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Update September, 2019


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Cambodia, Laos, agree to step up border demarcation effort

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, talks with his Laos counterpart Thonloun Sisoulith during a press conference, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Sopheng Cheang

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — The leaders of Cambodia and Laos agreed Thursday to step up efforts to complete demarcation of their border, where disputes have led to armed confrontations in recent years.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his visiting Lao counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, agreed in a statement to complete the process now that 86% of the border has been marked. The two countries are to add border pillars and produce a map of the borderline as party.

The statement also said the countries would encourage their citizens to act responsibly to turn the frontier area "into a border of lasting peace, friendship and cooperation."

Cambodia and Laos reportedly dispatched troops to the border region last month in a standoff over the disputed boundary.

There was a similar confrontation in August 2017 when Laos objected to Cambodia's construction of a road in disputed territory.

Thongloun and his delegation are meeting top Cambodian leaders during a two-day visit. Both countries have liberalized their economies, but Laos remains a single-party state and both nations restrict political dissent.

The countries signed four agreements concerning Cambodia's purchase of electricity from Laos, and a memorandum of understanding covering cooperation on labor.

Cambodia faces a shortfall of electricity as it has undergone a construction boom, funded in large part by investment from China. Laos has an electricity surplus from its large hydropower projects.


Mourning for Zimbabwe's Mugabe marred by dispute, stampede

Injured mourners are helped after a stampede following the arrival of the coffin carrying former President Robert Mugabe at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Andrew Meldrum and Farai Mutsaka

Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) — Controversy over where and when former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will be buried and a stampede which injured several people trying to view his body marred the mourning for the deceased leader Thursday.

A crowd insisting to see Mugabe's face in the partially opened casket surged past a police cordon, causing a crush in which several were injured at Rufaro Stadium in the capital's poor Mbare neighborhood where thousands had come to view his body.

"I want to see my father," said Margaret Marisa, 63, one of those who pushed their way into the line. "I was a collaborator who supported him in the war against Rhodesia. I have supported him ever since."

At least five people were carried away on stretchers and the severity of their injuries wasn't immediately clear. Others limped away or were treated by Red Cross medics on the field. Riot police later restored order, at times using batons to strike those pushing to get into the line.

Mugabe's wife, Grace, sat on a podium to the side of the sports field where Mugabe's casket was under a tent at the center. The event was marked by singing and drumming of traditional songs of bereavement.

The casket was open to allow a view of Mugabe's face, eyes closed and calm. Even the most raucous youths who were in the crush were subdued after walking single file past the casket.

"This man was a legend. He played a pivotal role in our lives," said John Chiwashira, 36, a member of the National Youth Service. "I saw his face. He was asleep."

A military helicopter later landed on the field and carried away the coffin with Mugabe's widow, wearing a black veil, at its side. The casket was returned to Mugabe's Blue Roof house in the capital.

The dispute between Mugabe's family and the government has overshadowed arrangements for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the late leader.

Mugabe will not be given a state burial on Sunday at the national Heroes' Acre site, family spokesman Leo Mugabe announced Thursday. The burial will be a private, family affair, he said to press outside Mugabe's Blue Roof house.

"There have just been discussions between President Mnangagwa and Mai (Mrs.) Mugabe and it would look like nothing has changed," said the ex-president's nephew. "The family ... said they are going to have a private burial. We don't want the public to come. They don't want you to know where he is going to be buried. We are not witnessing burial on Sunday, no date has been set for the burial."

The announcement came after President Emmerson Mnangagwa met with Mugabe's widow, Grace, and other family members to try to resolve the burial dispute.

Instead of an interment on Sunday, Mugabe's body will be on view to the public at a place near Mugabe's birthplace in Zvimba district, said Leo Mugabe, who added that the family had not decided if he would be buried in Zvimba.

Speaking at the Mugabe house, Mnangagwa said his government would respect the family's wishes over the burial, saying they have "the full support of the government. Nothing will change."

The ongoing uncertainty of the burial of Mugabe, who died last week in Singapore at the age of 95, has eclipsed the elaborate plans for Zimbabweans to pay their respects to the former guerrilla leader at several historic sites.

The burial dispute has also highlighted the lasting acrimony between Mnangagwa and Mugabe's wife and other family members. Mugabe was deposed in November 2017 by Zimbabwe's military and his former ally Mnangagwa. Grace and other family members still resent his ouster, apparently resulting in their refusal to go along with state burial plans.

Shortly after Mugabe's death, Leo Mugabe said the former strongman died "a very bitter man" because he felt betrayed by Mnangagwa and the army generals who were his allies for close to four decades before they put him under house arrest and forced him to resign.

It has long been taken for granted that Mugabe would be buried at Heroes' Acre monument, a burial place reserved for top officials of Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party who contributed to ending white colonial rule.

Mugabe had overseen the construction by North Korea of the monument atop a prominent hill and featuring a grandiose towering sculpture of guerrilla fighters. Mugabe gave many speeches at the site and his first wife, Sally, is buried there next to a gravesite long reserved for the ex-leader.

Mugabe's casket will be displayed to the public at several sites. It will also be shown Friday at Rufaro Stadium.

On Saturday a ceremony will be held at the National Sports Stadium, which several African heads of state and other prominent officials are expected to attend. Supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party are being bused from all over the country to go to the stadium ceremonies.

Grace Mugabe is expected to stay beside the casket the entire time.

Earlier Thursday at Blue Roof, Mugabe's 25-bedroom mansion in Harare's posh Borrowdale suburb, Zimbabwe's opposition leader paid his respects to the man who had been his bitter political foe.

"I am here to do the African thing that is expected ... to pay honor," said Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party.

"In politics we have had many differences but we are here to reflect on his contribution. ... We are here to pay condolences to the Mugabe family, all Zimbabweans and indeed the whole of Africa. It is only fair and necessary to see that we unite to see that he is given a decent burial and a peaceful send off. Today is a day of mourning."


Southeast Spain hit by worst storms on record, 2 dead

Emergency services carry an injured woman on a stretcher, in Ontiyente, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 12 2019. (Atlas via AP)

Associated Press

Madrid (AP) — A large area of southeast Spain was battered Thursday by what in some places was the heaviest rainfall on record, with the storms wreaking widespread destruction and killing at least two people.

The regional emergency service said a 51-year-old woman and her 61-year-old brother were found dead inside an overturned car that floodwaters washed away in Caudete, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Valencia, Spanish private news agency Europa Press reported.

Officials had initially said the victims were an elderly wife and husband but later corrected themselves.

The Valencia fire department said in a tweet that emergency crews also pulled three people from a river. They included a 57-year-old man and his 33-year-old son, Europa Press reported. A helicopter winched a third person to safety.

Four police were injured in the rescue operation.

The Spanish weather service AEMET classified the region as being "at extreme risk" from torrential downpours. It forecast torrential downpours of up to 90 mm (3 ½ inches) an hour and up to 180 mm (seven inches) over 24 hours.

The storm was passing over the Mediterranean coast regions of Valencia, Alicante and Murcia during Thursday and Friday.

One of the first places to be hit was Ontinyent, a town south of Valencia, where the River Clariano flooded the streets Wednesday night.

Ontinyent mayor Jorge Rodríguez said the town had endured its heaviest rainfall on record, with more than 400 mm (15 inches) by Thursday afternoon.

He said the town would ask the national government to declare a catastrophe in the area, which would entitle local people to emergency aid and long-term financial help to rebuild.

Brown water rushed through streets, washing away cars, and almost reaching the tops of the front doors of houses along the riverbank.

Nearby, sandy-colored water surged over the top of the Pantano de Almansa reservoir and raged down its spillway.

The River Clariano rose nine meters (about 30 feet) in two hours around the Valencia town of Aielo de Malferit and tore apart a 16th-century bridge there, local mayor Juan Rafael Espí told Spanish private news agency Europa Press.

Closed roads and train lines disrupted travel. Trucks, trees and fences blew down, and a mini-tornado was also reported.

In Albacete, southwest of Valencia, 13 people were rescued from cars or from the roofs of buildings, emergency services told Europa Press. None was hurt.

Across the region, emergency services received hundreds of calls for help. Authorities mobilized the Military Emergencies Unit, a part of the Spanish armed forces that provides disaster relief.

In Murcia, authorities warned people not to go out in their cars.

The local Spanish government representative in Murcia, Francisco Jiménez, advised people to take "maximum precaution," adding that Thursday "is a good day to stay at home."

Local schools canceled classes Thursday and Friday for more than 300,000 students, according to Europa Press.


Belting out protest song is latest act of Hong Kong movement

Demonstrators sing a theme song written by protestors "Glory to Hong Kong" at the Times Square shopping mall in Hong Kong, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Eileen Ng

Hong Kong (AP) — Thousands of people belted out a new protest song at Hong Kong's shopping malls for a fourth straight night Thursday, the latest act of resistance highlighting the creativity of demonstrators in their months-long fight for democratic freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Activists and ordinary citizens, responding to online calls, converged peacefully in at least six malls in the city to sing "Glory to Hong Kong" in a respite from recent violent clashes. More protests are expected this weekend, though on Thursday police banned one planned rally, citing safety concerns.

The protesters have adopted the song, penned anonymously, as their anthem. The lyrics reflect protesters' vow not to surrender despite a government agreement to withdraw a proposed extradition law that sparked the summer of unrest.

The bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial, heightened fears about Beijing's growing influence over the former British colony. Protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections for the city's leaders and police accountability.

At the swank IFC mall, the music reverberated through the floors as over 1,000 people repeatedly sang the song, with the melody played over speakers brought by a participant. One man spontaneously played a piano in the concourse in accompaniment.

Some put their hands to their hearts, while others turned on the lights on their cellphones and lifted five fingers in the air to represent the protesters' five demands.

The crowd, including families with young children, students and senior citizens, also cheered and chanted slogans for more than an hour. Many were not wearing masks, the usual attire of protesters.

"This song has connected the people. We are sick and tired of China, so we don't want to sing the Chinese national anthem," said student Melody Chen, 17.

Kelvin Chung, a 30-year-old accountant, said the mall singing showed that Hong Kong people are peaceful in their protests. He said Beijing supporters earlier Thursday sang the Chinese anthem and waved red national flags at the mall, and that he had joined the protest singing to show that many Hong Kong citizens support the fight for democratic reforms.

"Most Hong Kong people love this song. We think that it represents our hearts, our people and our land," he said, adding that the people will not surrender until their demands are met.

Local media also showed mass singing in at least five other malls, as has happened since Monday. Uniformed police were absent.

The song has been sung at almost every protest since it emerged Aug. 31, including during Tuesday's World Cup qualifier match with Iran where Hong Kong soccer fans booed the Chinese national anthem before kick-off.

Protesters over the more than three months of demonstrations have also sung the Christian hymn "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" and the "Les Miserables" tune "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

The songs have boosted protesters' morale and highlighted their creativity in inventing new ways to get their message heard and keep the pressure on the authorities.

The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organized several massive rallies, said Thursday it is appealing a police ban on its planned march Sunday starting at Victoria Park.

Police also banned the group's Aug. 31 march but protesters turned up anyway. Violent clashes erupted that night, with police storming a subway car and hitting passengers with batons, a water cannon and pepper spray.

Police official Kwok Chun-kit said police have reason to believe that radical protesters would break away from the march and carry out destructive acts. He noted that some activists have made online vows to escalate violence if the government fails to meet their demands by Friday.

Kwok told a news conference that the proposed route would pass close to high-risk buildings including the police headquarters, government offices and subway stations that have been a focus of protests in recent weeks.

Front coordinator Bonnie Leung said violent clashes were unrelated to the group.

"We create a safe zone for people to protest. Our marches are like Hong Kong people giving a chance to the government to end the crisis peacefully but now, they have closed the valve to release public anger. It's like declaring war to peaceful protesters," she told The Associated Press.

Leung accused authorities of trying to provoke protesters to conduct illegal gatherings to provide an excuse to crack down. She urged activists "not to fall into the trap," saying protests can be in many forms and that they should keep safe to sustain the protest movement.

The ban is unlikely to deter protesters. Participants in the singing at the IFC mall shouted "See you at Victoria Park" before they left.


18 years later, America vows to 'never forget' 9/11

 

A U.S. flag hanging from a steel girder, damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2019 as the sun rises behind One World Trade Center building and the re-developed area where the Twin Towers of World Trade Center once stood in New York City on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

Karen Matthews and Jennifer Peltz

New York (AP) — People who were too young on 9/11 to even remember their lost loved ones, and others for whom the grief is still raw, paid tribute with wreath-layings and the solemn roll call of the dead Wednesday as America marked the 18th anniversary of the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.

"Eighteen years. We will not forget. We cannot forget," Bud Salter, who lost his sister, Catherine, said at ground zero.

President Donald Trump laid a wreath at the Pentagon, telling victims' relatives: "This is your anniversary of personal and permanent loss."

"It's the day that has replayed in your memory a thousand times over. The last kiss. The last phone call. The last time hearing those precious words, 'I love you,'" the president said.

Later, former President George W. Bush, who was in office on 9/11, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attended another wreath-laying at the Pentagon.

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third site where planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, Vice President Mike Pence credited the crew and passengers who fought back against the hijackers with protecting him and others in the U.S. Capitol that day.

"I will always believe that I and many others in our nation's capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families," said Pence, who was an Indiana congressman at the time. Officials concluded the attackers had been aiming the plane toward Washington.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.

After reading part of the long list of names, Parboti Parbhu choked up as she spoke from the ground zero podium about her slain sister, Hardai. Even after nearly two decades, "there's no easy way to say goodbye," she said.

By now, the heritage of grief has been handed down to a new generation, including children and young adults who knew their lost relatives barely or not at all.

Jacob Campbell was 10 months old when his mother, Jill Maurer-Campbell, died on 9/11.

"It's interesting growing up in a generation that doesn't really remember it. I feel a connection that no one I go to school with can really understand," Campbell, a University of Michigan sophomore, said as he attended the ceremony.

Like the families, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath of Sept. 11. The effects are visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan, where the post-9/11 U.S. invasion has become America's longest war. The aim was to dislodge Afghanistan's then-ruling Taliban for harboring al-Qaida leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Earlier this week, Trump called off a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban and Afghan government leaders and declared the peace talks "dead." As the Sept. 11 anniversary began in Afghanistan, a rocket exploded at the U.S. Embassy just after midnight, with no injuries reported.

Al-Qaida's current leader used the anniversary to call for more attacks on the U.S. and other targets.

In New York, Nicholas Haros Jr., who lost his mother, Frances, reminded the audience of the al-Qaida attackers and tore into Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota over her recent "Some people did something" reference to 9/11.

"Our constitutional freedoms were attacked, and our nation's founding on Judeo-Christian values was attacked. That's what 'some people' did. Got that now?" he said to applause.

Omar, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, has said she didn't intend to minimize what happened on Sept. 11, and accused critics of taking her words out of context. She tweeted Wednesday that "September 11th was an attack on all of us."

The dead included Muslims, as Zaheda Rahman underscored after reading names at ground zero. She called her uncle, Abul Chowdhury, a "proud Muslim-American man who lived his life with a carefree nature, a zeal for adventure and a tenacity which I emulate every single day."

Others made a point of spotlighting the suffering of firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after being exposed to the smoke and dust at ground zero.

A compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has paid out more than $5.5 billion so far. More than 51,000 people have applied. Over the summer, Congress made sure the fund won't run dry . The sick also gained new recognition this year at the World Trade Center site, where a memorial glade was dedicated this spring.


Philippines: China wanted to restrict foreign forces at sea

 

In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. gestures during a foreign ministers' meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Jim Gomez

Manila, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine foreign secretary said Wednesday that China has sought to restrict the presence of foreign military powers in the South China Sea and foreign involvement in oil and gas projects in the disputed region under a pact it's negotiating with Southeast Asian nations.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, however, that China has eased up on those demands, removing potential obstacles in the conclusion of the so-called "code of conduct" that it's negotiating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

China and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc have been negotiating the nonaggression pact in an effort to deter aggressive acts by Beijing and other claimant states that could spark a major armed confrontation in the disputed territories, which straddle some of the world's busiest sea lanes.

ASEAN and China have agreed to keep the negotiations confidential, although China's insistence that the proposed code should restrict foreign military presence and exercises in the disputed region has leaked out and been reported by some media outlets. At least two Southeast Asian diplomats have confirmed those Chinese demands to The Associated Press.

When asked about the code by the ABS-CBN News Channel, Locsin said the negotiations have been "very contentious for a while," with China insisting that no "foreign military power should be having military presence in the South China Sea" and if "you want to develop oil and gas, they'll only be with us."

"The reports we're getting now, is this, China is mellowing. It's no longer insisting on the exclusion of foreign powers. It's no longer insisting on this and that," Locsin said. "So I brought this basically to, you know, the enemies of China and some of our allies."

There was no immediate comment from Chinese or U.S. government officials. China has frowned on U.S. military patrols and exercises in the strategic waterway.

China has been accused of delaying the start of negotiations for such a regional pact for years. Critics say it only agreed to commence formal talks with ASEAN after Beijing completed building seven islands in the Spratlys, the most contested area in the South China Sea. The proposed code could have potentially restrained China from undertaking such major constructions in the disputed waters, the critics say.

