Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Index Ranks Norway Tops For Well-Being Of Elderly

AP80-year-old Marianne Blomberg works out at a gym in Stockholm. A global index reflecting economic security, health and other factors released Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 ranks Norway and Sweden with the highest level of well-being for older people.


NEW YORK (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A global index reflecting economic security, health and other factors — and not deducting for cold winters — ranks Norway and Sweden with the highest level of well-being for older people. Of the 96 nations in the index, Afghanistan ranked last.
The Global AgeWatch Index, released on Tuesday, was compiled by HelpAge International, a London-based nonprofit with affiliates in 65 countries. Its mission is to help older people challenge discrimination, overcome poverty and lead secure, active lives.
The 13 indicators measured in the index include life expectancy, coverage by pension plans, access to public transit, and the poverty rate for people over 60. Scores of countries were not ranked due to lack of data for some of the criteria, but HelpAge said the countries included in the index are home to about 90 percent of the world's 60-plus population.
Switzerland, Canada and Germany joined Norway and Sweden in the top five. The United States was eighth, Japan ninth, China 48th, Russia 65th and India 69th. According to HelpAge, there are now about 868 million people in the world over 60 — nearly 12 percent of the global population. By 2050, that's expected to rise to 2.02 billion, or 21 percent of the total, the group said. In dozens of countries — including most of eastern Europe — the over-60 segment will be more than 30 percent of the population.
HelpAge launched the index in 2013. Among the changes for 2014 were the inclusion of five more countries, and Norway replacing Sweden with the highest ranking. The new report devotes special attention to the issue of pensions and their role in helping older people remain active and self-sufficient. It praised several Latin American nations, including Bolivia, Peru and Mexico, for steps to extend pension coverage even to older people who did not contribute to pension plans when they were younger. Peru's government established a means-tested pension program in 2011 that gives the equivalent of about $90 every two months to older people living in extreme poverty.
According to HelpAge, only half the world's population can expect to receive even a basic pension in old age. It urged governments to move faster to extend pension coverage as their elderly populations swell.
Release of the Index was timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on Wednesday. Various events were planned in dozens of countries to call on governments and civic institutions to better address the needs of older people.
Online:
http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/
Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte Honored By Harvard

Actor, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, center left, and television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, right, embrace on stage during the W.E.B. Du Bois medal award ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.


CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (AP) — Oprah Winfrey and performer-activist Harry Belafonte were among those honored at Harvard University on Tuesday at its annual celebration of African American culture.
The university's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research presented its annual W.E.B. Du Bois Medals to eight people at the ceremony, also including British architect David Adjaye, civil rights hero U.S. Rep John Lewis, D-Ga.; "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes and movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
he medal has been awarded since 2000 and is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. Winfrey also accepted a posthumous award for author and poet Maya Angelou, who she has called a mentor. The billionaire television host, producer and philanthropist said one of her fondest memories of Angelou, who died earlier this year, was sitting at her table and eating biscuits.
Rhimes, creator of hit shows with black female protagonists, said it shouldn't be so unusual, in this day, to expect characters on television shows to "look like the rest of the world." In a recent Associated Press interview about her new ABC show, "How To Get Away With Murder," starring Viola Davis as a criminal lawyer and law professor, Rhimes said "Why did it take somebody black to talk about being black?"
Belafonte recalled his days in the civil rights movement with figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and actor Paul Robeson. Lewis, who was presented a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama, was introduced Tuesday by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Introducing the other honorees were novelist Jamaica Kincaid, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, and American Repertory Theater's artistic director Diane Paulus.
Du Bois, a scholar who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard. Selections from his writings were read at the ceremony.
Artist and activist Harry Belafonte addresses an audience after accepting the W.E.B. Du Bois medal during ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.

Government Confirms First Case Of Ebola In US

Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden speaks during a news conference after confirming that a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, announced Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, in Atlanta. The person, an adult who was not publicly identified, developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from Liberia and showed no symptoms on the plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


