The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Nation & World Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:12:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 VA suicide hotline ignores veterans’ calls, legislators told Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:03:59 +0000 WASHINGTON — More than one-third of calls to a suicide hotline for troubled veterans are not being answered by front-line staffers because of poor work habits and other problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the hotline’s former director.

Some hotline workers handle fewer than five calls per day and leave before their shifts end, even as crisis calls have increased sharply in recent years, said Greg Hughes, the former director of the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line. Hughes said in an internal email that some crisis line staffers “spend very little time on the phone or engaged in assigned productive activity.” Coverage at the crisis line suffers “because we have staff who routinely request to leave early,” he said.

An average of 35 to 40 percent of crisis calls received in May rolled over to back-up centers where workers have less training to deal with veterans’ problems, said Hughes, who left his post in June, weeks after sending the emails.

The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill requiring the VA to ensure that all telephone calls, text messages and other communications received by the crisis line are answered in a timely manner by an appropriately qualified person. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, the bill’s sponsor, said a veteran in his district told him he repeatedly received a busy signal when he called the crisis line this spring. The man later got help from a friend, but “this hotline let him down,” Young said. “A veteran in need cannot wait for help, and any incident where a veteran has trouble with the Veterans Crisis Line is simply unacceptable.”

The VA said Monday it is increasing staff at the New York-based hotline and opening a new hub in Atlanta. The agency also pledged to continue efforts to improve training, as it responds to a report by an internal watchdog that said crisis calls are routinely allowed to go into voicemail and callers do not always receive immediate assistance.

David Shulkin, the VA’s undersecretary for health, called veterans’ suicide a public health crisis and said suicide prevention is a top priority at VA. An estimated 20 veterans commit suicide every day; the vast majority were not connected to VA care in the last year of their lives, Shulkin said.

The toll-free hotline number is 800-273-8255.

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Ride a coaster, shake up a kidney stone Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:00:48 +0000 Just ask any one of the 300,000 Americans who, in any given year, develop kidney stones: What if the excruciating pain of passing one of those little devils could be prevented by strapping yourself into a make-believe runaway mine train, throwing your hands in the air and enduring G-forces as high as 2.5 for about three minutes? Would you do it?

Heck yeah, they’d do it.

In a bit of medical research inspired by strange and remarkable patient accounts, a Michigan State University urologist reports that, yes, riding a medium-intensity roller coaster such as the Disney theme parks’ Big Thunder Mountain Railroad can result in the painless passing of small, and even a few large, kidney stones.

For best results, ride in the back, where – roller coaster afficionados all seem to agree – the thrills are greatest. Independent of kidney stone volume and location, findings reported Sunday in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association showed that sitting in the back of the roller coaster resulted in an average passage rate of 63.89 percent. Front-seat rides resulted in a far more modest passage rate of 16.67 percent.

In what magical kingdom, you may well ask, does someone think to conduct such research?

Dr. David D. Wartinger, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, initiated the study after a series of patients reported something almost too strange to believe: In the wake of riding Big Thunder at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., these patients said their kidney stones passed painlessly from the kidney through the narrow duct of the ureter and into the bladder.

In one case, a patient told Wartinger that he passed one kidney stone after each of three consecutive rides on the roller coaster.

Using a 3-D printed model of that patient’s kidney, Wartinger and his colleagues implanted three kidney stones of various sizes into the upper, middle or lower passageways of the clear silicone model. Two of those mineral clusters, which can form as the kidney filters waste from the bloodstream, were small-to-moderate size – 4.5 millimeters and 13.5 mm. Those might pass through the duct leading to the bladder without incident, but could also cause considerable pain and discomfort as they passed unaided. But a third measured 64.6 mm, a size that would rarely pass without treatment – the administration of ultrasound shock waves, called lithotripsy, designed to break up the deposit and allow it to pass.

The researchers received permission from Walt Disney World first, then concealed the kidney model in a backpack and rode Big Thunder 20 times, varying their seat position between front and back.

After analyzing the location of those three kidney stones at the end of each ride, the researchers concluded that “findings support the anecdotal evidence that a ride on a moderate-intensity roller coaster could benefit some patients with small kidney stones,” Wartinger said. When the kidney stone was large, the initial position of the kidney stone affected the likelihood of its passing during the ride. But even those passed two in three times while the silicone model rode the thrill ride.

“Many people in the United States probably live within a few hours’ drive of an amusement park containing a roller coaster with features capable of dislodging calyceal renal calculi,” wrote Wartinger and co-author Dr. Marc A. Mitchell of the Doctor’s Clinic in Poulsbo, Wash.

Roller coaster therapy might be a good preventive treatment for people who are at high risk of developing obstructive kidney stones, wrote Wartinger and Mitchell. They suggested that patients who have had kidney stones in the past, or women who have had kidney stones and are thinking of becoming pregnant, consider a thrill ride or two in a bid to clear tiny stones before the deposits grow larger. Kidney stone sufferers who have had their deposits broken up by lithotripsy might also consider a roller coaster ride to finish the job, they said.

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Man accused of mall attack confessed to detectives Mon, 26 Sep 2016 22:58:00 +0000 MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The man accused of killing five people at Macy’s store in a Washington state shopping mall before leading authorities on a nearly 24-hour manhunt was charged Monday with five counts of first-degree murder.

Arcan Cetin, 20, made a brief appearance in Skagit County District Court and his bail was set at $2 million. Court documents released before the hearing said Cetin confessed to the slayings after his arrest, telling detectives who interviewed him that “he did bring the rifle into Macy’s and shot all 5 victims.”

Cetin was arrested Saturday, a day after the gunman opened fire in the department store’s cosmetics department Friday night, killing a man, a teenage girl and three women.

His stepfather said after Monday’s court appearance that Cetin had unspecified mental health problems.

“The only thing that we want to say at this time is that we both are totally devastated by what happened,” said David Marshall, who attended the hearing with Cetin’s mother.

Cetin’s lawyer, Keith Tyne, did not speak with reporters.

Cetin was described by one neighbor as so “creepy, rude and obnoxious” that she kept a Taser by her front door. He also had a string of run-ins with the law in recent years, including charges he assaulted his stepfather.

Cetin immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey and is a legal permanent resident, officials said. He is expected to make an initial court appearance Monday.

Authorities have not released information about a possible motive.

The Seattle Times reported that court records show Cetin faced three charges of assaulting his stepfather. The newspaper said Cetin also was arrested on drunken driving charges. It gave no details on when the arrests took place or how the cases may have been resolved.

]]> 0, 26 Sep 2016 18:58:00 +0000
New law allows New Yorkers to be buried with pets Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:02:50 +0000 Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state will now allow people to be buried with the cremated remains of their pet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the measure into law on Monday.

Cemeteries wouldn’t have to offer the option, and religious cemeteries would be specifically forbidden from doing so.

Cuomo, a Democrat, says many New Yorkers consider their pets to be a member of the family, and say the previous regulation banning the burial of cremated pet remains with their human companions was “unnecessary.”

The proposal is the latest in a series of measures honoring the bond between human and beast in New York. Last year, state lawmakers passed a law allowing dogs on restaurant patios. They also are considering a ban on cat declawing.

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Upside to morning sickness: Fewer miscarriages, stillbirths Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:19:47 +0000 CHICAGO — It’s dreaded by moms-to-be but morning sickness is actually a good sign – for the baby, a government study shows, confirming common pregnancy lore and less rigorous research.

The cause of morning sickness is uncertain but it has been linked with high hormone levels that occur early in pregnancy. Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock

The cause of morning sickness is uncertain but it has been linked with high hormone levels that occur early in pregnancy. Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock

Women with nausea early in pregnancy were half as likely to have miscarriages and stillbirths as those who sailed through the first few months. Miscarriages were also less common in women who had nausea plus vomiting, although the benefit was stronger for those who just had nausea.

Led by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the study involved almost 800 women who’d had at least one miscarriage and then became pregnant again. They were asked to record symptoms in daily diaries for the first eight weeks of pregnancy and in monthly questionnaires through the end of the first trimester.

Stefanie Hinkle, the lead author and a researcher at the national institute, called it the most rigorous study to date on the topic, but also noted that it’s unclear if the results would apply to first-time pregnancies.

Results were published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine .

There were 188 miscarriages and stillbirths, affecting almost 1 in 4 pregnancies, which is similar to national estimates. More than 90 percent occurred in the first trimester.

Of the nearly 800 women in the study, 443 completed daily diaries, and just over half of them reported nausea by the eighth week of pregnancy, also similar to national estimates. About one in four had nausea and vomiting. The researchers then used statistical analyses to calculate that nausea alone, or nausea with vomiting, was linked with a 50 percent to 75 percent reduction in the risk of pregnancy loss.

Unlike some previous studies linking morning sickness with fewer miscarriages, the new research had data on women even before they became pregnant, so they were able to include miscarriages that occurred soon after conception. Some previous studies asked women months later to recall whether they had morning sickness — a weaker method than using daily diaries.

Causes of morning sickness are uncertain but it has been linked with high hormone levels that occur early in pregnancy. How it might reduce chances for miscarriages is also uncertain. Theories include the idea that nausea could make women avoid potentially harmful substances, including bacteria-contaminated food, which can increase risks for miscarriages.

Hinkle said the results should be reassuring to women concerned that morning sickness could be harmful. But she said unaffected women shouldn’t be alarmed.

“Every pregnancy is different and just because they don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean they’re going to have a pregnancy loss,” Hinkle said.

]]> 0, 26 Sep 2016 14:51:32 +0000
FBI data show increase in murder, violent crime in 2015 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:19:56 +0000 WASHINGTON — The number of murders reported by local law enforcement agencies jumped by more than 10 percent in 2015 from the year before, according to crime data released by the FBI on Monday.

Violent crime overall rose by 3.9 percent, though the total was still lower than levels from five and 10 years ago, in 2011 and 2006, the FBI said.

The figures released Monday were reported by law enforcement agencies through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which compiles data on murders, aggravated assault, car thefts and other crime.

The statistics show an estimated 15,696 murders and non-negligent manslaughters in the country in 2015, a 10.8 percent increase from the year before. Those totals do not include killings that agencies have deemed justifiable.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, speaking Monday at an event in Little Rock, Arkansas, said the new data show that “we still have so much work to do.” But she also noted that crime in many communities has remained stable or decreased.

“And it is important to remember that while crime did increase overall last year, 2015 still represented the third-lowest year for violent crime in the past two decades,” she added.

The FBI’s crime totals have attracted scrutiny in recent years because of the inconsistent reporting by law enforcement agencies on use of force by police officers.

In a message accompanying this year’s report, FBI Director James Comey called for more transparency and accountability in law enforcement and said the FBI is working toward developing a database chronicling incidents of police use of force.

“Information that is accurate, reliable, complete and timely will help all of us learn where we have problems and how to get better,” he said.

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Debate Night: Clinton, Trump prepare for high-stakes showdown Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:56:56 +0000 WASHINGTON — After months of tangling from afar, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will confront each other face-to-face for the first time in Monday night’s presidential debate, laying out for voters their vastly different visions for America’s future.

The high-stakes showdown – the first of three presidential debates – comes as both candidates are viewed negatively by large numbers of Americans, with Democrat Clinton facing questions about her trustworthiness and Republican Trump struggling to convince many voters that he has the temperament and policy depth to be president.

Interest in the presidential race has been intense, and the campaigns are expecting a record-breaking audience to watch the 90-minute televised debate at suburban New York’s Hofstra University.

Clinton’s camp is worried that Trump will be held to a different standard in the debate and is particularly concerned that the notoriously hot-headed businessman will be rewarded for simply keeping his cool.

“We also are concerned that Trump is going to continue to lie,” Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said Monday.

The debate about the debate was still unfolding in the hours before the two candidates were to take the stage.

Clinton backers were publicly pressing moderator Lester Holt of NBC News to fact-check Trump if he tries to mislead voters about his record and past statements. But Trump’s campaign pushed back, accusing Clinton’s team of trying to put its thumb on the scale by enlisting the media to do Clinton’s job for her.

Asked about Trump’s incorrect statement that Holt is a Democrat – he’s registered as a Republican in New York – Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said it wasn’t lie, because Trump simply didn’t know Holt’s voter registration.

“He didn’t lie. A lie would mean he knew the man’s party affiliation,” Conway said on MNSBC.

The centerpiece of Trump’s campaign has been a push for restrictive immigration measures, including a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and an early proposal to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from coming to the U.S. But he’s been less detailed about other ideas, including his plan for stamping out the Islamic State group in the Middle East, and Conway suggested he’d be similarly coy in Monday’s debate.

“You will get his view of how best to defeat the enemy – without telling ISIS specifically what it’s going to be,” Conway said, using another acronym for IS.

Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, is banking on voters seeing her as a steady hand who can build on the record of President Barack Obama, whose popularity is rising as he winds down his second term in office. She’s called for expanding Obama’s executive orders if Congress won’t pass legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system and for broader gun control measures. Overseas, she’s called for a no-fly zone in Syria but has vowed to keep the military out of a large-scale ground war to defeat the Islamic State group.

For Clinton, victory in November largely hinges on rallying the same young and diverse coalition that elected Obama but has yet to fully embrace her. Mook told “CBS This Morning” that she fully understood she still needs to earn voters’ trust.

“When she’s had the opportunity to talk about not just what her plans are to make a difference in people’s lives, but how this campaign is really part of a lifelong mission to fight for kids and families, she’s done really well,” Mook said.

Trump has tapped into deep anxieties among some Americans, particularly white, working-class voters who feel left behind in a changing economy and diversifying nation. While the real estate mogul lacks the experience Americans have traditionally sought in a commander in chief, he’s banking on frustration with career politicians and disdain for Clinton to push him over the top on Election Day.

The billionaire’s advisers have indeed been urging him to keep calm on stage, mindful of voters’ concerns about his temperament. On Saturday, Trump showed a glimpse of the traits his advisers want to keep in check, announcing on Twitter that he might extend a debate invitation to Gennifer Flowers, a woman who had an affair with Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Trump’s campaign said the candidate was responding to Clinton’s decision to invite businessman and Trump critic Mark Cuban to the debate, and that Trump floated the invitation to remind people of his ability to punch back. By Sunday, his campaign said Flowers would not be attending.

Clinton’s team announced Monday that a host of prominent supporters, including Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, would be on hand on the debate’s sidelines to help her make her case with reporters covering the event.

Clinton has debated more than 30 times at the presidential level, including several one-on-one contests against Obama in 2008 and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016. But Monday’s contest will be her first presidential debate against a candidate from the opposing party.

Trump was often a commanding presence in the Republican primary debates, launching biting personal attacks on his rivals. But at times, he appeared to fade into the background, especially during more technical policy discussions – something he’ll be unable to do with just two candidates on stage.

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

]]> 20, 26 Sep 2016 14:13:57 +0000
The Latest: Trump’s campaign says he wasn’t lying about debate moderator Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:41:58 +0000 Donald Trump’s campaign manager says her boss’ comment that presidential debate moderator Lester Holt is a Democrat isn’t a lie, because the candidate didn’t know Holt’s voter registration.

Lester Holt will moderate Monday night's debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Andy Kropa/Invision via AP

Lester Holt will moderate Monday night’s debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Andy Kropa/Invision via AP

The Republican nominee tried to discredit Holt when he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly last week that “Lester is a Democrat. It’s a phony system. They are all Democrats.”

Holt is the anchor of NBC Nightly News and is registered as a Republican in New York.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was asked about why Trump would make a definitive statement about something he didn’t know on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

She said, “He didn’t lie. A lie would mean he knew the man’s party affiliation.”

Campaigns disagree on whether moderator should ‘fact check’

The two presidential campaigns disagree on whether moderators should fact-check the candidates’ comments during debates.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, says debate moderators should correct any false statements by Trump so Clinton can use her time discussing her plans instead of correcting her rival. But Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, says fact-checking Trump is tantamount to helping Clinton.

Mook told NBC’s “Today” show on Monday that the media need to hold Trump accountable and not use low expectations to judge his performance. “We don’t want Donald Trump’s lies, distortions to be a distraction,” he said.

Conway told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the Clinton campaign is trying to “game the ref” – a reference to debate moderators – by pushing them to correct Trump’s statements.

Clinton campaign chief says she’ll try to focus on issues

Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager says Clinton’s priority at Monday’s debate is explaining her policies to the American public.

Robby Mook tells NBC’s “Today” show that Clinton knows she needs to earn voters’ trust. He said: “We want this to be about the issues. We want both candidates to explain their plans to the American people.”

Mook said his primary concern is that Trump will get “the most improved award,” but Clinton will get judged on “the fine points of policy.”

He added: “Donald Trump is an experienced reality show entertainer so he may decide this is a chance to show his chops.”

He said the campaign wants Clinton “to have as much time as possible to talk about how she’s going to make a difference.”

Trump’s ‘natural connective tissue’ will be on display, campaign manager says

Donald Trump’s campaign manager says she’s confident he’ll do well in his debate with Hillary Clinton, saying the “natural connective tissue he has with people” will be on display.

