Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Missouri Executes Inmate After Last-Minute Appeal Rejected

Provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections is Andre Cole. Cole, 52, is scheduled to die for killing a man in 1998 in a fit of anger over having to pay child support. (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP)


BONNE TERRE, MISSOURI. (AP) — A Missouri inmate has been executed for killing a man in a fit of rage over child support payments 16 years ago.
Andre Cole, 52, on Tuesday night became the third convicted killer put to death this year in Missouri. His fate was sealed after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down several appeals, including one claiming Cole was mentally ill and unfit for execution.
Also Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon refused a clemency petition that raised concerns about the fact that Cole, who was black, was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. Mike O'Connell, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said Cole was executed by lethal injection at 10:15 p.m. and pronounced dead nine minutes later.
In the execution chamber, Cole nodded as relatives blew kisses his way. He chose not to make a final statement. He breathed deeply a few times as the drug was administered. Cole declined any sedatives prior to the execution. He also declined to order a last meal and instead received the day's inmate tray, O'Connell said.
Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement he hoped "that the sentence carried out tonight brings those forever impacted by this tragedy a sense of justice and a measure of closure." Cole and his wife, Terri, were married for 11 years and had two children before divorcing in 1995. The couple fought about visitation and he was upset about child support payments, authorities said.
By 1998, Cole was $3,000 behind in child support. Koster said Cole became angry when he learned that a payroll withholding order was issued to his employer, taking the money out of his check. "Before I give her another dime, I'll kill (her)," Cole told co-workers, according to Koster.
The first deduction appeared on his Aug. 21, 1998, paycheck. Hours later, Cole forced his way into his ex-wife's home by throwing a tire jack through a glass door, Koster said. He was confronted by Anthony Curtis, a friend who was visiting.
Andre Cole used a kitchen knife to repeatedly stab Curtis, then Terri Cole. Curtis died but Terri Cole survived. Cole fled the state but surrendered 33 days later. He claimed at trial that he did not bring a weapon into Terri Cole's house and that Curtis initiated the attack with a knife.
No relatives of Terri Cole or Anthony Curtis attended the execution. Andre Cole's brother, DeAngelo Cole, 38, of Las Vegas, said the attack was out of character for his sibling. He called it a crime of passion.
"It was a one-time thing," DeAngelo Cole said. "He didn't have a history of that kind of behavior." Cole's attorney, Joseph Luby, said Cole's mental health deteriorated during the more than a decade he spent in prison. He said Cole was plagued by psychosis and constantly heard voices in his head.
The courts were not convinced. Both the Missouri Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the execution based on mental health concerns. The U.S. Supreme Court also turned away appeals based on Missouri's secretive method of obtaining the execution drug pentobarbital and over how instructions were given to the jury.
The jury itself was the source of the clemency request to Nixon. Advocates for Cole, including the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and others, said his case was among many in which St. Louis County prosecutors unfairly prohibited black jurors from hearing a death penalty case involving a black suspect.
All 12 jurors in Cole's case were white. Kimber Edwards, who was scheduled for execution in May, was also convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. The Missouri Supreme Court, without explanation, canceled the execution orders for Edwards earlier this month.
Missouri tied Texas for the most executions in 2014 with 10. Missouri has now executed 15 men since November 2013.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Obama To Remove Cuba From State Sponsor Of Terror List

A taxi driver steers his classic American car through Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. President Barack Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced Tuesday, a key step in his bid to normalize relations between the two countries


