Pope in Myanmar preaches forgiveness, healing of old wounds
waves from the Pope mobile as Myanmar Catholics wave flags ahead of a holy
mass Wednesday, Nov. 29, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Nicole Winfield and Esther Htusan
Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Pope
Francis urged Myanmar's religious leaders and ordinary faithful on Wednesday
to help the country heal its old wounds, preaching a message of forgiveness
and tolerance as the country emerges from military dictatorship and seeks to
make peace with its many ethnic minorities after decades of conflict.
At an open-air Mass, an audience with
Myanmar's senior Buddhist monks and during an encounter with his own
Catholic bishops, Francis sought to encourage greater dialogue and
understanding at a delicate time of transition in the predominantly Buddhist
South Asian nation.
"I know that many in Myanmar bear the
wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," Francis told a huge
open-air Mass in Yangon's Kyaikkasan Ground park. While the temptation is to
respond with revenge, Francis urged instead a response of "forgiveness and
"The way of revenge is not the way of
Jesus," Francis told the crowd, speaking from an altar erected on a
traditional Buddhist-style stage.
Local authorities estimated that about
150,000 people turned out for the Mass, but the crowd seemed far larger and
included faithful bearing flags from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, among
Francis has said his aim in coming to
Myanmar is to minister to its Catholic community, which numbers around
660,000 people, or just over 1 percent of the population of about 52
million. His message, though, has echoed far beyond the Christian community,
with his visit making front-page news and being replayed constantly on
Myanmar television news.
The trip has been overshadowed by
Myanmar's military operations targeting the Rohingya Muslim minority in
Rakhine state. The crackdown, which has been described by the U.N. as a
campaign of "textbook ethnic cleansing," has drawn international
Francis has refrained from referring
directly to the conflict, though he called for Myanmar to respect the rights
of all people who call the country home — "none excluded" — an indirect
reference to the Rohingya's plight. The violence, including the looting and
burning of Rohingya villages in Rakhine, has resulted in more than 620,000
people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh in Asia's worst refugee crisis in
In his homily Wednesday, Francis
acknowledged the suffering that Myanmar's ethnic and religious groups have
endured, a reference to the decades of conflicts between Myanmar's ethnic
minorities who seek greater autonomy and the military. The conflicts
involving the Karen, Kachin, Sha and Wa — who are 40 percent of the
country's population — have claimed thousands of lives and continue today in
parts of the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government,
which came to power in 2015 after decades of military rule, has been
negotiating with 17 of the 20 major ethnic groups, a process Francis and the
Myanmar Catholic Church have sought to encourage.
A prayer read out in the Karen language
during the Mass referred directly to the initiative. "For the leaders of
Myanmar, that they may always foster peace and reconciliation through
dialogue and understanding, thus promoting an end to the conflict in the
states of Kachin, Rakhine and Shan, we pray to the Lord," read the prayer.
Members of Myanmar's mostly Christian
Kachin minority were on hand for the Mass, many of whom traveled two days by
train from Kachin state to see the first pope ever to visit Myanmar.
Despite the high humidity, the scene at
the park was joyous and pious, with many women covering their heads with
"I can't express how happy I am," said
Henery Thaw Zin, a 57-year-old ethnic Karen from Hinthada, a four-hour drive
from Yangon. "I can't imagine, or can't expect to get a chance like this
again, not just in this life, but in my next life as well."
Later Wednesday, in a meeting with
Myanmar's senior Buddhist monks, Francis called for religious leaders to
speak with one voice affirming their commitment to peace and respect for
justice and dignity for all people.
"If we are to be united, as is our
purpose, we need to surmount all forms of misunderstanding, intolerance,
prejudice and hatred," Francis told the Sangha council, a committee of
high-ranking monks appointed by the government.
Citing the teachings of both Buddha and
his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, Francis said: "May that wisdom continue
to foster patience and understanding and heal the wounds of conflict that
through the years have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and
The head of the council, Bhamo Sayadaw,
lamented how some people use religion for "extremism and terrorism," saying
such interpretations were wrong and inspired by "greed and ego" since
religion is meant to inspire the common good.
The elderly monk didn't refer to any
particular religion, but the government has identified a group of Rohingya
Muslim militants as a terrorist group, while the Sahgha council has
denounced Myanmar's growing Buddhist nationalist group, which has used hate
speech to inspire violence against Muslims.
And in his final event of the day,
Francis met with his bishops in Yangon's Catholic cathedral, and urged them
to help their tiny flock heal from "deeply-rooted divisions" that have
scarred the country, and help foster unity.
Francis wraps up his visit to Myanmar
on Thursday with a Mass for young people in Yangon's cathedral before
heading to Bangladesh for the second and final leg of his weeklong South
Croat war criminal's shocking death stuns UN tribunal
In this photo provided by the ICTY on Wednesday,
Nov. 29, Slobodan Praljak brings a bottle of poison to his lips, during a
Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. (ICTY via AP)
The Hague, Netherlands (AP) —
Seconds after a U.N. judge confirmed his 20-year war crimes sentence on
Wednesday, former Bosnian Croat military commander Slobodan Praljak shouted,
"I am not a war criminal!" threw back his head, drank liquid from a small
bottle and told the court he had taken poison. A flustered judge halted the
hearing and Praljak was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Shocking images of the 72-year-old
former philosophy professor and theater director who became a wartime
general shouting and drinking what he said was poison were streamed live on
the court's website and around the Balkans.
The death cast a pall over the last
case at the groundbreaking International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia. Judges upheld sentences ranging from 10-25 years against Praljak
and five other Bosnian Croat wartime political and military leaders for
their part in a plan linked to Croatia's late former President Franjo
Tudjman to violently carve out a Croat-dominated mini-state in Bosnia during
the Balkan wars by killing, mistreating and deporting Muslims.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej
Plenkovic offered his condolences to Praljak's family and said the former
general's actions reflected the "deep moral injustice" done to him and the
five others whose sentences were also upheld by the appeals judges
In their ruling, the judges confirmed
that Praljak was guilty of crimes including murder, persecution and inhumane
treatment as part of the plot to establish a Croat entity in Bosnia in the
early 1990s, as well as the 20-year sentence initially handed to Praljak in
May 2013 at the end of the six men's trial.
Ironically, Praljak, who surrendered to
the tribunal in April 2004 and had already been jailed for 13 years, could
have soon walked free because those who are convicted are generally released
after serving two-thirds of their sentences.
After Praljak's outburst, Dutch police
immediately were called in to launch an independent investigation. Questions
the detectives will attempt to answer include: What was the liquid Praljak
drank and how did he manage to get it into the tightly guarded courtroom?
The courtroom where the dramatic scene
unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a
A Serbian lawyer who has frequently
defended suspects at the U.N. war crimes court in the Netherlands told The
Associated Press it would be easy to slip poison into the court.
Attorney Toma Fila said that security
for lawyers and other court staff "is just like at an airport," with
security staff inspecting metal objects and confiscating cell phones, but
"pills and small quantities of liquids" would not be registered.
Nick Kaufman, an Israeli defense lawyer
who used to work as a prosecutor at the tribunal, also said a defendant
could find a way to bring in a banned substance.
"When deprived of authority over the
masses and the attention which formerly fueled their ego and charisma, such
defendants can often be extremely resourceful with the little power they
retain," he said.
In the past, two Serbs have taken their
lives while in the tribunal's custody.
In July 1998, Slavko Dokmanovic, a
Croatian Serb charged in the deaths of over 200 Croat prisoners of war, was
found dead in his prison cell in The Hague. Milan Babic, a wartime Serbian
leader who was closely cooperating with prosecutors, took his life in a
prison tribunal cell in March 2006.
Wednesday's hearing was the final case
at the groundbreaking tribunal before it closes its doors next month. The
tribunal, which last week convicted former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen.
Ratko Mladic of genocide and other crimes, was set up in 1993, while
fighting still raged in the former Yugoslavia. It indicted 161 suspects and
convicted 90 of them.
The original trial began in April 2006
and provided a reminder of the complex web of ethnic tensions that fueled
fighting in Bosnia and still underlies frictions in the country today.
Croatian Prime Minister Plenkovic said
that his country's leadership during the Bosnian war could "in no way be
connected with the facts and interpretations" of Wednesday's judgment.
Bali airport reopens, but volcano still spewing ash
watch the Mount Agung volcano spew smoke and ash in Karangasem, Bali,
Indonesia, Wednesday, Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Karangasem, Indonesia (AP) — The
airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali reopened Wednesday after an
erupting volcano forced its closure two days earlier, but the country's
president said the danger had not passed and urged anyone within the
mountain's exclusion zone to get out "for the sake of their safety."
Volcanic ash reaching 25,000 feet
(7,600 meters) in the air began drifting south and southeast of Mount Agung,
leaving clean space above the airport for planes to land and take off, said
airport spokesman Arie Ahsannurohim.
The airport, which handles more than
400 flights a day, had closed Monday, disrupting travel for tens of
thousands of people trying to enter or leave the popular vacation
destination. Thick ash particles are hazardous to aircraft and can choke
Despite the all-clear from authorities,
flights are unlikely to rapidly return to normal levels and a change in the
direction of the ash or a new more powerful eruption could force the
airport's closure again.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ordered
all concerned ministries and agencies, as well as the military and police,
to help Bali's government deal with the disaster.
"I hope there will be no victims hit by
the eruption," he said.
Authorities have told 100,000 people to
leave an area extending up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) in places from the
volcano as it belches gray and white plumes. Nearly 40,000 people are now
staying in 225 shelters, according to the Disaster Mitigation Agency in
Karangasem. But tens of thousands more have remained in their homes because
they feel safe or don't want to abandon their land and livestock.
In the village of Tulamben inside the
exclusion zone, farmers were plowing their fields with cattle Wednesday,
seemingly unbothered by the smoking mountain behind them swelling with
In Sukadana village, about 8 kilometers
from the crater, a few remaining residents said mudflows of volcanic debris
and water had passed through the area for a couple of days before
Some stranded tourists managed to get
off the island before the airport reopened, but they faced an arduous
journey involving crowded roads, buses, ferries and sometimes overnight
waits in yet another airport in Surabaya on the island of Java.
"This is a very unforgettable
experience for us. So much hassle and definitely one for the books," said
Sheryl David, a tourist from Manila, Philippines, who arrived Saturday in
Bali with three friends and was supposed to leave Tuesday. She remained
stuck in a third airport on Wednesday in the capital, Jakarta, waiting for a
flight home that required buying a new ticket, but said the experience
didn't dampen her feelings about the island.
"Yes, still a paradise," she texted.
The volcano's last major eruption, in
1963, killed about 1,100 people, but it is unclear how bad the current
situation might get or how long it could last. A worst-case scenario would
involve an explosive eruption that causes the mountain's cone to collapse.
"An analogy would be the twin towers
collapsing in New York on 9/11," said Richard Arculus, a volcano expert at
Australian National University. "You saw people running away from the debris
raining down and columns of dust pursuing people down the street. You will
not be able to outrun this thing."
Indonesian officials first raised the
highest alert two months ago when seismic activity increased at the
mountain. The activity decreased by late October, and the alert was lowered
before being lifted to the highest level again Monday.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of
Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes.
Bitcoin surges past $10,000 threshold, only to plunge
The price of
bitcoin, the most widely used virtual currency, rose above US$ 10,000 on
Wednesday for the first time, breaking a symbolic threshold in what has been
a vertiginous ascent this year. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
London (AP) — The price of
bitcoin surged through $10,000 on Wednesday, adding to its ten-fold jump in
value this year and fueling a debate as to whether the virtual currency is
gaining mainstream acceptance or is merely a bubble waiting to burst.
But as soon as bitcoin went through
$10,000, it surged past $11,000, only to plummet from those lofty levels.
The cost of buying one bitcoin as measured by the website Coindesk was
hovering around $9,800, and was as low as $9,300 on Wednesday afternoon. A
price of one bitcoin had been roughly $1,000 at the beginning of the year.
The vertiginous rise in the price of
bitcoin and other virtual currencies this year has divided the financial
community on their merits and whether — or when — the value might come
crashing back down.
The CEO of JPMorgan Chase has called
bitcoin a "fraud," as it is not based on anything other than software code
and is not backed by any monetary authority.
Other executives, including
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, say virtual currencies
should not be dismissed and could have useful applications, such as a means
of payment in countries with unstable currencies.
Some countries, like China, have tried
to stifle bitcoin exchanges. But in a move that gave further credibility to
the virtual currency, the U.S. exchange operator CME Group said last month
that it plans to open a futures market for the currency before the end of
the year, if it can get approval from regulators.
Bitcoin was created about a decade ago
as an alternative to government-issued currencies. Transactions allow
anonymity, which has made it popular with people who want to keep their
financial activity, and their identities, private.
The digital coins are created by
so-called "miners," who operate computer farms that verify other users'
transactions by solving complex mathematical puzzles. These miners receive
bitcoin in exchange. Bitcoin can be converted to cash when deposited into
accounts at prices set in online trading.
Whereas virtual currencies were
initially used primarily as a method of payment, in recent months they have
become a hot investment among speculators.