Four ASEAN member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — along with China and Taiwan, have been locked in the long-simmering disputes, which escalated when China turned seven disputed reefs into islands that could serve as forward bases to project China's military might against rival states.

Opponents have played down the significance of the code, saying China would never sign an accord that would undermine its interests. But Locsin said China's easing up on some of its demands showed that "there is a prospect of a fair, just and objective code of conduct in the South China Sea."

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has told his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that completion of the code should be hastened amid tensions among rival claimants, Locsin said.

Duterte "told him, 'This COC is taking forever. Can we rush this? Let's get this out of the way so that we can avoid all of these tensions and we know who's right, who's wrong when something happens,'" Locsin said. "Xi Jinping said, 'Well, why not?'"

Xi has expressed hopes the regional code could be completed in three years. China and ASEAN officials recently said they have completed the first of three expected rounds of negotiations.


Massive rally for Catalonia's secession in Barcelona

Protesters hold esteladas or independence flags as they take part in a demonstration during the Catalan National Day in Barcelona, Spain, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Joseph Wilson

Barcelona, Spain (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards who support the secession of Catalonia gathered in Barcelona on the region's main holiday Wednesday, just weeks before a highly anticipated verdict in a case against 12 leaders of the separatist movement.

Supporters of Catalan secession came from all parts of the wealthy northeastern region to its main city. Many carried flags or wore T-shirts supporting Catalan independence as they met for the rally in a large public square.

The Sept. 11 holiday memorializes the fall of Barcelona in the Spanish War of Succession in 1714. Since 2012, it has become the date of massive rallies for the region's secessionist movement.

The Barcelona police said that around 600,000 people turned out for the event.

Polls and the most recent election results show that the region's 7.5 million residents are roughly equally split between those in favor and those against breaking with the rest of Spain.

Spain's caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who has tried to thaw tensions with Catalonia since taking power last year, wrote on Twitter that "Today should be a day for all Catalans. For the path of dialogue within the Constitution, harmonious coexistence, respect and understanding."

This year's rally comes while a dozen leaders of Catalonia's 2017 failed attempt to secede await a verdict from the Supreme Court on charges that include rebellion. They face spending several years behind bars if found guilty, and a heavy punishment would most likely spark public protests in Catalonia. The verdict is expected this month or next.

The movement, however, is going through its most difficult period since separatist sentiment was fueled by the previous decade's economic difficulties, from which Spain has only recovered in recent years.

The pro-secession political parties have yet to agree on what the response to a guilty verdict by the Supreme Court should be. That has earned the criticism of the leading grassroots groups which have fueled the secessionist drive.

Regional Catalan president Quim Torra says that a guilty verdict would provide an opportunity to make another push for independence, without specifying how that could be carried out.

"The objective of independence should be the horizon of this country after the verdict," he said in a recent interview on Catalan public television.

Other separatist politicians think the best move is to call regional elections in an attempt to increase their representation in the regional parliament and focus on gaining the backing of more than half of Catalans. Those against independence complain that the separatists have monopolized the holiday for their political ends.

But some activists have accused all their political leaders of not taking concrete steps to achieve their goal. Radical activists recently expressed their anger by throwing garbage and excrement on the doors of the offices of pro-secession parties.

"Not only have we not advanced, but we have taken some steps backward," Elisenda Paluzie, the head of the influential pro-secession grassroots group ANC, told the crowd. "We demand that our leaders don't let us down."


Indonesian province shuts schools due to forest fire haze

Firefighters spray water to extinguish brush fires in Kampar, Riau province, Indonesia, Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo)

Niniek Karmini

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) — Authorities shut most schools in parts of Indonesia's Sumatra island to protect children from a thick, noxious haze as deliberately set fires burned through peatland forests, officials said Wednesday.

Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency said more than 3,600 fires have been detected on Sumatra and Borneo islands by weather satellites, leading to very poor air quality in six provinces with a combined population of more than 23 million.

Nearly every year, Indonesian forest fires spread health-damaging haze across the country and into neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

Authorities have deployed more than 9,000 people to fight the fires, which have razed more than 162,000 hectares (400,000 acres) of land in the provinces of Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan.

Riau provincial secretary Ahmad Syah Harofie said air pollution hit hazardous levels in the provincial capital, Pekanbaru, and was very unhealthy in many other areas. Several thousand schools in the capital and three other cities and districts have been closed since Tuesday.

He said nearly 300,000 people in the province have suffered respiratory illnesses since January, when it and the five other provinces declared states of emergency due to the forest fires.

The fires burned parts of the Tesso Nilo National Park in Riau, home to about 140 endangered wild elephants, according to Edward Sanger, the local disaster agency spokesman.

Thousands of Muslims, many wearing face masks to protest themselves from the smoke, joined mass prayers for rain in Pekanbaru.

Authorities in Jambi, another province on Sumatra island, also ordered several thousand schools to close.

About 8,000 people have suffered respiratory problems in the past week alone, according to Jambi's health office.

Poor visibility caused delays at several airports on Wednesday.

The Disaster Mitigation Agency said satellites have detected about 5,062 hotspots nationwide on Wednesday morning, with the largest number in Central Kalimantan on Borneo island. It said 37 helicopters have dropped nearly 240 million liters (63 million gallons) of water as part of the firefighting efforts.

The number of hotspots declined significantly to 2,388 on Wednesday afternoon, the agency said.

The haze is an annual problem for Southeast Asia. Record Indonesian forest fires in 2015 spread haze across a swath of Southeast Asia, and according to a study by Harvard and Columbia universities, hastened 100,000 deaths.

The fires are often started by smallholders and plantation owners to clear land for planting. Many areas of Indonesia are prone to rapid burning because of the draining of swampy peatland forests for pulp wood and palm oil plantations.

In neighboring Malaysia, the largest city, Kuala Lumpur, and the government administrative center of Putrajaya were among the areas shrouded in thick smog Wednesday. On Tuesday, hundreds of schools in eastern Sarawak state bordering Indonesia's Kalimantan province were closed for a day after air quality spiked to unhealthy levels.

Malaysian authorities plan to conduct cloud-seeding activities to induce rain to ease the haze. The government has said it will press Jakarta to take immediate action to put out the burning forests and ensure the fires won't occur again.
 


Pakistan: Risk of 'accidental war' with India over Kashmir

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaves after a statement during the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

Jamey Keaten

Geneva (AP) — Pakistan's foreign minister warned Tuesday that India's "illegal occupation" of Muslim-majority Kashmir could drive the nuclear-armed countries "into an accidental war."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi accused India at a session of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council of turning Kashmir "into the largest prison on this planet." He alleged some Kashmiris were tortured and raped in the region claimed by both Pakistan and India.

"I shudder to mention the word 'genocide' here, but I must," Qureshi said.

Tensions between Pakistan and its southeastern neighbor have been heightened since Aug. 5, when India's government changed the status of Indian-administered Kashmir.

The Indian government imposed a security lockdown and communications blackout that has since been partially lifted in most of Jammu and Kashmir, which India's Parliament voted last month to downgrade from a state into two federally administered territories.

"Once the curfew is lifted, the reality comes out, the world will wake up to the catastrophe that is underway right now," Qureshi told reporters.

Pakistan also issued a statement on behalf of about 60 nations calling for respect of human rights, an end to the curfew and communications shutdown in Kashmir and "unhindered access" for international media and human rights groups in Kashmir.

India's envoy, Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Vijay Thakur Singh, later lashed out against "one delegation" at the Human Rights Council for giving "a running commentary with offensive rhetoric, of false allegations and concocted charges against my country."

She did not mention Pakistan by name.

"The world is aware that this fabricated narrative comes from the epicenter of global terrorism, where ringleaders are sheltered for years," she said, alluding to Pakistan.

"This country conducts cross-border terrorism as a form of alternate diplomacy," she added, without addressing Qureshi's allegations specifically.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim rights to all of it.  The nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over the region's control.

Pakistan alleges that India could attack the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir by stage-managing an attack in the India-controlled part to divert international attention from human rights violations.

"India is acting irresponsibly. They're being belligerent," Qureshi said. "And if there is a false-flag operation, which we fear, and they use it as a pretext and carry out some misadventure against Pakistan, we will respond."

"We will respond with force," he added. "And, you never know, we could be into an accidental war."

He noted that U.S. President Trump had offered to mediate.

"We welcomed it," Qureshi said. "And India said, 'No, no, no, no. Don't worry, we're going to resolve things on our own.' They cannot be resolved. That cannot be resolved bilaterally."


Desperation mounts in Bahamas as shelters turn evacuees away

People gather at the port for aid sent by family members and friends in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Dánica Coto

Nassau, Bahamas (AP) — Desperation mounted in the Bahamas on Tuesday as hurricane survivors arriving in the capital by boat and plane were turned away from overflowing shelters.

As government officials gave assurances at a news conference that more shelters would be opened as needed, Julie Green and her family gathered outside the headquarters of the island's emergency management agency, seeking help.

"We need a shelter desperately," the 35-year-old former waitress from Great Abaco said as she cradled one of her 7-month-old twins on her hip, his little face furrowed. Nearby, her husband held the other twin boy as their four other children wandered listlessly nearby. One kept crying despite receiving comforting hugs.

Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands in the northern part of the archipelago a week ago, leaving at least 50 dead, with the toll certain to rise as the search for bodies goes on.

Nearly 5,000 people have arrived in Nassau by plane and by boat, and many were struggling to start new lives, unclear of how or where to begin. More than 2,000 of them were staying in shelters, according to government figures.

Green said that shelter officials told her they couldn't accept such young children, and that the family has slept in the home of a different person every night since arriving Friday in New Providence, the island where Nassau is situated.

"We're just exhausted," she said. "We're just walking up and down, asking people if they know where we can stay."

Erick Noel, a 37-year-old landscaper from Abaco with a wife and four children, found himself in the same situation. They will have to leave a friend's house by Wednesday and had not yet found a shelter where they could stay.

"They are full, full, full," he said. "I keep looking for a place to go."

He said he found one small home for his family in Nassau but could not afford the $900 monthly rent. Undeterred, Noel said he would keep searching.

Meanwhile, government officials said they were helping all evacuees and considering building temporary housing, perhaps tent or container cities.

"We are dealing with a disaster," said Carl Smith, spokesman for the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency. "It takes time to move through the chaos. We are responding to the needs."

The government has estimated that up to 10,000 people from the Abacos alone will need food, water and temporary housing.

Getting back to Abaco is the dream of Betty Edmond, a 43-year-old cook who picked at some fries with her son and husband in a restaurant at a Nassau hotel, where her nephew is paying for their stay.

They arrived in Nassau on Saturday night after a six-hour boat trip from Abaco and plan to fly to Florida on Wednesday, thanks to plane tickets bought by friends who will provide them a temporary home until they can find jobs. But the goal is to return, Edmond said.

"Home will always be home," she said. "Every day you wish you could go back."

"You try to keep your hopes up, but ...," she added, her voice trailing off as she shook her head.

The upheaval, however, was exciting to her 8-year-old son, Kayden Monestime, who said he was looking forward to going to a mall, McDonald's and Foot Locker.

Also flying to Florida was 41-year-old Shaneka Russell, who owned Smacky's Takeaway, a takeout restaurant known for its cracked conch. The restaurant, named after the noises her son made as a baby, was destroyed by Dorian.

Russell said good Samaritans had taken her and a group of people into their home over the weekend and found them a hotel room in Nassau for a couple of days.

"To know that we were going to a hotel, with electricity and air conditioning and a proper shower, I cried," she said.

The nearby island of Eleuthera also was taking in evacuees as unmet needs keep growing, said Sadye Francis, director of a nonprofit organization.

"There are still others that have nowhere to go," she said. "The true depth of the devastation in Abaco and Grand Bahama is still unfolding."

Dimple Lightbourne, a 30-year-old Abaco resident now in Nassau, said she couldn't wait to escape the disaster Dorian left behind.

"I don't want to see the Bahamas for a while. It's stressful," she said. "I want to go to America. ... This is a new chapter. I've ripped all the pages out. Just give me a new book to fill out."


India, Nepal open cross border oil pipeline

Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, center right, leaves after inaugurating the Nepal-India cross border petroleum pipeline through video conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Bikram Rai)

Binaj Gurubacharya

Kathmandu, Nepal (AP) — The leaders of India and Nepal inaugurated South Asia's first cross country oil pipeline Tuesday, allowing the Himalayan nation of Nepal to receive an uninterrupted supply of oil from its large southern neighbor.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart, Khadga Prasad Oli, hit the switch simultaneously from their offices in New Delhi and Kathmandu to open the 69-kilometer pipeline, which will bring gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene across the border to Nepal.

The two leaders hailed the pipeline as another step in the friendship between the two nations.

"This is the first cross border petroleum pipeline in South Asia, which has also been completed in a record time," Modi said, adding that it was finished in almost half the expected time.

Modi said with this pipeline, 2 million metric tons of clean petroleum products will be available to the people of Nepal at very affordable rates.

Oli announced Tuesday that the government would reduce the price of gasoline and diesel by 2 rupees (US 2.3 cents).

"It will not only save time, reduce cost, lessen road traffic and reduce air pollution in transporting petroleum products from India to Nepal, but will also open avenues in Nepal for expanding similar pipelines across the country," Oli said.

Tanker trucks have been used to transport the oil products from storage facilities in India to Nepal through crowded border points. The trucks are believed to be one of the main reasons for clogging up the already narrow border check points between Nepal and India.

Nepal imports all of its oil products from India. The state-owned India Oil Corporation sells the products to Nepal Oil Corporation, also government-owned.

Disturbances in the border area have in the past led to disruptions of the supply.

Ethnic protests in southern Nepal in 2015 against the country's new constitution led to the closure of the border for months, leading to severe shortages of oil in Nepal. Oil tankers were not allowed to pass through the border points and highways in southern Nepal were blocked by protesters demanding changes in the constitution.

People were forced to travel on bus roofs and cut down trees to cook food, and schools were forced to shut. It was also at the time when Nepal was just recovering from a devastating earthquake that damaged an estimated 1 million structures and people were trying to rebuild their homes.

The protest and the closure of the border by the Madhesi ethnic group also put a strain on relations between Nepal and India, which supported the ethnic group. The protests fizzled out after a few months, but it took years for the two countries to mend their ties.

Modi and Oli have made efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries. Oli invited Modi to visit Nepal during Tuesday's ceremony, and Modi accepted.

"This will without any doubt enhance interconnectedness and interdependence between our two countries," Oli said. "It is one of the best examples of connectivity in terms of trade and transit and infrastructure."


Alibaba's Ma steps down as industry faces uncertainty

In this May 15, 2019, file photo, founder of Alibaba group Jack Ma arrives for the Tech for Good summit in Paris. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Joe McDonald

Beijing (AP) — Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, who helped launch China's online retailing boom, stepped down as chairman of the world's biggest e-commerce company Tuesday at a time when its fast-changing industry faces uncertainty amid a U.S.-Chinese tariff war.

Ma, one of China's wealthiest and best-known entrepreneurs, gave up his post on his 55th birthday as part of a succession announced a year ago. He will stay on as a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a 36-member group with the right to nominate a majority of the company's board of directors.

Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 to connect Chinese exporters to American retailers.

The company has shifted focus to serving China's growing consumer market and expanded into online banking, entertainment and cloud computing. Domestic businesses accounted for 66% of its $16.7 billion in revenue in the quarter ending in June.

Chinese retailing faces uncertainty amid a tariff war that has raised the cost of U.S. imports.

Growth in online sales decelerated to 17.8% in the first half of 2019 amid slowing Chinese economic growth, down from 2018's full-year rate of 23.9%.

Alibaba says its revenue rose 42% over a year earlier in the quarter ending in June to $16.7 billion and profit rose 145% to $3.1 billion. Still, that was off slightly from 2018's full-year revenue growth of 51%.

The total amount of goods sold across Alibaba's e-commerce platforms rose 25% last year to $853 billion. By comparison, the biggest U.S. e-commerce company, Amazon.com Inc., reported total sales of $277 billion.

Alibaba's deputy chairman, Joe Tsai, told reporters in May the company is "on the right side" of issues in U.S.-Chinese trade talks. Tsai said Alibaba stands to benefit from Beijing's promise to increase imports and a growing consumer market.

Alibaba is one of a group of companies including Tencent Holding Ltd., a games and social media giant, search engine Baidu.com Inc. and e-commerce rival JD.com that have revolutionized shopping, entertainment and consumer services in China.

Alibaba was founded at a time when few Chinese were online. As internet use spread, the company expanded into consumer-focused retailing and services. Few Chinese used credit cards, so Alibaba created the Alipay online payments system.

Ma, known in Chinese as Ma Yun, appears regularly on television. At an annual Alibaba employee festival in Hanzhou, he has sung pop songs in costumes that have included blond wigs and leather jackets. He pokes fun at his own appearance, saying his oversize head and angular features make him look like the alien in director Steven Spielberg's movie "E.T. The Extraterrestrial."

The company's $25 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2014 was the biggest to date by a Chinese company.

The Hurun Report, which follows China's wealth, estimates Ma's fortune at $38 billion.

In 2015, Ma bought the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's biggest English-language newspaper.

Ma's successor as chairman is CEO Daniel Zhang, a former accountant and 12-year veteran of Alibaba. He previously was president of its consumer-focused Tmall.com business unit.

