Month: May 2019

Drake Calls Draymond Green “Trash” After Toronto Raptors Win Game 1 | NBA Finals

Drake got in Draymond Green’s face and talked trash after the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Finals game.

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Pope visits Romania 20 years after John Paul’s historic trip
By NICOLE WINFIELD | Fri, May 31, 2019 12:50 EDT
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is heading to Romania for a three-day, cross-country pilgrimage that in many ways is completing the 1999 trip by St. John Paul II that marked the first-ever papal visit to a majority Orthodox country.
Francis’ visit starting Friday comes on the heels of the European Parliament elections that hollowed out the political middle in the bloc, and Francis is expected to speak about issues confronting the continent during the trip.
Key moments are Francis’ Mass for the largely Hungarian-speaking Roman Catholic faithful at the country’s most famous Marian shrine, Sumuleu Ciuc, in eastern Transylvania. He will also beatify seven Greek-Catholic bishops who were martyred during communist rule, when Catholics were brutally persecuted.
Francis will also meet with the patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the latest of his foreign trips to poor countries where Catholics are a minority. In Romania, they are a divided minority between two Catholic rites, Roman Catholic and Greek-Catholic.
“I’m coming to you to walk together,” Francis said in a videomessage released on the eve of his trip.
The visit begins Friday with a meeting with Prime Minister Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, whose Social Democratic Party, or PSD, was soundly defeated during the European Parliament elections.
While Francis’ trip is pastoral, “I imagine that there might be speeches by the Holy Father on this European dimension,” said Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti.
Later Friday, Francis and Patriarch Daniel, leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church, are to each recite the Our Father prayer in the Orthodox Cathedral, a towering new construction that was funded in part by a $200,000 donation by John Paul when he visited in 1999.
Gisotti stressed that while the two religious leaders would physically be praying in the same place, they would not pray together, an important distinction for many Orthodox. Ordinary faithful will be on hand, in sharp contrast to Francis’ recent visit to Bulgaria, when he was allowed to pray in the Orthodox cathedral in Sofia, but alone.
John Paul’s 1999 visit to Romania, just 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was the first by a pope to a majority Orthodox country since the Great Schism divided Christianity in 1054.
It was marked by an extraordinary welcome for a Polish pope who helped bring down communism. During his Mass, shouts of “unity, unity” rose up from the crowd.
John Paul agreed to Orthodox demands that he visit only Bucharest and not Transylvania, where most of the country’s Catholics live. In many ways then, Francis is fulfilling the itinerary John Paul would have completed.
As then, the issue of confiscated property of the Catholic Church that was given to the Orthodox during communist rule remains a sore spot in relations. Gisotti said there were no plans for any public discussion of the dispute, but didn’t rule out private talks.
“We live times of peace and understanding, but we wish these relations (between churches) to become better,” said Francisc Dobos, spokesman for the Bucharaest arbishopric. “We should not be afraid of one another, we should trust one another. This visit should make us become better Catholics and better Orthodox and in the end, better citizens. “