Daniele Bianchi, an assistant professor
of finance at the Warwick Business School in England, says that the price
increases are due to rising demand but also to the fact that the supply of
bitcoins is kept fixed. There are currently only 21 million that can be
mined in total.
Bianchi also noted that trading in
bitcoin is becoming more professional and open to the general public. He
believes virtual currencies are "here to stay" and expects the price to rise
"The increasing demand pressure from
investors and speculators makes the case for an even further increase in
bitcoin prices in the near future," he said.
Others are far more skeptical.
Neil Wilson, a senior market analyst at
ETX Capital in London, says bitcoin is "following the playbook for a
speculative bubble to the letter."
A new market enjoys a boom when
professional investors start entering the market. That's followed by
euphoria as others rush in to partake in the gains. Wilson says bitcoin
could rise a lot further, but says it is merely a question of when, not if,
the bubble bursts.
"This sort of thing never, ever lasts,"
NKorea launches ICBM in possibly its longest-range test yet
watches a TV screen showing a local news program reporting North Korea's
missile launch at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday,
Nov. 29. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Kim Tong-Hyung and Foster Klug
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — After
2½ months of relative peace, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon
yet early Wednesday, a presumed intercontinental ballistic missile that
could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.
Resuming its torrid testing pace in
pursuit of its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can
hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected, but the apparent power and
suddenness of the new test still jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington.
The launch at 3:17 a.m. local time and midday in the U.S. capital indicated
an effort to perfect the element of surprise and to obtain maximum attention
in the United States.
The firing is a clear message of
defiance aimed at the Trump administration, which had just restored the
North to a U.S. list of terror sponsors. It also ruins nascent diplomatic
efforts, raises fears of war or a pre-emptive U.S. strike and casts a deeper
shadow over the security of the Winter Olympics early next year in South
A rattled Seoul responded by almost
immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. The
South's president, Moon Jae-in, expressed worry that North Korea's growing
missile threat could force the United States to attack the North before it
masters a nuclear-tipped long-range missile, something experts say may be
"If North Korea completes a ballistic
missile that could reach from one continent to another, the situation can
spiral out of control," Moon said at an emergency meeting in Seoul,
according to his office. "We must stop a situation where North Korea
miscalculates and threatens us with nuclear weapons or where the United
States considers a pre-emptive strike."
Moon, a liberal who has been forced
into a more hawkish stance by a stream of North Korean weapons tests, has
repeatedly declared that there can be no U.S. attack on the North without
Seoul's approval, but many here worry that Washington may act without South
The launch is North Korea's first since
it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15, and may have
broken any efforts at diplomacy meant to end the North's nuclear ambitions.
U.S. officials have sporadically floated the idea of direct talks with North
Korea if it maintained restraint.
The missile also appears to improve on
North Korea's past launches.
If flown on a standard trajectory,
instead of Wednesday's lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more
than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles), said U.S. scientist David Wright, a
physicist who closely tracks North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.
"Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C.,
and in fact any part of the continental United States," Wright wrote in a
blog post for the Union for Concerned Scientists.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori
Onodera said the missile landed inside of Japan's special economic zone in
the Sea of Japan, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) west of Aomori, which is
on the northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu. Onodera says the
missile could have been an upgraded version of North Korea's Hwasong-14 ICBM
or a new missile.
A big unknown, however, is the
missile's payload. If, as expected, it carried a light mock warhead, then
its effective range would have been shorter, analysts said.
An intercontinental ballistic missile
test is considered particularly provocative, and indications that it flew
higher than past launches suggest progress by Pyongyang in developing a
weapon of mass destruction that could strike the U.S. mainland. President
Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from having that capability —
using military force if necessary.
In response to the launch, Trump said
the United States will "take care of it." He told reporters after the
launch: "It is a situation that we will handle." He did not elaborate.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning
said the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about
1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan within 370
nautical kilometers (200 nautical miles) of Japan's coast. It flew for 53
minutes, Japan's defense minister said.
South Korea's responding missile tests
included one with a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) range, to mimic striking the
North Korea launch site, which is not far from the North Korean capital.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an
emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon at the request of Japan, the U.S.
and South Korea.
Italy's U.N. Ambassador Sebastiano
Cardi, the current Security Council president, told reporters late Tuesday
that "it's certainly very worrying. Everybody was hoping that there would be
restraint from the regime."
He said the latest and toughest
sanctions resolutions against North Korea "are working, having an effect on
the situation ... on the capacity of the regime to obtain hard currency
because to go along with the military programs or missile or nuclear
(programs) you need money, and that's the objective."
"There is still room for new measures,
but for the moment ... we don't know what the council decision will be," he
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the
missile flew higher than previous projectiles.
"It went higher, frankly, than any
previous shot they've taken," he told reporters at the White House. "It's a
research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic
missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world."
A week ago, the Trump administration
declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, further straining ties
between governments that are still technically at war. Washington also
imposed new sanctions on North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading
companies dealing with the North.
North Korea called the terror
designation a "serious provocation" that justifies its development of
Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean
military official who is now an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern
Studies, said the early flight data suggests the North Korean missile was
likely a Hwasong-14, which the North fired twice in July. The North is
likely trying to further evaluate the weapon's performance, including the
warhead's ability to survive atmospheric re-entry and strike the intended
target, before it attempts a test that shows the full range of the missile.
South Koreans are famously nonchalant
about North Korea's military moves, but there is worry about what the
North's weapons tests might mean for next year's Winter Olympics in the
South. President Moon told his officials to closely review whether the
launch could in anyway hurt South Korea's efforts to successfully host the
games in Pyeongchang, which begin Feb. 9.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who
spoke with Trump, said Japan will not back down against any provocation and
would maximize pressure on the North in its strong alliance with the U.S.
Trump has ramped up economic and
diplomatic pressure on the North to prevent its nuclear and missile
development. So far, the pressure has failed to get North Korea's
government, which views a nuclear arsenal as key to its survival, to return
to long-stalled international negotiations on its nuclear program.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said
in a statement that North Korea was "indiscriminately threatening its
neighbors, the region and global stability." He urged the international
community to not only implement existing U.N. sanctions on North Korea but
also to consider additional measures for interdicting maritime traffic
transporting goods to and from the country.
"Diplomatic options remain viable and
open, for now," Tillerson said, adding the U.S. remains committed to
"finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent
actions by North Korea."
Bali volcano spits ash 2½ miles in the sky, airport remains closed
volcano spouts plumes of ash into the sky in Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia,
Tuesday, Nov. 28. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Firdia Lisnawati and Margie Mason
Karangasem, Indonesia (AP) — A
volcano with a deadly history continued to erupt Tuesday on Bali, one of the
world's most popular resort islands, spitting ash 4,000 meters (2½ miles)
high and stranding tens of thousands of tourists for a second day. Lava was
welling in its crater, but it remained unclear how bad the eruption might
get or how long it could last.
Authorities have raised the alert for
Mount Agung to the highest level and told 100,000 people to leave an area
extending 10 kilometers (6 miles) from its crater as it belches grey and
white plumes into the sky. Its last major eruption in 1963 killed about
Officials extended the closure of
Bali's international airport for another 24 hours due to concerns that jet
engines could choke on the thick volcanic ash, which was moving across the
Tourists waiting for planes stared at
information screens reading "canceled" for every flight. Airport spokesman
Ari Ahsanurrohim said more than 440 flights were canceled Tuesday, affecting
nearly 60,000 passengers, about the same as Monday. Without aircraft,
getting in or out of Bali requires traveling hours by land and boat to an
airport on another island.
"I don't know, we can't change it,"
said stranded German traveler Gina Camp, who planned to go back outside and
enjoy another day on the island, which attracts about 5 million visitors a
year to its famed resorts and world-class surf spots. "It's nature and we
have to wait until it's over."
Experts said a larger, explosive
eruption is possible or Agung could stay at its current level of activity
"If it got much worse, it would be
really hard to think of. You've got a huge population center, nearly a
million people in Denpasar and surroundings, and it's very difficult to
envision moving those people further away," said Richard Arculus, a volcano
expert at Australian National University, adding that an eruption in 1843
was even more explosive than the one in 1963.
"There are many examples in history
where you have this kind of seismic buildup — steam ejections of a little
bit of ash, growing eruptions of ash to a full-scale stratosphere-reaching
column of ash, which can presage a major volcanic event," he said.
A NASA satellite detected a thermal
anomaly at the crater, said senior Indonesian volcanologist Gede Swantika.
That means a pathway from the storage chamber in the volcano's crust has
opened, giving magma easier access to the surface.
Indonesian officials first raised the
highest alert two months ago when a rash of seismic activity was detected at
the mountain. More than 100,000 people living near the volcano fled their
homes, many abandoning their livestock or selling them for a fraction of the
normal price. The seismic activity decreased by the end of October, causing
authorities to lower the alert level.
Tremors increased again last week and
officials upped the alert and ordered another large-scale evacuation, with
nearly 40,000 people now staying in 225 shelters, according to the Disaster
Mitigation Agency in Karangasem. But tens of thousands of villagers have
remained in their homes because they feel safe or don't want to abandon
their farms and livestock.
"Ash has covered my house on the floor,
walls, banana trees outside, everywhere" said Wayan Lanus, who fled his
village in Buana Giri with his wife and daughter.
Flows of volcanic mud have been spotted
on Agung's slopes, and Arculus warned more are possible since it's the rainy
season on Bali.
"They're not making a lot of noise.
It's just suddenly coming like a flash flood out of nowhere," he said. "You
do not want to be near them. Stay out of the valleys."
Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of
Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes.
Spring wedding at Windsor Castle for Prince Harry and Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for the media in the grounds of
Kensington Palace in London, Monday Nov. 27. (Eddie Mulholland/Pool via AP)
Gregory Katz and Jill Lawless
London (AP) — It will be a
spring wedding on the glorious grounds of Windsor Castle for love-struck
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Royal officials — thrilled with the
international response to news of the couple's engagement, and the positive
reaction to their first ever TV appearance — revealed a few key details
Tuesday but kept mum on others, such as who will be Harry's best man?
The wedding will be in May, but the
date has not been chosen, Harry's communications secretary, Jason Knauf,
told a packed briefing at Buckingham Palace.
"In a happy moment in their lives, it
means a great deal to them that so many people throughout the UK, the
Commonwealth and around the world are celebrating with them," he said before
fielding questions about things like how many of Markle's rescue dogs would
move to Britain with her.
Knauf said Harry's grandmother, Queen
Elizabeth II, had given permission for the couple to wed at St. George's
Chapel, the historic church on the Windsor Castle grounds that has long been
a touchstone for royal rites of passage. He said the 91-year-old monarch
will attend the wedding.
Windsor Castle, west of London, is one
of the queen's favorite residences. St. George's, the 15th-century chapel
where the couple will wed, is more intimate than Westminster Abbey, where
Harry's older brother, William, married Kate Middleton in 2011.
Knauf said Windsor "is a very special
place for Prince Harry," and that he and Markle have regularly spent time
there since they began dating about a year and a half ago.
He said the wedding "will be a moment
of fun and joy that will reflect the characters of the bride and groom."
The image-conscious royals also made
clear in a statement that the royal family, not British taxpayers, will foot
the bill for what is expected to be a grand extravaganza. The family will
pay for the church service, the music, the flowers, the decorations and the
reception that follows.
Harry's press team is keeping some
details private for the moment — perhaps because final decisions have not
It's also not clear who will be Harry's
best man, though older brother William would seem to be a strong contender.
Knauf also would not say whether
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will preside over the service. And as
for what titles will be given to Harry and Markle, that will be decided by
the queen and revealed at a later date.
The palace was ready to answer some
delicate questions about the 36-year-old Markle's move to Britain and her
taking up a senior role in the royal family, sometimes called "the firm."
Knauf said she will comply with all
immigration requirements and will become a British citizen, a process that
may take several years, and will retain her U.S. citizenship throughout the
He did not say whether she would drop
her U.S. citizenship at some point.
Asked about her religion, Knauf said
Markle is a Protestant who will be baptized in the Church of England, which
is headed by the queen in a largely ceremonial role.
Markle's personal belongings are being
shipped from Canada, where she has lived for seven years while performing in
the TV legal drama "Suits," to Nottingham Cottage, where she and Harry will
live. The cottage is located on the grounds of Kensington Palace in central
She has already brought one of her two
rescue pups, Guy, but the other — Bogart — is being left behind and will
reside permanently with "good friends," Knauf said.
The union of the 33-year-old prince and
Markle, an accomplished TV actress in her own right, represents a blending
of Hollywood and royalty that is expected to draw an international audience
— officials said it is a safe assumption that the service will be televised.
The couple will carry out their first
official engagement on Friday, visiting a youth charity and a World AIDS Day
event in Nottingham in central England. For Markle, it will be a first taste
of life as a working royal.
Markle's divorced status would once
have barred her from marrying the prince in church. Harry's father Prince
Charles, who is heir to the British throne, married his wife Camilla in a
low-key civil ceremony in 2005 because both bride and groom were divorced.
Camilla said Tuesday she was
"delighted" her stepson was marrying the U.S. actress.
"America's loss is our gain," she said.
Newspapers hailed news of the
engagement as a breath of fresh air and symbol of a modernizing monarchy.
