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Update May 2017


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Update May 22, 2017

At refugee camp, Haley vows Trump's US won't abandon Syrians

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, background center, looks on as a bandaged Syrian refugee has his iris scanned at a supermarket, Sunday, May 21, 2017 in Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan.

Josh Lederman, Associated Press

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) — His skull and jaw wrapped in bandages, the young Syrian refugee stared nonchalantly into a small black box at a supermarket in this sprawling, dust-swept refugee camp. The box scanned his iris to identify him, charged his account and sent him on his way.

If the boy noticed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley watching intently from just a few feet away, he didn't show it. But Haley would later tout the iris-scanners as a fraud-cutting tool boosting efficiency for the more than $6.5 billion the U.S. has spent helping those whose lives have been upended by Syria's harrowing civil war.

Yet as Haley pledged Sunday that the U.S. would increase support, her message was diluted by President Donald Trump's own vow to put "America First," his planned budget cuts and hardline position on admitting refugees.

"We're the No. 1 donor here through this crisis. That's not going to stop. We're not going to stop funding this," Haley said. "The fact that I'm here shows we want to see what else needs to be done."

It was a theme the outspoken ambassador returned to over and over in Jordan at the start of her first trip abroad since taking office. In her stops here and in Turkey — another Syria neighbor — Haley is witnessing first-hand the strains placed on countries absorbing the more than 5 million Syrians who have fled the Islamic State group, President Bashar Assad's government, or both.

She climbed into the trailer of an 18-wheeler staged at the Ramtha border crossing less than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from Syria, inspecting boxes of peas, tuna and canned meat stacked shoulder-high. The truck was to join 19 others in a convoy into opposition-held territory in Syria, carrying supplies from U.N. agencies and other groups, many U.S.-funded.

"This is all in the name of our Syrian brothers and sisters," Haley told aid workers in a nearby tent, swatting away flies in the summer heat. "We want you to feel like the U.S. is behind you."

The U.S. president's message to Syrians couldn't be more different.

Trump, who was in Saudi Arabia on his first overseas trip, once called his predecessor "insane" for letting in Syrian refugees. As president, he tried to bar them from the U.S., describing them as a national security threat. A court blocked that move, but the number of Syrian refugees admitted has nonetheless dropped, from 5,422 in the four months before Trump's inauguration to 1,566 in the four months since, U.S. statistics show.

And Trump has called for drastic cuts to U.S. funding for the United Nations and its affiliated agencies — such as those aiding people still in Syria and those who've fled. Trump plans to release his budget blueprint Tuesday, but his initial proposal in March called for a one-third cut to diplomatic and overseas programming while boosting the U.S. military by $54 billion.

Haley told reporters accompanying her to Jordan that the U.S. was "not pulling back" and was in fact "engaging more." She cited Trump's stepped-up action to try to hasten a political solution to the war, including a strike punishing Assad's forces for using chemical weapons that the Syrian opposition and its backers have enthusiastically applauded.

She echoed Trump's defense of his plan to temporarily halt refugee admissions from all countries — which was also blocked in court — by saying the U.S. needed to protect Americans by first improving its refugee-vetting capabilities. And she pointed to a group of women in the camp who'd overwhelmingly told her their hope was to return to Syria, not relocate to the U.S.

"So our goal is how do we get these people back home to a safe place?" Haley said.

Still, the situation in Zaatari Refugee Camp — like in others in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq — tell the story of Syrians who see no quick resolution to their plight.

In Zaatari, half of the 80,000 refugees are children, and a dozen babies are born here per day, according to UNICEF, the U.N.'s child welfare agency. Thirty-five percent of marriages involve a child under 18, a reflection of the economic hardships families in the camp face.

Many of the younger children wander unsupervised through the camp, where gusts of dust occasionally reduced visibility to just a few feet as Haley's motorcade rolled through the streets, passing sparse, white-corrugated buildings accorded a bit of cheer by colorful murals painted on their walls.

As ambassador, Haley plays a key but only partial role in the Trump administration's decision-making on Syria, refugees and humanitarian aid. But her role at the U.N. puts her at the center of the debate about how the global community takes on the crisis. After all, it's successive U.N. Security Council resolutions that created the legal framework for aid groups to send aid into Syria, with or without Assad's consent.

At the Marka military airport in Amman, Haley went aboard a cargo plane to get a rare look at high-risk operations to airdrop wheat, lentils and cooking oil into Assad-controlled territory in Deir el-Zour, which is completely surrounded by the Islamic State group. In a sign of Moscow's outsize influence in the Syria conflict, both the aircraft and the company that flies it on behalf of the World Food Programme are Russian.

"It's smiles, and tears," said David Beasley, WFP's executive director. "It really is."

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Hong Kong's Cathay lays off 600 as it faces rising pressure

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways says it's laying off nearly 600 staff as it faces rising competition from rival carriers and tough business conditions.

The airline said Monday that it plans to axe about 190 managers, or a quarter of all the company's management jobs.

It's also getting rid of 400 workers in non-managerial roles.

Cathay said frontline workers, including pilots and cabin crew, would not be affected, but added that they "will be also be asked to deliver greater efficiencies and productivity."

Hong Kong's biggest airline is making cuts after it reported a $74 million loss last year.

It was Cathay's first annual loss since 2008. The airline blamed the poor performance on intensifying competition and the slowing Chinese economy.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top after 146 years

In this May 4, 2017 file photo, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tiger trainer Taba Maluenda performs with a white tiger during a show in Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Tamara Lush, Associated Press

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — With laughter, hugs and tears — and the requisite death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show.

"We are, forevermore, the Greatest Show on Earth," boomed Johnathan Lee Iverson, who has been the ringmaster since 1999. His son, who also performed, stood by his side. The show was held at the Nassau County Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of New York City.

It was an emotional 2 1/2 hours for those who worked on the circus. Many of Ringling's employees are second, third and even fourth-generation circus performers, while others met their spouses while touring. All spent months on the road, traveling from city to city in Ringling's train cars and describing themselves as a giant family, albeit one with many clowns.

But it also was the fans who felt like family.

In this May 4, 2017 file photo, a performance by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus features the Desert Goddesses camels.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Elaine Bario, a 57-year-old usher at the Nassau County Coliseum, said she's seen the circus every time it's been on Long Island — some years as a child with her father, who also was an usher at the same venue.

"The animals, this is where we fell in love with them," she said. "We got to see animals here and the Bronx Zoo. We don't go on safaris."

Bario cried as she watched the final big cat act with its leopards, tigers and Alexander Lacey, the handsome animal trainer.

"I've always had a crush on the lion tamers," she said, laughing through tears.

But it was those animal shows that led to the circus' eventual demise.

The Danguir high wire troupe performs during a show, Sunday, May 7, 2017, in Providence, R.I (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline. People, it seemed, didn't want to see a circus without elephants. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs.

A handful of protesters stood outside the venue on Sunday, with signs that said "compassion always wins," and "the future is animal free."

Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said that "we all have to embrace change."

Feld's father and uncle bought the circus in 1967. It was sold to Mattel in 1971, but the Feld family continued to manage the shows. The Felds bought the circus back in 1982.

Earlier Sunday, a group of retired and former circus performers sat across the street at a hotel bar, laughing and hugging and sharing memories of tours past.

"There's a lot of mixed emotions, said Rev. George "Jerry" Hogan, Ringling's circus chaplain. "It's a reunion, but it's bittersweet. I'm seeing people I haven't seen in years."

Once a mainstay of entertainment in small towns and big cities across the country, Ringling had two touring circuses this season, one of which ended its run earlier this month in Providence, Rhode Island . That show was the more traditional, three-ring circus, while the one performing this weekend had a narrative storyline. Called "Out of This World," it was set in futuristic outer space.

In the end, though, Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn't compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations.

But that didn't stop the circus from giving the performance of their life, one last time, to one last crowd.

Big cat trainer Alexander Lacey hugs one of the tigers during the final show. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Davis Vassallo, center, hugs a member of the trapeze troupe as he holds his daughter Adriana.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Tatiana Tchalabaev wipes tears from her face after the final show. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson opens the final show.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Ringling Bros. Out of This World performers, crew and their families gather in the ring after the final show, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

___

Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


3 foreign climbers dead, 1 missing near top of Mount Everest

 In this Nov. 12, 2015, file photo, Mt. Everest is seen from the way to Kalapatthar in Nepal.(AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa, File)

Binaj Gurubacharya, Associated Press

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Three climbers have died on Mount Everest and another is missing in a busy and tragic weekend on the world's highest mountain, officials and expedition organizers said Monday.

An American climber died near the summit and an Indian climber is missing after heading down from the top following a successful ascent, expedition organizers said.

Roland Yearwood, 50, from Georgiana, Alabama, died Sunday but details were not immediately known, said Murari Sharma of the Everest Parivar Expedition agency, based in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital.

Indian climber Ravi Kumar fell sick on his way down from the summit on Saturday and did not make it to the nearest camp, though his accompanying Nepalese Sherpa guide did reach camp, said Thupden Sherpa of Arun Treks and Expedition.

The guide was sick but had managed to drag himself to the camp at South Col, located at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), Sherpa said, adding that the guide had frostbite and was receiving oxygen.

Kumar and his guide reached the 8,850-meter-high (29,035-foot-high) summit about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, which is considered late, and not many climbers were around when they were returning back, Sherpa said.

Three Sherpa rescuers were flown by helicopter to Camp 2, from where they were climbing up the mountain to help search for the missing climber.

A Slovak climber Vladimir Strba, 50, also died on Everest on Sunday, Tourism Ministry official Gyanendra Shrestha said Monday. His body was brought the South Col camp.

Australian climber Francesco Enrico Marchetti, 54, from Queensland, died on the Chinese side of Everest, according to the Himalayan Times newspaper. Other details were not available.

The number of climbers who have died on Everest during the current spring climbing season, which began in March and runs through this month, has now reached five with one missing.

More climbers are also expected to attempt to reach the peak on Monday.

The Nepalese Tourism Department issued a record 371 permits this year to people to scale the mountain. The increased number of climbers this year is likely because many people were unable to climb in 2014 and 2015, when deadly avalanches disrupted the climbing seasons.

Climbers who had permits for the 2014 season were allowed to receive a free replacement permit until 2019, while climbers with 2015 permits were given only until this year. The permits normally cost $11,000.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Today in History - Monday, May 22, 2017

The Associated Press

Today in History

Today is Monday, May 22, the 142nd day of 2017. There are 223 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 22, 1992, after a reign lasting nearly 30 years, Johnny Carson hosted NBC's "Tonight Show" for the final time (Jay Leno took over as host three days later).

On this date:

In 1860, the United States and Japan exchanged ratifications of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce during a ceremony in Washington.

In 1913, the American Cancer Society was founded in New York under its original name, the American Society for the Control of Cancer.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appeared before Congress to explain his decision to veto a bill that would have allowed World War I veterans to cash in bonus certificates before their 1945 due date.

In 1939, the foreign ministers of Germany and Italy, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Galeazzo Ciano, signed a "Pact of Steel" committing the two countries to a military alliance.

In 1947, the Truman Doctrine was enacted as Congress appropriated military and economic aid for Greece and Turkey.

In 1960, an earthquake of magnitude 9.5, the strongest ever measured, struck southern Chile, claiming some 1,655 lives.

In 1967, a fire at the L'Innovation department store in Brussels killed 322 people. Poet and playwright Langston Hughes died in New York at age 65.

In 1968, the nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, sank in the Atlantic Ocean. (The remains of the sub were later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.)

In 1969, the lunar module of Apollo 10, with Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene Cernan aboard, flew to within nine miles of the moon's surface in a dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon began a visit to the Soviet Union, during which he and Kremlin leaders signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The island nation of Ceylon became the republic of Sri Lanka.

In 1981 "Yorkshire Ripper" Peter Sutcliffe was convicted in London of murdering 13 women and was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2011, a tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri, with winds up to 250 mph, claiming at least 159 lives and destroying about 8,000 homes and businesses.

Ten years ago: British prosecutors accused former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi (AHN'-dray LOO'-goh-voy) of murder in the radioactive poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko (leet-vee-NYEN'-koh). (Russia, however, has refused to extradite Lugovoi.) Olympic gold medalist speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno and his professional dance partner, Julianne Hough (huhf), won ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

Five years ago: The Falcon 9, built by billionaire businessman Elon Musk, sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies, marking the first time a commercial spacecraft had been sent to the orbiting outpost. In Flint, Michigan, a drifter accused of faking car trouble, then stabbing strangers who came to his aid, was convicted of murdering handyman Arnold Minor after jurors rejected an insanity defense. (Elias Abuelazam (EE'-lee-us ah-BOOL'-ah-zahm) is serving a life sentence.) Wesley A. Brown, the first African-American to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, died in Silver Spring, Maryland, at age 85. Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver and his professional partner, Peta Murgatroyd, won "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC.

One year ago: President Barack Obama arrived in Vietnam, making him the third sitting president to visit the country since the end of the war. Madonna paid homage to Prince by wearing his signature color and bringing another icon — Stevie Wonder — onstage to sing the classic "Purple Rain" at the Billboard Music Awards. Veteran British director Ken Loach won his second Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for "I, Daniel Blake" — a stark portrayal of a disabled man's struggle with the crushing benefits system in northern England.

Today's Birthdays: Singer Charles Aznavour is 93. Actor Michael Constantine is 90. Conductor Peter Nero is 83. Actor-director Richard Benjamin is 79. Actor Frank Converse is 79. Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw is 77. Actress Barbara Parkins is 75. Retired MLB All-Star pitcher Tommy John is 74. Songwriter Bernie Taupin is 67. Actor-producer Al Corley is 62. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is 60. Singer Morrissey is 58. Actress Ann Cusack is 56. Country musician Dana Williams (Diamond Rio) is 56. Rock musician Jesse Valenzuela is 55. Actor Mark Christopher Lawrence is 53. Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is 52. Rhythm-and-blues singer Johnny Gill (New Edition) is 51. Rock musician Dan Roberts (Crash Test Dummies) is 50. Actress Brooke Smith is 50. Actor Michael Kelly is 48. Model Naomi Campbell is 47. Actress Anna Belknap is 45. Actress Alison Eastwood is 45. Singer Donell Jones is 44. Actor Sean Gunn is 43. Actress A.J. Langer is 43. Actress Ginnifer Goodwin is 39. Rhythm-and-blues Vivian Green is 38. Actress Maggie Q is 38. Olympic gold-medal speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno is 35. Actress Camren (cq) Bicondova is 18.

Thought for Today: "It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations." — Walter Bagehot, English editor and economist (1826-1877).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 20-21, 2017

Today in History - Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, May 21, the 141st day of 2017. There are 224 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 21, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis monoplane near Paris, completing the first solo airplane flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 33 1/2 hours.

On this date:

In 1542, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto died while searching for gold along the Mississippi River.

In 1881, Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.

In 1892, the opera "Pagliacci," by Ruggero Leoncavallo, premiered in Milan, Italy.

In 1917, the Great Atlanta Fire broke out, burning 300 acres, destroying nearly 2,000 buildings and displacing some 10,000 residents. Actor Raymond Burr ("Perry Mason") was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada.

In 1924, in a case that drew much notoriety, 14-year-old Bobby Franks was murdered in a "thrill killing" carried out by University of Chicago students Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb (Bobby's cousin).

In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean as she landed in Northern Ireland, about 15 hours after leaving Newfoundland.

In 1941, a German U-boat sank the American merchant steamship SS Robin Moor in the South Atlantic after the ship's passengers and crew were allowed to board lifeboats.

In 1945, actors Humphrey Bogart, 45, and Lauren Bacall, 20, were married at Malabar Farm in Lucas, Ohio (it was his fourth marriage, her first, and would last until Bogart's death in 1957).

In 1955, Chuck Berry recorded his first single, "Maybellene," for Chess Records in Chicago.

In 1972, Michelangelo's Pieta, on display at the Vatican, was damaged by a hammer-wielding man who shouted he was Jesus Christ.

In 1982, during the Falklands War, British amphibious forces landed on the beach at San Carlos Bay.

In 1991, former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during national elections by a suicide bomber.

Ten years ago: The Supreme Court ruled that parents didn't need to hire a lawyer in order to sue public school districts over their children's special education needs. The Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert for the diabetes drug Avandia, marketed by GlaxoSmithKline, which disputed a report saying it was linked to a greater risk of heart attack.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama and other world leaders meeting in Chicago locked in place an Afghanistan exit path that would keep their troops fighting there for two more years. Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi (dah-ROON' RAH'-vee), who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, who then committed suicide, was sentenced to 30 days in jail (he served 20 days). A Yemeni man detonated a bomb during a rehearsal for a military parade, killing 96 fellow soldiers; al-Qaida's branch in Yemen claimed responsibility. Grammy-winning polka great Eddie Blazonczyk, 70, died in Palos Heights, Illinois.

One year ago: President Barack Obama departed on a weeklong, 16,000-mile trip to Asia, part of his effort to pay more attention to the region and boost economic and security cooperation. The U.S. conducted a drone strike in Afghanistan that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour. Exaggerator seized the lead at the top of the stretch, splashing past a tiring Nyquist and went on for a 3 1/2-length victory over Cherry Wine in the Preakness.

Today's Birthdays: Rhythm-and-blues singer Ron Isley (The Isley Brothers) is 76. Rock musician Hilton Valentine (The Animals) is 74. Musician Bill Champlin is 70. Singer Leo Sayer is 69. Actress Carol Potter is 69. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is 66. Actor Mr. T is 65. Music producer Stan Lynch is 62. Actor Judge Reinhold is 60. Actor-director Nick Cassavetes is 58. Actor Brent Briscoe is 56. Actress Lisa Edelstein is 51. Actress Fairuza Balk is 43. Rock singer-musician Mikel Jollett (Airborne Toxic Event) is 43. Rapper Havoc (Mobb Deep) is 43. Actor Sunkrish Bala is 33. Actor David Ajala is 31. Actress Ashlie Brillault is 30. Country singer Cody Johnson is 30. Actor Scott Leavenworth is 27. Actress Sarah Ramos is 26.

Thought for Today: "Our present addiction to pollsters and forecasters is a symptom of our chronic uncertainty about the future.... We watch our experts read the entrails of statistical tables and graphs the way the ancients watched their soothsayers read the entrails of a chicken." — Eric Hoffer, American philosopher (1902-1983).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, Friday May 19. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Gregory Katz & David Keyton

London (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange no longer is the subject of an active rape investigation in Sweden, but he remains holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London facing an unclear future because of uncertainty over whether American authorities will try to get him handed over next.

Sweden's top prosecutor dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange on Friday, saying there was no way to detain or charge him "in the foreseeable future" because of his protected status inside the embassy.

Prosecutor Marianne Ny said she could not judge whether the 45-year-old Australian native was guilty or innocent because the investigation had been thwarted. Ny said the case could be reopened if Assange comes to Sweden before the statute of limitations expires in 2020.

British police said they would arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy on the relatively minor charge of jumping bail, but the more severe threat is a possible sealed U.S. indictment against him.

The sun-starved WikiLeaks provocateur, looking healthy if pale, emerged Friday afternoon to address the media in the open air of the embassy's balcony. He said the day marked an "important victory," but noted that he still could be prosecuted by the United States.

Assange also lashed out at Sweden for taking seven years to investigate allegations he maintained were baseless. His children had grown up without him, he said.

"That is not something I can forgive, or forget," he said, claiming he had suffered a "terrible injustice" while living under house arrest or hidden away inside the embassy without ever being charged with a crime.

Despite the welcome news from Sweden, police in London said Friday that Assange is still wanted there for jumping bail in 2012. More serious are the possible charges he faces in the United States for WikiLeaks' aggressive publication of thousands of pages of classified government documents.

Assange said his legal team would reach out to British authorities to try to find a way forward, and he said he would be "happy" to have a dialogue with the U.S. Department of Justice despite its threats against him.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly infuriated U.S. officials with the widespread release of sensitive secret documents related to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic relations around the world.

WikiLeaks also had a role in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign when it published emails written by Hillary Clinton's campaign officials.

U.S. and British officials Friday declined to say if the United States has requested Assange's extradition.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Guillaume Long, tweeted Friday that Britain "must now grant safe passage" to Assange. The South American country has granted him asylum, but it is not clear how Assange would travel there without the permission of British authorities.

Assange has spent nearly five years inside the Latin American country's London embassy, but he seemed robust and defiant in his brief balcony appearance. He did not take shouted questions from the reporters assembled outside and would not say if he plans to leave the embassy located in the posh Knightsbridge neighborhood.

The day began with the dramatic announcement in Sweden that the rape investigation was being suspended. But some experts said the development would put him in an even more precarious legal situation, if the U.S. has a sealed indictment for his arrest.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last month he would support any decision by the Justice Department to charge Assange.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suggested that the arrest of Assange could be an American priority, saying last month the U.S. was "stepping up our efforts on all leaks."

"We will seek to put some people in jail," Sessions said.

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning served seven years in prison for giving classified material to WikiLeaks. She was freed Wednesday, having had her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama before he left office.

British officials said they do not comment on individual extradition cases. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that "any decision that is taken about U.K. action in relation to him (Assange) would be an operational matter for the police."

WikiLeaks complained about the lack of clarity in Assange's legal situation.

"UK refuses to confirm or deny whether it has already received a US extradition warrant for Julian Assange. Focus now moves to UK," the group tweeted.

His supporters believe the sex crime allegations that have bedeviled Assange for years were politically motivated. They surfaced after the women accused Assange of sexual misconduct during a visit to Stockholm in 2010.