Kellyanne Conway also says she expects Trump to say more about his plan to defeat the Islamic State group. She says “he’ll be happy to offer specifics without telling the enemy what we’re going to do.”

Speaking Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe, Conway said “people are just amazed” that Clinton outlined her strategy against IS on her website.

Asked about Trump’s preparations for the primetime television faceoff, Conway says he’s studied the issues and “I can see that this man is ready for tonight.”

Debate audience expected to be record breaking

Interest in the presidential race has been intense, and the campaigns are expecting a record-breaking audience to watch the 90-minute televised debate at New York’s Hofstra University.

The high-stakes Monday night showdown is the first of three presidential debates. It comes as both candidates are viewed negatively by large numbers of Americans, with Democrat Clinton facing questions about her trustworthiness and Republican Trump struggling to convince many voters that he has the temperament and policy depth to be president.

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Boater missing for a week found alive in raft off Massachusetts Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:08:07 +0000 BOSTON — A Vermont man whose boat sank spent seven days adrift on an inflatable life raft before he was rescued off the coast of Massachusetts by a passing freighter, but his still-missing mother was presumed dead, the Coast Guard said Monday.

The Coast Guard had suspended its search Friday for Linda Carman, 54, and her 22-year-old son, Nathan Carman. The mother and son disappeared Sept. 18 after leaving a Rhode Island marina to go on a fishing trip in Nathan Carman’s 31-foot aluminum boat named the Chicken Pox.

Nathan Carman was found Sunday by a freighter about 100 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the Coast Guard said. He was listed in good condition.

Aboard the freighter, he spoke by phone to a Coast Guard command center in Boston. Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll, a Coast Guard spokeswoman, said Nathan Carman told the Coast Guard that when the boat started to sink, it went down quickly.

“He looked for his mother and did not see her. He had some food and water, and he jumped into the life raft, and that was it,” Groll told The Associated Press.

Groll said the Coast Guard did not receive a distress call when the boat began taking on water. She said it is unclear whether the boat was equipped with a radio, but said recreational boaters are urged to carry a radio and a waterproof case.

The freighter was expected to arrive in Boston on Tuesday morning.

“When Nathan comes into port, he’ll be met by Coast Guard officials, and they’ll get a better understanding of what happened in this particular case and how to better prevent something like this from happening in the future,” Groll said.

Sharon Hartstein, a friend of Linda Carman’s, said she had a wide range of emotions when she heard Sunday that Nathan had been found alive.

“I was ecstatic, and then I found out Linda wasn’t with him, and I was terrified,” Harstein said Monday.

The Coast Guard said they have no plans to reopen the search for Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut. Groll said Monday that so much time has gone by that it is now “beyond the survivability window” to continue searching for her.

Nathan Carman grew up in Connecticut but has lived in Vernon, Vermont, in recent years.

He was also the subject of a search in 2011, when he was a 17-year-old living with his mother in Connecticut.

At the time, Nathan’s parents said he vanished after he became distraught over the death of his horse. After a widespread search, he was found in Sussex County, Virginia. Police said he took a bus to Virginia and bought a scooter he had planned to ride to Florida.

He has Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form of autism, according to authorities who searched for him in 2011.

The Carman family was also struck by tragedy in 2013 when Linda Carman’s 87-year-old father – John Chakalos, of Windsor, Connecticut – was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound to the head. The death was ruled a homicide. No arrest has been made.

]]> 1, 26 Sep 2016 16:48:26 +0000
26 killed in Aleppo as U.N. meets over Syria Mon, 26 Sep 2016 04:08:32 +0000 BEIRUT — 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 in Syria but failed to take any action because of deep divisions between Russia and the Western powers.

The United States, Britain and France, who called the emergency meeting, heaped blame on Moscow for supporting the Syrian offensive which U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura called one of the worst of the 51/2-year war.

When Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari was called to speak in the council, the ambassadors of the three Western powers walked out in protest.

They had demanded a halt to the Aleppo offensive and immediate council action, and their walkout demonstrated anger and frustration not only at Damascus but at Russia for backing close ally Bashar Assad’s military campaign while talking about reviving a cessation of hostilities.

“What Russia is sponsoring and doing is not counter-terrorism, it’s barbarism,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power. “It’s apocalyptic what is being done in eastern Aleppo.”

As the government offensive entered its fourth day on Sunday, medical workers and local officials reported airstrikes on neighborhoods throughout Aleppo’s rebel-held eastern districts.

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 gave a higher toll, saying hospitals and rescuers had documented the deaths of 43 people so far on Sunday.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said earlier in the day that 213 civilians had been killed by airstrikes and shelling on opposition areas in and around Aleppo since the U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire collapsed Monday evening.

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. “It’s terrifying today. In less than one hour the Russian planes have killed more than 50 people and injured more than 200.”

Conflicting casualty estimates are common in the aftermath of clashes and attacks in Syria.

At the start of the Security Council meeting, U.N. envoy de Mistura said the offensive against eastern Aleppo followed the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing of Syrian troops, which Washington called a tragic mistake, and a deadly attack on a U.N. convoy carrying humanitarian aid.

“But no incident, irrespective of whether it can be attributed or not, does justify what is going on in front of our own eyes: the unraveling of the cessation of hostilities and the simultaneous unleashing of unprecedented military violence affecting innocent civilians as well,” he said.

]]> 1 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:08:32 +0000
Protests in Charlotte continue at NFL game Mon, 26 Sep 2016 01:51:00 +0000 CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nightly protests have shaken the city of Charlotte since the shooting death of a black man by police last week, but Sunday’s NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings was played without interruption.

A group of around 100 demonstrators gathered across the street from Bank of America Stadium to keep up the pressure in the aftermath of the death of Keith Lamont Scott. The 43-year-old man was shot and killed Tuesday after a confrontation with Charlotte police. Six nights of protests have followed, the first two of them violent.

On Sunday, protesters led by a man with a bullhorn across the street from Bank of America Stadium were surrounded by at least two dozen police officers on bicycles. Their message competed with the noise of fans streaming toward the stadium and an impromptu jazz band playing tunes less than a block away.

When the national anthem was played, the protesters all dropped to one knee as many NFL players have been doing for weeks to call attention to issues, including police shootings. Inside the stadium, Carolina safety Marcus Ball raised his fist during the anthem.

Later Sunday, protesters clambered onto Interstate 277 through the city’s downtown and began to block traffic until police arrived. The protesters ran, but one fell in front of an all-terrain vehicle operated by a Greensboro police officer helping the Charlotte force, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. The protester, 26-year-old Donnell Jones of Missouri, was not hurt and was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, police said.

Video footage police released Saturday of the Scott shooting incident hasn’t settled questions about whether he threatened authorities with a gun before he was felled by a black officer. Police Chief Kerr Putney said Saturday that Scott was “absolutely in possession of a handgun,” adding that, while officers didn’t break the law, the State Bureau of Investigation continues to pursue the case.

While police say Scott had a gun, residents contend he was unarmed. It’s not apparent in the video if he’s holding anything shortly before he was shot.

]]> 0 Sun, 25 Sep 2016 21:51:00 +0000
Heroin overdose rescue efforts spur growing U.S. backlash Mon, 26 Sep 2016 01:12:43 +0000 CINCINNATI — First responders in U.S. communities reeling from waves of heroin and other opioid overdoses say some people tell them they should just say “no” to expending so many resources on drug abusers.

Authorities say people have expressed frustration about rescuing addicts who often immediately resume using the potentially deadly drug. There also are concerns voiced about the wide-ranging social and government budget costs involved, including for naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, which quickly counteracts the potentially deadly effects of an opioid overdose.

Some signs of opioid overdose backlash:

An effort by authorities in Ohio’s Hamilton County to get a dangerous heroin batch off the streets by offering immunity for people who turn in drugs drew a rebuke from Sheriff Richard Jones in neighboring Butler County, who argued it only enables dealers and users and gives them an excuse if they are caught.

A police photo of a grandmother and her boyfriend unconscious after overdosing with a 4-year-old boy in their car went viral this month after the police department in Ohio’s East Liverpool posted it on Facebook, drawing thousands of comments, including from people decrying lenience toward users who endanger children or steal to support their habits.

In hard-hit Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed legislation this year to expand access to naloxone, saying that making the antidote available does not address the “root causes of the problem,” that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction,” and that when people are receiving a dozen or more doses, they should start having to pay for them.

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote in his veto letter.

The Maine Legislature overrode the veto, by votes of 132-14 in the House and 29-5 in the Senate. “I was so pleased to see the Senate reject Gov. LePage’s belief that these Mainers are out of reach,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, said afterward. “Naloxone saves lives, and making it more broadly available means more of our fellow citizens will have a second chance to get on the road to recovery.”

In Ohio, a retired attorney wrote an op-ed column in The Cincinnati Enquirer examining the costs of treating heroin addiction, the strain on public resources and the rise in “drugged driving” accidents as he urged aggressive punishment. “What social policy is advanced by subsidizing recklessness?” John M. Kunst Jr., of suburban Cincinnati, wrote earlier this year. “Why do we excuse and enable addiction?”

“I understand the frustration,” said Police Chief Thomas Synan Jr. of Newtown, Ohio, who heads a Cincinnati-area heroin coalition task force. “I understand the feeling that someone is doing something to themselves, so why do the rest of us have to pay? But our job is to save lives, period.”

Synan started hearing more of the frustration amid an overdose spike in the Cincinnati area that saw 174 reported overdoses within six days last month. And the outbreaks continue, with seven overdose deaths Saturday in the Cleveland area.

Synan said that unlike with repeat heroin overdosers, he has never had members of the public say he shouldn’t try to save a habitual drunk driver after an auto accident or someone who has repeatedly attempted suicide.

Marion, Ohio, Fire Capt. Wade Ralph said heroin has an “extremely expensive” toll on his department, struggling to keep up while being understaffed and relying on donations from health organizations for naloxone to revive those who overdose.

“There’s a human factor to that that some people, I think, just forget about or maybe they ignore it and say, ‘Hey screw it, let them die.’ I’m like, you can’t do that. We have people here, we have guys at the firehouse, whose kids have been hooked on stuff like that,” said Ralph, whose city of 37,000 people was hit last year by 30 overdose hospitalizations and two deaths in a 12-day stretch.

In Maine, there were 189 drug overdose deaths through June of this year, a 50 percent increase over the same period in 2015, and if the pace continues there would be 378 overdose deaths this year, up from 272 in 2015. Heroin or illicit opioids, such as fentanyl, were contributing factors in 60 percent of this year’s deaths and prescription opioids were found in 64 percent of the overdose victims.

In the Cincinnati area, first responders have held the death toll to what appears to be low double digits, pending lab results. The spreading practice of mixing heroin with the powerful painkiller fentanyl or with carfentanil, so strong it’s used to tranquilize elephants, has resulted in frequent needs for multiple doses of naloxone.

“If they weren’t doing their job, they’d all be dead,” said Christel Brooks, a recovering addict in Cincinnati who said she’s been clean for 12 years now. She said the problem is lack of treatment facilities and other resources for intervention before rescued addicts resume drug use.

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Fire Chief Jay Delaney wrote this year to federal and state lawmakers to request funding for naloxone, expecting to administer doses this year worth about $10,000 to $11,000 at $40 each.

“Whether a firefighter is saving one from a burning building or administering naloxone, you’re still saving that human being’s life, so that’s a big deal to us,” said Delaney, whose department has received grant money this year but needs a steady funding answer. “We never thought … that we would have so many that we would have to deal with so it became a funding crisis.”

Last week, police in Lawrence, Massachusetts, released cellphone video of an overdosed mother lying in a store aisle while her toddler daughter tried to revive her before paramedics arrived and did so.

Family Dollar clerk Nicaurys Anziani, who called 911, told The Eagle-Tribune newspaper she felt terrible for the little girl, who “was just crying and crying and crying.”

Police said they hoped sharing the video will alert people to the consequences of drug use that they see on the front lines, as East Liverpool police explained about their photo of the overdosed couple with a child.

Ron Calhoun, an anti-drug activist in northern Kentucky, disputes suggestions he hears often that reviving people with naloxone is enabling heroin use.

“The only thing naloxone enables is breathing,” he responds. “We just want to keep them alive and get them into treatment.”

He said one young woman he knows had been revived 15 times with naloxone.

“And today, she’s in rehab,” Calhoun said. “Corpses don’t do well in rehab.”

]]> 65, 25 Sep 2016 21:31:56 +0000
Golf legend Arnold Palmer dies Mon, 26 Sep 2016 01:01:47 +0000 Arnold Palmer, a Pennsylvania greenskeeper’s son who became one of golf’s most charismatic champions and made millions of dollars by turning his popular “everyman” image into one of the most lucrative sports brands in the world, died Sunday at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, according to his longtime assistant Doc Griffin. Palmer was hospitalized in preparation for heart surgery, but Griffin said he did not know the exact cause of death. He was 87.

Mr. Palmer rose from a blue-collar background to become part of the sport’s royalty — he was colloquially known on the PGA tour as “The King” — and frequent playing partner of U.S. presidents. He left an indelible mark on the world of golf in the form of nearly 300 signature-designed courses, and Arnold Palmer Enterprises, which handled his endorsements and other ventures, helped make Mr. Palmer the first golfer to make his name a worldwide franchise.

Many credit Mr. Palmer with inventing golf as a televised sport, becoming the game’s first well-known star by helping to put a name and face to the game. Mr. Palmer’s vitality and boyishly handsome looks helped attract many new fans to the sport who watched on television. “I’ve got sex written all over my face,” Mr. Palmer once said.

Emerging as a superstar athlete in the 1950s, Mr. Palmer did not play golf courses; he attacked them. Armed with a brutish swing that more resembled a hockey slap shot than a daisy cutter, Mr. Palmer brought energy and zest to the staid game that men before him such as Bobby Jones and Sam Snead played wearing tweed coats and knickers.

Standing 6-feet-2, with broad shoulders, beefy arms and massive hands, Mr. Palmer was known for bombing drives off the tee and then stalking his ball down the fairway, striding long bounds while dangling a thin cigarette between his fingers.

Frequently, though, Mr. Palmer’s heavy swing would lead him to find his ball beached in sand traps and buried in thick rough. When his options were either to play it safe by taking a stroke and punching out for a cleaner shot, or zinging it between trees and through bushes for the narrow chance to save for par, Mr. Palmer knew what to do.

“There always were conservative players, fairways-and-greens types,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “The spectators get a kick out of seeing a player take a shot, take a risk.”

Surrounded by the gallery, Mr. Palmer would flick his cigarette, hitch up his pants, and then blast his ball for often mesmerizing results.

Between 1958 and 1964, he won seven major titles, including the Masters four times, the U.S. Open once, and the British Open twice, two years in a row. Throughout a career spanning five decades, Mr. Palmer won 62 tournaments on the U.S. tour, and accrued nearly $7 million in prize money. He was the first golfer earn $1 million in purses.

Perhaps Mr. Palmer’s most memorable tournament, and one of the greatest golf showdowns of all time, occurred at the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver.

On the final day of the event, Mr. Palmer was seven shots behind the leader — an otherwise insurmountable lead.

“What’ll happen if I shoot 65?” Mr. Palmer asked a friend before he teed off for the final round.

“Nothing,” said Pittsburgh sportswriter Bob Drum, “You blew your chance.”

“Like hell I did,” Mr. Palmer replied. “A 65 gives me 280 and 280 wins the Open.”

That day, Mr. Palmer drove the green on the 346-yard first hole. He birdied six of the seven opening holes. He shot a 65 — edging out an amateur prodigy by two shots named Jack Nicklaus — to win his only Open title.


Mr. Palmer was already an established champion on the tour when Nicklaus rose from obscurity to become golf’s golden boy. In nearly every tournament they entered, Mr. Palmer and Nicklaus battled in what is known as one of golf’s fiercest rivalries.

At the 1962 U.S. Open, Nicklaus won his first major championship by beating Mr. Palmer in a playoff. In 1964, Mr. Palmer finished first at the Masters, while Nicklaus was second. The next year, the order was reversed. In 1967, Nicklaus won the U.S. Open again, this time with a score of 5 under par. The only other player in the top 10 who played below par was Mr. Palmer, who finished second, four shots behind Nicklaus.

Their rivalry extended off the course to the business world. Mr. Palmer was known to call Nicklaus’s marketing symbol — a golden bear — a “golden pig,” reflecting Nicklaus’s pudgy physique.

In their later years, however, Mr. Palmer and Nicklaus became great friends. In 2010, Mr. Palmer and Nicklaus were the ceremonial starters of the Masters golf tournament and both hit an honorary first drive.

“In terms of fan recognition, he lifted the game to another level,” Nicklaus told USA Today in 2004. “He grabbed the imagination of the public. From 1958 to 1964 it would be hard to find a golfer who played better.”

Of Mr. Palmer’s mass appeal, golf writer Dan Jenkins once noted, “Arnold Palmer did not play golf, we thought. He nailed up beams, reupholstered sofas, repaired air conditioning units. He was the most immeasurable of all golf champions.”