DALLAS, TEXAS (AP) — The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. was confirmed Tuesday in a patient who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas — a sign of the far-reaching impact of the out-of-control epidemic in West Africa.
The unidentified man was critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday, federal health officials said. They would not reveal his nationality or age.
Authorities have begun tracking down family and friends who may have had close contact with him and could be at risk for becoming ill. But officials said there are no other suspected cases in Texas.
At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director Tom Frieden said the man left Liberia on Sept. 19, arrived the next day to visit relatives and started feeling ill four or five days later. He said it was not clear how the patient became infected.
There was no risk to any fellow airline passengers because the man had no symptoms when he was traveling, Frieden said.
Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
"The bottom line here is that I have no doubt we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country," Frieden told reporters.
"It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual, a family member or other individual, could develop Ebola in the coming weeks," he added. "But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here."
In Washington, President Barack Obama was briefed about the diagnosis in a call from Frieden, the White House said.
Four American aid workers who became infected in West Africa have been flown back to the U.S. for treatment after they became sick. They were cared for in special isolation facilities at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska. Three have recovered.
Also, a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. has only four such isolation units. Asked whether the Texas patient would be moved to one of those specialty facilities, Frieden said there was no need and virtually any hospital can provide the proper care and infection control.
Dr. Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at the hospital, said the U.S. was much better prepared to handle the disease than African hospitals, which are often short of doctors, gloves, gowns and masks.
"We don't have those problems. So we're perfectly capable of taking care of this patient with no risk to other people," Goodman said.
After arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 20, the man began to develop symptoms last Wednesday and initially sought care two days later. But he was released. At the time, hospital officials did not know he had been in West Africa. He returned later as his condition worsened.
Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed an Ebola diagnosis on Tuesday.
State health officials described the patient as seriously ill. Goodman said he was able to communicate and was hungry.
The hospital is discussing if experimental treatments would be appropriate, Frieden said.
Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through.
Liberia is one of the three hardest-hit countries in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola.
Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours.
The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a field hospital, originally designed to treat troops in combat zones. The 25-bed clinic will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected.
The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them. Britain has promised to help set up 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, and its military will build and staff a hospital in that country. France is sending a field hospital and doctors to Guinea.
Neergaard reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, contributed to this report.

California Becomes First State To Ban Plastic Bags

 (AP) A large pile of washed-up trash, including old plastic bags, sits alongside the Los Angeles River in Long Beach, Calif. On Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.


SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways.
A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015. Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have such bans. The law marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed plastic bag bans in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle. Hawaii is also on track to have a de-facto statewide ban, with all counties approving prohibitions.
"This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."
Plastic bag manufacturers have aggressively pushed back through their trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which aired commercials in California blasting the ban as a cash-giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
"If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets," Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.
Padilla, the bill's author, said Californians would reject a referendum effort and quickly adapt their behavior to help the environment. "For those folks concerned about the 10 cent fee that may be charged for paper, the simple elegant solution is to bring a reusable bag to the store," Padilla said.
Shoppers leaving a Ralphs supermarket Tuesday in downtown San Diego were divided as they weighed the legislation's environmental benefits against its costs. San Diego does not ban plastic bags. "With the amount of waste that we produce, we can try to help out by slightly inconveniencing ourselves," said Megan Schenfeld, 29, whose arms were full of groceries in plastic bags after leaving reusable bags at home.
Robert Troxell, a 69-year-old former newspaper editor, said the fees are more than an inconvenience for retirees living on fixed incomes like him. He shops daily because he has only a small refrigerator in his hotel for low-income seniors.
"It becomes a flat tax on senior citizens," said Troxell, who lives off social security and other government assistance. "I have not disagreed with Jerry Brown on anything — until this." The American Forest and Paper Association, a trade group representing paper bag makers, says the bill unfairly penalizes consumers who use their commonly recycled products, while holding reusable plastic bags to a lower standard for recyclable content.
Responding to the concerns about job losses, the bill includes $2 million in loans for plastic bag manufacturers to shift their operations to make reusable bags. That provision won the support of Los Angeles Democratic Sens. Kevin De Leon and Ricardo Lara, who had blocked earlier versions of the legislation.
Lawmakers of both parties who opposed SB270 said it would penalize lower-income residents by charging them for bags they once received for free. The bill was amended to waive fees for customers who are on public assistance and limit how grocers can spend the proceeds from the fees.
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico also have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to the report.
Follow Fenit Nirappil at www.twitter.com/FenitN .

Monday, September 29, 2014

UN Mission To Combat Ebola Opens HQ In Ghana

APResidents of the St. Paul Bridge neighborhood wearing personal protective equipment take a man suspected of carrying the Ebola virus to the Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, Sunday Sept. 28, 2014. Six months into the world’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak, and the first to happen in an unprepared West Africa, the gap between what has been sent by other countries and private groups and what is desperately needed is huge. Even as countries try to marshal more resources to close the gap, those needs threaten to become much greater, and possibly even insurmountable.


DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) — The U.N. mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters on Monday in Ghana, where it will coordinate international aid to assist West Africa to combat the accelerating crisis.
This outbreak has spiraled into the worst ever for Ebola, and the World Health Organization says it is has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease. Even that frightening figure is likely an underestimate of the true toll, said WHO. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.
In back-to-back speeches at the United Nations on Monday, the foreign ministers of Liberia and Sierra Leone described the terrible toll Ebola has taken on their efforts to lift their people from poverty and recover from civil wars and pleaded with the international community to continue to sending much-needed aid.
"Only when the number of available beds surpasses the number of cases can we say Ebola is under control," Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister Samura Kamara told the General Assembly. "This is a fight for all of us; we must prove that humanity will be equal to this new challenge to our collective existence."
In the face of such desperate calls, many promises of aid have poured in recently, and some of it has begun to arrive. France promised on Monday to set up another field hospital in Guinea and to send 25 more doctors.
But some say the response is still too slow and haphazard. The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, also known as UNMEER, is now tasked with figuring out where the greatest needs are and making sure aid gets there, said Christy Feig, director of communications for WHO, which will play a significant role in the mission.
The head of the mission, Anthony Banbury, and his team arrived Monday in Ghana's capital of Accra. The needs of the outbreak have continually outstripped projections: WHO says around 1,500 treatment beds have been built or are in the works, but that still leaves a gap of more than 2,100 beds. Between 1,000 and 2,000 international health care workers are needed, and they and local doctors and nurses will require millions of disposable protective suits to stay safe. Thousands of home hygiene kits are also being flown in to help families protect themselves at home.
Despite massive promises of aid in recent weeks, many areas have grossly inadequate resources. For instance Nimba County, one of the places Ebola has hit hardest in Liberia outside the capital, has only one ambulance, and it is often broken down, the county's medical officer, Collins Bowah, said Monday.
And there remain misunderstandings about the disease that have hindered efforts to slow the disease's spread. On Monday, Sierra Leone's Ebola response task force said it learned "with dismay" of reports of people in some regions — including ones put under quarantine recently — rejoicing that Ebola was over. It warned in a statement that the outbreak is continuing and all measures to contain Ebola, like avoiding public gatherings and frequent hand-washing, should be followed.
Associated Press journalists Chris Den Hond in Paris, Alexandra Olson at the United Nations, Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone, contributed to this report.

Obama Hosts India's Modi For White House Visit

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a keynote speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014 in New York.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Once shunned by the United States, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode a wave of enthusiasm and popular support Monday to the White House, where he kicked off a two-day visit with President Barack Obama. The two leaders sought to put a brave face on the relationship despite widespread concerns that U.S.-Indian ties have frayed in recent years.
Modi's visit started with a private dinner with Obama on Monday evening, the day after thousands of Indian-Americans flocked to New York's Madison Square Garden for a rare chance to see the new leader of the world's largest democracy. The dazzling Bollywood-style dancers and dozens of U.S. lawmakers that took part in that event highlighted the rock star welcome that Modi is enjoying on his first official visit to the U.S. since being elected in May.
It wasn't always so. When Modi requested a visa to visit the United States nearly a decade ago, Washington said no. That rejection came three years after religious riots killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the state of Gujarat, where Modi was the top elected official.
Another potential wrinkle in Modi's visit: A human rights group is offering $10,000 to anyone who can serve Modi with a summons issued by a federal court in New York to respond to a lawsuit the group filed accusing him of serious abuses. The lawsuit is on behalf of two unnamed survivors of the violence.
Modi has denied involvement in the violence and India's Supreme Court has said there was no case to bring against him. As a head of state, Modi has immunity from lawsuits in U.S. courts. And White House officials said they doubted the issue would cloud the visit.
"Whether it's security and counterterrorism or strengthening the economy or a host of other regional issues, there is a broad framework where India and the U.S. work closely together to advance our shared interests," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Obama and Modi broke the ice over dinner Monday as they sought to reinvigorate soured relations between their countries. Joining them in the Blue Room was Vice President Joe Biden, who also attended a State Department lunch with Modi and Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day.
But there was one small issue: Modi is fasting to honor the Hindu goddess Durga and is consuming only water or lemon-flavored water. The White House said Modi's dietary needs would be accommodated, but offered no details.
Obama's courtship of Modi will continue Tuesday with an Oval Office meeting, marking a rare second day of attention from Obama. During their talks, Obama and Modi will focus on economic growth and cooperation on security, clean energy, climate change and other issues, the White House said. They will also address regional concerns, including Afghanistan, where the U.S. is wrapping up its 13-year military involvement, and Syria and Iraq, where the U.S. is ramping up its military engagement as Obama builds an international coalition to target Islamic State militants operating in the both countries.
Obama visited India in 2010 and held up the U.S.-India relationship as the "defining partnership" of the 21st century. But the relationship has been lukewarm at best. While military cooperation and U.S. defense sales have grown, the economic relationship has been rockier, with Washington frustrated by India's failure to open its economy to more foreign investment and address complaints over intellectual property violations.
A landmark civil nuclear agreement exists between the two countries, but Indian liability legislation has kept U.S. companies from capitalizing on the deal. Further fraying relations was the arrest and strip search last year in New York of an Indian diplomat on visa fraud charges.
A major aspect of this week's visit is the chance for Obama and Modi to begin building rapport, administration officials said. Obama was among the first Western leaders to telephone Modi with congratulations after his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party swept into power after May's landslide vote.
The visit also is a victory lap of sorts for Modi, a former tea seller. "He's gone in just a matter of a few months from persona non grata to person of honor to be received warmly in the Oval Office," said Milan Vaishnav, who studies South Asia at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Associated Press writers Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi and Matthew Pennington in New York contributed to this report.
Follow Josh Lederman at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP and Darlene Superville at http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Cancer Doctor Given 10 Years For Poisoning Lover

Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo takes a break during jury deliberations in her assault case in Houston. The breast cancer doctor was convicted Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 of aggravated assault for poisoning her colleague, who was also her lover, by lacing his coffee with a sweet-tasting chemical found in antifreeze.


HOUSTON (AP) — A jury on Monday sentenced a Texas cancer researcher to 10 years in prison after she was convicted of poisoning her colleague, who was also her lover, by lacing his coffee with a sweet-tasting chemical found in antifreeze.
Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, 43, a breast cancer doctor based at Houston's famed Texas Medical Center, had been involved in a sexual relationship with her fellow researcher, Dr. George Blumenschein.
Prosecutors said the affair turned into a "fatal attraction" and she poisoned him with ethylene glycol after Blumenschein spurned her in favor of Evette Toney, his longtime live-in girlfriend with whom he was trying to start a family. Blumenschein survived the 2013 poisoning.
A jury on Friday convicted Gonzalez-Angulo, who is originally from Colombia, of aggravated assault. While prosecutors had asked jurors to sentence her to at least 30 years in prison, they said they were pleased with the jury's decision. Defense attorneys had asked for probation.
Prosecutor Justin Keiter said the prison sentence sent a message that whether you are a doctor or anybody else, you will not be treated any differently if convicted of a crime. "It doesn't matter who you are. It matters what you do," he said.
Defense attorney Derek Hollingsworth said he was disappointed with the sentence. Gonzalez-Angulo did not have any visible reaction after the sentence was announced. Hollingsworth said she was "incredibly upset" and emotional when he spoke with her after she had been taken into custody.
Hollingsworth said he anticipates that as a result of her conviction, Gonzalez-Angulo will lose her medical license. "The medical world has lost a shining star today," he said. Defense attorneys had hoped that Gonzalez-Angulo's work treating patients and as a cancer researcher would have swayed jurors to keep her out of prison.
"She saved my life and the lives of so many other people," Silvia Pubchara, one of Gonzalez-Angulo's former patients, said after the sentence was announced. "It was heartbreaking for me to see her placed in custody and taken to jail. She doesn't deserve it."
Gonzalez-Angulo will have to serve at least five years before being eligible for parole. Keiter said Gonzalez-Angulo has no one to blame but herself. "Our society ... should be more angry at her for taking herself away from all those (patients) who she could have done amazing things for," the prosecutor said.
Blumenschein and his girlfriend, who were in the courtroom when the sentence was announced, left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Last week, Blumenschein testified that his life span was shortened by the poisoning as he now has only 40 percent of his kidney function.
The trial, which began Sept. 15, was filled with plot twists that could have come from a soap opera, including prosecutors' saying that Gonzalez-Angulo lied about being attacked outside her home in an effort to get Blumenschein to leave his girlfriend. Prosecutors also said Blumenschein secretly recorded calls in which he tried to get Gonzalez-Angulo to confess to poisoning him.
Blumenschein told jurors that he became sick on Jan. 27, 2013, not long after he and Gonzalez-Angulo had been intimate, and that he immediately suspected his lover of spiking his coffee. Witnesses testified that Gonzalez-Angulo had access to ethylene glycol at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where she and Blumenschein worked.
Gonzalez-Angulo's attorneys had argued during the trial that other people, including Toney, might have been responsible for the poisoning, an allegation that Toney denied. Toney says she and Blumenschein are working on their relationship.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Clooney, Wife Make Newlywed Appearance In Venice