A lawyer for the woman who alleged she was raped by Assange said "it's a scandal that a suspected rapist can avoid the judicial system and thus avoid a trial in court."

Elisabeth Massi Fritz says her client is shocked by the Swedish decision but added that "she can't change her view that Assange has exposed her to a rape."

There were initially two separate allegations being investigated, but one was dropped in 2015 because the statute of limitations ran out. The rape allegation, the more serious claim, remained under investigation. Prosecutors were trying to determine, among other things, if Assange had sex with the woman while she was asleep and without using a condom.

Assange has said the sex was consensual.

British police said that since Assange is now wanted for a "much less serious offense" than the original sex crimes claims, police "will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense."

British police kept up a round-the-clock guard outside the embassy until December 2015, when the operation was scaled back partly because of the costs, which had exceeded 11 million pounds.


FBI probe moves into White House

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 18. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Erica Werner & Eileen Sullivan

Washington (AP) — President Donald Trump told Russian diplomats last week his firing of "nut job" James Comey had eased the pressure on him, even as the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation had moved into the White House, according to reports Friday that pursued the president as he began his maiden foreign trip.

White House hopes that Trump could leave scandalous allegations at home were crushed in a one-two punch of revelations that landed shortly after his departure. A Washington Post report, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, said a senior Trump adviser is now considered a "person of interest" in the law enforcement investigation into whether Trump's campaign associates coordinated with Russia in an effort to sway the 2016 election.

And The New York Times reported that the president had told Russian officials he felt the dismissal of his FBI director had relieved "great pressure" on him. The White House has said the firing was unrelated to the FBI's Russia investigation.

Late Friday, the Senate intelligence committee announced that Comey had agreed to testify at an open hearing at an undetermined date after Memorial Day.

Comey will certainly be asked about encounters that precipitated his firing, including a January dinner in which, Comey has told associates, Trump asked for his loyalty. In the Oval Office weeks later, Comey told associates, the president asked him to shut down an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey is known to produce memos documenting especially sensitive or unsettling encounters, such as after the February meeting.

Comey turned down an invitation to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The new headlines were a fresh indication that Trump would not be able to change the subject from what appears to be an intensifying investigation reaching toward the president and his inner circle.

The White House repeated its assertion that a "thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."

It did not deny the Times report that Trump was critical of Comey to the Russians the day after he fired him.

The Times reported Trump noted the Russia investigation as he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak of his decision to fire Comey.

"I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job," the Times reported that Trump said during the May 10 meeting. "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer called the president's rhetoric part of his deal-making.

"By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia," Spicer said. "The investigation would have always continued, and obviously the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations."

As for the separate report of a "person of interest" under investigation, the Post said the senior White House adviser "under scrutiny" is someone close to the president but did not name the person.

Among Trump's senior White House advisers are several former campaign officials, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway. In March, Kushner volunteered to answer lawmakers' questions about meetings he had with Russian officials during the transition.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would not discuss information provided in classified briefings and said the House Oversight committee had already asked for documents related to Comey's firing.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the federal investigation in an effort to re-establish independence from the White House.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress Friday he stands by a memo he wrote bluntly criticizing Comey. But he made clear it was not his intention for Trump or other White House officials to use the document to justify firing Comey, which is what they have done.

In closed-door meetings with lawmakers on Thursday and Friday, Rosenstein said he wrote the memo after Trump told him one day before the May 9 firing that he wanted to dismiss Comey. Rosenstein said that though he was personally fond of Comey, "I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader."

The Justice Department on Friday released the text of Rosenstein's opening remarks for the briefings on Capitol Hill.

Trump has said he plans to nominate a new FBI director soon, but there was no announcement Friday.

The appointment of Mueller as special counsel has drawn generally favorable comments from Democrats and from some Republicans as well. But lawmakers at both congressional sessions expressed frustration that Rosenstein would say little in answer to their questions about his actions — or others' — before Comey's firing.

"There was considerable frustration in the room," said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a member of the Armed Services Committee. "This renewed my confidence that we should not have confidence in this administration. I don't think (Rosenstein) did a lot to bolster our confidence in him today."

The White House has struggled since Comey's firing to explain the chain of events that led to it and the Justice Department's involvement in that decision. Trump has insisted at times that the decision was his alone, but he also has pointed to the "very strong" recommendation from Rosenstein.

Rosenstein made it clear to the lawmakers that he drafted his memo only after Trump told him of his plans to dismiss the FBI director. "My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination," he said. But he added, "I wrote it. I believe it. I stand by it."

The memo focused on Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, particularly the FBI director's decision to divulge details to the public at various junctures during her presidential campaign against Trump. Rosenstein denounced that decision as "profoundly wrong and unfair."

Trump has reacted furiously to the appointment of a special counsel, a prosecutor with wide authority to investigate Russia's interference and other potential crimes uncovered. However, at a combative news conference Thursday, he fell short in trying to resolve questions about investigations into his campaign and his first four months in office.

Asked point-blank if he'd done anything that might merit prosecution or even impeachment, Trump said no — and then added of the lingering allegations and questions: "I think it's totally ridiculous. Everybody thinks so."


China, Japan extract combustible ice from seafloor

This May 16, 2017 photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency shows gas flaring out from a drilling platform that extracted natural gas from combustible ice trapped under the seafloor of the South China Sea. (Liang Xu/Xinhua via AP)

Matthew Brown

Beijing (AP) — Commercial development of the globe's huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as "combustible ice" has moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the seafloor off their coastlines.

But experts said Friday that large-scale production remains many years away — and if not done properly could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas. Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world's most abundant fossil fuels.

The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the fuel was successfully mined by a drilling rig operating in the South China Sea on Thursday. Chinese Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming declared the event a breakthrough moment heralding a potential "global energy revolution."

A drilling crew in Japan reported a similar successful operation two weeks earlier, on May 4 offshore the Shima Peninsula.

For Japan, methane hydrate offers the chance to reduce its heavy reliance of imported fuels if it can tap into reserves off its coastline. In China, it could serve as a cleaner substitute for coal-burning power plants and steel factories that have polluted much of the country with lung-damaging smog.

The South China Sea has become a focal point of regional political tensions as China has claimed huge swaths of disputed territory as its own. Previous sea oil exploration efforts by China met resistance, especially from Vietnam, but its methane hydrate operation was described as being outside the most hotly contested areas.

Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice. The United States and India also have research programs pursuing technologies to capture the fuel.

Estimates of worldwide reserves range from 280 trillion cubic meters (10,000 trillion cubic feet) up to 2,800 trillion cubic meters (100,000 trillion cubic feet), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By comparison, total worldwide production of natural gas was 3.5 billion cubic meters (124 billion cubic feet) in 2015, the most recent year available.

That means methane hydrate reserves could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates.

Yet efforts to successfully extract the fuel at a profit have eluded private and state-owned energy companies for decades. That's in part because of the high cost of extraction techniques, which can use large amounts of water or carbon dioxide to flood methane hydrate reserves so the fuel can be released and brought to the surface.

Japan first extracted some of the material in 2013 but ended the effort due to sand from the seafloor clogging machinery, according to the country's Ministry of Economy Trade and Tourism.

There are also environmental concerns.

If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions. The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power, said David Sandalow, a former senior official with the U.S. State Department now at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy.

However, if it can be used without leaking, it has the potential to replace dirtier coal in the power sector.

"The climate implications of producing natural gas hydrates are complicated. There are potential benefits, but substantial risks," Sandalow said.

Commercial-scale production could be "transformative for northeast Asia, particularly for Japan, which imports nearly all its hydrocarbon needs," said James Taverner, a senior energy industry researcher at IHS Market, a London-based consulting firm.

The consensus within the industry is that commercial development won't happen until at least 2030. Smaller scale output could happen as early as 2020, said Tim Collett, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

"The path to understanding when or if gas hydrates will be commercially produced will need many similar and more extended testing efforts," Collett said.


NKorea vows to strengthen nukes as US increases pressure

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the Pentagon, Friday, May 19. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Edith M. Lederer & Matthew Pennington

United Nations (AP) — The U.S. defense chief warned Friday that a military solution to the standoff with North Korea would be "tragic on an unbelievable scale," while the North vowed to rapidly strengthen its nuclear-strike capability as long as it faces a "hostile" U.S. policy.

North Korea tested a longer-range missile last weekend, which experts say was a significant advance for a weapons program that aims at having a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike America. The test triggered a new U.S.-backed push for a fresh round of U.N. sanctions against the North.

At the United Nations, North Korea's deputy ambassador, Kim In Ryong, was defiant. He said North Korea would never abandon its "nuclear deterrence for self-defense and pre-emptive strike capability" even if the U.S. ratchets up sanctions and pressure "to the utmost."

Speaking to reporters, Kim hailed the test launch and said that if the Trump administration wants peace on the divided Korean Peninsula, it should replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a peace accord and halt its anti-North Korea policy.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile test showed North Korea isn't heeding cautions from the international community. However, he stressed the need for a peaceful resolution by working through the U.N. with countries including China, the North's traditional ally and benefactor.

"If this goes to a military solution it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale, and so our effort is to work with the U.N., work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to try to find a way out of this situation," Mattis said at a news conference.

He said North Korea "probably learned a lot" from last weekend's test. He said the missile went very high and came down, but he would not characterize it as demonstrating the controlled re-entry of a missile.

Guiding a long-range missile to a target on return to Earth is a key technological hurdle that North Korea must overcome in trying to perfect a missile that could threaten the United States. The North also probably has a way to go before it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead to mount on such a missile.

All 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, the world organization's most powerful body, this week called the launch a violation of existing sanctions and vowed to take new measures, including additional sanctions.

Before an emergency meeting of the council Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley declared: "You either support North Korea or you don't, but you have to choose. You have to pick a side."

Kim accused the council of playing "to the tune of the U.S. again" and protested the Trump administration's demand for countries to choose allegiance between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, his country's official name.

President Donald Trump is looking to both China and Russia, the two permanent members on the Security Council that have historically been most sympathetic to North Korea, to join the U.S.-backed campaign of diplomatic and economic pressure on the North to get it to denuclearize.

Asked about Beijing and Moscow's support for the six previous rounds of U.N. sanctions, Kim said both countries are "close neighbors" who "understand our nuclear projection occurred through the U.S. continued nuclear threat and its hostile policy" toward North Korea.

If the United States "persists in anti-DPRK sanctions without understanding its rival, the (Trump) administration will have to take full responsibility for the ensuing catastrophic consequences," he warned.

"The U.S. should mind that the DPRK nuclear striking capability will be strengthened and developed at a rapidly high speed as long as the U.S. insists (on) its anti-DPRK policy, nasty nuclear threats and blackmails, sanction and pressure," Kim said.


Today in History - Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, May 20, the 140th day of 2017. There are 225 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, aboard the Spirit of St. Louis on his historic solo flight to France.

On this date:

In 1506, explorer Christopher Columbus died in Spain.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which was intended to encourage settlements west of the Mississippi River by making federal land available for farming.

In 1902, the United States ended a three-year military presence in Cuba as the Republic of Cuba was established under its first elected president, Tomas Estrada Palma.

In 1932, Amelia Earhart took off from Newfoundland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. (Because of weather and equipment problems, Earhart set down in Northern Ireland instead of her intended destination, France.)

In 1941, during World War II, the Office of Civilian Defense was established.

In 1942, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra recorded "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo" at Victor Studios in Hollywood.

In 1956, the United States exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific.

In 1957, Frank Sinatra recorded the song "Witchcraft" by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh at Capitol Records in Hollywood.

In 1961, a white mob attacked a busload of Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Alabama, prompting the federal government to send in U.S. marshals to restore order.

In 1970, some 100,000 people demonstrated in New York's Wall Street district in support of U.S. policy in Vietnam and Cambodia.

In 1989, actress-comedian Gilda Radner died in Los Angeles at age 42.

In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Romer v. Evans, struck down, 6-3, a Colorado measure banning laws that protected homosexuals from discrimination.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush welcomed NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (yahp duh hohp SKEHF'-ur) to his Crawford, Texas, ranch, to review strategy on a flurry of issues. A gunman took his own life following a rampage in Moscow, Idaho, that killed three victims, including his wife. A pair of investment firms agreed to acquire Alltel Corp. in a deal worth $27.5 billion. (Alltel was later acquired by Verizon Wireless and AT&T.)

Five years ago: A two-day NATO summit hosted by President Barack Obama opened in Chicago. Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Chicago, airing grievances about war, climate change and a wide range of other complaints. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi (AHB'-dehl BAH'-seht AH'-lee ahl-meh-GRAH'-hee), 60, the only man convicted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, died in Tripoli, Libya. Robin Gibb, 62, who along with his brothers Maurice and Barry, defined the disco era as part of the Bee Gees, died in London.

One year ago: A U.S. Secret Service officer shot a man with a gun who had approached a checkpoint outside the White House and refused to drop his weapon; Jesse Olivieri of Ashland, Pennsylvania, was later sentenced to eight months' confinement. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (MOH'-shuh YAH'-uh-lohn) announced his resignation, saying the governing party had been taken over by "extremist and dangerous elements" and that he no longer trusted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Today's Birthdays: Actor-author James McEachin is 87. Actor Anthony Zerbe is 81. Actor David Proval is 75. Singer-actress Cher is 71. Actor-comedian Dave Thomas is 69. Rock musician Warren Cann is 67. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is 66. Former New York Gov. David Paterson is 63. Actor Dean Butler is 61. TV-radio personality Ron Reagan is 59. Rock musician Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go's) is 59. Actor Bronson Pinchot is 58. Singer Susan Cowsill is 58. Actor John Billingsley is 57. Actor Tony Goldwyn is 57. Singer Nick Heyward is 56. TV personality Ted Allen is 52. Actress Mindy Cohn is 51. Rock musician Tom Gorman (Belly) is 51. Actress Gina Ravera is 51. Actor Timothy Olyphant is 49. Race car driver Tony Stewart is 46. Rapper Busta Rhymes is 45. Actress Daya Vaidya is 44. Rock musician Ryan Martinie is 42. Actor Matt Czuchry (zoo-KREE') is 40. Actress Angela Goethals is 40. Actress-singer Naturi Naughton is 33. Country singer Jon Pardi is 32.

Thought for Today: "Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality." — Theodor W. Adorno, German philosopher (1903-1969).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 19, 2017

US airstrike hits pro-Syria government forces for first time

USAF aircraft struck pro-Syrian government forces on Thursday, May 18. (AP Photo)

Sarah el Deeb & Lolita C. Baldor

Beirut (AP) — A U.S. airstrike struck pro-Syrian government forces that the coalition said posed a threat to American troops and allied rebels operating near the border with Jordan on Thursday, the first such close confrontation between U.S. forces and fighters backing President Bashar Assad.

The coalition said "apparent" Russian attempts to stop pro-Assad forces from moving toward Tanf, as well as warning shots and a show of force, had failed.

American officials and Syrian activists said the strike hit in the desert near the border with Jordan, though it was unclear if it struck the Syrian army or just militias allied with the government.

The region around Tanf, where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq meet, has been considered a de-conflicted zone, under an agreement between the U.S. and Russia.

Speaking to reporters, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. will defend its troops in case of "aggressive" steps against them. He was asked if the airstrike increases the U.S. role in the Syrian war.

"We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war, but we will defend our troops," Mattis said. "And that is a coalition element made up of more than just U.S. troops, and so we will defend ourselves (if) people take aggressive steps against us."

The "defensive" strike was also an apparent signal to Assad to keep his forces out of a zone where U.S.-backed rebels are fighting the Islamic State group.

"This action was taken after apparent Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement south ... were unsuccessful, a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots," the U.S.-led coalitions aid. It said coalition forces have been operating in the area "for many months training and advising vetted partner forces" in the battle against IS.

The U.S. strike marks a new approach in what has become an intensely crowded and complicated war zone. Thursday's strike was the coalition's first on pro-Assad forces in the battlefield. The coalition had so far kept its military operations focused on Islamic State militants and al-Qaida-linked groups.

Last month, the U.S. fired 59 missiles at a government air base in central Syria as punishment for a chemical attack blamed on Assad's forces that killed nearly 90 people.

An increasingly visible U.S. role in Syria has also raised the possibilities of friction with the various forces on the ground. The U.S. is backing Syrian Kurdish forces who are also fighting IS to the country's east. US troops have sent patrols in the area to act as a buffer between Turkish troops and the Kurdish fighters. Turkey views the U.S-backed Kurdish fighters as an extension of its own insurgent group.

In recent days, near the border with Jordan, another set of U.S-backed rebel fighters have been on a collision course with government troops in the area of Tanf.

The government launched a new offensive in recent days in the area, and activists say pro-government militiamen, mainly from Iran and the Lebanese Shiite militant Hezbollah group, have deployed there aiming to secure the main highway that runs from Damascus to Baghdad and beyond, to Tehran.

Tensions have been building as part of a race for control of territory stretching from the provincial capital of Deir el-Zour in northeastern Syria to the Iraq border. The area gained attention as the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul escalated in recent weeks. An estimated 10,000 IS fighters uprooted from Mosul are believed to be massing in the border area.

The U.S. officials said the American airstrike hit the pro-Syrian government forces as they were setting up fighting positions in a protected area near Tanf. They said a tank and a bulldozer were also hit.

One official said the pro-regime forces had entered a so-called "de-confliction" zone without authorization and were perceived as a threat to U.S.-allied troops there. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

A Syrian opposition media group, the Palmyra News Network, said the attack occurred at the Zarka juncture, about 27 kilometers (17 miles) from the border, destroyed a number of vehicles and caused casualties. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the strike destroyed vehicles and killed eight militiamen. There was no immediate comment from the pro-government side.

In September 2016, the coalition erroneously struck at Syrian government troops in Deir el-Zour, killing over 90 soldiers. The U.S. at the time said it was a mistake, as it was targeting IS positions.

Further to the north, IS militants on Thursday attacked several government-held villages in central Syria, capturing at least one and killing 52 people. The dead included more than two dozen women and children, some of whom were beheaded, as well as Syrian troops, according to state media, medical officials and an opposition monitoring group.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish-rebels are closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS in Syria. That battle has already caused clashes between government forces and Syrian rebels and raised concern of pro-government militias making a bid for controlling the border with Iraq.

The IS attack in the central Hama province, meanwhile, targeted villages where most residents belong to the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam, raising fears of massacres such as those the Islamic State group carried out in other minority communities in Syria and Iraq.

The villages are located near the town of Salamiyeh and the highway that links the capital, Damascus, to the northern city of Aleppo, but state media said traffic was not affected. Media reports and doctors in the area said some of the killed, which included women and children, were beheaded and others dismembered. IS extremists are notorious for mutilating bodies of their adversaries, particularly members of other sects than Sunni Islam.

The militants stormed homes in the southern part of Aqareb al-Safi village before government forces pushed them back into the desert, the state news agency SANA reported.

The head of the National Hospital in Salamiyeh, Dr. Noufal Safar, said it received 52 bodies, including 11 women and 17 children.

Some of the bodies were badly mutilated, beheaded or had their limbs severed but "most appear to have died as a result of gunfire," Safar told The Associated Press by telephone.

Rami Razzouk, a coroner at the hospital who inspected the bodies, said those of children were brought in mostly dismembered while the men had died from shelling or heavy machine-gun fire. He said at least nine children were beaten on the head with heavy objects such as bricks or stones.

The Observatory also said that 52 people were killed in the fighting, with the dead including 15 civilians, 27 Syrian soldiers and 10 unidentified people.

Razzouk said 120 people were wounded; SANA said 40 were wounded.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said the militants captured villages of Aqareb al-Safi and Mabouja. It identified residents as members of Assad's Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam. The Sunni extremists view Shiites as apostates deserving of death.

IS has massacred thousands of Shiites and other opponents in Syria and Iraq, often boasting about the killings and circulating photos and videos of them online. Aamaq claimed that 100 Syrian troops and pro-government gunmen were killed in the fighting.

"Dozens of people are missing but it is not clear if they were kidnapped" by IS, the Observatory's chief Rami Abdurrahman said.


Car mows down Times Square pedestrians, killing 1

A car rests on a security barrier in New York's Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians, injuring more than 20 people and killing one, Thursday, May 18. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Colleen Long & Tom Hays

New York (AP) — A man steered his car onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square and mowed down pedestrians for three blocks Thursday, killing a teenager, then emerged from his wrecked vehicle wild-eyed and waving his arms before he was subdued by police and bystanders.

The driver, a 26-year-old U.S. Navy veteran, told officers he was hearing voices and expected to die, two law enforcement officials said.

Helpless pedestrians had little time to react as the car barreled down the sidewalk and through intersections before smashing into a row of steel security barriers installed in recent years to prevent vehicle attacks on the square where massive crowds gather every New Year's Eve. The car came to rest with its two right wheels in the air.

"He didn't stop," said Asa Lowe, of Brooklyn, who was standing outside a store when he heard screaming as people scattered. "He just kept going."

Police said 23 people were hit by the car, including an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan who died. The woman's 13-year-old sister was among the injured.

A fire department chief, Mark Foris, was at an unrelated elevator rescue when he saw the car speed by.

"This is more than just a car accident," he thought as he walked among bleeding victims.

The carnage raised immediate fears of terrorism, fueled by recent attacks in England, France and Germany in which vehicles plowed through crowds of pedestrians. But investigators quickly turned their focus to the sobriety and mental health of the driver, identified as Bronx resident Richard Rojas.

"There is no indication that this was an act of terrorism," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Photographers snapped pictures of Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street before he was tackled by a group that included a ticket seller and a muscular door supervisor at a nearby Planet Hollywood restaurant.

