent; she died at a Queens, New York, nursing home in 2015
at age 98.)
In 1962, James Meredith, a black
student, was blocked from enrolling at the University of Mississippi by
Democratic Gov. Ross R. Barnett. (Meredith was later admitted.)
In 1973, in their so-called "battle of
the sexes," tennis star Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in straight
sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, at the Houston Astrodome. Singer-songwriter Jim Croce,
30, died in a plane crash near Natchitoches, Louisiana.
In 1976, Playboy magazine released an
interview in which Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter admitted
he'd "looked on a lot of women with lust." The historical drama series "I,
Claudius," starring Derek Jacobi as the fourth emperor of Ancient Rome,
began airing on BBC Television.
In 1984, a suicide car bomber attacked
the U.S. Embassy annex in north Beirut, killing at least 14 people - two
Americans and 12 Lebanese. The family sitcoms "The Cosby Show" and "Who's
the Boss?" premiered on NBC and ABC, respectively.
In 1999, Lawrence Russell Brewer became
the second white supremacist to be convicted in the dragging death of James
Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. (Brewer was executed on Sept. 21, 2011.) Raisa
Gorbachev, wife of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, died at a
German hospital after a battle with leukemia; she was 67.
In 2000, Independent Counsel Robert Ray
announced the end of the Whitewater investigation, saying there was
insufficient evidence to warrant charges against President Bill Clinton and
first lady Hillary Clinton. Former Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov died at
Ten years ago: Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez (OO'-goh CHAH'-vez) repeatedly referred to President George W.
Bush as "the devil" during a speech to the United Nations. The African Union
announced it would extend the mandate of a peacekeeping force in Darfur
through the end of the year. Nationalist Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh ah-bay) became
head of Japan's ruling party by a landslide. Oscar-winning cinematographer
Sven Nykvist died in Stockholm, Sweden, at age 83.
Five years ago: Repeal of the U.S.
military's 18-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" compromise took effect,
allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly. A suicide bomber
posing as a Taliban peace envoy assassinated former Afghan President
Burhanuddin Rabbani (boor-HAHN'-uh-deen ruh-BAH'-nee).
One year ago: Pope Francis met with
Fidel Castro after urging tens of thousands of Cubans to serve one another
and not an ideology during a Mass in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution. The
CEO of Volkswagen apologized and VW customers said they felt duped after the
Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the German automaker had
skirted clean air rules by rigging emissions tests for about 500,000 diesel
cars. At the Emmys, the HBO series "Game of Thrones" won a record 12 awards;
Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for best drama
series actress for "How to Get Away with Murder." Poet C.K. Williams, 78,
died in Hopewell, New Jersey. Actor Jack Larson, 87, TV's Jimmy Olsen in
"Adventures of Superman," died in Los Angeles.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Sophia Loren
is 82. Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Taylor is 81. Rock musician Chuck
Panozzo is 68. Actor Tony Denison is 67. Hockey Hall of Famer Guy LaFleur is
65. Actress Debbi Morgan is 65. Jazz musician Peter White is 62. Actress
Betsy Brantley is 61. Actor Gary Cole is 60. TV news correspondent Deborah
Roberts is 56. Country-rock musician Joseph Shreve (Flynnville Train) is 55.
Rock musician Randy Bradbury (Pennywise) is 52. Actress Kristen Johnston is
49. Rock singers Matthew Nelson and Gunnar Nelson are 49. Rock musician Ben
Shepherd is 48. Actress Enuka Okuma is 44. Actress-model Moon Bloodgood is
41. Actor Jon Bernthal is 40. Singer The Dream is 39. Actor Charlie Weber is
38. Rock musician Rick Woolstenhulme
(WOOL'-sten-hyoolm) (Lifehouse) is 37. Actress Crystle Stewart is 35.
Rapper Yung Joc is 34. Actor Aldis Hodge is 30. Actor Malachi (MAL'-ah-ky)
Kirby (TV: "Roots") is 27.