The Daily Telegraph said in an
editorial: "A divorced, mixed-race Hollywood actress who attended a Roman
Catholic school is to marry the son of the next king. Such a sentence could
simply not have been written a generation ago."
Russian probe asks if czar's 1918 killing was ritual murder
In this file
photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, a visitor walks past a photo showing
Russia's last Czar Nicholas II with his family at the 1914-1945 Russia
history exhibition in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Moscow (AP) — The head of a
Russian Orthodox Church panel looking into the 1918 killing of Russia's last
czar and his family said it is investigating whether it was a ritual murder
— a statement that has angered Jewish groups.
Father Tikhon Shevkunov, the Orthodox
bishop heading the panel, said after Monday's session that "a large share of
the church commission members have no doubts that the murder was ritual."
A representative of the Investigative
Committee, Russia's top state investigative agency, also said that it will
conduct its own probe into the theory.
Boruch Gorin, a spokesman for the
Federation of Jewish Communities, Russia's largest Jewish group, expressed a
strong concern Tuesday about the claims that he described as a "throwback to
the darkest ages."
Some Christians in medieval Europe
believed that Jews murdered Christians to use their blood for ritual
purposes, something which historians say has no basis in Jewish religious
law or historical fact and instead reflected anti-Jewish hostility in
Nicholas II, his wife and their five
children were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad on July 17, 1918, in a
basement room of a merchant's house where they were held in the Ural
Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. The Russian Orthodox Church made them
saints in 2000.
The speculation that the czar and his
family were killed by the Jews for ritual purposes long has been promoted by
fringe anti-Semitic groups.
Gorin said his group was shocked and
angered by the statements from both the bishop and the Investigative
Committee, which he said sounded like a revival of the century-old
"anti-Semitic myth" about the killing of the imperial family.
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch
Kirill attended Monday's meeting of the church panel investigating the
killing of the czar and his family. He didn't address the issue of whether
the killing was ritual, but emphasized that the church needs to find answers
to all outstanding questions and "doesn't have the right for mistakes."
Bishop Tikhon's words carried
particular weight given his reported close ties to Russian President
Vladimir Putin and influence within the church.
The bishop elaborated on his statement
Tuesday, telling the state RIA Novosti news agency that the "Bolsheviks and
their allies engaged in the most unexpected and diverse ritual symbolism."
He claimed that "quite a few people involved in the execution — in Moscow or
Yekaterinburg — saw the killing of the deposed Russian emperor as a special
ritual of revenge" and added that Yakov Yurovsky, the organizer of the
execution who was Jewish, later boasted about his "sacral historic mission."
The conspiracy theories blaming the
Jews for spearheading the Bolshevik revolution were popular among the
post-revolution Russian emigres and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, and
were later picked up by some hard-line nationalists after the Soviet
While Tikhon steered clear of singling
out Jews as those responsible for the killing, Gorin said that the use of
the term coined by anti-Semites of all stripes was "extremely alarming."
"Bishop Tikhon's invectives undoubtedly
cast a shadow over the Russian Orthodox Church," he said. "And a
representative of the Investigative Committee talking about the same theory
yesterday casts a shadow on the government as a whole."
Gorin said he expects both the church
leadership and Russian government officials to provide explanation.
Lyudmila Narusova, a member of the
Russian upper house of parliament and the widow of St. Petersburg's mayor,
Anatoly Sobchak, also criticized the panel's talk about the ritual murder of
the czar's family, saying that it was fomenting ethnic strife, according to
the Interfax news agency.
Putin, who served as Sobchak's deputy
in the 1990s and maintained contacts with his family, is set to attend a
meeting of top Russian Orthodox Church's hierarchs later this week.
Under Putin's rule, Russia's Jewish
community has enjoyed a revival after a wave of emigration to Israel and
other countries before and after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Pope dives into Rohingya crisis upon arrival in Myanmar
Pope Francis is greeted by young children in
traditional clothes upon his arrival at Yangon's airport, Myanmar, Monday,
Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Yangon, Myanmar (AP) — Pope
Francis arrived Monday on a visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh to encourage
their tiny Catholic communities and reach out to some of Asia's most
peripheral and poor, but the big question looming was whether he would utter
the word "Rohingya" while he's here.
Francis immediately dove into the
Rohingya Muslim crisis by meeting Monday evening with Myanmar's powerful
military leader, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and three officials from the bureau of
special operations. The general is in charge of the security operations in
Rakhine state, where a military crackdown against the Muslim minority has
sent more than 620,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke didn't
provide details of the private, 15-minute meeting at the archbishop's
residence, other than to say that "They spoke of the great responsibility of
the authorities of the country in this moment of transition."
Rohingya in recent months have been
subject to what the United Nations says is a campaign of "textbook ethnic
cleansing" by the military in Rakhine. But Myanmar's local Catholic Church
has publicly urged Francis to avoid using the term "Rohyingya" because it is
shunned by many locally because the ethnic group is not a recognized
minority in the country.
Francis, though, has already prayed for
"our Rohingya brothers and sisters," and any decision to avoid the term
could be viewed as a capitulation to Myanmar's military and a stain on his
legacy of standing up for the most oppressed and marginalized of society, no
matter how impolitic.
Burke didn't say if Francis used the
term in his meeting with the general, which ended with an exchange of gifts:
Francis gave him a medallion of the trip, while the general gave the pope a
harp in the shape of a boat, and an ornate rice bowl.
Upon arrival in Yangon, the pope was
greeted by local Catholic officials and his motorcade passed by thousands of
Myanmar's Catholics, who lined the roads, wearing traditional attire and
Children in traditional dress greeted
him as he drove in a simple blue sedan, chanting "Viva il papa!" (Long live
the pope) and waving small plastic Burmese and Holy See flags. Posters
wishing Francis "a heartiest of welcome" lined the route into town.
En route from Rome, Francis greeted
journalists on the plane and apologized for the expected heat, which was 90
degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) upon his arrival and is expected to rise
during his stay.
On Tuesday, Francis begins the main
protocol portion of his week-long trip, meeting with the country's civilian
leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and delivering a speech to other Burmese
authorities and diplomats. He'll greet a delegation of Rohingya Muslims and
meet with Bangladesh's political and religious leadership in Dhaka. Masses
for the Catholic faithful and meetings with the local church hierarchy round
out the itinerary in each country.
The trip was planned before the latest
spasm of violence erupted in August, when Rohingya militants attacked
security positions in Rakhine. Myanmar security forces responded with a
scorched-earth campaign that forced more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee to
Bangladesh, where they are living in squalid refugee camps.
In the Kutupalong refugee camp in
southern Bangladesh, Senu Ara, 35, welcomed Francis' arrival for what he
might be able to do for the refugees.
"He might help us get the peace that we
are desperately searching for," she said. "Even if we stay here he will make
our situation better. If he decides to send us back, he will do so in a
But in Yangon, the sentiment was
different. Myanmar's government and most of the Buddhist majority consider
them Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country,
though Rohingya have lived there for generations.
"Being a religious leader — Catholic
leader — means that he is well-regarded, but of course there is this worry
if he says something, people might say, 'OK, he just came to meddle,'" said
Burmese analyst Khin Zaw Win, a former political prisoner. "So, I think a
lot of diplomacy is needed, in addition to the public relations."
Seaman Kyaw Thu Maung said the issue is
difficult because the term "Rohingya" carries so much political weight for
all of Myanmar's people.
"But my feeling is that if the pope is
going to talk about the Rakhine issue, the people aren't going to like the
pope anymore," he said.
Pakistan law minister resigns, Islamists celebrate victory
of the radical religious party, 'Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah',
celebrate after the country's Law Minister Zahid Hamid's resignation, during
a sit-in protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Anjum
Munir Ahmed and Zarar Khan
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistani
Islamists celebrated their victory over the government and called off their
sit-in on Monday after the country's law minister resigned, caving in to the
fundamentalist protesters who have been demanding his ouster in a
After Zahid Hamid's resignation, the
Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party, which was behind the sit-in in
Islamabad and protests in other cities and towns across Pakistan, said they
were dispersing peacefully under an agreement with the government.
The development underscored how a small
Islamist party was able to pressure the Pakistani government and force it to
accept its demands through a protracted standoff that started earlier in
The Islamists had demanded Hamid's
resignation over an omitted reference to Islam's Prophet Muhammad in a
parliamentary bill. He apologized for the omission in the bill, saying it
was a clerical error that was later corrected.
But the Islamists persisted, taking to
the streets and setting up their sit-in at the Faizabad intersection on the
edge of the Pakistani capital. The Islamists effectively blocked the
country's key highway, the Grand Trunk Road motorway, linking Islamabad with
the eastern Punjab province and the northwest, disrupting life and forcing
commuters to look for alternate routes.
Clashes erupted on Saturday when riot
police tried to disperse the Islamabad sit-in and descended on the
protesters with tear gas and batons, leaving six dead and dozens injured.
The violent crackdown also triggered
solidarity protests by Islamists in other Pakistani cities and towns,
leading to what could have been a major political crisis that could have
paralyzed many urban areas.
Hamid, the law minister, submitted his
resignation to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi late on Sunday after
security forces held back from another attempt to disperse the protesters,
three security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they
were not authorized to talk to the media.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal told
Justice Shaukat Sadiqui of the Islamabad High Court on Monday that the
government signed an agreement with the rally organizers to avoid a
"civil-war like situation."
Islamabad-based analyst Imtiaz Gul
described the outcome of the standoff as a "retreat" by the state. He said
Saturday's crackdown "was a miserably planned and poorly executed."
"This operation was launched by
thousands of security forces against Islamists and it ended up with the
state's retreat," Gul told The Associated Press.
At the Faizabad intersection, jubilant
Islamists kissed the hand of their leader and party chief, firebrand cleric
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, handed out sweets and chanted, "God is Great" and
"Prophet, we are here for you."
In announcing the deal with the
government, Rizvi told supporters they "are immediately ending" the rally.
He also thanked the army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, for facilitating the
agreement under which Hamid would resign and all detained party activists
would be freed.
Rizvi asked his followers to pack up
but await the return of their detained activists so they could all go back
together to the city of Lahore, the party's base. Buses lined up near the
site amid tight security to take them back to Lahore later Monday.
After Rizvi spoke, security forces
began removing shipping containers surrounding the sit-in that had meant to
prevent the protest from spreading deeper into the city.
Under the deal, the Islamists also
agreed not to issue a fatwa, or Muslim edict that could endanger Hamid. The
minister's home in eastern Punjab province was twice attacked by Islamists
in recent days though he was not there at the time.
The government agreed not to seek any
compensation from the organizers for the damage caused to government and
public property during Saturday's violence in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and in
other parts of the country.
Ghulam Nabi Joya, a middle-aged bearded
man from the district of Jhang in Punjab province, was among those
celebrating Hamid's resignation at Faizabad.
"This is the greatest news I ever heard
in my life. Our efforts in love of the Prophet bore fruit," said.
Shahid Irfan, 22, who was wounded in
face and right hand in Saturday's clashes, said he was overjoyed.
"What else we can want from Allah after
this," he asked. "I think we are all on a pathway to heaven. ... Prophet, we
are here for you."
Vietnam sentences activist to 7 years in prison
Hoa, center, stands on trial in central province of Ha Tinhi, Vietnam,
Monday, Nov. 27. (Cong Tuong/Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Hanoi, Vietnam (AP) — A court in
central Vietnam on Monday sentenced an activist to seven years in prison for
producing online videos and interviews related to an environmental disaster
that instigated anti-government protests, in the authorities' latest
crackdown on dissent.
Following a trial that lasted half a
day, Nguyen Van Hoa was convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda by the
People's Court in Ha Tinh province.
He was also charged with using social
media platforms including Facebook to spread documents that defamed the
government, the state-run online Ha Tinh newspaper reported. It said Hoa
also sent distorting articles to "reactionary" groups in exile for financial
Court officials weren't immediately
available for comment.
In April last year, Taiwanese-owned
Formosa Plastics Group's steel complex in Ha Tinh province dumped toxins
into the ocean that killed hundreds of tons of fish along 200 kilometers
(124 miles) of coastline in four central provinces. It was one of Vietnam's
worst environmental disasters.
The incident devastated the region's
seafood and tourism industries and sparked protests against Formosa and the
local government for its allegedly slow response to the disaster. The
Taiwanese company was ordered to pay compensation of $500 million.
The Ha Tinh newspaper said 22-year-old
Hoa had directly arranged for the videos, photos and interviews related to
the disaster to be posted on social media to instigate protests against the
Vietnam opened up to foreign trade and
investment three decades ago and has one of the fastest-growing economies in
Asia, but the Communist government continues to have almost no tolerance for
International human rights groups and
some Western governments often criticize Vietnam for jailing people for
peacefully expressing their views, but Vietnam's government says only
lawbreakers are punished.
In the last 12 months, police have
arrested at least 28 people and charged them with vaguely interpreted
national security violations, according to New York-based Human Rights
More than 100 activists are currently
serving prison terms for exercising their basic freedoms of expression,
assembly, association and religion, the rights group says.