Rojas initially tested negative for alcohol, but more detailed testing was being done to determine if he was high, according to two law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

The officials said Rojas told officers he had been hearing voices.

A week ago, Rojas was arrested and charged with pointing a knife at a notary, whom he accused of stealing his identity. He pleaded guilty to a harassment violation.

He was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in 2008 and 2015, police Commissioner James O'Neill said. He pleaded guilty to an infraction in 2015 and was ordered to complete a drunken-driving program and lost his license for 90 days.

In previous arrests, he told authorities he believed he was being harassed and followed, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Police identified the woman killed by the car as Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan.

Elsman graduated last year from Portage Northern High School.

"If you didn't know her, you might think she's reserved or shy," school principal Eric Alburtus said. "But if you could talk to her for a minute, you'd realize she was engaging. She was bright. She was funny."

In the Bronx, neighborhood acquaintances said Rojas was a friendly man who had been having problems. Harrison Ramos said Rojas wasn't the same when he came back from active duty in 2014.

"He's been going through a real tough time," he said.

Rojas enlisted in the Navy in 2011 and was an electrician's mate fireman apprentice. In 2012 he served aboard the U.S.S. Carney, a destroyer.

Navy records show that in 2013 he spent two months at a naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina. They don't indicate why.

Rojas was based at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida, before being discharged in 2014 as the result of a special court martial, a Navy official said. Details were not immediately available.

Thursday's mayhem began at noon on a hot, clear day that brought large crowds of people into the streets to enjoy the good weather.

Police said Rojas had been driving south on Seventh Avenue when he made a quick U-turn at 42nd Street and drove up the sidewalk for three blocks, passing tourist draws like the Hard Rock Cafe and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant.

Security camera video showed people being flung in bunches over the car's hood.

"People just got stunned," said Bruno Carvalho, a student at SUNY Albany. "I don't think there was actually time for screaming."

As Rojas ran from his wrecked vehicle, Ken Bradix, a door supervisor at Planet Hollywood, struck him to get him to stop. Alpha Balde, who works in the square selling sightseeing tour tickets, said he and Bradix jumped on top of Rojas and held him until police took over.

Planet Hollywood said Bradix "selflessly and heroically took action, helping to stop the fleeing suspect."

The White House said President Donald Trump was informed of the situation in Times Square and would continue to be briefed as it unfolded.

The apartment building where Rojas lives was cordoned off by police Thursday. It was unclear when Rojas, who was in custody, would get a lawyer or face formal charges in court.

The sidewalks in many parts of Times Square and surrounding blocks are lined with metal posts designed to prevent cars from getting onto the sidewalks and other public areas.

That network of barricades, though, is far from a complete defense. There are many areas where vehicles could be driven onto packed sidewalks or public plazas.

Sunita Prasad and her family, visiting from Guyana, were marveling at the sights when the car came toward them.

She pushed her children, 3 and 6, out of its path. But an uncle was struck on the head by a pole dislodged by the vehicle, relatives said as they left the hospital where he was being treated.

"We were just touring, seeing how beautiful Times Square was," Prasad said. "And this came."


Brazil's Temer won't resign amid corruption allegations

Brazil's President Michel Temer says he will fight allegations that he endorsed the paying of hush money to an ex-lawmaker jailed for corruption, during a national address at the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, May 18. (AP Photo/Ricardo Botelho)

Rio de Janeiro (AP) — Brazilian President Michel Temer on Thursday rejected calls for his resignation, saying he will fight allegations that he endorsed the paying of hush money to a former lawmaker jailed for corruption.

Even in this country weary from the constant drip of revelations of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, the incendiary accusation set off a firestorm and Brazil's highest court opened an investigation. Stocks and the currency plunged and rumors circulated that Temer would step down.

Instead, the embattled leader remained defiant in a national address to respond to allegations he was recorded endorsing payments to former lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha. The existence and the contents of the recording were reported Wednesday night by the Globo newspaper.

"At no time did I authorize the paying of anyone," Temer said emphatically, raising his voice and pounding his index finger against the podium. "I did not buy anybody's silence."

"I will not resign," he said.

The Supreme Federal Tribunal opened an investigation into the accusations and lifted the seal on the recording. Globo then posted the nearly 39-minute recording, which is scratchy and often inaudible.

In it, two men can be heard talking about Cunha, who is now serving a sentence on corruption charges but many believe could still provide damaging testimony about dozens of other politicians. Globo's report said they are Temer and JBS meat-packing company executive Joesley Batista.

One man, who is apparently Temer, complains that Cunha could potentially embarrass him.

"Within my limits, I did the most I could there. I settled everything," responds the other man, apparently Batista. "He came and collected, etc., etc., etc. I am good with Eduardo, OK?"

The first man then says: "You have to keep that up, see?" To which the second man responds: "Every month."

Even before the audio was released, Thursday began in a panic after Globo's report.

Within 90 minutes of the opening, Brazil's main Ibovespa stock index dropped 10 percent and trading was stopped for 30 minutes. Brazil's currency, the real, lost 8 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, according to the Central Bank's closing figure. Congress cancelled its sessions, including suspending work on legislation that Temer's administration hopes will pull Latin America's largest economy out of its worst recession in decades.

The pressure built against Temer throughout the day. There was talk that Cabinet ministers were considering quitting their posts, and the culture minister did step down by day's end. Opposition politicians called for his impeachment. Two small allied parties pulled their support for Temer in Congress.

"There are parties leaving his base, ministers leaving the Cabinet. Even if the recordings don't show something that terrible, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube," said Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, a Sao Paulo-based university and think tank. "If Temer doesn't fall, he will lead a walking dead administration."

In the evening, a protest of several thousand people in Rio de Janeiro was broken up when men in masks threw objects at police, who responded with tear gas. In Sao Paulo, the nation's largest city, hundreds of protesters gathered on a main avenue to demand Temer go.

"After the contents of the tape became public, there's no other way out for Temer than to leave," said Augusto Tadeki, a 23-year-old unemployed computer technician. "He either has to resign or he'll be impeached. We will stay here; we will demonstrate every day until he leaves."

Five of the top 10 trending topics in Brazil on Twitter were related to the scandal, including the subject "Temer will resign." Many Brazilians expressed shock on social media when Temer finally spoke Thursday night and said he would stay in power.

"Michel Temer is like that boyfriend who doesn't know it's over," one Twitter user said.

Since its start three years ago, the "Car Wash" investigation into a kickback scheme at oil giant Petrobras has revealed a scale of corruption that has shocked even the most cynical Brazilians and put several top businessmen and politicians in jail. In recent months, the probe has moved closer to the president and his circle.

Globo also reported that Sen. Aecio Neves had been recorded asking Batista for $700,000 to pay for his defense in the "Car Wash" corruption probe.

On Thursday, police searched Neves' Rio de Janeiro home and Brasilia office, and Brazil's highest court suspended him from office. Neves, who nearly won the presidency in 2014 and planned to run again next year, has denied wrongdoing.

According to the Globo report, Batista secretly recorded the conversations with Temer and Neves and gave them to justice officials as part of plea bargain negotiations. Globo did not say how it obtained the recording.

In a statement Thursday, Batista acknowledged his company had made a mistake and apologized. He promised not to tolerate corruption going forward.

If confirmed, the allegations could prove devastating for Temer, whose administration has lurched from one crisis to another since he took office just over a year ago after Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed as president. Temer's approval ratings are hovering around 10 percent.

In April, it came to light that eight of his Cabinet ministers were being investigated in cases related to bribery or accepting campaign donations from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, one of the central businesses implicated in the kickback scheme at Petrobras.

"I can't see how Temer survives this," said David Fleischer, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia. "There are just too many people against him now."


Lauded rocker Chris Cornell killed himself by hanging

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden is shown performing in this May 19, 2013 file photo. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP)

Mesfin Fekadu & Corey Williams

Detroit (AP) — Chris Cornell, one of the most lauded and respected contemporary lead singers in rock music with his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, hanged himself Wednesday in a Detroit hotel room, according to the city's medical examiner. He was 52.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office said Thursday it completed the preliminary autopsy on Cornell, but that "a full autopsy report has not yet been completed." A police spokesman told two Detroit newspapers that the singer was found with a band around his neck.

Cornell's death stunned his family and his die-hard fans, who Cornell just performed for hours earlier at a show in Detroit. Soundgarden's current tour kicked off in late April and was planned to run through May 27. He was found dead at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel by a family friend who went to his room after Cornell's wife asked him to check on the singer, police said.

Cornell was a leader of the grunge movement with Seattle-based Soundgarden — with whom he gained critical and commercial acclaim — but also found success outside the band with other projects, including Audioslave, Temple of the Dog as well as solo albums. He was widely respected in the music industry: He reached success in every band lineup he was part of, his voice was memorable and powerful, and he was a skilled songwriter, even collaborating on a number of film soundtracks, including the James Bond theme song for 2006's "Casino Royale" and "The Keeper" from the film "Machine Gun Preacher," which earned Cornell a Golden Globe nomination.

"To create the intimacy of an acoustic performance there needed to be real stories. They need to be kind of real and they need to have a beginning, middle and an end," Cornell said of songwriting in a 2015 interview with The Associated Press. "That's always a challenge in three in a half or four minutes — to be able to do that, to be able to do it directly."

Cornell, who grew up in Seattle, said he started using drugs at age 13 and was kicked out of school at 15.

"I went from being a daily drug user at 13 to having bad drug experiences and quitting drugs by the time I was 14 and then not having any friends until the time I was 16," he told Rolling Stone in 1994. "There was about two years where I was more or less agoraphobic and didn't deal with anybody, didn't talk to anybody, didn't have any friends at all. All the friends that I had were still (messed) up with drugs and were people that I didn't really have anything in common with."

But at 16 he grew serious about music, learning to play the drums while also working as a busboy and dishwasher.

"That was the toughest time in my life," he told Rolling Stone.

He eventually became a Grammy winner with Soundgarden, formed in 1984 and coming out of the rapidly growing Seattle music scene, which included Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains.

"There's something about Seattle, it's always been a hard rock town, too. I didn't realize growing up as kid that Seattle had much more of a hard rock focus and a guitar rock focus than other cities did," Cornell told the AP in 2011. "It was like a Detroit, only northwest kind of. There's no reason that I would think I know how to define it, but it's always been there."

The band, which had released hit songs and found success, marked a mainstream breakthrough with "Superunknown," its 1994 album that won them two Grammys, sold more than five million units in the U.S., and launched five hits, including "Black Hole Sun," one of the most popular alternative rock songs from the 1990s.

The group, formed with guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Hiro Yamamoto, broke up in 1997.

In 2001, Cornell joined Audioslave, a supergroup that included former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. The band released three albums in six years and also performed at a concert billed as Cuba's first outdoor rock concert by an American band, though some Cuban artists have disputed that claim.

Audioslave disbanded in 2007, but Cornell and Soundgarden reunited in 2010 and released the band's sixth studio album, "King Animal" in 2012.

Cornell also collaborated with members of what would become Pearl Jam to form Temple of the Dog, which produced a self-titled album in 1991 in tribute to friend Andrew Wood, former frontman of Mother Love Bone. In 2011, Cornell was ranked ninth on Rolling Stone list of the best lead singers of all-time, selected by its readers.

He also released solo albums, and Nielsen Music said as a band member and solo act, the singer sold almost 15 million albums and 8.8 million digital songs in the U.S.

His first solo album, 1999's "Euphoria Morning," was a dark album that was initially supposed to be titled "Euphoria Mourning."

"It was a pretty dark album lyrically and pretty depressing, and I was going through a really difficult time in my life — my band wasn't together anymore, my marriage was falling apart and I was dealing with it by drinking way too much, and that has its own problems, particularly with depression," he told Rolling Stone in 2015.

Cornell referenced death — and suicide — in 2007 interview with the AP when discussing his single, "No Such Thing." It appeared on his second solo album, "Carry On."

"The 'no such thing as nothing' line comes from the concepts that humans don't really have a flat line until we're dead. If we are not leading a happy productive life, we are leading probably an unhappy non-productive life. If a person doesn't have enough food, they actually are hungry. If they don't have enough money it's not that they have no money, they actually have something and it's called poverty. There's no just kind of flat lining coasting. You're either going in one direction or in another direction. All that came out of me trying to imagine why somebody would be, for example, a suicide bomber."

The music industry mourned his sudden death online. Elton John tweeted, "Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of @chriscornell. A great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man."

KEXP, Seattle's popular independent radio station, paid tribute to Cornell throughout Thursday morning. The station played non-stop songs from Soundgarden and Cornell's other bands and solo work, as well as artists who covered Cornell's material and those who were influenced by him.

"Seattle's son, Chris Cornell, has passed away," DJ John Richards told listeners.


UN court orders Pakistan not to execute Indian national

Dr. Deepak Mittal, joint secretary of India's Ministry of External Affairs, left, and Moazzam Ahmad Khan, head of Pakistan's delegation and ambassador, second right, wait for judges to enter and read the World Court's verdict in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, May 18. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Mike Corder

The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — The International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Pakistan not to execute an Indian naval officer convicted of espionage and terrorism, a case that has further strained relations between the Asian neighbors.

The officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, was convicted in Pakistan and sentenced to death on April 10. The U.N. court ruled unanimously that Pakistan shouldn't put Jadhav to death until India's allegation that Pakistan breached his right to consular assistance is legally resolved.

"Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr. Jadhav is not executed," court President Ronny Abraham said at a hearing in the ornate Great Hall of Justice in The Hague.

India welcomed the ruling.

"I personally was very relieved and I'm sure every Indian is relieved to hear this order," Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Gopal Baglay said.

Baglay said it means that until the court issues a final decision in the case, "Sri Kulbhushan Jadhav cannot be executed by Pakistan."

Jadhav's friends and family in the city of Mumbai celebrated the decision by setting off firecrackers and distributing candy.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, and Jadhav's death sentence has further strained ties.

Pakistan sought to play down the significance of the order, saying in a written statement that, "the court's decision today has not changed the status of Commander Jadhav's case in any manner."

The foreign ministry statement said Jadhav "still has ample time to petition for clemency."

In court on Monday, India called Jadhav's trial a "serious miscarriage of justice" because he wasn't allowed to see Indian diplomats or choose his own defense lawyer. Indian lawyers argued that the restrictions amounted to a breach of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Pakistan argued that Jadhav's rights weren't breached and that the court didn't need to issue an urgent order to stay his execution because it wasn't imminent.

A lawyer for Pakistan added that a bilateral agreement allows either country to decide on consular access in cases involving "political or security" issues.

Pakistani representative Mohammad Faisal on Monday showed judges a copy of an Indian passport he said Jadhav was carrying at the time of his detention. It bore the name Hussein Mubarak Patel, which was an "obvious indication of covert and illegal activity," Faisal said.

He said Jadhav "has confessed to having been sent by India to wage terror on the innocent civilians and infrastructure of Pakistan."

The case will take months or years to settle at the United Nations' highest judicial organ, so judges issued Thursday's order to ensure that Jadhav isn't executed before the case ends.

"I assure the nation that under the leadership of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi we will leave no stone unturned" to save Jadhav, India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.

Rulings by the court are final and binding on the countries involved.


Today in History - Friday, May 19, 2017

 The Associated Press

Today is Friday, May 19, the 139th day of 2017. There are 226 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 19, 1927, the silent movie "Wings," a World War I drama starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen, had its world premiere in San Antonio, Texas, where it had been filmed. ("Wings" would go on to win the first Academy Award for best picture.)

On this date:

In 1536, Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England's King Henry VIII, was beheaded after being convicted of adultery.

In 1780, a mysterious darkness enveloped much of New England and part of Canada in the early afternoon.

In 1913, California Gov. Hiram Johnson signed the Webb-Hartley Law prohibiting "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning farm land, a measure targeting Asian immigrants, particularly Japanese.

In 1935, T.E. Lawrence, also known as "Lawrence of Arabia," died in Dorset, England, six days after being injured in a motorcycle crash.

In 1943, in his second wartime address to the U.S. Congress, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill pledged his country's full support in the fight against Japan.

In 1958, British actor Ronald Colman died in Santa Barbara, California, at age 67.

In 1962, actress Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday to You" to President John F. Kennedy during a Democratic fundraiser at New York's Madison Square Garden.

In 1967, the Soviet Union ratified a treaty banning nuclear and other weapons from outer space as well as celestial bodies such as the moon. (The treaty entered into force in Oct. 1967.)

In 1977, in what became known as the "Girl in the Box" case, 20-year-old Colleen Stan, hitchhiking her way to a party in northern California, was abducted by a couple she'd accepted a ride from and imprisoned as a sex slave for the next seven years.

In 1981, five British soldiers were killed by an Irish Republican Army landmine in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

In 1992, in a case that drew much notoriety, Mary Jo Buttafuoco (buh-tuh-FYOO'-koh) of Massapequa, New York, was shot and seriously wounded by her husband Joey's teenage lover, Amy Fisher. Vice President Dan Quayle sparked controversy by publicly criticizing the CBS sitcom "Murphy Brown" for having its title character, played by Candice Bergen, decide to become a single mother.

In 1994, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis died in New York at age 64.

Ten years ago: Group of Eight financial officials wrapped up two days of talks in Germany by calling for more aid, increased debt relief and responsible lending to Africa. Curlin nipped Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense to win the Preakness Stakes.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama and other G-8 leaders held economic talks at Camp David, where they declared that their governments needed to both spark growth and cut debt. Chen Guangcheng (chehn gwahng-chung), a blind Chinese legal activist, was hurriedly taken from a hospital and put on a plane for the United States, closing a nearly monthlong diplomatic tussle that had tested U.S.-China relations. I'll Have Another overtook Bodemeister down the stretch to win the Preakness, two weeks after claiming the Kentucky Derby. (A tendon injury forced I'll Have Another into retirement on the eve of the Belmont Stakes.)

One year ago: An EgyptAir jetliner en route from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard swerved wildly in flight before crashing into the Mediterranean Sea; the cause has yet to be officially determined, although a bomb is suspected. Veteran "60 Minutes" correspondent Morley Safer died in New York at age 84. Actor-comedian Alan Young, who played straight man to a talking horse in the 1960s sitcom "Mister Ed," died in Woodland Hills, California, at age 96.

Today's Birthdays: PBS newscaster Jim Lehrer is 83. TV personality David Hartman is 82. Actor James Fox is 78. Actress Nancy Kwan is 78. Actor Peter Mayhew is 73. Rock singer-composer Pete Townshend (The Who) is 72. Concert pianist David Helfgott is 70. Rock singer-musician Dusty Hill (ZZ Top) is 68. College Football Hall of Famer and former NFL player Archie Manning is 68. Singer-actress Grace Jones is 65. Rock musician Phil Rudd (AC-DC) is 63. Actor Steven Ford is 61. Actress Toni Lewis is 57. Rock musician Iain Harvie (Del Amitri) is 55. Actress Polly Walker is 51. Actor Jason Gray-Stanford is 47. Gospel singer Israel Houghton is 46. Rock singer Jenny Berggren (Ace of Base) is 45. Race car driver Dario Franchitti is 44. TV personality Kim Zolciak Biermann (TV: "Real Housewives of Atlanta") is 39. Country/rock singer Shooter Jennings is 38. Actor Drew Fuller is 37. Actor-comedian Michael Che (chay) (TV: "Saturday Night Live") is 34. Christian rock musician Tim McTague is 34. Rock musician James Richardson (MGMT) is 34. Actor Eric Lloyd is 31. Pop singer Sam Smith is 25. Actor Nolan Lyons is 16.

Thought for Today: "We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known." — Carson McCullers, American author (1917-1967).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 18, 2017

Japan's Princess Mako to marry ocean-loving legal assistant

Japan's Princess Mako is shown in this Oct. 23, 2011, file photo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) — Princess Mako, the granddaughter of Japan's emperor, will marry an ocean-loving legal assistant who can ski, play the violin and cook.

Japanese nuptials tend to be highly ritualized, especially for a royal family member, and the buildup to the wedding is likely to take time. A public announcement would come first, then a wedding date would be set and then the couple will make a formal report to the emperor and empress.

Quasi-public NHK TV reported the news late Tuesday and the Imperial Household Agency confirmed the report to Japanese media who belong to an exclusive "press club" system. But the agency declined comment to The Associated Press.

The man who won the princess' heart spoke to reporters Wednesday, and his comments dominated national TV coverage though he gave few details.

Kei Komuro said he works as a legal assistant and had just spoken over the phone with Mako, who had been a fellow student at International Christian University in Tokyo.

"When the right time comes, I'd like to talk about it," he told reporters, bowing repeatedly, wearing a suit and tie.

The couple, who are both 25, met at a restaurant in Tokyo's Shibuya about five years ago at a party to talk about studying abroad, and they have been dating several times a month recently, NHK said.

Komuro was once tapped as "Prince of the Sea" to promote tourism to the beaches of Shonan in Kanagawa prefecture, a facet of his profile highlighted by local media.

Women can't succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Mako's father and her younger brother are in line to succeed Emperor Akihito, but after her uncle Crown Prince Naruhito, who is first in line.

Once she marries, Mako will no longer be a princess and will become a commoner.

NHK said Mako has already introduced Komuro to her parents, and they approve. A formal announcement could come as soon as next month, Japanese media said.

Unlike royalty in Great Britain and other European countries, the emperor and his family tend to be cloistered, although they travel abroad and appear at cultural events.

Akihito, 83, is the son of Hirohito, Japan's emperor during World War II.

Akihito expressed his desire to abdicate last year, and Japan has been preparing legislation especially for him so he can.