Thought for Today: "A good film is when
the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth
it." — Alfred Hitchcock, British-born movie director (1899-1980).
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.
17 soldiers killed in attack at Indian army base in Kashmir
An Indian army helicopter flies above the army
base which was attacked by suspected rebels in the town of Uri, west of
Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Sunday, Sept. 18. (AP Photo/Mukhtar
Srinagar, India (AP) — Suspected
rebels using guns and grenades sneaked into a crucial army base in
Indian-controlled Kashmir early Sunday and killed at least 17 soldiers in
the deadliest attack on a military base in the disputed Himalayan region in
recent years, the army said.
Four rebels were killed as the soldiers
returned gunfire after the surprise assault before dawn on the base, located
near the highly militarized Line of Control dividing Kashmir between India
Loud explosions were heard and several
barracks caught fire in the initial hours of the attack. Afterward, military
helicopters hovered over the base as the army conducted what it described as
"mopping up" operations.
Officials said at least 30 soldiers
were wounded in the attack, including about a dozen who were in critical
The casualties were high because a
large number of soldiers were turning over the base to new units and were
stationed in tents and temporary shelters that caught fire in the attack,
the army said in a statement. The base, located in the town of Uri, west of
the region's main city of Srinagar, houses the Indian army's regional
brigade headquarters along the de facto border separating Indian- and
Soldiers were conducting searches in
the area, but army officials said it appeared that they had killed all four
rebels involved in the attack.
Army officials said the rebels had
infiltrated into the Indian side of Kashmir from the Pakistani-controlled
Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, the army's
director general of military operations, said that all four gunmen killed
were "foreign terrorists," and that initial investigations suggested that
they belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group that has been active in
Kashmir for more than 15 years.
India blames the outlawed group, which
is based in Pakistan, for a series of attacks in the Himalayan region and
Indian cities, including the attack on India's Parliament in 2001 that
brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
Singh said the gunmen were carrying
"some items that had Pakistani markings." He said he had spoken to his
Pakistani counterpart and conveyed India's "serious concerns."
The army officials said the rebels
entered the sprawling camp after crossing a stream and breaching the fencing
What made Sunday's attack different
from earlier attacks in the region was that instead of storming into the
camp, the rebels quietly entered the base and later launched their attack,
said a senior army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he
was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
condemned the attack and tweeted, "I assure the nation that those behind
this despicable attack will not go unpunished."
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh
called an emergency meeting of top defense officials and blamed Pakistan for
the attack. "I am deeply disappointed with Pakistan's continued and direct
support to terrorism and terrorist groups," he tweeted.
Pakistan's army said in a statement
that the allegations were "unfounded and premature," reiterating that no
infiltration is allowed from Pakistani soil.
Kashmir is divided between India and
Pakistan, but is claimed by both in its entirety. Most people in the
Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan. A
militant uprising and subsequent army crackdown since 1989 have killed more
than 68,000 people.
India accuses Pakistan of training the
militants in its territory then helping them to infiltrate into the Indian
side. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only gives political and
diplomatic support to the rebels.
The attack came with Kashmir in the
midst of its largest anti-India protests against Indian rule in recent
years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian
troops. A sweeping military crackdown and near-constant curfew have been in
effect since the protests began.
Rock-throwing protesters have clashed
with troops firing live ammunition and shotgun pellets, and more than 80
people have been killed in the violence.
Amid the protests, India's military has
had to halt its operations against militants because Kashmiri civilians have
hurled rocks at the troops trying to go after the rebels in neighborhoods.
However, several suspected militants have been killed along the de facto
The last major attack on an Indian
military installation was in January, when six gunmen entered an air force
base in the town of Pathankot in the state of Punjab. The rebels managed to
paralyze the massive base for nearly four days, killing seven soldiers. That
base also is close to India's border with Pakistan.