His fans made themselves known one year at the Masters in Augusta, Ga., parading behind him and holding up signs that read “Arnie’s Army.” Many of them were soldiers from nearby Fort Gordon who had come to the tournament just to watch Mr. Palmer.

In all of his tournament appearances, Mr. Palmer was followed by throngs of fans who would stack themselves 15 rows deep. They’d climb trees, stand on shoulders, and even employ cardboard periscopes – anything to catch a glimpse of “The King.”


Mr. Palmer capitalized on his popularity to wide success as a businessman, notably in 1961 when he started Arnold Palmer Enterprises with the marketing symbol of a colored golf umbrella.

Much of his success behind the scenes was credited to his business partner, Mark McCormack, whom Mr. Palmer had played against in college. McCormack, who died in 2004, founded IMG, an athlete management business, in 1960 and signed Mr. Palmer as his first client. Their deal, which was sealed with a handshake, immediately proved fruitful. In the first two years, Mr. Palmer’s endorsements soared from $6,000 a year to more than $500,000.

Throughout his career, Mr. Palmer maintained contracts with a wide variety of companies, including Rayovac batteries, Rolex watches, Starkey hearing aids, Pennzoil engine fluids, Ketel One vodka, Cadillac luxury cars, Callaway golfing products and E-Z-Go golf carts.

Mr. Palmer is also credited with creating a blended drink, an iced tea splashed with lemonade.

“A guy came up to the bar and he ordered an Arnold Palmer, and the barman knew what that drink was,” said Irishman Padraig Harrington, a three-time majors champion. “That’s in a league of your own.”

Always the businessman, in 2002 Mr. Palmer had his company license “Arnold Palmer Tee,” a bottled version of the drink, to the AriZona Beverage Co.

Mr. Palmer was also one of the first professionals to design golf courses and make millions of dollars doing it. Nearly 300 golf courses around the globe bear his name, including two that Mr. Palmer owned: the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, home to the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a PGA tour event, and the Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania, the course where his father maintained the greens.

In 1994, Forbes estimated Mr. Palmer’s personal fortune to be worth more than $175 million. In Asia alone, the Arnold Palmer brand sells more than $100 million in products that range from car air fresheners to bed linens.

Mr. Palmer owned an exclusive magazine that catered to clubs where he had designed a golf course. He named the signature publication, which is distributed worldwide, “Kingdom.”


Arnold Daniel Palmer was born Sept. 10, 1929, in Youngstown, Pa., and raised in nearby Latrobe. He learned the game of golf from his father, Milfred Jerome “Deke” Palmer, a strict taskmaster who worked every day on the grounds of the Latrobe Country Club.

Mr. Palmer recalled in his book, “A Golfer’s Life” (1999), that he was 3 years old when his father placed a cut-down women’s golf club in his hands and instructed him simply to “hit it hard, boy.”

The rest Mr. Palmer did himself. He grew up to become a prodigious player and in high school lost only four matches.

During a junior tournament one summer, he met Marvin “Bud” Worsham, a golfer from the Washington area who would change Mr. Palmer’s life.

Worsham, who was also known as Bubby, was the youngest brother to the 1947 U.S. Open champion Lew Worsham. Bud Worsham became Mr. Palmer’s best friend, and the two became roommates at what is now Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where they both played golf on scholarship.

One night in Mr. Palmer’s senior year, Worsham was in a car that caromed off a road and slammed into a tree. Mr. Palmer, who was supposed to have been in the vehicle that night with Worsham, drove to the coroner the following morning to identify his best friend’s body.

The most prestigious junior tournament played in Washington, the Bubby Worsham Memorial, was renamed in his honor.

Shortly after the accident, Mr. Palmer left school and served three years in the Coast Guard. In 1954, seven months out of Coast Guard service and long out of the elite level of golf, Mr. Palmer as entered the U.S. Amateur tournament, then one of the premier events for golf talent.

Mr. Palmer, who was a long shot to begin with, won the tournament by a shot over Robert Sweeny. He often said he considered the win one of his greatest victories and the turning point in his career. Days later Mr. Palmer became a professional golfer by signing a sponsorship deal with Wilson Sporting Goods.

In his later years, Mr. Palmer took on the role of golf’s godfather, dispensing advice to fellow players on anything from business, their swing, to their private lives. In 2010, Mr. Palmer was outspoken during the aftermath of the news that Tiger Woods had been an unfaithful husband, and said Woods could have handled the controversy better by being more open with the public.

Among his many charitable donations, Mr. Palmer endowed a scholarship at Wake Forest in honor of Bud Worsham. In 2006, the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies opened in Orlando, largely funded by Mr. Palmer, which he named in memory of his wife of 45 years, the former Winnie Walzer, who died in 1999.

Survivors include his second wife, the former Kathleen Gawthrop, whom he married in 2005.

In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded Mr. Palmer the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Over the years, Mr. Palmer played golf with a number of presidents, and was frequent a partner of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Mr. Palmer often told a story about the first Masters he played in as a professional in 1955.

He and his wife, Winnie, drove up Magnolia Lane, the storied entrance to the grand white clubhouse of Augusta National, in a coral pink Ford towing a cramped 19-foot trailer they would live out of for the week of the event.

He came in 10th that year and won the considerable sum of $695.83, “and we never pulled the trailer again.”

]]> 4, 26 Sep 2016 09:25:22 +0000
Slain Islamic propagandist keeps inspiring acts of terror Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:23:19 +0000 NEW YORK — Five years after Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike, he keeps inspiring acts of terror.

Investigators say a bomb that rocked New York a week ago, injuring more than two dozen people, was the latest in a long line of incidents in which the attackers were inspired by al-Awlaki, an American imam who became an al-Qaida propagandist.

Federal terrorism charges against the bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, say a bloodstained notebook – found on him after he engaged in a shootout with police and was arrested in New Jersey – included passages praising al-Awlaki. And Rahami’s father has said he went to the FBI two years ago in part because he was concerned about his son’s admiration for al-Awlaki and the time he spent watching his videos advocating jihad, or holy war.

Terror experts say al-Awlaki remains a dangerous inciter of homegrown terror. He spoke American English, and his sermons are widely available online. And since he was killed in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011, martyred in the eyes of followers, those materials take on an almost mythic quality. His primary message: Muslims are under attack and have a duty to carry out attacks on non-believers at home.

Among the attackers who investigators and terror experts say were inspired by al-Awlaki and his videos: the couple who carried out the San Bernardino, California, shootings, which left 14 people dead in December, and the brothers behind the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others in April 2013.

Zachary Goldman, co-founder of the New York University Center for Cyber Security, said al-Awlaki was particularly effective because of “his ideas and pernicious way of offering comfort to those in need of it at the same time as he poisons them.”

Presidential nominees Donald Trump, a Republican, and Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, have called for curtailing the ability of terrorists to promote their views on the internet. Trump has suggested shutting down the Web in war-ravaged nations overrun by Islamic extremists. Clinton has suggested appealing to social media companies to take radical speech offline.

The director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, Karen Greenberg, said a lively discussion is underway among public officials and those in the private sector to “find a way to take searches for jihadist propaganda and deflect it toward a counter-narrative.”

She noted her center’s study of the first 101 Islamic State cases in federal courts, updated through June, showed more than 25 percent of the cases’ court records contained references to al-Awlaki’s influence.

References to Osama bin Laden, founder of the terror organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, barely topped 10 percent.

Authorities have said al-Awlaki knew two of the Sept. 11 hijackers when he was the imam of a Falls Church, Virginia, mosque but didn’t seem a threat, even scoring an invite to lunch at the Pentagon as part of a moderate Muslim outreach program after the 2001 attacks.

But al-Awlaki’s essays and speeches went from providing encouragement to would-be militant fighters to playing an operational role for al-Qaida, prompting the Obama administration to add him to the government’s list of wanted terror suspects.

By 2007, an informant at a New Jersey trial testified, one of five foreign-born Muslims said he was ready to attack soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, after watching a video of an al-Awlaki lecture he considered a religious decree to attack American soldiers.

Al-Awlaki was emailing Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, before his 2009 shooting attack at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13 people.

Authorities said al-Awlaki also worked with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a recruit to al-Qaida’s Yemen branch, who tried unsuccessfully to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with explosives in his underwear.

]]> 0, 25 Sep 2016 20:39:16 +0000
In first debate, stakes – and interest – are high Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:21:34 +0000 A roller coaster of a campaign 18 months in the making arrives Monday at a huge moment for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: a 90-minute debate, with much of the nation expected to tune in amid great uncertainty about what they’ll see.

Virtually tied in recent polls, both Clinton and Trump enter the debate as the two most deeply unpopular presidential candidates in modern history. Both hope to discredit the other, and both hope to emerge from the debate having burnished the public’s view that they are better qualified.

A roiling disagreement over the role of the debate moderator flared up Sunday, with Democrats arguing that a more activist “fact-checker” role is needed to rein in Trump’s well-established pattern of factual misstatements.

But Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, seemed to side with the Republican nominee, saying in an interview that “it’s not a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.” She added, however, that ultimately it will be up to Monday’s moderator, Lester Holt of NBC News, to do the job as he sees fit.

Underscoring the unique nature of the combatants, Clinton’s debate preparations included a focus on Trump’s personality as well as the substance of what will be discussed onstage at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, according to several Democrats with knowledge of her campaign’s approach.

Clinton’s team convened a meeting last month at which longtime aide Philippe Reines, the stand-in for Trump in her mock sessions, deeply studied Trump’s personality to be able to parry with her as Trump might.

The meeting was one of several during which Clinton aides conferred with outsiders who had been asked to offer advice about Trump’s temperament, according to people familiar with the gathering. The objective was to understand how a man who has spent most of his life in the business world and prides himself on being a dealmaker might behave in a debate setting.

The stakes Monday could hardly be higher for both candidates. A Washington Post poll released Sunday shows likely voters split nationally 46 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump.

With barely six weeks remaining until Election Day, Clinton’s camp – after a prolonged focus on trashing Trump – sees the debate as a chance for her to present what she actually hopes to accomplish as president and to ease voters’ concerns about her likability and trustworthiness.

For Trump, his first one-on-one presidential debate offers an opportunity to demonstrate a command of the issues and to persuade voters clamoring for change that he is a credible alternative, his advisers say.

One of the biggest unknowns remains which Donald Trump will show up. While Clinton has a lengthy record of meticulous preparation and formidable performances, Trump has been more unpredictable. Sometimes, he is a freewheeling showman prone to controversial utterances; other times, he is a more sober and scripted candidate.

The first of three scheduled debates between Clinton and Trump is likely to have a full agenda. It comes amid heightened fears of terrorism, unrest over police shootings of African-American men and a slew of long-standing issues that sharply divide the major-party candidates, including immigration, trade, tax policy and foreign affairs.

Supporters of Clinton and Trump fanned out across the Sunday television shows to put their spin on the tasks ahead.

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, seemingly acknowledged on CNN’s “State of the Union” that her candidate was trying “to get into the head of Hillary Clinton” when he suggested Saturday on Twitter on that he had invited Gennifer Flowers, who has claimed to have conducted a long-running affair with Bill Clinton, to attend the debate.

Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, later said categorically on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Flowers would not be there.

In their TV appearances, Clinton partisans said she has multiple goals Monday. Those include reminding voters of her long record of championing the interests of children and families and touting her agenda for helping the middle class – but also holding Trump accountable for assertions that independent fact-checkers have labeled false.

“She has a challenge because Donald Trump inveterately says things that aren’t true,” Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “She’s got to be able to make that positive case but also not let Donald Trump get away with what he’s likely to do, which is to make stuff up.”

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Clinton’s running mate, said he expects the format to explore the truthfulness of both candidates’ claims.

“There’s a real opportunity to hear somebody say something and then get into whether is that actually true or not,” Kaine said on “Face the Nation.”

Trump’s team continued to press its case Sunday that fact-checking shouldn’t be the responsibility of the moderator, however.

“I really don’t appreciate campaigns thinking it is the job of the media to go and be these virtual fact-checkers and that these debate moderators should somehow do their bidding,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

She also disputed the notion that Trump makes more frequent misstatements, saying Clinton’s “casual relationship with the truth is well-known to Americans.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, said he believes the moderators should remain a “modest” presence in the debates.

“They’re not running for president,” Gingrich said on “Fox and Friends Sunday.” “It’s pretty stupid to think we’re going to have this third candidate called the moderator, and that they’re going to double-team Donald Trump.”

Brown, the head of the independent debate commission, did not issue a verdict on the controversy during an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” but said that in the past, the role of the moderator has been to keep things moving and allow the candidates to call one another out for misstatements.

Clinton’s camp also continued efforts of recent days to argue that the press and public shouldn’t hold her to a higher standard than Trump because of Clinton’s longer record in public service and more-detailed policy proposals as a candidate.

“I’m very concerned that Donald Trump will be graded on a curve,” Clinton’s campaign manger, Robby Mook, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Just because he doesn’t fly off the handle in the middle of this debate does not mean that he is prepared to be president of the United States. … He needs to roll out specific plans about how’s going to make life better for Americans.”

Aides to Trump, whose preparations by all accounts have been less meticulous than those of Clinton, are hopeful that the debate will help close what polls have shown to be a credibility gap with Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady.

As part of an effort to appear more disciplined in recent weeks, Trump has put an emphasis on new policy proposals, which were sparse during the primary season, and on reining in his freewheeling style at campaign rallies. It remains to be seen whether those efforts will be maintained throughout Monday’s 90 minutes on stage.

“A victory for Donald Trump tomorrow night is answering the questions and showing America that he’s ready to be president and commander in chief on Day One,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Trump surrogates also sought to raise expectations for Clinton’s performance, talking at length Sunday about her public service while repeatedly stating that Trump has never participated in a one-on-one debate.

“The expectations on Hillary are very, very high,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, on “Fox News Sunday.” “She’s been doing this for 30 years. I think people expect her to know every detail. … He’s never run before, let alone been in a presidential debate.”

Trump’s biggest challenge might be staying on message, as the episode over Flowers’s possible appearance at the debate demonstrated. Heading into the debate, Trump’s tweet on the subject not only risked distracting from the candidate’s message but could further alienate women voters, with whom Trump has struggled.

On Sunday, Pence said that the real estate developer was just joking.

“Gennifer Flowers will not be attending the debate tomorrow night,” Pence said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Conway, speaking on CNN, said that Trump has no plans to bring up Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions during the debate, saying viewers deserve and expect these candidates to be talking about the issues.”

But, she added: “I’m not going to reveal what we have been doing in our debate conversations. But the fact is that he has every right to be defend himself.”

Clinton aides, meanwhile, argued that the episode was a telling one about Trump.

“You saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim,” Podesta said on NBC. “He’s kind of predictable: When you poke him a little bit, and he comes back and attacks whoever is doing it.”

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Britain’s royal couple continue Canada tour Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:20:29 +0000 VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Prince George and Princess Charlotte stayed behind with their nanny as Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, continued their tour of British Columbia on Sunday, a day after George left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hanging on a high-five.

The 3-year-old George made headlines in the United Kingdom when George declined to high-five and then shake the hand of Trudeau during the arrival ceremony Saturday at the airport in Victoria, B.C. The prime minister was among several dignitaries waiting on the tarmac to greet the royals when they emerged from their flight. Videos and photos of the interaction were shared widely by British media.

The Mirror wrote: “Superstar politician Mr. Trudeau might have endeared himself to millions online through his outspoken feminism, support for diversity and willingness to embrace internet memes, but it seems to take more than that to impress Will and Kate’s eldest.”

The Daily Mail shared a story with the headline: “Sorry, one doesn’t high-five with commoners.”

The kids are remaining in Victoria as their parents visit other parts of British Columbia and Western Canada until Oct. 1 on their first official overseas trip as a family of four. On the second day of their trip the British royal couple flew to Vancouver, where they were greeted at the waterfront by several hundred fans who gave them a raucous welcome.

Both spent time talking with people and appeared to be trying to shake hands with everyone they could.

The couple then stopped at an outreach center for women with drug and alcohol addictions who are pregnant or parenting.

Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, later met the royal couple outside the Immigrant Services Society’s new Welcome House.

Syrian refugees who met the royal couple said they wish more world leaders were as attentive to their country’s plight. Canada has welcomed more than 30,000 refugees since Trudeau became prime minister.

]]> 0, 25 Sep 2016 20:46:52 +0000
Outspoken Jordanian shot dead Mon, 26 Sep 2016 00:12:39 +0000 AMMAN, Jordan — A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the shooter was a former imam, or prayer leader, at a local mosque, and said the man had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan. Witnesses and police said Hattar, 56, was preparing to enter the courthouse for a hearing when the gunman shot him at close range.

“He was standing at a short distance of about (1 yard) in front of Nahed on the stairs of the Supreme Court,” a witness told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions. The official Petra News Agency said Hattar was shot three times.

The witness said the shooter, who was immediately arrested, was wearing a long grey robe and long beard characteristic of conservative Muslims.

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman. The reports said Abdullah had recently returned from a trip abroad, but gave no further details.

