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Update November 2017


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Update November 10, 2017

Asian leaders deliver pageantry-plus to woo Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping attend at a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Thursday, Nov. 9. (Thomas Peter/Pool Photo via AP)

Jill Colvin

Beijing (AP) — Custom hats. Gauzy videos. Jumping children, declaring their love.

The first half of President Donald Trump's whirlwind tour of Asia has been an exercise in the art of flattery, as world leaders woo the man who was introduced at the South Korean National Assembly as the "leader of the world."

The pageantry-plus displays come as leaders across Asia and beyond struggle to understand the unpredictable American and search for ways to win his favor and avoid his wrath.

"They are not ignorant that this is a president who is particularly responsive to flattery," said Lindsey Ford of the Asia Society Policy Institute in Washington, adding that the Chinese, in particular, "absolutely go over the top" trying to stroke the president's ego.

The pomp and pageantry began in Japan, where Trump was welcomed to the grand Akasaka Palace with a welcome ceremony that featured a maze of red carpets, an honor guard and marching band.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has gone out of his way to strike up a personal friendship with Trump, also treated the president to a round of golf at Japan's premier course, complete with a champion golf partner and a taste of home: a hamburger lunch made with American beef.

Abe also presented Trump with a hat signed by both leaders that read, "Donald and Shinzo, Make alliance even greater," a play on Trump's campaign theme.

At a banquet that featured another golf champion and a pop star admired by Trump's granddaughter, Abe talked about the close relationship the two had forged.

"When you play golf with someone not just once, but for two times, the person must be your favorite guy," Abe said.

In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in laid it on even thicker in what he said was the first state visit by an American president in 25 years. South Korea's welcome ceremony at Seoul's Blue House featured soldiers dressed in colorful costumes and a gaggle of children who shouted with glee upon Trump's arrival, greeting him like he was Asia's Justin Bieber.

There was more flattery in the meetings, where Moon celebrated the one-year anniversary of Trump's election victory with plenty of praise.

"I believe it has not been one year yet, your time in office," said Moon, "but you are already making great progress on making America great again, as you have promised on the campaign trail."

Then came a banquet that had the feel of a campy wedding, complete with a custom logo that read, "We Go Together," and a photo montage of Trump's and Moon's happiest moments together. No matter that most of the photos featured the same scenes, shot from different angles. As guests entered the ballroom, Trump's inauguration song, Frank Sinatra's "My Way," played.

All presidents get red-carpet treatment abroad, but Trump's welcome receptions have been especially grandiose. In Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Trump was greeted like a returning king, the roadways lined with his photo. In France, Trump was welcomed as an honored guest at the annual Bastille Day military parade. Trump liked the display so much he proposed holding his own military-style parade in the U.S.

But the most elaborate welcome may have come from China, which poured on the pageantry, beginning with an arrival ceremony that was lavish even by Chinese standards. Heads of state are usually given a low-key reception at the airport. Not Trump, for whom China's ambassador to the U.S. promised a "state visit, plus."

Trump and the first lady were greeted by Chinese and American dignitaries as soldiers stood stiffly at attention and a band played martial music. Dozens of children jumped up and down, chanting, "Welcome, welcome."

Trump and his wife were then whisked to a private tour of the Forbidden City, Beijing's historic imperial palace, where they clapped along during an outdoor opera. Children in colorful costumes at one point shouted to Trump, "Welcome to China! I love you!"

On Thursday came the piece de resistance, a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People that featured an honor guard of hundreds. The welcome left Trump wowed.

"The hosting of the military parade this morning was magnificent. And the world was watching," Trump said, claiming he had received calls from around the world commenting on the spectacle. "Nothing you can see is so beautiful."

Trump was also honored at a state banquet that included a video with highlights from Xi's April visit to Florida and clips from Trump's trip — along with the screening of a video of Trump's granddaughter, singing in Chinese.

"The Chinese have figured out how to play Trump: Flatter him," said Mike Chinoy, an expert on East Asia policy at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. "And there's nothing the Chinese do better than wow foreign diplomats."


IS militants evacuate last stronghold in Syria to government

This frame grab from video provided Wednesday, Nov 8, 2017, by the government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media, shows a tank firing on militants' positions on the Iraq-Syria border. (Syrian Central Military Media, via AP)

Sarah El Deeb

Beirut (AP) — Islamic State militants withdrew Thursday from their last stronghold in Syria, a strategic town near the border with Iraq, following a government offensive that has effectively left the extremist group's fighters dispersed in villages and small towns in the desert.

The Syrian military declared the town liberated after intense battles that killed a large number of militants, including leaders. The military said they are still chasing other IS militants in different directions in the desert.

"The liberation of Boukamal is of great importance because it is a declaration of the fall of this group's project in the region generally and the collapse of its supporters' illusions to divide it, control large parts of the Syria-Iraq borders and secure supply routes between the two countries," said Army spokesman Gen. Ali Mayhoub in a televised statement.

Syrian pro-government media said Syrian troops had clashed with remnants of IS militants in the town after they entered it late Wednesday. On Thursday, they reported the town clear of IS fighters.

Pro-Syrian media reported the town was liberated. Al-Ikhbariya TV's journalist reported from the road to the town, joyfully breaking out on camera: "Daesh is finished. Live."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces and allied troops, including Iraqi forces who linked from across the border, are combing through Boukamal after IS militants withdrew.

With the collapse of IS in Boukamal, Islamic State militants have no major territorial control in Syria and Iraq and are believed to have dispersed in the desert west and east of the Euphrates River. U.S. officials estimated that there were between 2,500 and 3,500 IS militants around Boukamal and that leading members of the group were also believed to have taken refuge in the town. The group has a small presence near the capital Damascus.

IS has suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of separate but simultaneous offensives in Iraq and Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian forces and allied militias as well as U.S.-backed Iraqi and Syrian fighters.

Despite its fall, the group's media apparatus has remained active and its fighters are likely to keep up their insurgency from desert areas.

The swift fall of Boukamal in eastern Deir el-Zour province was accelerated after Iraqi forces seized Qaim, the town across the border last weekend, also controlling a strategic crossing between the two countries.

A senior Iraqi official said there was an agreement Tuesday to send Iraqi paramilitaries to Syria to take part in the Boukamal operation, adding that the Syrians were to supply them with weapons and gear. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

An Iraqi spokesman for the Popular Mobilization Forces has told The Associated Press last week that his forces, part of the Iraqi security forces, will participate in the operation and will head north to protect the borders and secure the road from Iran to Lebanon.

Boukamal is the last urban center for the militants in both Iraq and Syria where Syrian troops —backed by Russia and Iranian-supported militias — and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are vying for control of the strategic border town.

Washington is wary of increasing Iran influence in the area and has backed the SDF in their bid to uproot IS from the borders with Iraq. The proximity of forces in the area has raised concerns about potential clashes between them as they approach Boukamal from opposite sides of the Euphrates River, and now from across the border with Iraq.

It was not clear if the government seizure of the town means the end of the race for control of territory previously held by IS.

So far the Kurdish-led SDF have focused on the area east of the Euphrates, seizing a number of oil and gas fields and securing large swathes of areas along the border with Iraq, as well as the newly liberated Raqqa city.


New Delhi residents offered masks as city chokes on smog

A girl begs for alms from a group of people wearing face masks to fight the pollution in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

New Delhi (AP) — Volunteers took to the streets of India's capital on Thursday and placed green pollution masks over the mouths of willing residents to make a statement about the city's choking smog.

Not everybody wanted to play along and some batted the masks away.

Authorities have closed schools and stopped most trucks from entering New Delhi this week as they try to mitigate what officials are calling a public health emergency.

New Delhi is one of the world's most polluted cities. The worst air quality often hits this time of year as nearby farmers burn fields, people build street fires to keep warm and winds die down.

Arun Bansal, who was helping coordinate Thursday's effort, said the masks are not a solution but help raise awareness of the problem. He said he hopes they might make the average person in the developing nation think twice about what they are doing.

"Maybe he will not burn papers or he will discourage others who are burning all those things," Bansal said.

The inexpensive masks likely have only a limited impact on keeping out microscopic particles that can affect breathing and health.

Other people in the city have purchased their own masks or have taken to wearing scarves over their mouths. Some are choosing to stay home from work or limiting the time they spend outdoors.


Brexit talks resume amid warnings that time is running out

Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, speaks during a meeting on Europe after Brexit, in Rome, Thursday, Nov. 9. (Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP)

Lorne Cook and Jill Lawless

Brussels (AP) — The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator warned Britain again that time is running out to reach an agreement, as officials from the two sides met Thursday for an abbreviated round of divorce talks.

While EU officials watch with concern as crises over Brexit, sexual harassment and other issues rattle the U.K. government, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said "time is pressing."

In a speech in Rome, Barnier said EU leaders wanted to keep up the dynamic of talks "and I'm in the same frame of mind. But the moment of real clarification is coming."

Technical talks were being held on the first day of the two-day round, as the sides look to move forward on the key issues of Britain's financial commitments, the status of Irish borders and the future of citizens hit by Britain's departure from the bloc.

EU leaders are increasingly frustrated with Britain's reluctance to signal how much it is willing to pay to settle its commitments to the 28-nation bloc. The Brexit bill— estimated by the EU at somewhere around 60 billion euros ($70 billion) —  is a key sticking point preventing the EU from allowing talks to move on to trade and future relations.

With Britain due to leave the EU in March 2019, the U.K. is eager to start discussing future relations, including a hoped-for free trade deal and a two-year transition period after Brexit.

But the 27 other EU leaders refuse to address that until "sufficient progress" has been made on the divorce terms. They will decide in mid-December whether to move forward.

EU leaders agreed last month to speed up the Brexit talks, but this new round has taken time to organize and is scheduled to last just two days, as opposed to the usual four. Few expect a major breakthrough.

U.K. officials insist progress is being made behind the scenes, saying repeatedly that the two sides are close to a deal on the status of 3 million EU citizens in Britain and 1 million Britons in other EU countries.

Brexit Secretary David Davis — who is due to meet Barnier in Brussels on Friday — said this week that "safeguarding the rights of EU citizens is our top priority in negotiations."

But the European Parliament's Brexit steering group says "there are still major issues that have to be resolved" on citizens' rights.

Britain's position is complicated by the multiple crises facing Prime Minister Theresa May's minority Conservative government. It is deeply divided over what kind of deal it is seeking with the EU, faces strong opposition in Parliament to key Brexit legislation and has been shaken by two Cabinet departures in the past week — one over unauthorized talks with Israeli officials, the other over sexual harassment allegations.

More suspensions or resignations could follow as claims of sexual impropriety in U.K. politics spread in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations.


Prosecutors: German nurse may have killed over 100 patients

This Jan. 22, 2015 file photo shows former nurse Niels Hoegel covering his face during his trial at the regional court in in Oldenburg, northern Germany. (Carmen Jaspersen/dpa via AP)

Geir Moulson

Berlin (AP) — A nurse who is already serving a life sentence for two murders may have killed more than 100 patients over several years at two hospitals in northwestern Germany, prosecutors said Thursday.

Investigators have completed toxicological examinations on patients who died during Niels Hoegel's time as a nurse in hospitals in Oldenburg and Delmenhorst, prosecutors and police in Oldenburg said. They found a further 16 cases in which he is suspected.

In late August, they said they had determined that he might have killed at least another 84 patients beyond the ones for whose murder he is already serving time. At the time, they said that they were awaiting toxicology results on another 41 fatalities, which have now been concluded.

Prosecutors reiterated in a statement that they expect to file additional charges against Hoegel early next year. Additional convictions could affect Hoegel's possibility of parole, but there are no consecutive sentences in Germany.

Hoegel was convicted in 2015 of two murders and two attempted murders at a hospital in Delmenhorst and was sentenced to life in prison.

During his trial, Hoegel had said he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients in Delmenhorst because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. He later told investigators that he also killed patients in Oldenburg.

Hoegel worked at the Oldenburg hospital from 1999 to 2002 and in Delmenhorst from 2003 to 2005.

Prosecutors said he is now suspected in 38 cases in Oldenburg and 62 in Delmenhorst, but that in five of those cases further examinations are needed. It isn't clear when those will be concluded.

As part of a wider investigation involving both hospitals, police and prosecutors reviewed more than 500 patient files and hundreds more hospital records. They also exhumed 134 bodies from 67 cemeteries, and questioned Hoegel six times.

Police have said if local health officials hadn't hesitated in alerting authorities, Hoegel could have been stopped earlier.

Authorities are already pursuing criminal cases against former staff at the two medical facilities.


Update November 9, 2017

Philippines backs down in S. China Sea after Beijing protest

 

In this Friday, April 21, 2017, file photo, a sandbar is seen from the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed South China Sea in western Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

Jim Gomez

Manila, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stopped construction work on a newly formed sandbar in the disputed South China Sea after China protested, the defense chief said Wednesday, disclosing details of the territorial spat for the first time.

The dispute over a string of sandbars called Sandy Cay emerged in August and prompted China and the Philippines to consider negotiating some sort of arrangement to prevent such incidents from spiraling out of control, Lorenzana said.

The rift over the tiny sandbar, where Filipinos planned to erect fishermen's shelters, in the group near Philippine-occupied Thitu island in the Spratlys archipelago remains unresolved but both sides pledged not to occupy any new territory, he said.

China's claims to most of the South China Sea overlap those of the Philippines and four other governments. Despite that, tensions have eased since Duterte took over as president last year and took steps to thaw once-frosty relations with Beijing.

Duterte has courted Chinese trade and assistance and taken a nonconfrontational approach to their territorial disputes. He has refused to immediately take up with China a ruling by a U.N.-linked tribunal that invalidated Beijing's sprawling claims in the South China Sea, sparking criticism from nationalists and left-wing groups, which wanted him to demand immediate Chinese compliance with the landmark decision.

"We tried to put some structures in one of the sandbars near our island and the Chinese reacted," Lorenzana told a diplomatic and security forum in Manila, adding that Duterte later ordered, "Let's pull out."

Duterte made the decision after Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano advised him of an agreement involving China and the Philippines for a halt on new construction in the disputed waters, Lorenzana later told a news conference.

"We brought up people there to occupy, to put up structures for our fishermen," Lorenzana said. He said the Chinese "complained that we are occupying a new feature."

Philippine foreign affairs and military officials refused to divulge details of the dispute at Sandy Cay in August.

A government security report seen by the AP in August said three Chinese navy ships, a Chinese coast guard ship and 10 Chinese fishing vessels took positions off Sandy Cay after spotting the Filipinos on the barren sandbar. The nearest sandbar in Sandy Cay is about 2.5 nautical miles (4.6 kilometers) from Philippine-occupied Thitu Island.

On Aug. 15, a blue Chinese helicopter flew low off Thitu's southwest coast, the report said.

The Chinese military presence off Sandy Cay sparked concerns in Manila.

Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has studied the disputes extensively, said then that the Chinese navy ships and other vessels encroached in the Philippine island's 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial waters. "In short, Sandy Cay is a Philippine land territory that is being seized, to put it mildly, or being invaded, to put it frankly, by China," Carpio said.

The long-unresolved disputes are among issues expected to get the spotlight at an annual summit of Southeast Asian nations and their Asian and Western counterparts in Manila next week.

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes four governments involved in the sea feud, agreed earlier this year on a framework for a long-proposed nonaggression pact in the disputed waters. The framework is to serve as a roadmap for negotiations on a so-called code of conduct in the often-volatile waterway.

ASEAN, currently led by the Philippines, has come under criticism for failing to take more effective steps to rein in aggressive behavior in the disputed waters, including China's transformation of seven disputed reefs into islands with landfill. Many of the 10-nation bloc's members depend largely on China for trade, investment and aid.

"If ASEAN pursues an over-abundance of caution, it risks becoming only a bystander to the events within its own region," former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Manila forum Wednesday.


Silence on Pacific Rim ministers' talks ahead of APEC summit

Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh attends the opening of the APEC Ministerial Meeting (AMM) ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit leaders meetings in the central Vietnamese city of Danang Wednesday, Nov. 8. (Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool Photo via AP)

Elaine Kurtenbach

Danang, Vietnam (AP) — Foreign and trade ministers of 21 Pacific Rim economies meeting in Danang, Vietnam, appeared to be struggling for a consensus on open markets and other strategic issues ahead of a regional summit, as their hosts appealed for cooperation.

A news conference planned for late Wednesday was canceled as the talks dragged on, and APEC officials said they would continue on Thursday. The ministers were due to endorse a draft of a statement their leaders in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum usually issue at the end of the annual summit.

The Vietnamese hosts urged those involved to work toward a compromise.

"I hope that we will seize this last opportunity before our leaders' meeting to show flexibility and willingness needed to bridge the remaining gaps so that we can come out with a meaningful package for regional economic integration," said Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh.

"Given the rapid changes and uncertainties that the global economy is now facing, this will convey a strong message that reflects steadfastness and determination of APEC in pursuing a free and open region for trade and investment," Anh said.

It was unclear if the U.S. pushback on "free trade," evidenced in the "America first" policy of the administration of President Donald Trump and his decision to withdraw from a regional trade pact, may have stymied progress toward an agreement.

Trump is to attend the summit, which begins Friday in the Vietnamese coastal resort city.

In opening the ministerial talks on Wednesday, Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Minister Pham Binh Minh told delegates that shifting global and regional conditions come with "intertwining opportunities and challenges," as they began working out details of the leaders' statement.

"Economic recovery is firming but projected growth rates are still below pre-crisis averages," he said.

Many in the region worry about how efforts to boost productivity through automation might affect their own lives, he added.

Vietnam, the host of the summit, is using the occasion to showcase the progress its economy has made thanks largely to opening to foreign investment and trade.

Danang, Vietnam's third largest city, is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and smaller hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.

The country is a major garment exporter and the largest production base for Samsung Electronics' mobile phones.

But even though its economy grew at a brisk 6.2 percent pace last year, its GDP per capita is still one of the lowest among APEC members at less than $2,200. Many of its 95 million people remain poor and vulnerable to natural disasters such as storms that lashed the coast near Danang just days before the APEC meetings.

