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Update September 2017


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Update September 19, 2017

Rohingya Muslims being wiped off Myanmar's map

In this Sept. 14, 2017 file photo, a Rohingya man carries two children to shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, after they arrived on a boat from Myanmar.(AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)

By Robin McDowell, Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — For generations, Rohingya Muslims have called Myanmar home. Now, in what appears to be a systematic purge, they are, quite literally, being wiped off the map.

After a series of attacks by Muslim militants last month, security forces and allied mobs retaliated by burning down thousands of homes in the enclaves of the predominantly Buddhist nation where the Rohingya live.

That has sent some 417,000 people fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, according to U.N. estimates. There they have joined tens of thousands of others who have fled over the past year.

And they are still leaving, piling into wooden boats that take them to sprawling, monsoon-drenched refugee camps in Bangladesh. Their plight has been decried as ethnic cleansing by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and few believe they will ever be welcomed back to Myanmar.

"This is the worst crisis in Rohingya history," said Chris Lewa, founder of the Arakan Project, which works to improve conditions for the ethnic minority, citing the monumental size and speed of the exodus. "Security forces have been burning villages one by one, in a very systematic way. And it's still ongoing."

Using a network of monitors, Lewa and her agency are meticulously documenting tracts of villages that have been partially or completely burned down in three townships in northern Rakhine state, where the vast majority of Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya once lived. It's a painstaking task because there are hundreds of them, and information is almost impossible to verify because the army has blocked access to the area. Satellite imagery released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, limited at times because of heavy cloud coverage, shows massive swaths of scorched landscape.

The Arakan Project has found that almost every tract of villages in Maungdaw township suffered some burning, and that all of Maungdaw has been almost completely abandoned by Rohingya.

Of the 21 Rohingya villages in Rathedaung, to the north, only five were not targeted. Three camps for Rohingya who were displaced in communal riots five years ago also were torched.

Buthidaung, to the east, so far has been largely spared. It is the only township where security operations appear limited to areas where attacks by Rohingya militants, which triggered the ongoing crackdown, occurred.

The Rohingya have had a long and troubled history in Myanmar, where many in the country's 60 million people look on them with disdain.

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

The U.N. has labeled the Rohingya one of the world's most persecuted religious minorities.

Still, if it weren't for their safety, many would rather live in Myanmar than be forced to another country that doesn't want them.

"Now we can't even buy plastic to make a shelter," said 32-year-old Kefayet Ullah of the camp in Bangladesh where he and his family are struggling to get from one day to the next.

In Rakhine, they had land for farming and a small shop. Now they have nothing.

"Our heart is crying for our home," he said, tears streaming down his face. "Even the father of my grandfather was born in Myanmar."

This is not the first time the Rohingya have fled en masse.

Hundreds of thousands left in 1978 and again in the early 1990s, fleeing military and government oppression, though policies were later put in place that allowed many to return. Communal violence in 2012, as the country was transitioning from a half-century of dictatorship to democracy, sent another 100,000 fleeing by boat. Some 120,000 remain trapped in camps under apartheid-like conditions outside Rakhine's capital, Sittwe.

But no exodus has been as massive and swift as the one taking place now.

The military crackdown came in retaliation for a series of coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants led by Attaullah Abu Ammar Jununi, who was born in Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia.

Last October, the militants struck police posts, killing several officers and triggering a brutal military response that sent 87,000 Rohingya fleeing. Then on Aug. 25, a day after a state-appointed commission of inquiry headed by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan released a report about the earlier bloodshed, the militants struck again.

This time they attacked more than 30 police and army posts.

It was the excuse security forces were looking for. They hit back and hard. Together with Buddhist mobs, they burned down villages, killed, looted and raped.

"The military crackdown resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said earlier this month in Geneva, calling it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

It could be months before the extent of the devastation is clear because the army has blocked access to the affected areas. Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said at least 1,000 civilians were killed. The government claims more than 400 died, the vast majority Rohingya militants. They put the number of civilians killed at 30.

The Myanmar government says 176 of Northern Rakhine's 471 villages have been abandoned, but it has provided few details and no names.

Whether it's the end game for the Rohingya in Myanmar remains to be seen, said Richard Horsey, a political analyst in Yangon. It depends in part on whether arrangements will be made by Bangladesh and Myanmar for their eventual return and the extent of the destruction.

"We are still waiting for a full picture of how many villages are depopulated versus how many were destroyed," he said.
___
Associated Press writer Muneeza Naqvi contributed to this report from Bangladesh.


World Wildlife Fund sues over Greece oil spill from tanker

A man takes a shower on a beach polluted by an oil spillage in Glyfada, suburb of Athens, on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The World Wildlife Fund filed a lawsuit Monday over extensive pollution to the coastline outside Athens following the sinking of a tanker near Greece's largest port.

The environmental group's Greek branch filed the lawsuit in the port city of Piraeus against "anyone found responsible," a common practice when a party that could be held legally accountable has not been identified formally.

The Agia Zoni II tanker sank Sept. 10 while anchored in calm seas and carrying 2,200 tons of fuel oil and 370 tons of marine gas oil. The ship's cargo spilled into waters where dolphins, turtles, seals and a variety of fish and sea birds feed and live. Oil slicks have extended from the island of Salamina, near where the tanker went down, to the entire length of the Athens coast.

The World Wildlife Fund said it considered the case to be "an environmental crime deserving exemplary punishment."
The Greek government has faced criticism for what many observers said was a slow, inadequate response that allowed leaking oil to spread along the greater Athens area's coastline. The tanker sank very near Piraeus, the country's largest and best-equipped port.

The government has rejected the criticism, insisting it did everything possible to contain and clean up the slick.

"The effort to tackle the pollution is a difficult affair that requires the immediate mobilization of all the responsible bodies," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his Cabinet ministers in televised comments Monday. "Already, all available counter-pollution means have been mobilized and great efforts are being made."

Demetres Karavellas, chief executive of the World Wildlife Fund's Greece office, said it was essential to identify where responsibility lies.

"Through a thorough analysis of the causes, we will emerge better prepared to avert or control similar accidents in the future," Karavellas said.


De Niro: Help rebuild Barbuda paradise destroyed by Irma

Actor Robert De Niro, right, address a high-level meeting on Hurricane Irma at the United Nations headquarters, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

By Edith M.Lederer, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Two-time Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro came to the United Nations on Monday to appeal to all countries and organizations to help rebuild the devastated Caribbean island of Barbuda and ensure that "paradise is not lost."

De Niro spoke at a hastily called meeting on Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic Ocean hurricane on record. The meeting of top U.N. officials and government leaders from several hard-hit Caribbean countries came ahead of the annual global gathering of the world's leaders at the U.N. General Assembly which opens Tuesday.

Irma wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, including damaging or destroying an estimated 90 percent of the structures on the small island of Barbuda, which is home to about 1,400 people and the site of a resort co-owned by the actor.

De Niro recalled Barbuda as an "unspoiled beauty, a paradise found" on his first visit years ago. Now, he said, "we have a humanitarian crisis, an entire island destroyed."

"We must act together to help the most vulnerable," De Niro said. "The recovery process will be a long, hard road. Barbudans must be a part of it, their homes repaired stronger, rebuilt stronger, new homes stronger. The immediate needs — power, water, food, medical care, animals sheltered — must be met."

De Niro and James Packer, son of the late Australian media mogul Kerry Packer, bought the K Club Resort last year and renamed it the Paradise Found Nobu Resort.

De Niro spoke of all the "warm and friendly" people he has gotten to know on Barbuda who were "looking forward to a new resort and jobs and future for them and their children." He did not say how the hurricane affected the resort.

The governor general of Antigua and Barbuda, Rodney Williams, told the meeting that when Irma thundered through, "immediately Barbuda was rendered uninhabitable."

"Its ferocity forever changed the landscape of Barbuda, and as the sun rose the next day the destruction was horrific," he said.

He noted that the entire population has been moved to nearby Antigua. "For the first time in over 300 years, there is today not a single human being living on Barbuda."

Williams said the preliminary estimate for rebuilding Barbuda is $300 million, which represents more than 20 percent of the country's GDP.

"Barbuda is not a lost cause," Williams said. "We can re-establish the island, better and more secure as a productive tourism center and as a safe homeland with which its inhabitants are desperate to reunite."

But he said Antigua can't rebuild Barbuda alone and he echoed De Niro in urging governments, international financial institutions and development agencies "to help us in this virtuous and vital cause."


Andrea Bocelli prays at Jordan River site of Jesus' baptism

Italian star tenor Andrea Bocelli, 58, a Catholic, makes the sign of the cross at the edge of the Jordan River.

By Karin Laub, Associated Press

AL-MAGHTAS, Jordan (AP) — Italian star tenor Andrea Bocelli made a pilgrimage to the traditional site of Jesus' baptism Monday, praying for peace as he stood on the edge of the River Jordan.

Bocelli, 58, who is blind, was guided by a priest who scooped up river water and poured it over the singer's hands. The artist, a Roman Catholic, made a sign of the cross and the priest recited the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) prayer.

The spot represents the "roots of my faith," Bocelli told The Associated Press. "For this reason, it is a very special place. I am very happy to be here. I prayed for peace in the world."

Bocelli performed later Monday at a Roman amphitheater in Jordan's northern city of Jerash. He sang popular arias as well as pop music standards.

Bocelli wrapped up his performance with his hit "It's Time To Say Good-bye," wearing a red-and-white checkered scarf, a national symbol of Jordan, draped over his shoulders.

Jordan hopes headliners like Bocelli will help revive a tourism industry that has been flagging in recent years amid regional turmoil. The kingdom portrays itself as an oasis of stability.

Tourism Minister Lina Annab earlier told the AP that the baptism site is as important to Jordan tourism as the ancient city of Petra.

"It is very nice to see devout people, especially of the stature of a great artist like Andrea Bocelli, to be coming to this site, and I think it brings a very nice vibe to the place," she said.

Annab said the spot is "full of harmony, full of peace, full of spirituality." Having someone like Bocelli visit "only adds to the beauty of it," she said.


Today in History -Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Sept. 19, the 262nd day of 2017. There are 103 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 19, 1777, the first Battle of Saratoga was fought during the Revolutionary War; although British forces succeeded in driving out the American troops, the Americans prevailed in a second battle the following month.

On this date:

In 1796, President George Washington's farewell address was published. In it, America's first chief executive advised, "Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all."

In 1881, the 20th president of the United States, James A. Garfield, died 2ฝ months after being shot by Charles Guiteau; Chester Alan Arthur became president.

In 1915, vaudeville performer W.C. Fields made his movie debut as "Pool Sharks," a one-reel silent comedy, was released.

In 1934, Bruno Hauptmann was arrested in New York and charged with the kidnap-murder of Charles A. Lindbergh Jr.

In 1945, Nazi radio propagandist William Joyce, known as "Lord Haw-Haw," was convicted of treason and sentenced to death by a British court.

In 1957, the United States conducted its first contained underground nuclear test, code-named "Rainier," in the Nevada desert.

In 1959, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, in Los Angeles as part of his U.S. tour, reacted angrily upon being told that, for security reasons, he wouldn't get to visit Disneyland.

In 1960, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in New York to visit the United Nations, angrily checked out of the Shelburne Hotel in a dispute with the management; Castro ended up staying at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem.

In 1970, the "Mary Tyler Moore" show debuted on CBS-TV.

In 1982, the smiley emoticon was invented by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman, who suggested punctuating humorously intended computer messages with a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis as a horizontal "smiley face." :-)

In 1985, the Mexico City area was struck by a devastating earthquake that killed at least 9,500 people.

In 1997, in his first public comments since the death of Princess Diana, Prince Charles told the British people he would always feel the loss of his former wife, and thanked them for their support. Six people were killed when an express passenger train and a freight train collided in west London. The crime drama "L.A. Confidential" was released by Warner Bros.

Ten years ago: The Senate blocked legislation that would have regulated the amount of time troops spent in combat, a blow for Democrats struggling to challenge President George W. Bush's Iraq policies. A powerful bomb killed anti-Syria lawmaker Antoine Ghanem and six others in Beirut, Lebanon.

Five years ago: Members of Congress presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (ahng sahn soo chee) in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. The Justice Department's internal watchdog found fault with the agency's handling of a gun-trafficking probe in Arizona that resulted in hundreds of weapons turning up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico; the inspector general's report referred more than a dozen people for possible disciplinary action for their roles in Operation Fast and Furious. The Windseeker ride at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, broke down, leaving about 20 riders dangling 300 feet over the amusement park for nearly four hours. Fred Couples was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

One year ago: President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (HY'-dahr ahl ah-BAH'-dee), meeting on the sidelines of a United Nations summit, put the Islamic State group on notice that they planned to recapture the city of Mosul within months. World leaders meeting at the United Nations approved a declaration aimed at providing a more coordinated and humane response to the refugee crisis that was straining resources and stoking divisions around the world. Angelina Jolie Pitt filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, citing irreconcilable differences.

Today's Birthdays: Author Roger Angell is 97. Host James Lipton (TV: "Inside the Actors Studio") is 91. Actress Rosemary Harris is 90. Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown is 90. Actor David McCallum is 84. Singer-songwriter Paul Williams is 77. Singer Bill Medley is 77. Singer Sylvia Tyson (Ian and Sylvia) is 77. R&B singer Freda Payne is 75. Golfer Jane Blalock is 72. Singer David Bromberg is 72. Actor Randolph Mantooth is 72. Rock singer-musician Lol Creme (10cc) is 70. Former NFL running back Larry Brown is 70. Actor Jeremy Irons is 69. Actress Twiggy Lawson is 68. TV personality Joan Lunden is 67. Singer-producer Daniel Lanois (lan-WAH') is 66. Actor Scott Colomby is 65.
Musician-producer Nile Rodgers is 65. College Football Hall of Famer and former NFL player Reggie Williams is 63. Singer-actor Rex Smith is 62. Rock singer Lita Ford is 59. Actor Kevin Hooks is 59. Actress Carolyn McCormick is 58. Celebrity chef Mario Batali is 57. Actress-comedian Cheri Oteri is 55. Country singer Jeff Bates is 54.

Country singer Trisha Yearwood is 53. News anchor Soledad O'Brien is 51. Rhythm-and-blues singer Espraronza Griffin (Society of Soul) is 48. Celebrity chef Michael Symon is 48. Actress Sanaa Lathan (suh-NAH' LAY'-thun) is 46. Actress Stephanie J. Block is 45. Rock singer A. Jay Popoff (Lit) is 44. "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon is 43. TV personality Carter Oosterhouse is 41. Actress-TV host Alison Sweeney is 41. Rock musician Ryan Dusick is 40. Folk-rock singers-musicians Sara and Tegan (TEE'-gan) Quin are 37. Actor Columbus Short is 35. Rapper Eamon is 34. Christian rock musician JD Frazier is 34. Actor Kevin Zegers is 33. Actress Danielle Panabaker is 30.

