Month: November 2019

EarthLink – News

EarthLink – News

Flood-hit Venice’s dwindling population faces mounting woes
By COLLEEN BARRY | Mon, November 18, 2019 09:09 EST
VENICE, Italy (AP) — One of only four oar makers for Venice’s famed gondoliers, Paolo Brandolisio wades through his ground-floor workshop for the third time in a week of record-breaking floods, despairing of any help from national or local institutions.
“If these phenomena continue to repeat themselves, you have to think about how to defend yourself,” he says. “Because the defenses that the politicians have made don’t seem to be nearly enough.”
“You have to think of yourself,” he repeats.
Venetians are fed up with what they see as inadequate responses to the city’s mounting problems: record-breaking flooding, environmental and safety threats from cruise ship traffic and the burden on services from over-tourism.
They feel largely left to their own devices, with ever-fewer Venetians living in the historic part of the city to defend its interests and keep it from becoming mainly a tourist domain.
The historic flooding this week — marked by three floods over 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) and the highest in 53 years at 1.87 meters (6 feet, 1 inch) — has sharpened calls to create an administration that recognizes the uniqueness of Venice, for both its concentration of treasures and its increasing vulnerability.
Flood damage has been estimated at hundreds of millions of euros (dollars), but the true scope will only become clear with time. Architectural masterpieces like St. Mark’s Cathedral still need to be fully inspected and damaged manuscripts from the Music Conservatory library treated by experts — not to mention the personal losses suffered by thousands of residents and businesses.
“I feel ashamed,” said Fabio Moretti, the president of Venice’s historic Academy of Fine Arts that was once presided over by Tiepolo and Canova. “These places are left in our custody. They don’t belong to us. They belong to humanity. It is a heritage that needs to be preserved.”
The frustration goes far beyond the failure to complete and activate 78 underwater barriers that were designed to prevent just the kind of damage that Venice has endured this week. With the system not yet completed or even partially tested after 16 years of work and 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion) invested, many are skeptical it will even work.
“This is a climate emergency. This is sick governance of the city,” said Jane Da Mosto, an environmental scientist and executive director of the NGO “We Are Here Venice,” whose aim it is to keep Venice a living city as opposed to a museum or theme park.
Brandolisio, the oar builder, sees systemic lapses in the official response, including the failure of local authorities to organize services immediately for those in need, an absence filled by volunteers. That included both a network of students who helped clear out waterlogged property for those in need and professionals like water-taxi drivers who offered transport during the emergency.
For now, he is taking matters into his own hands.
To protect his bottega where he not only makes oars but carves ornamental oar posts for gondolas or as sculpture, Brandolisio said he will have to consider raising the floor by at least 20 centimeters and buying a pump — precautions he never previously deemed necessary.
“I think I will lose at least two or three weeks of work,” he said. “I will have to dry everything. Lots of things fell into the water, so I need to clean all the tools that can get rusty. I need to take care of wood that got wet, which I can’t use because it cannot be glued.”
At the public level, proposals for better administering the city including granting some level of autonomy to Venice, already enjoyed by some Italian regions like Trentino-Alto-Adige with its German-speaking minority, or offering tax breaks to encourage Venice’s repopulation.
Just 53,000 people live in the historic part of the city that tourists know as Venice, down by a third from a generation ago and dropping by about 1,000 people a year. The population of the lagoon islands — including glass-making Murano and the Lido beach destination — is just under 30,000, and dwindling too.
That means fewer people watching the neighborhood, monitoring for public maintenance issues or neighbors in need. Many leave because of the increased expense or the daily difficulties in living in a city of canals, which can make even a simple errand a minor odyssey.
Activists also say local politicians are more beholden to the city’s mainland population, which has jumped to 180,000 people not directly affected, for the most part, by the same issues as the lagoon dwellers.
They are pushing for passage of a referendum on Dec. 1 that would give the historic center and islands their own administration, separate from that serving more populous Mestre and the industrial port of Marghera. Those areas were annexed to Venice by the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and not necessarily a natural fit.
“It is precisely because we also have a climate emergency that this kind of thing is more important,” Da Mosto said.
“The only thing we can do for the climate is to prepare. That requires appropriate policies and investments and responsible engineering. And because the political context of Venice is so wrong, Venice doesn’t have a chance at the moment.”
___
Follow AP’s full coverage of climate change issues at https://www.apnews.com/Climate

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Snooze cruise: Study sees future for hibernating astronauts
Mon, November 18, 2019 07:55 EST
BERLIN (AP) — The European Space Agency says putting astronauts into a state of suspended animation could make it easier to reach other planets.
The agency said Monday that its researchers examined how hibernation would affect the design of a crewed mission to Mars and concluded that it could help to significantly shrink the size of spacecraft.
While slowing down humans’ metabolic rate similarly to the way animals hibernate isn’t possible yet, research team head Jennifer Ngo-Anh says the idea “is actually not so crazy.” She noted that similar methods are already used to save trauma victims.
Challenges include designing the spacecraft to operate largely autonomously while the crew — padded with extra body fat in advance of their trip — sleep through much of the 180-day cruise to Mars.

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Prince Andrew’s efforts to put scandal behind him backfire
By DANICA KIRKA | Mon, November 18, 2019 02:05 EST
LONDON (AP) — Prince Andrew’s effort to put the Jeffrey Epstein scandal behind him may have instead done him irreparable harm.
While aides are trying to put the best face on his widely criticized interview with the BBC, royal watchers are asking whether he can survive the public relations disaster and remain a working member of the royal family.
The question facing Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers is how to protect the historic institution of the monarchy from the taint of a 21st-century sex-and-trafficking scandal and the repeated missteps of a prince who has been a magnet for bad publicity as he struggles to find a national role for himself.
“Prince Andrew, I think, really has to stay out of the limelight for the moment because there really, I think, is no coming back from the damage that was done … at least, not in the near future,” Kate Williams, a royal historian and professor at Reading University, told ITV News.
Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, tried to end years of speculation about his role in the Epstein scandal by granting a no-holds barred interview to Emily Maitlis, the respected presenter of the BBC’s Newsnight program. But the strategy backfired when the prince failed to show empathy for the young women who were exploited by Epstein even as he defended his friendship with the American financier who was a convicted sex offender.
Epstein died Aug. 10 in a New York prison while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His death has been ruled a suicide by the city’s medical examiner.
Maitlis, writing Monday in the Times of London, said planning for the interview began after Epstein’s death. Andrew’s management team knew they had a problem with the prince’s well-documented ties to Epstein and that previous written statements by the prince denying any involvement by the prince in Epstein’s crimes “perhaps lacked the conviction of a human voice behind them,” she said.
“They feel that a Newsnight interview is the only way to clear the air. To put across his side of the story,” Maitlis wrote, describing discussions with the prince’s staff.
But when the 55-year-old prince got that chance in an interview broadcast Saturday night, he appeared awkward and overly legalistic.
While Andrew said he regretted staying at Epstein’s Manhattan home in 2010, after Epstein had served a prison sentence for a sex crimes conviction, Andrew defended his previous friendship with the billionaire investor because of the contacts it provided when he was preparing for a role as Britain’s special trade representative.
The prince denied sleeping with Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein and had sex with Andrew on three occasions, including twice when she was 17.
Andrew went on to say that an alleged sexual encounter in London with Giuffre couldn’t have occurred on the day that she says it did because he spent the day with his daughter Princess Beatrice, taking her to a party at Pizza Express in the London suburb of Woking and then back to the family home. He also said Giuffre’s description of him buying her drinks and sweating heavily as they danced together could not be correct because he doesn’t drink and had a medical condition at the time that meant he could not sweat.
Those answers have been widely mocked on social media, with Twitter users sharing pizza jokes and photos of an apparently sweaty Prince Andrew.
Nowhere during the almost one-hour interview, which took place inside Buckingham Palace, did the prince express sympathy for Epstein’s victims.
One exchange in particular captured the coldness for which Andrew is being criticized.
Andrew: “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”
Maitlis: “Unbecoming? He was a sex offender.”
Andrew: “Yeah. I’m being polite.”
Lisa Bloom, a Woodland Hills, California-based attorney for five of Epstein’s alleged victims, called the interview with the prince “deeply disappointing.”
“He is entitled to deny allegations and defend himself,” she said. “But where is his apology for being so closely associated with one of history’s most prolific pedophiles?”
While Andrew’s older brother, Prince Charles, is heir to the British throne, he himself is only eighth in the line of succession. He served in the Royal Navy for more than 20 years, including during the 1982 war over the Falklands Islands, before retiring in 2001.
Civilian life has proved more problematic for the prince. He served as Britain’s special trade representative from 2001 to 2011, but was forced to step down amid questions about his links to a son of the late Libyan dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Andrew’s marriage to the former Sarah Ferguson ended in divorce in 1996, but in 2010 a British newspaper reported that it had filmed his ex-wife offering to sell access to the prince.
Andrew’s problem is also one of timing, according to celebrity expert Ellis Cashmore, author of “Kardashian Kulture.” The Epstein case was shaping up to be the biggest American female exploitation case of the #MeToo era since the movement was kicked off in 2017 by disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“Epstein was the personification of #MeToo’s evil,” Cashmore said. “His apparent suicide robbed the movement of what looked certain to be colossal symbolic victory, so I sense there’s hunt for a prominent public figure” to be held to account.
Cashmore said Britain’s royal family has no realistic option now but to tell Andrew to maintain a dignified silence and hope interest in this case will dissipate. The problem, Cashmore said, is that if Andrew immediately cuts down on his public engagements, that could also backfire.
“The problem is that, when a public figure who is involved in a scandal, refuses to engage with the media, then it effectively gives us — the audience — license to think what we like and speculate wildly,’’ he said. “The prospect of gossip on Andrew circulating in supermarkets, at work and on social media is a horrifying prospect for the royals. But I suspect that’s exactly what’s going to happen.’’
The BBC interview is especially problematic because it comes at the end of a difficult year for the royal family, said Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.”
Andrew’s nephews, Prince William and Prince Harry, have helped reposition the royal family for the modern world, appearing more accessible as they speak about their own mental health issues to help others and their charities. But that image has been dented recently as Harry and his wife, the former U.S. television star Meghan Markle, spar with the press over privacy issues.
“It’s definitely tainting the brand at the moment,” Maclaran said of Andrew’s Epstein interview. “The trouble is that, if he was trying to be sincere, he did the royal thing: He didn’t show enough emotion. It doesn’t cut it in the social media age.”

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EarthLink – News

Partisan divide seen in how local news should be propped up
By DAVID BAUDER | Sun, November 17, 2019 01:38 EST
NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s partisan divide is evident when Americans are asked about what should be done to help the nation’s struggling local news industry.
While two-thirds of Democrats say news organizations in need should be able to receive government or private funding in order to survive, only 17 percent of Republicans feel the same way, according to a study released Sunday by Gallup and the Knight Foundation. For independents, 37 percent back such funding.
Republicans are also more likely to take a sink-or-swim attitude toward the press. While 72 percent of Democrats say local newspapers are vital and should be preserved even if they’re failing financially, 76 percent of Republicans say they’re just like any other business and if they can’t hack it, tough luck.
“It’s not surprising to me to see the level of polarization in general shading most people’s views toward anything to do with the media,” said Sam Gill, vice president for communities and impact and special adviser to the president at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Republicans are more likely to view the media as hostile and biased, along with having a deep-seated suspicion toward government involvement in the public discourse, he said.
Local news has suffered over the past two decades as readers and advertisers found alternatives online. More than 2,000 local newspapers in the United States have closed since 2004, according to the University of North Carolina.
One barrier toward halting that trend is a lack of public awareness: The Knight/Gallup study found that 56 percent of Americans wrongly believe that local news organizations are doing well financially.
There are positive signs. The survey found that nearly six in 10 Americans consider newspapers an important symbol of civic pride. Eighty-six percent of those polled said everyone should have access to local news.
But the number of people supporting news has dwindled. The survey said 30 percent of adults say they pay a monthly or annual fee to a news source. Roughly half of the people who said they have subscribed to a news source in their lifetime no longer do so, and 44 percent said they had stopped paying for at least one type of subscription over the past five years.
The organizations took two surveys over the summer that included 1,701 people chosen by random sampling to be on a Gallup panel. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Gill said journalists have been adjusting the way they produce news to accommodate the changing ways in which Americans access it.
“I think we should be asking the same questions about the business,” he said.