Until Japan's defeat at the end of World War II, Hirohito was viewed as divine, and no one had even heard his voice. But the times are changing, and the Japanese public harbors a feeling of openness and familiarity toward the emperor and his family. People are likely to see Mako's marriage as a celebration, although the rituals will continue to be tightly orchestrated.


New death in Venezuela puts toll at level of 2014 unrest

Demonstrators hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the clashes with the government's security forces, during protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 17. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Luz Dary Depablos

San Cristobal, Venezuela (AP) — Legions of national guardsmen and military helicopters began descending on a western Venezuela state Wednesday where an outbreak of looting and political violence left at least three people dead in as many days, raising the nationwide death toll in a wave of unrest to at least 43.

Fifteen-year-old Jose Guerrero died in San Cristobal on Wednesday after going out the previous afternoon to purchase flour and being shot near a protest, authorities said. His death means the number killed in nearly two months of protests and street clashes is likely to surpass that seen in the country's last political upheaval in 2014, when 43 people died during three months of demonstrations against the socialist government.

Top military commanders announced they were sending 2,000 national guardsmen and 600 troopers from special operation forces to Tachira, a mountainous state along Venezuela's border with Colombia where Guerrero and two others have been killed during protests since Monday.

A rash of violence across Tachira this week has left dozens of businesses looted, 11 police stations set aflame and nervous residents scrambling to buy what food they can find. Public transportation was shut down Wednesday, many businesses closed and long lines snaked to the few operating ATMs.

"From this moment we are not going to permit any more violent or terroristic acts," said Jose Morantes Torres, commander of a regional defense force overseeing operations.

By late Wednesday afternoon, helicopters could be seen arriving at Tachira's military airport. Hundreds of national guardsmen in green uniforms were patrolling areas where protests have taken place, while others stood in front of grocery stores and other shops and some kept watch from armored trucks.

The military operation comes as President Nicolas Maduro faces mounting international pressure to hold elections and refrain from using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. Anti-government street mobilizations that began after the nation's Supreme Court issued a ruling stripping congress of its last powers in late March are continuing on a near-daily basis. Meanwhile, the death toll is rising at a steady clip and is likely to surpass the 2014 protest fatalities in about half the time.

The growing list of casualties puts both the government and the opposition in increasingly strained positions, analysts said.

Deaths, which are often captured on cellphone cameras and shared widely online, will probably further isolate Venezuela's government from international public opinion. But the bloodshed also raises the question of how much longer the opposition can call on its supporters to take the risk of going into the streets, said Christopher Sabatini, a professor at Columbia University.

"The opposition has the moral upper hand, but as long as the government refuses to yield and kill its own citizens, how much longer can this go on?" Sabatini said.

Arrests have been made in just eight of the deaths, five of which involved police officers, according to the chief prosecutor's office. Maduro's government blames the opposition for the violence, saying they are purposely fomenting unrest in order to remove him from power. Opposition leaders deny that and say heavy-handed officers and armed, pro-government militias known as "colectivos" are responsible.

The violence in Tachira began Monday after several weeks of largely peaceful protests. That day, the minister of the nation's prison system was in San Cristobal to promote Maduro's push to resolve the crisis by convening a special assembly to rewrite Venezuela's constitution, a proposal the opposition rejects.

With her arrival, residents say, also came bands of "colectivos" who threatened protesters. Videos shared on social media by Tachira residents show armed men in masks roaming the streets on foot and motorcycles and in some cases appearing to open fire.

On Monday afternoon, Luis Alviarez, 18, and Diego Hernandez, 33, were fatally shot during separate demonstrations. Videos of both incidents were distributed online, showing the two men lying lifeless on the pavement.

By Wednesday, residents in San Cristobal woke up to discover dozens of businesses had been looted. Public transportation was shut down, the state's agricultural industry — a critical provider of Venezuela's fruits and vegetables — paralyzed and people worriedly lined up at ATMs to withdraw cash.

Guerrero, the latest casualty, was taken to a hospital Tuesday after being shot and died Wednesday morning after undergoing surgery, authorities said. Speaking outside a hospital, his sister lashed out at Maduro and blamed national guard officers for her brother's death.

"I hate you with all my heart," she said, crying. "He was a boy of 15."


Former FBI Director Mueller to lead Trump-Russia probe

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been appointed as special counsel to oversee an investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Eric Tucker & Sadie Gurman

 Washington (AP) — Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was given sweeping power Wednesday to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, with a broad mandate that could encompass any questionable actions of President Donald Trump's associates and possibly even the circumstances of last week's abrupt firing of James Comey.

The Justice Department's appointment of Mueller as a special counsel is an acknowledgment of growing public demands to place the politically charged inquiry into the hands of an outside investigator with bipartisan support. It follows weeks of questions about the Justice Department's independence from the White House and comes two months after Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because of his own undisclosed Russian contacts during the campaign.

"I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability," Mueller said in a statement.

In a statement released by the White House, Trump said: "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly."

As special counsel, Mueller will direct an FBI counterintelligence investigation examining whether Russia coordinated with Trump campaign associates to influence the election in his behalf, and he will have authority to charge those involved in any crimes uncovered.

The mandate extends beyond any specific Trump-Russia connection to cover "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." That language suggests Mueller could also explore whether the firing of Comey — who publicly revealed the existence of the investigation to Congress in March — and a conversation Comey has said he had with the president weeks earlier represented efforts to obstruct or derail the FBI's work.

In appointing Mueller, the Justice Department selected a seasoned law enforcement veteran who guided the FBI through the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and led its terror-fighting efforts over the next decade. A former federal prosecutor who served under presidential administrations of both parties and became director days before the attacks, Mueller was so valued that President Barack Obama asked him to stay on two years longer than his 10-year term.

Lawmakers praised the announcement. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Judiciary Committee Democrat, said there was "no better person who could be asked to perform this function."

Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, called the appointment a "good decision."

"By having somebody like Bob Mueller head whatever investigation assures the American people that there's no undue influence, be it here, be it at the other end of Independence Avenue or within the Justice Department or FBI," said Burr, whose committee is conducting its own investigation.

The White House counsel was notified after the special counsel order was signed. A senior administration official described Trump's reaction to Mueller's appointment as "measured." The official said there was widespread agreement among staff that the appointment of Mueller provides Trump and his aides with the opportunity to "commit ourselves to doubling down on the agenda."

The appointment seemed meant to quell mounting questions about the Justice Department's ability to independently oversee the investigation.

Last week, a memo drafted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was held up by the White House as justification for the firing of Comey, who had been leading the investigation.

Then came Tuesday's revelation that Comey had written in a memo that Trump, in a February meeting, had asked him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The White House denied that account.

Rosenstein, who at his confirmation hearing would not commit to a special counsel appointment, seemed to acknowledge the public outcry. He called Mueller's selection "necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome."

The public interest, he said, "requires me to place this investigation into the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command."

The Justice Department said Mueller has resigned from his job at a private law firm, WilmerHale, to take the job. That firm is also home to Jamie Gorelick, who has also represented Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

Another partner, Reginald Brown, is representing Paul Manafort. Manafort is Trump's former campaign chairman, and has been an important focus of the U.S. investigation of Trump's associates and Russia.

As special counsel, Mueller will have all the same powers as a U.S. attorney, though he will still ultimately report to Rosenstein. Still, he is not subject to the day-to-day supervision of the Justice Department. He can keep the same investigators in place, or request new or additional staff including from outside the department.

He will request a budget that includes personnel.

Rosenstein appointed Mueller under a statute that was used in 1999, when John C. Danforth was appointed to investigate allegations of government wrongdoing in the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

Danforth's investigation cost millions of dollars and included hundreds of interviews and a restaging of the final hours of the 51-day standoff with federal agents. He ultimately produced a 150-page report clearing then-Attorney General Janet Reno and other top government officials of any responsibility.

A similar appointment came in 2003 when the Bush Justice Department turned to Patrick Fitzgerald, then the top federal prosecutor in Chicago, to investigate who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA officer. That appointment was made by Comey, deputy attorney general at the time. Comey gave Fitzgerald complete discretion to conduct the investigation, bolstering the special counsel's independence.


2nd Ebola case confirmed among 20 suspected in Congo: WHO

This electron micrograph file image shows an Ebola virus virion.. (Frederick Murphy/CDC via AP)

Kinshasa, Congo (AP) — The World Health Organization says a second case of Ebola has been confirmed by laboratory testing amid an outbreak in a remote corner of northern Congo.

WHO announced this week that among the 20 suspected cases, two now have tested positive for the virus.

Ebola was blamed for more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa during 2013-2016. Congo has already experienced seven much smaller outbreaks.

So far three people have died in Congo's Bas-Uele province, an area more than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) from the capital, Kinshasa.

There is no specific treatment for Ebola, which is spread through the bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms. A new experimental vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against the virus, though quantities are currently limited.


Tiny uninhabited Pacific isle has 38 million pieces of trash

Plastic debris is shown strewn on a beach on Henderson Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. (Jennifer Lavers via AP)

Nick Perry

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — When researchers traveled to a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they were astonished to find an estimated 38 million pieces of trash washed up on the beaches.

Almost all of the garbage they found on Henderson Island was made from plastic. There were toy soldiers, dominos, toothbrushes and hundreds of hardhats of every shape, size and color.

The researchers say the density of trash was the highest recorded anywhere in the world, despite Henderson Island's extreme remoteness. The island is located about halfway between New Zealand and Chile and is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at Australia's University of Tasmania, was lead author of the report, which was published this week in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Lavers said Henderson Island is at the edge of a vortex of ocean currents known as the South Pacific gyre, which tends to capture and hold floating trash.

"The quantity of plastic there is truly alarming," Lavers told The Associated Press. "It's both beautiful and terrifying."

She said she sometimes found herself getting mesmerized by the variety and colors of the plastic that litters the island before the tragedy of it would sink in again.

Lavers and six others stayed on the island for 3 months in 2015 while conducting the study. They found the trash weighed an estimated 17.6 tons and that more than two-thirds of it was buried in shallow sediment on the beaches.

Lavers said she noticed green toy soldiers that looked identical to those her brother played with as a child in the early 1980s, as well as red motels from the Monopoly board game.

She said the most common items they found were cigarette lighters and toothbrushes. One of the strangest was a baby pacifier.

She said they found a sea turtle that had died after getting caught in an abandoned fishing net and a crab that was living in a cosmetics container.

By clearing a part of a beach of trash and then watching new pieces accumulate, Lavers said they were able to estimate that more than 13,000 pieces of trash wash up every day on the island, which is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) long and 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide.

Henderson Island is part of the Pitcairn Islands group, a British dependency. It is so remote that Lavers said she missed her own wedding after the boat coming to collect the group was delayed.

Luckily, she said, the guests were still in Tahiti, in French Polynesia, when she showed up three days late, and she still got married.

Lavers said she is so appalled by the amount of plastic in the oceans that she has taken to using a bamboo iPhone case and toothbrush.

"We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic," she said. "It's something that's designed to last forever, but is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away."

Melissa Bowen, an oceanographer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who was not involved in the study, said that winds and currents in the gyre cause the buildup of plastic items on places like Henderson Island.

"As we get more and more of these types of studies, it is bringing home the reality of plastic in the oceans," Bowen said.
 


Dubai firm dreams of harvesting icebergs for water

This handout illustration from the National Advisor Bureau Limited shows an iceberg being towed off the coast of Fujairah, UAE. (National Advisor Bureau Limited via AP)

Fay Abuelgasim & Sam McNeil

Dubai, UAE (AP) — A Dubai firm's dream of towing icebergs from the Antarctic to the Arabian Peninsula could face some titanic obstacles.

Where many see the crumbling polar ice caps as a distressing sign of global warming, the National Advisor Bureau Limited sees it as a source of profit, and a way of offsetting the effects of climate change in the increasingly sweltering Gulf.

The firm has drawn up plans to harvest icebergs in the southern Indian Ocean and tow them 9,200 kilometers (5,700 miles) away to the Gulf, where they could be melted down for freshwater and marketed as a tourist attraction.

"The icebergs are just floating in the Indian Ocean. They are up for grabs to whoever can take them," managing director Abdullah al-Shehi told The Associated Press in his Dubai office. He hopes to begin harvesting them by 2019.

It is perhaps no surprise that the idea would originate in Dubai, which is already famous for its indoor ski slope, artificial islands and the world's tallest building. But the plan to harvest icebergs faces a wide array of legal, financial and logistical hurdles — and environmentalists are less than thrilled.

The firm would send ships down to Heard Island, an Australian nature reserve in the southern Indian Ocean, where they would steer between massive icebergs the size of cities in search of truck-sized chunks known as growlers. Workers would then secure them to the boats with nets and embark on a yearlong cruise to the United Arab Emirates.

The company believes that, as most of the icebergs' mass is underwater, they would not melt significantly during the voyage. Al-Shehi said each iceberg would hold around 20 billion gallons of fresh water that could be harvested without costly desalinization, which currently provides nearly all of the Gulf region's water.

Masdar, a government-backed clean energy firm in the United Arab Emirates, is exploring new technologies to meet the country's water needs. The United Arab Emirates' Energy Ministry issued a statement this week denying "reports" that an iceberg was in the process of being imported, without specifying the reports to which it referred.

Al-Shehi said his project is a private initiative and that he would seek government approval once his firm completes its feasibility study. He declined to share the company's cost estimates, and said it has not carried out an environmental impact study.

Robert Brears, the founder of the climate think tank Mitidaption, has studied the feasibility of Antarctic ice harvesting and estimates the project would require an initial outlay of at least $500 million.

The challenges begin at Heard Island, where Australia strictly limits access in order to preserve the area's rich ecosystem of migratory birds, seals, penguins and fish, which could be disrupted by large ships. Antarctica itself is subject to global treaties that mandate environmental regulations and ban mining and military activities.

Even if the firm secures the necessary approvals from multiple governments, the wrangling itself could prove daunting.

"There are thousands and thousands of icebergs drifting around and they can move without warning," said Christopher Readinger, who heads the Antarctic team at the U.S. National Ice Center. "Storms down there can be really brutal, and there's really not anyone that can help."

The interagency group uses satellites and floating sensors to track large icebergs in order to warn fishing and science vessels. One of the icebergs it tracked last month was twice the size of Manhattan.

Antarctica holds 60 percent of the world's freshwater, frozen in an ice shelf that sheds nearly 1.2 trillion tons of icebergs a year , according to NASA. The ice loss is accelerating as global temperatures warm.

In the Arctic, Canadian "iceberg cowboys" use rifles to blast off chunks of icebergs that are later sold to wineries, breweries and vodka distilleries. A Norwegian company sells 750ml bottles of melted iceberg for $100 each.

But iceberg wranglers off Antarctica would find a leaner herd. "It's the driest ice in the world," Brears said. "You could melt a lot of this ice and get very little water from it."

Environmentalists meanwhile point to simpler measures that could be taken to address climate change in the Middle East, like drip-irrigation, fixing leaks and water conservation.

"This region is the heartland of the global oil industry, it will be at the forefront of experiencing these massive, insane heat waves, and there's only one way to avoid this — reducing emissions and keeping all fossil fuels in the ground," said Hoda Baraka, spokeswoman for the climate advocacy group 350.org.

Green investment groups are unlikely to finance the iceberg project, said Charlotte Streck, director of the consultancy firm Climate Focus. She says the project is "an exceptionally futile and expensive way" to solve the Gulf's water woes __ and "seems to run counter to all ideas of climate change adaptation."

Al-Shehi is undeterred, and insists the project will have no impact on Antarctica or any other natural environment. The whole process, he said, "will be a drop in the ocean."


Today in History - Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, May 18, the 138th day of 2017. There are 227 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 18, 1927, in America's deadliest school attack, part of a schoolhouse in Bath Township, Michigan, was blown up with explosives planted by local farmer Andrew Kehoe, who then set off a bomb in his truck; the attacks killed 38 children and six adults, including Kehoe, who'd earlier killed his wife. (Authorities said Kehoe, who suffered financial difficulties, was seeking revenge for losing a township clerk election.)

On this date:

In 1642, the Canadian city of Montreal was founded by French colonists.

In 1765, about one-fourth of Montreal was destroyed by a fire.

In 1896, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, endorsed "separate but equal" racial segregation, a concept renounced 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

In 1897, a public reading of Bram Stoker's new horror novel, "Dracula," was staged in London.

In 1926, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson vanished while visiting a beach in Venice, California. (McPherson reappeared more than a month later, saying she'd escaped after being kidnapped and held for ransom, an account that was greeted with skepticism.)

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a measure creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1944, during World War II, Allied forces occupied Monte Cassino in Italy after a four-month struggle with Axis troops.

In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier as she piloted a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, California.

In 1967, Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington signed a measure repealing the law against teaching evolution that was used to prosecute John T. Scopes in 1925.

In 1973, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was appointed Watergate special prosecutor by U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson.

In 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead or missing.

In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton to rocket into space as she flew aboard a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft with two cosmonauts on an eight-day mission to the Mir space station.

Ten years ago: The White House and Congress failed to strike a deal after exchanging competing offers on an Iraq war spending bill that Democrats said should set a date for U.S. troops to leave. France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy (sahr-koh-ZEE'), named a radically revamped cabinet which included seven women among its 15 members.

Five years ago: Social network Facebook made its trading debut with one of the most highly anticipated IPOs in Wall Street history; however, by day's end, Facebook stock closed up only 23 cents from its initial pricing of $38. In his first meeting with President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND') declared he would withdraw all French combat troops from Afghanistan by year's end. The Olympic flame arrived in Britain, the country hosting the 2012 Olympics. Renowned German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 86, died in Starnberg.

One year ago: In an unusual move, Republican candidate Donald Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he would consider if elected president (not included was Trump's eventual first pick for the nation's highest bench, Neil Gorsuch). A judge in Ottawa, Kansas, sentenced a man to death for the killing of two men, a woman and her 18-month-old daughter on a farm in 2013.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Bill Macy is 95. Actress Priscilla Pointer is 93. Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Whitaker is 93. Actor Robert Morse is 86. Actor Dwayne Hickman is 83. Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson is 80. Actress Candice Azzara is 76. Bluegrass singer-musician Rodney Dillard (The Dillards) is 75. Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is 71. Country singer Joe Bonsall (The Oak Ridge Boys) is 69. Rock musician Rick Wakeman (Yes) is 68. Rock singer Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) is 67. Actor James Stephens is 66. Country singer George Strait is 65. Rhythm-and-blues singer Butch Tavares (Tavares) is 64. Actor Chow Yun-Fat is 62. Rock singer-musician Page Hamilton is 57. Contemporary Christian musician Barry Graul (MercyMe) is 56. Contemporary Christian singer Michael Tait is 51. Singer-actress Martika is 48. Comedian-writer Tina Fey is 47. Rapper Special Ed is 43. Rock singer Jack Johnson is 42. Country singer David Nail is 38. Rhythm-and-blues singer Darryl Allen (Mista) is 37. Actor Matt Long is 37. Actor Allen Leech is 36. Christian-rock musician Kevin Huguley (Rush of Fools) is 35. Christian singer Francesca Battistelli is 32. Actor Spencer Breslin is 25. Actress Hala Finley (TV: "Man With a Plan") is 8.

Thought for Today: "The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any." — Fred Astaire, American dancer-actor (1899-1987).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 17, 2017

Besieged White House denies, defends as new bombshells hit

President Donald Trump listens as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16. The White House on Tuesday defended President Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials as "wholly appropriate". (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Eric Tucker & Catherine Lucey

Washington (AP) — President Donald Trump personally appealed to FBI Director James Comey to abandon the bureau's investigation into National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to notes, disclosed late Tuesday, that Comey wrote after the meeting. The White House issued a furious denial near the end of a tumultuous day that Trump officials spent beating back potentially disastrous news reports from dawn to dusk.

Earlier, officials staunchly defended Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials. The White House played down the importance and secrecy of the information, supplied by Israel under an intelligence-sharing agreement, and Trump himself said he had "an absolute right" as president to share "facts pertaining to terrorism" and airline safety with Russia. Yet U.S. allies and some members of Congress expressed concern bordering on alarm.

As for Comey, who Trump fired last week, the FBI director wrote in a memo after a February meeting at the White House that the new president had asked him to shut down the FBI's investigation of Flynn and his Russian contacts, said a person who had read the memo. The Flynn investigation was part of a broader probe into Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

The person who described the memo was not authorized to discuss it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity. The existence of the memo was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times.

The White House vigorously denied the report. "While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn," a White House statement said.

Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13.

The bombshell Comey news came as the beleaguered Trump administration was still struggling mightily to explain Monday's revelation that the president had revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and the country's ambassador to the United States. And the administration is still reeling from Trump's abrupt firing of Comey.

The intensifying drama comes as Trump is set to embark Friday on his first foreign trip, which had been optimistically viewed by some aides as an opportunity to reset an administration floundering under an inexperienced president.

When Trump fired Comey, he said he did so based on Comey's very public handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and how it affected his leadership of the FBI. But the White House has provided differing accounts of the firing. And lawmakers have alleged that the sudden ouster was an attempt to stifle the bureau's investigation into Trump associates' ties to Russia's meddling in the campaign.

Comey's memo detailing his conversation with Trump would be the clearest evidence to date that the president has tried to influence that investigation. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said he was ready to subpoena the memo, which was an apparent effort to create a paper trail of Comey's contacts with the White House.

Other lawmakers also demanded strong action.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Comey needs to come to Capitol Hill and testify. Other lawmakers agreed, and said it must be soon.

Mark Warner of Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said he would ask Comey for additional material as part of the panel's investigation. "Memos, transcripts, tapes — the list keeps getting longer," he said.