]]> 0, 25 Sep 2016 20:12:39 +0000
Washington mall shooting suspect had run-ins with law Sun, 25 Sep 2016 23:57:35 +0000 OAK HARBOR, Wash. — The 20-year-old man suspected of killing five people with a rifle at a Macy’s makeup counter had a string of run-ins with the law in recent years, including charges he assaulted his stepfather, and was described by a neighbor as so “creepy, rude and obnoxious” that she kept a Taser by her front door.

As investigators tried to piece together information on Arcan Cetin, who was arrested Saturday evening after a nearly 24-hour manhunt, a picture emerged of a troubled young man. Court records show more than a half-dozen criminal cases in Island County alone since 2013.

Authorities said the gunman in the attack at the Cascade Mall in Burlington opened fire in the department store’s cosmetics department Friday night, killing a man and four females ranging from a teenager to a senior citizen. The killer then fled.

Cetin said nothing and appeared “zombie-like” when he was taken into custody on a sidewalk outside his apartment complex some 30 miles away in Oak Harbor by a sheriff’s officer who recognized him as the suspect in the rampage, authorities said.

Cetin immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey and is a legal permanent resident, officials said.

As the surrounding area absorbed news of the arrest, critical questions remained, including the gunman’s motive. The FBI said early Saturday that there was no indication the shooting was terrorism, but local authorities said later in the day that they were ruling nothing out.

On Sept. 17, a 20-year-old man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot to death by an off-duty police officer. Authorities said they are investigating the attack by Dahir Ahmed Adan as a possible act of terrorism.

On Sunday, investigators searched Cetin’s vehicle and the apartment complex and were seen carrying boxes from a rear, upstairs unit. The four-unit building was surrounded with yellow police tape. Detectives would not say what they found.

Amber Cathey, 21, lived in an apartment next to Cetin for the past three months and said she was so frightened by him that she complained to apartment management and kept a stun gun handy. Cathey said she blocked him on Snapchat after he sent her a photo of his crotch.

“He was really creepy, rude and obnoxious,” Cathey said. She said she would try to avoid him by walking the long way around to her apartment if she saw his car in the parking lot. The two were in high school together as well, and Cathey said he acted the same way then.

]]> 9, 25 Sep 2016 20:06:23 +0000
Donating baby’s body for research leads Washington mother to write book Sun, 25 Sep 2016 23:35:55 +0000 WASHINGTON — An ultrasound showed one of Sarah Gray’s unborn twins was missing part of his brain, a fatal birth defect. His brother was born healthy but Thomas lived just six days. Latching onto hope for something positive to come from heartache, Gray donated some of Thomas’ tissue for scientific research – his eyes, his liver, his umbilical cord blood.

Only no one could tell the Washington mother if that precious donation really made a difference. So Gray embarked on an unusual journey to find out, revealing a side of science laymen seldom glimpse.

“Infant eyes are like gold,” a Harvard scientist told her.

“I don’t think people understand how valuable these donations are,” said Gray, who hadn’t either until her yearslong quest brought her face-to-face with startled scientists. They had never met a relative of the donors so crucial to their work either.

Families often find comfort in learning how many lives were saved if they donated a loved one’s organs for transplant. But donating a body for research gets less attention – there are no headline-making “saves.” Yet critical medical research in labs around the country depends on scientists’ ability to work with human cells and organs, so they can study both normal development and how disease does its dirty work.

“A lot of people, if the tissue doesn’t get used for transplant, they think it’s kind of second-rate tissue or something. I’d like them to know that people who do research with human tissue are doing worthwhile things that are going to, hopefully, lead to cures for all kinds of diseases,” said Dr. James Zieske, a corneal specialist at Harvard and the Schepens Eye Research Institute, whose description of treasured infant eyes spurred Gray’s hunt.

Now, hoping to help other families facing decisions about donation, Gray has written a book, “A Life Everlasting, The Extraordinary Story of One Boy’s Gift to Medical Science.” Gray and two of the scientists she met in her quest spoke with The Associated Press about donation for research.


Gray’s obstetrician didn’t think donation was an option for a baby with this birth defect, called anencephaly. Only when Gray persisted late in pregnancy did she learn, from the Washington area’s organ procurement agency, that her baby’s organs probably would be too small for transplant but that donation for research was an option.

Statistics from the United Network for Organ Sharing show that organs from a dozen newborns were donated last year for transplant.

On the research front, Dr. Arupa Ganguly of the University of Pennsylvania studies retinoblastoma, eye cancer that attacks young children. Before receiving Thomas’ tissue, she had waited six years for donation of a healthy young retina to compare with diseased ones.

Cells taken from younger tissue typically grow much better than an adult’s, said Zieske, who could recall receiving infant corneas only two or three times in his career. Thomas’ corneas were ordered to study how to repair blindness-inducing corneal damage.

In recovering tissue from deceased donors, hospitals consult a national registry of researchers’ current needs.

On that day in 2010, Thomas died at home in his father’s arms. The organ agency retrieved his body, and recovered his eyes and liver. Blood from the umbilical cords of both Thomas and his healthy identical twin Callum already had been shipped to Duke University researchers studying what causes anencephaly.


Two years later, all Gray knew was where Thomas’ tissue had been shipped. So during a business trip to Boston, she called the Harvard-affiliated eye lab, identified herself as a donor mom, and asked for a tour – a first for the lab, and one that changed the scientists’ perspective.

“I still think more about, when we get a donated cornea, who that came from,” said Zieske.

Eventually Gray visited each lab that procured and handled Thomas’ tissue.

Gray changed careers to work for the nonprofit American Association of Tissue Banks. That brought her to a meeting where scientists debated if it was ethical to test a new technology to fight inherited diseases. “If you have the skills and the knowledge to fix these diseases then freaking do it,” she told the group, recounting how Thomas had suffered seizures each day of his brief life.

And when Gray recently had a new baby, she donated the placenta for wound-healing therapy. She’d like to visit that lab, too.

]]> 0, 25 Sep 2016 20:00:49 +0000
ATVs on New Hampshire roads challenge conservation officers Sun, 25 Sep 2016 23:02:48 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — More all-terrain vehicle riders are being seen on New Hampshire trails – and now, on some local and state roads – and the Fish and Game Department’s 42 conservation officers are feeling a bit stretched.

For many years, it was illegal for the vehicles to be on the roads, but that’s changed in recent years. Towns in Coos, Grafton, Sullivan counties and elsewhere have been allowed to open up their road systems to the off-road recreational vehicles, beyond the state’s 1,200 miles of riding trails.

Riding is allowed on state roads in communities such as Gorham and Berlin. Police are in charge of handling reckless driving and speed complaints. But conservation officers, who enforce regulations primarily on trails, also have responded to the roads as they juggle with non-ATV-related issues like searches and rescues, hunting and wildlife issues.

“We’ll help wherever we can, but we can’t possibly take on all the additional road enforcement that goes along with the expansion of these road networks,” said Maj. John Wimsatt, the department’s assistant chief of law enforcement.

Wimsatt said the department, which oversees ATV registrations and safety classes, is also getting calls from families regarding utility-terrain vehicles – which seat up to six people – asking about helmets, seat belts, and child car seats, questions they’re not used to tackling.

Off-road vehicle registration is on the rise. A decade ago, there were over 26,000 residents and non-residents registered in the state for ATVs, UTVs and trail bikes. That number dipped when the recession hit and was down about 5,000 by 2012. Registrations now is over 30,600 for the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number so far.

They include an increase in 10-day temporary registrations, reflecting participants in an annual summer ATV festival at the Jericho Mountain State Park in Berlin. The park also just hosted a Polaris Camp RZR event by the recreational vehicle manufacturer, drawing thousands of riders. Conservation officers assisted at both events.

A state commission was formed this year to make recommendations to the Legislature to address jurisdictional responsibilities and safety for ATVs. Members include representatives of the Fish and Game and other departments, law enforcement groups, off-road recreational vehicles and municipal associations and more.

]]> 0 Sun, 25 Sep 2016 19:20:28 +0000
Seven overdose deaths in 1 day reported in Cleveland area Sun, 25 Sep 2016 16:32:44 +0000 Another outbreak of drug overdose deaths in Ohio – this time officials say seven people died in one day in the Cleveland area.

Tests were being conducted to figure out which drugs were involved in the Saturday deaths, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said. Officials believe the drugs involved were either heroin or fentanyl.

“This cluster of deaths is deeply concerning,” Gilson said in a statement. “Although there is no clear link between the individuals, this number clearly raises the possibility of a very deadly drug in our community.”

He issued a warning to take extreme caution while also advising people not to use illicit drugs.

The deaths were reported across the county – in both Cleveland and its suburbs – and weren’t limited to one area, Chris Harris, a spokesman for the medical examiner, said Sunday.

The outbreak comes after 52 people died from heroin or fentanyl during August in the Cleveland area. The opioid deaths last month were the most in the county’s history, the medical examiner’s office said.

Cuyahoga County, which has about 1.2 million residents, is on pace to record more than 500 overdose deaths from heroin or fentanyl this year, reported.

The wave of deaths around Cleveland follows outbreaks of overdoses in Akron and Cincinnati involving the animal sedative carfentanil.

Hospitals in the Cincinnati area have seen more than a dozen overdoses a day since the powerful drug used to sedate elephants was found in the area’s heroin supply about two months ago.

In one six-day span last month, there were 174 overdoses reported in Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

]]> 3, 25 Sep 2016 17:55:04 +0000
Washington state mall shooting suspect in custody Sun, 25 Sep 2016 02:51:56 +0000 BURLINGTON, Wash. — Authorities say the suspect in a deadly shooting at a Washington state mall shooting is in custody.

The Skagit County Department of Emergency Management said via Twitter Saturday evening that the suspect had been captured. No other details were immediately available. A news conference was set for Saturday night.

A gunman opened fire at the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington, Friday night, killing four females and a male before fleeing. Law enforcement staged a massive search over more than 20 hours for the suspect, initially described by witnesses as a young Hispanic male wearing black.

Authorities had said that a rifle had been found at the scene.

The motive was unknown for the shooting about 60 miles north of Seattle. The FBI was assisting local authorities, but it said there was no evidence to point to terrorism.

]]> 61, 24 Sep 2016 23:01:46 +0000
By a landslide, poll shows health care tops concerns of angry electorate Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:34:19 +0000 WASHINGTON — A majority of Americans say they’re frustrated, angry – or both – with the presidential election. That’s according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that finds most Americans want more focus on issues.

Eighty-six percent of Americans are paying at least some attention to the race.

The issues Americans care most about? Health care ranks first, with 81 percent listing that as very or extremely important. Others include Social Security, education, terrorism and homeland security. Crime and economic growth rank higher than immigration.

– Associated Press

]]> 3 Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:39:24 +0000
First impressions can be everything in presidential debates Sun, 25 Sep 2016 00:12:47 +0000 The first presidential debate of the general election is often the most treacherous – especially for the candidate who steps on stage with the presumed advantage.

Which is why Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the one in that position this time around, knows not to take anything for granted.

Monday’s 90-minute faceoff at Hofstra University on Long Island is projected to have the biggest audience ever for politics’ equivalent of the National Basketball Association playoffs, with estimates that upward of 100 million people will be watching.

“You can’t really win an election in a debate, but you can lose one,” said Brett O’Donnell, a communications consultant with long experience coaching Republican presidential candidates. “The first debate is the most important of all the debates, and it definitely has the most potential to harm.”

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Both U.S. presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have pledged to institute policy changes that would help combat ever-widening income inequality. On Monday, the two meet for the first of three debates.

Examples of first-debate stumbles are many. And they have almost always hurt the candidate for whom the expectations were higher.

The biggest pitfall is a blunder that confirms the misgivings that voters may already be harboring.

A confused Ronald Reagan rambled in 1984, opening doubts about whether he had become too old to do the most important job in the world. In 2000, Al Gore sighed and exaggerated. George W. Bush casually draped himself over the lectern in 2004 and peevishly quibbled on minor points. Four years ago, an aloof Barack Obama seemed to phone it in.

As two 2016 candidates prepare to meet on Monday, Clinton is seen as the nominee best equipped to present herself as the more credible and appealing potential president.

A CNN/ORC poll this month found that 53 percent of respondents think the former senator and secretary of state will do a better job in the debate, while 43 percent said that of Republican nominee Donald Trump, the real estate developer and reality TV celebrity.


That has Clinton’s team arguing that Trump should not be graded on a curve.

The Republican nominee “should be held to the same standard on knowledge – what kind of plans you have, your ability to explain your plans, skills, expertise you have,” said Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.

The biggest unknown for Clinton and her strategists is which version of Trump will show up on Monday.

It will be the first time he has appeared on a debate stage with only one other candidate, which means the spotlight will be harsher and more intense. Monday also represents a test of how well he can pitch his message to an electorate broader than Republican primary voters.

Trump has indicated that he will approach the debate as he has pretty much everything else in his campaign – reactively, and by trusting his own instincts and impulses.

“People ask me that question, ‘Oh, you’re going to go out there and do this and that.’ I really don’t know that,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly. “You’re going to have to feel it out when you’re out there. She’s got to treat me with respect. I’m going to treat her with respect. I’d like to start off by saying that, because that would be my intention.”

Will Trump be the aggressive, name-calling combatant who dominated the crowded Republican field, or will he take a more measured, statesmanlike posture?

Trump is capable of doing the latter, as he showed during the primary season. His best moment might have come when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, attacked Trump’s “New York values,” and the real estate developer responded with a moving account of the character that his city showed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“It came from the heart. It was a good attack, and it wasn’t over the top,” O’Donnell said. “If that Donald Trump shows up, Hillary Clinton is in trouble.”

Figuring out Trump’s moves is “hard to game out,” Palmieri said. So Clinton may be better served by focusing on what she can control, which is fashioning her own argument.

Indeed, modern history shows that candidates – especially in the first debate – are often most hurt by the damage they do to themselves.

When Reagan appeared confused and muddled in his first outing against Walter Mondale in 1984, it reminded voters that, at 73, Reagan was the oldest commander in chief in the nation’s history.

Reagan tried to reprise a line that he had used to great effect in his only 1980 debate against Jimmy Carter – “there you go again” – only to have Mondale throw it back at him with a reminder that Reagan had tried to cut Medicare after saying he would not.

The president later blamed his performance on the fact that his advisers had attempted to compensate for another perceived deficiency, a lack of policy depth, by cramming his mind with minutiae during debate prep.

His wife, Nancy, later wrote: “It was the worst night of Ronnie’s political career.”


Mondale’s own internal polling showed that his favorability went up 23 points that night, said strategist Tad Devine, who was working for the Democratic nominee’s campaign.

But Reagan put the age issue to rest with a single quip in the second debate, when moderator Henry Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun asked bluntly whether the septuagenarian had any doubt that he would be “able to function” in a national security crisis.

“Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt, and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” Reagan replied. “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Reagan swept 49 states in November.

In the pre-Twitter era of the 2000 election, Gore’s strategists thought that the vice president had won the debate against Texas Gov. George W. Bush – as evidenced in an instant poll by Gallup – until the reviews and the fact-checkers caught up with him the next day.

Gore had been such a stickler for debate preparation that he was known for insisting that the thermostats in his rehearsal room be set to the exact temperature as those in the debate hall, with an adjustment for the body heat of the crowd.

But those were not the atmospherics he should have worried about. When the real event happened in Boston, the microphones caught Gore emitting a heavy sigh when Bush chastised him for “fuzzy math.” Gore also embellished some details in his accounts of school overcrowding and the role he had played in disaster relief.

It reinforced doubts about Gore’s personality and honesty.

“Part of our problem as the staff was we didn’t recognize it as a big error,” said Devine, who was a top adviser to the campaign. “As it turned out, it fed into a story line that was very bad for him.”

To impress upon Gore how badly he had done, and how deeply the impression had seeped into popular culture, his staff had him watch a lampoon of his performance on “Saturday Night Live.”


Gore never fully recovered in the subsequent debates. The final one included a peculiar moment when the vice president strolled over to Bush to demand his position on a piece of health-care legislation – getting a glare and contemptuous nod in return.

Four years later, however, it was Bush who was put on the defensive, on the subject of foreign policy, which was thought to be his strength. Democratic nominee John Kerry attacked him for failing to enlist a broad coalition of allies before going into Iraq – ticking off only Great Britain and Australia. Bush shot back: “Actually, you forgot Poland.”

That rebuttal became a running joke with his detractors.

Because sitting presidents rarely face serious competition in their party primaries, they often arrive at their first debate out of practice, overconfident and impatient.

That was the case with Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2012.

Obama “looked like someone had slipped him an Ambien,” Politico’s Roger Simon wrote. “It’s not that Romney’s performance was perfect or polished – it wasn’t – it’s just that Obama’s was so mediocre.”

But Obama found his footing again in their next encounter.

Monday, however, will be a different dynamic – given that the two contenders have higher negatives in the polls than any major-party contenders.

So in addition to facing each other, Clinton and Trump will be trying to allay the doubts that voters have about them.