Thought for Today: "If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul." — Logan Pearsall Smith, Anglo-American author (1865-1946).


Update September 18, 2017

UK lowers terror threat level as subway bomb probe advances

By Gregory Katz, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — British police made progress Sunday in their frantic pursuit of suspects and evidence connected to the bomb that partially exploded on a packed London subway, leading counter-terrorism officials to lower the country's threat level because they no longer considered a fresh attack to be imminent.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the downgraded terror threat level hours after London police said a second suspect was in custody and a second property was being searched in connection with Friday's attack that injured 30 people.

Rudd cautioned that the investigation was ongoing and that Britain still faced a substantial threat even though the terror level had been reset to "severe" from "critical."

"Severe still means that an attack is highly likely, so I would urge everybody to be vigilant but not alarmed," she said.

The advancing investigation was welcome news for London commuters who had anticipated heading to work Monday morning while suspects remained at large and police were racing to round them up before they could hit the city again.

Mark Rowley, who heads the police counter-terrorism operation, said the traveling public still would see an increased police and military presence in the coming days.

"For practical and precautionary reasons, we made the decision that the increased resources will continue for the beginning of this week," Rowley said. "So the public will still see that high level of policing presence; some armed, some unarmed."

He said two properties were being searched and that police had "much more to do."

The fact that a second person — a 21-year-old man — was arrested under the Terrorism Act offered the clearest proof yet that police and security services believe the subway bombing was not just the work of one person.

The first suspect, an 18-year-old man, was arrested early Saturday in the departure area of the port of Dover, where ferries leave for France on a regular basis. The second was arrested in Hounslow in west London shortly before midnight Saturday.

Both were questioned Sunday at a south London police station. They have not been charged or identified.

The subway bomb caused limited casualties because it failed to completely explode. Officials say 30 people were injured, including some hurt in the panic that ensued, and all but one have been released from the hospital. Most of the injured suffered burns.

The two searches were taking place at a suburban home in Sunbury, southwest of London, and in Stanwell, another suburb close to London Heathrow Airport.

The first search, linked to the first subject, started in Sunbury Saturday afternoon at a house that belongs to an elderly couple who have for years taken in foster children, including refugees from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq.

The pair — Ronald Jones, 88, and his wife, Penelope Jones, 71 — have been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for their work with children in need of a stable home.

A friend, Alison Griffiths, said the Joneses are "great pillars of the community" who have taken in several hundred children in the last 40 years.

Neighbors said two young men had been staying with them recently.

The second search started Sunday afternoon and was linked to the second suspect.

The Islamic State extremist group has said Friday's subway attack was carried out by one of its affiliated units.

Britain has endured four other attacks this year, which have killed a total of 36 people. The other attacks in London — near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London — used vehicles and knives to kill and wound.

The official terrorist threat level is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, which consists of senior police and intelligence figures. The level has been set at "severe" for most of the past year, but was briefly raised to "critical" on Friday and after the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May.


Acid attack on 4 US students in France not seen as terror act

This image taken from video shows passengers inside Marseille-Saint-Charles railway station in Marseille, France on Sunday Sept. 17, 2017.(AP Photo)

BY Philippe Sotto, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Four American college students were attacked with acid Sunday at a train station in France, but French authorities so far do not think extremist views motivated the 41-year-old woman who was arrested as the alleged assailant, the local prosecutor's office and the students' school said.

Boston College, a private Jesuit university in Massachusetts, said in a statement Sunday that the four female students were treated at a hospital for burns after they were sprayed in the face with acid in the city of Marseille. The statement said the four all were juniors studying abroad, three of them at the college's Paris program.

"It appears that the students are fine, considering the circumstances, though they may require additional treatment for burns," Nick Gozik, who directs Boston College's Office of International Programs. "We have been in contact with the students and their parents and remain in touch with French officials and the U.S. Embassy regarding the incident."

Police in France described the suspect as "disturbed" and said the attack was not thought at this point to be terror-related, according the university's statement.

The Paris prosecutor's office said earlier Sunday that its counter-terrorism division had decided for the time being not to assume jurisdiction for investigating the attack. The prosecutor's office in the capital, which has responsibility for all terror-related cases in France, did not explain the reasoning behind the decision.

A spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor's office told The Associated Press in a telephone call that the suspect did not make any extremist threats or declarations during the late morning attack at the city's Saint Charles train station. She said there were no obvious indications that the woman's actions were terror-related.

The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity, per the custom of the French judicial system. She said all four of the victims were in their 20s and treated at a hospital, two of them for shock. The suspect was taken into police custody.

Boston College identified the students as Courtney Siverling, Charlotte Kaufman, Michelle Krug and Kelsey Kosten.
The Marseille fire department was alerted just after 11 a.m. and dispatched four vehicles and 14 firefighters to the train station, a department spokeswoman said.

Two of the Americans were "slightly injured" with acid but did not require emergency medical treatment from medics at the scene, the spokeswoman said. She requested anonymity in keeping with fire department protocol.

A person with knowledge of the investigation said the suspect had a history of mental health problems but no apparent past links to extremism. The person was not authorized to be publicly named speaking about the investigation.

Regional newspaper La Provence said the assailant remained at the site of the attack without trying to flee.

France has seen scattered attacks by unstable individuals as well as extremist violence in recent years, including in Marseille, a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.

A driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops in Marseille last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn't terror-related.

In April, French police said they thwarted an imminent "terror attack" and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France's presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects "were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action." In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of the Islamic State group.
___
Angela Charlton in Paris and Crystal Hill in Boston contributed to the report.


Angelina Jolie condemns Myanmar violence

 

A Rohingya Muslim, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, walks towards the nearest refugee camps carrying his belongings at Teknaf, Bangladesh, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has condemned the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and called on the country's government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, to no longer remain silent.

Jolie on Sunday told weekly Welt am Sonntag: "It's absolutely clear that the violence by the army needs to stop and that the return of the refugees has to be permitted — and that the Rohingya should be given civil rights."

Jolie added: "We all wish that Aung San Suu Kyi will in this situation be the voice of human rights."
Suu Kyi has been harshly criticized for not condemning the violence.

Rohingya have faced decades of persecution by the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship. The current crisis that has led more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh in the past three weeks.


Hard to spot: criminals find new ways to smuggle rhino horns

In this Tuesday Nov. 15, 2011 file photo, customs officers stand guard besides the smuggled ivory bracelets at the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department in Hong Kong, inside a container shipped to Hong Kong from Cape Town, South Africa. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

By Christopher Torchia, Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — International traffickers have tried many ways to smuggle African rhino horns to Asia, concealing them inside wooden Buddha statues, stashing horn pieces in lobster heads kept in a refrigerated container and disguising horn portions as the bases of painted statues.

Now, conservationists say, some criminal groups are processing rhino horns into powder and trinkets in South Africa before export, a trend that could reflect changing consumer tastes and make it harder for law enforcement to intercept the illegal cargo.

The development highlights the difficulty of countering criminal syndicates, some of which include Chinese nationals, which show versatility in the face of periodic anti-poaching successes by security officials, who have reported confiscations of intact rhino horns at the main international airport in Johannesburg in past months. South Africa, which has about 80 percent of the continent's rhinos, has experienced record levels of poaching in the past decade.

Recent investigations by South African police discovered small, home-based workshops where rhino horns were cut into small pieces, beads and bracelets, or packaged as powder, TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, said in an analysis released Monday. The development will test overstretched law enforcement agencies if traffickers expand such operations, and growing evidence that swindlers are making fake rhino horn products out of cow horns adds to the challenge, the report said.

"If someone walks through an airport wearing a necklace made of rhino horn, who's going to stop them?" said Julian Rademeyer, who co-wrote the report and is the author of "Killing for Profit," a book about the illegal rhino horn trade.

Rademeyer said he had been aware of the increasing phenomenon of locally manufactured rhino horn products destined for export since last year. Similarly, elephant ivory products have also been produced in Africa before shipment to illegal markets elsewhere.

The TRAFFIC report cites a June case in which police raided a house east of Johannesburg and found a workshop containing large rhino horn beads, some of them polished, and horn pieces cut into cylindrical shapes. Two Chinese nationals and a Thai woman were arrested. In a 2016 case, the report said, police conducting a raid in a Johannesburg suburb with a large Chinese community seized a bag of rhino horn powder, a large number of ivory bangles and carvings, pangolin scales and other illegal items. Two suspects were detained.

Vietnam and China have the main illegal markets for rhino horn, which is viewed by consumers as a treatment for cancer, hangovers and other ailments, even though it is made from the same substance has human fingernails and there is no evidence that it has medicinal value. Wealthy consumers perceive a horn as a status symbol and there is also a growing market for rhino horn jewelry and other trinkets of the kind being produced in South Africa before export.

A researcher in South Africa who was not involved in the TRAFFIC study said the local manufacture of rhino horn products was a "fairly new" development because horn processing usually occurred in Asia.

"This obviously creates a different problem for us to detect it and to stop the trade," said Melville Saayman, a professor in tourism management and economics at South Africa's North-West University who led a survey of rhino horn consumers in Vietnam.

"A large number of people prefer the powder, but there are those who use it for lucky charms. So they would like a piece of the horn," Saayman said. He added that Asian distributors and sellers traditionally prefer to receive intact horns from Africa because then they can chop them into whatever form to meet consumer needs.

TRAFFIC's China team have noted rhino horn beads and bracelets for sale on the internet, indicating that rhino horn is "morphing into a luxury product trade" in addition to its use in traditional medicine, said Tom Milliken, a rhino expert at the wildlife trade monitoring network.

"Also, no one along the trade chain from Africa to Asia is really looking for rhino horn products, the law enforcement focus is completely on horns or pieces of horns," Milliken said. "Thus, the production in Africa probably achieves a dual purpose: It's cheaper to produce the products and the products are more likely than horns to be smuggled with impunity."

Follow Christopher Torchia on Twitter at www.twitter.com/torchiachris


Today in History - Monday, Sept. 18, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Monday, Sept. 18, the 261st day of 2017. There are 104 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 18, 1947, the National Security Act, which created a National Military Establishment and the position of Secretary of Defense, went into effect.

On this date:

In A.D. 14, the Roman Senate officially confirmed Tiberius as the second emperor of the Roman Empire, succeeding the late Augustus.

In 1793, President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol.

In 1810, Chile made its initial declaration of independence from Spain with the forming of a national junta.

In 1927, the Columbia Phonograph Broadcasting System (later CBS) made its on-air debut with a basic network of 16 radio stations.

In 1931, an explosion in the Chinese city of Mukden damaged a section of Japanese-owned railway track; Japan, blaming Chinese nationalists, invaded Manchuria the next day.

In 1959, during his U.S. tour, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited Wall Street, the Empire State Building and the grave of President Franklin D. Roosevelt; in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Khrushchev called on all countries to disarm.

In 1961, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold (dahg HAWM'-ahr-shoold) was killed in a plane crash in northern Rhodesia.

In 1970, rock star Jimi Hendrix died in London at age 27.

In 1975, newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst was captured by the FBI in San Francisco, 19 months after being kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

In 1981, a museum honoring former President Gerald R. Ford was dedicated in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In 1987, the psychological thriller "Fatal Attraction," starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, was released by Paramount Pictures.

In 1990, the city of Atlanta was named the site of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, cheered on by Iraq war veterans and their families on the White House's South Lawn, urged lawmakers to back his plan to withdraw some troops from Iraq but keep at least 130,000 through the summer of 2008 or longer. O.J. Simpson was charged with seven felonies, including kidnapping, in the alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia collectors in a Las Vegas casino-hotel room. (Simpson, sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison, is scheduled to be released on parole in October 2017.)

Five years ago: Chicago teachers voted to suspend their strike and return to the classroom after more than a week on picket lines, ending a combative stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over evaluations and job security. NFL Films President Steve Sabol, 69, died in Moorestown, New Jersey.

One year ago: At the United Nations, the United States, Japan and South Korea roundly condemned North Korea's latest nuclear test and called for tough new measures to further isolate the communist state. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks 9-3 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a game that marked the return of pro football to the nation's second-largest market for the first time in nearly 22 years. In Gee Chun of South Korea won the Evian Championship with the lowest 72-hole score in major championship history, finishing at 21-under 263 for a four-stroke victory. "Game of Thrones" was honored at the Emmy Awards as top drama for the second consecutive year; "Veep" repeated as best comedy series.

Today's Birthdays: Singer Jimmie Rodgers is 84. Actor Robert Blake is 84. Actor Fred Willard is 84. Actor Eddie Jones is 83. Gospel singer Bobby Jones is 79. Singer Frankie Avalon is 77. Actress Beth Grant is 68. Rock musician Kerry Livgren is 68. Actress Anna Deavere Smith is 67. The U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, is 66. Basketball Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino is 65. College Football Hall of Famer and retired NFL player Billy Sims is 62. Movie director Mark Romanek is 58. Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is 58. Alt-country-rock musician Mark Olson is 56. Singer Joanne Catherall (Human League) is 55. Actress Holly Robinson Peete is 53. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ricky Bell (Bell Biv Devoe and New Edition) is 50. Actress Aisha Tyler is 47. Former racing cyclist Lance Armstrong is 46. Opera singer Anna Netrebko is 46. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith is 46. Actor James Marsden is 44. Actress Emily Rutherfurd is 43. Actor Travis Schuldt is 43. Rapper Xzibit is 43.

Comedian-actor Jason Sudeikis is 42. Actress Sophina Brown is 41. Actor Barrett Foa is 40. Talk show co-host Sara Haines (TV: "The View") is 40. Actress Alison Lohman is 38. Designer Brandon Maxwell is 33. Actors Brandon and Taylor Porter are 24. Country singer Tae Dye (Maddie and Tae) is 22. Actor C.J. Sanders is 21.

Thought for Today: "Don't think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drives into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark." — Samuel Johnson, English author, critic and lexicographer (1709-1784).


Update September 16-17, 2017

Defiant N. Korea leader says he will complete nuke program

In this undated photo distributed on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, celebrates what was said to be the test launch of an intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

By Kim Tong-Hyung, Edith M.Lederer, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said his country is nearing its goal of "equilibrium" in military force with the United States, as the United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the North's "highly provocative" ballistic missile launch over Japan on Friday.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency carried Kim's comments on Saturday — a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries detected the missile launch from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

It traveled 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) as it passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the northern Pacific Ocean. It was the country's longest-ever test flight of a ballistic missile.

The North has confirmed the missile as an intermediate range Hwasong-12, the same model launched over Japan on Aug. 29.

Under Kim's watch, North Korea has maintained a torrid pace in weapons tests, including its most powerful nuclear test to date on Sept. 3 and two July flight tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could strike deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

The increasingly frequent and aggressive tests have added to outside fears that the North is closer than ever to building a military arsenal that could viably target the U.S. and its allies in Asia. The tests, which could potentially make launches over Japan an accepted norm, are also seen as North Korea's attempt to win greater military freedom in the region and raise doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect them.