Philippine modernization program imperils jeepney
Sept. 26, 2017, photo, passengers board jeepneys at a terminal in Manila,
Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Manila, Philippines (AP) — The
Philippines' iconic passenger jeepney, once regarded as Manila's "King of
the Road," is chugging toward change and uncertainty.
A remnant of World War II, the gaudily
decorated jeepneys evolved from the U.S. military jeeps that American forces
left behind after the war. The vehicles were modified and reproduced by
Filipinos, and for decades were their most popular mode of land transport,
becoming a daily showcase of Philippine culture on wheels.
Atop the jeepney's hood stands a horse
emblem in chrome, with the vehicle's body wrapped in vibrant colors and all
sorts of artwork, ads and mundane slogans.
Running on diesel engines, jeepneys,
with their low fares, have been the choice transport of working-class
Filipinos. But they have also had a major downside: The dark fumes coughed
out by thousands of jeepneys have been blamed for Manila's notoriously
Now, a Philippine government
modernization program aims for a major makeover of the jeepney and other
modes of public transportation by improving their engines, safety and
convenience. Aging jeepneys must go or be outfitted with cleaner engines,
Wi-Fi and security cameras in an overhaul that poor Filipino drivers and
owners say they can't afford.
George San Mateo, who leads a group of
drivers and owners called Piston, said the government program would displace
more than 600,000 drivers and 250,000 owners and jack up fares. With new
jeepneys costing between 1.2 million and 1.6 million pesos
($23,000-$31,000), San Mateo complained that drivers have not been offered a
concrete financial assistance scheme by the government.
Drivers have protested, but they got a
warning from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte after staging a two-day
strike last month.
"By Jan. 1, if I see any jeep of yours
which has not been registered, I'll drag them away in front of you," the
tough-talking president said.
"It is given that every time there is
change, there is resistance," said Aileen Lizada of the government's Land
Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board. The government, she said,
will convince drivers and owners that the program will actually benefit
them, the public and the environment.
Ed Sarao, whose family's Sarao Motors
Inc. is among the most popular jeepney manufacturers in the Philippines,
said the company is awaiting the enforcement of the modernization program
"Right now people are still clamoring
for the traditional jeepney," Sarao said, although he added that many
prospective buyers have been asking when the modern jeepneys will roll on
"I tell them that the government still
has no go signal yet so it is still a wait and see situation for the
manufacturers," Sarao said.
Promoters have been hard at work.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was invited to take a short ride on
an "e-jeep," which runs on electricity, this month on the sidelines of an
annual diplomatic summit in Manila.
"He's very happy because he can see our
aspirations in changing the Filipinos' lives," said Philippine Transport
Secretary Arthur Tugade, who accompanied Trudeau to the ceremony. "He said
that transportation here is really difficult so there needs to be a lot of
patience and understanding and creativity to address the problem."
Manufacturers of the "modern jeepney"
recently unveiled their models, some of which featured security and
dashboard cameras, speed limiters, air conditioning to fight the tropical
heat and an automatic fare collection system. Some were as big as buses for
more passenger load and others have completely discarded the look of
The impending change has divided
Roberto Martin, president of another
group of jeepney drivers and owners called Pasang Masda, said that with some
jeepneys running on 30- to 40-year-old engines, drivers should yield to
change for the sake of the planet and public health.
"Let's drive the old jeepneys over to
the museum," Martin said. "If people look for the jeepneys, let's bring them
to the museum."
Victorino Samson, who has raised his
family and children as a driver of traditional jeepneys for more than three
decades, disagreed. The modernization program, he said, should be opposed
because it would push the old jeepneys into extinction and deprive him and
thousands of other drivers of work that has provided about 500 pesos ($10)
in daily income.
Some of 62-year-old Samson's sons have
become drivers themselves.
"Where will our jeeps go? How about the
drivers?" Samson asked with a worried look.
Bali volcano alert raised, international airport closed
carry their belongings during an evacuation following the eruption of Mount
Agung, seen in the background, in Karangasem, Indonesia, Sunday, Nov. 26.
(AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati
Karangasem, Indonesia (AP) —
Indonesian authorities raised the alert for a rumbling volcano to the
highest level on Monday and closed the international airport on the tourist
island of Bali, stranding thousands of travelers.
Mount Agung has been hurling ash
thousands of meters into the atmosphere since Saturday, which had already
forced the small international airport on the neighboring island of Lombok
to close as the plumes drifted east.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency
said Bali's international airport, where most flights had been continuing,
was closed for 24 hours. It said authorities would consider reopening it
Tuesday after evaluating the situation.
Geological agency head, Kasbani, who
goes by one name, said the alert level was raised at 6 a.m. because the
volcano has shifted from steam-based eruptions to magmatic eruptions.
However he says he's still not expecting a major eruption.
"We don't expect a big eruption but we
have to stay alert and anticipate," he said.
The exclusion zone around the crater
was widened to 10 kilometers (6 miles). Previously it ranged between 6 and
Ash up to half a centimeter (less than
half an inch) thick has settled on villages around the volcano and soldiers
and police distributed masks on the weekend.
The volcano's last major eruption in
1963 killed about 1,100 people.
Video showed passengers on the tarmac
at Bali's airport checking their phones and chatting. Bali is Indonesia's
top tourist destination, with its gentle Hindu culture, surf beaches and
lush green interior attracting about 5 million visitors a year.
Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of
Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes.
Mount Agung's alert status was raised
to the highest level in September following a dramatic increase in tremors
from the volcano, which doubled the exclusion zone around the crater and
prompted more than 140,000 people to leave the area. The alert was lowered
on Oct. 29 after a decrease in activity.
Explosion in Chinese port city kills 2, injures 30
This image from video run by China's CCTV shows
debris and damaged vehicles following an explosion in Ningbo in east China's
Zhejiang province, Sunday, Nov. 26. (CCTV via AP Video)
Beijing (AP) — An explosion in a
port city south of Shanghai on Sunday killed two people and injured at least
30 others, knocked down buildings and left streets littered with damaged
cars and debris, the government and news reports said.
The early morning explosion struck a
riverfront neighborhood in Ningbo, one of China's busiest ports, the
official Xinhua News Agency and other outlets reported.
Firefighters traced the blast to a hole
in the ground where a toilet had been but the cause still was under
investigation, state television said on its website. It gave no indication
whether the explosion site was inside a building.
Two people were killed and two more
seriously injured, the district office announced on its social media
account. It gave no details.
At least 30 others were taken to
hospitals, according to Huanqiu.com, a website operated by the Global Times
China suffers frequent deadly fires and
industrial accidents, often blamed on negligence.
Official safety crackdowns have
improved conditions in some areas, but many companies still cut corners. In
2015, an explosion traced to improperly stored chemicals killed at least 173
people in Tianjin, a port east of Beijing.
Sunday's blast knocked down residential
buildings, but they were vacant and in the process of being demolished,
Huanqiu.com said. It said there might have been people in the area
collecting scrap for recycling.
Bystanders said the explosion might
have been caused by a gas pipeline that was damaged during demolition work,
but the Ningbo gas company said it had no lines in the area, the China Youth
Daily newspaper reported on its website.
Photos on News.163.com showed an
injured woman being carried away on a man's back and what appeared to be the
body of man lying in the debris of a wrecked building.
Video clips on multiple websites showed
a white cloud of smoke rising above the explosion site and rolling across
A photo on news.ifeng.com showed a room
in an industrial building with a floor-to-ceiling hole blown through an
exterior wall. Other photos showed apartments with windows blown out and
glass littering the floors.
Pakistan Islamists rally on after deadly clashes with police
Supporters of religious groups take part in a
rally to express solidarity with protesters, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday,
Nov. 26. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
Islamabad (AP) — Pakistani
Islamists pressed ahead with their rally near Islamabad in even larger
numbers on Sunday, a day after clashes with police left six dead and dozens
Angry protesters gathered on the edge
of Pakistan's capital torched a car, three motorcycles and a guard post
erected near the rally site Sunday. No casualties were reported.
Pakistani riot police and paramilitary
troops were deployed nearby — apparently in preparation for another
crackdown after security forces on Saturday failed to disperse supporters of
the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party. But by midday, there was no
action by the security forces.
The demonstrators have camped out at
the Faizabad intersection for the past three weeks, demanding the
resignation of the country's law minister over an omitted reference to the
Prophet Muhammad in a parliamentary bill. The minister, Zahid Hamid,
apologized for the omission — a phrase saying that Muhammad is the last
prophet in Islam was dropped from the text — and said it was a clerical
error that was later corrected.
But the Islamists continued the rally,
adamant that Hamid resign.
"God willing we will get victory and
will disperse with honor," cleric Mohammad Shahid Chishti told The
Associated Press as about 3,000 demonstrators gathered Sunday.
On Saturday, security forces failed to
disperse the protesters when riot police moved in with tear gas and batons.
Hospital officials said nearly 200 people were hurt, most of them policemen.
They confirmed six people were killed in clashes with police at the
The government asked the army for help
but the military questioned the need of army troops, saying enough police
and para military troops were available.
Pakistan's commission that regulates
electronic media continued to keep broadcasts off the air for a second day
Sunday, allegedly because the media had violated the government policy
banning live coverage of security operations. Key social media sites also
Supporters of the Islamist party
blocked roads and staged sit-ins for a second day Sunday in cities such as
Karachi, Lahore, Multan and others, in a show of solidarity with the
Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, was
completely shut down for the second day Sunday as hundreds of protesters
blocked over a dozen important intersections. They were largely peaceful but
occasionally younger men hurled stones at the police, though elders quickly
The biggest of almost two dozen rallies
scattered across Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, was near the
Punjab Assembly building, where some 3,000 protesters gathered peacefully.
Cleric Ashraf Jalali said the
protesters would not leave until their demand for Hamid's resignation is
met. "We are peaceful but ready to face any kind of operation" by the
police, he said.
In Multan, some 5,000 Islamist
supporters marched through the city, chanting slogans against the
government. Hundreds of protesters blocked roads elsewhere in Multan and in
some places set car tires on fire. Public bus service was also suspended in
Multan, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Shah Mohammad Qureshi, a moderate
opposition leader, criticized the government, saying it had mishandled the
"This government has blocked the entire
country to clear one intersection in Islamabad," Qureshi said.
Malik Mohammad Ahmed, the Punjab
provincial spokesman, said protesters in Rawalpindi on Saturday attacked the
residence of the former interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, damaging the main
gate. They wounded lawmaker Javed Latif in Shaikhupura, hitting him in the
head with a stone, he said. Angry crowds also attacked Law Minister Hamid's
villa in Pasroor, ransacking the place.
Nepal votes in 1st provincial polls amid democracy hopes
man casts his vote during the legislative elections in Chautara,
Sindupalchowk, 80 kilometers east of Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, Nov. 26. (AP
Chautara, Nepal (AP) — Residents
of mountain villages and foothill towns voted Sunday in Nepal's first
provincial polls, with the hope of bringing government closer to the
Himalayan nation's rural and remote areas.
Nepal's chief election commissioner,
Ayodhi Prasad Yadav, said turnout was more than 65 percent among the 3.2
million voters who were choosing lawmakers in seven newly formed federal
states as well as the national assembly.
The lawmakers who are elected on
Sunday, and Dec. 7 in the remaining parts of the country, will be able to
name their states, draft provincial laws and choose local leaders.
"The central government is finally
moving to our region. We will be closer to the government now with the state
assemblies," said schoolteacher Swasthani Thapa, who was among the voters
lining outside the polling station at Chautara, 80 kilometers (50 miles)
east of Kathmandu, even before it opened at 7 a.m.
Chautara was one of the areas hardest
hit by a devastating 2015 earthquake. People in Nepal's mountain regions
complained they did not get enough help from the central government because
their voices were not heard. Two years later, destroyed and damaged houses
are still scattered around Chautara and surrounding areas.
"This is a historic day for us," said
businessman Surya Lal Shrestha. "The setting up of states will give final
shape to the democracy process, which should finally bring stability and
development for our country."
In nearby Balefi village, election
official Rijedra Subedi said people walked up to four hours to reach the
polling station from their remote mountain villages.
"Farmer left their fields and laborers
took the day off to come vote with their families," Subedi said.
Nepal's slow path to democracy began in
2006, when protesters forced the king to give up his rule. Two years later,
Nepal officially abolished the centuries-old monarchy and decided that a
federal system would best deliver services to all corners of the nation,
which remains one of the poorest in the world.
But bickering among political parties
delayed until 2015 the implementation of the new constitution, which
declared Nepal a republic.
Security was stepped up for the
elections, with thousands of police and army soldiers deployed. According to
the Home Ministry, more than 400 people were detained in days leading up to
Soon after the constitution was
implemented in 2015, protests by ethnic groups in southern Nepal turned
violent and left some 50 people dead.
The ethnic Madhesi group protested for
months, saying they did not get enough territory in the province assigned to
them. They said they deserved more land because they represented a bigger
population. Their protest blocked the border with India for months, cutting
off fuel and other supplies in Nepal.