Clinton’s center on her character, and whether a fixture of the establishment can deliver the change that a restive country is demanding. Trump’s are about his temperament, and whether he has the policy depth to be a credible president.

“I think this debate is even more important, because there are so many basic unanswered questions about these candidates that, by now, we normally have answers to,” said O’Donnell, the Republican strategist. “There’s some fundamental things that people will be interested in that will make these the most-watched debates – especially the first one.”

]]> 3, 24 Sep 2016 21:32:20 +0000
With flood predicted, Iowans scurry to fill sandbags Sat, 24 Sep 2016 23:12:37 +0000 CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa —Volunteers filled sandbags and homeowners began moving things out of their basements on Saturday, and one small town evacuated about 100 homes in preparation for flooding along the Cedar River in Iowa.

The river is expected to crest Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second largest city with a population of about 130,000. But with more rain expected Saturday night, officials there warned people to evacuate downtown areas of the city near the river by 8 p.m. Sunday.

“We have emergency personnel that can help you if needed,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said Saturday. “They’ll risk their lives for you. But we don’t want them to risk their lives.”

At the Cedar Valley Montessori School in downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday, about 100 volunteers from area high schools helped move the school equipment above the ground floor.

Stacy Cataldo, head of the Montessori school, told television station KCRG that many remember how flooding damaged the school in 2008 and don’t want that to happen again.

Upriver in the town of Palo, about 100 homes in low-lying areas were evacuated Saturday.

City Clerk Trisca Dix said the mandatory evacuation in the town of about 1,000 took place Saturday afternoon before the river was expected to crest Sunday night at 24.5 feet.

Mayor Tom Yock told the Des Moines Register that volunteers and work crews scrambled Saturday to protect as much as possible of the town, which was devastated by record flooding in 2008.

]]> 0 Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:53:16 +0000
Renowned band leader Buckwheat Zydeco dies Sat, 24 Sep 2016 22:47:26 +0000 NEW ORLEANS — Musician Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr., who rose from a cotton-picking family in southwest Louisiana to introduce zydeco music to the world through his namesake band Buckwheat Zydeco, has died. He was 68.

His longtime manager Ted Fox told The Associated Press that Dural died early Saturday morning from lung cancer.

Fox said the musician and accordionist died in Lafayette, Louisiana. He gained fame by introducing zydeco music of southwest Louisiana to the world.

“This is one of the world’s true genius musicians. A completely natural musician who could just fit in in any scenario,” Fox said.

Zydeco music was well known across southwest Louisiana where people would often drive for miles to small dance halls where zydeco bands featuring an accordion and a washboard would rock the crowds for hours.

But Dural took zydeco music mainstream, launching a major-label album – the Grammy-nominated “On a Night Like This” – with Island Records in 1987. He went on to jam with musical greats like Eric Clapton, play at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration and perform at the 1996 Olympics closing ceremony in Atlanta.

He jammed with Jimmy Fallon on the final episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Fallon played the guitar backed up by The Roots while Buckwheat Zydeco rocked the accordion.

Dural earned his nickname because he had braided hair when he was younger that resembled Buckwheat from The Little Rascals television show. Born Nov. 14, 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, Dural was one of 13 children. His father played the accordion but the younger Dural preferred playing rhythm & blues and learned to play the organ.

By the late 1950s he was backing up musicians and eventually formed his own band. It wasn’t until 1978 though that he took up the accordion so closely associated with zydeco music and later formed his own band called Buckwheat Zydeco.

It was the 1987 Island Records deal that eventually brought Dural to a wider audience, and he went on to tour with Clapton, record with artists such as Ry Cooper, Paul Simon, Dwight Yoakam and Willie Nelson.

Fox called him an “old-fashioned showbiz professional” who was always focused on giving the audience – regardless of either they were eight or 80,000-strong – a good time.

“He had this charisma. He had this incredible charisma both onstage and personally,” he said.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 22:38:13 +0000
Syrian troops tighten siege on Aleppo insurgents Sat, 24 Sep 2016 22:05:37 +0000 BEIRUT — Syrian troops captured a rebel-held area on the edge of Aleppo on Saturday, tightening their siege on opposition-held neighborhoods in the northern city after what residents described as the heaviest air bombardment of the 51/2-year civil war.

The U.N. meanwhile said that nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and onetime commercial center, are without running water following the escalation in fighting over the past few days.

Government forces captured the rebel-held Palestinian refugee camp of Handarat as airstrikes pounded rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, killing 52 people, including 11 children and six women, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, said 49 were killed on Saturday alone.

The Observatory said the death toll in Aleppo is expected to rise since many people are in critical condition and rescue workers are still digging through the rubble.


Residents say the latest bombardment is the worst they’ve seen since rebels captured parts of the city in 2012. Activists reported dozens of airstrikes on Friday alone.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, Aleppo has not been subjected to such a vicious campaign,” said Mohammed Abu Jaafar, a forensics expert based in the city. “Aleppo is being wiped out.”

For days, videos and photographs from eastern Aleppo have shown flattened buildings and paramedics pulling bodies from the rubble. Wounded people have flooded into clinics, where many are being treated on the floor.

“People in Aleppo already suffocating under the effects of the siege, have yet again come under horrific attack,” said Carlos Francisco of Doctors Without Borders. “No aid, including urgent medical supplies, is allowed to enter.

“We are deeply worried by the high numbers of wounded reported by the hospitals we support, and also know that in many areas the wounded and sick have nowhere to go at all – they are simply left to die.”

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the “chilling” escalation in Aleppo, which he said marked the “most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at Tufts University in Boston, said what was happening in Aleppo was “beyond the pale.”

“If people are serious about wanting a peaceful outcome to this war, then they should cease and desist bombing innocent women and children, cease cutting off water and laying siege in medieval terms to an entire community,” he said.

In the rebel-held neighborhood of Bustan al-Qasr, cluster bombs killed 13 people and wounded 150, according to Ibrahim Alhaj, a member of the Syrian Civil Defense, volunteer first responders.


Syrian state TV said insurgents shelled the government-held neighborhood of Salhiyeh, killing five people. The Observatory said insurgents shelled the government stronghold of Masyaf, home to a large number of Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad’s sect, which until now had largely been spared from violence.

An unnamed Syrian military official was quoted by state media on Friday as saying that airstrikes and shelling in Aleppo would continue for an extended period and “include a ground offensive” into rebel-held areas.

The fall of Handarat to Syrian troops allied with pro-government Palestinian fighters pushed insurgents further away from the government-controlled Castello Road, a main artery leading to rebel-held parts of the city.

The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, one of Syria’s main opposition groups, condemned the attacks on Aleppo, calling it “a crazy crime led by the Assad regime and Russian occupation.” It said “the criminal campaign aims to settle international accounts at the expense of Syrians’ blood.”

The escalation comes as diplomats in New York have failed to salvage a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire that lasted nearly a week. Moscow is a key ally of Assad’s government, while Washington supports the opposition.

Aleppo has been an epicenter of fighting in recent months. It is the last major urban area held by the opposition, and the rebels’ defeat there would mark a turning point in the conflict, which has killed more than 300,000 people and driven half of Syria’s population from their homes.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:48:53 +0000
Brits propose recommissioning royal yacht Sat, 24 Sep 2016 21:59:30 +0000 LONDON — The U.K. may be sailing into an uncertain future outside the European Union, but if campaigners have their way, Britannia will rule the waves again.

A Conservative lawmaker and the Daily Telegraph newspaper are proposing to recommission the royal yacht Britannia, former berth of Queen Elizabeth II, and send it around the world as a floating trade mission.

The yacht was retired in 1997, and is now a tourist attraction moored in Edinburgh.

Legislator Jake Berry says it should either be brought back into service or a new yacht should be built as “a small floating embassy” for Britain.

“I think it would be a huge beacon of hope for our country,” Berry said Wednesday.

Berry says the vessel could help bring in “billions of pounds’ worth of trade deals.” Anticipating that some will label his idea a vanity project, he says it should be funded by donations.

Former Foreign Secretary William Hague has backed Berry’s proposal, saying that when he was in government he found that no one, however wealthy or powerful, could resist an invitation onto the royal yacht.

“Leaving the EU means we need to communicate the advantages and attractions of our country more than ever,” Hague wrote in the Telegraph. “That will take a lot more than a yacht, but we need all the reach and profile that we can get.”

Launched in 1953, Britannia was the last in three centuries of royal yachts, a floating monument to a nation that built an empire on naval power.

]]> 3, 24 Sep 2016 17:59:30 +0000
Chinese space lab could enter free fall Sat, 24 Sep 2016 21:49:40 +0000 Tiangong 1, China’s first space laboratory, will come to a fiery end in late 2017. The average decommissioned satellite either burns up over a specific ocean region, or is ejected to a far-off orbital graveyard. But Tiangong 1’s demise is shaping up to be something different.

Chinese officials appeared to admit that they had lost control of the station during a Sept. 14 news conference in Jiuquan.

“Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling,” said Wu Ping, a director at China’s space engineering office, during the conference. A day later China launched Tiangong 2, the lab’s successor, aboard a Long March 7 rocket.

Wu added that China is monitoring the space station for collisions with other objects. And Xinhua, China’s government-run news agency, reported that the Chinese space agency may need to release an international forecast for where Tiangong will land at a later date – an uncertainty that seems to indicate the descent is uncontrolled.

For the moment Tiangong 1 remains whole, currently orbiting the planet more than 200 miles above Earth’s surface. China launched Tiangong 1, which translates to “Heavenly Palace,” in 2011. It served as China’s base of space experiments for roughly 41/2 years, two years longer than originally anticipated. The last crewed mission was in 2013, though the station continued to autonomously operate until it was decommissioned in March 2016.

Soon after, rumors surfaced that China no longer had control of the spacecraft. In June, amateur satellite tracker Thomas Dorman, from El Paso, warned that the 8-ton space lab was out of control.

Harvard University astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell agreed that China’s announcement indicated the spacecraft will fall where it may.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:28:20 +0000
CIA: Pinochet personally ordered killing of Chilean dissident Sat, 24 Sep 2016 21:32:04 +0000 The CIA concluded that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet personally ordered the 1976 murder of a top dissident, according to newly released government documents that show U.S. confidence about a key ally’s responsibility for a shocking attack in Washington, D.C.

The latest revelations about the Cold War-era case come on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Orlando Letelier, a leading opponent of the Pinochet regime and one-time Chilean foreign minister, and his think tank colleague, Ronni Moffitt, in a car bomb on Washington’s Embassy Row.

The case set off a complex international investigation that concluded with the conviction of several key suspects but did not touch the most senior level of Chile’s U.S.-backed government.

The CIA assessment released on Friday is part of a suite of documents presented to President Ronald Reagan in 1987 by his national security adviser, Frank Carlucci, regarding U.S. government policy on Chile.

In the document, the CIA states that “a review of our files on the Letelier assassination has provided what we regard as convincing evidence that President Pinochet personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder.”

Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Chile Documentation Project at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, said the newly released documents support the CIA’s conclusion by showing attempts by Pinochet’s former intelligence chief to blackmail Pinochet over the case, and by highlighting the lengths to which Pinochet went to stymie efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

]]> 3 Sat, 24 Sep 2016 17:48:41 +0000
Like Trump, Maine’s congressional delegation says ‘no’ to releasing tax returns Sat, 24 Sep 2016 21:22:16 +0000 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s reluctance to release copies of his income tax returns has transparency advocates calling for Congress to make tax form disclosure a legal requirement for presidential candidates. But when asked to release their tax documents, only one of the four Maine candidates for U.S. House of Representatives agreed.

Top: Maine's U.S. Sens. Angus King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican. Bottom: Maine's U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

Top: Maine’s U.S. Sens. Angus King, an independent, and Susan Collins, a Republican. Bottom: Maine’s U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

All four members of the congressional delegation – U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, who are not up for re-election, and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin, who are running for re-election in November – declined to release copies of their 2015 tax records. They issued a joint statement with links to federally required financial disclosures that are posted online.

However, those disclosures provide only a limited picture of a member’s income and do not include tax payments or deductions, charitable contributions and other financial data.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, has released copies of her tax records, as has every presidential candidate, both Republican and Democrat, for the last 40 years. But Trump’s resistance to releasing his tax records has elevated the public debate about how much information voters should have when it comes to those running for public office.

In their joint statement responding to the request to share their tax returns, the delegation said:

“As members of Congress, we believe that transparency is a vital component of a healthy, functioning democracy. In that spirit, and in accordance with the law, each of us files an annual financial disclosure report that is supplemented by additional monthly transaction reports.

“These documents – which detail our sources of income and that of our spouses as well as properties we own, investments held, mortgages and additional liabilities, and, among other things, financial transactions – paint a thorough, detailed, and well-rounded picture of our financial assets and backgrounds for the people of Maine. We support this practice of transparency and will continue to fully comply with it.”


Scott Ogden, a spokesman for King, noted that the independent senator released his federal tax return when he ran for Senate in 2012, and said King would do so again when he runs for re-election in 2018. Collins, a Republican who is up for re-election in 2020, did not offer any further comments.

Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, declined to make additional comment. Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican, said the federal disclosures he is required to file provide for the transparency voters need to decide if he has conflicts of interest in Washington. “It’s very complete, up to date and very thorough,” he said.

Only Poliquin’s challenger, former state Sen. Emily Cain, an Orono Democrat, released her 2015 tax returns to the newspaper. She did so on condition that copies of the actual tax documents not be posted on the internet.

Cain’s Form 1040 tax return, filed jointly with her husband, Daniel Williams, shows the couple together earned just over $125,000 and paid $16,620 in federal income taxes, or a tax rate of just over 13 percent. The return also shows Cain received $10,000 in payments as a consultant but also had expenses for that work that left her with a net profit of just over $6,000. The couple also donated $2,210 to charity.

“Like many Mainers, Emily and Danny are private people and don’t want their personal information online,” Cain’s campaign spokesman, Daniel Gleick, said in a prepared statement. “However, Emily is also deeply committed to a transparent and ethical government, which is why she worked with Gov. LePage to pass groundbreaking ethics reforms and is now the only federal candidate or elected official in Maine willing to share her taxes.”

Pingree’s challenger, Mark Holbrook, a Republican from Brunswick, failed to respond to repeated requests for his tax return.

The disclosure forms referred to by the delegation show details of lawmakers’ investments and properties, as well as those held by their spouses. But they do not give a precise picture of how much each elected official makes from outside sources of income, as the forms report a range of income values and do not disclose a specific amount.


Unlike a federal tax return, the disclosures reveal nothing about how much each elected official pays in taxes or their tax rate, nor do they show how much they donate to charity.

For example, on King’s fiscal year 2015 disclosure he lists income from a number of sources, including a mutual fund that paid between $100,000 and $1 million in dividends from the investment in 2015. King’s disclosure also shows which stock he owns and the stock owned by his wife, Mary Herman. In the disclosures, members list all assets worth more than $1,000 as well as any accounts with balances greater than $5,000, and any source of income that’s more than $200.

Collins’ disclosure also shows her stocks and bonds, as well as the stocks and bonds owned by her husband, Thomas Daffron. Again, the disclosure gives a range of values rather than specifics. Properties owned by federal lawmakers are listed on the disclosures, but not with specific values.

Poliquin’s disclosure, for example, shows that he owns seven properties, including one at the Popham Beach Club that is valued between $1 million and $5 million. Poliquin lists a Bank of America checking account with between $1,000 and $15,000. Likewise, Pingree’s disclosure forms show that she owns Nebo Lodge, an inn and restaurant on North Haven, valued between $1 million and $5 million.

Richard Skinner, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that advocates for government transparency, said the organization is urging Congress make it a legal requirement for presidential candidates to disclose their federal income tax returns.

He said that while lawmakers in Congress are required to provide limited financial data in their monthly and annual financial disclosures, those reports are far more useful when combined with a tax return.

But Congress has not required its own members to disclose tax returns.

“It is not at all normal practice and maybe it should be,” Skinner said. “It would give people a lot more information and certainly people would be able to do a better job at judging conflicts of interest, people would be able to do a better job at seeing how people are complying or not complying with tax law.”


Skinner said arguments against candidates and elected officials being forced to disclose their tax filing information include the idea that people in public life “are already sacrificing an awful lot of their privacy.”

Tax return disclosure requirements could prompt some people not to run for office, “not because there is anything sinister in their tax returns, but because they would rather not have it all spelled out in front of the public,” Skinner said.

He said when a candidate such as Trump refuses to release tax information, it raises questions.

“I think there is inevitably going to be speculation about why is somebody going through such lengths, taking a pretty significant political hit to avoid doing something everyone else has done,” Skinner said of Trump. “A certain majority of the tax returns don’t always paint a terribly flattering picture.”

Skinner said that was likely the case for Clinton, who did release her tax returns, which showed that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are multimillionaires and have been paid exceptionally large sums for giving speeches. The returns also showed the Clintons donate large sums to charity.

Joe Thorndike, director of the Tax History Project, prepared by the nonpartisan Tax Analyst group, said he knows of no members of Congress who regularly disclose their tax returns. He said he would have been surprised if Maine’s congressional delegation agreed to share their returns with the public.