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Tornado rips through Kansas City suburbs as storms move east
By JULIE WRIGHT AND JOHN HANNA | Wed, May 29, 2019 10:54 EDT
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A vicious storm tore through the Kansas City area, spawning tornadoes that downed trees and power lines, damaged homes and injured at least a dozen people in the latest barrage of severe weather that saw tornado warnings as far east as New York City.
The latest round of damaging weather in the central U.S. came a day after violent storms killed one person and injured at least 130 in Indiana and Ohio.
Mark Duffin, 48, learned from his wife and a television report that the large tornado was headed toward his home in Linwood, Kansas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Kansas City.
The next thing he knew, the walls of his house were coming down.
Duffin told the Kansas City Star that he grabbed a mattress, followed his 13-year-old to the basement and protected the two of them with the mattress as the home crashed down around them.
“I’m just glad I found my two dogs alive,” he said. “Wife’s alive, family’s alive, I’m alive. So, that’s it.”
At least a dozen people were admitted to the hospital in Lawrence, Kansas, which is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Kansas City, Missouri, and is home to the University of Kansas, hospital spokesman Janice Early said. Damage also was reported in the towns of Bonner Springs and Pleasant Grove.
The Douglas County (Kansas) Emergency Management agency said on Facebook that 15 people were hurt, including three seriously, during the storms, which spawned a twister that struck a neighborhood just outside of Lawrence.
The Kansas City metropolitan area of about 2.1 million people appeared to have been spared the direct hit that was feared earlier in the evening, when the weather service announced a tornado emergency.
Still, the storm forced evacuations at Kansas City International Airport. People took refuge in a tunnel leading to the parking garage for about an hour. Flights were delayed for more than five hours due to debris on the airfield. Airport spokesman Joe McBride said the debris included pots, wall panels and other items that apparently flew in the air nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Linwood tornado.
Flights finally resumed around 12:15 a.m.
Tuesday marked the 12th straight day that at least eight tornadoes were reported to the National Weather Service. The last such stretch was in 1980. The weather service website showed at least 27 reports of tornadoes on Tuesday, most in Kansas and Missouri but also in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
After several quiet years, the past couple of weeks have seen an explosion of tornado activity with no end to the pattern in sight.
Tornadoes also were confirmed in eastern Pennsylvania and the weather service issued a tornado warning for parts of New York City and northern New Jersey.
The winds peeled away roofs — leaving homes looking like giant dollhouses — knocked houses off their foundations, toppled trees, brought down power lines and churned up so much debris that it was visible on radar. Highway crews had to use snowplows to clear an Ohio interstate.
Some of the heaviest damage was reported just outside Dayton, Ohio.
“I just got down on all fours and covered my head with my hands,” said Francis Dutmers, who with his wife headed for the basement of their home in Vandalia, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) outside Dayton, when the storm hit with a “very loud roar” Monday night. The winds blew out windows around his house, filled rooms with debris and took down most of his trees.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency in three hard-hit counties, allowing the state to suspend normal purchasing procedures and quickly provide supplies like generators and water.
Tornadic winds weren’t the only problem. Several water rescues were reported in northern Missouri. In sparsely populated Putnam County, officials urged everyone to stay off roads because flooding was rampant after the county got 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) of rain in 20 minutes Tuesday night.
Hannibal, Missouri, officials were just beginning to assess damage Wednesday, hours after torrential rain proved too much for the storm sewers, causing a break that resulted in water damage to buildings in the historic downtown area.
Weather service meteorologist Mark Fuchs said parts of Holt County, Missouri, got 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain, and a widespread area along the Iowa-Missouri border got at least 3 inches (7.6 centimeters). He said most of that water will drain into the swollen Missouri River and that some will join the Mississippi River, which is already approaching record highs in several Missouri and Illinois communities.
Outbreaks of 50 or more tornadoes are not uncommon, having happened 63 times in U.S. history, with three instances of more than 100 twisters, said Patrick Marsh, warning coordination meteorologist for the federal Storm Prediction Center. But Monday’s swarm was unusual because it happened over a particularly wide geographic area and came amid an especially active stretch, he said.
As for why it’s happening, Marsh said high pressure over the Southeast and an unusually cold trough over the Rockies are forcing warm, moist air into the central U.S., triggering repeated severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. And neither system is showing signs of moving, he said.
Scientists say climate change is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather such as storms, droughts, floods and fires, but without extensive study they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.
___
Associated Press writer Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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In fear for their lives, activist Thai band lives in exile
By TASSANEE VEJPONGSA and GRANT PECK | Wed, May 29, 2019 06:11 EDT
BANGKOK (AP) — They are members of a folk music group living communally in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, but they are in fear for their lives.
The musicians from the band Faiyen fled their homes in neighboring Thailand in 2014, afraid of arrest after a military coup overthrew their nation’s elected government.
Their music was their crime.
Drawn into the polarized politics of Thailand’s last decade, some of their songs mocked the monarchy, a sacred institution as far as many Thais — and the law — are concerned.
For their heresies, they now believe they may be kidnapped or killed. Their fears are not without justification.
Since last December, six fellow Thai exiles in Laos associated with anti-monarchist views have disappeared in suspicious circumstances and their families presume they are dead. The mutilated bodies of two washed up on the Thai side of the Mekong River. A veteran far-left activist who in the 1970s was in the jungle with the Communist Party of Thailand disappeared along with them.
Two other activists in Laos, rights groups say, disappeared in 2016 and 2017.
All of the exiles were associated with Thailand’s Red Shirt movement of democracy activists, many of whom are also supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted by in a 2006 military coup that triggered a long and sometimes violent struggle for power between supporters of the populist billionaire and the army-backed royalist establishment.
That charged political atmosphere led some Red Shirt supporters to begin openly questioning the monarchy’s role in Thai society and politics, a grave taboo. Thai law mandates prison terms of three to 15 years for insulting the monarchy, and courts have proven to have broad interpretations of what constitutes an insult.
The junta that took power in the 2014 coup — and remains in place today — did so with a vow to crack down on anti-monarchists, even for a time moving all so-called lese majeste cases from civilian court to military courts.
While no evidence has been presented that the junta is involved in the disappearances in Laos — and even those in exile stop short of directly accusing the government — activists and rights groups say someone is seeking extrajudicial retribution.
The latest exiles to vanish were three activists who tried to flee Laos by crossing into Vietnam in January, but according to rights groups were arrested and secretly extradited to Thailand. The authorities in Vietnam and Thailand have denied any knowledge of the affair.
“When we heard the news, I realized, ‘OK, we are really in danger with all the people disappearing in previous years, and more this year,'” Faiyen member Romchalee Sombulrattanakul told The Associated Press by phone from Laos. “It seems they want to get us now. And, we are the only group left in this country.”
Romchalee is a 33-year-old former cellphone saleswoman who considered herself apolitical until she saw what she calls the unfair suppression of the Red Shirt movement, which she believed represented the interests of Thai workers and farmers.
When the bodies that washed up on the shore of the Mekong in December were identified as fellow activists, she said it became “clear that those who disappeared were turning up dead. No one was arrested or sent to be tried in Thailand.”
She’s not being paranoid, according to Human Rights Watch, whose senior researcher in Thailand, Sunai Phasuk, said that the New York-based group received credible warnings about the dangers facing Faiyen. All of those who disappeared were wanted by Thai authorities for alleged anti-monarchy activity, he said.
“Faiyen is the last remaining on the list that Thailand wants,” Sunai said. “Other names have been removed from the list for the fact that they have been disappeared.”
Thai Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravich said it would be “impossible” for the government to make activists like those in the Vietnam case disappear. He added that he wasn’t sure why the activists in Laos were so scared.
“If they are so afraid, they could return and enter the legal process,” he said. “Whether or not they will decide to come back is up to them.”
The fear in which Faiyen lives is beyond description, said Romchalee. The slightest sound in the night sends her frantically peering out through windows into the dark, praying that it isn’t someone trying to attack them. She is shaken by a mysterious man who keeps contacting her through social media and seems to know her every move — which restaurant she has eaten in and to where they have changed living quarters in search of safety.
“Each day you wonder whether or not you can go shop, or meet your friends, because you have no idea when you will be taken away,” said Worawut Theunkchaiphum, another band member, noting that those who previously went missing were taken from their homes or while traveling.
“We exist with no protection whatsoever. We are invisible. We are in a country where the Thai government could easily send in teams to take care of us,” he said.
Faiyen’s members were among scores of Thai activists who fled after the latest coup. Many had no travel documents and little money when they escaped to neighboring Laos and Cambodia.
According to the legal assistance group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, at least 86 Thais left Thailand seeking asylum abroad.
Those who were well-connected or prepared with money and papers were able to move on to safer havens such as Japan and France.
Hardcore activist leaders received funds from sympathizers to keep them afloat, doling out portions to their loyalists in the exile community. Low-profile members, including farmers, workers and office employees, were often able to fade into the woodwork, giving up their activism for what local jobs they could find.
The scrappy members of Faiyen, poorly connected but politically engaged, decided to carry on with their activism. Along with several others in the small and cliquish exile community, they produced programs and songs in Thailand’s “luk thung” country music style that they posted online.
The activists who disappeared had also continued to put provocative programming online.
By refusing to change their approach, they had made themselves targets, said Benjamin Tausig, an assistant professor of music at New York’s Stony Brook University who has closely studied Thailand’s recent protest movements.
“We live in a moment of extraordinary visibility, which is simultaneously a platform for speech and a mode of surveillance,” he said. “Their songs move in an ecosystem that can spread the word fast, but that can also get you in trouble fast.”

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California approves power outages to prevent more wildfires
By DON THOMPSON | Fri, May 31, 2019 01:52 EDT
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California regulators on Thursday approved allowing utilities to cut off electricity to possibly hundreds of thousands of customers to avoid catastrophic wildfires like the one sparked by power lines last year that killed 85 people and largely destroyed the city of Paradise.
Utilities’ liability can reach billions of dollars, and after several years of devastating wildfires, they asked regulators to allow them to pull the plug when fire risk is extremely high. That’s mainly during periods of excessive winds and low humidity when vegetation is dried out and can easily ignite.
The California Public Utilities Commission gave the green light but said utilities must do a better job educating and notifying the public, particularly those with disabilities and others who are vulnerable, and ramp up preventive efforts, such as clearing brush and installing fire-resistant poles.
The plans could inconvenience hundreds of thousands of customers while endangering some who depend on electricity to keep them alive, like 56-year-old Kallithea Miller.
Although she lives far from wildfire danger near a shopping mall in Stockton, south of Sacramento, she relies on a refrigerator to cool her insulin and a machine to keep her breathing at night.
“I could die in my sleep,” she said. “It’s scaring the hell out of me.”
The precautionary outages could mean multiday blackouts for cities as large as San Francisco and San Jose, Northern California’s major power provider warned in a recent filing with the utilities commission.
Pacific Gas & Electric anticipates cutting the power only in “truly extreme fire danger weather” while recognizing that there “are safety risks on both sides of this issue,” vice president Aaron Johnson said.
PG&E initially planned to de-energize power lines in at-risk rural areas but has since expanded its plans to include high-voltage transmission lines like the one that sparked the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. The blaze last November killed 85 people while wiping out nearly 15,000 homes in and around Paradise.
“I know it inconveniences people, but it’s a small price to pay for not having the kind of devastation that we had in Paradise,” Mayor Jody Jones said. “Everyone I know in Paradise knew that PG&E might cut the power off. I didn’t see that as a problem. The problem was that they didn’t actually shut it off.”
Utility equipment has been blamed for many of California’s most destructive and deadly wildfires in recent years.
Other major California utilities have similar plans that commissioners unanimously approved Thursday, also warning that outages could extend into cities under some conditions.
“We’re worried about it because we could see people’s power shut off not for a day or two but potentially a week,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said as he recently called for California to spend $75 million to help communities prepare. “This is high winds, severe weather, turn off the electricity so it doesn’t ignite a fire. It’s a good thing — unless you’re impacted.”
California’s three largest investor-owned utilities serve more than 150,000 customers who rely on life-support equipment, many of whom are considered low income, state Sen. Bill Dodd said. The Democrat from Napa wants utilities to provide backup electricity or financial assistance so high-risk customers can buy generators or batteries.
The elderly, people with disabilities and language barriers, and poorer residents in remote areas with limited transportation or communication are also at greater risk. Cellphone networks can fail, computers and internet phone lines won’t work, traffic signals go dark and there can be problems with communication systems, water treatment facilities and emergency services.
Utility representatives said they are doing their best to work with emergency responders and community groups to warn vulnerable customers, as the Public Utilities Commission required.
“What the PUC can do is basically lay out the expectations for what the utilities need to do. Where the rubber meets the road is how the utilities operationalize, particularly on the notification,” said Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network.
The option to pull the plug isn’t new, though state officials expect it to be used much more frequently.
San Diego Gas & Electric won permission to cut off power during high-risk conditions after its equipment ignited three big fires in 2007. State regulators expanded the shut-off requirements to other investor-owned utilities last year, after devastating fires in 2017.
Once power is shut off, the utilities must inspect every de-energized line before they restore power, a process that can keep the lights out for days even after conditions improve.
Both PG&E and Southern California Edison used their new authority last fall, with many residents and local officials upset that stores, businesses and schools had to close for lack of electricity.
Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning said his city of 5,200 residents in the Napa Valley was the first to experience a PG&E power outage, “so we learned firsthand how that goes — not well.”
He cited poor communication, which utility representatives said they are working to improve, but praised PG&E for now trying to keep makeshift power flowing to key areas of town in the next outage.
“They’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t,” Canning said. “There’s only so much we can do as a city to protect you. Individual residents have to be prepared.”
Miller said her backup plan is a cat named Mojo who instinctively paws at her face whenever she stops breathing.
“It puts us in a dangerous situation and a stressful situation,” she said. “If they have a blackout that lasts for five days, I’m screwed.”

