Afghan forces end deadly Taliban siege at Kabul hotel
Smoke rises from the
Intercontinental Hotel after an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday,
Jan. 21. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) —
Security forces said Sunday they had killed the last of six Taliban
militants to end an overnight siege at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel
that left at least 18 people dead, including 14 foreigners. Some of the
150 guests fled the gun battle and fire sparked by the assault by
shimmying down bed sheets from the upper floors.
The militants, who wore suicide
vests, pinned security forces down for more than 13 hours after the
attack began about 9 p.m. Saturday. The gunmen roamed the hallways and
targeted foreigners and Afghan officials inside the luxury, hilltop
The more than 150 people who were
rescued or managed to escape included 41 foreigners, said Interior
Ministry spokesman Najib Danish. Of those, 10 people were injured,
including six security forces, he said.
Eleven of the 14 foreigners killed
were employees of KamAir, a private Afghan airline, Danish said. KamAir
put out a statement saying some of its flights were disrupted because of
Six of those killed were
Ukrainians, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who added
that his office was working with Afghan law enforcement agencies "to
clarify the circumstances of this terrorist act."
Two Venezuelan pilots for KamAir
were among the dead, according to Luis Figuera. He told The Associated
Press that his brother-in-law, Adelsis Ramos, was killed along with
Pablo Chiossone, and that their bodies were identified by another
Venezuelan pilot at a Kabul hospital.
A citizen from Kazakhstan also was
among the dead at the hotel, according to Anuar Zhainakov, a spokesman
for the Kazakh Foreign Ministry.
Afghan security officials confirmed
that 34 provincial officials were at the hotel for a conference
organized by the Telecommunication Ministry.
Afghan officials said that also
among the dead was a telecommunications official from Farah province in
western Afghanistan; Waheed Poyan, the newly appointed consul general to
Karachi, Pakistan; and Ahmad Farzan, an employee of the High Peace
Council, a commission created to facilitate peace talks between the
Afghan government and the Taliban and other opposition groups.
The Taliban claimed responsibility
for the attack at the heavily guarded hotel that is popular among
foreigners and Afghan officials.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah
Mujahid said the insurgents initially planned to strike the hotel
Thursday night but postponed it because a wedding was underway there and
they wanted to avoid civilian casualties.
The attack unfolded almost six
years after Taliban insurgents launched a similar assault on the
Mumtaz Ahmad, a provincial
telecommunication employee for Helmand province, said he was walking
from his room to the reception for his group on Saturday night.
"When the elevator door opened, I
saw two armed suicide bombers. People were escaping and the attackers
were firing at them," he said.
Fire broke out in the six-story
hotel as the fighting raged, filling some guest rooms with smoke.
Explosions could be heard throughout the standoff. Live TV video showed
people trying to escape through windows and from the upper stories as
thick, black smoke poured from the building.
The Interior Ministry said it is
investigating how the attackers managed to enter the building. It said a
private company had taken over security about three weeks ago at the
hotel, which is not part of the Intercontinental chain.
During a news conference, Danish
said that an initial investigation showed that six insurgents entered
the hotel from the northern side and stormed its kitchen. A person or
persons inside the hotel might have helped the attackers gain entrance,
Danish said, adding that the probe is continuing.
Two of the attackers were killed by
special forces on the 6th floor of the hotel.
Capt. Tom Gresback, spokesman for
NATO-led forces, said in a statement that Afghan forces had led the
response efforts and that no foreign troops were hurt in the attack,
according to initial reports.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson said the United States strongly condemns the attack, adding
that Washington "stands with the government and people of Afghanistan.
We remain firmly committed to supporting Afghan efforts to achieve
peace, security and prosperity for their country."
Neighboring Pakistan also condemned
the "brutal terrorist attack" and called for greater cooperation against
Afghanistan and Pakistan routinely
accuse each other of failing to combat extremists on their long and
Afghan forces have struggled to
fight the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO formally concluded their
combat mission at the end of 2014.
They have also had to contend with
a growing Islamic State affiliate that has carried out a number of big
attacks in recent years.
In other violence in Afghanistan
this weekend, insurgents burst into a home in Balkh province in the
north where several members of a pro-government militia were gathered
late Saturday, killing 18 of them, said Gen. Abdul Razeq Qaderi, the
deputy provincial police chief. Among those killed was a tribal leader
who served as the local police commander, he said.
In the western province of Farah, a
roadside bomb early Sunday killed a deputy provincial police chief and
wounded four other police, according to Gen. Mahruf Folad, the
provincial police chief.
The Taliban claimed both attacks.
In the western province of Herat, a
roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying 13 civilians, killing all but
one of them, said Abdul Ahad Walizada, a spokesman for the provincial
police chief. No one immediately claimed the attack, but Walizada blamed
Taliban insurgents, who often plant bombs to target Afghan security
Droves fill pope's final Mass in restive Latin America trip
Pope Francis arrives on the altar to celebrate
Mass at Las Palmas Air Base in Lima, Peru, Sunday, Jan. 21. (AP
Lima, Peru (AP) — More than 1
million people turned out Sunday for Pope Francis' final Mass in Peru,
giving him a warm and heartfelt farewell that contrasted sharply with the
outcry he caused in neighboring Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of
slandering a bishop.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who
publicly rebuked the pope on Saturday for those remarks, joined the pontiff
and dozens of fellow bishops on a tented altar at a Lima airfield to
celebrate the Mass. The crowd of 1.3 million people reported by the Vatican
was the largest of Francis' weeklong, two-nation visit.
Francis tried to move beyond the
scandal Sunday, joking with cloistered nuns that they were taking advantage
of his visit to finally get out and get a breath of fresh air. And he
denounced a corruption scandal in Latin America that has even implicated his
Peruvian host, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who recently survived an
impeachment vote by lawmakers.
In his homily Francis referred to the
"grave sin of corruption," that kills the hope of people, urging Peruvians
to have hope and show tenderness and compassion.
Thousands lined the streets as his
black papal Fiat made its way to the airport, where a children's choir sang
in farewell as Francis boarded a plane to head back to Rome.
Earlier in the day, he said the bribery
scandal centered on Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht was "just a small
anecdote" of the corruption and graft that have thrown much of Latin
American politics into crisis.
"If we fall into the hands of people
who only understand the language of corruption, we're toast," the pope said
in unscripted remarks.
Francis was greeted by cheering crowds
at nearly every stop of his Peru trip, but the cloud of sex abuse scandal
"Francis, here there IS proof," read a
banner hanging from a Lima building along his motorcade route Sunday.
The message was a reference both to
Peru's own abuse scandal and to Francis' Jan. 18 comments in Iquique, Chile,
that there was not "one shred of proof" to allegations that a protege of
that country's most notorious pedophile priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima,
knew of Karadima's abuse and did nothing to stop it.
Karadima's victims have accused the
bishop, Juan Barros, of witnessing the abuse and of complicity in covering
it up. Barros has denied the accusations, and Francis backed him by saying
the victims' claims were "all calumny."
Francis' remarks that he would only
believe victims with "proof" were problematic because they were already
deemed so credible by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime
of "penance and prayer" in 2011 based on their testimony. A Chilean judge
also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she had to drop
charges against Karadima because too much time had passed, proof of his
crimes wasn't lacking.
The pope's comments sparked such an
outcry that both O'Malley, Francis' own top adviser on abuse, and the
Chilean government made the highly rare decision to publicly rebuke him — an
extraordinary correction of a pontiff from both church and state. The
criticisms were all the more remarkable given that they came on the
Argentina-born pontiff's home turf in Latin America.
O'Malley said Saturday that Francis'
remarks were "a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse," and
that such expressions of disbelief made abuse survivors feel abandoned and
left in "discredited exile."
Chilean government spokeswoman Paula
Narvaez said there was an "ethical imperative to respect victims of sexual
abuse, believe them and support them."
The issue also had resonance in Peru.
Last week the Vatican took over a Peru-based Roman Catholic lay movement,
Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, more than six years after first learning of
sexual, physical and psychological abuse committed by its founder.
An independent investigation
commissioned by the movement found that founder Luis Figari sodomized his
recruits, forced them to fondle him and one another, liked to watch them
"experience pain, discomfort and fear" and humiliated them in front of
others. Figari's victims have criticized the Vatican for its years of
inaction and for eventually sanctioning him with what they consider a
"golden exile" — retirement in Italy at a retreat house, albeit separated
from the community he founded.
The banner hanging from the building
along Francis' motorcade route referred to evidence against Figari and
featured a photo of him. Peruvian prosecutors recently announced they wanted
to arrest him.
But for the most part, Peruvians
welcomed him with open arms and flooded in huge droves to his final Mass. In
contrast, Francis' send-off from Chile drew only 50,000 people, a fraction
of the number expected.
"He is a symbol to us as Catholics,"
said Cindy Sanchez, a 24-year-old administrative assistant attending the
Mass. "Listening to him gives us encouragement."
During his seven-day trip in Chile and
Peru, Francis personally apologized to survivors of priests who sexually
abused them, traveled deep into the Amazon to meet with indigenous leaders,
decried the scourge of violence against women in Latin America and urged the
Chilean government and radical factions of the Mapuche indigenous group to
peacefully resolve one of the region's longest-running disputes.
But the pope also attracted
unprecedented rejection: At least a dozen churches across Chile were set
aflame, and riot police shot tear gas at and arrested protesters in the
Island volcano in Papua New Guinea erupts with ash, steam
Ash plumes rise from the volcano on Kadovar
Island, Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific Sunday, Jan. 21.
(Brenton-James Glover via AP)
Sydney (AP) — An island volcano in Papua New Guinea erupted again
Sunday, sending plumes of steam and ash into the air.
Thousands of people have been evacuated
from islands surrounding Kadovar Island off the South Pacific nation's north
coast since the volcano there began erupting on Jan. 5. Flights nearby have
been canceled due to the risk posed by ash plumes and ships were warned to
stay away from the island.
Experts warned last week that seismic
activity beneath the volcano meant that a major eruption could be imminent.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has
previously said state resources were being made available to support
evacuations and he has warned northern coastal communities to be alert for
Kadovar is off the northern coast of
New Guinea, the larger island that includes Papua New Guinea's capital, Port
Papua New Guinea sits on the "Ring of
Fire," a line of seismic faults encircling the Pacific that has frequent
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Greeks rally over name dispute with neighbor Macedonia
protesters wave flags and banners during a rally in front of a statue of
Alexander the Great in Thessaloniki on Sunday, Jan. 21. (AP Photo/Giannis
Costas Kantouris and Demetris
Thessaloniki, Greece (AP) — Tens
of thousands of flag-waving Greeks gathered in the northern city of
Thessaloniki on Sunday to demand that Macedonia change its name because it's
also the name of the Greek province of which Thessaloniki is the capital.
Greece and the Republic of Macedonia,
which share a border, have been locked in the name dispute since Macedonia
declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greeks feel deeply the use of
the name Macedonia is a usurpation of their heritage and implies territorial
claims on their province.
Macedonia is represented in
international organizations as The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and
is seated in the United Nations under the letter T, right after Thailand.
Greece successfully vetoed Macedonia's application to join NATO in 2008.
Sunday's rally was staged in front of a
statue of Alexander the Great, the most famous ruler of the ancient Greek
Kingdom of Macedonia. No public official was among the five keynote
speakers. The best-known speaker was Fragoulis Frangos, a retired general
and former chief of the Greek Army Staff, who is said to harbor political
Several local lawmakers attended, as
did the local bishop, Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessalonica, whom many
people consider the real leader of the nationalist hardliners opposing an
accommodation between the countries.
Anthimos, in speaking about the
citizens of Macedonia, used the term Skopje, the name of its capital, which
is how most Greeks refer to them.
"Demonstrate, my brothers for Macedonia
... Skopje will never be accepted with the name Macedonia by the people's
conscience," Anthimos thundered from the pulpit during his sermon. "If we
only shut (access) to the port (of Thessaloniki), they're dead the following
The rally didn't reach the magnitude of
one in 1992, when the name issue first flared up. It was prompted by recent
efforts on both sides of the border to find an acceptable compromise. The
defeat last year of Macedonia's nationalist conservatives by the social
democrats has improved the climate, and Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev
accepted the invitation by Thessaloniki mayor Yannis Boutaris, an outspoken
anti-nationalist, to spend New Year's in the city.
But those who took part in the rally
would have none of it.
"Today, the message is aimed primarily
at Greek politicians," said Giorgos Tatsios, president of the Greek
Federation of Macedonian Cultural Associations. "Those who use the name of
Macedonia and give it away with no scruples. We call on the government and,
especially, the foreign ministry and (foreign minister Nikos) Kotzias to
become the hero of Greek Macedonians and not hand over the name. If he does,
he should know he is a traitor to the nation."
Naturally, there were dissenters, but
they didn't show up, except for a few hundred anarchists, who had their own
banner: "Against nationalism; the whole earth is our homeland." Some of them
clashed with passers-by, prompting police to intervene.
People presumed to be right-wing
extremists set fire to a building occupied by some of the anarchist
counter-demonstrators in the center of the city. The building suffered
extensive damage, but none of its occupants was present when masked men set
fire to it.
Leftist prime minister Alexis Tsipras
has said, most recently in an interview published Sunday in newspaper
Ethnos, that he wouldn't mind a composite name that includes the word
Macedonia. But his coalition partner, defense minister Panos Kammenos,
leader of the Independent Greeks party, has taken a hardline stance, saying
he wouldn't accept the inclusion of the name Macedonia, suggesting the
neighboring country call itself Vardarska.
Update January 20 -21, 2018
Tensions soar along Indian, Pakistan frontier in Kashmir
policemen rescue villagers following shelling from the Pakistan side of the
border, in Ranbir Singh Pura district of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Friday,
Jan.19. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Aijaz Hussain and Munir Ahmed
Srinagar, India (AP) — Tensions
have soared along the volatile frontier between India and Pakistan in the
disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, as rival troops shelled villages and
border posts for a third day Friday.
Three civilians and two soldiers were
killed on both sides in the latest clash, officials in the two countries
said, as each blamed the other for initiating the violence.
Indian officials said two civilians, an
army soldier and a paramilitary soldier died and at least 24 civilians and
two soldiers were injured in Indian-controlled Kashmir. According to
Pakistani officials, Indian fire on Friday killed a civilian and wounded
nine others in Sialkot in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.
An Indian paramilitary officer said
soldiers were responding to Pakistani firing and shelling on dozens of
border posts and called it an "unprovoked" violation of a 2003 cease-fire
Angered over the rising violence,
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P.
Singh and condemned what it called "unprovoked cease-fire violations" by
Each country has also accused the other
of initiating past border skirmishes and causing civilian and military
The fighting is taking place along a
somewhat-defined frontier where each country has a separate paramilitary
border force guarding the lower-altitude 200-kilometer (125-mile) boundary
separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.
