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Update July 2018


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Update July 18, 2018

Candidate from Sharif's party escapes gun attack in Pakistan

Supporters of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, listen to their leader during an election rally in a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, July 17. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Islamabad (AP) — A candidate running for a seat in Pakistan's parliament from former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's political party escaped an assassination attempt in eastern Punjab province, police said Tuesday.

Local police official Mohammad Afzal said that Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, who served as a minister in Sharif's former government, came under attack late Monday in Attock district while returning from a rally. He said Ahmed was safe.

The incident is the latest election-related violence in Pakistan after Friday's carnage that saw an election candidate and 152 others killed in all, in bombings in the country's southwest and northwest.

Ahmed is from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party. Sharif was arrested on Friday upon returning from London to face a 10-year prison sentence for corruption.

Also Tuesday, the counter-terrorism police in Punjab province arrested four suspected militants from the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, and the Lashker-e-Jhangvi group near the central city of Multan.

Mustafa Kamal, a spokesman for counter-terrorism police, said explosives and weapons were found in the suspects' possession. The four had planned to carry out attacks on political rallies and security forces, he said.

Meanwhile, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former President Asif Zardari — held a string of rallies Tuesday, including in Islamabad suburbs, the nearby town of Gujar Khan and elsewhere.

The young Zardari is trying to revive support for his Pakistan People's Party which once had a strong following in Punjab, the country's largest province.


Tumult of Trump's Europe trip smashes presidential precedent

In this July 11, 2018, photo, U.S. President Donald Trump takes his seat as he attends the multilateral meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

Jill Colvin

Helsinki (AP) — Plenty of U.S. presidents have created commotion in their travels abroad, but none as much as President Donald Trump.

The president's tumultuous trip across Europe, historians say, smashed the conventions of American leaders on the world stage.

Trump's "America first" approach to foreign policy had him seeming to accept the word of a hostile power over his own intelligence agencies, insulting allies and sowing doubts about his commitment to the NATO alliance.

"We've never had a president go abroad and not only lecture to our NATO allies, but also to embarrass them," said Russia expert William Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. "We've never had our president go on a foreign tour and categorize our allies as foes. And we've never had our president hold a joint news conference with a Russian leader where he assigned blame, from his perspective, to both parties, but in fact dedicated most of his time to blaming the U.S. Justice Department and intelligence services."

While past presidents have had difficult foreign trips and been criticized for their summits with Soviet leaders, Trump's behavior has few parallels, in the view of presidential historians and longtime Russia watchers.

Franklin Roosevelt was accused of "selling out" to Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945; John F. Kennedy and his aides admitted that he'd been unprepared for his 1961 Vienna summit with Nikita Khrushchev; the Reykjavík summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 was seen at the time to have ended in failure; and George W. Bush was mocked for telling reporters in 2001 after meeting with Putin that he had "looked the man in the eye" and "found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy."

Trump's trip was different.

"Frankly, I don't think those U.S. presidents at any point came off as not pursuing U.S. security interests, as being taken in by the Soviet leader they were meeting with," said Alina Polyakova, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution. "I think even President George W. Bush's meeting, where he had that famous quote about looking into Putin's eyes and seeing into his soul — this summit dwarfs that by a factor of a thousand."

Indeed, even before he departed Washington, Trump had made clear that he was itching for a fight. He criticized members of NATO, the decades-old military alliance, for failing to spend enough on defense and suggested he might not be interested in "paying for Europe's protection" any longer.

In his first appearance at a pre-summit breakfast in Brussels, he went after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claiming Germany was "totally controlled" by Russia and later asked on Twitter, "What good is NATO." The summit ended in a whiplash-inducing proclamation from the president that NATO was stronger than ever as he claimed he'd secured new commitments to defense spending, which those present later disputed.

The drama continued as Trump headed to his next stop, the U.K. His first official visit was overshadowed by fallout from the rhetorical grenade he'd lobbed at British Prime Minister Theresa May before arriving. In a tabloid interview, he criticized May's Brexit plans, said he might no longer be open to a trade deal with the U.K., and said one of May's political rival would be an excellent prime minister, undermining her at a time when her government is in turmoil.

Then came yet another interview, this one from one of his golf courses in Scotland, in which Trump categorized the European Union as a top geopolitical "foe."

Nothing, however, had quite prepared the world for Trump's comments in Helsinki after hours of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded, meddled in the 2016 election, hacked Democratic Party emails and disseminated them in an effort to help Trump win.

Standing side-by-side on stage with the man accused of complicity in an attack on the very bedrock of American democracy, Trump said his intelligence people "think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this I don't see any reason why it would be." He also went after his Justice Department, calling its investigation into Russia's efforts and potential collusion with Trump's campaign a "disaster for our country."

It was a stunning comment from an American president — one that he partially tried to walk back 24 hours later by blaming a grammatical glitch. But he did not retreat from a number of his other comments giving credence to Putin's denials of election interference

"Trump 0 - Putin 1," blared the front page of Finland's Kauppalehti newspaper.

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University, compared Trump to "a bull carrying his own china shop around with him."

"Just standing and selling your country downriver on foreign soil in front of your adversary — there's no precedent for such disgraceful and irrational behavior," Brinkley said.

Pomeranz said Trump had done himself political damage by suggesting both sides were to blame for the Russia probe that has hurt U.S. relations with Moscow — just as Trump did when he blamed both sides when responding to violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Pomeranz said the damage Trump did by describing the E.U. as a foe and lecturing his NATO allies was significant.

"I think that is what's going to be remembered from this week," he said.


India's top court calls for new law to curb mob violence

 

In this Oct. 3, 2015 file photo, Indians participate in a candlelight vigil in memory of 52-year-old Muslim farmer Mohammad Akhlaq who was lynched by a mob, in New Delhi, India. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Aijaz Hussain

New Delhi (AP) — India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence fueled mostly by rumors that the victims either belonged to members of child kidnapping gangs or were beef eaters and cow slaughterers.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, who heard a petition related to deadly mob violence. They said the menace needs to be "curbed with iron hands," the news agency reported.

The judges asked the legislature to consider a law that specifically deals with lynchings and cow vigilante groups and provides punishment to offenders.

India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014. The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or carrying beef. Last month, two Muslims were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft. In such mob attacks, at least 20 people have been killed by cow vigilante groups mostly believed to be tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.

Most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilantes from Hindu groups have targeted Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many members of India's Hindu majority, and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country.

However, most of the mob attacks this year have been fueled mainly by rumors ignited by messages circulated through social media that child-lifting gangs were active in villages and towns. At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in the attacks. The victims were non-locals, mostly targeted because they looked different or didn't speak the local language.

Although Indian authorities have clarified that there was no truth to the child-lifting rumors and that the targeted people were innocent, the deadly and brutal attacks, often captured on cellphones and shared on social media, have spread across the country.

While Tuesday's ruling calls for stringent measures by both the central and state governments, Indian government has looked somewhere else. It recently blamed the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp for failing to stop false information and called on it to take "immediate action" to prevent the social media platform from being misused to spread rumors and irresponsible statements leading to mob violence.

The Supreme Court advocated setting up special or fast-track courts to hear cases of lynching and mob violence and asked the state governments to prepare compensation schemes for the victims. It also directed that the victims' families be given free legal aid.

The top court also directed authorities to take action against police or administrative officials who fail to comply with the court's directive on pursuing such cases.

Widespread distrust of the police and the courts prevails in India, both of which are burdened by corruption and poor training. Despite repeated protests, courts are still notoriously slow, and it often takes years or even decades for a case to go to trial.


Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

This April 3, 2017 image made available by NASA shows the planet Jupiter. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC) via AP)

Emiliano Rodriguez Mega

New York (AP) — Astronomers are still finding moons at Jupiter, 400 years after Galileo used his spyglass to spot the first ones.

The latest discovery of a dozen small moons brings the total to 79, the most of any planet in our solar system.

Scientists were looking for objects on the fringes of the solar system last year when they pointed their telescopes close to Jupiter's backyard, according to Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington. They saw a new group of objects moving around the giant gas planet but didn't know whether they were moons or asteroids passing near Jupiter.

"There was no eureka moment," said Sheppard, who led the team of astronomers. "It took a year to figure out what these objects were."

They all turned out to be moons of Jupiter. The confirmation of 10 was announced Tuesday. Two were confirmed earlier.

The moons had not been spotted before because they are tiny. They are about one to two kilometers (miles) across, said astronomer Gareth Williams of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center.

And he thinks Jupiter might have even more moons just as small waiting to be found.

"We just haven't observed them enough," said Williams, who helped confirm the moons' orbits.

The team is calling one of the new moons an 'oddball' because of its unusual orbit. Sheppard's girlfriend came up with a name for it: Valetudo, the great-granddaughter of the Roman god Jupiter.

Valetudo is in Jupiter's distant, outer swarm of moons that circles in the opposite direction of the planet's rotation. Yet it's orbiting in the same direction as the planet, against the swarm's traffic.

"This moon is going down the highway the wrong way," Sheppard said.

Scientists believe moons like Valetudo and its siblings appeared soon after Jupiter formed. The planet must have acted like a vacuum, sucking up all the material that was around it. Some of that debris was captured as moons.

"What astonishes me about these moons is that they're the remnants of what the planet formed from," he said.

Telescopes in Chile, Hawaii and Arizona were used for the latest discovery and confirmation.

Galileo detected Jupiter's four largest moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in 1610. The latest count of 79 known planets includes eight that have not been seen for several years. Saturn is next with 61, followed by Uranus with 27 and Neptune with 14. Mars has two, Earth has one and Mercury and Venus have none.


Japan, EU sign trade deal to eliminate nearly all tariffs

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, European Union's Council President Donald Tusk, left, and European Union's Commission President Jean-Claude Junker pose after signing a contract, Tuesday, July 17, at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. (Martin Bureau/Pool Photo via AP)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) — The European Union and Japan signed a landmark deal on Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade.

The ambitious pact signed in Tokyo runs counter to President Donald Trump's moves to hike tariffs on imports from many U.S. trading partners. It covers a third of the global economy and markets of more than 600 million people.

"The EU and Japan showed an undeterred determination to lead the world as flag-bearers for free trade," Abe said at a joint news conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Tusk praised the deal as "the largest bilateral trade deal ever." He said the partnership is being strengthened in various other areas, including defense, climate change and human exchange, and is "sending a clear message" against protectionism.

The leaders did not mention Trump by name, but they did little to mask what was on their minds — highlighting how Europe and Japan have been pushed closer by Trump's actions.

The agreement was largely reached late last year. The ceremonial signing was delayed from earlier this month because Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.

The measures won't kick in right away and still require legislative approval. But they will bring Japanese consumers lower prices for European wines, pork, handbags and pharmaceuticals. Japanese machinery parts, tea and fish will become cheaper in Europe.

The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods sold to the EU. About 94 percent of the tariffs on European exports to Japan will be lifted, rising to 99 percent in the future. The difference reflects exceptions on such products as rice, which enjoys strong political protection from imports in Japan.

Overall, European farmers will benefit, Juncker said, though European consumers will be able to more easily buy luscious Kobe beef and famous Yubari melons.

The EU said the trade liberalization will help raise European exports of chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan. Japanese will get cheaper cheeses, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.

The imported wine and cheese could hurt sales by Japanese wineries and dairies, but Japanese consumers have historically coveted such European products.

The major step toward liberalizing trade has been discussed since 2013.

Apart from its deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the U.S. has withdrawn.

Abe praised the deal with the EU for helping his "Abenomics" policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan's growth remains heavily dependent on exports.


Hawaii lava boat tours continue after explosion, injuries

 

This photo shows damage to a tour boat after an explosion sent lava flying through the roof off the Big Island of Hawaii Monday, July 16. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP)

Audrey McAvoy and Caleb Jones

Honolulu (AP) — Hawaii tour boat operators plan to continue taking visitors to see lava, but will follow the Coast Guard's revised policy and stay farther away after an explosion caused molten rock to barrel through the roof of a vessel, injuring 23 people.

