The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Nation & World Tue, 26 Jul 2016 12:15:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Attackers slit French priest’s throat during Mass, are shot dead Tue, 26 Jul 2016 09:56:02 +0000 PARIS — Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said.

Another person inside the church was seriously injured and is hovering between life and death, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

Police managed to rescue three other people inside the church in the small northwestern town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Brandet told reporters, and the two attackers were killed outside the church.

The identities of the attackers and motive for the attack are unclear, according to a French security official who was not authorized to be publicly named.

Brandet said the RAID special intervention force was searching the perimeter of the church ahead of entering for possible explosives and terrorism investigators had been summoned.

“The investigations are ongoing. There are still unknowns,” Brandet said. “There are dogs, explosive detectors and bomb disposal services and as long as there are still unknowns, the judicial police cannot get inside the site. It’s a dramatic situation.”

It was the first known attack inside a French church in recent times. One was targeted last year, but the attack never was carried out. The anti-terrorism division of the Paris prosecutor’s office immediately opened an investigation.

French President Francois Hollande traveled to the town. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve was also visiting.

Dominique Lebrun, the archbishop of Rouen, confirmed the death of 84-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel.

“I cry out to God, with all men of good will. And I invite all non-believers to unite with this cry,” Lebrun wrote in a statement from Krakow, Poland, where Pope Francis was visiting. “The Catholic Church has no other arms besides prayer and fraternity between men.”

France is currently on high alert after an attack in Nice on Bastille Day — July 14 — that killed 84 people and a string of deadly attacks last year claimed by the Islamic State group that killed 147 others. France is also under a state of emergency and has extra police presence after the Nice attack, where man barreled his truck down the city’s famed Promenade des Anglais, mowing down holiday crowds.

Islamic State extremists have urged followers to attack French churches and the group is believed to have planned at least one church attack earlier.

In April 2015, an Algerian student who was arrested after shooting himself in the leg was found with heavy weapons, bulletproof vests and documents linked to Islamic State. He is charged with killing a young woman inside her car the same day. According to French authorities, the suspect, Sid Ahmed Ghlam, was sent by the Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud to attack a church in Villejuif, just outside of Paris.

A cell directed by Abaaoud later carried out the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and the March 22 attacks in Brussels that killed 32 people.

]]> 0, 26 Jul 2016 07:55:40 +0000
Russian held by U.S. for 14 years to be freed Tue, 26 Jul 2016 02:41:22 +0000 MIAMI — A former ballet dancer and member of the Russian military who has been imprisoned as an enemy combatant at Guantanamo for nearly 14 years was given notice Monday that a review board has approved his release from the U.S. base in Cuba.

Ravil Mingazov was deemed eligible for release by the Periodic Review Board, an interagency task force set up by the Obama administration to evaluate whether prisoners not facing charges can be released without endangering U.S. security. He is the last Russian citizen still held at Guantanamo.

A statement announcing the decision was posted on the board’s website, and Mingazov’s lawyers said they notified him by video-teleconference from their office in Washington to the base in Cuba. The Russian planned a celebratory dinner with other prisoners at Guantanamo, said attorney Gary Thompson of the global firm Reed, Smith LLP.

“It was emotional. We are still just in a state of disbelief,” Thompson said. “It’s been 14 years that Ravil has been imprisoned without charges. It’s an amazing day.”

Authorities accused Mingazov, 48, of fighting with the Taliban against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. A Pentagon profile released before a review board hearing in June said he also was believed to have links to an Islamic group in Uzbekistan with ties to al-Qaida. He was captured in Pakistan at a safe house associated with Abu Zubaydah, a “facilitator” for the terrorist organization who is also detained in Guantanamo.

Mingazov, who denied any involvement in terrorism, was never charged with a crime. The board said in announcing its decision that it had “some concern with the detainee’s failure to demonstrate sufficient candor” about activities before he was detained, but nevertheless determined he did not pose such a risk that he needed to be detained.

His lawyers have asked the government to resettle him in Nottingham, England, where his son and ex-wife live under political asylum. The review board statement did not say where Mingazov would be sent or when he would be released.

The Russian government has criticized Mingazov’s confinement and said he should be returned to his homeland. But the Pentagon profile says he does not want to return to Russia.

Mingazov “maintains a strong disdain for the Russian government and does not want to be repatriated, claiming his treatment in Guantanamo is better than the treatment he received in Russia,” the document says.

The U.S. holds 76 prisoners at Guantanamo, including 32 who have been approved for release and transfer.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 22:41:22 +0000
Colombian drug lord sentenced to 35 years Tue, 26 Jul 2016 02:29:52 +0000 NEW YORK — A Colombian described as one of history’s biggest cocaine dealers was sentenced to 35 years in prison Monday by a Manhattan judge who called the scope of his crimes “staggering.”

Known as El Loco, Daniel Barrera Barrera, 48, was sentenced by Judge Gregory Woods, who rejected a lawyer’s request for leniency on the grounds that his client tried to cooperate, urged others to surrender and had rescued victims of kidnappings. The sentence included a $10 million forfeiture and $10 million fine.

“The scope of the offenses here is staggering,” Woods said. “He is dangerous. … Too short a sentence would provide him the opportunity to commit additional crimes.”

The judge said evidence demonstrated that Barrera, who once regularly carried an automatic weapon, used to threaten or kill individuals who owed his drug organization money or who posed a threat to his business.

Prosecutors said he shipped at least 720 tons of cocaine from Colombia to the United States as part of a massive operation that sent drugs to four continents and utilized a submersible vehicle to transport drugs. Barrera had admitted distributing 400 tons of cocaine annually from 1998 to 2011 with an organization backed by lethal drug cartels and terrorist groups.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels urged Woods to reject Barrera’s lawyer’s attempt to portray him as a victim of a culture of violence in an area of Colombia overrun by cocaine networks and militias, including terrorist organizations.

Barrera was extradited to the U.S. in 2013.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 22:29:52 +0000
Early betting on Trump would yield pretty purses Tue, 26 Jul 2016 02:26:00 +0000 Last week, Donald Trump “humbly and gratefully” accepted the Republican nomination for president, putting an end to perhaps the most unpredictable primary season in recent history.

And yet, this whole time, people still tried to predict it. Last summer at Trump’s announcement and through the fall and winter, journalists called his victory “an extreme long shot,” saying he was “not a real candidate” and had “no serious chance of winning”.

And people outside the news media seemed to agree. Betting markets run by companies like PredictIt and Betfair allow ordinary Americans to place bets on whether a certain event will occur. The more of a long shot people think the outcome is, the greater the profit would be upon its occurrence.

Betting markets, then, can be used to trace the expected probability of an event over time. In the case of Donald Trump’s nomination, it started as a serious long shot, with more than 10:1 odds, which declined over the next nine months as it became increasingly clear that Trump would be the nominee. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, had the nomination on lock this whole time, in the eyes of the market.

The profit made off of a bet for Trump and Clinton’s nomination changed over time.

These trend lines provide a look back at the events of the primary season and a glimpse into the psyches of the American people watching the unprecedented campaign unfold.

Trump’s odds of victory started out extremely volatile, falling by a third one day and doubling over the next two, as the Trump campaign’s initial provocations – calling Mexicans “rapists,” hiring actors to attend the announcement, fighting with Univision over holding the Miss USA pageant – were outside the political norm. Similar volatility occurred following his first debate appearance and subsequent conflict with moderator Megyn Kelly.

But over time, it seems, the markets started to habituate to Trump’s unique style, showing almost no reaction after Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration in December. At times, the movements in the markets seemed to be logical and predictable. There was a noticeable dip as Trump’s polling surge continued through the summer, and after Jeb Bush, originally an establishment favorite, left the race.

Trump said it himself when he accepted the nomination: “Who would have believed that when we started this journey” that he would receive a record-setting number of votes. Well, someone did. And now, they’re rolling in it.

]]> 1 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:53:30 +0000
Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge to be renamed Tue, 26 Jul 2016 01:44:29 +0000 ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge will be renamed “July 15th Martyrs’ Bridge” in honor of civilians who died resisting Turkey’s coup attempt.

The decision to rename the bridge across the Bosporus strait, which links Istanbul’s Asian and European sides, was taken Monday following a cabinet meeting.

Yildirim also announced that monuments to the civilians killed during the attempted coup would be built in Ankara and Istanbul.

The July 15 failed coup left about 290 people dead. It was put down by loyalist forces and masses of civilians who rushed to the streets. Several were killed on the Bosporus Bridge.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 21:44:29 +0000
Californian who sought to join Islamic State sentenced Tue, 26 Jul 2016 01:19:40 +0000 SANTA ANA, Calif. — A federal judge on Monday sentenced a California man to 15 years in prison for trying to join the Islamic State group in Syria, calling his conduct a serious threat to the U.S. and saying it was influenced by his abusive childhood and history of mental problems.

Orange County native Adam Dandach, 22, was also ordered to undergo supervised release for the rest of his life after he pleaded guilty last year to trying to provide material support to a terror group and lying on his passport application.

The case against Dandach is one in a series involving young men in states ranging from California to Georgia who have been charged with trying to assist Islamic State and other groups.

The U.S. “faces significant threat from terrorists’ acts planned or committed by homegrown violent extremists like (the) defendant who become radicalized online and seek to engage in terror and support groups like ISIL,” federal prosecutors wrote in court filings before sentencing. ISIL and ISIS are acronyms for the Islamic State group.

The prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence for Dandach, who authorities said had videos of executions and decapitations by terrorists stored on his computer. He also encouraged terrorist beliefs in online chatrooms, authorities said. “To this day he is making deliberate choices to continue to support this violent and horrific terrorist organization,” Celeste Corlett, an assistant U.S. attorney, said before Dandach’s sentencing.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:13:55 +0000
Turkey seeks to detain dozens of journalists Tue, 26 Jul 2016 01:09:29 +0000 ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey on Monday issued warrants for the detention of 42 journalists suspected of links to the alleged organizers of a failed military uprising, intensifying concerns that a sweeping crackdown on alleged coup plotters could target media for any news coverage critical of the government.

While the Turkish government said it is investigating the journalists for possible criminal conduct rather than their reporting, critics warned that a state of emergency imposed after the July 15 coup attempt poses a threat to freedom of expression.

“We fear there will be a witch hunt which would include journalists known as ‘critical’ against the government. Because they are putting all journalists into one bag,” said Ahmet Abakay, president of the Progressive Journalists’ Association, a media group based in the Turkish capital Ankara. He said the situation was “very dangerous for every journalist” and that government warnings to reporters to be careful would lead to self-censorship.

“By rounding up journalists, the government is failing to make a distinction between criminal acts and legitimate criticism,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe.

More than 13,000 people in the military, judiciary and other institutions have been detained since the uprising, which left about 290 people dead. In the latest purge, Turkish Airlines, the national carrier, said it has terminated the contracts of 221 employees. It said the contracts were ended for problems including conduct contrary to the national interest, such as “sponsoring” the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of fomenting the insurrection.

Those fired included seven people in managerial positions and 15 pilots, according to the private Turkish news agency Dogan.

Also Monday, security forces caught seven fugitive soldiers accused of raiding a hotel in the resort town of Marmaris shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan left it on the night of July 15, bringing the number of those detained for the attack to 25, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Security forces were searching for 10 others believed to be on the run near Marmaris.

Erdogan has said that he would have been killed or captured if he had he stayed at the hotel for an additional 10 or 15 minutes.

]]> 0, 25 Jul 2016 21:18:51 +0000
Historic solar flight marks first round-the-world journey Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:36:16 +0000 ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – The world’s first round-the-world flight to be powered solely by the sun’s energy made history Tuesday as it landed in Abu Dhabi, where it first took off on an epic 25,000-mile (40,000-kilometer) journey that began more than a year ago.

Since its March 2015 take off, the Swiss-engineered Solar Impulse 2 has made 16 stops across the world without using a drop of fuel to demonstrate that using the plane’s clean technologies on the ground can halve the world’s energy consumption, save natural resources and improve quality of life.

“Our mission now is to continue to motivate people, corporations and governments to use these same solutions on the ground wherever they make sense,” Solar Impulse chairman and pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said in a statement ahead of landing the plane in Abu Dhabi.

The aircraft is uniquely powered by 17,248 solar cells that transfer energy to four electrical motors that power the plane’s propellers. It runs on four lithium polymer batteries at night. The plane’s wingspan stretches 236 feet (72 meters) to catch the sun’s energy.

At around 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms), the plane weighs about as much as a minivan or mid-sized truck. An empty Boeing 747, in comparison, weighs 400,000 pounds (180,000 kilograms). To help steady it during takeoffs and landings, the plane was guided by runners and bicyclists

Despite its historic mission, the Solar Impluse 2’s journey was far from a quick or problem-free.

Solar Impulse 2 pilots Bertrand Piccard, left, and Andre Borschberg celebrate after their plane landed in an airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, early Tuesday, marking the historic end of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel, powered solely by the sun’s energy.

Solar Impulse 2 pilots Bertrand Piccard, left, and Andre Borschberg celebrate after their plane landed in an airport in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, early Tuesday, marking the historic end of the first attempt to fly around the world without a drop of fuel, powered solely by the sun’s energy. Associated Press

The pilots faced a nine-month delay a year ago after the plane’s batteries were damaged during a flight from Japan to Hawaii. It was also delayed for more than a week in Cairo ahead of its final flight to Abu Dhabi when Piccard fell ill, and due to poor weather conditions.

Over its entire mission, Solar Impluse 2 completed more than 500 flight hours, cruising at an average speed of between 28 mph (45 kmh) and 56 mph (90 kmh). It made stops in Oman, India, Myanmar, China, Japan, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Its North American stops included California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

In a statement this week, Borschberg said it is no longer a question of whether it’s possible to fly without fuel or polluting emissions.

“By flying around the world thanks to renewable energy and clean technologies, we have demonstrated that we can now make our world more energy efficient,” he said.

The carbon-fiber plane is a single-seater aircraft, meaning its two Swiss pilots – Piccard and Andre Borschberg– had to take turns flying solo for long days and nights. To calm their minds and manage fatigue during the long solo flights, Borschberg practiced yoga and Piccard self-hypnosis.

The pilots would rest a maximum of 20 minutes at a time, repeating the naps 12 times over each 24-hour stretch.

It took 70 hours for Piccard to cross the Atlantic Ocean, which was the first by a solar-powered airplane.

Borschberg’s flight over the Pacific Ocean at 118 hours – or what is five days and five nights – shattered the record for the longest flight duration by an aircraft flying solo.

Neither pilot was able to stand in the cockpit while flying, but the seat reclined for stretching and its cushion could be removed for access to a toilet. Goggles worn over the pilot’s eyes flashed lights to wake him up while armbands placed underneath their suits buzzed when the plane was not at flying level.

The plane also did not have a pressurized cockpit so Borschberg and Piccard could feel changes in temperature. The pilot’s blood oxygen levels were monitored and sent back to ground control in Monaco.

Hot temperatures in the Middle East this time of year cause thermals and turbulence that forced Piccard to fly longer periods of time with an oxygen mask as he piloted the last leg of the trip from Cairo to Abu Dhabi in roughly three nights and two days.

Piccard, a psychiatrist, is the son of undersea explorer Jacques Piccard and a grandson of balloonist Auguste Piccard. In 1999, he became the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a hot air balloon.

Borschberg, an engineer and graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also an entrepreneur. He launched the Solar Impulse project in 2003 with Piccard.

The project is estimated to cost more than $100 million. The UAE-based Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government’s clean-energy company, was a main sponsor of the flight. There were more than 40 additional sponsors, including Omega, Belgian chemical company Solvay, Swedish-Swiss automation corporation ABB, Swiss manufacturer Schindler, Google and Moet Hennessey, among others.

]]> 0, 25 Jul 2016 21:56:00 +0000
Canadian woman allegedly shoots at Pokemon players Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:40:04 +0000 NEWMARKET, Ontario — Police have charged a Canadian woman they allege shot a pellet gun at a group of people playing Pokemon Go north of Toronto.

Police said Monday they received a call around 10:30 p.m., Saturday that someone was shooting at several people playing the popular smartphone game in Newmarket, Ontario.

The game sends players into the real world to search for Pokemon, who appear on screen when users hold up their devices in various locations.

Police say witnesses saw a woman shooting at the players from a nearby rooftop with a pellet gun that looked like a handgun.