Alibaba's e-commerce business spans platforms including business-to-business Alibaba.com, which links foreign buyers with Chinese suppliers of goods from furniture to medical technology, and Tmall, with online shops for popular brands.

Alipay became a freestanding financial company, Ant Financial, in 2014. Alibaba also set up its own film studio and invested in logistics and delivery services.

Ma faced controversy when it disclosed in 2011 that Alibaba transferred control over Alipay to a company he controlled without immediately informing shareholders including Yahoo Inc. and Japan's Softback.

Alibaba said the move was required to comply with Chinese regulations, but some financial analysts said the company was paid too little for a valuable asset. The dispute was later resolved by Alibaba, Yahoo and Softbank.

Corporate governance specialists have questioned the Alibaba Partnership, which gives Ma and a group of executives more control over the company than shareholders.

Ma has said that ensures Alibaba focuses on long-term development instead of responding to pressure from financial markets.


North Korea fires 2 projectiles after offering talks with US

 

People watch images of a North Korean missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Hyung-Jin Kim

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched two projectiles toward the sea on Tuesday, South Korea's military said, hours after the North offered to resume nuclear diplomacy with the United States but warned its dealings with Washington may end without new U.S. proposals.

The launches and demand for new proposals were apparently aimed at pressuring the United States to make concessions when the North Korea-U.S. talks restart. North Korea is widely believed to want the United States to provide security guarantees and extensive relief from U.S.-led sanctions in return for limited denuclearization steps.

The North Korean projectiles fired from its South Phyongan province, which surrounds its capital city of Pyongyang, flew about 330 kilometers (205 miles) across the country and in the direction of the waters off its east coast, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Ministry.

The military said South Korea will monitor possible additional launches. The JCS didn't immediately say whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery. "More detailed analysis is needed to determine the exact specifications," JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak said.

Tuesday's launches were the eighth round of launches since late July and the first since Aug. 24. The previous seven launches have revealed short-range missile and rocket artillery systems that experts say would potentially expand its capabilities to strike targets throughout South Korea, including U.S. military bases.

On Monday night, the North's first vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said North Korea is willing to resume nuclear diplomacy in late September but that Washington must come to the negotiating table with acceptable new proposals. She said if the proposals don't satisfy North Korea, dealings between the two countries may end.

President Donald Trump called North Korea's announcement "interesting."

"We'll see what happens," Trump said. "In the meantime, we have our hostages back, we're getting the remains of our great heroes back and we've had no nuclear testing for a long time."

The White House said it was aware of the new reports of projectiles being launched from North Korea and was continuing to monitor the situation and consulting with its allies in the region.

South Korea's presidential office said national security adviser Chung Eui-yong presided over an emergency National Security Council meeting where officials expressed "strong concern" over the continuing short-range launches by the North.

Japan's defense ministry said the projectiles did not land in Japan's territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone and there was no indication the launches posed a direct threat to Japan's security.

"We believe North Korea is upgrading its (missile) technology by repeatedly firing missiles," said Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya. "We consider this a serious problem and will continue to monitor the development, while ensuring the functioning of warning and surveillance activity."

In the late-night statement carried by state media, Choe said North Korea is willing to sit down with the United States "for comprehensive discussions in late September of the issues we have so far taken up, at a time and place to be agreed."

Choe said she hopes the United States will bring "a proposal geared to the interests of the DPRK and the U.S. and based on decision methods acceptable to us." DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

She warned that "if the U.S. side fingers again the worn-out scenario which has nothing to do with new decision methods at the DPRK-U.S. working negotiation to be held with so much effort, the DPRK-U.S. dealings may come to an end."

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the North likely tested one of the new weapons systems it demonstrated in July and August. They include a mobile short-range ballistic missile system that experts say resembled an enlarged version of the U.S. Army Tactical Missile System and a "super-large" multiple rocket system the North tested on Aug. 24.

Kim said the North was apparently trying to increase its bargaining power by pairing its dialogue offer with short-range launches, sending a message to Trump that it could potentially tests bigger weapons if the United States refuses to make major concessions.

Talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament fell apart in February when Trump rejected North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's demand for sweeping sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament at their second summit in Vietnam.

It was a huge embarrassment for the young North Korean leader, who made a dayslong train trip to the Vietnamese capital to obtain the sanctions relief he needs to revitalize his country's troubled economy.

In April, Kim said he was open to another summit with Trump but set the end of the year as a deadline for the U.S. to offer improved terms for an agreement to revive the nuclear diplomacy.

Kim and Trump met again at the Korean border in late June and agreed to restart diplomacy, but there have no public meetings between the sides since then.


US emergency workers recover more bodies in Bahamas

A Bahamas coroner’s team carries a body out of The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco Island in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Marko Alvarez, Ramon Espinosa and Gonzalo Gaudenzi

Marsh Harbour, Bahamas (AP) — U.S. emergency workers on Monday found five bodies in the debris left by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, and they said they expected to find more victims a week after the devastating storm hit.

Bahamians, meanwhile, were also searching the rubble, salvaging the few heirlooms left intact by the Category 5 storm that, according to the official count over the weekend, has killed at least 44 people.

Members of the Gainesville, Florida, fire department were operating in the remains of The Mudd, the Bahamas' largest Haitian immigrant community.

"We've probably hit at most one-tenth of this area, and so far we found five human remains," said Joseph Hillhouse, assistant chief of Gainesville Fire Rescue. "I would say based off of our sample size, we're going to see more."

After the Americans recovered bodies, Bahamas police and medical authorities moved in to conduct autopsies and fly the remains from Abaco island, in the northwest Bahamas, south to the capital, Nassau.

"There are still more bodies," said Genoise Arnold, a resident of The Mudd who said that at least three neighbors died in the storm.

Arnold said one neighbor clung to a tree during the storm and succumbed to flood waters that surged through the low-lying neighborhood. Others were caught under their homes when winds turned the structures into splinters, leaving the cowering residents exposed, he said.

The huge debris piles left by the storm are challenging for search and recovery teams, which cannot use bulldozers or other heavy equipment to search for the dead. That makes recovery and identification a slow process.

The Bahamas government has announced a telephone hotline where Bahamians can call to report family members who have been missing since the storm.

At least five deaths have been blamed on the storm in the southeastern United States and one in Puerto Rico.

In Rocky Creek, a settlement of a few families on the east end of battered Grand Bahama island, members of the Reckley family picked through what remained of nearly a dozen homes that had been inhabited by their extended family.

The Reckleys and their assorted spouses, children and in-laws lived off the income from three boats they use for fishing and for providing tourist excursions from a pristine beachfront facing the turquoise Caribbean.

The family rode out the storm in nearby government shelters, and returned to find their smashed homes.

The motors of the Reckleys' boats were also destroyed. The entire extended family together earned about $800 a month, not enough to buy insurance, said Synobia Reckley, 25, who traveled from the island's main city, Freeport, to help her family.

"It hurt. This is all I know," Reckley said. "We lost a lot of old pictures. ... We don't have nothing to look back on. It's just heartbreaking."

The only aid they have received so far is from foreign aid groups and U.S. firefighters, said Reckley's husband, Dexter Edwards, a heavy equipment operator.

"Right now, ain't much joy. You just gotta try to keep your head up," Edwards said. "There's always a future. Only thing we can do right now is rebuild — rebuild and try to move forward."


Elephant injures 18 in Sri Lanka Buddhist pageant

This frame from a Saturday, Sept.7, 2019 video shows drummers running for cover as an elephant runs berserk during a Buddhist pageant in Kotte, near Colombo, Sri Lanka. At least 18 people were injured. (Derana Television via AP)

Associated Press

Colombo, Sri Lanka (AP) — An elephant taking part in a Buddhist pageant in Sri Lanka has run berserk, injuring at least 18 people.

Video on Derana Television of Saturday night's pageant in Kotte, near Colombo, showed an elephant in a procession suddenly running forward. Terrified people scattered, with some running into an elephant at the front of the procession. That elephant became violent and ran, pushing onlookers. A man riding on the elephant fell off and narrowly escaped being trampled.

Officials from two hospitals said Monday that 18 injured people received treatment and 16 had been discharged. Of the remaining two, one is being observed for possible abdominal damage and the other is being treated for an injured ear, they said.

Ornately decorated elephants are a major attraction in Sri Lankan Buddhist pageants. Wealthy families own captive elephants as a symbol of their prosperity, pride and nobility and send their elephants to participate in pageants around the country.

Some Buddhist temples also own elephants.


14 dead, 29 missing after bus overturns in Morocco floods

 

Security forces gather at the site of a bus crash in the town of Errachidia, Morocco, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo)

Associated Press

Rabat, Morocco (AP) — Fourteen people were killed and 29 others injured when a bus overturned on a bridge amid flooding in south-central Morocco, the state news agency reported Monday.

The MAP agency says authorities were searching for any others who might be missing after recovering three bodies Monday morning. It wasn't immediately clear how many people in all were on the bus.

The bus overturned Sunday near Errachidia, in a usually arid region hit by flooding after torrential rains.

Photos of the aftermath showed the badly mangled bus resting on a now dry ravine, its roof gone and all the windows smashed. Police and military rescue teams were dispatched with boats and helicopters to search for the missing people.

The bus driver was initially listed among the missing but then showed up at a hospital to be treated Monday.

The bus was traveling between the coastal city of Casablanca and Rissani, a town close to Morocco's eastern border with Algeria.


Typhoon blows across Tokyo area, killing 1, halting travel

In this Sept.8, 2019, photo, people walk through heavy rain caused by Typhoon Faxai in Tokyo, Japan. (Kyodo News via AP)

Haruka Nuga

Tokyo (AP) — A typhoon blew across the Tokyo metropolitan area Monday morning, killing one person and causing dozens of injuries, while disrupting rush-hour travel and knocking out power.

Several railway and subway operators suspended services and flights were canceled at Tokyo airports as Typhoon Faxai passed over Chiba, a northern suburb of the Japanese capital, before daybreak, shaking homes with strong winds and battering the area with torrents of rain.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters that he had received a report of one death and damage caused by toppling trees and objects getting hurled through the air by the wind. He said some 900,000 power failures were also reported.

The storm disrupted morning commutes and knocked over scaffolding, causing damage in a widespread area but no reported deaths.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the typhoon reached the Pacific by late morning exiting Japan northeast of Tokyo with winds still blowing at 40 meters per second (89 mph) with gusts up to 55 mps (123 mph).

Kyodo News Agency cited local authorities as saying at least 30 people had been hurt in Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures.

The usually congested trains and major stations were even more crowded than usual once services resumed, with trains stopping temporarily and running erratically.

"I can't go to work now, and I also had to contact my customers," said Tsubasa Kikuchi, a 23 year-old real estate worker, who had been waiting at Shimbashi station for more than two hours. "This is troublesome."

The weather agency warned of mudslides and flooding after the heavy rain. Kyodo reported more than 440 millimeters (17.3 inches) of rain had fallen in the city of Izu in Shizuoka prefecture in the past 24 hours.


Marchers ask Trump to 'liberate' Hong Kong, as clashes erupt

A protester waves a U.S. flag in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Eileen Ng and Alice Fung

Hong Kong (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong urged President Donald Trump to "liberate" the semiautonomous Chinese territory during a peaceful march to the U.S. Consulate on Sunday, but violence broke out later in the business and retail district as police fired tear gas after protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic.

Demonstrators flooded a park in central Hong Kong, chanting "Resist Beijing, Liberate Hong Kong" and "Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom." Many of them, clad in black shirts and wearing masks, waved American flags and carried posters that read "President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong" as they marched to the U.S. Consulate nearby.

"Hong Kong is at the forefront of the battle against the totalitarian regime of China," said Panzer Chan, one of the organizers of the march. "Please support us in our fight."

Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of unrest sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Many saw the extradition bill as a glaring example of the erosion of civil liberties and rights promised under a "one country, two systems" framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong's government promised this past week to formally withdraw the bill, but that failed to appease the demonstrators, who have widened their demands to include calls for direct elections for the city's leaders and an independent probe into alleged police brutality against protesters.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing's rule since Hong Kong's return from Britain. Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by hostile foreigners.

Protesters on Sunday urged Washington to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause. The bill proposes sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city, and could also affect Hong Kong's preferential trade status with the U.S.

A group of protesters sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before handing over an appeal letter to a U.S. Consulate official.

Just before the rally ended, violence erupted after riot police detained several people and cleared a crowd from the nearby Central subway station. Angry protesters smashed glass windows, sprayed graffiti and started a fire at one at the station's exits.

The government said protesters also set street fires and blocked traffic at some thoroughfares. In the type of cat-and-mouse battle that has characterized the summer-long protests, riot police pursued groups of protesters down streets, but they kept regrouping.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after protesters heckled them and refused to leave. They also searched dozens of young people on the street and inside subway stations.

At the Mong Kok police station, clashes took place for a third straight night. Police fired projectiles at an angry crowd that was shining laser beams, and several people were detained.

The U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory Friday that Beijing has undertaken a propaganda campaign "falsely accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong." It said U.S. citizens and embassy staff were targeted and urged them to exercise increased caution.

Some American legislators are pressing Trump to take a tougher stand on Hong Kong. But the president has suggested that it's a matter for China to handle, though he also has said that no violence should be used. Political analysts suggest that Trump's response has been muted because he doesn't want to disrupt talks with China over their tariff war.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday that Hong Kong residents deserve real autonomy and freedom from fear. She urged an end to police violence against protesters and said Congress looks forward to "swiftly advancing" the Hong Kong bill.

The protests are an embarrassment to China's ruling Communist Party ahead of the Oct. 1 celebration of its 70th anniversary in power.

Separately, well-known Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said in a statement through his lawyer that he was detained at the city's airport early Friday for breaching bail conditions. Wong, a leader of Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy protest movement, was among several people detained last month and was charged with inciting people to join a protest in June.

Wong had just returned from Taiwan, where he gave speeches on Hong Kong's protests, and is due to visit Germany and the U.S. He said a court had approved his overseas trips.

He described his detention as a procedural hiccup and said he expected to be released Monday. His prosecution comes less than two months after his release from prison for a two-month sentence related to the 2014 protests.


India locates lander lost on final approach to moon

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) employees react as they listen to an announcement by the organization's chief Kailasavadivoo Sivan at its Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bangalore, India, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Associated Press

New Delhi (AP) — The lander module from India's moon mission was located on the lunar surface on Sunday, one day after it lost contact with the space station, and efforts are underway to try to establish contact with it, the head of the nation's space agency said.

The Press Trust of India news agency cited Indian Space and Research Organization chairman K. Sivan as saying cameras from the moon mission's orbiter had located the lander. "It must have been a hard landing," PTI quoted Sivan as saying.

ISRO officials could not be reached for comment.

The space agency said it lost touch with the Vikram lunar lander on Saturday as it made its final approach to the moon's south pole to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

A successful landing would have made India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third to operate a robotic rover there.

The space agency said Saturday that the lander's descent was normal until 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the lunar surface.

The roughly $140 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

The latest mission lifted off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan space center in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

After its launch, Chandrayaan-2 spent several weeks making its way toward the moon, ultimately entering lunar orbit on Aug. 20.

The Vikram lander separated from the mission's orbiter on Sept. 2 and began a series of braking maneuvers to lower its orbit and ready itself for landing.

Only three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and China — have landed a spacecraft on the moon.


Ex-UK minister says Johnson not trying to get a Brexit deal

This Sept. 4, 2019 photo shows UK Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd in London. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — A senior minister who quit British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet said Sunday that the government is making little or no effort to secure a Brexit agreement with the European Union, despite Johnson's insistence that he wants a deal.

Amber Rudd said "there is no evidence of a deal. There are no formal negotiations taking place."

"What we know is that Angela Merkel and the EU have said, 'give us your proposal,' and we have not given them a proposal," she told the BBC.

Treasury chief Sajid Javid insisted that the government was "straining every sinew to get a deal" and had sent British negotiator David Frost to Brussels for talks. The EU, however, says Britain has not produced any concrete new ideas.

Rudd's resignation as work and pensions secretary late Saturday is the latest blow to the embattled British prime minister.

Johnson says Britain must leave the EU as scheduled Oct. 31 even if there is no divorce agreement with the bloc. But his plan is meeting fierce resistance, including from some members of his own party.

Last week Johnson kicked 21 lawmakers out of the Conservative group in Parliament after they sided with the opposition to pass a law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Those expelled included the longest-serving Conservative in Parliament, Ken Clarke, and Nicholas Soames, grandson of World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Rudd called the expulsions "an assault on decency and democracy."

"The Conservative Party should be a moderate party that embraces people with different views of the EU," she said. "If we become a party which has no place for moderates like I am, center-right conservatives, then we will not win."

Johnson is seeking a snap election on Oct. 15 as a way to break the deadlock over Brexit, but lawmakers last week rejected his call for an early poll.

He is due to try again Monday, but opposition parties say they will veto that attempt, too. They want to postpone an election until Britain has secured a delay to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, removing the risk the U.K. could crash out without a deal.

Opposition Labour Party finance spokesman John McDonnell said "we're in a situation where no-one can trust while (Johnson) is in place what could happen."

"We don't believe that we can pin him down and I don't trust him an inch, and I don't think anyone does," McDonnell told the BBC.

Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would severely disrupt trade with the EU and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Johnson said this week he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than seek a postponement, leaving government and Parliament at odds — with no obvious solution.