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced Tuesday, a key step in his bid to normalize relations between the two countries.
The terror designation has been a stain on Cuba's pride and a major stumbling block for efforts to mend ties between Washington and Havana. In a message to Congress, Obama said the government of Cuba "has not provided any support for international terrorism" over the last six months. He also told lawmakers that Cuba "has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future."
Cuba will officially be removed from the terror list 45 days after the president's message was sent to Congress. Lawmakers could vote to block the move during that window, though Obama would be all-but-certain to veto such a measure.
Cuba's top diplomat for U.S. affairs hailed Obama's action. "The Cuban government recognizes the president of the United States' just decision to take Cuba off a list in which it should never have been included," Josefina Vidal said Tuesday night. "As the Cuban government has said on many occasions, Cuba rejects and condemns all acts of terrorism, in every form, as well as any action aimed at encouraging, supporting, financing or concealing terrorism."
Tuesday's announcement comes days after Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met on the sidelines of a regional summit in Panama. The historic talks marked the first formal meeting between the leaders of their countries in a half-century.
The U.S. has long since stopped actively accusing Cuba of supporting terrorism. When Obama and Castro announced a thaw in relations in December, the U.S. president expressed his willingness to remove Cuba from that list.
However, he held off on making a final decision amid indications that the White House was reluctant to grant Cuba's request until other thorny issues — such as restrictions on U.S. diplomats in Havana — were resolved.
The president's final decision followed a State Department review of Cuba's presence on the list. Removing Cuba from the terror list could pave the way for the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana and other steps. Administration officials said they were optimistic about the prospects of opening the embassy, but did not provide any specific updates in timing.
Cuba was designated a state sponsor of terror in 1982 because of what the White House said was its efforts "to promote armed revolution by organizations that used terrorism." Those efforts included support for leftist guerrilla groups in Central and South America that carried out attacks on civilians in their efforts to overthrow U.S.-backed governments.
State Department reports on the terror list specifically mention Cuba sheltering members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the Spanish Basque separatist group ETA. Cuba has also given shelter to black and Puerto Rican militants who fled to the island after carrying out attacks in the United States.
Cuba renounced its direct support for foreign militants years ago, and is sponsoring peace talks between the FARC and Colombian government. Most of the terror list's direct legal impact is on relatively narrow issues that don't affect Cuba due to the longstanding trade embargo on the island and deep historical enmity between the two nations. For example, the listing bars U.S. arms sales and other aid to Cuba, an issue that's been moot for more than a half-century.
However, Cubans say the listing has badly damaged their ability to conduct international financial transactions by frightening banks away from doing business with the communist government. Those who do businesses with state sponsors of terror are vulnerable to lawsuits in U.S. courts.
Cuba's removal from the terror list will likely make it easier to get credit from non-U.S. banks, transfer funds between countries and conduct a host of other international financial transactions. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that taking Cuba off the terror list does not change the fact that the U.S. has differences with the island nation's government.
"Our concerns over a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism," Earnest said. The terror list has been a particularly charged issue for Cuba because of what the government there sees as the U.S. history of supporting exile groups responsible for attacks on the island, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger flight from Barbados that killed 73 people aboard.
The attack was linked to Cuban exiles with ties to U.S.-backed anti-Castro groups. Both men accused of masterminding the crime took shelter in Florida, where one, Luis Posada Carriles, lives to this day.
Iraida Malberti, the 78-year-old widow of Carlos Alberto Cremata Trujillo, a member of the flight's crew, said Cuba's removal from the list was "a joy." "Cuba never should have been on the list," she said, minutes after the decision was announced. "No decision will bring the victims back to life, or erase the humiliation, suffering and pain that this has caused us."
Until Tuesday, the communist island nation remained one of four countries on the U.S. list of nations accused of repeatedly supporting global terrorism. The others are Iran, Sudan and Syria. __ Associated Press writers Anne-Marie Garcia and Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to this report.
__ Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

A Year After Kidnap Of Schoolgirls In Nigeria, Hope Dwindles

Young girls known as Chibok Ambassadors, carry placards bearing the names of the girls kidnapped from the government secondary school in Chibok, a year ago, during a demonstration, in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Never to be forgotten. The new slogan adopted Tuesday is a sad concession that many believe few of the Chibok girls kidnapped one year ago by Islamic extremists will ever find their way home. On the first anniversary of the day 276 schoolgirls were snatched in the middle of the night as they prepared to write science exams at their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said he cannot promise to find the 219 who are still missing.


LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — They have been gone a year now, the hundreds of girls abducted by Islamic militants from their school in northeastern Nigeria.
And while the cry to "Bring Back Our Girls" remains a worldwide cause, the new president Tuesday would not repeat his predecessor's failed promise to find them — only that they won't be forgotten. A solemn march was held to remember the 219 girls seized from their boarding school in Chibok by gunmen from the Boko Haram extremist group. In Nigeria's capital of Abuja, 219 girls paraded in the streets, with each carrying a placard bearing the name of a kidnap victim.
"We believe the girls are still alive," said Dr. Allan Manasseh, the brother of missing 18-year-old Maryamu Wavi, in an interview with The Associated Press. But it was clear that hope has dwindled a year after the April 14-15 mass abduction.
President-elect Muhammadu Buhari said he must be honest about the prospects of getting the missing girls back to their families. "We do not know if the Chibok girls can be rescued. Their whereabouts remain unknown," Buhari said in a statement. "As much as I wish to, I cannot promise that we can find them."
The statement by Buhari, a former military ruler of Nigeria who was elected last month and takes over May 29, is a marked departure from President Goodluck Jonathan. After Jonathan's administration initially denied there had even been a kidnapping, he made repeated hollow promises that the girls would be rescued.
Campaigners have replaced the slogan of "Bring Back Our Girls — Now and Alive!" with a new one: "Never to be forgotten." Still, some of the marchers Tuesday are holding the new leadership accountable.
"We are here to appeal to the government to do better. We want our girls now and alive," said Solamipe Onifade, 16. A candlelight march was planned for after sundown. The gunmen initially seized 276 girls, but several dozen managed to escape as the militants transported them to the Sambisa Forest, with some clinging to the branches of trees from a moving open-back truck. Those still missing may have been split up. Witnesses said some girls were taken across the border into Cameroon.
Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, claimed they had converted to Islam and been married off to his fighters. A negotiator said that at least three died in the early days, from a snake bite, malaria and dysentery. Then, Jonathan refused to negotiate with Boko Haram, who were offering to exchange the girls for detained insurgents.
The girls became the focus of a global campaign soon after their abduction. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama had said she was "outraged and heartbroken" about the kidnapping and also posted a picture of herself holding a sign reading "#BringBackOurGirls" on her official Twitter account in May 2014.
A hopeful message addressed to the captives from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai promised scholarships for the girls and said they must never lose courage. The 17-year-old Pakistani activist who stood up to the Taliban chastised Jonathan's administration and other countries.
"Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you. They must do much more to help secure your release," she said. Malala said she and millions of people around the world stand in solidarity with "the Chibok girls."
"We cannot imagine the full extent of the horrors you have endured. But please know this: we will never forget you. We will always stand with you. Today and every day, we call on the Nigerian authorities and the international community to do more to bring you home."
In response to charges it has not done enough, the United States in August detailed its contributions to the effort: civilian and humanitarian experts, U.S. military personnel, law enforcement advisers and investigators, and experts in hostage negotiations, strategic communications, civilian security and intelligence. U.S. drones also flew over the Sambisa Forest, but never apparently spotted the girls.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf called Tuesday for "all hostages held by Boko Haram, including these girls, to be released immediately without preconditions." She said a team from a number of U.S. government agencies was in Abuja and "continued to help both in the search, providing training, equipment, to try and help them find not just the girls, but all of those kidnapped by Boko Haram."
In Chibok, dozens of family members and supporters marked the anniversary by gathering at the remains of the school, in front of a burned out and roofless classroom. Young girls held handwritten signs demanding "Bring back our girls — Now and Alive."
One mother, Mariam Abubakar, told the crowd she was in disbelief that the government had been unable to rescue the girls during a whole year. On Monday, a few dozen people marched in Abuja, their mouths shut by red tape.
"When your voice is taken from you, which is what the terrorists have done to our daughters, you can't speak, you don't exist. But our girls exist," said organizer Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister.
The campaign said the Empire State Building in New York will be lit up Tuesday night in the campaign's purple and red colors to symbolize its call for an end to violence against women and girls. At least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since 2014, forced to become sex slaves and fighters, Amnesty International said Tuesday. Unknown hundreds of boys and young men also have been kidnapped and forced to fight for Boko Haram. Those who refuse are killed.
When Boko Haram started using young women and girls as suicide bombers last year, many wondered whether some were the Chibok girls. More such speculation followed when the insurgents beheaded women they had forced into marriage as they fled a military offensive on the border town of Bama last month.
Several of the girls' parents have died — some killed in Boko Haram attacks, some of illnesses like high blood pressure that residents blame on the trauma related to their lost daughters. The Boko Haram attacks continue despite a multinational military offensive that has ousted the Islamic extremists from all major towns in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks. Scores held captive by Boko Haram have been freed. But there has been no whisper of the girls.
Associated Press writers Chika Oduah and Lekan Oyekanmi in Abuja, Ibrahim Abdulaziz in Yola and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pope Sparks Turkish Ire With Armenian "Genocide" Remarks

Prelates wait for the start of an Armenian-Rite Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on the occasion of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, in St. Peter's Basilica, at the Vatican Sunday, April 12, 2015. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey however denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest


VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis sparked a diplomatic incident with Turkey on Sunday by calling the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urging the international community to recognize it as such.
Francis, who has close ties to the Armenian community from his days in Argentina, defended his pronouncement by saying it was his duty to honor the memory of the innocent men, women and children who were "senselessly" murdered by Ottoman Turks 100 years ago this month.
"Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it," he said at the start of a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite in St. Peter's Basilica honoring the centenary.
In a subsequent message directed to all Armenians, Francis called on all heads of state and international organizations to recognize the truth of what transpired and oppose such crimes "without ceding to ambiguity or compromise."
Turkey, which has long denied a genocide took place, immediately summoned the Vatican ambassador to express its displeasure, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Ankara said on customary condition of anonymity.
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey, however, has insisted that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide. It has fiercely lobbied to prevent countries, including the Holy See, from officially recognizing the Armenian massacre as genocide.
Turkey's embassy to the Holy See canceled a planned news conference for Sunday, presumably after learning that the pope would utter the word "genocide" over its objections. Francis' words had immediate effect in St. Peters, bolstering the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Aram I, to thank Francis for his clear condemnation and recall that "genocide" is a crime against humanity that requires reparation.
"International law spells out clearly that condemnation, recognition and reparation of a genocide are closely interconnected," Aram said in English at the end of the Mass to applause from the pews. Speaking as if he were at a political rally, Aram said the Armenian cause is a cause of justice, and that justice is a gift of God. "Therefore, the violation of justice is a sin against God," he said.
The pope's declaration prompted mixed reactions in the streets in Istanbul. Some said they supported it, but others did not agree. "I don't support the word genocide being used by a great religious figure who has many followers," said Mucahit Yucedal, 25. "Genocide is a serious allegation."
Several European countries recognize the massacres as genocide, though Italy and the United States, for example, have avoided using the term officially given the importance they place on Turkey as an ally.
The Holy See, too, places great importance in its relationship with the moderate Muslim nation, especially as it demands Muslim leaders condemn the slaughter of Christians by Muslim extremists in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
But Francis' willingness to rile Ankara with his words showed once again that he has few qualms about taking diplomatic risks for issues close to his heart. He took a similar risk by inviting the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to pray together for peace at the Vatican — a summit that was followed by the outbreak of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Francis is not the first pope to call the massacre a genocide. In his remarks, Francis cited a 2001 declaration signed by St. John Paul II and the Armenian church leader, Karenkin II, which said the deaths were considered "the first genocide of the 20th century."
But the context of Francis' pronunciation was significant: He uttered the words during an Armenian rite Mass in St. Peter's Basilica marking the 100th anniversary of the slaughter, alongside the Armenian Catholic patriarch, Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Armenian Christian church leaders and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who sat in a place of honor in the basilica.
The definition of genocide has long been contentious. The United Nations in 1948 defined genocide as killing and other acts intended to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, but many dispute which mass killings should be called genocide.
In his remarks Sunday, Francis said the Armenian slaughter was the first of three "massive and unprecedented" genocides last century that was followed by the Holocaust and Stalinism. He said other mass killings had followed, including in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia.
"It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by," he said.
Francis has frequently denounced the "complicit silence" of the world community in the face of the modern-day slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamic extremists. During Sunday's Mass, Francis also honored the Armenian community at the start of the Mass by pronouncing a 10th-century Armenian mystic, St. Gregory of Narek, a doctor of the church. Only 35 people have been given the title, which is reserved for those whose writings have greatly served the universal church.
The Mass was rich in traditional Armenian music, with haunting hymns used at key points. Children dressed in traditional costumes presented the gifts at the altar, which was bathed in a cloud of incense.
AP writers Desmond Butler and Ayse Wieting in Istanbul contributed to this report.
Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