No one was hurt.

Police say at least four shots were fired.

Patricia Champagne, 29, is charged with assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 19:40:04 +0000
Boston Marathon bombing survivor climbs Ecuador’s third-highest peak Mon, 25 Jul 2016 23:21:31 +0000 BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet can check mountaineering off her bucket list.

The professional ballroom dancer lost a leg in the 2013 finish line attacks and ran the entire 26.2-mile race last spring. Over the weekend, she scaled Ecuador’s third-highest mountain.

Haslet reached the summit of 18,996-foot Volcan Cayambe with a team of climbers from the Range of Motion Project. The nonprofit group helps provide prosthetic limbs to needy amputees around the world.

The expedition summited the snow-capped mountain Sunday.

“I feel the most grounded I have felt in over three years,” Haslet said on Twitter. “There is something beautiful about disconnecting from the outside world and connecting with people who are passionate about a cause: gathering around a fire, training together, and bonding in a way you only can without outside influences.”

Haslet, 36, was cheering for the runners in 2013 when she was injured by the second of two bombs planted among the crowds. Three people were killed and more than 260 others wounded. She vowed to dance again and to run the 26.2-mile race.

Having done that, she’s been overcoming new obstacles in a quest to raise money and awareness for groups such as the Range of Motion Project and Oklahoma City-based Limbs for Life.

Scaling the mountain, though, posed special challenges.

“It is freezing and you don’t know until you are up there how hard it is to ice-pick straight up a glacier,” said Haslet, who used the same prosthetic she walks and dances in.

Although covering the marathon distance was incredibly painful – Haslet’s special running leg caused bruising, blisters and swelling – she said conquering Cayambe was even tougher.

“I couldn’t practice in Boston how to climb a glacier at altitude,” she said.

Haslet grew up camping and hiking with an uncle who has climbed Everest and the rest of the seven summits.

“These stories around the dinner table were all going through my mind as I climbed,” she said.

]]> 0, 25 Jul 2016 19:21:31 +0000
Pokemon game puts spotlight on history Mon, 25 Jul 2016 22:10:55 +0000 PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Historical markers have long dotted the landscape, often barely noticed by passers-by – until they became treasure-filled stops this month on the “Pokemon Go” trail.

Players hunting for fictional creatures on their smartphones are now visiting real-life memorial plaques, statues, mosaics and landmarks, ranging from a Civil War battlefield in Chancellorsville, Virginia, to a Hells Angels clubhouse on New Zealand’s North Island.

Some don’t bother to linger at these Pokestops, staying just long enough to stock up on the virtual balls they’ll use to bonk and capture the next Pokemon. But for others, the GPS-powered “augmented reality” game is heightening awareness of the history and geography of their neighborhoods.

“Before I was just going from Point A to Point B, but now I’m learning things,” said 15-year-old Jaiden Cruz as he walked by a plaque Wednesday in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, marking where Abraham Lincoln spoke at an old railroad hall in 1860. The plaque is a Pokestop, and shortly before Cruz arrived, another player dropped a “lure module” that attracts Pokemon to the site.

The 380-year-old city abounds with Pokestops, including the nation’s oldest Baptist church – founded by religious dissident Roger Williams in 1638 – and a stone marking where French troops camped during the Revolutionary War.

“It gets you to learn about your surroundings,” said 59-year-old Cheryl DiMarzio, who on the advice of her daughter ventured into an urban park to capture an owl-like Pidgey and some purple rodent Rattatas. “Different landmarks, the statues and historical places.”

How such markers became the backbone of the wildly popular video game that launched this month is a story that goes back at least five years, when tech giant Google signed a licensing agreement to use The Historical Marker Database, a volunteer-run website that has tracked the geographic coordinates of more than 80,000 historical markers around the world, most of them in the United States.

J.J. Prats, founder and publisher of the Virginia-based marker database, said many but not all the Pokestops and Pokemon gyms, where players send their creatures into battle, are from his website. He’s thrilled.

“Hopefully people will take their eyes off the phone and read the historical markers,” Prats said.

The game has delighted Anthony Golding, a middle school history teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, who is looking forward to incorporating Pokestops into his curriculum in the fall.

He has replenished his Pokemon wares where the Civil War’s Battle of Tupelo was fought, at monuments to Civil Rights Movement figures, and at a pedestal that holds the Tupelo Meteorite. But Elvis Presley holds the monopoly on Tupelo’s Pokestops, from his birthplace to the Main Street store where he got his first guitar .

“Pretty much every Elvis landmark has a Pokestop devoted to it,” Golding said.

Prats said his website’s views have quadrupled since the game launched, possibly because gamers are looking to get ahead and find new stops. His editors in recent days have had to strike down a rash of “bogus” submissions for markers that have no historical significance but that he suspects might be near where players live or where businesses are hoping for foot traffic, he said.

Game maker Niantic Labs, which began as an internal Google startup, originally used the markers for its earlier game, Ingress, which attracted a smaller but dedicated community when it launched in 2012. Niantic, which spun off from Google last year, did not respond to emails seeking comment about its “Pokemon Go” locations.

But the Ingress website gives clues about how the Pokestops were created. Before closing off submissions, Ingress invited its users to identify new locations for “portals,” real-life places of cultural significance that gamers try to capture and connect on the Ingress app.

The company sought spots “with a cool story, a place in history or educational value” or a “cool piece of art or unique architecture.” It prized libraries and little-known gems, and welcomed places of worship because they are “a nod to the otherworldly” that amplified the game’s mysterious tone.

Ingress player John Jannotti, who teaches computer science at Brown University, said he began stumbling upon the hidden history of his Providence neighborhood, including obscure stone markers showing the location of race riots where white mobs attacked black residents in the early 19th century. He even submitted some portals of his own.

Now, those markers are Pokestops attracting a whole new community.

Golding, the teacher, said he frequently runs into his students in downtown Tupelo while playing the game.

“It’s probably more about the game for them right now,” Golding said. “After the newness kind of wears off, we can start to have those conversations about the historical significance behind those Pokestops.”

]]> 0, 25 Jul 2016 18:10:55 +0000
At least 19 killed, 20 injured in stabbing near Tokyo Mon, 25 Jul 2016 21:47:43 +0000 SAGAMIHARA, Japan – At least 19 people were killed and about 20 wounded in a knife attack Tuesday at a facility for handicapped people in a city just outside Tokyo in the worst mass killing in generations in Japan.

Police said they responded to a call at about 2:30 a.m. from an employee saying something horrible was happening at the facility in the city of Sagamihara, 30 miles west of Tokyo.

A man turned himself in at a police station about two hours later, police in Sagamihara said. He left the knife in his car when he entered the station. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and trespassing.

Officials in Kanagawa prefecture, which borders Tokyo, identified the suspect as Satoshi Uematsu, and said he had worked at the facility until February. Japanese media reports said he was 26 years old.

He entered the building about 2:10 a.m. by breaking a glass window on the first floor of a residential building at the facility, Shinya Sakuma, head of prefectural health and welfare division, said at a news conference.

Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa expressed his condolences to the victims.

The Sagamihara City fire department says that 19 people were confirmed dead in the attack. The fire department said doctors at the scene confirmed the deaths.

The death toll could make this the worst mass killing in Japan in the post-World War II era.

A woman who lives across from the facility told Japanese broadcaster NHK that she saw police cars enter the facility around 3:30 a.m.

“I was told by a policeman to stay inside my house, as it could be dangerous,” she said. “Then ambulances began arriving, and blood-covered people were taken away.”

Japanese broadcaster NTV reported that Uematsu was upset because he had been fired, but that could not be independently confirmed.

The facility, called the Tsukui Yamayuri-en, is home to about 150 adult residents who have mental disabilities, Japan’s Kyodo News service said.

Television footage showed a number of ambulances parked outside, with medical and other rescue workers running in and out.

Mass killings are relatively rare in Japan, which has extremely strict gun control laws. In 2008, seven people were killed by a man who slammed a truck into a crowd of people in central Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district and then stabbed passers-by.

In 2001, a man killed eight children and injured 13 others in a knife attack at an elementary school in the city of Osaka. The incident shocked Japan and led to increased security at schools.

More recently, 14 were injured in 2010 by an unemployed man who stabbed and beat up passengers on two public buses outside a Japanese train station in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

A man who lives near the site of the latest attack said he was shocked such an attack happened in the quiet, semi-rural area near Mount Takao, a mountain popular with hikers.

“I never imagined such a horrible thing happening,” said Chikara Inabayashi, who was tending his watermelon patch. “I was astonished, that’s the only thing I can say.”

]]> 9, 26 Jul 2016 08:15:17 +0000
Pokemon Go player, robber shoot each other in Las Vegas park Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:49:05 +0000 LAS VEGAS – Authorities say a gunman tried to rob a group of people playing the Pokemon Go game at a Las Vegas park, so a player pulled a firearm and the two shot each other.

Police Lt. David Gordon says both men had non-life threatening injuries.

He says an armed man drove up to six people playing the popular cellphone game, which sends players to physical locations to “catch” virtual Pokemon characters.

The suspect demanded money and possessions at gunpoint early Monday, and one of the Pokemon players drew his own gun.

The player was shot once and taken to a hospital. A man believed to be the suspect also appeared at the hospital with gunshot wounds. It wasn’t clear if he has been arrested yet.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:49:05 +0000
Democratic emails: The hack, the leak, the discord Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:34:03 +0000 PHILADELPHIA – First came the hack, then the leak. Now, the Clinton and Trump campaigns are fighting over Russia’s role in the release of thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails.

At least one thing is clear: The email uproar is an unwelcome distraction at the launch of the Democratic National Convention, inflaming the rift between supporters of Hillary Clinton and primary rival Bernie Sanders just when the party was hoping to close it.

As the Philadelphia convention got underway Monday, developments in the email story rolled out in rapid sequence:

Clinton’s campaign, citing a cybersecurity firm hired to investigate the leak, blamed Russia for hacking the party’s computers and suggested the goal was to benefit Donald Trump’s campaign.

Trump dismissed that idea as laughable, tweeting: “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails.”

Sanders supporters certainly weren’t amused. Irate, in fact, that the emails confirmed their long-held suspicions the party had favored Clinton all along.

The FBI announced Monday it was investigating how the hack occurred, saying “a compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously.”

Michael Buratowski, a cyber analyst with the firm that investigated the hack, said his near-certainty that Russia was to blame was based on evidence such as the hackers using Russian internet addresses, Russian language keyboards, and the time codes corresponding to business hours in Russia, as well as the sophistication of the hack.

A look at the hack, the leak and the politics of the DNC email fracas:


Democrats have known about the hack since April, when party officials discovered malicious software on their computers.

They called in a cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, which found traces of at least two sophisticated hacking groups on the Democrats’ network, both with ties to the Russian government.

Those hacks vacuumed up at least a year’s worth of chats, emails and research on Trump, according to a person knowledgeable about the breach who wasn’t authorized to discuss it publicly.

The party publicly acknowledged the hack in June.


On Friday, the public got its first look at DNC emails when Wikileaks posted a cache of 19,000 internal communications, including some that suggested party officials had favored Clinton over rival Sanders during the primaries.

It wasn’t immediately clear how WikiLeaks got the emails – and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange proudly told Democracy Now! he’d never tell.

Was it from the Russians?

Clinton’s campaign didn’t hesitate to make the connection, with campaign manager Robby Mook saying cyber experts believed “Russian state actors were feeding the email to hackers for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.”

Trump’s team went out of its way to dismiss the alleged Russian connection as outlandish. Trump senior policy adviser Paul Manafort called the Clinton campaign statements “pretty desperate” and “pretty absurd.”


Whatever the source, the fallout from the leaked emails was swift and dramatic.

Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over the weekend after Sanders’ campaign pounced on a number of leaked emails that they said showed that party officials had favored Clinton during the primaries.

The disclosure set off devoted Sanders supporters, who were already having a hard time moving past the bitter primary battles to embrace Clinton as the nominee.

Sanders told his delegates Monday that Wasserman Schultz’s departure would “open the doors of the party to people who want real change.” But even after Sanders urged his supporters to back Clinton, some were flashing thumbs-down signals and waving signs that said, “not Hillary, not Trump.”


The email controversy raised new questions about Trump’s foreign policy views with regard to Russia.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta suggested there was “a kind of bromance going on” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump. Or “maybe it’s simply just a mutual admiration society,” he told MSNBC.

The Clinton campaign says Russia favors Trump’s views, especially on NATO. Trump himself has spoken favorably about Putin as someone he could negotiate with.

Trump supporters did succeed in preventing a reference to arming Ukraine from getting into this year’s platform, but the document is far from pro-Russia. It accuses the Kremlin of eroding the “personal liberty and fundamental rights” of the Russian people.


Clinton loyalists were eager to put a period on the latest email episode. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, said Monday “we’re done” with the controversy. But Sanders’ delegates didn’t seem ready to move on. And there may be more shoes to drop: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said U.S. officials expect more cyber threats against the campaigns.


Clinton just can’t stay out of hot water when it comes to email. The latest controversy serves as an unwelcome reminder of Clinton’s earlier problems with her handling of classified email as secretary of state. In case anyone failed to make the connection, Trump was happy to tweet a reminder: “Here we go again with another Clinton scandal, and e-mails yet (can you believe).”

]]> 31, 25 Jul 2016 20:07:58 +0000
Syrian asylum seeker detonates explosive in Germany, kills self, wounds 12 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:05:41 +0000 BERLIN – A rejected Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up near the entrance of a Bavarian music festival late Sunday, killing himself and wounding 12 others in the latest attack to rock Europe.

The incident sparked late night mayhem in Ansbach, a southern German town of 40,000 that hosts a U.S. military base. Authorities quickly evacuated 2,500 people from the rock festival.

The assailant, a 27-year-old Syrian whose request for asylum had been rejected, detonated an explosive device in his backpack around 10:10 p.m. after he was refused entry to the festival.

The device had been rigged with metal projectiles normally used in woodworking, according to Elke Schönwald, a spokeswoman for the Nürnberg police, which were handling the case.

The explosion went off near a wine bar toward the entrance of the music festival, with three of 12 injured in serious condition. Eye witnessed described a scene of chaos and fear that has become all too familiar in Germany and neighboring countries following a string of deadly attacks.

“We just went outside briefly because we wanted to have an ice cream and a drink and shortly after we heard a muffled bang,” Christian Hartdeck told reporters on the scene. “We were all petrified. A few people came running towards us who had been near the café . . . a few people had been hit by tiles that had fallen off a roof.”

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann – a strong critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to welcome refugees to Germany – told reporters that in his view the incident was “an Islamist suicide attack.” But police officials were more cautious, saying the assailant’s motive remained unclear.

Although authorities were not ruling out Islamist terrorism, the 27-year old, whose name was not released, had been rejected for asylum in Germany and was living in the country under a precarious legal status. Officials said he had twice attempted suicide, and had also been detained for drug possession and other minor offenses.

The incident came only two days after a troubled Iranian-German teenager went on a shooting rampage in a Munich shopping mall, leaving 10 people dead, including himself.

On Sunday, another Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after allegedly using a machete to kill a Polish woman she had apparently rejected his romantic advances.

On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic Sate was shot dead after attacking and injuring five people on a train in Wuerzbug, also in southern Germany.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the July 14 attack in Nice, France, when a 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a cargo truck to kill 84 people and wound dozens more.

]]> 16 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 06:05:41 +0000
Shooting that killed 2 teens at Florida nightclub was not terror attack, police say Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:36:36 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. – Gunfire erupted at a nightclub hosting a swimsuit-themed party for teens in Florida, leaving two teens dead and at least 17 other people wounded, officials said Monday.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the violence, but authorities said the shooting was not an act of terror. Police detained three people and were searching for others, interim Police Chief Dennis Eads said.

The slain teens were 14-year-old Sean Archilles and 18-year-old Stef’an Strawder, police said. Archilles lived about a mile from the nightclub, and loved to play football and basketball, said his father, Jean Archilles.

“He liked to make people laugh. He’s a funny kid. He’s always joking,” Jean Archilles said.

Strawder starred on the basketball team for Lehigh High School, averaging more than 15 points a game as a junior, according to The News-Press.

“Everyone was afraid to play against him because he was so good. He would guide you and give you advice on how to step up your game and how to guard him and things like that,” said 16-year-old Peyton Hebon, who started playing against Strawder in travel basketball leagues in sixth grade.