UN holds first-ever summit on refugees and migrants
In this Sept. 16, 2016 photo, hundreds of life
jackets line the shore of the New York City waterfront, placed there by
advocates with Oxfam America to draw attention to the refugee crisis ahead
of the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants starting Monday. (AP
United Nations (AP) — The issue
of what to do about the world's 65.3 million displaced people takes center
stage at the United Nations General Assembly Monday when leaders from around
the globe converge on New York for the first-ever summit on Addressing Large
Movements of Refugees and Migrants.
With more people forced to flee their
homes than at any time since World War II, leaders and diplomats are
expected to approve a document aimed at unifying the U.N.'s 193 member
states behind a more coordinated approach that protects the human rights of
refugees and migrants.
"It's very interesting because if we
are able to translate that paper into a response in which many actors are
going to participate, we will solve a lot of problems in emergency responses
and in long-term refugee situations like the Syrian situation," Fillipo
Grandi, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees told The Associated Press.
That may prove an uphill struggle,
however, as the document is not legally binding and comes at a time that
refugees and migrants have become a divisive issue in Europe and the United
A number of countries rejected an
earlier draft of the agreement that called on nations to resettle 10 percent
of the refugee population each year, something that has led a number of
human rights groups to criticize the document as a missed opportunity. The
U.S. and a number of other countries also objected to language in the
original draft that said children should never be detained, so the agreement
now says children should seldom, if ever, be detained.
"Instead of sharing responsibility,
world leaders shirked it. The U.N. summit has been sabotaged by states
acting in self-interest, leaving millions of refugees in dire situations
around the world on the edge of a precipice," Amnesty International
Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.
Shetty said the agreement merely kicks
the can down the road by calling for separate global compacts for refugees
and migrants to be adopted within two years.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose
report on refugees and migrants laid the basis for the summit document, said
he was aware of the criticism from non-governmental groups.
"While we all wish it could be a
stronger outcome document ... all 193 member states had to agree on their
commitment. As you will see, my report was a strong one," Ban said. "I hope
that, as the two compacts are adopted over the coming year and a half, some
stronger language and commitment and elements from the report will reappear
in the course of this negotiation."
More concrete progress is expected at a
follow-up summit on Tuesday called by President Barack Obama, where at least
45 countries are expected to make pledges that are in line with U.S. goals
of increasing humanitarian aid by $3 billion, doubling resettlement and
increasing access to education for one million youngsters and access to
employment for another million of the displaced.
"You hear all around the world the U.N.
hasn't handled the refugee crisis. The way the U.N. will handle the refugee
crisis is if all of us countries within the U.N. step up and dig deep and
face those political headwinds that we all face, to do more, to give more,
to take on a greater share of the resettlement challenge," said Samantha
Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Power said prior to the pledging summit
with world leaders, Obama will host a meeting with top executives from 50
companies to discuss what the private sector can do to help address the
According to the Office of the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees, an "unprecedented" 65.3 million people were
displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from a year
earlier. They include 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and
40.8 million migrants.
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency,
refugees are people forced to flee due to armed conflict or persecution,
while migrants chose to move in search of a better life.
Norwegian says his Philippine kidnapping was 'devastating'
Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad carries a backpack as he boards a
plane to take him to Davao city for an audience with Philippine President
Rodrigo Duterte Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 on Jolo island, Sulu province in
southern Philippines. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan)
Indanan, Philippines (AP) —
A Norwegian man freed by militants after a year of jungle captivity in the
southern Philippines described the ordeal Sunday as "devastating," carrying
a backpack with a bullet hole as a reminder of a near-death experience that
included the beheadings of the two Canadians kidnapped with him.
Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed by his
Abu Sayyaf captors on Saturday to rebels from the larger Moro National
Liberation Front, which has signed a peace deal with the Philippine
government and helped negotiate his release. On Sunday, he was handed over
to Philippine authorities, along with three Indonesian fishermen freed
separately by the Abu Sayyaf.
Aside from the horror of constantly
being warned that he would be the next to be beheaded by the brutal
extremists, Sekkingstad said he survived more than a dozen clashes between
Philippine forces and his captors in the lush jungles of Sulu province.