Republicans were more circumspect but also clearly upset.

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Trump-Russia reports were "deeply disturbing" and said they could impede allies' willingness to share intelligence with the U.S.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, said he was not losing confidence in Trump as president but added, "It would be helpful to have less drama emanating from the White House."

According to the Times, Comey wrote in the February memo that Trump told him Flynn had done nothing wrong. But Comey said he did not say anything to Trump about limiting the investigation, replying simply, "I agree he is a good guy."

The newspaper said Comey was in the Oval Office that day with other national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When that ended, Trump asked everyone to leave except Comey, and he eventually turned the conversation to Flynn.

The administration spent the first half of Tuesday defending Trump's disclosure of classified information to senior Russian officials. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the president's comments were "wholly appropriate." He used that phrase nine times in his briefing to reporters.

The highly classified information about an Islamic State plot was collected by Israel, a crucial source of intelligence and close partner in the fight against some of the America's fiercest threats in the Middle East. Trump's disclosure of the information threatened to fray that partnership and piled pressure on the White House to explain the apparently on-the-spot decision to reveal the information to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office.

A U.S. official who confirmed the disclosure to The Associated Press said the revelation potentially put the source at risk.

In a statement, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said the partnership between the U.S and Israel was solid.


Expert who beat cyberattack says he's no hero

British IT expert Marcus Hutchins, who has been branded a hero for slowing down the WannaCry global cyber attack, speaks during an interview in Ilfracombe, England, Monday, May 15. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Danica Kirka

Ilfracombe, England (AP) — A young British computer expert credited with cracking the WannaCry cyberattack told The Associated Press he doesn't consider himself a hero but fights malware because "it's the right thing to do."

In his first face-to-face interview, Marcus Hutchins, who works for Los Angeles-based Kryptos Logic, said Monday that hundreds of computer experts worked throughout last weekend to fight the virus, which paralyzed computers in some 150 countries.

"I'm definitely not a hero," he said. "I'm just someone doing my bit to stop botnets."

The 22-year-old computer whiz from the south coast of England, discovered a so-called "kill switch" that slowed the unprecedented outbreak on Friday. He then spent the next three days fighting the worm that crippled Britain's hospital network as well as computer systems around the world.

WannaCry paralyzed computers running mostly older versions of Microsoft Windows by encrypting users' computer files and displaying a message demanding anywhere from $300 to $600 to release them; failure to pay would leave the data mangled and likely beyond repair.

Hutchins said he stumbled across the solution when he was analyzing a sample of the malicious code and noticed it was linked to an unregistered web address. He promptly registered the domain, something he regularly does to discover ways to track or stop cyber threats, and found that stopped the worm from spreading.

Salim Neino, CEO of Kryptos Logic, said Hutchins took over the "kill switch" last Friday afternoon European time, before it could fully affect the United States.

"Marcus, with the program he runs at Kryptos Logic, not only saved the United States but also prevented further damage to the rest of the world," Neino said. "Within a few moments, we were able to validate that there was indeed a kill switch. It was a very exciting moment. This is something that Marcus validated himself."

He said the company was not able to identify "Patient Zero," the first system infected, which would give researchers more information about who was behind the attack. Nevertheless, he said the worm was "poorly designed" — patched together and a "sum of different parts" with an unsophisticated payment system.

Kryptos Logic is one of hundreds of companies working to combat online threats for companies, government agencies and individuals around the world.

Hutchins himself is part of a global community that constantly watches for attacks and works to thwart them, often sharing information on Twitter. It's not uncommon for members to use aliases, to protect from retaliatory attacks and ensure privacy.

Hutchins has long tweeted under the handle MalwareTech, which features a profile photo of a pouty-faced cat wearing enormous sunglasses. But he realizes his newfound fame will mean an end to the anonymity.

After all, now he's a computer celebrity. He's been in touch with the FBI, as well as British national cyber security officials.

"I don't think I'm ever going back to the MalwareTech that everyone knew," said the curly-haired young man, shrugging and flashing a winning smile.

It is likely to be a big adjustment. Hutchins lives with his family in this seaside town, where he works out of his bedroom on a sophisticated computer setup with three enormous screens. He will soon become a local hero — but if you ask him, his life of celebrity will be short lived.

"I felt like I should agree to one interview," he said. But even that made the fame-averse Hutchins so nervous that he initially misspelled his last name, leaving out the letter "n'' when doing a sound-level for the cameras.

His mother Janet, a nurse, couldn't be prouder — and was happy to have the veil of anonymity lifted.

"I wanted to scream, but I couldn't," she said.

Many will be following his next moves though. CyberSecurity Ventures, which tracks the industry, estimates global spending on cybersecurity will jump to $120 billion this year from just $3.5 billion in 2004. It forecasts expenditures will grow between 12 percent and 15 percent annually for the next five years.

"While all other technology sectors are driven by reducing inefficiencies and increasing productivity, cybersecurity spending is driven by cybercrime," the firm said in a February report. "The unprecedented cybercriminal activity we are witnessing is generating so much cyber spending, it's become nearly impossible for analysts to keep track."

After more analysis, Hutchins, an avid surfer, plans to take a vacation — traveling to Las Vegas and California on the company dime.

One guess on what he'll be doing:

Yes, surfing. On waves this time.


Guam residents cast wary eye at North Korea after launch

In this May 15, 2017 photo, tourists walk through a shopping district in Tamuning, Guam on the day North Korea conducted its latest ballistic missile test. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Haven Daley

Hagatna, Guam (AP) — While most of the United States is still out of reach of a missile launched by North Korea, the U.S. territory of Guam, a key military hub in the Pacific, could be within range.

That realization, coming after a missile launch over the weekend, had residents of the island casting a wary eye amid rising nuclear tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. Some worried they might find war at their doorstep, while others say they are more concerned about the potential loss of vital tourism dollars than they are a nuclear attack.

"I think it is scary since North Korea is just insane, to echo the general consensus about North Korea," said Farron Taijeron, a 29-year-old scuba instructor in Guam.

Patricia Anna Cruz, a 62-year-old substitute teacher, noted that even if you don't go to war, "war may be right next to you."

U.S. experts said the missile launched over the weekend could have a range of 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles), putting Guam easily within range.

Guam is armed with the U.S. Army's missile defense system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, the same system recently installed in South Korea.

"Whether or not they truly have that capability (of reaching Guam), I'll leave that up to our DoD partners to worry about that threat," said Charles Esteves, Guam's Office of Civil Defense administrator. "But with all the layers of defense ... basically we provide that sense of assurance to the public."

Some locals are more concerned about the perception of tourists than any actual threat.

"Guam's primary industries are tourism and of course the military," Esteves said. "So if we start seeing a significant change in our tourist numbers then maybe there's a need for concern."

Gelica Sablan, a 25-year-old Guam resident and college student, echoed those concerns: "Other people from neighboring Asian counties or any country in general might not want to come here because they might think it's a threat that their safety might be compromised."

Some analysts believe the missile, if proven in further tests, could possibly reach Alaska and Hawaii. Others doubt it has that range.

Tasha Rine, a registered nurse from Kenai, Alaska, said the threat from North Korea was a "little too close for comfort.

"I think it should be causing all of us concern at this point," she said while sitting on the steps of a federal building in downtown Anchorage, just after eating her first-ever reindeer dog, purchased from a street vendor. "We live in a very unstable world, and I think that's deeply concerning, and it should be."


Rash of media murders highlights deadly threats in Mexico

 

The hat of murdered journalist Javier Valdez lays on his forehead inside a funeral home before his wake begins in Culiacan, Mexico, Tuesday, May 16. Valdez was slain Monday in the northern Mexico state of Sinaloa, the latest in a wave of journalist killings in one of the world's most dangerous countries for media workers. (AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

Peter Orsi & Maria Verza

Mexico City (AP) — A journalist is shot dead as she pulls out of her garage in the morning with her young son. Gunmen ambush another journalist while he lazes in a car wash hammock. An award-winning reporter is hauled out of his vehicle and gunned down a block from his office.

On Monday, Javier Valdez became the sixth journalist slain in Mexico since early March, a deadly spree unusual even in a country that ranks behind only Syria and Afghanistan for such murders. There's no evidence directly linking the killings to each other, but collectively they are a grim signal that lawlessness and impunity continue to threaten the lives and work of journalists across much of the country.

The killings come at a time when overall homicides rose 29 percent in the first three months of the year from the same period in 2016; high-stakes state elections and a presidential vote next year have been bitterly contested; corruption scandals are regular news; and a decade-old militarized offensive against brutal drug cartels shows no sign of being won.

"Mexico has become more dangerous in general over the past year, and that is affecting the way there is more fighting," Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said. "Tensions are running really high in the underworld, so I think that people that are covering this are getting themselves into much riskier situations."

Valdez wrote the "Mala Yerba" column for Riodoce, the publication he helped found, in which he told stories without using real names. His last entry was titled "El Licenciado," a possible allusion to a Sinaloa cartel boss who used that nickname. Valdez also reported on organized crime, incidents involving state security forces such as a police attack on three women and alleged corruption during the term of Sinaloa state's previous governor.

Eduardo Buscaglia, an international organized crime expert and consultant, said Valdez and Riodoce had interviewed him many times and probed "links between politics, society and criminal groups, and that entails ... enormous risk."

The chief prosecutor of Sinaloa said he was unaware of any threats against the journalist. But the national newspaper La Jornada, to which Valdez contributed, said he had recently received threats "of a different caliber" that caused him and his wife to be concerned. Valdez traveled to Mexico City to consult with colleagues, who recommended he leave the country.

The spate of six killings began March 2 with the murder of Cecilio Pineda, an independent journalist in the southern state of Guerrero. The rest came in quick succession: March 19 in Veracruz. Four days later in Chihuahua. April 14 in Baja California Sur. May 2 in Morelos.

There were plenty of other non-fatal attacks during the same span, including the wounding of a media executive in Jalisco the same day that Valdez was slain; an assault and robbery of seven traveling reporters by a mob of 100 gunmen in Guerrero over the weekend; and an attempt on a reporter's life in Baja California Sur that killed his bodyguard.

One commonality running through all the states where the killings have taken place is the presence of both organized crime and endemic corruption, a particularly toxic combination.

Security analyst Raul Benitez noted that in several states, such as Sinaloa, Veracruz and Chihuahua, political control recently changed from one party to another. That can destabilize illicit alliances and force criminal gangs to adjust and seek new ones.

In Sinaloa there has also been a fragmentation and power struggle among factions in the drug cartel of the same name following the arrest and extradition to the United States of notorious kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Chihuahua is in a similar situation. Meanwhile, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Veracruz have seen homicide spikes this year that far outpace the nationwide increase.

"The bands of killers have no leader and are taking vengeance on whomever they want," Benitez said.

In some places such as Tamaulipas state, critical media expression has become practically nonexistent, with criminal gangs and corrupt public servants essentially setting editorial lines. Self-censorship as a survival mechanism is common, leading to news blackouts on sensitive topics. Some journalists are bought off by criminals or corrupt officials, or threatened with death if they won't accept bribes for favorable or soft coverage.

None of the killings attracted more attention or generated more outrage than that of Valdez, who was pulled from his car a block from the offices of Riodoce, shot dead and left in the street.

On Tuesday some Mexican media outlets went dark online in protest, and editorials and headlines lamented the slaying. "They are killing us in Mexico," demonstrating journalists scrawled on the pavement at the capital's Angel of Independence monument. At a wake in Culiacan, Valdez's body lay in a coffin crowned by his trademark Panama-style hat.

Riodoce did not respond to requests to make someone available for an interview, and the paper's future without a man known as a highly prolific journalist is unclear. In April the newspaper Norte in Chihuahua state announced it was shutting down in part for security reasons after the March 23 killing of Miroslava Breach, one of its contributors.

At a news conference, journalists from Riodoce and other outlets angrily questioned Sinaloa Gov. Quirino Ordaz about Valdez's killing.

"We are clear that in the face of these acts words are not enough and a government response is required," federal Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said at a separate event.

President Enrique Pena Nieto called Valdez's murder an "outrageous crime" and ordered an investigation.

But many Mexican journalists accused the government of doing too little to combat the problem.

This year's killings "are apparently unconnected occurrences but they are happening in a pre-electoral context and in an environment of tension in which there are groups that may want to create fear," said Jose Reveles, a journalist and writer specializing in drug trafficking.

The government "is paralyzed and doesn't know what to do, and that can multiply the violent acts," he added.

Valdez, 50 years old and married with two children, was always conscious of the risks he faced.

"Journalism is walking an invisible line drawn by the bad people who are in drug trafficking and in the government," he once wrote. "One must beware of everything and everyone."

He earned a national and international reputation as a courageous authority on drugs and security in Sinaloa, winning prestigious awards from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Columbia University.

Everard Meade, the director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego who collaborated closely with Valdez, said the reporter specialized in recounting the human side of the violence that surrounded him. Beyond merely the production and distribution of drugs, Valdez was interested in where power resided and how it was used.

"How the difference between soldiers, drug traffickers, different police agencies and other armed men, for ordinary people, is almost nonexistent," Meade said.

He added that lately Valdez had been writing more about connections between organized crime and elected officials, and he wondered if those "blistering critiques" may have been what got him killed.

Valdez had been particularly outspoken about the killing of Breach, who like him also contributed to La Jornada. Breach was the woman shot dead in her driveway while taking her son to school.

"Miroslava was killed for talking too much," Valdez tweeted two days after she was slain. "May they kill all of us, if that is the death penalty for reporting on this hell. No to silence."


Singapore shuts airport terminal after fire; flights delayed

 

Annabelle Liang

Singapore (AP) — A fire broke out Tuesday at Singapore's Changi Airport, causing the closure of a terminal and lengthy delays as passengers and flights were moved, officials said.

The airport said smoke began issuing from air vents in Terminal 2 and an evacuation of the terminal was begun.

It said the fire occurred in a room housing air conditioning equipment and was being investigated.

The Singapore Civil Defense Force said firefighters arrived within minutes and put out a small fire. Three people were taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation.

The airport said flights were moved to another terminal, resulting in significant delays.

Flight operations at the terminal gradually resumed after 10 p.m., it said.

"Changi Airport will do its very best and work through the night to clear the backlog of delayed flights," it said.

A record 58.7 million passengers used the airport's three terminals last year. A new terminal is to be opened later this year..


Today in History - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, May 17, the 137th day of 2017. There are 228 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 17, 1792, the New York Stock Exchange had its beginnings as a group of brokers met under a tree on Wall Street and signed the Buttonwood Agreement.

On this date:

In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby was run; the winner was Aristides, ridden by Oliver Lewis.

In 1937, Teddy Hill and His Orchestra recorded "King Porter Stomp" for RCA Victor's Bluebird label in New York; making his recording debut was trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1940, the Nazis occupied Brussels, Belgium, during World War II.

In 1954, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision which held that racially segregated public schools were inherently unequal, and therefore unconstitutional.

In 1957, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first national speech, titled "Give Us the Ballot," during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C.

In 1961, Cuban leader Fidel Castro offered to release prisoners captured in the Bay of Pigs invasion in exchange for 500 bulldozers. (The prisoners were eventually freed in exchange for medical supplies.)

In 1973, a special committee convened by the U.S. Senate began its televised hearings into the Watergate scandal.

In 1977, the Chuck E. Cheese's fast food and family entertainment chain had its start as the first Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre opened in San Jose, California.

In 1980, rioting that claimed 18 lives erupted in Miami's Liberty City after an all-white jury in Tampa acquitted four former Miami police officers of fatally beating black insurance executive Arthur McDuffie.

In 1987, 37 American sailors were killed when an Iraqi warplane attacked the U.S. Navy frigate Stark in the Persian Gulf. (Iraq apologized for the attack, calling it a mistake, and paid more than $27 million in compensation.)

In 1992, orchestra leader Lawrence Welk died in Santa Monica, California, at age 89.

In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to allow legal same-sex marriages.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush and retiring British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a joint news conference at the White House, during which Blair allowed not a single regret about the Iraq war alliance. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz announced he would resign at the end of June 2007, following controversy over his handling of a pay package for his girlfriend, bank employee Shaha Riza. Trains crossed the border dividing the two Koreas for the first time in more than half a century.

Five years ago: Washington's envoy to Israel, Dan Shapiro, told the Israel Bar Association the U.S. had plans in place to attack Iran if necessary to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. Donna Summer, 63, the "Queen of Disco," died in Naples, Florida. Frank Edward "Ed" Ray, the California school bus driver hailed as a hero for helping 26 students escape after three kidnappers buried them underground in 1976, died at age 91.

One year ago: Bernie Sanders won Oregon's Democratic presidential primary while Hillary Clinton eked out a razor-thin victory in Kentucky. Federal investigators concluded that a speeding Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia in May 2015, killing eight people, most likely ran off the rails because the engineer was distracted by word of a nearby commuter train getting hit by a rock. One of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists from a Nigerian boarding school in April 2014 was found with a baby and was reunited with her mother. Guy Clark, the Grammy-winning musician who mentored a generation of songwriters, died in Nashville at age 74.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Peter Gerety is 77. Singer Taj Mahal is 75. Rock musician Bill Bruford is 68. Singer-musician George Johnson (The Brothers Johnson) is 64. TV personality Kathleen Sullivan is 64. Boxing Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard is 61. Actor-comedian Bob Saget is 61. Sports announcer Jim Nantz is 58. Singer Enya is 56. Talk show host-actor Craig Ferguson is 55. Rock singer-musician Page McConnell is 54. Actor David Eigenberg is 53. Singer-musician Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) is 52. Actress Paige Turco is 52. Rhythm-and-blues musician O'Dell (Mint Condition) is 52. Actor Hill Harper is 51. TV personality/interior designer Thom Filicia is 48. Singer Jordan Knight is 47. Rhythm-and-blues singer Darnell Van Rensalier (Shai) is 47. Actress Sasha Alexander is 44. Rock singer-musician Josh Homme (HAHM'-ee) is 44. Rock singer Andrea Corr (The Corrs) is 43. Actor Sendhil Ramamurthy (SEN'-dul rah-mah-MURTH'-ee) is 43. Actress Rochelle Aytes is 41. Singer Kandi Burruss is 41. Actress Kat Foster is 39. Actress Ayda Field is 38. Actress Ginger Gonzaga is 34. Folk-rock singer/songwriter Passenger is 33. Dancer-choreographer Derek Hough (huhf) is 32. Actor Tahj Mowry is 31. Actress Nikki Reed is 29. Singer Kree Harrison (TV: "American Idol") is 27. Actress Leven Rambin is 27. Actress Samantha Browne-Walters is 26. Actor Justin Martin is 23.

Thought for Today: "I always have a quotation for everything — it saves original thinking." — Dorothy L. Sayers, English author (1893-1957).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 16, 2017

Another crisis hits the White House after Post story

This handout photo released by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shows President Donald Trump meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The Washington Post is reporting that Trump revealed highly classified information about Islamic State militants to Russian officials during a meeting at the White House last week. The newspaper cites current and former U.S. officials who say Trump jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on IS in his conversations with the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. They say Trump offered details about an IS terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.(Russian Foreign Ministry via AP)

Jill Colvin, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Closed-door emergency meetings. Hallways packed with reporters. Statements rushed out, but few questions answered.

It's become a familiar scenario in the crisis-prone Trump White House, where big news breaks fast and the aides paid to respond seem perpetually caught off-guard.

The Washington Post report Monday led to the latest feeding frenzy. The news that Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials in a meeting last week prompted another round of bizarre scenes, just days after Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey sent his communications team into a tizzy.

They included a surprise encounter between reporters and Trump's top national security adviser and an attempt to drown out conversations with a blaring television.

White House officials denied the story in several statements, including a 45-second on-camera statement delivered by Trump's national security adviser. But officials refused to answer specific questions, including what precisely the report had gotten wrong, ensuring it would dominate a week that White House officials hoped would be quiet in advance of the president's first foreign trip.

Reporters started gathering in the hallway outside Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office right after the Post story broke. As the group grew to more than 20 people, press aides walked silently by as journalists asked for more information. Soon, three of the four TV channels being played in the press area were reporting the Post story.

At one point National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who would later deliver the televised denial, stumbled into the crowd of journalists as he walked through the West Wing.

"This is the last place in the world I wanted to be," he said, nervously, as he was pushed for information. "I'm leaving. I'm leaving."

Not long after, the press office sent a trio of short, written statements. Then Spicer briefly appeared to say McMaster would speak outside soon, prompting a mass exodus to a bank of microphones set up in the West Wing driveway.

"I was in the room, it didn't happen," McMaster told reporters after emerging.

"The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation," McMaster said. "At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known."

But what, precisely, had been misreported?

The Post cited current and former U.S. officials who said Trump had shared classified details with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. They said the information, which had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement, was considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.

The Post story did not claim that Trump revealed any specific information about how the intelligence was gathered, as McMaster's denial suggested.

 

Reporters immediately returned to Spicer's office, hungry for answers.

As they huddled in a hallway, one eagle-eyed reporter for the conservative One America News Network spotted a handful of staffers, including Spicer and spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, walking not far from Spicer's office.

Soon after, faint, muffled sounds were heard coming from that direction.

It was unclear precisely where they were coming from or what they were — but after a reporter tweeted about the noise, White House staffers quickly turned up the volume on the office television, blaring a newscast loudly enough to drown out any other potential noise.

Around 7:30 p.m., Sanders emerged to announce that White House officials would not be answering any more questions for the evening.

"We've said all we're going to say," she said, asking reporters to clear the hallway.