On Wednesday, about 1,000 soldiers joined local residents in helping to dig the picturesque nearby city of Hoi An out of the mud and rubble left by flooding from a typhoon. Spouses of the APEC leaders are due to visit the city south of Danang during the summit.

A year after Trump was elected U.S. president on a platform that rejected a Pacific Rim trade pact in favor of country-to-country deals and what he calls "fair" rather than free trade, other APEC members seem united in their support of multilateral efforts to set rules on trade and investment.

"Over the last year, things have changed a lot," said Alan Bollard, executive director of the Singapore-based APEC Secretariat. "The new U.S. administration does have a markedly different view about trade policies and regional economic integration," he said. "We're trying to get more clarity about what they're comfortable with and what the response of other members is."

After the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the 11 remaining members are trying to reach agreement on a new deal enabling them to move forward without U.S. participation. Japanese officials said earlier they hope for a basic "framework" agreement on the sidelines of the two-day APEC summit starting Friday.

Vietnam, a TPP member, is one of the developing economies most likely to benefit from a deal that the administration of former U.S. President Barrack Obama said would set a "gold standard" for trade rules in the 21st century.

"Given the rapid changes and uncertainty the global economy is now facing, this will convey a strong message that reflects steadfastness and determination of APEC in pursuing a free and open region for trade and investment," Anh, the minister of industry and trade, told the meeting earlier.

It's unclear whether APEC, whose decisions require a consensus and are not legally binding, will succeed in reaching agreement on a declaration condemning protectionism. At a meeting in May, trade ministers failed to concur on that issue. Instead, Vietnam issued a chairman's statement that cited the "un-unified but prevailing views of APEC economies."

"We know it's a complex issue, but there's generally a feeling we want more trade and more growth," said Bollard. "Trade grows very fast in the region and that means economies grow very fast."

APEC's members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.S. and Vietnam.


Uber reaches for the skies with plan for sleek flying taxi

This computer generated image shows a flying taxi by Uber. (Uber Technologies via AP)

Barry Hatton

Lisbon, Portugal (AP) — Commuters of the future could get some relief from congested roads if Uber's plans for flying taxis work out.

The ride-hailing service unveiled Wednesday an artist's impression of the sleek, futuristic machine it hopes to start using for demonstration flights in 2020. The company aims to have its first paying passengers in various cities around the world by 2023, though the plan still faces major hurdles.

The battery-powered aircraft looks like a cross between a small plane and a helicopter, with fixed wings and rotors. It was presented at an international technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

The vehicle is intended to soar over traffic congestion, sharply reducing city travel times. Uber hopes it will eventually become a form of mass transport and cost commuters less than using their own car, though initially it will be more expensive than that, Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said.

The scheme still faces plenty of challenges, including certification of the new vehicle by authorities, pilot training and conceiving urban air traffic management systems that prevent collisions.

Holden said that Uber is joining NASA's project to expand air traffic systems, which scores of other companies already belong to.

He told The Associated Press in an interview that he has no dollar figure for the total investment. He said Uber is putting some of its own money into the project, developing software, while other investors are also involved, such as aircraft manufacturers that are developing the vehicle and real estate companies that are providing so-called 'skyports' where people will catch their airborne taxi.

Uber is keen to move on from a troubled period in which its image has been damaged by investigations that found rampant sexual harassment of employees and multiple reports of drivers assaulting passengers. Holden said those episodes did not slow development of the flying taxi project.


More than 500 asylum seekers stay in Papua New Guinea camp

Asylum seekers protest the possible closure of their detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea in this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017file photo. (Australia Broadcasting Corporation via AP)

Canberra, Australia (AP) — More than 500 asylum seekers remained in a decommissioned Australian immigration camp in Papua New Guinea on Wednesday despite a court ruling that authorities no longer need to supply power, food and water.

The camp inside a Manus Island navy base was declared closed on Oct. 31 based on the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court's ruling last year that Australia's policy of housing asylum seekers there was unconstitutional. But the men who have stayed at the male-only camp on Lombrun Navy Base fear for their safety in the alternative shelters available in the nearby town of Lorengau because of threats from local residents.

Papua New Guinea police Chief Superintendent Dominic Kakas said by Wednesday 38 asylum seekers had left the camp since the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an application to restore basic services on human rights grounds.

That meant 54 asylum seekers of the 606 in the camp had left since the camp officially closed in October, Kakas said.

"We're hoping in the next couple of days or so" the remainder will leave, Kakas said.

Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton rejected security concerns about the Lorengau premises, a 30-minute drive from the naval base.

For four years, Australia has paid Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru to house asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian coast by boat. They are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Afghans, Iranians, Sri Lankans and other nationalities.

Australia has recognized that many of the asylum seekers are refugees who cannot return to their homelands, but it refuses to resettle anyone who tried to reach the country by boat in a policy it credits with dissuading such dangerous ocean crossings. Some whose refugee claims were denied have been forcibly sent home.

The United States has resettled 54 of them in recent weeks and is considering taking almost 1,200 more.


Zimbabwe's Mugabe says fired deputy plotted via witchcraft

 

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace chant the party's slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 8. (AP Photo)

Farai Mutsaka

Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's president said Wednesday he fired his deputy and longtime ally for scheming to take power, including by consulting witch doctors, while Emmerson Mnangagwa said he has left the country after "incessant threats" to him and his family.

In a statement obtained by The Associated Press, Mnangagwa said he was safe but did not mention his location. "I will be communicating with you soon and shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you," the statement said.

President Robert Mugabe spoke publicly for the first time since dismissing Mnangagwa, who had been seen as Mugabe's potential successor. Now Mugabe's wife appears poised for the role.

The 93-year-old Mugabe told thousands of cheering supporters that Mnangagwa had plotted to take over since becoming a vice president in 2014.

Mnangagwa replaced Joice Mujuru, who had been ousted and accused by Mugabe of using witchcraft to take power.

"We have kicked him out for the same reasons that saw us chasing away Mujuru," Mugabe said of Mnangagwa. The president added: "People were told that I will retire in March but I did not. Upon realizing that I wasn't, he started consulting traditional healers on when I was going to die."

In the statement, Mnangagwa said that "my mouth has never uttered a single foul word against the president nor have I ever contemplated bringing him harm in any way." He adds: "This party is not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please" and calls Mugabe "one stubborn individual who believes he is entitled to rule this country until death."

First lady Grace Mugabe has been endorsed by ruling party groups to take over from Mnangagwa as vice president at a party congress next month, placing her in prime position to succeed her husband.

"No one will remove the president except God," the first lady told the crowd on Wednesday, without directly addressing her ambitions. "God grant me the serenity to accept things I can't change. I love my president. I will help him to make the country prosper." On Sunday, she told a rally that she was ready to take over from her husband.

Senior officials who spoke before Mugabe and his wife on Wednesday aimed jibes at Mnangagwa, describing him a "border jumper."

An ally of Mnangagwa, Chris Mutsvangwa, speaking to reporters in Johannesburg, described Mugabe as a "dictator" hoping to cling to power until his death and his wife as a "mad woman."

"They want to seize power ahead of the election," knowing they have lost popularity, Mutsvangwa said. Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, is already running for next year's election.

Frustration has been growing in this once-prosperous southern African nation as the economy has deteriorated under Mugabe, who has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mnangagwa was the more prominent of the country's two vice presidents and had been part of Mugabe's cabinet since independence. He is said to have enjoyed the support of military generals and war veterans; his critics view him as ruthless because he was in charge of state security when Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained brigade to crush dissent in western Zimbabwe in the 1980s.


Boy with rare disease gets brand new skin with gene therapy

 

Doctors lift up a sheet of skin in a lab at St Josef-Hospital in Bochum, Germany in this Oct. 18, 2017 file photo. (Mirko Wache/Ruhr University Bochum via AP)

Maria Cheng

London (AP) — Doctors treating a critically ill boy with a devastating skin disease used experimental gene therapy to create an entirely new skin for most of his body in a desperate attempt to save his life.

Two years later, the doctors report the boy is doing so well that he doesn't need any medication, is back in school and even playing soccer.

"We were forced to do something dramatic because this kid was dying," said Dr. Michele De Luca of the University of Modena in Italy, who got a call for help from the German doctors treating the boy.

The boy, then 7, was hospitalized in June 2015 with blisters on his limbs, back and elsewhere. He quickly lost about 60 percent of the outer layer of his skin and was put into an induced coma to spare him further suffering. Doctors at Children's Hospital at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, tried skin grafts from his father and donor skin, but all failed.

"He was in severe pain and asking a lot of questions," the boy's father said in a video provided by the hospital "Why do I suffer from this disease? Why do I have to live this life? All children can run around and play, why am I not allowed to play soccer? I couldn't answer these questions."

The boy's parents asked about experimental treatments, and De Luca and his colleagues were contacted. They had previously used gene therapy to produce a small piece of skin in a similar case. They told the family that the boy's precarious state meant that he might not survive the complicated surgeries needed to save him.

"It was a tough decision for us, but we wanted to try for (our son)," the boy's father said. The family asked that their names not be used to protect the boy's privacy.

The boy had a rare, incurable skin disease called junctional epidermolysis bullosa, caused by genetic mutations. People with the disease lack critical proteins that attach the outer layer of the skin to the inner layer, resulting in fragile skin with almost constant blisters and open sores.

To fix that, the doctors took a small piece of the boy's skin from an area that was OK. In the lab, they added a normal version of his bad gene to his skin cells. They grew sheets of the boy's skin, in much the same way skin grafts are grown for burn victims.

In total, they grew close to a square meter of skin (9 square feet.) The lab-grown skin was then transplanted onto the boy in three operations, ultimately covering 80 percent of his body. Ten days later, the new skin was already beginning to grow, De Luca said. After eight months, the doctors said that nearly all of the boy's skin had been generated by the modified stem cells.

So far, no problems have been detected. De Luca said the boy will be monitored closely for skin cancer and other potential issues.

"This kid is back to his normal life again," one of the German doctors, Dr. Tobias Rothoeft, said Wednesday. "That's what we dreamed of doing and it was possible."

Details of the case were published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"This takes us a huge step forward," said Dr. Peter Marinkovich of Stanford University School of Medicine, who has done related work. He said it was impressive that De Luca and colleagues were able to make such large amounts of viable skin after correcting the genetic defect.

But he noted the approach might not help in more serious cases, which often have tricky complications, like skin blistering in the lungs. Marinkovich said many patients don't survive beyond age 2 and that using the treatment for babies could be even riskier.

Dr. Holm Schneider warned that some severely ill patients might have an extreme reaction to skin transplants with an added gene.

"The immune system might recognize this new gene as something foreign to be attacked and destroyed," said Schneider, of the University Hospital Erlangen in Germany. Still, he said the approach was worth trying in dying patients.

The boy and his family later visited De Luca and the other Italian doctors involved in his treatment.

"The parents are very grateful and say their life has completely changed," De Luca said, recalling how the boy spontaneously began taking off his clothes. "The boy was so happy with his new skin that he wanted to show off."


Update November 8, 2017

10 arrests in French, Swiss raids over suspected attack plot

Police arrested 10 people Tuesday, Nov. 7, during counterterrorism operations in France and Switzerland. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Angela Charlton and Jamey Keaten

Paris (AP) — Ten people suspected of using encrypted social networks to prepare a possible attack were arrested Tuesday during counterterrorism operations in France and Switzerland aimed at clarifying details of the alleged plot, according to French officials.

A 23-year-old Colombian woman and 27-year-old Swiss man, both targets in a Swiss investigation of the Islamic State group, were among the suspects detained.

Counterterrorism investigators detained nine people between the ages of 18 and 65 in France and one person in Switzerland, according to a French judicial official. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, would not provide details about their identities.

The suspects were being questioned following searches of properties in the Paris suburbs and in southeastern France. Some of the suspects previously had been flagged for alleged Islamic radicalization, according to the judicial official and a French police official. Two are brothers, the officials said.

The Swiss suspect, who was among those arrested in France, allegedly had ties to a 13-year-old who was arrested earlier on suspicion of plotting a knife attack, the judicial official said.

The mayor of the French Riviera city of Nice, Christian Estrosi, thanked police for the arrests. His office said Estrosi was speaking with France's interior minister about the investigation, but neither City Hall nor the judicial official would confirm reports that the suspected attack plot targeted Nice.

The city remains scarred after the July 2016 truck attack that killed 86 people watching a Bastille Day fireworks display from a seaside promenade.

A French security official said the alleged plot did not appear to be fully developed but authorities acted Tuesday out of concern that the group was moving toward action.

In parallel to the Swiss investigation, French authorities opened a probe in July focused on suspicious activity by a person in Switzerland using the encrypted Telegram network, according to the French judicial official. The suspect, based in Switzerland, had communicated with people in France on social networks about unspecified violent acts, the official said.

Among the French towns targeted in the operation were Aix-en-Provence in southern France and Menton on the Mediterranean coast, as well as Paris suburbs, according to a French security official.

The office of Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber said the arrest there followed searches of buildings in the French-speaking Vaud and Neuchatel regions of western Switzerland.

The Swiss investigation originally targeted a 27-year-old Swiss man and was more recently extended to include the Colombian woman, neither of whom was identified by name. Lauber's office said the woman was expected to remain in custody until she appears before a court.

The arrests came days after a new counterterrorism law took effect in France. The law replaces a state of emergency that had been in place since the deadly Paris attacks.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb appeared to downplay the arrests, telling reporters during a visit to Germany on Tuesday that, "in a relatively habitual way, we arrest a certain number of individuals who appear that they could be dangerous."


Communist supporters mark Bolshevik Revolution centennial

Communist party supporters carry portraits of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin during a demonstration marking the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 7. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Vladimir Isachenkov

Moscow (AP) — Unlike the grand celebrations of the Soviet past, the Kremlin skirted Tuesday's centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution — an anniversary that drew only a routine demonstration by Communist devotees.

The government's attitude reflects both a wide split in public perception of the revolution and the Kremlin's uneasiness about the events in 1917 that heralded more than seven decades of the Communist Party rule.

President Vladimir Putin has bemoaned the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century," but he also has deplored the revolution that destroyed the Russian empire and triggered a devastating civil war that killed millions.

"Let us ask ourselves: Was it not possible to follow an evolutionary path rather than go through a revolution?" Putin said in a speech last month. "Could we not have evolved by way of gradual and consistent forward movement rather than at a cost of destroying our statehood and the ruthless fracturing of millions of human lives?"

Putin made no mention of the revolution while attending official meetings on Tuesday, a regular working day, unlike in Soviet times when it was marked as the nation's main holiday.

Putin's ambivalence is rooted in his desire to claim the heritage of both the czarist and the Soviet empires. While he can't denounce an event that is still revered by many of his supporters, the Russian leader disdains any uprisings and tends to see them as work of foreign spy agencies.

While the Kremlin has avoided any celebrations of the centennial, Russian state television marked the event with a slew of documentaries about the revolution and lavish biopics about revolutionary leaders.

All those productions made a particular emphasis of the alleged role by Germany in triggering the revolution by funding the Bolsheviks — the line that echoes the Kremlin's allegations of the U.S. meddling in Russian affairs today.

Alexander Baunov, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, noted that Putin appears to see a parallel between his tight controls over the Russian political scene and the czarist government's efforts to rein in the revolutionary movement.

"He sees his punitive measure as the continuation of the inconsequent and luckless struggle of law enforcement agencies of the Russian empire against the looming collapse of the state, and hopes to do better," Baunov wrote in a commentary.

Putin has accused the U.S. of encouraging massive demonstrations against him in Moscow in 2011-2012, and he also has blamed Washington for masterminding a series of uprisings in Middle East, North Africa and ex-Soviet republics.

"The government has a fantastic, paranoid fear of revolution, and the memory of what happened 100 years ago still hurts," liberal politician Leonid Gozman said in his blog.

The Kremlin's reluctance to commemorate the still-polarizing event reflects deep divisions over the revolution in Russian society. A recent nationwide poll showed public opinion on whether the revolution was positive or negative for Russia was split almost evenly.

Even as the Kremlin ignored the centennial, thousands of Communist Party members and supporters marched along Moscow's downtown Tverskaya Street carrying portraits of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.

During Soviet times, Nov. 7 was a major state holiday, with huge military parades and demonstrations on Red Square. Russia stopped celebrating it after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The Communists have continued to honor the date, and the authorities allowed them to march close to the Kremlin to mark the anniversary, but kept them off Red Square.

Such marches reflect the Communists' role as part of the token opposition in parliament that obediently toes the Kremlin line and limits itself to pro forma criticism of the government without challenging Putin's rule.

Many Russians still see Nov. 7 as a major holiday and feel nostalgic about the Soviet past.

"I feel like congratulating myself with the 100 years of my motherland," said Lyudmila Krasitskaya. "I think that this was the time when we dreamed and the dreams came true. And we all are absolutely grateful to our Soviet motherland for a happy life that it gave to us."

Another Moscow resident, Nina Galkina, said she's missing the holiday on Nov. 7. "We lived this life, we took part in manifestations, we had a feeling of a holiday," she said.

In a bid to switch attention from the revolution anniversary, the authorities in recent years marked the date with a re-enactment of the Nov. 7 1941, Red Square parade that saw Red Army soldiers march directly to the front line during the Battle of Moscow in World War II.

The re-enactment featured troops in period uniforms, vintage tanks and other military gear.

While Putin spoke critically about the revolution and Lenin, he has ignored demands to remove the Soviet founder's embalmed body from its Red Square tomb for burial. Such calls have become more frequent recently, with Ramzan Kadyrov, Moscow-backed strongman leader of the province of Chechnya, joining those who called for Lenin's burial.

Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov criticized Kadyrov for raising the issue, and Kadyrov angrily dismissed Zyuganov's statement as a "sign of senility."
 


Death toll from Vietnam storm climbs to 89 ahead of summit

People wade through a flooded street of Hoi An ancient town, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Danang, Vietnam (AP) — The death toll from a typhoon that struck Vietnam's south-central coast last weekend, causing widespread flooding, has risen to 89 with 18 others still missing, the government said Tuesday.