“It is definitely the exception and not the rule when it happens – the same could be said of governors,” Thorndike said. “I’m not at all surprised that they all said ‘no,’ because they are in good company when they do that.”

The Tax History Project archives online all the tax returns that have been released by presidential candidates, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 tax return.

Thorndike, like Skinner with the Sunlight Foundation, agreed that tax returns coupled with the federal disclosure forms would give voters a more complete picture of their elected officials’ finances.

Convincing Congress to require its own members to make their tax returns public would be a major political challenge, but Thorndike said there may be enough support to require the disclosure for presidential candidates.

“I would welcome a change to the law that would require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns and then we could see how it would play out,” Thorndike said. “But in general terms, I think more disclosure from our elected officials is better than less disclosure.”


]]> 23, 24 Sep 2016 19:47:55 +0000
Charlotte police videos do not show shooting victim holding a gun Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:52:34 +0000 CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Videos released Saturday do not show Keith Lamont Scott raising a weapon toward officers nor a gun in his hand.

The videos, from a police dashboard camera and a body camera, captures the confrontation Tuesday in which an officer repeatedly orders Scott to drop his gun.

Scott drew the attention of officers who were trying to serve an arrest warrant on an unrelated suspect at the Village at College Downs apartment complex in University City because he had marijuana in his vehicle, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Saturday.

Officers were going to continue on their original mission until an officer spotted a weapon in the vehicle, Putney said.

“It was not lawful for him to possess a firearm,” Putney said. “There was a crime he committed and the gun exacerbated the situation.”

Officer Brentley Vinson, who fired four shots at Scott, was not wearing a body cam so his visual perspective was not part of the footage. Putney said that body cameras are being introduced across the department and not all tactical officers have them yet.

Putney said the videos support the larger fabric of evidence in the case that includes accounts from officers at the scene, forensics and interviews with witnesses.

He said he has found nothing to indicate that Vinson acted inappropriately given the totality of the circumstances, and he does not think his officers broke the law that day.

They were, he said, reacting to what appeared to be an imminent threat.

“At every encounter, people can make a decision to follow loud, clear verbal commands,” he said.

Widespread calls were heard for release of police video footage from civic and political quarters – and even street protesters who chanted “Release the Tapes!” repeatedly outside police headquarters.

On Friday, attorneys for Scott’s family released a cellphone video taken by Rakeyia Scott during her husband’s shooting.

In it, she can be heard pleading with officers not to shoot as they barked commands at Scott to drop his gun.

Putney said the appearance of that video had no effect on his decision to release the police videos.

He said he decided to release them in the interest of transparency and because the State Bureau of Investigation, which is leading the inquiry in the case, had completed key interviews with witnesses and assured him the release would not harm the integrity of their investigation.

“Doing so before this would have had a negative impact on the investigation,” he said.

After Scott’s death, Charlotte was roiled by several nights of protests. After street violence on Tuesday and Wednesday night, dozens of arrests and the death of one man, Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency.


]]> 44, 24 Sep 2016 22:35:52 +0000
Five-star pig pens: In China, a novel strategy in the war against superbugs Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:48:07 +0000 On Shen Jian-Ping’s antibiotic-free pig farm outside of Shanghai, biosecurity is something of an obsession. Vehicles entering the property are disinfected with a chlorine tire bath and alcohol spray, animals drink sterilized water and the closest visitors will get to seeing a live hog is via a TV in the visitors’ center.

The wiry 46-year-old has spent the Chinese equivalent of $700,000 giving roomier, better-ventilated digs to his swine, with three full-time veterinarians to help keep the 465-sow herd healthy. “It’s like the piglets are now living in a villa that’s clean and comfortable,” Shen said as he sipped green tea on the patio outside his office. “And it smells much better.”

Shen is in the vanguard of a new approach to livestock management in a country that consumes half the planet’s pork-and half its infection-fighting medicines. China’s over-reliance on antibiotics in food production places the nation at heightened risk of spawning superbugs, genetically-evolved bacterial strains resistant to current medicines that experts fear could trigger a global health crisis.

Antibiotics have been routinely fed to livestock to prevent disease and spur growth in dozens of industrialized countries for decades. But in China, pig feed typically contains multiple types of bacteria-killing drugs that are used in far greater volumes, said Ying Guang-Guo, professor of environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Screens display video footage from cameras monitoring pig pens at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm in Tongxiang, China, on Sept. 15, 2016. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Qilai Shen)

Screens display video footage from cameras monitoring pig pens at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm in Tongxiang, China. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Chinese pigs consume about 19,600 metric tons of antibiotics annually through their feed, scientists estimated in a 2013 study. The average growing pig in China excretes 175 milligrams of antibiotics per day in its urine and feces, according to Ying’s research. He extrapolated that across the nation’s entire pig population to estimate that 2,460 tons of drugs are released annually. Those chemicals may then leach into water wells and streams, or contaminate manure used to fertilize vegetable fields. Traces have even been found in Shanghai drinking water and school kids.

This epic outpouring of antibiotic residue in China is a golden opportunity for bacteria, and the genes that the microbes accumulate, to fine-tune their defenses and create new superbugs that can evade modern medicines. “It’s gene pollution,” said Zhu Yong-Guan, who runs the Institute of Urban Environment within the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “The danger is that these genes can be very mobile. They can be carried by bacteria and the bacteria can travel globally by air travelers, and through the movement of water or commodities.”


Hog farmer Shen knows his pig feed. Before starting his piggery five years ago, Shen made and supplied fodder to swine farms near his home town of Tongxiang, 80 miles from Shanghai.

He worries most about excessive use of colistin. Developed for humans in the 1950s, doctors quickly stopped using it because it damages the kidneys. That didn’t prevent its application in poultry and pig farms in Europe, China, Brazil and India.

Mud-splattered pigs in a pen at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm in Tongxiang, China, on Sept. 15, 2016. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Mud-splattered pigs in a pen at the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Now, faced with patients with superbug infections, doctors consider the drug a treatment of last resort. Last November, scientists reported a colistin-resistance gene in China known as mcr-1, which can fortify a dozen or more types of bacteria and has been found in patients, food and environmental samples in at least 20 countries. Four patients have been infected with it in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this month.

About 11,942 tons of colistin, worth $187.2 million, was used worldwide in 2014, according to Beijing-based QYResearch Medical Research Center. Of the 10-largest producers of colistin, one is Indian, one is Danish and eight are Chinese, it said in a report last year.

Pig farmers are largely unaware of the drug’s importance or the need to restrict it, Shen said. “Most of them only wish to grow pigs faster,” he said.

That rankled with Shen, who traveled to Belgium and the Netherlands in 2011 to study how farmers there were raising hogs without antibiotics so he could try to replicate their methods back home.

His initial attempt failed. Sixty percent, or more than 1,000, of his swine died in the first winter. “We didn’t know how complicated it would be,” said Shen, who said he obtained a distance-learning degree in poultry production from China Agricultural University.

Marc Huon, a pig-management specialist in Belgium, was hired to redesign Shen’s pigsty. The first priority, Huon said, was to give more space and better ventilation and to remove stress on the animals caused by temperature fluctuations. He also recommended a higher-protein diet based on a broader range of nutrients and the addition of supplements, including prebiotics to promote helpful intestinal bacteria.

Water piped into the temperature-controlled barn has been filtered and purified with charcoal, and heated and irradiated to remove pathogens. “The water our pigs drink is better than the tap water in Shanghai-much better,” Shen said. These days, mortality is 5-to-6 percent-much less than the 15 percent to 16 percent average on neighboring piggeries, he said.

A mist containing disinfectant and deodorizing solution sprays outward as fans ventilate a building housing pig pens at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm in Tongxiang, China. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

A mist containing disinfectant and deodorizing solution sprays outward as fans ventilate a building housing pig pens at the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

It takes Shen’s pigs about eight months to reach the 250-300 pound (115-to-135 kilogram) target weight for slaughter. That’s four to five weeks longer than pigs fed antibiotics and other growth promoters, according to Huon. The Belgian’s nutrition plan emphasizes meat quality over weight gain. “It’s just a copy and paste of what we are doing here,” Huon said over the telephone from Belgium.


The Netherlands and Belgium have been reducing the use of antimicrobial drugs on farms for years, following Denmark’s lead in banning the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in pigs in 1999.

The antibiotic-free status of Shen’s meat is validated by an independent auditor. Shen said he’s thought about going organic but it’s too difficult to source fully organic fodder. As it is, antibiotics are used only to treat sick pigs, with the meat from those animals sold separately to local butchers. A QR code on the pack of every antibiotic-free product Shen sells enables shoppers to view real-time images of his piggery using their smartphones.

“I explained to Shen four years ago that this would be a good solution for him to distinguish himself from the others,” Huon said. “Today, the biggest problem is that farmers only think about money.”

That said, there’s is a growing public awareness of food production safety, said Ying, the researcher in Guangzhou, who’s published more than 100 papers on antibiotic emissions and environmental contamination in China. “Ordinary people are very worried nowadays because of the media reports,” he said. “There is big pressure to do something.”

Farmers, too, have reason to be alarmed. A study published this month based on rectal swabs from pigs in the eastern province of Shandong and farm workers raising them found that more than half of the swine carried a particular super-resistant E. coli known as ESBL that was also present in a fifth of the farm workers. Some of the germs were genetically identical, indicating pigs were the likely source.

When the rotting carcasses of more than 16,000 pigs-some of which were reportedly diseased-were found in early 2013 in the tributaries of the main river running through Shanghai, threatening the region’s water supply, authorities acted quickly. Millions of small piggeries were closed in a nationwide rationalization program aimed at shifting pork production to larger, more efficient farms. It resulted in one of the largest culls in history-a reduction in hog numbers equivalent to the disappearance of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican pork industries from global supply in less than two years, according to Rabobank Groep.


Around Tongxiang, where Shen lives, there were about 3,000 piggeries, mostly raising fewer than 100 pigs, before the closures. He counts about 50 now.

Drug-resistant infections will lead to 1 million premature deaths annually in China alone by 2050 and crimp $20 trillion from the country’s potential output without preventive action, according to research on antimicrobial resistance prepared by a team led by Jim O’Neill, the British economist who coined the acronym BRIC for Brazil, Russia, India and China.

An automatic feeder and a drinking bowl in a new pen at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

An automatic feeder and a drinking bowl in a new pen at the Jia Hua antibiotic-free pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

The World Bank on Monday said antimicrobial resistance would cause annual global gross domestic product to fall 1.1-to-3.8 percent by 2050, raise annual health-care costs by as much as $1 trillion, and lead to a 2.6-to-7.5 percent a year decline in livestock production.

Leaders of the Group of 20, who met this month in Hangzhou, China, pledged to promote prudent use of antibiotics, and affirmed the need to fight resistance, including through supporting drug research. At the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, world leaders will discuss a global response, including tackling the irrational human- and veterinary-use of antibiotics and how to support efforts in developing countries.

“The problem is extensive and it may be speeding upwards quickly, but it’s also clear that we now have a level of attention that we have never had before,” said Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s special representative on antimicrobial resistance, in a telephone interview from Geneva. “We have to push that and use that as much as possible.”

In Shanghai and urban areas of surrounding Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, a study of urine samples from more than 1,000 primary school-age children found four out of five specimens harbored one or more antibiotics. Twenty-one different antibiotics were detected, including among children who hadn’t been treated with the medicines for several years.

Authors of the study, published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, blamed antibiotic contamination of food and the environment caused by the misuse of the drugs, which they said may be associated with inflammatory bowel disease, childhood asthma, obesity and tumors. “Therefore, the elimination of water pollutants is one of the hotspots of scientific research,” the study’s 13 authors wrote.

An employee checks a pen at the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

An employee checks a pen at the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

China’s government released a national action plan in August to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Among goals for the next five years is to phase out the use on farms of important antibiotics as growth promoters and to strengthen the oversight and control of their sale in veterinary medicine.

“Antimicrobial resistance is not only a problem that exists in our country, but also a major challenge facing the global public health field,” said Ma Xiaowei, deputy head of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. His comments were posted on the commission’s website in April from a meeting where 12 government departments discussed the action plan. Mitigating the risk “is a necessary requirement to protect the health rights of the people” and help China reach its goal of being a prosperous society while showing that it’s a responsible major power, he said.

The health ministry in June released dietary guidelines that recommend citizens reduce meat consumption by half.


The prospect of a decline in meat consumption isn’t deterring Shen, who plans to increase his annual output by 50 percent to 15,000 head this year and 50,000 in three years. He is scouting for land around Beijing and in the southern province of Guangdong to establish other antibiotic-free piggeries. “Chinese people want safe and reliable food, but they can’t often find it,” he said.

Shen’s antibiotic-free pork is sold through retail outlets locally in Jiaxing City and via e-commerce sites, including Alibaba, under the “Tongxiang” label. Priced at about $4.77/pound, it’s almost twice as expensive as regular pork, which sells for about 40 yuan/kg. Shen’s pig livers command 10 times the going rate.

“In the past, nobody would buy such expensive pork,” Shen said. “Now, kids are more likely to get sick and people are increasingly aware of the impact of antibiotics.”

Researcher Zhu believes that one promising approach in controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance genes involves removing them from animal excrement while preserving the manure’s nutrient content so that it can be safely used as fertilizer. He has worked with Shen to filter bacteria and other unwanted residues from animal waste using membrane technology, then ultra-heat-treating the solids to produce bio-char, which Shen sells in bags from the visitor center on his farm.

“We are developing technologies for sustainable intensive animal farming,” Zhu said. If you sterilize the pig manure to remove the bacteria, you can reduce the risk dramatically.”

Farmer Shen, meanwhile, thinks it’s crucial to educate kindergarten children about the effects of antibiotics in the food system. His farm hosts two or three tours a week and invites students to make dumplings from his pork and watch a demonstration of how differently his pig livers look after cooking compared with those from swine raised on antibiotics.

“We let them taste pork from us and from others,” he said. “The health of Chinese kids will see a big problem if nothing changes.”

An employee selects a cut of pork for a customer at a retail store operated by the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

An employee selects a cut of pork for a customer at a retail store operated by the Jia Hua pig farm. Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:10:27 +0000
Ivory traffickers flourish despite international outcry Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:44:36 +0000 JOHANNESBURG — Poaching syndicates shipped large amounts of African elephant ivory last year despite global calls to dismantle the trafficking networks that often collude with corrupt officials, conservationists said as an international wildlife conference opened Saturday in South Africa.

The illegal ivory trade “has remained fairly constant at unacceptably high levels” since 2010, and in 2015 there was a “continuing upward trend” in the seizure of larger shipments of more than 220 pounds, according to a document released by organizers. The transfer of big amounts of ivory indicates the key role of organized crime in poaching, the document said.

The plight of elephants dominated the discussion on the first day of the 12-day Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, conference. Rhinos, sharks, pangolins, helmeted hornbills and other threatened species are also on the agenda at the meeting, which aims to regulates trade in wild animals and plants to ensure their survival.

Last held in Bangkok in 2013, this year’s CITES conference ends Oct. 5. The U.N. group has 183 member countries and can recommend suspending trade in wildlife with countries that don’t enforce its guidelines.

Wildlife trafficking is estimated to generate billions of dollars a year globally. Interpol is among the delegations at the conference and will discuss crime, corruption and the illegal financial flows of poaching.

Many delegates at the conference in Johannesburg are likely to push to tighten the international ban on the ivory trade, as well as close domestic ivory markets. Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, however, favor the sale of their ivory stockpiles, saying the money can be funneled back into conservation operations.

The world’s main ivory consumer, China, has said it plans to close its domestic ivory market. The United States has announced a near-total ban on the domestic sale of African elephant ivory.

Ivory has been used for centuries to make carvings, jewelry, furniture, piano keys and other items.

Many conservationists say criminal syndicates launder illegal supplies through legal markets that permit the sale of antique ivory pieces or ivory exempted from a 1989 international trade ban.

The number of Africa’s savanna elephants dropped by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014, to 352,000, because of poaching, according to a recent study. Elephant populations in Tanzania and Mozambique were among the hardest hit.

Tom Milliken, a co-author of the document released at the CITES meeting, said there are about 50 ivory seizures of more than half a ton, and sometimes as many as four tons, every year. Such big shipments indicate the involvement of organized criminal groups, said Milliken, an expert with the TRAFFIC conservation organization.

“Nobody is really uncovering their identities and making arrests and prosecuting the people who are really behind this,” he said, adding that poaching syndicates view occasional ivory seizures as a form of “taxation” on their lucrative activity.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:46:49 +0000
Most of Puerto Rico has electricity restored Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:43:37 +0000 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Electricity was restored to most of Puerto Rico by Saturday following a rare, islandwide blackout caused by a power plant fire, the territory’s power utility said.

Fewer than 20,000 clients remained without power in some parts of San Juan and other urban areas.

“We have been operating under normal conditions since 2:30 a.m.,” said Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Executive Director Javier Quintana, noting that 60 hours had passed since power was knocked out for most of the island’s 1.5 million homes and businesses, affecting the majority of the island’s 3.5 million residents.