They obliged.


Huge cyber-attack ebbs as investigators work to find culprits

As the global cyber-extortion attack that held people’s computer files hostage slows, authorities are working to catch the crooks behind it, which is a difficult task that involves searching for digital clues and following the money. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Anick Jesdanun & Barbara Ortutay

New York (AP) — The global cyber-attack that took computer files hostage appeared to slow on Monday as authorities worked to catch the extortionists behind it — a difficult task that involves searching for digital clues and following the money.

Among their findings so far: The first suggestions of a possible link between the "ransomware" known as WannaCry and hackers linked to North Korea. Those findings remain quite tentative; one firm advancing them described them as intriguing but still "weak."

Experts had warned that WannaCry might wreak renewed havoc on Monday, particularly in Asia, which was closed for business on Friday when the malware scrambled data at hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and other businesses.

But while there were thousands of additional infections there, the expected second-wave outbreak largely failed to materialize, in part because security researchers had already defanged it.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer for the Finnish security company F-Secure, said the perpetrators of WannaCry made one crucial mistake.

"The malware became too successful," Hypponen said. "When you are a cybercriminal gang and your mission is to make money, you don't want to infect 200,000 work stations. You don't want to end up on the covers of magazines. There will be no shortage of investigation."

ABOUT THAT NORTH KOREA LINK

WannaCry paralyzed computers running mostly older versions of Microsoft Windows in some 150 countries. It encrypted users' computer files and displayed a message demanding $300 to $600 worth of the digital currency bitcoin to release them; failure to pay would leave the data scrambled and likely beyond repair.

The Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab said Monday that portions of the WannaCry program use the same code as malware previously distributed by the Lazarus Group, a hacker collective behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.

But it's possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection. Kaspersky said "further research can be crucial to connecting the dots."

Another security company, Symantec, has also found similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools, and said it's "continuing to investigate for stronger connections."

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Researchers might find some additional clues in the bitcoin accounts accepting the ransom payments. There have been three accounts identified so far, and there's no indication yet that the criminals have touched the funds. But what good is money just sitting there as digital bits?

Although bitcoin is anonymized, researchers can watch it flow from user to user. So investigators can follow the transactions until an anonymous account matches with a real person, said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer with the California security company McAfee.

But that technique is no sure bet. There are ways to convert bitcoins into cash on the sly through third parties. And even finding a real person might be no help if they're in a jurisdiction that won't cooperate.

Another possible slip-up: Nicholas Weaver, who teaches networking and security at the University of California, Berkeley, said good ransomware usually generates a unique bitcoin address for each payment to make tracing difficult. That didn't seem to happen here.

TELL-TALE SIGNS

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said U.S. investigators are collecting forensic information — such as internet addresses, samples of malware or information the culprits might have inadvertently left on computers — that could be matched with the handiwork of known hackers.

Investigators might also be able to extract some information about the attacker from a previously hidden internet address connected to WannaCry's "kill switch." That switch was essentially a beacon sending the message "hey, I'm infected" to the hidden address, Weaver said.

That means the very first attempts to reach that address, which might have been recorded by spy agencies such as the NSA or Russian intelligence, could lead to "patient zero" — the first computer infected with WannaCry. That, in turn, might further narrow the focus on possible suspects.

THE PLAYERS

Forensics, though, will only get investigators so far. One challenge will be sharing intelligence in real time to move as quickly as the criminals — a tricky feat when some of the major nations involved, such as the U.S. and Russia, distrust each other.

Even if the perpetrators can be identified, bringing them to justice could be another matter. They might be hiding out in countries that wouldn't be willing to extradite suspects for prosecution, said Robert Cattanach, a former U.S. Justice Department attorney and an expert on cyber-security.

On the other hand, the WannaCry attack hit — and annoyed — many countries. Russia was among the hardest, and Britain among the most high-profile, and both have "some pretty good investigative capabilities," Cattanach said.


2 dead as Venezuela protests turn violent outside capital

A demonstrator and boy wearing a helmet and holding a shield, walk on a blocked highway as a barricade burns in the background, during a national sit-in against President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 15. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Hannah Dreier & Christine Armario

Caracas, Venezuela (AP) — A day that began with largely peaceful protests against Venezuela's socialist government took a violent turn Monday as fierce clashes between state security and demonstrators killed at least two people.

Thousands hauled folding chairs, beach umbrellas and protest signs onto main roads for a 12-hour "sit-in against the dictatorship," the latest in a month and a half of street demonstrations that have resulted in dozens of deaths.

Protests in Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro remained mostly tranquil, but outside the capital demonstrators clashed with police and national guardsmen. In the western state of Tachira near Venezuela's border with Colombia, two men were reported dead in separate demonstrations: Luis Alviarez, 18, and Diego Hernandez, 33.

Witness videos showed a man identified as Hernandez lying lifeless on the pavement, his eyes wide open, as a bystander ripped open his shirt, revealing a bloody wound underneath. "They killed him!" someone cries out.

Elsewhere in Tachira, demonstrators threw rocks and set an armored truck on fire. Several buildings were set ablaze and dozens injured, including one young woman standing on the street, her face covered in blood.

In the central state of Carabobo, three officers were shot, including one left in critical condition after being struck in the head, authorities said. In Lara, a vehicle ran over three protesters.

The violence added to a mounting toll of bloodshed and chaos as Venezuela's opposition vows to step up near-daily demonstrations and Maduro shows no intention of conceding to opposition demands. More than three dozen people have been killed, including a national guardsman and a police officer, hundreds injured and as many as 2,000 detained in nearly seven weeks of protests.

International pressure on the troubled South American nation is continuing to increase, with the Organization of American States voting Monday to hold a rare foreign ministers' meeting later this month to discuss Venezuela's political crisis. The Washington-based group only convenes such meetings to address most urgent affairs.

"We ask the world to look at what's happening right now in Venezuela," opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said after Monday's violence. "A deranged regime that represses and kills its people."

Venezuela announced in late April that it would be leaving the OAS, which seeks to defend democracy throughout the hemisphere, and its representative was not present at Monday's meeting. Maduro contends the OAS is meddling in Venezuela's domestic affairs, infringing on its sovereignty and trying to remove him from power.

The fiery Venezuelan president is vowing to resolve his nation's crisis by convening a special assembly to rewrite the nation's constitution, while the opposition is demanding an immediate presidential election.

Polls indicate the great majority of Venezuelans want Maduro gone as violent crime soars and the country falls into economic ruin, with triple-digit inflation and shortages of many basic foods and medical supplies.

The wave of protests were triggered by a government move to nullify the opposition-controlled congress in late March, but the demonstrations have morphed into a general airing of grievances against the unpopular socialist administration.

As demonstrations take over Caracas almost daily, normal life has continued, but the atmosphere is suffused with uncertainty. At fancy cafes, patrons show each other the latest videos of student protesters getting hurt or defaced statues of the late President Hugo Chavez on their phones. Working class people who have to traverse the capital for their jobs have adjusted their schedules to account for traffic shutdowns and take siestas to wait out clashes between protesters and police.

On Monday, demonstrators assembled a giant rosary with balloons hanging from a Caracas highway overpass. A group of flamenco dancers dressed in black performed for the crowds. Others simply sat and held signs declaring their resistance.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said the opposition would take its protests "to another stage" as Maduro continues his push to rewrite the nation's constitution.

"We are against this fraudulent process," Capriles said on his radio broadcast.

Tarek William Saab, the national ombudsman, whose job is to protect citizens' rights but who has been tagged the "dictator's defender" by the opposition, said on Twitter that he was pressing for an exhaustive investigation into Alviarez's death Monday to determine who was responsible and ensure they are held accountable.

Maduro blames the opposition for the violence, claiming its leaders are fomenting unrest to remove him from power. The opposition maintains state security and civilian-armed pro-government groups known as "colectivos" are responsible for the bloodshed..


Busy day for French president: Names PM, meets with Merkel

New French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wave to journalists at the chancellery in Berlin Monday, May 15, during the first foreign trip of Macron after his inauguration the day before. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Sylvie Corbet & Geir Moulson

Berlin (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron hit the ground running Monday on his first full day in office by naming a prime minister from the center-right and then flying to Germany, where he and Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to work together to undertake European reforms.

At home, Macron started to shape his government by appointing relatively little-known lawmaker Edouard Philippe, 46, as his prime minister. That made good on a promise to repopulate French politics with new faces and reinforced the generational shift under Macron, who at 39 is France's youngest president.

Then, a large crowd outside the chancellery welcomed Macron to Berlin, with some waving European Union flags. Macron and Merkel were all smiles inside, and the German leader declared that "Europe will only do well if there is a strong France, and I am committed to that."

Germany and France have traditionally been the motor of European integration, but the relationship has become increasingly lopsided in recent years as France struggled economically.

German leaders were hugely relieved by the independent centrist's rout of far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the May 7 presidential runoff, and now they hope that Macron can deliver the economic upturn that his predecessors couldn't.

Macron is the conservative Merkel's fourth French president in nearly 12 years as chancellor. Some media have dubbed the pair "Merkron" — a reference to the "Merkozy" moniker used for Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, France's conservative leader from 2007-12.

Merkel called for "new dynamism" in the countries' relationship. She said she was "aware of the responsibility, at a very critical moment for the European Union, to take the right decisions together."

The 28-nation EU faces complex divorce proceedings with Britain, its current No. 2 economy. When Britain leaves the bloc in 2019, France will be the EU's only member with nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Macron made clear his determination to tackle his country's problems.

"The French agenda will be an agenda of reform in the coming months, in economic, social and educational terms," he said. "Not because Europe requests it, but because France needs it."

France, he said, "is today the only big country in the European Union that, for more than 30 years, has not succeeded in beating the problem of mass unemployment."

Macron also declared there needs to be "a Europe that protects our citizens better." Together with Germany, he said, he wants to work on "a common road map for the European Union and the eurozone."

Macron faces his first big test next month in legislative elections that will determine how far he is able to advance his reform agenda. He is the first president of modern France to come neither from the mainstream left nor the right parties.

Philippe, the mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, is a trained lawyer and an author of political thrillers. He is a member of the Republicans, a mainstream-right party whose candidate Macron beat in the first round of the election.

Philippe could possibly attract other Republicans to Macron's cause. Alain Juppe, a former prime minister, called Philippe "a man of great talent" with "all the qualities to handle the difficult job."

Macron also is siphoning off support from lawmakers on the left. At least 24 Socialists are now campaigning for re-election under the banner of Macron's Republic on the Move party.

Merkel wished Macron luck in the legislative elections.

She held out the possibility of deep reform to the 19-nation eurozone if it is deemed necessary, saying she's prepared to talk about changes to the EU treaties — a cumbersome and politically risky process.

"First we need to work on what we want to do, and then if it turns out it needs treaty changes, then we — or at least I — will be prepared to do that," she said. European countries must not dig in their heels and say changes can never be made, she added, as "a European Union that behaves this way would be vulnerable from every corner of the world."

Macron, for his part, reassured Germany that he wouldn't revive the idea of jointly issued eurobonds, which divided Europe at the height of the eurozone debt crisis.

"I have never ... advocated what people call eurobonds," the former investment banker and finance minister said. "I am not a promoter of mutualizing past debts."

But he added: "what I know is that we have investments to make (in Europe), and so we have to work on investment mechanisms for the future." He said that the eurozone to find ways to "inject new money" via public and private investment.

"I will always be a frank, direct and constructive partner, because I think the success of our two countries is deeply linked, and that the whole success of Europe depends on that," Macron said.

Merkel, quoting German writer Hermann Hesse, said that "a magic dwells in each beginning."

"Of course, this magic only remains if there are results," she added. "We both know that."


UK reviled child-killer Ian Brady dies at 79

In this photo dated Oct. 1965, Ian Brady, right, is escorted as he arrives at the courthouse to be convicted of the Moors murders of five children together with accomplice Myra Hindley in the Greater Manchester area of England. (AP Photo/FILE)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — Ian Brady, a killer of five children whose role in the 1960s "Moors Murders" made him one of Britain's most reviled criminals, died Monday. He was 79.

Health officials said Brady died at a high-security psychiatric hospital in northwestern England.

No cause of death was immediately given. At a court hearing in February, lawyers said Brady had been bedridden for the last couple of years and it was "fair to say" he was terminally ill, with emphysema among his ailments.

Brady and his girlfriend, Myra Hindley, were convicted and sentenced to life in 1966 for the vicious murders of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey and 17-year-old Edward Evans. Brady was also found guilty of killing John Kilbride, 12.

The pair confessed in 1987 to murdering two more children, Pauline Reade, 16, and Keith Bennett, 12.

Some of the victims were beaten, tortured and sexually abused before being killed. Their bodies were eventually buried on desolate Saddleworth Moor in northwestern England.

Hindley and Brady were caught in 1965, after they forced Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith, to watch as they killed Evans. After they lured Evans away from a gay bar, Brady attacked him with an ax, smothered him with a cushion and bound him with an electrical cable.

Smith fled and called police, who eventually found Kilbride and Downey's bodies buried on the moor.

The abuse of Downey, snatched by the couple from a fairground the day after Christmas in 1964, had been recorded on audio tape and was played to the court at the couple's trial.

"Nothing in criminal behavior before or since has penetrated my heart with quite the same paralyzing intensity," John Stalker, then a police detective sergeant, said later.

Britain has never forgotten the horror of the crimes. Hindley in particular became a hate figure, her face plastered across newspaper pages every time she applied unsuccessfully for parole. She died in prison in 2002.

The trial judge, Fenton Atkinson, said most of the blame for the killings lay with Brady, calling him "wicked beyond belief without hope of redemption."

In 1985 Brady was moved from prison to a psychiatric institution, where for many years he resisted treatment and fought unsuccessfully to be sent back to prison.

Hindley and Brady were taken back to Saddleworth Moor in the 1980s to help find the bodies of Reade and Bennett. Reade's was uncovered but Bennett's grave has never been found.

For years Brady ignored calls by the boy's family to reveal the location of his remains.

British newspapers greeted news of his death with grim satisfaction. "Monster Brady is dead," said the front page of The Sun. "Burn in hell Brady," said the Daily Mirror.


'Silk Road' plan stirs unease over China's strategic goals

A Pakistan Navy soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship prepares to depart from Gwadar port in southern Pakistan that links to China's far western region on a new international route exporting goods to the Middle East and Africa. (AP Photo/Muhammad Yousuf)

Beijing (AP) — In a mountain valley in Kashmir, plans are underway for Chinese engineers guarded by Pakistani forces to expand the lofty Karakoram Highway in a project that is stirring diplomatic friction with India.

The work is part of a sprawling Chinese initiative to build a "new Silk Road" of ports, railways and roads to expand trade in a vast arc of countries across Asia, Africa and Europe. The Asian Development Bank says the region, home to 60 percent of the world's people, needs more than $26 trillion of such investment by 2030 to keep economies growing.

The initiative is in many ways natural for China, the world's biggest trader. But governments from Washington to Moscow to New Delhi worry Beijing also is trying to build its own political influence and erode theirs.

Others worry China might undermine human rights, environmental and other standards for lending or leave poor countries burdened with debt.

India is unhappy that Chinese state-owned companies are working in the Pakistani-held part of Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed by both sides. Indian leaders see that as an endorsement of Pakistani control.

"We have some serious reservations about it, because of sovereignty issues," said India's finance and defense minister, Arun Jaitley, at an Asian Development Bank meeting this month in Yokohama, Japan. China has tried previously to mollify Indian anxiety by saying in January its highway work "targets no third country."

China's new Silk Road initiative is ramping up as President Donald Trump focuses on domestic issues, downplaying foreign affairs.

American officials say Washington wants to work with China on infrastructure. But some diplomats and political analysts say Beijing is trying to create a political and economic network centered on China, push the United States out of the region and rewrite rules on trade and security.

At a Senate hearing in Washington last week on global threats, Dan Coats, the U.S. director of national intelligence, identified the Silk Road strategy as part of a pattern of "aggressive" Chinese investments and other actions around the world.

"They clearly have a strategy, through their investments," Coats said. "You name a part of the world, the Chinese are probably there, looking to put investments in." The Silk Road process, he said, is "a different way to address nations that they've had difficulty connecting with."

William A. Callahan, an international relations specialist at the London School of Economics, said China is trying to change the way the political structure of the region works.

"We will have to see whether it can achieve this," he said.

Trump's decision to pull out of the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership deprives China's neighbors of a tool they hoped would counter its rising influence, said Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to Beijing until January. Baucus called the move a "large geopolitical mistake."

"Southeast Asian countries would tell me 'We want you, we want the TPP, then we can balance China with the United States. But when you're not there, there is a void that China's going to fill,'" Baucus told The Associated Press.

Dubbed "One Belt, One Road" after ancient trade routes through the Indian Ocean and Central Asia, the initiative is Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature project.

Details such as financing are vague. But since Xi announced it in 2013, Beijing has launched dozens of projects from railways in Tajikistan, Thailand and Kenya to power plants in Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan, financed mostly by Chinese loans.

Countries including Pakistan and Afghanistan welcome it as a path out of poverty. India, Indonesia and others want investment but are wary of Chinese strategic ambitions, especially after Beijing started building artificial islands to enforce its claim to most of the South China Sea, a busy trade route.

Indonesia's political elite have a "fear of regional hegemony" by China, said Christine Tjhin, senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Moscow worries Beijing is diluting Russian influence in Central Asia by linking Uzbekistan and other countries more closely to China's more dynamic economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin responded last June by proposing a "Great Eurasia Project," with Beijing leading on economics and Moscow on politics and security.

"This vision enables the Kremlin to maintain an appearance that it retains the political initiative in its neighborhood," Marcin Kaczmarski and Witold Rodkiewicz said in a report for the Center for Eastern Studies, a Warsaw think tank.

GOING GLOBAL

"One Belt, One Road" is the biggest of a series of initiatives launched by Beijing in the past decade in pursuit of global influence to match its economic success.

Starting in 2004, the communist government opened Confucius Institutes with universities in Asia, Europe and the Americas to teach Chinese language and culture. After the 2008 global crisis, Beijing lobbied successfully for more voting rights in the U.S.- and European-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Chinese officials reject suggestions "One Belt, One Road" is a power play by Beijing.

"The Chinese government has never wished to control any other country's government," a Cabinet official, Ou Xiaoli, told The AP. "We feel in contacts between countries, we need to talk about studying benefits, studying mutual profit."

The bulk of Chinese financing is to be loans, which Ou said will be mostly on commercial terms based on "market principles." That might add to debt burdens in countries where dealing with Beijing can be politically sensitive.

Sri Lanka's former president suffered a surprise election defeat in 2015 after his challenger criticized him for running up an estimated $5 billion in debt to China. Villagers protesting a $1.2 billion Chinese port project there violently clashed with government supporters as recently as January.

China often is the only entity willing to finance big projects in poor countries. That gives Beijing leverage to require use of Chinese builders and technology.

The state-run China Development Bank announced in 2015 it had set aside $890 billion for more than 900 "One Belt, One Road" projects across 60 countries in gas, minerals, power, telecoms, infrastructure and farming. This year, the government's Export-Import Bank of China said it would finance 1,000 projects in 49 countries.

Beijing will provide only part of the financing and wants projects to attract private investors, Ou said.

"We must consider economic viability," he said.

China is far from alone in promoting infrastructure investment.

Japan has given Southeast Asian governments tens of billions of dollars in grants or low-interest loans. The Asian Development Bank lent $32 billion last year.

South Korea launched its "Eurasia Initiative" in 2013 to develop rail, trade and energy links across the two Koreas and Russia to Europe. That stalled last year due to trade sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons development.

U.S. allies Britain, South Korea and Australia signed on as founding members of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, launched in 2015 to finance roads, ports and other projects. The U.S. and Japan have so far stayed away.

Ou said AIIB will operate separately from "One Belt, One Road" and any loans made by the bank will be decided independently.

In Pakistan, the proposed $1.3 billion effort to expand the Karakoram Highway is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which involves dozens of projects including power plants, roads and railways spanning the length of the country. It links China's far western region of Xinjiang with the Chinese-built port of Gwadar on the Indian Ocean.

"It threatens no one. It benefits all, most of all the common man who shall see a boom in jobs and businesses," Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in April.

TRADE CONCERNS

"One Belt, One Road" could help China's exporters by encouraging countries to adopt its industrial standards for railways and other products, locking buyers into sticking with them for repairs or additional technologies. China's premier has cited the promoting of Chinese standards abroad as one of Beijing's goals.

This has some countries in the region concerned about China's dominance, Baucus said. "'We're going to have to bow to their standards and if they're Chinese standards, then Chinese companies are going to have an advantage over our companies in our country,'" the former U.S. ambassador described officials as telling him. "They're very concerned."

Chinese rail technology is poised to make inroads into the European Union with a plan for state-owned companies to build a high-speed line from Budapest, capital of EU member Hungary, to Belgrade in neighboring Serbia.

The $2.9 billion project, financed by Beijing, faces obstacles after EU officials said they will look into whether Hungary broke trade bloc rules by agreeing to the Chinese deal without competitive bidding.

In Pakistan, officials say much of the Chinese money for power projects is investment, not loans. They have given few details, raising questions about whether other projects can pay for themselves.

"China is giving most contracts for energy projects to its own companies without even consulting Pakistan," said Azeem Khalid, a lecturer at the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South, a non-government group in Islamabad. "I feel that our several generations will have to repay these Chinese loans for decades."

In Indonesia, the Chinese effort could fit with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's "Maritime Axis Policy" to transform the country into a sea power. China muscled aside Japan in 2015 to win a contract to build a $5.2 billion high-speed rail line from the capital, Jakarta, to the city of Bandung.