In one intense battle, in which the
forces fired from assault helicopters and from the ground, he said he felt a
thud in his back and thought he was hit by gunfire. After the fighting
eased, he discovered that he wasn't hit, and that his green, army-style
backpack had been pierced by the gunfire instead.
Sekkingstad was carrying the damaged
backpack when he walked to freedom Saturday somewhere in the thick jungle
off Sulu's mountainous Patikul town.
On Sunday, the heavily bearded
Sekkingstad, clad in a rebel camouflage uniform and muddy combat boots, was
asked how he would describe his horrific experience.
"Devastating, devastating," he said,
still clutching the backpack.
Philippine presidential adviser Jesus
Dureza, who received Sekkingstad and the three freed Indonesians from Moro
National Liberation Front rebel chief Nur Misuari in Misuari's rural
stronghold near Sulu's Indanan town, accompanied the Norwegian on a flight
to southern Davao city, where the ex-hostage met President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte told Sekkingstad that his
travails were over. Sekkingstad, newly shaved but looking gaunt in a loose
polo shirt, thanked all those who worked for his freedom.
"I am very happy to be alive and free,"
he said. "It's a beautiful feeling."
Sekkingstad was kidnapped from a yacht
club he helped managed on southern Samal Island on Sept. 21, 2015, along
with Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Hall's Filipino girlfriend,
Marites Flor, sparking a massive land and sea search by Philippine forces.
The Abu Sayyaf demanded a huge ransom
for the release of the foreigners, and released videos in which they
threatened the captives in a jungle clearing where they displayed Islamic
State group-style black flags.
Ridsdel was beheaded in April and Hall
was decapitated in June after ransom deadlines lapsed. When Flor was freed
in June, she recounted in horror how the militants rejoiced while watching
Sekkingstad said he and his fellow
captives were forced to carry the militants' belongings and were kept in the
dark on what was happening around them. At one point, he said, their heavily
armed captors numbered more than 300.
"We were treated like slaves," he said.
After the militants decapitated
Ridsdel, Sekkingstad was threatened by the militants, who repeatedly told
him, "You're next."
When the negotiations for his release
began in recent months, Sekkingstad said the rebels began treating him
It was not immediately clear whether
Sekkingstad had been ransomed off. Duterte suggested at a news conference
last month that 50 million pesos ($1 million) had been paid to the
militants, but that they continued to hold on to him. The military said
Saturday that relentless assaults forced the extremists to release the
In Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg
thanked Duterte and Dureza, and said his government supports the Philippines
"in their fight against terrorism." Solberg told Norway's NTB national news
agency that "Norwegian officials had not participated in any payment of
ransom or made any concessions in the matter."
Philippine forces launched a major
offensive against the Abu Sayyaf after the beheadings of the Canadians
sparked condemnations from then-Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called on other nations not to
pay ransoms if their citizens are abducted to discourage the militants from
carrying out more kidnappings.
The three Indonesian fishermen freed by
the Abu Sayyaf were kidnapped in July off Lahad Datu district in Malaysia's
Sabah state, according to regional Philippine military spokesman Maj.
Filemon Tan. Their release came as Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard
Ryacudu was visiting the Philippines.
Five Indonesians, five Malaysians and a
Dutch bird watcher, along with five Filipinos, remain in Abu Sayyaf custody,
the Philippine military said.
The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted as
a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the Philippines for deadly
bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. Without any known foreign funding, the
extremists have relied on ransom kidnappings, extortion and other acts of
banditry, and some commanders have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State
group partly in the hope of obtaining funds.
Early results: Ruling party winning Russian parliament vote
register to get ballot papers at a polling station during a parliamentary
elections in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Sept. 18.
(AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Jim Heintz, Nataliya Vasilyeva
Moscow (AP) — Early results on
Sunday showed Russia's ruling United Russia party winning in the
parliamentary election amid reports of election violations and visible voter
apathy in the country's two largest cities.