The Coast Guard prohibits vessels from getting closer than 300 meters from where Kilauea volcano's lava oozes into the sea. The agency had been allowing experienced boat operators to apply for a special license to get closer up to 50 meters, but it stopped allowing those exceptions Monday morning.

A woman in her 20s was transported to Honolulu in serious condition with a broken thigh bone. The other 22 people injured were treated for minor burns and scrapes, including 12 who were treated at a hospital in Hilo.

Moku Nui Lava Tours Captain Kanoa Jones, whose boat was not involved in Monday's incident at Kilauea volcano, said not running the tours would only withhold income from local restaurants and other businesses dependent on tourism, he said.

"If we stop operating, it not only hurts us, it hurts the community," Jones said.

The Coast Guard, state and local officials were investigating what happened.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said the agency can't say whether it will change its safety zone rules until it finishes its investigation.

The county strictly limits access to the lava on land for safety reasons, making boat and helicopter tours the only options people have to witness volcanic spectacle in person. The ocean and aerial tours each cost about $250.

The restrictions have deterred many travelers from visiting the Big Island in general, and Puna near the volcano in particular.

Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the vessel that was hit, said he never saw the explosion.

He and his tour group had been in the area for about 20 minutes making passes of the ocean entry about 500 meters — which is the length of five football fields — offshore, Turpin said.

He didn't observe "any major explosions," so he navigated his vessel closer, to about 250 meters away from the lava.

"As we were exiting the zone, all of a sudden everything around us exploded," he said. "It was everywhere."

The U.S. Geological Survey says explosions of varying sizes occur whenever 2,000-degree (1,093-degree Celsius) lava enters much colder seawater.

Monday's large blast may have been amplified by the relatively shallow water at the point where the lava entered the sea. That's because explosions occur much closer to the surface in such spots.

In contrast, lava that entered the ocean in 2016 hit a steep slope and quickly fell to deeper parts of the sea, said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The volcano has also been pumping more lava into the water now compared to past years, Babb said. Kilauea is sending to the sea as much as 26 times the amount of lava per second than it did during the 2016-17 eruption.

Officials have warned of the danger of getting close to lava entering the ocean, saying the interaction can create clouds of acid and fine glass. Despite the hazards, several companies operate such tours. The Coast Guard said tour vessels have operated in the area going back at least 20 years.

The molten rock is coming from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously for the past 35 years. In May, its eruption entered a new phase when it began spurting lava through newly formed fissures in a residential neighborhood. It has destroyed more than 700 homes since then. But the only serious injury over the past two months was to a man who was hit by flying lava that broke his leg.

Captain Jones said an evening boat tour left for the ocean-entry site and it was business as usual.

"It is Mother Nature," Jones said. "You never know."


Update July 17, 2018

Trump embraces longtime US foe Putin, doubting own intel

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Jonathan Lemire, Jill Colvin and Vladimir Isachenkov

Helsinki (AP) — In an extraordinary embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump on Monday openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' firm finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, seeming to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that Moscow's hands were clean.

The reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. "Shameful," ''disgraceful," ''weak," were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump's willingness to upend decades of U.S. foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns. A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any firm acknowledgement of Russia's involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused  12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

His skepticism drew a quick formal statement — almost a rebuttal — from Trump's director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats.

"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats said.

Fellow GOP politicians have generally stuck with Trump during a year and a half of turmoil, but he was assailed as seldom before as he returned home Monday night from what he had hoped would by a proud summit with Putin.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona was most outspoken, declaring that Trump made a "conscious choice to defend a tyrant" and achieved "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." House Speaker Paul Ryan, who rarely criticizes Trump, stressed there was "no question" that Russia had interfered.

Even staunch Trump backer Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, called Trump's comments "the most serious mistake of his presidency" and said they "must be corrected_-immediately."

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama, called Trump's words "nothing short of treasonous." Brennan tweeted: "Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"

In a Fox News Channel interview after the summit, Putin pronounced the meetings "the beginning of the path" back from the West's past efforts to isolate Russia. "I think you see for yourself that these efforts failed, and they were never bound to succeed," he said.

As he flew home to Washington aboard Air Force One, Trump tried to clarify his position via tweet, saying: "As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.' However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past - as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!"

In their totality, Trump's remarks amounted to an unprecedented embrace of a man who for years has been isolated by the U.S. and Western allies for actions in Ukraine, Syria and beyond. And it came at the end of an extraordinary trip to Europe in which Trump had already berated allies, questioned the value of the NATO alliance and demeaned leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May.

The two leaders' long-awaited summit began with a private face-to-face sitdown  — just the leaders and their interpreters — that lasted more than two hours, before additional meetings joined by senior aides.

The pair had held lengthy talks before — on the sidelines of world leader meetings in Germany and Vietnam last year — but this was their first official summit and was being watched closely, especially following the announcement Friday of new indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused  of hacking Democratic emails to help Trump's campaign.

Asked about the indictments, Putin suggested that Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct the investigation, inviting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators to come to Russia to interview the 12 people— an idea Trump hailed as an "incredible offer."

Putin said he'd expect the U.S. to return the favor and cooperate in the Russian probe against William Browder, a British investor charged with financial crimes in Russia.  Browder, an outspoken Putin critic, was a driving force behind a U.S. law targeting Russian officials over human rights abuses.

The summit began just hours after Trump blamed the United States — and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea — for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse," Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

The Russian foreign ministry responded by liking Trump's tweet and then replying: "We agree."

Asked whether Russia was responsible at all, Trump said "we're all to blame" for the soured relations.

However, "that changed," he said, "as of about four hours ago."

Putin ridiculed as "sheer nonsense" allegations that Russian intelligence agencies had collected compromising information on Trump during his visit to Moscow years before the election, saying that he had no idea Trump was even visiting.

Still, Putin said he had indeed wanted Trump to win the election — a revelation that might have made more headlines if not for Trump's performance — but had taken no action to make it happen.

"Yes, I wanted him to win because he spoke of normalization of Russian-U.S. ties," Putin said. "Isn't it natural to feel sympathy to a person who wanted to develop relations with our country? It's normal."

At the closing press conference, Putin, riding high after hosting a successful World Cup, unveiled a gift he'd brought for Trump: a red and white soccer ball, which he tossed to Trump at the neighboring lectern. Trump passed it over to his wife, and said they'd give it to their soccer-loving 12-year-old son, Barron.

Out on the streets, the summit attracted a grab-bag of protesters, with abortion-rights activists wearing artificially bulging bellies and Trump masks, anti-fascist protesters bearing signs with expletive-laden insults, and free traders, anti-war Ukrainians and gay rights supporters making their voices hear.


Netanyahu visits southern region following Gaza escalation

Smoke rises in the background following an Israeli airstrike that hits a governmental building in Gaza City, Saturday, July 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Aron Heller

Jerusalem (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited a southern Israeli town bordering Gaza on Monday that was pummeled with rockets from the strip over the weekend and told community leaders there that Israel is engaged in a "lengthy battle."

Netanyahu's visit to Sderot comes a day after an informal cease-fire took hold to end 24 hours of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas militants that had threatened to devolve into all-out war.

Israel pounded Hamas targets in its most massive bombardment since the 2014 war, while militants fired dozens of rockets toward Israel that halted daily life in the area. Two Palestinian teenagers were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, while four Israelis were wounded from a rocket that landed on a residential home in Sderot.

Netanyahu visited a local kindergarten and pledged that Israel would put an end to the rocket fire and a Gaza militant campaign of flying incendiary kites and balloons across the border that have ignited fires damaging Israeli farms and nature reserves.

Hamas will face a "wall of steel" if it keeps up its aggression against Israel, Netanyahu warned, adding however that the threat won't disappear overnight.

"It doesn't end in one strike," Netanyahu said. "We know we are engaged in a lengthy battle."

Hours after Netanyahu spoke, the Israeli military said planes bombarded two Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip in response to flaming balloons launched into Israel.

On Saturday, the Israeli military said it struck several Hamas military compounds and flattened a number of its training camps. Hamas retaliated with more than 200 rockets and mortars toward Israeli communities, it added.

After Hamas accepted an Egypt-mediated cease-fire late Saturday, the situation calmed down but flaming kites and balloons continued to drift over into Israel, with the adopting signaling a new policy of striking back immediately.

The government is under pressure from local communities to show zero tolerance to this new threat, and Netanyahu told local leaders that he had instructed the military to halt it completely.

"There is no such thing as a cease-fire that does not include the flaming kites and balloons," he said. "If this is not understood through my words, it will be understood through the military's actions."

On Sunday evening, the military announced that following a "situation assessment" it reinforced its Iron Dome batteries in central Israel and in the country's south and called up a small number of reserve army soldiers. The Iron Dome shot down more than 20 projectiles over the weekend.

With Israel focused on efforts to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military foothold in neighboring Syria, it has been wary of escalating violence in Gaza. But the extensive offensive appeared aimed at signaling to Hamas that it was unafraid to engage if necessary.

The flare-up came after months of near-weekly border demonstrations organized by Hamas aimed in part to protest the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30.

Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.


Migrants disembark in Sicily after EU sharing plan reached

Police check a migrant disembarked from Frontex ship "Protector" at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy, in the early hours of Monday, July 16. (Francesco Ruta/ANSA via AP)

Nicole Winfield and Gino Maceli

Pozzallo, Sicily (AP) — About 400 migrants aboard two border patrol ships disembarked in a Sicilian port Monday after a half-dozen European countries promised to take some of them in rather than leave Italy alone to process their asylum claims.

Italy's hard-line, anti-migrant government had kept the two military ships from docking at Pozzallo for two days until other countries stepped up in the latest standoff over migrant rescues.

Early Monday, the ships came into port and disembarked their passengers, who were seen being screened at dawn. The women and children had already come ashore.

Doctors at the scene said one of the men was hospitalized in critical condition with pneumonia, while the others were in generally good health but suffering from scabies.

On Sunday, Germany, Spain and Portugal each agreed to respectively accept 50 of the migrants, following similar offers by France and Malta. They were responding to a request by the Italian premier, who sent individual letters to each EU member asking for a firm gesture of solidarity.

But not everyone agreed. The Czech Republic rebuffed the appeal and called the distribution plan a "road to hell" that would just encourage more human traffickers.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has spearheaded Italy's tough line on migration, said the redistribution deal was just a temporary solution and that the ultimate goal is for Libya to be considered a safe enough haven for migrants to be returned. Italy is also pushing for the EU to fund "hotspots" in migrants' home countries where asylum bids can be processed.

Salvini said the EU has a "bipolar" relationship with Libya, providing training and boats to beef up its coast guard, but then refusing to consider it a safe port where migrants can be brought back.

"What is prohibited today can be normalized tomorrow," he said of Libya's status as a safe haven. "The European Union should convince itself that this is the only way to get out of this problem."

International law requires those rescued at sea to be brought to a safe port; humanitarian groups say Libya hardly constitutes that, given widespread torture and abuse reported by migrants in Libyan detention centers.

Asked about the issue Monday, European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud repeated that no European ship participating in a rescue mission can return migrants to Libya "because we don't consider it a secure country."

The European Commission welcomed the fact that the two ships had disembarked their passengers and that six EU countries had stepped forward, but said such "ad hoc solutions cannot be sustainable in the long term," a spokesman said.

Aid workers at the docks in Pozzallo said the migrants were traumatized and needed care. They expressed alarm that families had likely been separated when the women and children were allowed off the ships, but not the men.

"The reality is that many among these women are very young girls and the children are very young and need their relatives," U.N. refugee agency spokesman Marco Rotunno said.

"It is unacceptable that these people are blocked onboard and that are not allowed to disembark and that their final destination is being negotiated while they are blocked," he added. "Disembarking in a safe port should be granted immediately and a fair relocation should be decided at a later stage."

The migrants had set off from Libya in a large fishing boat on Friday. Italy and Malta both refused to let the ship dock, and eventually the migrants were transferred onto two vessels: one participating in the EU border patrol agency's Mediterranean search and rescue mission and one from the Italian border agency.
 


Indonesian mob kills hundreds of crocodiles after man dies

In this Saturday, July 14, photo, people look at the carcasses of crocodiles slaughtered by villagers in Sorong, West Papua, Indonesia. (AP Photo/Irianti)

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — A mob slaughtered nearly 300 crocodiles at a breeding ground in Indonesia's West Papua province in retaliation for the death of a local man, officials said Monday.