Strawder was always positive and energetic and was unstoppable on the court, Hebon said.

Four people were in the hospital. Two were in critical condition and two in fair condition, said Lisa Sgarlata, the chief administrative officer at Lee Memorial Health System.

All of the other patients were treated and released. The victims ranged in ages from 12 to 27.

“It’s horrible when these things happen,” Gov. Rick Scott said at an afternoon news conference. He noted that the state is currently seeing a 45-year low in the crime rate.

There were two active crime scenes – the club and a street in the area, which also remained closed as police investigated.


The club is in a strip mall that includes a daycare center and is across the street from a large apartment complex. The shooting happened about 12:30 a.m. Monday, just as the club was closing and parents were arriving to pick up their children.

Syreeta Gary told WFTX-TV her daughter ran to avoid being shot. Her daughter was OK, but her daughter’s friend “got hit in the leg and luckily it’s just her leg,” she said.

“Her dodging bullets and running, dropping in between cars, it’s ridiculous that these kids have to go through this,” Gary said. “They can’t enjoy themselves because you have other people that have criminalistic minds and they just want to terrorize things.”

Club owner Cheryl Filardi, who said she was in the back room when the shots rang out, said at least 10 security guards were hired for the party – two in the parking lot, one or two at the door and the rest floating inside.

She said the club has had four or five teen parties over the past half-dozen years, and this was the second one this summer. She said the parties are something positive for a rough and often-violent neighborhood.

“To be honest with you, every day someone’s getting shot in this area. These days in Lee County, somebody’s always shooting,” Filardi said. “If we do teen parties, we always have a ton of security and we’ve never had a problem.”


Law enforcement removed some of police tape by Monday morning, allowing the media and public to get closer to the entrance to Club Blu.

There were bullet holes in concrete planters and wooden support beams. Sheriff’s evidence markers were still affixed to the holes. The letter “A” was attached near a post, while nearby “L,” “M,” “N” and “O” were marked near a planter filled with scraggly foliage.

Tasha Grant said her son grew up with Strawder and that the two had been friends since they were 5 and they played on the city football team together. The talented athlete often spent the night at her house. He was a typical teen boy, who was quiet and loved pizza and was being scouted by colleges, she said.

“He was like a son to me. … Looking at it on the news this morning it just broke me. I’m really hurt. It hurts so bad,” she said, adding she had to then break the news to her son.

State records online show the alcohol license for Club Blu was revoked June 7 because of an incident that occurred a year ago, but there were no additional details available, according to records from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The same records show that a complaint was filed in 2014 for “criminal activity” and that the club was given an official notice.

The shooting comes more than a month after a nightclub shooting in Orlando that was the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 left 49 victims dead and 53 others wounded.

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush, Gary Fineout and Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report.

This story has corrected the hospital official’s title to chief administrative officer, not CEO. It also has corrected the victim’s first name to Stef’an, not Ste’fan, and noted that he, not Archilles, was a star on the high school basketball team.

]]> 77, 25 Jul 2016 16:23:59 +0000
Marchers of 1966 weigh in on civil rights then and now Mon, 25 Jul 2016 01:40:17 +0000 JACKSON, Miss. — A half-century ago, thousands joined a march across Mississippi to challenge a system that condoned violence against black people and suppressed their rights – issues still reverberating in today’s national debates about police violence.

The March Against Fear in the summer of 1966 helped many find a voice to protest the injustices of the day, setting an example for contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter.

The link between past and present was on the minds of participants in the march 50 years ago who recently told their stories to The Associated Press.

They say recent deadly encounters involving police show that Americans need to engage in honest dialogue about race – even if it’s uncomfortable for some people to acknowledge that black lives have long been devalued. They also lamented what they see as a lack of progress on many fronts.

“Literally nothing has changed,” says James Meredith, who launched the march. “That is not completely true. What has changed the so-called civil rights movement is completely at an end. It is over. … That’s why we have the crisis we have in the nation today.”

While Meredith declined to discuss specifics of the recent violence, he and his contemporaries say much work still needs to be done.

The march started as a one-man journey by Meredith, four years after he integrated the University of Mississippi amid violent backlash. In June 1966, he wanted to show that a black man could walk through Mississippi without fear. He set out to walk more than 200 miles from Memphis, Tennessee, to the Mississippi capital of Jackson.

But one day in, a white man shot and wounded Meredith. Activists including the Rev. Martin Luther King took up his cause and eventually rallied thousands of marchers.

Now 83, Meredith wants the black community to embrace education and mentorship as ways to “pay God back.”

“Citizenship is what the March Against Fear was about,” he says. “Citizenship. Not only rights and privileges are part of citizenship. Duty and responsibility are an equal part, and that’s the part the black race has failed to pay any attention to.”

Dianna Freelon-Foster is blunt in her assessment of America.

“I see this country as a violent country. …We shirk talking about it,” says Freelon-Foster, who was 15 when the marchers passed through her hometown of Grenada.

She says their courage gave locals the confidence to challenge segregation.She and other black students integrated Grenada schools the following fall, and they were beaten by white men wielding baseball bats and tree limbs.

A generation later, in 2004, Freelon-Foster was elected mayor of Grenada – a post she held for one year.

She says police aren’t bad people, but many can’t relate to the communities they patrol.

Marcher Flonzie BrownWright’s own grandson was fatally shot by deputies in Los Angeles in 1999.

Dion Goodloe, 19, was home in a wheelchair with a broken leg when officers came to investigate a report of trouble at a nearby store, says BrownWright. She was told that her grandson was sitting on his hands and that officers thought he was hiding a gun. A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that he had a gun and pointed it at deputies.

“Whatever the reason was, it did not justify them shooting a kid sitting in a wheelchair who could not walk,” she says.

Still, she condemns any violence – whether by police or against them.

“The Bible tells us … you don’t have a right to take another person’s life. That works on all sides,” BrownWright says.

Back in 1966, she was an NAACP volunteer in Canton who received a phone call from King asking if she could provide food and housing for 3,000 marchers. Without hesitation, she said yes. The marchers slept in homes, on porches and in cars. Some slept in a gymnasium.

BrownWright says King talked about receiving threats, and he exhorted her and others to “do what you can do to continue the struggle.”

The Rev. Ed King was an anomaly – a white chaplain at a historically black private college that was a safe haven for civil rights activists. He was also active in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the state’s 1960s white establishment.

After a recent Tougaloo College commemoration of the march, he said people need to continue challenging injustice.

“You have to be able to say, ‘As an American, I have a right to ask these questions, to say that things aren’t perfect,” King says.

Wendell Paris, a Baptist minister in Jackson, still sees inequality and says, “Police violence – that’s always a concern.”

Paris was a 21-year-old student in Alabama when he drove to Mississippi to join the march. Along the final stretch, it was his job to persuade black spectators to participate.

“Man, that was just a day of jubilee for us, because here we were marching basically with much less fear than we had ever had before,” he says.

Still, he recalls a tense moment when he encountered an officer. “I looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘You’ve got to be careful today how you treat us, because we’re not taking this foolishness that we’ve been taking before.”‘

Frank Figgers was 16 when he joined the final day of the march. He says he didn’t listen to the speeches because he was so caught up in seeing black and white people together, standing up to Highway Patrol officers who surrounded the Capitol as if protecting a fortress: “It was something energizing about the crowd.”

He sees today’s Black Lives Matter activists displaying the same kind of righteous energy that young people had 50 years ago: “It is a blossoming now of stuff that was planted then.”

]]> 3, 24 Jul 2016 22:00:33 +0000
Bomber dead after blast at music festival in Germany Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:16:52 +0000 ANSBACH, Germany — A man who blew himself up and injured 12 people after being turned away from an open-air music festival was a 27-year-old Syrian who had been denied asylum, Bavaria’s top security official said early Monday.

“We don’t know if this man planned on suicide or if he had the intention of killing others,” Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann said.

He added that the man’s request for asylum was rejected a year ago, but he was allowed to remain in Germany on account of the situation in Syria.

Three of the 12 victims suffered serious injuries, Herrmann said.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Ansbach said the attacker’s motive wasn’t clear.

“If there is an Islamist link or not is purely speculation at this point,” said the spokesman, Michael Schrotberger.

The explosion in the southern German state came just two days after a man went on a deadly rampage at a Munich mall, killing nine people, and after an ax attack on a train near Wuerzburg last Monday wounded five.

Authorities said they were alerted to an explosion in the city’s center shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The open-air concert with about 2,500 in attendance was shut down as a precaution after the explosion.

Germany, and Bavaria in particular, have been on edge following the attacks in Munich and on the train, which in turn came shortly after a Tunisian man in a truck killed 84 people when he plowed through a festive crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, on the French Riviera.

Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk reported that about 200 police officers and 350 rescue personnel were brought in following the explosion in Ansbach.

]]> 9 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 23:23:44 +0000
Turks rally against failed coup, voice fears about crackdown Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:07:06 +0000 ISTANBUL — They ostensibly rallied here on Sunday to protest the attempted overthrow of their government. But what seemed to worry them was the direction of that same government and a crackdown led by its powerful leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I’m afraid. Erdogan is trying to become a dictator,” said Ahmet, a 21-year-old university student who joined thousands of other demonstrators here in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

He declined to give his last name because, like many in Turkey, he feared being swept up in the extraordinary purge of state institutions triggered by a failed coup on July 15.

The measures have involved the detention, suspension and firing of tens of thousands of people, including soldiers, police, judges and civil servants. On Saturday, Turkey’s presidency ordered the closure of 1,043 schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions.

Participants at the rally waved Turkish flags and chanted nationalist slogans. Some drank beer – an unspoken rebuke to the Islamic orientation of Erdogan’s government – and held up posters showing the visage of Turkey’s secular founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

They were united in expressing concern about the turbulence shaking this Middle East nation of 75 million people. Many also seemed careful not criticize their president – at least not in public or in front of foreign journalists.

A climate of fear has gripped many Turks, who say the government’s response seems more about Erdogan consolidating his power than just rooting out coup plotters. Turkey’s allies, including the United States, have expressed similar concerns.

Supporters of the Republican People’s Party – the country’s main opposition, referred to here as the CHP – have long been critical of the Turkish leader’s religious agenda and attempts to silence journalists and critics.

Even so, the CHP’s secular-leaning leadership tried to extend an olive branch to Erdogan and his Islamist allies. The party organized Sunday’s rally, and its officials formally extended an invitation to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and its supporters.

That gesture felt at odds with comments on Friday by the CHP’s head, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. He suggested that Erdogan had taken the purge too far.

“We want all those who are prosecuted on coup-related charges to be tried in line with democracy and the rule of law. We don’t want a witch hunt,” Kilicdaroglu told NTV, a private broadcaster.

]]> 1, 24 Jul 2016 22:48:08 +0000
Thousands of detained coup suspects mistreated in Turkey, lawyers say Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:01:27 +0000 ANKARA, Turkey — Thousands of people taken into custody since Turkey’s attempted coup are being held in sports facilities and stables, where some have been beaten and mistreated, according to lawyers familiar with the cases.

Lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association’s human rights commission say members have reported the alleged abuses after trying to meet with clients. Other lawyers and human rights organizations have made similar allegations.

In addition to verbal and physical abuse, clients complained about a lack of food and that their hands have been bound for days, said Sercan Aran, deputy head of the commission. The mistreatment is “systematic,” and lawyers have been prevented from documenting physical signs of beatings and abuse, he said.

The Turkish government strongly denies the allegations, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed that due process is being followed.

“We are doing everything according to the law,” said a Turkish official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with government protocol. He said the law is being upheld and that he “categorically denied” that prisoners have been abused in custody.

The United States and European nations have urged Turkey to maintain democracy and respect for human rights after the brazen attempted coup, which left at least 232 people dead as a rebel faction of the military bombed parliament and police bases with hijacked aircraft.

In a large-scale crackdown on alleged coup plotters, more than 9,000 people, mostly soldiers, have been taken into custody, while 50,000 others have been fired from their jobs or suspended while they are investigated. Erdogan, who has declared a state of emergency, has pledged to “cleanse” what he has described as a “cancer” in the country.

“Right now, law is suspended,” Aran said. “We see investigations going on without any rule of law. Yes, the military intervention was stopped, the military dictatorship was stopped, but right now we see they are trying to build a civilian dictatorship.”

The state of emergency has compounded fears among lawyers and human rights groups that the rule of law will be eroded, which would threaten Turkey’s long-standing bid to join the European Union.

“The idea that Turkey, a country seeking European Union membership, would not respect the law is absurd,” the Turkish official said, pointing out that 1,200 of the detained were released on Saturday. “All we care about is concrete evidence of complicity in this grave assault,” he said.

Before the emergency law was announced, detainees were already being held without charge longer than legally allowed, lawyers said. Under the new measures, suspects can be held for up to 30 days.

Some are also being denied the right to speak privately with lawyers and to call a next of kin, according to lawyers and families searching for information about missing relatives.

The Ankara Bar Association has set up a 24-hour hotline and crisis center, where phones ring incessantly. Out of fear of being seen as sympathetic to coup plotters or critical of the government, most lawyers and family members declined to be quoted by name.

“Crisis Center,” said one curly haired lawyer working at the center, as she picked up one of four phone lines. “Have you called previously?”

“Tell me his name,” she then said in response to the caller.

She typed the name of the caller’s missing husband into her computer and came up with a match. “He’s in the academy sports hall,” she said, then added: “Don’t go, they aren’t letting anyone visit.”

She told the caller that he hasn’t been appointed a lawyer, but to call back the next day for an update.

On Thursday, 2,398 soldiers were in custody in the Ankara area, according to a list of names that the police had sent to the lawyers. Some 1,086 were being held at a police academy’s sports facility, it showed. Another 452 are being held at a volleyball court, 354 at another sports facility and 304 at an equestrian center.

Others were being held at an intelligence building and other detention facilities. On Friday, the police sent more names, bringing the number of soldiers recorded as being in custody in Ankara to 4,218.

The call center covers only the Ankara area. For the families of people detained in Istanbul and elsewhere, there is no such service.

The Ankara bar association has assigned 961 of its lawyers to coup-related cases, but most of the bar’s 3,000 criminal lawyers are too afraid to take them on or politically opposed to doing so, Aran said.

Dogukan Toguc Cankurt, another lawyer with the bar association, said that lawyers representing clients connected with the coup have themselves faced harassment.

“If they try to record signs of torture, they face threats and violence from the police,” he said. “A colleague that tried to photograph evidence of torture was made to erase the photos.”

The prosecutors office gave the Ankara Bar Association a list of 189 lawyers who aren’t allowed to represent coup plotters.

Most had represented cases linked to the Gulen movement in the past. The Turkish government accuses its leader, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, of being behind the coup, a claim he has denied.

In one official written statement, a general who denied involvement in the coup said he was unarmed and did not resist arrest when police forces turned up at his office. His lawyer added a note at the end asking that his client be referred for medical examinations to record “wounds” on his body.

“I have not benefited from the right to talk to my client,” the lawyer noted.

The government official said that injuries may have occurred at the time of arrest.

“During many arrests, fire was exchanged and there was resistance from coup plotters,” he said. “Individuals in need of medical assistance receive necessary treatment.”

However, Andrew Gardner, a researcher for Amnesty International, said he didn’t think that the fact that beatings had taken place in custody was “in dispute whatsoever.”

“There are a litany of abuses that have been reported to us,” he said. “There are serious allegations of widespread mistreatment and mutually corroborating reports going beyond beatings to high levels of abuse.”

Gardner also said that complaints of sexual abuse had been reported to Amnesty.

One lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said a detainee reported being raped in custody.

Gardner said it is not possible that authorities have collected evidence on all of the suspects.

“And if they don’t have concrete evidence, they shouldn’t be detaining them,” he said.

A woman who had traveled from Britain in search of her missing brother, a military officer, said the family last heard from him the morning after the coup via a text message that read: “I’m fine.”

A lawyer at the call center explained to the woman that her brother is in a high-security prison and that in normal times, three relatives would be allowed to visit.

“But these aren’t normal times,” the lawyer said, adding that the officer has been appointed a lawyer.

“These are the brave ones,” the woman said of the lawyers in the call center, who work for a nominal fee, doing shifts through the night. “They have the courage to help us. It gives me some hope.”