With more than 22 percent of the
ballots counted, United Russia was recording 50.3 percent of the vote for
party-list seats and was far ahead in single-district contests.
The Liberal Democrats and Communists
were both recording about 15 percent and A Just Russia had 6 percent.
Neither of the two parties which openly oppose President Vladimir Putin was
seen making it into the parliament.
The results are likely to change as
votes are counted from the western parts of Russia that are more urbanized
and where opposition sentiment is stronger. But the election for the
450-seat State Duma, the lower house of parliament, is unlikely to
substantially change the distribution of power, in which the United Russia
party has held an absolute majority for more than a decade.
Perceived honesty of the election could
be a critical factor in whether protests arise following the voting.
Massive demonstrations broke out in
Moscow after the last Duma election in 2011, unsettling authorities with
their size and persistence.
Russian Election Commission chief Ella
Pamfilova, who pledged to clean up the notoriously rigged system when she
assumed the post earlier this year, said as the polls closed that she saw no
reason to nullify the vote in any location, conceding, however, that the
election "wasn't sterile."
Putin, who formally is not a United
Russia member, turned up at its election headquarters shortly after the
first results were announced and congratulated the would-be lawmakers.
"Things are tough but people still
voted for United Russia," he said. "It means that people see that United
Russia members are really working hard for people even though it doesn't
Putin referred to the unusually low
turnout as "not the highest," but said it was good enough for the Kremlin
party to win an absolute majority.
Voter turnout in Russia's largest
cities appeared to be much lower than five years ago, indicating that the
widespread practice of coercing state employees to vote in previous
elections wasn't as prevalent this time around.
The turnout by 6 p.m. (1500 GMT; 11
a.m. EDT) was at a record low of 29 percent in Moscow, compared to over 50
percent five years earlier, and under 20 percent in St. Petersburg, Russia's
Previous elections have shown that the
regions with the highest turnout were where voters, mostly state employees,
were pressured to cast ballots.
Independent political analyst Dmitry
Oreshkin, in remarks on the online television channel Dozhd, described the
low turnout as the urbanite's "sofa sit-in."
"It's a form of protest, it's
escapism," Oreshkin said. "People want to stay away from politics."
Grigory Melkonyants, co-chairman of the
election monitoring group Golos, said the lower voter turnout reflected less
anxiety among local authorities to produce a high turnout.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a former prime
minister and leader of the Parnas party, said after the first votes were
counted that he was concerned about the low turnout: "Citizens had no faith
in elections as an institution. This is the result of government policies.
It's their fault."
Golos had received more than 2,000
complaints of suspected vote rigging from all over the country by early
afternoon. Among the reported violations were long lines of soldiers voting
at stations where they weren't registered, and voters casting their ballots
on tables instead of curtained-off voting booths
Videos posted on YouTube appeared to
show poll workers in several regions in southern Russia dropping multiple
sheets of paper into a ballot box.
In the Siberian region of Altai, a
candidate from the liberal Yabloko party claimed that young people were
voting in the name of elderly people unlikely to come to polling stations.
Pamfilova said the results from Altai could be annulled if allegations of
vote fraud there were confirmed.
In Moscow, independent election
observers and opposition candidates on Sunday reported busloads of people
arriving at their polling stations to vote, fueling speculations of multiple
voting with the help of absentee ballots.
Melkonyants of Golos said most of the
complaints the organization received from Moscow were about those groups of
voters although he said he "couldn't categorically say that this is a
"But observers perceive it as a trick
which local officials could be using in order to boost the turnout in their
districts," Melkonyants said, adding that the bus passengers also may have
been coerced to vote in violation of Russian law.
Pamfilova conceded that boosting the
turnout in the areas where it was expected to be low might explain the
voters traveling by bus and denied suggestions of multiple voting.
"It makes no difference where a person
votes for the party of their choice," she said.