A total of 292 crocodiles were killed by hundreds of villagers on Saturday following the funeral of a 48-year-old man who was killed by crocodiles after entering the area around the breeding pond, said Basar Manullang, the head of the local Natural Resources and Conservation Agency.

The man was believed to have entered the sanctuary in the Klamalu neighborhood of Sorong district to cut grass for his cattle.

"Since killing the crocodiles is illegal, we are coordinating with the police for the investigation," Manullang said.

The agency said in a statement that the villagers were armed with machetes, hammers, shovels and other sharp weapons. They killed two large crocodiles of up to 4 meters and many babies measuring 50-150 centimeters.

Witnesses said about 40 policemen came to the scene but were too outnumbered to stop the mob.

Police said about five witnesses have been questioned but no suspects have been named.

Police are encouraging mediation between the victim's family and Mitra Lestari Abadi, the company that operates the sanctuary.


Update July 16, 2018

Trump names EU a global foe, raps media before Putin summit

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the airport in Helsinki, Finland, Sunday, July 15. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jill Colvin

Helsinki (AP) — President Donald Trump named the European Union as a top adversary of the United States and denounced the news media as the "enemy of the people" before arriving in Helsinki on Sunday on the eve of his high-stakes summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his top aides were downplaying expectations for Monday's summit as Trump continued to rattle allies by lumping in the EU with Russia and China after barnstorming across Europe, causing chaos at the recent NATO summit and in a trip to the United Kingdom.

Trump spent the weekend in Scotland at his resort in Turnberry, golfing, tweeting and granting an interview to CBS News in which he named the EU, a bloc of nations that includes many of America's closest allies, at the top of his list of biggest global foes.

"I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade," Trump said, adding that "you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe."

He said that Russia is a foe "in certain respects" and that China is a foe "economically ... but that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive."

Trump has been reluctant to criticize Putin over the years and has described him in recent days not as an enemy but as a competitor.

On Sunday, Trump flew to Finland, the final stop on a weeklong trip that began last Tuesday. Near Trump's hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags. Big banners said "Welcome Trump" and "God Bless D & M Trump" and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Chants of "We love Trump, We love Trump" broke out as the president's motorcade passed, and Trump waved.

Trump set expectations for the summit low, telling CBS News, "I don't expect anything. ... I go in with very low expectations." His national security adviser said they weren't looking for any "concrete deliverables."

He also said in the interview taped Saturday that he "hadn't thought" about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said, "Certainly I'll be asking about it."

The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel Russia to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.

Contradicting Trump in an interview on ABC's "This Week," U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the idea of asking Putin to turn over the 12 military intelligence officials was "pretty silly" and argued that doing so would put the U.S. president in a "weak position."

He also argued that Trump is entering the summit with a stronger hand because of the indictments.

"I think the president can put this on the table and say, 'This is a serious matter that we need to talk about,'" said Bolton, adding that asking for the indicted Russians to be turned over would have the opposite effect.

In the CBS News interview, Trump declined to discuss his goals for the summit — "I'll let you know after the meeting," he said — but said he believes such sessions are beneficial.

He cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June as a "good thing," along with meetings he's had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Nothing bad is going to come out of" the Helsinki meeting, he said, "and maybe some good will come out."

From aboard Air Force One, Trump complained in tweets that he wasn't getting enough credit for his meeting with Kim and railed that "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people" as he headed to sit down with Putin.

Putin is regarded as creating a culture of violence and impunity that has resulted in the killing of some Russian journalists. Trump regularly criticizes American news media outlets and has called out some journalists by name.

Trump complained: "No matter how well I do at the Summit," he'll face "criticism that it wasn't good enough."

"If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" he tweeted.

Trump also praised Putin for holding the World Cup, which finished up Sunday.

Trump and Putin have held talks several times before. Their first meeting came last July when both participated in an international summit and continued for more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes. The leaders also met last fall during a separate summit in Vietnam.

But Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Monday's meeting "is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation, and I hope it's a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests."

Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on Trump to pull out of Monday's meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling the top issue. Huntsman said the summit must go on because Russian engagement is needed to solve some international issues.

"The collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high so it's a good thing these presidents are getting together," he said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics. Bolton described the meeting as "unstructured" and said: "We're not looking for concrete deliverables here."


Syrian government targets rebels near Israel-occupied Golan

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a convoy of buses carrying opposition fighters and their families leave the southern province of Daraa, Syria, Sunday, July 15. (SANA via AP)

Sarah El Deeb

Beirut (AP) — Syrian government forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on a rebel-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.

The government's push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the rebel-held Idlib province in the north.

Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the United Nations and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to "liberate all of Syrian territories" of "terrorism."

In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian government has restored control of over 60 percent of previously rebel-held territory across the country.

Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian foreign ministry's official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad's office said the two agreed that the "elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level" that could put an end to Syria's war.

Syria's government refers to all armed opposition groups as "terrorists" and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.

The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.

In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the rebels for years back to government control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Since early Sunday, government forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian government Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.

The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where government forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the rebels.

Government troops are also seeking to advance on another town to the south through negotiations with rebels there. Capturing Nawa would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to the Islamic State group.

Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa. Syrian state TV al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria. The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people will likely be completed by Sunday.


Pakistan mourns victims of carnage ahead of elections

A Pakistani police officer stands guard while people offer funeral prayers in Lahore, Sunday, July 15 for the victims of Friday’s suicide bombing in Mastung district of Baluchistan province that killed 128 people. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

Quetta, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistanis observed a day of mourning on Sunday for the victims of the horrific weekend attacks that killed 132 people, including a provincial assembly candidate during an election rally in southwestern Baluchistan province.

That attack killed 128people. Another suicide bombing also on Friday struck an election campaign convoy in northwestern Pakistan, killing four.

Friday's suicide bombing in Mastung district took place as the Baluchistan Awami Party's candidate Siraj Raisani was holding a rally. Another 300 people were wounded.

The deadly attacks occurred just hours before Pakistan's disgraced prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan from London to face a 10-year jail sentence for corruption. He and his daughter Maryam, who was sentenced to seven years, were taken to jail upon their return. They are expected to appeal their conviction on Monday.

On Sunday Sharif released an audio message from his prison cell bemoaning his arrest and urging his supporters to rally voters to his Pakistan Muslim League party ahead of general elections on July 25. Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, has taken over the leadership of the party and is shepherding it through the election campaign.

"Spread my message all over the country," he urged his party workers in his brief message.

Meanwhile, black flags of mourning were hoisted at the Baluchistan Awami Party's offices in the Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta and residents displayed banners denouncing the massacre.

Caretaker Prime Minister Nasirul Mulk visited the provincial capital of Quetta Sunday to express condolences to Raisani's family and others.

So far more than 150 people have died in election-related attacks, underscoring the security threat ahead of the July 25 vote.


Food sent to migrants off Sicily as Italy awaits EU offers

The Diciotti ship of the Italian Coast Guard, with 67 migrants on board rescued 4 days ago by the Vos Thalassa freighter, is moored in the Sicilian port of Trapani, southern Italy, Thursday, July 12. (Igor Petyx/ANSA via AP)

Frances D'Emilio

Rome (AP) — Another day's worth of food and beverages was sent Sunday to a pair of military ships off Sicily as Italy waited for more European nations to pledge to take a share of the hundreds of migrants on board before allowing the asylum-seekers to step off onto Italian soil.

Germany, Spain and Portugal each agreed to accept 50 of the migrants, following similar offers by fellow European Union members France and Malta on Saturday, Italian Premier Giueseppe Conte said.

But the Czech Republic rebuffed the appeal, calling the distribution plan a "road to hell."

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to prohibit further disembarking in Italy of migrants who were rescued while crossing the Mediterranean Sea unless the burden is shared by other EU countries.

Salvini, who leads the right-wing League party in Italy's populist coalition government, told reporters Sunday the "aim was for brotherly re-distribution" of the 450 rescued passengers on the two military ships.

Conte contacted fellow EU nation leaders Saturday, asking them to take some of the rescued migrants. But Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweeted that his country "won't take any migrants," dismissing Italy's approach as a "road to hell" that would encourage more migrant smuggling.

While campaigning for Italy's March election, Salvini praised the hard-line stance on immigration taken by several eastern European countries, among them the Czech Republic. The same intransigence is being experienced by the Italian government.

Italy's Conte insisted the "solidarity" strategy was working, citing the offers from France, Malta and Germany.

"This is the solidarity and responsibility that we have always sought from Europe," the premier said on Facebook. He added that Italy would "continue on this path, with firmness and in respect of human rights."

More than 600,000 migrants were rescued in the central Mediterranean and brought to Italian territory in the last few years. Many were economic migrants ineligible for asylum. Since their home countries often don't facilitate repatriation, Italy has been left to shelter many of them, although thousands have slipped out of Italy to seek work or relatives in northern Europe.

Finding takers for all of the asylum-seekers on the military ships waiting off Sicily, in the grips of a heat wave, could be a long process.

Baby food, milk and juice were among the provisions being delivered Sunday so the people aboard will have necessities for another 24 hours.

A fishing boat, launched Friday from Libya by human traffickers and crowded with some 450 migrants, sailed to tiny Linosa island off Sicily, passing through both Libya's and Malta's search-and-rescue areas.

Off sparsely populated Linosa, a vessel for European border agency Frontex and an Italian border police boat took aboard the migrants and brought them to waters outside the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.

By Sunday evening, roughly 70 passengers either had been taken or were about to be taken off the ships and brought ashore in Pozzallo, Italian media said. They included people suffering from dehydration, pregnant women and some babies, including a newborn a few days old. Some of them needed to be hospitalized.

Among the evacuated was a woman weighing 35 kilos after months in Libya.

Many of the rescued passengers originally are from Eritrea. The Eritrean husband of a pregnant woman who was experiencing abdominal pain was one of the few men allowed off, Italian state TV said.

In offering to take in 50 migrants, the German government cited the context of "ongoing talks about greater bilateral cooperation on asylum."

According to EU figures, Germany received almost 1 million asylum applications in 2016 and 2017, the most of any bloc members. Italy came in second with about 250,000.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy so far this year is down about 80 percent compared to 2017. Salvini has vowed to stop all arrivals except for war refugees and people in a few other select categories, such as pregnant women or young children.


Update July 14-15, 2018

132 die in Pakistan election violence ahead of Sharif return

A Pakistani man mourns over a dead body of his family member who was killed in a bomb attack in Mastung, Quetta province, Pakistan, Friday, July 13. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)

Zaheer Babar and Abdul Sattar

Lahore, Pakistan (AP) — The deadliest attacks in Pakistan's troubled election campaign killed at least 132 people, including a candidate, on Friday just before the arrest of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon his return to the country.

In the southwestern province of Baluchistan, a suicide bomber killed 128 people, including a politician running for a provincial legislature. Four others died in a strike in Pakistan's northwest, spreading panic in the country.

The attacks came hours before Sharif returned from London along with his daughter Maryam to face a 10-year prison sentence on corruption charges, anti-corruption officials said. Maryam Sharif faces seven years in jail.

He was taken into custody to serve his sentence however he is expected to appeal and seek bail. It wasn't clear when his appeal would be filed but he has until Monday.

In the southern town of Mastung, candidate Siraj Raisani and 127 others died when a suicide bomber blew himself up amid scores of supporters who had gathered at a rally.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried on its Aamaq news agency.

The group gave no reason for the bombing that killed Raisani, who was running for the election on the Baluchistan Awami Party ticket.

Raisani is the brother of the former Baluchistan chief minister, Aslam Raisani. Caretaker Home Minister Agha Umar Bungalzai told The Associated Press another 300 people were wounded in Friday's bombing.

The U.S. State Department in a statement strongly condemned this week's attacks on political candidates and their supporters in Pakistan.

"These attacks are cowardly attempts to deprive the Pakistani people of their democratic rights," it said. "We will continue to stand with the people of Pakistan and the broader South Asia region in their fight against terrorism."