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Alabama heralds ‘last slave ship’ discovery; ponders future
By KEVIN McGILL | Thu, May 30, 2019 07:07 EDT
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Dives into murky water, painstaking examinations of relics and technical data and rigorous peer review led historians and archaeologists to confirm last week that wreckage found in the Mobile River in 2018 was indeed the Clotilda, the last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to the United States.
An event heralding the discovery Thursday afternoon in the Mobile community of Africatown made clear that much work remains. The Alabama Historical Commission and others working on the project must decide how much can be salvaged, whether it can be brought ashore or if it should be left in place and protected.
Perhaps more important: How can the interest and publicity engendered by the discovery of the Clotilda be harnessed to foster economic and racial justice in the community?
Anderson Flen, a descendent of one of the Clotilda’s enslaved, believes the historic find can spark new discussions on those topics.
“Number one is talking and communicating honestly and transparently,” Flen said after a news conference on the effort to confirm the discovery. “The other thing is beginning to make some tangible things happen in this community.”
Another Clotilda survivor’s descendant, Darron Patterson, said Africatown residents “have to come together as a group to make sure we’re on one page, of one accord, to make sure this community survives.”
Thursday’s gathering at a community center drew roughly 300 people. Government officials taking part included U.S. Rep Bradly Byrne — who said he would work to help make Africatown “a place that people all over the world are going to want to come to” — and a representative from Sen. Doug Jones’ office. A statement celebrating the discovery from Gov. Kay Ivey was read by historic commission chairman Walter Givhan.
Officials credited Alabama journalist Ben Raines with renewing interest in locating the remains of the Clotilda. Raines had reported that he believed he had located the ship last year. Even though the ship he found turned out not to be the Clotilda, it led to the commission’s and other organizations’ efforts to locate the Clotilda’s wreckage.
A team of maritime archaeology experts conducted an assessment of a previously unsearched area of the Mobile River and historical research and an archaeological survey revealed up to two dozen 19th and 20th century vessels. One closely matched characteristics of the Clotilda and peer-reviewed findings led researchers to conclude that the wreckage is the Clotilda.
Officials have said they are working on a plan to preserve the site where the ship was located. Beyond that, the ship’s future is uncertain.
“This is the point where we pause,” Givhan told reporters. “We have to do our duty in protecting it. That’s job one right now.”
More experts will be brought in to determine the next move. “There are several options, obviously, as to whether you leave it in place, whether you bring up certain artifacts,” Givhan said.
James Delgado, a maritime archaeologist who helped lead the team that verified the wreck as the Clotilda, recently told The Associated Press that the ship’s remains are delicate but the potential for both research and inspiration are enormous.
Joycelyn Davis, a descendant of one of the Africans held captive aboard the ship, said she wants to somehow honor both the ship’s human cargo and the hard work of them and their descendants in forming Africatown .
Jerry Ward, an African American man who said he lives near Africatown, said he’d like to see the ship reconstructed as part of an effort to educate people about its history. “To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you come from,” Ward said.
The commission said organizations involved in the research and survey efforts include the Black Heritage Council, the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Slave Wrecks Project, Diving with a Purpose, SEARCH Inc. and the National Park Service.

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O’Rourke’s immigration plan calls for pathway to citizenship
By WILL WEISSERT | Wed, May 29, 2019 07:28 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping immigration plan to seek a pathway to U.S. citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally, deploy thousands of immigration lawyers to the southern border to help with asylum cases and earmark $5 billion to bolster the rule of law in Central America.
The former Texas congressman becomes just the second major candidate in the packed field of Democratic presidential hopefuls to offer a comprehensive immigration proposal, even though the U.S.-Mexico border and the thousands of people streaming across it illegally have dominated headlines and U.S. policy discussions for months.
Other policy goals — including plans to slash carbon emissions nationwide to combat climate change and extend universal health care coverage — have overshadowed immigration, despite President Donald Trump fixating on calls for tightening border security and extending a wall along the border, seeing both as winning issues for himself and the Republican Party heading into 2020.
The only other Democratic White House contender to offer a full immigration plan is former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro, who called in April for ending criminalization of illegal border crossings entirely.
O’Rourke’s plan doesn’t go that far, but he pledges to use executive orders to mandate that only people with criminal records be detained for crossing the border illegally. He also would end the separation of immigrant families at the border, remove federal immigration courts from their current jurisdiction under the Justice Department, stop all funding for what he calls “private, for-profit prison operators” and send 2,000 lawyers to the border to help those immigrants seeking U.S. asylum, often because they are fleeing drug or gang violence back home in Central America.
O’Rourke said he’d work with Congress to legalize 11 million people in the country illegally during his first 100 days as president, fast-tracking “Dreamers,” those people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. And he’s promising to invest $5 billion to combat violence and poverty in the three Central American countries that currently send the most immigrants to the U.S. illegally: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
The plan “overcomes a generation of inaction to finally rewrite our immigration laws in our own image reflecting our values, the reality of the border, the best interests of our communities, and the longstanding traditions of a country comprised of families from the world over,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
O’Rourke, a fluent Spanish speaker, served three terms in Congress representing El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. While campaigning, he reminds audiences multiple times a day that immigrants comprised more than a quarter of the people in his district and declares that his hometown and Juárez are part of the world’s largest “binational community.” He’s fond of saying that El Paso is among the safest cities per capita in the nation “not because of walls but in spite of walls” along the border.
O’Rourke’s plan also seeks to better track and prevent immigrant deaths by creating an independent border oversight office and expanded training and contact with surrounding communities for federal personnel. A nine-page fact sheet O’Rourke released with his proposal accuses the Trump administration of “pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders.”
“It is manufacturing crises in our communities. And it is seeking to turn us against each other,” the fact sheet says. “When this is done in our name, with our tax dollars, and to our neighbors, we not only undermine our laws, hold back our economy, and damage our security — we risk losing ourselves.”
Trump has said his immigration policies are meant to keep the country safe.