The contentious frontier also includes
a 740-kilometer (460-mile) rugged and mountainous stretch called the Line of
Control that is guarded by the armies of India and Pakistan.
The Indian officer, speaking on
condition of anonymity in keeping with official policy, said Friday's
shelling came after relative calm overnight in Jammu following two days of
fighting that left at least three civilians and a soldier dead and several
others wounded on both sides.
The border guard official said by
Friday evening fighting had stopped in most places but continued at about
half a dozen outposts.
The fighting escalated late Friday in
Sunderbani sector, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers fired guns and
mortars at each other's positions. Col. Nitin Joshi, an Indian army
spokesman, said one soldier was killed in the Pakistani firing.
Indian police officer S.D. Singh said
shells have landed in dozens of villages since early Friday. He said
authorities deployed bulletproof vehicles to evacuate people who were
injured and sick. Bullets and shrapnel scarred homes and walls amid the
intense firing and shelling.
Dozens of schools in villages along the
frontier have been closed and authorities advised residents to stay indoors
as shells and bullets rained down. Some damage to houses was also reported
on the Indian side.
Pakistan urged India to respect the
cease-fire, investigate the latest incidents and maintain peace on the
frontier. It also asked India to allow the U.N. Military Observer Group in
India and Pakistan to play its mandated role in accordance with Security
"This unprecedented escalation in
cease-fire violations by India is continuing" since 2017 despite calls for
restraint from Islamabad, Pakistan's statement said.
India's foreign ministry condemned what
it called "continued and unprecedented cease-fire violation by Pakistan,
which has caused loss of lives and properties."
"Pakistan violates the cease-fire as a
cover to infiltrate terrorists across the border into India. We of course
retaliate in such cases," said Raveesh Kumar, India's foreign ministry
spokesman. "We'll also take up the matter at appropriate level with the
India and Pakistan have a long history
of bitter relations over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed by both in
its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since
they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
The exchange of fire comes days after
Islamabad accused Indian forces of killing four Pakistani soldiers along the
Line of Control in Kashmir, where rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united
either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and
training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed
in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.
California DA says couple's abuse of 12 kids became torture
Allen Turpin, center, and Louise Anna Turpin, not seen, appear in court for
their arraignment in Riverside, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 18. (Terry
Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via AP, Pool)
Amy Taxin and Brian Melley
Riverside, Calif. (AP) — They
were starved and shackled to their beds, sometimes for months. They were
beaten and choked. They were given scant medical care, often denied use of a
toilet and allowed to shower but once a year. They lived mostly at night,
out of sight of neighbors, and knew virtually nothing of the outside world.
And yet, some of the children of David
and Louise Turpin hatched an escape plan.
It took two years to carry out but last
weekend a 17-year-old girl and her sister climbed out of the window of their
Southern California home. The other girl turned back out of fear but the
teen persisted and called 911. That act of courage and desperation freed her
12 siblings from a house of horrors that shocked police, a prosecutor said
Thursday in announcing criminal charges that could send the parents to
prison for life.
Prosecutors laid out horrifying details
of the allegations but didn't offer any theories about the motivation for
what they called an escalating climate of brutality that began in Texas and
ended in a small, close-knit desert town a couple of hours southeast of Los
"The victimization appeared to
intensify over time," Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said.
"What started out as neglect became severe, pervasive, prolonged child
When sheriff's deputies arrived Sunday
at the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house on a dead-end street in Perris,
they were appalled. They found a 22-year-old chained to a bed and a house
that reeked and contained human waste, indicating that the children were
prevented from using the toilet, authorities said.
The oldest child, a 29-year-old woman,
weighed only 82 pounds and a 12-year-old was the weight of a typical
7-year-old, Hestrin said.
David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin,
49, pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple counts of torture, child abuse,
dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment. David Turpin also pleaded not
guilty to performing a lewd act on a child under age 14.
They were jailed on $12 million bail
Sharon Ontiveros, 63, stopped by the
house with her 3-year old granddaughter, who left a stuffed animal with
dozens of others on the front walkway.
"Sure, we're saying we should have
known, but behind closed doors you don't know what's going on," she said.
As for the parents, she added: "They
deserve no mercy whatsoever."
Prosecutors say the children range in
age from 2 to 29. The torture and false imprisonment charges do not include
the 2-year-old, who was not malnourished. All the children's names begin
with the letter J, according to court documents that didn't provide their
David Turpin had worked as an engineer
for both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin identified
herself as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.
The charges include allegations dating
to 2010, when the couple moved to Riverside County from outside Fort Worth,
The abuse began in Texas with the
children being tied to beds with ropes and then hog-tied, Hestrin said. When
one child was able to wriggle free, the couple began restraining them with
chains and padlocks — for up to months at a time, Hestrin said.
While the children were deprived of
food, the Turpin parents ate well and even tormented the children by putting
apple and pumpkin pies on the kitchen counter, but not letting them have
any, Hestrin said.
Similarly, the children were not
allowed to play with toys, though many were found throughout the house — in
their original packaging.
"This is depraved conduct," Hestrin
said. "It breaks our hearts."
David Turpin's father, James, the
children's' grandfather, said from his home in Princeton, West Virginia,
that he did not believe the reports about the abuse.
"I'm going to talk with the children,
find out the real story on this as soon as I can get a call through to
them," James Turpin told The Associated Press.
David Turpin's lawyer, Deputy Public
Defender David Macher, had only begun to investigate the allegations but
said the case was going to be a challenge.
"It's a very serious case," he said.
"Our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that is a very important
The siblings, who were schooled at
home, were rarely seen outside the house, though the parents posted photos
of them smiling together at Disneyland and in Las Vegas, where the couple
renewed their wedding vows.
In addition to raising them largely in
isolation, the parents may have been able to hide the abuse by functioning
while other families slept. The children were reared on the graveyard shift,
with the family staying up all night and going to bed shortly before dawn,
One of the only things the children
were allowed to do was to write in their journals.
Investigators were combing through
hundreds of journals found in the home, Hestrin said. They are expected to
provide powerful evidence against the parents.
Malaysia Airlines flight shakes violently, lands safely
Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 image made from video, Malaysia Airlines Flight 122
is on tarmac in Alice Springs, Australia. (Australian Broadcasting
Corporation via AP)
Sydney (AP) - A Malaysia
Airlines plane landed safely in an Australian Outback city after the plane
shook violently in midflight and passengers braced themselves for a hard
Flight 122 had been heading from Sydney
to Kuala Lumpur and was over the northwest Australian coastal town of Broome
when it turned back Thursday. It landed safely in Alice Springs and the
airline said "safety was not at any time compromised."
"We suddenly experienced a very violent
shaking of the aircraft and that probably lasted about five minutes and it
was coming from one of the engines," passenger Hugh Wolton told the
Australian Broadcasting Corp. "We got a call from the captain on the deck
describing how to make plans for an emergency landing, you know, the wording
used things like 'impact,' so we were suddenly bracing ourselves for a rough
Passenger Peter Brooks said the captain
announced there would be "a couple of impacts" and some passengers thought
the plane would come down in the desert. But about 45 minutes later the
captain said they would land in Alice Springs, he said.
The airline said the Airbus A330-300
plane experienced a "technical fault" in one of its two engines and the
pilot decided to divert the flight.
Passenger Cath Cat said the landing was
"We were aware of a sudden shuddering
noise and then we were told to prepare for an emergency landing and there
were instructions," Cat told Nine Network television. "But later — fairly
rapidly actually — the pilot said that the situation was under control and
that we were returning to Alice Springs and although it was an emergency
landing technically, it was going to be like a commercial landing, which in
fact happened and we were all very grateful for that."
The airline said passengers would be
flown to Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Malaysia Airlines suffered two
disasters in 2014. Flight 370 vanished with 239 people on board while
heading to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the far Indian Ocean,
and Flight 17 carrying 298 people from Amsterdam was shot down over Ukraine
a few months later.
Baby dies, 17 injured after car hits crowd on Rio boardwalk
Rescue workers give first aid to people hurt
after a car drove into the crowded seaside boardwalk along Copacabana beach
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Rio de Janeiro (AP) — A motorist who drove into a crowded boardwalk
along Rio's famed Copacabana beach killed a baby and injured 17 people,
Brazilian authorities said Friday.
Rio de Janeiro's municipal health
department reported that an Australian was among those hurt in the Thursday
night incident. The 68-year-old was in serious condition and breathing with
the help of a respirator.
The Australian Embassy initially said
it was not aware any of its citizens was hurt, but the Department of Foreign
Affairs later said in a statement that it was urgently consulting with
Brazilian officials to determine if an Australian had been injured.
Eight other people remain hospitalized,
many with broken bones. At least three children were among the injured, and
the state health department confirmed the death of a baby girl.
The boardwalk was crowded on a hot
summer night when the car jumped the curb, crossed the wide sidewalk and
came to a stop in the sand.
Police have said it was not a terrorist
attack and have arrested the driver. The driver told police he had not been
drinking but lost control of his car. He also told them he has epilepsy.
Melted nuclear fuel seen inside second Fukushima reactor
taken by a robotic probe, Friday, Jan. 19, shows a part of what is believed
to be the handle of the fuel rods container and melted fuel in small lumps
scattered on a structure below the Fukushima reactor core. (International
Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning via AP)
Tokyo (AP) — The operator of
Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Friday that a long telescopic
probe successfully captured images of what is most likely melted fuel inside
one of its three damaged reactors, providing limited but crucial information
for its cleanup.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the
fishing rod-like device carrying a camera went deep into the plant's Unit 2
primary containment vessel. The images indicated that at least part of the
fuel had breached the core, falling to the vessel's floor, TEPCO spokesman
Takahiro Kimoto said.
"There is so much that we still haven't
seen," Kimoto told reporters. "But we were able to obtain important
information that we need in order to determine the right method for removing
the melted fuel debris."
A massive earthquake and tsunami in
2011 caused three reactors at the Fukushima plant to melt. The plant's
decommissioning is expected to take decades.
Melted fuel has previously only been
documented inside Unit 3, where an underwater probe captured images of large
amounts of melted fuel debris that looked like molten lava mixed with broken
parts of equipment and structures on the concrete floor.
During Friday's investigation, the
device — developed by Toshiba Corp. and the International Research Institute
for Decommissioning, a government-funded organization of nuclear companies —
found deposits in the shape of pebbles, clay and other forms, Kimoto said.
Determining the location of the melted
fuel is crucial in planning for its removal, the hardest process in the
The government and TEPCO plan to
determine the methods and start removing melted fuel from one of the three
reactors in 2021. But experts say a lack of data is delaying the development
of the precise type of technology and robots.
The images from Friday's probe show was
what is believed to be a stainless steel handle of a case containing bundles
of fuel rods sitting on a pile of pebble-shaped and clayish substances, in a
sign the rods melted and breached the bottom of the core. The deposits
seemed to be scattered in a wide area around the pedestal, the main
structure that sits underneath the core.
Experts say they believe part of the
fuel still remains inside the core of the Unit 2 reactor, while almost all
of the fuel rods in Unit 1 and 3 melted and fell to the bottom of the
primary containment chambers.
Powerful gale lashes Europe, 7 dead amid traffic chaos
a scooter overturned by heavy winds lie in a street in Amsterdam,
Netherlands, Thursday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — A
powerful storm pummeled Europe with high winds and snow Thursday, killing at
least seven people in three countries, grounding flights, halting trains,
ripping roofs off buildings and flipping over trucks.
The Dutch national weather service
recorded wind gusts of up to 140 kph (87 mph) in the southern port of Hook
of Holland as the storm passed over.
Amsterdam's Schiphol briefly halted
flights for an hour in the morning, and airline KLM scrapped more than 200
flights even before the storm arrived. Trains were halted across the nation
and in Germany.
Falling trees killed two 62-year-old
men in the Netherlands, a woman south of the Belgian capital of Brussels, a
59-year-old man camping in the German town of Emmerich and a firefighter in
the German town of Bad Salzungen.
In Lippstadt, in western Germany, a
driver died when he lost control of his van in strong winds and drove into
oncoming traffic. In German's eastern state of Brandenburg, police said a
gust of wind flipped a truck over a highway, killing the driver.
Police spokeswoman Jose Albers told
Dutch national broadcaster NOS that authorities also were investigating
whether the powerful gusts were to blame for the death of a 66-year-old man
who fell through a plexiglass roof in the central town of Vuren.
Social media in the Netherlands was
flooded with images of people being blown from their bicycles, cargo
containers falling off a ship and damage to buildings, including a roof that
peeled off an apartment block in Rotterdam.
Water authorities in the low-lying
nation closed an inflatable storm barrier east of Amsterdam to prevent
flooding as the storm pushed up water levels.
Traffic on Dutch roads was plunged into
chaos, with the wind blowing over tractor trailers, toppling trees and
hampering efforts to clean up the mess. In Amsterdam, authorities
temporarily halted all trams and closed the city's zoo.
Before halting all trains, the Dutch
rail service reported numerous incidents including a collision between a
train and a trampoline.
In neighboring Belgium, the port of
Ghent closed down because of the high winds and tram traffic was halted in
parts of Brussels.
In Germany, police reported several
injuries as well as the four deaths and the national railway company
suspended long-distance trains across the country as train tracks were
littered with fallen trees. Deutsche Bahn's announcement Thursday afternoon
came hours after all trains in two of Germany's populous western areas,
North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, were halted.
Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Stauss
told n-tv television that the measure would remain all day Thursday as a
precaution. He said regional and local trains were still running in Berlin,
Bavaria and the far north.
In western Germany, some 100,000 people
were left without electricity and schools closed down. The square in front
of Cologne's famous Cathedral was partially cordoned off amid fears that
masonry could be blown loose. A supermarket roof peeled off in Menden.
The storm toppled a crane in Kirtorf,
In Britain, power was knocked out to
thousands of homes. Gale-force winds damaged overhead power lines that
supply trains and brought trees crashing onto the tracks, causing severe
delays for thousands of commuters. Even Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan
Markle were delayed in their train trip to Cardiff in Wales.
In Romania, snowstorms and high winds
forced the closure of dozens of schools, several main roads and Black Sea
ports in the east. Interior Minister Carmen Dan said 32,000 people were left
without power. Authorities also had to free a bus carrying 22 people that
was stranded in snowdrifts in Romania's eastern Galati region.
Pope shocks Chile by accusing sex abuse victims of slander
arrives to celebrate Mass on Lobito Beach in Iquique, Chile, Thursday, Jan.
18. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)
Santiago, Chile (AP) — Pope
Francis accused victims of Chile's most notorious pedophile of slander
Thursday, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a
sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the
Francis said that until he sees proof
that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the
Rev. Fernando Karadimas, such accusations against Barros are "all calumny."
The pope's remarks drew shock from
Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted
the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced
Karadima to a lifetime of "penance and prayer" for his crimes in 2011. A
Chilean judge also found the victims to be credible, saying that while she
had to drop criminal charges against Karadima because too much time had
passed, proof of his crimes wasn't lacking.