Meanwhile, Sharif arrived in the eastern city of Lahore from London where he was visiting his ailing wife when a Pakistani court convicted him and his daughter of corruption.

Sharif's son-in-law is currently serving his one-year prison sentence on the same charge, which stems from the purchase of luxury apartments in Britain that the court said were bought with illegally acquired money.

Ahead of his return, police swept through Lahore, arresting scores of Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party workers to prevent them from greeting him at the airport.

Barbed wire was strung across some roads leading to the Lahore airport on Friday and barricades were positioned at the roadside ready to close off main boulevards should crowds start to gather.

In a video message Friday reportedly from aboard his aircraft en route to Pakistan, Sharif said he was returning knowing he would be taken directly to prison.

Sharif has been banned from participating in politics, and his brother Shahbaz Sharif now heads his Pakistan Muslim League and is campaigning for re-election on July 25.

In a televised appeal to supporters from London earlier this week, Sharif said he was not afraid of prison and asked people to vote for his party. He also used the opportunity to again criticize Pakistan's powerful military, which has ruled the country directly or indirectly for most of its 71-year history, saying Pakistan now has a "state above the state."

During his term in office, Sharif criticized the military's involvement in civilian affairs and its efforts in fighting extremists.

Pakistani and international rights groups have accused the military of seeking to maintain its influence in Pakistani politics by keeping Sharif out of power. The military denied the accusations saying their assistance in carrying out the elections was requested by Pakistan's Election Commission. The army will deploy 350,000 security personnel to polling stations throughout the country on election day.

Underscoring the security threat, were Friday's bombings the first of which killed four people in the northwest near the election rally of a senior politician from an Islamist party.

The explosion targeted candidate Akram Khan Durrani, who escaped unhurt, and wounded 20 people, said local police chief Rashid Khan.

Durrani is running in the July 25 vote against popular former lawmaker Imran Khan. He is a candidate of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an election alliance of radical religious groups.

The attacks came days after a suicide bomber dispatched by the Pakistani Taliban killed secular politician Haroon Ahmed Bilour and 20 others at his rally in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Former lawmaker Imran Khan, who hopes to become the next prime minister, condemned Friday's attack against his opponent, Durrani. In a tweet, he said there seems to be a conspiracy to sabotage the July 25 vote. But he said the people of Pakistan will not allow anything to prevent "historic" elections from taking place.


Protests, diplomatic backflips mark Trump's visit to England

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, right, talk during their meeting at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, England, Friday, July 13. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire

London (AP) — President Donald Trump closed out a turbulent 30-hour visit to England on Friday that featured massive protests, moments of pageantry and startling diplomatic backflips as the U.S. leader tried to smooth over controversies on trade, Brexit and his critical assessment of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

After a breach of protocol in bashing his hosts, Trump was on his best behavior as he wrapped up the visit, insisting the U.S.-U.K. relationship is at "the highest level of special" before dropping by Windsor Castle for tea with the queen and heading off for a weekend at one of his golf courses in Scotland. He left a trail of double-talk and chaos that has become a pattern in the U.S. president's recent overseas travels.

Even Trump's reception by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle became a dramatic split-screen event, as the Justice Department in Washington simultaneously announced indictments against 12 Russian military intelligence officers for 2016 election interference, charges issued just days before Trump's summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Trump's pomp-filled visit to the U.K. was overshadowed by an explosive interview in The Sun newspaper in which he blasted May, blamed London's mayor for terrorist attacks against the city and argued that Europe was "losing its culture" because of immigration.

The president who prides himself on not apologizing did his own version of backpedaling at a news conference with May on Friday, seeking to blame his favorite foil for any perceived friction with May, whom he lavished with praise after having questioned her leadership.

"I didn't criticize the prime minister," Trump said. "I have a lot of respect for the prime minister." He blamed the newspaper for skipping over his praise of May in a piece that was published Thursday just as the prime minister played host to Trump at an opulent welcome dinner at a country palace.

The president then urged reporters to listen to a full recording of the interview, which he said would give the full picture. But the audio already posted on The Sun's website only undermined Trump's familiar charge of "fake news."

In the interview, Trump criticized May's plan for Brexit and said it may cause a proposed U.K.-U.S. trade deal to collapse. He questioned her competence just as her government is in turmoil from contentious negotiations on how Britain will leave the European Union.

"Well, I think the deal that she is striking is not what the people voted on," Trump said in the interview. He also praised one of May's political rivals, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who resigned from her government in protest this week. The president backed away from the comments on Friday, saying of May's Brexit talks: "Whatever you're going to do is OK with us. Just make sure we can trade together. That's all that matters."

May, for her part, praised the strength of the British-U.S. bond. But in a gentle rebuke, she said: "It is all of our responsibility to ensure that trans-Atlantic unity endures."

As for her relationship with Trump, she said: "We are friends."

Trump was greeted by massive protests across Britain, including tens of thousands of demonstrators who filled the streets of London alongside a giant balloon that flew over Parliament on Friday depicting him as a cell-phone-toting angry baby in a diaper.

In a frenetic news conference at Chequers, May's official country house, an unrestrained Trump blamed his predecessor for Russian aggression in Crimea, placed fair trade at the center of Britain's efforts to leave the European Union, defended his beliefs that immigration has damaged Europe and repeatedly jousted with television correspondents' whose coverage he found critical.

The news conference was a scene in itself, featuring the moos of cows in the distance. And Trump at times drew laughs from some British reporters, who jeered his criticism of the media and openly laughed at his numerous boasts.

The president's bombast at Chequers was offset by a rare moment of delicacy hours later, when a chauffeured Range Rover took Trump and first lady Melania Trump to the courtyard of Windsor Castle, where Queen Elizabeth II was awaiting them under a canopy on a dais.

There were handshakes all around, then the threesome stood side-by-side as a military band played America's national anthem. With the queen in the middle, the Trumps seemed to tower over the monarch, who stands roughly 5-foot-3. The president is about 6-foot-2, and Mrs. Trump is near that in her stilettos.

The president and queen then broke off to review the troops, walking slowly past a line of Coldstream Guards wearing traditional bearskin hats. While Trump typically likes to take the lead, he appeared mostly to follow the queen's direction, adjusting his pace to hers.

The meeting with the queen, a traditional sign of prestige and power, was lost to some, as U.S. cable networks began cutting away to cover the Russian indictments. And calls from Congress grew louder for Trump to cancel Monday's meeting in Helsinki with Putin, whom Trump has previously declined to challenge on 2016 election meddling.

In Britain, the takeaway from Trump's trip across the pond will probably be the interview, in which he accused May of ruining what her country stands to gain from its Brexit vote to leave the EU. Trump linked his own election to the June 2016 referendum in which a slim majority of British voters supported leaving the EU.

Up to 100,000 people massed in London for demonstrations against the president's visit. Marchers gathered in central London before walking through the center of the city to Parliament — where earlier the 20-foot (six meter) baby blimp hovered overhead. Many protesters used humor to convey their opposition. One sign read "Trump wears poorly tailored suits," another proclaimed "Overcomb Brexit." One man was selling rolls of "Trump toilet paper" emblazoned with a picture of the president.

Trump acknowledged feeling unwelcome in the city, and blamed that in part on Mayor Sadiq Khan, who gave protesters permission to fly the baby Trump balloon.

"I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London," he told The Sun, which is owned by his media ally, Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News in the United States.

Trump also blamed recent terrorist attacks there on Khan, who is Muslim. The president claimed Europe is "losing its culture" because of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.

Khan, whose grandparents are from Pakistan, responded by questioning why Trump repeatedly criticizes him.

"Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin. Cities in America all suffered terror attacks," Khan told British broadcaster Sky News. "And it's for President Trump to explain why he singled me as the mayor of London out and not the mayors of other cities and leaders of other cities."

Additional protests were waiting for Trump in Scotland as he took a weekend break before traveling to Finland to meet Putin.


Italy won't allow boat with 450 migrants; says "go to Malta"

In this photo taken on Thursday, July 12, 2018, some of the 67 migrants rescued at sea by the Vos Thalassa freighter disembark from the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti, in the Sicilian port of Trapani, southern Italy. (Igor Petyx/ANSA via AP)

Frances D'Emilio

Rome (AP) — Italy and Malta squabbled Friday over who was responsible for rescuing 450 migrants crowded aboard a fishing boat in the Mediterranean as the vessel, apparently not seeking help, headed toward a tiny island off Sicily.

Italian Transport Minister DaniloToninelli had tweeted that Malta was obliged under maritime law to rescue the migrants since they were in the Maltese search-and-rescue area earlier on Friday and also provide the fishing boat with safe harbor.

But Malta retorted that when Rome's maritime rescue coordination center informed it about the vessel, the boat was already far closer to the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa than it was to Maltese shores. The Maltese interior ministry also said that persons aboard the vessel announced their intention to proceed to Lampedusa.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who's leading the new populist's government campaign to keep more migrants from reaching Italian shores, was adamant that the boat wouldn't dock in any Italian port.

"This boat cannot, must not arrive," Salvini tweeted. "We already have given, you understand." Salvini was apparently referring to the costs that Italy has incurred in the last few years caring for some 600,000 migrants who were rescued at sea and brought to Italian shores.

On Thursday, Salvini was thwarted thanks to Italian presidential intervention in his determination that 67 migrants rescued earlier in the week by an Italian tug in the waters off Libya not set foot in Italy. The tug's captain had told the Italian coast guard that the migrants were threatening the crew after it appeared that the tug would turn them over to the Libyan coast guard.

Italian prosecutors are investigation the alleged threats.

The Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti arrived in the port of Trapani, in western Sicily, on Thursday, but the migrants were kept aboard while Salvini vowed that "delinquents" among the migrants would be jailed, then expelled, leaving it unclear for hours if the other passengers would be allowed off to seek asylum.

After President Sergio Mattarella expressed humanitarian concerns about the migrants, authorities granted the Italian ship docking permission.

Salvini insists that the Libyan coast guard deal with migrants in waters off the largely lawless North African country. But U.N. officials and human rights advocates say migrants are at risk for torture, beatings, rape and other atrocities in Libyan detention centers.

Two African migrants were escorted off the Diciotti Thursday night by Italian police. The other migrants, including young children and women then came down the gangway to be taken to a center for identification.

Salvini had said a Sudanese and a Ghanaian among the migrants allegedly tried to hijack the tug so it wouldn't return them to Libya.

Italian media quoted Trapani Prosecutor Alfredo Morvillo as saying the investigation would be carried out without bowing to any political pressures. No arrests were immediately made.

In an interview with Italian radio station RTL on Friday, Salvini insisted that no more "fake refugees" would arrive, referring to the large percentage of migrants who see their asylum bid fail.

The Italian news agency ANSA quoted a social worker for UNICEF, the U.N. children's advocacy agency, and the aid group InterSos as saying the migrants recounted several minutes of "great confusion and fear." Sahar Ibrahim was also quoted as saying that migrants said they were ready to dive into the sea to avoid being sent back to Libya.


Iceberg 4 miles wide breaks off from Greenland glacier

This Thursday, July 12, 2018 photo shows an Iceberg near the village of Innarsuit on the northwestern coast of Greenland. (Magnus Kristensen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

London (AP) — An iceberg four miles wide has broken off from a glacier in eastern Greenland and scientists have captured the dramatic event on video.

New York University professor David Holland, an expert in atmospheric and ocean science, told The Associated Press that "this is the largest event we've seen in over a decade in Greenland."

A June 22 video of the incident was taken by his wife, Denise Holland of NYU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. They had camped by the Helheim Glacier for weeks to collect data to better project sea level changes due to global warming.

Holland said Wednesday that the time-lapse video, which is speeded up 20 times, shows "3 percent of the annual ice loss of Greenland occur in 30 minutes."

"It sounded like rockets going off," he said, describing it as "a very complex, chaotic, noisy event."

While the couple is studying Greenland, he said that "the real concern is in Antarctica, where everything is so big the stakes are much higher."

In northwestern Greenland, another large iceberg was apparently grounded on the sea floor near the small village of Innaarsuit, which has a population of 169.