Typhoon Damrey caused extensive damage ahead of this week's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that will be attended by leaders from around the world, although those meetings that start Wednesday in the central city of Danang will not be affected. However, the ancient town of Hoi An, a 30-minute drive away, was badly flooded and it remains unclear whether scheduled visits Saturday by the spouses of APEC leaders will go ahead.

An official from the National Committee for Search and Rescue Operations said soldiers, police, militiamen and villagers have been mobilized to search for the missing. Those who perished were killed by collapsing houses, washed away by floods or drowned in capsized ships.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the storm also injured 174 others.

Weather forecasters said water levels in most rivers in the region were declining, but the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said parts of a main highway were still covered with up to a meter (three feet) of water, disrupting traffic.

The disaster agency said the government has ordered relief aid of $44 million for the typhoon's victims.

It was the second natural disaster to hit the Southeast Asian country in a month. About 75 people died and 28 others were reported missing in several northern and central provinces last month by flooding triggered by a tropical storm.


Hong Kong is the world's top city for international visits

Hong Kong harbor is shown in this Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Pan Pylas

London (AP) — Hong Kong remains the world's most visited city by international travelers in spite of strained relations with neighboring China, industry experts said Tuesday.

In a report on the top 100 city destinations that highlights the growth in Asian tourism, market research firm Euromonitor International said 25.7 million arrivals are expected in Hong Kong this year.

The figure is down 3.2 percent compared with 2016, largely because tensions with China have grown this year as Beijing has sought to exercise more control on the territory.

Euromonitor expects the downturn to be short-lived and that growth will pick up again from next year and that arrivals to Hong Kong will reach a massive 45 million by 2025.

Unlike Hong Kong, the Thai capital of Bangkok posted further increases in arrivals this year largely linked to tour packages targeted at first-time travelers from China. Its arrivals in 2017 are expected to be 9.5 percent higher at 21.3 million, a rise that's pushed it further ahead of London, which remains in third spot with 19.8 million arrivals.

Visits to London rose 3.4 percent in 2017, largely due to the 15 percent fall in the value of the pound since the country's vote last year to leave the European Union. That has helped shift perceptions about Britain being an expensive place to visit.

"The currency depreciation has been a boon for inbound tourism into Britain," said Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor's head of travel. "It's now deemed value for money."

However, Euromonitor warned that the "Brexit bounce" may soon end if the country's departure from the EU in March 2019 undermines London's dominant position in the financial industry and its status as a hub for start-up businesses.

The research firm said London is set to set to slip down to sixth in the rankings in the coming seven year as a result of a rise in travel to Asian cities. Euromonitor expects 47 Asian cities to be in the top 100 by 2025, against 41 now and just 34 in 2010.

"The impact of inter-Asian travel, predominantly from China in particular, cannot be underestimated," said Wouter Geerts, Euromonitor's senior travel analyst and author of the report, which was prepared for the World Travel Market, the industry's top event. "Asia Pacific is the standout region that has driven change in the travel landscape over the past decade and is expected to continue doing so in the coming decade."

Elsewhere, the survey found that extremist attacks have had diverging effects in cities. While Istanbul has seen a 5.8 percent decline in arrivals this year to 9.2 million, cities like London, Paris and Barcelona have seen little long-lasting impact.

The report shows that much of the tourism that went to Istanbul and other Mediterranean destinations affected by attacks, like Tunisia and Egypt, have gone to Greece and Italy, which are considered "relatively quiet and stable."

Greece is set for a record-breaking year, with the Cretan city of Heraklion the fastest-growing in Europe in the top 100, with arrivals up 11.2 percent this year to more than 3 million. Athens, the Greek capital, is also enjoying a boom, with numbers up 10 percent, lifting its position by one to 47th.

For Greece, the surge in visits is particularly important as tourism accounts for a fifth of the economy, which has shrunk by a quarter during its debt crisis of recent years. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimates that tourism in 2017 will help boost the Greek economy by 6.9 percent, supporting nearly a million jobs.

The top U.S. city on the list is New York, which retains eighth spot after a 3.6 percent increase in arrivals in 2017 to 13.1 million. Miami was the second most-visited U.S. city with 8.1 million arrivals, up 3.1 percent.


3 militants, Indian soldier killed in Kashmir fighting

Kashmiri villagers carry the body of local rebel Waseem Ahmad, during his funeral procession in Drubgam, 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Nov. 7. ( AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)

Srinagar, India (AP) — Three militants and an Indian army soldier were killed in a gun battle in disputed Kashmir, officials said Tuesday.

The fighting erupted after government forces cordoned off and raided some homes in southern Aglar village following a tip that militants were hiding there, police said.

An army soldier was killed in the initial round of fighting, they said.

As the fighting raged, hundreds of residents demonstrated in solidarity with the rebels and clashed with government forces to try to help the militants escape.

At least two civilians were injured in the clashes between rock-throwing protesters and troops, who fired bullets and tear gas to quell the anti-India protest.

The gunfight is the latest in a string of deadly shootouts between Indian forces and rebels in restive Kashmir. At least 170 rebels and 60 government soldiers have died so far this year.

Senior police officer Muneer Ahmed Khan said one of the three slain rebels was a nephew of a top Pakistani militant leader, Masood Azhar. India blames Azhar's group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, for a string of attacks, including an audacious strike last month by three militants near the airport in the region's main city of Srinagar.

China, a key ally of Pakistan, has repeatedly blocked India's attempts to have Azhar put on a U.N. Security Council terror blacklist. India also accuses archrival Pakistan of harboring and training militants to launch attacks on its soil.

Pakistan has rejected the Indian accusations and says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris fighting against Indian rule.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, and most people support the rebels' cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.


Trump says tougher gun laws not answer after Texas shooting

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, speaks as South Korean President Moon Jae-In listens during a joint press conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 7. (Jung Yeon-Je/Pool Photo via AP)

Jill Colvin

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — President Donald Trump says tougher gun laws would not have prevented a mass shooting at a south Texas church, arguing that more restrictions might have led to more casualties.

Trump spoke at a news conference in South Korea on Tuesday where he was asked about "extreme vetting" for gun purchases. Trump said: "If you did what you're suggesting, there would have been no difference three days ago and you might not have had that very brave person who happens to have a gun or a rifle in his trunk."

As he did following last month's Las Vegas massacre of 58 people, Trump pushed back against the question, calling it a "situation that probably shouldn't be discussed too much" and noted that he was "in the heart of South Korea."

Trump added that if the Good Samaritan didn't have a gun, "instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead."

Authorities say Devin Patrick Kelley fired at least 450 rounds of ammunition at worshippers in Sunday's attack at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old.

Trump's more muted response to gun violence contrasts with his swift call for legislative and military action following the Oct. 31 truck attack in New York City. Within hours of a rental truck ramming through a crowded bicycle path and into a school bus, Trump called for Congress to "immediately" repeal the diversity visa lottery program that suspect Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek citizen, used to enter the country in 2010.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Trump and aides said it was inappropriate to consider a policy response while people were still grieving. Despite days later suggesting openness to outlawing the bump stock device that allowed Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to fire at near-automatic rates, the Trump administration has shown no signs of urgency.

Trump, who supported gun control before reversing his position to enter the Republican presidential primary, courted the National Rifle Association's endorsement in 2016. Earlier this year he became the first president in three decades to speak at the gun group's annual convention.


Update November 7, 2017

Typhoon death toll in Vietnam climbs amid widespread floods

 

Nguyen Thi Vui paddles her boat in the flooded streets of Hoi An, Vietnam, Monday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) — A powerful typhoon that rocked Vietnam has killed at least 44 people, left more than a dozen missing and caused extensive damage to the country's south-central region ahead of a summit that will draw leaders from around the world, the government said Monday.

The Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said in a statement that widespread flooding was reported in the region and that more than 116,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. In addition to the dead, 19 people are missing, including nine crew members of cargo ships that sank off the coast of Khanh Hoa province.

Typhoon Damrey hit Saturday and had already dissipated, but the disaster agency said flooding may get worse as heavy rain was forecast for the region. The area hit includes Danang, which is hosting an economic summit later this week that will be by President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders.

Many of the banners and posters for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang were damaged, but were fixed by Monday. There was only light rainfall in the city on Monday.

A half-hour drive away in the ancient town of Hoi An, where spouses of the APEC leaders were scheduled to visit, residents said they were suffering from the worst floods in decades.

"Our family of six members has to live on the second floor, where we had to move all our belongings," said Nguyen Thi Hong, 70, who has been selling silk products in the town for the past 30 years. "Life was very difficult because there was no electricity and we have to use boats to get around."

Another local resident, Nguyen Huu Ngai, said it was the worst flooding in the area since 1999, adding that in "previous rainy seasons, the water was shallow, but this year the water is so high that we have to use boats."

Shops in Hoi An, a UNESCO world heritage site popular with tourists, were closed and boats were the only means of transportation in many flooded parts of the town.

Rains of up to 78 centimeters (30 inches) were reported in some parts of the central region over the 24 hours until Sunday evening. Light rains were reported in the region Monday morning.

The typhoon was the second to hit Vietnam in a month.


Texas church gunman sent hostile text messages before attack

Law enforcement officials move flowers left at the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Monday, Nov. 6, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Jim Vertuno, Will Weissert and Paul J. Weber

Sutherland Springs, Texas (AP) — The gunman who killed 26 people at a small-town Texas church had a history of domestic violence and sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, a member of First Baptist, before the attack, authorities said Monday.

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in state history, officials from President Donald Trump's administration revealed that the military did not submit the shooter's criminal history to the FBI, as required by the Pentagon. If his past offenses had been properly shared, they would have prevented him from buying a gun.

Investigators also revealed that deputies had responded to a domestic violence call in 2014 at Devin Patrick Kelley's home involving a girlfriend who became his second wife. Later that year, he was formally ousted from the Air Force for a 2012 assault on his ex-wife in which he choked her and struck her son hard enough to fracture his skull.

In the tiny town of Sutherland Springs, population 400, grieving townspeople were reeling from their losses. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years old and included multiple members of some families.

"Our church was not comprised of members or parishioners. We were a very close family," said Sherri Pomeroy, the wife of the church pastor, who was out of town with her husband when the attack happened. "Now most of our church family is gone."

The couple's 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy, was among those killed.

Kelley's mother-in-law sometimes attended services there, but the sheriff said she was not at church on Sunday.

The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation and was not racially or religiously motivated, Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said. He did not elaborate.

Based on evidence at the scene, investigators believe Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased by bystanders, one of whom was armed, and crashed his car.

The 26-year-old shooter also used his cellphone to tell his father he had been shot and did not think he would survive, authorities said.

The investigation showed that Kelley had displayed a pattern of violence spanning years.

While in the military, Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his 2014 discharge, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

He was discharged for the assault involving his previous wife and her child and had served a year of confinement after a court-martial. Under Pentagon rules, information about convictions of military personnel for crimes such as assault should be submitted to the FBI's Criminal Justice Investigation Services Division.

The Trump administration officials were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A few months before he received the bad-conduct discharge, sheriff's deputies went to his home to check out the domestic violence complaint involving him and his then-girlfriend. People in the house said there was no problem, and no arrests were made. Kelley married the girlfriend two months later.

Also in 2014, he was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in Colorado after a neighbor reported him for beating a dog. Kelley initially refused to speak with officers about the incident. He denied abusing the animal but complied with an order to pay almost $370 in restitution. He was also the focus of a protective order issued in Colorado in 2015.

Once the shooting started, there was probably "no way" for congregants to escape, Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. said.

The gunman, dressed in black tactical gear, fired an assault rifle as he walked down the center aisle during worship services. He turned around and continued shooting on his way out of the building, Tackitt said.

About 20 other people were wounded. Ten of them were still hospitalized Monday in critical condition.

Authorities said Kelley lived in New Braunfels, about 35 miles north of the church. Investigators were reviewing social media posts he made in the days before the attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.

Less than two months ago, Kelley had started a job as an unarmed security guard at a nearby resort.

He "seemed like a nice guy" and did not cause any problems, said Claudia Varjabedian, manager at the Summit Vacation Resort in New Braunfels.

On Sunday, the attacker pulled into a gas station across from the church, about 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) southeast of San Antonio. He crossed the street and started firing the rifle at the church, then continued firing after entering the white wood-frame building, Martin said.

As he left, the shooter was confronted by an armed resident who had grabbed his own rifle and exchanged fire with Kelley.

The armed man who confronted Kelley had help from another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who said he was driving past the church as the shooting happened. The armed man asked to get in Langendorff's truck, and the pair followed as the gunman drove away.

"He jumped in my truck and said, 'He just shot up the church. We need to go get him.' And I said 'Let's go,'" Langendorff said.

The pursuit reached speeds up to 90 mph. The gunman eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed. The armed man walked up to the vehicle with his gun drawn, and the attacker did not move. Police arrived about five minutes later, Langendorff said.

The assailant was dead in his vehicle.

"There was no thinking about it. There was just doing. That was the key to all this. Act now. Ask questions later," he said.

Church member Nick Uhlig, 34, who was not at Sunday's service, told the AP that his cousin, who was eight months' pregnant, and her in-laws were among those killed. He later told the Houston Chronicle that three of his cousin's children also were slain.

Three weapons were recovered. A Ruger AR-556 rifle was found at the church, and two handguns were recovered from the gunman's vehicle, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The assailant did not have a license to carry a concealed handgun, Martin said.

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, and authorities said they were reviewing footage recorded inside the church.

In a video of its Oct. 8 service, a congregant pointed to the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting a week earlier as evidence of the "wicked nature" of man. That shooting left 58 dead and more than 500 injured.

The previous deadliest mass shooting in Texas had been a 1991 attack in Killeen, when a mentally disturbed man crashed his pickup truck through a restaurant window at lunchtime and started shooting people, killing 23 and injuring more than 20 others.


Fiji calls for urgency in talks to implement climate accord

Delegates make pictures in front of a photo of an island at the COP 23 Fiji UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Monday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Geir Moulson and Dorothee Thiesing

Bonn, Germany (AP) — Fiji's prime minister called for a sense of urgency in the fight against global warming Monday, telling negotiators "we must not fail our people," as he opened two weeks of talks on implementing the Paris accord on combating climate change, which is already affecting his Pacific island nation.

While diplomats and activists gathered in Bonn, the U.N. weather agency said 2017 is set to become the hottest year on record aside from those impacted by the El Nino phenomenon.

The talks in Germany are the first major global climate conference since President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will pull out of the 2015 Paris accord unless he can secure a better deal, and the first time that a small island nation is chairing such a conference.

Negotiators will focus on thrashing out some of the technical details of the Paris accord, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. While Trump has expressed skepticism, a recent U.S. government report concluded there is strong evidence that man-made climate change is taking place.

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe 'Frank' Bainimarama, the Bonn conference's chairman, offered greetings "from one of the most climate-vulnerable regions on earth," underlining "our collective plea for the world to maintain the course we set in Paris."

"The need for urgency is obvious," he said. "Our world is in distress from the extreme weather events caused by climate change."

"We must not fail our people" and must make the Paris accord work, Bainimarama said, adding that means to "meet our commitments in full, not back away from them."

He didn't refer directly to the Trump administration's position, but appeared to play off Trump's "America first" slogan.

"The only way for every nation to put itself first is to lock arms with all other nations and move forward together," the Fijian leader declared.

In a brief statement toward the end of the opening session Monday, a senior U.S. diplomat told delegates that Washington's position hadn't changed since Trump's announcement in June.

But Trigg Talley, the U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said the United States will "continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings, including ongoing negotiations related to guidance for implementing the Paris agreement."

The meeting began with schoolchildren chanting "Save the World" processing into the conference hall and a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony.

The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization said this year is already on track to be one of the three hottest years of all time, after 2015 and 2016, which were both affected by a powerful El Nino — a weather phenomenon that can contribute to higher temperatures. .

WMO says key indicators of climate change — such as rising carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, rising sea levels and the acidification of oceans — "continue unabated" this year.

It said the global mean temperature from January to September this year was about a half-degree Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average, which was estimated to be 14.31 degrees C (57.76 Fahrenheit).

The five-year average temperature from 2013 to 2017 is more than 1 degree Celsius higher than that during the pre-industrial period.

WMO says 2017 has been marked by higher-than-average rainfall in places like western China, southern South America and the contiguous United States; lower-than-average arctic sea-ice extent.

Participants at the Bonn conference include diplomats from 195 nations, as well as scientists, lobbyists and environmentalists. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders are expected to appear near the end of the summit to give the talks a final push.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks called for "significant progress" in Bonn on implementing the Paris accord.

"The Paris agreement is irreversible," she told delegates Monday. "We now have to do everything in our power to implement it and we do not have much time left."


Policeman testifies that 4 N. Koreans fled after Kim killing

 

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted by police as she arrives for a court hearing at Shah Alam court house in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

Eileen Ng

Shah Alam, Malaysia (AP) — A police officer testified Monday at the trial of two women accused of killing the half brother of North Korea's leader that four suspects at large believed to have plotted with the women were North Koreans who fled Malaysia immediately after the assassination.

Police investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz also said an employee from North Korea's state-owned carrier, Air Koryo, arranged flight tickets for the four men so they could depart after the attack on Kim Jong Nam was carried out in a crowded budget terminal of the Kuala Lumpur airport last Feb. 13.

Wan Azirul, who earlier identified the four only as Mr. Y, Mr. Chang, Hanamori and James, revealed their full identifies as the trial entered a second month.

The two young women — Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing VX nerve agent onto Kim's face — are the only suspects detained in the brazen assassination of Kim, an outcast from North Korea's ruling family who lived abroad in virtual exile for years. Both women pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial on Oct. 2 to murder charges that carry mandatory death sentences if they are convicted.

Wan Azirul testified Monday that Hanamori, whom he earlier identified as the mastermind of the attack, is Ri Jae Nam, 57, and that Mr. Chang, who was seen in airport security video with Aisyah before the killing, is Hong Song Hak, 34.

Mr. Y, seen in the video with Huong, is Ri Ji Hyon, 33, and the fourth suspect, James, is O Jong Gil, 54, Wan Azirul said.

He said the four men entered Malaysia on different days beginning last Jan. 31.

Interpol put out a red alert for the arrest of the four in March following a request from Malaysian police.