"As if I could have taken a selfie or a
photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching
it all," tweeted Barros' most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. "These people
are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims.
Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty."
The Karadima scandal dominated Francis'
visit to Chile and the overall issue of sex abuse and church cover-up was
likely to factor into his three-day trip to Peru that began late Thursday.
Karadima's victims reported to church
authorities as early as 2002 that he would kiss and fondle them in the swank
Santiago parish he ran, but officials refused to believe them. Only when the
victims went public with their accusations in 2010 did the Vatican launch an
investigation that led to Karadima being removed from ministry.
The emeritus archbishop of Santiago
subsequently apologized for having refused to believe the victims from the
Francis reopened the wounds of the
scandal in 2015 when he named Barros, a protege of Karadima, as bishop of
the southern diocese of Osorno. Karadima's victims say Barros knew of the
abuse, having seen it, but did nothing. Barros has denied the allegations.
His appointment outraged Chileans,
badly divided the Osorno diocese and further undermined the church's already
shaky credibility in the country.
Francis had sought to heal the wounds
by meeting this week with abuse victims and begging forgiveness for the
crimes of church pastors. But on Thursday, he struck a defiant tone when
asked by a Chilean journalist about Barros.
"The day they bring me proof against
Bishop Barros, I'll speak," Fracis said. "There is not one shred of proof
against him. It's all calumny. Is that clear?"
Francis had defended the appointment
before, calling the Osorno controversy "stupid" and the result of a campaign
mounted by leftists. But The Associated Press reported last week that the
Vatican was so worried about the fallout from the Karadima affair that it
was prepared in 2014 to ask Barros and two other Karadima-trained bishops to
resign and go on a yearlong sabbatical.
According to a Jan. 31, 2015, letter
obtained by AP from Francis to the executive committee of the Chilean
bishops' conference, the plan fell apart and Barros was sent to Osorno.
Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a
group of Osorno lay Catholics who have mounted a three-year campaign against
Barros, questioned why Francis was now accusing the victims of slandering
Barros when the Vatican was so convinced of their claims that it planned to
remove him in 2014.
"Isn't the pastoral problem that we're
living (in Osorno) enough to get rid of him?" Claret asked.
The reference was to the fact that —
guilty or not — Barros has been unable to do his job because so many Osorno
Catholics and priests don't recognize him as their bishop. They staged an
unprecedented protest during his 2015 installation ceremony and have
protested his presence ever since.
Anne Barrett Doyle, of the online
database BishopAccountability.org, said it was "sad and wrong" for the pope
to discredit the victims since "the burden of proof here rests with the
church, not the victims — and especially not with victims whose veracity has
already been affirmed."
"He has just turned back the clock to
the darkest days of this crisis," she said in a statement. "Who knows how
many victims now will decide to stay hidden, for fear they will not be
Indeed, Catholic officials for years
accused victims of slandering and attacking the church with their claims.
But up until Francis' words Thursday, many in the church and Vatican had
come to reluctantly acknowledge that victims usually told the truth and that
the church for decades had wrongly sought to protect its own.
German Silva, a political scientist at
Santiago's Universidad Mayor, said the pope's comments were a "tremendous
error" that will reverberate in Chile and beyond.
Patricio Navia, political science
professor at Diego Portales University in Santiago, said Francis had gone
much further than Chilean bishops in acknowledging the sexual abuse scandal,
which many Chileans appreciated.
"Then right before leaving, Francis
turns around and says: 'By the way, I don't think Barros is guilty. Show me
some proof,'" Navia said, adding that the comment will probably erase any
good will the pope had won over the issue.
Navia said the Karadima scandal had
radically changed how Chileans view the church.
"In the typical Chilean family, parents
(now) think twice before sending their kids to Catholic school because you
never know what is going to happen," Navia said.
UK and French leaders reach border deal, disagree on Brexit
President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May look at
two Royal Air Force planes as they perform a fly past ahead of the start of
an Anglo-French summit at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in
southern England, Thursday, Jan. 18. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Camberley, England (AP) — The
leaders of Britain and France met Thursday against a military backdrop to
pledge closer cooperation on defense, security and borders after Britain
leaves the European Union.
But President Emmanuel Macron also
delivered a firm message: the U.K. cannot keep coveted access to the EU for
its financial sector after Brexit unless it continues to play by the bloc's
rules once it leaves.
"The choice is on the British side, not
on my side," Macron said at a joint news conference with British Prime
Minister Theresa May.
"If you want access to the single
market — including the financial services —- be my guest," he said. "But it
means that you need to contribute to the budget and acknowledge European
The future of Britain's financial
sector — which employs more than 1 million people — is a key issue as
Britain and the EU hammer out details of their relationship after Brexit. EU
officials warn the U.K. it can't hang on to the benefits of membership
without accepting its responsibilities, including free movement of people.
May said Britain would be leaving the
single market, but wanted a free-trade deal with the bloc covering both
goods and services.
She said London "will continue to be a
major global financial center" after Brexit.
The visit, Macron's first to Britain
since he won the French presidency in May 2017, was aimed at strengthening
security and intelligence ties between nations that are both neighbors and
historic rivals, and building goodwill as Britain negotiates its exit from
The venue — the Sandhurst military
academy southwest of London — was selected as a signal that the relationship
between western Europe's two biggest military powers won't be weakened once
the U.K. leaves the EU in March 2019.
May treated the French leader to a pub
lunch of crab and duck breast, followed by a serving of British military
pomp. Macron was greeted at Sandhurst by troops from the Coldstream Guards
in gray coats and bearskin hats.
Amid a sudden hailstorm, Macron and May
inspected the honor guard before taking a salute from soldiers on horseback.
Senior ministers from the two countries
attended the one-day meeting, and signed agreements on everything from space
exploration to tackling online extremism.
In a significant gesture, May offered
millions to ease French annoyance over a 2003 deal that placed British
border controls in the northern French port of Calais. The town has become a
magnet for migrants hoping to reach Britain, and the accord puts the burden
of blocking their entry to the U.K. on France.
Alongside a new treaty aimed at better
management of their joint border, Britain agreed to pay 44.5 million pounds
for fences, security cameras and other measures in Calais and nearby English
Channel ports. France also wants Britain to take in more migrants from
Calais, especially unaccompanied children.
May pointedly declined to give a number
of migrants that Britain would take when asked by journalists at a joint
press conference. Instead she stressed the need to clamp down on people
smugglers and take other measures to stop migrants from getting to Calais.
Macron said the treaty would mean
"smarter and more efficient management of the border" and a faster, more
humane processing system for migrants.
The U.K. also said it will send three
Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters and dozens of personnel to join France's
military mission against Islamic militants in Africa's Sahel region. France
has led efforts to fight al-Qaida and IS-linked jihadi groups in the vast
region south of the Sahara desert.
The leaders of the five main U.K. and
French spy agencies also met for the first time, as the two countries seek
to increase intelligence-sharing. France and Britain have both faced a
string of violent attacks by extremists inspired or directed by the Islamic
In a boost to Macron, Britain is
throwing its backing behind the European Intervention Initiative, a
multinational European military force that the French president has
proposed. He also wants a common European defense budget and security
In return, France will send troops to
join a U.K.-led NATO battle group in Estonia in 2019, aimed at countering an
increasingly assertive Russia.
Macron also came with the news that
France will loan Britain the Bayeux Tapestry, an 11th-century panorama
depicting the Norman conquest of England. It will go on display at an
unspecified British venue in 2022.
Macron said that despite Brexit, "we
are facing common challenges and sharing the same destiny."
"We are somehow making a new tapestry
together," he said.
Drought-stricken Cape Town tightens water restrictions
Sunday, April 16, 2017 file photo, the Theewaterskloof Dam, a key source of
water supply to Cape Town, South Africa, is shown at low levels. (AP
Johannesburg (AP) — The South
African city of Cape Town announced new water restrictions Thursday to
combat drought, saying it was looking more likely that it will have to turn
off most taps on "Day Zero," or April 21.
Mayor Patricia de Lille said 60 percent
of residents are "callously" using more than the current limit and that the
city will fine households that use too much water.
"We have reached a point of no return,"
she said. Residents must use no more than 50 liters of water daily beginning
Feb. 1, down from 87 liters currently.
Cape Town, a major tourist destination
and a city of 3.7 million people, has assessed 200 water collection points
for residents as it prepares for the possible April 21 cutoff.
Experts link the city's water shortages
to factors including climate change and high population growth.
"We can no longer ask people to stop
wasting water. We must force them," de Lille said.
Ukraine passes bill to get occupied regions back from Russia
Protesters with a Ukrainian national clash with
police during a rally outside the Supreme Rada in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday,
Jan. 16. (AP Photo/Andrew Kravchenko)
Kiev, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's parliament on Thursday passed a bill
that aims to reintegrate the eastern territories currently controlled by
Russia-backed separatists, and goes as far as to declare support for taking
them back by military force if necessary.
The bill describes the areas in
Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions as "temporarily occupied" by
"aggressor country" Russia. President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the new
bill, saying it would help restore control of the east by "political and
Russia warned, however, that the deal
effectively kills the peace accords that Ukraine is party to and that were
supposed to resolve the deadly conflict.
Fighting in eastern Ukraine, which
erupted weeks after Russia's annexation of Crimea, has killed more than
10,000 people since April 2014. The 2015 Minsk peace deal helped reduce the
scope of hostilities, but clashes have continued and attempts at a political
settlement have stalled.
The new bill, passed by the Supreme
Rada after days of raucous debate, contains no reference to the peace deal
brokered by Russia, France and Germany that obliged Ukraine to offer a broad
autonomy to the separatist regions and a sweeping amnesty to the rebels.
Most Ukrainian political parties rejected that idea as a betrayal of
"We can't embed diplomatic and
political agreements that are prone to change into the Ukrainian
legislation," Ivan Vinnyk, a member of Poroshenko's faction in parliament,
said on Thursday while explaining why the Minsk deal wasn't mentioned.
In a terse statement issued after the
vote, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the bill is nothing "but a
preparation for a new war." The foreign ministry said the bill runs against
Kiev's commitments under the Minsk accords and further alienates Ukrainians
living in separatist-held areas.
"Sadly, we are witnessing the making of
a situation which is fraught with a dangerous escalation in Ukraine and
(carrying) unpredictable consequences for global peace and security."
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the
foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament's upper house, said the
new bill effectively spikes the Minsk peace pact, the implementation of
which the U.S. and the European Union have said was a condition for lifting
sanctions against Russia.
"Kiev has gone from sabotaging the
Minsk agreements to burying them," he said.
The bill backs a ban on trade as well
as a transport blockade of the east that Ukraine introduced last year. Of
all the documents issued by separatist authorities, Ukraine would only
recognize birth and death certificates.
Alexander Zakharchenko, the chief rebel
leader in the Donetsk region, also criticized the new bill as a flagrant
violation of the Minsk agreement signed by Ukraine and the rebels, saying it
would encourage hawkish elements in Ukraine and fuel hostilities.
Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta
research center, an independent Kiev-based think-tank, said the main purpose
of the bill is to defend Ukraine's interests in international courts.
Japanese public TV says staffer sent missile alert in error
shows Tuesday's NHK television's news website saying "North Korea appears to
have fired a missile, seek shelter inside buildings and basements," in Tokyo
Wednesday, Jan. 17. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Tokyo (AP) — Japanese public
broadcaster NHK said Wednesday that an erroneous alert about a North Korean
missile fired at Japan was sent by a staff member who meant to transmit a
different news flash.
NHK denied any mechanical flaw and said
it is studying preventive measures, though it did not give further details.
The false alarm Tuesday came just days
after emergency authorities in Hawaii sent a mistaken warning of a missile
attack to mobile phones across the state, triggering panic.
The erroneous NHK news flash had been
prepared for a possible emergency, the broadcaster said, adding that
transmission of an alert usually involves checking by multiple staff
The false alert said North Korea
appeared to have fired a missile at Japan and that the government was
warning people to take shelter. NHK retracted the mistake in five minutes,
first on the internet, and then apologized on air and other formats.
NHK said it was not sure how many of
the 300,000 followers of its "NHK News and Disaster Prevention" service saw
the alert or if anyone followed the instructions.
The broadcaster said most of the
complaints it had received were from people who learned about the mistake
when they saw the correction instead of the erroneous flash itself. Some,
however, were simply trying to make sure a missile was actually not fired.
Tension has grown in Japan over North
Korean missile tests as they have flown closer to Japanese coasts. NHK and
other Japanese media generally alert each missile test, and the government
has issued emergency notices when the missiles flew over northern Japan.
Japan is also stepping up its missile
defense capabilities and is conducting missile drills across the country.
Tokyo will have its first drill next week.
China planning to send robot sub to sunken ship
Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, photo, a rescue ship sails near the burning Iranian
oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the eastern coast of China.
(Ministry of Transport via AP)
Beijing (AP) — China is
preparing to send a robot submarine possibly followed by divers to explore
and plug holes in a sunken Iranian oil tanker whose 32 crew members are all
believed to have died, the Transport Ministry said Wednesday.
No timeline was given from the
deployment, although the Shanghai Maritime Search and Rescue Centre and a
Hong Kong newspaper said authorities will send larger salvage vessels to
support the operation.
They said divers might also be able to
pump out oil from the 85,000-ton vessels' fuel tanks before they leak and
contaminate the seabed.
China said that the Sanchi was lying
under 115 meters (377 feet) of water in the East China Sea. It caught fire
after colliding with a freighter on Jan. 6 and exploded and sunk on Sunday
about 530 kilometers (330 miles) southeast of Shanghai.
The report said that an oil slick 58
square kilometers (22 square miles) in size from its cargo of natural gas
condensate is being monitored for potential environmental damage with
cleanup efforts being organized.
The cause of the collision remains
under investigation. All 21 crew members of the freighter were reported
UK citizens ask Dutch court to protect post-Brexit EU rights
and Deborah Williams, three U.K. nationals living in the Netherlands, from
left, pose for a photographer outside a district court in Amsterdam,
Netherlands, Wednesday, Jan. 17. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Amsterdam (AP) — A group of
British citizens who live in the Netherlands went to a Dutch court Wednesday
in a bid to retain their EU citizenship rights after Britain completes its
divorce from the bloc, but lawyers for the Dutch state dismissed their case
as a legal fiction.
In a case that could have far-reaching
consequences for some 1 million Britons currently living in European Union
countries outside the United Kingdom, lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm
launched summary proceedings before a judge at Amsterdam District Court,
asking judge Floris Bakels to put so-called "prejudicial questions" about
the status of U.K. nationals post-Brexit to the European Court of Justice,
the Luxembourg-based court that rules on EU law.
According to the Treaty on the
Functioning of the EU, any person who is a citizen of an EU nation
automatically is also an EU citizen. EU citizenship grants rights including
to move and live freely within the bloc.