"Its residents were evacuated in the early hours of Friday in fears that a flood would hit the place as a result of the broken iceberg," Greenland police spokeswoman Lina Davidsen told Danish broadcaster TV2.

"All the people in the danger area have been evacuated to a building that is further up in the village," Davidsen said. "The evacuation happened only because the iceberg is so close to the village."

Innaarsuit is located about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Nuuk, Greenland's capital and largest city.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have created major floods in Greenland in the past years.


Update July 13, 2018

Trump says May's Brexit plan would kill UK-US trade deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May takes the hand of President Donald Trump as they walk up red-carpeted steps to enter Blenheim Palace for a black tie dinner in Blenheim, England, Thursday, July 12. (Will Oliver/Photo via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump lobbed a verbal hand grenade into Theresa May's carefully constructed plans for Brexit, saying Thursday that the British leader had wrecked the country's exit from the European Union and likely "killed" chances of a free-trade deal with the United States.

Trump, who is making his first presidential visit to Britain, told The Sun newspaper he had advised May on how to conduct Brexit negotiations, "but she didn't listen to me."

"She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on," the president said.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid published an interview with Trump as May was hosting him at a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, birthplace of Britain's World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill — the leader who coined the term "special relationship" for the trans-Atlantic bond.

The Sun said the interview was conducted Thursday in Brussels, before Trump traveled to Britain. His remarks on Brexit came the same day May's government published long-awaited proposals for Britain's relations with the EU after it leaves the bloc next year.

The document proposes keeping Britain and the EU in a free market for goods, with a more distant relationship for services.

The plan has infuriated fervent Brexit supporters, who think sticking close to the bloc would limit Britain's ability to strike new trade deals around the world. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis both quit the government this week in protest.

Trump came down firmly on the side of the Brexiteers. He said Johnson, May's now ex-foreign secretary, "would be a great prime minister. I think he's got what it takes."

Meanwhile, Trump said what May proposed on Brexit would hurt the chances of a future trade deal between the U.K. and the United States.

"If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal," Trump said.

He said "the deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on."

In fact, much of Britain's division over Brexit — which has split the governing Conservative party and the public at large — stems from the June 2016 referendum on withdrawing from the EU not including  language about would come next.

May's government is trying to satisfy Britons who voted for their country to leave the bloc, but to set an independent course without hobbling businesses, security agencies and other sectors that are closely entwined with the EU.

May insisted earlier Thursday that her plan was exactly what Britons had voted for in the 2016 referendum.

"They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders," she said. "That is exactly what we will do."

Trump's undiplomatic attack on May, his host, will likely raise the temperature around an already controversial visit. Thousands of people are expected to protest against the president in London on Friday, when a 20-foot (6-meter) balloon depicting the president as a screaming baby will be flown near Parliament.

May and Trump are scheduled to hold talks and a joint news conference on Friday.

Trump's interview easily could overshadow the government's attempt to lay out plans for what it calls a "principled and pragmatic" Brexit.

Britain is currently part of the EU's single market — which allows for the frictionless flow of goods and services among the 28 member states — and its tariff-free customs union for goods. That will end after the U.K. leaves the bloc in March.

The plans laid out Thursday in a 98-page government paper gave Britain's most detailed answer yet to the question of what will replace them.

Under the blueprint, Britain would stick to a "common rulebook" with the EU for goods and agricultural products in return for free trade, without tariffs or border customs checks. Such an approach would avoid disruption to automakers and other manufacturers that source parts from multiple countries.

The government said Britain would act "as if in a combined customs territory" with the EU, using technology at its border to determine whether goods from third countries were bound for Britain or the EU, and charging the appropriate tariffs in those cases.

Britain says that will solve the problem of maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and EU member Ireland.

Free trade would not apply to services, which account for 80 percent of the British economy. The government said that would give Britain "freedom to chart our own path," though it would mean less access to EU markets than there is now.

The plan also seeks to keep Britain in major EU agencies, including the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Medicines Agency and the police agency Europol.

When the U.K. leaves the EU, it will end the automatic right of EU citizens to live and work in Britain. But Britain said EU nationals should be able to travel visa-free to Britain for tourism or "temporary business," and there should be measures allowing young people and students to work and study in Britain.

Other elements likely to anger Brexit-backers are Britain's willingness to pay the EU for access to certain agencies and the suggestion some EU citizens could continue to work in Britain visa-free.

Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg colorfully described the plan as "the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200."

Pro-EU lawmakers, in contrast, think the proposed post-Brexit ties with the bloc are not close enough.


Italy forces new standoff, refuses to let migrants disembark

The Diciotti ship of the Italian Coast Guard, with 67 migrants on board rescued 4 days ago by the Vos Thalassa freighter, enters the Sicilian port of Trapani, southern Italy, Thursday, July 12. (Igor Petyx/ANSA via AP)

Nicole Winfield

Rome (AP) — Italy's hard-line interior minister refused Thursday to let 67 migrants disembark from an Italian coast guard ship until an investigation determines whether any of them had violently threatened their rescuers to prevent being returned to Libya.

The Diciotti ship pulled into the port of Trapani after taking on board the migrants from an Italian-flagged oil rig supply tug that rescued them Sunday in off the coast of Libya. The dispute over what transpired next has turned into the latest standoff since Italy's anti-migrant government took power last month.

Italy's transport minister says the tug reported that some of the migrants made "death threats" against the crew.

"As soon as our ship turned south, to be able to meet up with a Libyan coast guard ship to transfer the migrants, they started to threaten the crew," Christopher Savoye, legal affairs official of the Vroon Offshore Service that owns the Vos Thalassa tug, told the shipping news site The Meditelegraph. "They encircled them, pushed them, making the gesture of cutting their throats."

The tug requested assistance, and the migrants were transferred to the Italian coast guard's Diciotti. By late Thursday, it was still docked at Trapani's port, with no authorization to let its passengers ashore.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said he wouldn't give the OK until prosecutors determine whether the migrants actually did make the threats, or if the crew of the Vos Thalassa "exaggerated" the danger.

"Someone is lying," he told reporters in Innsbruck, Austria. "Until I have clarity, I personally as interior minister, as vice premier and as a father, won't let them get off."

Humanitarian organizations, including UNICEF, the U.N. refugee agency, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children, demanded that the migrants be allowed to disembark to receive care.

"The refugees and migrants, among them women, children and adolescents, have been at sea for at least four days," the aid groups said. "(We) request the urgent activation of primary health care, the authorization for everyone to disembark starting with minors and vulnerable people, and the supply of first aid to all those on board."

On the docks, activists protested Italy's hard-line position. Many protesters wore the red T-shirts that have become a symbol of those favoring a broader welcome for migrants, who often dress their children in red to make them easier to spot at sea if their smuggling boats capsize.

Salvini spoke after meeting in Austria with his European Union counterparts, including the Austrian and German interior ministers who along with Italy have agreed to press the EU to take a tougher line on migration.

Austria's Herbert Kickl said the new "axis" wants "to send a clear message to the world, and especially to the traffickers, that it won't be possible anymore in the future, shouldn't be possible anymore to step on European soil if you don't have a right to protection."

Salvini said he hoped Italy's hard-line position becomes the European position. He wants to reduce the number of migrants leaving North Africa to reduce the arrivals in Europe and deaths in the Mediterranean along the way. He says that will reduce tensions among European nations over their internal borders.

"Obviously, if you drastically reduce the departures and arrivals, the problems inside the EU among individual countries will also be reduced," he said.

He said he hoped Europe as a whole will continue to recognize the "minority" of people who deserve asylum because they are fleeing war, but not the others.

"We hope that finally the European Union resumes defending its borders and the right to security of 500 million European citizens who in recent years have been put at risk," Salvini said.


Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt

This Thursday, July 5, 2018 file photo shows smoke rising over buildings that were hit by a Syrian government forces bombardment in Daraa province, southern Syria. (Nabaa Media via AP)

Philip Issa

Beirut (AP) — For the first time in more than seven years, the Syrian government raised its flag Thursday over Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011 and plunge the country into its calamitous civil war.

The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old Assad who has ruled with an iron fist over Syria for 18 years. His father Hafez Assad was president for three decades before him.

Officials accompanied by state media crews hoisted the two-star flag over the rubble of the city's main square, allowing it to wave in sight of the shell of the Omari Mosque where protesters first gathered in demonstrations demanding reforms then Assad's ouster in the spring of 2011.

The mosque has since been destroyed in the government's brutal crackdown against the city, which ranged from alleged torturing of dissidents to shelling the city with tanks and planes.

With control over Daraa, government forces can now focus on clearing the last pockets of the opposition and, separately, the Islamic State group from the frontier at the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in a 1967 war.

The corner of southwest Syria is an important corridor for trade between Syria and Jordan, and onward to the oil-rich Gulf states. But most of the important fighting against the revolt has already been concluded in shattering battles farther to the north for the main cities of Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs, and territories in between.

Some 400,000 people have been killed in seven years of war.

Protests in Daraa in 2011 against the government's mistreatment of teenage detainees ignited a national revolt against decades of authoritarian rule.

Ahmad Masalmeh, a media activist formerly based in Daraa, said fighters in the city had accepted an offer of amnesty from the government, and let back in the state institutions and symbols of Assad's rule.

Rebels refusing to accept the deal will be exiled with their families to other rebel-held parts of the country.

The agreement follows a template imposed by the government and its Russian and Iranian backers that has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians, including media activists, army defectors, and draft dodgers and their family members to give up their homes to lift the sieges against their cities.

Human rights monitors say the arrangements amount to a program of political and demographic engineering in Syria to secure Assad's rule.

Government forces launched an offensive to recapture southwest Syria and the areas neighboring Jordan and Israel on June 19. They surrounded Daraa's rebel-held quarters on Monday. Dozens have been killed in the campaign, including 162 civilians, according to Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — among them women and children.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters at a news conference that the world body had tried "to prevent a bloodbath" in the region.

Late last month, Guterres had called for an immediate end to military operations and a return to cease-fire arrangements agreed to by Russia, the United States and Jordan.

"I think that our action was useful in that regard," he said. "But again the objective must be and remains entirely for us a political solution."

Mohamad al-Hanous, Daraa's governor, said government forces were in control of 80 percent of the city, according to the government-linked Central Military Media outlet, while Syrian state media reported late Wednesday that rebels in Daraa had agreed to surrender their heavy and medium weapons.

Under the terms of the agreement, Russia will deploy military police to maintain order in Daraa and facilitate the transition back to government rule, said a media activist inside who asked for anonymity out of concern for his safety.

Russian mediators are warning fighters and civilians against leaving Daraa for Idlib, the northwest Syrian province where over a million displaced Syrians are living in dire conditions and exposed to government airstrikes and the possibility of a future offensive.

"Idlib is a crematory," the activist said Russian mediators warned him.

Humanitarian groups say more than 300,000 people have been displaced by the government's southern offensive, moving toward the Jordanian border and to Quneitra, a province that borders Israel.

Israel and Jordan's borders are closed to refugees, and the aid group Oxfam said Thursday it was unable to deliver enough aid across the Jordan border to meet the needs of the internally displaced residents.

The circumstances are especially perilous for journalists and media activists, who say they fear for their lives if they are captured by government troops.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday at least 70 journalists were trapped in southwest Syria and required protection.

Syria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to CPJ. At least 120 journalists have been killed in the country in relation to their work since the conflict began in 2011, according to CPJ research. At the time of CPJ's most recent prison census, at least seven journalists were in Syrian state prisons while many others are missing.

Masalmeh, the media activist, said he was smuggled out of southwest Syria to Jordan four days ago, leaving his parents and extended family in Daraa.

He said he had not heard from them in two days.


Japan police search home of nurse in hospital poison deaths

This Dec. 2017 photo shows nurse Ayumi Kuboki in Yokohama, Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

Mari Yamaguchi

Tokyo (AP) — Japanese authorities on Thursday raided the apartment of a nurse who's in custody on suspicion of fatally poisoning at least two elderly patients at a terminal care hospital.

Local media have reported the woman confessed to police she poisoned about 20 patients to have them die when she was off-duty and could avoid the trouble of explaining the deaths to their families.

Kanagawa prefectural police said they searched 31-year-old Ayumi Kuboki's apartment in Yokohama, near Tokyo, for more evidence in the case.

