Search This Blog

Loading...

Kenya track federation HQ under police protection

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The headquarters of the Kenyan track and field federation is under police guard because of fears that an athletes' group might again take over the premises in protest. Athletics Kenya President Jackson Tuwei says the federation called in police to help secure its HQ this week. Tuwei says he also fears the group will try and disrupt the Kenyan national championships, which start Friday. Athletes linked to the Professional Athletes Association of Kenya occupied the federation building for two days in November in protest at alleged corruption by officials. The PAAK says the federation has not honored an agreement they made to end that standoff last year. Among its grievances, the PAAK says there have not been proper elections to replace four senior officials currently under investigation for corruption.

GOP senators attack top Democrat for defense bill delay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans angrily denounced the Senate's top Democrat Wednesday for delaying debate on defense policy legislation, calling Sen. Harry Reid's leadership "cancerous" and saying he was holding up the $602 billion bill to preserve his "sad, sorry legacy." Reid also came under fire for saying the bill was crafted "behind closed doors and in secret sessions" by the Armed Services Committee chairman, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. Reid said senators needed more time to examine the more than 1,600-page bill before being asked to vote on it. The criticism turned personal when Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Reid was delaying the bill only to preserve his "sad, sorry legacy." Cotton, who served on active duty as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan before being elected to Congress, said Reid's accusation that McCain wrote the bill in secret was "outrageous slander." "The happy by-product of fewer days in session in the Senate is that this institution will be cursed less with his cancerous leadership," Cotton said of Reid in a verbal assault unusual for a chamber that reveres decorum. McCain said all 12 Democrats on the Armed Services Committee voted two weeks ago in favor of reporting the bill to the full Senate. He also said lawmakers have had ample time to review the legislation. But Reid, a Nevada Democrat, refused to budge, which means the Senate's consideration of the bill may now be delayed until early June when the Senate returns from a weeklong break. He also raised objections to McCain's plan to seek an increase of as much as $18 billion in defense spending, saying that domestic programs also are in dire need of more money. "Republicans refuse to provide the needed funding to fight the Zika virus, to stop the plague of opioid abuse, to help repair the drinking water of Flint, Michigan, or to provide additional funding for local law enforcement, our intelligence agencies, and our first responders," Reid said. "That's just wrong." Overall, the defense policy bill the Senate will take up provides $602 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 for the Defense Department and nuclear weapons programs managed by the Energy Department. The legislative package prohibits the Obama administration from transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, requires women to register for a potential military draft, and proposes numerous changes to the military health system to improve the quality of care. McCain and other senators said they also will seek to preserve a program that issues visas to Afghan civilians who assisted the American-led coalition as interpreters, firefighters and construction workers so they can resettle in the United States. The top U.S. officer in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, has warned that these workers are viewed as traitors by the Taliban for siding with the coalition and are in danger of being harmed or killed if Congress cancels the visa program. But critics of the program have said it could cost as much as $446 million over the next 10 years and could lead to an exodus of talented, educated Afghans from a country in need of their skills.

Bourgue inspired by Muhammad Ali at French Open

PARIS (AP) — A video of Muhammad Ali fired up French wild-card entry Mathias Bourgue before he took on Andy Murray at the French Open. The 22-year-old French player ranked 164th led 2-1 in sets before bowing out 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Wednesday. He said his coach Olivier Malcor made him watch footage featuring Ali just before entering the Philippe Chatrier court. "And he said, "When I box, I want to box in front of a big crowd'," Bourgue told a press conference. "It was very emotional. I think I entered the court with the right mindset. Even if I was a bit tense in the first set. I felt good." ___ 8:00 p.m. Milos Raonic faced little resistance as he posted a 50th Grand Slam match win on Wednesday at the French Open. The eighth-seeded Canadian advanced to the third round for the fourth time on the Parisian red clay with a clinical 6-1, 7-6 (0), 6-1 win over 58th-ranked Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. Raonic did not face a single break point and made only 17 unforced errors.