]]> 1 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 20:20:43 +0000
Commanding debut at box office for ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 22:58:34 +0000 LOS ANGELES — “Star Trek Beyond” has landed atop the weekend box office.

Paramount’s latest outing with the Starship Enterprise soared to $59.6 million in domestic ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday, knocking Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” from the No. 1 spot. “Pets” fell to second place, adding an additional $29.3 million to its stellar $260 million earnings over the past three weeks.

“Star Trek Beyond” is the third film in the rebooted franchise that kicked off with J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” This latest film opened $20 million behind that 2009 release, but experts say the returns are still promising for Paramount.

“This is a solid enough debut to tell them there’s still enough interest in ‘Star Trek’ to keep this franchise alive,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker comScore.

“Star Trek Beyond” opened in line with industry expectations, he said, despite the unexpected death last month of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov.

“The tragic passing of Anton Yelchin made it bittersweet for fans,” Dergarabedian said. “I don’t think that took away anything from the film. Fans can pay their respects to Yelchin by watching him on the screen.”

“The Secret Life of Pets” and “Ghostbusters” bested – or tied – the weekend’s other new releases. Warner Bros.’ low-budget horror film “Lights Out” opened with $21.6 million – more than quadrupling its reported $5 million budget – to tie with “Ghostbusters” for third place.

Fox’s animated “Ice Age: Collision Course” debuted with $21 million. Fox Searchlight’s “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” opened outside the top 10 with $1.8 million.

The documentary “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” from conservative political pundit Dinesh D’Souza, edged into the top 10 in its second week with $3.7 million.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Dergarabedian said. “But it’s obviously due to the timing with the Republican National Convention last week and the Democratic National Convention this week.”

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

1. “Star Trek Beyond,” $59.6 million ($30 million international).

2. “The Secret Life of Pets,” $29.3 million ($10 million international).

3. (tie) “Lights Out,” $21.6 million ($8.3 million international).

3. (tie) “Ghostbusters,” $21.6 million ($10.5 million international).

5. “Ice Age: Collision Course,” $21 million ($30 million international).

6. “Finding Dory,” $7.2 million ($19.5 international).

7. “The Legend of Tarzan,” $6.4 million ($44.7 million international).

8. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” $4.4 million ($1 million international).

9. “Kabali (Tamil & Telugu),” $4.1 million.

10. “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” $3.7 million.

]]> 2 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 19:30:18 +0000
Democratic Party head resigns amid scandal over anti-Sanders emails Sun, 24 Jul 2016 14:35:54 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic National Committee chairwoman resigned under fire Sunday, on the eve of a national convention meant to project competence and unity in contrast to what Democrats say was the chaos of the Republicans’ gathering last week.

The disarray threatened to upend Hillary Clinton’s plan to paint the Democrats as the party best prepared to lead a divided and anxious country and herself as the leader who can offer an optimistic alternative to Republican Donald Trump.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced aside by the release of thousands of embarrassing emails among party officials that appeared to show coordinated efforts to help Clinton at the expense of her rival in the Democratic primaries. That contradicted claims by the party and the Clinton campaign that the process was open and fair for her leading challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The trove of messages released by hackers on the website WikiLeaks proved to be the last straw for Democrats, including top Clinton advisers.

“Myself and other Democrats who were Clinton supporters, we have been saying this was serious. It truly violates what the DNC’s proper role should be,” said Edward G. Rendell, a former DNC chairman and former Pennsylvania governor.

“The DNC did something incredibly inappropriate here,” and needed to acknowledge that, Rendell said.

Republicans led by Trump jumped to portray the episode as evidence that the system was rigged for Clinton, whom Trump calls “Crooked Hillary.”

“The Democrats are in a total meltdown but the biased media will say how great they are doing!,” Trump exulted on Twitter. “E-mails say the rigged system is alive & well!”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who is Wasserman Schultz’s counterpart, said in an interview “There was no way out. The end has come. There wasn’t any other outcome that was foreseeable.”

Sanders said he was not surprised by the email revelations. He is scheduled to address the opening night of the Democratic convention on Monday. While he is expected to stress unity, many of his supporters say they are furious about what they see as evidence of party bias.

The Clinton campaign – and several cybersecurity experts – said the leak was a political ploy carried out by the Russian government to aid in the election of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

That didn’t stop a massive political firestorm directed largely at Wasserman Schultz – nor strong pressure from the Clinton campaign and others to step aside, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the negotiations.

She finally did, but not before speaking with President Obama – and not without a fight, according to Democrats familiar with the negotiations.

A member of Congress from south Florida, Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that her resignation will take effect upon the close of the convention. Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic strategist, will take over as interim chair, according to the DNC.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory.”

The controversy blew up at a key political moment for Clinton: just as convention delegates were descending on Philadelphia – and just as her campaign was hoping to patch up disagreements with Sanders supporters over superdelegates, the party platform and her choice of running mate, Virginia Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, who is seen by some as insufficiently progressive.

Erin Bilbray, a DNC member from Nevada who supported Sanders in the primaries, said there had been talk about some delegates turning their backs on Wasserman Schultz in a show of protest during the convention if she didn’t step down.

“There definitely would have been some anger in the convention hall,” Bilbray said. “Hopefully, this will be a good thing for unity in Philadelphia.”

In pressuring Wasserman Schultz to resign, campaign officials argued that she had become a lightning rod for divisions within the party.

Democrats said pressure was applied both publicly and behind the scenes, in hopes of getting the embarrassing episode over as quickly as possible. Democrats began lobbying Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta on Saturday, arguing that the campaign had to step in before the damage worsened.

And it may not be the end of it. R.T. Rybak, a former Minneapolis mayor and a DNC vice chairman, said in an interview that Wasserman Schultz did the right thing by resigning and “allowing the rest of us to clean up this mess so that we can quickly pivot to talking about Hillary Clinton.”

Rybak called for DNC staff who wrote emails aiming to discredit Sanders or any other candidate to be dismissed.

“There is some deeply disturbing information in the emails, but they don’t need to distract from the convention if the DNC takes clear and immediate action,” Rybak said. “We should clearly state that any person from the DNC who worked to discredit another presidential candidate, especially on DNC time and equipment, should be fired immediately. No question.”

According to one Democratic member of Congress involved in the discussions leading up to her resignation, Wasserman Schultz strongly resisted giving up her position amid discussions that staff should shoulder some of the blame. Among the options discussed was having Amy Dacey, the DNC’s chief executive officer, put out a statement, according to two Democratic sources.

That served to exacerbate other Democrats’ frustration with her – and led to accusations that she had made the situation worse by not acting swiftly to step aside as the convention loomed.

“There was a lot of drama,” this lawmaker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “She made this as painful as she could. She did not want to go. She was in a meeting this afternoon and blamed it all on Amy Dacey. … She wasn’t going to resign until the president called her. She put a lot of people through hell.”

“We were going to come into the week and be united,” said the member of Congress. “But she did ugly and messy and stepped on the message of unity.”

This person said that senior Democrats expect there to be additional departures from the DNC’s senior staff in coming days.

Brazile is taking over as the interim chair, but discussions were underway Sunday about who might be suitable to step in as chair between now and the November election. Among the Democrats mentioned: former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Steve Israel of New York and EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. All are loyal supporters and trusted allies of Clinton.

Less clear is how much turmoil remains within the party, even with Wasserman Schultz gone. According to one top Democratic official who requested anonymity to speak candidly, “People feel the culture of the DNC is not right, and it starts at the top.”

In addition to the friction with Sanders and his supporters that was revealed in the email hack, donors were also upset over the way they were talked about in some of the emails, and were complaining: “They talk about us that way?”

In one email exchange in May, national finance director Jordan Kaplan and one of his deputies, Alexandra Shapiro, strategized about where to seat a major Florida donor, Stephen Bittel, at a DNC fundraiser featuring President Obama. Bittel, a real estate mogul in south Florida, appears to have exasperated the officials, the documents suggest.

“He doesn’t sit next to POTUS!” Kaplan wrote.

“Bittel will be sitting in the (expletive)-est corner I can find,” responded Shapiro, who also referred to donors who had yet to confirm for the event as “clowns.”

Wasserman Schultz expects to continue to help out through the end of the convention.

In addition, Clinton issued a statement in which she announced that Wasserman Schultz would serve as honorary chair of the campaign’s 50-state program as well as continuing as a surrogate nationally and in Florida.

In a statement, President Obama said he was “grateful” for Wasserman Schultz’s service. “Her fundraising and organizing skills were matched only by her passion, her commitment and her warmth. And no one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”

Others were less generous.

“On the whole I’d rather she not be in Philadelphia,” said James Carville, a longtime Clinton confidant.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said that the DNC would need to investigate the hack, including checking to see whether any emails were “doctored,” and that the party would “take appropriate action.”

“What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state hackers broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention here, and that’s disturbing.”

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Mook’s Russia theory is “absurd.” Asked about Mook’s allegation that the Russians were trying to help Trump by releasing damaging DNC emails, Manafort said, “It’s a far reach, obviously.”

The Washington Post reported last month that Russian government hackers penetrated the DNC, stealing opposition research about Donald Trump and compromising the party’s email and chat systems.

But that explanation seems unlikely to mollify Sanders supporters who are angry about the messages and distrustful of Clinton and the party.

The emails revealed a DNC official apparently discussing how to use Sanders’s religion against him to help Clinton ahead of the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries. In another email, a Clinton campaign lawyer suggested to the DNC how it should respond to claims from the Sanders campaign that it was improperly using a joint fundraising committee with state parties.

They also reveal the prized perks given to the party’s top donors.

Central themes of the Democrats’ convention will be optimism and inclusion, in direct contrast to what Clinton calls Trump’s divisive and dysfunctional politics. Democrats have planned to use the spectacle of the Republican convention as Exhibit A for how not to lead.

DNC spokesman, Luis Miranda, who announced Brazile as the interim party leader in a Twitter message Sunday, had earlier recapped the Republican convention by saying “it was a chaotic week that set a low bar.”

Monday’s convention program is expected to open with some of the party’s biggest political stars, and it will highlight some of the party’s most progressive voices.

Sanders, first lady Michelle Obama and Warren, the senator from Massachusetts and a liberal firebrand, are expected to kick off the opening session.

Sanders moved quickly on Sunday to separate the dispute with the DNC from his support for Clinton. He strongly denied that the revelations had changed his support for Clinton and said the real threat was Trump.

“To my mind, what is most important now is the defeating of the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime, Donald Trump, who is not qualified to be president by temperament, not qualified to be president by the ideas that he has brought forth,” Sanders said on ABC.

Brazile, a vice chair of the convention, wasalso caught up in the leak. Asked for comment in an email from a Washington Post reporter about negotiations between the Sanders campaign and the DNC about the composition of the party’s convention committees, Brazile forwarded the reporter’s request to DNC officials.

“I have no intentions of touching this,” she said. “Why? Because I will cuss out the Sanders camp!”

]]> 248, 24 Jul 2016 23:41:29 +0000
Suicide attack in Baghdad kills at least 14 people Sun, 24 Jul 2016 13:39:23 +0000 BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added.

Three more civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bomb explosion in an outdoor market in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, another police officer said.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

In an online statement, the IS group claimed responsibility for the Kadhimiyah attack, saying it targeted a gathering of security forces and Shiite militia members. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. Security forces and public areas, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, are one of the most frequent targets for the Islamic State group, which controls key areas in mainly northern and western Iraq.

Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries.


]]> 1 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 18:33:53 +0000
Floods kill 154 people in northern China Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:33:34 +0000 BEIJING — Torrential rains that have swept through China have killed at least 154 people and left 124 missing, officials said Saturday, with most of the casualties reported from a northern province where villagers complained about lack of warning before a deadly flash flood.

The rains, which began on Monday, have flooded streams, triggered landslides and destroyed homes across the country. Most of the fatalities were reported in the northern province of Hebei, where the provincial Department of Civil Affairs said 114 people were killed and 111 others were missing.

More than 300,000 people were evacuated in Hebei, and the province made another round of appropriations of tents, blankets, rain boots and generators, the department said.

In the Hebei city of Xingtai alone, 25 people were killed and another 13 were missing.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 20:59:10 +0000
Another ship sunk for artificial reef Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:25:18 +0000 POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Florida officials hope that a former tanker that was sunk Saturday off the state’s southern coast will become a major scuba diving attraction – and one of the biggest contributions to the state’s artificial reef system.

The aquatic attraction named Lady Luck became the newest centerpiece of Shipwreck Park, a series of 16 underwater dive wrecks full of marine life.

“There are lots of ships that are sunk,” said Tom DiGiorgio, chairman of the Economic Development Council of Pompano Beach. “But this will be the only one that is truly interactive and with artwork on it.”

As one of the most accessible major dive sites in the nation, Lady Luck is expected to lure approximately 35,000 divers each year. DiGiorgio said that after a 10-year search for the right vessel, Pompano Beach has finally found an economic engine for Florida’s tourism industry.

“It’s going to help the hotels, the restaurants and the ancillary effect is going to ripple out for years to come,” said DiGiorgio.

The 324-foot tanker was built in 1967 and was towed from New York to Florida earlier this year.

It features three larger-than-life shark statues, a life-sized mermaid and an interactive art exhibit that will display locally produced underwater artwork.

Artist Dennis MacDonald said he hopes his design will attract tourists and marine life and contribute to Florida’s artificial reef system.

Divers have the ability to swim up to card-slinging octopuses, fake slot machines and poker tables. Lady Luck includes 16 staterooms, a captain’s deck and an interactive art exhibit with a rotating gallery display of locally produced underwater artwork.

Shipwreck Park chairman Greg Harrison said that the funding for the creation of the artificial reef was split between the city of Pompano Beach and Pompano Beach Isle Casino.

The attraction will be free for certified divers with their own boats.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 20:28:53 +0000
Poverty sends Cameroon women to rock quarries Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:14:58 +0000 MAROUA, Cameroon — In a northern Cameroon town menaced by food insecurity and suicide bombers, women as old as 85 are spending long, grueling days crushing rocks into gravel to earn a living.

The dangerous, sometimes fatal work often pays no more than $2 per day, but it has increasingly become the best option for women like Marie Nangatai, 73, who began laboring three years ago at one of dozens of rock-crushing sites in the mountains near Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s Far North region.

“My whole body hurts, we are working like animals. But there’s nothing we can do,” Nangatai said recently during a short break in her 12-hour workday, sitting under the hot sun.

When she began reporting to gravel sites in 2013, northern Cameroon was reeling from four years of alternating droughts and floods that doomed crops and left families with little or no food reserves, according to the World Food Program.

More recently, the region has been targeted by the Nigeria-based extremist group Boko Haram, which stepped up attacks in Cameroon last year. Suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted marketplaces and other high-traffic areas, adding insecurity to economic woes.

One consequence of thje dual crises has been an influx of women turning to rock-crushing to feed their families. Marthe Doumadate said that when she began in 2010, there were often no more than 10 people working alongside her.

“When I first came there was no one here, I was alone with my mom and my little brothers,” she said. “Now I can say there are between 150 and 200 people here.”

There are a few men, but the majority of the workers are women who have either lost their husbands or receive no support from them.

They have not been deterred by horror stories of women being maimed and killed by falling rubble.

“Sometimes the earth falls down on us. There are already four women who have been killed here,” said Suzanne Djidja.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 21:00:38 +0000
Balloonist back on Earth after record-breaking circuit of world Sat, 23 Jul 2016 23:32:04 +0000 CANBERRA, Australia – A cold and exhausted 65-year-old Russian balloonist came back to Earth with a bruising thud in the Australian Outback on Saturday after claiming a new record by flying solo around the world nonstop in 11 days, officials said.

Fedor Konyukhov landed 100 miles east of Northam, where he started his journey on July 12, about three hours after he flew over the same town on his return, flight coordinator John Wallington said.

“He’s landed, he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s happy,” Wallington said from the landing site. “It’s just amazing.”

“It’s fantastic – the record’s broken, everyone’s safe. It’s all good,” he added.

Konyukhov’s gondola – a carbon box just over 6 feet high and long and 5 feet, 11 inches wide – bounced twice over 200 yards in an empty field and tipped on its side before the support crew grabbed it to prevent the deflating balloon from dragging it farther, crew member Steve Griffin said.

“He’s got a bruise on his cheek, but he’s pretty well unscathed,” Griffin said.