The KCNA said Kim expressed great satisfaction over the launch, which he said verified the "combat efficiency and reliability" of the missile and the success of efforts to increase its power.

While the English version of the report was less straightforward, the Korean version quoted Kim as declaring the missile as operationally ready. He vowed to complete his nuclear weapons program in the face of strengthening international sanctions, the agency said.

Photos published by North Korea's state media showed the missile being launched from a truck-mounted launcher and a smiling Kim clapping and raising his fist while celebrating from an observation point.

The U.N. Security Council accused North Korea of undermining regional peace and security by launching its latest missile over Japan and said its nuclear and missile tests "have caused grave security concerns around the world" and threaten all 193 U.N. member states.

Kim also said the country, despite "limitless" international sanctions, has nearly completed the building of its nuclear weapons force and called for "all-state efforts" to reach the goal and obtain a "capacity for nuclear counterattack the U.S. cannot cope with."

"As recognized by the whole world, we have made all these achievements despite the U.N. sanctions that have lasted for decades," the agency quoted Kim as saying.

Kim said the country's final goal "is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK," referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He indicated that more missile tests would be forthcoming, saying that all future drills should be "meaningful and practical ones for increasing the combat power of the nuclear force" to establish an order in the deployment of nuclear warheads for "actual war."

Prior to the launches over Japan, North Korean had threatened to fire a salvo of Hwasong-12s toward Guam, the U.S. Pacific island territory and military hub the North has called an "advanced base of invasion."

The Security Council stressed in a statement after a closed-door emergency meeting that all countries must "fully, comprehensively and immediately" implement all U.N. sanctions.

Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho called the missile launch an "outrageous act" that is not only a threat to Japan's security but a threat to the whole world.

Bessho and the British, French and Swedish ambassadors demanded that all sanctions be implemented.

Calling the latest launch a "terrible, egregious, illegal, provocative reckless act," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said North Korea's largest trading partners and closest links — a clear reference to China — must "demonstrate that they are doing everything in their power to implement the sanctions of the Security Council and to encourage the North Korean regime to change course."

France's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country is ready to work on tougher U.N. and EU measures to convince Pyongyang that there is no interest in an escalation, and to bring it to the negotiating table.

Friday's launch followed North Korea's sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 in what it described as a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental ICBMs.

The Hwasong-12 and the Hwasong-14 were initially fired at highly lofted angles to reduce their range and avoid neighboring countries. The two Hwasong-12 launches over Japan indicate North Korea is moving toward using angles close to operational to evaluate whether its warheads can survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly.

While some experts believe North Korea would need to conduct more tests to confirm Hwasong-12's accuracy and reliability, Kim Jong Un's latest comments indicate the country would soon move toward mass producing the missiles for operational deployment, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies. He also said that the North is likely planning similar test launches of its Hwasong-14 ICBM.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who initially pushed for talks with North Korea, said its tests currently make dialogue "impossible."

"If North Korea provokes us or our allies, we have the strength to smash the attempt at an early stage and inflict a level of damage it would be impossible to recover from," said Moon, who ordered his military to conduct a live-fire ballistic missile drill in response to the North Korean launch.
___
Lederer reported from the United Nations.
 


Crocodile suspected in death of UK reporter in Sri Lanka

In this undated image issued Friday Sept. 15, 2017, by The Financial Times, showing British journalist Paul McClean.(Charlie Bibby/Financial Times via AP)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan navy divers on Friday found the body of a British journalist who is believed to have been attacked by a crocodile while holidaying with friends on a beach.

Police said Paul Stewart McClean, a reporter for the Financial Times, went missing in a lagoon near the city of Panama on Thursday.

They said McClean, 24, was reported missing after he had walked some distance from his friends. The Financial Times said on its website that officials told his friends he was believed to have been attacked by a crocodile.

The cause of death is yet to be established. Officials in the British Embassy in Colombo have been informed, police said.

Panama beach, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) southeast of the capital, Colombo, is famous for surfing and other beach sports.

James Lamont, the Financial Times' managing editor, described McClean as "a talented, energetic and dedicated young journalist" who had "a great career ahead of him."


21 boys who died in school fire buried in Malaysia

Relative cry during a mass funeral for victims of a school fire outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.(AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

By Eileen Ng, Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Twenty-one young boys who died in a fire at a private Islamic boarding school were buried in Malaysia on Friday amid renewed calls for better regulation of religious schools.

The charred bodies were released to family members after being identified through DNA testing. Islamic authorities and grieving family members held prayers for the victims at the hospital mosque before the bodies were taken to cemeteries.

Eleven of the boys were buried outside Kuala Lumpur, where hundreds of relatives and well-wishers mourned as the bodies, wrapped in white shrouds, were lowered into the graves. In another cemetery about a half hour away, two siblings and their cousin were laid to rest in the same grave, the Star newspaper said. Others were taken to their hometowns. The burials were sponsored and arranged by state Islamic authorities.

The pre-dawn blaze Thursday at a three-story "tahfiz" school, where Muslim boys study and memorize the Quran, blocked the lone exit to the dormitory, trapping students behind barred windows. Officials said the school was operating without a fire safety permit and license, and that a dividing wall was illegally built on the top floor that blocked the victims from a second exit.

A list released by the national news agency Bernama said the victims were 21 boys aged between 6 and 16 and two teachers. Police had put the boys' ages at between 13 and 17 on Thursday, and couldn't be reached to explain the discrepancy.

Religious schools, mostly privately run, are not supervised by the Education Ministry because they come under the purview of state religious authorities. Local media reported there are more than 500 registered tahfiz schools nationwide but many more are believed to be unregistered.

Data from the Fire Department showed that 1,083 fires struck religious schools in the past two years, of which 211 were burned to the ground. The worst disaster occurred in 1989 when 27 female students at an Islamic school in Kedah state died when fire gutted the school and eight wooden hostels.

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said his department has proposed that a special committee be set up to obtain state government consent to place all tahfiz schools under the ministry's supervision to ensure they get safety approvals and have operating permits. He said the ministry had previously urged religious schools to register, but that was on a voluntary basis.

"This is a good opportunity for us to make it a compulsory requirement for religious schools to register with the Education Ministry. Our main concern is safety," he told The Associated Press. "We have no intention to change or interfere with their teachings."

Religion is a sensitive matter in Malaysia, where ethnic Malay Muslims make up about 60 percent of the country's 31 million people.

Firefighters and witnesses have described scenes of horror — first of boys screaming for help behind barred windows as neighbors watched helplessly, and later of burned bodies huddled in corners of the room. Officials initially said they suspected the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit but later said this wasn't the case. Police said they are still investigating the cause as well as the presence of two gas tanks outside the dormitory.

School principal Mohamad Zahid Mahmod has told local media the students were being housed in a temporary building because of renovation work at the main school building. He said they were due to move back at the end of this month. He said the school has been operating for 15 years and registered with the state Islamic religious council. But an official with the state religious council said it had no record of the school.

Many grieving parents and family members described the tragedy as fate.

Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, the wife of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, blamed human error. She said she was briefed by a police officer and was told the dormitory was overcrowded.

"We say that it is God or fate but God does not err ... the ugly and the bad are from us. We have to take that responsibility. Do not say it was God or fate," she said after visiting the school Friday.


UK threat level raised to "critical" after subway bombing

Police forensic officers walk within a cordon near where an incident happened, that police say they are investigating as a terrorist attack, at Parsons Green subway station in London, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

By Jill Lawless, Gregory Katz, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — A homemade bomb planted in a rush-hour subway car exploded in London on Friday, injuring 29 people and prompting authorities to raise Britain's terrorism threat level to "critical," meaning another attack may be imminent.

The early morning blast sparked a huge manhunt for the perpetrators of what police said was the fourth terrorist attack in the British capital this year.

Prime Minister Theresa May, acting on the recommendation of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center, raised the country's threat level from "severe" to "critical" — its highest possible level. May said military troops would augment the police presence in a "proportionate and sensible step."

Earlier, May said the device had been "intended to cause significant harm."

Still, to the relief of authorities and Londoners, experts said the bomb — hidden in a plastic bucket inside a supermarket freezer bag — only partially exploded, sparing the city much worse carnage.

"I would say this was a failed high-explosive device," Chris Hunter, a former British army bomb expert, said of the blast, which caused no serious injuries.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which it said was carried out by an affiliated unit.
The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train, carrying commuters from the suburbs — including many school children — was at Parsons Green station in the southwest of the city.

Witness Chris Wildish told Sky News that he saw "out of the corner of my eye, a massive flash of flames that went up the side of the train," followed by "an acrid chemical smell."

Commuter Lauren Hubbard said she was on the train when she heard a loud bang.

"I looked around and this wall of fire was just coming toward us," Hubbard said. She said her instinct was "just run," and she fled the above-ground station with her boyfriend.

Chaos ensued as hundreds of people, some of them suffering burns, poured from the train, which can hold up to 800 people.

"I ended up squashed on the staircase. People were falling over, people fainting, crying. There were little kids clinging onto the back of me," said another commuter, Ryan Barnett.

Passenger Luke Walmsley said it was "like every man for himself to get down the stairs."

"People were just pushing," he added. "There were nannies or mums asking where their children were."

Police and health officials said 29 people were treated in London hospitals, most of them for flash burns. None of the injuries were serious or life-threatening, the emergency services said.

Trains were suspended along a stretch of the Underground's District Line, and several homes were evacuated as police set up a 50-meter (150-foot) cordon around the scene while they secured the device and launched a search for those who planted it.

The Metropolitan Police said hundreds of detectives, along with agents of the domestic spy agency MI5, were looking at surveillance camera footage, carrying out forensic work and speaking to witnesses.

Speaking to reporters late Friday, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said police were making "good progress" and that the public should be reassured that more police and troops will be on the streets.

"We are only aware of one device," he said. "We have remnants of that device. We are chasing down suspects." He refused to provide further details, except to say the bomb involved the "detonation of an improvised explosive device."

Among the questions authorities were seeking to answer: What was the device made from, and was it meant to go off when it did, in a leafy, affluent part of the city far from London's top tourist sites?

British media reported that the bomb included a timer. Lewis Herrington, a terrorism expert at Loughborough University, said that would set it apart from suicide attacks like those on the London subway in 2005 or at Manchester Arena in May, in which the attackers "all wanted to die."

Photos taken inside the train showed a white plastic bucket inside a foil-lined shopping bag, with flames and what appeared to be wires emerging from the top.

Terrorism analyst Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish Defense University said that from the photos it appeared the bomb did not fully detonate, as much of the device and its casing remained intact.

"They were really lucky with this one, it could have really become much worse," he said.

Hunter, the explosives expert, said it appeared that "there was a bang, a bit of a flash, and that would suggest that, potentially, some of the explosive detonated, the detonator detonated, but much of the explosive was effectively inert."

Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes of the blast, a testament to their experience at responding to violent attacks in London. The city has been a target for decades: from Irish Republican Army bombers, right-wing extremists and, more recently, attackers inspired by al-Qaida or the Islamic State group.

Britain has seen four other terrorist attacks this year, which killed a total of 36 people. The other attacks in London — near Parliament, on London Bridge and near a mosque in Finsbury Park in north London — used vehicles and knives. Similar methods have been used in attacks across Europe, including in Nice, Stockholm, Berlin and Barcelona.

The last time the country's threat level was raised to critical, was after the May 22 suicide bombing at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people.

British authorities say they have foiled 19 plots since the middle of 2013, six of them since the van and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March, which killed five people. Police and MI5 say that at any given time they are running about 500 counterterrorism investigations involving 3,000 individuals.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said there had been a "shift" in the terrorism threat, with attackers using a wide range of methods to try to inflict carnage. Khan, who belongs to the opposition Labour Party, said London police needed more resources to fight the threat. Police budgets have been cut since 2010 by Britain's Conservative government.

The London Underground, which handles 5 million journeys a day, has been targeted several times in the past. In July 2005, suicide bombers blew themselves up on three subway trains and a bus, killing 52 people and themselves. Four more bombers tried a similar attack two weeks later, but their devices failed to fully explode.

Last year Damon Smith, a student with an interest in weapons and Islamic extremism, left a knapsack filled with explosives and ball bearings on a London subway train. It failed to explode.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on Friday's attack, tweeting that it was carried out "by a loser terrorist," and adding that "these are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard."

The British prime minister gently rebuked the president for his tweets. "I never think it's helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation," May said.
___
Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.


Today in History - Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2017. There are 105 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 17, 1967, The Doors appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on CBS-TV for the first — and last — time. The group was banned from the program after Jim Morrison ignored a producer's request to change the line, "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" to "Girl, we couldn't get much better" while singing "Light My Fire" during the live broadcast.

On this date:

In 1787, the Constitution of the United States was completed and signed by a majority of delegates attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

In 1862, more than 3,600 men were killed in the Civil War Battle of Antietam (an-TEE'-tum) in Maryland.

In 1937, the likeness of President Abraham Lincoln's head was dedicated at Mount Rushmore.

In 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland during World War II, more than two weeks after Nazi Germany had launched its assault.

In 1947, James V. Forrestal was sworn in as the first U.S. Secretary of Defense.

In 1957, two male attorneys "stood in" as actress Sophia Loren and producer Carlo Ponti were married by proxy in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Legal issues later forced an annulment; the couple wed in Sevres, France, in 1966.)

In 1971, citing health reasons, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 85, retired. (Black, who was succeeded by Lewis F. Powell Jr., died eight days after making his announcement.)

In 1978, after meeting at Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (men-AH'-kem BAY'-gihn) and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed a framework for a peace treaty.

In 1987, the city of Philadelphia, birthplace of the U.S. Constitution, threw a big party to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the historic document; in a speech at Independence Hall, President Ronald Reagan acclaimed the framing of the Constitution as a milestone "that would profoundly and forever alter not just these United States but the world."

In 1996, former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew died in Berlin, Maryland, at age 77.

In 1997, a U.N. helicopter slammed into a fog-shrouded mountain in central Bosnia and burst into flames, killing German diplomat Gerd Wagner, five Americans and six others. President Bill Clinton rejected a ban on land mines endorsed by 89 countries, saying the accord would jeopardize "the safety and security of our men in uniform." Comedian Red Skelton died in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 84.

In 2011, a demonstration calling itself Occupy Wall Street began in New York, prompting similar protests around the U.S. and the world.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush nominated former federal judge Michael Mukasey to become attorney general. The Iraqi government revoked the license of Blackwater USA security firm a day after a shooting incident that had claimed the lives of civilians. During a forum at the University of Florida, Andrew Meyer, a student with a history of taping his own practical jokes, was Tasered by campus police and arrested after loudly and repeatedly trying to question Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Five years ago: Republican Mitt Romney tried to head off a new distraction for his presidential campaign after a video surfaced showing him telling wealthy donors that 47 percent of all Americans "believe they are victims" entitled to help from the government that permeated their lives; Romney offered no apologies, but conceded his comments were not "elegantly stated" and were spoken "off the cuff."

