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Iran tanker seizure linked to earlier act by UK marines
By GREGORY KATZ | Sat, July 20, 2019 09:10 EDT
LONDON (AP) — Taken on its own, Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz may seem like a brazen act of aggression, a provocative poke in the nose to both Britain and its ally, the United States.
But Iran seems to view the armed takeover of the Stena Impero as a carefully calibrated response to the July 4 taking of an Iranian supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar, an operation in which Britain’s Royal Marines played a major role.
Though the official reasons for the takeovers differ, it’s fairly clear now that the seizure of the British vessel may give Tehran more leverage to get its own ship back.
While Britain says it acted near Gibraltar because the Iranian tanker Grace 1 was busting sanctions by delivering oil to Syria, Iran says it intervened because the British-flagged tanker hit an Iranian fishing boat.
The current tensions between Iran and the West have been escalating since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran with world powers and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran, including its oil exports. The 2015 accord, of which Britain was a signatory, was designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions.
Tensions have risen further since May, when the U.S. announced it was dispatching an aircraft carrier and additional troops to the Middle East, citing unspecified threats posed by Iran.
With the U.S. sanctions hitting the Iranian economy hard, Tehran is desperate for economic support and has been urging Britain, France and Germany to cobble together a package that will keep the nuclear deal on track.
Veteran British diplomat Malcolm Rifkind, who served as British foreign secretary and defense secretary in the 1990s, says Iran sees its action against the Steno Impero as a direct result to the U.K.’s involvement in the takeover of the Grace 1.
“From the point of view of the Iranians, there is a direct relationship,” he told The Associated Press Saturday. “They were very, very angry at being caught out. But the Royal Navy was not acting against Iran; it was acting against Syria to enforce sanctions. But the Iranians don’t see it that way.”
Rifkind says Iran may carry its “macho” actions too far and make it harder for Britain to continue with efforts to keep the nuclear accord alive.
Iran made the link between the two separate seizures this month explicit on Saturday.
“The rule of reciprocal action is well-known in international law,” the semi-official Fars news agency Quote: d Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council, as saying.
He said Iran made the right decision in the face of an “illegitimate economic war and seizure of oil tankers.”
The precise timing may have been a coincidence, but it’s a fact that Iran took action against the Stena Impero only hours after the government of Gibraltar — a British overseas territory — said it would continue to hold the Iranian tanker and its precious crude oil cargo, rejecting Iran’s demands for its immediate return.
The action against the Stena Impero, carried out by high speed patrol boats with a helicopter overhead, could hardly have been a surprise. Iran’s leaders have publicly called Britain’s seizure of the Grace 1 an act of “piracy” and warned they were considering taking a British tanker in retaliation.
Britain has offered to have the Iranian supertanker released if Iran pledges not to deliver the crude oil to Syria, an approach that has not borne fruit. A Gibraltar government hearing on the matter is set for August 15.
The hope has to be that a diplomatic solution — the release of both seized vessels, with cargo and crew intact and unharmed, for example — can defuse this latest escalation in one of the most important sea passages on the planet.
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Berkeley drops words like ‘manpower’ in push to be inclusive
By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ and SAMANTHA MALDONADO | Fri, July 19, 2019 12:28 EDT
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — There will be no manholes in Berkeley, California. City workers will drop into “maintenance holes” instead.
Nothing will be manmade in the liberal city but “human-made.” And students at the University of California, Berkeley, will join “collegiate Greek system residences” rather than fraternities and sororities.
Berkeley leaders voted unanimously this week to replace about 40 gender-specific words in the city code with gender-neutral terms — an effort to be more inclusive that’s drawing both praise and scorn.
That means “manpower” will become “human effort” or “workforce,” while masculine and feminine pronouns like “she,” ”her,” ”he” and “him” will be replaced by “they” and “them,” according to the measure approved Tuesday by the City Council.
The San Francisco Bay Area city is known for its long history of progressive politics and “first of” ordinances. Berkeley was among the first cities to adopt curbside recycling in the 1970s and more recently, became the first in the U.S. to tax sugary drinks and ban natural gas in new homes.
Berkeley also was the birthplace of the nation’s free-speech movement in the 1960s and where protests from both left- and right-wing extremist groups devolved into violence during a flashpoint in the country’s political divisions soon after President Donald Trump’s election.