Officials said about 50,000 clients, mostly in the island’s northeast area, remained without water service, which was interrupted for some people because many filtration plants and pumping stations need electricity to run and don’t have generators for emergencies.

Authorities hoped to dramatically lower the number of people without water on Saturday.

The blackout occurred as Puerto Rico’s troubled power company seeks to restructure $9 billion in debt and find the money needed to update the island’s aging electrical grid.

In the wake of the outage, Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission said late Friday it was rejecting a 20-year development plan proposed by the utility and impose its own version, one it said would better deal with the grid’s infrastructure problems.

Utility officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Such development plans are typically used by electricity companies to describe the steps they will take to operate and adhere to government regulations.

At least one person died from carbon monoxide after setting up a personal generator.

]]> 0 Sat, 24 Sep 2016 18:03:45 +0000
Syrian army winning terror war, envoy says Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:36:27 +0000 UNITED NATIONS — Syria’s top diplomat told the world’s nations Saturday that his country’s belief in military victory is greater now because the army “is making great strides in its war against terrorism” with support from Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah fighters.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria is more determined than ever to eliminate “terrorism” from the country. The Syrian government refers to all those fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad as “terrorists,” including Western-backed opposition groups.

Al-Moallem addressed the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting after frantic but unsuccessful efforts by the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers to revive a cease-fire that came into effect on Sept. 12 but collapsed after a week following attacks by both sides.

– Associated Press

]]> 0 Sat, 24 Sep 2016 18:49:10 +0000
France to close migrants’ camp Sat, 24 Sep 2016 20:27:19 +0000 PARIS — French President Francois Hollande on Saturday confirmed plans to close the squalid Calais migrant camp known as “the Jungle,” saying he hopes authorities can relocate as many as 9,000 migrants to reception centers across France in the coming weeks.

Hollande, visiting one of France’s 164 migrant reception centers in the central city of Tours, said conditions in the Calais camp are “not acceptable” and “extremely difficult,” especially for those who fled war to get there.

The camp has become a symbol of his government’s failure to tackle Europe’s migrant crisis, and a target of criticism from conservative and far-right rivals seeking to unseat him in France’s presidential election next year.

Hollande, who is to visit Calais itself on Monday, insisted that “we cannot have such camps in France.” He said his country must show it is “capable of being dignified, humane and responsible.”

The reception centers will hold 40-50 people for up to four months while authorities study their cases, he said. Migrants who don’t seek asylum will be deported.

Half of the Calais camp was dismantled in March but its population has since doubled. Hollande’s government has promised to dismantle the Calais camp by the end of the year but has not given a firm timeline.

The plan to relocate the migrants to towns across France has prompted vehement protests from many local conservative and far-right politicians, saying they fear the consequences of having migrants in their towns.

Hollande indirectly criticized that resistance and called for more solidarity, noting that neighboring Germany has taken in 1 million migrants compared to the only 9,000 being relocated from Calais.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:19:02 +0000
Far out! Museum celebrates ‘Freaks, Radicals & Hippies’ Sat, 24 Sep 2016 18:37:07 +0000 BARRE, Vt. — Black-and-white photos and video footage, vintage posters and oral histories of 1970s hippies are the heart of an exhibit at the Vermont History Center in Barre dedicated to the decade that brought tens of thousands of outsiders to the state, changing the politics and culture forever.

“Freaks, Radicals & Hippies” opened Saturday after two years of research.

The yearlong exhibit on one room of the building includes oral histories from people of the time talking about social justice, food access and their memories of the counterculture. Additional recordings are also online.

Ginny Callan, who opened the Horn of the Moon vegetarian restaurant in 1977 in Montpelier, recalls closing it for a day or two whenever there was an important demonstration to attend.

“Enough people that worked at the restaurant were involved and wanted to go that it seemed more important that everybody be able to go and not sell tofu for a day or two,” she said.

The restaurant was also part of the beginnings of the local food movement. They bought and used local greens and other produce in the summer from two area farmers and yogurt from Butterworks Farm in Westfield, Vermont.

“So we were early on kind of doing that local stuff because it was just starting to spark,” she said.

Communes also sprouted up around the state in the late 1960s and ’70s, according to an exhibit map detailing the various collectives such as Earthworks or the Franklin Commune in Franklin made up of back-to-the-landers and political activists.

The state’s population increased around this time, jumping 14 percent during the ’60s and 15 percent in the ’70s. More and more of the newcomers eventually became part of the community, town and federal government and the PTA, said curator Jackie Calder.

The Franklin Commune grew to up to 40 people in the summer months but was rocked by turmoil as members experimented with switching partners who disagreed about child rearing, the exhibit said. In November of 1971, a fire destroyed the farmhouse and firewood and the commune eventually folded in 1972.

Ellen David Friedman, who became a political activist and union organizer, remembers living in an inflatable house one summer built by a group of what she called anti-architects in Plainfield.

“They got kind of industrial strength rubber and vinyl materials. And they would inflate them with industrial strength fans for people to live in,” she said.

She lived with a group in one that looked like a giant inflatable octopus, she said. “So it had a big central domed area, it was white vinyl, all welded together, with six sleeping pods that were arms. …It was hysterical. So that’s what I did in the summer of 1970.”

The exhibit runs until September 2017.

]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 17:01:55 +0000
Smithsonian museum chronicling black history opens Sat, 24 Sep 2016 14:53:06 +0000 WASHINGTON – America’s first national museum dedicated to African-American history and culture opened Saturday with emotional but joyful words from the country’s first black president, who said he hoped the stories contained inside will help everyone “walk away that much more in love” with their country.

In an impassioned speech, President Obama pointed out the highs and lows of being black in America, from slavery and Jim Crow segregation to voting rights and economic leaders. That duality lingers still, Obama said, through successes such as his presidency, and trials such as the police killings of black men.

“We are not a burden on America. Or a stain on America … we are America. And that’s what this museum explains,” Obama said.

He and first lady Michelle Obama joined Ruth Bonner, a 99-year-old direct descendant of a slave, and her family as they rang a bell from the historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Virginia, to signal that the museum was officially open.

The church, believed to be among the first Baptist churches organized entirely by black people, acquired its Freedom Bell in 1886. It will return to the church for its 240th anniversary later this year.

Civil rights veteran John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia who co-sponsored the bill that created the museum, said he hopes visitors will come away with a healthy respect for human dignity, “and a stronger commitment to the idea of justice, truth and democracy.”

“This place is more than a building, it is a dream come true,” Lewis said.

In his speech, Obama imagined himself coming back to the museum someday as a private citizen, “holding a little hand of somebody and telling them the stories enshrined here.”

A shining bronze-colored beacon on the National Mall, only steps away from the White House and the Washington Monument, the new Smithsonian chronicles the complex relationship between the United States and a people it once enslaved and tells the story of those who worked at the changes necessary to bring the country to where it is today.

Thousands gathered on the National Mall to watch the museum officially open its doors and to be among the first inside — if they were lucky enough to get the much-coveted opening day tickets.

“It’s like walking across the desert and finally getting to a fountain of water to quench your thirst. It’s absolutely breathtaking for me,” said Verna Eggleston, 61, of New York City, who was touring the museum later Saturday.

After a decades-long push, ground was broken for the new museum in 2012 on a 5-acre tract near the Washington Monument. Lewis worked with then-Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, now the state’s Republican governor, to usher legislation through Congress. President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2003.

Bush said the museum tells the unvarnished truth, that a country founded on the promise of liberty once held millions of people in chains. A great nation does not hide from its history, Bush said, “it faces its flaws and corrects them.”

Construction was completed earlier this year on the 400,000-square-foot museum designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye. The museum strikes a unique shape on the Mall with its three-tiered bronze exterior panels inspired by an African wooden column. The bronze-colored tiles are inspired by 19th century ironwork created by slaves in the South, and allow sunlight into the museum through its patterns.

The new museum “symbolizes all of the contributions, the culture and the crisis of black America,” said Rev. Howard-John Wesley, pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, whose members donated $1 million to the museum. “It’s a beautiful thing, especially in this day and time when we’re fighting to remind ourselves how important black lives are.”

Inside, museum officials say they have nearly 3,000 items occupying 85,000 square feet of display space, including exhibits like a Tuskegee Airmen training plane and the casket of Emmett Till, an African-American boy whose murder helped rally the civil rights movement.

“It’s been 100 years in the making. So many people have dreamed about this, fought for this and wanted this to happen,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Robert L. Wilkins, who wrote “Long Road to Hard Truth,” a book about the struggle open the museum. “It’s going to be a testament to their work and a testament to so many of our ancestors that this museum will open on the Mall.”

Millions of donors, known and unknown, contributed to the $315 million in private funding raised before the museum’s opening. Some of the biggest donors’ names adorn the walls inside, including the Oprah Winfrey Theater; the Michael Jordan Hall: Game Changers; and the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center, named for the CEO of investment firm Vista Equity Partners after a $20 million gift announced Monday.

As part of the opening ceremony, Winfrey and actor Will Smith read lines of famous black writers, from Maya Angelou to Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison and Martin Luther King Jr.

“I am overwhelmed. I’m humbled,” said Deborah Elam, president of the GE Foundation and chief diversity officer for General Electric, as she waited Saturday among the dignitaries on the National Mall. GE donated $5 million toward the museum’s construction.

Some people trying to get to the dedication ceremony stood for more than an hour in lines that snaked around the Mall to get through security.

Master Sgt. Donald Sparks of Houston, who just finished a yearlong deployment in Iraq, said he was eager to see the exhibits inside the museum. “I’m just elated and can’t express how much joy and gratitude I have to be here today and witness history,” he said.


]]> 0, 24 Sep 2016 18:58:27 +0000
Manhunt underway for gunman who killed 5 at Washington state mall Sat, 24 Sep 2016 04:27:37 +0000 BURLINGTON, Wash. — A gunman police said killed five people in a Washington state mall remained at large Saturday as authorities appealed for help in identifying the suspect but said there were no indications the slayings north of Seattle were a terrorist act.

People fled, customers hid in dressing rooms and employees locked the doors of nearby stores after gunshots rang out just after 7 p.m. Friday at the Cascade Mall in Burlington. A helicopter, search teams and K-9 units scoured the area for the gunman in a police response that included more than 200 officers.

The gunman entered the shopping center without a weapon, but 10 minutes later, went inside Macy’s with a rifle and opened fire, authorities said Saturday.

Authorities said that a weapon had been found at the scene. Mount Vernon Police Lt. Chris Cammock described it as a “hunting type” rifle. Cammock said officers are reconstructing the entire scene at the mall.

“There are people waking up this morning and their world has changed forever,” Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said Saturday at a news conference. “The city of Burlington has probably changed forever.”

Authorities said four females, ranging in age from teens to seniors, died after the gunman opened fire in the makeup department of a Macy’s store. An adult male who was wounded in the shooting died early Saturday, officials said. His age was not given and no identifications of the victims were released

Police said they were looking for a man dressed in black and last seen walking toward Interstate 5. The description, including that he appeared to be Hispanic, was based on statements from witnesses, said Given Kutz, a spokesman for the Skagit County Emergency Operations Center.

“We do not have an identity on the individual yet,” Cammock said. “We could certainly use the community’s help.”

Authorities said the motive was unknown for the shooting about 60 miles north of Seattle.

The FBI was assisting local authorities, but Michael Knutson, assistant special agent in charge of the Seattle FBI, said there was no evidence to point to terrorism.

Stephanie Bose, an assistant general manager at Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant near the Macy’s store at the mall, said she immediately locked the doors after hearing about the shooting from an employee’s boyfriend.

“He was trying to go to the mall and people were screaming,” she told The Associated Press. “It was frantic.”

She said he could see police at the doors with assault rifles.

It took hours for teams to search the mall late Friday night. They escorted shoppers and workers who had sheltered in place outside.

“It took several hundred to do that … clearing every room, to make sure the suspect wasn’t still on the scene,” Cammock said.

Joanne Burkholder, 19, was watching the movie “The Magnificent Seven” in a theater at the mall when police and security came in and said they needed to evacuate.

She said she heard screaming as they were escorted out into the parking lot.

“I’ve never been so terrified in my life,” she said.

The parking lot was closed and emergency management officials told people they would be able to retrieve vehicles Saturday, though the mall said it would be closed for the day.

Worried residents feared for their safety Saturday.

Maria Elena Vasquez of Burlington attended a community gathering Saturday following the slayings. She said “it’s nerve-wracking” and she’s nervous about taking her 7-year-old daughter to her soccer game.

“I’m nervous. I don’t know if we’ll be going back there. It’s too scary,” she said referring to the mall. “It’s too close to home.”

Burlington is a city of about 8,000 people, but its population swells to several times that as people visit the mall and area outlet stores during the week.

Gov. Jay Inslee said tragedy had struck the state.

“We urge residents to heed all safety and detour warnings. Stay close to your friends and loved ones as we await more information and, hopefully, news of the suspect’s capture,” Inslee said in a statement.

The Cascade Mall is an enclosed shopping mall that opened in 1990. It features J.C. Penney, TJ Maxx, and Macy’s stores, among other stores, restaurants and a movie theater.

On Sept. 17, a man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall before being shot and killed by an off-duty police officer. Authorities say Dahir Ahmed Adan, 20, stabbed the people at the Crossroads Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Associated Press writers Lisa Baumann in Seattle and Kimberlee Kruesi in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.


]]> 52, 24 Sep 2016 22:41:26 +0000
Americans fight human trafficking of child sex workers overseas Sat, 24 Sep 2016 03:24:36 +0000 The American men walked into the darkened brothel in Bangkok and were soon offered a variety of prostitutes, young and old, male and female. “You go in and try to look like a john as much as possible,” one of the Americans said later of his undercover role. “Try to act like them, talk like them. You don’t go in and order a glass of milk.”

The men moved from brothel to brothel, each “packed with foreigners,” the American said. “You’re sitting next to these perverts, not only having to interact with them but become one of them. It’s common to go shop around. You sit there, get a price,” he said. “It was probably the darkest underworld playground of the devil that I’ve ever been in.”

The American was former Washington Nationals baseball player Adam LaRoche, and he described participating in a “rescue” operation last year with The Exodus Road, one of a number of American nonprofit groups that are fighting human trafficking in a new way: by luring pimps into the open, and then working with local law enforcement to arrest the traffickers and free the victims.

Members of the groups, often former U.S. military members or law enforcement officers, pose as American tourists looking to party with groups of underage sex workers. Some groups, such as The Exodus Road and Operation Underground Railroad, invite supporters or television crews to come along to spread the word about the horrors, and witness the thrilling moments when sex traffickers are handcuffed, and terrorized children are rescued.


“We believe the problem will never go away unless everybody knows about it and does something,” said Tim Ballard, a former investigator with the Department of Homeland Security who started Operation Underground Railroad, based in Anaheim, California.

But this high-profile approach is attracting skepticism from some respected workers who have fought human trafficking for decades by working with Third World police and prosecutors to attack the problem and rid their ranks of corruption. They question whether the American groups spend the time and effort needed to ensure that victims aren’t returned to the same cycles of degrading violence. They also raise concerns about entrapment and safety for the civilians such as LaRoche who participate.

“The trouble is it’s really risky to the victims,” said Anne Gallagher, founding chair of the U.N. Inter-Agency Group on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, and cited by the State Department as “the leading global expert on the international law on human trafficking.” She said that the civilian groups can cause problems for prosecutions, and that they often are unprepared to help victims.

“It’s also misleading,” Gallagher said, “and deflects attention and resources and energy away from the hard stuff that needs to be done. . . . They’re in and out. No way they can follow up a victim’s case. No way they’re evaluating the impact of what they’ve done.”

Gallagher and Cees de Rover, executive director of Equity International, wrote an article for the Huffington Post last year criticizing Operation Underground Railroad from “a law enforcement perspective.” The group’s approach, the pair said, targets low-level recruiters and pimps but doesn’t dismantle the leadership of sophisticated trafficking networks.

But groups such as Operation Underground Rescue and International Justice Mission, often mentioned as the preeminent rescue group, say that they do plan for the care of rescued victims, and that their work is having a measurable effect on human trafficking and sex tourism in countries such as Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Thailand. The rescue organizations are funded entirely by private donations, government and private grants and in-kind offers of goods and services, their officials said.


Holly Burkhalter, the senior adviser for justice system transformation at the International Justice Mission, based in Washington, said that her group establishes permanent staffs in the countries where they work, and that they create lasting relationships with both social service providers and law enforcement.

“We stay there for the long term,” she said. “If children coming out of a criminal sexual situation are not given care and schooling and economic aid, they will almost certainly be retrafficked. We are absolutely involved every step of the way.”

The rescue groups work closely with law enforcement in the host country to oversee their rescue missions and handle the prosecutions of the traffickers. Gallagher said that can be problematic in many countries where law enforcement is already deeply involved with the traffickers.