Wan Azirul said three of the men flew off to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, more than three hours after the attack on Kim, but couldn't remember where the fourth suspect flew to. Police earlier said the four are believed to be back in North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.

Wan Azirul said police found a photo of another North Korean, Ri Ji U, 30, also known as James, in Aisyah's cellphone. But there was no record of this person entering or exiting Malaysia, he told the court.

Earlier in the trial, the court was shown airport security video of the four suspects at large. O Jong Gil was seen checking in at an airport hotel two days before the attack. After the attack, O checked out and was seen at the main airport terminal more than three hours after the other three left on the same flight.

On Monday, Wan Azirul pointed out in the video a North Korean Embassy official and the Air Koryo employee meeting with the four men before they left.

The two women's defense lawyers have said Huong and Aisyah were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a TV show. Prosecutors contend the women's conduct showed they knew they were handling poison.

Malaysia has never directly accused North Korea, but South Korea's spy agency has claimed the attack was part of a plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met. Kim Jong Nam was not known to have actively been seeking influence over his younger brother, but had years earlier spoken out publicly against his family's dynastic rule.


UK leader calls for end to 'abuses of power' amid sex claims

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the annual Confederation of British Industry in London Monday Nov. 6. (John Stillwell/PA via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May called Monday for greater effort to stamp out "abuses of power" in public life amid what she called troubling allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in U.K. politics.

May and leaders of the other parties in Parliament agreed to set up a grievance procedure for everybody working in Parliament, and to replace an existing complaints phone line with a face-to-face service.

"I think if this hasn't happened to you it's difficult to appreciate the impact that being a victim of this sort of behavior can have — it simply has a lasting impact on people," May said after meeting Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders.

"And we need to do more to stop these abuses of power."

Since revelations emerged about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, researchers, staff and journalists working in British politics have begun to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse and harassment by lawmakers and officials in Parliament. In several cases, they have accused political parties of failing to take action and even discouraging victims from going to police.

The claims have ranged from unwanted touching and suggestive emails to allegations of rape.

The scandal has already triggered the resignation of the country's defense secretary, an investigation of May's deputy and the suspension by their parties of several Conservative and Labour lawmakers.

Both May's Conservatives and the Labour opposition have set up new measures to deal with allegations of wrongdoing, but May has said she wants a cross-Parliament approach to provide consistency for all workers.

She said the fact that abuses "have taken place here at our seat of democracy should be a matter of shame for us all."

As allegations continue to emerge, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Sunday the torrent of abuse revelations marked a "watershed moment" in British politics and could result in a "clear out" of offenders.


Hong Kong court grants activist Wong's prison appeal bid

Young Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong is shown in this Nov. 1, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Yi-Ling Liu

Hong Kong (AP) — Hong Kong's top court on Tuesday granted a bid by young democracy activist Joshua Wong to appeal his prison sentence.

The surprise decision gives Wong and fellow activist Nathan Law one last chance to fight their prison terms for involvement in an unlawful assembly that sparked huge 2014 pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-controlled city. Wong is facing six months in prison and Law eight months if their appeals fail.

They were bailed last month after serving two months so they could apply for an appeal, which the Court of Final Appeal approved.

The court scheduled their appeal hearing for January.

The 21-year-old Wong shot to stardom for his role helping spearhead the protests three years ago against Beijing's decisions to restrict elections for the city's top leader.

They were sentenced to prison in August after the justice secretary won a legal request to get the courts to overturn an earlier, more lenient sentence letting them avoid jail time. The move raised concerns that the city's independent judiciary was being undermined — part of broader tensions over Beijing's increasingly strained relationship with Hong Kong, which includes calls for independence on college campuses and football fans booing China's national anthem.

Legal experts and the activists had not expected Tuesday's decision. Wong said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that there was a good chance he would go back to prison, either for this case or a separate one in which he still faces sentencing.

"There will be more occasions in the future when our group of young people will go to prison, but we will persist in keeping the faith and working together to fight for democracy," Wong said in the interview.

Under the "one country, two systems" framework, Beijing promised to let Hong Kong maintain wide autonomy and civil liberties following its 1997 handover from Britain. Residents fear China's communist leaders are backtracking on the pledge.


Update November 6, 2017

26 killed in church attack in Texas' deadliest mass shooting

Law enforcement officials work at the scene of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday, Nov. 5. (Nick Wagner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Jim Vertuno

Sutherland Springs, Texas (AP) — A man opened fire inside of a church in a small South Texas community on Sunday, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others in the deadliest mass shooting in the state's history, the governor said.

Officials didn't identify the attacker during a news conference Sunday night, but two other officials — one a U.S. official and one in law enforcement — who were briefed on the investigation identified him as Devin Kelley. They spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the investigation.

The U.S. official said Kelley lived in a San Antonio suburb and doesn't appear to be linked to organized terrorist groups. The official said investigators are looking at social media posts Kelley may have made in the days before Sunday's attack, including one that appeared to show an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

Authorities said a civilian with a gun confronted the attacker and chased him away. The gunman was later found dead in his vehicle along with several weapons.

A Department of Public Safety official said at the news conference that investigators weren't ready to discuss a possible motive for the attack. He said the dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. Twenty-three were found dead in the church, two were found outside and one died after being taken to a hospital.

Federal law enforcement swarmed the small community 30 miles southeast of San Antonio after the attack to offer assistance, including ATF investigators and members of the FBI's evidence collection team.

Among those killed was the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife, Sherri. Sherri Pomeroy wrote in a text message to the AP that she and her husband were out of town in two different states when the attack occurred.

"We lost our 14 year old daughter today and many friends," she wrote. "Neither of us have made it back into town yet to personally see the devastation. I am at the charlotte airport trying to get home as soon as i can."

The wounded were taken to hospitals. Video on KSAT television showed first responders taking a stretcher from the church to a waiting AirLife helicopter. Eight victims were taken by medical helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center, the military hospital said.

Megan Posey, a spokeswoman for Connally Memorial Medical Center, which is in Floresville and about 10 miles from the church, said "multiple" victims were being treated for gunshot wounds. She declined to give a specific number but said it was less than a dozen.

Alena Berlanga, a Floresville resident who was monitoring the chaos on a police scanner and in Facebook community groups, said everyone knows everyone else in the sparsely populated county. Sutherland Springs has only a few hundred residents.

"This is horrific for our tiny little tight-knit town," said Alena Berlanga. "Everybody's going to be affected and everybody knows someone who's affected," she said.

Regina Rodriguez arrived at the church a couple of hours after the shooting and walked up to the police barricade. She hugged a person she was with. She had been at an amusement park with her children when she heard of the shooting.

She said her father, 51-year-old Richard Rodriguez, attends the church every Sunday, and she hadn't been able to reach him. She said she feared the worst.

Nick Uhlig, 34, is a church member who didn't go Sunday morning because he was out late Saturday night. He said his cousins were at the church and that his family was told at least one of them, a woman with three children and pregnant with another, is among the dead. He said he hadn't heard specific news about the other.

"We just gathered to bury their grandfather on Thursday," he said. "This is the only church here. We have Bible study, men's Bible study, vacation Bible school."

"Somebody went in and started shooting," he said, shaking his head and taking a long drag of his cigarette.

President Donald Trump tweeted from Japan, where is his on an Asian trip, that he was monitoring the situation. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting an "evil act," and promised "more details" from the state's Department of Public Safety soon.

Sutherland Springs is in a rural area where communities are small and tight-knit. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in Floresville, which was most recently held last month.

"We're shocked. Shocked and dismayed," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Laredo Democrat whose district includes Sutherland Springs. "It's especially shocking when it's such a small, serene area. These rural areas, they are so beautiful and so loving."

Zaffirini said she had called several county and local officials but not been able to get through and didn't have any firm details.

The church is a white, wood-framed building with a double-door at the entrance and a Texas flag on a pole at the front area. A morning worship service was scheduled for 11 a.m. The first news reports of the shooting were between noon and 12:30 p.m.

The church has posted videos of its Sunday services on a YouTube channel, raising the possibility that the shooting was captured on video.

In the most recent service, posted Oct. 29, Frank Pomeroy parked a motorcycle in front of his lectern and used it as a metaphor in his sermon for having faith in forces that can't be seen, whether it be gravity or God.

"I don't look at the moment, I look at where I'm going and look at what's out there ahead of me," Pomeroy said. "I'm choosing to trust in the centripetal forces and the things of God he's put around me."


3 dead, 2,000 evacuated as storm strikes Malaysian state

An aerial view shows a flooded area of George Town city in Penang, Malaysia, Sunday, Nov. 5. (AP Photo)

Kuala Lumpur (AP) — A northern Malaysian state was paralyzed Sunday by a severe storm that led to three deaths and the evacuation of some 2,000 people in the worst flooding in years.

Penang, a popular tourist destination and manufacturing hub, has been hit by torrential rains and strong winds since Saturday, said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. He said the rains were probably associated with Typhoon Damrey, which also pounded Vietnam where at least 27 people have died and 22 are missing.

Floodwaters as high as 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 meters) submerged houses in low-lying parts of the state. Extensive flooding also hit the capital George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its British colonial buildings.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, who are on a weeklong visit to Malaysia, are due to visit George Town on Tuesday.

The dead included a 75-year-old man who drowned in his house, an elderly woman at a nursing home and a Bangladeshi worker, Lim said.

Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged to assist the opposition-ruled state. Army personnel were deployed to evacuate those affected to higher grounds and in cleaning up operations. A total of 27 evacuation centers have been set up.

Lim said there was no need to declare an emergency as the situation is under control. The state government showed reporters security videos of strong wind blowing off large billboards and uprooting trees and floods in the city center.

Rain and floodwaters eased midday Sunday but the meteorological department forecast that the bad weather will continue, with expected continuous rainfall and strong winds.


Billionaire prince among dozens arrested in Saudi sweep

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud is shown in this March 7, 2010 file photo. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Abdullah Al-Shihri and Aya Batrawy

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of princes and former officials, including a well-known billionaire with extensive holdings in Western companies, as part of a sweeping anti-corruption probe that further cements control in the hands of its young crown prince.

A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding Co. told The Associated Press that the royal was among those detained overnight Saturday. The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of repercussions, said he received calls from several security bodies notifying him of the arrest.

The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of the late King Abdullah's sons, were being hailed by pro-government media outlets as the greatest sign yet that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is serious about reforming the country, which has long been plagued by allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government. The moves come barely two weeks after Saudi Arabia hosted a major investment conference.

Analysts suggested the corruption probe, which targeted key members of the royal family, was a show of force by the crown prince, aimed at undermining any potential rivals.

A Saudi government official with close ties to security says 11 princes and 38 former government ministers, deputies and businessmen are being held in five-star hotels across the capital, Riyadh. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The scale of the arrests is unprecedented in Saudi Arabia, where senior royals and their business associates have long been viewed as untouchable and seemingly operate above the law. Saudi nationals have long complained of rampant corruption in government and of public funds being squandered or misused by people in power.

It is not clear what Prince Alwaleed or others are being investigated for.

The prince is one of the Middle East's richest people. His many investments include Twitter, Apple, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Citigroup, and the Four Seasons, Fairmont and Movenpick hotel chains. He is also an investor in ride-sharing services Lyft and Careem, both competitors to Uber in the U.S. and the Middle East, respectively.

The prince, often pictured on his 85.65-meter (281 foot) superyacht in the Mediterranean, is among the most outspoken Saudi royals and a longtime advocate for women's rights. He is also majority owner of the popular Rotana Group of Arabic channels.

The Associated Press reached out overnight to Kingdom Holding for comment. There was no response as of Sunday morning.

The Finance Ministry said in a statement the anti-corruption probe "opens a new era of transparency and accountability," enhances confidence in the rule of law and improves the kingdom's investment climate.

The kingdom's top council of clerics issued a statement saying it is an Islamic duty to fight corruption— essentially giving religious backing to the high-level arrests being reported. And a top royal court official, Badr al-Asaker, on Sunday appeared to confirm the arrests on Twitter, describing a "historic and black night against the corrupt."

News of the arrests broke within hours of King Salman announcing the formation of a new anti-corruption committee headed by his son, the 32-year-old crown prince.

The king also ousted Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the National Guard overnight. The prince is reportedly among those detained in the sweep, as is his brother, Prince Turki bin Abdullah, who was once governor of Riyadh. Both are sons of the late King Abdullah, who ruled before his half brother King Salman.

Saudi Twitter accounts released several other names of those arrested, such as: Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a powerful Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, the former finance minister; and Bakr Binladin, head of the Saudi Binladin Group, a major business conglomerate.

Reports suggested those detained were being held in the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted the major investment conference. The phone number for the hotel had been disconnected by Sunday morning and a Dubai-based spokeswoman for the hotel chain did not respond to a request for comment.

The government said the anti-corruption committee has the right to issue arrest warrants, impose travel restrictions and freeze bank accounts. It can also trace funds, prevent the transfer of funds or the liquidation of assets, and take other precautionary measures until cases are referred to the judiciary.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, said the arrests are designed to further smooth the crown prince's eventual succession to the throne.

"As a leader who is set to remain in power for decades, Mohammed bin Salman is remaking the kingdom in his own image and signaling a potentially significant move away from the consensual balancing of competing interests that characterized Saudi rule in the past," Ulrichsen said.

Prince Miteb was replaced by a lesser known royal, Prince Khalid bin Ayyaf al-Muqrin, to head the National Guard— a prestigious force tasked with protecting the royal family, as well as important holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and oil and gas sites.

Prince Miteb was once considered a contender for the throne. Just three months ago, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was plucked from the line of succession and from his post as interior minister, overseeing internal security.

The arrests came as Lebanon's prime minister, a close Saudi ally, announced his own resignation from the Saudi capital.

Saudi Arabia then said its forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen toward one of the kingdom's major international airports on the outskirts of Riyadh. A Saudi-led coalition launched a war against the Houthi rebels and their allies in March 2015 that grinds on today. A wave of airstrikes hit the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, overnight, apparently launched in response to the missile.

The missile fire drew an immediate rebuke from President Donald Trump.

"A shot was just taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia. And our system knocked it down," Trump said, referring to the Patriot missile batteries Saudi Arabia has purchased from the U.S.

Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner and others made an unannounced trip recently to Riyadh. Trump earlier Saturday said he spoke to King Salman about listing the kingdom's massive state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, in the United States.


Trump calls Japan 'crucial ally' as he kicks off Asia trip

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Kasumigaseki Country Club, Sunday, Nov. 5, in Kawagoe, Japan. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin

Fussa, Japan (AP) — President Donald Trump praised Japan as a "crucial ally" and warned adversaries not to test America's resolve Sunday as he opened a grueling and consequential first trip to Asia.

Trump landed at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo and was greeted by cheering service members. Trump then donned a bomber jacket for a speech in which he touted American firepower and the U.S. alliance with Japan.

"Japan is a treasured partner and crucial ally of the United States and today we thank them for welcoming us and for decades of wonderful friendship between our two nations," he said, speaking in front of an American flag inside an airplane hangar.

Trump was expected to spend much of his 12-day, five-country Asian tour exhorting allies and rivals to step up efforts to counter the dangers posed by North Korea, which continues to move forward with its nuclear weapons program. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been engaged in an escalating war of words, with Trump repeatedly referring to Un as "Little Rocket Man" and threatening in a recent speech to "totally destroy" the nation, if necessary.

Even before he landed, Trump used the first moments of the trip to denounce the North as "a big problem" that must "be solved."

"There's been 25 years of total weakness, so we are taking a very much different approach" toward the North, he told reporters traveling with him.

During the speech, Trump did not mention North Korea by name, but warned of the consequences of crossing what he called the "most fearsome fighting force in the history of our world."

"Together with our allies, America's warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities. No one — no dictator, no regime and no nation — should underestimate, ever, American resolve," Trump told the troops.

Some regional analysts have speculated that Trump's presence in Asia may prompt North Korea to take provocative action, like another missile test.  Trump, when asked about that possibility aboard Air Force One, said "we'll soon find out."

After the speech, Trump flew by helicopter to the Kasumigaseki Country Club about 20 miles outside of Tokyo for lunch and a round of golf with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama. An avid golfer, Trump said Matsuyama is "probably the greatest player in the history of Japan."

Trump and Abe have struck up a personal friendship, forged through multiple meetings and telephone conversations, as well as on the greens of one of Trump's Florida golf clubs and over intimate dinners at Trump's Florida estate.

At the club, the leaders signed white caps inscribed with the phrase, "Donald and Shinzo: Make Alliance Even Greater," a tribute to the U.S.-Japan friendship and a play on Trump's campaign slogan. On the menu: a hamburger made from U.S. beef.

The trip, which marks the longest Far East itinerary for a president in a generation, comes at a precarious moment for Trump. Days ago, his former campaign chairman was indicted and another adviser pleaded guilty as part of an investigation into possible collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian officials.

The journey will also test Trump's stamina. But the 71-year-old president assured reporters that he was up for the task. "It's grueling, they tell me, but fortunately that's historically not been a problem for me. One thing you people will say, that's not been a problem," he said.

The visit will be closely watched by Asian allies worried that Trump's inward-looking "America First" agenda could cede power in the region to China. They also are rattled by his bellicose rhetoric toward North Korea. The North's growing missile arsenal threatens several of the capitals Trump will visit.

The trip will also put Trump in face-to-face meetings with authoritarian leaders for whom he has expressed admiration. They include China's Xi Jinping, whom Trump has likened to "a king," and the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte, who has sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers.

Trump is also expected to have a second private audience with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam. Trump told reporters he "will want Putin's help" in dealing with North Korea. They previously met during a summit in Europe this summer.

The White House has signaled that Trump will push American economic interests in the region, but the North Korea issue is expected to dominate the trip. One of Trump's two major speeches will come before the National Assembly in Seoul. But fiery threats against the North could resonate differently than they do from the distance of Washington.

Trump will forgo a trip to the Demilitarized Zone, the stark border between North and South Korea. All U.S. presidents except one since Ronald Reagan have visited the DMZ in a sign of solidarity with Seoul. The White House contends that Trump's commitment to South Korea is already crystal clear, as evidenced by his war of words with Kim and his threats to deliver "fire and fury" to North Korea if it does not stop threatening American allies.