One year ago: An explosion rocked Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, injuring 30 people; an Afghan-born New Jersey resident is facing trial in the bombing. A Somali-American went on a stabbing rampage at Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, wounding 10 people before an off-duty officer fatally shot him. Rapper Snoop Dogg received the "I Am Hip Hop" award at the 11th annual BET Hip-Hop Awards near Atlanta. Actress Charmian Carr, best known for playing Liesl von Trapp in the 1965 movie musical "The Sound of Music," died in Los Angeles at age 73.

Today's Birthdays: Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, is 84. Retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter is 78. Singer LaMonte McLemore (The Fifth Dimension) is 82. Retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni is 74. Basketball Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson is 72. Singer Fee Waybill is 67. Actress Cassandra Peterson ("Elvira, Mistress of the Dark") is 66. Comedian Rita Rudner is 64. Muppeteer Kevin Clash (former voice of Elmo on "Sesame Street") is 57. Director-actor Paul Feig is 55. Movie director Baz Luhrmann is 55. Singer BeBe Winans is 55. TV personality/businessman Robert Herjavec (TV: "Shark Tank") is 54. Actor Kyle Chandler is 52. Director-producer Bryan Singer is 52. Rapper Doug E. Fresh is 51. Actor Malik Yoba is 50. Rock singer Anastacia is 49. Rock musician Keith Flint (Prodigy) is 48. Actor Matthew Settle is 48. Rapper Vinnie (Naughty By Nature) is 47. Actor-comedian Bobby Lee is 46. Actor Felix Solis is 46. Rhythm-and-blues singer Marcus Sanders (Hi-Five) is 44. Actress-singer Nona Gaye is 43.

Singer-actor Constantine Maroulis is 42. NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson is 42. Pop singer Maile Misajon (Eden's Crush) is 41. Country singer-songwriter Stephen Cochran is 38. Rock musician Chuck Comeau (Simple Plan) is 38. Actor Billy Miller is 38. Country singer Desi Wasdin (3 of Hearts) is 34. Rock musician Jon Walker is 32. Actress Danielle Brooks is 28. Actress-singer Denyse Tontz is 23.

Thought for Today: "I personally believe that each of us was put here for a purpose to build, not to destroy. If I can make people smile, then I have served my purpose for God." — Red Skelton (1913-1997).


Today in History - Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, Sept. 16, the 259th day of 2017. There are 106 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On September 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act. Samuel T. Rayburn of Texas was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On this date:

In 1498, Tomas de Torquemada, notorious for his role in the Spanish Inquisition, died in Avila, Spain.

In 1857, the song "Jingle Bells" by James Pierpont was copyrighted under its original title, "One Horse Open Sleigh." (The song, while considered a Christmastime classic, was actually written for Thanksgiving.)

In 1893, more than 100,000 settlers swarmed onto a section of land in Oklahoma known as the "Cherokee Strip."

In 1908, General Motors was founded in Flint, Michigan, by William C. Durant.

In 1919, the American Legion received a national charter from Congress.

In 1925, the Irving Berlin song "Always" (written for his future wife, Ellin Mackay) was published.

In 1953, "The Robe," the first movie presented in the widescreen process CinemaScope, had its world premiere at the Roxy Theater in New York.

In 1967, the TV series "Mannix," starring Mike Connors as a private investigator, premiered on CBS.

In 1977, Maria Callas, the American-born prima donna famed for her lyric soprano and fiery temperament, died in Paris at age 53.

In 1982, the massacre of between 1,200 and 1,400 Palestinian men, women and children at the hands of Israeli-allied Christian Phalange militiamen began in west Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

In 1987, two dozen countries signed the Montreal Protocol, a treaty designed to save the Earth's ozone layer by calling on nations to reduce emissions of harmful chemicals by the year 2000.

In 1994, a federal jury in Anchorage, Alaska, ordered Exxon Corp. to pay $5 billion in punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon Valdez (val-DEEZ') oil spill (the U.S Supreme Court later reduced that amount to $507.5 million). Two astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery went on the first untethered spacewalk in ten years.

Ten years ago: Contractors for the U.S. security firm Blackwater USA guarding a U.S. State Department convoy in Baghdad opened fire on civilian vehicles, mistakenly believing they were under attack; 14 Iraqis died. A One-Two-Go Airlines passenger plane crashed on the island of Phuket (poo-KET'), Thailand, killing 90 people. O.J. Simpson was arrested in the alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia collectors in Las Vegas. (Simpson was later convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery and sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison; he's due to be released on parole in October 2017.) The Phoenix Mercury beat the Detroit Shock 108-92 to win their first WNBA title. "The Sopranos" claimed its final Emmy award as best dramatic series; "30 Rock" won best comedy series.

Five years ago: In appearances on Sunday news shows, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said there was no evidence that the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, was premeditated. But Libya's interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, told CBS he had no doubt attackers spent months planning the assault and purposely chose the date, September 11.

One year ago: After five years of promoting a false conspiracy theory about Barack Obama's birthplace, Republican Donald Trump abruptly reversed course, acknowledging that the president was born in America, but then claiming the "birther movement" was begun by his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. (While the question of Obama's birthplace was raised by some backers of Clinton's primary campaign against Obama eight years earlier, Clinton had long denounced it as a "racist lie.") Three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, 88, died in Montauk, New York. Author W.P. Kinsella, 81, died in Hope, British Columbia, Canada.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Janis Paige is 95. Actor George Chakiris is 85. Bluesman Billy Boy Arnold is 82. Movie director Jim McBride is 76. Actress Linda Miller is 75. Rhythm-and-blues singer Betty Kelley (Martha & the Vandellas) is 73. Musician Kenney Jones (Small Faces; Faces; The Who) is 69. Actress Susan Ruttan is 69. Rock musician Ron Blair (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; Mudcrutch) is 69. Actor Ed Begley Jr. is 68. Country singer David Bellamy (The Bellamy Brothers) is 67. Country singer-songwriter Phil Lee is 66. Actor-comedian Lenny Clarke is 64. Actor Kurt Fuller is 64. Jazz musician Earl Klugh is 64. Actor Christopher Rich is 64. Singer Frank Reed (The Chi-Lites) is 63. TV personality Mark McEwen is 63. Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount is 62. Actor Mickey Rourke is 61. Magician David Copperfield is 61. Country singer-songwriter Terry McBride is 59. Actress Jennifer Tilly is 59. Retired MLB All-Star pitcher Orel Hershiser is 59. Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines is 58. Actress Jayne Brook is 57. Singer Richard Marx is 54. Comedian Molly Shannon is 53. Singer Marc Anthony is 49. Comedian-actress Amy Poehler is 46. Actress Toks Olagundoye is 42. Country singer Matt Stillwell is 42. Singer Musiq is 40. Actor Michael Mosley is 39. Rapper Flo Rida is 38. Actress Alexis Bledel is 36. Actress Sabrina Bryan is 33. Actress Madeline Zima is 32. Actor Ian Harding is 31. Actress Kyla Pratt is 31. Actor Daren Kagasoff is 30. Rock singer Teddy Geiger is 29. Actress-dancer Bailey Buntain is 28. Rock singer-musician Nick Jonas (The Jonas Brothers) is 25. Actress Elena Kampouris is 20.

Thought for Today: "Stoicism is the wisdom of madness and cynicism the madness of wisdom." — Bergen Evans, American lexicographer (1904-1978).


Update September 15, 2017

North Korea fires missile over Japan in longest-ever flight

People watch a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korea's missile launch, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By Kim Tong-Hyung, Foster Klug, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean on Friday, U.S. and South Korean militaries said, its longest-ever such flight and a clear message of defiance to its rivals.

Since President Donald Trump threatened the North with "fire and fury" in August, Pyongyang has conducted its most powerful nuclear test and launched two missiles of increasing range over U.S. ally Japan. It tested its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

The growing frequency, power and confidence displayed by these tests seems to confirm what governments and outside experts have long feared: North Korea is closer than ever to its goal of building a military arsenal that can viably target both U.S. troops in Asia and the U.S. homeland. This, in turn, is meant to allow North Korea greater military freedom in the region by raising doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect its Asian allies.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached a maximum height of 770 kilometers (478 miles).

North Korea has repeatedly vowed to continue these tests amid what it calls U.S. hostility — by which it means the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Japan and South Korea. Robust diplomacy on the issue has been stalled for years, and there's little sign that senior officials from Pyongyang and Washington might sit down to discuss ways to slow the North's determined march toward inclusion among the world's nuclear weapons powers.

Friday's missile, which triggered sirens and warning messages in northern Japan but caused no apparent damage to aircraft or ships, was the second fired over Japan in less than a month. North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The missile was launched from Sunan, the location of Pyongyang's international airport and the origin of the earlier missile that flew over Japan. Analysts have speculated the new test was of the same intermediate-range missile launched in that earlier flight, the Hwasong-12.

That missile is linked to North Korea's declaration that it means to contain the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, which is the home of important U.S. military assets and appears well within the Hwasong-12's range.

Friday's missile test was met with the usual outrage. South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered his military to conduct a live-fire ballistic missile drill in response to the North Korean launch and instructed government officials to pursue "stern" measures to discourage Pyongyang from further provocations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both called the launch a reckless act.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting to be held Friday afternoon in New York. Trump has not commented.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Pacific Command said the missile posed no threat to North America or to Guam.

South Korean experts have said North Korea wants to make missiles flying over Japan an accepted norm as it seeks to win more military space in a region dominated by its enemies.

North Korea initially flight-tested the Hwasong-12 and the ICBM model Hwasong-14 at highly lofted angles to reduce their range and avoid neighboring countries.

The two launches over Japan indicate North Korea is moving toward using angles close to operational to determine whether its warheads can survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly.

North Korea has been accelerating its nuclear weapons development under leader Kim Jong Un, a third-generation dictator who has conducted four of North Korea's six nuclear tests since taking power in 2011. The weapons are being tested at a torrid pace and include solid-fuel missiles designed to be launched from road mobile launchers or submarines and are thus less detectable beforehand.

North Korea claimed its latest nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its ICBMs, which could potentially reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions earlier this week over the nuclear test. They ban all textile exports and prohibit any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency. They also prohibit North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap Pyongyang's imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry denounced the U.N. sanctions and said the North will "redouble its efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country's sovereignty and right to existence."
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AP writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.


Cambodia retaliates for visa ban, suspends US MIA searches

In this April 2, 2014 file photo, U.S. military personnel drape the U.S. national flag over a coffin containing possible remains of a U.S. serviceman during a repatriation ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

By Sopheng Cheang, Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday he will retaliate against a U.S. halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by U.S. military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Cambodia's pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen said cooperation with the United States on the MIA search would be suspended until the two countries resolve several issues, especially the visa ban. Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the report.

The U.S. government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.

The dispute comes at a time of sharp tensions between Hun Sen's government and Washington. As part of a general crackdown on critics ahead of next year's general election, Cambodian authorities recently arrested the head of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and accused the United States of colluding with him to overthrow the government.

The United States has rejected the accusation and criticized the arrest, along with a crackdown on the media that shut an independent English-language newspaper and about a dozen radio stations that broadcast opposition voices or programming by the U.S. government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The U.S. Embassy instituted the visa ban on Wednesday, saying that Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes. Similar measures were taken against the African nations of Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Hun Sen said in an interview with Fresh News that the foreign ministry would send a notification of the MIA search suspension to the U.S. in the near future. Earlier Thursday, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.

Hun Sen described the repatriation of convicts from the United States to Cambodia as an action that "breaks apart parents and children" and is "bad and inhumane." He said some of the repatriated Cambodians had committed suicide.

Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.


Nearly 3 weeks into Rohingya crisis, refugees still fleeing

A Rohingya Muslim man Naseer Ud Din holds his infant son Abdul Masood, who drowned when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore, as his wife Hanida Begum cries upon reaching the Bay of Bengal shore in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

By Julhas Alam,Dar Yasin, Associated Press

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh.

The crisis has drawn global condemnation, with U.N. officials demanding Myanmar halt what they described as a campaign of ethnic cleansing that has driven nearly 400,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state.

One of the dozens of boats carrying Rohingya to the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf capsized Thursday and at least two people drowned, police said. That brought known drownings in the Naf River to 88 since the crisis began.

Those who arrived Wednesday in wooden boats on beaches near Shah Porir Dwip fishing village described ongoing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where smoke could be seen billowing from a burning village — suggesting more Rohingya homes had been set alight.

One Rohingya man said his village of Rashidong had been attacked six days earlier by Myanmar soldiers and police.

"When military and police surrounded our village and attacked us with rocket launchers to set fire, we got away from our village and fled away to any direction we could manage," Abdul Goffar said.

Myanmar presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay said that out of 471 "Bengali" villages in three Rakhine townships, 176 were now completely empty while at least 34 more were partially abandoned. Many in Myanmar use that term as part of the long-standing refusal to accept Rohingya as citizens of the country.

Myanmar has accused the Rohingya of burning their own homes and villages — a claim the U.N. human rights chief criticized as a "complete denial of reality."

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters on Thursday that 10,000 people reportedly crossed the border that in the last 24 hours.

Combined with the Rohingyas who fled during the last round of violence in Rakhine state last October, Dujarric said "it's estimated that some 40 percent of the total Rohingya population have now fled into Bangladesh."

An estimated 60 percent of the Rohingyas arriving in Bangladesh are children, Dujarric said.

The crisis and refugee exodus began on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts. Myanmar's military retaliated with "clearance operations" to root out the rebels, but the fleeing Rohingya say Myanmar soldiers shot indiscriminately, burned their homes and warned them to leave or die. Others have said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs. Hundreds have died, mostly Rohingya, and some of the refugees have needed treatment for bullet wounds.

Facing growing condemnation globally, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend U.N. General Assembly meetings Sept. 19-25 to instead deal with what the government said were domestic security issues.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Wednesday that ethnic cleansing was taking place against Rohingya in Rakhine state. The term "ethnic cleansing" is defined as an effort to rid an area of an unwanted ethnic group — by displacement, deportation or even killing.

And Amnesty International said Thursday that it has turned up evidence of an "orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings" by Myanmar security forces targeting dozens of Rohingya villages over the last three weeks.

The U.N. Security Council has called for "immediate steps to end the violence" and ensure civilian protections.

Rohingya have faced decades of persecution in Myanmar, and are denied citizenship despite centuries-old roots in the Rakhine region.

The thousands of Rohingya flooding into Bangladesh every day have arrived hungry and traumatized. Many need urgent medical care for violence-related injuries, severe infections or childbirth.