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EarthLink – News

Pennsylvania agrees to upgrade inmates’ death row conditions
By MARK SCOLFORO | Mon, November 18, 2019 03:16 EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s prison agency agreed to improve death row conditions under a settlement announced Monday of a federal lawsuit that called the inmates’ living standards degrading and inhumane.
Lawyers for the inmates who sued said the agreement provides people on death row with at least 42½ hours a week out of their cell, daily access to phones and contact visits with their families, lawyers and religious advisers.
A Wolf administration spokesman confirmed the settlement and said many of the agreement’s changes have already been adopted.
“They now eat their meals on the unit with others from their housing units, and they are able to exercise with other inmates,” said Corrections Department spokeswoman Sue McNaughton.
The deal also limits the use of strip searches, shackling and other restraints unless temporarily needed.
Death row inmates who have been psychologically damaged by long periods in solitary confinement will be evaluated and offered help adapting to a general population setting.
Death row conditions have prompted litigation in recent years in many states, usually focusing on the use of solitary confinement, said Death Penalty Information Center executive director Robert Dunham.
“We have learned over time how damaging solitary confinement can be. And it is damaging not just to the mental state of the prisoner but to corrections officials as well,” Dunham said.
The state will continue to house inmates who were sentenced to death in two facilities, the Phoenix and Greene state prisons.
The federal lawsuit filed nearly two years ago sought an end to mandatory, indefinite solitary confinement for the 136 men currently on death row in the state.
“The use of long-term solitary confinement on anyone is torture,” Amy Fettig, deputy director of the National Prison Project, said in a release.
The lawsuit said death row inmates were spending 22 to 24 hours a day locked up alone, in small cells that were illuminated at all hours.
They could exercise in small, outdoor enclosures for no more than two hours during weekdays but were confined to their cells on weekends, unless they had visitors. They changed cells every three months.
Pennsylvania has executed three people since 1976, all of whom voluntarily gave up on their appeals.
The state’s death row has been shrinking, as fewer death sentences are being imposed and appeals have resulted in some death row inmates being resentenced to life. The death row population has fallen by about 20 people over the last two years.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf implemented a death penalty moratorium soon after taking office five years ago, citing concern about “a flawed system that has been proven to be an endless cycle of court proceedings as well as ineffective, unjust, and expensive.”

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The NBA is in some trouble if Paul George is better than last year – Zach Lowe | The Jump

Amin Elhassan, Ramona Shelburne, Zach Lowe and Chiney Ogwumike react to Paul George scoring 37 points in 21 minutes during Atlanta Hawks vs. LA Clippers, then (2:44) debate whether the Toronto Raptors are right to not give NBA championship rings to former players Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and CJ Miles.

#TheJump #NBA #Sports

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Real estate heiress who posted $35M bail acquitted of murder
By JANIE HAR | Fri, November 15, 2019 06:20 EST
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A San Francisco Bay Area real estate heiress who was under house arrest on $35 million bail for more than two years plans to reconnect with her children and visit family in China after a jury acquitted her of killing the father of her kids, her attorney said Friday.
After deliberating for 12 days, jurors found Tiffany Li not guilty on charges of murder and conspiring with her boyfriend to kill 27-year-old Keith Green in 2016 over a custody dispute.
The case drew global attention when Li’s family, who made a fortune in real estate construction in China, posted one of the highest bail amounts on record in the United States.
Li wept Friday as the verdicts were read and rushed out of the building afterward. Jurors deadlocked on murder and conspiracy charges against Li’s co-defendant and boyfriend, Kaveh Bayat.
Attorney Geoffrey Carr said Li plans to travel to see family in China and strengthen her relationship with her children. She plans on bettering herself as a person, he said.
“Any time any defendant is found not guilty in a serious crime, they’re (given) a gift by somebody — I don’t believe in God, but somebody — and they should pay attention,” Carr said.
He bristled at a question that Li’s immense wealth allowed her to build a strong defense team that secured the not-guilty verdict. Carr said the team of three lawyers and four investigators would have worked just as diligently had they been appointed by a judge to a poor defendant.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said jurors gave “their heart and soul” to the decision.
“Obviously disappointed, obviously we don’t agree,” he said. “But as we always say, this is how the jury system works, and we respect the jury for what it does.”
Prosecutors said Li lured Green, her former boyfriend, to her mansion in Hillsborough, south of San Francisco, to discuss custody of their children. They say Bayat shot Green in the mouth and the two hired a friend to dispose of the body.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Green’s blood was found in Li’s Mercedes and gunshot residue was discovered in her garage.
Li’s attorneys argued that Green was killed in a botched kidnapping plot and that she had nothing to do with his death. She had settled the custody issues with her former boyfriend, they said.
Green’s body was found along a dirt road north of San Francisco nearly two weeks after he was last seen meeting with Li about their children. The pair met around 2009.
The prosecution faced a setback earlier this month when its chief witness, Olivier Adella, was arrested on charges of contacting an ex-girlfriend and witness for the defense. Adella was expected to testify that Li and Bayat asked him to dispose of Green’s body, but prosecutors did not call him as a witness.

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St. Mark’s Square reopens in Venice, but water remains high
By COLLEEN BARRY | 12:47 EST
VENICE, Italy (AP) — Tourists and residents were allowed back into St. Mark’s Square in Venice on Saturday, a day after it was closed due to exceptionally high tidal waters that swept through most of the lagoon city’s already devastated center.
Despite sunny skies, the city remained on edge due to possibly more wind-propelled high tidal waters during the weekend. The city was struck Tuesday by devastating floods, the worst in decades.
Water rose up again in St. Mark’s Square on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday was worse. The tide peaked at 1.10 meters (3 feet, 7 inches) above sea level on Saturday at noon, leaving St. Mark’s inundated with more than 20 centimeters (8 inches) of water.
Late Tuesday, water levels in Venice reached 1.87 meters (6 feet, 1 inch) above sea level, the highest flooding since 1966. The forecast for Sunday was for the high water mark to reach 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) above sea level.
On Saturday, tourists sloshed through St. Mark’s Square and strolled across it on raised walkways. Many snapped photos of themselves standing in shallow water in front of St. Mark’s Square to document their presence during this exceptional high-water season. Museums filled up again with tourists and the city’s gondolas were back in business. But the city’s museums were expected to shut down on Sunday due to the threat of high water.
Luigi Brugnaro, the city’s mayor, estimated damages from the flooding would reach at least 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). He said a final tally of the damage to homes, businesses, stores and the city’s rich cultural heritage would be done once the city dries out, according to Italian media.
“Venice is once again being watched by the world and it needs to show that it can succeed and pick itself back up,” the mayor said in an interview with the Gazzettino and Messaggero newspapers.
Brugnaro said Venice was setting up programs to help cover damages sustained by individuals and businesses, noting that families could expect up to 5,000 euros ($5,500) and businesses up to 20,000 euros ($22,000) in aid. He said businesses and individuals suffering even more serious losses could possibly qualify for aid covering up to 70% of damages.
Among those recovering from Tuesday’s devastating high waters was Sabrina Laggia and her husband. She was blowing dry stone jewelry made by her husband, Alfredo, in their workshop near St. Mark’s Square. She was dreading forecasts for more high water on Sunday.
“We have been here 30 years and we have never seen anything like this,’’ she said. “Lots of acqua alta, but never this high.” “Acqua alta” is the term Venetians use to describe flooding from wind-driven high tides.
Alfredo said they used to feel safe if the forecast said anything up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) – about the level they expected Tuesday night only to be surprised when it surged to 1.87 meters without warning.
He spent until 2 a.m. Tuesday in their store, named “Not Just Wine,” moving his creations to higher positions. But the water reached about 50 centimeters (19.6 inches) in height – well above the usual 10 centimeters to 15 centimeters (4 inches to 6 inches). Finally there was no place else to move objects in the tiny workshop.
The couple lost an air conditioner and a small soldering gun in the store and a washing machine at their home nearby.
Sabrina was rinsing her husband’s creations – which include filigree bags with velvet detailing and Swarovski crystal-encrusted masks – with fresh water and blowing them dry, but she was uncertain if what she was doing will really do the trick against the lagoon’s salt water.
An employee at another shop, Dorina Balku, was cleaning up Murano glass creations. They lost one large glass fish in the flood that is priced at over 3,000 euros ($3,300) and another large vase. While much of the glass could be cleaned, the jewelry made from the glass beads would have to be taken apart and remade to be salvaged because the fixtures had already corroded from the salty, briny water.
“What can we do? It happened. It is important that people are OK,’’ she said.
On Thursday, the government declared a state of emergency, approving 20 million euros ($22.1 million) to help Venice repair the most urgent damage.
Built on a series of tiny islets amid a system of canals, Venice is particularly vulnerable to a combination of rising sea levels due to climate change coupled with the city’s well-documented sinking into the mud. The sea level in Venice is 10 centimeters (4 inches) higher than it was 50 years ago, according to the city’s tide office.
The flooding has left Italians exasperated at the incompletion of the city’s long-delayed Moses flood defense project. Moses consists of a series of moveable barriers in the lagoon that can be raised when high winds and high tides combine to threaten to send “acqua alta” rushing across the city.
Completion of the multibillion-euro project, under construction since 2003, has been delayed by corruption scandals, cost overruns and opposition from environmentalists worried about its effects on Venice’s delicate lagoon ecosystem.
“They need to finish the Moses tomorrow,’’ said Sabrina Laggia. “Not next year.”
___
Cain Burdeau reported from Castelbuono, Sicily.

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Police not pursuing charges against Browns’ Myles Garrett
12:14 EST
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland police say they are not investigating Browns player Myles Garrett for striking a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback in the head with a helmet.
Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia (CHAWCH’) said Friday that police hadn’t received a complaint from Mason Rudolph.
And a city spokeswoman says the prosecutor can’t comment because Rudolph hasn’t filed a complaint.
Rudolph’s agent, Tim Younger, tells media outlets that no legal options “have been removed from the table.”
Rudolph called Garrett’s actions “pretty cowardly.”
Garrett pulled off Rudolph’s helmet during a melee at the end of Thursday night’s game in Cleveland and used it to strike him on the head.
Garrett is the NFL’s No. 1 overall pick in 2017 and was ejected from the game. The NFL on Friday suspended Garrett indefinitely.

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Man, young boy shot at New Jersey high school football game
By WAYNE PARRY | Sat, November 16, 2019 05:19 EST
PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a New Jersey high school football game, wounding two people.
One of the wounded was a young boy, who was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Philadelphia “with some serious injuries,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said.
Panicked spectators and some of the players knocked down a fence in their haste to escape the confines of the field.
“It was mayhem, literally people coming in waves running away” said Jonathan Diego, who played for the Pleasantville team in 1984. Diego helped coach a Pleasantville youth football team involved in a game against an Atlantic City team in which three spectators were shot and wounded in 2005. All three survived.
That same Jokers team was practicing in 2015 when a spectator was shot, but survived.
“Unfortunately, around here it’s not as uncommon as it sounds,” Diego said.
He described a panicked scene as some children were separated from their parents, and other parents held babies and young children tight to keep them from being run over by fleeing spectators.
The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. during the third quarter of a playoff game between the Camden Panthers and the Pleasantville Greyhounds, said Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggins.
Tyner, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press the shooting took place on the Pleasantville side of the bleachers. No one had been arrested as of late Friday, and authorities were investigating whether more than one shooter might have been involved.
Authorities did not identify shooting victims nor release information on their conditions other than to say both were alive several hours after the shooting.
Diego said his friend, a retired paramedic, gave first aid to a young boy who had suffered a gunshot wound to the neck.
“He applied pressure to the little boy’s wounds on his neck, trying to slow down the bleeding until the ambulance could come up,” Diego said.
The boy was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The adult shooting victim was taken to AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center in nearby Atlantic City.
A statement from the Camden City School District said no Camden High School students “were injured or otherwise harmed.”
Pleasantville is about seven miles (11 kilometers) west of Atlantic City. Its high school team won its first division title in 43 years this season, and the stands were packed.
Videos obtained by The Associated Press show people hitting the ground, running from the bleachers and jumping over chain-link fences as gunfire sounds. At least six gunshots are audible in a video from Jersey Sports Zone, which also shows players stop mid-play, look at the stands and then turn and run.
“I heard the gunshots,” Pleasantville football player Ernest Howard, 17, said in a Twitter clip posted by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. “We started all running for this fence and tried to run inside the gym.”
In a press conference, Tyner referenced a Thursday shooting at a Southern California high school, where a 16-year-old boy killed two students and wounded three others. The shooter died Friday.
“This is a tragic situation, to say the least, on the heels of what just happened in Santa Clarita, California,” Tyner said. “It has hit home here in Pleasantville, New Jersey, and it is very disturbing, to say the least.”
___
This story has been corrected to report the name of the 17-year-old football player Quote: d is Ernest Howard, not Ernest Holland; that Pleasantville is west of Atlantic City, not southeast and that a witness’ first name is spelled Jonathan, not Johnathan.
___
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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Lithuanians, Norwegian released in spy swap with Russia
By JAN M. OLSEN 08:58 EST
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Lithuanians and a Norwegian convicted of espionage in Russia were freed Friday in exchange for two Russians who had been in prison in Lithuania.
Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis, who were convicted in 2016, have been reunited with their families, Lithuanian spy chief Darius Jauniskis said.
Frode Berg, a Norwegian sentenced in Russia to 14 years in prison for espionage, was handed over to Norway’s embassy in Vilnius after he crossed into Lithuania.
Earlier in the day, Russians Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergey Moiseyenko were pardoned by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
The Baltic News Service said the spy swap took place at noon at a border checkpoint with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. No further details were available.
“We are happy that Frode Berg is now coming home to Norway as a free man,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
“I would like to thank the Lithuanian authorities for their cooperation and for their efforts to free Berg.”
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said Norway had “worked systematically” to get Berg, a retired border inspector, freed since his arrest in Moscow in December 2017 on espionage charges for collecting information about Russian nuclear submarines.
Prosecutors asserted that he was caught with documents he had received from an employee of a military facility who was shadowed by Russian intelligence.
“The only thing we want to say now is that we are overjoyed and happy,” Berg’s daughter, Christina, told Norway’s VG newspaper.

