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AP Photos: Tribe in northeast India prays for good harvest
Tue, June 11, 2019 11:12 EDT
PANTAN, India (AP) — The Rabha tribal community in India’s northeastern state of Assam celebrates the Baikho festival each year, performing traditional rituals to please a deity of wealth and ask for good rains and a good harvest.
On the first day of the weeklong rituals, people scrub their homes and belongings clean. They clear jungle lands of fallen foliage near the village where the deity is believed to live. After sunset, spiritual leaders visit each household, sing ceremonial songs and sprinkle rice on the rooftops. They are offered rice beer. Then the community gathers near the house of the head priest and sings ritual songs while drinking and dancing.
Worshipping begins the next day. A man from each household and village priests go to designated worship places in the jungles, pray and sacrifice animals. After the ceremonies, men share more cold rice beer.
After all rituals are finished, people dress up for dances and performances. Villagers from neighboring communities gather for the all-night celebrations. People play a traditional game known as rope fighting. Men and women play music, dance and sing songs.
Priests cover their bodies and faces with rice powder. They burn a “mejhi,” a wall of bamboo filled with festive food and plant debris. Fire and the beating of drums create an atmosphere and are believed to protect villages from evil spirits by energizing the air.
The flames and sounds are also seen as the source of adrenaline for holy leaders who run barefoot over hot coals. Afterward, village women wash the priests’ feet and serve them refreshments to honor their bravery.
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The Latest: Freed Russian journalist thanks supporters
Tue, June 11, 2019 02:45 EDT
MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on a Russian journalist arrested on drug charges (all times local):
A prominent Russian journalist absolved of drug-dealing charges under public pressure has thanked his supporters and promised to continue his investigations.
The 36-year-old Ivan Golunov was stopped by police on a Moscow street on Thursday and taken into custody, where his defense team says he was beaten and denied a lawyer for more than 12 hours.
In a stunning turnaround, the Russian Interior Ministry dropped drug-dealing charges against Golunov, freed him from house arrest and suspended top officers who oversaw his case.
Speaking to dozens of reporters outside Moscow police headquarters Tuesday after receiving a notice that the case against him were dropped, Golunov said he can’t believe that the quick exculpation was a reality. He said “I will keep doing investigations to justify the trust of all those who supported me.”
Russia’s interior minister says all charges against an investigative journalist arrested on suspicion of drug dealing have been dropped.
Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev said in a statement on Tuesday that the accusations against Ivan Golunov “have not been proven.”
Kolokoltsev said Golunov has been released from house arrest and he intends to seek the dismissal of two senior police officials and to investigate others.
Golunov was jailed on Thursday and put under house arrest on Saturday. He denied possessing drugs and the circumstances of his case aroused suspicion among rights activists the journalist had been framed.
This version corrects that Kolokoltsev said he plans to seek the dismissal of two senior police officials, not three.
The speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament has raised concerns about a drug dealing case against a prominent investigative journalist.
Valentina Matviyenko, who is Russia’s third most senior official after the president and prime minister, on Tuesday described the criminal inquiry into Ivan Golunov as “a really bad story.” She said that she spoke to the prosecutor general who promised to take the case under his personal control.
Golunov, who works for the independent website Meduza, was beaten and kept in custody for 12 hours without a lawyer after he was stopped by police in Moscow on Thursday, according to his lawyer. He was transferred to house arrest following a public outpouring of support, but he still faces drug dealing charges.
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Mistrial declared on remaining counts against ex-NFL player
By JULIE WATSON | Tue, June 11, 2019 07:42 EDT
VISTA, Calif. (AP) — A California judge declared a mistrial Tuesday on the remaining charges against former NFL player Kellen Winslow Jr. after a jury convicted him of raping a 58-year-old homeless woman but could not break a deadlock over two counts of rape involving a 54-year-old hitchhiker and an unconscious teen.
Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they would retry the eight undecided charges but agreed to return to court Friday to discuss that option and possibly set a new trial date.
Winslow, who played for Cleveland, Tampa Bay, New England and the New York Jets, currently faces up to nine years in prison and must register as a sex offender.
The jury on Monday found him guilty of an attack last year on the homeless woman in his picturesque beach community of Encinitas, north of San Diego. Jurors also convicted him of two misdemeanors — indecent exposure and a lewd act in public — involving two other women.
The 35-year-old former tight end — at one point one of the highest paid in the NFL — could face up to life in prison if he is retried and convicted of raping all three women.
After the San Diego County Superior Court sent the jury home Tuesday, prosecutor Dan Owens told reporters the majority of the 12 jurors believed Winslow was guilty of raping more than one woman.
“Ten jurors did feel very strongly that he had committed forcible sexual offenses against more than one victim,” he said. “That would lead to a lifetime prison term and that would be another factor that we would consider very strongly in determining how to proceed with the case.”
Winslow’s attorneys indicated they want him to be sentenced after the case is retried and that they plan to appeal the convictions handed down Monday.
Defense lawyer Emily Bahr said Winslow was “shocked by that verdict” as was his family, including his father, former Chargers icon and Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, who sat behind his son every day of the trial.
“They’re upset of course, disappointed by that outcome but they know that the team is going to move forward and continue to fight the case,” she said.
The jury found him not guilty of one count of a lewd act.
The jury of eight men and four women told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked on the other eight charges after they deliberated for four days.
All five women testified during the trial. Winslow did not take the stand.