Johnson's options — all of them extreme — include disobeying the law, which could land him in court or even prison, and resigning.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Sunday that the government would obey the law, but would also "test very carefully what it does and doesn't require."

"It's been a rough week, but the reality is the prime minister is sticking to his guns on what he said to get us out of this rut that we're in," he said.


Mugabe dies; liberated Zimbabwe, then held it for 37 years

In this Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe officiates at a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Farai Mutsaka and Christopher Torchia

Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) — Former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla chief who took power when the African country shook off white minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise, has died in Singapore. He was 95.

Mugabe enjoyed strong support among the population and even the West soon after taking over as prime minister and Zimbabwe's first post-colonial leader. But he was reviled in later years as the economy collapsed and human rights violations increased. His often violent takeover of farms from whites who owned huge tracts of land made him a hated figure in the West and a hero in Africa.

His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced Mugabe's death in a tweet Friday, mourning him as an "icon of liberation."

Singapore's Foreign Ministry later said he died Friday at the Gleneagles Hospital there, saying it was working with Zimbabwe on arrangements for Mugabe's body to be flown home. Mugabe had received medical treatment at the hospital in recent years.

Mugabe's popularity began to rise again after Mnangagwa failed to deliver on promises of economic recovery and appeared to take an even harsher and more repressive stance against critics. Many began to publicly say they missed Mugabe.

Forced to resign amid pressure from the military, his party and the public in November 2017, Mugabe was defiant throughout his long life, railing against the West for what he called its neo-colonialist attitude and urging Africans to take control of their resources — a populist message that was often a hit, even as many nations on the continent shed the strongman model and moved toward democracy.

A target of international sanctions over the years, Mugabe nevertheless enjoyed acceptance among peers in Africa who chose not to judge him in the same way as Britain, the United States and other Western detractors.

"They are the ones who say they gave Christianity to Africa," Mugabe said of the West during a visit to South Africa in 2016. "We say: 'We came, we saw and we were conquered.'"

Even as old age took its toll and opposition to his rule increased, he refused to step down until the pressure became unbearable in 2017 as his former allies in the ruling party accused him of grooming his wife, Grace, to take over — ahead of long-serving loyalists such as Mnangagwa, who was fired in November 2017 before returning to take over with the help of the military.

Spry in his impeccably tailored suits, Mugabe maintained a schedule of events and international travel during his rule that defied his advancing age, though signs of weariness mounted. He walked with a limp, fell after stepping off a plane in Zimbabwe, read the wrong speech at the opening of parliament, and appeared to be dozing during a news conference in Japan. However, his longevity and frequently dashed rumors of ill health delighted supporters and infuriated opponents who had sardonically predicted he would live forever.

"Do you want me to punch you to the floor to realize I am still there?" Mugabe told an interviewer from state television who asked him in early 2016 about retirement plans.

After the fighting between black guerrillas and the white rulers of Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was then known, ended, Mugabe reached out to whites. The self-declared Marxist stressed the need for education and built new schools. Tourism and mining flourished, and Zimbabwe was a regional breadbasket.

However, a brutal military campaign waged against an uprising in western Matabeleland province that ended in 1987 augured a bitter turn in Zimbabwe's fortunes. As the years went by, Mugabe was widely accused of hanging onto power through violence and vote fraud, notably in a 2008 election that led to a troubled coalition government after regional mediators intervened.

"I have many degrees in violence," Mugabe once boasted on a campaign trail, raising his fist. "You see this fist, it can smash your face."

Mugabe was re-elected in 2013 in another ballot marred by alleged irregularities, though he dismissed his critics as sore losers.

Amid the political turmoil, the economy of Zimbabwe, traditionally rich in agriculture and minerals, deteriorated. Factories were closing, unemployment was rising and the country abandoned its currency for the U.S. dollar in 2009 because of hyperinflation.

The economic problems are often traced to the violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms that began around 2000. Land reform was supposed to take much of the country's most fertile land — owned by about 4,500 white descendants of mainly British and South African colonial-era settlers — and redistribute it to poor blacks. Instead, Mugabe gave prime farms to ruling party leaders, party loyalists, security chiefs, relatives and cronies.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, said he was "mourning with the rest of Africa" over the death of Mugabe in the African tradition of Ubuntu, or humanity toward others, calling him one of Zimbabwe's founding fathers and a freedom fighter.

However, Chamisa, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change, also acknowledged the pain over "decades of political disputes" surrounding his governance.

"Memories really go to the deficits of governance, goes to the issue of human rights situation in the country, goes to the collapse of systems," he said.

He also said Mugabe's death on foreign soil is a "sad indictment" of the country's economic situation.

On the streets of Harare, the capital, people gathered in small groups Friday and discussed Mugabe.

"I will not shed a tear, not for that cruel man," said Tariro Makena, a street vendor. "All these problems, he started them and people now want us to pretend it never happened."

Others said they missed him.

"Things are worse now. Life was not that good but it was never this bad. These people who removed him from power have no clue whatsoever," said Silas Marongo, holding an axe and joining men and women cutting a tree for firewood in suburban Harare. They needed the wood to beat severe electricity shortages that underline the worsening economic situation.

Amnesty International said Mugabe left behind "an indelible stain on his country's human rights record." Mugabe's early years as a leader saw "notable achievements" through his heavy investment in health care and education, the human rights group said, but he later eroded his own track record.

"While casting himself as the saviour of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe inflicted lasting damage upon its people and its reputation," Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa, said.

Mugabe was born on Feb. 21, 1924, in Zvimba, 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital of Harare. As a child, he tended his grandfather's cattle and goats, fished for bream in muddy water holes, played football and "boxed a lot," as he recalled later.

Mugabe lacked the easy charisma of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and contemporary who became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after reconciling with its former white rulers. But he drew admirers in some quarters for taking a hard line with the West, and he could be disarming despite his sometimes harsh demeanor.

"The gift of politicians is never to stop speaking until the people say, 'Ah, we are tired,'" he said at a 2015 news conference. "You are now tired. I say thank you."
 


Typhoon leaves thousands of South Korean homes powerless

Fishing boats are anchored in port as Typhoon Lingling approaches the Korean peninsula on Jeju Island, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (Byun Ji-chul/Yonhap via AP)

Associated Press

Seoul, South Korea (AP) —Typhoon winds toppled trees, grounded planes and left thousands of South Korean homes without electricity on Saturday as a powerful storm system brushed up against the Korean Peninsula.

Strong winds and rain from Typhoon Lingling caused power outages in some 17,000 homes on the southern resort island of Jeju and in southern mainland regions, South Korea's Ministry of the Interior and Safety said.

The typhoon was 184 kilometers (114 miles) southwest of the southern mainland city of Gunsan on Saturday morning, moving north at 45 kilometers (28 miles) per hour with winds of up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) per hour, the Korea Meteorological Association said.

It is expected to affect a broader part of the country as it passes off South Korea's west coast later on Saturday before making landfall in North Korea in the evening.

The storm toppled trees and streetlamps and damaged traffic signs in Jeju overnight, caused airports to cancel 89 flights and forced 38 people to evacuate from their flooded homes in a city near Seoul. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

National parks were closed as were southern ports on the mainland and major cross-sea bridges. South Korea's weather agency has warned of flooding, landslides and structure damaged caused by strong rain and winds expected nationwide until early Sunday.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un "urgently convened" an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss disaster prevention efforts and scolded government officials who he described as "helpless against the typhoon, unaware of its seriousness and seized with easygoing sentiment."

Kim called for his military to drive national efforts to minimize damage from the typhoon, which he said would be an "enormous struggle" that would require the entire country to step up, KCNA said.


Hong Kong braces for airport protests after overnight unrest

Firefighters put out fires set by protesters during a protest in Mong Kok, in Hong Kong on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Associated Press

Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong authorities are limiting airport transport services and controlling access to terminals as they brace for a second weekend of disruption following overnight demonstrations that turned violent.

The airport says the express train service will run Saturday from the station in downtown Hong Kong direct to the airport, skipping all stations in-between.

That comes amid calls by protesters to again block traffic to the airport despite the government's promise earlier this week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked the demonstrations in June.

Protesters have expanded their demands to include an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and direct elections of the Chinese territory's leader.

Violence erupted again late Friday as police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets as protesters smashed up metro stations and set fires.


India loses touch with lander on its final approach to moon

Live pictures of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) scientists reacting are displayed on a big screen at their Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network facility in Bangalore, India, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Sheikh Saaliq

New Delhi (AP) — India's space agency said it lost touch Saturday with its Vikram lunar lander as it made its final approach to the south pole of the moon to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

The fate of the lander — whether it crashed or landed — wasn't immediately known.

The agency said the spacecraft's descent was normal until 2 kilometers from the lunar surface.

"Let us hope for the best," said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was at Mission Control in the southern city of Bengaluru.

The space agency was analyzing data as it worked to determine what had happened.

"Communications from lander to ground station was lost," said K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. "The data is being analysed."

A successful landing would have made India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third nation to operate a robotic rover there.

The roughly $140 million mission, known as Chandrayaan-2, was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

Modi had traveled to the space center in Bengaluru to witness the planned landing in the early hours of Saturday and congratulate scientists who were part of the mission.

The space agency's chairman had earlier called Chandrayaan-2 the "most complex mission ever" undertaken by the space agency.

The mission lifted off on July 22 from the Satish Dhawan space centre, in Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

After its launch on July 22, Chandrayaan-2 spent several weeks making its way to the moon, ultimately entering lunar orbit on Aug 20.

On Sept. 2, Vikram separated from the mission's orbiter, and the lander began a series of braking maneuvers to lower its orbit and ready itself for landing.

Only three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and China — have landed spacecraft on the moon.

Last January, China achieved the first landing on the far side of the moon. In April, an Israeli spacecraft attempting to land crashed moments before touchdown.


Taliban blast kills US soldier, several civilians in Kabul

Resolute Support (RS) forces and Afghan security personnel clear debris at the site of a car bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Tameem Akhgar and Cara Anna

Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban car bomb exploded and killed U.S. and Romanian service members and 10 civilians in a busy diplomatic area near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Thursday, the second major attack this week as the Afghan government warned that a U.S.-Taliban deal on ending America's longest war was moving at dangerous speed.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, under pressure after announcing earlier in the week that "on principle" he and the Taliban had reached an agreement, returned abruptly to Qatar, site of the talks, later Thursday, officials close to the negotiations said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

The NATO Resolute Support mission, whose offices were near the blast, said the two service members were "killed in action," without providing details or releasing their names. The American service member was the fourth killed in the past two weeks in Afghanistan.

"Peace with a group that is still killing innocent people is meaningless," President Ashraf Ghani, whose government has been shut out of the U.S.-Taliban talks, said in a statement.

Another 42 people were wounded, Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said. Surveillance footage showed the bomber's vehicle turning into a checkpoint and exploding — and a passer-by trying to sprint away just seconds before the blast.

The Taliban said they targeted vehicles of "foreigners" trying to enter the heavily guarded Shashdarak area where Afghan national security authorities have offices. British soldiers at the scene retrieved what appeared to be the remains of a NATO vehicle.

Once again, stunned civilians made up most of the victims. The Taliban has said its attacks are meant to strengthen its position in talks with the U.S. and that civilians should stay away from potential targets linked to the Afghan government or foreign "invaders."

"I don't know who brought us to the hospital and how," said one of the wounded, Nezamuddin Khan, who was knocked unconscious and woke up in a local hospital.

The explosion followed a Taliban attack against a foreign compound late Monday that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100, almost all of them local civilians. An Associated Press reporter on the phone with the U.S. Embassy when Thursday's blast occurred heard sirens start blaring there.

The violence continued hours later when the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bombing outside an Afghan military base in the Logar provincial capital, Puli Alam, with local officials saying four civilians were killed and 11 others wounded.

Then the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission confirmed that its acting leader in Ghor province, Abdul Samad Amiri, had been kidnapped by the Taliban while traveling and shot dead late Wednesday.

The especially violent week occurs as Khalilzad has been in Kabul briefing Ghani and other Afghan leaders on the U.S.-Taliban deal to end nearly 18 years of fighting that he says just needs President Donald Trump's approval to become a reality. Khalilzad has not commented publicly on this week's attacks.

The Afghan government has raised serious concerns about the deal, including in new comments Thursday as the latest Kabul bombing occurred. The agreement was moving with "excessive speed," presidential adviser Waheed Omer told reporters, warning of difficult days ahead.

"Afghans have been bitten by this snake before," Omer said, recalling past agreements from which the Afghan government has been sidelined. "Where there is no feeling of ownership there is no safety," he said.

The Taliban, at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a U.S.-led invasion, have refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a U.S. puppet. And yet the U.S. hopes its deal with the Taliban will bring the militant group to the table for intra-Afghan talks to begin ahead of Afghanistan's presidential election on Sept. 28.

The Afghan government has said it shares the concerns raised this week by several former U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan. They warned that a full U.S. troop withdrawal that moves too quickly and without requiring the Taliban to meet certain conditions, such as reducing violence, could lead to "total civil war" such as the one that engulfed the country in the 1990s after a rapid Soviet pullout and before the Taliban swept into power.

Khalilzad has said the first 5,000 U.S. troops would withdraw from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days of a final deal. Between 14,000 and 13,000 troops are currently in the country. However, the Taliban want all of the approximately 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops out of Afghanistan immediately.

The U.S. seeks Taliban guarantees that they will not allow Afghanistan to become a haven from which extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the local affiliate of the Islamic State group can launch global attacks.

The Afghan president, who has been shown the U.S.-Taliban deal but not allowed to keep a copy, has insisted that this month's election be held on time. He seeks a second term and a strong mandate to negotiate with the militant group on the country's political future. He rejects talk of an interim government, an idea that has gained such traction among Afghans that many other presidential candidates have barely campaigned.

Ghani's adviser, Omer, acknowledged Thursday the risks of holding another chaotic election after Afghanistan's presidential one in 2014 and last year's parliamentary vote. This election must happen on time, he said, but said a vote that is not transparent will "cause challenges."


HK leader says bill withdrawal own decision, not Beijing's

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, pauses during a press conference at the government building in Hong Kong, on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Associated Press

Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Thursday that the decision to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked months of demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory was her government's own initiative to break the impasse, and not Beijing's directive.

Lam told a news conference that China's central government "understands, respects and supports" her government in the entire process.

Withdrawal of the bill meets one of protesters' five key demands, but activists have vowed not to yield until the government fulfills all of them. Those also include an independent investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, the unconditional release of those detained, not labelling the protests as riots, and direct elections of the city's leader.

The massive but peaceful demonstrations began in June against the legislation, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial, but clashes with police have become increasingly violent as the demands evolved into a wider call for democracy.

Demonstrators threw gasoline bombs at officers last weekend protests and police retaliated with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons. Nearly 1,200 people have been detained so far.

Lam reiterated that the government cannot accede to the protesters' other demands. She said the police watchdog agency will be impartial and best suited to investigate alleged police misconduct, and that releasing detainees without charges would be "unacceptable."

She denied making a U-turn on the bill, noting that she suspended the bill in mid-June, days after the protests began, and in July declared the bill effectively dead.

"It is not exactly correct to describe this as a change of mind," she said when asked why it took her so long to kill the bill. "As far as the substance is concerned, there is simply no plan to take forward the bill."

She said the bill will be formally withdrawn without any need for debate and voting in the legislative council, which resumes its meeting next month and is packed with pro-Beijing lawmakers.

"The decision is one of Hong Kong's...government," she said. "Throughout the whole process, the central people's government took the position that they understood why we have to do it. They respect my view, and they support me all the way."

Lam voiced hope that the bill's withdrawal and other measures to address society discontent will provide an "important basis" to open dialogue to seek a way out of the impasse.

Lam, who was elected as the city's chief executive by a pro-Beijing committee of Hong Kong elites, has come under withering criticism for pushing the extradition bill. Many in Hong Kong saw the bill as a glaring example of the city's eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

The bill's withdrawal, widely seen as a bid to halt the unrest that could embarrass China during its National Day celebrations on Oct. 1, has been slammed as "too little, too late" by both government supporters and demonstrators.

Dozens of demonstrators took to the streets in some areas overnight shouting "five key demands, not one less." Local media reported that protesters built barriers near a police station at Mong Kok and pointed laser beams at police but fled after riot police confronted them.

Students also reportedly staged protests outside some schools Thursday, forming human chains across streets to show their support for those detained by the government.

More protests are planned for the weekend, including another one at the airport. The airport has been the site of several protests, causing flight disruptions and cancelations, as protesters seek to drum up international support.

The mostly young protesters say a degree of violence is necessary to get the government's attention after peaceful rallies were futile. Chinese officials have warned that Beijing will "not sit idly by" if the situation worsens.

The European Union said it hopes the decision to withdraw the extradition bill will help end the violence.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini's office said in a statement that Lam's action "opens up space to work towards a peaceful and enduring solution to the unrest in Hong Kong."

It said "respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, and the independence of the judiciary, remain essential for the development of Hong Kong, and should be upheld in line with the Basic Law and China's international commitments."

The statement said the EU plans to closely monitor "the impact on EU citizens and on EU economic interests in Hong Kong."

The prolonged protests, which sparked fears of a military intervention by China, have hurt businesses in Hong Kong and led to a plunge in tourism.