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NBA’s Best Crossovers Week 4 | 2019-20 NBA Season

Check out the best crossovers and handle plays from week 4 of the 2019-2020 NBA season.

Artist: Velt
Song: “Warm Up”
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Venice braces for another exceptional tide, tourists flee
Sun, November 17, 2019 03:29 EST
VENICE, Italy (AP) — Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting records.
Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inch) surge of water Sunday through the lagoon city. That comes after Tuesday’s 1.87-meter flood, the worst in 53 years, followed by high tide of 1.54 meters on Friday.
Those two events mark the first time since records began in 1872 that two floods topped 1.5 meters in the same year — much less the same week. The city’s mayor says the flooding damages are in “the hundreds of millions” and Italian officials have declared a state of emergency for the area.
Tourists with suitcases were rushing to grab the last water taxis to get to the mainland Sunday before service is interrupted in anticipation of the high tide.
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Study links Asian carp with Mississippi River fish drop
By JOHN FLESHER | Sat, November 16, 2019 11:18 EST
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Sport fish have declined significantly in portions of the Upper Mississippi River infested with Asian carp, adding evidence to fears about the invader’s threat to native species, according to a new study.
Analysis of nearly 20 years of population data suggests the carp are out-competing fish prized by anglers, such as yellow perch, bluegill, and black and white crappie, the report said.
Scientists have long suspected Asian carp of starving out other fish in the Mississippi and many of its tributaries. The peer-reviewed study this month in the journal Biological Invasions is among the first to establish a solid link, lead author John Chick said in an interview Friday.
“The alarms have been out there for a long time now,” said Chick, a fisheries biologist who directs a University of Illinois field station in Alton, Illinois. “This adds further mustard to the argument that we need to be taking these things seriously. The trends that have been established here are not the trends we want to see in other places.”
Four varieties of Asian carp were imported in the late 1960s and early 1970s to clear algae and weeds from sewage ponds and fish farms. They escaped into the Mississippi and have migrated northward.
Bighead and silver carp are the most troublesome. They gorge on tiny animals and plants known as plankton, which virtually all fish eat as juveniles. For some filter-feeding species, it’s a lifelong staple.
Federal and state agencies have spent heavily on research and technology to keep them out of key waterways.
In their paper, Chick and colleagues there’s rarely enough data to document how invasive species harm natives.
But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been monitoring fish in the Upper Mississippi system for more than two decades, including several years before the carp arrived, using electrofishing to collect samples.
Analyzing Corps numbers compiled between 1994 and 2013, Chick’s team found sport fish dropped about 30 percent in two carp-infested areas on the Mississippi River and one on the Illinois River.
Meanwhile, sport fish numbers grew nearly 35 percent in three sections of the Mississippi farther upstream that the carp hadn’t reached.
The trends have continued, said Chick, who still monitors Corps data.
The study focused on silver carp, notorious for leaping from the water when startled, because they’re more abundant in the Upper Mississippi than bighead carp.
It found that sport fish probably are losing out during early life stages, when they’re dependent on plankton the carp are gobbling up.
The researchers considered other factors including flooding, water temperatures and sediment pollution. But none was found to have played a significant role in the sport fish trends in the upper Mississippi.
The region has drawn less attention in the carp battle than the Great Lakes, researchers said, but its outdoor recreation economy is valued at about $2.2 billion.
The study is valuable because it’s based on direct observation of fish populations over an extended period, said Tammy Newcomb, a fisheries biologist and Asian carp expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s another piece of science that contributes to the overall sense of urgency” to stop the carps’ advance, said Newcomb, who was not part of the study.
Kevin Irons, aquatic nuisance species manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, who also didn’t take part in the study, said he generally agreed with its findings.
But he said it didn’t prove invasive carp had caused the sport fish drop-offs and that differences between river sections such as vegetation also can affect fish numbers.
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Protests grip major Iran cities over gas prices; 1 killed
By JON GAMBRELL | 08:26 EST
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Protesters angered by Iran raising government-set gasoline prices by 50% blocked traffic in major cities and occasionally clashed with police Saturday after a night of demonstrations punctuated by gunfire, in violence that reportedly killed at least one person.
The protests put renewed pressure on Iran’s government as it struggles to overcome the U.S. sanctions strangling the country after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Though largely peaceful, demonstrations devolved into violence in several instances, with online videos purporting to show police officers firing tear gas at protesters and mobs setting fires. While representing a political risk for President Hassan Rouhani ahead of February parliamentary elections, it also shows the widespread anger among Iran’s 80 million people who have seen their savings evaporate amid scarce jobs and the national rial currency’s collapse.
The demonstrations took place in over a dozen cities in the hours following Rouhani’s decision early Friday to cut gasoline subsidies to fund handouts for Iran’s poor. Gasoline in the country still remains among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping up to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter of gas — 50% up from the day before. That’s 13 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. A gallon of regular gasoline in the U.S. costs $2.60 by comparison.
But in a nation where many get by as informal taxi drivers, cheap gasoline is considered a birthright. Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves. While expected for months, the decision still caught many by surprise and sparked immediate demonstrations overnight.
Violence broke out Friday night in Sirjan, a city some 800 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Tehran. The state-run IRNA news agency said “protesters tried to set fire to the oil depot, but they were stopped by police.” It did not elaborate, but online videos circulating on Iranian social media purported to show a fire at the depot as sirens wailed in the background. Another showed a large crowd shouting: “Rouhani, shame on you! Leave the country alone!”
Mohammad Mahmoudabadi, an Interior Ministry official in Sirjan, later told state television that police and demonstrators exchanged gunfire, wounding several. He said many protestors were peaceful, but later masked men armed with guns and knives infiltrated the demonstration.
“They insisted on reaching the oil depot and creating crises,” Mahmoudabadi said.
The semi-official ISNA news agency later Quote: d Mahmoudabadi as saying the violence killed one person.
In Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, online videos purported to show police firing tear gas on crowds. The province’s city of Khorramshahr also saw gunfire, as could be heard in a brief clip played on air by state television. The region has long been a political tinderbox, with its ethnic Arab population that feels disenfranchised from the country’s Persian-language majority.
Saturday morning, the start of the Iranian workweek, saw protesters stop cars on major roadways across the capital, Tehran. Peaceful protesters blocked traffic on Tehran’s Imam Ali Highway, calling for police to join them as the season’s first snow fell, according to online videos. A dump truck later dropped bricks on the roadway to cheers.
A large crowd in the city of Kermanshah demonstrated and later drew tear gas fire from police, a video showed. Others reportedly clashed in Tabriz, another major Iranian city. The online videos corresponded to Associated Press reporting on the protest.
Such protests require prior approval from Iran’s Interior Ministry, though authorities routinely allow small-scale demonstrations over economic issues, especially as the country has struggled with currency devaluation. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli later warned on state TV that authorities would crack down on anyone threatening the nation’s security.
It wasn’t immediately clear if police made arrests. Iranian state television aired a segment Friday night trying to dispute the claims of opposition satellite news channels about the protests, calling their videos of demonstrations “fake news” in English. Demonstrators in many online videos Saturday began identifying the time and place in response.
Iranian internet access meanwhile saw disruptions and outages Friday night into Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, “real-time network data show connectivity has fallen to just 7% of ordinary levels following 12 hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests have continued across the country,” NetBlocks said.
“The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” the group said. The websites of state media outlets appeared affected by the outage early Sunday.
Protester chants mirrored many from the late 2017 economic protests, which resulted in nearly 5,000 reported arrests and at least 25 people being killed. Some criticized Iran’s spending abroad on Palestinians and others while the country’s people remain poor. Protests meanwhile continue in Iraq and Lebanon, two Mideast nations home to Iranian proxies and crucial to Tehran’s influence abroad.
Iran long has suffered economic problems since its 1979 Islamic Revolution cut off its decades-long relationship with the U.S. Its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s followed, further straining its economy.
The collapse of the nuclear deal has exacerbated those problems. The Iranian rial, which traded at 32,000 to $1 at the time of the accord, fell to 122,600 to $1 in trading Saturday. Iran has since begun breaking terms of the deal as it tries to force Europe to come up with a way to allow it to sell crude oil abroad despite American sanctions.
Henry Rome, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, said that after mass protests, Rouhani was forced to back down from a 2017 plan to increase fuel prices by 50%.
“The government was clearly attuned to this risk: The latest announcement was made in the middle of the night before a weekend,” Rome said. “It took effect immediately, and it was announced without direct consultation with lawmakers.”

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Ukraine feels abandoned amid US impeachment drama
By YURAS KARMANAU and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | Fri, November 15, 2019 02:25 EST
Ukraine is at the center of today’s east-west geopolitical battle, but it’s feeling increasingly alone and abandoned by its U.S. backers amid the impeachment drama unfolding in Washington.
The U.S. ambassador — who was pushed out earlier this year and testified Friday in Congress — hasn’t been replaced. Neither has the influential U.S. envoy tasked with helping Ukraine quell its Russia-backed separatist insurgency. The lower-level U.S. officials remaining in Kyiv are keeping an unusually low profile.
The erosion of Washington’s readiness to protect its Eastern European ally leaves Ukraine vulnerable to mounting Russian pressure, just as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy heads into high-stakes talks next month with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to end the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainians increasingly feel the U.S. impeachment inquiry is making their country toxic.
A member of the Ukrainian parliament’s foreign affairs committee told The Associated Press that U.S. officials have shown increasing indifference to Ukraine and have been reluctant to attend meetings.
This has been particularly visible, the lawmaker said, since the September resignation of envoy Kurt Volker, whose departure led to the disappearance of a coordination center made up of people who were engaged in Ukraine’s affairs.
The lawmaker discussed the sensitive issue of U.S. aid on condition that his name be withheld. Ukrainian government officials refuse to talk about relations with the U.S. while the impeachment inquiry is ongoing, and influential lawmakers are similarly wary of saying anything publicly that could make matters even worse for their country.
Moscow is happy to fill the void, further bolstering Russia’s position along Europe’s geopolitical front line, with consequences around the region. The mixed messages to Ukraine from President Donald Trump’s administration are also damaging U.S. diplomatic credibility at a time when American foreign policy influence is already waning.
“Trump’s policy toward Ukraine looks badly incoherent and inconsistent,” said Mykola Sunhurovskyi, the head of military programs at the Razumkov Center, a Kyiv-based independent think-tank. “It’s like a swing, and Kyiv has found it difficult to adapt to that.”
In a July 25 phone call that triggered the impeachment inquiry, Trump pushed Ukraine’s newly elected Zelenskiy to investigate the country’s activities in the 2016 U.S. election and his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden, while the Trump administration was withholding about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.
Democrats say that Trump was engaged in “bribery” and “extortion,” abusing his office for personal political gain. The president denies wrongdoing. The military aid was ultimately released in September after Congress was informed of the phone call.
U.S. military aid makes up about 10 percent of Ukraine’s defense budget, according to Sunhurovskyi. He said the American aid is necessary to shore up the underfunded and badly equipped Ukrainian army, but is even more crucial as an indication of Washington’s determination to stand firmly behind its ally.
“The U.S. military aid is an important political signal indicating that Ukraine is a victim and Russia is an aggressor,” Sunhurovskyi said.”
President Barack Obama’s administration provided Ukraine with nonlethal military supplies, including countermortar radars, night-vision devices and medical items. The Trump administration in 2017 agreed to provide lethal weapons, committing to sell $47 million in Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The U.S. handed over two repurposed patrol boats Wednesday to Ukraine’s navy, part of over $1.6 billion in U.S. security assistance since 2014. Speaking at the ceremony, U.S. envoy Joseph Pennington pledged continued U.S. support.
It was one of the rare high-visibility American appearances in Ukraine in recent weeks.
While American business people remain ubiquitous in Kyiv, arriving daily on flights to Boryspol Airport and filling lobbies of the city’s high-end hotels, U.S. officials appear to be lying low, notably those visiting from Washington. When Assistant Secretary of State Denise Natali visited last month, none of her schedule was made public and media had no access.
Volker, the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine peace negotiations, used to regularly visit Kyiv, maintained close contacts with the European Union nations to coordinate their support for Ukraine and met with his Russian counterpart to defend Ukraine’s interests. The Trump administration hasn’t named a replacement since he resigned.
Trump himself encouraged Zelenskiy to meet with Putin and “solve your problem.”
“Trump’s hesitations and the absence of a clear U.S. strategy forces Kyiv to make concessions to Russia,” said Vadim Karasev, head of the Kyiv-based Institute of Global Strategies.
That’s worries many in Ukraine, especially ahead of Zelenskiy’s long-awaited meeting with Putin and the leaders of France and Germany on Dec. 9.
After Ukraine’s former Moscow-friendly president was driven from office by massive protests in 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and helped foment a separatist insurgency in the east. More than five years of fighting has killed over 13,000 and ravaged the country’s industrial heartland. The U.S. and the EU responded by hitting Russia with a slew of sanctions that hampered Russia-EU trade.
European nations also provide Ukraine significant aid, but Ukraine fears their support is slipping too. Some EU nations have pushed for lifting sanctions against Moscow, and French President Emmanuel Macron recently called for reaching out to Russia.
Lawmaker Iryna Gerashchenko said that could herald pressure on Ukraine to agree to a deal on Russian terms.
“The U.S. military assistance cemented the Western position,” Karasev said. “Any doubts, suspensions or delays will cause the Western coalition to collapse and allow Paris and Berlin to play their game and make a deal with Russia. Once the U.S. role in Europe weakens, Russia’s influence inevitably grows — it’s a historic pendulum that Trump has already set in motion.”
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Karmanau reported from Minsk, Belarus. Associated Press writer Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