Video of the landing showed Konyukhov smiling but silent as he emerged from the gondola. He stroked his bearded left cheek and wiped his eyes as he was hugged and cheered by supporters.

Konyukhov demonstrated precision navigation of his 184-foot-tall helium and hot-air balloon by returning to Australia directly over the west coast city of Perth, then over the airfield at Northam, 60 miles to the east by road.

American businessman Steve Fossett also started from Northam to set a record of 13 days, eight hours for his 20,500-mile journey in 2002.

Konyukhov, a Russian Orthodox priest, took a longer route and roughly 11 days, six hours to complete the circumnavigation.

Crews in six helicopters followed the 1.8-ton balloon from Northam inland to help him land.

His journey of more than 21,100 miles took him through a thunderstorm in the Antarctic Circle, where temperatures outside the gondola fell to minus-58 Fahrenheit.

The journey also took him to speeds up to 150 miles per hour and heights up to 34,823 feet.

Konyukhov aimed to get four hours of sleep a day in naps of 30 or 40 minutes.

]]> 2, 23 Jul 2016 19:35:26 +0000
‘Black Lives’ theme adds unlikely allies Sat, 23 Jul 2016 23:16:55 +0000 MEDFORD, Mass. — An attorney in Oregon is supporting political candidates who promise to address racial profiling in policing. In suburban Ohio, a mother says she and her friends will push for better racial integration in their children’s high school. And in rural Massachusetts, a young father has launched a Facebook group called “White Men for Black Lives.”

After standing silently on the sidelines, some whites who agree with demands by civil rights activists for greater police reforms say they’re being spurred to action following this summer’s fatal shootings of black men by officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the deadly retaliation attacks on police in Texas and Louisiana.

“I was tired of every discussion on Facebook turning into a debate between Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter,” said Colin Allen, a 30-year-old Bernardston, Massachusetts, resident. “I wanted to start a conversation specifically with white men who know that something has to be done.”

Robert Milesnick, a 39-year-old civil attorney in Portland, Oregon, penned a sharply worded essay titled “My White Male Privilege Is Complicit In Black Male Killing” that ran in the local African-American newspaper this month.

“At some point, to not do or say anything is complicit,” Milesnick said. He’ll be putting that frustration into action by supporting local candidates who pledge to address racial profiling and other policing issues that disproportionately affect people of color, issues he would not have necessarily made priorities in years past.

In Shaker Heights, a diverse and wealthy suburb of Cleveland, 50-year-old Lisa Vahey said she and other mothers at her son’s high school are looking to turn an informal Facebook discussion about race into more concrete action.

The group, calling itself Shaker Heights High School CommUnity Builders, will be pushing administrators this school year to better integrate sports and other extracurricular activities that tend to get segregated along racial lines, she said.

“We come to this as parents,” Vahey said. “So we’re thinking about what message we’re sending to our kids by our actions or by our inaction.”

But not everyone has been able to turn their sympathy into action. At a Whole Foods store in the Boston suburb of Medford, Joanne Meehan said she would never consider speaking out on social media or attending a rally or protest – basic actions many activists are imploring of supportive whites.

She said her comments haven’t been warmly received the few times she has tried to broach the shootings with friends.

“My white friends say, ‘All lives matter,’ and I try to tell them we can say that because we’re not black,” said the Boston mother of three grown children. “Their lives have meant less to a lot of people.”

The recent killings of police officers complicate matters for some whites, who feel they have to choose sides and don’t want to come across as against police, said Barbara Simmons, executive director of the Peace Center, a social justice organization in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

But Allen, the creator of “White Men for Black Lives,” said it’s critical for more whites to fight through their personal discomfort. Before this summer’s shootings, Allen said he also tended to avoid difficult conversations about race and never attended rallies by Black Lives Matter or other groups.

“There are too many of us just trying to live in our own little, private world, away from all the bad stuff out there,” Allen said.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 19:16:55 +0000
At Democrats’ convention, Clinton will stress optimism, inclusiveness Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:59:45 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — After Donald Trump presented a dark picture of the country at his convention in Cleveland last week, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats plan to project a more optimistic and inclusive vision of the future when they convene here starting Monday.

But the challenge for Clinton and her newly minted running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will be to avoid becomingcheerleaders for the status quo and instead infuse that hopeful tone into an argument for change that could galvanize a frustrated and divided electorate.

Democrats promise four nights of speeches and entertainment that will highlight the core theme of Clinton’s campaign: “Stronger together.” The program will alternate among political heavyweights led by President Obama and former president Bill Clinton, celebrities such as Katy Perry and Lena Dunham, and everyday Americans whose aim will be to make Clinton appear more appealing and approachable.

Clinton’s advisers are confident that the Philadelphia festivities will present a far more united Democratic Party than Republicans were able to display at their convention, which was repeatedly marred by outbursts of dissent and division.

Central to that mission is the Monday night speech by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., who is charged with trying to rally his fervent supporters behind Clinton’s banner after a bruising primary battle, although there is lingering resistance to Clinton among some of his loyalists.

The harsh tone of Trump’s convention – symbolized by the anti-Clinton chants of “Lock her up!” – gives the Democratic nominee-in-waiting and her allies an opportunity to expand her appeal to disaffected voters who are hungry for change but perhaps reluctant to embrace Trump and the brand of politics he annunciated in Cleveland. At the same time, the Democrats similarly risk overreach in their denunciations of Trump.

Another danger is that if protests outside the arena turn violent, it could mar the party’s effort to provide a united and relatively peaceful contrast to the Republican event.

“The Republicans painted a black canvas with maybe a little stripe of red, which would be Donald Trump’s tie,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart said. “Unexpectedly, the Democrats end up with a white canvas and a chance to paint it in any direction that they wish.”

All year, Clinton has struggled to find a message that both energizes the Democratic faithful and reaches to a different part of the general electorate disenchanted with politics as usual. This will be her challenge on Thursday night, when she becomes the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major party.

“If she is so concerned about the progressive revolt that days one, two, three and four of the convention are saying, ‘I’m Bernie Sanders Lite with pantsuits,’ then this whole group turned off by Trump has nowhere to go,” said Henry Olsen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

But Housing Secretary Julián Castro, who was in the competition to become Clinton’s running mate, noted the importance of energizing the coalition that helped Obama win two elections.

“We need an infusion of motivation and energy to remind folks that we can’t take this election for granted,” he said. “The nature of modern presidential elections, given the country’s partisanship, is that these are close elections. It’s probably not going to be a blowout, and people need to understand how important their individual vote is.”

Four days of programming at the Wells Fargo Center will showcase the Democratic Party’s diversity and progressivism, designed to help as many voters as possible identify with Clinton and the rest of the ticket. The speakers will be white, black, Latino and Asian; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; old and young; gay and straight; male and female. There is expected to be a heavy focus on such issues as immigration, gay rights and gun control.

Having watched the Republicans fight among themselves in Cleveland, Democrats will arrive in Philadelphia full of confidence. But some in the party suggest that, like much about Trump over the past year, what looks to be a problem for him does not always become one.

“We need to be agnostic on just how negative its consequences will be or indeed whether they’ll be negative at all,” said William Galston, domestic policy adviser in Bill Clinton’s White House and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said, “If she lets this election get defined as change versus status quo, where Trump’s change and she is not, that’s one way she can lose this thing.”

]]> 6, 23 Jul 2016 19:12:39 +0000
Americans’ support for stricter gun laws grows Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:55:54 +0000 Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws by margins that have grown wider after a steady drumbeat of shootings in recent months, but they also are pessimistic that change will happen anytime soon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

“If you live in the United States in these days right now, you have to be concerned,” said Milonne Ambroise, a 63-year-old administrative assistant from Decatur, Georgia. “You could be on the street somewhere. You could be at a shopping mall thinking there will be a mass shooting and you will be in the middle of it. You can’t not think about it.”

Ambroise, a native of Haiti who moved to the U.S. nearly 50 years ago, said she is now much more alert and on guard whenever she is in public.

“I’m looking for exits. This isn’t something I did before,” she said. “What if I have to run? Where’s the exit? Where would I go?”

The level of concern about being victimized is not uniform, however. Nonwhites are significantly more likely to be very or extremely concerned.

Alonzo Lassiter, 66, of suburban St. Louis, worries that his autistic 17-year-old son could be the victim of gun violence, either by a robber or the police.

“If somebody told him to get on the ground and put his hands up – or told him to give up his headphones – he wouldn’t readily identify those instructions,” said Lassiter, who is black. “He may be an easy target.”

He said straw purchasers who buy and then resell guns to ineligible felons and teenagers have flooded some urban neighborhoods with firearms and need to be stopped.

The poll was conducted July 7 to July 11, shortly after a string of high-profile shootings. That included the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 50 dead, including the gunman, and 53 others wounded, and the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. Most interviews took place after the sniper attack that killed five officers in Dallas.

A majority of respondents expressed a desire for a national approach to gun laws, rather than a patchwork of state laws or local regulations, even though Congress has thus far failed to act on many of the initiatives the poll showed Americans support. Yet less than half of respondents said they believe gun laws will indeed get tougher in the coming year.

By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents said laws that limit gun ownership do not infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms. But the responses also revealed a partisan divide: 87 percent of Democrats support stricter gun laws compared with 41 percent of Republicans.

Gender and geography are other dividing lines, the poll found. Women and those who live in cities and suburbs are more likely to support gun restrictions than men and those who live in rural areas.

Americans find common ground on other issues. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they support requiring background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through other private sales. They also back a ban on gun sales to people on the federal terrorism watch list even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

“Why should it only be the dealers that have to do the background checks? At gun shows, individual sellers should be required to do the background checks so they don’t end up selling them to the criminal element,” said John Wallace, a disabled Vietnam veteran and former gun dealer who lives in Limestone, Maine, and owns several guns.

Despite the support for tighter gun laws, majorities oppose banning handguns, imposing an Australia-style gun buyback program or making gun manufacturers or sellers liable if guns are later used in a crime.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 19:13:55 +0000
Athlete stops alleged sex assault outside bar in Florida Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:55:11 +0000 When Christian Garcia spotted two people having sex behind a dumpster outside the Gainesville, Florida, bar where he was working security early Thursday, he at first passed it off as drunken antics.

But then the University of Florida linebacker realized the woman was unconscious, according to CBS Miami.

“I mean, at that point, I’m like, this isn’t right,” Garcia told CBS affiliate WFOR-TV. “This girl is probably drunk, there’s no possible way she could’ve given consent.”

“I grabbed the guy by the shoulder and said, ‘Get off of her, this isn’t right,’ and the guy yelled at me like, ‘Mind your own business,’ ” Garcia said. “He pulled away from the girl, and then he got aggressive with me. He tried to throw a few punches; his friends were holding him back.”

Garcia told the Gainesville Sun that the man was intoxicated and that after swinging at Garcia, he slipped and “busted his face on the wall.”

Police have identified the man as Christopher Shaw, 34, according to NBC affiliate WTLV. Authorities have charged him with sexual battery and jailed him on a $500,000 bond.

The victim, according to a police reported cited by the Sun, had difficulty speaking, was unable to walk and struggled to keep her eyes open. The report says that the alleged assault, which took place behind a bar called 101 Cantina, was captured on video.

“Upon viewing the videos, it is clear the victim was mentally and physically unable to give consent due to her level of intoxication,” the report says, according to the Sun. “The victim was slumping over and unable to hold up her head. The (defendant) can be seen pushing the victim back up. . . . When pushed back up the victim’s eyes were closed, and her head fell back against the dumpster.”

Shaw told police the woman initiated the contact by pulling him behind the dumpster while he was walking through the alley, the paper reported. Beyond kissing, he denied having sexual contact with the woman – an assertion that is “completely contradicted” by video evidence, according to police.

The athlete told WFOR-TV he had some advice for young people who are out drinking.

“It’s important that you don’t leave without any friends,” he said.

“I mean, this girl, her friends had completely left her at the bar alone when she was blackout drunk.”

]]> 1 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 19:14:50 +0000
California governor denies parole for Manson follower Van Houten Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:59:10 +0000 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Leslie Van Houten, the youngest member of the Manson “family” to take part in a series of gruesome California murders in 1969, has been denied freedom again – her past overshadowing her decades as a model prisoner.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday overturned a parole board recommendation in April that found Van Houten, 66, was no longer the violent woman who helped slaughter a wealthy grocer and his wife.

The board noted that during her 46 years in prison, Van Houten completed college degrees, ran self-help groups for other inmates and had a spotless disciplinary record.

Brown disagreed with their conclusion.

“She remains an unacceptable risk to society if released,” he wrote in a five-page review that denied Van Houten parole for the 20th time.

Her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said he expected Brown’s decision because of the political pressure put upon him.

He said he will challenge the decision in Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he hopes Van Houten’s parole will fare better “because the judges and the courts have less political pressure than does someone like the governor.”

The next parole hearing could come in as little as a year, Pfeiffer said.


At 19, Van Houten was the youngest follower of Charles Manson to take part in killings he orchestrated in hopes of fomenting a race war that he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” after a Beatles song.

She did not take part in the Manson “family” murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in 1969 but did participate in the killings of grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, the next day.

At her parole hearing, Van Houten described how she helped secure a pillow over the woman’s head, wrapped a lamp cord around her neck and held her down while another member of the Manson family began stabbing the woman in her home.

Van Houten said she joined in the attack after Charles “Tex” Watson handed her a knife and told her to “do something.” She stabbed Rosemary La Bianca at least 16 times.

“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” she told the panel.

The La Biancas were stabbed dozens of times, the word “WAR” was carved on Leno La Bianca’s stomach and messages were scrawled on the walls in Rosemary La Bianca’s blood.

“The shocking nature of the crimes left an indelible mark on society,” Brown wrote. “The motive – to trigger a civilization-ending race war by slaughtering innocent people chosen at random – is equally disturbing.”


Brown said it was unclear how Van Houten, a former homecoming queen from suburban Monrovia, California, transformed from a “smart, driven young woman” into a killer.

However, Brown said Van Houten’s statements to a psychologist and the parole panel this year falsely implied that she was “a victim who was forced into participating in the Family without any way out.”

In actuality, Brown wrote, she was willing to kill, wiped away fingerprints at the home after the attacks, and later bragged that the stabbing was “fun.”

“Even two years after the murders, when interviewed by a psychologist, Van Houten admitted that, although she had no present desire to kill anyone, she would have no difficulty doing it again,” Brown said in his statement.

“Gov. Brown has done a good thing here, and I think he sees what we see – that this was an unrepentant killer,” said Lou Smaldino, nephew of the La Biancas.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey and relatives of the victims last month turned in signatures of 140,000 people opposing Van Houten’s release.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 18:33:27 +0000
N.H. lawmaker won’t apologize after calling for Clinton’s execution Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:56:02 +0000 LONDONDERRY, N.H. — To New Hampshire voters, hearing an eyebrow-raising comment from state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Republican and fervent Donald Trump supporter, is nothing new.

He has mocked a female colleague’s breasts, expressed “disgust” at a gay soldier and proudly told reporters to get their heads “out of your butts” in defense of Trump, the Republican presidential nominee. But Baldasaro’s comments took a darker turn this week, when he said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason” over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans while Clinton was serving as secretary of state. The U.S. Secret Service says it’s investigating the comments.

“I’m afraid for her life,” said Joanna Casey, a Democrat and one of Baldasaro’s constituents from Londonderry. “If you feel that way, keep that to yourself. We’ve got enough going on in this country with violence.”

Baldasaro is a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he made his firing squad comments, and is often invited to stand behind Trump on stage at events beyond New Hampshire. Trump has even declared Baldasaro, a Marine Corps veteran, his “favorite vet.”

But Baldasaro’s latest remarks aren’t winning support back home. Prominent New Hampshire Republicans from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to House Speaker Shawn Jasper denounced Baldasaro’s comments.

“Whether a person likes Hillary Clinton or not, the idea that a New Hampshire lawmaker would suggest that a candidate should be executed is just outrageous,” Jasper said. “Obviously, people are going to wonder who we’re electing.”

Trump’s spokeswoman said the candidate “does not agree” with what Baldarsaro said. Baldasaro did not return repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press but told the Boston Globe on Wednesday he stands by his comments “without a doubt.”

Baldasaro was first elected to represent Londonderry in 2006 and is now serving his fifth term. He’s up for re-election again this November. The town of 24,000 is a Republican stronghold – all seven representatives are Republicans. Some of his constituents say Baldasaro’s outspoken nature is exactly why they like him.