The Hong Kong government sought to assuage international jitters, vowing to "achieve a peaceful, rational and reasonable resolution" to the crisis in a full-page advertisement Thursday in the Australian Financial Review.

It said it is committed to the "one country, two systems" policy to ensure Hong Kong remains free and open. It called the unrest part of a "complex social, economic and political jigsaw puzzle."

"It is a puzzle that we will solve on our own. And it may take time," the advertisement said. "We will no doubt bounce back. We always do."


Johnson seeks UK election bid as political foes push back

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a visit to West Yorkshire in England, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — Boxed in by opponents and abandoned politically even by his own brother, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled Thursday to keep his Brexit plans on track, and he accused lawmakers of thwarting democracy by blocking his call for a new election.

Johnson remained determined to secure an election after lawmakers rejected his attempt to trigger a snap poll and moved to stop him taking the U.K. out of the European Union next month without a divorce deal. House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told Parliament that a vote would be held Monday on a new motion calling for an election in October.

It's uncertain whether it will pass, with opposition parties divided over whether to agree to an election now.

Johnson said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit any further, and insisted that whether or not Britain left the EU as planned on Oct. 31 must be "a matter for the people of this country to decide."

"I don't want an election at all, but frankly I cannot see any other way," he said, flanked by cadets at a police academy on what felt very much like an election campaign stop.

Earlier, he called opponents' rejection of a snap election "a cowardly insult to democracy."

Johnson's determination to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 faces strong opposition from lawmakers, including members of his own Conservative Party who oppose a no-deal Brexit.

His brother, Jo Johnson, dramatically quit the government Thursday, saying he could no longer endure the conflict "between family loyalty and the national interest."

Jo Johnson was a business minister in his older brother's government, despite his opposition to leaving the EU without a divorce deal. He said he would also step down from Parliament, the latest in a series of resignations by Conservative moderates opposed to the government's hard-line Brexit stance.

Boris Johnson became prime minister in July after promising Conservatives that he would complete Brexit and break the impasse that has paralyzed Britain's politics since voters decided in June 2016 to leave the bloc and which brought down his predecessor, Theresa May.

After only six weeks in office, however, his plans to lead the U.K. out of the EU are in crisis. He is caught between the EU, which refuses to renegotiate the deal it struck with May, and a majority of British lawmakers opposed to leaving without an agreement. Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would cause severe economic disruption and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Johnson's solution is to seek an election that could shake up Parliament and produce a less troublesome crop of lawmakers. It's a risky gambit: Opinion polls don't point to a clear majority for the Conservatives and the public mood is volatile.

British prime ministers used to be able to call elections at will, but under 2011 legislation fixing elections at five-year intervals, they now need the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in Parliament to hold an early poll.

On Wednesday, Johnson asked Parliament to back an Oct. 15 election — but Parliament said no, with opposition parties either voting against him or abstaining.

Corbyn said Labour, the biggest opposition party, would only vote for an early election if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table.

Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell said the party wanted an election but was still deciding on whether to seek one before the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, or to wait until Parliament had secured a delay to Britain's departure from the bloc.

"The problem that we have got is that we cannot at the moment have any confidence in Boris Johnson abiding by any commitment or deal that we could construct," he told the BBC. "That's the truth of it. So, we are now consulting about whether it's better to go long, therefore, rather than to go short."

Opposition lawmakers, supported by Conservative Party rebels, are close to passing a bill that would block a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, compelling the prime minister to seek a three-month delay to Britain's departure if no agreement is reached by late October.

The bill was approved by the House of Commons on Wednesday, but faced trouble in Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords, where pro-Brexit members planned to defeat it by filibustering — talking until time ran out.

But early Thursday, the Lords agreed to let the bill pass through the chamber by Friday, allowing it to become law on Monday.

Johnson said the legislation would "scupper our negotiating power and make it much more difficult for the government to get a deal."

Johnson plans to suspend Parliament at some point next week until Oct. 14, a decision that enraged opponents of Brexit and faces several legal challenges. His critics accused him of subverting democracy and carrying out a "coup."

Transparency campaigner Gina Miller, who won a 2017 Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from triggering the countdown to Brexit without a vote in Parliament, took the government to the High Court on Thursday over the suspension.

Miller, who is supported in her claim by Labour and the governments of Scotland and Wales, argues that sending lawmakers home at a crucial time is unlawful.

"We say that what the prime minister is not entitled to do is to close Parliament for five weeks at such a critical time without justification," her lawyer, David Pannick, told the hearing.

The case continues Friday, when judges may give their ruling.

Johnson insists he wants to secure a revised divorce deal to replace the agreement May struck with the bloc, which was rejected three times by British lawmakers. He told Parliament this week there was "real momentum" in negotiations with the EU, but European officials deny this and say Britain has yet to produce any concrete proposals.

Pro-Brexit British politicians want a looser economic relationship with the EU than foreseen under May's deal, to make it easier to strike new trade pacts with other countries, notably the United States.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Johnson in London on Thursday and later tweeted: "As the deadline for Brexit approaches, we urge the European Union to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom's sovereignty and minimizes disruption to commerce."

That comment is likely to please the British government but annoy EU officials and pro-EU Britons.

At the meeting, Pence said Washington "is ready, willing and able to immediately negotiate a free trade agreement with the U.K."

But anti-Brexit U.K. politicians fear the Trump administration will demand access to Britain's state-funded National Health Service as part of any deal.

Johnson told Pence "we will do everything to increase free trade, but the National Health Service is not on the table as far as our negotiations go."

"And we're not too keen on that chlorinated chicken either," he said — a reference to concerns that Britain will have to lower animal hygiene standards as part of a trade deal.


Iran poised for faster centrifuges as nuclear deal collapses

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Amir Vahdat and Jon Gambrell

Tehran, Iran (AP) — Iran was poised Thursday to begin work on advanced centrifuges that will enrich uranium faster as the 2015 nuclear deal unravels further and a last-minute French proposal offering a $15-billion line of credit to compensate Iran for not being able to sell its crude oil abroad because of U.S. sanctions looked increasingly unlikely.

Meanwhile, Iran released seven crew members from a detained British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in a goodwill gesture and the mariners flew out of Iran, the ship's owner said.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported late Thursday that Iran will halt its commitments on research and development as its most recent step to move away from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The report didn't elaborate and said further details would be announced later.

IRNA said the Foreign Ministry announced the move from a detail in a letter from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

Iran has yet to say officially what exact steps it will take as a deadline it gave Europeans to salvage the deal is to expire on Friday. However, centrifuges that speed uranium enrichment would further shorten the time Tehran would need to have enough material available to build a nuclear weapon — if it chose to do so.

Under the deal, which has steadily unraveled after President Donald Trump's unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the accord last year, experts thought Iran would need about a year to reach that point.

Iran's atomic energy agency was to make an announcement on Saturday detailing its next step, which President Hassan Rouhani described as highly significant, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency and other Iranian media. The details would be unveiled at a press conference in Tehran, the reports said.

The U.S. has continued its effort to choke off Iran's crude oil sales abroad, a crucial source of government revenue. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who continues a whirlwind global diplomatic tour, insists his country will do everything it can to keep those sales going, though he described U.S. sanctions in an angry tweet Thursday as the equivalent of a "jail warden."

"We will sell our oil, one way or the other," Zarif told Russian broadcaster RT in a recently aired interview. "The United States will not be able to prevent that."

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have been growing since Trump's pullout from the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran agree to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump subsequently re-imposed old sanctions on Iran and created new ones, going as far as targeting Iranian officials like Zarif and Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Meanwhile, mysterious oil tanker attacks struck near the Strait of Hormuz in recent weeks, attacks that the U.S. blames on Iran. Tehran denies it was involved.

Iran also shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone and seized oil tankers as America deployed nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, advanced fighter jets and more troops to the region.

The U.S. has sought to seize an Iranian oil tanker, the Adrian Darya-1, now thought by analysts to be off the Syrian coast despite a pledge by Tehran that its cargo wasn't bound there.

In his speech late Wednesday, Rouhani said Tehran would soon begin work on research and development of "all kinds" of centrifuges that enrich uranium by rapidly spinning uranium hexafluoride gas.

Iran has begun breaking limits of the deal, such as just creeping beyond its 3.67%-enrichment limit and its stockpile rules. Using advanced centrifuges speeds up enrichment and Iranian officials already have raised the idea of enriching to 20% — a small technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90%.

Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and denies it seeks an atomic bomb. However, Western nations have pointed to previous Iranian research into a weapons program that U.N. experts say largely ended in 2003.

France in recent days had pushed the idea of offering Iran a $15 billion credit to sell its oil, though details remain unclear and it appeared the deal wouldn't come through before Iran's deadline Friday.

That appears to show Iran trying to resort to its own maximum pressure campaign through the nuclear program to get what it wants, said Henry Rome, an analyst for the Eurasia Group.

"Iran's plan appears to be provocative but reversible," Rome said. "Tehran is building leverage, not a bomb."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime hawk on Iran, called on the world to increase its pressure on Tehran before flying to London for meetings with British officials on Thursday.

While Trump maintains he's open for North Korea-style talks with Iran, his administration has continually upped its pressure on the Islamic Republic. On Wednesday, the U.S. imposed new sanctions on an oil shipping network it alleged had ties to the Guard and offered up to $15 million for anyone with information that disrupts the Guard's operations.

"There will be more sanctions coming," Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, told reporters at the State Department. "We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure."

Hook also directly emailed or texted captains of Iranian oil tankers, trying to scare them into not delivering their cargo, according to the Financial Times.

Zarif reacted angrily to the report.

"Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail_deliver us Iran's oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself," the diplomat wrote on Twitter.

Also Thursday, seven of the 23 sailors aboard the Stena Impero flew out of Iran after being released, Stena Bulk CEO Erik Hanell said in a statement.

The crew members "are now travelling to a safe location where they will be reunited with their families," Hanell said. "They will receive medical checks and a debriefing before being repatriated to their home countries at the earliest opportunity."

There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials, nor any acknowledgement in state-run media.

Iran seized the tanker on July, saying it violated Iranian laws, after authorities in the British territory of Gibraltar seized the Adrian Darya said to be to be carrying fuel to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on oil sales to the government in Damascus. The Iranian vessel, now called the Adrian Darya-1 was released in August.

The remaining 16 crew members are to stay onboard the Stena Impero.


Hurricane death toll climbs to 20 in devastated Bahamas

Destruction from Hurricane Dorian at Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco Island, Bahamas on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)

Marko Álvarez, Dánica Coto and Michael Weissenstein

Freeport, Bahamas (AP) — The ground crunched under Greg Alem's feet on Wednesday as he walked over the ruins of his home, laid waste by Hurricane Dorian. He touched a splintered beam of wood and pointed to the fallen trees, overcome by memories.

"We planted those trees ourselves. Everything has a memory, you know," he said. "It's so, so sad. ... In the Bible there is a person called Job, and I feel like Job right now. He's lost everything, but his faith kept him strong."

The devastation wrought by Dorian — and the terror it inflicted during its day-and-a-half mauling of the Bahamas — came into focus Wednesday as the passing of the storm revealed a muddy, debris-strewn landscape of smashed and flooded-out homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. The official death toll from the strongest hurricane on record ever to hit the country jumped to 20, and there was little doubt it would climb higher.

With a now-distant Dorian pushing its way up the Southeastern U.S. coast, menacing Georgia and the Carolinas, many people living in the Bahamas were in shock as they slowly came out of shelters and checked on their homes.

In one community, George Bolter stood in the bright sunshine and surveyed the ruins of what was once his home. He picked at the debris, trying to find something, anything, salvageable. A couple of walls were the only thing left.

"I have lost everything," he said. "I have lost all my baby's clothes, my son's clothes. We have nowhere to stay, nowhere to live. Everything is gone."

The Bahamian government sent hundreds of police officers and marines into the stricken islands, along with doctors, nurses and other health care workers, in an effort to reach drenched and stunned victims and take the full measure of the disaster.

"There are many in Grand Bahama who are suffering," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a news conference. "We know there are many Bahamians that are in need of help. I want to assure you that more help is on the way."

He thanked the international community for its response, especially the U.S. government for what he called their "exceptional assistance."

The U.S. Coast Guard, Britain's Royal Navy and relief organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross joined the burgeoning effort to rush food and medicine to survivors and lift the most desperate people to safety by helicopter. The U.S. government also dispatched urban search-and-rescue teams.

Londa Sawyer stepped off a helicopter in Nassau, the capital, with her two children and two dogs after being rescued from Marsh Harbor in the Abaco islands.

"I'm just thankful I'm alive," she said. "The Lord saved me."

Sawyer said that her home was completely flooded and that she and her family fled to a friend's home, where the water came up to the second floor and carried them up to within a few feet of the roof. She said she and her children and the dogs were floating on a mattress for about half an hour until the water began receding.

Sandra Cooke, who lives in Nassau, said her sister-in-law was trapped under her roof for 17 hours in the Abaco islands and wrapped herself in a shower curtain as she waited.

"The dog laid on top of her to keep her warm until the neighbors could come to help," she said. "All of my family lives in Marsh Harbor, and everybody lost everything. Not one of them have a home to live anymore."

The storm pounded the Bahamas with Category 5 winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rains, swamping neighborhoods in brown floodwaters and destroying or severely damaging, by one estimate, nearly half the homes in Abaco and Grand Bahama, which have 70,000 residents and are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts.

Bahamian Health Minister Duane Sands said 17 of the dead were from the Abaco islands and three from Grand Bahama. He said he could not release further details because the government still had to contact family members.

Some people in the Abaco islands complained that they had not seen any aid except for medical supplies for the main hospital, where hundreds of people were temporarily living as they awaited help.

By late Wednesday, Dorian was pushing northward off the Florida coastline with reduced but still-dangerous 110 mph (175 kph) winds. An estimated 3 million people in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina were warned to clear out, and highways leading inland were turned into one-way evacuation routes.

At 10 p.m. EDT, Dorian was centered about 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Charleston, South Carolina, moving north at 8 mph (15 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended up to 70 miles (110 kilometers) from its center.

Dorian was expected to pass dangerously close to Georgia and scrape the Carolinas on Thursday and Friday with the potential for over a foot of rain in some spots and life-threatening storm surge.

"Hurricane Dorian has its sights set on North Carolina," Gov. Roy Cooper said. "We will be ready."

As the threat to Florida eased and the danger shifted farther up the coast, Orlando's airport reopened, along with Walt Disney World and Universal. To the north, ships at the big Norfolk, Virginia, naval base were ordered to head out to sea for safety, and warplanes at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were sent inland.

The U.S. mainland recorded its first death in connection with the hurricane, that of an 85-year-old man in North Carolina who fell off a ladder while preparing his home for the storm. Dorian was also blamed for one death in Puerto Rico.

On Tybee Island, Georgia, Debbie and Tony Pagan stacked their beds and couches atop other furniture and covered their doors with plastic wrap and sandbags before evacuating. Their home flooded during both Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017.

"It's a terrible way to live," Debbie Pagan said. "We have the whole month of September and October to go. How would you like to be living on pins and needles?"

Another Tybee islander, Sandy Cason, said: "The uncertainty and the unknown are the worst part. Just not knowing what's going to be here when you get back."

Along King Street in historic Charleston, South Carolina, dozens of shops and restaurants typically bustling with tourists were boarded up, plywood and corrugated metal over windows and doors, as the flood-prone downtown area braced for high water.

Mark Russell, an Army veteran who has lived in South Carolina much of his life, went to a hurricane shelter right away. As for those who hesitated to do so, he said: "If they go through it one time, maybe they'll understand."


Hong Kong withdraws extradition bill that sparked protests

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks in a television message, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Hong Kong Government Information Services via AP)

Katie Tam

Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam withdrew the extradition bill that sparked months of demonstrations, bowing to one of the protesters' demands in the hope of ending the increasingly violent unrest.

But activists rejected Wednesday's move as insufficient and vowed not to yield until the government accepts other demands including an independent investigation into alleged police brutality against protesters, the unconditional release of those detained and democracy.

The bill would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials. It has prompted massive protests since June that have disrupted transportation links around the city and at its international airport.

Lam said the government would not accept the other demands, and instead named two new members to a police watchdog agency investigating police misconduct.

"The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a recorded television message.

Lam said the persistent violence is damaging the rule of law and that challenges to the "one country, two systems" framework under which the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997 had put Hong Kong in a "highly vulnerable and dangerous situation."

"Our foremost priority now is to end violence, to safeguard the rule of law and to restore order and safety in society," she added, vowing to "strictly enforce the law against all violent and illegal acts."

Lam said it was clear that public frustration has gone far beyond the bill and that her government will seek a dialogue with aggrieved groups to address their discontent. She said she will also invite community leaders, professionals and academics to examine and advise the government on how to resolve deep-seated problems in the society.

"Let's replace conflicts with conversations, and let's look for solutions," she said.

Some lawmakers and activists said the move was too little, too late.

A youth activist who identified herself only as Chan and wore a helmet and scarf to shield her identity told a news conference that protesters "would not back down, not even one step" until their other demands are met.

"If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that would have been a quick fix but to apply a bandage onto rotten flesh, that simply won't cut it," she said.

Prominent youth activist Joshua Wong said the government in Beijing hopes to cool the protests ahead of China's National Day on Oct. 1.

"I hope the people in China can understand that democracy, freedom and human rights are universal values that Hong Kong people are fighting for," he told journalists before a forum in Taipei, Taiwan, where he is visiting.