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Texas appeals court blocks inmate Rodney Reed’s execution
By JUAN A. LOZANO | Fri, November 15, 2019 07:20 EST
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ top criminal appeals court on Friday halted the scheduled execution of inmate Rodney Reed, whose conviction is being questioned by new evidence that his supporters say raises serious doubt about his guilt.
The stay of execution by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals came just hours after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended delaying the lethal injection.
The 51-year-old Reed had been set for lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1996 killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites. Prosecutors say Reed raped and strangled Stites as she made her way to work at a supermarket in Bastrop, a rural community about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Austin.
Reed’s efforts to stop his execution have received support from such celebrities as Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Oprah Winfrey. Lawmakers from both parties, including Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, have also asked that officials take a closer look at the evidence in the case.
In its four-page order, the appeals court said Reed’s case should be returned to the trial court in Bastrop County so it could examine his claims that he is innocent and that prosecutors suppressed evidence and presented false testimony.
Bryce Benjet, an attorney with the Innocence Project, which is representing Reed, said defense attorneys were “extremely relieved and thankful” to the appeals court.
“This opportunity will allow for proper consideration of the powerful and mounting new evidence of Mr. Reed’s innocence,” Benjet said in a statement.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office declined to comment Friday on whether it would appeal the order staying Reed’s execution.
Earlier Friday, the parole board had unanimously recommended a 120-day reprieve for Reed. The board rejected Reed’s request to commute his sentence to life in prison.
The parole board’s decision was to go next to Gov. Greg Abbott, who hasn’t said whether he would accept or reject it or do nothing.
The stay likely makes Abbott’s decision moot. Since taking office in 2015, Abbott has halted only one imminent execution, in 2018.
Since Texas resumed executions in 1982, only three death row inmates have had their sentences commuted to life in prison by a governor within days of their scheduled executions.
Reed has other appeals pending, including with the U.S. Supreme Court. His supporters have held rallies, including an overnight vigil on Thursday in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. It was unclear if a rally planned for Sunday in front of the Texas governor’s mansion would still take place.
Reed has long maintained he didn’t kill Stites and that her fiance, former police officer Jimmy Fennell, was the real killer. Reed says Fennell was angry because Stites, who was white, was having an affair with Reed, who is black.
Fennell’s attorney has said his client didn’t kill Stites. Fennell was paroled last year after serving time in prison for sexual assault.
In their most recent motion to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Reed’s lawyers alleged prosecutors suppressed evidence or presented false evidence related to Fennell.
Prosecutors say Reed’s semen was found in the victim, his claims of an affair with Stites were not proven at trial, Fennell was cleared as a suspect and Reed had a history of committing other sexual assaults.
Reed’s lawyers say his conviction was based on flawed evidence. They have denied the other sexual assault accusations made by prosecutors.
Reed’s attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in August to compel DNA testing of crime scene evidence, including the believed murder weapon. His lawyers say the testing, which has been fought for years by prosecutors, could identify someone else as the murderer. The lawsuit is still pending.
In recent weeks, Reed’s attorneys have presented affidavits in support of his claims of innocence, including one by a former inmate who claims Fennell bragged about killing Stites and referred to Reed by a racial slur. Reed’s lawyers say other recent affidavits corroborate the relationship between Stites and Reed and show Fennell was violent and aggressive toward her.
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Pope’s Asian agenda: Disarmament, martyrs, family reunion
By NICOLE WINFIELD and YURI KAGEYAMA | Sun, November 17, 2019 09:05 EST
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has agendas both pastoral and personal for his trip to Asia, where he’ll appeal for global nuclear disarmament at the sites of the atomic bomb and minister to two tiny Catholic communities that have suffered gruesome periods of persecution.
Emphasizing the dignity of life is also on Francis’ to-do list for his trip to Thailand and Japan that begins Wednesday, given the scourge of human trafficking in Thailand and Japan’s use of capital punishment and high suicide rate.
As a young Jesuit, Francis dreamed of being a missionary in Japan, inspired by the courage of Japan’s Hidden Christians, who braved two centuries of persecution to keep their faith alive.
“In some way, this is the fulfilment of his dream,” said the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated news service.
In Thailand, Francis will also be reunited with his second cousin, Sister Ana Rose Sivori, an Argentine nun who has lived in Thailand since 1966 and will serve as Francis’ official translator there.
Here are some highlights of Francis’ pilgrimage, his fourth to Asia and one that could also touch on the Vatican’s delicate relations with China:
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ASIAN MARTYRS AND MISSIONARIES
One of the highlights of the trip will be Francis’ prayer at the memorial of the 26 Nagasaki Martyrs, who were crucified in 1597 at the start of a two-century wave of anti-Christian persecution by Japanese rulers.
Francis’ own Jesuit order had introduced Christianity to Japan with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier on the archipelago in 1549. After converting more than a quarter-million Japanese, missionaries were banned at the start of the 17th century. Japanese Christians were forced to renounce their faith, suffer tortuous deaths or go underground.
Francis will greet some descendants of these Hidden Christians, whose story was recounted in the 2016 Martin Scorsese film “Silence.”
Francis will also honor Thailand’s World War II-era martyrs, who were victims of anti-Christian persecution by Thais who viewed Christianity as foreign and associated with French colonial powers. Francis will pray at the sanctuary for Thailand’s first martyred priest, Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, who was beatified in 2000.
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THE POPE SAYS NO NUKES
Francis has gone further than any other pope by saying that not only the use, but the mere possession of nuclear weapons is “to be firmly condemned.” Japanese bishops are hoping he goes even further and calls for a ban on nuclear power.
Francis will likely repeat his appeal for a total ban on the bomb when he visits Nagasaki and Hiroshima, meets with survivors of the 1945 bombings there as well as victims of the March 11, 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in northern Japan.
An offshore magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami that knocked out power for the cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant, displacing more than 100,000 people and coating the area with radioactive waste. In response, Japanese bishops in 2016 called for the abolition of nuclear power to protect “our common home.”
“We can only hope” Francis will speak about nuclear power, given his frequent exhortation to care for the environment, said Nagoya Bishop Michael Goro Matsuura.
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MINORITY CATHOLICS AND INTERFAITH DIALOGUE
Catholics make up just .59 percent of Thailand’s population of 65 million, most of whom are Buddhist. The percentage is even lower in Japan — estimated at .42 percent of the mostly Shinto and Buddhist population of 126 million.
As a result, Francis will be stressing interfaith ties and the positive role Catholics can play in mostly Buddhist societies, “especially in the service of the poor, the needy and for peace,” he said in a video message to Thais.
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THE POPE ON LIFE AND DEATH
Francis has made the fight against human trafficking a cornerstone of his papacy, a message that is likely to resonate in Thailand, which the U.N. considers a key trafficking destination as well as a source of forced labor and sex slaves.
In Japan, hopes are high among Catholics that Francis will send a message opposing the death penalty, and perhaps meet with a former boxer and human rights activist held for nearly five decades on death row.
The Vatican confirmed that Iwao Hakamada, who converted to Catholicism while in prison, has been invited to the pope’s Mass in Tokyo, but it’s not clear if he will make it. Hakamada is awaiting a Supreme Court decision after being freed when his verdict was overturned in a lower court.
Tomoki Yanagawa, who works at the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo, said a papal statement about the death penalty would help raise awareness in Japan.
“I hope he will speak about the preciousness of life and clearly denounce what trivializes life,” said Yanagawa.
Francis changed Catholic teaching last year by declaring the death penalty “inadmissible” in all cases. He has also denounced today’s “throwaway culture” where euthanasia, abortion and suicide are often considered acceptable — a message that could resonate in Japan, which has one of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.
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VATICAN-CHINA RELATIONS
When Francis travels from Bangkok to Tokyo next Saturday, he’ll fly through Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong airspace — and will send telegrams to their leaders as part of typical papal protocol.
That could offer Francis a rare opportunity to address not only the current democracy protests in Hong Kong, but the Vatican’s delicate relations with Beijing. It would be the first such opportunity following last year’s agreement with China over Catholic bishop nominations. The pact aimed to unite China’s Catholics, who are divided between an underground church and an official one.
The agreement has been hailed as a milestone by the Vatican, but critics point to continued persecution of underground prelates, including a report last week by AsiaNews that the underground bishop of Mindong was being hounded by Chinese security agents. Monsignor Vincenzo Guo Xijn had stepped aside to allow an official bishop be named as part of the 2018 Vatican deal with China.
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Kageyama reported from Tokyo.

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Prince Andrew again denies having sex with Epstein victim
10:30 EST
NEW YORK (AP) — Britain’s Prince Andrew says he doesn’t remember a woman who has accused him of sexually exploiting her in encounters arranged by Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew told BBC Newsnight in an interview scheduled to be broadcast Saturday that he has “no recollection” of meeting Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says Epstein paid her $15,000 after she had sex with the prince in 2001 when she was 17.
Andrew has made similar denials for years but has come under new pressure following Epstein’s arrest and suicide last summer in New York.
“I have no recollection of ever meeting this lady, none whatsoever,” Andrew tells the BBC, according to excerpts of the interview released Friday.
Giuffre has produced a photo showing her posing with the prince in London and recently challenged the British royal to speak out, telling reporters: “He knows exactly what he’s done, and I hope he comes clean about it.”
She says Epstein flew her around the world on his private planes to have sex with powerful men, and that she had sexual encounters with Andrew in London and New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands when she was 18.
Andrew said in the BBC interview that he regrets not cutting ties with Epstein after the financier pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida under a deal that required him to serve 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
He saw Epstein following his release from custody in Florida.
“I kick myself for (it) on a daily basis because it was not something that was becoming of a member of the royal family,” Andrew said, “and we try and uphold the highest standards and practices and I let the side down, simple as that.”
Andrew has said he first met Epstein three years after his 10-year marriage with Sarah Ferguson ended in divorce in 1996. He said in a statement earlier this year that he saw Epstein “infrequently and probably no more than only once or twice a year.”

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Myanmar rejects court probe into crimes against Rohingyas
07:43 EST
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s government rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night press conference that Myanmar stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. His statement was the first official reaction since the court on Thursday agreed to proceed with the case.
Myanmar has been accused of carrying out human rights abuses on a massive scale in the western state of Rakhine in 2017 during what it described as a counterinsurgency campaign.
Zaw Htay cited a Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement from April 2018 that because Myanmar was not a party to the agreement establishing the court, it did not need to abide by the court’s rulings.
“It has already been expressed in the statement that the investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” he told reporters in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.
The court’s position is that because Myanmar’s alleged atrocities sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh for safety, it does have jurisdiction since Bangladesh is a party to the court and the case may involve forced deportation.
Last year’s statement charged that the court’s prosecutor, by claiming jurisdiction, was attempting “to override the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The 2018 statement also said Myanmar’s position was that it “has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes.”
However, there still has been no official repatriation of the Rohingya, and human rights activists charge that Myanmar has not established safe conditions for their return.
Zaw Htay said that Myanmar has already set up its own Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was making progress in its investigations. He noted that the military as well had established a Court of Enquiry.
“If we find abuses (of human rights), we will take action according to the law,” he said.
An independent U.N. fact-finding mission that collected extensive evidence that it said shows that trials for genocide and crimes against humanity are merited declared earlier this year that justice could not be fairly served by judicial processes inside Myanmar. It said an international mechanism or process was needed for accountability.
Gambia, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, filed a case Monday at the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide in its treatment of the Rohingya.
The International Court of Justice settles disputes between nations, while The International Criminal Court seeks to convict individuals responsible for crimes. Both courts are based in The Hague.
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This story has been corrected to state that case may involve forced deportation, not forced jurisdiction.