The escalation of rhetoric, a departure from the conduct of past presidents, has undermined confidence in the U.S. as a stabilizing presence in Asia.

"There's a danger if there is a lot of muscle flexing," said Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. "Trump has been going right up to the edge and I wouldn't rule out some sort of forceful North Korean reaction to Trump's presence in the region," he said.

The White House said Trump would be undeterred.

"The president will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously," White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters before Trump departed Washington. "I don't think the president really modulates his language, have you noticed?"


Lebanese premier resigns, plunging nation into uncertainty

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is shown in this Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 file photo. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Zeina Karam

Beirut (AP) — Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from his post in a televised address from the Saudi capital Saturday, accusing Hezbollah of taking the country hostage, in a surprise move that plunged the nation into uncertainty amid heightened regional tensions.

In his resignation speech, Hariri fired a vicious tirade against Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah group for what he said was their meddling in Arab affairs and said that "Iran's arms in the region will be cut off."

"The evil that Iran spreads in the region will backfire on it," Hariri said, accusing Tehran of spreading chaos, strife and destruction throughout the region.

Hariri was appointed prime minister in late 2016 and headed a 30-member coalition government that included members of the Shiite militant Hezbollah. But it's been an uneasy partnership between Hariri, who heads a Sunni-led camp loyal to Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah, which represents a camp loyal to Shiite Iran. President Michel Aoun, who was elected in October 2016 after more than a two-year presidential vacuum, is a close ally of Hezbollah.

As U.S. and Saudi Arabia sought ways to curb Iran's growing influence in the region, Hariri has come under pressure to distance himself from the militant group which has sent thousands of troops to neighboring Syria to shore up President Bashar Assad's forces.

It was not immediately clear whether Hariri intended to return to Lebanon. In a statement, the presidential office said Aoun was informed by Hariri in a phone call of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Hariri's return to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly.

Hariri's bombshell resignation — even close aides seemed unaware of the announcement — ushers in a stage of deep uncertainty and potential instability. It also throws into doubt parliamentary elections slated for early next year which have been repeatedly delayed.

It comes amid a sharp escalation in Saudi rhetoric against its regional archrival Iran and puts Lebanon at the center of that rivalry.

Hazem al-Amin, a Lebanese writer who follows regional affairs, said Hariri's resignation is "completely a Saudi step" that comes in the context of an international and regional atmosphere against Hezbollah and against Iranian influence in the region.

"Lebanon is a fragile country. This confrontation (between Saudi Arabia and Iran) is more violent than Lebanon can stand up to," he said, warning of economic and security ramifications.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the resignation is a plot by the U.S., Israel and the Saudis to foment tensions in Lebanon and the region, the semi-official Iranian Tasnim news agency reported.

Ghasemi dismissed Hariri's "baseless accusations," which he said indicate that "a new scenario" for the region was being drawn.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hariri's resignation and comments "are a wake-up call to the international community to take action against the Iranian aggression that is trying to turn Syria into Lebanon 2."

"This aggression endangers not only Israel but the entire Middle East. The international community needs to come together and stand against this aggression," he said.

Hariri's resignation was unprecedented in the way it was announced, in a televised address from an undisclosed location in Riyadh. In his speech, Hariri suggested he feared for his life and said the climate in the country is similar to the one that existed before his father, the late prime minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005.

Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia for the killing by a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. Hezbollah denies any involvement.

Hariri said Hezbollah's policies have put Lebanon "in the eye of the storm." His attacks on Hezbollah come on the heels of new U.S. sanctions on the group that many fear will impact negatively on the Lebanese economy. Hariri has frequently called on the group to withdraw its fighters from Syria.

"I declare my resignation from the premiership of the Lebanese government, with the certainty that the will of the Lebanese is strong," Hariri said.

"When I took office, I promised you that I would seek to unite the Lebanese and end political division... But unfortunately, this pushed Iran and its allies to more interference in our internal affairs," he said.

In Beirut's Tarik al-Jadideh neighborhood, a predominantly Sunni neighborhood supportive of Hariri, residents described the shock resignation as a positive step.

"Prime Minister Hariri has reached the stage where he is not able anymore to bear the pressure on Lebanon by Arab nations, due to the intervention of Iran," said Mohyeddine Awwad, sitting in a cafe where posters of Hariri hung.

Earlier this week, Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan sharply criticized Hezbollah, calling for its "toppling" and promising "astonishing developments" in the coming days during an interview with the Lebanese TV station MTV.

Al-Sabhan met with Hariri in Saudi Arabia when the now resigned prime minister was visiting earlier this week. Hariri abruptly returned to the kingdom again on Friday after a meeting in Beirut with Ali-Akbar Velayati, foreign adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.

In tweets after meeting Hariri, al-Sabhan criticized the Lebanese government for tolerating Hezbollah's criticism of the kingdom.

Maha Yahya, director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East, said that with the Syrian war calming down, Hariri's move could be a message from Saudi Arabia to Iran that it "can't have it all."

"So Lebanon is back on the table as a stage for the next tug of war," she said.


Update November 4 - 5, 2017

New Zealand repeats offer to take Australia camp refugees

Asylum seekers are shown protesting the closure of their detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea in this Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 file photo. (Australia Broadcasting Corporation via A)

Nick Perry

Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand's prime minister on Friday repeated her country's offer to take up to 150 refugees from an Australian immigration camp in Papua New Guinea, where more than 600 weakened men are continuing a standoff with authorities.

Jacinda Ardern said she would personally restate the offer to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when they meet on Sunday in Sydney. New Zealand has made the offer before but Australia has declined on the grounds it could allow the refugees access to Australia.

Iranian Behrouz Boochani, who is living in the camp on Manus Island, said the refugees are starving and are without medical treatment after their camp was declared closed Tuesday based on a Papua New Guinea court ruling. However, the refugees fear for their safety from locals and have refused to leave. The facility has been left unguarded, without power and with limited toilet facilities.

In a series of tweets, Boochani described deplorable conditions, saying the refugees had resorted to digging holes to try to find water to drink.

"At the moment hundreds of naked men are lying around me," Boochani wrote. "They are starving and their bodies are getting weak."

Boochani said the New Zealand offer was "our best chance."

"Australia blocking but has no right to say no," he wrote on Twitter. "You can't keep political hostages."

Ardern said in a statement the offer would be covered by New Zealand's existing refugee quota and applied to offshore refugees on both Manus Island and the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.

"I acknowledge that, while New Zealand has not had to contend with these issues on our shores, it's hard to ignore the human face of this situation and nor should it be ignored," Ardern wrote.

New Zealand citizens are typically allowed to work and live in Australia, a pathway that Australia fears could be used by the refugees to move to Australia.

For four years, Australia has paid Papua New Guinea, its nearest neighbor, and Nauru to house asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian coast by boat. They are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, Afghans, Iranians, Sri Lankans and other nationalities.

Australia has recognized that many of the asylum seekers are refugees who cannot return to their homelands, but it refuses to resettle anyone who tries to reach the country by boat in a policy it credits with dissuading such dangerous ocean crossings.


US B-1B bombers conduct exercise over Korean Peninsula

This June 20, 2017 file photo shows U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers and South Korean F-15K fighter jets flying over the Korean Peninsula in South Korea. (South Korean Defense Ministry via AP)

Kim Tong-Hyung

Seoul, South Korea (AP) — Two U.S. supersonic bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula for bombing exercises that are also a show of force against North Korea ahead of President Donald Trump's first official visit to Asia.

A South Korean military official said Friday the B-1B bombers based in Guam were escorted by two South Korean F-16 fighter jets during the drills Thursday at a field near the South's eastern coast. The drills simulated attacks on land targets, but didn't involve live weapons, said the official, who did not want to be named, citing office rules.

The B-1B was originally designed with nuclear capabilities, but switched to a conventional combat role in the mid-1990s. However, North Korea's state media denounced the exercise as a "surprise nuclear strike drill" and said "gangster-like U.S. imperialists" were seeking to ignite a nuclear war.

The North Korean nuclear threat will likely overshadow Trump's trip to Asia, which starts Sunday in Japan and will include stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

The United States has responded by sending its strategic assets to the region more frequently for patrols or drills. That has angered North Korea, whose foreign minister said in September the North had "every right" to take countermeasures, including shooting down the U.S. warplanes, though many experts doubt it has the actual intent or ability to do so.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Friday that the "U.S. imperialist warmongers" should not act rashly.

"The U.S. imperialists are making last-ditch efforts to check the dynamic advance of (North Korea) by deploying their nuclear strategic assets in succession, but its army and people are never frightened at such moves," the report said.


Arrested Filipina faces terror raps in India

Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East, is surrounded by reporters after attending a hearing at the Department of Justice in Manila, Philippines on Friday, Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Manila, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino militant leader's widow, who has been arrested for allegedly calling on fighters to join a pro-Islamic State group siege in southern Marawi city, also faces allegations that she recruited Indian men to fight in Syria and Iraq, Philippine officials said Friday.

National Bureau of Investigation investigator Joshua Raymundo said India has asked the Philippines to help investigate Karen Aizha Hamidon, who allegedly worked to encourage several Indian militants last year to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East. Hamidon denied the allegation.

"They have detained several individuals who were recruited by Karen to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria," Raymundo told reporters in Manila, adding that the arrested Indian militants identified Hamidon as their recruiter.

India and the Philippines do not have a mutual legal assistance treaty and the Indian government requested Philippine authorities to help collect documentary evidence and recording of statements of witnesses, according to a letter sent by India's Ministry of Home Affairs to Filipino officials.

Filipino authorities arrested Hamidon last month on suspicion of recruiting Muslims to join a deadly siege in Marawi that had dragged on for five months before being crushed by thousands of troops last week.

The siege left more than 1,100 combatants and civilians dead, including more than 900 Filipino and foreign militants, displaced about half a million people and turned the mosque-studded city's central business and residential districts into a smoldering war zone.

After examining her cellphones and laptop computers, Philippine officials said the 32-year-old Hamidon called on Muslims to join jihad, or holy war, in Marawi in at least 296 messages she posted on social media, mostly through Telegram and WhatsApp messaging services. She faces as many counts of inciting to rebellion, they said.

Hamidon acknowledged she's the widow of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, an IS-linked Filipino militant commander killed in a clash with police in the southern Philippines in January, but she denied terrorism allegations against her.

"I'm just a blogger. I am into journalistic articles, composition ... and social media usage but no more, no more than that," she told reporters after she appeared before a prosecutor at the Department of Justice.

"I only use the social media as my avenue to spread the message of Islam for religious purposes, for maximum audiences," said the handcuffed Hamidon as she was led away by authorities.


Carmakers join forces in Europe to make electrics widespread

In this Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 photo a car is connected to a charging station for electric vehicles in Hamburg, Germany. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

David McHugh and Geir Moulson

Frankfurt, Germany (AP) — A group of major automakers plans to open hundreds of fast-charging stations for electric cars in Europe in coming years and use a common plug technology in what they hope will be a big step toward mass acceptance of battery-powered vehicles.

BMW, Daimler, Ford and the Volkswagen Group with its Audi and Porsche brands have equal shares in the venture, Ionity, plans for which were first announced last year.

They said Friday that they will open the first of 20 stations this year in Germany, Austria and Norway at 120-kilometer (75-mile) intervals along major roads. They plan to expand the network to more than 100 stations next year and have about 400 in place across Europe by 2020.

The founding companies said "other automotive manufacturers are invited to help expand the network."

The aim is to make it easier for electric cars to travel long distances and render them more appealing to the mass market. Hours-long charging times have meant battery-powered cars are limited to use for short commutes and local shopping trips. Owners typically recharge overnight at home or in an employer's parking lot during the day. That has left battery cars as a second vehicle in some first-adopter households, with a conventional car kept for longer journeys. The chance to charge up fast far from home would make it possible to take an electric vehicle on a family vacation.

A typical electric car can take several hours to charge from empty using a 7 kilowatt-hour home plug. The Ionity network stations by contrast will have charging capacity of up to 350 kilowatts per hour. That's aimed at the future because currently available cars cannot charge at that speed. A BMW i3 electric would take 30 minutes to fast-charge at its maximum of 50 kilowatts per hour; at 350 kilowatts per hour, in theory the time could be cut to under 10 minutes. The hope is, drivers could charge in the time it takes to have a cup of coffee at the recharging station.

The new network will also use a standardized plug — the CCS, or Combined Charging System standard — that isn't tied to any one car maker.

It will set up the stations in partnership with operators of rest areas and gas stations in the three countries.

A pan-European fast-charging network "plays an essential role in establishing a market for electric vehicles," Ionity CEO Michael Hajesch said in a statement.

Uptake of electric cars across Europe has been patchy so far. Electrically chargeable vehicles were only 1.2 percent of European car sales in the second quarter, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. Norway, where the government has aggressively pushed for low-emissions vehicles, is an exception with 29 percent market share for electrically chargeable vehicles. By contrast, Greece registered only 32 rechargeable cars last year.

The higher cost of the vehicles is a key reason, on top of limited range and lack of places to charge up, and for now government subsidies and tax breaks are important to supporting sales. Analysts say that electric vehicles may become more affordable as battery costs fall.

Automakers are sinking billions into developing electric cars in part as a response to ever-tougher limits on air pollution and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

The new company will be headquartered in Munich, Germany, and have 50 employees by the start of 2018.


Pistorius case returns as prosecutors seek longer sentence

Oscar Pistorius is shown outside the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa in this Tuesday, June 14, 2016, file photo. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Gerald Imray

Somerset West, South Africa (AP) — A judge "overemphasized" Oscar Pistorius' disability and was far too lenient on the double-amputee athlete, prosecutors said Friday as they tried to convince a South African court to more than double his prison sentence from six to 15 years for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

"Murder is murder," chief prosecutor Andrea Johnson told a five-judge panel at the Supreme Court of Appeal. She asked them to overturn Pistorius' initial sentence and give him the prescribed minimum of 15 years. There is no death penalty in South Africa.

If the court agrees with prosecutors that he deserves a harsher sentence, Pistorius, now 30, could remain in prison until after he turns 40.

The judges did not deliver a decision on Friday. Typically, Supreme Court judges take a couple of weeks before the senior judge returns to read out the decision, which is made through a simple majority.

Nearly five years after the once-admired Olympic runner first appeared in court for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet door at his home, Pistorius' fate is still not certain.

He was not present at Friday's hearing as he serves his sentence at a prison near the capital, Pretoria. He has served more than a year of his six-year term. Steenkamp's mother, June Steenkamp, did attend. Speaking outside the courthouse, her lawyer said the Steenkamp family supported prosecutors' attempt to get a longer sentence.

Prosecutors had two arguments to make to the court. First, they needed to apply for permission to appeal Pistorius' sentence. They were asked by the judges to also present their arguments for why, if their appeal is allowed, his sentence should be increased.

This is the second time prosecutors have gone to the Supreme Court in the central city of Bloemfontein to challenge a decision by Judge Thokozile Masipa, who presided over Pistorius' trial.

In 2015, prosecutors successfully appealed against Masipa's judgment that Pistorius was not guilty of murder. The court overturned Masipa's verdict of culpable homicide — or manslaughter — and convicted Pistorius of murder.

Legal analysts say, however, it is more difficult to get the court to change a sentence.

After the manslaughter conviction was overturned, Masipa sentenced Pistorius to six years in prison for murder, a term just one year longer than her original sentence for manslaughter. Prosecutors called that sentence "shockingly" light.

Judges can deviate from prescribed minimum sentences if there are compelling circumstances. The prosecution says there were no compelling reasons.

"What we are saying is the court exercised its discretion inappropriately," prosecutor Johnson said, calling the six-year sentence "unjust."

She said Pistorius still had not shown "genuine remorse" for killing Steenkamp and that Masipa put the athlete's personal circumstances and his disability ahead of the need for "retribution" when she sentenced him.

Pistorius claimed he mistook Steenkamp for a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013 when, without his prosthetic legs on, standing on his stumps and feeling vulnerable, he shot four times through the cubicle door.

Masipa's initial sentence was appropriate in the circumstances, Pistorius' defense lawyers said, and his disability was not exaggerated. Pistorius had both his legs amputated below the knee when he was a baby because of a congenital condition.

"Of course his disability is mentioned, but it can't not be mentioned," defense lawyer Kelly Phelps said. "It is one of the factors of this case. We can't magic away his disability."


UK police investigating sex assault linked to Spacey

Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey.
(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Gregory Katz

London (AP) — London police are investigating an alleged 2008 sexual assault reportedly linked to Kevin Spacey in the latest setback for the "House of Cards" star.

Police Friday did not identify Spacey by name but said the department's child abuse and sexual offenses unit is investigating the reported assault after it was referred to police two days ago.

British media including The Sun reported Spacey was the subject of the investigation. The Sun said the new allegation comes from a man who was in his early 20s at the time.

London's Metropolitan Police released a statement saying the force is investigating a 2008 assault in Lambeth in south London. The statement noted police do not identify people who may or may not be subject to investigation.

Asked whether police were investigating Spacey, a spokesman asked for details about the alleged incident and then provided the statement.

London police policy in cases like this is not to respond to questions about individuals but to respond to questions about incidents.

Spacey has not been arrested or charged with any crime. Police would not say if he has been questioned.

His publicist did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

Spacey, 58, has been prominent in London since serving for more than a decade as artistic director of the Old Vic theater.

The two-time Academy Award winner's reputation was badly damaged last weekend when BuzzFeed News reported that actor Anthony Rapp said that Spacey attempted to seduce him in 1986, when Rapp was 14.

That report helped spur the announcement that "House of Cards" was being canceled and has cost Spacey other opportunities.

CNN reported that eight current or former "House of Cards" workers claim that Spacey made the production a "toxic" workplace and one ex-employee alleges the actor sexually assaulted him.

The report accuses Spacey of allegedly targeting staffers who were typically young and male with nonconsensual touching and crude comments. The show's producers acknowledged one complaint involving Spacey during production of the show's first season, but said the actor attended training and it was not aware of any issues since 2012.