"The women who are coming for check-ups all have a terrified and exhausted look," said Sumaya, a midwife at the Nayapara refugee camp working in association with the U.N. population fund. "We keep hearing stories from them of walking through jungles and across hills for days without food, their children carried over their shoulders. They've lost their homes."

Two existing refugee camps were packed beyond capacity, and Bangladesh has said it would free land to build a third. Many of the new arrivals were huddling in makeshift shelters along roads or in open fields. Near the camp of Balukhali, some were setting up tents made of bamboo and plastic along hillsides muddy from days of rain. Children walked uphill to capture rainwater before it spilled into the teeming settlements below.

Food, clean water and other necessities were scarce.

Panic erupted Thursday along roadsides where local volunteers were distributing food, water and other supplies haphazardly from parked vehicles. Local officials shouted through bullhorns for volunteers to coordinate their efforts with aid agencies to avoid spreading chaos.

"There are acute shortages of everything, most critically shelter, food and clean water," UNICEF country representative Edouard Beigbeder said.

The U.N. children's agency said it needed $7.3 million to help just the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children now at high risk of contracting water-borne diseases.

On Thursday afternoon, a scuffle broke out at a makeshift relief center at Kutupalong, where some refugees tried to break into the center and were beaten back by at least four security guards wielding sticks.

Those who managed to receive some aid after waiting hours in line were dismayed by the meager hand-out.

"I have just got a tarpaulin sheet but no food," said 55-year-old Osman, who gave only one name. "I need rice to eat, I need to feed my family. They said they can't give us anything else. What will I eat now?"

The head of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees said humanitarian assistance would increase "very, very quickly." Asked why the response has been slow, Filippo Grandi alluded to difficulties working in Bangladesh, but said he hoped this will change as the scale of the crisis becomes more apparent.

It is the Myanmar government's "responsibility to ensure that security returns to Rakhine," Grandi told The Associated Press at the Stockholm Security Conference in Sweden.

Bangladesh already was housing some 500,000 Rohingya who fled earlier flashes of violence including anti-Muslim riots in 2012. Rakhine state had up to 1 million Rohingya before the latest violence.
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Yasin reported from Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh. Associated Press writers David Keyton in Stockholm, Sweden, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


Jitters in Europe as Russia-Belarus war games get underway

In this photo taken on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, Belarusian army vehicles drive preparing for war games at an undisclosed location in Belarus.(Vayar Military Agency photo via AP)

By Yuras Karmanau, Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Russia and Belarus began major war games Thursday, an operation involving thousands of troops, tanks and aircraft on NATO's eastern edge practicing how to hunt down and destroy armed spies, among other maneuvers.

The Zapad (West) 2017 maneuvers, which are mainly taking place in Belarus this year, have caused concern among members of the Western military alliance and in neighboring countries. Some NATO members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized a lack of transparency about the exercises and questioned Moscow's real intentions.

Russia and Belarus say the exercises, which run until Sept. 20, involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops.
Russian military officials have said up to 70 aircraft and about 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems and 10 navy ships will also be involved.

Estonian Defense Minister Juri Liuk, however, says Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops.

"Leaving weapons in Belarus means the Russian army could prepare bases for a sudden broad attack ... right at the NATO border," Lithuanian officer Darius Antanaitis said.

While the Baltic nations fear the Zapad maneuvers may lead to a surprise Russian attack, the exercises have also been criticized by Belarusian opposition leaders. They say Russia could use the occasion to position a large, permanent contingent of troops in Belarus, leaving the country at the mercy of any armed confrontation involving Moscow.

The exercises began Thursday night with units simulating hunting down and destroying reconnaissance agents belonging to illegal armed groups, according to Oleg Belokonev, the Belarusian Deputy Defense Minister.

"Command points have been set up and fully-functioning command systems created," Belokonev told journalists at a press conference in Minsk, the capital.

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, formally notified NATO of the beginning of the exercises on Thursday evening, according to Russian media. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told NATO troops in Estonia last week that the alliance will be closely monitoring Zapad exercises.

Russia-West relations nosedived to their lowest level since the Cold War in recent years after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its support of separatists fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, clashes that have left over 10,000 people dead.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Thursday that elite parachute units in several Russian cities had been placed on alert to be deployed during the exercises.

Organizers have invented three "aggressor countries" — Veishnoriya, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya — to whose attacks the Russian and Belarusian militaries will simulate a response. The Baltic States and Poland fear that these monikers are just poorly disguised terms for their own countries.

Poland's National Security Bureau head, Pawel Soloch, said Thursday the exercises were a demonstration "of the Russian state's capacity to hold full-scale war action."

"The degree of mobilization is really impressive," Soloch said on private Radio Zet.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who often criticizes Russian leaders, said the war games are a sign the Kremlin is preparing for conflict with NATO.

"We are anxious about this drill ... it is an open preparation for war with the West," Grybauskaite told reporters.

There is also unease in Kiev, and Ukraine is currently conducting its own military exercises. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said that Zapad 2017 appears to be a "preparation for an offensive war on a continental scale."
Both Moscow and Minsk have said repeatedly that the exercises are not a danger for neighboring countries.

"We are not threatening anyone," Oleg Voinov, an adviser to the Belarusian Defense Minister, told journalists Thursday. "We have chosen military bases that are significantly removed from the borders with Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia."

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Thursday that Russia had been completely open and transparent about its military's involvement in the exercises.

The most recent Zapad exercises, which occur every few years, took place in 2013, just before Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea from Ukraine prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly take over the Black Sea peninsula.

Some people think fears of Russian aggression are being blown out of proportion.

"Worries over Zapad are overkill. Russians will not seek confrontation, because they know that NATO will be watching this event closely and is certainly ready to react," said Kestutis Girnius, a Vilnius University political analyst.
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Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Howard Amos in Moscow and Liudas Dapkus in Vilnius, Lithuania, contributed to this report.


Today in History - Friday, Sept. 15, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Friday, Sept. 15, the 258th day of 2017. There are 107 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 15, 1940, during the World War II Battle of Britain, the tide turned as the Royal Air Force inflicted heavy losses upon the Luftwaffe.

On this date:

In 1789, the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs was renamed the Department of State.

In 1807, former Vice President Aaron Burr was acquitted of a misdemeanor charge two weeks after he was found not guilty of treason.

In 1857, William Howard Taft — who served as President of the United States and as U.S. chief justice — was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1917, the first issue of Forbes magazine was published.

In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws deprived German Jews of their citizenship.

In 1942, during World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Wasp was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine; the U.S. Navy ended up sinking the badly damaged vessel.

In 1950, during the Korean conflict, United Nations forces landed at Incheon in the south and began their drive toward Seoul (sohl).

In 1963, four black girls were killed when a bomb went off during Sunday services at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. (Three Ku Klux Klansmen were eventually convicted for their roles in the blast.)

In 1972, a federal grand jury in Washington indicted seven men in connection with the Watergate break-in.

In 1981, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve the Supreme Court nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor.

In 1997, two of the nation's most popular diet drugs — dexfenfluramine and fenfluramine — were pulled off the market because of new evidence they could seriously damage patients' hearts.

In 2000, the 2000 Summer Olympics opened in Sydney, Australia, with a seemingly endless parade of athletes and coaches and a spectacular display; Aborigine runner Cathy Freeman ignited an Olympic ring of fire.

Ten years ago: In his Saturday radio address, President George W. Bush said while "formidable challenges" remained in Iraq, the United States would start shifting more troops into support roles in addition to troop withdrawals announced earlier. Several thousand protesters marched from the White House to the Capitol to demand an end to the Iraq war. Sarah Thomas became the first female official to work a game in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly I-A, serving as the line judge in the Jacksonville State-Memphis game (which Memphis won, 35-14). Actress-comedian Brett Somers died in Westport, Connecticut, at age 83.

Five years ago: Four days after the deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula called for more attacks on U.S. embassies. The State Department ordered non-essential government personnel and family members to leave its embassies in Sudan and Tunisia and warned U.S. citizens against traveling to the two countries. The National Hockey League locked out its players at 11:59 p.m. EDT; it was the league's fourth shutdown in a decade and one that would cost the league nearly half its season.

One year ago: A report issued by the Republican-led House intelligence committee condemned Edward Snowden, saying the National Security Agency leaker was not a whistleblower and that the vast majority of the documents he stole were defense secrets that had nothing to do with privacy; Snowden's attorney blasted the report, saying it was an attempt to discredit a "genuine American hero." Arizona's first female governor, Democrat Rose Mofford, died in Phoenix at age 94.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Forrest Compton is 92. Comedian Norm Crosby is 90. Actor Henry Darrow is 84. Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry is 79. Actress Carmen Maura is 72. Opera singer Jessye Norman is 72. Writer-director Ron Shelton is 72. Actor Tommy Lee Jones is 71. Movie director Oliver Stone is 71. Rock musician Kelly Keagy (Night Ranger) is 65. Rock musician Mitch Dorge (Crash Test Dummies) is 57. Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino is 56. Actor Danny Nucci is 49. Rap DJ Kay Gee is 48. Actor Josh Charles is 46. Singer Ivette Sosa (Eden's Crush) is 41. Actor Tom Hardy is 40. Actress Marisa Ramirez is 40. Pop-rock musician Zach Filkins (OneRepublic) is 39. Actor Dave Annable is 38. Actress Amy Davidson is 38. Britain's Prince Harry is 33. TV personality Heidi Montag is 31. Actress Kate Mansi is 30.

Thought for Today: "The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern world." — Robert Penn Warren, American poet (born 1905, died this date in 1989).


Update September 14, 2017

Woman arrested near Prince George's London school

Britain's Prince William, left, accompanies Prince George and Helen Haslem - the head of the lower school on arrival for his first day of school at Thomas's school in Battersea, London, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. (Richard Pohle/Pool Photo via AP)

LONDON (AP) — London police say a woman has been arrested on suspicion of attempted burglary near the London school attended by four-year-old Prince George after a security incident at the school.

Police said Wednesday the 40-year-old woman was arrested after an individual gained access to Thomas' Battersea School in south London on Tuesday. Police did not provide more details.

The woman is being questioned and has not been charged or identified.

George, son of Prince William and his wife Kate, started school last week.

London's Metropolitan Police say the force is working with the school to review its security arrangements.

Police are part of the security measure in place to protect George, who is third in line to the throne behind William and Prince Charles.


As Rohingya flee Myanmar, leader Suu Kyi skips UN meeting

A Rohingya Muslim boy, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stands near a newly built shelter at Balukhali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

By Julas Alam, Associated Press

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — With Myanmar drawing condemnation for violence that has driven nearly 380,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the country, the government said its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will skip this month's U.N. General Assembly meetings.

Suu Kyi will miss the assembly's ministerial session, which opens Sept. 19 and runs through Sept. 25, to address domestic security issues, according to presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay.

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday condemned the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state that sparked the mass exodus. Members called for "immediate steps to end the violence" and efforts to de-escalate the situation, ensure protection of civilians and resolve the refugee problem.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the council's press statement, which followed closed-door consultations, was the first statement the U.N.'s most powerful body has made in nine years on the situation in Myanmar. He called it "an important first step."

While the Security Council was meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that ethnic cleansing was taking place against the Rohingya. He urged Myanmar's government to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and allow the Rohingyas, who were stripped of citizenship years ago, to return home.

Suu Kyi's appearance at last year's General Assembly was a landmark: her first since her party won elections in 2015 and replaced a military-dominated government. Even then, however, she faced criticism over Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya Muslims, whose name she did not utter. Many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar instead use the term "Bengalis" and insist they are people who migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi is not Myanmar's president — her official titles are state counselor and foreign minister — but she effectively serves as leader of the Southeast Asian nation though she does not control the military.

Zaw Htay said that, with President Htin Kyaw hospitalized, second Vice President Henry Van Tio would attend the U.N. meeting.

"The first reason (Suu Kyi cannot attend) is because of the Rakhine terrorist attacks," Zaw Htay said. "The state counselor is focusing to calm the situation in Rakhine state. There are circumstances. The second reason is, there are people inciting riots in some areas. We are trying to take care of the security issue in many other places. The third is that we are hearing that there will be terrorist attacks and we are trying to address this issue."

Instead, Zaw Htay said, Suu Kyi will give a speech in Myanmar next week that will cover the same topics that she would have addressed at the United Nations.

The crisis erupted on Aug. 25, when an insurgent Rohingya group attacked police outposts in Rakhine and Myanmar's military responded with "clearance operations" against the rebels. The ensuing violence has left hundreds dead and set off the refugee exodus, with new arrivals crossing the border into Bangladesh each day.

Zaw Htay said of 471 "Bengali" villages in three townships, 176 are now completely empty and at least 34 others are partially abandoned.

He said at least 86 clashes occurred through Sept. 5, but none since. "What that means is, when the security forces are trying to stabilize the region, they have succeeded to a point," he said.

The government blames Rohingya for the violence, but journalists who visited the region found evidence that raises doubts about its claims that Rohingya set fire to their own homes.

Many of the Rohingya who flooded into refugee camps in Bangladesh told of Myanmar soldiers shooting indiscriminately, burning their homes and warning them to leave or die. Others said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who lived under house arrest for many years under a military junta that ultimately gave way to an elected government, has faced a torrent of criticism since the crisis erupted. At a march in India's capital on Wednesday, protesters asked whether Suu Kyi had received her Nobel for promoting peace or for persecuting Rohingya.

Bangladesh has been overwhelmed with the massive influx of Rohingya, many of whom arrived hungry and traumatized after walking for days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats.

Thousands lined up on Wednesday outside a makeshift relief center in Cox's Bazar district that was distributing rice, sugar and other relief materials.

Mamunur Rashid of the International Organization for Migration said the supplies would be enough to help about 5,000 people.

The head of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees said humanitarian assistance to the fleeing Rohingya will increase "very, very quickly."

Asked why the response has been so slow, Filippo Grandi alluded to difficulties working in Bangladesh, but said he hoped this will change as the scale of the crisis becomes more apparent.

It is the government's "responsibility to ensure that security returns to Rakhine," Grandi told The Associated Press in Sweden at the opening of the Stockholm Security Conference.

Bangladesh already was housing some 500,000 Rohingya who fled earlier flashes of violence including anti-Muslim riots in 2012. Many newcomers were staying in schools or were huddling under tarps in makeshift settlements along roads and in open fields. Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pledged to help the new arrivals, but demanded that Myanmar "take their nationals back."
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Associated Press journalists Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and David Keyton in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.


Scientists hope to restore extinct Galapagos tortoise

This photo released by Galapagos National Park on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2017 shows a turtle with genes from an extinct species of turtles that disappeared about 167 years ago, in Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. (Galapagos National Park via AP)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Scientists in Ecuador's Galapagos islands are hoping to restore a tortoise species believed extinct since the 1800s.