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Leaked Russian interference report raises UK vote questions
By DANICA KIRKA | Sun, November 17, 2019 02:46 EST
LONDON (AP) — Questions about the British government’s failure to release a report on Russia’s interference in the country’s politics continued to dog Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday as critics said leaks from the document raised concerns about the security of next month’s election.
The report from Parliament’s intelligence committee concludes that Russian interference may have affected the 2016 referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, though the impact is “unquantifiable,” the Times of London reported without saying how it got the information.
The committee said British intelligence services failed to devote enough resources to counter the threat and highlighted the impact of articles posted by Russian news sites that were widely disseminated on social media, the newspaper reported.
Emily Thornberry, the opposition Labour Party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the leaks raise questions that deserve answers.
“Boris Johnson therefore needs to clear up the confusion, spin and speculation around this (intelligence committee) report by publishing it in full at the earliest opportunity,’’ she told the Times. “If not, people will rightly continue to ask: what is he trying to hide from the British public and why?”
Johnson’s government has said it needs more time to review the security implications of the report, but it will be released after the election. Critics have alleged the report is being withheld because it shows Russians have made large donations to the Conservative Party, which is seeking to win a majority that would allow Johnson to push his Brexit deal through Parliament.
Security Minister Brandon Lewis dismissed such criticism and in turn accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing to back the government in the aftermath of a Russian-sponsored nerve agent attack against a former spy on the streets of an English city.
Asked about Russian donors to the campaign, Lewis told Sky television on Sunday that all contributions are reported to the proper authorities and the donors in question have British citizenship.
“We should not prevent British citizens from taking and playing their full part in British political life,” he said.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election found that Russia interfered in the vote in a “sweeping and systemic” fashion. While President Donald Trump dismissed the findings, the U.S. investigation put Russia at the center of worries about the integrity of elections worldwide.
The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee began its investigation following allegations of Russian interference in both the 2016 U.S. election and the Brexit referendum earlier that year.
The committee sent its report to Johnson for review on Oct. 17, saying it expected to “publish the report imminently.”
Committee Chairman Dominic Grieve has criticized Johnson’s government for failing to release the document amid media reports it has already been cleared by British security services.
The debate comes amid growing concerns about the security of elections fought in an increasingly digital world. Britain’s election laws were written for a time when campaigns pushed mass-produced leaflets through mail slots, rather than flooding Facebook and Twitter accounts with individually targeted messages.
Johnson called the early election in response to the political turmoil caused by Britain’s pending departure from the EU. Britain’s 46 million eligible voters will choose 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons in the Dec. 12 vote.
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Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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Tear gas, firebombs engulf Hong Kong university in new clash
By KEN MORITSUGU | Sat, November 16, 2019 11:38 EST
HONG KONG (AP) — Police fired tear gas at protesters holding out at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as overnight clashes resumed Sunday, and opposition lawmakers criticized the Chinese military for joining a cleanup to remove debris from streets.
A large group of people arrived to try to clean up a debris-strewn roadway near the campus but were warned away by protesters.
Riot police lined up a few hundred meters (yards) away and shot several volleys of tear gas at the protesters, who sheltered behind a wall of umbrellas across an entire street.
The faceoff came hours after intense overnight clashes in which the two sides exchanged tear gas and gasoline bombs that left fires blazing in the street. Many protesters retreated inside the Polytechnic campus, where they have barricaded entrances and set up narrow access control points.
Protesters, who occupied several major campuses for much of last week, have largely retreated, except for a contingent at Polytechnic. That group is also blocking access to the nearby Cross-Harbour Tunnel, one of the three main road tunnels that link Hong Kong Island with the rest of the city.
Elsewhere, workers and volunteers — including a group of Chinese soldiers who came out from their barracks — cleared roads of debris Saturday as most of the protesters melted away.
There were scattered incidents of protesters arguing and clashing with people clearing roadways, and in one instance, throwing a gasoline bomb near City University of Hong Kong.
Opposition lawmakers issued a statement criticizing the Chinese military for joining the cleanup. The military is allowed to help maintain public order, but only at the request of the Hong Kong government.
Dozens of Chinese troops, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, ran out in loose formation near Hong Kong Baptist University and picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street
The Hong Kong government said that it had not requested the military’s assistance, describing it as a voluntary community activity.
The city’s anti-government protests have been raging for more than five months.
They were sparked by a government decision to submit legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula implemented in 1997, when Britain returned the territory to China.
The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by Communist China, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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NBA Top 10 Plays of the Night | November 17, 2019

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Car bomb kills at least 18 in Syrian town held by Turkey
10:06 EST
BEIRUT (AP) — A car bomb exploded Saturday in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters, killing at least 18 people and wounding several others, Syrian opposition activists and Turkey’s Defense Ministry said.
Northern Syria has been hit by several explosions that have killed and wounded scores of people over the past month. That’s since Turkey began a military operation against Kurdish fighters in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the bulk of American troops out of northern Syria.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 19 people, including 13 civilians, were killed Saturday in the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province. The Aleppo Media Center, an activist collective, said 15 people were killed in the blast in a busy part of town near a bus station.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said the blast killed 18 people and blamed the main Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units.
It is not uncommon for reports to give differing casualty figures in the immediate aftermath of this kind of attack.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack.
A video posted online by Albab City, an activist collective, showed several vehicles on fire with black smoke billowing from a wide street with shops on both sides. Inside the bus station, several white minibuses appear damaged.
“It looks like doomsday. May God help us,” a man could be heard saying as five young men carried a wounded person away. At least two bloodied and wounded men could be seen rushed away on motorcycles.
Turkey-backed opposition fighters took control of parts of Aleppo province, including the towns of al-Bab and Afrin, in previous military offensives in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
The past month’s attacks have come amid an expanding Turkish invasion of into northeast Syria against Kurdish-held towns and villages along a stretch of the border.
Three car bombs went off Monday in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli near the border with Turkey, killing at least six people, according to activists and Syria’s state news agency SANA.
On Nov. 2, a car bomb killed 13 people in the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad, which is also held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.
The Turkish offensive has aimed at pushing Kurdish fighters away from the border. Those Kurdish fighters had been key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists linked to a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey.
Turkish forces have consolidated control over a stretch of the border running 120 kilometers (70 miles) wide and 30 kilometers (20 miles) deep into Syria. They have also kept up pressure outside that area, fighting with Kurdish forces on the edges.
Syrian government forces and their Russian allies have moved into other parts of the border under a Russian-Turkish deal.

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Former Sri Lankan defense chief wins presidential vote
By EMILY SCHMALL and KRISHAN FRANCIS | Sun, November 17, 2019 06:44 EST
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense official revered by Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority for his role in ending a bloody civil war but feared by minorities for his brutal approach, registered a comfortable victory Sunday in the nation’s presidential election.
Elections chief Mahinda Deshapriya announced the official results that Rajapaksa won more than 6.9 million votes in Saturday’s election, 1.3 million votes more than his closest rival, Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa.
Rajapaksa’s percentage of the vote was 52.25%, well above the 50% plus one vote needed for victory.
Premadasa conceded defeat to Rajapaksa, saying he would honor the decision of the people.
Rajapaksa, the campaign front-runner and former defense secretary under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged to restore security to the Indian Ocean island nation still recovering from Islamic State-inspired attacks last Easter that killed 269 people.
The results showcased deep ethnic and religious polarization in a country that has seen decades of conflicts and bloodshed since independence from the British in 1948. Minority Tamils and Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Premadasa, largely to stop a Rajapaksa victory.
President-elect Rajapaksa appeared to try to allay minority skepticism in his speech after the official announcement of results.
“I have fully understood that I am the president of all citizens not only of those who voted for me but also all those who voted against me,” he said.
“Therefore I am well aware that I am bound to serve every Sri Lankan irrespective of race or religion.”
Rajapaksa’s party headquarters in Colombo erupted with applause when the commissioner delivered the result on live TV.
His victory marks the return of a family ousted from power in 2015 elections amid constant reports of nepotism, skimming off development deals with China and alleged human rights violations during the end of the decades-long war with the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009. The election also mirrors the global trend of populist strongmen appealing to disgruntled majorities amid rising ethno-nationalism.
Flanked by Buddhist monks at campaign events, Rajapaksa focused his message on Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhala Buddhist population, who comprise about 70% of the island’s citizens. The second-largest group are ethnic Tamil Hindus at 12.6%, while 10% are Muslims and 8% are Christian.
He accepted support from Buddhist nationalist clerics who demanded the resignation of Muslim Cabinet members and governors they said were interfering with the investigation of the Easter attacks.
The Muslim politicians temporarily stepped aside.
The campaign said Rajapaksa’s swearing-in ceremony would take place at Anuradhapura, a city about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Colombo and the seat of the first Sinhalese kingdom known for a sacred tree that is said to be the southern branch of the Bodhi tree in India under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
The result reflected voting along ethnic lines, showing “a badly polarized country” that will embolden right-wing Buddhist clerics, said Kusal Perera, a political analyst and independent journalist.
“A Sinhala Buddhist theocratic state has been given a people’s mandate now,” he said.
Premadasa swept the majority Tamil and Muslim districts in the country’s north and east, winning as much as 80% of the vote. In majority ethnic Sinhala areas, Gotabaya secured around 60%.
Sinhala Buddhists votes usually don’t vote as a bloc, unlike Sri Lankan minorities who have supported whatever party espoused policies comparatively favorable to them.
Rajapaksa’s victory will also be a blow to the post-civil war reconciliation process and truth-seeking on alleged wartime abuses by both government troops and the Tamil Tiger rebels. In the lead up to the election, Rajapaksa said that he would not honor a United Nations human rights resolution to investigate alleged abuses.
“He has won the war, but Sri Lanka is yet to win the peace and 10 years after, this is how the north and east reacts to the war victor,” said M.A Sumanthiran, lawmaker and spokesman for Tamil National Alliance, the country’s main Tamil party.
Rajapaksa pledged to appoint as prime minister his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was briefly installed as prime minister last year, when outgoing President Maithripala Sirisena fired the sitting prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, over political differences. The Supreme Court ruled Sirisena had acted unconstitutionally, and restored Wickremsinghe to power.
Rajapaksa has also promised to release military personnel detained for running an abduction ring for money in the pretext of counterterrorism, leading some to fear that the ethnic tensions that fueled the Tamil struggle for an independent state will only grow during his administration.
During the war that ended in 2009, Rajapaksa was accused of persecuting critics and overseeing squads that whisked away journalists, activists and Tamil civilians suspected of links to the Tamil Tigers. Some were tortured and released, while others simply disappeared.
The Rajapaksa brothers are also accused of condoning rape and extrajudicial killings and deliberately targeting civilians and hospitals during the war. They deny the allegations.
The Rajapaksas did not lift emergency law even after the war ended, curtailing civil and media freedoms. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government accepted Chinese loans for white elephant projects in the family’s home district of Hambantota, including to build a big commercial airport that is only being sparsely used.
Battling one of Asia’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios, Wickremesinghe’s government signed in 2017 a 99-year lease of the Chinese-built Hambantota port to a Chinese company, fueling public consternation over the loss of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. The outgoing government also re-established ties with neighboring India and the United States, both of whom have large stakes in Sri Lanka as a buffer against China.
Even though the Cabinet will not immediately dissolve once a president changes, Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Sunday resigned to allow Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint a new minister.
Rajapaksa will inherit a tourism-dependent economy still recovering from the blasts, the first attack in Sri Lankan history targeting foreigners.
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Associated Press writers Bharatha Mallawarachi and Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report.