George Clooney and his wife Amal Alamuddin, cruise the Grand Canal after leaving the Aman luxury Hotel in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. George Clooney married human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Saturday, the actor's representative said, out of sight of pursuing paparazzi and adoring crowds.


VENICE, Italy (AP) — Wedding bands glinted under the Venetian sun on the hands of George Clooney and his new bride, Amal Alamuddin, as the heartthrob actor and the human rights lawyer emerged Sunday from the luxury hotel where they were married a day earlier.
The groom, in a smart light gray suit, sported a simple ring on his left hand. His wife, in a flouncy white short dress with pastel-colored appliques resembling flower blossoms, wore a thin band studded with what appeared to be roundish diamonds. The newlyweds shaded their eyes from the afternoon sunlight with dark glasses.
They hopped into a waiting water taxi and, with Clooney putting his arm around her frequently, made their way down the Grand Canal to another waterside hotel where many of their guests were staying. Gondoliers steered out of their way.
Tourists and Venetians cheered when Clooney waved and Alamuddin smiled broadly. The 53-year-old actor, who had vowed he'd never wed again, and the 36-year-old London-based lawyer, were married with Hollywood stars and family among guests.
Celebrity-watching will last at least another day in Venice. City officials have announced the closure on Monday of a stretch of pedestrian walkway along the Grand Canal near the 16th-century Cavalli Palace, so the couple can have a civil marriage ceremony there. The palace is right across from the Aman hotel where the couple wed on Saturday evening.
The marriage is the first for the bride and the second for Clooney, who had been one of the world's most sought-after bachelors since 1993, following a four-year marriage to actress Talia Balsam. The bride left her native Lebanon during its civil war and was raised in the United Kingdom. The Oxford-University-educated Alamuddin met Clooney, who is involved in many political causes, through her work.

Obama Says Mistrust Of Police Corroding America

President Barack Obama speaks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 44th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Obama told the audience that the mistrust of law enforcement that was exposed after the fatal police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, has a corrosive effect on all of America, not just on black communities.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The widespread mistrust of law enforcement that was exposed by the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man in Missouri exists in too many other communities and is having a corrosive effect on the nation, particularly on its children, President Barack Obama says. He blames the feeling of wariness on persistent racial disparities in the administration of justice.
Obama said these misgivings only serve to harm communities that are most in need of effective law enforcement. "It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them," he said Saturday night in an address at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner.
"And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children," Obama said, adding that it leads some youngsters to unnecessarily fear people who do not look like them and others to constantly feel under suspicion no matter what they do.
"That is not the society we want," he said. "It's not the society that our children deserve." Obama addressed the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown carefully but firmly, saying his death and the raw emotion it produced had reawakened the country to the fact that "a gulf of mistrust" exists between residents and police in too many communities.
The shooting sparked days of violent protests and racial unrest in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The police officer who shot Brown was white. "Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness," said Obama, who has spoken of enduring similar treatment as a younger man.
He said significant racial disparities remain in the enforcement of law, from drug sentencing to application of the death penalty, and that a majority of Americans think the justice system treats people of different races unequally.
Obama opened his remarks by praising Attorney General Eric Holder as a great friend and faithful public servant. The president announced Holder's resignation this week after nearly six years as the nation's chief law enforcement officer. Holder attended the dinner and received a standing ovation. He will stay on the job until the Senate confirms a successor.
"We will miss him badly," Obama said. Holder visited Ferguson after the shooting to help ease tensions, and the Justice Department is investigating whether Brown's civil rights were violated. There was more gun violence Saturday night in Ferguson when a police officer investigating suspicious activity at a closed community center was shot in the arm. The wounded officer is expected to survive and the police were looking for two suspects early Sunday.
Authorities said they didn't believe the shooting was related to demonstrations that were taking place at about the same time to protest the killing of Brown. At the dinner, Obama also announced the addition of a "community challenge" to My Brother's Keeper, a public-private partnership he launched earlier this year to help improve the lives of young minority men. Communities across the U.S. will be challenged to adopt strategies to help all young people succeed from the cradle through college and to a career.
Obama said government cannot play the primary role in the lives of children but it "can bring folks together" to make a difference for them. Helping girls of color deal with inequality is also important, he said, and part of the continuing mission of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The effort has involved his wife, Michelle, the mother of their 13- and 16-year-old daughters.
Obama noted that black girls are more likely than their white peers to be suspended, jailed and physically harassed, and that black women struggle daily with "biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they're supposed to look and how they're supposed to act."
"I've got a vested interest in making sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as boys do," he said.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spain Celebrates Beatification Of Opus Dei Leader