Update November 25-26, 2017
Militants attack Egyptian mosque, kill at least 235 people
Abdel Nasser, 14, receives medical treatment at Suez Canal University
hospital in Ismailia, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 24, after he was in injured during
an attack on a mosque. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Brian Rohan and Samy Magdy
Cairo (AP) — In the
deadliest-ever attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt, militants assaulted a
crowded mosque Friday during prayers, blasting helpless worshippers with
gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades and blocking their escape routes. At
least 235 people were killed before the assailants got away.
The attack in the troubled northern
part of the Sinai Peninsula targeted a mosque frequented by Sufis, members
of a mystic movement within Islam. Islamic militants, including the local
affiliate of the Islamic State group, consider Sufis heretics because of
their less literal interpretations of the faith.
The startling bloodshed in the town of
Bir al-Abd also wounded at least 109, according to the state news agency. It
offered the latest sign that, despite more than three years of fighting in
Sinai, the Egyptian government has failed to deter an IS-led insurgency.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi vowed
that the attack "will not go unpunished" and that Egypt would persevere with
its war on terrorism. But he did not specify what new steps might be taken.
The military and security forces have
already been waging a tough campaign against militants in the towns,
villages and desert mountains of Sinai, and Egypt has been in a state of
emergency for months. Across the country, thousands have been arrested in a
crackdown on suspected Islamists as well as against other dissenters and
critics, raising concern about human rights violations.
Seeking to spread the violence,
militants over the past year have carried out deadly bombings on churches in
the capital of Cairo and other cities, killing dozens of Christians. The IS
affiliate is also believed to be behind the 2016 downing of a Russian
passenger jet that killed 226 people.
Friday's assault was the first major
militant attack on a Muslim congregation, and it eclipsed past attacks, even
dating back to a previous Islamic militant insurgency in the 1990s.
The militants descended on the al-Rouda
mosque in four off-road vehicles as hundreds worshipped inside. At least a
dozen attackers charged in, opening fire randomly, the main cleric at the
mosque, Sheikh Mohamed Abdel Fatah Zowraiq told The Associated Press by
phone from a Nile Delta town where he was recuperating from bruises and
scratches suffered in the attack.
He said there were explosions as well.
Officials cited by the state news agency MENA said the attackers fired
rocket-propelled grenades and shot men as they tried to run from the
building. The militants blocked off escape routes with burning cars, three
police officers on the scene told The Associated Press, speaking on
condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the
Abdullah Abdel-Nasser, 14, who was
attending prayers with his father, said the shooting began just as the
cleric was about to start his sermon, sending panicked worshippers rushing
to hide behind concrete columns or whatever shelter they could find. At one
point, a militant shouted for children to leave, so Abdel-Nasser said he
rushed out, though he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel and a bullet.
"I saw many people on the floor, many
dead. I don't think anyone survived," he said at a hospital in the Suez
Canal city of Ismailia, where around 40 of the wounded were taken, including
Mohammed Ali said 18 members of his
extended family were killed in the attack. The mosque belonged to a local
clan, the Jreer, so many of its members worshipped there.
"Where was the army? It's only a few
kilometers away. This is the question we cannot find an answer to," he said.
The attackers escaped, apparently
before security forces could confront them.
Afterward, dozens of bloodied bodies
wrapped in sheets were laid across the mosque floor, according to images
circulating on social media. Relatives lined up outside a nearby hospital as
ambulances raced back and forth. The state news agency MENA put the death
toll at 235.
Resident Ashraf el-Hefny said many of
the victims were workers at a nearby salt mine who had come for Friday
services at the mosque.
"Local people brought the wounded to
hospital on their own cars and trucks," he said by telephone.
No one claimed immediate responsibility
for the attack. But the IS group affiliate has targeted Sufis in the past.
Last year, the militants beheaded a leading local Sufi religious figure, the
blind sheikh Suleiman Abu Heraz, and posted photos of the killing online.
Islamic State group propaganda often
denounces Sufis. In the January edition of an IS online magazine, a figure
purporting to be a high level official in the Sinai affiliate of the group
vowed to target Sufis, accusing them of idolatry and heretical "innovation"
in religion and warning that the group will "not permit (their) presence" in
Sinai or Egypt.
Millions of Egyptians belong to Sufi
orders, which hold sessions of chanting and poetry meant to draw the
faithful closer to God. Sufis also hold shrines containing the tombs of holy
men in particular reverence.
Islamic hardliners view such practices
as improper, even heretical, and militants across the region often destroy
Sufi shrines, saying they encourage idolatry because people pray to the
figures buried there for intercession.
El-Sissi convened a high-level meeting
of security officials as his office declared a three-day mourning period.
In a statement, he said the attack
would only "add to our insistence" on combatting extremists. Addressing the
nation later on television, he said Egypt is waging a battle against
militancy on behalf of the rest of the world, a declaration he has often
made in seeking international support for the fight.
President Donald Trump denounced what
he called a "horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and
"The world cannot tolerate terrorism"
he said on Twitter, "we must defeat them militarily and discredit the
extremist ideology that forms the basis of their existence!" He later
tweeted that he would call el-Sissi and said the attack showed the need to
get "tougher and smarter," including by building the wall he has promised
along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Islamic militants stepped up their
campaign of violence in northern Sinai after the military ousted the elected
but divisive Islamist Mohammed Morsi from power in 2013 and launched a
fierce crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.
The result has been a long, grinding
conflict centered on el-Arish and nearby villages. The militants have been
unable to control territory, but the military and security forces have also
been unable to bring security, as the extremists continuously carry out
The attacks have largely focused on
military and police, killing hundreds, although exact numbers are unclear as
journalists and independent investigators are banned from the area. The
militants have also assassinated individuals the group considers spies for
the government or religious heretics.
Egypt has also faced attacks by
militants in its Western Desert.
'Gunfire' sparks panic in London, but police find nothing
outside the London Palladium in the west end of London after Oxford Circus
station was evacuated Friday Nov. 24. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
London (AP) — Shoppers scattered
in panic and police flooded one of London's busiest areas Friday after
multiple reports of shots being fired at Oxford Circus subway station.
But an hour later police said they had
found no sign of any gunshots, suspects or casualties.
The panic erupted on one of the busiest
shopping days of the year, in a jittery city that has been hit by four
violent attacks this year.
The area, full of big-name chain shops
and department stores, was packed with shoppers browsing Black Friday sales.
Amid reports of several shots being
fired, commuters and shoppers ran from Oxford Circus station and took
shelter in nearby stores.
"I was next to the Tube station and
everyone started screaming and shouting and then a flood of people came up
the stairs," said Greg Owen, 37.
Police said they were responding "as if
the incident is terrorist related," sending armed officers to the scene,
cordoning off several blocks and telling people to avoid the area.
Some stores filled with people taking
shelter; others were evacuated. At upmarket department store Selfridges,
shoppers were ordered to leave. At least three heavily armed men believed to
be police could be seen on the escalators inside.
About an hour after the first report of
shots, the Metropolitan Police force said officers "have not located any
trace of any suspects, evidence of shots fired or causalities." Oxford
Circus subway station reopened soon afterward.
It is not yet clear what set off the
British Transport Police said one woman
suffered a minor injury while leaving the station. The force, which patrols
the train and subway network, said it was investigating what had caused the
initial report of shots inside the station.
After declaring the incident over, the
Metropolitan Police said that "given the nature of the information received,
the Met responded in line with our existing operation as if the incident was
terrorism, including the deployment of armed officers."
Kensington Palace officials said the
security alert will not keep Prince William and his pregnant wife Kate from
attending a Royal Variety Performance Friday evening at the nearby London
Palladium. Officials said in a statement that the royal couple will arrive
later than had been planned but should be in place by the start of the show.
Britons in general, and Londoners in
particular, have been jumpy after a string of extremist attacks this year,
including deadly attacks using vehicles to hit pedestrians on Westminster
Bridge, London Bridge and outside a London mosque.
The city of Manchester was also
traumatized by a bombing at a concert arena, which killed 22 people.
Britain's official terrorist threat
level is set at "severe" indicating an attack is considered highly likely.
Pope's place as refugee champion tested in Myanmar
is shown in this Nov. 22, 2017, file photo. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Vatican City (AP) — Pope Francis
heads to Myanmar and Bangladesh with the international community excoriating
Myanmar's crackdown on Rohingya Muslims as "ethnic cleansing" but his own
church resisting the label and defending Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San
Suu Kyi as the only hope for democracy.
Francis will thus be walking a fraught
diplomatic tightrope during the Nov. 27-Dec. 2 visit, which will include
separate meetings with Suu Kyi, the powerful head of Myanmar's military as
well as a small group of Rohingya once Francis arrives in neighboring
Francis has defined his papacy by his
frequent denunciations of injustices committed against refugees, and he
would be expected to speak out strongly against the Rohingya plight. But he
is also the guest of Myanmar's government and must look out for the
well-being of his own tiny flock, a minority of just 659,000 Catholics in
the majority Buddhist nation of 51 million.
"Let's just say it's very interesting
diplomatically," Vatican spokesman Greg Burke responded when asked if
Francis' 21st foreign trip would be his most difficult.
The Rev. Thomas Reese, an American
Jesuit commentator, was more direct: "I have great admiration for the pope
and his abilities, but someone should have talked him out of making this
trip," Reese wrote recently on Religion News Service.
Reese argued that Francis' legacy as an
uncompromising champion of the oppressed will come up against the harsh
reality of blowback for Myanmar's minority Christians if he goes too far in
defending the Rohingya against the military's "clearance operations" in
"If he is prophetic, he puts Christians
at risk," Reese said. "If he is silent about the persecution of the
Rohingya, he loses moral credibility."
Francis isn't known for his deference
to protocol and he tends to call a spade a spade. But he has already been
urged by the Catholic Church in Myanmar and his hand-picked cardinal,
Charles Bo, to refrain from even using the term "Rohingya," which is
rejected by most in Myanmar.
"The pope clearly takes this advice
seriously," Burke said. "But we'll see together."
Francis has used the term "Rohingya" in
the past, when he condemned the "persecution of our Rohingya brothers,"
denounced their suffering and called for them to receive "full rights."
Myanmar's government and most of the
Buddhist majority don't recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, insisting
they are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh living illegally in the country.
It has denied them citizenship, even though they have lived in Myanmar, also
known as Burma, for generations.
The Vatican secretary of state,
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said Francis would likely call for a lasting
solution for the Rakhine Muslims that takes into account "the importance for
the people of having a nationality." He declined in a Vatican Radio
interview to use the term "Rohingya."
Francis had originally intended his
2017 itinerary to involve a visit to India and Bangladesh. But preparations
fell apart in India, and Myanmar was added in late, after Myanmar and the
Holy See established diplomatic relations during a visit by Suu Kyi to Rome
Since then, the situation on the ground
has deteriorated badly, after Rohingya militants attacked security positions
in poverty-wracked Rakhine in August. Myanmar security forces responded with
a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages that the U.N., U.S. and
human rights groups have labeled as textbook "ethnic cleansing."
More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to
Bangladesh, where they are living in squalid refugee camps. This week, the
U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict said the widespread gang rapes and
other forms of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls by the
Myanmar military could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and
Burke demurred when asked if the spasm
of violence had complicated the Vatican's plans, saying only that "stuff
happens" and "the trip was going to happen in any case."
Bo, whom Francis named as Myanmar's
first cardinal in 2015, has resisted terming the violence "ethnic
cleansing," saying the military response was disproportionate but that it
was "premature" and unhelpful to put a label on it.
He defended Suu Kyi as Myanmar's only
hope for democracy, saying criticism against her was "unfair" and that she
was working to implement recommendations by former U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan to improve opportunities for all religious minorities, Christians
The Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of
the AsiaNews news agency that closely covers the Catholic Church in Asia,
said he expected Francis would use the visit to help shore up Suu Kyi, whose
international stature has suffered as a result of the crisis even though she
is limited constitutionally in what she can say or do against the military.
"The question of the Rohingya is a
'casus belli' to eliminate the government of Aung Sang Suu Kyi," Cervellera
said. "If we take away Aung San Suu Kyi, the military dictatorship returns,
which means setting all the minorities on fire."
Francis will host an interfaith peace
meeting in the garden of the Dhaka archbishops' residence, at which a small
group of Rohingya are expected.
Other highlights of the trip include
Francis' meeting with Myanmar's Buddhist monks and encounters with Catholic
youth capping the visit in each country.
The youth encounters "demonstrate that
it's a young church with hope," Burke said.
Chinese parents demand answers to kindergarten abuse claims
man escorts a child to the RYB kindergarten in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov.
24. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Yi-Ling Liu and Sam McNeil
Beijing (AP) — Dozens of upset
parents gathered Friday outside a kindergarten in Beijing run by a
U.S.-listed company demanding answers after reports alleged some children
had been molested, abused and left with what appeared to be needle marks on
The allegations, coming just weeks
after reports of abuse at a Shanghai day-care center, prompted a wave of
anger from parents nationwide and a swift government response. The State
Council, China's cabinet, on Friday ordered nationwide inspections of
kindergartens to review teacher conduct, citing "recent incidents in many
After worrying about food and drug
safety for years, Chinese parents say they now worry about potential lapses
in supervision in the booming private preschool industry.