Rigel Robinson, who graduated from UC Berkeley last year and at 23 is the youngest member of the City Council, said it was time to change a municipal code that makes it sound like “men are the only ones that exist in entire industries or that men are the only ones on city government.”
“As society and our cultures become more aware about issues of gender identity and gender expression, it’s important that our laws reflect that,” said Robinson, who co-authored the measure. “Women and non-binary people are just as deserving of accurate representation.”
When the changes take effect in the fall, all city forms will be updated and lists with the old words and their replacements will be posted at public libraries and the council chambers. The changes will cost taxpayers $600, Robinson said.
Removing gendered terms has been slowly happening for decades in the United States as colleges, companies and organizations implement gender-neutral alternatives.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, changed a Sacramento political tradition by adopting the unofficial title “first partner” instead of “first lady,” saying it’s more inclusive. The change reflected Siebel Newsom’s experience as an actress and filmmaker focused on gender politics and inequality.
But formalizing the shift in the sweeping way that Berkeley is doing is “remarkable and sends a message,” Rutgers University linguistics professor Kristen Syrett said.
“Anytime you’re talking about something where gender is not the issue but you use a gendered term, that immediately sends a message of exclusion, even if it’s a dialogue that has nothing to do with gender,” said Syrett, who recently spearheaded an update to the guidelines on inclusive language for the Linguistic Society of America.
For Hel Baker, a Berkeley home caregiver, the shift is a small step in the right direction.
“Anything that dismantles inherent bias is a good thing, socially, in the grand scheme of things,” the 27-year-old said.
“I don’t, by any means, think this is the great championing for gender equality, but you gotta start somewhere,” Baker added.
Lauren Singh, 18, who grew up in Berkeley, approved of the move, saying, “Everyone deserves to be represented and feel included in the community.”
Not everyone agreed with the new ordinance. Laramie Crocker, a Berkeley carpenter, said the changes just made him laugh.
“If you try to change the laws every time someone has a new opinion about something, it doesn’t make sense. It’s just a bad habit to get into,” Crocker said.
Crocker, 54, said he would like city officials to focus on more pressing issues, like homelessness.
“Let’s keep it simple, get back to work,” he said. “Let’s figure out how to get homeless people housed and fed. He, she, they, it — they’re wasting my time.”
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco.
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New standards aim to improve surgery for the oldest patients
By LAURAN NEERGAARD 08:14 EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) — The 92-year-old had a painful tumor on his tongue, and major surgery was his best chance. Doctors called a timeout when he said he lived alone, in a rural farmhouse, and wanted to keep doing so.
“It was ultimately not clear we could get him back there” after such a big operation, said Dr. Tom Robinson, chief of surgery at the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.
The Denver hospital is trying something new: When their oldest patients need a major operation, what to do isn’t decided just with the surgeon but with a team of other specialists, to make sure seniors fully understand their options — and how those choices could affect the remainder of their lives.
It’s part of a move to improve surgical care for older Americans, who increasingly are undergoing complex operations despite facing higher risks than younger patients.
The American College of Surgeons launched a program Friday to encourage hospitals around the country to adopt 30 new standards to optimize surgery on patients who are 75 and older — information seniors and their families eventually will be able to use in choosing where to get care.
Seniors account for more than 40% of surgeries, which is expected to grow as the population ages. Certainly there are plenty of robust elders who can withstand major operations.
But as people get older, they don’t bounce back like they did even in middle age. Seniors rapidly lose muscle with even a short period in bed. They tend to have multiple illnesses that complicate recovery. And 15% of older adults who live at home — and a third of 80-somethings — face particular risks because they’re frail, meaning they’re weak, move slowly and get little physical activity.
The new standards stress team-based care and better communication about surgical risks and quality of life, to help patients choose their treatment. They must be evaluated for vulnerabilities such as frailty, being prone to falls or having dementia, and the hospital must have plans to handle them. After surgery, standards run the gamut from geriatric-friendly hospital rooms — with non-skid floors and windows to help stay oriented to day and night — to preventing post-surgery complications like delirium, a frightening state of confusion that can impair recovery and cause long-term memory and thinking problems.