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Florida judge draws town’s wrath over school violence case
By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN | Sat, November 16, 2019 03:13 EST
MACCLENNY, Fla. (AP) — Anxieties multiplied quickly across Baker County, a mostly rural community of 28,000 in northern Florida, when news spread that a 15-year-old had planned a massacre at the county’s only high school.
“MAKE SURE THE TEACHERS ARE DEAD,” he ranted in a notebook. “Then rinse repeat.”
When the sophomore shared his six-page “School Shooting Plan” with a classmate in early September, it set in motion what authorities called a textbook response to averting another Parkland school shooting, which took the lives of 14 students and three school staffers last year.
Within minutes, the student was in custody. By most accounts, parents felt reassured by the swift action of school officials and law enforcement.
But unease resurfaced last month when a judge dismissed second-degree felony charges against the boy and released him back into the community west of Jacksonville. Thursday’s shooting at a California high school — which left three students dead, including the 16-year-old gunman — only deepened their worries.
In a place where churches outnumber gas stations and traffic lights, some residents expressed compassion for the teenager but reserved less mercy for the judge, who they say failed their community and the boy she spared.
“We have a sense of safety built into this community. We trust each other, and when I drop my kids off at school, I have a feeling they’re going to be safe,” said Macclenny resident Tracy Lamb, whose 15-year-old daughter attends the high school along with about 1,400 other students.
“Our judicial system is dropping the ball. It’s failed us, and the system has failed him. I want this child to receive help,” she said. “Everybody’s left wondering now about what’s going to happen to this particular kid.”
After the Parkland shooting that killed 17, Florida lawmakers acted quickly to beef up security and improve safety across the state’s 4,300 public schools. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act widened the authority of schools and law enforcement to act against any threat to campus safety.
To authorities and school officials, one provision in the law seemed clear: Anyone who “makes, posts, or transmits” a threat of mass shooting “in any manner that would allow another person to view the threat” has committed a crime.
Judge Gloria R. Walker saw things differently and dismissed the case because she said prosecutors could not prove the threat had been transmitted as described in the law.
Walker didn’t return calls requesting comment.
Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission expressed exasperation last month when Baker County Sheriff’s Maj. Randy Crews described the incident.
That was the first time many in the county heard of the judge’s decision, and it spawned immediate outrage. Community leaders urged neighbors to bombard the judge with emails and phone calls to voice their displeasure.
“We count on the laws to keep us safe. Are there laws to do that? We thought so, and then recently we had a judge who said that the law wasn’t good enough to keep us safe, or to get this child some help,” said Angela Callahan, a middle school teacher, union officer and mother with a son attending Baker County High School.
The boy’s plan described killing teachers and fellow students in chilling detail. To maximize the carnage, he’d deploy an arsenal of knives and guns at a pep rally or some other high-traffic venue. He calculated he’d have nine minutes before squad cars and medics could reach the scene. He wouldn’t be acting alone, he hoped, having recruited at least three schoolmates who, like him, were “100% down that they might die that day.”
Investigators said the teen acknowledged writing the plan but he denied any intention of carrying it out.
The Associated Press is not naming the student because he is a juvenile.
Florida law allows authorities to hold anyone deemed a threat to themselves and others for up to 72 hours. From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, authorities took temporary custody of 36,078 children under the Baker Act — up by 83% from a decade earlier. Many of those cases were initiated while a child was at school.
The Stoneman Douglas commission has called for greater state funding for mental health programs for children and wants judges to offer mental health services to children who get into trouble with the law.
That’s what folks across Baker County say should have happened when the 15-year-old appeared before Judge Walker.
The Rev. Tommy Richardson, who serves as the chaplain for the sheriff’s department, said his community is a place of forgiveness.
“I don’t think none of the community ever expected him to get life in prison,” Richardson said. “We’re a community that will help him, pray for him.”
Baker County Schools Superintendent Sherrie Raulerson declined to discuss the case but reassured residents that protocols are in place to keep students safe.
Still, concerns linger.
Courtney Fiser, whose daughter attends the high school, said she is relieved the boy hasn’t returned to school but remains troubled by the judge’s decision.
“We work so hard to protect our children, and we have someone who is not there helping us,” she said.
Daughter Lauren, a cheerleader, described the unease on campus.
When the school intercom blared a code yellow a few weeks ago, nerves remained frayed until school officials declared it a false alarm.
“Every time the doorknob makes a noise, we’re scared,” she said. “Now, It’s just an ongoing fear.”

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US, S Korea postpone joint exercise criticized by N Korea
Sun, November 17, 2019 12:11 EST
BANGKOK (AP) — The United States and South Korea are postponing a joint military air exercise that North Korea has criticized as provocative.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his South Korean counterpart made the announcement Sunday in Bangkok, where they were attending an Asia defense ministers conference.
As recently as Friday, when Esper was in Seoul to consult with South Korean officials, there was no word on postponing the military air exercise, which had been called Vigilant Ace.
Seoul and Washington had scaled back the exercise recently and changed the name, but North Korea strongly objected, calling it evidence of a lack of interest in improving relations.
The North has demanded accommodations before it will agree to resume nuclear negotiations.

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Rebuffed by US, migrants dwell in lawless Mexican state
By MARIA VERZA | Sun, November 17, 2019 12:36 EST
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (AP) — The gangsters trawling Nuevo Laredo know just what they’re looking for: men and women missing their shoelaces.
Those are migrants who made it to the United States to ask for asylum, only to be taken into custody and stripped of their laces — to keep them from hurting themselves. And then they were thrust into danger, sent back to the lawless border state of Tamaulipas.
In years past, migrants moved quickly through this violent territory on their way to the United States. Now, due to Trump administration policies, they remain there for weeks and sometimes months as they await their U.S. court dates, often in the hands of the gangsters who hold the area in a vise-like grip.
Here, migrants in limbo are prey, and a boon to smugglers.
___
This story is part of an occasional series, “Outsourcing Migrants,” produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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They recount harrowing stories of robbery, extortion by criminals and crooked officials, and kidnappings by competing cartels. They tell of being captured by armed bandits who demand a ransom: They can pay for illegal passage to the border, or merely for their freedom, but either way they must pay.
And then they might be nabbed again by another gang. Or, desperate not to return to the homes they fled in the first place, they might willingly pay smugglers again.
That’s what a 32-year-old Honduran accountant was contemplating. She had twice paid coyotes to help her cross into the U.S. only to be returned. Most recently, in September, she was sent back across the bridge from Brownsville to Matamoros.
Now, biding her time with her daughter in the city of Monterrey, she said one thing is for sure: “We are a little gold mine for the criminals.”
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Tamaulipas used to be a crossroads. Its dangers are well known; the U.S. has warned its citizens to stay away, assigning it the same alert level as war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria.
Whenever possible, migrants heading north immediately crossed the river to Texas or presented themselves at a U.S. port of entry to file an asylum claim, which would allow them to stay in the U.S. while their cases played out.
But the U.S. has set limits on applicants for asylum, slowing the number to a mere trickle, while the policy known colloquially as “Remain in Mexico,” has meant the return of more than 55,000 asylum-seekers to the country while their requests meander through backlogged courts.
The Mexican government is ill-prepared to handle the influx along the border, especially in Tamaulipas, where it has been arranging bus rides south to the relative safety of the northern city of Monterrey or all the way to the Guatemala border, citing security concerns — tacit acknowledgement, some analysts say, of the state of anarchy.
The gangs have adapted quickly to the new reality of masses of vulnerable people parking in the heart of their fiefdom, experts say, treating the travelers, often families with young children, like ATMs, ramping up kidnapping, extortion, and illegal crossings to extract money and fuel their empires.
“There’s probably nothing worse you could do in terms of overall security along the border,” said Jeremy Slack, a geographer at the University of Texas at El Paso who studies the border region, crime and migration in Mexico. “I mean, it really is like the nightmare scenario.”
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Yohan, a 31-year-old Nicaraguan security guard, trudged back across the border bridge from Laredo, Texas, in July with his wife and two children in tow, clutching a plastic case full of documents including one with a court date to return and make their asylum claim to a U.S. immigration judge two months later.
Penniless, with little more than a cellphone, the family was entering Nuevo Laredo, dominated by the Northeast cartel, a splinter of the brutal and once-powerful Zetas gang.
This is the way he tells the story now, in an interview at a nonprofit in Monterrey that provides the family with shelter and food:
The plan was to call and ask help from the only people they knew in the area — the “coyotes,” or people smugglers, who earlier helped them cross the Rio Grande on an inflatable raft and had treated them well. Only that was in Ciudad Miguel Aleman, about a two-hour drive south parallel to the river.
On their way to the bus station, two strange men stopped Yohan while another group grabbed his loved ones. At least one of them had a gun. They were hustled into a van, relieved of their belongings and told they had a choice: Pay thousands of dollars for their freedom, or for another illegal crossing.
All along the border, there have abuses and crimes against migrants by Mexican organized crime, which has long profited off them. But Tamaulipas is especially troubling. It is both the location of most illegal crossings, and the state where the United States has returned the most asylum seekers — 20,700 through Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros as of early October.
The Mexico City-based Institute for Women in Migration, which tracks kidnappings of migrants and asylum-seekers, has documented 212 abductions in the state from mid-July through Oct. 15. And that’s surely an undercount.
Of the documented kidnappings in Tamaulipas, 197 occurred in Nuevo Laredo, a city of about 500,000 whose international bridges fuel the trade economy.
Yohan’s family was among them.
They had left Esteli in northwestern Nicaragua over three months earlier after armed, government-aligned civilian militias learned that Yohan had witnessed the killing of a government opponent, he said. They followed him and painted death threats on the walls of their home.
He is identified only by his middle name, because he and others Quote: d in this story fear for their lives and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Yohan borrowed against his mother’s house to pay smugglers $18,000 for the family’s trip. But he had not bargained on the closed door at the border, or the ordeal in Nuevo Laredo, and his bankroll was depleted.
The men who grabbed the family “told us they were from the cartel, that they were not kidnappers, that their job was to get people across and that they would take us to the smuggler to explain,” Yohan said. Then they connected a cable to his cellphone to download its contents.
Yohan’s first instinct was to give the passphrase that his previous smugglers used to identify “their” migrants. “‘That doesn’t mean anything to us,’ one of them told me,” Yohan said — this lot belonged to a different group.
Gangs in Tamaulipas have fragmented in the last decade and now cartel cells there operate on a franchise model, with contacts across Mexico and Central America, said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a political scientist specializing in organized crime, immigration, border security and human trafficking at George Mason University.
“They are contractors. They provide a service, control the territory, operate safe houses and charge for all that,” she said.
Yohan’s family was held in a series of what appeared to be private homes or offices, along with a family from El Salvador, two Cubans and two Mexicans. Everyone slept on the floor.
One captor, a 16-year-old, told him, “We have 15 smugglers, the cartel brings the people to us here and we take them across paying the cartel for the river crossing.”
The gang had been hiring lately: “Since the United States is deporting so many through here, we are capturing them and that has meant more work,” the teen told him. “We’re saturated.”
Initially the captors demanded $16,000. They gave Yohan and his wife a list of names and accounts; relatives were supposed to deposit $450 into each one without using companies seen as traceable by authorities.
But they were able to scrape together just $3,000, and that angered the gangsters.
“I’m going to give you to the cartel,” one shouted.
Then Yohan’s son came down with the mumps. The family got the captors to provide a bit of extra milk for him in exchange for his daughter’s little gold ring, but the boy wasn’t getting better and they abruptly released the family.
“They told us that the cartel doesn’t allow them to hold sick children,” Yohan said.
This is a matter of business, not humanity: A dead child could bring attention from the media, and then authorities, says George Mason’s Correa-Cabrera.
After 14 days captive and before leaving the safe house, Yohan was given a code phrase: “We already passed through the office, checking.” Only hours later they would need to use it. Arriving at the bus station, a group of strange men tried to grab them. Yohan spoke the six words in Spanish, and they were let go, and they went on to Monterrey.
On Sept. 22, Yohan’s family returned to Nuevo Laredo for their court date, bringing with them a report on the family’s kidnapping. Though U.S. law allows at-risk people to stay, they were sent back to the parking lot of a Mexican immigration facility, surrounded by seedy cantinas and watching eyes.
Mexican authorities organized bus transportation for those who wanted to return to their home countries. The family did not intend to go back to Nicaragua, so they asked the driver to leave them in Monterrey where they would await the next hearing.
After they were under way, the driver demanded $200. They couldn’t pay, so he dumped them about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the city at 1 a.m., along with four others.
___
Unlike other border cities such as Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez, migrants and asylum seekers are rarely seen on the streets in Nuevo Laredo. Fear keeps them in hiding, and safety isn’t a sure thing even inside shelters. This summer pastor Aarón Méndez was abducted from the shelter he ran. He has not been heard from since.
Nor is it safe on the streets going to and from the station. A couple of months after Méndez disappeared, gunmen intercepted some people who were helping migrants make those trips; those being transported were taken away, and the helpers were told they would be killed if they persisted.
Kennji Kizuka, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights First, told of one woman who crossed into the U.S. for a hearing date, where she had to surrender her phone. While she was incommunicado for hours, calls were placed to relatives in the United States claiming she had been kidnapped and aggressively demanding a ransom.
“It’s clear that they have a very sophisticated system to target people,” Kizuka said.
In another instance, Kizuka said, cartel members were in the Nuevo Laredo office of Mexican migration, openly abducting asylum seekers who had just been sent back from the United States.
One woman hid in the bathroom with her daughter and called a local pastor for help; he tried to drive them away, but they were blocked by cartel members blocks way. The two were taken from the car and held by the gangsters, though they eventually were released unharmed.
A spokesperson for the Mexican foreign affairs secretary declined comment on allegations that Mexico cannot guarantee safety for immigrants returned from U.S.
U.S. Border Patrol officials said recently they are continuing to send asylum seekers back over the border, and that includes Nuevo Laredo. The number of people returned there has been reduced recently, but that was related to a decrease in migrants arriving at the border — and not violence in Tamaulipas.
In an interview, Brian Hastings, Border Patrol chief of law enforcement operations, told AP that officials didn’t see a “threat to that population” in Tamaulipas and “there was basically a small war between the cartel and the state police” there.
But the numbers indicate the danger is real.
As of August, Human Rights First had tabulated 100 violent crimes against returnees. By October, after it rolled out to Tamaulipas, that had more than tripled to 340. Most involved kidnapping and extortion. Kizuka said the danger is even greater than the numbers reflect because they are based solely on accounts his organization or reporters have been able to document.
Of dozens of people interviewed by AP who said they had been victimized in Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey, just one had filed a police report.
Kidnappings of migrants are not a new phenomenon. According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, in just six months in 2009 nearly 10,000 migrants were abducted while passing through the country.
Back then the cartels were splintering amid a government policy targeting their top bosses, leading them to fight among themselves in the people-smuggling business to fill two needs: money and labor. Kidnapped migrants generally were told they could avoid being killed by either paying ransom or working for the cartel.
Tamaulipas became a bloody emblem of the problem in 2010 when 72 migrants were found slain at a ranch in San Fernando, and a year later when the bodies of 193 migrants were found in the same area in clandestine mass graves — apparently murdered by a cartel to damage a rival’s people-smuggling business.
Raymundo Ramos of the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee said gangs today are more interested in squeezing cash from migrants: “They have to recover a lot of the money lost in those wars.”
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has acknowledged that another massacre or escalation of violence is a major fear and has deployed more than 25,000 troops and National Guard agents to police people-trafficking in border regions and along smuggling routes. But all the accounts of violence in this account took place after that deployment.
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Reynosa, a factory city of about 650,000, is the largest in Tamaulipas and home to some of the worst drug war violence. It’s also a key part of the migratory route and one of the busiest crossing points along with Ciudad Miguel Aleman.
Disputed by rival gangs, Reynosa has the feel of a place with invisible fences demarcating their territories, and numerous migrants said they had to pay to get past checkpoints at the main entrances to the city.
Lawyer and human rights worker Fortino López Balcázar said the gangs first took control of the river, attacking and beating migrants. Then they started grabbing them from bus stations, and then from the streets.
The airport is also tightly controlled.
A 46-year-old teacher from Havana recalled arriving with her 16-year-old son Aug. 13 by plane from Mexico City with the phone number for a taxi driver, provided by a lawyer who arranged their trip. As they drove into Reynosa, two other taxis cut the vehicle off. Two men got in, took away her cellphone and money and whisked them to a home that was under construction.
The lawyer “sold us out,” the woman said.
That night they were moved to a thicket near the Rio Grande where they were held captive in an outdoor camp for a week with dozens of others. They met another group of Cubans, who were also abducted shortly after flying into Reynosa: Several taxi and vans brazenly intercepted them in broad daylight, bringing traffic to a halt.
“It was as if we were terrorists and the FBI had swooped down on us,” one of the men said. He speculated they may have been betrayed by an airport immigration agent with whom they had argued over their travel documents.
López Obrador’s government has said the National Immigration Institute is one of Mexico’s most corrupt agencies. In early 2019 the institute announced the firing of more than 500 workers nationwide. According to a person with knowledge of the purge, Tamaulipas was one of four states where the most firings took place. Some worked in airports, others in the city of Reynosa.
In February the institute’s deputy delegate to the city was fired and accused of charging detained migrants over $3,000 to avoid deportation. Later new complaints surfaced of people being shaken down for $1,500 to be put at the top of wait lists to present claims in the United States.
At the riverside camp, the Cuban teacher was introduced to its “commander” who demanded “rent” and a fine for not traveling with a guide. The ransom was set at $1,000.
Previously the Cuban woman’s only exposure to the world of organized crime came from movies she watched on the illegal satellite TV hookup that caused her to run afoul of authorities back home. Now, they were witnessing things both terrifying and hard to understand.
There was the time a man tried to suffocate another with a plastic bag, or when the kidnappers, some barely in their teens, beat a “coyote” for working for a rival outfit. From what she was able to understand from the shouting, he had been kidnapped along with clients he was guiding and they wanted him to switch loyalties.
The captors at the thicket referred to themselves as “the corporation,” the teacher said. People came and went, some delivered by men in uniforms who may or may not have been police.
Edith Garrido, a nun who works at the Casa del Migrante shelter in Reynosa, said both crooked officers and criminals dressed as police — known as “black cops” or “the clones” — are mixed up in the racket, making the rounds of safe houses to buy and sell kidnap victims.
“They say ‘give me 10, 15, 25.’ They tell them they are going to take them to a safer place, and they give them to the highest bidder,” Garrido explained. “A migrant is money for them, not a person.”
The captors let the Cubans use their cellphones for a few hours to coordinate ransom payments with relatives, always small amounts to different bank accounts. Weeping, the teacher recalled how her 25-year-old daughter in Cuba had to pawn all her belongings.
After the ransom came through, the captors took her picture and she, her son and another woman were put in a taxi and driven off. The cabbie stopped the car along a highway, took her cellphone and said they could go.
She and her son now await their immigration court date in Reynosa, where she has found temporary construction work to pay for rent and food.
There’s not enough space for everyone at the shelters, so many rent rooms, and that demand has pushed prices up. It can range from $35 per person per month for a spot in a cramped five-person bedroom in a seedy area, to $300-$500 for a more secure home.
But nowhere is truly safe. Last month a family from El Salvador missed their turn to present themselves for U.S. asylum after a shootout erupted in the streets and they were afraid to leave their home.
Garrido said some pay protection fees so they are not bothered in their homes, while others rent directly from the gangs.
“So one way or another,” she said, “they make money.”
___
Associated Press writers Peter Orsi in Mexico City and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