This election is a departure from the
two previous votes for the Duma, in which seats were distributed on a
national party-list basis. This year, half the seats are being contested in
single districts. Independent candidates were also allowed, although only 23
met the requirements to get on the ballot, according to the
elections-monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe.
Many voters at a polling station in
southwest Moscow said the only reason to cast a ballot was to take votes
away from United Russia, which has dominated the parliament for more than a
Alexei Krugly, 63, said he voted for
Yabloko because he "feels even more distaste for others."
"They're just as bad as everyone, but I
stand for diversity," he said. "This time I came (to vote) because Yabloko
got its act together and I think it has chances to make it to the Duma."
In the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, dozens
of right-wing protesters gathered around the Russian Embassy, where a voting
station was set up. At least one demonstrator was detained in a scuffle with
police. Another demonstration took place outside the Russian consulate in
Odessa, where four protesters were arrested.
FBI investigates Minnesota stabbings as possible terror act
People stand near the entrance of Crossroads
Center shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minn., as officials investigate a
reported multiple stabbing incident, Saturday, Sept. 17. (Dave Schwarz/St.
Cloud Times via AP)
Jeff Baenen, Amy Forliti
St. Cloud, Minn. (AP) — A man in
a private security uniform stabbed nine people at a Minnesota shopping mall,
reportedly asking one victim if he or she was Muslim before an off-duty
police officer shot and killed him in an attack the Islamic State group
claimed as its own.
None of the nine people who were
stabbed in Saturday night's attack received life-threatening wounds, St.
Cloud police Chief Blair Anderson said. He said it doesn't appear that
anyone else was involved in the attack at the Crossroads Center in St.
Cloud, which began at around 8 p.m. and was over within minutes.
At a news conference Sunday, FBI
Special Agent-in-Charge Rick Thornton said the attack was being investigated
as a possible act of terrorism and that agents were still digging into the
attacker's background and possible motives. Authorities were looking at
social media accounts and the attacker's electronic devices, and talking to
his associates, Thornton said.
An Islamic State-run news agency, Rasd,
claimed Sunday that the attacker was a "soldier of the Islamic State" who
had heeded the group's calls for attacks in countries that are part of a
U.S.-led anti-IS coalition.
It was not immediately clear if the
extremist group had planned the attack or even knew about it beforehand. IS
has encouraged so-called "lone wolf" attacks. It has also claimed past
attacks that are not believed to have been planned by its central
Authorities didn't identify the
attacker, but the Star Tribune of Minneapolis said the man's father
identified him as Dahir A. Adan, 22. Speaking to the newspaper through an
interpreter, Ahmed Adan, whose family is Somali, said his son was born in
Africa and had lived in the U.S. for 15 years.
A spokesman for St. Cloud State
University confirmed that Adan was a student there, but has not been
enrolled since the spring semester. Spokesman Adam Hammer said Adan's
intended major was information systems, which is a computer-related field.
Ahmed Adan said police told him around
9 p.m. Saturday that his son had died at the mall, and that police had
raided the family's apartment, seizing photos and other materials. He said
police said nothing to him about the mall attack, and that he had "no
suspicion" that his son had been involved in terrorist activity, the
Anderson said police had had three
previous encounters with the attacker, mostly for minor traffic violations.
According to Anderson, the attacker,
dressed in a security uniform and wielding what appeared to be a kitchen
knife, began attacking people right after entering the mall, stabbing people
in several spots inside the building, including corridors, businesses and
Five minutes after authorities received
the first 911 call, Jason Falconer, a part-time officer in the city of Avon,
shot and killed the attacker. Anderson said Falconer fired as the attacker
was lunging at him with the knife, and continued to engage him as the
attacker got up three times.
"He clearly prevented additional
injuries and potential loss of life," Anderson said. "Officer Falconer was
there at the right time and the right place," he said.
Anderson earlier said the man
reportedly made at least one reference to Allah and asked a victim if he or
she was Muslim before attacking them.