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Intense rainfall in central US causing southern flooding
By HANNAH GRABENSTEIN and TIM TALLEY | Tue, May 28, 2019 09:30 EDT
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Historic flooding is hitting communities along the Arkansas River despite little rain in the region, thanks to downpours in areas farther north and efforts by officials to control the powerful surge of water.
At least one death was blamed on the flooding.
Intense rain in Kansas and northeast Oklahoma strained aging dams and levees, and a reservoir in Oklahoma that drains a massive watershed hit record water levels. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a large dam to control the river flow, which put Fort Smith — the second-largest city in Arkansas — in the path of record-breaking flooding expected to last all week.
Among the drenched: Rick and Cindy Gering, whose Fort Smith home flooded as the river swelled its banks over the weekend. The river also overtopped two levees southeast of the city on Tuesday.
Rick Gering said the house survived flooding in 2015, but that he and his wife got nervous Saturday after the National Weather Service increased its flood crest prediction. The couple built a wall of sandbags around their home and headed for a hotel.
A neighbor later told them it didn’t help much. The home is now filled with about 3 feet (0.9 meters) of water. Gering said he was thankful they had time to leave, but said it was like “watching a slow brutal death to your home.”
The Arkansas River was forecast to peak at record level in the area on Wednesday. The river levels also prompted the temporary closure of two major bridges into the city, and forecasters said more rain was possible in already waterlogged areas up the river.
A state official said most residents had already been warned to evacuate areas protected by the levees that breached Tuesday, though it’s unclear how many did.
The Army Corps of Engineers has ratcheted up the flow from a hydroelectric dam northwest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to 275,000 cubic feet (7,787 cubic meters) per second to help drain the swollen Keystone Lake reservoir.
The popular recreational area drains into the Arkansas River, but water levels as of Tuesday were above normal — by a record 34 feet (10 meters).
The reservoir drains a watershed of more than 22,000 square miles (57,000 square kilometers) in areas of northeastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas, where up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain has fallen in the past month. In all of 2018, the same areas recorded between 30 and 45 inches of rain (76 to 114 centimeters).
The release of water from the Keystone Dam is necessary to prevent the reservoir from spilling over the flood-control structure, which would allow floodwaters to flow uncontrolled down the river, said Preston Chasteen, deputy chief of public affairs for the Corps’ Tulsa District.
“The whole purpose of a dam is to capture that flood water and not let it run freely down the river,” he said. “If these dams weren’t in place to control these releases, I think the circumstances would be far worse than they currently are.”
Flooding was also hitting communities in Oklahoma.
In Tulsa, officials warned that levees built in the 1940s were facing higher flows for longer periods of time than they’ve ever seen. By Tuesday, hundreds of homes in Sand Springs, Webbers Falls, and other Oklahoma communities along the Arkansas River had been evacuated. More than 1.2 million people live in the Tulsa metropolitan area.
In addition to the dam’s releases, two other rivers that drain separate watersheds are also contributing to flooding, Chasteen said.
The Neosho River, whose watershed includes portions of Missouri and Arkansas, and the Vertigris River, which drains parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, merge with the Arkansas River in Muskogee, Oklahoma, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa.
In Fort Smith, residents awaited Wednesday’s record-breaking crest, predicted at 42.5 feet (13 meters). By Monday night, the Arkansas Department of Transportation closed four bridges that typically carry more than 100,000 cars daily into Fort Smith, redirecting traffic to a single bridge that has a capacity of about 8,200.
Two bridges were reopened around noon on Tuesday because water levels weren’t as high as expected. But officials said they were keeping an eye on both amid the flooding conditions. Officials also noted that public drinking water was drinkable and safe.
Divers searching a van submerged in floodwaters at Fort Chaffee on Tuesday found the body of a man inside. A police spokesman says the man was believed to have driven around barricades set up on a flooded road and into the floodwaters Monday night.

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Navy SEAL seeks to toss slaying case over withheld evidence
By JULIE WATSON and BRIAN MELLEY | Wed, May 29, 2019 01:04 EDT
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Lawyers for a Navy SEAL accused of killing an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 want the case thrown out because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct that include withholding evidence and conducting surveillance on the defense.
Attorneys for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher plan to ask a military court Wednesday in San Diego to dismiss the case or remove the prosecutor and, possibly, have the judge himself step aside.
“Gallagher’s case has been irreparably corrupted by a government campaign of outrageous and illegal conduct,” attorney Tim Parlatore said in the opening salvo of his motion to dismiss the charges. “This prosecution threatens to make an unequivocal farce of our justice system.”
The motion comes with Gallagher’s trial less than two weeks away and amid mounting pressure from the defense after lawyers discovered prosecutors planted tracking software in emails sent to the defense team and a journalist that may have violated attorney-client privilege and other constitutional rights.
The Navy has said it did nothing wrong and has no plans to remove the prosecutor. A spokesman wouldn’t comment on the motions.
Among the evidence apparently kept from the defense were results of a polygraph exam Gallagher was given weeks before his arrest on charges that he fatally stabbed an injured young teenage militant and picked off civilians from a sniper’s perch.
Gallager knew at the time he was under investigation and denied committing any war crimes during the test, Parlatore said in court papers. Gallagher was told he passed the exam.
Parlatore said he only knows about the exam because his client told him about it and investigation documents showed efforts to schedule the test.
Polygraphs, commonly referred to as lie-detector tests, are not admissible in civilian or military courts because they are “not an indication of truth,” said Gary Solis, a former military judge and Marine Corps prosecutor who teaches law at Georgetown.
Passing such a test means the person answered most of the key questions without any indication of lying.
It’s debatable whether the results would be considered evidence of innocence, and therefore the prosecution would not necessarily have to turn them over to the defense, Solis said.
The judge could admonish the defense for revealing polygraph results because it could taint the jury in the case, Solis said.
The effort to get the case thrown out comes as President Donald Trump has considered pardoning several service members accused of war crimes, including Gallagher, who has pleaded not guilty.
Gallagher’s family has lobbied vigorously for his freedom and dozens of Republican lawmakers have rallied to his cause.
Prosecutors have said Gallagher stabbed the injured militant and then posed for a photo with his corpse for his re-enlistment ceremony. He sent a text to fellow SEALs later saying, “I got this one with my hunting knife.”
Parlatore dismissed that as a joke that reflects the dark humor of a warrior. No blood was found on the knife by forensics experts, he added.
Parlatore said he’s aware of evidence that showed at least one member of Gallagher’s squad practiced medical procedures on the militant when he was dead or nearly dead, which might indicate he died from a different cause.
He said witnesses would be willing to testify to that, but prosecutors have said they’re unaware of anything performed on him that was not medically necessary or any alternative cause of death.
Parlatore also claimed that prosecutors can’t prove that Gallagher shot a young girl and old man because charges of attempted murder are based only on rumors and inadmissible hearsay.
Gallagher faces trial June 10.
___
Melley reported from Los Angeles.