The latest scandal in Beijing erupted
after influential newsmagazine Caixin and other Chinese media quoted some
parents as saying their children were molested, forced to strip as
punishment, found with unexplained apparent needle marks on their bodies and
made to take unidentified white pills. The claims could not be independently
A group of parents demanded answers
outside the Xintiandi school gate on Friday while other parents led their
children past reporters and plainclothes security agents to the doors.
"We need clarification. As parents, we
have the right to question the school, don't we?" said a father who gave
only his surname, Wang.
Another man, who also gave only his
surname, Li, said: "If there is no explanation, I'm not sending my child
here anymore. I will come over every day until they respond."
The Beijing Municipal Commission of
Education said it would inspect other kindergartens in the Chinese capital,
while the company that runs the preschool, Beijing-based RYB Education, said
in a statement it has suspended three teachers. It promised to cooperate
with police in a thorough investigation and vowed "zero tolerance" for
It's the latest case involving schools
to spark online outrage in China.
"Laws must be enforced, supervision
strengthened, teacher wages increased," an editorial by the official Xinhua
News Agency said. "The childcare industry cannot be allowed to grow in an
Earlier this month, surveillance video
emerged of abuse at a Shanghai daycare center run by China's largest online
travel company, Ctrip. The video, uploaded by angry parents on Chinese
social media, showed teachers slapping a crying girl, pushing a toddler to
the ground, and force-feeding students a substance later confirmed to be
wasabi. In April, RYB Education suspended the headmaster and two teachers at
another branch in Beijing after a video of a teacher kicking children was
widely shared online.
In its statement on the latest reports,
RYB suggested it was the victim of frame-up and false accusations by an
"individual" and said it raised this with police.
Concern rippled beyond families at the
school. Pictures of alleged injuries were widely shared by users of China's
WeChat messaging service before the country's internet censors started
"This is quite terrifying," said Zhang
Yang, a mother in Beijing whose children don't attend RYB schools. She said
the allegations were alarming because they were being made against a
well-known private institution.
"All my friends went home and asked
their children if they've ever been given medications or injected," Zhang
RYB and its franchisees operate 1,300
daycare centers and nearly 500 kindergartens in 300 Chinese cities,
according to its website.
The company went public on the New York
Stock Exchange in September, joining other Chinese providers capitalizing on
rising demand from the country's emerging middle class for educational
In China, private early education
programs have seen steady growth in a market forecast to reach 200 billion
yuan ($30 billion) in 2017, according to China Online Education Institute.
But experts and parents say China lacks skilled and experienced teachers and
adequate oversight over the rapidly expanding sector.
Early childhood education providers
like RYB that are focused on rapid expansion to drive profits will find it
hard to ensure teacher quality, said Yong Zhao, a professor specializing in
Chinese education at the University of Kansas.
"When education becomes a profit-driven
center, you have to sacrifice somewhere," Zhao said. "You will not be
willing to spend more money on people and you will not attract high-quality
Oscar Pistorius' sentence increased to 13 years, 5 months
In this July
6, 2016, file photo, Oscar Pistorius, center, arrives at the High Court in
Pretoria, South Africa, for a sentencing hearing for the murder of his
girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his home on Valentine's Day 2013. (AP
Somerset West, South Africa (AP) —
Oscar Pistorius' prison sentence was more than doubled to 13 years and five
months on Friday, a surprisingly dramatic intervention by South Africa's
Supreme Court of Appeal in the Olympic athlete's fate after the murder of
girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
In an announcement that took a matter
of minutes, Supreme Court Justice Willie Seriti said a panel of judges
unanimously upheld an appeal by prosecutors against Pistorius' original
six-year sentence for shooting Steenkamp multiple times in his home in 2013.
Under that initial sentence, which the
court called "shockingly lenient," the double-amputee runner could have been
released on parole in mid-2019. Now, the earliest he'll be eligible for
parole is 2023.
The ruling could finally bring an end
to the near five-year legal saga surrounding Pistorius, a multiple
Paralympic champion and record-breaker who was the first amputee to run at
the Olympics and one of the most celebrated sportsmen in the world.
Steenkamp's parents, Barry and June,
were "emotional" as they watched Seriti deliver the verdict live on
television at their home, family lawyer Tania Koen said.
"They feel there has been justice for
Reeva. She can now rest in peace," Koen told The Associated Press. "But at
the same time, people must realize that people think this is the end of the
road for them ... the fact is they still live with Reeva's loss every day."
Pistorius killed Steenkamp in the
pre-dawn hours of Valentine's Day 2013 after shooting four times through a
closed toilet cubicle door with his 9 mm pistol. He claimed he mistook the
29-year-old model and reality TV star for an intruder and was initially
convicted of manslaughter by trial judge Thokozile Masipa. That conviction
was overturned and replaced with a murder conviction by the Supreme Court in
2015. Pistorius was then sentenced to six years for murder by Masipa, a
decision also now rejected by the Supreme Court.
Prosecutors called the six-year
sentence much too lenient and the Supreme Court agreed, saying in a full
written ruling released later that "the sentence of six years' imprisonment
is shockingly lenient to a point where it has the effect of trivialising
this serious offence."
The Supreme Court said that Pistorius
"displays a lack of remorse, and does not appreciate the gravity of his
Pistorius' brother, Carl, wrote on
Twitter: "Shattered. Heartbroken. Gutted." A spokesman for the Pistorius
family didn't answer calls from the AP.
Pistorius should have been sentenced to
the prescribed minimum of 15 years for murder, Seriti said, as he delivered
the verdict of a panel of five judges at the Supreme Court in the central
city of Bloemfontein. There is no death penalty in South Africa.
The new sentence of 13 years and five
months took into account the one year and seven months Pistorius served in
prison and under house arrest after his manslaughter conviction.
The new sentence was backdated to start
on the day he began his murder sentence, on July 6 last year.
Supreme Court judges are generally
reluctant to change sentences handed down by trial courts, and it's rare for
them to change one so dramatically.
"I did not expect the Supreme Court of
Appeal to hand down such a lengthy sentence of imprisonment," legal analyst
Ulrich Roux said on the eNCA news channel. "But, if one looks at what the
law states, and given the fact that murder does carry the minimum sentence
of 15 years in prison, I think the decision could be vindicated."
Pistorius must serve at least half of
the 13 years and five months — nearly seven years — before he can be
considered for parole. He has served a year and five months of his murder
Pistorius, who turned 31 on Wednesday,
is being held at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre on the outskirts of
the South African capital, Pretoria, and did not attend any of the appeal
Friday's decision also has possible
consequences for where he is held for the remainder of his sentence.
Pistorius was moved from the high security Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in
central Pretoria to Atteridgeville, which houses prisoners sentenced to six
years or less. Pistorius might now be moved back to a higher security
Pistorius' lawyers have one avenue left
open to them if they want to challenge the new sentence, and that is to
appeal to the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa.
Pistorius failed with an appeal to the
Constitutional Court last year to challenge his murder conviction.
Myanmar, Bangladesh sign agreement on Rohingya refugees
Myanmar's Union Minister for the Office of the
State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe, right, shakes hand with Bangladeshi Foreign
Minister Abdul Hassan Mahmud Ali after signing the Arrangement on Return of
Displaced Persons from Rakhine State in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Thursday, Nov.
23. (Myanmar Information Ministry via AP)
Bangkok (AP) — Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on Thursday
covering the return of Rohingya Muslims who fled across their mutual border
to escape violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
Myanmar announced the agreement but
provided no details on how many Rohingya refugees would be allowed to return
home. Bangladesh said the repatriations are to begin within two months.
More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled
from Myanmar into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when the army began what it
called "clearance operations" following an attack on police posts by a group
of Rohingya insurgents. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh said their homes
were set on fire by soldiers and Buddhist mobs, and some reported being shot
at by security forces.
The office of Myanmar civilian leader
Aung San Suu Kyi said the agreement "on the return of displaced persons from
Rakhine state" was signed by Cabinet officials in Naypyitaw, Myanmar's
capital. It said the pact follows a formula set in a 1992 repatriation
agreement signed by the two nations after an earlier spasm of violence.
Under that agreement, Rohingya were required to present residency documents,
which few have, before being allowed to return to Myanmar.
"We're continuing our bilateral talks
with Myanmar so that these Myanmar nationals (Rohingya) could return to
their country," Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was quoted as saying
by the United News of Bangladesh news agency. "It's my call to Myanmar to
start taking back soon their nationals from Bangladesh."
Rohingya at a refugee camp in
Bangladesh expressed deep doubts about the agreement.
"They burned our houses, they took our
land and cows - will they give us these things back?" asked Abdul Hamid from
"I'm not happy at all. First, I need to
know if they are going to accept us with the Rohingya identity," said Sayed
Alom, also from Hoyakong.
Rohingya Muslims have faced
state-supported discrimination in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar for
decades. Though members of the ethnic minority first arrived generations
ago, Rohingya 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.
The Myanmar government has refused to
accept them as a minority group, and the statement issued Thursday by Suu
Kyi's office did not use the term "Rohingya."
The United States on Wednesday declared
the violence against Rohingya to be "ethnic cleansing," and threatened
penalties for Myanmar military officers involved in the crackdown.
The human rights group Amnesty
International said in a report Tuesday that the discrimination against
Rohingya has worsened considerably in the last five years, and amounts to
"There can be no safe or dignified
returns of Rohingya to Myanmar while a system of apartheid remains in the
country, and thousands are held there in conditions that amount to
concentration camps. Returns in the current climate are simply unthinkable,"
the group's director for refugee and migrant rights, Charmain Mohamed, said
in a statement Thursday.
Sound heard in Argentine sub search was likely 'explosion'
A woman cries in front of a fence enclosing the
Mar de Plata Naval Base, Thursday, Nov. 23 after learning that a sound
detected during the search for the missing ARA San Juan submarine is
consistent with that of an explosion. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Almudena Calatrava and Luis Andres Henao
Mar del Plata, Argentina (AP) —
An apparent explosion occurred near the time and place an Argentine
submarine went missing, the country's navy reported Thursday, prompting
relatives of the vessel's 44 crew members to burst into tears and some to
say they had lost hope of a rescue.
Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the
search will continue until there is full certainty about the fate of the ARA
San Juan, despite the evidence of an explosion and with more than a week
having passed since the submarine disappeared. It was originally scheduled
to arrive Monday at Argentina's Mar del Plata Navy Base.
The U.S. Navy and an international
nuclear test-ban monitoring organization said a "hydro-acoustic anomaly" was
produced just hours after the navy lost contact with the sub on Nov. 15. It
was near the submarine's last known location.
"According to this report, there was an
explosion," Balbi told reporters. "We don't know what caused an explosion of
these characteristics at this site on this date."
The navy spokesman described the
"anomaly" as "singular, short, violent and non-nuclear."
Relatives of the crew who had gathered
at the Mar del Plata base to receive psychological counseling broke into
tears and hugged each other after they received the news. Some fell on their
knees or clung to a fence crowded with blue-and-white Argentine flags,
rosary beads and messages of support. Most declined to speak, while a few
others lashed out in anger at the navy's response.
"They sent a piece of crap to sail,"
said Itati Leguizamon, wife of submarine crew member German Suarez. "They
inaugurated a submarine with a coat of paint and a flag in 2014, but without
any equipment inside. The navy is to blame for its 15 years of abandonment."
Balbi defended the Argentine Navy,
saying that "with respect to the maintenance and state of our naval and air
units, no unit ever leaves port or takes off if it isn't in operating
conditions to navigate or fly with total security."
The German-built diesel-electric
TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in 1985 and was most recently
refitted in 2014.
During the $12 million retrofitting,
the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced.
Experts say that refits can be difficult because they involve integrating
systems produced by different manufacturers and even the smallest mistake
during the cutting phase of the operation can put the safety of the ship and
the crew at risk.
The Argentine navy and outside experts
have said that even if the ARA San Juan is intact, its crew might have only
enough oxygen to be submerged seven to 10 days. It lost contact as it was
sailing from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia. The submarine's captain
had reported a battery failure.
Authorities said late Wednesday that
Argentine navy ships as well a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft and a Brazilian
air force plane would return to the area to check out the abnormal sound,
which originated about 30 miles north of the submarine's last registered
The search location straddles the edge
of the continental shelf, with widely varying ocean depths, some as great as
10,000 feet (3,000 meters). Experts say the submarine could not have
supported pressures that far down.
"If a submarine goes below its
crush-depth, it would implode, it would just collapse," said James H. Patton
Jr. a retired Navy captain. "It would sound like a very, very big explosion
to any listening device."
Whatever it was, U.S. Navy Lt. Lily
Hinz said the sound detected "was not a whale, and it is not a regularly
Claudio Rodriguez, brother of crew
member Hernan Rodriguez, said his family suspects "the explosion was so
strong that they were not able to rise to the surface or shoot any flares.
They didn't have time for anything."
"As a family, we're grateful to all the
people who prayed for us and for the families of all the 44," he said.
More than a dozen airplanes and ships
have been participating in the multinational search despite stormy weather
that has caused waves of more than 20 feet (6 meters). Search teams are
combing an area of some 185,000 square miles (480,000 square kilometers),
which is roughly the size of Spain.