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NBA rookies now have knees that are as worn down as 5-8 year vets – Earl Watson | Outside the Lines

Earl Watson joins Outside the Lines to discuss load management in the NBA and the impact AAU and travel basketball have on the issue.
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Young Venetians volunteer after flood of their lifetimes
By COLLEEN BARRY | 01:35 EST
VENICE, Italy (AP) — As soon as waters receded from this week’s devastating flood, about 50 young Venetians wearing rubber boots and gripped by a sense of determination showed up at the city’s Music Conservatory to help save precious manuscripts.
Thanks to their work, some 50 linear meters of archival manuscripts, dating from as far back as the 1500s, lay strewn in the conservatory’s upper floors to dry when Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini visited this weekend.
“This is our city,” said Laura Franco, a student at Venice’s Music Conservatory who showed up with a handful of friends Saturday morning.
A growing network of more than 2,000 young Venetians are responding to the worst flood in their lifetimes to help salvage what they can, wherever help is needed.
Modeling their network after the so-called “Mud Angels” who famously poured into Florence from all over the world after the 1966 flood swamped that city’s treasures with mud from the Arno, these youth are calling themselves “Angels of the Salt,” for the corrosive, destructive saline content of the lagoon water.
Social media allows them to be mustered where there is the greatest need. On Saturday that was the island of Burano and the hardest-hit area, the barrier island of Pellestrina, where one man died in Tuesday night’s floods.
“We are going to bookshops, to libraries, to shops and restaurants, giving them a hand to try to help out. And when we find a lot of trash piling up, we organize carts to clean it up so it doesn’t go in the water,” said Vittorio da Mosto.
Many have been helping out at the aptly named “Acqua Alta” bookstore, which poked fun at the frequent high tides that until recently would typically rise playfully and recede, as if another tourist attraction. But this week, the bookstore was completely swamped, with the invading lagoon nearly floating a gondola that serves as a book display and waterlogging countless books.
“I lost thousands and thousands of books, worth thousands and thousands of euros,” Luigi Frizzo said ruefully as he instructed the volunteers to bring the ruined books to a nearby boat for disposal.
Institutions like the Venice Music Conservatory limited the volunteers to current and former students after an enthusiastic first-day turnout of the so-called “Angels.”
“The problem was trying to stop all the volunteers. There were too many arriving with wet boots. We need people with some expertise,” the conservatory’s president, Giovanni Giol, said “We said thank you, but these are historic and they need to be handled with care.”
Giol said the manuscripts will be saved “thanks to the work of the volunteers.”
Irene Maria Giussani, a 22-year-old viola student, has been using absorbent paper to help prevent ink on the manuscripts from running, and standing up books, including precious volumes containing all of Wagner’s opera, to dry.
“It is mostly a disaster for the manuscripts, because for some there aren’t even copies,” Giussani said. “It means the music is lost forever. As musicians, we know what that means.”
The most precious manuscripts were being transported on Saturday to Bologna and Florence, where they will be frozen in order to block any mold and also help push out the salt.
The Venice Music Conservatory’s archive was one of the hardest hit in the city.
Renovated and reopened with fanfare just five years ago, it was — inauspiciously, as it turns out — put on the ground floor because the upper floors could not bear the weight, Giol said. The previous administration also believed that since the area of the city is one of the higher ones, it would be safer from Venice’s frequent floods.
That perception changed dramatically with Tuesday’s 1.87-meter tide — the highest since 1966 when Venice was flooded along with Florence. Those events created a network of international conservation groups that continue to work to restore treasures to this day.
The water only covered the lowest shelf of the archives by about a centimeter, Giol said, but the paper quickly absorbed the liquid, spreading the damage. He said water damage was limited to about 5% of the documents, and just 1% of those are considered ruined.
Most of the most famous works, including by composers like Rossini, Cimarosa and Monteverdi, were not touched by the water, Giol said.
When they renovate the library now, Giol said first consideration will be to raise the level by at least a meter.
“If it is touched again by water, that means the water would rise another 70 or 80 centimeters, which would be a catastrophe. Books will become the last of the problems,” he said.
Damage at the nearby Accademia Gallery — home to the famed Vitruvian Man which is on loan to the Louvre for the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death — was limited to some recently acquired space in the former seat of the affiliated Fine Arts Academy.
Water seeped into the walls, up to about 10 centimeters, but spared a series of plaster statutes by Canova, that were on squat wooden pedestals just high enough to have avoided disaster.
The gallery was opened the day after the flood, one of the few among Venetian attractions, in a pointed signal of the city’s resilience; 800 visitors came. The Biennale, the bi-annual contemporary art fair that closes next weekend, re-opened to the public on Thursday and received over 1,500 visitors.
Accademia Gallery Director Giulio Manieri Elia said that reinforced walls prevent water from entering the recently renovated areas of the gallery, which houses masterpieces by Tintoretto, Veronese and Giorgione, among others.
While relieved that the Canova plaster models were spared, Elia worried about the fate of the original tile floors. The real damage from the lagoon floods, as has been documented at St. Mark’s Cathedral in the lowest part of the city, comes as the salt is drawn into the brick.
“In the coming months, the floors will become white with salt,” Elia said. “I don’t have a lot of experience. I think we need to wash it with fresh water to make the salt come out.”

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Census counting of prisoners becomes partisan battleground
By IVAN MORENO | Sun, November 17, 2019 10:28 EST
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Census Bureau counts residents of Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods next year, a significant portion of their population will be missing: prisoners.
For these predominantly black areas, with incarceration rates among the highest in the nation, the government’s longstanding policy to count inmates as residents of the prison where they are held diminishes their political power back home.
“When you undercount people for the census, they end up losing in that community dollars that could go toward services that can help remediate poverty,” said state Rep. David Bowen, a Milwaukee Democrat co-sponsoring legislation to end what critics call prison gerrymandering.
Democrats argue the system shifts resources from traditionally liberal urban centers — home to many inmates who are disproportionately black and Hispanic — to rural, white, Republican-leaning areas where prisons are usually located.
“It’s really artificially shifting money … based on something that isn’t reality,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat who is co-sponsoring legislation in Congress to change the census policy.
Republicans, however, argue that towns with prisons need federal money for the additional costs they bring, such as medical care, law enforcement and road maintenance.
“There are a lot of costs. It’s not all peaches and cream having a prison in your community,” said Arizona state Rep. T.J. Shope, a Republican who represents the town of Florence, where prisoners represent about two-thirds of the population of 30,000.
Although the Census Bureau has counted inmates as prison residents since 1850, states control redistricting and can move those populations to their home counties for that purpose or not include inmates at all when maps are drawn. Some states controlled by Democrats are passing laws to prohibit using prison populations to draw legislative maps. Washington and Nevada this year became the fifth and sixth states to pass laws since 2010 banning using prisoners for redistricting, joining New York, Maryland, California and Delaware.
Nine other states, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, have similar proposals pending. Connecticut, which has the fifth-highest incarceration rate for black men, argues in a federal lawsuit that using prisoners for redistricting purposes — and putting them in districts where they didn’t live before incarceration — violates the one-person, one-vote requirement of the 14th Amendment. A federal appeals court in September allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
The Census Bureau’s policy pertaining to prisoners didn’t get much attention until recent decades because the population wasn’t large enough to alter representation, but now the U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation.
The way inmates are counted impacts the distribution of dollars and heightens political jostling over representation in legislative districts and local offices — even though prisoners can’t even vote in most states.
“The rural counties benefit tremendously off of the back of individuals who are incarcerated in those regions,” said Jerome Dillard, the state director of Ex-incarcerated People Organizing, a Milwaukee-based advocacy group that, among other things, wants to restore voting rights to former prisoners.
Dillard, 65, said he was in prison in Wisconsin from 1992 to 1996 for using a fake Social Security number to open a bank account. He said prisoners often know nothing of the community where they’re counted and never benefit from services available to permanent residents.
Meanwhile, the districts that inmates call home diminish in size and political representation.
An April study from two Villanova University professors illustrates this.
Professors Briana Remster and Rory Kramer counted more than 100,000 black inmates as residents of Philadelphia, where they were from, rather than in Pennsylvania prisons. Their finding: The city would have gained at least one majority-minority state legislative district.
Wisconsin’s prison population is smaller than Pennsylvania’s but the effects of using prisoners in redistricting are still apparent.
Wisconsin state prisons confined about 23,500 black men as of August, including 7,800 from Milwaukee — a Democratic stronghold.
State legislative District 53, about 90 minutes northwest of Milwaukee, has a large black population — larger than 74 other state districts, at least on paper. But of the 2,784 African-Americans in the district in the last census, almost 80 percent were incarcerated, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit that wants to end using prisoners for redistricting.
“What we see is that you’re kind of padding the numbers, you’re allowing certain districts to have a particular voting power when they don’t actually have that population,” said Rep. David Crowley, a Milwaukee Democrat co-sponsoring the bill to count prisoners where they last lived.
Crowley said most prisoners aren’t serving long sentences; nearly 65 percent are expected to return home within five years, meaning the effect of the census count — undertaken every 10 years — will persist even after they’re back home, he said.
But Shope, the Arizona lawmaker, compared counting inmates as part of legislative districts to counting people in the country illegally.
“I don’t consider it a problem,” Shope said. “The census is a snapshot, a snapshot in time on one day, and we count inmates where they are currently housed the same way we count undocumented residents where they’re currently residing.”
The Census Bureau is not changing its current policy to count prisoners as prison residents, though it has opened the matter up for discussion. In a response to public comments on the issue, the bureau said the practice is consistent with how the agency has long defined what a person’s “usual residence,” is, meaning “where a person lives and sleeps most of the time, which is not always the same as their legal residence.” The decision came despite nearly 78,000 public comments in 2016 favoring counting inmates at their pre-prison address. Four commenters favored keeping the current policy.
But the Census Bureau said that since some states are considering whether to change where they count prisoners, states in 2021 can request a special dataset that will list prisoners at their pre-prison address for redistricting purposes.
Democrats hope Wisconsin seeks that data, but they face long odds in the state Legislature, where majority Republicans withstood years of litigation over accusations that they gerrymandered legislative districts in their favor in 2011.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, said he opposes the bill to change how prisoners are counted.
“I think the system has worked well as it is,” Vos said.
Bowen disagrees. He said Wisconsin needs to come to terms with its history.
“When you are growing up in areas that have been, you know, that have been on the receiving end of oppression and plunder, of decades of resources being taken from those communities,” he said, “it really means that we should be advocating to right that wrong.”
___
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