Brexit negotiators have made progress
on the protection of rights of EU citizens living in Britain and U.K.
citizens living on the continent, but no full agreement has been reached yet
on the issue and lawyers for the plaintiffs said the progress so far left
their fate up in the air.
British lawyer Jolyon Maugham, who is
funding the case, said that if the Dutch judge puts questions to the
Luxembourg court, "The answer the Court of Justice gives will be an answer
that applies to U.K. passport holders wherever they live."
"I am profoundly concerned about what
the loss of EU citizenship means for the million or so U.K. citizens who
live and work in the EU," Maugham said before the hearing. "I am also
profoundly concerned for the 64-odd million people living in the United
Kingdom who, but for this litigation, will lose the ability to exercise EU
citizenship rights in the future."
Alberdingk Thijm said that that
according to EU law, citizens' rights are clear when a country joins the
bloc but nobody knows what happens when a country decides, as Britain has
done, to leave. He urged the Dutch judge to ask the court in Luxembourg to
clarify the issue.
"Your honor, the fate of British
citizens living in the Netherlands is in your hands," he said.
But urging the judge to reject the
request, lawyer Georges Dictus, representing the Dutch state and Amsterdam
municipality, said that once Brexit is finalized, EU treaties will no longer
apply to British citizens and that any rights must be laid out in an
agreement between Britain and the EU.
Another lawyer representing the Dutch
state, Erik Pijnacker Hordijk, called the case "fictional, artificial," and
said the plaintiffs were attempting to use the Amsterdam court as a stepping
stone to get to the EU court in Luxembourg. He urged the judge to reject
their request, saying it could potentially delay Brexit negotiations as a
ruling from Luxembourg would likely take many months.
He added that the Britons were taking
their case to the wrong court.
"If British citizens believe they have
a legal right to a particular treatment post-Brexit, they should direct
themselves to their own government of a British judge," he said.
A ruling is expected in three weeks'
At least 33 bodies found in clandestine graves in Mexico
Jan. 15, 2018 photo, a man digs up a clandestine grave in Xalisco, Nayarit
state, Mexico. (General Prosecutor of Nayarit via AP)
Mexico City (AP) — Search dogs
led authorities to the grisly discovery of four clandestine graves
containing at least 33 bodies in a sugarcane field in Mexico's Pacific coast
state of Nayarit and officials said Wednesday the killings were likely
linked to the drug trade.
The graves were found in the township
of Xalisco, which has long been the home base of a black-tar heroin
trafficking ring that supplied the U.S. West Coast. The discovery comes amid
a dispute between drug gangs in Nayarit following the March arrest of the
former state attorney general, Edgar Veytia, on U.S. charges of drug
Current state Attorney General
Petronilo Diaz said local gangs have been engaged in power struggles since
"The assumption is that these were
people who were involved with one of the various criminal groups, but I
can't say which one," Diaz said, referring to the bodies in the graves. He
said some of the bodies had apparently been dismembered before burial.
"This breakdown among the drug gangs we
are seeing now in Nayarit comes as a result of the arrest ... of an official
(Veytia) from the previous administration," Diaz said. "That is when these
criminal groups start fighting, and that's when this mess we're seeing
Corrupt officials in Mexico have
sometimes enforced a sort of rough peace by favoring one drug gang over the
others or dividing territories.
The burial pits came to light when some
families searching for missing loved ones found remains on Saturday after
receiving a telephone tip from local residents. The first pit contained nine
bodies and was located near a stream in a sugar cane field. Trained dogs
then led searchers to three other pits nearby.
The bodies were so badly decomposed
that neither their gender nor identity could be immediately established. The
remains had been buried for about an average of six months, investigators
Only one body still had a legible
tattoo that might help identify it; the others are being subjected to DNA
testing, officials said.
7 dead as Myanmar police open fire to disperse protesters
Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, image made from video, a man recovers from a head
wound in a hospital after being allegedly involved in a protest
confrontation with police in the ancient city of Mrauk-U, Rakhine, western
Myanmar. (DVB via AP)
Bangkok (AP) — Myanmar police
opened fire at hundreds of protesters angry about a ban on a local festival,
killing seven people, officials said Wednesday.
The protesters in Rakhine state marched
through the ancient city of Mrauk-U and ransacked a government building on
Tuesday after authorities banned the anniversary celebration of the founding
of the old kingdom, saying they were not informed about it beforehand.
Deputy director of the regional
government Tin Maung Swe said police warned the mob to stop but they were
being physically attacked and officers had to respond after initially using
The protest involved Rakhine Buddhists.
Rakhine is also home to minority Rohingya Muslims, who have long faced
persecution that has seen about 650,000 people driven away from their homes
into Bangladesh since August.
The U.N. office in Myanmar said it was
concerned with reports of violent clashes and urged respect for the rights
to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. It also called on security
forces and demonstrators to act with restraint and avoid further violence,
and for authorities to investigate any disproportionate use of force.
Hungary seeks to punish those who aid illegal migration
In this Feb.
22, 2016 file photo migrants walk behind a temporary protective fence at the
border between Hungary and Serbia near Morahalom, 179 kms southeast of
Budapest. (Zoltan Gergely Kelemen/MTI via AP)
Budapest, Hungary (AP) — A new
set of laws would tax and possibly sanction Hungarian groups assisting
illegal migration which receive foreign funding, Hungary's government said
Such groups would have to register with
the courts and, if they get more than half of their funds from foreign
sources, pay a 25-percent tax on the funds received from abroad, Interior
Minister Sandor Pinter said. Groups failing to register, and which
authorities consider to be adding illegal migrants, could be fined.
Pinter, without mentioning anyone by
name, gave an example of someone providing a smartphone containing maps and
other information "showing the way to Europe" to a migrant in Belgrade, the
capital of Serbia, and part of the "Balkan route" migrants use to try to
reach Germany and other destinations in Western Europe.
Also, restraining orders could be
issued against Hungarian citizens considered to be "organizing illegal
migration," preventing them from going within eight kilometers (five miles)
of Hungary's Schengen borders, those with countries outside the European
Union, like Serbia and Ukraine. Foreigners found to be aiding illegal
migrants could be banned from Hungary, Pinter said.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said
the expectations were that Hungarian non-governmental groups "which deal
with illegal migrants or the issue of migration will follow the law and
indicate to authorities ... that they are doing this activity."
The new laws would apparently not apply
to, for example, religious charity groups or the Red Cross, which distribute
food, medicines and other aid to migrants.
"Giving assistance is not the same as
actively ... taking part in someone crossing the border illegally," Kovacs
Prime Minister Viktor Orban is an
opponent of immigration, especially by Muslims, and Hungary built long
fences along its southern borders in late 2015 to stop the flow of migrants.
The government has dubbed the bills
"Stop Soros" laws, as it blames Hungarian-American billionaire and
philanthropist George Soros for Europe's migration challenges, partly
because of his funding of groups that advocate for the rights of refugees.
Pinter said, however, that "I don't
believe that so far George Soros has told anyone that he takes part in
organizing" illegal migration.
Since the government expects groups or
people to declare voluntarily if they aid illegal migration, "we are very
curious to see" whether Soros will or will not acknowledge doing so, Kovacs
The Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a
rights group which provides legal aid to asylum-seekers and receives part of
its funding from Soros' Open Society Foundations, drew attention to the
government's proposed eight-kilometer restraining order and compared it to a
1969 decree by Hungary's then-communist government prohibiting citizens from
going nearer than two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the borders.
Bitcoin prices fall as South Korea says ban still an option
A man passes by a screen showing the prices of
bitcoin at a virtual currency exchange office in Seoul, South Korea,
Tuesday, Jan. 16. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — Prices
of bitcoin and other digital currencies have skidded after South Korea's top
financial policymaker said Tuesday that a crackdown on trading of crypto
currencies was still possible.
Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon said in
an interview with local radio station TBS that banning trading in digital
currencies was "a live option." He said the decision was subject to a
thorough government review.
"There are no disagreements over
regulating speculation," such as using real-name accounts and levying taxes
on crypto currency trading, Kim said. Shutting down digital currency
exchanges is "a live option but government ministries need to very seriously
review it," he said.
Bitcoin closed at $10,772.08, down 20.7
percent from the day before as of 10:15 p.m. GMT on Tuesday, according to
Coindesk. The price of ethereum, another digital currency, tumbled 27.8
percent to $931.79 as of 10:15 p.m. GMT.
South Korean officials' remarks have
swayed the global markets for bitcoin and other crypto currencies in the
past few weeks. The country has seen a huge bitcoin craze, with young and
old betting on the crypto currency to build wealth. The high demand from
South Korean investors has created what investors call a "kimchi premium,"
the extra price the South Koreans have to pay to buy digital currencies,
sold in South Korea at higher than the average global prices.
Last week, the justice minister's
remark that the country will ban bitcoin and other digital currencies
triggered big sell-offs and a public outcry. The presidential office then
said that no final decision had been made.
An online petition on the presidential
office's website has drawn more than 210,000 requests from people asking the
government not to ban trading in digital currencies.
"We the citizens were able to have a
happy dream that we had never had in South Korea thanks to crypto currency,"
the petition reads. "You may think you are protecting the public but we
citizens think that the government is stealing our dream."
Macron visits Calais to preview toughened migrant policies
President Emmanuel Macron, center, speaks with French gendarmes during his
visit to Calais, northern France, Tuesday, Jan.16. (Denis Charlet/Pool via
Elaine Ganley and Sylvie Corbet
Calais, France (AP) — President
Emmanuel Macron traveled Tuesday to Calais, the epicenter of France's
migrant crisis, to lay out a new approach to immigration: help for those who
want to stay, expulsion for those using France as a transit point and
sanctions for security forces who overstep the rules.
The northern port city is a magnet for
migrants because it is the closest point between France and Britain and has
two cross-Channel transport systems, the Eurotunnel and ferries.
More than 1,130 French security forces
have been posted in Calais, including riot police, border police and
gendarmes, to keep migrants out of the port and Eurotunnel and to stop them
from setting up camps.
Macron laid out the broad lines of his
immigration policy — humanity with a firm hand — in a speech before security
forces, some of whom have been criticized for overzealous actions against
migrants. The president's trip was a preview of a tough new immigration and
asylum bill to be presented to the Cabinet in February.
Macron said the bill would include a
provision launching "automatic" expulsion proceedings against migrants
caught trying to enter Britain illegally from France.
"Calais is not a back door to Britain,"
Macron said, referring to the hundreds of people who attempt to reach
Britain by sneaking onto trucks crossing the English Channel.
Macron declared that staying in Calais
instead of applying for asylum in France is "a dead end" and vowed not to
allow any migrant camp take root here again after authorities dismantled
Europe's biggest migrant slum in 2016.
At that time, there were more than
7,000 migrants in the sprawling, filthy camp on the edge of Calais, compared
to up to 700 in Calais today.
Macron is meeting Thursday with British
Prime Minister Theresa May in Sandhurst near London, and on the agenda is a
2003 border control agreement that he wants to change.
The 2003 Touquet Accords effectively
moved the British border to the French port of Calais, where British agents
help. The accord has spared Britain from receiving floods of migrants at its
doorstep like other European countries, putting the burden of blocking their
entry to the U.K. on France.
During his speech to security forces,
the French president mentioned three points he plans to raise with May,
including "better management of unaccompanied minors, reinforced police
cooperation in Calais with the countries of origin and transit" and getting
British funds for development projects in Calais.
Macron suggested while meeting with
representatives from Calais' economic sector later Tuesday that the British
are ready to provide more financing. He said France's priority in ongoing
talks with the U.K. government is for Britain to accept more of the
unaccompanied minors who make it to France.
Calais, a former French tourist
destination, has suffered because of the influx of migrants.
"I think we can improve the situation
without knocking everything down," Macron said later at Calais City Hall.
In a surprise announcement, Macron said
the state was taking over food distribution to migrants, an apparent bid to
undermine aid groups who have for years provided meals.
The president issued a stern warning to
the aid groups against discouraging migrants from going to centers where
they can apply for French asylum — a move that would end their bid to go to
"I no longer want us to delegate food
aid to associations that use it to keep alive false information," he said
during a discussion with local officials.
At least three aid groups, including
Doctors of the World, were boycotting a meeting with Macron at the end of
his daylong visit, saying he left no room for real discussions on critical
"(The situation) is catastrophic"
because migrants have no rights to pitch tents now, said Francois Guennoc of
the aid group Auberge des Migrants, which also declined to meet with Macron.
Macron also told security forces in
Calais they will be sanctioned if they fail to honor their rules of conduct.
He listed some of the claims: that police confiscate sleeping bags and even
shoes from migrants, awaken them in the night, use tear gas on their
belongings and food.
"There are no half-truths," the
But Macron also said authorities would
file defamation complaints against those who make false allegations against
Macron also talked briefly Tuesday with
Sudanese migrants at a special center in Croisilles, south of Calais, where
migrants can apply for asylum in France. Many stay only briefly in such
centers and quickly resume efforts to sneak across the Channel.
One migrant applying for asylum in
France, identified only as Ahmed, 25, said he traveled from Sudan through
Libya and Italy to end up in Calais last year. He told Macron he had no
choice but to leave home because his mother was killed and his family
disappeared. He said he wants to "learn French, get training and find a job
as an auto mechanic."
Macron told Ahmed that his story seemed
to meet the French criteria for granting asylum.
Even the eyelashes freeze: Russia sees minus 88.6 degrees F
photo taken on Sunday, Jan. 14, three women pose for a selfie as the
temperature dropped to about -50 degrees (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) in
Yakutsk, Russia. (sakhalife.ru photo via AP)
Moscow (AP) — Even thermometers
can't keep up with the plunging temperatures in Russia's remote Yakutia
region, which hit minus 67 degrees Celsius (minus 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit)
in some areas Tuesday.
In Yakutia — a region of 1 million
people about 3,300 miles (5,300 kilometers) east of Moscow — students
routinely go to school even in minus 40 degrees. But school was canceled
Tuesday throughout the region and police ordered parents to keep their
In the village of Oymyakon, one of the
coldest inhabited places on earth, state-owned Russian television showed the
mercury falling to the bottom of a thermometer that was only set up to
measure down to minus 50 degrees. In 2013, Oymyakon recorded an all-time low
of minus 71 degrees Celsius (minus 98 Fahrenheit).
Over the weekend, two men froze to
death when they tried to walk to a nearby farm after their car broke down.
Three other men with them survived because they were wearing warmer clothes,
But the press office for Yakutia's
governor said Tuesday that all households and businesses in the region have
working central heating and access to backup power generators.
Residents of Yakutia are no strangers
to cold weather and this week's cold spell was not even dominating local
news headlines Tuesday.