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Deadly knife attack on schoolgirls startles Japan
By MARI YAMAGUCHI | Wed, May 29, 2019 11:21 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — In a country considered among the safest in the world, a deadly knife attack near Tokyo on a group of schoolgirls has shocked Japanese parents and officials and raised concerns over the safety of children.
Authorities say a man brandishing two knives slashed the girls and at least two parents as they gathered at a school bus stop in Kawasaki on Tuesday. An 11-year-old girl and a 39-year-old man were killed before the attacker fatally slashed himself in the neck. At least 17 people, mostly children attending Caritas elementary school, a Catholic private school, were injured.
Many Japanese children walk to neighborhood schools alone or in small groups, and some commute by themselves on trains or buses. Elderly people and volunteers often serve as crossing guards or safety monitors, with little other security.
Mieko Miyata, the head of a nonprofit research institute specializing in children’s safety, said many people in Japan are too complacent about safety because of the low crime rate. Safety officials often focus on responses to disasters rather than on crime prevention, she said.
Children going to school are particularly vulnerable to attacks, she said, because they can be easily located at places such as school bus stops and often wear uniforms.
“Teachers are not anti-crime professionals,” Miyata said. “In addition to neighborhood monitoring and cooperation, there should be concrete anti-crime measures such as professional security guards in uniforms.”
According to education ministry statistics from 2016, 66% of schools had neighborhood safety patrols staffed only by volunteers, and less than 10% hired security guards at school.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told police and education officials on Wednesday to reinforce safety measures and patrols to protect schoolchildren across the country. He also asked for more neighborhood watch groups by community volunteers, while urging schools and authorities to share information about suspicious people.
“We must do whatever it takes to protect children’s safety,” Abe said. “I feel extreme regret about the extremely harrowing attack that affected many young children.”
Japan’s government has previously published crime prevention manuals for commuting schoolchildren. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said officials are considering seeking out safe locations where children can gather before going to school in groups, either on foot or by bus.
Some schools increased monitoring by teachers after the attack. In Saku City in central Japan, police instructed children to call out for help or use an anti-crime alarm if they see a suspicious person while commuting on a school bus.
At Caritas school, children walk from a train station to a nearby bus stop to take a privately run bus to school, escorted by teachers.
“The school was taking good care of our children for their safety, including the bus driver,” said a father of a student at the school who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity. “How on Earth can adults fully protect our children?”
Police on Wednesday raided the home of the alleged attacker, 51-year-old Ryuichi Iwasaki, in Kawasaki. Police would not confirm details, but local media said investigators were searching for clues about the motive for the attack.
City officials said Iwasaki lived with his elderly uncle and aunt and may have shunned other people.
While shooting deaths are rare in Japan, the country has had a series of high-profile killings in recent years. In 2016, a former employee at a home for the disabled allegedly killed 19 people and injured more than 20. In 2001, a man forced his way into an elementary school in Osaka, stabbing eight children to death and injuring 15 other people, including teachers.
___
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

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Veteran China dissident urges linking of human rights, trade
Wed, May 29, 2019 05:20 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — Veteran Chinese dissident Wang Dan urged Western nations to restore the link between human rights and trade with China in a speech Wednesday just days ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on student pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
China’s authoritarian government is spreading its influence to free societies everywhere, requiring foreign nations to take tougher action to curb its abuses, Wang told reporters in Tokyo.
He said the overthrow of the one-party Communist government must be the ultimate goal of such a campaign.
“China becomes a threat for the free world, and in my opinion, I think it is time to relink trade and human rights issues. That might be the only way to deal with this problem,” Wang said.
“I know a lot of Western countries don’t want to ruin their relationship with China, and don’t want to see any regime change in China, but I have to say, if there’s no regime change, nothing can be resolved.”
Wang said free trade should be conditional on China’s respect for freedoms, including labor rights and an open internet. He said putting rights on the agenda could also help reduce the U.S.-China trade imbalance.
“You don’t have to pass a bill, you can just use this way to link trade and human rights,” Wang said.
The last significant attempt at such an approach came during the 1980s and 1990s, when the United States made China’s most favored nation trading status conditional on an annual review of issues including human rights.
Rights took an increasingly prominent place following the Chinese military’s bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen demonstrations on the night of June 3-4, 1989. However, under pressure from the business community, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton first changed the wording to “normal trade relations” in 1998, then ended the annual review by granting China “permanent normal trade relations” in 2000.
That move, along with China’s entry into the World Trade Organization the following year, helped usher in an era of unprecedented economic growth for China, while vastly reducing the leverage and influence of human rights advocates.
Wang, then a freshman at Peking University, was a key leader of the student protests and ended up at the top of the government’s most-wanted list following the crackdown in which hundreds, possibly thousands are believed to have died. China has never given an accounting of the events, which remain among the most politically taboo topics in Chinese society today.
Wang served two prison terms before being freed in 1998 and allowed to move abroad.
Wang, who has taught at a university and now lives in the United States, remains committed to the cause of bringing democracy to China.
“It is time for us now, for the whole democratic countries now, to re-recognize the true face of the (Communist Party of China) and try to learn some lessons from the Tiananmen massacre,” Wang said.

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Hoops Streams: Previewing NBA Finals Game 1 Warriors at Raptors | ESPN

Stephen A. Smith, Adrian Wojnarowski and Cassidy Hubbarth preview Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, live from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. They are joined by special guests Kendrick Perkins, Ariel Helwani and Peter Rosenberg.

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The 2019 NBA Finals are set to begin Thursday night in Toronto between the Raptors and the Golden State Warriors, who are gunning for their third straight championship, and fourth in five years. They’re also coming in as heavy favorites, even with Kevin Durant expected to miss at least the first game, probably the first two, and perhaps the entire series. Durant is arguably the best player in the NBA. His absence, for however long it lasts, is the biggest story in this series, regardless of all the chatter suggesting Golden State could be better without him.

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Michigan State chooses Stony Brook president as next leader
By DAVID EGGERT | Tue, May 28, 2019 05:27 EDT
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr., a medical researcher who has led Stony Brook University in New York for nearly a decade, was named Tuesday as the next president of Michigan State University in the wake of the most extensive sexual abuse scandal in sports history.
Stanley was chosen in an 8-0 vote by the school’s board of trustees, effective Aug. 1. He will take charge of a 50,000-student university that has been led by a string of acting or interim presidents since the January 2018 resignation of Lou Anna Simon, who quit amid fallout over former campus doctor Larry Nassar’s molestation of hundreds of female gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of treatment.
“Dr. Stanley is an empowering, compassionate and thoughtful leader, who will work tirelessly alongside our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and broader Spartan community to meet the challenges we face together and build our future,” said board president Dianne Byrum, who co-chaired the presidential search committee.
Since 2009, the 65-year-old Stanley has been president of the 26,000-student Stony Brook on Long Island, a part of the State University of New York. He previously was vice chancellor for research at Washington University in St. Louis, where he first did a fellowship in infectious diseases and became a professor. He earned his medical degree from Harvard and completed a residency in Boston.
Stanley pledged to meet with Nassar’s victims and their families and, noting his background as a physician, said the “terrible tragedy” was a “gross and incomprehensible betrayal of trust.”
“What happened at MSU will not be forgotten,” he said. “Instead it will drive us every day to work together to build a campus culture of transparency, awareness, sensitivity, respect and prevention. A safe campus is going to be key to all of our initiatives.”
Stanley will be the fourth man to lead the school since Simon stepped down. She now faces charges of lying to police about what she knew during an investigation into a sex assault allegation against Nassar, who also worked at USA Gymnastics and treated Olympians. The university’s former gymnastics coach and dean of the osteopathic medicine school also have been charged criminally.
Following Simon’s departure, board vice president and secretary Bill Beekman briefly served as acting president before the February 2018 hiring of former Michigan Gov. John Engler as interim president. He helped to broker a $500 million settlement with victims but was ousted in January , however, amid backlash over his comments about some of Nassar’s victims. Since then, the school has been led by acting president Satish Udpa, a university administrator.
Trustee Melanie Foster, who co-chaired the 18-person search committee, said Stanley is a “proven leader with the energy, integrity and compassion needed to lead our university.”
The school noted that Stanley is one of two U.S. university presidents to be designated as an “impact champion” by the United Nations’ “HeForShe” campaign, for making gender equality an institutional priority. He will be the first president of Michigan State without ties to the school since John DiBiaggio, who served from 1985-1992, and the first without ties to the state since M. Cecil Mackey, who led the school from 1979-1985.
Stanley, who said he had accomplished many of the goals he set when arriving at Stony Brook, will make $800,000 a year over a five-year contract — a bump from Simon’s $750,000 salary. He will be eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to 20%, or $160,000. The school will contribute an additional $100,000 a year to deferred compensation.
Michigan State has drawn scrutiny for mishandling past complaints against Nassar — dating as far back as 1997 — that allowed his abuse to continue until 2016 and also for mismanaging the fallout, including by hiring Engler. Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 to sexually assaulting nine victims and possessing child pornography, and his sentences equate life in prison.
“I’m so excited about the opportunity now to come to Michigan State University, this extraordinary university which has the scope and scale and impact to really change the world,” Stanley said. “I know there are challenges ahead. I’m very aware of those. But I’m very confident that we’re going to face it together.”
The search committee solicited feedback through 22 campus-wide input sessions and an online submission form, but candidates’ names — including Stanley’s — were kept non-public throughout the process. The approach drew criticism from the activist group #ReclaimMSU, which advocated for an open search.
“We’re still really disappointed with the process. If you were going to have a candidate who really was going to change the culture at MSU, it would have been the right thing for them to do say, ‘I want to meet with members of the community,'” said Anna Pegler-Gordon, a social relations and policy professor.
___
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Yellowstone National Park visitors spent $513M in 2018
Tue, May 28, 2019 02:36 EDT
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — A federal report shows visitors to Yellowstone National Park spent nearly $513 million in neighboring communities last year.
The report last week from the National Park Service indicates the spending by the park’s 4.1 million visitors supported nearly 7,100 jobs in the area in 2018.
According to the report, the more than 468,000 visitors to Devils Tower National Monument in northeast Wyoming spent $30 million last year, supporting more than 400 jobs.
The park service recorded more than 318 million visitors nationwide. The report shows they spent more than $20 billion in communities within 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) of parks to support 329,000 jobs.
Of the nationwide visitor spending, nearly $7 billion was on lodging expenses and $4 billion was on restaurants and bars.