Some of the steps have long been recommended, “but we realized guidelines are just that — they’re suggestions. The uptake of them in hospitals is pretty spotty,” said Dr. Ronnie Rosenthal of Yale University, who chaired the standards task force.
So the surgeons’ group, with funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation, created a geriatric surgery “verification program,” similar to programs credited with spurring trauma and pediatric surgery improvements. Hospital participation is voluntary, but those that join will be inspected and have to document how patients fare.
Eight hospitals including the Denver VA tested the standards. Robinson already sees a difference: 1 in 4 patients change their original surgical plan after a team review, and more go home rather than needing at least a temporary stay in a nursing home or other facility.
Consider that 92-year-old with a tumor on his tongue. After consultations with speech and swallowing experts, and an evaluation of his house, Robinson said the man ultimately chose a smaller operation. The tumor and only part of the tongue were removed to relieve pain rather than trying for a cure, and he returned home.
“These are difficult conversations,” Robinson said. But choosing to spend, say, their last year at home rather than two in a nursing home, “those are trade-offs people are making.”
After surgery, the standards also focus on seniors’ special needs such as maintaining mobility; prompt return of glasses and hearing aids to help keep patients oriented and able to follow care instructions; and steps to prevent delirium that include avoiding risky medications.
To implement them, Robinson’s hospital set up new nurse-led teams that check each older patient daily. For example, no more waiting for the surgeon to decide if physical and occupational therapy are needed; the nursing team puts that in place up front, explained geriatric nurse specialist Jennifer Franklin.
One of her team’s patients, George Barrett, 85, of Lakewood, Colorado, is recovering from successful open-heart surgery, and being prepped to go to a cardiac rehabilitation facility to regain his strength.
“They told me about all the risks and I wanted to go ahead with it anyway,” Barrett said of the surgery. “I want to hang around.”
Even before any hospitals go through the quality-improvement program, the standards can offer guidance to seniors and their families in making surgical decisions. For example, make sure the patient’s vulnerabilities are discussed up front: If dad already needs a walker, will being in the hospital make him worse? And what will the hospital do to help?
Especially make clear the patient’s goals: “It’s most important they ask, ‘What will my life look like after? What will I be able to do?'” said Yale’s Rosenthal.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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Suspect in Japan anime studio arson reportedly had grudge
By MARI YAMAGUCHI | Sat, July 20, 2019 12:54 EDT
TOKYO (AP) — The man suspected of setting ablaze a beloved Japanese animation studio, killing 34 people, was raging about theft and witnesses and media reported he had a grudge against the company, as questions arose why such mass killings keep happening in the country.
Police only have said the suspect Shinji Aoba, 41, who is hospitalized with severe burns and unable to talk, is from near Tokyo and did not work for the studio, Kyoto Animation.
Japanese broadcaster NHK said the death toll rose to 34 on Saturday after one of the injured died in a hospital. Aoba was meanwhile transferred to another hospital specializing in treating burns. Footage showed medics carrying Aoba on a stretcher, connected to multiple tubes and part of his exposed skin swollen and pink.
NHK and other media, quoting an unnamed source, said that Aoba spent 3 ½ years in prison for robbing a convenience store in 2012 and lived on government support. The man told police that he set the fire because he thought “(Kyoto Animation) stole novels,” according to Japanese media. It was unclear if he had contacted the studio earlier.
The company founded in 1981 and better known as KyoAni made a mega-hit anime series about high school girls and trained aspirants to the craft.
The shocking attack left another 34 people injured, some critically. It drew an outpouring of grief for the dead and injured, most of them workers at the studio.
Kyoto prefectural police chief Hideto Ueda solemnly laid flowers at the site, now a charcoal shell, vowing for the utmost in the investigation to find motives behind the attack, which he described as “unprecedented and unforgivable.”
While shooting deaths are rare in Japan, the country has had a series of high-profile killings in recent years. Less than two months ago, a man described as a social recluse, or “hikikomori,” stabbed a number of private school children at a bus stop outside Tokyo, killing two people and wounding 17 before killing himself. In 2016, a former employee at a home for the disabled allegedly killed 19 people and injured more than 20.