The U.S. government has sent two P-8
Poseidons, a naval research ship, a submarine rescue chamber and
sonar-equipped underwater vehicles. U.S. Navy sailors from the San
Diego-based Undersea Rescue Command were also helping with the search.
Britain's Ministry of Defense sent a
special airplane with emergency life support pods to join the hunt that
includes planes and ships from a dozen nations.
Hopes were buoyed after brief satellite
calls were received and when sounds were detected deep in the South
Atlantic. But experts later determined that neither was from the missing
"They haven't come back and they will
never come back," said Jesica Gopar, wife of submarine officer Fernando
Santilli, choking back tears. "I had a bad feeling about this and now it has
Facebook opens 2nd office combating hate speech in Germany
the Competence Call Center (CCC) work for the Facebook Community Operations
Team in Essen, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 23. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Essen, Germany (AP) — Facebook
is adding 500 more contractors in Germany to review content posted to the
social media site, after a new law came into force targeting online hate
The company says the staff will work
for a service provider called CCC at a new office in the western city of
Essen that was formally opened Thursday.
German lawmakers approved a bill in
June that could see social networking sites fined up to 50 million euros if
they persistently fail to remove illegal content within a week.
Critics say the law could force
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to decide what is legal or not.
Together with an existing office in
Berlin, Facebook will have more than 1,200 people reviewing posts in Germany
by the end of the year.
Papua New Guinea officials pressure refugees to leave camp
This image shows police entering the immigration
camp on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, Thursday Nov. 23. (Refugee Action
Coalition via AP)
Canberra, Australia (AP) — Papua
New Guinea authorities on Thursday removed dozens of asylum seekers and
ratcheted up pressure on more than 300 others to abandon a decommissioned
immigration camp, where refugees reported their shelters, beds and other
belongings have been destroyed.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki said 50
police and immigration officials entered the Manus Island camp Thursday
morning and "peacefully relocated" 50 asylum seekers among the 378 men to
alternate accommodations in the nearby town of Lorengau.
Water, power and food supplies to the
Manus camp ended when it officially 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 asylum seekers fear
for their safety in Lorengau because of threats from local residents.
Australia pays Papua New Guinea, its
nearest neighbor, and the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru to hold thousands of
asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have attempted to
reach Australian shores by boat since mid-2013.
Shen Narayanasamy, a human rights
campaigner for the activist group GetUp!, said some of those bused from the
camp on Thursday reported being forced to leave.
Baki said in a statement all had "left
voluntarily" except for Iranian refugee Behrouz Boochan, a journalist who
used social media to report on disturbing conditions on Manus.
Australian Immigration and Border
Protection Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News television that Boochan was
among "a small number of people ... arrested."
But Baki said Boochan was neither
arrested nor charged.
"He was stirring up trouble and telling
the other refugees not to move out of the center so police and officers ...
simply escorted him out," Baki said. "I am glad that this relocation
exercise was done peacefully and without use of force."
Boochan had earlier tweeted from the
camp: "They are destroying everything. Shelters, tanks, beds and all of our
Police Chief Superintendent Dominic
Kakas denied reports that authorities destroyed asylum seekers' property in
an effort to persuade them to leave.
Amnesty International cited reports of
immigration officials entering the camp armed with sticks and knives.
"The risks of serious injury if the
authorities use force now is completely foreseeable," the London-based
rights group's researcher, Kate Schuetze, said in a statement.
Authorities have previously made
conditions tougher in the camp by emptying drinking water tanks and removing
shelters. Deadlines to abandon the camp have passed without authorities
Australia will not settle any refugees
who try to arrive by boat — a policy that the government says dissuades
asylum seekers from attempting the dangerous ocean crossing from Indonesia.
It has also prevented boats from reaching Australia since July 2014 by using
the Australian navy to turn boats back.
The United States has agreed to
resettle up to 1,250 of the refugees under a deal struck by former President
Barack Obama's administration that President Donald Trump has reluctantly
decided to honor. So far, only 54 have been accepted by the United States.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
dismissed asylum seekers' fears for their safety in Lorengau, accusing them
of trying to pressure Australia into resettling them by refusing to move
"They think that ... in some way they
can pressure the Australian government to let them come to Australia. Well,
we will not be pressured. We will not outsource our migration policy to
people smugglers," Turnbull told reporters.
"People on Manus should go to the
alternative places of safety with all the facilities they need, they should
do so peacefully and they should do so in accordance with the legal
directions of Papua New Guinea," he added.
Ruling party assured Mugabe he wouldn't face prosecution
Zimbabwean military parade during a dress
rehearsal ahead of Friday's presidential inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa,
at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe Thursday, Nov. 23. (AP
Farai Mutsaka and Christopher Torchia
Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) —
Zimbabwe's ruling party assured Robert Mugabe that he wouldn't be prosecuted
if he resigned, a party official said Thursday, as the fate of the
93-year-old became clearer and the country prepared to move on.
"Prosecuting him was never part of the
plan," ZANU-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told The Associated Press. "He is
safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured.
All we were saying is resign or face impeachment."
As Zimbabwe prepared to witness the
swearing-in of new president Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday morning, its
citizens circulated on social media a new photo showing what appeared to be
Mugabe at the end of his 37-year rule.
Mugabe and his wife are shown sitting
on a sofa with advisers standing behind them. A dejected-looking Grace
Mugabe, who just days ago had been poised to replace Mnangagwa after his
firing as vice president and even succeed her husband, looks off camera. A
listing Robert Mugabe's eyes are closed. The photo could not immediately be
Mugabe, who resigned on Tuesday as
lawmakers began impeaching him, has not spoken publicly since his stunning
speech on Sunday defying calls from the military, ruling party and the
people to step down.
But it appears he and his wife will
remain in the capital, Harare.
According to protocol, Mugabe could
even be present at the 75-year-old Mnangagwa's swearing-in on Friday morning
at a 60,000-seat stadium after making a triumphant return to the country. He
fled shortly after his firing, claiming threats to his life.
Mnangagwa's speech upon his return
Wednesday night outside ruling party headquarters promised "a new, unfolding
democracy" and efforts to rebuild a shattered economy. But he also recited
slogans from the ruling ZANU-PF party, unlikely to reassure the opposition.
The opposition party MDC-T, which
supported Mugabe's removal, said it had not been invited to the
inauguration. Spokesman Obert Guru said the party was closely watching
Mnangagwa's next moves, "particularly regarding the dismantling of all the
oppressive pillars of repression."
In a new statement Thursday, Mnangagwa
urged Zimbabweans against "vengeful retribution."
The pastor who led large
anti-government protests last year, Evan Mawarire, says Zimbabweans should
let Mnangagwa know that the country should be for everyone and not just the
Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense
minister with close ties to the military who served for decades as Mugabe's
enforcer, remains on a U.S. sanctions list over allegations of violently
cracking down on opponents.
He fled Zimbabwe after being fired on
Nov. 6 and was in hiding during the week-long political drama that led to
Mugabe's resignation. His appearance on Wednesday, flanked by heavy
security, delighted supporters who hope he can guide Zimbabwe out of
political and economic turmoil.
Mnangagwa will serve Mugabe's remaining
term until elections at some point next year. Opposition lawmakers who have
alleged vote-rigging in the past say balloting must be free and fair, a call
the United States and others have echoed.
Mugabe's resignation was met with wild
celebrations by people thrilled to be rid of a leader whose early promise
after taking power at the end of white minority rule in 1980 was
overshadowed by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human rights
On Thursday, an editorial in the
privately run NewsDay newspaper said Mnangagwa has "an unenviable task" and
that he should set up a coalition government that represents all
Light pollution increasing around the globe
This photo combo of images shows photographs of
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, taken from the International Space Station on Dec.
23, 2010, left, where residential areas are mainly lit by orange sodium
lamps; and on Nov. 27, 2015, right, where many areas on the outskirts are
newly lit compared to 2010, and many neighborhoods have switched from orange
sodium lamps to white LED lamps. (NASA's Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — The
world's nights are getting alarmingly brighter — bad news for all sorts of
creatures, humans included.
A German-led team reported Wednesday
that light pollution is threatening darkness almost everywhere. Satellite
observations during five Octobers show Earth's artificially lit outdoor area
grew by 2 percent a year from 2012 to 2016. So did nighttime brightness.
Light pollution is actually worse than
that, according to the researchers. Their measurements coincide with the
outdoor switch to energy-efficient and cost-saving light-emitting diodes, or
LEDs. Because the imaging sensor on the polar-orbiting weather satellite
can't detect the LED-generated color blue, some light is missed.
The observations, for example, indicate
stable levels of night light in the United States, Netherlands, Spain and
Italy. But light pollution is almost certainly on the rise in those
countries given this elusive blue light, said Christopher Kyba of the GFZ
German Research Center for Geosciences and lead author of the study
published in Science Advances .
Also on the rise is the spread of light
into the hinterlands and overall increased use. The findings shatter the
long-held notion that more energy efficient lighting would decrease usage on
the global — or at least a national — scale.
"Honestly, I had thought and assumed
and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner. There's also a lot more
awareness of light pollution," he told reporters by phone from Potsdam. "It
is quite disappointing."
The biological impact from surging
artificial light is also significant, according to the researchers.
People's sleep can be marred, which in
turn can affect their health. The migration and reproduction of birds, fish,
amphibians, insects and bats can be disrupted. Plants can have abnormally
extended growing periods. And forget about seeing stars or the Milky Way, if
the trend continues.
About the only places with dramatic
declines in night light were in areas of conflict like Syria and Yemen, the
researchers found. Australia also reported a noticeable drop, but that's
because wildfires were raging early in the study. Researchers were unable to
filter out the bright burning light.
Asia, Africa and South America, for the
most part, saw a surge in artificial night lighting.
More and more places are installing
outdoor lighting given its low cost and the overall growth in communities'
wealth, the scientists noted. Urban sprawl is also moving towns farther out.
The outskirts of major cities in developing nations are brightening quite
rapidly, in fact, Kyba said.
Other especially bright hot spots:
sprawling greenhouses in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
Photos taken by astronauts aboard the
International Space Station also illuminate the growing problem.
Franz Holker of the Leibniz Institute
of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, a co-author, said
things are at the critical point.
"Many people are using light at night
without really thinking about the cost," Holker said. Not just the economic
cost, "but also the cost that you have to pay from an ecological,
Kyba and his colleagues recommend
avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible — choosing amber over so-called
white LEDs — and using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking
lots or city streets. For example, dim, closely spaced lights tend to
provide better visibility than bright lights that are more spread out.
The International Dark-Sky Association
, based in Tucson, Arizona, has been highlighting the hazards of artificial
night light for decades.
"We hope that the results further sound
the alarm about the many unintended consequences of the unchecked use of
artificial light at night," Director J. Scott Feierabend said in a
An instrument on the 2011-launched U.S.
weather satellite, Suomi, provided the observations for this study. A second
such instrument — known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or
VIIRS — was launched on a new satellite Saturday by NASA and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This latest VIIRS will join the
continuing night light study.
Unrepentant Mladic sentenced to life for Bosnia atrocities
A Bosnian woman raises her arms upon hearing the
sentence at the end of former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko
Mladic's trial at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, Bosnia,
Wednesday, Nov. 22. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)
The Hague, Netherlands (AP) — An
unrepentant Ratko Mladic, the bullish Bosnian Serb general whose forces
rained shells and snipers' bullets on Sarajevo and carried out the worst
massacre in Europe since World War II, was convicted Wednesday of genocide
and other crimes and sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Defiant to the last, Mladic was ejected
from a courtroom at the United Nations' Yugoslav war crimes tribunal after
yelling at judges: "Everything you said is pure lies. Shame on you!"
He was dispatched to a neighboring room
to watch on a TV screen as Presiding Judge Alphons Orie pronounced him
guilty of 10 counts that also included war crimes and crimes against
Human-rights organizations hailed the
convictions as proof that even top military brass long considered
untouchable cannot evade justice forever. Mladic spent years on the run
before his arrest in 2011.
"This landmark verdict marks a
significant moment for international justice and sends out a powerful
message around the world that impunity cannot and will not be tolerated,"
said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Europe director.
For prosecutors, it was a fitting end
to a 23-year effort to mete out justice at the U.N. tribunal for atrocities
committed during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. Mladic's conviction
signaled the end of the final trial before the tribunal closes its doors by
the end of the year.
But legal battles will continue.
Mladic's attorneys vowed to appeal his convictions on 10 charges related to
a string of atrocities from the beginning of the 1992-95 Bosnian war to its
"The defense team considers this
judgment to be erroneous, and there will be an appeal, and we believe that
the appeal will correct the errors of the trial chamber," Mladic lawyer
Dragan Ivetic said.
Mladic's son, Darko, said his father
told him after the verdict that the tribunal was a "NATO commission ...
trying to criminalize a legal endeavor of Serbian people in times of civil
war to protect itself from the aggression."
Presiding Judge Alphons Orie started
the hearing by reading out a litany of horrors perpetrated by forces under
"Detainees were forced to rape and
engage in other degrading sexual acts with one another. Many Bosnian Muslim
women who were unlawfully detained were raped," Orie said.