But some media outlets published
cold-weather selfies and stories about stunts in the extreme cold. Women
posted pictures of their frozen eyelashes, while YakutiaMedia published a
picture of Chinese students who got undressed to take a plunge in a thermal
Serb leader's death in Kosovo raises Balkan region tensions
candles and a picture of Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, who was
shot dead Tuesday morning by still-unknown assailants, are shown at the
scene of the shooting in front of his office in the northern, Serb-dominated
part of Mitrovica, Kosovo, Tuesday, Jan. 16. (AP Photo/Bojan Slavkovic)
Mitrovica, Kosovo (AP) — A
leading Serb politician was shot to death Tuesday near his political party's
offices in northern Kosovo, an attack that raised ethnic tensions in the
Balkans and prompted the suspension of EU-mediated talks between Kosovo and
Unknown assailants opened fire on
Oliver Ivanovic, 64, in the Serb-controlled northern city of Mitrovica.
Ivanovic was taken to a hospital, but doctors were unable to save him.
An autopsy showed he was shot six times
in the upper torso. The assailants escaped in a car that was later found
burned out. Kosovo police sealed off the area of the shooting while they
searched for suspects.
Ivanovic was one of the key politicians
in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, a former Serbian province where tensions
remain high a decade after Kosovo declared independence in 2008. Serbia does
not recognize Kosovo as a separate country.
Ivanovic was considered a moderate who
maintained relations with NATO and EU officials after Serbia lost control of
northern Kosovo following NATO's 1999 bombing to stop a deadly Serb
crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Ivanovic, who was married with three
children, had enemies both among Kosovo Albanians and nationalist Serbs
because of his moderate policies.
A Kosovo court convicted him of war
crimes from the 1998-99 Kosovo war. The verdict eventually was overturned
and a retrial was underway.
In Pristina, the Kosovo government
strongly denounced the slaying, saying it considered the attack a challenge
to "efforts to establish the rule of law in the whole of Kosovo territory."
Kosovo police offered a 10,000-euro ($12,250) reward for information about
In Belgrade, Serbian President
Aleksandar Vucic held a top security meeting to discuss the attack. Vucic
called Ivanovic's killing "a terrorist act" and said Serbia would demand to
be included in any investigations carried out by international missions
based in Kosovo.
"Serbia will take all necessary steps
so the killer or killers are found," he said.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic
said the killing threatened the stability of both Serb-populated northern
Kosovo and the whole Balkan region.
After a meeting of Kosovo's National
Security Council, Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj rejected Serbia's
demand to take part in the investigation and said he might invite the FBI.
Haradinaj also said that Ivanovic's
slaying was the result of "illegal involvement in the north of other
institutions beyond Kosovo." He didn't elaborate on what outside forces he
was accusing of being involved in Ivanovic's slaying.
At the news of Ivanovic's death, the
Serb delegation at a previously scheduled session of the EU-mediated talks
immediately left Brussels to return to Belgrade.
"Whoever is behind this attack ...
whether they are Serb, Albanian or any other criminals, they must be
punished," delegation leader Marko Djuric said.
Avni Arifi, who heads the Kosovo
delegation to the talks, called on Serbia to return to the negotiations.
"There is no alternative to the
dialogue," Arifi told Klan Kosova TV.
European Union foreign policy chief
Federica Mogherini called the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo to express the
EU's condemnation of the killing. She appealed for both sides "to show calm
The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo,
Ambassador Jan Braathu, said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" and
considered Ivanovic "among the most prominent Kosovo Serb representatives
for almost two decades."
He also urged "all sides to avoid
dangerous rhetoric and remain calm at this sensitive time, and recommit
themselves to continue the work toward the normalization of relations and
improvement of the lives of the citizens of Kosovo and Serbia."
NATO also urged Serbia and Kosovo to
return to the talks, which are aimed at normalizing relations their
"NATO fully supports the EU-facilitated
dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and calls for this dialogue to
continue as soon as possible. This is critical for regional peace and
security," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.
Lungescu urged "all parties to exercise
restraint to defuse tensions, and allow the judicial authorities to carry
out a full investigation."
A NATO-led peacekeeping force
established in 1999 "continues to guarantee a safe and secure environment
and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo" following Tuesday's slaying,
Malaysia's Najib criticizes Singapore ties under Mahathir
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, right, shakes hands with his Malaysian
counterpart Najib Razak during the Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat at
the Istana or presidential palace in Singapore, Tuesday, Jan. 16. (AP
Photo/Yong Teck Lim)
Singapore (AP) — Malaysian Prime
Minister Najib Razak praised his country's relationship with neighboring
Singapore on Tuesday, but added a jibe for his closest rival in upcoming
"We believe in good relations with our
neighbor, with Singapore, and we've proven that we can bring tangible
benefits to the people if we work closely together," Najib said at a news
conference in Singapore.
"The other side may have other ideas.
We certainly do not want to return to the era of confrontational diplomacy
and barbed rhetoric between our two countries," he added. "It was an era
that we want to forget."
Najib's closest rival is former Prime
Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, who heads Malaysia's opposition coalition.
Mahathir led Malaysia for 22 years
before stepping down in 2003. During his term there were frequent sharp
exchanges with neighboring Singapore and its first prime minister, Lee Kuan
"Talking to Lee Kuan Yew was a
one-sided affair," Mahathir wrote in his memoirs. "His style of
conversation, like his manner of addressing the Malaysian Parliament when he
was a member, was to lecture his listeners about what was right and what was
Najib was speaking on the sidelines of
the 8th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders' Retreat. The yearly meeting is an
opportunity for the neighbors to strengthen their ties.
This time, officials discussed water
and education. They also signed an agreement for a new high-speed rail link
to be completed in 2024. It will ease traffic at the main causeway linking
the countries, which sees over 300,000 crossings a day.
"Our bilateral relations are in very
good shape. Both sides have been able to work well together," Singapore
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday.
Singapore and Malaysia briefly merged
in 1963, but fell apart after clashing on issues such as the rights of
Malaysia's polls are due by August.
Najib's United Malays National
Organization is the linchpin of Malaysia's ruling National Front coalition
but its support has dwindled in the last two elections. It lost the popular
vote for the first time to the opposition in 2013.
Mahathir is still influential among
ethnic Malay Muslims who account for about 60 percent of Malaysia's 32
Glowing red lava rolls down slopes of Philippine volcano
Lava cascades down the slopes of Mayon volcano
as seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, southeast of Manila, Philippines,
Monday, Jan. 15. (AP Photo/Earl Recamunda)
Legazpi, Philippines (AP) —
Glowing red lava was rolling down the slopes of a Philippine volcano as
authorities maintain a warning of a possible hazardous eruption.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology
and Seismology said Tuesday morning the lava was quietly flowing in some
places but at times Mount Mayon was erupting like a fountain. Lava had
advanced up to 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the crater, and ash was
Nearly 15,000 people have fled the
danger zone already. The alert level remained three on a scale of five,
indicating an increased prospect of a hazardous eruption "within weeks or
Mayon lies in Albay province about 340
kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila. It has erupted about 50 times in
the last 500 years, sometimes violently. Five climbers died in 2013.
Dolores O'Riordan, voice of The Cranberries, dies at 46
In this Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008 file photo,
Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan performs during the European
Border Breakers awards, or EBBA awards, in Cannes, southern France. (AP
London (AP) — Dolores O'Riordan,
whose urgent, powerful voice helped make Irish rock band The Cranberries a
global success in the 1990s, died suddenly on Monday at a London hotel. She
The singer-songwriter's publicist,
Lindsey Holmes, confirmed that O'Riordan died in London, where she was
"No further details are available at
this time," Holmes said, adding that O'Riordan's family was "devastated" by
Her Cranberries bandmates — Noel Hogan,
Mike Hogan and Fergus Lawler — tweeted that O'Riordan "was an extraordinary
talent and we feel very privileged to have been part of her life."
London's Metropolitan Police force said
officers were called just after 9 a.m. Monday to a hotel where a woman in
her 40s was found dead. The police force said the death was being treated as
The Hilton hotel in London's Park Lane
confirmed that a guest had died on the premises.
Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins
said O'Riordan and The Cranberries "had an immense influence on rock and pop
music in Ireland and internationally."
O'Riordan was born on Sept. 6, 1971 in
Ballybricken, southwest Ireland. In 1990, she answered an ad from a local
band in nearby Limerick city — then called The Cranberry Saw Us — that was
looking for a lead singer.
A name change and a confluence of
factors turned The Cranberries into international stars. Their guitar-based
sound had an alternative-rock edge at a time when grunge was storming the
The band's songs — on which O'Riordan
was chief lyricist and co-songwriter — had a Celtic-infused tunefulness. And
in O'Riordan the group had a charismatic lead singer with a distinctively
Heavy play on MTV for their debut
single "Dream" and the singles that followed helped bring the group to the
attention of a mass audience.
The Cranberries' 1993 debut album,
"Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?", sold millions of copies and
produced the hit single "Linger."
The follow-up, "No Need to Argue," sold
in even greater numbers and contained "Zombie," a visceral howl against
Northern Ireland's violent Troubles that topped singles charts in several
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
tweeted Monday that "for anyone who grew up in Ireland in the 1990s, Dolores
O'Riordan was the voice of a generation. As the female lead singer of a
hugely successful rock band, she blazed a trail and might just have been
Limerick's greatest ever rock star. RIP."
The band released three more studio
albums before splitting up in 2003. O'Riordan released a solo album, "Are
You Listening," in 2007, and another, "No Baggage," in 2009.
The Cranberries also reunited that
year, resulting in the album "Roses" in 2012.
For a time, O'Riordan was one of
Ireland's richest women, but she struggled with both physical and mental
The Cranberries released the acoustic
album "Something Else" in 2017 and had been due to tour Europe and North
America. The tour was cut short because O'Riordan was suffering from back
In 2014, O'Riordan was accused of
assaulting three police officers and a flight attendant during a flight from
New York to Ireland. She pleaded guilty and was fined 6,000 euros ($6,600.)
Medical records given to the court
indicated she was mentally ill at the time of the altercation. After her
court hearing O'Riordan urged other people suffering mental illness to seek
She told London's Metro newspaper last
year that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she spoke to the
Irish News about her battles with depression.
O'Riordan said depression "is one of
the worst things to go through," but that "I've also had a lot of joy in my
life, especially with my children."
"You get ups as well as downs. Sure,
isn't that what life's all about?" she said.
O'Riordan is survived by her
ex-husband, the former Duran Duran tour manager Don Burton, and their three
Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
security forces gather at the scene of a double suicide bombing in Baghdad,
Iraq, Monday, Jan. 15. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Sinan Salaheddin and Murtada
Baghdad (AP) — Twin suicide
bombings rocked Baghdad on Monday, killing 38 people in the deadliest attack
since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group last month, and
raising fears ahead of national elections planned for May.
The bombers targeted the bustling
Tayran Square, in the heart of the capital, setting off their explosive
vests among laborers and street vendors during the morning rush hour. More
than 100 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials,
who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk
to the media.
No one has claimed the attacks, but
they bore the hallmarks of IS.
Iraqi forces have driven IS from all
the territory the extremists once held, but the militant group has proven
resilient in the past and is likely to continue carrying out insurgent-style
attacks. That could undermine Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hopes to
extend the country's newfound sense of pride and unity in order to lead a
diverse coalition to power in May.
Ambulances rushed to the scene as
security forces sealed off the area with yellow tape. Slippers could be seen
scattered about on the blood-stained pavement as cleaners hurried to clear
"It was a tremendous, I felt the ground
shaking under my feet," said Munthir Falah, a secondhand clothes vendor
whose chest and right leg were pierced by shrapnel. He said he fell to the
ground and lost consciousness before later waking up in a hospital.
The father of three said government
forces had failed to secure the capital. "They think that Daesh is done," he
said, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym. "They don't bother themselves to
exert efforts to secure Baghdad."
Einas Khalil, a Baghdad housewife,
blamed the security breakdown on the country's feuding politicians, many of
whom are connected to different state-sanctioned militias or branches of the
"We were expecting this because of the
upcoming elections," she said. "Every four years we have to live through
this suffering because of political differences and disagreements."
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim
al-Jabouri denounced the attack as a "cowardly act against innocent people"
and called on the government to take all necessary security measures.
Al-Abadi met security officials in charge of Baghdad, ordering them to root
out militant sleeper cells, according to a brief statement issued by his
A deterioration in security could
undermine al-Abadi's claim to have vanquished IS and create an opening for
his main rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to return to power.
Al-Maliki, who stepped down after IS
swept across northern and central Iraq in 2014, was widely accused of
pursuing sectarian policies that alienated the country's Sunni minority
during his eight years in power. Many of Iraq's Sunnis, fed up with
al-Maliki's rule, initially welcomed IS as liberators from the
Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.
The government has proposed holding
elections on May 12, but parliament must approve the date. Sunni leaders
have called for the vote to be delayed until the 3 million people still
displaced from the fighting can return to their homes.
Victory over IS has come at an almost
incalculable cost in Iraq, where entire neighborhoods in several cities and
towns were completely destroyed in the fighting.
Warning: Stifling sneezes can be health hazard in rare cases
In this Jan.
14, 2005 file photo, a man sneezes holding a tissue in Berlin, Germany. (AP
London (AP) — Tempted to stifle
a loud or untimely sneeze? Let it out instead, doctors in England warned
Monday based on the very unusual case of a man who ruptured the back of his
throat when he tried to suppress a sneeze.
In a case study published in the
journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors described their initial confusion when the
previously healthy man turned up in the emergency room of a Leicester
hospital, complaining of swallowing difficulties and "a popping sensation"
in his swollen neck.
The 34-year-old patient told them his
problems started after he tried to stop a forceful sneeze by pinching his
nose and closing his mouth. He eventually lost his voice and spent a week in
"When you sneeze, air comes out of you
at about 150 miles per hour," said Dr. Anthony Aymat, director for ear, nose
and throat services at London's University Hospital Lewisham, who was not
involved in the case. "If you retain all that pressure, it could do a lot of
damage and you could end up like the Michelin Man with air trapped in your
While examining the sneeze-averse
patient, doctors in Leicester heard "crackling in the neck" down to his
ribcage, a sign that air bubbles had seeped into his chest. Worried about
infection and other possible complications, they admitted him to the
hospital, gave him a feeding tube and administered antibiotics, according to
details published in BMJ Case Reports.
Dr. Zi Yang Jiang, a head and neck
surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said he
sees one or two cases arising from repressed sneezes each year, making them
an "exceedingly rare" occurrence.
Jiang said it was bizarre that a single
sneeze could generate enough force to cause the kind of physical damage that
usually results from trauma, such as a gunshot wound to the neck. A
collapsed lung is among the problems that retaining the air from an imminent
sneeze can cause, he said.
"The whole point of sneezing is to get
something out of your body, like viruses and bacteria, so if you stop that,
those may end up in the wrong part of the body," he said. Jiang said in most
cases, the excess air is later absorbed by the body.
The English patient made a full
recovery and was advised to avoid plugging his nose while sneezing in the
future. Doctors recommend letting sneezes rip into a tissue instead.