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Alleged gunman, victim among 6 charged after game shooting
By BRUCE SHIPKOWSKI | Sat, November 16, 2019 11:54 EST
Six men have been charged after a shooting at a New Jersey high school football game that critically wounded a 10-year-old boy and sent players and the packed crowd fleeing in panic.
Ibn Abdullah, 27, was the target of the Friday night shooting and was charged because a gun was found on him when emergency responders went to his aid, authorities said. He is in stable condition and will be undergoing surgery.
The 10-year-old remained in critical condition Saturday. A 15-year-old boy was treated for a graze wound.
The shooting happened in the stands of a Friday night playoff game between the Camden Panthers and the Pleasantville Greyhounds. Authorities said it did not appear that any of the men charged had any connection to the game.
“Our community will not be held hostage by a few idiots intent on jeopardizing our safety and the safety of our children,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in a news release.
Tyner said the shooting was “petty vengeance against one another.”
Alvin Wyatt, 31, of Atlantic City, was charged with three counts of attempted murder and two weapons counts. He was captured on the football field moments after the shooting by a Pleasantville officer who was part of the game’s security detail.
Three other men face weapons charges, and a fourth faces weapons and eluding charges.
It wasn’t known Saturday if any of the six have retained attorneys.
When the shots rang out, panicked spectators and some of the players knocked down a fence in their haste to escape the field. Some children were separated from their parents, and other parents held children tight to keep them from being run over by those fleeing, according to Jonathan Diego, who was at the game in Pleasantville, right outside Atlantic City.
“It was mayhem, literally people coming in waves running away,” said Diego, who helped coach a Pleasantville youth football team involved in a game in which three people were shot and wounded in 2005. All survived. That same team was practicing in 2015 when a spectator was shot but survived.
Diego said his friend, a retired paramedic, gave first aid to the young boy who was shot.
At least six gunshots are audible in a video from Jersey Sports Zone, which also shows players stop mid-play, look at the stands and then turn and run.
Officials said the game will resume Tuesday at a neutral field, with no spectators allowed.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy lamented the violence.
“Last night was a stark reminder that no community is immune from gun violence, and that we must not ever give up in our efforts to prevent such senseless acts,” Murphy said Saturday.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Illegal pot farms on public land create environmental hazard
By CHRISTOPHER WEBER | Sun, November 17, 2019 12:46 EST
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A month after two men were arrested at an illicit marijuana farm on public land deep in the Northern California wilderness, authorities are assessing the environmental impact and cleanup costs at the site where trees were clear-cut, waterways were diverted, and the ground was littered with open containers of fertilizer and rodenticide.
A group including U.S. Forest Service rangers, local law enforcement, scientists and conservationists hiked into the so-called trespass grow where nearly 9,000 cannabis plants were illegally cultivated on national forest land in the region known as the Emerald Triangle, for the marijuana that has been produced there for decades.
Authorities allege members of an international drug trafficking ring set up camp at the site as far back as 2015.
When deputies raided the remote clearing in the woods Sept. 9, they found hundreds of pounds of harvested marijuana, thousands of pounds of trash and more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of plastic irrigation piping, according to the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office. They also discovered bottles of carbofuran, a banned neurotoxicant used to kill rodents that also has been linked to the deaths of spotted owls, fish and mountain lions. A quarter-teaspoon can kill a 300-pound (136-kilogram) bear.
The case highlights some of the growing pains California has faced since kicking off broad legal sales in 2018. Its legal marijuana market has grown to more than $3 billion but remains dwarfed by a thriving illegal market, which rakes in nearly $9 billion annually. Limited resources mean officials can’t keep up with all the illegal sites that are remnants of the outlaw era, when much of the pot for the U.S. black market came from the Emerald Triangle.
Experts say illegal sites like the one found in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Oregon line, siphon valuable water, pollute legal downstream grows and funnel potentially tainted cannabis onto the streets.
“These places are toxic garbage dumps. Food containers attract wildlife, and the chemicals kill the animals long after the sites are abandoned,” said Rich McIntyre, director of the Cannabis Removal on Public Lands (CROP) Project, which is dedicated to restoring criminal grow sites on state and federal property in California. “We think there’s a public health time bomb ticking.”
CROP is a coalition of conservation organizations, tribes, elected officials, law enforcement agencies and federal land managers. Also lending its support is the legal cannabis industry, which says it’s being undercut by the criminal market. Officials estimate that up to 70% of California’s illicit pot comes from trespass grows mostly on public land.
“We see illegal grows as undermining the legal cultivators and manufacturers” by reducing tax revenue, said Lindsay Robinson, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group. “We’re seeing untested and unregulated cannabis flooding the market.”
Black market marijuana is potentially dangerous because traces of the toxic chemicals used at grow sites are often found in the plants, she said.
“If you have an illicit grow upstream from you, and you’re legal, that could end up tainting your product and prevent it from entering the market,” Robinson said.
CROP estimates that 9 billion gallons (34 billion liters) of water are diverted to trespass grows in California each year — a yearly supply for a city of 35,000 homes.
“In a state like California where water battles and drought are a way of life, that number is shocking,” McIntyre said. More than 60% of California’s water comes from national forest land.
Authorities in 2018 made dozens of arrests at trespass grows while seizing hundreds of thousands of pot plants along with cash and guns. Criminal growers often use powerful firearms to protect their operation, McIntyre said.
“There are stories of people — hunters, fishermen, hikers — who find themselves down the barrel of an AK-47” after stumbling on illegal grow sites, he said.
The toxic chemicals were cleared from the Shasta site Oct. 16, and a “decommissioning” cleanup — removing everything brought in by growers — should happen within a year. The goal is to restore illegal grows to pristine condition complete with reseeding and replanting, but that plan lacks funding.
CROP is lobbying for federal and state money to clean and reclaim an estimated 2,000 sites, a process it says could take seven to 10 years.
It’s also pushing to increase the number of U.S. Forest Service rangers in California’s national forests. Reclaiming each site costs an average of $40,000, requiring trained crews, law enforcement resources and often National Guard air support to remove tons of materials from remote areas, the group said.
The group has a supporter in Democratic U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, whose Northern California district includes huge swaths of state and federal property.
“We’ve seen firsthand how illegal grow operations threaten visitors to our public lands, steal water and contaminate streams, and kill wildlife on a landscape scale,” Huffman said in a statement. He’s introduced legislation that would identify the problem of trespass grows, expand land protections and free up funds to address it.
CROP is also pushing lawmakers to increase penalties for anyone who brings toxic chemicals to public lands. U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said last year that federal authorities are concentrating their efforts on hazardous illegal grows.
Nine of every 10 illegal marijuana farms raided in California in 2018 contained traces of carbofuran, researchers at the Integral Ecology Research Center in northwestern California said last year.
That was a jump from chemicals found at about 75% of illegal growing operations discovered on public land in 2017, and it was six times as high as in 2012.

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Scuffles mar anniversary of birth of yellow vest movement
By CLAIRE PARKER | 10:54 EST
PARIS (AP) — Scuffles between Paris police and activists on Saturday marred the anniversary of the birth of the yellow vest movement against government policies seen as favoring the rich.
On a day of largely peaceful demonstrations across France, there were a few violent incidents in the capital that ended up with police firing off tear gas and water cannon.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement denounced “people who came not to defend a cause but to destruct things” and deplored “attacks against security forces but also against firefighters.”
Police used tear gas as protesters tried to smash windows and enter into a shopping mall. Some were seen throwing stones at officers and setting fire to several vehicles, street trash cans and other urban equipment on Place d’Italie, in the southeast of the capital.
Earlier, the windows of a bank and several bus shelters in the area had been broken, leading to several police charges.
Police have managed to dislodge protesters trying to block the bypass around Paris in the morning and were progressively evacuating Place d’Italie during the afternoon.
Lallement noted that most protesters marched in a “quite serene” atmosphere in another demonstration from northwestern Paris to Bastille plaza, in the east of the capital.
Police had detained 105 people by late afternoon and 71 people have been fined for protesting in a forbidden area. All demonstrations were banned in a large perimeter including the Champs-Elysees, the presidential palace and both houses of parliament.
Protests were taking place around the country at traffic circles where the grassroots movement first took root in November 2018 in protest at plans to raise fuel taxes. For weeks, the protesters brought large parts of the country to a standstill.
No major incident was reported outside Paris on Saturday afternoon.
The outpouring of anger at perceived social and economic injustice eventually prompted President Emmanuel Macron to reverse some of his tax plans and to offer 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in measures to address protesters’ concerns.
Some protesters in Paris wore the high-visibility vests drivers are required to carry in their cars that gave the movement its name. Other demonstrators wore all black, their faces protected with gas masks.
Waving French flags, blowing whistles, and beating drums, some demonstrators marched in northwestern Paris streets, singing their trademark song: “We are here, we are here. Even if Macron doesn’t want it, we are here.”
Dozens of police in riot gear guarded the Arc de Triomphe overlooking the Champs-Elysees, which was the scene of weekly rioting and police crackdowns at the height of last year’s protests.
Corentin Pihel, 28, said he traveled to Paris from Montpellier to mark the movement’s anniversary. He joined the yellow vest movement two weeks after it began, identifying with its mission as a struggling student at the time.
“In the beginning, I found that the movement made a lot of sense, to mobilize from the bottom for better buying power,” Pihel said. “But after, it enlarged its communication to become much greater — it’s just people who want to live. And I felt a real solidarity.”
Cathy Nauleau, 44, came to Paris from eastern France to participate as “we’re still exactly in the same place but we won’t give up.”
The French government has also pledged to cut taxes for households next year by 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion), a spending boost that has its roots in the yellow vest movement.
Rosa Drissi, who joined the movement on its first day, said she struggles to make ends meet with just 800 euros per month. She said she’s protesting “for my retirement, and for my buying power.”
Drissi said the movement has evolved since the start.
“We were novices at the beginning. We didn’t know politics; we didn’t know how to be in the streets. We didn’t know how to protest,” she said. “We made errors, we made mistakes. That’s normal.”
Now, they’ve honed their protest tactics, she said. “We want to be heard. We want money — but just what we need.”
Natasha Weens said she joined the movement in January to push for “a democratic regime.”
“We don’t want any more a representative democracy, but rather participative democracy,” she said.
Some protesters in other countries subsequently adopted the yellow vests as a symbol of anti-government anger.
___
Associated Press writers Angela Charlton and Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.

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