"We will continue to fight for it. I hope there is one day that Hong Kong and even China would become a place where people can enjoy democracy and freedom."

Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo mocked Lam's bid to seek dialogue to address public grievances.

"She has been fast asleep these three months, this is just absurd," Mo said. "The scars and wounds are still bleeding, and she thinks she can just use some garden hose to put out the hill fire."

Pro-establishment lawmaker Starry Lee, however, urged protesters to accept the government's olive branch so the city can move forward.

The Hong Kong stock market soared 4%, boosted by reports of the bill's withdrawal.

Lam, who was elected as the city's chief executive by a pro-Beijing committee of Hong Kong elites, has come under withering criticism for pushing the extradition bill. Many in Hong Kong see it as an example of the city's eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Clashes between police and protesters have become increasingly violent, with demonstrators throwing gasoline bombs and rods at officers in protests last weekend. Authorities in turn have employed water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons.

The mostly young protesters say a degree of violence is necessary to get the government's attention after peaceful rallies were futile. Chinese officials have warned that Beijing will "not sit idly by" if the situation worsens.

The prolonged protests have hurt Hong Kong's economy amid a slowdown in the Chinese economy and its trade war with the United States.

Hong Kong and foreign companies have also been under intense pressure to support China's ruling Communist Party against the protesters.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways said its chairman, John Slosar, resigned Wednesday, less than a month after its CEO, Rupert Hogg, stepped down following pressure by Beijing over participation by some of the carrier's employees in protests.


Johnson's Brexit plans in crisis after 3rd defeat in 2 days

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during his first Prime Minister's Questions, in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)

Jill Lawless and Danica Kirka

London (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Wednesday for a national election on Oct. 15, saying it was the only way out of Britain's Brexit impasse after lawmakers moved to block his plan to leave the European Union next month without a divorce deal.

But Parliament delivered Johnson his third defeat in two days and turned down a motion triggering a vote. Johnson indicated he would try again, saying an election was the only way forward for the country, and accusing opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of being afraid of the public's judgment.

"The obvious conclusion, I'm afraid, is that he does not think he will win," Johnson said.

Scarcely six weeks after taking office with a vow to break Britain's Brexit deadlock — which entrapped and finally defeated his predecessor, Theresa May — Johnson's own plans to lead the U.K. out of the EU are in crisis.

Johnson insists Britain must leave the bloc on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal, but many lawmakers — including several from Johnson's Conservative Party — are determined to thwart him. On Wednesday the House of Commons approved an opposition bill designed to halt a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson accused the opposition of trying to "overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history," referring to the outcome of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

His solution, a risky one, is an election that could shake up Parliament and produce a less obstructive crop of lawmakers. But opinion polls do not point to a certain majority for Johnson's Conservatives, and on Wednesday Johnson did not get the general election he craves — at least not yet. Opposition parties, deeply mistrustful of the prime minister, refused to back a new election until the anti-no deal bill becomes law.

"Let the bill pass and have Royal Assent and then we can have a general election," Corbyn said.

Johnson needed the support of two-thirds of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons to trigger an election — a total of 434 — but got just 298, with 56 voting no and the rest abstaining.

Johnson signaled that he would try again to trigger a snap election, urging opposition lawmakers to "reflect overnight and in the course of the next few days."

The maneuvers are part of a head-on showdown between Johnson's Brexit-at-all-costs administration and a Parliament worried about the economic and social damage that could be wrought by a messy divorce.

Opposition lawmakers, supported by rebels in Johnson's Conservative Party, warn that crashing out of the bloc without a divorce agreement would cause irreparable economic harm.

In a second straight day of parliamentary turmoil, the House of Commons voted by 327-299 in favor of an opposition bill to block a no-deal Brexit, sending it to Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords. Even so, the bill's fate is unsure. With Johnson set to suspend Parliament for several weeks starting next week, pro-Brexit peers in the Lords are threatening to try to stop it by filibustering until time runs out.

"There is very little time left," said Labour Party lawmaker Hilary Benn as he introduced the opposition bill. "The purpose of the bill is very simple: to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on the 31st of October without an agreement."

The bill would require the government to ask the EU to delay Brexit until Jan. 31, 2020, if it can't secure a deal with the bloc by late October.

The lawmakers hope to pass the bill into law — a process that can take months — by the end of the week, because Johnson plans to suspend Parliament at some point next week until Oct. 14.

Johnson became prime minister in July by promising to lead Britain out of the EU, breaking the impasse that has paralyzed the country's politics since voters decided in June 2016 to leave the bloc. But he is caught between the EU, which refuses to renegotiate the deal it stuck with May, and a majority of British lawmakers opposed to leaving without an agreement. Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would cause severe economic disruption and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Johnson insisted Wednesday that talks with the EU on a revised deal were "making substantial progress."

But the bloc says the U.K. has not submitted any substantial new proposals. European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said "there is nothing new" from London.

Johnson, who was a leader of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU, has long said that his enthusiasm and energy for Brexit will allow him to succeed in leaving the EU where May had failed, leading to her resignation.

But events have spiraled out of his control. He leads a government with no majority in Parliament and may not be able to secure an election that could change that fact.

He was humiliated Tuesday — the first day of Parliament's autumn term — by losing his first Commons vote as prime minister when lawmakers passed a motion 328-301 that enabled their push for a law stopping a no-deal Brexit. His government lost its working majority as one Conservative lawmaker defected to the opposition, and more than 20 Tory legislators sided with the opposition on the vote.

"Not a good start, Boris!" one unidentified lawmaker shouted after the vote.

Johnson responded with swift vengeance, expelling the rebels from the Conservatives in Parliament, leaving them as independent lawmakers. Among those bounced out were former International Development Secretary Rory Stewart; Kenneth Clarke, a former treasury chief and the longest-serving member of the House of Commons; and Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Johnson hero Winston Churchill.

Soames came close to tears as he told the House of Commons that he had been proud to serve as a Conservative lawmaker for 37 years.

"I am truly very sad that it should end in this way," he said.

The beleaguered U.K. leader got a boost Wednesday when a Scottish court refused to intervene in his decision to suspend Parliament, ruling it was a matter for lawmakers to decide, not the courts.

The case was only the first of several challenges to Johnson's maneuver, however.

Transparency campaigner Gina Miller, who won a ruling in the Supreme Court in 2017 that stopped the government from triggering the countdown to Brexit without a vote in Parliament, has another legal challenge in the works — set to be heard Thursday. A human rights campaigner has sued in Northern Ireland, arguing that the historic Good Friday peace accord is in jeopardy because of Johnson's actions.


Tour bus crashes on wet New Zealand road, 5 Chinese killed

Survivors from a tourist bus crash walk along the highway in the Mamaku Ranges near Rotorua, New Zealand, Wednesday, Sept. 4. 2019. (Ben Fraser/Rotorua Daily Post via AP)

Nick Perry

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — A tour bus carrying Chinese tourists flipped in rainy weather near a New Zealand tourist town Wednesday morning, killing five Chinese nationals and seriously injuring two others, police said.

Police Inspector Brent Crowe told media that the medium-sized tour bus was carrying 27 people and was about 20 minutes north of Rotorua at just after 11 a.m. when it failed to negotiate a bend on a highway.

He said the bus drifted onto the wrong side of the road and as the driver tried to correct it flipped onto the driver's side. He said no other vehicles were involved in the crash but the weather was a factor.

"High winds, fog and a lot of rain," Crowe said. "And the road surface was clearly wet and slippery."

Liang Zhi, a diplomat from the Chinese Embassy in Wellington, told The Associated Press that they understand the bus was carrying a driver, a tour guide, and Chinese tourists mostly from the Sichuan province.

"Our embassy attaches great importance to the tragic incident," Liang said. "Our ambassador is on her way to Rotorua. Our embassy will make every effort to help the Chinese citizens who have died and been injured in the accident."

He said he expected that New Zealand officials would also be offering all the assistance they could.

Crowe said it still investigating whether the bus was fitted with seatbelts and if the passengers were wearing them. He said the driver was not seriously injured, and it would likely take several weeks of investigation to determine whether he would face any charges.

He said the two passengers with serious injuries and another four passengers with moderate injuries were taken to hospitals. Other passengers with minor injuries were treated at the scene.

The St. John ambulance service said it dispatched five helicopters and five ambulances to the crash site to transport patients.

Rotorua is popular among tourists for its geothermal activity, including boiling mud pools, and for its indigenous Maori culture.


Major defeat for British PM as lawmakers seize Brexit agenda

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons, London, Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019. (Jessica Taylor/House of Commons via AP)

Gregory Katz and Danica Kirka

London (AP) — On a day of humiliating setbacks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a major defeat in Parliament on Tuesday night as rebellious lawmakers voted to seize control of the Brexit agenda, prompting the embattled leader to say he would call for a new general election.

The 328 to 301 vote, made possible by 21 fellow Conservatives who turned their back on Johnson's pleas and face ejection from the party, cleared the way for his opponents to introduce a bill Wednesday that would seek to prevent Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal Oct. 31.       It was a momentous day in Britain's Parliament as the legislature rose up to successfully challenge the power of the prime minister over vital Brexit policy. If Johnson enjoyed a brief honeymoon since taking power in July, it came to abrupt end Tuesday when he faced his first vote — and a startling defeat — in Parliament.

There is still no clarity about how and when Britain will leave the prosperous EU bloc as the tortuous Brexit process nears a climax more than three years after the original vote to leave. A new election would set the stage for a brutal battle over whether voters favor a "no-deal" Brexit, more negotiations, or possibly a fresh referendum on the entire question of leaving the EU.

The cross-party rebels are fighting to prevent a no-deal Brexit because of fears it would gravely damage the economy and plunge Britain into a prolonged recession while also leading to possible medicine and food shortages. The vote came hours after Johnson suffered a key defection from his party, costing him his working majority in Parliament.

Johnson and his backers say these fears are overblown and that voters who backed Brexit are demanding action, not more talk.

On a day of high drama and acerbic debate in the House of Commons, lawmakers returned from their summer recess to confront Johnson over his insistence that the U.K. leave the European Union on Oct. 31, even without a withdrawal agreement to cushion the economic blow. Many shouted, "Resign!"

A new election would take Britain's future directly to the people for a third general election in four years. It is not clear Johnson would immediately get the two-thirds majority in Parliament needed to call a fresh vote because opponents are wary he might postpone the election date until after Brexit has taken place, in effect ramming through a no-deal exit.

"I don't want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop the negotiations and to compel another pointless delay of Brexit, potentially for years, then that will be the only way to resolve this," Johnson said minutes after he lost the vote in Parliament.

Earlier Tuesday, two other prominent Conservatives signaled their decision not to seek re-election rather than follow Johnson's Brexit policy. Former Cabinet minister Justine Greening and former Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt also signaled their intention to step down.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he will not agree to a new election until legislation preventing a "no-deal" exit is in place.

"He isn't winning friends in Europe. He's losing friends at home. His is a government with no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority," Corbyn said.

Johnson, who became prime minister in July, has tried to crack down on members of his Conservative Party who oppose his Brexit plans, warning they would be expelled from the party if they supported parliamentary efforts to block or delay the withdrawal.

His stance has infuriated many longtime, prominent party members.

Dominic Grieve, who was attorney general in David Cameron's government, says the expulsion threats demonstrate Johnson's "ruthlessness." Greening said she feared her beloved party was "morphing into Nigel Farage's Brexit Party," in a reference to the U.K.'s foremost euroskeptic and the party he leads. Former Treasury chief Philip Hammond warned of the "fight of a lifetime" if officials tried to prevent him from running in the next election.

Time to block a no-deal departure is running short. Johnson last week maneuvered to give his political opponents even less time to block a chaotic no-deal Brexit, getting Queen Elizabeth II's approval to suspend Parliament. His outraged critics sued, and attorneys arguing the case at a court in Scotland completed submissions Tuesday. The judge could rule as soon as Wednesday. Two other major legal challenges to the suspension are pending.

A no-deal Brexit will sever decades of seamless trade with Europe's single market of 500 million people. Leaked government documents predicted disruptions to the supply of medicine, decreased availability of fresh food and even potential fresh water shortages because of disruption to supplies of water treatment chemicals.

Johnson insists the potential threat of leaving without a deal must remain as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the EU.

Though the EU is Britain's biggest trading partner, a no-deal Brexit would also hurt Europe — a fact not lost on Brussels. Johnson's supporters said lawmakers were weakening the government's negotiating position with the EU.

"The one thing that has helped focus minds in the EU is that we're leaving come what may and we've got a very focused task of what a good deal would look like," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV. "But the lingering doubt they've got is: Will the shenanigans in Parliament somehow lead to the cancellation or the delay of Brexit?

"That's encouraging them, and weakening our position to actually get the deal we all want."

The bloc insists it won't renegotiate the agreement struck with former Prime Minister Theresa May, which Johnson considers unacceptable.

Johnson has told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel he could come up with a better alternative to the main sticking point in the stalled negotiations — the deadlock over how to ensure there are no customs checks between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.

Only 58 days before the scheduled exit, the EU said it had received no proposals from the British government aimed at overcoming the impasse, undercutting Johnson's claim that progress is being made.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the EU's executive body, which supervises talks on behalf of Britain's 27 European partners, is operating on the "working assumption" that Britain will leave the bloc Oct. 31.

Any British request for an extension would have to be approved by each of the other 27 EU nations before it could be granted.


'Total devastation': Hurricane slams parts of the Bahamas

Volunteers walk under the wind and rain from Hurricane Dorian through a flooded road as they work to rescue families near the Causarina bridge in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Ramon Espinosa, Dánica Coto and Michael Weissenstein

Freeport, Bahamas (AP) — Relief officials reported scenes of utter ruin Tuesday in parts of the Bahamas and rushed to deal with an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm on record ever to hit the islands. At least seven deaths were reported, with the full scope of the disaster still unknown.

The storm's punishing winds and muddy brown floodwaters destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics.

"It's total devastation. It's decimated. Apocalyptic," said Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief organization and flew over the Bahamas' hard-hit Abaco Islands. "It's not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again."

She said her representative on Abaco told her that there were "a lot more dead" and that the bodies were being gathered. The prime minister also expected more deaths and predicted that rebuilding would require "a massive, coordinated effort."

"We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country's history," Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference. "No effort or resources will be held back."

Emergency authorities struggled to reach victims and urged people to hang on.

"We don't want people thinking we've forgotten them. ... We know what your conditions are," Tammy Mitchell of the Bahamas' National Emergency Management Agency told ZNS Bahamas radio station.

With their heads bowed against heavy wind and rain, rescuers began evacuating people from the storm's aftermath across Grand Bahama late Tuesday, using jet skis, boats and even a huge bulldozer that cradled children and adults in its digger as it cut through deep waters and carried them to safety.

One rescuer gently scooped up an elderly man in his arms and walked toward a pickup truck waiting to evacuate him and others to higher ground.

Practically parking over a portion of the Bahamas for a day and a half, Dorian pounded the northern Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama with winds up to 185 mph (295 kph) and torrential rain before finally moving into open waters Tuesday on a course for Florida. Its winds were down to a still-dangerous 110 mph (175 kph) late Tuesday, making it a Category 2 storm.

Over 2 million people along the coast in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina were warned to evacuate. While the threat of a direct hit on Florida had all but evaporated, Dorian was expected to pass dangerously close to Georgia and South Carolina — and perhaps strike North Carolina — on Thursday or Friday.

Even if landfall does not occur, the system is likely to cause storm surge and severe flooding, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

"Don't tough it out. Get out," said U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency official Carlos Castillo.

In the Bahamas, Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said more than 13,000 houses, or about 45% of the homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to be severely damaged or destroyed. U.N. officials said more than 60,000 people on the hard-hit islands will need food, and the Red Cross said some 62,000 will need clean drinking water.

"What we are hearing lends credence to the fact that this has been a catastrophic storm and a catastrophic impact," Cochrane said.

Lawson Bates, a staffer for Arkansas-based MedicCorps, flew over Abaco and said: "It looks completely flattened. There's boats way inland that are flipped over. It's total devastation."

The Red Cross authorized $500,000 for the first wave of disaster relief, Cochrane said. And U.N. humanitarian teams stood ready to go into the stricken areas to help assess damage and the country's needs, U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said. The U.S. government also sent a disaster response team.

Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, with a combined population of about 70,000, are known for their marinas, golf courses and all-inclusive resorts. To the south, the Bahamas' most populous island, New Providence, which includes the capital city of Nassau and has over a quarter-million people, had little damage.

The U.S. Coast Guard airlifted at least 21 people injured on Abaco. Choppy, coffee-colored floodwaters reached roofs and the tops of palm trees.

"We will confirm what the real situation is on the ground," Health Minister Duane Sands said. "We are hoping and praying that the loss of life is limited."

Sands said Dorian rendered the main hospital on Grand Bahama unusable, while the hospital in Marsh Harbor in Abaco was in need of food, water, medicine and surgical supplies. He said crews were trying to airlift five to seven kidney failure patients from Abaco who had not received dialysis since Friday.

The Grand Bahama airport was under 6 feet (2 meters) of water.

Late Tuesday, Dorian was centered about 95 miles (155 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and it was moving northwest at 6 mph (9 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended up to 60 miles (95 kilometers) from its center, while tropical storm-force winds could be felt up to 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the core.