The Chelonoidis elephantopus lived on Floreana Island and was captured by seamen in large numbers for food during long journeys across the Pacific. The species is thought to have disappeared shortly after Charles Darwin's celebrated visit to the treasured archipelago.

But a group of international scientists who collected 1,700 blood samples from tortoises on Isabel Island farther north during a research expedition in 2012 made a surprising discovery: 80 had genetic traces of the lost species.

"This is a species that was considered extinct for 160 years," Washington Tapia, one of the scientists studying the tortoises, told The Associated Press. "We didn't imagine what we would find."

Researchers with the Galapagos Conservancy and the Galapagos National Park are now trying to restore the species by selecting 20 specimens with higher amounts of the Floreana tortoise in its DNA to reproduce.

"We are not going to have a perfect species, genetically 100 percent like the one that was in Floreana," said Linda Cayot, a scientific consultant with the Galapagos Conservancy. "But we will have a tortoise population with many of the same genes as the original."

Scientists believe sailors who caught Floreana tortoises for food sometimes dropped them off on Isabel Island in order to lighten a ship's load before crossing the ocean. Isabel Island was typically the last stop before setting sail.

The scientists traveling to Isabel Island five years ago didn't originally set out to research the Floreana species and were surprised when their samples revealed such high quantities of the extinct tortoise's DNA.

The 20 tortoises identified as having the highest amounts of Floreana DNA have been placed in corrals containing three females and two males each in hopes of one day repopulating the island with close copies of the extinct species.

"We hear about extinctions and the damage humans can cause a species," said Ecuadorean Minister for the Environment Tarsicio Granizo. "But today, with the results of this investigation, we can tell the world that it is possible to reverse negative effects on the environment. We are going to recover an extinct species."

Jaime Chaves, an evolutionary biology professor at San Francisco University in Quito, described the study as an important example of how advancements in molecular science can potentially help reintroduce a bygone species.

"It's very exciting to witness the reach of these genetic studies, identifying individuals with the potential to be a starting point for the recovery of a unique lineage believed extinct," he said.


'Sopranos' mobster, veteran actor Frank Vincent dies at 80

Actors Vincent Pastore, left, and Frank Vincent rough around for photographers at the fifth season premiere of the HBO series "The Sopranos," at New York's Radio City Music Hall. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

By Frazier Moore, AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Frank Vincent, a veteran character actor who often played tough guys, including mob boss Phil Leotardo on "The Sopranos," has died. He was 80.

Vincent died peacefully on Wednesday, a statement from his family said. No cause of death was given.

Besides Leotardo, the ruthless New York mob boss who frequently clashed with Tony Soprano on the popular HBO drama and who was memorably whacked at a service station, Vincent portrayed gangsters for director Martin Scorsese. He appeared in "Raging Bull," ''Goodfellas" — where he played Billy Batts, a made man in the Gambino crime family — and "Casino," playing Frank Marino, based on real-life gangster Frank Cullotta.

Vincent had small roles in two Spike Lee films, "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever," and also was in "The Pope of Greenwich Village," ''Last Exit to Brooklyn," ''Night Falls on Manhattan" and "Shark Tale," among his more than 50 movies.

Raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, he acted in school plays and learned piano, trumpet and drums. As an adult, he became a session drummer for such singers as Paul Anka, Del Shannon, Trini Lopez and The Belmonts.

In 1975, he made his feature film acting debut in Ralph DeVito's "Death Collector," where he was spotted by Scorsese.

In 2006, Vincent published "A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man."


Today in History - Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, Sept. 14, the 257th day of 2017. There are 108 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" (later "The Star-Spangled Banner") after witnessing the American flag flying over the Maryland fort following a night of British naval bombardment during the War of 1812.

On this date:

In 1829, the Treaty of Adrianople was signed, ending war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire.

In 1861, the first naval engagement of the Civil War took place as the USS Colorado attacked and sank the Confederate private schooner Judah off Pensacola, Florida.

In 1867, the first volume of "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx was published in Hamburg, Germany.

In 1901, President William McKinley died in Buffalo, New York, of gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin; Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him.

In 1927, modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan died in Nice (nees), France, when her scarf became entangled in a wheel of the sports car she was riding in.

In 1941, Vermont passed a resolution enabling its servicemen to receive wartime bonuses by declaring the U.S. to be in a state of armed conflict, giving rise to headlines that Vermont had "declared war on Germany."
In 1954, the Soviet Union detonated a 40-kiloton atomic test weapon.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI opened the third session of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, also known as "Vatican II." (The session closed two months later.)

In 1975, Pope Paul VI declared Mother Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton the first U.S.-born saint.

In 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco, formerly actress Grace Kelly, died at age 52 of injuries from a car crash the day before; Lebanon's president-elect, Bashir Gemayel (bah-SHEER' jeh-MAY'-el), was killed by a bomb.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, appeared together on radio and television to appeal for a "national crusade" against drug abuse.

In 1991, the government of South Africa, the African National Congress and the Inkatha (in-KAH'-tah) Freedom Party signed a national peace pact.

Ten years ago: Defense Secretary Robert Gates raised the possibility of cutting U.S. troop levels in Iraq to 100,000 by the end of 2008, well beyond the cuts President George W. Bush had approved. In Iraq, some 1,500 mourners called for revenge as they buried the leader of the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida, Adbul-Sattar Abu Risha, who had been assassinated in a bombing claimed by an al-Qaida front.

Five years ago: Fury over an anti-Muslim film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad spread across the Muslim world, with deadly clashes near Western embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, an American fast-food restaurant set ablaze in Lebanon, and international peacekeepers attacked in the Sinai. A French gossip magazine's publication of topless photos of Prince William's wife, Kate, prompted an immediate (and still pending) lawsuit from the royal couple and statements of outrage from palace officials.

One year ago: Hillary Clinton's campaign released a letter from her doctor saying the Democratic presidential nominee was "recovering well" from pneumonia and remained "fit to serve as President of the United States." President Barack Obama said the U.S. was lifting economic sanctions and restoring trade benefits to former pariah state Myanmar as he met with former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi (ahng sahn soo chee), the nation's de facto leader. Tyre King, a 13-year-old boy, was fatally shot by Columbus, Ohio, police after authorities said he pulled a BB gun from his pants.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Zoe Caldwell is 84. Feminist author Kate Millett is 83. Actor Walter Koenig is 81.
Basketball Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown is 77. Singer-actress Joey Heatherton is 73. Actor Sam Neill is 70. Singer Jon "Bowzer" Bauman (Sha Na Na) is 70. Rock musician Ed King is 68. Actor Robert Wisdom is 64. Rock musician Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) is 62. Country singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman is 61. Actress Mary Crosby is 58. Singer Morten Harket (a-ha) is 58. Country singer John Berry is 58. Actress Melissa Leo is 57. Actress Faith Ford is 53. Actor Jamie Kaler is 53. Actress Michelle Stafford is 52. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is 52. Rock musician Mike Cooley (Drive-By Truckers) is 51. Actor Dan Cortese is 50. Contemporary Christian singer Mark Hall is 48. Actor-writer-director-producer Tyler Perry is 48. Actor Ben Garant is 47. Rock musician Craig Montoya (Tri Polar) is 47. Actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley is 46. Actor Andrew Lincoln is 44. Rapper Nas is 44.

Actor Austin Basis is 41. Country singer Danielle Peck is 39. Pop singer Ayo is 37. Actor Sebastian Sozzi is 35. Actor Adam Lamberg is 33. Singer Alex Clare is 32. Actor Chad Duell (TV: "General Hospital") is 30. Actress Jessica Brown Findlay is 30. Actor-singer Logan Henderson is 28.

Thought for Today: "America has been called a melting pot, but it seems better to call it a mosaic, for in it each nation, people or race which has come to its shores has been privileged to keep its individuality, contributing at the same time its share to the unified pattern of a new nation." — King Baudouin I of Belgium (1930-1993).


Update September 13, 2017

FEMA estimates 25 percent of Florida Keys homes are gone

Damaged homes sit in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, in Key West, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

By Jason Dearen, Martha Mendoza, Associated Press

LOWER MATECUMBE KEY, Fla. (AP) — With 25 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys feared destroyed, emergency workers Tuesday rushed to find Hurricane Irma's victims — dead or alive — and deliver food and water to the stricken island chain.

As crews labored to repair the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida's mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation.

"It's going to be pretty hard for those coming home," said Petrona Hernandez, whose concrete home on Plantation Key with 35-foot walls was unscathed, unlike others a few blocks away. "It's going to be devastating to them."

But because of disrupted phone service and other damage, the full extent of the destruction was still a question mark, more than two days after Irma roared into the Keys with 130 mph (209 kph) winds.

Elsewhere in Florida, life inched closer to normal, with some flights again taking off, many curfews lifted and major theme parks reopening. Cruise ships that extended their voyages and rode out the storm at sea began returning to port with thousands of passengers.

The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to 9.5 million — just under half of Florida's population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across Florida.

The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 12, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

"We've got a lot of work to do, but everybody's going to come together," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. "We're going to get this state rebuilt."

In hard-hit Naples, on Florida's southwest coast, more than 300 people stood outside a Publix grocery store in the morning, waiting for it to open.

A manager came to the store's sliding door with occasional progress reports. Once he said that workers were throwing out produce that had gone bad; another time, that they were trying to get the cash registers working.

One man complained loudly that the line had too many gaps. Others shook their heads in frustration at word of another delay.

At the front of the line after a more than two-hour wait, Phill Chirchirillo, 57, said days without electricity and other basics were beginning to wear on people.

"At first it's like, 'We're safe, thank God.' Now they're testy," he said. "The order of the day is to keep people calm."

Irma's rainy remnants, meanwhile, pushed through Alabama and Mississippi after drenching Georgia. Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across the Southeast.

While nearly all of Florida was engulfed by the 400-mile-wide (645-kilometer) storm, the Keys — home to about 70,000 people — appeared to be the hardest hit. Drinking water and power were cut off, all three of the islands' hospitals were closed, and the supply of gasoline was extremely limited.

Search-and-rescue teams made their way into the more distant reaches of the Keys, and an aircraft carrier was positioned off Key West to help. Officials said it was not known how many people ignored evacuation orders and stayed behind in the Keys.

Monroe County began setting up shelters and food-and-water distribution points for Irma's victims in the Keys.
Crews also worked to repair two washed-out, 300-foot (90-meter) sections of U.S. 1, the highway that runs through the Keys, and check the safety of the 42 bridges linking the islands.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said preliminary estimates suggested that 25 percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage.

"Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted," he said.

In Islamorada, a trailer park was devastated, the homes ripped apart as if by a giant claw. A sewage-like stench hung over the place.

Debris was scattered everywhere, including refrigerators, washers and dryers, a 25-foot (8-meter) fishing boat and a Jacuzzi. Homes were torn open to give a glimpse of their contents, including a bedroom with a small Christmas tree decorated with starfish.

One man and his family came to check on a weekend home and found it destroyed. The sight was too much to bear. The man told his family to get back in the car, and they drove off toward Miami.

In Key Largo, Lisa Storey and her husband said they had yet to be contacted by the power company or by city, county or state officials. As she spoke to a reporter, a helicopter passed overhead.

"That's a beautiful sound, a rescue sound," she said.

Authorities stopped people and checked for documentation such as proof of residency or business ownership before allowing them back into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada.

The Lower Keys — including the chain's most distant and most populous island, Key West, with 27,000 people — were still off-limits, with a roadblock in place where the highway was washed out.

In Lower Matecumbe Key, just south of Islamorada, 57-year-old Donald Garner checked on his houseboat, which had only minor damage. Nearby, three other houseboats were partially sunk. Garner had tied his to mangroves.

"That's the only way to make it," said Garner, who works for a shrimp company.

Although the Keys are studded with mansions and beachfront resorts, about 13 percent of the people live in poverty and could face big obstacles as the cleanup begins.

"People who bag your groceries when you're on vacation — the bus drivers, hotel cleaners, cooks and dishwashers — they're already living beyond paycheck to paycheck," said Stephanie Kaple, who runs an organization that helps the homeless in the Keys.

Corey Smith, a UPS driver who rode out the hurricane in Key Largo, said it was a relief that many buildings on the island escaped major damage. But he said conditions were still not good, with branches blocking roads and supermarkets closed.

"They're shoving people back to a place with no resources," he said by telephone. "It's just going to get crazy pretty quick."
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Mendoza reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Terry Spencer in Palm Beach County; Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy in Tallahassee; Jay Reeves in Immokalee; Terrance Harris in Orlando; Claire Galofaro in Jacksonville; and Freida Frisaro, Jennifer Kay, Curt Anderson and David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.
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HURRICANE NEWSLETTER — Get the best of the AP's all-formats reporting on Irma and Harvey in your inbox: http://apne.ws/ahYQGtb


2 Americans, Russian dock with International Space Station

Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, bottom, U.S. astronauts Joseph Acaba, centre, and Mark Vande Hei, crew members of the mission to the International Space Station, ISS, wave near the rocket prior the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (Maxim Shipenkov, Pool via AP)

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan (AP) — A Soyuz space capsule with two Americans and a Russian aboard has docked with the International Space Station.

The capsule blasted off from the Russian manned space launch facility in Kazakhstan and docked with the orbiting laboratory about five and a half hours later at 0255 GMT Wednesday.

Tests and opening of the hatches was expected to take about 90 minutes before the capsule can enter the space station.

Joe Acaba of NASA is making his third trip into space and Russian Alexander Misurkin his second. It's the first voyage for American Mark Vande Hei. All are to stay on the space station about 5 1/2 months.

They will join Russia's Sergey Ryazanskiy, American Randy Bresnik and Italy's Paolo Nespoli, who have been aboard the station since late July.


Bangladesh leader visits Rohingya refugees, assures help

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, center, meets with a Rohingya Muslim child at Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhia, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017.(AP Photo/Saiful Kallol)

By Al-Emrun Garjon, Tofayel Ahmed, Associated Press

UKHIYA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's leader demanded that Myanmar allow the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled recent violence in the Buddhist-majority nation — a crisis she said left her speechless.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would offer the refugees temporary shelter and aid, but that Myanmar should soon "take their nationals back."

"We will not tolerate injustice," she said Tuesday at the Kutupalong refugee camp, near the border town of Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar district.

At least 370,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar's military responded to a major insurgent attack with what it called "clearance operations" to root out the rebels. Many of the fleeing Rohingya have said Myanmar soldiers shot indiscriminately, burned their homes and warned them to leave or die. Others said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.

The crisis has drawn sharp criticism of Myanmar's government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. On Tuesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the killing of Muslims a political disaster and called Suu Kyi a "brutal woman." U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said the Rohingya were victims of what "seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

Two human rights groups on Tuesday accused the U.N. Security Council of ignoring the crisis. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spoke at U.N. headquarters ahead of closed council discussions Wednesday about the Myanmar situation.

Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said, "This is an international peace and security crisis" and there is no excuse for the Security Council "sitting on its hands."

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest Muslim body, is urging Myanmar to allow in U.N. monitors so they can investigate what it alleges is systematic brutality against the Rohingya. The U.N. Human Rights Council approved an investigative mission earlier this year, but Myanmar in June refused to allow it to enter. An envoy's visit in July was met with protests.

In Myanmar, a Rohingya man said security forces arrived Monday in the village of Pa Din, firing guns, setting new fires to homes and driving out hundreds of Rohingya. "People were scared and running out of the village," the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

Myanmar police, however, said the houses were burned by terrorists they called Bengalis, a term used derisively in Myanmar against Rohingya.

Myanmar's military said Rohingya villagers helped them arrest six suspected insurgents armed with swords and slingshots on Monday. The military commander in chief's office posted on Facebook that the six were detained as they entered Ka Nyin Tan village in Maungdaw township.

In Bangladesh, Kutupalong and another existing Rohingya camp were already beyond capacity. Bangladesh has said it would provide 2,000 acres (810 hectares) for a new camp in Cox's Bazar district to help shelter new arrivals. Some were staying in schools or huddling in makeshift settlements along roads and in open fields. Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.

Aid agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of Rohingya, many of whom are arriving hungry and traumatized after walking for days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats in search of safety in Bangladesh.

The government hospital in Cox's Bazar has been overwhelmed by Rohingya patients, with 80 arriving with gunshot wounds as well as bad infections.

At least three Rohingya were wounded by land mines amid accusations that Myanmar's government had planted new mines along the routes Rohingya are using to flee. Dozens also have drowned when boats capsized during sea and river crossings.

Myanmar's authorities said more than a week ago that some 400 people — mostly described as insurgents — had died in clashes with troops, but it has offered no updated death toll since.

Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots there.

Before Aug. 25, Bangladesh had already been housing some 500,000 Rohingya who arrived after bloody anti-Muslim rioting in 2012 or amid earlier persecution drives in Myanmar.

The OIC, in its statement issued Tuesday, called on Muslim countries to work together to help the Rohingya refugees. It made its decision after an emergency meeting on the sidelines of a technology conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.
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Associated Press writer Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.


Aleppo still badly scarred by war, months after rebel defeat

Two officers of the Russian military police guard in the yard of Aleppo's oldest Umayyad mosque, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Nataliya Vasilyeva)

By Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press

ALEPPO, Syria (AP) — "Aleppo is in my eyes," says a billboard depicting President Bashar Assad looking out over two men and a boy repaving the main Saadallah al-Jabiri Square — once a front line in one of the deadliest episodes of the Syrian civil war.

The recapture of eastern Aleppo in December 2016 was a landmark victory for Assad's forces in the conflict, now in its seventh year, but it left the area in ruins.

Eight months later, neighborhood after neighborhood in the formerly rebel-held sector still look like ghost towns. Only rarely is a family seen sitting on white plastic chairs outside the rubble.

Life is slowly returning to the desolate streets where shop signs are covered with dust, where men hawk cigarettes on a street corner and teenagers sell bananas off a picnic table.

Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says thousands of people have returned to their homes in Aleppo — once Syria's largest city — from camps for the displaced.

Russian troops mediating between the Syrian government and various opposition factions have helped. The task force's chief in the province, Maj. Gen. Igor Yemelyanov, said it has helped 3,500 people return to nearby villages.

Although Syrian government-controlled neighborhoods did not see the destruction and loss of life on a scale comparable to what eastern Aleppo endured, the seemingly quiet neighborhoods in the west also bear the scars of conflict.

The third floor of a school in southwestern Aleppo still has no glass after its window was blown out when a missile landed in a classroom in November 2016. Two students were killed in the classroom, and four died in a playground under the windows, principal Nakhlya Deri told reporters Tuesday during a visit arranged by the Russian Defense Ministry.

Residents have been resilient throughout, Deri insisted, describing how the school kept operating.

"After the attack, we closed down. On the following day, we cleared out the debris; and on the third day we started working," she said.

Even though the siege of Aleppo ended eight months ago, municipal services fully restored the electricity supply only last week, said provincial Gov. Hamied Kenno.

Most of the city's power plants were in eastern Aleppo, which was captured by rebels in 2012 and suffered catastrophic destruction during the battle to recapture it. For weeks after the fighting ended, electricity was cut off across the entire city, even in government-held neighborhood.

Moscow intervened in Syria two years ago to help Assad, its longtime ally. On Tuesday, the Russia military said Syrian troops have liberated about 85 percent of the country's territory from militants.

Russian warplanes have changed the tide of the war, giving Syrian troops and allied forces an advantage over opposition fighters and militants from the Islamic State group.

Speaking to reporters at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's Latakia province, Lt. Gen. Alexander Lapin said the Syrian government still must clear the militants from the remaining 15 percent — approximately 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles).

The Syrian troops, with strong support from Iranian-backed ground forces, have in recent weeks pushed the IS militants out of central Homs province, near the border with Lebanon, and are now fighting them in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province in the east.

Deir el-Zour is the last major IS holdout in Syria. Assad's forces, backed by Russians air power, broke a nearly 3-year-old siege on the provincial capital where troops had been encircled by the militants.

Activists said civilians are bearing the brunt of the offensive amid the intense airstrikes, with IS using them as human shields. A recent overnight airstrike hit displaced Syrians from Deir el-Zour on the western side of the Euphrates River, killing at least eight civilians.

The Observatory and Omar Abu Laila, who runs a group that monitors developments in Deir el-Zour, said Russian airstrikes were suspected.

Russian officials have denied targeting civilians there.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met Tuesday with Assad in the capital of Damascus and discussed measures to eliminate IS, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Russia and Syria agreed in August 2015 for Moscow to deploy an air force contingent and other military assets at the Hemeimeem base, in the heartland of Assad's Alawite religious minority.

In a matter of weeks, Russia built up the base so it could host dozens of its warplanes. It delivered thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies by sea and cargo planes in an operation dubbed the "Syrian Express." A month later, Russia announced the launch of its air campaign in Syria, its first military action outside its borders since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

Senior Russian military officers and special forces were deployed alongside Syrian troops, providing training, planning offensives and coordinating airstrikes. Russia has also deployed its latest weapons to the Syrian conflict, including state-of-the art Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian strategic bombers, surface ships and submarines, most recently in Deir el-Zour province last week.

Russia never said how many troops it sent, but turnout figures in voting from abroad in the 2016 parliamentary elections indicated Russian military personnel in Syria at the time likely exceeded 4,300. The Russian military said last week that 34 of its servicemen have been killed in Syria.
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Associated Press writers Howard Amos in Moscow and Sarah El Deeb and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed.


Today in History - Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, Sept. 13, the 256th day of 2017. There are 109 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 13, 1788, the Congress of the Confederation authorized the first national election, and declared New York City the temporary national capital.

On this date:

In 1759, during the French and Indian War, the British defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham overlooking Quebec City.

In 1814, during the War of 1812, British naval forces began bombarding Fort McHenry in Baltimore but were driven back by American defenders in a battle that lasted until the following morning.

In 1911, the song "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," a romantic rag by Nat D. Ayer and Seymour Brown, was first published by Jerome H. Remick & Co.

In 1923, Miguel Primo de Rivera, the captain general of Catalonia, seized power in Spain.

In 1948, Republican Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was elected to the U.S. Senate; she became the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress.

In 1959, Elvis Presley first met his future wife, 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu, while stationed in West Germany with the U.S. Army. (They married in 1967, but divorced in 1973.)

In 1962, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett rejected the U.S. Supreme Court's order for the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, a black student, declaring in a televised address, "We will not drink from the cup of genocide."

In 1971, a four-day inmates' rebellion at the Attica Correctional Facility in western New York ended as police and guards stormed the prison; the ordeal and final assault claimed the lives of 32 inmates and 11 hostages.

In 1977, conductor Leopold Stokowski died in Hampshire, England, at age 95.

In 1989, Fay Vincent was elected commissioner of Major League Baseball, succeeding the late A. Bartlett Giamatti (juh-MAH'-tee).

In 1997, funeral services were held in Calcutta, India, for Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa.

In 2002, the earliest known online use of the term "selfie" (a photographic self-portrait, usually taken with a smartphone) occurred on an Australian Broadcasting Corp. website forum; it came from a man named Nathan Hope, who denied coining the term, saying it was "common slang."

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, defending an unpopular war, ordered gradual reductions in U.S. forces in Iraq and said in a televised address, "The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home." Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq, was killed by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province. The NFL fined New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 for spying on the New York Jets during a game.

Five years ago: Chanting "death to America," hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital and burned the American flag. New York City's Board of Health passed a ban on the sale of big sodas and other sugary drinks, limiting the size sold at restaurants, concession stands and other eateries to 16 ounces.

One year ago: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump rolled out a plan aimed at making child care more affordable, guaranteeing new mothers six weeks of paid maternity leave and suggesting new incentives for employees to provide their workers childcare during a speech in Aston, Pennsylvania. Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, 93, suffered a major stroke (he died 15 days later).

Today's Birthdays: Actress Barbara Bain is 86. Actress Eileen Fulton (TV: "As the World Turns") is 84. Actor Joe E. Tata is 81. TV producer Fred Silverman is 80. Rock singer David Clayton-Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears) is 76. Actress Jacqueline Bisset is 73. Singer Peter Cetera is 73. Actress Christine Estabrook is 67. Actress Jean Smart is 66. Singer Randy Jones (The Village People) is 65. Record producer Don Was is 65. Actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. is 63.

Actress-comedian Geri Jewell is 61. Country singer Bobbie Cryner is 56. Rock singer-musician Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) is 56. Radio-TV personality Tavis Smiley is 53. Rock musician Zak Starkey is 52. Actor Louis Mandylor is 51. Olympic gold medal runner Michael Johnson is 50. Rock musician Steve Perkins is 50. Actor Roger Howarth is 49. Actor Dominic Fumusa is 48. Actress Louise Lombard is 47. Tennis player Goran Ivanisevic is 46. Country singer Aaron Benward (Blue County) is 44. Country musician Joe Don Rooney (Rascal Flatts) is 42. Actor Scott Vickaryous is 42. Singer Fiona Apple is 40. Contemporary Christian musician Hector Cervantes (Casting Crowns) is 37. Former MLB pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is 37. Actor Ben Savage is 37. Rock singer Niall Horan (One Direction) is 24. Actor Mitch Holleman is 22. Actress Lili Reinhart (TV: "Riverdale") is 21.

Thought for Today: "Better to be without logic than without feeling." — Charlotte Bronte (BRAWN'-tee), English author (1816-1855).


Update September 12, 2017

UN approves watered-down new sanctions against North Korea

Members of Korea Freedom Federation shout slogans during a rally to denounce North Korea's nuclear test in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea but not the toughest-ever measures sought by the Trump administration to ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The resolution, responding to Pyongyang's sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, does ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also bans all textile exports and prohibits any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

As for energy, it caps Pyongyang's imports of crude oil at the level of the last 12 months, and it limits the import of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year.

The watered-down resolution does not include sanctions that the U.S. wanted on North Korea's national airline and the army.

Nonetheless, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote that "these are by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea." But she stressed that "these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively."

Haley noted that the council was meeting on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. In a clear message to North Korean threats to attack the U.S., she said: "We will never forget the lesson that those who have evil intentions must be confronted."

"Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea," she said. "We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing" and instead are taking steps to prevent it "from doing the wrong thing."

Haley said the U.S. doesn't take pleasure in strengthening sanctions and reiterated that the U.S. does not want war.

"The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return," she said. "If it agrees to stop its nuclear program it can reclaim its future. If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it. ... If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure."

The final agreement was reached after negotiations between the U.S. and China, the North's ally and major trading partner. Haley said the resolution never would have happened without the "strong relationship" between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But its provisions are a significant climb-down from the very tough sanctions the Trump administration proposed last Tuesday, especially on oil, where a complete ban could have crippled North Korea's economy.

The cap on the import of petroleum products could have an impact, but North Korea will still be able to import the same amount of crude oil that it has this year.

The textile ban is significant. Textiles are North Korea's main source of export revenue after coal, iron, seafood and other minerals that have already been severely restricted by previous U.N. resolutions. North Korean textile exports in 2016 totaled $752.5 million, accounting for about one-fourth of its total $3 billion in merchandise exports, according to South Korean government figures.

Haley said the Trump administration believes the new sanctions combined with previous measures would ban over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.

As for North Koreans working overseas, the U.S. mission said a cutoff on new work permits will eventually cost North Korea about $500 million a year once current work permits expire. The U.S. estimates about 93,000 North Koreans are working abroad, the U.S. official said.

The original U.S. draft would have ordered all countries to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kim Jong Un and four other top party and government officials. The resolution adopted Monday adds only one person to the sanctions list — Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Military Commission, which controls the country's military and helps direct its military industries.

The original U.S. draft would also have frozen the assets of North Korea's state-owned airline Air Koryo, the Korean People's Army and five other powerful military and party entities. The resolution adds only the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea and the party's powerful Organization and Guidance Department and its Propaganda and Agitation Department to the sanctions blacklist.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it was watching the United States' moves closely and warned that it was "ready and willing" to respond with measures of its own. It said the U.S. would pay a heavy price if the sanctions proposed by Washington are adopted.

Britain's U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, told reporters who questioned the watering down of the initial U.S. text that "there is a significant prize in keeping the whole of the Security Council united."

Rycroft called the resolution "a very significant set of additional sanctions," declaring that "we are tightening the screw, and we stand prepared to tighten it further."

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said, "We are facing not a regional but a global threat, not a virtual but an immediate threat, not a serious but an existential threat."

"Make no mistake about it," he said, "our firmness today is our best antidote to the risk of war, to the risk of confrontation, and our firmness today is our best tool for a political solution tomorrow."

China and Russia had called for a resolution focused on a political solution to the escalating crisis over North Koreas nuclear program. They have proposed a freeze-for-freeze that would halt North Korean nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea stopping their joint military exercises — but the Trump administration has rejected that.

China's U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said Beijing has been making "unremitting efforts" to denuclearize and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Liu again urged the council to adopt the freeze-for-freeze proposal and said talks with North Korea are needed "sooner rather than later." He expressed hope that the United States will pledge not to seek regime change or North Korea's collapse.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia went further, making clear that while Russia supported the resolution, it wasn't entirely satisfied with the council's approach.

He said the "unwillingness" of the U.S. to reaffirm pledges not to seek regime change or war in North Korea or to include the idea of having U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres use his good offices to try to resolve the dispute "gives rise to very serious questions in our minds."

"We're convinced that diverting the gathering menace from the Korean Peninsula could be done not through further and further sanctions, but by political means," he said.