Leaders of the Somali community in
central Minnesota united to condemn the stabbings. They said the suspect
does not represent the larger Somali community, and they expressed fear
about backlash over the attack.
Minnesota has the nation's largest
Somali community, with census numbers placing the population at about
40,000. But community activists say the population — most of it in the
Minneapolis area — is much higher. The immigrant community has been a target
for terror recruiters in recent years. More than 20 young men have left the
state since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia, and roughly a dozen people
have left in recent years to join militants in Syria. In addition, nine
Minnesota men face sentencing on terror charges for plotting to join the
Islamic State group.
Though the motive in Saturday's
stabbings isn't yet known, a major concern for law enforcement as they have
battled terror recruiting in Minnesota has been the possibility that a young
Somali who embraced radical messages might carry out violence in the U.S.
The attack in St. Cloud, a city of
about 65,000 people 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis, began
shortly after an explosion in a crowded New York City neighborhood injured
29 people. A suspicious device was found a few blocks away and safely
removed. Hours before that, a pipe bomb exploded in Seaside Park, New
Jersey, shortly before thousands of runners were due to participate in a
charity 5K race. There was no immediate indication that the incidents were
The mall remained closed Sunday. Of the
nine victims — seven men, a woman and a 15-year-old girl — three remained
hospitalized, officials said.
Photos and video of the mall taken
hours after the incident showed groups of shoppers waiting to be released,
including some huddled together near a food court entrance.
Harley and Tama Exsted, of Isle, were
in St. Cloud to watch their son play in a college golf tournament and were
in the mall when the attack happened.
"All of a sudden I heard pop, pop,
pop," Harley Exsted told the St. Cloud Times. "I thought someone tipped over
a shelf. All of a sudden these people started running. I just saw everybody
running our way."
The couple were unharmed and said they
helped another woman who was running from the scene to her car.
Falconer, who was shopping when he
confronted the attacker, is the former police chief in Albany, which is
about 15 miles northwest of St. Cloud, and the president and owner of a
firing range and firearms training facility, according to his LinkedIn
profile. His profile says he focuses on firearms and permit-to-carry
training, and also teaches "decision shooting" to law enforcement students
at St. Cloud State University.
No one answered the door late Sunday at
a home address listed for Falconer, and a voicemail box for a telephone
listing was full and not accepting new messages. In a brief interview with
the Star Tribune, Falconer said he had "been trying to stay away from it
all, for the time being."
He told the newspaper he wasn't hurt
and declined to talk further, citing the ongoing investigation for not
Today in History - Monday, Sept. 19, 2016
The Associated Press
Today is Monday, Sept. 19, the
263rd day of 2016. There are 103 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Sept. 19th, 1796, President
George Washington's farewell address was published. In it, America's
first chief executive advised, "Observe good faith and justice toward
all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all."
On this date:
In 1777, the first Battle of
Saratoga was fought during the Revolutionary War; although British
forces succeeded in driving out the American troops, the Americans
prevailed in a second battle the following month.
In 1881, the 20th president of the
United States, James A. Garfield, died 2½ months after being shot by
Charles Guiteau; Chester Alan Arthur became president.
In 1906, addressing the annual
dinner of The Associated Press in New York, Mark Twain said, "There are
only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe —
only two — the sun in the heavens and The Associated Press down here."
In 1915, vaudeville performer W.C.
Fields made his movie debut as "Pool Sharks," a one-reel silent comedy,
In 1934, Bruno Hauptmann was
arrested in New York and charged with the kidnap-murder of Charles A.
In 1945, Nazi radio propagandist
William Joyce, known as "Lord Haw-Haw," was convicted of treason and
sentenced to death by a British court.
In 1959, Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev, in Los Angeles as part of his U.S. tour, reacted angrily
upon being told that, for security reasons, he wouldn't get to visit
In 1960, Cuban leader Fidel Castro,
in New York to visit the United Nations, angrily checked out of the
Shelburne Hotel in a dispute with the management; Castro ended up
staying at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem.