The reports have cost Spacey other opportunities as well. A Dutch business forum has canceled a headline appearance by Spacey after the allegations surfaced.

BusinessBoost Live said in a statement Friday that "it is not desirable" to let Spacey speak at their conference Nov. 29 in Rotterdam.

Spacey has in the past spoken at other business conferences including the prestigious World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


Update November 3, 2017

Suu Kyi visits Myanmar region torn by Rohingya conflict

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar, Thursday, Nov. 2. (AP Photo)

Esther Htusan

Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Aung San Suu Kyi made her first visit as Myanmar's leader Thursday to the conflict-torn region where more than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled state-led violence that has spiraled into Asia's worst refugee crisis in decades.

Her visit to northern Rakhine state comes as Suu Kyi is under intense international scrutiny for her response to the exodus, which the U.N. has called ethnic cleansing, and as her government said it is working on a plan to repatriate those who fled to Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi arrived in the state capital Sittwe in the morning and headed to restive northern Rakhine where many Rohingya villages were located. During a 2015 election campaign, she visited southern Rakhine, where there hasn't been much conflict.

"The state counselor just arrived but she is heading to Maungdaw, northern Rakhine, with the state officials," said Tin Maung Swe, a deputy director of the Rakhine government, using Suu Kyi's official title.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay would not release Suu Kyi's plans for the trip until later because of security concerns.

More than 600,000 Rohingya from northern Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar security forces began what they called a "clearance operations" in response to deadly attacks on police outposts by insurgents. The campaign has included the burning of Rohingya villages and accusations of widespread rights violations.

Fleeing Rohingya have described arson, rape and shootings by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs that left them no option but to make the dangerous and sometimes deadly journey through jungles and then by sea to Bangladesh.

The Nobel Peace laureate's global image has been damaged by the crisis and she has come under intense criticism to do more to end the violence and condemn those responsible. Several fellow peace prize winners have publicly condemned Suu Kyi for what they see as her apparent indifference to the plight of the Rohingya.

Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar's civilian government since her party swept elections in 2015, the former political prisoner is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written by the junta that ruled Myanmar for decades. The military has effective veto power over all legislation and controls key ministries including those overseeing security and defense.

The military is in charge of operations in northern Rakhine and ending them is not up to Suu Kyi.

Even when Suu Kyi has spoken on the issue, she has drawn criticism. In a September speech, her first comments after the current crisis began, she asked for patience from the international community and suggested the refugees were partly responsible, saying more than half of the Rohingya villages had not been destroyed by the violence.

Suu Kyi faces potential domestic backlash if she speaks on behalf of the Rohingya, who have been the target of anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Buddhist-majority nation. Many among the general public agree with the official government stance that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya and those in the country have illegally migrated from Bangladesh.

Though Rohingya first arrived generations ago, they were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless. They cannot travel freely, practice their religion, or work as teachers or doctors, and they have little access to medical care, food or education.

Myanmar's backers globally have also had to tread carefully, not wanting to undermine Suu Kyi's weak civilian government at a time when the country is just emerging from decades of authoritarian rule. Still counties like the U.S. have warned Myanmar about potential repercussions it faces if it doesn't address the crisis, including the risk of attracting international terrorists, scaring off investment, and ultimately stunting its transition to democracy.

The government said Tuesday that it was ready to repatriate Rohingya who had fled, but it blamed Bangladesh for slowing the process.

"We are ready to accept the refugees and to start verification and scrutiny process, but we have not reached an agreement with the Bangladeshi authorities for repatriation," said Zaw Htay, the government spokesman.

It was not clear under what conditions the Rohingya would be allowed to return to Myanmar.


Spain judge jails Catalan ministers, mulls leader's arrest

Fired Catalan Cabinet members arrive at the national court in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Paul White)

Ciaran Giles and Aritz Parra

Madrid (AP) — A Spanish judge jailed nine former members of Catalonia's separatist government Thursday and was deliberating a possible international arrest warrant for the region's ousted president, who remained in Belgium while the others appeared in a Madrid court for questioning about their efforts to break away from Spain.

Former President Carles Puigdemont and his 13-member Cabinet are being investigated for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement stemming from their pursuit of Catalan independence. The Spanish government removed them from office on Oct. 27 and they were summoned to appear in Spain's National Court on Thursday.

After the nine Catalan Cabinet members who showed up were questioned, a judge sent eight of them to jail without bail. One was ordered held in lieu of 50,000 euros ($58,300) in bail.  The seven men and two women were taken from the court in police vans hours later and assigned to prisons in the Madrid area.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Catalan towns to condemn the pre-charge detentions, which fellow separatist politicians and elected officials criticized as an attack on ideas.

"We won't give up, we won't fail, we will fight till the end," Marta Rovira, an increasingly prominent politician in Catalonia's republican-left ERC party, said.

"We have all the right in the world to live in a country with more justice, dignity and freedom," she told reporters as tear welled in her eyes.

The Spanish government said it does not comment on judges' decisions in deference to the separation of powers.

Investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela ordered the officials into custody at the request of prosecutors, who also asked Thursday for an international warrant seeking Puigdemont's arrest. Under Spain's legal system, investigating judges can have suspects detained while a comprehensive probe, sometimes taking months, determines if they should be charged.

Puigdemont surfaced in Belgium on Tuesday with some of his ex-ministers, saying they were seeking "freedom and safety" there. He and four of the officials remained in Brussels on Thursday.

Asked whether Puigdemont would turn himself in if the arrest warrant is granted, his lawyer in Belgium, Paul Bekaert, told The Associated Press: "Certainly. Or the police will come get him." Bekaert said Puigdemont intends to cooperate with Belgian police.

Also Thursday, six Catalan lawmakers appeared for a parallel session in the Spanish Supreme Court. They were given a week to prepare their defenses and instructed to return for questioning on Nov. 9.

In all, Spanish prosecutors are investigating 20 regional politicians for rebellion and other crimes that would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

In a written ruling, the National Court judge said the eight jailed without bail had planned and executed a roadmap since 2015 to create an independent Catalan republic.

The ruling said the activities of those under investigation were "meditated and perfectly prepared and organized, repeatedly disobeying systematically over two years Constitutional Court resolutions in favor of the independence."

The judge said the eight were being jailed without the possibility of bail because of the risk of them fleeing prosecution or hiding or destroying evidence.

Lawyers for the jailed officials said they planned to appeal Lamela's order. Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, who represents Puigdemont and four more of the ousted Cabinet members, said the judge's decision to send them to jail "lacked justification" and was "disproportionate."

The Catalan officials' supporters and party aides in Madrid were seen crying outside the courthouse when the judge's decision was announced. They shouted "Freedom! Freedom!" and sang the Catalan official anthem, "Els Segadors," which translates to "The Reapers" in English.

Spain took the unprecedented step of triggering constitutional powers allowing it to take over running Catalonia following a declaration of independence by the regional parliament on Oct. 27. Madrid dismissed the Catalan Cabinet, dissolved the parliament and called a new regional election for Dec. 21.

Junqueras, in a tweet sent shortly after the judge's decision, called on Catalans to cast ballots to defeat unionists.

"Do every day everything that is in your hands in order for good to defeat evil in the ballots of Dec. 21," the tweet posted through Junqueras' account said. "Standing up, with determination and onward to victory."

Puigdemont, also in a tweet, wrote that "the legitimate government of Catalonia has been jailed for its ideas."

Javier Melero, a lawyer representing some of the separatist lawmakers investigated in the Supreme Court, criticized Puigdemont and the four ministers who skipped court. He said their actions would be damaging for his clients, three lawmakers who are members of Puigdemont's PDeCAT party.

"Not being at the service of the judiciary when you are summoned is always damaging for the rest of those being investigated," Melero said.

About two dozen politicians and elected officials from Catalan separatist parties gathered at the gates of the Supreme Court in a show of support for the lawmakers under investigation.

"If the question is if in Spain you can trust the judicial system, my answer is no," said Artur Mas, a former president of the Catalan government. "From the personal point of view and also for my personal experience, I don't think that there are all the guarantees to have a fair trial."

Mas was banned by a Barcelona court from holding public office for two years after he ignored a Constitutional Court ruling and went ahead with a mock vote on Catalonia's independence in 2014.

Across the street, half a dozen protesters with Spanish flags were stopped by police. They shouted at the Catalan politicians, "cowards" and "to jail, to jail."

The protracted political crisis over Catalonia, Spain's worst in decades, could have an impact on the country's economic growth, Spain's central bank warned in a report published Thursday.


Scientists discover hidden chamber in Egypt's Great Pyramid

Policemen on camels are silhouetted against the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Brian Rohan

Cairo (AP) — Scientists say they have found a hidden chamber in Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza, in what would be the first such discovery in the structure since the 19th century and one likely to spark a new surge of interest in the pharaohs.

In an article published in the journal Nature on Thursday, an international team said the 30-meter void deep within the pyramid is situated above the structure's Grand Gallery, and has a similar cross-section.

The purpose of the space is unclear, and it's not yet known whether it was built with a function in mind or if it's merely a gap in the pyramid's architecture. Some experts say such empty spaces have been known for years.

"This is a premier," said Mehdi Tayoubi, a co-founder of the ScanPyramids project and president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute. "It could be composed of one or several structures... maybe it could be another Grand Gallery. It could be a chamber, it could be a lot of things."

The scientists made the discovery using cosmic-ray imaging, recording the behavior of subatomic particles called muons that penetrate the rock similar to X-rays, only much deeper. Their paper was peer-reviewed before appearing in Nature, an international, interdisciplinary journal of science, and its results confirmed by other teams of scientists.

Chances of the space containing treasure or burial chambers are almost nil, said Aidan Dodson, an Egyptologist at the University of Bristol, but the discovery helps shed light on building techniques.

"The pyramid's burial chamber and sarcophagus have already been discovered, so this new area was more likely kept empty above the Grand Gallery to reduce the weight of stone pressing down on its ceiling," he said, adding that similar designs have been found in other pyramids.

Egypt's former antiquities minister and famed archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who has been testing scanning methods and heads the government's oversight panel for the new techniques, said that the area in question has been known of for years and thus does not constitute a discovery. He has long downplayed the usefulness of scans of ancient sites.

"The Great Pyramid is full of voids. We have to be careful how results are presented to the public," he said, adding that one problem facing the international team is that it did not have an Egyptologist as a member. He said the chamber was likely empty space builders used to construct the rooms below.

"In order to construct the Grand Gallery, you had to have a hollow, or a big void in order to access it — you cannot build it without such a space," he said. "Large voids exist between the stones and may have been left as construction gaps."

The pyramid is also known as Khufu's Pyramid for its builder, a 4th Dynasty pharaoh who reigned from 2509 to 2483 B.C. Visitors to the pyramid, on the outskirts of Cairo, can walk, hunched over, up a long tunnel to reach the Grand Gallery. The space announced by the scanning team does not appear to be connected to any known internal passages.

Scientists involved in the scanning called the find a "breakthrough" that highlighted the usefulness of modern particle physics in archaeology.

"It was hidden, I think, since the construction of the pyramid," Tayoubi added.

The Great Pyramid, the last surviving wonder of the ancient world, has captivated visitors since it was built as a royal burial chamber some 4,500 years ago. Experts are still divided over how it and other pyramids were constructed, so even relatively minor discoveries generate great interest.

Late last year, for example, thermal scanning identified a major anomaly in the Great Pyramid — three adjacent stones at its base which registered higher temperatures than others.

Speculation that King Tutankhamun's tomb contains additional antechambers stoked interest in recent years, before scans by ground-penetrating radar and other tools came up empty, raising doubts about the claim.

The muon scan is accomplished by planting special plates inside and around the pyramid to collect data on the particles, which rain down from the earth's atmosphere. They pass through empty spaces but can be absorbed or deflected by harder surfaces, allowing scientists to study their trajectories and discern what is stone and what is not. Several plates were used to triangulate the void discovered in the Great Pyramid.

While the technology can detect large open spaces, it cannot discern what is inside, so it's unclear if the empty space contains any objects. Tayoubi said the team plans now to work with others to come up with hypotheses about the area.

"The good news is that the void is there, and it's very big," he said.


Bin Laden's views on Arab Spring revealed in family journal

Osama bin Laden is shown in this 1998 file photo.
(AP Photo/Mazhar Ali Khan)

Aya Batrawy, Maggie Michael, Malak Harb, Sinan Salaheddin and Malaka Badr

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A journal made public by the CIA and apparently handwritten by one of Osama bin Laden's daughters offers a glimpse into how the al-Qaida leader viewed the world around him and reveals his deep interest in the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions unfolding in the months before he was killed in a U.S. raid.

He talks about Libya becoming a pathway for jihadis to Europe; of his visit as a youth to William Shakespeare's home in Britain; of how quickly turmoil had gripped the Middle East.

The 228-page journal meanders among discussions, thoughts and reflections bin Laden shared with his family about how to exploit the uprisings, what to make of the rapid changes unfolding in the Arab world and when al-Qaida should speak out.

"This chaos and the absence of leadership in the revolutions is the best environment to spread al-Qaida's thoughts and ideas," bin Laden is quoted as telling his family in the document.

Bin Laden's wife, referred to as Um Hamza, assures him that a tape he released seven years earlier calling out the rulers of the region as unfit could be one of the major forces behind the Arab Spring protests roiling the region.

The Associated Press examined a copy of the journal uploaded by the Long War Journal to its website. The CIA released it Wednesday as part of a trove of material recovered during the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, then took down the files, saying they were "temporarily unavailable pending resolution of a technical issue."

The journal appears to cover conversations between bin Laden and his daughters, Miriam and Somiya, his wife and his sons, Khaled and Hamza — the latter of whom would become a potential successor to lead the group his father founded.

The journal is titled, "Special diaries for Abu Abdullah: Sheikh Abdullah's points of view — A session with the family," which refers to bin Laden by his traditional Arabic name. The conversations took place between February and April 2011, with the journal entries dated according to the Islamic calendar.

During that time, uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt had ousted longtime autocratic rulers, touching off protests in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. The Middle East was on the cusp of unstoppable change, chaos and turmoil.

In Libya, the uprising would end with Moammar Gadhafi's death months after bin Laden was killed. In Yemen, al-Qaida would gain a greater foothold and remain active amid the chaos of war and famine. In Bahrain, the Sunni-led monarchy would launch a crackdown on the country's Shiite majority. In Syria, the government's lethal response to a protest by schoolchildren in early 2011 would spark mass protests and ignite a war and massive refugee crisis that continues today.

The reflections, jotted at times in blue ink and others in red, refer repeatedly to media reports of what was happening across the region.

At one point, they criticize Al-Jazeera TV's broadcast of gruesome images from a deadly protest in Yemen, saying a warning should have been given to shield children from viewing them. However, the Qatari-backed channel is also hailed for "working on toppling regimes" and for "carrying the banner of the revolutions."

Bin Laden appears concerned by the speed of some of the region's revolts, believing that a gradual approach would help avoid the backlash of a counter-revolution as regime figures sought to hold onto power at all cost.

"I am upset by the timing of the revolutions. We told them to slow down," bin Laden is quoted as saying, though it's not entirely clear which countries he is referring to.

On Libya, bin Laden says he believes the uprising "has opened the door for jihadists."

"This is why Gadhafi and his son say that the extremists will come from the sea, which will be an area of operation for al-Qaida. This will be the Somalia of the Mediterranean," he is quoted as saying.

Still, bin Laden appears reluctant to issue a statement in support of Islamists in Libya for fear that if Gadhafi is ousted, the U.S. will try to expand its footprint there.

Yemen is a primary focus of the journal entries. Al-Qaida's branch there is among its most active in the world and the journal suggests al-Qaida was plotting an assassination attempt against Yemen's embattled ruler at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

There is little indication that the writer had much information about what was happening in the region beyond what was reported in the media. This could indicate that bin Laden had become isolated in his final months hiding out in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where U.S. forces would find and kill him a little over a month later. Or it could also be that bin Laden was shielding his relatives from al-Qaida intelligence.

In the early pages of the document, bin Laden is asked about his thoughts on jihad, and replies that he first considered it "in secondary school."

He says this was a result of his home and school environment. Separately, he describes his father as a pious man.

"There wasn't a particular group that was guiding me, like the Muslim Brotherhood," he is quoted as saying.

From a young age, he appeared to be unfazed by worldly spoils, recounting a story about declining a new watch from his wealthy father.

He recalls a summer spent studying in the U.K. when he was 14, including a visit to the home of Shakespeare. His time in Britain left him feeling uneasy and he decided not to return the following summer.

"I saw that they were a society different from ours and that they were morally corrupt," he says.

Bin Laden imagines that Saudi Arabia would soon feel the "tsunami" of change sweeping the region. The late al-Qaida chief held Saudi citizenship until the early 1990s, before he was stripped of his nationality by the government.

He talks about wanting to deliver a message to Saudi youth and Saudi rulers: "The flood is coming and it will lead to a change so there is no need for violence."


Update November 2, 2017

Explosion at Indian power plant kills 16, injures dozens

An injured man is carried on a stretcher following an explosion at a thermal power plant in Unchahar in Uttar Pradesh state, northern India, Wednesday, Nov. 1. (AP Photo)

Biswajeet Banerjee

Lucknow, India (AP) — At least 16 people were killed and dozens more injured in an explosion Wednesday at a thermal power plant in northern India, officials said.

Sanjay Khatri, the area's top administrative officer, said a pipe carrying ash from the burning coal exploded in the newly installed boiler at the power plant in Unchahar in Uttar Pradesh state. The explosion spewed hot ash over workers at the plant.

The state's top administrative officer, Arvind Kumar, said 16 bodies had been recovered.

Police said the death toll is likely to increase because at least a dozen other workers suffered severe burns.

The 500-megawatt unit was operating on a trial basis.

Khatri said the cause of the accident wasn't immediately known. It also wasn't clear how many workers were in the plant at the time. Witnesses described a massive explosion and thick smoke rising from the plant.

A team of government rescue workers was sent to the site.

Relatives of workers gathered outside the main gate of the power plant desperately seeking information, police officer Suresh Chandra said.

Industrial accidents are not unusual in India, where safety measures are often flouted.