The resolution does add new language urging "further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement." It retains language reaffirming support for long-stalled six-party talks with that goal involving North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the council's "firm action" to send a clear message to North Korea that it must comply with its international obligations, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Guterres also reaffirmed his commitment to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote a peaceful political solution "and to strengthening communications channels," Dujarric said.
___
Associated Press writers Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, Matthew Pennington in Washington and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.


UK lawmakers back key Brexit bill, but fight still looms

A pro-remain supporter of Britain staying in the EU, wears an EU flag mask whilst taking part in an anti-Brexit protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

By Jill Lawless, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) —
British lawmakers voted a key Brexit bill past its first big hurdle in Parliament early Tuesday. But many legislators branded the bill a government power grab, and vowed to change it before it becomes law.

After a debate that stretched past midnight, the House of Commons backed the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill by a vote of 326 to 290. That means lawmakers approve the bill in principle, but the government will now face attempts to amend it before a final vote later this year.

A key plank in the Conservative government's Brexit plans, the bill aims to convert thousands of EU laws and regulations into U.K. domestic laws on the day Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the measure provides "certainty and clarity" ahead of the divorce. Brexit Secretary David Davis said that without it, the U.K. faces "a chaotic exit from the European Union."

But the opposition says it would give the government dangerous new powers to amend laws without parliamentary scrutiny.

Since Britain joined the EU in 1973, thousands of EU laws and regulations have come to operate in the U.K., covering everything from environmental protection to employment rules.

Justice Secretary David Lidington told lawmakers that the bill is needed to ensure Britain has "a functioning and coherent statute book and regulatory system the day we leave."

It calls for incorporating all EU laws into U.K. statutes so they can then be kept, amended or scrapped by Britain's Parliament. The government says that will fulfill the promise of anti-EU campaigners during last year's referendum to "take back control" of the country from Brussels to London.

Critics say the bill gives the government too much power, because it allows ministers to fix "deficiencies" in EU law without the parliamentary scrutiny usually needed to make or amend legislation. Such measures are often referred to as "Henry VIII powers" after the 16th century king's bid to legislate by proclamation.

Opponents worry the government could use the powers to water down environmental standards, employment regulations or human rights protections.

Labour Party lawmaker Chris Bryant said the bill "pretends to bring back power to this country, but it actually represents the biggest peacetime power grab by the executive over the legislature, by the government over Parliament, in 100 years."

Members of Labour, the main opposition party, were ordered by their leader to vote against the bill. A few rebelled or abstained, wary of being seen as trying to frustrate voters' decision to leave the EU.

Pro-EU lawmakers from the governing Conservatives largely backed the bill, saying they would try to amend it at the forthcoming committee stage.

The government needs to pass the bill to keep its Brexit plans on track. It has been almost 15 months since Britain voted to leave the 28-nation bloc, and nearly six months since the government triggered the two-year countdown to exit.

Since then, negotiations between Britain and the EU have made little progress on key issues including the status of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border and the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc.

May's authority took a battering when she called a snap election in June seeking to increase her majority in Parliament and strengthen her negotiating hand. The move backfired when voters stripped the Conservatives of their majority, leaving May reliant on support from a small Northern Ireland party to govern.

Opposition lawmakers, backed by some Conservatives, say they will try to amend the bill at the next stage, when it receives line-by-line scrutiny before a final vote.

Conservative lawmakers signaled that the government would likely agree to water down the contentious Henry VIII powers.

Edward Leigh, a Conservative who backs Brexit, said the government should "be generous ... accept some of the amendments" proposed by lawmakers.


Rogue Korean child-monitoring app is back, researchers say

 

In this May 15, 2015 file photo, a promotional banner of mobile apps that block harmful contents, is posted on the door at a mobile store in Seoul, South Korea. The banner reads: "Young smartphone users, you must install apps that block harmful content."(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

By Youkyung Lee, Raphael Satter, Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean child-monitoring smartphone app that was removed from the market in 2015 after it was found to be riddled with security flaws has been reissued under a new name and still puts children at risk, researchers said Monday.

The app "Cyber Security Zone" is part of government efforts to curb what authorities consider excessive cellphone use by young people. Parents are required by law to install monitoring software on smartphones for all children 18 and under.

The app is almost identical to a previous system, "Smart Sheriff," which left children's private information vulnerable to hackers, according to internet watchdog Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto. Both were developed under the auspices of MOIBA, the industry association for South Korean cellphone service providers.

"The flaws in the apps open the door to possible breaches of sensitive information including passwords, phone numbers, and other user data," Citizen Lab said in a statement.

"Smart Sheriff" was one of a family of apps intended to monitor children's online behavior. Some, like Smart Sheriff, act as filtering or blocking tools, while others send alerts to parents if children swear or talk about sex or bullying.

The apps have raised privacy activists' hackles, but experts have also been scathing about their lack of security. Cure53, a German auditing firm, said in 2015 that Smart Sheriff was "fundamentally broken."

Citizen Lab and Cure53 now say the app appears to have been rebranded as "Cyber Security Zone" — the equivalent of putting a fresh coat of paint on a dangerous old clunker.

"Users are being misled," said the Citizen Lab report.

MOIBA denied the two systems were the same and an official of the group said a review by the government's Korean Internet & Security Agency found security for "Cyber Security Zone" satisfactory.

"We cannot agree to the opinion that the application was not developed with security in mind," said the official, Noh Yong-lae.

Noh said MOIBA cut ties with the developer of "Smart Sheriff" and hired another company to update and develop apps.

KISA officials who looked at the Citizen Lab report said their agency's audit failed to catch at least one security lapse: the app's developer had not encrypted a key to the password. That stemmed from the app's design.

"They should not have built the app this way," said Kim Chan-il, a KISA manager. He said the government and MOIBA should make sure to hire developers who pay attention to security and have enough time to build an app.

An audit by KISA "does not guarantee security against all weaknesses," Kim said.

Rates of smartphone and internet use in South Korea are among the world's highest. The government operates filters to block access to pro-North Korean websites and material deemed pornographic.

South Korean authorities believe monitoring and censoring children's smartphone use is part of the state's duty to protect teenagers against harmful content such as pornography.

There is broad public support for the government to stop online behavior that is deemed to be an addiction. The government spends public money to help users break habits of excessive computer gaming and internet use.

The backlash to "Smart Sheriff" prompted the government to ease enforcement by proposing a bill in parliament that would allow parents to opt out of installing a monitoring device.

The proposal "shows the government acknowledges its original position was wrong, but it's not enough," said Kelly Kim, general counsel at OpenNet Korea, a civic group, who co-authored the Citizen Lab report. "The mandate is unconstitutional and should be abolished."

The child surveillance apps are part of a "clean internet" campaign launched by the government with MOIBA since 2013. MOIBA received nearly 963 million won ($853,000) this year for the campaign.

The South Korean telecom regulator, Korea Communications Commission, has promoted the two apps developed by MOIBA among teachers, parents and students.

Despite that, the app has received many negative reviews. The children's version has been downloaded about 6,000 times and the parent version about 30,000 times.

A commission official, Kwon Man-sub, said if new security risks are found, the government is willing to review them.
"By law, we have a duty to protect juveniles," Kwon said.
___
Satter reported from Paris.
___
Citizen Lab's report: https://netalert.me/safer-without.html


Australian to soon post ballots in gay marriage survey

 

A sample of the postal ballot on legalizing gay marriage is shown in Sydney, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

By Rod McGuirk, Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australians begin receiving their postal ballots on legalizing gay marriage from Tuesday as a new opinion poll showed that most of those who intend to vote are in favor of marriage equality.

More than 16 million registered voters among Australia's population of 24 million will receive ballots in the coming days requesting their opinion on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to wed.

An Ipsos poll published in Fairfax Media newspapers on Tuesday found 65 percent of respondents said they were certain to take part in the survey.

Of those certain to post their ballot papers back, 70 percent said they would support gay marriage.

If the postal survey finds most Australians want gay marriage, the Parliament will vote by December on legislation to lift the prohibition on gay marriage. But several lawmakers have said they would vote against gay marriage regardless of public opinion.

The Ipsos poll was based on a survey of 1,400 voters between Wednesday and Saturday last week. It had a 2.6 percentage point margin of error.

The result was consistent with previous polls in recent years which have shown around two-thirds of Australians support gay marriage.

But a similar proportion also want legal protections for churches' rights to refuse to marry same-sex couples and to teach that marriage should be between a man and woman.

Critics of the government's approach have argued that the public should see how these rights would be protected in proposed legislation before they decide whether gay marriage should go ahead.

But the government refuses to release a draft bill until after the survey decides whether the Parliament will consider any bill.

Conservative Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and center-left Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten are both campaigning for law reform.

But two past conservative prime ministers, Tony Abbott, who remains a government lawmaker, and John Howard, both oppose the change.


Today in History - Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017

The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Sept. 12, the 255th day of 2017. There are 110 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On September 12, 1942, during World War II, a German U-boat off West Africa torpedoed the RMS Laconia, which was carrying Italian prisoners of war, British soldiers and civilians; it's estimated more than 1,600 people died while some 1,100 survived after the ship sank. The German crew, joined by other U-boats, began rescue operations. (On September 16, the rescue effort came to an abrupt halt when the Germans were attacked by a U.S. Army bomber; as a result, U-boat commanders were ordered to no longer rescue civilian survivors of submarine attacks.)

On this date:

In 1814, the Battle of North Point took place in Maryland during the War of 1812 as American forces slowed British troops advancing on Baltimore.

In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett secretly married Robert Browning at St. Marylebone Church in London.

In 1914, during World War I, the First Battle of the Marne ended in an Allied victory against Germany.

In 1938, Adolf Hitler demanded the right of self-determination for the Sudeten (soo-DAYT'-un) Germans in Czechoslovakia.

In 1944, the Second Quebec Conference opened with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in attendance.

In 1953, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (boo-vee-AY') in Newport, Rhode Island.

In 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy addressed questions about his Roman Catholic faith, telling the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, "I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me."

In 1974, Emperor Haile Selassie (HY'-lee sehl-AH'-see) was deposed by Ethiopia's military after ruling for 58 years.

In 1977, South African black student leader and anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (BEE'-koh), 30, died while in police custody, triggering an international outcry.

In 1986, Joseph Cicippio (sih-SIHP'-ee-oh), the acting comptroller at the American University in Beirut, was kidnapped (he was released in December 1991).

In 1987, reports surfaced that Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden had borrowed, without attribution, passages of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock (KIHN'-ik) for one of his own campaign speeches. (The Kinnock report, along with other damaging revelations, prompted Biden to drop his White House bid.)

In 1992, the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off, carrying with it Mark Lee and Jan Davis, the first married couple in space; Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space; and Mamoru Mohri, the first Japanese national to fly on a U.S. spaceship. Police in Peru captured Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman. Actor Anthony Perkins died in Hollywood at age 60.

Ten years ago: Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced long-serving Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov with an obscure Cabinet official, Viktor Zubkov. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh ah-bay) announced his resignation.

Five years ago: The U.S. dispatched an elite group of Marines to Tripoli, Libya, after the mob attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. President Barack Obama strongly condemned the violence, and vowed to bring the killers to justice; Republican challenger Mitt Romney accused the administration of showing weakness in the face of tumultuous events in the Middle East.

One year ago: Striking a conciliatory tone after an Oval Office sitdown, President Barack Obama and the top Senate Republican declared themselves hopeful that an agreement could be reached to keep the government running and to provide money to take care of the worsening Zika crisis. Two men disrupted a live broadcast of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" by rushing onto the stage to protest Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte's presence on the show. (Lochte and his swimming teammates faced criticism since they were involved in an early-morning drunken encounter at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

Today's Birthdays: Actor Freddie Jones is 90. Composer Harvey Schmidt ("The Fantasticks") is 88. Actor Ian Holm is 86. Former U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is 78. Actress Linda Gray is 77. Singer Maria Muldaur is 75. Actor Joe Pantoliano is 66. Singer-musician Gerry Beckley (America) is 65. Original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood is 65. Rock musician Neil Peart (Rush) is 65. Actor Peter Scolari is 62. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is 61. Actress Rachel Ward is 60. Actress Amy Yasbeck is 55. Rock musician Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) is 52. Actor Darren E. Burrows is 51. Rock singer-musician Ben Folds (Ben Folds Five) is 51. Actor-comedian Louis C.K. is 50. Rock musician Larry LaLonde (Primus) is 49. Golfer Angel Cabrera is 48. Actor-singer Will Chase is 47.

Actor Josh Hopkins is 47. Country singer Jennifer Nettles is 43. Actress Lauren Stamile (stuh'-MEE'-lay) is 41. Rapper 2 Chainz is 40. Actor Ben McKenzie is 39. Singer Ruben Studdard is 39. Basketball Hall of Fame player Yao Ming is 37. Singer-actress Jennifer Hudson is 36. Actor Alfie Allen is 31. Actress Emmy Rossum is 31. Country singer Kelsea Ballerini is 24. Actor Colin Ford is 21.

Thought for Today: "Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it and you'll start believing it." — Jesse Owens, Olympic gold medal track and field athlete (born this date in 1913, died in 1980).
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Rohingya Muslims being wiped off Myanmar's map

World Wildlife Fund sues over Greece oil spill from tanker

De Niro: Help rebuild Barbuda paradise destroyed by Irma

Andrea Bocelli prays at Jordan River site of Jesus' baptism

Today in History -Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017


UK lowers terror threat level as subway bomb probe advances

Acid attack on 4 US students in France not seen as terror act

Angelina Jolie condemns Myanmar violence

Hard to spot: criminals find new ways to smuggle rhino horns

Today in History - Monday, Sept. 18, 2017


Defiant N. Korea leader says he will complete nuke program

Crocodile suspected in death of UK reporter in Sri Lanka

21 boys who died in school fire buried in Malaysia

UK threat level raised to "critical" after subway bombing

Today in History - Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017

Today in History - Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017


North Korea fires missile over Japan in longest-ever flight

Cambodia retaliates for visa ban, suspends US MIA searches

Nearly 3 weeks into Rohingya crisis, refugees still fleeing

Jitters in Europe as Russia-Belarus war games get underway

Today in History - Friday, Sept. 15, 2017


Woman arrested near Prince George's London school

As Rohingya flee Myanmar, leader Suu Kyi skips UN meeting

Scientists hope to restore extinct Galapagos tortoise

'Sopranos' mobster, veteran actor Frank Vincent dies at 80

Today in History - Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017


FEMA estimates 25 percent of Florida Keys homes are gone

2 Americans, Russian dock with International Space Station

Bangladesh leader visits Rohingya refugees, assures help

Aleppo still badly scarred by war, months after rebel defeat

Today in History - Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017


UN approves watered-down new sanctions against North Korea

UK lawmakers back key Brexit bill, but fight still looms

Rogue Korean child-monitoring app is back, researchers say

Australian to soon post ballots in gay marriage survey

Today in History - Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017

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