In 1970, the situation comedy "The
Mary Tyler Moore Show" debuted on CBS-TV.
In 1982, the smiley emoticon was
invented by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman, who
suggested punctuating humorously intended computer messages with a colon
followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis as a horizontal "smiley face."
In 1985, the Mexico City area was
struck by a devastating earthquake that killed at least 9,500 people.
In 1996, IBM announced it would
extend health benefits to the partners of its gay employees.
Ten years ago: President George W.
Bush, speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, tried to quell
anti-Americanism in the Middle East by assuring Muslims he was not
waging war against Islam. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan delivered an
emotional farewell address, appealing to the world to unite against
human rights abuses, religious divisions, brutal conflicts and an unjust
world economy. Thailand's army commander staged a coup, ousting Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (TAHK'-sin SHIN'-uh-wah) over accusations of
corruption. Actress Elizabeth Allen, 77, died in Fishkill, New York.
Five years ago: In a White House
address, a combative President Barack Obama demanded that the richest
Americans pay higher taxes to help cut soaring U.S. deficits by more
than $3 trillion. Mariano Rivera set a major league record with his
602nd save, closing out the New York Yankees' 6-4 win over the Minnesota
Twins. Dolores Hope, the sultry-voiced songstress who was married to Bob
Hope for 69 years and sometimes sang on his shows for U.S. troops and on
his television specials, died in Los Angeles at age 102.
One year ago: Pope Francis,
arriving in Havana, hailed detente between Cuba and the United States as
a model of reconciliation for the world as he launched a 10-day tour of
the former Cold War foes. President Barack Obama paid tribute to black
women for their role in helping shape American democracy as he delivered
the keynote address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's
annual awards dinner. Jackie Collins, 77, the bestselling author of
dozens of novels including "Hollywood Wives," died in Los Angeles.
Today's Birthdays: Author Roger
Angell is 96. Host James Lipton (TV: "Inside the Actors Studio") is 90.
Actress Rosemary Harris is 89. Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown is
89. Actor Adam West is 88. Actor David McCallum is 83. Singer-songwriter
Paul Williams is 76. Singer Bill Medley is 76. Singer Sylvia Tyson (Ian
and Sylvia) is 76. R&B singer Freda Payne is 74. Golfer Jane Blalock is
71. Singer David Bromberg is 71. Actor Randolph Mantooth is 71. Rock
singer-musician Lol Creme (10cc) is 69. Former NFL running back Larry
Brown is 69. Actor Jeremy Irons is 68. Actress Twiggy Lawson is 67. TV
personality Joan Lunden is 66. Singer-producer Daniel Lanois (lan-WAH')
is 65. Actor Scott Colomby is 64. Musician-producer
Football Hall of Famer and former NFL player Reggie Williams is
62. Singer-actor Rex Smith is 61. Rock singer Lita Ford is 58. Actor
Kevin Hooks is 58. Actress Carolyn McCormick is 57. Celebrity chef Mario
Batali is 56. Actress-comedian Cheri Oteri is 54. Country singer Jeff
Bates is 53. Country singer Trisha Yearwood is 52. News anchor Soledad
O'Brien is 50. Rhythm-and-blues singer Espraronza Griffin (Society of
Soul) is 47. Celebrity chef Michael Symon is 47. Actress Sanaa Lathan
(suh-NAH' LAY'-thun) is 45. Actress Stephanie J. Block is 44. Rock
singer A. Jay Popoff (Lit) is 43. "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon is
42. TV personality Carter Oosterhouse is 40. Actress-TV host Alison
Sweeney is 40. Rock musician Ryan Dusick is 39.
Tegan (TEE'-gan) and Sara Quin are 36. Actor Columbus Short is
34. Rapper Eamon is 33. Christian rock musician JD Frazier is 33. Actor
Kevin Zegers is 32. Actress Danielle Panabaker is 29.
Thought for Today: "Start every day
off with a smile and get it over with." — W.C. Fields, American comedian
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