Truck attack suspect is charged with terrorism offenses

Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov has been charged with acts of terrorism by U.S. prosecutors. (Photo/St. Charles County, Mo. Department of Corrections/KMOV via AP)

Colleen Long and Jennifer Peltz

New York (AP) — U.S. Federal prosecutors brought terrorism charges Wednesday against the Uzbek immigrant accused in the truck rampage that left eight people dead, saying he was spurred to attack by the Islamic State group's online calls to action and picked Halloween because he figured streets would be extra crowded.

Even as he lay wounded in the hospital from police gunfire, Sayfullo  Saipov asked to display the Islamic State group's flag in his room and said "he felt good about what he had done," prosecutors said in court papers.

Saipov, 29, was brought to court in a wheelchair to face charges that could bring the death penalty. Handcuffed and with his legs shackled, Saipov nodded his head repeatedly as he was read his rights in a brief court proceeding that he followed through a Russian interpreter. He was ordered held without bail.

Outside court, his appointed lawyer, David Patton, said he hoped "everyone lets the judicial process play out."

"I promise you that how we treat Mr. Saipov in this judicial process will say a lot more about us than it will say about him," Patton said.

Meanwhile, the FBI was questioning a second person from Uzbekistan, 32-year-old Mukhammadzoir Kadirov. A law enforcement official said Kadirov was a friend of Saipov's and may not have any role in the case. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors said Saipov had 90 videos and 3,800 photos on one of his two cellphones, many of them ISIS-related pieces of propaganda, including images of prisoners being beheaded, shot or run over by a tank.

Saipov left behind knives and a note, in Arabic and English, that included Islamic religious references and said, "Islamic Supplication. It will endure," FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers. "It will endure" commonly refers to ISIS, Tyree said.

Questioned in his hospital bed, Saipov said he had been inspired by ISIS videos and began plotting an attack about a year ago, deciding to use a truck about two months ago, Tyree said.

During the last few weeks, Saipov searched the internet for information on Halloween in New York City and for truck rentals, the agent said. Saipov even rented a truck on Oct. 22 to practice making turns, and he initially hoped to get from the bike path across lower Manhattan to hit more pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge, Tyree said.

He even considered displaying ISIS flags on the truck during the attack but decided it would draw too much attention, authorities said.

John Miller, deputy New York police commissioner for intelligence, said Saipov "appears to have followed, almost exactly to a T, the instructions that ISIS has put out."

In the past few years, the Islamic State has exhorted followers online to use vehicles, knives or other close-at-hand means of killing people in their home countries. England, France and Germany have all seen deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016.

A November 2016 issue of the group's online magazine detailed features that an attack truck or van should have, suggested renting such a vehicle, and recommended targeting crowded streets and outdoor gatherings, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a militant-monitoring agency.

Carlos Batista, a neighbor of Saipov's in Paterson, New Jersey, said he had seen the suspect and two friends using the same model of rented truck several times in the past three weeks.

It was not clear whether Saipov had been on authorities' radar. Miller said Saipov had never been the subject of a criminal investigation but appears to have links to people who have been investigated.

In Tuesday's attack, Saipov drove his speeding truck for nearly a mile along a bike path near the World Trade Center, running down cyclists and pedestrians, then crashed into a school bus, authorities said. He was shot in the abdomen after he jumped out of the vehicle brandishing two air guns, one in each hand, and yelling "God is great!" in Arabic, they said.

The attack killed five people from Argentina, one from Belgium and two Americans, authorities said. Twelve people were injured; nine remained hospitalized in serious or critical condition.

President Donald Trump called Wednesday for eliminating the 1990s visa lottery program that Saipov used to come to the U.S. in 2010, and the Republican president said he would consider sending Saipov to the Guantanamo Bay detention center — an idea the White House reinforced by saying it considered Saipov to be an "enemy combatant."

Hours later, Saipov was charged in federal court with providing material support to a terrorist group and committing violence and destruction of motor vehicles, resulting in death. Trump's administration could, at least in theory, still send the suspect to the U.S. base in Cuba later, though such a step would be unprecedented.

"There's no legal impediment to that," said Bryan Broyles, the former deputy chief defense counsel for the Guantanamo military commissions.

On the morning after the bloodshed, city leaders vowed New York would not be intimidated and said Sunday's New York City Marathon, with 50,000 participants and some 2 million spectators anticipated, will go on as scheduled, with increased security.

Runners and cyclists who use the popular bike path were diverted from the crime scene by officers at barricades.

"It's the messed-up world we live in these days," said Dave Hartie, 57, who works in finance and rides his bike along the path every morning. "Part of me is surprised it doesn't happen more often."

The slight, bearded Saipov is a legal, permanent U.S. resident. He lived in Ohio and Florida before moving to New Jersey around June, authorities said.

Birth records show he and his wife had two daughters in Ohio, and a neighbor in New Jersey said they recently had a baby boy.

Saipov was a commercial truck driver in Ohio. More recently, he was an Uber driver.

In Ohio, Saipov was an argumentative young man whose career was falling apart and who was "not happy with his life," said Mirrakhmat Muminov, a fellow truck driver from heavily Muslim Uzbekistan.

"He had the habit of disagreeing with everybody," Muminov said.

He said he and Saipov would sometimes argue about politics and world affairs, including Israel and Palestine. He said Saipov never spoke about ISIS, but he could tell his friend held radical views.


UK defence secretary resigns amid allegations about behavior

 

Britain's Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon leaves Downing Street in London, following a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday Oct. 31. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Jill Lawless

London (AP) — Britain's defence minister resigned Wednesday after allegations emerged about inappropriate sexual behavior — the latest twist in a growing scandal over harassment and abuse in the country's corridors of power.

Michael Fallon said in a resignation letter to Prime Minister Theresa May that his "previous conduct ... may have fallen below the high standards that we require of the Armed Forces."

Fallon, 65, was first elected to Parliament in 1983 and has been defence secretary since 2014.

A newspaper reported last weekend that Fallon had repeatedly touched a journalist's knee at a function in 2002. The journalist in question said she had shrugged off the incident, but reports suggested that other allegations about Fallon might soon emerge.

Accepting his resignation, May said she appreciated "the characteristically serious manner in which you have considered your position."

The scandal surrounding Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has emboldened people in many industries to speak up about sexual harassment or attacks at the hands of powerful individuals who control their future job prospects.

In Britain, it has produced soul-searching about the growing number of reports of sexual harassment and abuse in politics. May has called a meeting of party leaders to discuss how to deal with the topic, amid a growing roster of allegations about inappropriate behavior by politicians and parliamentary staff.

May has also ordered an investigation into claims another senior minister made inappropriate advances to a Conservative activist.

Writer and academic Kate Maltby says Cabinet minister Damian Green "fleetingly" touched her knee in 2015 and later sent her a "suggestive" text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in a newspaper.

Maltby wrote in the Times of London newspaper that Green "offered me career advice and in the same breath made it clear he was sexually interested."

"It was not acceptable to me at the time and it should not be acceptable behavior in Westminster in the future," Maltby wrote.

Green, Britain's de facto deputy prime minister, denied making sexual advances and called the allegations "a complete shock" and "deeply hurtful."

May's office said the prime minister had asked the head of the civil service to "establish the facts and report back as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, an opposition Labour Party activist said the party discouraged her from reporting that she was raped at a Labour conference in 2011 when she was 19. Bex Bailey said a party official told her "that if I did, it might damage me."

The party said it was investigating the report.

Labour lawmaker Lisa Nandy said Wednesday that she had raised concerns three years ago that party whips kept claims of sexual abuse as ammunition to control lawmakers, rather than dealing with the allegations.

May said the whips should make it clear that allegations of crimes should be reported to police.

She has asked other party leaders to meet her next week to discuss setting up an independent grievance procedure for people working in Parliament.

"We have a duty to ensure that everyone coming here to contribute to public life is treated with respect," she told lawmakers during her weekly session in the House of Commons.


Pakistani bride kills 17 in botched plot to kill husband

In this Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 photo, 21-year-old Aasia Bibi and her boyfriend, Shahid Lashari, are presented to journalists, at a police station in Muzaffargarh in Pakistan. (AP Photo/Iram Asim)

Iram Asim

Multan, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani police arrested a newly married woman on murder charges after she allegedly poisoned her husband's milk and it inadvertently killed 17 other people in a remote village, a senior police officer said Wednesday.

District police chief Sohail Habib Tajak said a judge allowed the police to question the woman, 21-year-old Aasia Bibi, for a week to determine whether it was the woman's decision or her boyfriend had incited her to kill her husband by poisoning.

"This incident was complicated and challenging for us but our officers have made progress by arresting a woman and her lover in connection with this murder case," Tajak told The Associated Press.

He said Bibi was married against her will in September in a village near the town of Ali Pur, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Multan, a city in the eastern Punjab province.

Tajak said Bibi was not happy with her husband and wanted to return to her parents' home.

She apparently obtained a poisonous substance from her boyfriend, Shahid Lashari and mixed it in milk for her husband, who refused to drink it, Tajak also said.

The woman's mother-in-law later inadvertently used the tainted milk to make a traditional yogurt-based drink and served it to 27 members of her extended family, who fell unconscious and were hospitalized.

Seventeen people died and 10 are still being treated in hospital, he said.

Bibi and Lashari appeared before a judge in the city of Muzaffargarh on Tuesday, where she told reporters that she was angered over her parents' decision to marry her to a man against her will. They did not have lawyers.

"I repeatedly asked my parents not to marry me against my will as my religion, Islam, also allows me to choose the man of my choice for marriage but my parents rejected all of my pleas and they married me to a relative," she said.

She said her love affair with her boyfriend continued after she got married.

Bibi said she had warned her parents that she was capable of going to any length to get out of the marriage, but they refused to allow her to get a divorce.

She said Lashari gave her a poisonous substance, which she used to try to kill her husband. She expressed remorse over the deaths, saying her target was only her husband.

Tajak said police were trying to trace and arrest all those who were aware of the plot. He said Lashari confessed to supplying the poisonous substance.

Faisal Chingwani, a top human rights activist in the city of Multan, said Bibi apparently committed the crime because she was mentally stressed about the forced marriage.

Many parents in Pakistan arrange marriages for their daughters against their will.

Also Wednesday, in the eastern city of Lahore, a brother shot and killed his sister who had recently wedded a man of her choice without consent from her family in the latest case of so-called honor killings.

Police officer Shaikh Hammad said Mahwish Arif, 25, was fatally shot by her younger brother Samar Ali. The brother fired three bullets as Arif came to visit her parental home, months after the marriage, in the suburban area of Satu Katla.

Hammad said Ali fled the scene after killing his sister. A police search was under way.

Nearly 1,000 Pakistani women are killed by close relatives each year in honor killings.


Climbing to be banned on sacred red rock formation Uluru

The sun rises over Uluru, central Australia in this April, 22, 2014, file photo. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Sydney (AP) — Climbing the dramatic rock formation Uluru will be banned in two years time as visitors to the Australian scenic landmark increasingly recognize its sacredness to indigenous people.

A park board made up of a majority of the traditional owners of the land where the rock stands made the decision Wednesday.

One of the landowners, Sammy Wilson, said, "It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland."

The red monolith is inside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park near Alice Springs, some 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles) northwest of Sydney.

Figures from Parks Australia indicated only 16 percent of visitors climbed the rock between 2011 and 2015, down from 74 percent in the 1990s. Around 300,000 people visit yearly, with Australians and then Japanese most likely to climb.

Wilson, who is the park's board chairman, said visitors still would be welcomed. "We are not stopping tourism, just this activity," he said.

The traditional landowners, the Anangu, have always refused to climb Uluru and consider it sacred.

The site is often closed to climbers after the death of important indigenous figures as a mark of respect.

The park board in 2010 had indicated it would close the formation to climbing if the activity was declining and if other park experiences were attracting visitors.

The last day of climbing will be Oct. 26, 2019, chosen because it is the anniversary of the date in 1985 when the land and the formation once called Ayers Rock were handed back to the traditional owners.


Giant panda sleeps through much of Indonesia media debut

A giant male panda from China named Cai Tao eat eats a stick at Taman Safari Indonesia zoo in Bogor, West Java, Wednesday, Nov 1. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Niniek Karmini

Bogor, Indonesia (AP) — Giant panda Cai Tao was asleep for much of his debut before media Wednesday in the Indonesian city of Bogor, but occasionally perked up to eat bamboo.

Cai Tao and a much more active female, Hu Chun, were shown in their specially built enclosure to reporters as part of preparations for allowing the public to visit them at Taman Safari zoo starting later this month.

The pair arrived in Indonesia in late September from Chengdu in China and were quarantined at the zoo in Bogor, just outside the capital, Jakarta.

The zoo hopes the 7-year-olds will mate and add to the giant panda population.

It's built a special enclosure and facilities that cost about 60 billion rupiah ($4.5 million).

Zoo director Jansen Manansang said he's "very optimistic they can breed here next year or the year after."

In an outdoor play area, Hu Chun walked around the green landscape, climbed rocks and contentedly munched on bamboo.

The living quarters for Cai Tao and Hu Chun, built to resemble a Chinese temple, are equipped with an elevator, sleeping area, medical facilities and indoor and outdoor play areas.

Manansang said the "palace" will be the pair's home for about 10 years under a breeding loan agreement between Indonesia and China. Any offspring would be given to China, he said.

There are fewer than 1,900 giant pandas in their only wild habitats in the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu.

China gifted friendly nations with its national mascot in what was known as "panda diplomacy" for decades. Countries now pay to be loaned pandas, but they remain a symbol of Chinese cultural and political power.


Update November 1, 2017

8 killed on New York bike path in 'cowardly act of terror'

Bicycles and debris lie on a bike path after a motorist drove onto the path near the World Trade Center memorial in New York, striking and killing several people Tuesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Colleen Long and Jake Pearson

New York (AP) — A man in a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists along a busy bike path near the World Trade Center memorial on Tuesday, killing at least eight and seriously injuring 11 in what the mayor called "a particularly cowardly act of terror."

The driver was shot in the abdomen by police after jumping out of the truck with what turned out to be a fake gun in each hand and shouting what witnesses said was "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," authorities said. The man underwent surgery and was expected to survive.

Officials who were not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity identified the attacker as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov and said he is from Uzbekistan and came to the U.S. legally in 2010. He has a Florida driver's license but may have been staying in New Jersey, they said.

The driver barreled along the bike path in a rented Home Depot truck for the equivalent of about 14 blocks, or around eight-tenths of a mile, before slamming into a small yellow school bus. The mayhem and the burst of police gunfire set off panic in the lower Manhattan neighborhood and left the pavement strewn with mangled bicycles and bodies that were soon covered with sheets.

"I saw a lot of blood over there. A lot of people on the ground," said Chen Yi, an Uber driver.

Eugene Duffy, a chef at a waterfront restaurant, said, "So many police came, and they didn't know what was happening. People were screaming. Females were screaming at the top of their lungs."

Argentina's foreign minister said the dead included Argentine citizens.

Police closed off streets across the western edge of lower Manhattan along the Hudson River, and officers rushed into the neighborhood just as people were preparing for Halloween festivities, including the big annual parade through Greenwich Village.

A police bomb squad scoured the truck but found no explosives.

"This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York and other cities around the globe have been on high alert against attacks by extremists in vehicles. The Islamic State has been exhorting its followers to mow down people, and England, France and Germany have seen deadly vehicle attacks in the past year or so.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it a "lone wolf" attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said a statement the driver made as he got out of the truck and the method of attack led police to conclude it was a terrorist act.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump called it "another attack by a very sick and deranged person" and declared, "NOT IN THE U.S.A.!"

While police did not specifically blame the Islamic State for the New York bloodshed, Trump railed against the extremist group, tweeting, "We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!"

Police said Saipov rented the truck at about 2 p.m. in New Jersey, entering the bike path about an hour later on West Street a few blocks from the new World Trade Center, the site of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history. The truck then turned at Chambers Street, hitting the school bus and injuring two adults and two children.

A paintball gun and a pellet gun were found at the scene, police said. At least two covered-over bodies could be seen lying on the bike path, and the front end of the truck was smashed in, as was the side of the school bus.

Tom Gay, a school photographer, heard people saying there was an accident and went down to West Street, where a woman came around the corner shouting, "He has a gun! He has a gun!"

Gay said he stuck his head around the corner and saw a slender man in a blue track suit running on West Street holding a gun. He said a heavyset man was chasing him.

He said he heard five or six shots, and the man in the tracksuit fell to the ground, gun still raised in the air. He said a man came over and kicked the gun out of his hand.


WWI Australian battle re-enacted in Israel on centennial

Australian and ANZAC Mounted Division soldiers ride their horses during the reenactment of the Battle of Beersheba in southern Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Ilan Ben Zion

Beersheba, Israel (AP) — A century to the day after Australian troops broke through Ottoman defenses in a daring World War I victory, nearly 200 horsemen — including descendants of the soldiers — paraded through streets of an Israeli city in a memorial to those killed in a battle that helped turn the tide of the war and shape the modern Middle East.

With leaders from Israel, Australia and New Zealand in attendance Tuesday, Australian and Israeli military marching bands led the way through the flag-festooned route in Bersheeba, flanked by several thousand onlookers in a tribute to the 171 British and Commonwealth troops killed that day.

Some 175 members of the Australian Light Horse Association participated. Australian military veteran Ian Dunlop, whose grandfather fought at Beersheba, wore his ancestor's four military medals on his chest and said he was "very proud" to have come from his native Melbourne.

The battle was a crucial, if largely forgotten, victory in the Mideast campaign that enabled the Allies to break the Turkish line in what is now southern Israel and capture Jerusalem weeks later. The victorious campaign redrew the map of the Middle East.

In the fall of 1917, Allied forces with Gen. Sir Edmund Allenby's Egyptian Expeditionary Force advanced on Gaza as part of a campaign to knock the Ottoman Empire, Germany's ally, out of the war. To outflank the Turkish troops entrenched around Gaza, a parched detachment made a desperate maneuver through the Negev Desert to capture the strategic biblical town of Beersheba, known both in antiquity and in modern times for its wells.