Clinton Kicks Off 2016 Campaign Online, Heads Next To Iowa

An unknown artist placed a poster on a traffic signal in front of the building where Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign offices are located, Sunday, April 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. A top adviser to Clinton announced her much-awaited second campaign for the White House on Sunday in an email to alumni of her first presidential campaign.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champion" of everyday Americans.
Clinton opened her bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination by positioning herself as the heir to the diverse coalition of voters who elected her immediate predecessor and former campaign rival, President Barack Obama, as well as an appeal to those in her party still leery of her commitment to fighting income inequality.
And unlike eight years ago, when she ran as a candidate with a deep resume in Washington, Clinton and her personal history weren't the focus of the first message of her campaign. In the online video that kicked off her campaign, she made no mention of her time in the Senate and four years as secretary of state, or the prospect she could make history as the nation's first female president.
Instead, the video is collection of voters talking about their lives, their plans and aspirations for the future. Clinton doesn't appear until the very end. "I'm getting ready to do something, too. I'm running for president," Clinton said. "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
"Every day Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion, so you can do more than just get by. You can get ahead and stay ahead." It's a message that also made an immediate play to win over the support of liberals in her party for whom economic inequality has become a defining issue. They remain skeptical of Clinton's close ties to Wall Street and the centrist economic policies of the administration of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Many had hoped Clinton would face a challenge from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has said she will not run. "It would do her well electorally to be firmly on the side of average working people who are working harder than ever and still not getting ahead," said economist Robert Reich, a former labor secretary during the Clinton administration who has known Hillary Clinton for nearly five decades.
Unlike some of the Republicans who have entered the race, Clinton was scant on policy specifics on her first day as a candidate. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, for example, kicked off his campaign with a website and online videos that described his positions on an array of domestic and foreign policy issues.
Clinton also began her campaign for president in 2007 with a video, followed by a splashy rally in Des Moines where she said, "I'm running for president, and I'm in it to win it." This time around, Clinton will instead head this week to the first-to-vote Iowa, looking to connect with voters directly at a community college and small business roundtable in two small towns.
"When families are strong, America is strong. So I'm hitting the road to earn your vote. Because it's your time. And I hope you'll join me on this journey," she said in the video. This voter-centric approach was picked with a purpose, her advisers said, to show that Clinton is not taking the nomination for granted. Her campaign said Sunday she would spend the next six to eight weeks in a "ramp-up" period, and she would not hold her first rally and deliver a campaign kickoff speech until May.
Clinton is the first high-profile Democrat to get into the race, and she quickly won the endorsement of several leading members of her party, including her home state governor, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
Still, there are some lesser-known Democrats who are considering challenging her, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. "During this campaign, it is imperative that Secretary Clinton, like every other candidate, address the great challenges of our time: the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that is crushing our middle class," Sanders said.
The GOP did not wait for her announcement to begin their campaign against her. The party's chairman, Reince Priebus, has outlined plans for a broad effort to try to undermine her record as secretary of state while arguing that her election would be like giving Obama a "third term."
Republicans have also jumped on Clinton's use of a personal email account and server while she was secretary of state, as well as her handling of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in his own online video, said Sunday: "We must do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies."
Should she win the Democratic nomination, Clinton will need to overcome history to win the White House. In the last half-century, the same party has held the White House for three consecutive terms only once, during the administrations of Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
As part of her launch, Clinton also will leave the board of her family's foundation. The 2016 campaign is likely to be the most expensive in history, with total spending on both sides expected to well exceed the more than $1 billion spent by each of the two nominees' campaigns four years ago.
This weekend, Clinton campaign fundraisers escalated their outreach to Democratic donors, who largely back her bid, with a flurry of phone calls urging them to donate as soon as possible. Her team on Sunday encouraged donors to become "Hillstarters" by raising $27,000 for the campaign in the next 30 days.
AP White House correspondent Julie Pace in Chicago contributed to this report.
Follow Ken Thomas and Lisa Lerer on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/kthomasdc and http://twitter.com/llerer

Video: Islamic State Groups Destroys Ancient Ruins Of Nimrud

A militant taking a sledgehammer to an Assyrian relief at the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which dates back to the 13th century B.C., near the militant-held city of Mosul, Iraq. The destruction at Nimrud, follows other attacks on antiquity carried out by the group now holding a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The attacks have horrified archaeologists and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month called the destruction at Nimrud "a war crime."(militant video via AP)


BAGHDAD (AP) — Islamic State militants hammered, bulldozed and ultimately blew up parts of the ancient Iraqi Assyrian city of Nimrud, destroying a site dating back to the 13th century B.C., an online militant video purportedly shows.
The destruction at Nimrud, located near the militant-held city of Mosul, came amid other attacks on antiquity carried out by the group now holding a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The attacks have horrified archaeologists and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who last month called the destruction at Nimrud "a war crime."
The seven-minute video, posted late Saturday, shows bearded militants using sledgehammers, jackhammers and saws to take down huge alabaster reliefs depicting Assyrian kings and deities. A bulldozer brings down walls, while militants fill barrels with explosives and later destroy three separate areas of the site in massive explosions.
"God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statutes worshipped instead of Allah in the past days," one militant says in the video. Another militant vows that "whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism."
The militants have been destroying ancient relics they say promote idolatry that violate their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law, including the ancient Iraqi city of Hatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Authorities also believe they've sold others on the black market to fund their atrocities.
Some of the figures in the video released Saturday at Nimrud appeared to have rebar, ribbed bars of steels designed to reinforce concrete that are a technique of modern building. An Iraqi Antiquities Ministry official, speaking Sunday on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to talk to journalists, said all the items at Nimrud were authentic. In March, both Iraqi and United Nations officials warned the site had been looted and damaged.
The video conformed to other Associated Press reporting about the militants' attack. The Assyrians first rose around 2,500 B.C. and at one point ruled over a realm stretching from the Mediterranean coast to what is present-day Iran. They left dozens of palaces and temples decorated with huge reliefs mainly depicting their kings' military campaigns and conquests, hunting lions and making sacrifices to the gods. Their main hallmark was the colossal winged man-headed lions or bulls, protective deities put at the entrances of palaces and temples weighing about 10-30 tons each.
Located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, Nimrud, or Kalhu, was founded in the 13th century B.C. During the reign of King Ashurnasirpal II, Nimrud served as the second capital for Assyrian Empire. Other Assyrian capitals were Ashur, Dur Sharrukin and Ninevah.
Excavations at Nimrud were first started by the British traveler and archaeologist Austen Henry Layard from 1845 to 1851, followed by other foreign and local excavation missions. The city is surrounded by a four-side wall measuring 8 kilometers (5 miles) long. Among the ruins are the grand palace of Ashurnasirpal II, as well as the temples of Nabu, the god of writing and the arts, and other temples.
Among the most significant discoveries at Nimrud were four tombs of royal women. There, a collection of 613 pieces of gold jewelry and precious stones were unearthed. They survived the looting of the Iraqi National Museum that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 as they were kept in a vault at the Central Bank of Iraq building by Saddam Hussein's government.
Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Latest On Americas Summit: Summit Wraps Up 5 Hours Late