But Indonesian leaders also are wary of a backlash in a country where resentment of ethnic Chinese billionaires simmers.

"The Jokowi government must balance its desire for capital and expertise with a need to guard against a populist, anti-Chinese backlash," said Hugo Brennan, an analyst at political risk firm Verisk Maplecroft.


Today in History - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, May 16, the 136th day of 2017. There are 229 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 16, 1868, the U.S. Senate failed by one vote to convict President Andrew Johnson as it took its first ballot on the eleven articles of impeachment against him.

On this date:

In 1770, Marie Antoinette, age 14, married the future King Louis XVI of France, who was 15.

In 1866, Congress authorized minting of the first five-cent piece, also known as the "Shield nickel."

In 1920, Joan of Arc was canonized by Pope Benedict XV.

In 1939, the federal government began its first food stamp program in Rochester, New York.

In 1946, the Irving Berlin musical "Annie Get Your Gun," starring Ethel Merman as Annie Oakley, opened on Broadway.

In 1957, federal agent Eliot Ness, who organized "The Untouchables" team that took on gangster Al Capone, died in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, at age 54.

In 1966, China launched the Cultural Revolution, a radical as well as deadly reform movement aimed at purging the country of "counter-revolutionaries."

In 1975, Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

In 1977, a New York Airways helicopter idling atop the Pan Am Building in midtown Manhattan toppled over, killing four passengers who were waiting to board and sending debris falling to the street below, killing a fifth person.

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court, in California v. Greenwood, ruled that police can search discarded garbage without a search warrant. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report declaring nicotine was addictive in ways similar to heroin and cocaine.

In 1992, the space shuttle Endeavour completed its maiden voyage with a safe landing in the California desert.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton publicly apologized for the notorious Tuskegee experiment, in which government scientists deliberately allowed black men to weaken and die of treatable syphilis.

Ten years ago: Anti-war Democrats in the Senate failed in an attempt to cut off funds for the Iraq war. Britain's army reversed course and announced that Prince Harry would not be sent to Iraq with his regiment due to "specific threats" from insurgents. (The prince did end up serving in Afghanistan for 10 weeks, until word of his deployment there got out.) British Prime Minister Tony Blair paid a farewell visit to President George W. Bush at the White House. Nicolas Sarkozy (sahr-koh-ZEE') took over from Jacques Chirac (zhahk shih-RAHK') as France's president.

Five years ago: Gen. Ratko Mladic (RAHT'-koh MLAH'-dich) went on trial at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands, accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. (Mladic's trial wrapped up in Dec. 2016, and the judges are considering their verdicts.) Mary Richardson Kennedy, 52, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., died in Bedford, New York, a suicide.

One year ago: President Barack Obama called on the nation to support law enforcement officers as he bestowed the Medal of Valor on 13 who risked their lives. The International Space Station reached the orbital milestone of 100,000 laps around Earth, akin to traveling more than 2.6 billion miles in 17 1/2 years. Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital said a cancer patient was recovering well after the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that could give new hope to accident victims and wounded veterans. Grammy-winning Tejano star Emilio Navaira, 53, died in New Braunfels, Texas. Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was named the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Today's Birthdays: U.S. Rep John Conyers, D-Mich., is 88. Former U.S. Senator and Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker is 86. Jazz musician Billy Cobham is 73. Actor Danny Trejo is 73. Actor Bill Smitrovich is 70. Actor Pierce Brosnan is 64. Actress Debra Winger is 62. Olympic gold medal gymnast Olga Korbut is 62. Olympic gold medal marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson is 60. Actress Mare Winningham is 58. Rock musician Boyd Tinsley (The Dave Matthews Band) is 53. Rock musician Krist Novoselic (noh-voh-SEL'-ik) is 52. Singer Janet Jackson is 51. Country singer Scott Reeves (Blue County) is 51. Actor Brian (BREE'-un) F. O'Byrne is 50. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ralph Tresvant (New Edition) is 49. Actor David Boreanaz is 48. Political correspondent Tucker Carlson is 48. Actress Tracey Gold is 48. International Tennis Hall of Famer Gabriela Sabatini is 47. Country singer Rick Trevino is 46. Musician Simon Katz is 46. TV personality Bill Rancic is 46. Actress Tori Spelling is 44. Actor Sean Carrigan is 43. Singer-rapper B. Slade (formerly known as Tonex) is 42. Actress Lynn Collins is 40. Actress Melanie Lynskey is 40. Actor Jim Sturgess (TV: "Feed the Beast") is 39. DJ Alex Pall (The Chainsmokers) is 32. Actress Megan Fox is 31. Actor Drew Roy is 31. Actor Jacob Zachar is 31. Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster is 27. Actor Marc John Jefferies is 27. Olympic bronze medal figure skater Ashley Wagner is 26. Actor Miles Heizer is 23.

Thought for Today: "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." — Roald Dahl, British author (1916-1990).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 15, 2017

Merkel's party wins election in rivals' German heartland

German chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and North Rhine-Westphalia top candidate of her Christian Democrats, Armin Laschet, wave to supporters at the last stage of the state election campaign in Aachen, Germany, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)

Geir Moulson, Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives won a state election Sunday in their center-left rivals' traditional heartland, a stinging blow to the challenger in September's national vote.

The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany's most populous and has been led by the center-left Social Democrats for all but five years since 1966.

It is also the home state of Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat seeking to deny Merkel a fourth term in the Sept. 24 election. Schulz was hoping for a boost after two previous state election defeats sapped his party's momentum.

Instead, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union won 33 percent of the vote in the election for the state legislature, with the Social Democrats trailing on 31.2 percent.

Social Democrat governor Hannelore Kraft's coalition lost its majority as her junior governing partners, the Greens, took only 6.4 percent. Conservative challenger Armin Laschet, a deputy leader of Merkel's party, was set to replace Kraft.

"The CDU has won the heartland of the Social Democrats," said the conservatives' general secretary, Peter Tauber.

"This is a difficult day for the Social Democrats, a difficult day for me personally as well," Schulz, who wasn't on the ballot Sunday, told supporters in Berlin. "I come from the state in which we took a really stinging defeat today."

But he urged the party to concentrate now on the national election. He said that "we will sharpen our profile further — we have to as well."

"We will continue fighting; the result will come on Sept. 24," Schulz said.

The Social Democrats' national ratings soared after Schulz, a former European Parliament president, was nominated in January as Merkel's challenger. But defeats in two other state elections since late March punctured the party's euphoria over Schulz's nomination.

The Social Democrats' result in Sunday's election, the last before the national vote, was their worst in North Rhine-Westphalia since World War II. In the state's last election in 2012, the Social Democrats beat the CDU by 39.1 percent to 26.3 percent.

The pro-business Free Democrats won a strong 12.6 percent of the vote Sunday after a campaign headed by their national leader, Christian Lindner. That gave the party, with which Merkel governed Germany from 2009 to 2013, a strong base for its drive to return to the national parliament in September after it was ejected four years ago.

The nationalist Alternative for Germany won 7.4 percent, giving it seats in its 13th state legislature. The opposition Left Party fell just short of the 5 percent needed to win seats.

The result gives the CDU and Free Democrats a very slim majority. If they can't agree on a governing alliance, Laschet could opt for a "grand coalition" of the biggest parties with the Social Democrats.

A "grand coalition" would mirror Merkel's national government, in which the Social Democrats are the junior partners.

After a blaze of publicity earlier this year, Schulz — who chose not to join the government when he returned to Germany in January — has struggled to maintain a high profile. He has focused on addressing perceived economic injustices, but critics have accused him of providing too little detail of his aims.

Kraft told ARD television she had "asked Martin Schulz to let national politics wait until the election was over."

Asked whether that was smart, she replied: "I said I would take responsibility for that, and I'm doing that this evening." She resigned as her party's regional leader.

Merkel's conservatives sought to portray Kraft's government as slack on security, and also assailed what they said is regional authorities' poor handling of education and infrastructure projects. The region of 17.9 million, nearly a quarter of Germany's population, includes Cologne, Duesseldorf and the Ruhr industrial area.

Merkel's party seemed keen not to appear too euphoric, insisting that regional issues played the key role.

Asked about Germany's government after September her chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, said that "we always have to keep a cool head ... we shouldn't talk about coalitions before the harvest is in."

National polls show the Social Democrats trailing Merkel's conservatives by up to 10 points after drawing level earlier this year.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


'Deadwood' actor Powers Booth dies at 68

 

In this Sept. 23, 2012 file photo, Powers Boothe arrives at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles.(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Powers Boothe, the character actor known for his villain roles in TV's "Deadwood," and in the movies "Tombstone," ''Sin City" and "The Avengers," has died. He was 68.

Boothe's publicist says he died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles Sunday.

Beau Bridges tweeted the news and called him "a dear friend, great actor, devoted father and husband."

The veteran actor won an Emmy award in 1980 for playing cult leader Jim Jones in the TV movie "Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones." He also had memorable roles playing the ruthless saloon owner Cy Tolliver in "Deadwood," the gunman Curly Bill Brocius in "Tombstone" and the corrupt senator in "Sin City."

A private service will be held in Texas where he was from.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke

A TV news program shows a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, May 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Foster Klug, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Monday the missile it launched over the weekend was a new type of "medium long-range" ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead. A jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.

North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness — Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a "sea of fire," for instance — but Monday's claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North's goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Some experts, including officials in Tokyo, estimate that Sunday's launch successfully tested a new type of missile in Pyongyang's arsenal.

The test is also an immediate challenge to South Korea's new leader, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected last week who expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea. Pyongyang's aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the Trump administration's most urgent foreign policy worries, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency called the missile a "new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket," and said the "Hwasong-12" was "capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead." Kim Jong Un witnessed the test and "hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing," according to KCNA.

The rocket, "newly designed in a Korean-style," flew 787 kilometers (490 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (1,310 miles), the North said, and "verified the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of detonation system."

South Korea's Defense Ministry said more analysis is needed to verify the North's claim on the rocket's technological features. Spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said it's still unlikely that North Korea has re-entry technology, which would return a warhead safely back into the atmosphere.

Japanese officials said Sunday the missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea is not thought to be able yet to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, though some outside analysts think they can arm shorter range missiles with warheads; each new nuclear and longer-range missile test is part of the North's attempt to build a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.

Kim said the North would stage more nuclear and missile tests in order to perfect nuclear bombs needed to deal with U.S. "nuclear blackmail."

State media paraphrased Kim as saying that "the most perfect weapon systems in the world will never become the eternal exclusive property of the U.S., ... strongly warning the U.S. should not ... disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea's) sighting range for strike."

The launch complicates the new South Korean president's plan to talk to the North, and came as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific.

"The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea," senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said. "The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating."

Moon, South Korea's first liberal leader in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of office last week that he'd be willing to visit the North if the circumstances were right.

The U.N. Security Council will hold closed consultations about the launch on Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.N. Mission for Uruguay, which holds the council presidency this month.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on ABC television that the United States has been working well with China, Pyongyang's closest ally, and she raised the possibility of new sanctions against North Korea, including on oil imports.

The Security Council has adopted six increasingly tougher sanctions resolutions against North Korea.

President Donald Trump's administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable, but it has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy.

While Trump has said he'd be "honored" to talk with leader Kim Jong Un under favorable conditions, Haley seemed to rule out the possibility. "Having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he's absolutely not going to do it," she told ABC.

The U.S. Pacific Command said the flight of Sunday's test "is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile," a technology the North is believed to have tested clandestinely by launching rockets to put satellites in orbit.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory — considerably longer than Pyongyang's current missiles. He said Sunday's launch — the seventh such firing by North Korea this year — may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the launch was "absolutely unacceptable" and that Japan would respond resolutely.

The White House took note of the missile landing close to Russia's Pacific coast and said in a statement that North Korea has been "a flagrant menace for far too long."

Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the G-7 summit his country is hosting later this month would discuss how to deal with the risk North Korea's missile launchings pose to global security.

"It's a serious problem for global stability and security, and I'm convinced that the upcoming G-7, in friendship, will contribute to resolving this issue," he said in Beijing.

The launch came as troops from the U.S., Japan and two European nations gather near Guam for drills that are partly a message to North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.

Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Frances D'Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed..


Log in, look out: Cyber chaos may grow at workweek's start

A screenshot of the warning screen from a purported ransomware attack, as captured by a computer user in Taiwan, is seen on laptop in Beijing, Saturday, May 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Sylvia Hui & Christopher S. Rugaber, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Employees booting up computers at work Monday could see red as they discover they're victims of a global "ransomware" cyberattack that has created chaos in 150 countries and could wreak even greater havoc as more malicious variations appear.

As a loose global network of cybersecurity experts fought the ransomware hackers, officials and experts on Sunday urged organizations and companies to update older Microsoft operating systems immediately to ensure they aren't vulnerable to a more powerful version of the software — or to future versions that can't be stopped.

The initial attack, known as "WannaCry," paralyzed computers that run Britain's hospital network, Germany's national railway and scores of other companies and government agencies worldwide in what was believed to be the biggest online extortion scheme so far.

Microsoft blamed the U.S. government for "stockpiling" software code that was used by unknown hackers to launch the attacks. The hackers exploited software code from the National Security Agency that leaked online.

The company's top lawyer said the government should report weaknesses they discover to software companies rather than seek to exploit them.

"An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen," attorney Brad Smith wrote on Microsoft's blog.

New variants of the rapidly replicating worm were discovered Sunday and one did not include the so-called kill switch that allowed researchers to interrupt its spread Friday by diverting it to a dead end on the internet.

Ryan Kalember, senior vice president at Proofpoint Inc. which helped stop its spread, said the version without a kill switch was able to spread but was benign because it contained a flaw that wouldn't allow it to take over a computer and demand ransom to unlock files. However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists.

"I still expect another to pop up and be fully operational," Kalember said. "We haven't fully dodged this bullet at all until we're patched against the vulnerability itself."

The attack held users hostage by freezing their computers, popping up a red screen with the words, "Oops, your files have been encrypted!" and demanding money through online bitcoin payment — $300 at first, rising to $600 before it destroys files hours later.

The ransomware attack was particularly malicious, because if just one person in an organization clicked on an infected attachment or bad link, all the computers in a network would be infected, said Vikram Thakur, technical director of Symantec Security Response.

"That's what makes this more troubling than ransomware was a week ago," Thakur said.

It hit 200,000 victims across the world since Friday and is seen as an "escalating threat," said Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, Europe's policing agency.

"The numbers are still going up," Wainwright said. "We've seen that the slowdown of the infection rate over Friday night, after a temporary fix around it, has now been overcome by a second variation the criminals have released."

The effects were felt around the globe, disrupting computers that run factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems in nations as diverse as Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, India and the U.S. Britain's National Health Service was hit hard, while Russia's Interior Ministry and companies including Spain's Telefonica, FedEx Corp. in the U.S. and French carmaker Renault all reported disruptions.

Chinese media reported that more than 29,000 institutions in the country had been hit, with universities and other educational entities the hardest hit, along with railway services and retailers. Japanese broadcaster NTV reported 600 companies in that country had been hit, and automaker Nissan and the Hitachi conglomerate said they were addressing the problem at their units that were affected.

The full extent of the attack won't become fully clear until people return to their workplaces Monday, for the first time after the attacks. Many may click infected email attachments or bad links and spread the virus further.

"It's this constant battle," said Ryan O'Leary, vice president of WhiteHat Security's threat research center. "The bad guys are always one step ahead."

The White House held emergency meetings Friday and Saturday to assess the global cyber threat, a White House official said Sunday. No details were disclosed. The official was not authorized to discuss the private meetings by name and requested anonymity.

It was too early to say who was behind the onslaught, which struck 100,000 organizations, and what their motivation was, aside from the obvious demand for money. So far, not many people have paid the ransom demanded by the malware, Europol spokesman Jan Op Gen Oorth told The Associated Press.

Researchers who helped prevent the spread of the malware and cybersecurity firms worked around the clock during the weekend to monitor the situation and install a software patch to block the worm from infecting computers in corporations across the U.S., Europe and Asia.

"Right now, just about every IT department has been working all weekend rolling this out," said Dan Wire, spokesman at Fireeye Security.

Businesses, government agencies and other organizations were urged to quickly implement a patch released by Microsoft Corp. The ransomware exploits older versions of Microsoft's operating system software, such as Windows XP.

Installing the patch is one way to secure computers against the virus. The other is to disable a type of software that connects computers to printers and faxes, which the virus exploits, O'Leary added.

Microsoft distributed a patch two months ago that could have forestalled much of the attack, but in many organizations it was likely lost among the blizzard of updates and patches that large corporations and governments strain to manage.

"It's one of those things, in a perfect world, if people were up to date on the patches, this wouldn't be a problem," O'Leary said. "But there are so many things to patch. The patch lists can be ginormous. It can be tough to tell which patch is important, until it is too late."

___

Rugaber reported from Washington. AP writers Brian Melley in Los Angeles, Catherine Lucey in Washington, Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina, and AP Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Today in History - Monday, May 15, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, May 15, the 135th day of 2017. There are 230 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On May 15, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a measure creating the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, whose members came to be known as WACs. Wartime gasoline rationing went into effect in 17 Eastern states, limiting sales to three gallons a week for non-essential vehicles.

On this date:

In 1776, Virginia authorized its delegation to the Continental Congress to support independence from Britain.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act establishing the Department of Agriculture.

In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil Co. was a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, and ordered its breakup.

In 1930, registered nurse Ellen Church, the first airline stewardess, went on duty aboard an Oakland-to-Chicago flight operated by Boeing Air Transport (a forerunner of United Airlines).

In 1955, the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France signed the Austrian State Treaty, which re-established Austria's independence.

In 1963, astronaut L. Gordon Cooper blasted off aboard Faith 7 on the final mission of the Project Mercury space program.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court, in its unanimous In re Gault decision, ruled that juveniles accused of crimes were entitled to the same due process afforded adults. American realist painter Edward Hopper died in New York at age 84.

In 1970, just after midnight, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, two black students at Jackson State College in Mississippi, were killed as police opened fire during student protests.

In 1972, Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot and left paralyzed by Arthur H. Bremer while campaigning for president in Laurel, Maryland. (Bremer served 35 years for attempted murder.)

In 1975, U.S. forces invaded the Cambodian island of Koh Tang and captured the American merchant ship Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge. (All 39 crew members had already been released safely by Cambodia; some 40 U.S. servicemen were killed in connection with the operation.)

In 1988, the Soviet Union began the process of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, more than eight years after Soviet forces entered the country.

In 1991, Edith Cresson was appointed by French President Francois Mitterrand (frahn-SWAH' mee-teh-RAHN') to be France's first female prime minister.

Ten years ago: The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who built the Christian right into a political force, died in Lynchburg, Virginia, at age 73. Yolanda King, the firstborn child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, died in Santa Monica, California, at age 51. President George W. Bush chose Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a war czar. Taoiseach (TEE'-shuk) Bertie Ahern became the first Irish leader to address the joint houses of the British Parliament. Kenny Chesney collected his third consecutive entertainer of the year trophy from the Academy of Country Music.

Five years ago: Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND') became president of France after a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in central Paris; he was the country's first Socialist leader since Francois Mitterrand (frahn-SWAH' mee-teh-RAHN') left office in 1995. In Bogota, Colombia, a midday bombing killed two bodyguards of an archconservative former interior minister, Fernando Londono, who was injured. Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

One year ago: President Barack Obama urged graduates at Rutgers University to shun those who wanted to confront a rapidly changing world by building walls around the United States or by embracing ignorance, as he delivered a sharp and barely concealed critique of Donald Trump. A suicide bomber detonated explosives among policemen standing in line outside a police base in the southern Yemeni city of Mukalla, killing 25. "60 Minutes" said goodbye to Morley Safer, honoring the newsman who had been a fixture at the CBS newsmagazine for all but two of its 48 years (Safer died four days later at age 84).

Today's Birthdays: Actress-singer Anna Maria Alberghetti is 81. Counterculture icon Wavy Gravy is 81. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is 80. Singer Trini Lopez is 80. Singer Lenny Welch is 79. Actress-singer Lainie Kazan is 75. Actress Gunilla Hutton is 75. Country singer K.T. Oslin is 75. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is 69. Singer-songwriter Brian Eno is 69. Actor Nicholas Hammond (Film: "The Sound of Music") is 67. Actor Chazz Palminteri is 65. Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett is 64. Musician-composer Mike Oldfield is 64. Actor Lee Horsley is 62. TV personality Giselle Fernandez is 56. Actress Brenda Bakke is 54. Football Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith is 48. Actor Brad Rowe is 47. Actor David Charvet (shahr-VAY') is 45. Actor Russell Hornsby is 43. Rock musician Ahmet Zappa is 43. Olympic gold-medal gymnast Amy Chow is 39. Actor David Krumholtz is 39. Actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler is 36. Actress Alexandra Breckenridge is 35. Rock musician Brad Shultz (Cage the Elephant) is 35. Rock musician Nick Perri is 33. Tennis player Andy Murray is 30.

Thought for Today: "Vice is most dangerous when it puts on the garb of virtue." — Danish proverb.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Update May 13 - 14, 2017

Today in History - Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Associated Press

Today in History

Today is Sunday, May 14, the 134th day of 2017. There are 231 days left in the year. This is Mother's Day.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 14, 1787, delegates began gathering at the State House in Philadelphia to draw up the United States Constitution. However, only delegates from Virginia and Pennsylvania had arrived by this time, and the convention did not achieve a quorum of seven states until May 25.