On Oct. 31, 1917, Allied troops launched their assault, but by late in the day, the critical water sources remained in Turkish hands. In a desperate gambit, mounted infantrymen with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps drew their bayonets, charged the Turkish trenches cavalry-style, and stormed into the city.

Had they been turned back, the entire campaign might have been lost.

Around 100 Australian horsemen took part in "a ride of peace" on Tuesday commemorating the charge. Barry Rodgers, head of the Australian Light Horse Association, said three young nations — Israel, Australia and New Zealand — have their roots in this place.

"We learned about the ethos of courage of Australian and New Zealand's soldiers," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was joined by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Governor-General Patsy Reddy. "It was an example of the spirit of fortitude and courage and the willingness to act in the defense of our people and our values."

"We saw here in Beersheba 800 cavalry go against 4,000 embedded Turks with machine guns, with bunkers, the few ones against the many," he added. "That's the spirit of the army of Israel. It stands today."

For the Australians, the Battle of Beersheba is iconic of "the spirit of the Australian people... daring, bold and courageous," said Kelvin Crombie, a historian and one of the organizers of the 100th anniversary commemorations. Having suffered crushing defeats at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, it's remembered as the young nation's first real victory.

The Light Horse charge also proved decisive for the Zionist dream of a future Jewish state. Two days later, after word of the victory reached London, Britain's foreign minister, Lord Arthur Balfour, issued a declaration calling for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

"They spurred their horses through that fire, those mad Australians, through that fire, and took the town of Beersheba, secured the victory that did not create the State of Israel but enabled its creation," Turnbull said.

"Had the Ottoman rule in Palestine and Syria not been overthrown by the Australians and the New Zealanders, the Balfour declaration would have been empty words," he added. "But this was a step for the creation of Israel."

Reddy said the military campaign "changed political conditions in this region in the most profound way."

She said bonds between Australians and New Zealanders forged at Gallipoli were strengthened in the campaign. "It is only fitting that we should join together today in remembering their service and their sacrifice. We will remember them," she said.

The three leaders continued to an opening ceremony for a museum dedicated to the campaign.

Crombie said that more and more Australians understand "it really was something that had an effect on world history."


'House of Cards' filming suspended; new Spacey allegations

 

This image shows actor Kevin Spacey in a scene from "House Of Cards." Netflix says it's suspending production on "House of Cards" following harassment allegations against Spacey. (David Giesbrecht/Netflix via AP)

Lynn Elber and Mark Kennedy

Los Angeles (AP) — Hollywood's widening sexual harassment crisis brought forth a second actor's allegation against Kevin Spacey on Tuesday, halted production on his Netflix series "House of Cards" and prompted CBS to check into an actress' claim she was groped by Jeremy Piven.

Mexican actor Robert Cavazos wrote on his Facebook page that he encountered Spacey at the bar of London's Old Vic Theatre, where Spacey was artistic director, and the actor tried to fondle him against his will.

"It was more common for this guy, when he was in the bar of his theater, grabbing whoever caught his attention," Cavazos wrote. "I didn't stand for it, but I know some people who were afraid to stop it."

Cavazos declined an interview request. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from representatives for Spacey, who was artistic director from 2004-15.

In a statement Tuesday, the theater expressed "deep dismay" at the allegations and said "inappropriate behavior by anyone working at The Old Vic is completely unacceptable."

In recent days, Hollywood has reacted swiftly to allegations of sexual harassment and assault: Harvey Weinstein was fired from the company he founded within days after initial reports of sexual harassment were published in The New York Times earlier this month.

On Monday, Netflix said it would end "House of Cards" after its upcoming sixth and final season, although the streaming network said the decision was made before the BuzzFeed News report on Spacey last weekend. The network has not commented on plans for a Gore Vidal biopic starring Spacey that is currently in production.

The pause in production Tuesday shadows the fate of the last season.

Also Tuesday, CBS said it is "looking into" a claim by actress and reality star Ariane Bellamar that Emmy-winning "Entourage" star Piven groped her on two occasions.

On her Twitter account Monday, Bellamar alleged that one encounter took place in Piven's trailer on HBO's "Entourage" set and the other occurred at the Playboy Mansion.

CBS airs Piven's new series, "Wisdom of the Crowd."

A representative for Piven didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. In a Monday interview with The Associated Press, Piven said he was glad people had come forward with allegations against Harvey Weinstein and that he had never been in that situation.

HBO, which aired the 2004-11 series, said in a statement that it was unaware of Bellamar's allegations until they were reported by media.

"Everyone at HBO and our productions is aware that zero tolerance for sexual harassment is our policy.  Anyone experiencing an unsafe working environment has several avenues for making complaints that we take very seriously," the channel said.

Bellamar's credits include "Suicide Squad" and "The Hangover Part III" and the reality series "Beverly Hills Nannies."

Netflix's actions involving "House of Cards" are rare in an industry that puts commerce first.

Shows are infrequently derailed by concerns other than their ratings performance, said TV historian and former network executive Tim Brooks.

"It usually depends on how popular the show is, not to put too fine a point on it," Brooks said Tuesday.

The widespread tumult has prompted unusual actions, such as Weinstein being booted from industry organizations, and created a climate of uncertainty. But a look back shows that Hollywood has dealt with disruption before, with even beloved shows and actors fighting to keep their balance amid controversy.

During the 1950s "red scare," Brooks said, "I Love Lucy" star Lucille Ball was accused of being a communist sympathizer. The sitcom co-starred her husband, Desi Arnaz, who took action.

"Desi came out before a studio taping and said, 'The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that's not real,'" using humor to effectively defuse the situation, Brooks said. The show's No. 1 status also helped.

Popularity and audience acceptance of a star's personal issues aided "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" when lead actor Stacey Keach served six months in jail for a drug-related arrest in England in the mid-1980s.

The 1984-85 season was cut short but the series returned in 1986 with Keach aboard and a revised title, "The New Mike Hammer." It aired until 1987 on CBS.

"Grey's Anatomy" was swamped by controversy in late 2006 when an on-set scuffle broke out between stars Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington over Washington's use of a gay slur regarding another cast member.

After Washington repeated the slur at the 2007 Golden Globes while denying he had used it, ABC rebuked him publicly, as did co-star Katherine Heigl. He was subsequently fired, and the medical drama from TV hitmaker Shonda Rhimes sailed on even as Washington blamed racism for his treatment.

Bill Cosby has felt the professional as well as legal brunt of multiple accusations of decades-old sexual offenses.

Three years ago, when multiple women accused Bill Cosby of decades-old sexual offenses, the comedian's ambitious standup comedy tour was dotted with cancellations, NBC dropped development of a new show with him and Netflix pulled the plug on a stand-up special.

An actor's popularity with his cast mates can determine his fate, Brooks said.

"If they like him, if they get along with him, it's easy enough to say, 'If I don't get my career ruined in this, I'll stick with him,'" he said.

How Spacey's cast mates are reacting to the allegations remains to be seen. Robin Wright, who stars opposite Spacey as his wife, hasn't commented publicly, but her Twitter feed includes a number of posts backing social issues including female rights and education.

Netflix and "House of Cards" producer Media Rights Capital had already decided to end the series at the end of next season, its sixth, but on Tuesday they chose to pause the production, which is filmed in Baltimore, "to give us time to review the current situation and to address any concerns of our cast and crew." Spacey was not scheduled to work that day.

The move comes after actor Anthony Rapp came forward with claims Spacey made inappropriate sexual advances toward him in 1986, when he was 14.

Spacey responded by saying he doesn't remember the alleged encounter but if he acted the way Rapp alleges, "I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior." He also spoke publicly for the first time about being gay, which draw backlash from some observers as an attempt at deflection.

The fallout for Spacey also included the loss of an award he was going to get later this month by The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The group says "it will not honor Kevin Spacey with the 2017 International Emmy Founders Award," which is to honor "an individual who crosses cultural boundaries to touch humanity." Spacey was to get it at a gala on Nov. 20 in New York City. Past recipients include Rhimes, Steven Spielberg, and J.J. Abrams.

A release date for the final "House of Cards" episodes has yet to be announced. Netflix is developing a possible spinoff of the award-winning drama that helped put the streaming service on the TV series map.

Earlier Tuesday, British media reported that police have widened their investigation into sexual assault claims against Weinstein.

The Independent newspaper, Press Association and Sky News say London's Metropolitan Police is now investigating allegations against Weinstein by seven women over incidents that reportedly took place from the 1980s to 2015. Weinstein is also being investigated by police in New York and Los Angeles.


Catalan leader takes his separatism fight to Europe's heart

 

Sacked Catalonian President Carles Puigdemont looks on after a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday, Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Raf Casert and Aritz Parra

Brussels (AP) — Facing possible criminal charges at home that could put him behind bars for decades, ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont took his bid for independence from Spain to the heart of Europe on Tuesday, attempting to portray his secessionist movement as persecuted underdogs who deserve international backing in their fight against Madrid.

A Spanish judge, meanwhile, ordered Puigdemont and the rest of his ousted Cabinet to appear for questioning later this week as part of a rebellion probe. Whether they appear or not, the judge is likely to decide as soon as Friday on whether to issue arrest warrants.

Two of the officials flew back late on Tuesday to Barcelona, where protesters holding Spanish flags insulted them and shouted "Long live Spain." A person close to Puigdemont, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ousted separatist leader remained in the Belgian capital.

In a high-profile appearance before international media in Brussels, Puigdemont kept up his defiant tone against the Spanish government's relentless efforts to thwart his secession ambitions. His unannounced trip underscored that his path to success is being blocked by the law in Spain, and he conceded ground to the Spanish government by agreeing to take part in an early regional election called for Dec. 21.

Even as Puigdemont's quest to establish a new Western European country appeared increasingly quixotic, his grass roots supporters showed no signs of wavering — a depth of passion that illustrates why the wrangling over Catalonia has been going on for so long and why it is unlikely to end soon.

Puigdemont said he and the five ousted government colleagues who accompanied him to Brussels were seeking "freedom and safety" from the Spanish authorities.

If Spain "can guarantee to all of us, and to me in particular, a just, independent (legal) process, with separation of powers that we have in the majority of European nations — if they guarantee that, we would return immediately," Puigdemont told a packed news conference at the Brussels Press Club, which is right next to the European Union's headquarters.

"But we have to continue to work, and that is why we decided Friday night on this strategy," he said.

The Spanish government in Madrid has cracked down hard on Puigdemont's attempt to take Catalonia, a wealthy region of some 7.5 million people that accounts for about one-fifth of the national GDP, out of Spain.

It accused Puigdemont of flouting the constitution by holding an Oct. 1 independence referendum and deployed police to stop the vote after the Constitutional Court said it could not go ahead. Then, when the Catalan parliament approved a motion declaring independence last week in defiance of the Spanish Constitution, which says Spain is "indivisible," the national government stripped Catalonia of its powers of self-rule.

Spain's chief prosecutor is seeking charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement against Puigdemont, and his No. 2, Oriol Junqueras, before Spain's National Court, which on Tuesday ordered the two men and the rest of the ousted Cabinet to appear for questioning on Thursday.

National Court Judge Carmen Lamela said the 14 were being investigated for allegedly "weaving a strategy" that led to the Oct. 27 unilateral declaration of independence in the regional parliament.

She also ordered them to pay a $7.2 million (6.2 million euro) deposit by Friday to cover possible liability costs associated with the banned Oct. 1 referendum, or risk seizure of their assets.

It was not immediately clear whether Puigdemont planned to return for questioning, but if appeals don't succeed the judge could issue arrest warrants for him and the other Cabinet members as soon as Friday.

Separately, the prosecutor is seeking similar charges before the higher Supreme Court for six ex-members of the governing body of the now-dissolved Catalan parliament because they enjoy a degree of immunity and can only be tried by this court. The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to investigate the allegations against the six.

As Puigdemont walked into the Brussels Press Club, a group of demonstrators held up Spanish national flags and pro-unity signs, including ones that that said "Rule of Law" and "Not in my Name. Long live Spain."

Puigdemont, in a tweet, asked Catalans to be patient, "because the road will be long."

While in the rest of Spain there is little sympathy for the region's independence drive, a new opinion poll indicated growing support for secession among Catalans.

Pro-secession sentiment has increased in Catalonia over the tumultuous past month, an opinion poll published Tuesday by Catalonia's official public opinion center indicated. It said the percentage of Catalans who want the region to become an independent state has risen to 48.7 percent from 41.1 percent in June, while the proportion against independence has fallen to 43.6 percent from 49.4 percent. The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.69 percentage points, questioned 1,500 people from Oct. 16-29.

In the coastal Catalan town of Vilanova i La Geltru, south of Barcelona, separatists were as determined as ever, despite the legal setbacks.

"I want to say that we are with him. And the sad thing is that in order to be safe, he had to go to Brussels," Jordi Trillas, a cafe owner, said of Puigdemont.

Another resident, Sergio Cabrera, also said he continued to support the ousted Catalan leader. "He followed his line," Cabrera said. "The issue is to see whether they hear him or not."

Puigdemont's Brussels trip raised some eyebrows among his political allies, who said they were kept in the dark about it. Pro-independence parties in Catalonia have long been riven by squabbling over how best to achieve their goal.

The ousted regional minister for business, Santi Vila, a moderate in Puigdemont's separatist Democratic Party of Catalonia, said nobody in the party leadership knew about the Brussels plan.

"Separatism is legitimate, but it must be defended within the law," Vila told La Sexta television. "We have to recover our serenity. We wanted to take Catalonia to the gates of independence, but we have returned it to a period before it had any self-governance."


Women rescued by Navy defend their account of ordeal at sea

Jennifer Appel, right, and Tasha Fuiava sit with their dogs on the deck of the USS Ashland Monday, Oct. 30, at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

Caleb Jones

Honolulu (AP) — Two women from Hawaii who were rescued after being lost at sea defended their account of the ordeal Tuesday, insisting that a storm was whipping up 30-foot waves and near hurricane-force winds on the night they set sail, despite records that show no severe weather in the area.

The Coast Guard is reviewing records from the days after Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava put to sea in a 50-foot sailboat, but NASA satellite images for the days around their departure show no organized storms in the region where they planned to travel.

There was a tropical cyclone, but it was near Fiji, thousands of miles west of Hawaii. Localized squalls are known to pop up, but a storm lasting three days would have been visible on satellite and would have elicited mass warnings to the public to brace for the weather.

"We got into a Force 11 storm, and it lasted for two nights and three days," Appel said.

Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press on Monday that the two women had an emergency beacon but never turned it on because they did not fear for their lives. If they had, rescue would have been headed their way in a matter of minutes.

The woman "stated they never felt like they were truly in distress, like in a 24-hour period they were going to die," Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle said Monday.

The women said Tuesday that they did not use the beacon because they never felt they were in immediate danger, yet they have been quoted as saying they did not think they would survive another day, and that they were fearful during a dramatic tiger shark attack that lasted for six hours. Furthermore, the pair said they had been flagging vessels and sending distress signals for at least 98 days.

"We knew we weren't going to make it," Appel said. "So that's when we started making distress calls."

The Coast Guard outlined other inconsistencies, most notably on the timing of events.

Appel's mother, Joyce, told the AP that she called the Coast Guard to report her daughter missing a week and a half after they departed for what they believed would be an 18-day trip to Tahiti.

However, the Coast Guard never got a call from the elder Appel. They received a call from a "family friend" they identified as a male on May 19, still several days before the women expected to arrive.

The women said they filed a float plan listing their course and other details with some friends and relatives. However, in an interview with the Coast Guard, the women said they had filed no float plan.

They also defended their claims that their boat would not fit into harbors on some Hawaiian islands, places where much larger vessels come and go regularly.

Their description of 20- to 30-foot tiger sharks ramming their boat in a coordinated attack for more than six hours could simply be misperception, but scientists who study sharks say that behavior has never been recorded and that tiger sharks grow to only about 17 feet in length.

University of Hawaii professor and veteran shark researcher Kim Holland has never heard of any kind of shark repeatedly attacking a boat hull throughout a night. He also said tiger sharks never jump out of the water and do not make coordinated attacks.

Sometimes sharks will congregate around a food source like a whale carcass, but Holland said that was unlikely in this case "if there's nothing there to attract the animals. I mean this is just an inert boat hull."

As time goes on, new details emerge in the women's account, and other details change. They have now reported making contact with someone at Wake Island but previously said no one responded to their calls for help.

Their account of receiving a tow from a Taiwanese fishing vessel changed as well. They originally said the crew was kind, but later said they were worried for their safety and thought that the crew might be making an attempt to harm them.

They added that the fishing boat had backed into their sailboat, causing significant damage.

"I also believe that they knew they were damaging the boat. And if we couldn't get additional help, that boat would sink, and they would get ... two girls to do whatever they wanted to," Appel said.

The captain of the fishing vessel, the Fong Chun No. 66, who identified himself as Mr. Chen in a satellite phone call from the AP, said his boat received a mayday radio call but did not understand it. They then saw someone waving a white object on a boat about a nautical mile away.

When they approached, the women asked to use the satellite phone on the fishing vessel and for a tow to Midway Island. The larger vessel towed the smaller sailboat overnight. In the morning, the women wanted to stop the towing and called for a naval vessel.

"We offered to get them on board the fishing boat and asked whether they needed water or food, but they refused," the captain said.

The fishermen left after the arrival of the U.S.S. Ashland.

Hawaii sailing experts say the trip itself was a bad idea.

Mike Michelwait, owner of the Honolulu Sailing Company, a sailing school and charter company, has sailed the route from Hawaii to Tahiti several times. He said the trip would normally take about 17 days with sailors who could stay on course.

But, Michelwait said, he would not take such a trip with any less than three experienced sailors.

"There's only two of them on board, and it's a 50-foot boat," he said. "That's a lot of boat to handle."

At some point, Appel joined the Hawai'i Actors Network, noting on the group's website that she has "been known to do almost any skydiving or motorcycle stunt — camera optional." Through the group, she found work as an extra in the former TV series "Off the Map" and the former sitcom "Cougar Town," appearing in that show in a pink bikini in the background of a season finale.

A call to the actors' network was not returned..
 


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