The coastline from north of West Palm Beach, Florida, through Georgia was expected to get 3 to 6 inches of rain, with 9 inches in places, while the Carolinas could get 5 to 10 inches and 15 in spots, the National Hurricane Center said.

NASA satellite imagery through Monday night showed some places in the Bahamas had gotten as much as 35 inches (89 centimeters) of rain, said private meteorologist Ryan Maue.

Parliament member Iram Lewis said he feared waters would keep rising and stranded people would lose contact with officials as their cellphone batteries died.

Dorian also left one person dead in its wake in Puerto Rico before slamming into the Bahamas on Sunday. It tied the record for the strongest Atlantic storm ever to hit land, matching the Labor Day hurricane that struck Florida Gulf Coast in 1935, before storms were given names.

Across the Southeast, interstate highways leading away from the beach in South Carolina and Georgia were turned into one-way evacuation routes. Several airports announced closings, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Walt Disney World in Orlando closed in the afternoon, and SeaWorld shut down.

Police in coastal Savannah, Georgia, announced an overnight curfew. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered a mandatory evacuation of the dangerously exposed barrier islands along the state's entire coast.

Having seen storms swamp his home on the Georgia coast in 2016 and 2017, Joey Spalding of Tybee Island decided to empty his house and stay at a friend's apartment nearby rather than take any chances with Dorian.

He packed a U-Haul truck with tables, chairs, a chest of drawers, tools — virtually all of his furnishings except for his mattress and a large TV — and planned to park it on higher ground. He also planned to shroud his house in plastic wrap up to shoulder height and pile sandbags in front of the doors.

"In this case, I don't have to come into a house full of junk," he said. "I'm learning a little as I go."


MH17 investigators want to speak to Ukrainian prisoner

In this July 17, 2014 file photo, people walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine. Prosecutors investigating the downing five years ago of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine want to speak to a man being held by Ukrainian authorities, calling him a “person of interest” in their probe. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Mike Corder

The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch prosecutors investigating the downing five years ago of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine want to speak to a man being held by Ukrainian authorities, calling him a "person of interest" in their probe, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The fate of Volodymyr Tsemakh could be a factor in the stalled prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine as Dutch prosecutors want him to remain in Ukraine.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Tsemakh is on the list of prisoners that Moscow wants exchanged in return for freeing prisoners including 24 sailors captured off Crimea in November.

Brechtje van de Moosdijk, a spokeswoman for the Joint Investigation Team looking at the downing by a surface-to-air Buk missile of the Malaysian flight on July 17, 2014, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Tsemakh is currently in a Ukrainian jail, "but if he's being swapped then, well, of course it's hard to say that we can speak to him when he would be in Russia."

The international investigation team is seeking to prosecute those responsible for the downing of the flight known as MH17 and the murder of all 298 people on board when the Boeing 777 heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky over conflict-hit eastern Ukraine.

The team has indicted four people so far, three Russians and a Ukrainian, but Tsemakh is not among the four.

"The Dutch public prosecutor would like to have Mr. Tsemakh in Ukraine so he's available for the investigation and we can ask him further questions," Van de Moosdijk said.

Ukrainian officials would not comment on reports that Tsemakh is on the prisoner swap list but Daria Moroz, an official in the rebel-held Donetsk, told Russian media on Monday that Tsemakh is part of the swap.

Tsemakh, who was the commander of the separatists' air defense in the area where the plane was shot down, was abducted by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) earlier this summer from his home in the rebel-held eastern Ukraine as a potential key witness in the MH17 probe.

Tsemakh has not made any public appearances in Ukraine, and he is believed to be in Ukrainian custody after a Kyiv court in July ordered to keep him behind bars.

The trial for the four suspects is set to begin next March in the Netherlands, though it appears unlikely any of them would be brought before the court, since Russia and Ukraine forbid the extradition of their citizens.

Russia's Foreign Ministry called the charges against the country's citizens "absolutely unfounded" and accused the investigators of using "dubious sources of information" and ignoring evidence provided by Moscow in order to discredit Russia.


South African police arrest 90 as unrest in cities continues

 

A man runs away from teargas after making off with goods from a store in Germiston, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

 Krista Mahr and Mogomotsi Magome

Johannesburg (AP) — South Africa's president condemned days of widespread looting and arson attacks on foreign-owned businesses across Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, calling the violence "totally unacceptable."

"We are a country that is completely committed against xenophobia," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video statement published on Twitter Tuesday. "We do not allow and cannot tolerate attacks on people from other African countries."

Police fanned out across neighborhoods in Johannesburg and Pretoria as the violence extended into a third day in South Africa.

Police have arrested more than 100 people in five areas impacted by the violence. Many gutted, emptied shops remained closed as shop owners, many of them foreign, feared to return to their property.

Police minister Bheki Cele confirmed on Tuesday that five people had died since the the violence started on Sunday night.

"There is no justification whatsoever for people who have a sense that their jobs are being taken by people from foreign lands to attack them, to destroy properties, and actually to kill them," said Ramaphosa. "This must be stopped."

In Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg which was in lockdown on Tuesday after a spate of attacks in the morning, some foreigners had returned to their shops to assess the damage.

Abdullahi Duale, a Somali shop-owner whose store was looted in the early hours of the morning, said this was not the first time his business had been looted.

"The last time they took everything in the shop, and now they repeated it," said Duale. "We are always afraid that it can start anytime."

Others whose shops had survived the night were packing their belongings and leaving the area by morning.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited Alexandra with police officials and called for calm, pleading with the community to refrain from the violence.

Makhura said police had the capacity to deal with the unrest and would not need any reinforcement from the army, a concern that has emerged in recent days. In July, the government deployed armed soldiers to assist police in controlling gang-related violence in Cape Town.

The government would only consider calling on the army in Gauteng if the police said they were not able to diffuse the situation, he said.

"The job of the police is to police, and we know that the job of the army that is a very different job altogether. The army comes in to shoot down at the enemy," said Makhura. "So far the police are doing well."

On Monday, African governments warned citizens living in South Africa to take safety precautions and expressed frustration with latest wave of attacks targeting foreign-owned businesses in South Africa.

The Ethiopian Embassy in South Africa advised citizens to close their shops "until peace is restored", according to Ethiopian media, and Zambia's Ministry of Transport and Communications warned Zambian truck drivers not to travel in to the country.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said he has dispatched a Special Envoy to South Africa to convey his concerns to President Ramaphosa.

Buhari's office said he had has also instructed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, to summon the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria and get a brief on the situation; express Nigeria's displeasure over the treatment of its citizens and to get assurances of the safety of their lives and property.

Onyeama called the violence "sickening" on Twitter on Monday.


8 killed in deadly California boat fire; 26 missing

In this photo provided by the Ventura County Fire Department, VCFD firefighters respond to a boat fire off the coast of southern California, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. (Ventura County Fire Department via AP)

Stefanie Dazio

Santa Barbara, Calif. (AP) — A middle-of-the-night fire swept a boat carrying recreational scuba divers anchored near an island off the Southern California coast early Monday, leaving at least eight dead and little hope any of 26 others missing would be found alive.

Five of six crew members on the Conception escaped by jumping into an inflatable boat they steered to a nearby vessel.

Rescuers recovered four bodies just off Santa Cruz Island and spotted four others on the ocean floor near where the boat sank only about 20 yards (18 meters) from shore. They planned to continue searching for survivors, but Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester cautioned it was unlikely anyone else would be found alive.

"We will search all the way through the night into the morning, but I think we should all be prepared to move into the worst outcome," she told an afternoon news conference.

The four bodies plucked from the ocean about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles all had injuries consistent with drowning, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Kroll.

It wasn't immediately clear when the bodies on the ocean floor might be retrieved or when divers could search the boat for others.

"It's upside down in relatively shallow water with receding tides that are moving it around," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. Investigators have not yet determined a cause for the fire.

The 75-foot (23 meters) Conception was on a three-day excursion to the chain of rugged, wind-swept isles that form Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific Ocean west of Los Angeles.  The fire broke out around 3 a.m. in Platt's Harbor off Santa Cruz Island.

The five crew members who escaped took refuge on a boat called The Grape Escape that was anchored nearby. Two had minor injuries, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said.

The Grape Escape's owners, Bob and Shirley Hansen, told The New York Times they were asleep when they heard pounding on the side of their 60-foot (18-meter) fishing vessel about 3:30 a.m. and discovered the frightened crew members. They told the couple they fled when the fire grew out of control.

"When we looked out, the other boat was totally engulfed in flames, from stem to stern," Hansen said, estimating it was no more than 100 yards (91 meters) from his craft. "I could see the fire coming through holes on the side of the boat. There were these explosions every few beats. You can't prepare yourself for that. It was horrendous.

"The fire was too big, there was absolutely nothing we could do," he added.

Hansen said two of the crew members went back toward the Conception looking for survivors but found no one.  Asked at a news conference if the crew tried to help others aboard, Rochester told reporters, "I don't have any additional information."

The Conception, based in Santa Barbara Harbor on the mainland, was owned by Truth Aquatics  Dave Reid, who runs an underwater camera manufacturing business with his wife, Terry Schuller, and who has traveled on the Conception and two other boats in Truth Aquatics' fleet, said he considered all three among the best and safest dive-boats around.

"When you see the boats they are always immaculate," he said. "I wouldn't hesitate at all to go on one again. Of all the boat companies, that would be one of the ones I wouldn't think this would happen to."

His wife said Truth Aquatics crews have always been meticulous in going over safety instructions at the beginning of every trip she's been on.

"They tell you where the life jackets are, how to put them on, the points of egress, the exits, where the fire extinguishers are, on every single trip," said Schuller, who goes on diving expeditions often with her husband. "They are the best, the absolute best."

Both said the sleeping area is comfortable but small, however, with bunk beds stacked next to one another in a tight space on the vessel's lowest deck. Coming up to the top deck to get off requires navigating a narrow stairway with only one exit. If the fire was fast-moving, Reid said, it's very likely divers couldn't escape and the crew couldn't get to them.

"If there was an explosion in the engine area that could have gone right into the sleeping area," Reid said.

The Conception was on the final day of a Labor Day weekend cruise when the fire erupted and a mayday call was made. Rochester said that call indicated the boat was already fully ablaze.

After hearing the call, Capt. Paul Amaral of the vessel assistance company TowBoatUS said a boat sped from Ventura Harbor some 30 miles (48 kilometers) to the island.

"We launched that boat knowing that the vessel was on fire, lots of people aboard," he told The Associated Press.

A Coast Guard helicopter and a fireboat were on scene when he arrived around 5 a.m. He first searched the water and shoreline, then turned back to the Conception, which was adrift and going aground.

Amaral said he was able to attach a line and pull it back into deeper water where the fireboats could reach it.

Brown said the elements of the tragedy were daunting for rescuers: The boat was in a remote location with limited firefighting capabilities, passengers were sleeping below deck in the middle of the night and there was a quick-moving fire.

"You couldn't ask for a worse situation," the sheriff said.

The Conception was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, which says on its website that it has been taking divers on such expeditions since the 1970s. It was owned and operated by Truth Aquatics, a Santa Barbara-based company founded in 1974.

Coast Guard records show inspections of the Conception conducted last February and in August 2018 found no deficiencies. Earlier inspections found some safety violations related to fire safety.

A 2016 inspection resulted in owners replacing the heat detector in the galley and one in 2014 cited a leaky fire hose.

Records show all safety violations from the last five years were quickly addressed by the boat's owners.

Truth Aquatics' website reports the vessel, launched in 1981, has rafts and life jackets for up to 110 passengers and exits on the port, starboard and bow that provide "easy water entry." It was built specifically for divers.

The trip promised multiple opportunities to see colorful coral and a rich variety of marine life around the Channel Islands, which draw boaters, divers and hikers.

Five of the eight Channel Islands comprise the national park and Santa Cruz is the largest within the park at about 96 square miles (248.6 square kilometers).


Dorian triggers massive flooding in Bahamas; at least 5 dead

A road is flooded during the passing of Hurricane Dorian in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Monday, Sept. 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)

Michael Weissenstein and Dánica Coto

Nassau, Bahamas (AP) — Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find floatation devices and grab hammers to break out of their attics if necessary. At least five deaths were blamed on the storm.

"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in announcing the fatalities. He called the devastation "unprecedented and extensive."

The fearsome Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passed.

Officials said they received a "tremendous" number of calls from people in flooded homes. A radio station received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.

The deaths in the Bahamas came after a previous storm-related fatality in Puerto Rico. At least 21 people were hurt in the Bahamas and evacuated by helicopters, the prime minster said.

Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and share their GPS coordinates, but he said rescue crews had to wait until weather conditions improved.

"We simply cannot get to you," he told Bahamas radio station ZNS.

Forecasters warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as 23 feet (7 meters).

Meanwhile in the United States, the National Hurricane Center extended watches and warnings across the Florida and Georgia coasts. Forecasters expected Dorian to stay off shore, but meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that "only a small deviation" could draw the storm's dangerous core toward land.

By 10 p.m. EDT Monday, the storm's top sustained winds had fallen to 140 mph (220 kph), still within Category 4 range. It was still virtually stationary, centered just 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of Freeport — about the same distance from the city it had been at noon. Hurricane-force winds extended outward as far as 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the center

The water reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. One woman filmed water lapping at the stairs of her home's second floor.

In Freeport, Dave Mackey recorded video showing water and floating debris surging around his house as the wind shrieked outside.

"Our house is 15 feet up, and right now where that water is is about 8 feet. So we're pretty concerned right now because we're not at high tide," said Mackey, who shared the video with The Associated Press. "Our garage door has already come off. ... Once we come out of it with our lives, we're happy."

On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and heavy flooding.

Parliament member Darren Henfield described the damage as "catastrophic" and said officials did not have information on what happened on nearby cays. "We are in search-and-recovery mode. ... Continue to pray for us."

A spokesman for Bahamas Power and Light told ZNS that there was a blackout in New Providence, the archipelago's most populous island. He said the company's office in Abaco island was flattened.

"The reports out of Abaco as everyone knows," spokesman Quincy Parker said, pausing for a deep sigh, "were not good."

Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. Many people were expected to be left homeless.

On Sunday, Dorian's maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph (297 kph), with gusts up to 220 mph (354 kph), tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall. That equaled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190 mph (305 kph) winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.

The Bahamas archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods that have wooden homes in low-lying areas.

Dorian was likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the southeastern coast of the U.S. The system is expected to spin 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 kilometers) off Florida, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles (56 kilometers) to the west.

An advisory from the hurricane center warned that Florida's east-central coast could see a brief tornado sometime Monday afternoon or evening.

A mandatory evacuation of entire South Carolina coast took effect Monday covering about 830,000 people.

Transportation officials reversed all lanes of Interstate 26 from Charleston to head inland earlier than planned after noticing traffic jams from evacuees and vacationers heading home on Labor Day, Gov. Henry McMaster said.

"We can't make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive," the governor said.

A few hours later, Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, ordered mandatory evacuations for that state's Atlantic coast, also starting at midday Monday.

Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned his state that it could see heavy rain, winds and floods later in the week.

A hurricane watch was in effect for Florida's East Coast from Deerfield Beach north to South Santee River in South Carolina. A storm surge watch was extended northward to South Santee River in South Carolina. Lake Okeechobee was under a tropical storm watch.

A National Guard official, John Anderson, said many people were complying with the evacuation orders.

"We have not seen much resistance at all," he said in a phone call with reporters. People do understand that Dorian is nothing to mess around with."


Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen rebel-run prison kill over 100

Rescue workers recover bodies from under the rubble of a Houthi detention center destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes that killed at least 60 people and wounding several dozen according to officials and the rebels' health ministry, in Dhamar province, southwestern Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Ahemd Al-Haj and Samy Magdy

Sanaa, Yemen (AP) — Yemeni medics said on Monday they pulled dozens of bodies from the rubble of a Houthi rebel-run detention center that was hit a day earlier by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, killing over 100 people and wounding dozens.

The attack was one of the deadliest in more than four years of war in Yemen that have claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has fought the Iran-backed Houthis since 2015, has faced international criticism for airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians.

By late Monday, Yemen's Red Crescent said 88 bodies had been pulled from the ruins of the detention center in southwestern Dhamar province. Bashir al-Dawrani, a spokesman for Yemeni Red Crescent in Dhamar, told The Associated Press that 53 bodies were recovered Sunday and another 35 on Monday before search efforts halted for the night.

There were around 170 detainees at the facility when the airstrikes hit Sunday. The International Committee for the Red Cross said 40 wounded were being treated for injuries while the rest were presumed dead, and that it would likely take days to recover all the bodies. The complex of buildings was part of the local community college before the Houthis turned it into a detention center, one of dozens in areas under their control.

Security officials said the detainees were captured forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government as well as civilians who had been arrested for criticizing the Houthis in recent years. The officials spoke anonymously because they weren't authorized to talk to reporters.

Abdul-Qader el-Murtaza, a Houthi leader, said Sunday that both the Red Cross and the Saudi-led coalition knew there were detainees being held at the site.

The Red Cross, which inspects detention centers as part of its global mission, said Sunday it had previously visited detainees there.

Col. Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said in a televised press conference Monday it had bombed a "legitimate military target," and blamed the Houthis for using the former college as a detention center for forcibly disappeared Yemenis.