Cuba's President Raul Castro talks at reporters before turning to leave the staging area of the official group photo of the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, Saturday, April 11, 2015. Castro is flanked by his personal assistant and grandson, Raul Guillermo Rodriguez Castro, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, and Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves. Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama held their first formal meeting in more than half a century on Saturday, clearing the way for a normalization of relations. (AP Photo)


9:40 p.m. (0240 GMT, 10:40 p.m. EDT)
Cheers have broken out in the media center of the Summit Americas after Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela declared the gathering over. Saturday's conference was a marathon session that ran about five hours over schedule, with a number of leaders speaking well beyond the recommended eight minutes.
Cuba's Raul Castro was among the most loquacious, clocking in at 49 minutes after joking that his country had not been allowed to attend the regional gathering until now so he was owed the equivalent of six speeches.
8:00 p.m. (0100 GMT, 9:00 p.m. EDT)
Next stop on the road to reconciliation between the United States and Latin America: Peru.
At the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas on Saturday, host Panama announced that the next edition of the regional gathering of hemispheric leaders will take place three years from now in the Andean nation.
7:00 p.m. (2400 GMT, 8:00 p.m. EDT)
Cuba's foreign minister says the meeting between presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro helped both leaders understand, face-to-face, each side's respective interests and also the areas where the two countries don't agree.
Bruno Rodriguez says that "we have found common ground in the willingness to have a civilized behavior that respects our differences."
Rodriguez says the encounter on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas lasted an hour and 20 minutes. He adds that there is still no timeline for re-establishing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, which were severed in 1961.
6:10 p.m. (2310 GMT, 7:10 p.m. EDT)
President Barack Obama has met privately with his Venezuelan counterpart amid a deepening dispute over recent U.S. sanctions on seven senior Venezuelan officials.
Venezuela's presidential office says Obama and President Nicolas Maduro met on the sidelines of the Summit of Americas in Panama on Saturday.
Maduro aide Teresa Maniglia says in a tweet that "there was a lot of truth, respect and cordiality" at the meeting.
She says the two leaders greeted each other in Spanish but offers no additional details.
There has been no immediate comment from the White House and Obama did not mention the encounter in remarks at the conclusion of the summit.
5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT, 6:30 p.m. EDT)
Cubans are hailing Saturday's historic meeting between presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama but say they want to see their lives improve faster as a result of warming ties between the Cold War foes.
Havana residents stopped in the middle of their Saturday errands or family time to watch Castro and Obama shaking hands and addressing the press about their reestablishment of diplomatic ties and saying they agreed about the need for progress.
Retired office worker Magaly Delgado said: "I like that Raul left all the doors open. That seems important to me. We'll see if it leads to results."
Street performer Rosa Marie Argudin said, "It's been years that we've been waiting for something like this. I hope this doesn't just remain a conversation."
—Michael Weissenstein, Associated Press writer in Havana
3:45 p.m. (2045 GMT, 4:45 p.m. EDT)
President Barack Obama says it is time to "turn the page" on old divisions when it comes to the United States' relationship with its longtime adversary, Cuba.
As Obama opened a meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, he told reporters, "It was my belief it was time to try something new, that it was important for us to engage more directly with the Cuban government."
"And more importantly, with Cuban people," the president added.
Castro said he was ready to discuss sensitive issues, including human rights and freedom of the press.
"We are disposed to talk about everything — with patience," Castro said in Spanish. "Some things we will agree with, and others we won't."
The two are meeting in Panama on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas.
2:45 p.m. (1945 GMT, 3:45 p.m. EDT)
History is being made at the Summit of the Americas.
President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are holding the first substantive meeting between leaders of their countries in more than five decades.
The face-to-face exchange is the latest step in the effort the leaders announced in December to move past years of suspicion and hostility and restore diplomatic relations between the American superpower and the communist island nation situated less than 100 miles off the U.S. southern coast.
Obama and Castro shook hands and exchanged pleasantries before the summit's opening ceremony Friday night.
They also spoke by telephone on Wednesday before Obama departed the White House.