On this date:

In 1643, Louis XIV became King of France at age four upon the death of his father, Louis XIII.

In 1796, English physician Edward Jenner inoculated 8-year-old James Phipps against smallpox by using cowpox matter.

In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory as well as the Pacific Northwest left camp near present-day Hartford, Illinois.

In 1900, the Olympic games opened in Paris as part of the 1900 World's Fair.

In 1925, the Virginia Woolf novel "Mrs Dalloway" was first published in England and the United States.

In 1942, Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" was first performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

In 1948, according to the current-era calendar, the independent state of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv.

In 1955, representatives from eight Communist bloc countries, including the Soviet Union, signed the Warsaw Pact in Poland. (The Pact was dissolved in 1991.)

In 1961, Freedom Riders were attacked by violent mobs in Anniston and Birmingham, Alabama.

In 1973, the United States launched Skylab 1, its first manned space station. (Skylab 1 remained in orbit for six years before burning up during re-entry in 1979.) The National Right to Life Committee was incorporated.

In 1987, actress Rita Hayworth died in New York at age 68.

In 1998, singer-actor Frank Sinatra died at a Los Angeles hospital at age 82. The hit sitcom "Seinfeld" aired its final episode after nine years on NBC.

Ten years ago: DaimlerChrysler said it was selling almost all of Chrysler to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion, backing out of a troubled 1998 takeover. The trial of suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla (hoh-ZAY' puh-DEE'-uh) opened in Miami. (Padilla and two co-defendants were convicted of terrorism conspiracy and material support after a three-month trial; Padilla was originally sentenced to 17 years in prison, but that sentence was lengthened in 2014 to 21 years.)

Five years ago: President Barack Obama sought to tarnish Republican Mitt Romney as a corporate titan who got rich by cutting rather than creating jobs; Romney's campaign responded that the former Massachusetts governor alone helped spur more public and private jobs than Obama had.

One year ago: A charter bus headed to a casino in rainy conditions crashed north of Laredo, Texas, killing eight people and injuring 44 others. Hundreds of climate activists marched to the site of two refineries in northwest Washington state to call for a break from fossil fuels, while a smaller group continued to block railroad tracks leading to the facilities for a second day.

Today's Birthdays: Photo-realist artist Richard Estes is 85. Actress Sian Phillips is 84. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is 75. Movie producer George Lucas is 73. Actress Meg Foster is 69. Movie director Robert Zemeckis is 66. Rock singer David Byrne is 65. Actor Tim Roth is 56. Rock singer Ian Astbury (The Cult) is 55. Rock musician C.C. (aka Cecil) DeVille is 55. Actor Danny Huston is 55. Rock musician Mike Inez (Alice In Chains) is 51. Fabrice Morvan (ex-Milli Vanilli) is 51. Rhythm-and-blues singer Raphael Saadiq is 51. Actress Cate Blanchett is 48. Singer Danny Wood (New Kids on the Block) is 48. Movie writer-director Sofia Coppola (KOH'-pah-lah) is 46. Actor Gabriel Mann is 45. Singer Natalie Appleton (All Saints) is 44. Singer Shanice is 44. Actress Carla Jimenez is 43. Rock musician Henry Garza (Los Lonely Boys) is 39. Alt-country musician-singer Ketch Secor is 39. Rock singer-musician Dan Auerbach is 38. Rock musician Mike Retondo (Plain White T's) is 36. Actress Lina Esco is 32. Actress Amber Tamblyn is 34. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg is 33. Actress Miranda Cosgrove is 24.

Thought for Today: "A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do." — Lois Wyse, American advertising executive, author and columnist (1926-2007).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


5 immigrant women vie for Miss USA pageant title

In this May 11, 2017, photo, Miss Hawaii USA Julie Kuo competes during a preliminary competition for Miss USA in Las Vegas.(AP Photo/John Locher)

Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Five of the contestants vying for the Miss USA title have a message to immigrant girls and women watching the pageant this weekend: Set goals, work hard and don't stay in the shadows.

The contestants know what they are talking about as they were all born in other countries and immigrated to the U.S. at young ages as their families pursued their versions of the American Dream. The women are now all U.S. citizens.

"I want them to see that anything is possible if you work hard," said Linnette De Los Santos, who immigrated with her family from the Dominican Republic when she was 5 years old. "As Miss USA, I would love to be able to be that inspiration for our immigrant community. If I would have stopped following my dreams and working hard towards what I wanted, I wouldn't be sitting here as Miss Florida USA or in law school ready to become an immigration attorney."

The competition airs Sunday from Las Vegas.

De Los Santos, Miss North Dakota Raquel Wellentin, Miss Hawaii Julie Kuo, Miss Connecticut Olga Litvinenko and Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg spoke to The Associated Press about the opportunities and challenges they've faced as immigrants.

Their remarks stand in stark contrast to the scandal that enveloped the pageant in 2015, when part owner and now President Donald Trump offended Hispanics when he made anti-immigrant remarks in announcing his bid for the White House. Trump co-owned The Miss Universe Organization with NBCUniversal, but the network and the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision quickly cut ties with him, refusing to air the show. Trump sued both networks, eventually settling and selling off the entire pageant to talent management company WME/IMG.

Wellentin and her family left the Philippines over safety fears when she was 2 years old. Their first taste of American life was in the small community of Enderlin, North Dakota, where she and her siblings felt isolated.

"Nobody wanted to talk to me at all. I came home one day and I asked my dad 'Why am I so different? Why isn't anyone talking to me?'" Wellentin said. "My dad told me, 'You know, you are not different. You are very unique yourself. You have to be strong and really accept this negativity from other people and have it motivate you.' I still keep that in my mind."

Their situation improved when they moved to the larger and more diverse Fargo, North Dakota.

Wellentin, 24, who wants to be a middle school teacher after she completes a student-teaching requirement, said her experiences have taught her to not take no for an answer.

"I want to tell people that they need to make sure that they should not allow anyone to tell them that they can't do something because only you can determine your future," she said.

Like thousands of other immigrants, Litvinenko moved to the U.S. with her family after her mother won the lottery for a green card. She was 3 when they relocated from Ukraine a few years after the Soviet Union collapsed.

The 27-year-old business owner ventured into pageants when she could no longer play basketball after injuring a foot in high school. She won Miss Connecticut Teen on her first try but had to compete five times to reach the Miss USA competition. Her persistence, Litvinenko said, shows that every effort counts.

"I want to showcase that no matter who you are, no matter what your background is, your size or what you have done in the past, through hard work and discipline, through perseverance and determination, you really can achieve what you put your heart towards."

___

Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO / More of her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/ReginaGarciaCano

___

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Hinting at secret tapes, Trump warns ousted FBI director

President Donald Trump speaks to military mothers in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 12, 2017, during Mother's Day celebration. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jonathon Lemire, Jake Pearson, Julie Pace, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Raging against a political firestorm, President Donald Trump on Friday shot a sharp warning at his ousted FBI director about possible "tapes" of their disputed private conversations, raising the provocative possibility that recording devices have been installed in the White House.

Trump's top spokesman refused to comment on whether listening devices are active in the Oval Office or elsewhere, a non-denial that recalled the secretly taped conversations and telephone calls that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's downfall in the Watergate scandal. Trump's warning to fired FBI Director James Comey prompted new accusations of interference in an investigation into allegations of collaboration between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign last year.

It also escalated a potentially damaging standoff between a fuming, undisciplined president and the unorthodox lawman he dismissed three days earlier. Not to mention Congress, which is also investigating.

Democrats quickly seized on the dispute, demanding the White House turn over any tapes that might exist of the president's conversations with Comey.

Trump's behavior raises "the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice," wrote Reps. John Conyers and Elijah Cummings, ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, in a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn. "The president's actions also risk undermining the ongoing criminal and counterintelligence investigations and the independence of federal law enforcement agencies."

In an interview with Fox News Friday, Trump declined to comment on whether he has listening devices in the White House.

"Well that I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be," Trump said.

For a president whose tweets frequently rattle Washington — and foreign capitals — Trump's message early Friday morning was particularly jarring: "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" the president wrote.

The White House refusal to elaborate left open several questions: Had Trump, as his predecessor had in the 1970s, been covertly taping conversations? Was he trying to intimidate Comey? Was he suggesting Comey had recordings? Or was it merely a button-pushing claim launched over frustration at news coverage of the controversy.

The tweet appeared to refer to a series of three conversations in which, Trump claims, Comey assured him he was not under FBI investigation as part of the bureau's probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Comey has not explicitly denied the account. But sources close to him have cast doubt on the president's account, noting it would be extraordinary for an FBI director to discuss an open investigation.

On Friday, a person close to the former director recounted a different version. At a one-on-one dinner at the White House in January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to the president and Comey declined, instead offering to be honest with him, according the person, who requested anonymity to discuss private conservations.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer denied that account, insisting that the president simply "wants loyalty to this country and the rule of law." Details of the dinner were first reported by The New York Times.

The firing of Comey already has left Trump with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Nixon to dismiss a law enforcement official overseeing an investigation tied to the White House. He also, like Nixon, has grown increasingly isolated in the White House, recently relying on only a small circle of family members and loyal advisers while livid about the West Wing's failing efforts to get ahead of the damaging Russia story, according to several people close to Trump. They also commented only condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Those people also describe him as deeply frustrated by what he views as unfair media coverage — irritation that emerged in a separate tweet in which he suggested he may shut down the regular press briefings at the White House.

Trump was widely known to record some phone conversations at his office in Trump Tower during his business career, sometimes remarking to aides after a call as to whether or not he had taped it.

"I would note that New York is a one-party consent state, and President Trump has always abided by the law," said Sam Nunberg, a former campaign aide. Federal law and the law in New York State do not require both parties on a call to be aware that it was being recorded. In Florida, where the president frequently spends weekends, both parties must consent to recording.

Spicer, who kept his answers short during Friday's briefing and largely dodged specific questions about Trump's meeting with Comey, said he was not aware that any recording of the Trump-Comey meeting exists. Associates of the former FBI director, who remained out of sight Friday at his suburban Virginia home, said they believed any tapes would validate Comey's side of the story.

It was not clear when Comey would speak for himself. He declined an invitation to appear at a closed meeting of the Senate intelligence committee next week.

The face-to-face meeting between the president and the director raised other concerns. It came just days after the FBI interviewed Trump's then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn about his conversations with the Russian ambassador and a day after acting Attorney General Sally Yates first alerted the White House that she believed Flynn had lied about the conversations and could be blackmailed by Moscow.

Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Friday that Comey was uneasy about attending the dinner due to the "appearance of compromising the independence of the FBI which is a hallowed tenet in our system."

Clapper also told MSNBC that he didn't know if there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, contradicting the president's assertion that the former director had cleared him of wrongdoing.

The swirling controversy has obliterated any momentum from the House passage of the Republican health care bill last week and threatens to overshadow Trump's first international trip, beginning next week, in which the president will meet with leaders in both the Middle East and Europe.

Trump, in an NBC interview Thursday, said that he had been intending to fire Comey — whom he derided as a "showboat" and "grandstander" — for months and that it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. But he also said, "In fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."

Even before Trump's provocative tweets, the White House was scrambling to clarify why Comey was fired. It initially cited a Justice Department memo criticizing Comey's handling of last year's investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails as the impetus, only to have that version undercut by Trump himself.

Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr said he doesn't think the FBI's Trump-Russia investigation was the reason for the firing. But he called Trump's tweet "inappropriate."

White House officials said Trump is considering nearly a dozen candidates to replace Comey, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers and former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Four candidates — Cornyn, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, attorney Alice Fisher and judge Michael Garcia — have interviews scheduled Saturday.

___

Pearson and Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire , Pearson at http://twitter.com/@JakePearsonAP and Pace at http://twitter.com/@JPaceDC

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Dozens of countries hit by huge cyberextortion attack

Anick Jesanun,Jill Lawless, Aritz Parra, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of countries were hit with a huge cyberextortion attack Friday that locked up computers and held users' files for ransom at a multitude of hospitals, companies and government agencies.

It was believed to the biggest attack of its kind ever recorded.

The malicious software behind the onslaught appeared to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was supposedly identified by the National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes and was later leaked to the internet.

Britain's national health service fell victim, its hospitals forced to close wards and emergency rooms and turn away patients. Russia appeared to be the hardest hit, according to security experts, with the country's Interior Ministry confirming it was struck.

All told, several cybersecurity firms said they had identified the malicious software responsible for tens of thousands of attacks in more than 60 countries, including the United States, though its effects in the U.S. did not appear to be widespread, at least in the initial hours.

Computers were infected with what is known as "ransomware" — software that freezes up a machine and flashes a message demanding payment to release the user's data. In the U.S., FedEx reported that its Windows computers were "experiencing interference" from malware, but wouldn't say if it had been hit by ransomware.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at the Helsinki-based cybersecurity company F-Secure, called the attack "the biggest ransomware outbreak in history."

Security experts said the attack appeared to be caused by a self-replicating piece of software that enters companies and organizations when employees click on email attachments, then spreads quickly internally from computer to computer when employees share documents and other files.

Its ransom demands start at $300 and increase after two hours to $400, $500 and then $600, said Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. Affected users can restore their files from backups, if they have them, or pay the ransom; otherwise they risk losing their data entirely.

Chris Wysopal of the software security firm Veracode said criminal organizations were probably behind the attack, given how quickly the malware spread.

"For so many organizations in the same day to be hit, this is unprecedented," he said.

The security holes it exploits were disclosed several weeks ago by TheShadowBrokers, a mysterious group that has published what it says are hacking tools used by the NSA as part of its intelligence-gathering.

Shortly after that disclosure, Microsoft announced that it had already issued software "patches" for those holes. But many companies and individuals haven't installed the fixes yet or are using older versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports and didn't fix.

By Kaspersky Lab's count, the malware struck at least 74 countries. In addition to Russia, the biggest targets appeared to be Ukraine and India, nations where it is common to find older, unpatched versions of Windows in use, according to the security firm.

Hospitals across Britain found themselves without access to their computers or phone systems. Many canceled all routine procedures and asked patients not to come to the hospital unless it was an emergency. Doctors' practices and pharmacies reported similar problems.

Patrick Ward, a 47-year-old sales director, said his heart operation, scheduled for Friday, was canceled at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London.

Tom Griffiths, who was at the hospital for chemotherapy, said several cancer patients had to be sent home because their records or bloodwork couldn't be accessed.

"Both staff and patients were frankly pretty appalled that somebody, whoever they are, for commercial gain or otherwise, would attack a health care organization," he said. "It's stressful enough for someone going through recovery or treatment for cancer."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no evidence patient data had been compromised and added that the attack had not specifically targeted the National Health Service.

"It's an international attack and a number of countries and organizations have been affected," she said.

Spain, meanwhile, took steps to protect critical infrastructure in response to the attack. Authorities said they were communicating with more than 100 energy, transportation, telecommunications and financial services providers about the attack.

Spain's Telefonica, a global broadband and telecommunications company, was among the companies hit.

Ransomware attacks are on the rise around the world. In 2016, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California said it had paid a $17,000 ransom to regain control of its computers from hackers.

Krishna Chinthapalli, a doctor at Britain's National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery who wrote a paper on cybersecurity for the British Medical Journal, warned that British hospitals' old operating systems and confidential patient information made them an ideal target for blackmailers.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed, "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced."

"Looking at the trends, it was going to happen," he said. "I did not expect an attack on this scale. That was a shock.

___

Lawless reported from London. Parra reported from Madrid.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Today in History - Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, May 13, the 133rd day of 2017. There are 232 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children, Lucia de Jesus dos Santos and two of her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, reported seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary near Fatima, Portugal; it was the first of six such apparitions that the children claimed to have witnessed.

On this date:

In 1607, English colonists arrived by ship at the site of what became the Jamestown settlement in Virginia (the colonists went ashore the next day).

In 1846, the United States declared that a state of war already existed with Mexico.

In 1918, the first U.S. airmail stamps, featuring a picture of a Curtiss JN-4 biplane, were issued to the public. (On a few of the stamps, the biplane was inadvertently printed upside-down, making them collector's items.)

In 1935, T.E. Lawrence, who earned international fame as Lawrence of Arabia, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, England; he died six days later.

In 1940, in his first speech as British prime minister, Winston Churchill told Parliament, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

In 1958, Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, were spat upon and their limousine battered by rocks thrown by anti-U.S. demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1967, a vault fire at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Culver City, California, destroyed hundreds of the studio's early films. The Scott McKenzie single "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" was released.

In 1973, in tennis' first so-called "Battle of the Sexes," Bobby Riggs defeated Margaret Court 6-2, 6-1 in Ramona, California. (Billie Jean King soundly defeated Riggs at the Houston Astrodome in September.)

In 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded in St. Peter's Square by Turkish assailant Mehmet Ali Agca (MEH'-met AH'-lee AH'-juh).

In 1985, a confrontation between Philadelphia authorities and the radical group MOVE ended as police dropped a bomb onto the group's row house; 11 people died in the resulting fire that destroyed 61 homes.

In 1992, the Falun Gong movement had its beginnings in the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun.

In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 44 Liquormart v. Rhode Island, unanimously struck down Rhode Island's ban on ads that listed or referred to liquor prices, saying the law violated free-speech rights.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush made a pilgrimage to the site of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia to mark the 400th anniversary of its founding. Pope Benedict XVI, ending a five-day visit to Brazil, blamed both Marxism and unbridled capitalism for Latin America's problems. Canada won hockey's world championship with a 4-2 victory over Finland.

Five years ago: The mutilated bodies of 49 people were found near Monterrey, Mexico, apparent victims of a drug cartel. A gunman assassinated Arsala Rahmani, a former high-ranking Taliban official working to end the decade-long war in Afghanistan. Donald "Duck" Dunn, 70, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs, died in Tokyo while on tour.

One year ago: The Obama administration issued a directive requiring public schools to permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. President Barack Obama hosted a state dinner honoring the leaders of Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Norway following a multilateral summit that Obama used to laud the Nordic states as model global citizens on climate change, security, humanitarian efforts and economic equality.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Buck Taylor is 79. Actor Harvey Keitel is 78. Author Charles Baxter is 70. Actress Zoe Wanamaker is 69. Actor Franklyn Ajaye is 68. Singer Stevie Wonder is 67. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is 65. Actress Leslie Winston is 61. Producer-writer Alan Ball is 60. Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman is 56. "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert (kohl-BEHR') is 53. Rock musician John Richardson (The Gin Blossoms) is 53. Actor Tom Verica is 53. Country singer Lari White is 52. Singer Darius Rucker (Hootie and the Blowfish) is 51. Actress Susan Floyd is 49. Contemporary Christian musician Andy Williams (Casting Crowns) is 45. Actress Samantha Morton is 40. Former NBA player Mike Bibby is 39. Former MLB player Barry Zito is 39. Rock musician Mickey Madden (Maroon 5) is 38. Actor Iwan Rheon is 32. Actress-writer-director Lena Dunham is 31. Actor Robert Pattinson is 31. Actress Candice Accola King is 30. Actor Hunter Parrish is 30. Folk-rock musician Wylie Gelber (Dawes) is 29. Actress Debby Ryan is 24.

Thought for Today: "The worst-tempered people I've ever met were people who knew they were wrong." — Wilson Mizner, American playwright (1876-1933).

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed..

 


DAILY UPDATE

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Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

At refugee camp, Haley vows Trump's US won't abandon Syrians

Hong Kong's Cathay lays off 600 as it faces rising pressure

Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top after 146 years

3 foreign climbers dead, 1 missing near top of Mount Everest

Today in History - Monday, May 22, 2017

Today in History - Sunday, May 21, 2017


Rape inquiry dropped, WikiLeaks' Assange remains in embassy

FBI probe moves into White House

China, Japan extract combustible ice from seafloor

NKorea vows to strengthen nukes as US increases pressure

Today in History - Saturday, May 20, 2017


US airstrike hits pro-Syria government forces for first time

Car mows down Times Square pedestrians, killing 1

Brazil's Temer won't resign amid corruption allegations

Lauded rocker Chris Cornell killed himself by hanging

UN court orders Pakistan not to execute Indian national

Today in History - Friday, May 19, 2017


Japan's Princess Mako to marry ocean-loving legal assistant

New death in Venezuela puts toll at level of 2014 unrest

Former FBI Director Mueller to lead Trump-Russia probe

2nd Ebola case confirmed among 20 suspected in Congo: WHO

Tiny uninhabited Pacific isle has 38 million pieces of trash

Dubai firm dreams of harvesting icebergs for water

Today in History - Thursday, May 18, 2017


Besieged White House denies, defends as new bombshells hit

Expert who beat cyberattack says he's no hero

Guam residents cast wary eye at North Korea after launch

Rash of media murders highlights deadly threats in Mexico

Singapore shuts airport terminal after fire; flights delayed

Today in History - Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Another crisis hits the White House after Post story

Huge cyber-attack ebbs as investigators work to find culprits

2 dead as Venezuela protests turn violent outside capital

Busy day for French president: Names PM, meets with Merkel

UK reviled child-killer Ian Brady dies at 79

'Silk Road' plan stirs unease over China's strategic goals

Today in History - Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Merkel's party wins election in rivals' German heartland

'Deadwood' actor Powers Booth dies at 68

North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke

Log in, look out: Cyber chaos may grow at workweek's start

Today in History - Monday, May 15, 2017


Today in History - Sunday, May 14, 2017

5 immigrant women vie for Miss USA pageant title

Hinting at secret tapes, Trump warns ousted FBI director

Dozens of countries hit by huge cyberextortion attack

Today in History - Saturday, May 13, 2017

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