"The safest thing to do — although it's
not socially acceptable — is just to sneeze loud," Aymat said.
Plane dangles off cliff after skidding off runway in Turkey
737-800 of Turkey's Pegasus Airlines is shown after skidding off the runway
at the airport in Trabzon, Turkey, Sunday, Jan. 14. (DHA-Depo Photos via AP)
Istanbul (AP) — A commercial
airplane that skidded off a runway after landing in northern Turkey dangled
precariously Sunday off a muddy cliff with its nose only a few feet from the
Some of the 168 people on board the
Boeing 737-800 described it as a "miracle" that everyone was evacuated
safely from the plane, which went off a runway at Trabzon Airport.
Images show the aircraft on its belly
and perched at an acute angle just above the water. If it had slid any
further along the slope, the plane would have likely plunged into the sea in
the Turkish province of Trabzon.
Pegasus Airlines said no one was
injured during the incident late Saturday, despite the panic among the 162
passengers on board Flight PC8622. The six-member crew, including two
pilots, was also evacuated. Flights were suspended at Trabzon Airport for
several hours before resuming again Sunday.
Passenger Yuksel Gordu told Turkey's
official Anadolu news agency that words weren't enough to describe the fear
on the aircraft.
"It's a miracle we escaped. We could
have burned, exploded, flown into the sea," Gordu said. "Thank God for this.
I feel like I'm going crazy when I think about it."
Another passenger, Fatma Gordu, told
private Dogan news agency that there was a loud sound after landing.
"We swerved all of a sudden," she said.
"The front of the plane crashed and the back was in the air. Everyone
Trabzon Gov. Yucel Yavuz said
investigators were trying to determine why the plane had left the runway.
The prosecutor's office launched an investigation.
The flight originated in the Turkish
Airport officials would not discuss the
status of plane Sunday and whether it had been towed off the slope.
Iran oil tanker explodes, sinks off China with no survivors
colleagues of the deceased Iranian seafarers aboard a tanker that sank off
the coast of China weep at the headquarters of National Iranian Tanker
Company, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Tehran, Iran (AP) — A burning
Iranian oil tanker exploded and sank Sunday after more than a week listing
off the coast of China, as an Iranian official acknowledged there was "no
hope" of missing sailors surviving the disaster.
The collision and disaster of the
Sanchi, which carried 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, had transfixed an
Iran still reeling from days of protests and unrest that swept the country
at the start of the year.
Families of the sailors wept and
screamed at the headquarters of the National Iranian Tanker Co. in Tehran,
the private company that owns the Sanchi. Some needed to be taken by
ambulance to nearby hospitals as they were so overwhelmed by the news.
"Thirty-two people died without a
funeral and without coffins! They burned to ashes while their families were
wailing here!" cried out one woman who didn't give her name. The government
"has come after 10 days to sympathize with them? What sympathy are you
State TV earlier quoted Mahmoud Rastad,
the chief of Iran's maritime agency, as saying: "There is no hope of finding
survivors among the (missing) 29 members of the crew."
President Hassan Rouhani expressed his
condolences and called on relevant government agencies to investigate the
tragedy and take any necessary legal measures, according to state TV. In a
message, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his
condolences and sympathy with the victims' families, his own website,
Khamenei.ir, reported Sunday. The government also announced Monday as a
nationwide day of public mourning over the disaster.
The cause of the Jan. 6 collision
between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, 257 kilometers (160
miles) off the coast of Shanghai, remains unclear. The CF Crystal had 21
crew members, all of whom were reported safe.
But the Sanchi, carrying nearly 1
million barrels of a gassy, ultra-light oil bound for South Korea, burst
into flames. Chinese officials blamed poor weather for complicating their
rescue efforts. Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from
Japan, engaged in the rescue and cleanup effort Saturday, spraying foam in
an effort to extinguish the fire.
But around noon Sunday, Chinese state
media reported that a large explosion shook the Sanchi, its hull and
superstructure completely stripped of paint by the flames. The ship then
sank into the sea.
The Chinese say the ship left a
10-square-kilometer (3.8-square-mile) area contaminated with oil. However,
the condensate oil the ship was carrying readily evaporates or burns off in
a fire, reducing the chance of a major oil spill.
Chinese state media also said the
ship's voice data recorder, which functions like "black boxes" on aircraft,
had been recovered. Three bodies have been recovered from the sea, leaving
29 crew members still unaccounted for.
The tanker has operated under five
different names since it was built in 2008, according to the U.N.-run
International Maritime Organization. The National Iranian Tanker Co.
describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.
It's the second collision for a ship
from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In
August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the
Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.
Earthquake in Peru destroys dozens of homes, kills 1 man
shows residents in Chala, Peru, Sunday, Jan. 14, after an earthquake struck
the area. (Andina Agency via AP)
Lima, Peru (AP) — A powerful
earthquake struck off Peru's coast early Sunday, tumbling adobe homes in
small, rural towns, killing at least one person and injuring dozens,
The sole fatality was a man crushed by
a falling rock, officials said. They said many of those injured were in
Caraveli province, a coastal area dependent on fishing and mining that is
popular with tourists.
Sixty-five people were injured, the
national chief of civil defense, Jorge Chavez, said.
The earthquake destroyed 171 homes,
displacing the same number of families, Peru's National Emergency Operations
Center said on its website Sunday night. It added that 736 families had been
affected in some way by the tremor.
Emergency crews responded by bringing
in tents and mattresses to displaced families, officials said.
"Everything that is needed is going to
be sent," President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski said. "We are already responding
at full speed."
The U.S. Geological Survey said the
early morning quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and was centered 25 miles (40
kilometers) from Acari in the Arequipa department of southwestern Peru.
The quake jolted people awake as far
away as the capital city of Lima, some 350 miles (560 kilometers) from
Workers used large tractors to clear
away boulders and debris that crashed down and blocked some roads.
The quake caused some damage in
communities that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit this week, and officials
said the damage would not change the pontiff's tour.
Missile-alert mistake feeds doubts about a real emergency
Saturday, Jan. 13 photo, cars drive past a highway sign that says "MISSILE
ALERT ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT" on the H-1 Freeway in Honolulu. (Anthony
Quintano/Civil Beat via AP)
Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Brian
Honolulu (AP) — A blunder that
caused more than a million people in Hawaii to fear that they were about to
be struck by a nuclear missile fed skepticism Sunday about the government's
ability to keep them informed in a real emergency.
Residents and tourists alike remained
rattled a day after the mistaken alert was blasted out to cellphones across
the islands with a warning to seek immediate shelter and the ominous
statement "This is not a drill."
"My confidence in our so-called
leaders' ability to disseminate this vital information has certainly been
tarnished," said Patrick Day, who sprang from bed when the alert was issued
Saturday morning. "I would have to think twice before acting on any future
The erroneous warning was sent during a
shift change at the state's Emergency Management Agency when someone doing a
routine test hit the live alert button, state officials said.
They tried to assure residents there
would be no repeat false alarms. The agency changed protocols to require
that two people send an alert and made it easier to cancel a false alarm — a
process that took nearly 40 minutes.
The error sparked a doomsday panic
across the islands known as a laid-back paradise. Parents clutched their
children, huddled in bathtubs and said prayers. Students bolted across the
University of Hawaii campus to take cover in buildings. Drivers abandoned
cars on a highway and took shelter in a tunnel. Others resigned themselves
to a fate they could not control and simply waited for the attack.
The 911 system for the island of Oahu
was overwhelmed with more than 5,000 calls. There were no major emergencies
during the false alarm, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
An investigation into what went wrong
was underway Sunday at the Federal Communications Commission, which sets
rules for wireless emergency alerts sent by local, state or federal
officials to warn of the threat of hurricanes, wildfires, flash flooding and
to announce searches for missing children.
The state of Hawaii "did not have
reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the
transmission of a false alert," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement,
calling the mistake "absolutely unacceptable."
"False alerts undermine public
confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during
real emergencies," he said.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen
Nielsen urged Americans not to lose faith in their government.
"I would hate for anybody not to abide
by alerts and warnings coming from government systems," Nielsen said on "Fox
News Sunday." ''They can trust government systems. We test them every day.
This is a very unfortunate mistake, but these alerts are vital. Seconds and
minutes can save lives."
With mobile phones ubiquitous, wireless
alerts can quickly disseminate information to a wide number of users, but
there have been concerns about creating a panic if they are sent too
Authorities were criticized for not
sending an alert to mobile phones when fires ripped through Northern
California in October, killing 40 people. Officials had decided not to use
the system because they couldn't target them precisely enough and feared a
wider broadcast would lead to mass evacuations, including people not in
danger, snarling traffic that would hamper firefighting and rescues efforts.
Lisa Foxen, a social worker and mother
of two young children in east Honolulu, said she expects Hawaii officials to
make necessary changes and restore trust in the system. The best thing to
come out of the scare, she said, was that it pushed her family to come up
with a plan if there is a real threat.
"I kind of was just almost like a deer
in headlights," she said. "I knew what to do in a hurricane. I knew what to
do in an earthquake. But the missile thing is new to me."
The false alarm triggered a broader
discussion about national security at a time when North Korea has been
flexing its muscles by launching test missiles and bragging about its
nuclear capability. Its leader, Kim Jong Un, has also exchanged insults on
Twitter with President Donald Trump about their arsenals.
The standoff has whipped up nuclear
fears on Hawaii and led the islands to revive Cold War-era siren tests that
drew international attention.
Rep. Tusi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat,
said officials should be held accountable for the "epic failure of
leadership" behind the warning. She said the nuclear threat underscored the
need for Trump to meet with Kim to work out differences without
"The people of Hawaii are paying the
price now for decades of failed leadership in this country" by setting
"unrealistic preconditions," she said. "The leaders of this country need to
experience that same visceral understanding of how lives are at stake."
Philip Simmons, an orchestral
conductor, said the false alarm was one of the most horrifying events of his
life, and he had no idea what to do. He said everyone from Gov. David Ige to
the president should resign.
"The government has totally blown
this," Simmons said. "They're completely inept at protecting the people of
this country and notifying them of what's happening."
The mistake was not the first for the
state's warning system. During a test last month, 12 of the state's 386
sirens played an ambulance siren. In the tourist hub of Waikiki, the sirens
were barely audible, prompting officials to add more sirens and reposition
ones already in place.
Pope: It's a sin if fear makes us hostile to migrants
Pope Francis leaves after celebrating Mass at
the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 14. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Vatican City (AP) — Pope Francis
has defined hostility and rejection of refugees and migrants as sin,
encouraging people to overcome their "fully comprehensible" fears that these
new arrivals might "disturb the established order" of local communities.
At his invitation, several thousand
migrants, refugees and immigrants from 49 countries joined Francis at Mass
in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, a day the Catholic Church dedicated to
the issues and contributions of those who leave homelands in hope of a
New arrivals must "know and respect the
laws, the culture and the traditions of the countries that take them in," he
said. Local communities must "open themselves without prejudices to their
rich diversity, to understand the hopes and potential of the newly arrived
as well as their fears and vulnerabilities."
"It is not easy to enter into another
culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to
understand their thoughts and their experiences," Francis said.
"As a result, we often refuse to
encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves. Local
communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived with disturb the
established order, will 'steal' something they have long labored to build
Similarly, he said, newcomers also are
afraid: "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure."
"These fears are legitimate, based on
doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view," Francis
continued in his homily.
"Having doubts and fears is not a sin,"
the pope said. "The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses,
to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed
hostility and rejection."
Francis elaborated: "The sin is to
refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor," instead of
seeing it as a "privileged opportunity" to encounter God.
In his almost five-year-old papacy,
Francis has stressed the Catholic church's mission to welcome vulnerable and
marginalized people. His focus comes as wealthier countries, including
several European Union nations and the U.S., are intent on increasing
physical or legal barriers to migrants.
Later, greeting about 25,000 people in
St. Peter's Square, Francis advocated responding to the migrations that
"today are a sign of our times" in four ways: "welcome, protect, promote and
Update January 13-14, 2018
Rescuers expand search for survivors of ship fire off China
In this Thursday, Jan. 11 photo, smoke rises
from a fire aboard the oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the
eastern coast of China. (Ministry of Transport via AP)
Beijing (AP) — Rescue ships looking for 31 missing crew members from
a burning oil tanker have expanded their search area to more than 2,600
square kilometers (1,000 square miles), authorities said Friday.
The expanded search comes six days
after the Iranian-owned Sanchi collided with a freighter in the East China
Sea and burst into flames. The cause of the collision remains unclear.
Chinese state television cited
officials at the scene in reporting Friday that authorities still have not
found any survivors or put out the blaze on the Sanchi. One body has been
Twelve ships spraying foam are
struggling to extinguish the tanker, which was carrying a cargo of nearly 1
million barrels of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil.
Search and firefighting efforts resumed
Thursday after an onboard explosion rocked the tanker Wednesday. Intense
flames, bad weather and poor visibility have hampered rescue efforts and
Chinese authorities fear the ship could explode, potentially setting off an
The Panamanian-registered vessel had a
crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. The Chinese freighter CF Crystal.
had 21 crew members, who all were reported safe.
Haiti 'shocked and outraged' over reported Trump remarks
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on
immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington,
Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti (AP) —
Haitians reacted with outrage Friday to reports that President Donald Trump
used a vulgar remark to describe the country on the eve of the anniversary
of the 2010 earthquake, one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.
President Jovenel Moise's government
issued a strongly worded statement at what it called a "racist" depiction of
"The Haitian government condemns in the
strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven,
reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its
contribution to the United States," it said.
Trump was in a closed meeting with
members of Congress to discuss immigration on Thursday when he reportedly
questioned why the U.S. would accept more people from Haiti and “(expletive)
countries” in Africa, rather than places like Norway.
At first the White House did not deny
that the remark was made. On Friday the president tweeted that his language
was "tough" but insisted he did not say anything derogatory about Haitians
aside from noting it's a poor country.
Haitians at home and abroad were
stunned, and Internet message boards and radio stations were flooded with
angry and anguished comments.
"It's shocking he would say it on the
anniversary," said 28-year-old Natacha Joseph, who was selling rice and
beans from a basket near the general hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince. "I
will ask Jesus to protect Haiti from the devil, and Trump is the devil."
Motorcycle taxi driver Jean-Paul Maxon
said he was angry that the president seemed to be unaware of Haiti's proud
history as the first independent country founded by freed slaves.
"Trump will not last in office," Maxon
said. "He attacked the wrong nation."
The government statement also pointed
to history, noting that Haitian soldiers fought on the American side against
the British in the Revolutionary War and in the War of 1812.
"The relationship between the two
countries has been strengthened by the fact that millions of sons and
daughters of Haiti have contributed and will continue to contribute to the
prosperity and greatness of America," it said.