“I like people that come out and say what they are thinking. I think that’s why I like Al,” said Phil Borriello, a welder from Londonderry and Trump supporter. Borriello said Baldasaro’s latest comments are “a little over the top,” but he’ll still vote for him this November.

Earlier this year, Baldasaro was at the center of a fiery legislative debate over whether women should be able to expose their breasts in public. On Facebook, Baldasaro accused a female colleague of wanting to turn New Hampshire beaches into “pervert shows,” and he told her: “No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see.”

Republican Rep. Bill O’Brien, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House and a friend of Baldasaro’s, noted that the New Hampshire legislature is made up of residents who make $100 a year and often lack political training. He called Baldasaro’s comments about Clinton “outside the bounds” but said Baldasaro “cares passionately” about being a good lawmaker.

“Often, you’ll have good people who, in order to emphasize a point, will turn to bad rhetoric,” O’Brien said.

Not all New Hampshire voters are willing to chalk the comments up to “bad rhetoric.”

“His comments are an embarrassment to the state of New Hampshire,” said Bob Yarmo, a Democrat from Pelham, a town near Londonderry. “Some nut job is going to pick that up and take it literally.”

]]> 133, 23 Jul 2016 20:10:08 +0000
George Harrison estate objects to use of his music at Republican convention Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:45:00 +0000 LONDON —The estate of former Beatle George Harrison is complaining about the use of his music at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Harrison’s family tweeted Friday that the use of the song “Here Comes the Sun” during the introduction of candidate Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was not authorized and was “offensive and against the wishes of the George Harrison estate.”

Rocker Paul Rodgers also complained about the use of his “All Right Now” at the climax of Trump’s speech.

Earlier in the convention, Queen guitarist Brian May and the band Queen complained about the use of the band’s “We Are the Champions.”

– From news service reports

]]> 4 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 18:41:18 +0000
Iraq swelters during the year’s hottest day Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:04:16 +0000 BAGHDAD — Iraq’s state-run Meteorological Department said on Saturday that it had registered the hottest day so far this year, with maximum temperatures hitting 129 degrees in the southern city of Basra.

Friday’s merciless heat in Basra forced the majority of the residents to almost abandon the streets or to swim in the river. Increasing the’ suffering were chronic electricity outages, caused mainly by the decline in electricity imported from neighboring Iran.

Temperatures are expected to hover around 120 degrees in Basra and continue to decline in the coming days. Temperatures in Baghdad are expected to hit 113 degrees.

The Iraqi Meteorological Department has said that this week’s highs were well above average for this time of year. The heat is expected to decline nationwide, but a similarly unforgiving heat wave is expected next month.

High temperatures in summer are common in Iraq, and endemic electricity outages make life harder for Iraqis when temperatures soar.

To cope with the heat, Iraqis either stay indoors or swim in rivers.

In some public places, showers are set up for those who want to cool down.

The heat waves in recent years only added to the woes Iraqis have endured since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, including daily violence, political wrangling, poor public services, a massive exodus abroad of professionals and high rates of serious crime like kidnappings for ransom, armed robberies and contract killings.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 17:11:08 +0000
Connecticut library plan founders Sat, 23 Jul 2016 19:07:32 +0000 LEBANON, Conn. — The milelong Lebanon, Connecticut, town green seems little changed from the days when French troops camped there during the Revolutionary War. It is hayed each year by local farmers and, in the winter, the town turns part of it into an ice skating rink.

The same arrangement that has kept away the kind of development that has swallowed up similar greens around New England is now creating an issue for town officials hoping to expand the small library on the green. According to records that include a court document dating to 1705, the town doesn’t own the land.

Instead, it belongs to the “heirs and assigns” of 51 original proprietors, the 17th and early 18th-century investors in the property. That’s probably about 10,000 people, said town historian Alicia Wayland.

“When people say to the town, ‘Gee, look at all that space, we could really use another tennis court or something,’ they’ve been able to just say, ‘But we don’t own the land,’ ” the 83-year-old Wayland said. “Nobody has ever tried to get those people together to turn over a deed to the town. Now, of course it would be impossible to find those people.”

Numerous historical buildings, and now tourist attractions, line the green. They include the homes of patriots Jonathan Trumbull and William Williams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as Connecticut’s Revolutionary War office, which was visited by George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and others.

The 7,400-square-foot Jonathan Trumbull Library, built in 1967, has a $5.8 million expansion plan that would almost double its size. Library director Julie Culp says the plan would affect about 1 percent of the green. The library’s board has secured a $1 million Connecticut State Library construction grant as well as a $1 million private grant.

But those are contingent on the town showing ownership of the property, and Culp says that’s impossible to do.

She said town officials have been meeting to decide whether it is worth hiring a lawyer to explore legal options, but have so far made no decisions.

Culp said many are worried about opening a legal can of worms over questions such as, “Why does the town have liability insurance on a piece of land it doesn’t own?” Or, “Why doesn’t anyone, including the town or the farmers who grow hay on the land, pay any property taxes?”

The town’s first selectman did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Wayland said some have brought up the possibility of taking the land by eminent domain, but that has proven to be an unpopular option.

“They could,” Wayland said. “But do you want to start another Revolution? Nobody wants to do eminent domain in a town like this. You have to have a meeting of the minds of all the people who live here, especially those who still have a legal claim, even if that amounts to a claim for maybe one blade of grass.”

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 18:01:57 +0000
Immigrants’ gardens reflect a Connecticut small town’s growing pains Sat, 23 Jul 2016 18:41:41 +0000 UNCASVILLE, Conn. — No ornate archway marks it. No obvious business district with exotic signs and storefronts sets it apart. But in the quiet neighborhoods around two of the nation’s largest casinos, a sort of suburban Chinatown has been growing for over a decade.

Drawn from New York and Boston by good-paying jobs at the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods resorts, Chinese and other Asian immigrants have been buying homes, raising families and growing their own food in what had once been largely white communities along Connecticut’s Thames River.

“Fresh air and more trees. I can even fish,” Xu Song Mu, a 62-year-old former Mohegan Sun worker who moved from Queens with his family about eight years ago, said through a translator as he loaded his SUV with fishing gear one July day. “In New York, I couldn’t do that.”

The influx has caused tension with some locals, who complain about too many people crammed into single-family homes and of front lawns in well-manicured neighborhoods turned into miniature farms to feed large families.


Enforcement, education among the Chinese community and, more recently, big job cuts at the casinos have all helped diminish risky practices like “hot-bedding” – workers cramming into houses and sleeping in shifts – town officials say. But some longtime residents remain unhappy.

“I kind of wish it was quiet like before,” said Peter Bulyk, a 70-year-old retiree whose house abuts a wooded trail many casino workers traverse to get from their homes to Mohegan Sun. “It’s a nuisance hearing them walking and talking all hours of the night.”

Stephen Fan, a 34-year-old Norwich native who has spotlighted his hometown’s Chinese community in an architecture and photo exhibit next on display in Oslo, Norway, said the persistent grumbling shows relations still need work.

“Had these been hipsters from Williamsburg doing the same things – starting little gardens, living communally, walking to work – I think it would have been received very differently,” the Brooklyn designer said.

What’s happening in Connecticut can be seen – or anticipated – elsewhere.

A similar demographic shift is at work near the Sands Casino in the old steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said Chloe Taft, a former Yale lecturer and author of “From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City.” Other states in the Northeast, where more casinos open each year, can expect the same, she said.

Many casinos actively recruit Chinese-speaking workers to cater to Chinese patrons, adherents to an ancient gambling tradition who tend to bet big and play for hours.

The Chinese community around Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods started to take shape in the early 2000s as the two casinos, which opened in the 1990s, expanded, and garment factories in New York City, where many Chinese immigrants worked, began closing.

A smattering of Asian markets, restaurants and other enterprises has cropped up along the strip malls, historic main streets and busy throughways leading to the mega-resorts.

But the change is most apparent in cul-de-sacs nearest the casinos.


Many homes bought by Chinese immigrants like Xu Song Mu and his two brothers are immediately recognizable by the rows of bamboo and fruit trees, string beans, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and other crops that cover nearly every inch of their lawns.

The changes are also apparent in the public schools, where report cards and other notices sent home with students are translated into Chinese dialects and interpreters are on hand for parent-teacher meetings.

All non-native English speaking Chinese who attended Montville High School from 2003-2014 went to college, with many earning scholarships or admission into top-tier schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Robert Thorn, head of the school’s English Language Learners program.

Among those success stories is Yang Xu, a 24-year-old engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems who graduated from the University of Connecticut. His parents left jobs as high school teachers in China for lower-skill jobs at Mohegan Sun over a decade ago so he could get an American education.

“It was a huge sacrifice for my parents,” said Xu, unrelated to Xu Song Mu. “It was almost like they gambled their future for mine.”

But as the Chinese community matures, new challenges are emerging.

The casinos have slashed their workforce as revenues plummet in the face of new competition throughout the Northeast. The contraction means fewer new immigrant families. And some that bought homes just a few years ago are trying to sell so they can seek work elsewhere, town officials and Chinese community leaders said.

Xu Song Mu, a father of two grown children, is among those at a crossroads.

He was laid off from Mohegan Sun in May, and his wife and brothers have also seen their casino hours cut.

The couple’s four-bedroom raised ranch home is likely worth less today than when they bought it in 2007 for $220,000, with similar houses in the area, which hasn’t fully recovered from the recession, selling for closer to $150,000.

For now, though, he and his wife have no plans to pull up stakes. The two say they’re in good health, and Xu, who has been in the country for 30 years and is a U.S. citizen, can draw from his Social Security benefits while his wife works a little longer.

“We’ll be here,” he said. “At least as long as I can drive a car and get around.”

]]> 1, 23 Jul 2016 18:07:10 +0000
Clinton, Kaine make debut as presumptive Democratic presidential ticket Sat, 23 Jul 2016 18:01:23 +0000 MIAMI – Hillary Clinton introduced running mate Tim Kaine as “a progressive who likes to get things done,” joining the Virginia senator in the crucial battleground state of Florida to help kick off next week’s Democratic National Convention.

Clinton said Kaine cares more about making a difference than making headlines, “everything that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are not.”

Clinton offered Kaine the vice presidential spot on the Democratic ticket in a phone call on Friday night. His selection completes the line-up for the general election. Clinton and Kaine will face Republican Trump and his running mate, Pence, the Indiana governor.

Kaine, 58, was long viewed as a likely choice, a former governor of politically important Virginia and mayor of Richmond who also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

He also had a particularly powerful backer: President Obama, who advised Clinton’s campaign during the selection process that Kaine would be a strong choice.

Kaine is a fluent Spanish speaker with a reputation for working with Republicans.

“Trying to count the ways I hate @timkaine,” Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake wrote on Twitter. “Drawing a blank. Congrats to a good man and a good friend.”

Kaine was the choice over Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a longtime friend of the candidate and former President Bill Clinton.

He is viewed skeptically by some liberals in the Democratic Party, who dislike his support of free trade and Wall Street. Shortly after Friday’s announcement, Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said Kaine’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact gives Republicans “a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue.”

Notably, a campaign aide said Kaine made clear “in the course of discussions” that he shares Clinton’s opposition to TPP in its current form.

Clinton’s campaign teased the announcement throughout Friday, encouraging supporters to sign up for a text message alert to get the news – a favorite campaign method for getting contact information about voters.

The Democratic candidate made no mention of her impending pick during a somber meeting with community leaders and family members affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and a later campaign rally in Tampa.

When the news came via text, she quickly followed it with a message on Twitter: “I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, (at)TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others.”

Trump also announced the choice of his running mate on Twitter, and followed it up with an announcement the next day at a hotel in midtown Manhattan – a curious choice given the state’s strong Democratic leanings.

Clinton and Kaine appeared at Florida International University in Miami. Florida is the nation’s premier battleground state, and the bilingual Kaine is likely to be a valuable asset in Spanish-language media as the campaign appeals to Hispanic Americans turned off by Trump’s harsh rhetoric about immigrants.

Before entering politics, Kaine was an attorney who specialized in civil rights and fair housing. He learned Spanish during a mission trip to Honduras while in law school. During his political career, he’s demonstrated an ability to woo voters across party lines, winning his 2006 gubernatorial race with support in both Democratic and traditionally Republican strongholds.

His wife, Anne Holton, is the daughter of a former Virginia governor and is herself a former state judge and the state’s education secretary. The couple has three children.

Trump, in a text to his own supporters, said Obama, Clinton and Kaine were “the ultimate insiders” and implored voters to not “let Obama have a 3rd term.”

Kaine got some practice challenging Trump’s message when he campaigned with Clinton last week in northern Virginia, where he spoke briefly in Spanish and offered a strident assault on Trump’s White House credentials.

“Do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president or a ‘you’re hired’ president?” Kaine asked in Annandale, Virginia, as Clinton nodded. “Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president?”


]]> 17, 23 Jul 2016 20:24:24 +0000
Gunman, 18, in Munich attack was obsessed with mass shootings, police say Sat, 23 Jul 2016 17:33:30 +0000 MUNICH – The 18-year-old gunman who opened fire at a crowded Munich shopping mall and fast-food restaurant, killing nine people and wounding more than two dozen others before killing himself, was obsessed with mass shootings, German authorities said Saturday.

Investigators searched the German-Iranian man’s home overnight and found a considerable amount of literature about mass killings, including a book on school shooters, but no evidence that he was linked to extremists such as the Islamic State group. They believe he acted alone.

They also say the attack wasn’t linked in any way to the recent influx of asylum-seekers that has stirred a debate about immigration in Germany. All those killed were Munich residents, including seven teenagers, and the shooter was born in Germany, authorities said.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said other information showed that the shooter, whom he identified only as David, had researched a 2009 school shooting in Germany, and the bomb-and-gun attacks in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people exactly five years ago Friday.

“There was material found in the apartment of the suspect that showed a particular interest in shooting sprees, (but) there is so far no indication of any connection to international terrorism,” de Maiziere said at a news conference Saturday.


Authorities are still trying to determine a motive, and de Maiziere said they were investigating reports that the shooter had been bullied by his peers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called a special meeting of her government’s security Cabinet on Saturday. After the meeting, she pledged that Germany would “do everything possible to protect the security and freedom of all people,” saying that in the wake of an attack earlier in the week near Wuerzburg and the deadly attack in Nice, she understood Germans are wondering “where is safe?”

“Such an evening and such a night is difficult to bear,” she said of the Munich attack. “And it’s even more difficult to bear because we have had so much terrible news in so few days.”

Initial investigations suggest the Munich-born suspect had been treated for psychological problem, but details were still being confirmed, said Munich prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch.

Authorities have not been able to talk with the parents of the shooter. De Maiziere said they were asylum-seekers from Iran who came to Germany in the late 1990s.

Robert Heimberger, the head of Bavaria’s criminal police, said it appeared the shooter had hacked a Facebook account and sent a message inviting people to come to the mall for a free giveaway. The posting, sent from a young woman’s account, urged people to come to the mall at 4 p.m., saying: “I’ll give you something if you want, but not too expensive.”

“It appears it was prepared by the suspect and then sent out,” Heimberger said. The woman shortly after reported that her account had been hacked.


The attack in the Bavarian capital sparked a massive security operation as authorities – already on edge after the recent attacks in Wuerzburg and Nice – received witness reports of multiple shooters carrying rifles shortly before 6 p.m. Eight hours later police declared a “cautious all clear,” saying the suspect was among the 10 dead and had likely acted alone.

Police on Saturday searched an address on Munich’s Dachauer Strasse where the shooter lived, and a neighbor described the suspect as “very quiet.”

“He only ever said ‘hi.’ His whole body language was of somebody who was very shy,” said Stephan, a coffee shop owner who would only give his first name.

Some 2,300 police from across Germany and neighboring Austria were scrambled in response to the attack, which happened less than a week after a 17-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker wounded five people in an ax-and-knife rampage that started on a train near the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the train attack, but authorities have said the attacker – who was shot and killed by police – likely acted alone.

The Munich suspect’s body was found about 2½ hours after the attack, which started shortly before 6 p.m. at a McDonald’s restaurant across the street from the mall. He was found with a 9mm Glock pistol and at least 300 rounds of ammunition, police said.