He said the Red Cross never told the coalition that there were detainees at the site, which he said was not on a U.N.-coordinated no-strike list. The U.N. provides the coalition with coordinates for locations such as hospitals, schools and official prisons to ensure they are not hit by airstrikes.

"The only known prion (in the area) is located 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the targeted site," he said.

Former detainee Mansour al-Zelai told The Associated Press that the Houthis were repairing weapons in and close to the detention center. Several other detainees said the same via posts to social media, and said the center had come under a series of airstrikes before.

Rights groups have also previously documented that the Houthis use civilian detainees as human shields by placing them in detention centers next to army barracks, under constant threat of airstrikes.

Local residents said the center also held their imprisoned family members, arrested for being critical of the Houthis.

The Abductees' Mothers Union, an association of female relatives of detainees jailed by the Houthis, said "dozens of abductees and people who were disappeared by force" elsewhere in Yemen had been brought to the center from other areas under rebel control.

The mothers' group said some detainees had died from torture in the center and called for an international investigation into Sunday's airstrikes and abuses against the detainees.

The Yemen U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed Sunday that 52 detainees were among the dead.

Bashir al-Dawrani, a spokesman for Yemen's Red Crescent in Dhamar, said the wounded had been taken to various hospitals in Dhamar and the capital, Sanaa. Dhamar is located around 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Sanaa.

Yemeni officials said dozens of families, mainly from Houthi-controlled areas, had arrived in Dhamar to identify bodies or visit wounded relatives. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The Houthis also said Monday they had met with Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, in the capital of neighboring Oman to discuss a long-awaited implementation of a peace deal between the warring sides, which was brokered last year in Stockholm.

Elsewhere in Yemen, security officials said clashes flared up for several hours Monday in the oil-rich Shabwa province. The fighting took place between forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government and southern separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.

Heavy fighting in recent weeks between the two sides — a subplot within a broader narrative in which they are ostensibly allies in the Saudi-led coalition — has added another layer to the complex civil war in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said government forces had blocked the southern separatists from taking control of the town of Azzan, a former stronghold for al-Qaida's Yemeni branch.

A joint Saudi-Emirati committee met with the combatants and reached a ceasefire later in the day, the officials said.


Indonesia to deport 4 Australia tourists who joined protests

A Papuan student, with his body and face painted with the colors of the banned separatist 'Morning Star' flag, pauses during a rally in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Associated Press

Jakarta (AP) — Indonesian authorities are deporting four Australian tourists for participating in a demonstration that called for the independence of the country's restive Papua province, an immigration official said Monday.

Cun Sudiharto, who heads the intelligence and law enforcement division at the Sorong Immigration office, said police detained the tourists for having joined the protest near the mayor's office in Sorong city last Tuesday by riding bikes and waving small morning star flags that are a separatist symbol.

He identified the tourists as Tom Baxter, Danielle Joy Hellyer, Ruth Irene Cobbold and Cheryl Melinda Davidson. He said the first three would be deported from Bali later Monday and the fourth on Thursday for ticketing reasons.

Sudiharto said that under Indonesia's immigration laws, foreigners are not allowed to join protests without permits.

He said the four tourists had been sailing from Australia to Indonesia's Mollucas island chain and planned to go to Raja Ampat, a famous diving spot in West Papua province, before their boat had engine trouble. They had been waiting for its repair in Sorong city since Aug. 10, he said.

Thousands of Papuans have demonstrated in the past week for the region's independence and against racist remarks by security forces. The protests were triggered by videos circulated on the internet showing security forces calling Papuan students "monkeys" and "dogs" in East Java's Surabaya city.

Protests in several cities in Papua and West Papua provinces turned violent, resulting in the deaths of at least one soldier and two civilians. The angry mobs also burned several government buildings, offices, shops, cars and a gas station.

The government has blocked internet access in the region.

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said at least 46 people have been arrested during the protests, including eight Papuan students who were detained in Jakarta over the weekend.

Indonesia maintains a significant police and military presence in the volatile provinces of Papua and West Papua, a mineral-rich region where a decades-long separatist movement simmers.

It was formally incorporated into the country in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many.

In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for their region.
 


Police say no explanation yet for Texas shooting frenzy

Law enforcement officials investigate Saturday's shooting at a shopping center Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Odessa, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Paul J. Weber and Jake Bleiberg

Odessa, Texas (AP) — Authorities said Sunday they still could not explain why a man with an AR-style weapon opened fire during a routine traffic stop in West Texas to begin a terrifying, 10-mile rampage that killed seven people, injured 22 others and ended with officers gunning him down outside a movie theater.

Authorities identified the shooter as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa. Online court records show Ator was arrested in 2001 for a misdemeanor offense that would not have prevented him from legally purchasing firearms in Texas, although authorities have not said where Ator got his weapon.

Ator acted alone and federal investigators believe the shooter had no ties to any domestic or international terrorism group, FBI special agent Christopher Combs said. Authorities said those killed were between the ages of 15 and 57 years old but did not immediately provide a list of names. The injured included three law enforcement officers, as well as a 17-month-old girl who sustained injuries to her face and chest.

Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke refused to say the name of the shooter during a televised news conference, saying he wouldn't give him notoriety, but police later posted his name on Facebook. A similar approach has been taken in some other recent mass shootings.

Gerke said there were still no answers pointing to a motive for the chaotic rampage, which began Saturday afternoon when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn.

Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver "pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots" toward the patrol car stopping him, according to Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. The gunshots struck a trooper, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled and continued shooting. He fired at random as he drove in the area of Odessa and Midland, two cities in the heart of Texas oil country more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) west of Dallas. At one point, he hijacked a mail carrier truck, killing the lone postal worker inside.

U.S. Postal Service officials identified her as Mary Granados, 29.

Police used a marked SUV to ram the mail truck outside the Cinergy Movie Theater in Odessa, disabling the vehicle. The gunman then fired at police, wounding two officers. Combs said the gunman might have entered the theater if police had not killed him.

"In the midst of a man driving down the highway shooting at people, local law enforcement and state troopers pursued him and stopped him from possibly going into a crowded movie theater and having another event of mass violence," Combs said.

Police said Ator had no outstanding warrants. His arrest in 2001 was in the county where Waco is located, hundreds of miles east of Odessa. Online court records show he was charged then with misdemeanor criminal trespass and evading arrest. He entered guilty pleas in a deferred prosecution agreement where the charge was waived after he served 24 months of probation, according to records.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said a 17-month-old girl is recovering but faces surgery on Monday to remove shrapnel from her right chest. She also suffered injuries to her face. Abbott says the mother texted: "Her mouth is pretty bad, but will heal and can be fixed. Thankfully it doesn't seem like her jaw was hit. Just lips, teeth and tongue...We are thanking God for healing her and appreciate continued prayers."

The shooting came at the end of an already violent month in Texas, where on Aug. 3 a gunman in the border city of El Paso killed 22 people at a Walmart. Sitting beside authorities in Odessa, Abbott ticked off a list of mass shootings that have now killed nearly 70 since 2016 in his state alone.

"I have been to too many of these events," Abbott said. "Too many Texans are in mourning. Too many Texans have lost their lives. The status quo in Texas is unacceptable, and action is needed."

But Abbott, a Republican, remains noncommittal about imposing any new gun laws in Texas at a time when Democrats and gun-control groups are demanding restrictions. And even as Abbott spoke, a number of looser gun laws that he signed this year took effect on the first day of September, including one that would arm more teachers in Texas schools.

Saturday's shooting brings the number of mass killings in the U.S. so far this year to 25, matching the number in all of 2018, according to The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. The number of people killed this year has already reached 142, surpassing the 140 people who were killed of all last year. The database tracks homicides where four or more people are killed, not including the offender.

Witnesses described gunfire near shopping plazas and in busy intersections.

Dr. Nathaniel Ott was working at an Odessa emergency care center where he is the medical director when he heard gunshots. He rushed outside to find a woman in the driver's seat of an SUV bleeding from a gunshot wound in the arm. Ott said that as he and a paramedic were working on the woman, the shooter drove back by.

"The shooter drove within 30 feet of us and drove up that road," Ott said Sunday, pointing to one of the streets leading past the shopping center where his facility is located. "The shooter was driving. It was insane. He was just everywhere."

Daniel Munoz, 28, of Odessa, was headed to a bar to meet a friend when he noticed the driver of an approaching car was holding what appeared to be a rifle.

"This is my street instincts: When a car is approaching you and you see a gun of any type, just get down," said Munoz, who moved from San Diego about a year ago to work in oil country. "Luckily I got down. ... Sure enough, I hear the shots go off. He let off at least three shots on me."

He said he was treated at a hospital and is physically OK, though bewildered by the experience.

"I'm just trying to turn the corner and I got shot — I'm getting shot at? What's the world coming to? For real?"


Protests on roads near Hong Kong airport disrupt air travel

 

Pro-democracy protestors gather outside the airport in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Vincent Yu and Katie Tam

Hong Kong (AP) — Anti-government protesters blocked roads near Hong Kong's airport with burning barricades and damaged a train station Sunday after a night of violent clashes with police.

Train and some bus service to the airport on the outlying island of Chek Lap Kok were suspended. Some passengers walked to the airport, one of Asia's busiest, carrying their luggage, but some flights were delayed.

Hong Kong has been the scene of tense anti-government protests for nearly three months. The demonstrations began in response to a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include other grievances and demands for democracy in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

The protests are an embarrassment to China's ruling Communist Party ahead of Oct. 1 celebrations of its 70th anniversary in power.

The protesters complain Beijing and the government of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam are eroding the autonomy and civil liberties promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

On Sunday, the MTR Corp. suspended train service to the airport after several hundred protesters gathered there following calls online to disrupt transportation. They blocked buses arriving at the airport but police in riot helmets kept them out of the terminal.

The government said some protesters threw objects at police. It also said iron poles, bricks and rocks were thrown onto tracks of the airport train.

At least 26 flights from Hong Kong and 17 to the city had been canceled as of 7:55 p.m., the South China Morning Post newspaper reported, citing information from the airport.

After protesters began to stream away from the airport in the late afternoon, some attacked a train station in the adjacent Tung Chung area. They used metal bars to smash lights and broke open a fire hose valve, sending water gushing across the floor.

Protesters set up barricades on two adjacent streets and set fire to some of them. Firefighters arrived a few minutes later to douse the blaze.

Protesters left the area after busloads of riot police in green fatigues with black helmets and riot shields flooded into the train station.

The Post reported that drivers of taxis and private cars on the toll road from the airport were picking up protesters to help them avoid arrest.

Passengers arriving downtown on a ferry from Lantau Island, where Tung Chung is located, were being searched by police and asked for identity cards, the newspaper said.

The protests followed a night of violent clashes between protesters and police.

On Saturday, protesters threw gasoline bombs at government headquarters. Police stormed a subway car and hit passengers with clubs and pepper spray.

A total of 63 people were arrested at the Mong Kok, Yau Ma Tei and Prince Edward subway stations, police announced. The youngest was a 13-year-old boy accused of possessing two gasoline bombs.

The protests erupted in early June in Hong Kong, whose 7.4 million people were promised a "high degree of autonomy" under an agreement between Beijing and London.

Opponents saw the proposed extradition bill as an erosion of that "one country, two systems" framework. It would have allowed crime suspects to be sent to the mainland, where the Communist Party controls the court system.

Lam, the Hong Kong leader, suspended work on the law but protesters want it withdrawn completely and want full democracy.

Also Sunday, demonstrators outside the British Consulate called on London to grant citizenship to people born before the former colony was returned to China.

About 200 people waved British flags and chanted "Equal rights now!" and "Stand with Hong Kong!"

A saxophonist in dark glasses played "God Save the Queen," the British national anthem.

Many wanted Britain to grant citizenship to people born in Hong Kong before 1997. Instead of citizenship, London gave Hong Kong people "British National Overseas" passports that can be used for travel but not to settle in the United Kingdom.

"I hope the British government can change its nationality law," said a protester, Gary Law.

On Saturday, protesters took to the streets after police refused permission for a march to mark the fifth anniversary of a decision by China against fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.

Two police officers fired warning shots into the air after being surrounded by protesters, the government said. It was the second time police fired warning shots, following an incident the previous weekend.


Taliban attack 2nd Afghan city as US envoy says deal is near

 

Afghan men bury the bodies of security forces killed in a suicide attack on Saturday, in Kunduz province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Bashir Khan Safi)

Rahim Faiez and Kathy Gannon

Kabul, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban attacked a second Afghan city in as many days on Sunday, killing several civilians and security forces, officials said, even as Washington's peace envoy said the U.S. and the militant group are "at the threshold of an agreement" to end America's longest war.

The attack on the capital of Baghlan province came hours after U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said he warned the Taliban during talks in Qatar that "violence like this must stop." But he appeared determined to move forward on a deal that plans the withdrawal of some 14,000 remaining U.S. troops in exchange for Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used as a launch pad for global attacks.

Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Sunday to brief the Afghan government on a deal, which is not yet final. Both he and the Taliban confirmed the latest round of talks had ended. "We are on the verge of ending the invasion and reaching a peaceful solution for Afghanistan," said the Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, with technical issues still under discussion.

The attacks are seen as strengthening the negotiating position of the Taliban, who control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since their 2001 defeat by a U.S.-led invasion. Some critics warn that the Taliban are merely waiting out the U.S. and that another U.S. goal in the talks, a cease-fire, likely will not happen as foreign troops leave.

Provincial council member Mabobullah Ghafari told The Associated Press he had seen the bodies of at least six members of the security forces and that the situation was worsening by the hour. Gunfire could be heard late into the afternoon in parts of the city, home to more than 220,000 people. Some were trying to flee.

"I'm afraid the city will collapse if we don't get reinforcements soon," he said, adding that the Taliban had occupied some checkpoints with no resistance from security forces.

Taliban fighters had taken shelter in some homes, Ghafari said.

The assault on Puli Khumri, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) north of Kabul, came a day after the Taliban attacked Kunduz, one of Afghanistan's largest cities, in the province to the north and killed at least 25 people and wounded 85. The interior ministry on Sunday said the Taliban had been cleared from Kunduz.

The Afghan interior ministry said four civilians and two members of the security forces were killed in Sunday's attack, with 20 civilians and two security forces wounded. It said three Taliban fighters were dead.

Elsewhere Sunday, at least eight civilians were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in northern Balkh province, said Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the governor. Another vehicle struck a roadside bomb in western Farah province, killing six civilians, said Mohibullah Mohib, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Few details have emerged from this latest round of U.S.-Taliban peace talks, adding to the uncertainty as violence increases. Afghanistan was the world's deadliest conflict last year.

The agreement with the Taliban "will reduce violence and open the door for Afghans to sit together to negotiate an honorable & sustainable peace and a unified, sovereign Afghanistan that does not threaten the United States, its allies, or any other country," the Afghan-born Khalilzad said on Twitter.

A U.S. official with the negotiation team added that "any potential peace deal will not be based on blind trust, but will instead contain clear commitments that are subject to our monitoring and verification."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The official added that "if and when we are able to announce an agreement, the process will pivot to intra-Afghan negotiations where the Taliban will sit with other Afghans and together they will commit to a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire."

The reference to "other Afghans" instead of the Afghan government is another reminder of the challenges ahead. The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a U.S. puppet.

About 20,000 U.S. and NATO troops are still in the country. The remaining U.S. troops train and support Afghan forces but also come to their aid with airstrikes and counterterror operations.


Stage set for Brexit clash in UK Parliament this week

Brexit supporters gather during a rally in London, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Gregory Katz

London (AP) — The U.K. Labour Party's chief Brexit adviser says opposition plans to block a "no-deal" Brexit would require postponing the country's departure deadline again so the withdrawal doesn't happen on Oct. 31 as now scheduled.

Labour's Keir Starmer told the BBC on Sunday that the legislation to be introduced in Parliament as early as Tuesday will focus on an extension of the deadline to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from leaving the European Union without a deal.

"The length of the extension is secondary, frankly. We have simply got to stop us leaving without a deal," he said.

Current plans call for Britain to leave the EU by Oct. 31 unless Britain formally asks for its third extension and each of the bloc's other 27 nations agree. Brexit first was set for March 29.

A senior Cabinet minister overseeing preparations for leaving with no EU withdrawal agreement declined to say if Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government would abide by Parliament's decision.

"Let's see what the legislation says," Michael Gove, a staunch Brexit advocate, said.

Gove's refusal to commit to following Parliament's sets up a possible constitutional clash over Britain's plan to leave the European Union to make good on the results of a 2016 referendum.

Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU on that day even if there is no deal in place, despite economists warning his determination could have severe costs.

The battleground shifts to Parliament when it returns from a lengthy summer recess Tuesday. It was not clear how many members of Johnson's Conservative Party might break with the prime minister over a possible "no-deal" Brexit.

Johnson has made plans to shut Parliament for part of the period before the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. The move would shorten the time his opponents have to try to take control of the Brexit process.

Johnson and his top advisers are planning to meet with recalcitrant legislators from his own Conservative Party to try to keep them from supporting the opposition's efforts to prevent "no-deal."

EU officials have said they are ready for a "no-deal" scenario if necessary.

Germany's foreign minister said in a newspaper interview published Sunday that an orderly withdrawal remains the best option for both sides.

But Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper that "in case a hard Brexit turns out to be unavoidable, Germany is prepared for this scenario."


DAILY UPDATE

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