Haitian Sen. Yuri Latortue said the
reported remarks were also galling because they came just before the United
States marks the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on
"Mr. Trump spits on the assassination
of this black American icon, as well as on a whole generation of young
people, black and white, who gave their lives in the civil rights movement,"
The United States and Haiti have long
been closely intertwined. President Woodrow Wilson dispatched U.S. Marines
to invade the Caribbean country in 1915 after its president was
assassinated. A repressive occupation lasted until 1934. In more recent
times, the U.S. supported the brutal dictator "Papa Doc" Francois Duvalier
as well as the son who succeeded him until he in turn was ousted.
In the 1990s, U.S. intervention helped
bring Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the country's first democratically elected
president, back to power after he was ousted in a coup, but then supported
his removal in a rebellion in 2004.
After the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, the
U.S. came to Haiti's assistance and was the largest provider of aid. But
that support was also a source of frustration since much of the money was
spent on U.S. troops that responded to the immediate aftermath and later aid
focused on long-term projects that appeared to have little to do with the
disaster, such as the development of an industrial park in the north of the
country, far from the earthquake zone.
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which
killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced more than 1 million, was on
the minds of many as Moise and others prepared for a solemn memorial on
Friday to mark the anniversary.
The president was expected to lay a
wreath at a mass grave where many victims were buried. But government
officials were also expected to meet with the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat
in the country for an explanation of Trump's reported remarks.
Former Prime Minister Laurant Lamothe
said Trump showed "a lack of respect and ignorance" not previously shown by
a U.S. president and "the world is witnessing a new low today."
Indonesia hard-line Muslims protest ban on Facebook accounts
A group of Muslims hold a banner during a rally
outside the Facebook office in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 12. (AP
Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Muslim
hard-liners marched in Indonesia's capital on Friday to protest Facebook's
blocking of accounts belonging to their group.
About 200 protesters organized by the
Islamic Defenders Front, known by its Indonesian acronym FPI, marched after
Friday prayers from a mosque to the Facebook Indonesia office, which was
guarded by hundreds of police. They halted traffic along the way as they
chanted "Allah Akbar," or "God is Great."
Many carried banners saying "Don't
persecute Muslims" and "Please don't judge our status on Facebook."
The group wants to impose Shariah law
in the secular nation. It has a long record of vandalizing nightspots,
hurling stones at Western embassies and attacking rival religious groups.FPI
spokesman Slamet Maarif said they were demanding an explanation of why
Facebook had blocked the group's accounts while allowing ones that denounced
its leaders and Islam.
"We want justice and no more
discrimination against Islamic accounts," he said.
Facebook spokeswoman Putri Ariani said
it allows people to use its social networking site to challenge ideas and
raise awareness, but removes content that promotes hatred and violence
against people with different views.
Indonesia is the world's most populous
Muslim country, but has a secular government and a reputation as a tolerant,
pluralist society that respects freedom of expression. Most Indonesians
practice a moderate form of Islam, but a small extremist fringe has become
more vocal in recent years.
Investors cheer German deal, but some bemoan lack of vision
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint
statement after the exploratory talks between Merkel's conservative bloc and
the Social Democrats on forming a new German government in Berlin, Germany,
Friday, Jan. 12. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Frankfurt, Germany (AP) — Hopes
for a new government in Germany sent the euro and markets higher Friday on
relief that the Europe's biggest economy might soon get stable leadership.
But it left some economists and business lobbyists saying it offers too
little to support the country's prosperity over the longer term.
Friday's tentative deal to open formal
coalition talks would see Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats,
the allied Bavaria-only Christian Social Union and the center-left Social
Democrats continue their coalition. The agreement follows the collapse of a
proposal for Merkel's party to govern along with the Greens and pro-business
One primary reason for investors' cheer
— which saw the euro jump to a three-year high of $1.2156 against the dollar
— was simply relief that the country's political situation was being sorted
out, almost four months after the Sept. 24 election.
It seems likely that Merkel, a known
quantity for investors and a firmly pro-European politician, will remain
Also, the deal avoids the risk of
another election, which would have raised the prospect of more gains by
populist parties such as the far-right AfD. Analysts have singled out the
rise in populist, euroskeptic parties in many countries as one of the key
risks to growth and markets in Europe. Several such parties want to weaken
the euro ties or break up the currency bloc altogether, with uncertain
consequences for the region's economies.
"The agreement is overdue," said Dieter
Kempf, president of the Federation of Germany Industries lobby. "Germany
urgently needs a government capable of taking action."
The most important points in the
agreement between Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats include a
promise not to increase taxes, some flexibility on reaching a commitment to
cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020, and a willingness to
work with France on steps to fix chronic flaws in the shared euro currency.
Friday's deal was only an agreement to
open full-fledged coalition talks that should produce a more detailed policy
map for the next government. A deal must also be approved by the Social
Democratic rank and file, who have been skeptical about joining with the
conservatives again after suffering substantial losses in the election.
The plan has some increases in social
spending, such as a 25 euro per month rise in child benefit, along with a
decrease in the so-called solidarity tax imposed to help the former East
Germany catch up with the west.
Kempf welcomed the flexible approach to
cutting greenhouse emissions, saying that "there are grounds for hope that
technical and economic realities will be more clearly recognized."
He also welcomes the promise not to
raise taxes, yet said that the 28-page document was short on specifics:
"What is lacking is a vision of in what direction a future government will
shape our country." He said the proposals represented a "minimum" of
possible steps and urged more definite proposals on areas such as the
The deal includes a strong statement in
favor of strengthening the European Union, including steps to make the
eurozone currency union function better. That could include transforming the
current European Stability Mechanism bailout fund into a full-fledged
European Monetary Fund to help backstop crisis-hit countries. There was also
mention of targeted investment that could "serve as the point of departure
for a eurozone investment fund." The euro currency's lack of a central
fiscal pot to even out recessions has been identified as one of its
weaknesses. The currency union was threatened with breakup in 2011-2012
during a crisis over too much debt in several member countries. Germany has
resisted fiscal sharing out of concern that it would wind up funding other
countries on a long-term basis.
There was no mention of other fixes
such as EU-wide deposit insurance or efforts to promote cross-border
investment holdings, dubbed capital markets union.
Still, continuity has a certain appeal
in a country where the economy grew 2.2 percent last year and unemployment
is low at 3.6 percent. Far-reaching reforms that from 2004 under former
Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that lowered business costs
are often credited for boosting the country's economic performance.
Clemens Fuest, head of the Ifo research
institute in Munich, sharply criticized the agreement for containing too
much in additional social outlays and little in the way of tax reductions.
"This government program will bring a long term expansion of the state share
of economic output, that is, higher taxes and more spending."
Carsten Brzeski, chief economist for
Germany at ING, said that "as regards economic policies, the agreement is a
continuation of the well-known policies of the last few years: cautious
steps forward, rather than any visionary experiments."
Saudi stadiums open for women in a first to watch soccer
In this Sept. 23, 2017 file photo, Saudi men and
women attend national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh,
Saudi Arabia. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)
Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP) —
Saudi women were allowed into a sports stadium for the first time Friday to
watch a soccer match between two local teams — though they were segregated
in the stands from the male-only crowd with designated seating in the
so-called "family section."
The move was the first of Saudi
Arabia's social reforms planned for this year to ease restrictions on women,
spearheaded by the kingdom's 32-year-old crown prince. The kingdom has also
announced that starting in June women will be allowed to drive, lifting the
world's only ban on female drivers.
More than just an incremental step
toward greater rights, the presence of women in the sports stadium
underscored a wider effort to integrate women in society and grant them more
public visibility in a country where gender segregation is widely enforced
and where most women cover their faces and hair with black veils and don
loose-flowing black robes, known as abayas.
The first stadium to open its doors to
women was in the Red Sea city of Jiddah. The stadium in the capital, Riyadh,
will open to women on Saturday, followed by the western city of Dammam on
At the Jiddah stadium Friday, young
Saudi women wearing bright orange vests over their abayas were deployed to
help with the female crowds. "Welcome to Saudi families," read a sign in
Arabic erected across the section of the stadium reserved for women.
"It's very festive and very well
organized. A lot of people are just really happy to be here. I think there's
a lot of excitement when you walked in, especially among the children," said
Sarah Swick of the match between Saudi soccer teams Al-Ahli and Al-Batin.
To prepare for the change, the kingdom
designated so-called "family sections" in the stands for women, separated by
barriers from the male-only crowds. The stadiums were also fitted with
female prayer areas and restrooms, as well as separate entrances and parking
lots for female spectators. Local media said women would also have their own
designated smoking areas.
"Family sections" are ubiquitous across
the kingdom, allowing married couples, direct relatives and sometimes groups
of friends to sit together, isolated from male-only tables at restaurants
and in waiting areas at banks and hospitals. The sections also include women
out on their own or in groups with other women.
Although only 20 riyals ($5.33) a
ticket, the family section for Friday's match was still less than half full.
"A lot of people wanted to wait and see
how it is. Some thought it wouldn't be very safe or organized," said Swick,
who attended the game with her Saudi husband and son, and her American
Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has
been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football
games in the U.S. and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed
with how organized Friday night's match was.
"I definitely think we will come back,"
An Arabic hashtag on Twitter about
women entering stadiums garnered tens of thousands of tweets on Friday, with
some using the hashtag to share photos of female spectators wearing their
team's colors in scarves thrown over their black abayas.
While many welcomed the decision to
allow women into stadiums, others spoke out against it.
Some used the hashtag to write that
women's place should be in the home, focusing on their children and
preserving their faith, and not at a stadium where male crowds frequently
curse and chant raucously.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed
bin Salman is seen as the driving force behind the loosened restrictions on
women. Still in place, however, are guardianship laws that prevent women
from traveling abroad, obtaining a passport or marrying without a male
Set to inherit a country where more
than half the population is under 25 years old and hungry for change, the
young crown prince has looked to boost his popularity by curbing nearly four
decades of deeply entrenched ultraconservative influence. His reforms, which
include allowing movie theaters to open in March after a more than 35-year
ban, are also aimed at creating more jobs and increasing local spending on
entertainment as the country faces several more years of budget deficit amid
continued lower oil prices.
The country's large, new stadiums were
built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were nearly
double what they are now. The government spent lavishly on them in an effort
to appease young Saudis and provide spaces for fans eager to cheer on local
clubs, as well as hold national parades and ceremonies.
In a one-off, the stadium in Riyadh
allowed families to enter and watch National Day festivities in September —
marking the first time women had set foot inside.
In 2015, a Saudi woman who tried to
attend a soccer game in Jiddah was arrested after local media said she was
spotted by security officers "deliberately disguised" in pants, a
long-sleeve top, a hat and sunglasses to avoid detection.
Over the years, though, there have been
some exceptions for foreign women.
In 2015, an Australian female supporter
of Western Sydney Wanderers soccer club was permitted to attend a match at
Riyadh's main stadium and a group of American women traveling with a U.S.
Congress delegation also watched a local club match there.
Ecuador grants nationality to WikiLeaks founder
In this Friday May 19, 2017 file photo,
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian
embassy in London. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Quito, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador
has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after more than
five years of living in asylum at the nation's embassy in London, officials
Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda
Espinosa said officials accepted Assange's request for naturalization in
December, and they continue to look for a long-term resolution to a
situation that has vexed officials since 2012.
"What naturalization does is provide
the asylum seeker another layer of protection," Espinosa said.
Ecuador gave Assange asylum after he
sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for
investigation of sex-related claims. Sweden dropped the case, but Assange
has remained in the embassy because he is still subject to arrest in Britain
for jumping bail.
He also fears a possible U.S.
extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department
The Australian-born Assange posted a
photograph of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean national soccer team
jersey on Instagram Wednesday and his name now appears in the Andean
country's national registry.
The new citizenship status, however,
appears to change little for Assange in the immediate future. He would still
need to alert British authorities of any movement outside the embassy.
"Even if he has two or three
nationalities, the United Kingdom will continue in its efforts against him,"
said Fredy Rivera, an expert in foreign affairs at the Latin American
Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador.
Espinosa said Ecuador is trying to make
Assange a member of its diplomatic team, which would grant him additional
rights under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including
special legal immunity and safe passage.
Britain's Foreign Office said earlier
Thursday it has rejected Ecuador's request to grant him diplomatic status in
"Ecuador knows that the way to resolve
this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice," the
Though protected by Ecuador, the
relationship between Assange and nation's leaders has at times been dicey.
Ecuador has repeatedly urged Assange not to interfere in the affairs of
other countries following his frequent online comments on international
The biggest crisis came in October
2016, when the embassy cut his internet service after WikiLeaks published a
trove of emails from then-U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's
He was also a point of contention in
Ecuador's 2017 presidential election. Conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso
pledged to evict the Australian within 30 days of taking office, while
current President Lenin Moreno said he would allow him to stay. Assange
later taunted after Lasso's loss that he would "cordially invite Lasso to
leave Ecuador within 30 days."
Moreno issued a warning reminding
Assange not to meddle in politics. He has also called Assange a hacker.
Rescuers 'searching for a miracle' in California mudslides
The roof of a structure damaged from storms sits
over mud and rocks in Montecito, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 11. (AP Photo/Marcio
Christopher Weber and Brian Melley
Montecito, Calif. (AP) — More
than two full days after mudslides ravaged the coastal town of Montecito,
the search for the missing became an increasingly desperate exercise
Thursday, with growing doubts about whether anyone would be found alive.
Seventeen people from ages 3 to 89 were confirmed dead, and more than 40
others were unaccounted for.
"In disaster circumstances there have
been many miraculous stories lasting many days and we certainly are
searching for a miracle right now," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown
said. He noted that some people had been rescued Thursday.
Santa Barbara fire Capt. Gary Pitney
said most if not all rescues conducted Wednesday and Thursday were of people
who were safe but just wanted to get out of the area.
"These were people that were sheltered
in place that had needs that just took a while to get to some of them,"
Pitney said. "They were OK but they wanted to get out."
The air smelled of sewage and ash as
more than a dozen firefighters climbed through rubble in the backyard of a
mansion that had been torn apart. Some rescuers used poles to probe the muck
for bodies, while others waded chest-deep in the mire. Two black Labrador
retrievers swam around a debris-filled swimming pool, trying to pick up any
"At this moment, we are still looking
for live victims," Pitney said. But he confessed: "The likelihood is
increasing that we'll be finding bodies, not survivors. You have to start
accepting the reality of that."
He noted that one survivor pulled from
the muck earlier in the week was suffering from hypothermia after just an
Crews marked places where bodies were
found, often far away from a home, and used that information to guess where
other victims might have ended up as the surging mud carried or buried them.
The mudslide, touched off by heavy
rain, took many homeowners by surprise early Tuesday, despite warnings
issued days in advance that mudslides were possible because recent wildfires
had stripped hillsides of vegetation that normally holds soil in place.