A cellphone video posted online showed the person filming from a balcony engaging verbally with the suspect, who was dressed in black on the rooftop of the mall parking structure. The shooter at one point yells, “I’m German,” to which the filmer responds, “You are a jerk,” and demands to know what’s going on. The shooter yells at him to stop filming, and shortly after opens fire. Munich’s police chief, Hubertus Andrae, said police believe the video is genuine.

Police have asked anyone with video and photos of the attack to upload them directly to their website to aid the investigation.

David Akhavan, a 37-year-old from Tehran, Iran, who works at the Shandiz Persian restaurant, described his anguish as he learned of the shooting.

“I started to get texts from friends asking if I was safe,” he said. “Then, my thoughts were ‘Please, don’t be a Muslim. Please don’t be Middle Eastern. Please don’t be Afghan.’ I don’t accept any of this violence.”

Witnesses had reported seeing three men with firearms near the Olympic Shopping Center mall, but Andrae said two other people who fled the area were investigated but had “nothing to do with the incident.”

Residents described the scene as the shooting unfolded.

“I was standing on the balcony smoking a cigarette. Suddenly I heard shots,” said Ferdinand Bozorgzad, who lives in a high-rise building next to mall. “First I thought someone had thrown some firecrackers. I looked down at the McDonald(asterisk)s and saw someone shooting into the crowd. Then I saw two people lying there. ”

Franco Augustini, another resident, said his daughter hid in the shopping center during the attack.

“Next to our flat was a woman who was full of blood,” Augustini said. “My wife had a bottle of water. Then we helped to wash her. It was horrible and made me speechless.”

Andrae, the police chief, said seven of the victims were teenagers; a 20-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were also killed. All were residents of Munich, he said. Twenty-seven people were hospitalized, including four with gunshot wounds, he said.

Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, declared a day of mourning for the victims of “this terrible act.”

“These are difficult hours for Munich,” he said, adding that the city’s citizens had shown great solidarity toward each other. “Our city stands united.”


]]> 4, 23 Jul 2016 18:14:23 +0000
Islamic State claims responsibility for suicide blast that killed 80 in Afghanistan Sat, 23 Jul 2016 12:34:42 +0000 KABUL, Afghanistan – The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a peaceful protest in the Afghan capital on Saturday that killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 200, marking the first time the extremists have struck Kabul and raising fears of their growing strength and capability in Afghanistan.

The attack was the deadliest to hit Kabul in 15 years of civil war. It struck a demonstration by Afghanistan’s Hazara ethnic community, who were marching for a major regional power line to be routed through their home province. The Hazaras are Shiite Muslims, most Afghans are Sunnis.

Footage on Afghan television and photographs posted on social media showed a scene of horror and carnage, with numerous bodies and body parts spread across the square. Bloodied survivors were seen being dragged clear for help, others walked around dazed or screaming.

Two suicide bombers had attempted to target the demonstrators, but one of them was shot by police before he could detonate his explosives, according to Haroon Chakhansuri, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He said that three city district police chiefs were injured and another three security personnel were killed.

Witnesses said that immediately after the blast, security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd. Secondary attacks have been known to target people who come to the aid of those wounded in a first explosion.


Road blocks that had been set up overnight to prevent the marchers accessing the city center or the presidential palace hampered efforts to transfer some of the wounded to the hospital, witnesses said.

Angry demonstrators sealed some of the area around the square, and prevented police and other security forces from entering. Some threw stones at security forces.

Outside hospitals, huge queues forms as the public offered to donate blood.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said that 81 people had been killed and 231 wounded in the bombing. The ministry’s deputy spokesman, Najib Danish, said the blast was the biggest in Afghanistan since 2001, when the Taliban launched their brutal insurgency after they were toppled by the 2001 U.S. invasion.

According to the presidential spokesman, Chakhansuri, the organizers of the march had been warned of the possibility of an attack. “We had intelligence over recent days and it was shared with the demonstration organizers, we shared our concerns because we knew that terrorists wanted to bring sectarianism to our community,” he said.

Senior Hazara leaders were notably absent despite having attended a similar protest in May. The organizers could not be immediately contacted for comment on Chakhansuri’s allegations.


The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement issued by its news agency, Aamaq.

The Islamic state has had a presence on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan, mainly in Nangarhar province, for the past year, but this is the first time the extremist group has struck the Afghan capital. The bombing raises concerns over the Islamic State’s growing capabilities in Afghanistan.

Officials believe the fighters are made up of disaffected Taliban insurgents and members of Pakistani militant groups, and that they receive some funding and arms from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. In Nangarhar they have fought Taliban fighters as well as Afghan security forces, sometimes seizing control of whole districts in the east of the province.

A surge in the number of attacks worldwide linked to the Islamic State group has been seen as an attempt to distract from a string of battlefield losses suffered by the extremists in Syria and Iraq, where the borders of their self-styled caliphate are shrinking. During the holy month of Ramadan – which ended at the start of July – a series of attacks, most linked to the Islamic State group, killed nearly 350 people in eight countries.

President Ashraf Ghani has announced an upcoming military offensive in Nangarhar, expected to start within days, aimed at eliminating IS from the country.

The Taliban issued a statement denying involvement in Saturday’s attack, describing it as an attempt by IS to “ignite civil war.” The statement may in part reflect the animosity between the two militant groups; Hazara were especially persecuted during the Taliban’s extremist Sunni rule between 1996 and 2001.

President Ashraf Ghani declared Sunday a day of national mourning. He ordered a commission be set up to investigate the incident and described the attack as a clear effort to divide Shiites and Sunnis.

The Ministry of Interior issued a ban on “any kind of public gathering and demonstration” for the next 10 days. The move could be aimed at controlling any outbreaks of sectarian animosity.

The second most deadly attack to hit Kabul since 2001 also targeted Shiites and was seen as an attempt to stoke sectarian violence. In 2011 a suicide bomber attacked worshippers marking Ashura, when Shiites commemorate the death of the prophet Mohammed’s grandson, killing 70 people. That attack was linked to a Pakistani militant group.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, denounced the attack. He said in a statement that “We strongly condemn the actions of Afghanistan’s enemies of peace and remain firmly committed to supporting our Afghan partners and the National Unity Government.” The U.S embassy in Kabul also issued a condemnation.

The head of the United Nations assistance mission in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, called the attack a “war crime” because it had specifically targeted a large number of civilians.

Violence had been widely feared at the Hazaras’ demonstration, the second to take place over the electric power line.

The so-called TUTAP power line is backed by the Asian Development Bank with involvement of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original plan routed the line through the Hazara heartland of Bamiyan province, but was changed in 2013 by the previous Afghan government.

Leaders of the marches have said that the rerouting was evidence of bias against the Hazara community, which accounts for up to 15 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 30 million-strong population. They are considered the poorest of the country’s ethnic groups, and say they suffer pervasive discrimination.


]]> 12, 23 Jul 2016 18:12:37 +0000
King sings Kaine’s praises as Clinton’s VP pick Sat, 23 Jul 2016 02:14:21 +0000 Sen. Angus King knows Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine better than most.

King, an independent, and Kaine, a Democrat, are seat-mates in the Senate and serve on two committees together. And since they’re both former governors, they tend to consult each other often.

Though King issued only a brief statement praising Hillary Clinton’s choice of Kaine as her running mate – “He’s a great choice,” King said through a spokesman Friday night – the Maine independent made clear in an article that ran Wednesday on The Daily Beast that he’s a big Kaine fan.

The article contained 15 reasons why Clinton, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, should pick Kaine, the first three being that Kaine would make “an excellent president, if the circumstances demanded it.”

After repeating the line the third time, King wrote, “You may notice that I think this is far and away the most important criterion.”

King went on to say that Kaine would also make a good vice president because “he is smart, honest, has good judgment, and is highly principled – but he is also pragmatic, not ideological or dogmatic.”

King’s praise even included a subtle dig at the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, who often touts his experience in real estate development as a reason voters should back him.

Kaine, King said, has executive experience as a mayor, lieutenant governor and governor. King noted that the executive experience was “in government, which is different from business – I know; I’ve done both.”

Among Kaine’s other attributes, King wrote, is his knowledge of foreign affairs, a lack of “excessive partisanship,” and his influence among other senators.

“When he stands up to speak in the Democratic caucus, people literally stop eating or conversing and listen,” King said. “I have seen him change minds, including mine.”

King and Kaine serve together on the Senate’s Armed Services and Budget committees.

King also praised Kaine’s “deep (but not showy) faith,” noting that Kaine took a year to serve as a Catholic missionary in Central America,

King went on to say Kaine is a proven leader from a diverse state, lacks pretense, cares about the country and its people, is a problem-solver and is fun to be with, which King said is an underestimated quality that a vice president should have.


]]> 11, 23 Jul 2016 09:19:56 +0000
Huge toxic algae bloom closes Utah Lake Sat, 23 Jul 2016 02:01:52 +0000 SPANISH FORK, Utah — A huge toxic algae bloom in Utah has closed one of the largest freshwater lakes west of the Mississippi River, sickening more than 100 people and leaving farmers scrambling for clean water for days during the hottest part of the year.

The bacteria commonly known as blue-green algae has spread rapidly to cover almost all of 150-square-mile Utah Lake, turning the water bright, anti-freeze green with a pea soup texture and leaving scummy foam along the shore.

“It smells like something is rotting,” said Jason Garrett, water quality director for the Utah County Health Department. “We don’t have an idea of how long this event will last.”

Toxic algae is a problem around the country. An enormous outbreak in Florida is now fouling beaches on the Atlantic coast, and a 2014 outbreak at Lake Erie left more than 400,000 people in the Toledo area without tap water for two days.

Utah Lake doesn’t provide drinking water, but its closure has caused big problems for people who use the lake for swimming, fishing and other activities and for farmers with thirsty crops.

Utah Poison Control says it has fielded hundreds of calls related to the bloom, including some 130 involving people who have reported vomiting, diarrhea, headache and rashes.

The contamination spread to the Jordan River, which supplies irrigation water to dozens of farmers around Salt Lake City, about 45 miles north of the lake. The problem occurred amid days of triple-digit temperatures as growers prepare for farmers markets and try to nurture crops such as corn and fruit trees at key points in their development.

“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this crop, maxed out every dollar we have,” said Luke Petersen, who farms about 100 acres of tomatoes, summer squash and other produce in Riverton. “We’re real worried about it.”

Farmers got some relief on Friday after the state lifted a week-long advisory against using the water for food production. Officials cited new test results that show lower-than-feared levels of dangerous toxins produced by the bacteria.

Meanwhile, the Bonneville School of Sailing has had to cancel more than a dozen groups since the lake was closed.

“This will be a real hit,” said co-owner Todd Frye. He loves the mountain-rimmed lake and has worked to change the decades-old perception that it’s murky and polluted. New efforts to clean out bottom-feeding carp are improving the water quality, but he worries the algae bloom will be a blow to its image.

The lake is largely fed by treated wastewater as well as agricultural runoff, said Erica Gaddis, assistant director for the Utah Division of Water Quality.

Longstanding drought conditions have made the water especially low and stagnant. Combine that with hot summer weather and Utah Lake became a perfect petri dish for the cyanobacteria.

There are chemical and biological treatments for the problem, but using them on such a large bloom would be unprecedented and possibly harmful, Gaddis said.

For now, authorities are waiting for the bloom to run its course and clear, hopefully aided by a drop in temperatures or a storm that could stir up the water and reduce stagnation.

To stave off new blooms in coming years, the state is looking to reduce the levels of toxic algae-feeding phosphorous and nitrogen in wastewater that’s pumped into the lake. That could be difficult, however, because cities served by those plants include some of the fastest-growing in the nation.

]]> 0, 22 Jul 2016 22:13:58 +0000
Second officer placed on leave in Florida police shooting case Sat, 23 Jul 2016 01:43:44 +0000 Authorities in North Miami, Florida, said Friday that they had placed a second police officer on leave as part of the investigation into a police shooting there this week in which an officer shot and wounded an unarmed man.

The second officer was placed on unpaid administrative leave because of “conflicting statements given to the investigators” looking into the shooting, Larry Spring Jr., the North Miami city manager, said at a news conference.

The shooting Monday captured widespread attention after footage emerged showing the moments before the incident. In this video, Charles Kinsey, the man who was shot and wounded, is seen lying on the ground with his hands in the air and yelling to police that a man seated near him – a man with autism whom Kinsey cared for, it later emerged – was holding only a toy truck and not a weapon.

The officer who fired three rounds, striking Kinsey once in the leg, was identified Friday as Jonathan Aledda, a SWAT team member and four-year veteran of the department who had been singled out in the past for his tenacity and police work. Aledda, whose first name was also spelled “Jonathon” in documents released Friday, has been placed on leave because of the shooting.

Spring said that Cmdr. Emile Hollant was placed on leave because of “evidence of conflicting statements” he gave to investigators. He declined to elaborate on what Hollant said.

Police said no gun was recovered at the scene. They had initially declined to identify the officer, as did the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state agency that has taken over the shooting investigation. Authorities have released few details about the shooting, saying only that the officers were responding to a report of an armed man who was threatening to commit suicide.

]]> 2 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 22:33:27 +0000
Judge inclined to deny dismissal of Trump University lawsuit Sat, 23 Jul 2016 01:30:20 +0000 SAN DIEGO — A federal judge said Friday that he is inclined to deny a request by Donald Trump’s lawyers to dismiss a lawsuit that accuses the Republican presidential nominee of defrauding customers at the now-defunct Trump University.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel did not elaborate on his thinking during a lengthy hearing in San Diego – one day after Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

Trump’s attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, urged the judge to reconsider, calling the lawsuit a “gross overreach” of federal civil racketeering statutes. He told the judge the plaintiffs have failed to show that Trump himself orchestrated allegedly misleading marketing claims.

“He did not run Trump University. He was not the chief operating officer. He did not direct the day-to-day affairs,” Petrocelli said. “The idea that he is somehow at the center of it is not supported by the evidence in the case.”

Curiel, a target of the nominee’s repeated public scorn, will issue a final decision in writing at a later time.

The complaint, filed in 2013 by former customer Art Cohen, is one of two class-action lawsuits that Trump is facing in San Diego over Trump University before the same judge. Trump also faces a lawsuit in New York.

The lawsuits allege that Trump University gave seminars and classes in hotel ballrooms across the country that were like infomercials, constantly pressuring customers to buy more and, in the end, failing to deliver. Cohen went to a three-day seminar in 2009 in Palo Alto, California, for $1,495 and bought into the “Gold Elite” mentorship program for $34,995.

Trump has maintained that customers were overwhelmingly satisfied and that he did nothing to deceive them.

Trump University’s sales pitches “are classic examples of sales puffery common to advertising everywhere,” his lawyers said in court documents filed for Friday’s hearing arguing the lawsuit is an abuse of federal racketeering conspiracy statutes. They minimize Trump’s involvement, saying he delegated responsibilities after creating Trump University in 2005.

Lawyers for the plaintiff wrote mockingly that Trump’s lawyers should argue their case on Earth, not in “District Court in Bizarro World.” They dismiss Trump’s claims of limited involvement, saying, “He only starred in the marketing materials. Signed them. Corrected them. And approved them.”

The Cohen lawsuit has not been scheduled for trial. The trial for the other lawsuit is set for Nov. 28.

When Curiel permitted the release of unrelated documents in the case in May, Trump intensified his attacks on the judge, mentioning his Mexican heritage.

]]> 5, 22 Jul 2016 21:30:20 +0000
Analysis: Chaotic convention shows GOP still struggling Sat, 23 Jul 2016 01:13:06 +0000 CLEVELAND — A traumatized Republican Party came here hoping for an arena-size group therapy session.

The Republican Party at large would talk through its differences, remind itself of what it shares, then head into the fall election with a renewed sense of identity.

Instead, the week laid bare the fact that the party has become a collection of warring tribes with no coherent set of principles beyond a burning desire to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

The question many have is whether Donald Trump – with his skepticism of free trade and internationalism, blurry record on social issues, and insensitivity toward the life experiences of minorities – now owns the Republican Party or whether he is just borrowing it until November.

“I think the party is either in a major transition or in the throes of self-destruction,” said Randy Corporon, a Colorado delegate and tea party leader attending his first party convention.

Wednesday night’s eruption on the convention floor, when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took the stage and refused to endorse the celebrity billionaire who had bested him in the primary race, was the most dramatic expression of the party’s existential crisis.