What to know about long lines at airport security

NEW YORK (AP) — Fliers should brace for long waits at airport security over the holiday weekend. In recent weeks, some major airports saw wait times exceeding 90 minutes at peak hours, and passengers missed flights waiting to get through security. There have been encouraging developments in the last few days. After Chicago officials threatened to privatize security at the city's two big airports, the Transportation Security Administration moved dozens of part-time screeners to full-time and brought in more canine units to sniff passengers for explosives. Waits at Chicago's O'Hare Airport — one of the most delay-plagued in the nation — have shrunk to around 15 minutes, according to an American Airlines spokeswoman. A Baltimore attorney tweeted Tuesday that he got through the expedited security line there in 10 minutes. The deluge of photos posted on social media sites with the #iHateTheWait hashtag slowed to a trickle. Still, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says the average wait time nationally is about 30 minutes and about five minutes for expedited PreCheck lines. And that is before the unofficial start of summer. Here's a look at the problem and what travelers should expect. Q: Why have the waits been so long? A: More people are flying, thanks to a mix of a strong economy, more flights and lower fares. At the same time, the Transportation Security Administration needs more screeners. The TSA and Congress cut the number of screeners by 10 percent on expectations that an expedited screening program called PreCheck would speed up the lines. However, not enough people enrolled. The TSA had been randomly placing passengers into the faster PreCheck lanes under a program dubbed "managed inclusion," but that stopped in the fall after government auditors found lapses in security. Q: Will there be long lines for my flight? A: Right now it's hard to tell. The airline industry has criticized the TSA for a lack of up-to-date information — you can readily find information on highway traffic delays but not delays in airport security lines. A TSA spokesman says the agency will post current wait times by mid-June. The worst waits have been at the largest airports during peak hours. But during slower hours, the TSA staffs fewer lanes and that might cause backups. The TSA suggests passengers arrive at least two hours before domestic flights but some in the airline industry are now saying to allow even more time. Q: What is the government doing about it? A: Congress agreed to shift forward $34 million in TSA funding, allowing the agency to pay overtime to its existing staff and hire an extra 768 screeners by June 15. But there is no grand plan to return staffing to former levels. Some passengers can still randomly be placed in PreCheck based on their age or if an explosive-detecting dogs first screen them, but those are small numbers. The TSA is relocating screeners and canine teams to the 20 busiest airports, such as Chicago's O'Hare. Q: What are the airlines doing to help? A: American Airlines and United Airlines all say they are spending $4 million each to bring in contract employees who can take over non-screening chores such as handling bins and managing lines, freeing up TSA agents to focus on screening. A spokesman says Delta Air Lines will spend between $3 million and $4 million and is also redesigning two checkpoint lanes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to speed things up before Memorial Day. Q: What can I do to speed up the line? A: Don't carry a bag on the plane if you can avoid it. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told a congressional hearing Wednesday that the large volume of carry-on bags has put extra pressure on screeners. Whether carrying on a bag or not, each passenger should have their ID and boarding pass ready. Before reaching the X-ray machine, empty your pockets and place your keys, cellphone, change and any metallic jewelry into your carry-on bag. Wearing slip-on, slip-off shoes also helps. Q: What if I miss my flight? A: For now, airlines have been finding space for them on later flights. But on the busiest travel days there are very few empty seats to accommodate anybody who misses a flight.

New cloud formation discovery may lessen warming forecast

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new discovery about how clouds form may scale back some of the more dire predictions about temperature increases caused by man-made global warming. That's because it implies that a key assumption for making such predictions is a bit off. "What this will do is slightly reduce and sharpen the projections for temperature during the 21st century," said researcher Jasper Kirkby. Nonetheless, he added, "We are definitely warming the planet." Kirkby works at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, near Geneva. He is the lead author of one of three studies on the topic released Wednesday by the journals Nature and Science. Essentially, the work reveals a previously unknown natural process that in a complex way creates atmospheric particles around which clouds form. The most common source of particles is air pollution, usually sulfuric acid from the burning of fossil fuels. There are also natural sources, but they have been considered far less important for cloud formation. The new work shows that a combination of cosmic rays from space and gases emitted by trees also creates particles, and then clouds, without man-made pollution. The scientists witnessed this in a cloud simulation chamber and from a Swiss mountaintop observatory more than two miles high (3.5 kilometers). "This process is only effective in pristine environments and there are very, very few pristine environments left on Earth," Kirkby said. Nowadays, the process is overwhelmed by pollution particles. To a layman, the significance of this for predictions of global warming may appear a bit, um, cloudy. But here's how it works: The computer models used to make those predictions require making assumptions about what conditions were like before industrialization, when the widespread burning of coal, oil and gas began pumping greenhouse gases into the air. Clouds are an important factor in this because they cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back to space. Nobody knows just how cloudy skies were in the old days. Scientists have figured there were far fewer clouds than now, Kirkby said. But the discovery of a new natural route to cloud formation suggests that cloud cover was in fact greater than scientists had assumed. If so, the way these simulations work, it would mean that greenhouse gases haven't been quite as potent in producing warming so far as scientists thought. So, ton for ton, they may not be quite as potent in producing future warming either. Kirkby said it's too soon to tell how much less warming the new study implies. Other recent studies found flaws in climate forecasts because of uncertainty about clouds that would increase, not decrease, possible warming in the future. A better understanding of clouds is good, but much more work is needed before scientists dial down warming estimates for the future, said Yale scientist Trude Storelvmo and NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel, who didn't participate in the new work.