Kuboki was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of killing two men in 2016 by injecting disinfectant into their intravenous drips at the former Oguchi Hospital, since renamed Yokohama Hajime Hospital, a Kanagawa police official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Prosecutors have more than two weeks to decide whether to indict the former nurse.

The hospital has acknowledged a higher death rate around that time, raising speculation the poisoning may have been systematic and more widespread. In 2016, a hospital lawyer told The Associated Press that 46 other patients had died on the same floor from July 1 until late September that year. It was about a year after Kuboki started working at the hospital.

Around that time, whistleblowing emails sent to the city's health department described problems at the hospital such as a nurse's bottled drink being laced with bleach, a uniform slashed, or missing medical records of patients, according to investigation results published by a city committee last year.

Kuboki, who had left the job since, denied any responsibility when asked about the deaths by Japanese television networks last year.

The case surfaced on Sept. 20, 2016, when the hospital informed police of a possible poisoning after 88-year-old Nobuo Yamaki died while receiving an intravenous injection. Police confirmed his IV solution had been contaminated with a disinfectant.

Police then found there was another victim, Sozo Nishikawa, who died two days earlier. Police got hold of his body just before cremation and conducted an autopsy, which showed he had been poisoned with the same disinfectant.

Investigators have found traces of the same disinfectant only on her nurse uniform, according to the Asahi newspaper.

Investigators also reportedly found tiny puncture marks in 10 of about 50 unused intravenous bags stored at the nursing station on the fourth floor, which handles the terminally ill.

The hospital, which stopped taking new patients and changed its name, installed security cameras and took other safety steps. It also apologized to its patients and families over the alleged crime and the patients' deaths.


Update July 12, 2018

Typhoon Maria barrels into China after pounding Taiwan

In this Tuesday, July 10, 2018, photo, large waves crash against the shoreline as Typhoon Maria approaches in Wenling city in eastern China's Zhejiang Province. (Zhu Haiwei/Xinhua via AP)

Ralph Jennings

Taipei, Taiwan (AP) — Typhoon Maria injured two people in Taiwan and prompted more than 3,000 to be moved to shelters before making landfall in China, authorities said Wednesday.

The government's disaster response center said the two were hit by falling tree limbs in the capital Taipei on Tuesday, as the medium-strength storm passed north of the mountainous island of 23 million people.

The center said a total of 3,430 people had evacuated their homes in nine cities and counties by Wednesday morning to avoid landslides triggered by heavy rainfall.

In 2009, Typhoon Morakot killed almost 700 people in Taiwan, including about 400 when their village was wiped out by flooding and landslides.

The central government issued red alerts for landslides in two mountain villages of northwestern Taiwan's Hsinchu county, effective Wednesday. Seven cities and counties ordered work and school closures for the day.

The typhoon also caused the cancellation of 138 international flights and 170 domestic flights. Its wind speeds reached 191 kilometers (119 miles) per hour.

Across the Taiwan Strait, schools and factories in coastal areas of the Chinese province of Fujian are closed. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated to shelters and thousands of fishing boats returned to port.

Typhoons normally hit Taiwan, China, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam from June through November each year. They form as tropical depressions gather strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea, before weakening over the hills of southeastern China and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile in western China's in Sichuan province, heavy rains and landslides prompted the closures of the popular Mount Emei and Jiuzhaigou tourist destinations. Roads were blocked by landslides, but there was no word on major damage or injuries.


Trump claims Germany 'controlled' by Russia

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during their bilateral breakfast, Wednesday, July 11, in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin

Brussels (AP) — In a combative start to his NATO visit, President Donald Trump asserted Wednesday that a pipeline project has made Germany "totally controlled" by and "captive to Russia" and blasted NATO allies' defense spending, opening what was expected to be a fraught summit with a list of grievances involving American allies.

Trump, in a testy exchange with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, took issue with the U.S. protecting Germany when the European nation is making deals with Russia.

"I have to say, I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we're supposed to be guarding against Russia," Trump said during a breakfast with Stoltenberg, his first event since arriving in Brussels. "We're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate."

The president appeared to be referring to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would bring gas from Russia to Germany's northeastern Baltic coast, bypassing Eastern European nations like Poland and Ukraine and doubling the amount of gas Russia can send directly to Germany. The vast undersea pipeline is opposed by the U.S. and some other EU members, who warn it could give Moscow greater leverage over Western Europe.

Trump said that, "Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia" and urged NATO to look into the issue. Trump, who has been accused of being too cozy with Putin — a man accused of U.S. election meddling — was expected to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day.

Stoltenberg pushed back, stressing that NATO members have been able to work together despite their differences.

The dramatic exchange set the tone for what was already expected to be a tense day of meetings with leaders of the military alliance. Trump is expected to continue hammering jittery NATO allies about their military spending during the summit meeting, which comes amid increasingly frayed relations between the "America first" president and the United States' closest traditional allies.

"The United States is paying far too much and other countries are not paying enough, especially some. So we're going to have a meeting on that," Trump said as he arrived at the breakfast, describing the situation as "disproportionate and not fair to the taxpayers of the United States and we're going to make it fair."

"They will spend more," he later predicted. "I have great confidence they'll be spending more."

Trump has been pushing NATO members to reach their agreed-to target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on national defense by 2024 and has accused those who don't of freeloading off the U.S.

"Many countries in NATO, which we are expected to defend, are not only short of their current commitment of 2% (which is low), but are also delinquent for many years in payments that have not been made," he tweeted Tuesday while en route to Europe, asking: "Will they reimburse the U.S.?"

That's not how the spending words. The 2 percent represents the amount each country aims to spend on its own defense, not some kind of direct payment to NATO or the U.S.

NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

During his campaign, Trump called NATO "obsolete" and suggested the U.S. might not come to the defense of members if they found themselves under attack — a shift that would represent a fundamental realignment of the modern world order. He also called Brussels a "hell hole" and "a mess." Trump has moderated his language somewhat since taking office, but has continued to dwell on the issue, even as many NATO members have agreed to up their spending.

Stoltenberg, for his part, credited Trump for spurring NATO nations to spend more on defense, noting that the Europeans and Canada are projected to spend around $266 billion more by 2024.

"We all agree that we have to do more," he said, describing last year as marking the biggest increase in defense spending across Europe and Canada in a generation.

Trump interjecting, asking Stoltenberg why he thought that had happened.

"It's also because of your leadership, because your clear message," Stoltenberg responded.

Arriving for his meeting, Trump had taken credit for the spending, telling the NATO chief that "because of me they've raised about $40 billion over the last year. So I think the secretary general likes Trump. He may be the only one, but that's OK with me."

Trump was also participating in a welcome ceremony, a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and a working dinner with some of the same leaders he berated over trade during his last world leaders summit in Canada last month.

Brussels is the first stop of a week-long European tour that will include stops in London and Scotland, as well as a highly anticipated meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Trump predicted as he departed Washington that the "easiest" leg of his journey would be his scheduled sit-down Putin — a comment that did little to reassure allies fretting over his potential embrace of a Russian leader U.S. intelligence officials accuse of meddling in the 2016 elections to help Trump win.

On the eve of the NATO summit, European Council President Donald Tusk pushed back against Trump's constant criticism of European allies and urged him to remember who his friends are when he meets with Putin in Helsinki.

"Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have all that many," he said.


UK police: Novichok could last 50 years in sealed container

UK police officers stand on duty in Salisbury, England, Tuesday July 10. (Rod Minchin/PA via AP)

Gregory Katz

London (AP) — The nerve agent Novichok could remain active for 50 years if kept in a sealed container, Britain's top counterterrorism police officer said Wednesday, adding that he cannot yet "guarantee" there are no traces of the lethal poison in southwestern England.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu told residents of Amesbury Tuesday night that police are searching for the container that held the nerve agent believed to have poisoned two people on June 30.

"I would love to be able to say that we have identified and caught the people responsible and how we are certain there are no traces of nerve agent left anywhere in Wiltshire," he said.

"But the brutal reality is that I cannot offer you any reassurance or guarantee at this time."

He said there is so far no definitive forensic proof that the Novichok that poisoned 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and 45-year-old Charlie Rowley was the same batch used in March against ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Basu said this can only be proved by scientists conducting detailed analysis, but that any other explanation is extremely unlikely.

"This is a very rare substance banned by the international community and for there to be two separate, distinct incidents in one small English county is implausible to say the least," he said.

The nerve agent was produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Britain has accused the Russian state of the attack on the Skripals, a charge denied by the Kremlin.

Sturgess died on Sunday; officials say Rowley has shown slight but significant improvement and has recovered consciousness. He is in critical but stable condition and officials warn he is not yet out of danger.

Basu said he hopes Rowley continues to improve and can give police details about the location of the container. He said it is possible Sturgess and Rowley had the container in their possession for some time before opening it with disastrous results.

"The brutal fact is we don't know where they found it. I am hoping Charlie recovers and when he recovers he will be able to tell us and perhaps shed some light on it which will narrow our search dramatically. There is a possibility they found it on March 5 and only opened it in the past 10 days," he said.


Chinese hackers infiltrate Cambodia ahead of polls

 

In this July 7, 2018, file photo, supporters wait for the start of a campaign rally of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Gerry Shih

Beijing (AP) — Last month, the daughter of a jailed Cambodian opposition party leader received an email from a well-seeming activist at a reputed Cambodian non-profit. For weeks, the sender nudged Monovithya Kem to open an attachment described as containing interview questions.

Kem suspected a trap set by Cambodian hackers seeking access to her computer. But a months-long investigation by California security-research firm FireEye revealed that Kem was among several Cambodians likely targeted by a far more formidable actor: China.

FireEye said Wednesday it found evidence that a Chinese hacking team it believes is linked to Beijing has penetrated computer systems belonging to Cambodia's election commission, opposition leaders and media in the months leading up to Cambodia's July 29 election. Investigators could not immediately tell what, if any, data had been stolen or altered.

The Foreign Ministry in China has rejected these allegations.

Although FireEye did not find evidence that the Chinese hackers are working to sway the Cambodian elections in the ruling party's favor, the revelations may cast a murky geopolitical shadow over the elections critics already say will be neither free nor fair.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the world's longest-serving rulers and a staunch ally of Beijing, faced what analysts predicted would have been a tight race before he jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha last year, accusing him of treason.

After the European Union and the United States withdrew their support for the election, China stepped in to donate $20 million to Cambodia's National Election Committee, said Hang Puthea, a spokesman for the body. China also last year pledged $100 million in military aid.

Monovithya Kem, the daughter of Kem Sokha and an official in his now-disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party, said she has frequently been targeted by Cambodian hackers in the past, but the revelation of potential Chinese involvement shocked her.

"To know that a foreign group is specifically trying to get information from me — now that's scary," Kem said by phone from Washington, where she is based. "What you're dealing with is suddenly bigger."

FireEye's head of cyberspying analysis Benjamin Read said malware-ridden files sent to Cambodian targets were traced by his team to an unsecured server operated by the Chinese hacking group TEMP.Periscope.

On the hackers' server, FireEye researchers found records showing that the group had compromised Cambodia's election commission and several Cambodian ministries. The servers' access logs in one instance traced to an IP address in China's southern Hainan island, said Read, who described TEMP.Periscope as the second most active Chinese hacking group FireEye has traced.

FireEye says the group appears state-linked because it seems to be seeking information that would benefit the Chinese government.

"They don't go for credit card numbers of bank account numbers, they go for information that's of use to a government," Read said. "We saw them use the same infrastructure to target the Cambodia government and private companies. It suggests the Chinese government doesn't draw a line between political espionage versus commercial espionage."

FireEye has previously found that TEMP.Periscope sought maritime technology from U.S. and European defense firms and other institutions with projects in the contested South China Sea.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is not aware of TEMP.Periscope and resolutely opposes cyberattacks as a general principle. "China calls on the international community to combat cybersecurity threats on a respectful, equal and mutually beneficial basis," it said.

The Cambodian election commission was aware of Wednesday's reports about the hacking, Hang, the commission's spokesman said, and has filed a legal complaint to the Cambodian government.