Defense attorneys said the sex was consensual and pointed out inconsistencies in the accusers’ testimonies. They also argued the women invented the allegations to prey on the wealth of Winslow, who reportedly earned over $40 million during his 10 seasons with the NFL.
The five women testified that they didn’t know Winslow was famous when they met him.
Prosecutors said Winslow felt empowered by his fame to abuse the most vulnerable.
The homeless woman in Encinitas, who was 58 at the time, testified that he befriended her and attacked her next to his vehicle after inviting her for a coffee in May 2018. While the jury found him guilty of raping her, they remained deadlocked over a sodomy charge.
If the case is retried, she could be called to testify again, which could mean the next jury could learn of the conviction as it weighs the other rape cases.
A 54-year-old hitchhiker said he drove her to an Encinitas shopping center parking lot and raped her in his Hummer in March 2018.
A 57-year-old woman said he exposed himself to her while she tended to her garden in May of 2018. The jury found him guilty of that charge Monday.
After news of the attacks broke, a woman came forward and said Winslow had raped her when she was a 17-year-old high school student in 2003. He was 19 at the time and had come home from college for the summer.
A 77-year-old woman who went to the same gym as Winslow in the nearby beach community of Carlsbad said he committed lewd acts in front of her while Winslow was free on $2 million bail in February. The jury found him guilty of touching himself in front of the woman while she exercised, but not guilty of committing a lewd act in front of her on a separate occasion in the gym’s hot tub.
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Holocaust Museum digitizing letters from Anne Frank’s father
By PHILIP MARCELO 07:52 EDT
YARMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — Ryan Cooper was a 20-something Californian unsure of his place in the world when he struck up a pen pal correspondence in the 1970s with Otto Frank, the father of the young Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
Through dozens of letters and several face-to-face meetings, the two forged a friendship that lasted until Frank died in 1980 at the age of 91.
Now 73 years old, Cooper, an antiques dealer and artist in Massachusetts, has donated a trove of letters and mementos he received from Frank to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington ahead of the 90th anniversary Wednesday of Anne Frank’s birth on June 12, 1929.
He wants the letters to be shared so that people can have a deeper understanding of the man who introduced the world to Anne Frank, whose famous World War II diary is considered one of the most important works of the 20th century.
“He was a lot like Anne in that he was an optimist,” Cooper said of Otto Frank at his house on Cape Cod recently. “He always believed the world would be right in the end, and he based that hope on the young people.”
As the German army occupied the Netherlands, the Franks hid in the attic of Otto Frank’s office in Amsterdam. But they were eventually discovered and sent to concentration camps, where 15-year-old Anne, her elder sister and her mother died — among an estimated 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.
Otto Frank was the only family member to survive, living to see the Soviet army liberate the notorious Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1945. He had his daughter’s diary published two years later and dedicated his days to speaking about the atrocities of the Holocaust.
But in his letters and conversations in person, Frank focused less on his family’s ordeal and chose instead to counsel Cooper through his own everyday struggles. For Cooper, those ranged from losing his mother, to questioning his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing to worrying about his career and romantic relationships.
“Some of the letters really have nothing to do with Anne,” Cooper said. “In a lot of ways, I feel like I was adopted by Otto. He made me feel like I had a family during a period of real isolation.”
In one letter, Frank urged Cooper to draw inspiration from Anne’s optimism under vastly more dire circumstances.
“I want to remind you of her ardent wish ‘to work for mankind’ in case she would survive,” Frank wrote on Jan. 9, 1972. “I can see from your letter that you are an intelligent person and that you have self criticism and so I can only hope that Anne will inspire you to find a positive outlook on life.”
The letters also show the toll Otto Frank’s life work had on his physical and mental health, said Edna Friedberg, a historian at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In one of the later letters to Cooper, Frank’s second wife, Elfriede “Fritzi” Frank, wrote about how her husband struggled to maintain his health during a series of public appearances and interviews ahead of the 50th anniversary of Anne Frank’s birth.
“You can surely imagine that all this is very emotional for him and takes a lot of his strength,” she wrote on March 21, 1979. “But you cannot prevent him for doing what he thinks is his duty.”
Otto Frank died the following summer.
As Anne Frank’s 90th birthday approaches, Friedberg said it’s important to remember the sacrifices Otto and others made to keep her legacy alive. Her writings were preserved by Miep Gies, Otto Frank’s secretary who helped the family while they were in hiding. She returned the documents to him after the war.
“Otto Frank never had to publish that diary. As a parent in mourning, he could have kept this to himself,” she said. “But he gave it as a gift to humanity because he saw that it spoke to something bigger. He took that charge and ran with it for the rest of his life.”
The museum will digitize and eventually make Cooper’s collection available online. It totals more than 80 letters, including his correspondence with Gies and others who aided the Frank family during the war, and a number of modest family keepsakes. Those include Otto Frank’s coin purse and a photo of Anne.
Associated Press investigative researcher Randy Herschaft contributed to this report.
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1st woman to take command of a US Army infantry division
Mon, June 10, 2019 01:32 EDT
LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. (AP) — The California National Guard has announced the appointment of the first woman to lead a U.S. Army infantry division.
Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager will take command of the 40th Infantry Division on June 29 at Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California.
Yeager currently commands Joint Task Force North, U.S. Northern Command at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Yeager was commissioned in 1986 as a second lieutenant from the Reserve Officer Training Corps at California State University, Long Beach.
She served as UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot, left active duty when her son was born and continued her military career in the California Army National Guard.
Yeager deployed to Iraq in 2011 as deputy commander of the Cal Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, then served as a battalion and brigade commander.