Nobuo Komiya, a Rissho University criminology professor, calls the attacks “suicidal terrorism,” in which attackers typically see themselves as losers and target their anger on the society, often those who seem happy and successful.
“Feeling angry at people who they think are winners, they tend to choose privileged people as targets,” Komiya said. “They think they have nothing to lose, they don’t care if they get caught or if they die.”
They are part of a growing trend that reflects a change in the Japanese society, where disparities are growing and ties among families, community and other groups have weakened and people are less obligated to follow the rules and be part of it, he said. “Japan shouldn’t be complacent about its safety anymore. We should follow the U.S. and Europe and do more for risk management.”
About 70 people were working inside the three-story Kyoto Animation No. 1 studio in southern Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, at the time of the attack.
The arsonist arrived carrying two containers of flammable liquid. He shouted, “You die!” as he entered the studio’s unlocked front door, dumped the liquid using a bucket, and set it afire with a lighter, police said, quoting witnesses. Police at the scene confiscated the gasoline tanks, a knapsack and knives, but have not confirmed they belonged to the attacker. A Kyoto police official declined to speculate how Aoba prepared the attack, saying he wanted the man to explain himself, as well as his motives.
The blaze blocked the front door and quickly engulfed the workspace, rising up the stairs to the third floor, sending panicked employees fleeing. Some were able to escape by crawling out of windows, with the help of neighbors. Many tried but failed to escape to the roof, fire officials said. Most of the victims are believed to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, experts say.
The suspect fled but was chased by studio employees who eventually caught him. He collapsed to the ground outside a house and was quickly surrounded by police.
“They are always stealing. It’s their fault,” he told policemen bending over and asking him why he set the fire, according to a witness who described the scene outside her house. The man complained bitterly that something had been stolen from him, the witness told NHK and other networks.
Neighbors interviewed by Japanese media said the suspect had troubles with other residents in the apartment building in Saitama, north of Tokyo, where he lived.
One man told the broadcaster TBS that he had knocked on Aoba’s door to ask him to stop banging on the walls. He said Aoba shouted “I will kill you!” and “Shut up!” then grabbed him by the hair and shirt.
Studio president Hideaki Hatta was stunned as he entered the site for the first time since the attack Friday and joined police investigators. “I can hardly bear to see this,” Hatta said.
Construction worker Takumi Yoshida, 23, was a fan of KyoAni works. “I am shocked and I’m sure for their families it must be very difficult. So with those feelings in my mind, I brought flowers,” Yoshida said.
Anime fan and university student Yuki Seki traveled from nearby Hyogo prefecture to pay her respects. “After properly recovering while taking their time, I hope Kyoto Animation can once again share their power and energy with us,” she said.
Kyoto Animation’s hits include “Lucky Star” of 2008, “K-On!” in 2011 and “Haruhi Suzumiya” in 2009. It has an upcoming feature film, “Violet Evergarden,” about a woman who professionally writes letters for clients.
It’s also done secondary animation work on a 1998 “Pokemon” feature that appeared in U.S. theaters and a “Winnie the Pooh” video.
It is Japan’s deadliest fire since 2001, when a blaze in Tokyo’s congested Kabukicho entertainment district killed 44 people in the country’s worst known case of arson in modern times. Police called the cause arson, but never announced an arrest in the setting of the blaze, though five people were convicted of negligence.
Associated Press journalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
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Nation marks 50 years after Apollo 11’s ‘giant leap’ on moon
By MARCIA DUNN | Sat, July 20, 2019 06:48 EDT
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A moonstruck nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s “giant leap” by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at parties, races, ball games and concerts Saturday, toasting with Tang and gobbling MoonPies.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Aldrin showed Vice President Mike Pence the launch pad where he flew to the moon in 1969. At the same time halfway around the world, an American and two other astronauts blasted into space on a Russian rocket. And in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, nearly 2,000 runners competed in “Run to the Moon” races.
“Apollo 11 is the only event in the 20th century that stands a chance of being widely remembered in the 30th century,” the vice president said.
Wapakoneta 10K runner Robert Rocco, 54, a retired Air Force officer from Centerville, Ohio, called the moon landing by Armstrong and Aldrin “perhaps the most historic event in my lifetime, maybe in anybody’s lifetime.”