Government spokesman Phay Sophana said he was not aware of any specific cases of hacking attacks on state agencies. Cambodia would protect its online data, especially relating to national security, the election and financial matters, he added.

The scope of FireEye's findings on Wednesday did not include Taiwan. But Danielle Cave, a cyber policy analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute who is not affiliated to FireEye, said China appears to be testing its cyber and covert influence capabilities on the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its territory.

Cave said Taiwan has long been a target of campaigns by China that combine spreading propaganda favoring China with outright hacking to deface websites or pilfer data.

In January, Taiwan prosecutors said they found evidence that China's Taiwan Affairs Office promised to pay a Taiwanese politician $500,000 to run a website publishing articles promoting unification. China dismissed the allegations as "pure nonsense."

The website of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party was defaced by hackers believed to be from China earlier this month. Kolas Yokata, a DPP legislator, told The Associated Press the party was investing in cybersecurity upgrades ahead of November, when Taiwan is expected to hold local elections that will serve as a referendum on the party's grip on power.

"We especially cannot accept that our elections could be manipulated," Yokata said.


Update July 11, 2018

Trump lands in Europe, says Putin 'easiest' of his meetings

Air Force One touches down at Melsbroek Military airport in Melsbroek, Belgium, Tuesday, July 10. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire

Brussels (AP) — With Europe's wary eyes upon him, President Donald Trump launched a weeklong trip there on Tuesday with harsh criticism for NATO allies and predicted the "easiest" leg of his journey would be his scheduled sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As he departed the White House for a four-nation European tour, Trump did little to reassure allies fretting over the risk of damage he could do to the 69-year-old trans-Atlantic mutual defense pact and his potential embrace of Putin during a summit in Helsinki.

Trump said Tuesday he "can't say right now" if Putin is a friend or foe, but called him a "competitor." The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump's candidacy, and warns of further attempts at interference both in the 2018 midterms and in European elections.

Trump arrived in Brussels on the eve of the NATO summit after repeated attacks on the pact. He told reporters in Washington before leaving that "Frankly it helps them a lot more than it helps us" and then later tweeted from Air Force One that he may demand reimbursements from the European member nations.

Trump has been pressing NATO countries to fulfill their goal of spending that 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense by 2024. During his presidential campaign, he suggested he might only come to the defense of NATO nations that fulfilled their obligation. And a year ago, during his first visit to its Belgium headquarters, Trump initially declined to explicitly support the organization's defense agreement.

Trump, who landed in Belgium during the middle of the soccer-mad nation's World Cup semifinals match, will later head to London, where Prime Minister Theresa May's government is in turmoil over her plans for exiting the European Union.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Tuesday in a message to Trump that "it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem." Tusk recalled that the Europeans are spending more than Russia and as much as China on defense. NATO estimates that 15 members, or just over half, will meet the benchmark by 2024 based on current trends.

"Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting — NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, adding: "Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!"

On Monday he'd tweeted the situation was "not fair, nor is it acceptable," and insisted that NATO benefits Europe "far more than it does the U.S."

He added: "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!"

Trump, who has compared the sentiment that underpinned the Brexit vote to leave the EU to his own election, will be making his maiden presidential trip to Britain at a fraught time for May. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned within hours of each other in protest of her plan. Trump said might meet with Johnson in the UK despite his resignation.

Trump's visit is expected to attract large protests in London and elsewhere in Britain.

Trump's weeklong trip to Europe will continue with a stop in Scotland before ending with a sit-down in Helsinki with Putin.

He said that of the high-stakes meetings of his trip, "Putin may be the easiest of them all."

"I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing," he added.

The meeting will be closely watched to see whether Trump will rebuke or embrace Putin, who has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling, in spite of evidence to the contrary.


Suicide bomber kills 12 in attack on Pakistan election rally

A street is decorated with posters of election candidates in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, July 10. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

Riaz Khan

Peshawar, Pakistan (AP) — Police in Pakistan say a suicide bomber killed a secular party leader and 11 supporters in an attack on an election rally Tuesday in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

Peshawar police chief Qazi Jamil said the bomber struck a rally for Haroon Ahmed Bilour, an Awami National Party candidate for a provincial seat. He said another 35 people were wounded in the attack, including Bilour's 16-year-old son.

The ANP governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital, from 2008 to 2013. The military waged a major offensive against militants in the Swat Valley in 2009. Islamic extremists killed hundreds of ANP leaders and supporters in attacks around the 2013 election. Bilour's father, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was killed by a suicide bomber during a meeting in 2012 ahead of the vote.

The attack came hours after the military said it would deploy more than 370,000 security forces to polling stations to ensure free, fair and transparent national elections on July 25. That is more than five times the number of troops deployed during the last elections in 2013, when the security situation was much worse.

Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, an army spokesman, said 371,388 troops — nearly a third of the total armed forces — would be deployed to provide security for the upcoming vote. He said the deployment was requested by the elections oversight body.

He said the troops would provide security at 85,000 polling stations and carry out other elections-related duties. Nearly 135,000 of the troops have been called up from retirement, Ghafoor said.

He told reporters the military would not be directly involved in the voting and insisted it remained neutral.

"People should vote for the candidate of their choice, without any fear," he added. "Our loyalty is only with Pakistan."

International and Pakistani rights groups have recently accused the army and its intelligence agency of intimidating media outlets in an attempt to stifle criticism of the military, accused by some of seeking to play a dominant role in the country's politics.

The military has ruled Pakistan directly and indirectly for most of its 71-year history.

Ghafoor also dismissed allegations raised on Tuesday by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who accused the Pakistani spy agency of pressuring one of his ruling party's candidates to change political loyalties. Sharif was ousted from office by the country's Supreme Court last July and was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison on corruption charges. He plans to appeal the sentence.

Previously, the military removed Sharif from office in 1999, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup. Musharraf was later forced to resign in 2008.

Analysts say Pakistan will likely have a coalition government after the elections, as no single political party is expected to get a two-thirds majority in parliament. Any party that gets a simple majority can form the government.


UK prime minister seeks to stem Cabinet exodus over Brexit

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May is shown during the second day of the Western Balkans Summit at Lancaster House in London, Tuesday July 10. (Leon Neal/Pool via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Tuesday that her plan to retain close ties with the European Union "absolutely keeps faith" with voters' decision to leave the bloc, as she tried to restore government unity after the resignations of two top ministers over Brexit.

May has spent the past few days fighting for her political life as first Brexit Secretary David Davis and then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit, saying May's plans for future relations with the European Union did not live up to their idea of Brexit. On Tuesday, two more lawmakers followed them out the door.

Johnson sent an incendiary resignation letter on Monday accusing May of killing "the Brexit dream" and flying "white flags" of surrender in negotiations with the European Union.

May, who has tried to keep calm and carry on, replaced Johnson with a loyalist, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and gave Davis' job to Dominic Raab in a bid to shore up her authority.

She held a meeting of her new Cabinet on Tuesday before attending a Western Balkans summit in London with other European leaders.

May's plan seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.

At a news conference on Tuesday, May maintained her plan "absolutely keeps faith with the vote of the British people," ending free movement of people from the EU, taking Britain out of European court jurisdiction and saving the "vast sums of money" that Britain pays as a member.

"But we will do this in a way which will be a smooth and orderly Brexit, a Brexit that protects jobs, protects livelihoods and also meets our commitment to no hard border" between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, she said.

Many pro-Brexit lawmakers are furious at a plan they say will stop Britain forging an independent economic course. Two Conservative lawmakers, Maria Caulfield and Ben Bradley, quit as vice-chairs of the party on Tuesday over opposition to May's proposals. Bradley called on May to "deliver Brexit in spirit as well as in name."

But senior pro-Brexit Cabinet ministers said they supported May and would not resign. Asked if he was planning to quit, environment Secretary Michael Gove said "absolutely not."

Conservative lawmaker Michael Fallon, an ally of May, dismissed Johnson's "Brexit dream" rallying cry.

"Dreaming is good, probably for all of us, but we have to deal with the real world," he said.

Under Conservative Party rules, a confidence vote in a leader can be triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter requesting one.

Fallon warned Conservative rebels that a challenge to May's leadership is "the last thing we need."

Two years after Britain voted 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the European Union, May is trying to find a middle way between two starkly differing views — within her party and the country — of the U.K.'s relationship with Europe.

Pro-Europeans want to retain close economic ties with the bloc and its market of 500 million people, while some Brexit supporters want a clean break to make it possible to strike new trade deals around the world.

The British government is due to publish a detailed version of its plans on Thursday. The EU says it will respond once it has seen the details.

"It's a good thing that we have proposals on the table," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the Balkans summit in London. She said the 27 other EU nations would "table a common response to those proposals."

The resignations rocked May in a week that includes a NATO summit starting Wednesday and a U.K. visit by U.S. President Donald Trump beginning Thursday.

The trans-Atlantic relationship has had some awkward moments since Trump's election. He has criticized May over her response to terrorism and approach to Brexit, and infuriated many in Britain when he retweeted a far-right group.

Asked Tuesday whether May should be replaced as prime minister, Trump said it was "up to the people, not up to me."

"I get along with her very well, I have a very good relationship," he said.

He was more enthusiastic about Johnson, calling him "a friend of mine."

"He's been very, very nice to me, very supportive. Maybe I'll speak to him when I get over there," Trump said.


Australian rangers trap big crocodile near tourist gorge

In this Monday, July 9, 2018, photo, a large crocodile is captured in a trap near Katherine, Australia. (NT Department of Tourism and Culture via AP)

Rod McGuirk

Canberra, Australia (AP) — Wildlife rangers said Tuesday that they had trapped a 4.7-meter (15-foot) saltwater crocodile, the largest they had ever caught in the northern Australian Katherine River and in an upstream region popular with tourists that is thought relatively safe from the killer predators.

Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife said it had trapped the 600-kilogram reptile on Monday more than 300 kilometers from the ocean and only 30 kilometers downstream from Katherine Gorge, a major tourist attraction outside the Northern Territory town of Katherine.

Tourists swim, canoe and take cruises in the gorge among freshwater crocodiles, a different species that are small, timid and rarely harm humans. Mid-year is the peak tourist season.

Ranger John Burke said authorities had been hunting the large crocodile in the area for a decade.

"We've called it a lot of things over the years because it's been so hard to catch," Burke said.

"On record, this is the biggest saltwater crocodile removed from the Katherine management zone," he added, referring to the part of the river where saltwater crocs, a protected species, are trapped because they're too close to human populations.

Northern Territory-based crocodile expert Grahame Webb said saltwater crocs, also known as estuarine crocodiles, were heading farther upstream into fresh water river systems as their population has boomed since they were protected by federal law in 1971.

While large crocs are territorial, Webb suspected the trapped croc had moved to and from the area where it was caught during the past 10 years. Satellite tracking had shown one croc tagged in a Northern Territory waterhole had swum 900 kilometers, for unknown reasons, before returning to the same place.

"That sort of croc, in my opinion, is the most dangerous to people," Webb said. "In areas where they're at best low densities, someone won't have seen one for a long, long time and they think they're safe and they're not necessarily safe."

Webb said the capture so close to tourists demonstrated that the government protection program worked.

"It's worrying, but it's good that they've got an active program and they've got active traps," Webb said.

The croc has been trucked to a crocodile farm outside Kathrine where it's likely to become a tourist attraction. Crocodiles are farmed for their meat and hides, but large and battle-scarred crocs are usually unsuitable for the handbag market.

Since crocodiles became a protected species, crocodile numbers in the Northern Territory have exploded from 3,000 to an estimated 80,000 to 100,000.

Because saltwater crocodiles can live up to 70 years and grow throughout their lives, reaching up to 7 meters, the proportion of large crocodiles is also rising.


Update July 10, 2018

Rescuers search for dozens still missing after Japan floods

Rescuers prepare to start a search mission at the site of a landslide in Kumano town, Hiroshima prefecture, western Japan Monday, July 9. (Sadayuki Goto/Kyodo News via AP)

Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi

Hiroshima, Japan (AP) — Rescuers in southwestern Japan dug up more bodies Monday as they searched for dozens still missing after heavy rains caused severe flooding and left residents to return to their homes unsure where to start the cleanup. More than 100 people were confirmed dead in the disaster.