Kurdish rebel car bombing kills 3: Turkish official

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish official says a car bombing by Kurdish rebels against a gendarmerie station near the Syrian border has killed three people. The official said the attack in the town of Midyat, in Mardin province, killed two government-employed village guards and a junior officer. The station chief was seriously wounded. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. A cease-fire between the sides collapsed last summer leading to a surge of violence, including PKK bomb attacks against police and military personnel and large-scale military operations to flush out the rebels. Turkish warplanes regularly raid PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Little-known extremist cleric chosen to lead Afghan Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A little-known extremist cleric was chosen Wednesday to be the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, just days after a U.S. drone strike killed his predecessor. But within hours of the Taliban's announcement that the group's council of leaders had unanimously selected Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, opposition to him emerged — a sign that rifts within the insurgency could widen and possibly drive the Taliban further from peace talks with the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban called on all Muslims to support Akhundzada as a matter of religious obligation and declared three days of official mourning for Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour, who was slain Saturday by a U.S. drone in Pakistan. The announcement came as a suicide bomber struck a minibus carrying court employees in Kabul, killing at least 11 people, an official said. The Taliban promptly claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghan government officials took the opportunity of Akhundzada's ascension to again offer direct negotiations aimed at ending the Taliban's 15-year insurgency. Both Kabul and Washington considered Mansour to be an obstacle to the peace process. The office of President Ashraf Ghani said the latest developments brought the Taliban "yet another opportunity to end and renounce violence, lay down their arms, and resume a normal and peaceful life." Deputy presidential spokesman Zafar Hashemi said if the Taliban decide against joining the peace process, "they will face the fate of their leadership." Hours after the Taliban's statement on their new leader was made to the media, the head of a main dissident faction that broke away last year to protest Mansour's elevation said the group would not accept Akhundzada either. The breakaway faction, led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool, did not appear to object so much to Akhundzada as to the closed and undemocratic manner of the selection process by the council, which is believed to have met in Pakistan. Rasool's splinter group is based in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, and has fought fierce battles in the south with Mansour loyalists. Rasool's deputy, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, said the faction would not accept Akhundzada's leadership for the same reason they rejected Mansour: He was elected by a small clique of Pakistan-based insiders with little input from the rank-and-file or field commanders in Afghanistan. "For us, the issue with Mullah Akhtar Mansour and this Haibatullah is the same," Niazi said. "We were not against Mullah Akhtar Mansour but the way he was selected, and yet again they sit together and choose one another. ... We will not accept him as a new leader until and unless all religious scholars and tribal elders sit together and appoint a new leader." Akhundzada, believed to be in his 50s, is a religious scholar who was the Taliban's chief justice before his appointment as a deputy to Mansour. He is known for public statements justifying the Taliban's extremist tactics and their war against the Afghan government. His views are regarded as hawkish, and he is expected to continue the aggressive style of Mansour, who refused offers to negotiate with the Kabul government and launched a series of bold attacks during his brief and divisive rule. Akhundzada is regarded as a convincing orator and was close to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, who consulted with him on religious matters. A member of the Noorzai tribe, Akhundzada comes from a line of religious scholars and heads a string of madrassas, or religious schools, across Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province. Pakistani authorities have long been accused by both Kabul and Washington of giving shelter and support to some Taliban leaders — an accusation that Islamabad denies. The insurgents have been fighting to overthrow the Kabul government since 2001, when their own Islamic regime was removed by the U.S. invasion. Mansour officially became leader of the Taliban last summer, when the 2013 death of Mullah Omar was revealed, but he is believed to have run the movement in Mullah Omar's name. The revelation of Mansour's apparent deception led to widespread mistrust among senior Taliban commanders, with several factions breaking away and fighting Mansour loyalists in Afghanistan's poppy-growing southern Taliban heartland. Senior Taliban figures had hoped Mansour's death and Akhundzada's ascension could help heal some of those rifts. A former foreign minister under the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Ghous, told The Associated Press that Akhundzada was well-respected inside the movement and choosing him as leader was "a very wise decision." The Taliban statement also said two new deputies to Akhundzada have been appointed — both of whom had earlier been considered to be among the main contenders for the top job. One of them is Sirajuddin Haqqani, who was also one of Mansour's deputies and who leads the notorious Haqqani network — the faction behind some of the most ferocious attacks in Afghanistan since 2001. The other is the son of Mullah Omar, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, who controls the Taliban military commissions for 15 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Akhundzada's appointment came as a surprise to some, including Ghous, who said that despite not being a top contender but a "third candidate," the new leader would rise above any personal animosity or conflict that might have arisen had either Haqqani or Yaqoub been chosen.