2:40 p.m. (1940 GMT, 3:40 EDT)
President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico is expressing support for negotiations to improve relations between Cuba and the United States, countries he describes as "two great friends of Mexico."
Pena Nieto says, "The leaders of both nations have reminded the world that openness to dialogue is charged with promise and possibilities."
Pena Nieto comments came at a plenary session of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.
1:45 p.m. (1845 GMT, 2:45 p.m. EDT)
U.S. President Barack Obama and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia have concluded a meeting on the margins of the Summit of the Americas.
The White House says the leaders noted there has been progress since a 2012 summit on the Colombia peace process.
Obama also expressed his continued support for Colombia as it works through victims' rights and other issues related to the peace talks.
He told Santos the appointment of a U.S. special envoy to the peace process symbolizes shared hope for a stable and lasting peace in Colombia.
1:30 p.m. (1830 GMT, 2:30 p.m. EDT)
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is holding out an olive branch of sorts to President Barack Obama, saying he's willing to forgive a long history of aggressions against his socialist government and work to repair relations.
The two countries have seen relations fall to a new low since the White House slapped sanctions on senior officials for alleged human rights abuses. In a 40-minute speech at the Summit of the Americas, Maduro said any effort to normalize relations depends on the U.S repealing the financial and travel sanctions.
Maduro said he's been waiting for more than a year for the Obama administration to respond to his invitation to exchange ambassadors for the first time since 2010.
Obama wasn't present for Maduro's remarks at the Summit of the Americas. He had stepped away from the plenary session earlier to attend a bilateral meeting with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.
1:15 p.m. (1815 GMT, 2:15 p.m. EDT)
Cuba is dedicating a special TV channel to live coverage of the Summit of the Americas, but relatively few in Havana seemed to be watching when Raul Castro made his impassioned speech. Many capital residents said they had no idea it was going to be on.
Sixty-nine-year-old retired lawyer Paco Soler was one of the few who caught Castro's remarks, watching from a bar in the Vedado district.
Soler was struck by Castro's remark absolving President Obama of blame for the past.
Soler says that comment is "an elegant way to create a positive atmosphere for the possible meeting between the two presidents."
Seventy-five-year-old retiree Diego Reyes saw footage of last night's historic handshake between the two presidents on TV but was unimpressed.
In his words, "What I want is for them not to shake hands so much, not to talk so much, but to do something concrete that fixes something."
He complained that since the Dec. 17 announcement that the U.S. and Cuba would move to restore diplomatic relations, "nothing has changed for regular Cubans. And what we're waiting for is an improvement."
—Anne-Marie Garcia, Associated Press writer in Havana.
12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:15 p.m. EDT)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is one of several leaders criticizing recent U.S. sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials whom Washington accuses of human rights abuses related to anti-government protests last year.
"This good moment for hemispheric relations can no longer allow unilateral measures and policies of isolation in general, and they are always counterproductive and ineffective," Rousseff says, according to a translation of her remarks into Spanish. "For that reason we reject the adoption of sanctions against Venezuela."
She adds that the South American regional bloc UNASUR supports dialogue to ease political tensions in Venezuela.
12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:15 p.m. EDT)
One prominent face is missing as leaders of the Americas meet in Panama.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet scrapped plans to attend in order to oversee her country's recovery from devastating floods that have killed at least 26 people and left more than 100 missing.
Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz is representing Chile in her stead.
11:45 a.m. (1645 GMT, 12:45 p.m. EDT)
Cuba's President is offering effusive praise for President Barack Obama and his decision to restore ties with the communist island even as he catalogues more than a century of grievances against the United States.
Raul Castro says Obama bears no responsibility for past aggressions against Cuba.
In a speech at the Summit of Americas he thanked Obama for his historic decision to try to overcome the past, beginning with his consideration to remove Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
To the applause of hemispheric leaders, Castro drew attention to Obama's modest origins, saying it was the source for his decision to turn a new page in relations with the former Cold War enemy.
11:30 a.m. (1630 GMT, 12:30 p.m. EDT)
Cuban President Raul Castro has lightened the mood at the Summit of the Americas with a wry crack at his country's longtime absence from the gathering.