Minoru Katayama, 86, rushed back to his home in Mabi city, in Okayama prefecture, and found his 88-year-old wife, Chiyoko, collapsed on the first floor. Floodwaters had started rising so fast that the elderly couple was caught by surprise.

"My wife could not climb up the stairs, and nobody else was around to help us out," Katayama told national broadcaster NHK. His wife, who stayed behind and let her husband flee, was among more than 20 people who were found dead in the city, where a river dike collapsed.

At a hospital in Mabi town, about 300 patients were temporarily trapped inside, but all had been safely airlifted by emergency rescue workers by early Monday.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 108 people were confirmed dead as of Monday night. Officials and media reports said at least 80 people were still unaccounted for, many of them in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said as much as 10 centimeters (3 inches) of rain per hour fell on large parts of southwestern Japan. All rain warnings have been lifted.

A Hiroshima resident, Seiji Toda, took precautions because of his memories of flooding four years ago that killed more than 70 people in Hiroshima. But he was shocked and helpless when he saw his restaurant, which he opened nearly 40 years ago, filled with mud heaped about 1 meter (yards) above the floor and windows smashed. Tables, covered with clean white tablecloths before he left, were all mud-covered, chairs thrown to the floor.

"I had never seen anything like this," he said on TBS television, standing outside his restaurant in Hiroshima city while wearing a helmet.

Next to his restaurant were heaps of broken trees and other debris. Several cars were still half buried in the mud.

The assessment of casualties has been difficult because of the widespread area affected by the rainfall, flooding and landslides since late last week. Authorities warned that landslides could strike even after the rain subsides. Officials in Ehime prefecture asked the central government to review a weather warning system, noting that rain warnings were issued after damage and casualties were already reported, a possible cause of the region's extensive damage.

Some homes were smashed, while others were tilting precariously. Rivers overflowed, turning towns into lakes and leaving dozens of people stranded on rooftops. Military paddle boats and helicopters brought people to the ground.

In large parts of Hiroshima, water streamed through a residential area, strewn with fallen telephone poles, uprooted trees and mud.

Thousands of homes were without clean water and electricity in Hiroshima and other hard-hit areas, where many people lined up for water tanks under the scorching sun, with temperature rising as high as 34 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit).

At a local elementary school in Hiroshima's Yano district, dozens of residents took shelter and some shared their stories of narrow escape from the landslides and floods. Supplies such as water, blankets and cellphone chargers were provided.

Ryutaro Hirakawa, 18, said he fled his house after smelling a strange odor coming from the ground, a sign of a landslide. "The smell of soil and grass was so strong when I opened the window," he said. "There were landslides."

Another resident, 82-year-old Saburo Yokoyama, said he was horrified when he saw floodwater flowing just outside his house. "It was scary, just scary. In front of our house had become a river, and was making a huge noise," he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled his planned July 11-18 trip to Europe and the Middle East to oversee the emergency response. Abe said earlier Monday that the government had dispatched 73,000 troops and emergency workers for the search and rescue effort. "The rescue teams are doing their utmost," he said.

In Uwajima town in Ehime prefecture, an overflowing river washed debris down to the coast, turning seawater partially muddy. A 64-year-old man and a 9-year-old boy were found dead underneath a mudslide.


Boris Johnson quits UK government in mounting Brexit crisis

 

Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is shown in this file photo dated Wednesday, June 13, 2018. Johnson resigned Monday July 9, amid Cabinet splits over Brexit.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka

London (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a charismatic and divisive cheerleader for Britain's exit from the European Union, resigned Monday, adding to a crisis over Brexit that threatens to tear apart Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

May's office said in a terse statement that the prime minister had accepted Johnson's resignation and would name a replacement soon.

Johnson, one of the best-known and most flamboyant members of the government, quit just hours after the resignation late Sunday of Brexit Secretary David Davis, the government's top Brexit official.

Davis said he could not support May's plan to maintain close trade and regulatory ties with the EU, which he said gave "too much away, too easily."

There was no immediate statement from Johnson, another loud pro-Brexit voice within May's divided government. Some euroskeptic lawmakers dream of replacing May with a staunch Brexiteer such as Johnson, a populist, polarizing politician who has never made a secret of his ambition to be prime minister.

Minutes after Johnson quit, May defended her Brexit plan to lawmakers in the House of Commons — with Johnson absent from his usual place on the Conservative front bench.

The plan seeks to keep the U.K. and the EU in a free-trade zone for goods, and commits Britain to maintaining the same rules as the bloc for goods and agricultural products.

May said that was the "only way to avoid a hard border" between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Uncertainty over whether tariffs and immigration checks would be introduced at the border has been a major stumbling block in negotiations between Britain and the European Union.

Rebuffing claims that her proposals make too many concessions to the EU, May said "this is the right Brexit" and would leave Britain free to make its own laws and trade deals.

May's Cabinet agreed to the plan after a 12-hour meeting Friday, but government unity began to fray within hours.

Brexit-supporting lawmakers were angered by the proposals, saying they would keep Britain tethered to the bloc and unable to change its rules to strike new trade deals around the world. They also argued that the proposals breach several of the "red lines" the government set out, including a commitment to leave the EU's tariff-free customs union.

In a resignation letter, Davis said the "'common rule book' policy hands control of large swathes of our economy to the EU and is certainly not returning control of our laws in any real sense."

Davis also said that May's plan "would be a risk at least of delivering a poor outcome."

If Davis's resignation rattled May, Johnson's shook the foundations of her government.

The resignations came just days after May announced she had finally united her quarrelsome government behind a plan for a divorce deal with the EU.

Less than nine months remain until Britain reduces the EU's membership on March 29, 2019. EU officials have warned Britain repeatedly that time is running out to seal a deal spelling out the terms of the divorce and a post-split relationship.

Britain and the EU hope to reach broad agreement by October so the national parliaments of the remaining countries can ratify a deal before Britain leaves. The timetable looks increasingly optimistic, but European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU was "available 24/7."

Schinas said the bloc "will continue to negotiate in good will, bona fide, with Prime Minister Theresa May and the U.K. government negotiators in order to reach a deal."

In her Commons statement, May urged the EU to take her proposal seriously.

"What we are proposing is challenging to the EU," she said. "It requires them to think again and look beyond the positions they have taken so far and agree a fair balance of rights and obligations."

Steve Baker, a junior Brexit minister also resigned. May appointed staunchly pro-Brexit lawmaker Dominic Raab as the country's new Brexit secretary.

Davis insisted he did not want his resignation to become a rallying cry for May's ouster.

"I like Theresa May, I think she's a good prime minister," Davis said.

Davis did not urge other ministers to resign, saying he was in a unique position because the Brexit secretary's job is to sell the government's policy.

"I'd have to deliver this. I'd have to do something I didn't believe in," he told the BBC. "That's not a tenable position. ... Others don't have that same responsibility."

The loss of two senior ministers and the anger among Brexit-supporting backbench lawmakers makes May's position as leader increasingly tenuous.

Under Conservative Party rules, a confidence vote in a leader can be triggered if 48 Conservative lawmakers request one.

But leading pro-Brexit legislator Jacob Rees-Mogg said "I don't think a no-confidence vote is immediately in the offing." He urged May to abandon her plans and take a tougher line with Brussels.

"Friday's announcement was turning red lines into a white flag, and David Davis has made that so clear in his resignation letter," Rees-Mogg said.


Myanmar court rules Reuters reporters can face full trial

 

Reuters journalist Wa Lone, center, is escorted by police as he leaves the court after trial Monday, July 9, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — A judge in Myanmar ruled Monday that the prosecution of two Reuters journalists charged with illegally possessing official information can go to a full trial.

The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo went through several months of hearings to determine if there was enough evidence to support the charges, which the reporters denied.

The two had been working on stories about the Rohingya crisis in western Myanmar, where state security forces are accused of carrying out massive human rights abuses that caused about 700,000 of the Muslim ethnic Rohingya to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

The charges they are facing carry a punishment of up to 14 years in prison.

Reuters urged the authorities to release the two.

"We are deeply disappointed that the court declined to end this protracted and baseless proceeding against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. These Reuters journalists were doing their jobs in an independent and impartial way, and there are no facts or evidence to suggest that they've done anything wrong or broken any law," Stephen J. Adler, Reuters' president and editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

"Today's decision casts serious doubt on Myanmar's commitment to press freedom and the rule of law," it said.

The Myanmar military's actions against the Rohingya have come under harsh criticism internationally, including charges that it was carrying out ethnic cleansing.


Nissan says exhaust tests were altered in latest scandal

This June 14, 2018, file photo shows a Nissan logo on a Nissan Concept 2020 Vision Gran Truismo on display at the automaker's showroom in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) — Nissan Motor Co. said Monday that it altered the results of exhaust emissions and fuel economy tests of new vehicles sold in Japan, in the latest misconduct to surface at the Japanese automaker.

Nissan acknowledged in September that it had been carrying out illegal post-production tests at its plants, allowing those who weren't qualified to routinely conduct the tests.

The new misconduct surfaced while Nissan was checking on its operations recently. Nissan said it found the findings "regretful," as it was trying to correct itself, and it promised to continue to investigate.

Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, said the safety and fuel economy of all the vehicles still were within required limits. The erroneous testing does not affect exports.

In the earlier scandal, workers in training had been borrowing and using the "hanko," or stamps that are often used in Japan for signatures, of certified personnel. Because of the problems, Nissan has had to recall more than a million vehicles for re-inspection.

Such practices had been routine for decades, beginning as early as 1979, according to Nissan. Plant workers were aware the procedure was illegal and covered it up when government inspectors visited the plants.

Executives have taken pay cuts. The problems did not result in quality problems because they were the final step before vehicles were shipped out, according to Nissan.

Japan's corporate world has been hit by embarrassing scandals in recent decades that raise serious questions about company ethics.

Kobe Steel also acknowledged massive fake inspections, which had spanned years and affected products sent to hundreds of companies, including aluminum castings and copper tubing for autos, aircraft, appliances and trains.

Japanese scandals are often characterized by employees covering up for dubious performances and relationships to "save face," sometimes out of loyalty to the company, rather than illegal enrichment for personal gain as is more common in some other countries..
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Candidate from Sharif's party escapes gun attack in Pakistan

Tumult of Trump's Europe trip smashes presidential precedent

India's top court calls for new law to curb mob violence

Jupiter's moon count reaches 79, including tiny 'oddball'

Japan, EU sign trade deal to eliminate nearly all tariffs

Hawaii lava boat tours continue after explosion, injuries


Trump embraces longtime US foe Putin, doubting own intel

Netanyahu visits southern region following Gaza escalation

Migrants disembark in Sicily after EU sharing plan reached

Indonesian mob kills hundreds of crocodiles after man dies


Trump names EU a global foe, raps media before Putin summit

Syrian government targets rebels near Israel-occupied Golan

Pakistan mourns victims of carnage ahead of elections

Food sent to migrants off Sicily as Italy awaits EU offers


132 die in Pakistan election violence ahead of Sharif return

Protests, diplomatic backflips mark Trump's visit to England

Italy won't allow boat with 450 migrants; says "go to Malta"

Iceberg 4 miles wide breaks off from Greenland glacier


Trump says May's Brexit plan would kill UK-US trade deal

Italy forces new standoff, refuses to let migrants disembark

Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt

Japan police search home of nurse in hospital poison deaths


Typhoon Maria barrels into China after pounding Taiwan

Trump claims Germany 'controlled' by Russia

UK police: Novichok could last 50 years in sealed container

Chinese hackers infiltrate Cambodia ahead of polls


Trump lands in Europe, says Putin 'easiest' of his meetings

Suicide bomber kills 12 in attack on Pakistan election rally

UK prime minister seeks to stem Cabinet exodus over Brexit

Australian rangers trap big crocodile near tourist gorge


Rescuers search for dozens still missing after Japan floods

Boris Johnson quits UK government in mounting Brexit crisis

Myanmar court rules Reuters reporters can face full trial

Nissan says exhaust tests were altered in latest scandal

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