The judge recounted the story of a
mother who ventured into the streets during the deadly siege of Sarajevo
with her son as Serb snipers and artillery targeted the Bosnian capital. She
was shot. The bullet passed through her abdomen and struck her 7-year-old
son's head, killing him.
In Srebrenica, the war reached its
bloody climax as Bosnian Serb forces overran what was supposed to be a
U.N.-protected safe haven. After busing away women and children, Serb forces
systematically murdered some 8,000 Muslim males.
"Many of these men and boys were
cursed, insulted, threatened, forced to sing Serb songs and beaten while
awaiting their execution," Orie said.
Mladic looked relaxed as the hearing
started, greeting lawyers, crossing himself and giving a thumbs-up to
photographers in court. But midway through the hearing Mladic's lawyer,
Dragan Ivetic, asked for a delay because the general was suffering from high
blood pressure. The judge refused, Mladic started yelling and was tossed out
When he started speaking, "it was not
about his health but much more I think trying to insult the judges," Chief
Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.
The conflict in the former Yugoslavia
erupted after the country's breakup in the early 1990s, with the worst
crimes taking place in Bosnia. More than 100,000 people died and millions
lost their homes before a peace agreement was signed in 1995. Mladic went
into hiding for around 10 years before his arrest in Serbia in May 2011.
Mladic's political master during the
war, former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, was also convicted last
year for genocide and sentenced to 40 years. He has appealed the ruling.
The man widely blamed for fomenting
wars across the Balkans, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, died
in his U.N. cell in 2006 before tribunal judges could reach verdicts in his
The ethnic tensions that Milosevic
stoked from Belgrade simmer to this day.
Top Bosnian Serb political leader
Milorad Dodik said the tribunal only underscored its anti-Serb bias by
convicting Mladic. Dodik said the court was established with the "single
purpose" of demonizing Serbs.
"This opinion is shared by all the
Serbs," Dodik said, describing Mladic as "a hero and a patriot."
Serbian President Alksandar Vucic, a
former ultranationalist who supported Mladic's war campaigns but now casts
himself as a pro-EU reformer, agreed that the court has been biased against
Serbs but added that "we should not justify the crimes committed" by the
"We are ready to accept our
responsibility" for war crimes "while the others are not," he said.
For a former prisoner of Serb-run camps
in northwestern Bosnia who was in The Hague, the verdict was sweet relief.
Fikret Alic became a symbol of the
horrors in Bosnia after his skeletal frame was photographed by Time magazine
behind barbed wire in 1992 in a Bosnian Serb camp.
"Justice has won," he said. "And the
war criminal has been convicted."
US Navy plane with 11 aboard crashes into Pacific; 8 rescued
In this March 14, 2017, file photo, a U.S. Navy
C-2 Greyhound approaches the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS
Carl Vinson. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Tokyo (AP) — Tokyo (AP) —
Eight people were rescued and three remained missing after a U.S. Navy plane
crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, the Navy said.
The C-2 "Greyhound" transport aircraft
came down about 500 nautical miles (925 kilometers) southeast of Okinawa as
it was bringing passengers and cargo from Japan to the USS Ronald Reagan
aircraft carrier, the Navy said in a statement.
The Reagan was operating in the
Philippine Sea during a joint exercise with Japan's Maritime Self-Defense
Force when the twin-propeller plane crashed at 2:45 p.m. Japan time. The
cause of the crash was not immediately clear and the incident will be
investigated, the Navy said.
Eight people were rescued about 40
minutes later. They were taken to the Reagan for medical evaluation and are
in good condition, the Navy said.
U.S. and Japanese naval ships and
aircraft are searching for the missing. Japan's Defense Ministry said the
crash site is about 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Okinotorishima, a
The names of the crew and passengers
are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
In Washington, the White House said
President Donald Trump had been briefed on the crash.
Trump said in a tweet: "We are
monitoring the situation. Prayers for all involved."
The Nov. 16-26 joint exercise in waters
off Okinawa has been described by the Navy as the "premier training event"
between the U.S. and Japanese navies, designed to increase defensive
readiness and interoperability in air and sea operations.
The Navy's Japan-based 7th Fleet has
had two fatal accidents in Asian waters this year, leaving 17 sailors dead
and prompting the removal of eight top Navy officers from their posts,
including the 7th Fleet commander.
The USS John S. McCain and an oil
tanker collided near Singapore in August, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead.
Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship
collided off Japan.
The Navy has concluded that the
collisions were avoidable and resulted from widespread failures by the crews
and commanders, who didn't quickly recognize and respond to unfolding
emergencies. A Navy report recommended numerous changes to address the
problems, ranging from improved training to increasing sleep and stress
management for sailors.
Zimbabwe's incoming leader returns home to cheers
Zimbabwe's President in waiting Emmerson
Mnangagwa greets supporters gathered outside the Zanu-PF party headquarters
in Harare, Zimbabwe Wednesday, Nov. 22. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Harare, Zimbabwe (AP) — Poised
to become Zimbabwe's next president, a former confidant of ousted leader
Robert Mugabe on Wednesday promised "a new, unfolding democracy" and reached
out to the world, saying international help is needed to rebuild the
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled Zimbabwe
upon being fired from his job as vice president on Nov. 6, made a triumphant
return to the country a day after 93-year-old Mugabe resigned. His departure
after 37 years in power followed a week of intense pressure — from the
military that staged a government takeover, from members of parliament who
started impeachment proceedings and from citizens who protested in the
While Mnangagwa talked in his speech
about democracy and "working together," he also recited slogans from the
ruling ZANU-PF party such as "Forward with ZANU-PF, down with enemies" that
are unlikely to attract Zimbabweans in the opposition.
He served for decades as Mugabe's
enforcer, a role that earned him the nickname "Crocodile." Many opposition
supporters believe he was instrumental in the army killings of thousands of
people when Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s.
Mnangagwa was in hiding during the
political drama that led to Mugabe's resignation. His appearance at the
headquarters of the party electrified a crowd that waited for hours. Flanked
by bodyguards, and dressed in a blue suit, he raised his fists and danced a
little on a podium, delighting supporters who hope he can guide Zimbabwe out
of political and economic turmoil that has exacted a heavy toll on the
southern African nation of 16 million.
"Today we are witnessing the beginning
of a new, unfolding democracy," said the 75-year-old, who added that he had
already received messages of support from other countries.
"We need the cooperation of the
continent of Africa," he said. "We need the cooperation of our friends
outside the continent."
After meeting with South African
President Jacob Zuma, Mnangagwa flew in a private jet from South Africa to
Zimbabwe. He indicated that his inauguration as president will be on Friday.
That is "when we finish this job to legally install a new president," he
Mnangagwa will serve Mugabe's remaining
term until elections next year. Opposition lawmakers who have alleged
vote-rigging in the past say that balloting must be free and fair.
The party's Central Committee had voted
to remove Mugabe from his party leadership post and replace him with
Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister with close ties to the
Mugabe fired his longtime deputy as the
former president's wife, Grace Mugabe, positioned herself to replace him and
succeed her husband. That led the military to step into the party's
factional battle a week ago by sending tanks into the streets and putting
the president under house arrest — a move that opened the door for the party
and the people to turn against the leader who took power after the end of
white minority rule in 1980.
The resignation was met with wild
celebrations across the Zimbabwean capital of Harare. People were thrilled
to be rid of a leader whose early promise, including an emphasis on
education, was overtaken by economic collapse, government dysfunction and
human rights violations.
Mnangagwa "faces high expectations but
will have a short honeymoon while he starts the process of moving Zimbabwe
forward," the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper said in a commentary.
"He has the best wishes of most
Zimbabweans, at least today," the newspaper said.
One unemployed man who heard that
Mnangagwa was arriving at an air force base on the outskirts of Harare
waited in vain at its entrance in hopes of seeing him.
Godwin Nyarugwa said he was "very
ecstatic" about Mugabe's resignation and that "we need change in this
country, change in everything" after years of economic crisis. But he said
Mnangagwa would have to produce results.
"We have to try him and see," he said
of Mnangagwa. "If he doesn't come up with something, we need to change him
Argentina reports new clue in search for missing submarine
In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 photo, members of
the Argentine Air Force search for a missing submarine in the South Atlantic
near Argentina's coast. Argentine families of 44 crew members aboard a
submarine that has been lost in the South. (Argentine Navy via AP)
Almudena Calatrava and Luis Andres Henao
Mar del Plata, Argentina (AP) —
Ships and planes hunting for a missing Argentine submarine with 44 crew
members will return to a previously search area after officials said
Wednesday that a noise made a week ago in the South Atlantic could provide a
clue to the vessel's location.
The Argentina navy spokesman, Capt.
Enrique Balbi, said the "hydro-acoustic anomaly" was determined by the
United States and specialist agencies to have been produced Nov. 15, just
hours after the final contact with the ARA San Juan and could have come from
The sound originated about 30 miles
north of the submarine's last registered position, he said.
"It's a noise. We don't want to
speculate" about what caused it, Balbi said.
He said Argentine navy ships as well as
a U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft and a Brazilian air force plane would return to
the area to check out the clue, even though the area already was searched.
On land, relatives of the submarine's
crew grew increasingly distressed as experts said the vessel lost for seven
days might be reaching a critical period of low oxygen.
Jorge Villarreal kept his eyes fixed on
the ocean, hoping to catch a glimpse of the vessel that carried his son,
Fernando Villareal, a submarine officer.
"As a dad I want him to be rescued
immediately, but we can't forget about the inclemency of the weather. And
the foreign help just doesn't come from one day to the next," he said. "We
hope this will go right because of the improving weather and the technology
that's being used."
The San Juan went missing as it was
sailing from the extreme southern port of Ushuaia to the city of Mar del
Plata, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of Buenos Aires.
The Argentine navy and outside experts
worry that oxygen for the crew would last only seven to 10 days if the sub
was intact but submerged. Authorities do not know if the sub rose to the
surface to replenish its oxygen supply and charge batteries, which would
affect the calculation.
The German-built diesel-electric
TR-1700 class submarine was scheduled to arrive Monday at the naval base in
Mar del Plata, where city residents have been dropping by with messages of
support for relatives of the crew.
More than a dozen airplanes and ships
are participating in the multinational search despite stormy weather that
has caused waves of more than 20 feet (6 meters). Search teams are combing
an area of some 185,000 square miles (480,000 square kilometers), which is
roughly the size of Spain.
The U.S. government has sent two P-8
Poseidons, a naval research ship, a submarine rescue chamber and
sonar-equipped underwater vehicles. U.S. Navy sailors from the San
Diego-based Undersea Rescue Command are also helping with the search.
President Donald Trump went on Twitter
to offer his good wishes to Argentina on Wednesday, though he inflated the
number of missing sailors by one.
"I have long given the order to help
Argentina with the Search and Rescue mission of their missing submarine. 45
people aboard and not much time left. May God be with them and the people of
Argentina!" his tweet said.
Hopes were lifted after brief satellite
calls were received and when sounds were detected deep in the South
Atlantic. But experts later determined that neither was from the missing
sub. A U.S. Navy aircraft later spotted flares and a life raft was found in
the search area, but authorities said neither came from the missing
The false alarms have rattled nerves
among distraught family members. Some have begun to complain that the
Argentine navy responded too late.
"They took two days to accept help
because they minimized the situation," Federico Ibanez, the brother of
submarine crew member Cristian Ibanez, told The Associated Press.
The navy has said the submarine
reported a battery failure before it went missing. Authorities have no
specific details of the problem.
"I feel like authorities let too much
time pass by and decisions were taken late," Ibanez's sister, Elena Alfaro,
said outside the base. "And yet, I still carry some hope."
Indian police probe Maria Sharapova housing fraud case
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
New Delhi (AP) — Maria
Sharapova is being investigated by police in India in a cheating and
criminal conspiracy case involving a real estate company who used the
tennis star to endorse a luxury housing project that never took off.
Real estate firm Homestead
Infrastructure is accused of taking tens of millions of rupees (millions
of dollars) from home buyers for a project named "Ballet by Maria
Sharapova," a luxury apartment complex with its own helipad, tennis
academy and other amenities. The five-time Grand Slam champion travelled
to India in 2013 to launch the project at a glitzy ceremony. Police
began the investigation on Nov. 16.
Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing
one of the home buyers, said Wednesday that Sharapova's celebrity was
the reason most people put their money into the project.
Singh said his client, Bhawana
Agarwal, paid Homestead Infrastructure 5.3 million rupees ($81,678) in
2013 because she was impressed by Sharapova's association with the
project located in Gurgaon, a suburb of the Indian capital. The cost of
an apartment in the swanky project was 20 million rupees ($308,000).
Agarwal then spent the next three
years chasing the builders for updates on the property and her
investment in it but they stopped taking her calls, Singh said. On
Wednesday, several calls to the numbers of the building company's
website went unanswered.
"The project never saw the light of
day," Singh said.
Singh said the police investigation
based on his client's complaint was testing relatively new legal ground
- that celebrities endorsing projects that draw vast sums of money from
investors had a responsibility "to do some due diligence" on the project
before lending their name and credibility to it.
Sharapova isn't the only
international sports celebrity that the real estate firm roped in. Its
website also advertises a project with Formula One great Michael
Schumacher called the Michael Schumacher World Tower.