The most widely accepted analysis of human trafficking worldwide, by the International Labour Organization in 2012, estimated that 4.5 million people are being forced to work in the sex trade, out of 20.9 million in all manner of forced labor. The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2016 said there had been nearly 19,000 prosecutions worldwide for human trafficking last year, an 88 percent increase from the previous year.

When American rescue groups offer their help, it’s generally appreciated by the United States and host governments, even if it isn’t always comprehensive, said Ransom J. Avilla, a Department of Homeland Security Investigations attache based in Manila. Avilla said American officials in the Philippines had worked closely with the International Justice Mission and “they do provide a full service,” working with police, prosecutors and social service agencies throughout cases that can last many years.

Ballard, who became frustrated with his Homeland Security job when the federal government said that children from other countries couldn’t be rescued, started Operation Underground Railroad in 2013. With former Navy SEALs, CIA agents and other experienced operatives, he trains foreign law enforcement agencies and then acts as one of the American lures to bring traffickers out of the shadows, as a presumed tourist in bars or on beaches. Some of the organization’s exploits are featured in a recently released movie, “The Abolitionists,” documenting the preparations, the contacts and then the takedowns of sex traffickers.

]]> 1, 23 Sep 2016 23:24:36 +0000
U.N. resolution urges nations to implement test ban treaty Sat, 24 Sep 2016 02:40:16 +0000 Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry invoking North Korea’s latest nuclear explosion as a “reckless act of provocation,” the U.N. Security Council on Friday approved a resolution urging quick global implementation of a treaty that would ban tests of such weapons.

Kerry said universal adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would result in a “safer, more secure, and more peaceful planet,” as the United States and 18 other council members approved the resolution, with none opposed and Egypt abstaining.

Security Council approval comes as the Comprehensive Test Ban Organization set up to administer the treaty marks its 20th anniversary. CTBO chief Lassina Zerbo welcomed the vote, saying that “it will remind the international community … that we have to finish what we started 20 years ago.”

European Union foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini said approval is “an important step” toward global enactment of the treaty.

The Washington-based Arms Control Association called it “a very important reaffirmation of the global taboo against nuclear weapon test explosions and strong call for ratification” by key nations.

Yet Friday’s move was mostly symbolic.

The U.S. remains one of the holdouts among the 44 countries that are designated “nuclear capable” – the United States, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan – that still need to ratify the treaty for it to enter into force.

North Korean leaders appeared in no mood to ratify any time soon, with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho vowing his country will expand its nuclear capabilities in defiance of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:40:16 +0000
Trump hotels to pay New York $50,000 over data breaches Sat, 24 Sep 2016 02:25:30 +0000 NEW YORK — Trump Hotel Collection agreed to pay $50,000 in fines and strengthen security measures after data breaches exposed more than 70,000 credit-card numbers and other personal information, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday.

Banks analyzing hundreds of fraudulent credit-card transactions in May 2015 tracked the last legitimate ones to Trump hotels, suggesting the chain was the target of a cyberattack, Schneiderman said in a statement. A preliminary probe revealed malware targeting credit cards existed at multiple locations, including the computer networks associated with hotels in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas.

Further investigation showed that an attacker infiltrated the chain’s payment system in May 2014 by accessing an administrative account using legitimate credentials, and then deployed the malware, Schneiderman said. The chain knew as early as June 2015 that malware had permeated multiple properties but didn’t tell its customers until four months later, which is a violation of New York law, the attorney general said.

Another breach occurred in November 2015 when an attacker installed malware on 39 systems affecting five properties.

]]> 6 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:25:30 +0000
School to give medical students hands-on training Sat, 24 Sep 2016 02:05:02 +0000 BURLINGTON, Vt. — The University of Vermont College of Medicine is changing the way physicians are trained by switching exclusively to a hands-on approach to learning designed to encourage students to solve medical puzzles rather than just memorizing body parts and diseases.

While most medical schools recognize the importance of active learning and use it in some of their classes, UVM is believed to be among the first in the country to commit itself to switching all its medical training to the new system.

“Shifting completely away from the traditional lectures in that way, we are not familiar with any other medical school that has done that across all four years,” said Lisa Howley, the senior director of educational affairs at the Washington-based Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents 145 medical schools and about 400 teaching hospitals.

The effort will get a boost from a $66 million donation from 1942 medical school graduate Robert Larner that will provide $4 million a year in perpetuity to help implement the changes. In announcing the donation Friday, the medical school, which has about 465 students, also said it was changing its name to The Robert Larner M.D. College of Medicine.

Making the switch presents a challenge to an educational system that, especially in the early years of medical school, relied on a doctor lecturing to students from the front of the room.

William Jeffries, associate dean at the UVM medical school, points to a 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that determined students in traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students taught with active learning.

“If this was a clinical trial of a new drug or a treatment, we would adopt it because we knew that the other method was inferior to the first method,” Jeffries said. “We have to react to that evidence.”

Here’s how the process works in the new system:

In class, medical students might be given a case in which a patient is complaining of arm pain. The students would focus on which bone is most likely broken and the possible implications of the injury to the circulatory or nervous system.

“That means they have to know the anatomy, and then they have to say, ‘Well, in the real world, what are we going to do with that information?” said Dr. William Raszka, a pediatrician who teaches in the medical school.

“The family doesn’t come in and say, ‘I think my ulna’s fractured.’ They say, ‘My son came in, he fell off the jungle gym and he’s holding his hand,”‘ Raszka said.

To facilitate those types of discussions, the school is removing lined-up desks from classrooms and replacing them with tables where small groups of students can apply the information they learn before class and work together to find answers to questions posed by the teachers. The rarely used books in the medical school library are going to be moved into storage and the information digitized.

The students will still be tested, but rather than focusing on memorized facts, they will be asked to solve problems and demonstrate higher levels of thinking.

For some of the students, active learning has become routine. For some of the faculty, it’s a big change.

Third-year medical student Soraiya Thura has been learning medicine under both systems.

“It’s a delicate balance,” Thura said. “Some faculty members are great at doing it, and they have a natural ability to facilitate this kind of learning.”

Raszka said there is resistance among the faculty because they are being asked to change the way things have always been done and it’s much more difficult.

“To develop active learning models takes an enormous amount of effort,” he said.

UVM is about halfway finished with fully implementing the new system. The faculty will decide on a timetable for full implementation, Jeffries said, who added that it’s important to have everyone on board.

“If you’ve gone with a coalition of the willing but not everybody all in … that’s what’s going to be the big challenge.”

]]> 0, 23 Sep 2016 22:05:02 +0000
UK: British warplanes pounding Islamic State targets to support Iraqi push on Mosul Sat, 24 Sep 2016 01:37:47 +0000 AKROTIRI, Cyprus — British Tornado and Typhoon aircraft stationed at a U.K. air base in Cyprus are pounding Islamic State targets ahead of a major offensive by Iraqi security forces next month to recapture the key northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, a senior Royal Air Force officer says.

Air Commodore Sammy Sampson said Iraqi forces are confident they can retake the country’s second-largest city from the Islamic State group, also know as ISIS or ISIL, and that British warplanes will provide the needed support to get the job done.

“We’ll stand by them. We’ll support them. We will make it do-able for them,” Sampson told reporters Thursday on a guided tour of the RAF Akrotiri base’s operations.

Mosul is the extremist group’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 21:37:47 +0000
‘The lights are back on’ in most of Puerto Rico Sat, 24 Sep 2016 01:06:46 +0000 Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Cheers erupted as lights slowly began to flicker back on across Puerto Rico overnight as the U.S. territory struggled to emerge from an island-wide blackout after a fire at a power plant that caused the aging utility grid to fail.

About 75 percent of 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the power utility had electricity restored by Friday morning, with cries of, “The lights are back on!” echoing through some neighborhoods.

“We’ve surpassed our expectations,” Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said. “We’re working hard to restore power to our other customers … I understand the annoyance of being without electricity.”

He anticipated that the majority of Puerto Ricans will likely have power by Saturday, more than 72 hours after the island-wide outage.

The lights went out briefly during Friday’s news conference at the emergency operations center, provoking a laugh from government officials addressing reporters. The governor said temporary power outages would still occur in upcoming days given the growing demand for electricity as more customers became reconnected.

The blackout hit the entire island of 3.5 million people Wednesday afternoon and prompted the governor to activate the National Guard and declare a state of emergency. Public schools remained closed Friday, and heavy storms that hit the island Thursday knocked out power to some areas where electricity had been restored.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 21:06:46 +0000
Bodies of 162 migrants retrieved after boat capsizes Sat, 24 Sep 2016 00:56:57 +0000 ROSETTA, Egypt — The bodies of 162 people had been pulled from the waters off the Egyptian coast by Friday, two days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized in the Mediterranean while attempting to head to Europe.

Dozens more are feared dead, said Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Beheira, who provided The Associated Press with the latest figures. He also said that the search operation is still ongoing. Many of them are believed to be children and women who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.

Wahdan el-Sayyed, the spokesman of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, told The Associated Press that the search operation was ongoing.

An AP reporter near the Nile Delta city of Rosetta saw between 20 to 30 bodies brought in by coast guards in gray inflatable boats and fishermen in wooden boats early Friday morning and delivered to ambulances at the coast guard pier. Pictures posted on social networking sites showed dozens of bodies lined up in black plastic bags, and others floating near wooden fishing boats. Videos showed that some fishermen were using nets to bring up the bodies.

In one video, a fisherman was heard shouting into his mobile phone that, “the sea is littered with bodies.”

Many of those gathered at the shore where the bodies arrived appeared to be wearing surgical masks to protect them from the smell of decaying bodies. Some brought chunks of ice to be placed on the bodies to prevent them from decomposing.

Authorities have struggled to give accurate figures for the number of people on board the capsized vessel. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimated that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600.

The boat was located nearly 7.5 miles from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta when it sank. It had waited at sea for many hours – perhaps days – for smaller wooden boats carrying migrants to arrive from different points along the Egyptian coastline.

Survivors said that overcrowding caused the boat to capsize.

Egyptian officials said that over 160 people were rescued and that the majority are Egyptians, while the others are Sudanese and other nationalities, including Somalians and Eritreans.

The head of the local council in the area, Ali Abdel-Sattar, said that the currents have carried the bodies of the victims many kilometers away from the site of the sinking. “Today, four bodies, including two Egyptian children, were found 20 kilometers to the east,” he told the AP.

He added that many of the migrants are believed to have been “stored in the bottom of the boat, in the fridge.”

]]> 0, 23 Sep 2016 20:56:57 +0000
In Yahoo breach, foreign hackers may be playing ‘long game’ Sat, 24 Sep 2016 00:10:43 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — If a foreign government is behind the massive computer attack that compromised a half billion user accounts at Yahoo, as the company believes, the breach could be part of a long-term strategy that’s aimed at gathering intelligence rather than getting rich.

Yahoo says the breach involved users’ email addresses, passwords and other information – including birthdates – but not payment card or bank account numbers. Although the stolen data could still be used in financial crimes, such as identity theft, experts say a foreign intelligence agency might combine the Yahoo files with information from other sources to build extensive dossiers on U.S. government or corporate officials in sensitive positions.

“With state-sponsored attacks, it’s not just financial information that’s of value,” said Lance Hoffman, co-director of the Cyberspace Security and Privacy Institute at George Washington University. “In the long run, if the state accumulates a lot of information on you, and especially if it corroborates that with other sources, it can assemble a pretty good profile.”

Governments have also been known to hack email accounts to keep tabs on their own citizens or dissidents. Experts believe that was one motive behind a 2010 hacking of Google Gmail accounts used by Chinese human rights activists.

Yahoo hasn’t revealed the evidence that led it to blame a “state-sponsored actor” for the latest attack, which the Sunnyvale, California, company said occurred two years ago and was discovered only in recent weeks.

Some analysts warn that “state sponsored” can be a vague term. It might also be an easy excuse to deflect blame for a company’s own security lapses, by suggesting it had no hope of defeating hackers who had all the resources of a government intelligence agency behind them, warned Gunter Ollmann, chief security officer at Vectra Networks, a British security firm.

Yahoo declined comment, but its top security official, Bob Lord, has said the company would make that claim only “when we have a high degree of confidence.” In a policy statement last year, Lord also said the company wouldn’t release details about why it believes attacks are state-sponsored because it doesn’t want to risk disclosing its methods of investigating breaches.

This wouldn’t be the first time that governments were implicated in high-profile hacking attacks.

U.S. officials have hinted that China might be to blame for a 2015 breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in which background files and even fingerprints of millions of federal employees were stolen. China denied any official involvement. More recently, news reports say U.S. intelligence officials have blamed Russian spies for the hack of Democratic National Committee files, although Russia’s government has also denied this.

Some security experts believe the OPM attack was carried out by the same hackers who also stole data files from large U.S. insurance and health-care companies in 2014 and 2015. It may have been part of an effort to gather sensitive or compromising information to blackmail or coerce individuals working at a variety of federal agencies.

Hackers could also use such personal information to concoct bogus emails and send them to a person’s Yahoo account, in what might be a sophisticated “phishing” scheme aimed at getting the target to click on a link containing “spyware” or other malicious computer code.

“They’d have the ability to conduct targeted phishing attacks against individuals with potentially valuable information, without going through their government email accounts,” said Tim Erlin, senior director of security and risk strategy at Tripwire, a cyber-security firm.

Similarly, governments might want to target executives at multi-national corporations, especially if they’re competing with companies based in the country that sponsored the attacks. In such cases, intelligence officials might share useful commercial secrets with their home-grown industries, said Jeremiah Grossman, an official at SentinelOne, a Silicon Valley computer security firm. He noted that the 2010 attack on Google was blamed on Chinese hackers who also targeted U.S. companies outside the tech industry.

In any event, security experts warn that the Yahoo breach could still put ordinary users at risk, particularly if the hacked information finds its way to online marketplaces where stolen data are bought and sold. Many people use the same email address and password for a variety of online services, where they might also have provided financial information such as credit card numbers. And hackers with access to a Yahoo email account could try to reset passwords for other services, if a user registered for those accounts with a Yahoo address.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 21:16:14 +0000
‘Even better than the Super Bowl’: Maryland expects $20 million boost from Miss World pageant Fri, 23 Sep 2016 23:55:56 +0000 For the first time in its 65-year history, the Miss World pageant is coming to the United States.

Its destination: The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just across the river from the nation’s capital, where contestants from 140 countries will compete for a gilded crown, bringing in an estimated $20 million to the local economy.

“This is even better than the Super Bowl,” said Jim Coleman, president and chief executive of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp., which has been lobbying for the event for nearly a year. “This is a huge win for our county.”

The pageant will culminate in a grand finale at Gaylord National on Dec. 18.

For a sporting event like the Super Bowl, Coleman said local governments would have had to offer large tax breaks and other concessions to attract athletes and attendees for a one-day event.

The pageant required no such incentives, Coleman said, and has a much broader reach.

“We’re talking about five days of nonstop exposure,” said Coleman, who served as a judge at this year’s Miss World America competition at the Gaylord National in July. “How many other events get you that kind of international impact? If we had to pay for this amount of advertising, it would’ve cost us half a billion dollars.”

Coleman expects the contestants to contribute between $5 million and $8 million to the county during their stay. (”If we can get them to the Tanger Outlets, that could mean another $1.5 million to $2 million,” he said, referring to the nearby outlet mall.)

Coleman said he is in talks with Miss World organizers to host the pageant at the Gaylord National for another three years.

In addition to the usual line-up – the talent show, a fitness assessment and interview rounds – participants will also have to present a charitable project and take part in a multimedia challenge to show “a deep understanding of all forms of media,” including Facebook, Twitter and television news. The pageant nixed its swimsuit competition two years ago.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 19:55:56 +0000
N.H. hospital layoffs become Senate campaign issue Fri, 23 Sep 2016 23:37:08 +0000 MANCHESTER, N.H. — Planned layoffs at a major New Hampshire health care provider are now political fodder in the U.S. Senate battle between Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched a television ad slamming Hassan for the state’s handling of a $36.5 million contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to run the state’s psychiatric hospital.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced plans for several hundred layoffs just days after the Executive Council approved the three-year contract. Councilors and Hassan’s administration said they were unaware of the planned layoffs. Dartmouth-Hitchcock has provided limited details on who will be subject to layoffs but said the psychiatric hospital will not be affected.

Even before the layoffs, a handful of employees left the state hospital due to a contract dispute with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. One of those employees, nurse practitioner Victoria Cronin, is featured in the new NRSC ad.

“For months we’ve tried to warn (Hassan) that they didn’t have adequate staffing to take care of those patients,” Cronin says. She then says Hassan is “corrupt” if she knew about the layoffs or “inept” if she didn’t.

Hassan’s campaign noted the five-member executive council unanimously approved the contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. And it pointed to a Concord Monitor story quoting Peter Evers, chief executive at the nonprofit Riverbend Community Mental Health advocacy group, saying he takes Dartmouth-Hitchcock “at their word” that they have adequate staff at the state hospital.

Hassan campaign spokesman said the National Republican Senatorial Committee is a discredited organization.

]]> 0 Fri, 23 Sep 2016 19:37:08 +0000