The disaster was already unfolding when
Santa Barbara County officials sent out their first cellphone alert at 3:50
a.m. County emergency manager Jeff Gater said officials decided not to send
one sooner out of concern it might not be taken seriously.
As the rainwater made its way downhill
with gathering force, it pried boulders from the ground and picked up trees
and other debris that flattened homes, cars and carried at least one body a
From an aerial view, the community that
is home for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Jeff Bridges, looked like two
vastly different places.
Trashed areas were awash in a sea of
mud, with only the tallest trees standing and some homes buried up to their
roofs. Next to some of the devastated areas sat large estates untouched by
the torrent, their lawns still green and the landscaping lush.
Santa Barbara County authorities
offered wildly fluctuating numbers of the missing throughout the day. A
spokeswoman early in the day sent a shudder through the community when she
said the number of people unaccounted for had surged from 16 to 48. Within
an hour, they said they had made a clerical error and the actual number of
missing was eight.
"How does that happen?" resident David
Weinert asked. "That's a crazy mistake to make."
Later in the day, however, the sheriff
said the number was at 43, combining missing persons reports filed with law
enforcement and also inquiries by people who hadn't been able to contact
family members or friends.
Brown said some of those people could
have left the area before or after the mudslides or may simply be out of
touch with people concerned about them.
After a better look at the damage,
officials lowered the number of destroyed homes from 100 to 64 and raised
the number of damaged ones from 300 to 446.
Overall, 28 people were injured. Twelve
remained hospitalized, four in critical condition.
All of the dead were from Montecito,
Brown said. The cause of each death was listed as "multiple traumatic
injuries due to flash flood with mudslides," which was due the recent
One of the victims was David Cantin,
the father of a 14-year-old girl who was heavily caked in mud when she was
pulled from the ruins of her home after a dramatic six-hour rescue.
Another was James Mitchell, who had
celebrated his 89th birthday the day before with his wife, Alice, of more
than 50 years. She also died.
Searchers had checked most of the
debris zone for victims and some were doubling back to leave no stone
unturned Thursday when a crew ended up in the backyard of Bill Asher, who
lost his palatial home and a similar one he was restoring next door.
Asher returned with a pickax and five
friends and trudged through the debris to salvage any possession he could
He was still shaken by his harrowing
experience Tuesday with his pregnant wife and two young children as the
violent gusher arrived with a deafening rumble.
"I looked out my front window and saw
my car fly by," he said. "I screamed at my family and water started coming
into the house. Windows went flying, doors went flying."
The family rode out the storm unharmed
on kitchen counters as the debris smashed through the walls and water
swirled around them.
Asher's return to the scene, where
murky water was knee-deep, turned up at least one gem: his wife's engagement
ring, the only keepsake she wanted him to find.
China's modern Silk Road hits political, financial hurdles
In this Dec. 22, 2017, photo, a Pakistani police
officer stands guard at the site of a new international trade route under
construction in Haripur, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)
Joe McDonald, Munir Ahmed and Sylivester Domasa
Beijing (AP) — China's plan for
a modern Silk Road of railways, ports and other facilities linking Asia with
Europe has hit a $14 billion pothole in Pakistan.
Pakistan's relations with Beijing are
so close that officials call China their "Iron Brother." Despite that, plans
for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were thrown into turmoil in November when the
chairman of Pakistan's water authority said Beijing wanted an ownership
stake in the hydropower project. He rejected that as against Pakistani
China issued a denial but the official
withdrew the dam from among dozens of projects being jointly developed by
the two countries.
From Pakistan to Tanzania to Hungary,
projects under President Xi Jinping's signature "Belt and Road Initiative"
are being canceled, renegotiated or delayed due to disputes about costs or
complaints host countries get too little out of projects built by Chinese
companies and financed by loans from Beijing that must be repaid.
In some places, Beijing is suffering a
political backlash due to fears of domination by Asia's biggest economy.
"Pakistan is one of the countries that
is in China's hip pocket, and for Pakistan to stand up and say, 'I'm not
going to do this with you,' shows it's not as 'win-win' as China says it
is," said Robert Koepp, an analyst in Hong Kong for the Economist Corporate
Network, a research firm.
"Belt and Road," announced by Xi in
2013, is a loosely defined umbrella for Chinese-built or -financed projects
across 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and
Europe. They range from oil drilling in Siberia to construction of ports in
Southeast Asia, railways in Eastern Europe and power plants in the Middle
Other governments welcomed the
initiative in a region the Asian Development Bank says needs more than $26
trillion of infrastructure investment by 2030 to keep economies growing.
Nations including Japan have given or lent billions of dollars for
development, but China's venture is bigger and the only source of money for
Governments from Washington to Moscow
to New Delhi are uneasy Beijing is trying to use its "Belt and Road" to
develop a China-centered political structure that will erode their
China's significance to Pakistan as a
source of financing increased following U.S. President Donald Trump's Jan. 5
decision to suspend security assistance to Islamabad in a dispute over
whether it was doing enough to stop Afghan militants.
"Belt and Road" is a business venture,
not aid. A Cabinet official, Ou Xiaoli, told The Associated Press in April
that lending will be on commercial terms. Beijing wants to attract
non-Chinese investors, though that has happened with only a handful of
projects, he said.
Among projects that have been derailed
—Authorities in Nepal canceled plans in
November for Chinese companies to build a $2.5 billion dam after they
concluded contracts for the Budhi Gandaki Hydro Electric Project violated
rules requiring multiple bidders.
—The European Union is looking into
whether Hungary violated the trade bloc's rules by awarding contracts to
Chinese builders of a high-speed railway to neighboring Serbia without
—In Myanmar, plans for a Chinese oil
company to build a $3 billion refinery were canceled in November due to
financing difficulties, the newspaper Myanmar Times reported.
There is no official list of projects,
but consulting firm BMI Research has compiled a database of $1.8 trillion of
infrastructure investments announced across Asia, Africa and the Middle East
that include Chinese money or other involvement.
Many are still in planning stages and
some up to three decades in the future, according to Christian Zhang, a BMI
"It's probably too early to say at this
point how much of the overall initiative will actually be implemented," said
The U.S. and Japanese governments
express interest in building contracts or other potential "Belt and Road"
opportunities for their companies. But they also are trying to develop
In November, the U.S. government's
Overseas Private Investment Corp. signed an agreement with Japanese partners
to offer "infrastructure investment alternatives in the Indo-Pacific
region," according to a White House statement.
The following month, Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe said Japan can "cooperate greatly" with China.
The stumbles for one of the world's
most ambitious infrastructure ventures could help temper concerns Beijing
will increase its strategic influence.
"There is a big possibility that China
is going to have a lot of disagreements and misunderstandings," said Kerry
Brown, a specialist in Chinese politics at King's College London. "It's hard
to think of a big, successful project the 'Belt and Road Initiative' has led
to at the moment."
Even Pakistan, one of China's
friendliest neighbors, has failed to agree on key projects.
The two governments are developing
facilities with a total cost of $60 billion including power plants and
railways to link China's far west with the Chinese-built port of Gwadar on
the Indian Ocean.
A visit by a Chinese assistant foreign
minister in November produced no agreement on railway projects in the
southern city of Karachi valued at $10 billion and a $260 million airport
The same month, the chairman of the
Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority announced the Diamer-Bhasha
Dam would be withdrawn from joint development. The site is in
Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan's far north, part of the Kashmir region, which
also is claimed by India.
"Chinese conditions for financing the
Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests," the official,
Muzammil Hussain, told legislators, according to Pakistani news reports.
The Chinese Cabinet agency overseeing
"Belt and Road," the National Development and Reform Commission, denied in a
written statement that it asked for an ownership stake. It said the two
sides had held only preliminary talks about the project.
A Pakistani Cabinet official who spoke
on condition he not be identified further said the Chinese side asked for
clarification of the ownership status of the dam site because
Gilgit-Baltistan has yet to be formally made part of a Pakistani province.
The water authority didn't respond to requests to clarify its chairman's
"Belt and Road" is interwoven with
official efforts to export Chinese rail, hydropower and other technology and
steel, aluminum and other industrial goods.
In Thailand, work on a $15 billion
high-speed railway was suspended in 2016 following complaints too little
business went to Thai companies.
After more talks over costs, technology
sharing and land ownership, Thai leaders announced a new plan in July for a
first line to be built from Bangkok to the country's northeast. Building
contracts went to Thai companies while China will supply technology.
In Tanzania, the government has
reopened negotiations with China and another investor, the government of the
gulf nation of Oman, over ownership of a planned $11 billion port in the
city of Bagamoyo. The Tanzanian government failed to raise $28 million for
its contribution, leaving it unclear what share the government might get.
Tanzania wants to make sure its people
get more than just taxes collected from the port, said the director of the
Tanzania Ports Authority, Deusdedit Kakoko.
"Land is for Tanzanians, and as the
government we're ensuring they get a share," Kakoko said in an interview.
Despite such setbacks, Chinese
officials say most "Belt and Road" projects are moving ahead with few
Work on pipelines to deliver oil and
gas from Russia and Central Asia is making "steady progress," said a deputy
commerce minister, Li Chenggang, at a Nov. 21 news conference.
"We have a lot of room for further
cooperation," said Li.
The state-run China Development Bank
announced in 2015 it had set aside $890 billion for more than 900 projects
across 60 countries in gas, minerals, power, telecoms, infrastructure and
farming. The Export-Import Bank of China said it would finance 1,000
projects in 49 countries.
Acting as banker gives Beijing leverage
to require use of Chinese builders and technology. But it can lead to
complaints host countries fail to negotiate hard enough.
In Sri Lanka, the government sold an 80
percent stake in a port in the southern city of Hambantota to a Chinese
state-owned company on Dec. 9 after falling behind in repaying $1.5 billion
borrowed from Beijing to build it. That prompted complaints the deal was too
favorable to Beijing.
"There is the perception of a Chinese
incursion into their sovereignty by taking over the port," said BMI's Zhang.
N Korea: Popularity of 'Fire and Fury' foretells Trump's end
In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 photo, copies of
Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" are on display
at a bookshop, in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North
Korea has found good material to attack U.S. President Donald Trump: Michael
Wolff's bombshell new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."
The book paints Trump as a leader who
doesn't understand the weight of his office and whose competence is
questioned by aides. Trump and other White House aides have blasted it as
inaccurate trash. But it was the top-selling book in the U.S. last week, and
its numbers are likely to grow far higher.
On Thursday, the North's main Rodong
Sinmun newspaper, run by its ruling Workers' Party, carried an article about
the book's subject matter, how Trump reacted and why it is selling so well.
Its sales reflect "rapidly surging
anti-Trump sentiments in the international community," the article said.
"The anti-Trump book is sweeping all over the world so Trump is being
massively humiliated worldwide."
The book's popularity "foretells
Trump's political demise," the article said.
Last summer, Trump threatened North
Korea with "fire and fury like the world has never seen" in an exchange of
taunts with the North, which claimed it was examining plans to launch
missiles toward the American territory of Guam.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong
Un have since traded threats of war and crude insults, as the North
conducted nuclear and long-range missile tests.
Trump called Kim "Rocket Man" on a
"suicide mission." Kim called the 71-year-old American president "the
mentally deranged U.S. dotard." In his New Year's address last week, Kim
said he has a "nuclear button" that could fire weapons anywhere in the
United States, and Trump responded that he has a much bigger and more
powerful "nuclear button."
Recently, North Korea has taken steps
toward improving ties with rival South Korea in what critics call a tactic
to divide Seoul and Washington and weaken U.S.-led international pressure
and sanctions on the country. On Tuesday, it had its first formal talks with
South Korea in about two years and agreed to send a delegation to next
month's Winter Olympics in the South and hold military talks aimed at easing
But North Korea hasn't stopped its
rhetoric against Trump. Last week, the North's state media called Trump a
"war maniac" and "madman."
After Tuesday's inter-Korean talks,
Trump said during a phone conversation with South Korean President Moon
Jae-in that the United States was open to talks with North Korea "at the
appropriate time, under the right circumstances," according to a White House
"Fire and Fury" was released last
Friday and sold 29,000 copies through Saturday, NPD BookScan told The
Associated Press. Digital sales already top 250,000 and audio sales exceed
100,000, according to John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, the parent company of
the book's publisher, Henry Holt and Co. It has raised an initial announced
printing of 150,000 to more than 1 million.
Police hunt for thieves after botched Ritz robbery in Paris
A police car drives past the Ritz hotel in
Paris, Thursday, Jan. 11. (AP Photo/Michel Euler).
Paris (AP) — Paris
authorities recovered all the jewels stolen from the Ritz Hotel in a
dramatic heist, but were still searching for two thieves who got away,
officials said Thursday.
Though ultimately unsuccessful, the
robbery on Wednesday evening raised questions about security in one of
the world's most prestigious neighborhoods, the Place Vendome. Its
well-guarded buildings include the Justice Ministry, high-end boutiques
and the 19th-century Ritz.
Workers cleaned up shattered glass
Thursday and started to repair damage from the robbery. Otherwise
business appeared to be returning to normal at the Ritz, with no
significant increase in security.
Three perpetrators "entered by the
service entrance, smashed the jewelry stands, grabbed jewels that were
clearly expensive with the help of axes," said Jean-Michel Huguet of
police union Alliance Police Nationale.
They seized watches from display
cases holding wares from Rolex and Piaget, and then targeted the
Alexandre Reza jewelry boutique inside the hotel.
The suspects inside threw bags of
goods out of a window to at least two accomplices outside, according to
a police official. The three inside were then blocked when they tried to
flee through another door, and quickly arrested, the official said.
The accomplices outside fled, one
on a motorcycle and another in a car. The motorcyclist dropped a bag
with jewels and hatchets when his motorcycle hit a pedestrian during his
escape. The pedestrian was slightly injured, said the official, who
wasn't authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.
Other jewels were found scattered
amid the debris of the shattered display cases during overnight cleanup
efforts, the official told The Associated Press.
The overall value of the jewels on
display was estimated at about 4.5 million euros ($5.4 million).
An official close to the
investigation said Thursday night that all the stolen jewels have been
recovered, after authorities and jewelers carefully examined the
contents of the bag and debris and found everything had been accounted
Another police official said some
of the thieves apparently had guns. Two people inside the hotel hid from
the thieves and alerted police, the official said.
Patrons at the hotel's renowned
Hemingway Bar described panic as the thieves entered the hushed
environment of the Ritz, where rooms start at 1,000 euros ($1,200) a
Several high-end Paris jewelry
stores have been targets of dramatic robberies in recent years,
including Cartier, Harry Winston and Chopard. Kim Kardashian West said
she lost millions of dollars' worth of jewelry when she was robbed at
gunpoint in a Paris apartment in October 2016.
The Ritz was an especially
luxurious target. The hotel has housed such famous names as Ernest
Hemingway and Coco Chanel. It was the last place Princess Diana stayed
before her fatal car crash in a Paris tunnel, and hosts elite guests
from around the world drawn to the refined neighborhood.