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Pentagon nominee focuses on China despite Mideast tensions
By LOLITA C. BALDOR | Wed, May 29, 2019 11:55 EDT
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Tensions may be high in the Middle East, but the man chosen by President Donald Trump to run the Pentagon is turning his focus to China.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived Wednesday in Asia on a high-profile weeklong trip that is intended to reinforce that China is the administration’s main foreign policy priority. It comes as the U.S. deploys thousands of more troops and military assets to counter Iran in the Middle East, and will test the Pentagon nominee ahead of his expected Senate confirmation hearing.
In his five months as acting secretary, Shanahan has tried to focus on implementing a new national defense strategy that shifts away from fighting extremist groups to what he calls “great power” competition with China and Russia.
But instead, much of his time has been spent juggling a host of other issues: Iranian threats, North Korean missile launches, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the battle against Islamic State militants, and a divisive struggle to cobble together billions of dollars for Trump’s wall on the southern border.
Even as he prepared for the Asia trip, Shanahan shuttled back and forth to the White House for meetings on how much more military might he should send to the Middle East in coming weeks to protect American forces and interests from Iranian threats.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Asia on Wednesday, Shanahan acknowledged the competing interests, but insisted he spends “quite a bit of time” on China issues.
“Implementation of the national defense strategy is my top priority,” he said, adding that the department has “the capacity to spin a lot of plates.”
Trump has not yet sent Shanahan’s formal nomination as defense chief to Capitol Hill, but he is expected to do so in the coming days. If that happens, the Senate could hold a hearing and vote on Shanahan’s confirmation some time later next month.
The acting defense chief’s Asia trip will take him to Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and Singapore, where he will attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a national security conference. And he said it will give him a week “solely dedicated to the issues of the region.”
One key meeting at the Singapore conference will be with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. For the first time since 2011, China is sending a top level leader to Shangri-La, and it’s unclear what triggered the change.
Observers suggest the move underscores Beijing’s desire to re-engage with neighbors in the region, perhaps at a time it believes the U.S. is distracted by strains in the Middle East and hampered a bit by Shanahan’s status as acting secretary.
Asked about his goals for the meeting, Shanahan said he wants to identify areas where the two nations can cooperate, and “talk about things that I think are important for us to be transparent and candid about.”
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have spiked in recent months, as the Trump administration set off a trade war with China, raising tariffs on billions of dollars of imports. The U.S. also sanctioned Chinese tech giant Huawei and approved a weapons sale to Taiwan, the self-ruled island the Communist mainland claims as its own territory.
Two U.S. government reports this year criticized China over its militarization of manmade islands in the South China Sea and its continued campaign to steal high-tech trade secrets from defense programs. And defense intelligence officials expressed worries that China’s growing military might could lead to an attack against Taiwan.
Shanahan has repeatedly signaled that he believes America’s most pressing security problem is China’s rapidly growing military.
It is not a new theme. Several of his predecessors pursued what the Obama administration called a “pivot” to the Pacific, all aimed at countering China’s growing prominence in the region.
But Shanahan sees it as an increasingly urgent and long-ignored problem, and his proposed budget includes billions of dollars in new programs designed to keep pace with China’s strides in hypersonic weapons, nuclear technology and space launches.
A senior U.S. official said there is a lot going on in the world now, and Shanahan’s weeklong trip demonstrates that Asia is a priority for the administration. The U.S. will also release a new report in conjunction with the visit, to lay out what the department has done so far to implement the defense strategy.
A former U.S. official familiar with the region said the trip will give Shanahan a chance to show his foreign policy expertise and deliver a speech that continues pressure on China and assures allies of American’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss trip details before they are made public.
Shanahan’s chance to deliver his message will come Saturday morning, when he takes center stage at the security conference. How well he does in front of the international audience — which traditionally includes senior members of Congress — could also have an impact on his job status.

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Speller balances bee with reality TV, social media stardom
By BEN NUCKOLS | Tue, May 28, 2019 06:17 EDT
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Akash Vukoti no longer stands out at the Scripps National Spelling Bee for his age, not with a record 23 spellers competing this year who are 9 or younger.
But he’s the only member of the single-digit club to be making his third appearance at the bee, where onstage spelling started Tuesday and runs through Thursday. He’s also the only one who’s coming off a stint on “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors.”
Akash, who made his bee debut three years ago at age 6, is now a publicity-savvy entertainer behind his cherubic grin and big, brown eyes. While many spellers are obsessed with last-minute studying, Akash has other responsibilities, including creating content for his YouTube channel, which has more than 32,000 subscribers.
“This year has been super busy for me,” Akash said. “I had rather limited time to study.”
Akash greeted a familiar reporter with a hug and a warm smile, but there is some calculation to his time at the bee. His parents handed out business cards promoting his website, email and social media channels. As he frolicked in a bin full of foam blocks with letters printed on them, his dad shot video for YouTube. Another speller stood to the side, hoping to get Akash to sign her “Beekeeper,” a book with all the spellers’ names, photos and bios that many participants fill with signatures throughout the week. But she gave up as Akash continued playing to the camera.
Still, Akash, who’s from San Angelo, Texas, is not just here to build his brand. He qualified for the competition on merit, winning his regional bee over competitors including his 11-year-old sister, Amrita, who’s competing at nationals as a wild-card entrant.
“Spelling is my passion,” Akash said. “That’s where it all started for me.”
Akash made multiple appearances on “Little Big Shots,” a show about precocious kids hosted by Steve Harvey, and the spinoff “Little Big Shots UK” before he was tapped for “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors.”
The wild cards have made elementary school-age spellers less of a novelty. Seventeen of this year’s 23 spellers age 9 or younger got in through the wild-card program. Since 2003, no more than six spellers age 9 or under have ever qualified for the bee in a given year, according to Scripps.
Akash is also unique for his staying power. Of the four spellers who’ve made the bee at age 6, he’s the only one to make a return appearance.
His dad, Krishna Vukoti, has a theory about that. Gifted younger kids can make it to nationals, Krishna said, but they have to get luckier than most because there are too many words they just haven’t run across. Akash has been tripped up by words such as “butchery.”
“The brain is expanding,” Krishna said. “It can’t accept all the vocabulary.”
Krishna said he thinks his son — who labored through his opening-round word, “ranunculus” — will have a chance at a high finish next year, “if he’s not distracted toward Hollywood.”
___
Follow Ben Nuckols at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols

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Jordan stands by 2-state Israel-Palestinian solution
Wed, May 29, 2019 02:29 EDT
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan on Wednesday stood by a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exposing a rift with the United States as the Trump administration tries to rally Arab support for a peace conference next month in Bahrain.
Presidential advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. The official Petra news agency said the two parties “discussed regional developments, especially efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
The king restated his commitment to the two-state solution, with the formation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, a position that appears to be at odds with President Donald Trump’s still undisclosed “Deal of the Century.”
Greenblatt tweeted that he had a “constructive meeting” with King Abdullah that included “a good conversation about regional dynamics and our administration’s efforts to help Israel and the Palestinians achieve a brighter future.”
Jordan, a key U.S. ally, has not yet said whether it will attend the June 25-26 meeting in Manama, capital of the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain. The Palestinians have already said they will not attend the summit and have rejected the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan out of hand.
Kushner, who arrived from Morocco, has said the conference will focus on the economic foundations of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The conference will not include core political issues, such as Palestinian statehood.
Greenblatt and Kushner met with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Tuesday and discussed Morocco’s support for the peace conference. Moroccan officials declined commenting on Kushner’s visit.
The White House confirmed Kushner was in Amman on Wednesday, but gave no details.
Reliant on American political and military support, it will be difficult for Jordan reject the invitation. But with most of its people of Palestinian descent, it will be difficult to embrace a plan that does not include a Palestinian state.
Associated Press writer Amira El Masaiti contributed to this report from Rabat, Morocco.

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Kawhi Leonard proving Raptors’ gamble on him was the right move | 2019 NBA Finals

The Toronto Raptors took a huge risk by trading for Kawhi Leonard before the season, and now that Kawhi has put the Raptors on his back and has them in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, the gamble has paid off.

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Contenders to be next UK leader divided over no-deal Brexit
By JILL LAWLESS | Tue, May 28, 2019 11:58 EDT
LONDON (AP) — The race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May is becoming a battle over whether Britain should leave the European Union without a divorce agreement — or whether that would cause economic and political mayhem.
May’s Conservatives are reeling after the upstart Brexit Party won Britain’s election for European Parliament seats. The Conservatives came a humiliating fifth.
That led some Conservatives, including leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, to argue that the U.K. must leave the EU as scheduled on Oct. 31, even if it hasn’t approved a withdrawal deal.
Others say crashing out of the bloc would be reckless.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Tuesday that trying to leave without a deal would lead Parliament to trigger a national election that would see the Conservative Party “annihilated” because of its failure to make good on its promise to oversee an orderly Brexit.
“That would be political suicide, not just for me but for all of us in the Conservative Party,” he said.
Hunt said that as prime minister he would seek to renegotiate Britain’s withdrawal agreement with the EU — something the bloc has repeatedly ruled out.
“There will be no renegotiation,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said as he arrived at an EU summit in Brussels Tuesday.
Other Conservative contenders say the success of the Brexit Party led by veteran euroskeptic Nigel Farage shows that Britain must leave the EU at any cost.
“Political suicide actually lies in not having a clean break from the EU and not leaving on the 31st October,” said Conservative legislator Esther McVey, who is also running for the top job.
Britain’s Parliament has voted not to leave the EU without a deal, but also three times rejected May’s agreement with the bloc.
May finally admitted defeat last week and announced she will step down as Conservative leader on June 7.
So far 11 Conservative lawmakers have entered a party contest to replace her. The winner will become Britain’s next prime minister without the need for a national election.
Arriving for the EU meeting — one of her last foreign trips as prime minister — May said “it’s a matter of great regret to me that I haven’t been able to deliver Brexit.”
“That matter is now for my successor, and they will have to find a way of addressing the very strongly held views on both sides of this issue.”
___
Mike Corder in Brussels contributed to this story.
___
Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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Airlines group: Boeing jet won’t return before August
By The Associated Press | Wed, May 29, 2019 10:02 EDT
GENEVA (AP) — The Boeing 737 Max jet that was grounded after two deadly crashes will not fly before mid-August at the earliest, the global airline trade group said Wednesday.
The spokesman for the International Air Transport Association, Anthony Concil, said the group estimates the planes will remain grounded for at least another 10-12 weeks, though regulators like the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will have final say.
The plane was grounded in mid-March after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max. A Lion Air Max crashed in October off the Indonesian coast. In all, 346 people died.
Concil said IATA’s estimate is based on comments from U.S. carriers that they wouldn’t be scheduling commercial flights of the planes through August, and that the FAA hasn’t yet provided a timeline on decisions that could allow the planes to resume service.
Concil spoke from Seoul, where IATA is preparing its annual meeting. IATA has 290 members, representing 82% of world commercial cargo and passenger traffic.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, meanwhile, declined on Wednesday to give a timetable.
Speaking at an investor conference in New York, he said he hopes all regulators will clear the plane for flying when the FAA does, “but there may be some international authorities that operate on a different schedule.”
Boeing is working on changes to flight-control software and additional pilot training but has not submitted a formal application yet to the FAA.

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EU criticizes human rights in Turkey, ‘backsliding’ on laws
Wed, May 29, 2019 09:32 EDT
BRUSSELS (AP) — Turkey is moving backward in its quest to join the European Union and its membership talks will remain frozen, the bloc’s executive arm said Wednesday.
In a progress report on Turkey’s membership prospects, the European Commission criticized what it termed the country’s “serious backsliding in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
The 28-country EU agreed last year that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession talks should be opened or closed. According to the report, “the underlying facts leading to this assessment still hold.”
Turkey has been involved in membership talks since October 2005 but progress has been extremely slow.
Some EU countries oppose the large, relatively poor and mainly Muslim country joining. Germany, notably, would prefer an alternate kind of “privileged partnership” for Turkey.
Turkey’s deputy foreign minister said the report contained “unjust and disproportionate criticisms” that were unacceptable.
In comments carried by the official Anadolu news agency, Faruk Kaymakci also dismissed claims that Turkey is drifting away from the EU.