At the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Gilda Warden sat on a bench and gazed in awe at the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, on display. “It’s like entering the Sistine Chapel and seeing the ceiling. You want to just sit there and take it in,” said Warden, 63, a psychiatric nurse from Tacoma, Washington.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin undocked from Columbia in lunar orbit and then descended in the lunar module Eagle to the Sea of Tranquility. The Eagle landed with just 17 seconds of fuel to spare. Six hours later, Armstrong was the first to step onto the lunar surface, proclaiming for the ages: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was humanity’s first footsteps on another world.
In a speech at Kennedy, Pence paid tribute to Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins — if they’re not heroes, “then there are no heroes” — as well as the 400,000 Americans who worked tirelessly to get them to the moon.
Aldrin, 89, grabbed the right hand of Neil Armstrong’s older son, Rick, at Pence’s mention of heroes. He then stood and saluted, and received a standing ovation. Armstrong died in 2012. Collins, 88, did not attend the Florida ceremony. But Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt, the next-to-last man to walk on the moon in 1972, was there.
Pence reiterated the Trump administration’s goal of sending American astronauts back to the moon within five years and eventually on to Mars. He said this next generation of astronauts will spend weeks and months on the lunar surface, not just days and hours like the 12 Apollo moonwalkers did. Alongside the stage was the newly completed Orion capsule that will fly to the moon and back, on a test flight without a crew, in another year or two.
NASA had other celebrations going on Saturday, most notably at Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to Mission Control; the U.S. Space and Rocket Center next door to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the Saturn V moon rockets were born; and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
And where better to celebrate than Apollo, Pennsylvania — located in Armstrong County not far from Moon Township and the town of Mars. The historical society revived the annual moon-landing celebration in honor of the big 50. All of the Apollo astronauts have long been honorary citizens of Apollo, the society’s Alan Morgan said.
At New York’s Yankee Stadium, former space shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former pitcher Jack Aker, who was on the mound when the July 20, 1969, baseball game was interrupted to announce that the Eagle had landed. Armstrong and Aldrin were “A1, No. 1, higher than major league,” Aker recalled Saturday. “It’s a mutual feeling,” Massimino agreed.
Across the country in Seattle, Tim Turner was first in line Saturday to see Columbia, the mother ship piloted by Collins as Armstrong and Aldrin moonwalked.
“Good grief! It’s still amazing, the No. 1 feat of the 20th century, if not all of modern history, that first time there,” said Turner, 57, a computer programmer from Poulsbo, Washington.
As he waited to get in to see Columbia, Craig Smith, 58, a veterinarian from Tacoma, Washington, recalled thinking as a boy: “‘Dang! Seriously? A dude on the moon?’ I thought that was nifty.”
Clocks all over counted down to the exact moment of the Eagle’s landing on the moon — 4:17 p.m. EDT — and Armstrong’s momentous step onto the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT. The powdered orange drink Tang was back in vogue for the toasts, along with marshmallow and chocolate MoonPies, including a 55-pound (25-kilogram), 45,000-calorie MoonPie at Kennedy’s One Giant Leap bash.
About 100 visitors and staff at the American Space Museum in Titusville, across the Indian River from Kennedy, cheered and lifted plastic champagne glasses of Tang at the moment of touchdown.
“This is what we’re here for, to share the American space experience,” explained executive director Karan Conklin, who led the toast.
For the late night-crowd, “first step” concerts were on tap at the Kennedy Center in Washington, outside in the shadow of a replica Saturn V rocket in Huntsville, and other sweltering locales.
A real rocket lit up the night sky in Kazakhstan.
Blasting off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in 100-degree heat (38 degrees Celsius), American Andrew Morgan, Italian Luca Parmitano and Russian Alexander Skvortsov flew to the International Space Station. Only Skvortsov was alive at the time of Apollo 11. The three already living on the space station also were born long after the moon landings.
The crew deliberately modeled its mission patch after Apollo 11’s: no astronaut names included to show the universal nature of space flight. Morgan explained in a NASA interview that Apollo 11, and now his flight, represents “an accomplishment of the world and not one single country.”
AP reporters Angie Wang in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle, and freelance writer Charles O’Brien contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s full coverage of the Apollo 11 anniversary at: https://apnews.com/Apollo11moonlanding
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.