SA coach Domingo backs 'champion' Steyn to get back to best

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa coach Russell Domingo called Dale Steyn a "champion" bowler on Wednesday and backed the pacer to return to top form. Domingo was speaking as South Africa's squad prepared to depart for a triangular limited-overs series in the Caribbean without their No. 1 quick bowler. Steyn struggled with a series of injuries over the last 12 months and was rested for the tour by South Africa. Instead, he will get some match practice with Twenty20 stints for Glamorgan and in the Caribbean Premier League. Steyn's fitness struggles raised concerns last season in South Africa that, at 32, he might be approaching the end of his career. He'll turn 33 next month. "Dale Steyn is a champion bowler, he just hasn't played too much recently," Domingo said. "Often with players like Dale, when you write them off, that's when they become the most dangerous." Steyn's latest injury, a right shoulder problem, forced him to miss most of the home test series loss to England at the start of the year. He played only two games in the World Twenty20, when he appeared to be missing his usual menace and hadn't fully recovered from the injury to his bowling arm. South Africa's decision to rest Steyn for the triangular series against West Indies and Australia is part of a plan to keep him fresh for the upcoming test season. South Africa hosts New Zealand in August and then tours Australia for three tests in November. Steyn has 406 test wickets and is closing in on Shaun Pollock's South African record of 421. He could pass the mark this season. South Africa also has a new fast-bowling star to fall back on. Domingo said there would now be a temptation to play 21-year-old speedster Kagiso Rabada in every game and every series the Proteas play. "We need to be very careful about that," Domingo said. The coach also had an interesting take on the importance of being the top-ranked test team after South Africa was knocked off No. 1 with that defeat to England. "When you're number one, it's important. When you're not, it's not," Domingo said. South Africa won't have Steyn in the Caribbean but will have captain AB de Villiers following some sensational batting performances in the IPL. De Villiers is expected to join the South African squad after Sunday's IPL final and before the Proteas' first game against West Indies in Guyana next Friday.

Church slaying families accept pursuit of death penalty

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Several family members of the nine people gunned down at a historic black church in Charleston say they support decisions by state and federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the man charged in the slayings. Steve Hurd, whose wife, Cynthia, was among those killed June 17 during Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal, said he won't be at peace until Dylann Roof is put to death. "What would give me full closure would be if I were the one who pushed the plunger on the lethal injection, or if I were the one to pull the switch on the electric chair or if I was the one to open the valve on the gas chamber," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. When "Roof's body is cold, sleeping in the ground — that's closure." Roof, 22, faces nine counts of murder in state court and hate crimes and other charges in federal court. The killings reignited discussions about race relations and led to the removal of a Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina Statehouse. Roof, who is white, had previously posed for photos with a rebel flag. This week, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty. South Carolina Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced her decision in September. Roof's state trial is scheduled for next year. No date has been set for his federal trial. When Roof faced a judge last summer, family members of the victims told him they forgave him for his alleged crimes. Their expressions of grace and sympathy, in the face of their own monumental pain, moved many. "As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you," said Felicia Sanders, whose son Tywanza was killed. "But may God have mercy on your soul." In a statement released through Roof's lawyer at the time, his family said they had been "touched by the moving words ... offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering." Both state and federal prosecutors have spent time consulting with relatives of the shooting victims over the pursuit of the death penalty, and Roof's federal attorneys have said their client would be willing to plead guilty if the maximum punishment weren't on the table. Due in part to problems in obtaining lethal injection drugs, no one has been executed in South Carolina since 2011. The federal government hasn't put anyone to death since 2003. "There is no room in our society for hatred and racism," Hurd's brother Malcolm Graham said. "I support the attorney general's decision to seek the death penalty. I believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." On Wednesday, a portrait was set to unveiled in the South Carolina Senate to remember Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor at Emanuel who was killed in the attack. Pinckney had been a state senator since 2001.

Paris auction house defends divisive sale of tribal items

PARIS (AP) — A Paris auction house has defended its practices as within the law after Native American leaders in Washington protested its latest plan to sell off part of their tribal history, getting bi-partisan support. Hundreds of religious tribal items and art objects are going up for bidding Monday at EVE auction house, including sacred Hopi objects that resemble masks and are considered to be living beings by the tribe. EVE director Alain Leroy told The Associated Press on Wednesday that "all the items proposed are of legal trade" and that "the public auction process allows the different tribes to acquire their past, and that is exactly what some tribes prefer to do, seeking efficiency and discretion." U.S. laws prohibiting the sale of Native American ceremonial items hold no weight in France.