Castro noted that the leaders' speeches were supposed to last around eight minutes. But he asked for special dispensation.
"Since you owe me six summits when you excluded me, six times eight is 48," he said to laughter.
This is the first time Cuba has taken part in the summit.
11:15 a.m. (1615 GMT, 1215 EDT)
U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing back against Latin America's criticism of his recent sanctioning of Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses
During his speech at the Summit of Americas, Obama said that when the United States speaks against injustices it sees around the world, it's not seeking to meddle in the affairs of other nations but rather to live up to the democratic ideals it defends at home.
While he didn't cite Venezuela by name, he said the U.S. would continue to promote the right of Latin Americans to peacefully demonstrate against governments without fear of arrest or retribution.
He cited the history of segregation in the southern United States as evidence that the U.S.'s record for freedom is far from perfect — a point made earlier by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa,.
He noted that many of the ideological battles and dark chapters of past U.S. interventions in Latin America date from before he was born. He encouraged leaders to work together to solve the problems of the future in areas ranging from protection of the environment to reducing inequality.
11:15 a.m. (1615 GMT, 1215 EDT)
President Barack Obama blasted back at Ecuador's President Rafael Correa for his criticism of the United States.
Correa says that when it comes to Latin America, the U.S. has failed to live up to its founders' ideals of freedom. Obama responded that he is very aware that the U.S. has "dark chapters" of its own history, but the lessons learned are precisely why he speaks out on human rights abuses abroad.
Obama says talking about past grievances and using the United States as an excuse for domestic political problems won't bring progress.
Obama reproved Correa for trying to silence criticism of his government by prosecuting owners of some of the country's biggest media outlets.
Obama says he doesn't like media coverage that criticizes him either. But he says democracy means everyone has the opportunity to offer opinions.
11:00 a.m. (1600 GMT, 12:00 p.m. EDT)
President Barack Obama says when it comes to relations with Cuba, the United States will not be imprisoned by the past.
Obama says he's looking for a new relationship with Cuba that's not caught up in ideological arguments. He says the Cold War is over and he's not interested in battles that started before he was born.
The U.S. president spoke to assembled leaders at the Summit of the Americas ahead of a highly anticipated meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday.
He says both he and Castro would say there will continue to be significant differences between their two countries. But he says reopening diplomatic relations allows more Americans to travel to Cuba and gives more opportunity and resource to the Cuban people.
10:45 a.m. (1545 GMT, 11:45 EDT)
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa is borrowing the U.S. Declaration of Independence to take a swipe at critics at home and abroad.
The leftist leader has been accused by human rights groups of trying to silence criticism of his government by prosecuting owners of some of the country's biggest media outlets.
On Saturday, in a speech at the Summit of Americas, he cited a history of U.S. military interventions and strong-arm tactics to denounce what he said was the failure of the United States to live up to Thomas Jefferson's ideals of freedom when it comes to its relationship with Latin America.
"The elites of Latin America are incapable of understanding that inalienable rights are for everyone," said Correa, a U.S.-trained economist.
10:15 a.m. (1515 GMT, 11:15 EDT)
The changing face of politics in Latin America: sitting behind Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos are two openly gay cabinet members
Education Minister Gina Parody is a partner of Trade Minister Cecilia Alvarez. Both are seated behind Santos at the start of the plenary session at the Summit of the Americas.
Conservative critics blasted the couple after they spoke publicly about their relationship for the first time late last year. But that hasn't prevented Santos from singing their praises, especially of Parody, whose focus on improving the quality of education in Colombia has made her into one of the country's most popular politicians.
9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT, 10:45 a.m. EDT)
Its kickoff time for a marathon session of speeches at the plenary session of the Summit of the Americas.
More than 30 heads of state have gathered inside the Atlapa Convention Center.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak fifth, while a highly anticipated speech President Raul Castro, who is representing communist Cuba at the summit for the first time, comes near the end of the morning session.
Each leader is expected to address delegates for no more than 10 minutes but that may not stop some.
At the 2009 summit in Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega delivered an hour-long denunciation of U.S. military incursions in Latin America.