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Avenatti pleads not guilty to defrauding Stormy Daniels
By LARRY NEUMEISTER | Tue, May 28, 2019 05:38 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — The pugilistic and embattled attorney Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty Tuesday to defrauding his most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels, and seized the spotlight to toss a barb at President Donald Trump.
Avenatti barely spoke during his three appearances before federal judges in New York, except to answer a few procedural questions.
Twice, though, he vented to journalists his disgust with the prosecutions and his disdain for the president.
Avenatti rose to fame representing Daniels in her battle to be released from a nondisclosure deal she had signed regarding an alleged affair with the president. Daniels has said she had sex with Trump in 2006, when he was married; Trump denies the affair.
In his role as Daniels’ lawyer and since, Avenatti has repeatedly criticized the president in television appearances and the two have exchanged barbs on social media. Trump has called Avenatti a “low-life” and alleged that he has made false accusations.
Walking to a courthouse elevator between appearances Tuesday, Avenatti looked without a smile at reporters as he quipped: “Anybody know when the president and Don Jr. are going to be arraigned?”
Then, speaking before a collection of microphones set up outside a courthouse, he predicted his eventual acquittal and again made clear he believes his prosecutions are politically motivated.
“I am now facing the fight of my life against the ultimate goliath, the Trump administration,” he said. “I look forward to a jury verdict in each of these cases. I am confident that when a jury of my peers passes judgment on my conduct, that justice will be done, and I will be fully exonerated.”
His long day began at 6:54 a.m., when he surrendered to be booked formally on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges announced in an indictment last week stemming from his representation of Daniels.
Bail was set at $300,000 at an initial court appearance. Avenatti, 48, agreed to have no contact with Daniels while the case is pending.
In his second appearance of the day, one of Avenatti’s lawyers told Judge Deborah A. Batts, who would preside over a trial, that he thought the case should be combined with charges Avenatti faces in California. A prosecutor disagreed. The judge left the issue for future consideration.
In a final court appearance, Judge Paul G. Gardephe asked Avenatti how he would plead to four separate charges of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike, the sportswear company.
“100% not guilty,” Avenatti responded repeatedly.
Avenatti is scheduled to return to court in both cases on June 18.
Avenatti was indicted last week on charges that he cheated Daniels out of $300,000 she was owed for her book, “Full Disclosure,” which was published in October.
According to the indictment, Avenatti emailed a letter, purportedly from Daniels, to her literary agent with instructions that payments from her $800,000 book deal be deposited into an account he controlled. Prosecutors say Daniels never authorized the letter and was unaware of it.
Avenatti then used the money to pay business and personal expenses, including the costs of hotels, airfare, dry cleaning and his Ferrari, the indictment said.
The charges related to Daniels are the third criminal case brought against Avenatti.
In late March, charges against Avenatti were announced the same day in New York and Los Angeles.
In New York, he was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose claims that the company paid the families of high school basketball players to get them to attend Nike-sponsored colleges.
In Los Angeles, he was charged with stealing millions of dollars from clients, including much of the $4 million owed to a paralyzed man, along with dodging taxes, defrauding banks and lying during bankruptcy proceedings. When the charges were enhanced last month, federal authorities seized a private jet Avenatti co-owned.
If convicted, Avenatti faces a potentially long prison sentence because the charges carry maximums stretching to hundreds of years.

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EarthLink – News

Georgia stops voting by felons using broadest reading of law
By RUSS BYNUM | Tue, May 28, 2019 12:02 EDT
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Leon Brown is trusted enough to drive a tractor-trailer inside one of the nation’s busiest seaports more than six years after being released from prison. But he’s not allowed to vote in Georgia because of a law rooted in the years after the Civil War, when whites sought to keep blacks from the ballot box.
With a criminal history dating back decades, 53-year-old Brown has more than three years left on probation after serving behind bars for theft and credit-card fraud. Enough time has passed that he qualifies for a federal government credential to deliver cargo to and from the Port of Savannah, but Brown can’t take part in elections.
“I would like to vote,” Brown said. “I go off and do the time, come back out and they hold me hostage again because I’m on probation.”
Brown and tens of thousands of other Georgia residents are cut off from voting due to a vaguely worded law that state election officials interpret in the strictest possible manner.
Georgia strips voting rights from people convicted of all felonies, from murder to drug possession, even though a straightforward reading of the law suggests not all felons deserve such punishment.
Felons seeking to restore their voting rights must not only finish their prison sentences, but also any parole or probation, as well as pay any outstanding court fines. That has a big effect in Georgia, which has more people on probation than any other state.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld laws like Georgia’s, which is not the nation’s most severe. Kentucky and Iowa bar all felons from voting for life. So did Florida until voters last year approved a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to those who serve their time. Nine other U.S. states permanently rescind voting rights for some felony convictions.
Voting policies in Georgia have been under a microscope since the 2018 elections, largely because of the close finish between new Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams and her supporters accused Kemp, who campaigned while serving as Georgia’s top elections official, of benefiting from restrictive policies adopted in the name of election security. Abrams said the policies actually prevented minorities and low-income voters from casting ballots. An advocacy group since formed by Abrams has co-filed a lawsuit accusing Kemp of mismanaging the election.
The debate in Georgia has all but ignored the voting rights of felons, even as the issue has gained traction nationally. A sweeping elections bill recently passed by Democrats in the U.S. House would allow felons to vote in federal elections as soon as they leave prison.
Georgia law prohibits voting by anyone convicted of a “felony involving moral turpitude,” a legal phrase rooted in the state’s Reconstruction-era constitution of 1877. The phrase has endured several revisions, including the latest version from 1983.
“It’s a vague concept,” said Julia Simon-Kerr, a University of Connecticut law professor who’s spent the past decade researching the legal history of the phrase “moral turpitude.” ”It can be used basically in discriminatory ways because it has very little solid, definitional meaning.”
State lawmakers have never defined which felonies involve “moral turpitude.” Georgia election officials have long interpreted the state constitution to mean all felonies trigger the loss of voting rights.
Not everyone agrees.
“If the constitution states felonies ‘involving moral turpitude,’ then there must be felonies not involving moral turpitude,” said Sean Young, Georgia legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We should be asking Georgia politicians why they’re so eager to restrict the franchise beyond what the constitution allows.”
Georgia election officials say court rulings support denying voting rights to all felons. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s spokeswoman, Tess Hammock, said the state Supreme Court has “directly weighed in on this question.” She cited a 1998 ruling that states “in Georgia, all felonies are crimes involving moral turpitude,” and a similar decision from 1979.
Neither of those cases dealt with voting rights. One upheld the disbarring of an attorney over a felony conviction. The other addressed whether a trial witness’ criminal record could be used to attack his credibility.
The ACLU’s Young said it’s significant that neither case dealt with felons’ voting rights because “the same words can have different meaning in a different context.”
Others have questioned whether Georgia is right to prohibit all felons from voting. A panel formed by Kemp in 2011 to recommend election-law changes suggested lawmakers consider defining felonies of “moral turpitude” for voting purposes. The state Senate this year approved a study committee to look at whether to exempt some nonviolent felonies from the voting ban.
Alabama has grappled with a similar law denying voting rights for crimes involving “moral turpitude.” The U.S. Supreme Court in 1985 struck down the original, ruling its adoption in 1901 was guided by a “zeal for white supremacy.”
Alabama later restored the “moral turpitude” standard and kept it vague until 2017. That’s when state lawmakers facing a federal lawsuit defined those crimes as 46 felonies, leaving out some lesser ones, such as drug possession.
In Georgia, the law says felons don’t regain the ability to vote “except upon completion of the sentence.” State officials interpret that to mean not just prison time, but also parole and probation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Georgia had 410,964 people on probation as of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s far more than any other state. California had 288,911 probationers; its population is nearly four times that of Georgia.
Felony convictions barred 248,751 Georgia residents — 3% of the state’s voting-age population — from voting in 2016, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group that studies racial disparities in criminal sentences. Of those, 58% were African Americans, who make up 30% of the state population.
Brown left prison in 2012 after serving about two years for stealing $80 and a credit card that he used to run up $442.48 in fraudulent charges.
“I didn’t hurt anybody,” he said. “I just did something stupid.”

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