On what was supposed to be a victory lap the day after his acceptance speech, Trump was still fixated on the snub by Cruz.

“I don’t want his endorsement,” Trump said during a rambling, disjointed news conference Friday morning. “If he gives it, I won’t accept it.”

Rather than turning his attention to the battle ahead, Trump revisited some of the low points of his primary fight: He defended his retweet of an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife to his millions of Twitter followers. And he called attention to a false and far-fetched tabloid claim that Cruz’s father might have had a hand in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Trump also insisted that the quadrennial Republican gathering had been “probably one of the most peaceful, one of the most beautiful, one of the most love-filled conventions in the history of conventions.”


Whatever its artistic merits, the convention had more than its share of dissonant moments.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told the gathering Monday night that the Black Lives Matter movement represents “anarchy” and “a collapse of the social order.”

On Wednesday, however, Lynne Patton, who runs Eric Trump’s foundation and is African American, stood on the same stage and declared: “There’s not one person in this room who can deny that, historically, black lives have mattered less. My life mattered less. And whether we like it or not, there are people out there who still believe this to be true.”

On Thursday, billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel became the first person to proclaim his homosexuality to a Republican convention audience, saying: “I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican.” During his nomination acceptance speech minutes later, Trump declared that he would protect “LGBTQ citizens,” prompting widespread applause in the hall.

Yet speaking earlier that same night was Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which argues that the rationale for same-sex marriage could also be used to justify man-horse matrimony. The Republican platform approved this week maintains opposition to same-sex marriage and argues in favor of allowing discrimination against gays for religious reasons.

The rifts extend into foreign policy, as well. In an interview with the New York Times, Trump said he would condition assistance to NATO allies on whether the United States was “properly reimbursed” for the cost of its military operations – an abandonment of NATO’s core tenet as a mutual-defense organization.

“I think he’s wrong on that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told Politico. “I don’t think that view would be prevalent or held by anybody he might make secretary of state or secretary of defense.”

And while the convention approved the party’s most socially conservative platform ever, Trump has played down cultural issues in his campaign and did not mention abortion or God in his acceptance speech.


The Republican nominee did express gratitude to his evangelical supporters. “It is an easy decision to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton,” said David Lane, who heads the American Renewal Project, which mobilizes conservative pastors and hosts rallies in battleground states.

But he added: “Trump needs to give Christian voters a clear reason to vote. Otherwise, they will stay home.”

The convention also saw a few stray issues cross the stage. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who gave the introduction to his acceptance speech Thursday night, promised that her father would rewrite federal labor laws to ensure equal pay for women and would “focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all” – two proposals espoused by Democrats.

Trump’s rout of a highly credentialed field of 16 candidates in the Republican primary contest revealed a chasm between the party’s passionate grass roots and the elites who have run its presidential selection process for decades. Much of that energy comes from insurgent forces such as the tea party movement, which was instrumental in giving Republicans their biggest House majority since 1929.

Trump proved that it is possible to win a strong plurality of the vote with an appeal to nativism and bigotry, if it is dressed up as a backlash against “political correctness.” Moreover, it is now clear to party leaders that the clinical, by-the-book conservatism espoused by the Republican establishment has been insufficiently responsive to the economic concerns of working-class Americans.

]]> 3, 22 Jul 2016 21:23:13 +0000
‘Merciless’ heat sticking around U.S. Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:46:22 +0000 WASHINGTON — A heat wave spreading across the country is leaving few places to hide.

By Friday afternoon, all but one of the Lower 48 states had hit 90 degrees somewhere, with only Washington around for cooler comfort. For much of the country, it was expected to get even worse over the weekend.

“It’s just day after day. Merciless,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the private Weather Underground. “We don’t often see this much of the country this hot for this length of time.”

And while the extra hot weather will ease a bit next week, the temperature forecast for the next three months isn’t exactly promising, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For the first time in more than 20 years, the Climate Prediction Center map is shades of one color: orange for above normal temperatures.

The map usually varies, showing places where there is a greater chance for above or below normal temperatures or equal chances. But the outlook for August, September and October is for above normal everywhere.

Center climate scientist Dan Collins said the center’s archives go back to 1995 and they’ve never seen this for the entire United States – including Alaska and Hawaii.

“Unusual indeed,” Collins said. “But maybe less so as the years pass.”

Scientists haven’t calculated if man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels is a factor in the current heat wave, but said it has been a factor in most recent ones and a good chance here, too.

What’s happening now is a ridge of high pressure has just spread over almost the entire U.S. That keeps clouds and cooling away, and just pushes warm air down.

Add to that the humidity, which makes everything feel stickier. It’s coming with warmer ocean water, especially from a hotter-than-normal Gulf of Mexico, Masters said.

The high heat and humidity will move from the Corn Belt toward the Southeast over the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

On Monday, the weather service forecasts that nearly all of the Lower 48 could hit 95 on the heat index , which factors in humidity. And about 30 states are forecast to hit 100.

The high temperature average for the Lower 48 was 92 degrees Thursday and Friday, the warmest since June of 2012, said meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private WeatherBell Analytics service.

Not even the cool of night is helping because temperatures aren’t dropping as much as they normally do. That’s a health issue because the human body relies on the evening coolness for relief, said Greg Carbin, a forecast chief for the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center.

]]> 0 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 20:59:07 +0000
Looted Mayan artifacts headed home to Guatemala Sat, 23 Jul 2016 00:30:59 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Seven priceless Mayan artifacts looted decades ago from Guatemala are returning to the land of their creation after a representative for an antiquities collector grew suspicious of their origin and contacted the FBI.

Experts called in by the agency quickly determined the limestone pieces, all more than 1,000 years old, were removed illegally from two specific regions of Guatemala and sold to a California collector in the 1970s.

“Four larger limestone pieces date to 400 to 600 A.D.,” said FBI special agent Elizabeth Rivas, whose specialty is art crimes investigation.

“Experts believe they are symbolic of the Earth Monster connecting the Earth to the underworld,” Rivas said.

Three smaller pieces covered in hieroglyphics likely once made up a calendar outside an ancient temple in Guatemala’s Petexbatun region, Rivas said. They are believed to be 1,400 to 1,100 years old.

All seven were placed on display at Los Angeles’ FBI headquarters Friday for a news conference attended by U.S. and Guatemalan officials. The consul general to Guatemala’s Los Angeles consulate called them priceless.

“They are part of our culture. Part of our people. Part of our earth. Every piece that is returned to Guatemala for us is very important,” said Roberto Archila, who thanked the FBI and U.S. government.

He said Guatemala plans to ship them to a museum dedicated to Mayan artifacts and eventually put them on display.

Rivas said the FBI became aware of the artifacts’ existence in the 1970s when authorities charged an antiquities dealer with illegally selling other pieces stolen from Guatemala.

“Because we could not determine where in Guatemala they came from or when they came to the U.S. we could not prove they were stolen,” she said of the seven pieces.

Had the agency had the capability to determine their provenance then, Rivas said, the dealer likely would have faced additional charges.

She said officials believe the buyer didn’t know they were stolen.

]]> 0, 22 Jul 2016 20:55:01 +0000
E. coli outbreak in New Hampshire associated with ground beef sickens 12 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 20:01:11 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire’s Health Department says it’s investigating an outbreak of E. coli bacteria associated with ground beef after 12 people got sick eating the meat since June.

The department says investigations are underway to determine the source of the ground beef.

The department says the people who became ill ate ground beef at a number of different locations in the state.

The outbreak does not present a risk to New Hampshire residents as long as they strictly follow food safety best practices, including cooking ground beef at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

People also should also prevent cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards and utensils after they touch raw meat.

]]> 1 Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:57:59 +0000
Volkswagen testing emissions-cheating fix, sources say Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:35:56 +0000 DETROIT — Volkswagen’s plan to fix most of its 2-liter diesel engines that cheat on emissions tests includes a computer software update and a larger catalytic converter to trap harmful nitrogen oxide, according to two dealers who were briefed by executives on the matter.

Limited details of the plan were made public last week at a regional dealer meeting in Newark, New Jersey, by Volkswagen of America Chief Operating Officer Mark McNabb, said the dealers, who asked not to be identified because the plan hasn’t been made public.

One dealer said the group was told that early testing of a small sample of repaired cars showed that the fix made “no discernable difference” in the cars’ mileage, horsepower or torque. Both dealers said they were told that more testing was needed and that the plans still had to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

If the fixes don’t hurt performance and mileage, that could be a big boost for Volkswagen, which last month agreed to spend up to $15.3 billion to settle consumer lawsuits and government allegations that its diesels cheated on U.S. emissions tests. The settlement included up to $10 billion that would go to over 475,000 owners of 2-liter VW or Audi diesels, giving them the choice of selling the cars back at the pre-scandal value or getting them fixed. A fix that is satisfactory to owners would entice more of them to go for repairs, saving VW money. The $10 billion figure is the worst-case scenario for the company and includes all owners taking the buybacks. Car owners also would get payments of $5,100 to $10,000.

Volkswagen has acknowledged that the cars were programmed to turn on emissions controls during government lab tests and turn them off while on the road. Investigators determined that the cars emitted more than 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide, which can cause respiratory problems in humans. The company got away with the scheme for seven years until independent researchers reported it to the EPA.

Even with the fixes, the VWs won’t fully comply with clean air laws because the cars were built to defeat the tests. The fixes must cut emissions by at least 80 percent, and VW must pay to mitigate any excess pollution.

At the time the settlement was announced, no fix was available, but the dealers said that VW appeared close to submitting one.

Neither the EPA nor Volkswagen would comment on details repair proposals. “Any remedies that are being discussed still need to be approved,” VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said.

Both dealers said the fix was revealed by McNabb reluctantly under questioning from Northeast region dealers toward the end of a four-hour meeting on July 15. The meeting was held to discuss how VW would implement the buyback and repair plan and included plans to have company representatives handle paperwork.

The news gave hope to the dealers, who have had to make do with a lack of new vehicles and have seen U.S. sales decline since VW admitted cheating on the tests in September of last year. So far this year, VW brand sales are down nearly 15 percent even though the overall market has grown 1.5 percent.

One of the dealers said the so-called “Generation 1” diesels – about 325,000 VW Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles from the 2009 to 2014 model years – would get new software and bigger catalytic converters in January or February of next year. About 90,000 “Generation 2” Passats already have sufficient emissions systems and would get only a software update early next year. Another 67,000 “Generation 3” 2015 models would get software in October and would get additional hardware a year later, the dealer said.

Getting the fixes through the EPA and California regulators could still be a problem. The agencies in January rejected a fix for the 2-liter engines, and last week they turned down a plan to fix about 85,000 vehicles with 3-liter diesels that also cheat on emissions tests.

Alan Brown, general manager of a VW dealer in Lewisville, Texas, and chairman of the company’s National Dealer Advisory Council, said regional meetings with dealers around the country have caused most to be optimistic that better times are ahead. Details of how the cars would be fixed weren’t discussed at the meeting he attended this week, he said. But if they don’t affect mileage or performance “We’d celebrate,” he said.

Dealers also were told that they’d be reimbursed by VW for sales losses due to the scandal, and that new vehicles are coming. A small SUV built in Tennessee is due early next year, and later in the year VW plans an all-wheel-drive wagon to compete with the hot-selling Subaru Outback.

]]> 0, 22 Jul 2016 17:21:34 +0000
Gunman acting alone kills 9, then himself, Munich police say Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:05:47 +0000 MUNICH – An 18-year-old German-Iranian man opened fire in a crowded Munich shopping mall and a nearby McDonald’s Friday night, killing nine people and wounding 16 others before killing himself, the chief of police in the Bavarian capital said Saturday.

Police gave a “cautious all clear” early Saturday morning, more than seven hours after the attack began and brought much of the city to a standstill as all public transit systems were shut down amid a massive manhunt. They said a body found near the scene was that of the shooter and he appeared to have acted alone.

Munich police chief Hubertus Andraes told a news conference the suspect was a dual citizen from Munich and his motive was still “fully unclear.” Andraes said the suspect’s body was found about 2½ hours after the attack and was determined to be the shooter based on witness statements and closed circuit television footage of the attack. The shooter was not previously known to police and there was no evidence of any links to terrorist organizations, Andraes said.

Witnesses had reported seeing three men with firearms near the Olympia Einkaufszentrum mall, but Andraes said two other people who fled the area quickly were investigated but had “nothing to do with the incident.”

The police chief said the nine fatalities included young people and children were among the 16 wounded, three of whom were in critical condition.

After gunfire broke out at the mall, one of Munich’s largest, the city sent a smartphone alert declaring an “emergency situation” and telling people to stay indoors, while all rail, subway and trolley service was halted in the city.

It was the third major act of violence against civilians in Western Europe in eight days. The previous attacks, in the French resort city of Nice and on a train in Bavaria near the city of Wuerzburg, were claimed by the Islamic State group.

While police initially called the mall shooting an act of terrorism, they said they had “no indication” it involved Islamic extremism and at least one witness said he heard a shooter shout an anti-foreigner slur.

“The question of terrorism or a rampage is tied to motive, and we don’t know the motive,” Andraes said. “We can’t question the suspect so this is all a little more difficult.”

The attack started shortly before 6 p.m. at a McDonald’s across the street from the mall, which was filled with people doing their weekend shopping. As dozens of shots rang out, terrified shoppers ran from the scene, some carrying babies and pushing strollers.

Video obtained by The Associated Press from German news agency NonstopNews showed two bodies with sheets draped over them not far from the fast food restaurant. Another video posted online showed a gunman emerging from the door of the McDonald’s, raising what appeared to be a pistol with both hands and aiming at people on the sidewalk, firing as they fled in terror.

Witness Luan Zequiri said he was in the mall when the shooting began.

He told German broadcaster n-tv that the attacker yelled an anti-foreigner insult and “there was a really loud scream.”

He said he saw only one attacker, who was wearing jack boots and a backpack.

“I looked in his direction and he shot two people on the stairs,” Zequiri said. He said he hid in a shop, then ran outside when the coast was clear and saw bodies of the dead and wounded on the ground.

Germany’s Interior Ministry said Munich police had set up a hotline for concerned citizens. Residents of Munich opened their doors to people seeking shelter using the Twitter hashtag (hash)opendoor.

Germany’s interior minister cut short his holiday in the United States to go back to Berlin late Friday to meet with security officials.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was being regularly briefed on the attack, said her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier.

“All that we know and can say right now is that it was a cruel and inhumane attack,” he said on German public channel ARD. “We can’t rule out that there are terrorist links. We can’t confirm them, but we are investigating along those lines too.”

Altmaier noted that Friday was the fifth anniversary of the massacre in Oslo, Norway, by a far-right extremist who killed 77 people, 69 of them at a youth summer camp.

“You can only have absolute security in an absolute surveillance state, and nobody wants that, it would be the opposite of our free western European way of life,” he said. “But, and this became clear again today, we can’t talk down this danger. It’s a danger that many countries are exposed, especially in the west, and that’s why it’s important to give our security agencies the instruments they need.”

Police responded in large numbers to the mall in the northern part of Munich, near the city’s Olympic Stadium in the Moosach district of the Bavarian capital. In all there were 2,300 officers involved, including the elite GSG9, SWAT teams from other German states and from neighboring Austria.

It was also not far from where Palestinian attackers opened fire in the Olympic Village in 1972, killing 11 Israeli athletes. Five guerrillas and a police officer were also killed. The GSG9 anti-terrorism unit was created after that attack, though the city saw a worse one in 1980, when 13 people were killed and more than 200 injured at the city’s annual Oktoberfest in a bombing blamed on a student with ties to a neo-Nazi group.

It was the second attack in Germany in less than a week. On Monday, a 17-year-old Afghan wounded four people in an ax-and-knife attack on a regional train near the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg, and another woman outside as he fled. All survived, although one man from the train remains in life-threatening condition. The attacker was shot and killed by police.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the train attack, but authorities have said the teen likely acted alone.

Gun attacks in Germany are uncommon. Firearm ownership is widespread but they are strictly regulated, with purchasers first having to take training courses in order to be granted a permit to own one. Many types of firearms are banned.

In the U.S., President Barack Obama pledged to provide Germany with whatever help it might need to investigate the mall shooting.

Jordans and Rising reported from Berlin. Associated Press writers Ferdinand Ostrop In Berlin and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

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