A pilgrim adjusts her head scarf during a beatification ceremony in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Thousands of Catholics from around the world attended the open air beatification ceremony Saturday of Opus Dei Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, the 2nd most important figure in the order after founder Jose Maria Escriva.


MADRID (AP) — The second most important figure in the Opus Dei order was beatified Saturday at an open air Mass attended by tens of thousands of Catholics that sent Alvaro Del Portillo on a key step toward sainthood and illustrated how the once secretive order has become more mainstream.
Del Portillo succeeded Opus founder, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, as Opus Dei's leader. The miracle attributed for Del Portillo's beatification was confirmed last year by Pope Francis. A second miracle must be certified for Del Portillo, who died in 1994, before he can become a saint like Escriva de Balaguer. Catholics who swarmed Madrid for the beatification from Africa, Latin America and the Philippines were confident that would happen.
"For us as Catholics, he is a symbol who helps us live according to the Gospel," said Colombian lawyer Jorge Gomez. The first miracle for Del Portillo came after a Chilean baby boy's heart started beating in 2003 despite doctors' failed 30-minute efforts to resuscitate him. The boy's parents prayed to del Portillo for his intercession from heaven to save their child, who now lives a normal life, going to school and playing soccer.
The beatification of Del Portillo is seen by experts as confirmation that Opus Dei has normalized its place in the Catholic Church. Once viewed as a secretive, right-wing, cult-like group that curried unusually high favor with Pope John Paul II, Opus Dei has gained acceptance as just another Catholic movement.
"My general impression is they have gone from being the Darth Vader of the Catholic Church to being another piece of furniture in the living room," said John Allen, who wrote an authoritative 2005 book on the movement and is associate editor of Crux, a news site covering Catholicism.
The turning point came with Dan Brown's best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code" and subsequent 2006 movie. The plot portrayed Opus Dei as a murderous, power-hungry sect at the center of a conspiracy to cover up the widely discredited theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, and that their blood line survives today.
The character of the murderous albino Catholic monk Silas, an Opus numerary who hurt himself to show his faith, especially harmed Opus Dei's reputation. But the organization seized on the publicity and launched a global, media-friendly public relations campaign after years of dodging the press.
Opus Dei now touts its Harambee program which promotes educational programs in Africa. Its priests and lay members among the most accessible and knowledgeable spokespeople for the Catholic Church around the world and its universities are well respected.
"'Da Vinci' was such a massive shock to the system, it shook up everything internally, including their communications strategy," Allen said. "Another great favor Dan Brown gave them was that whatever reasonable objections people had to Opus Dei, the reality — however mixed — is infinitely better than the cartoon super-villain Dan Brown painted."
Founded in 1928 in Spain, Opus Dei had been associated with Spain's former fascist regime and the nation's wealthy, religious and conservative right. The favor it enjoyed under John Paul cemented its reputation as a right-wing orthodox movement so special it deserved its unique status as a personal prelature, a sort of diocese without borders.
Adding to the perception that Opus Dei was a cult-like institution were aggressive recruiting techniques especially among young Catholics, segregation of the sexes in residential centers and reports by former members of being forbidden from contact with family members.
Former members started an online support group, Opus Dei Awareness Network, to expose the movement's questionable practices. Complaints apparently prompted the Vatican to ask the order in 2011 to publicly clarify the distinction between spiritual direction and the governance within the movement.
When de Balaguer was beatified in 1992, critical books were published and newspaper and magazine articles speculated that that Opus Dei was a cult or sect. The beatification of Del Portillo attracted a crowd in Madrid unseen since anti-austerity protests in 2012, but was overshadowed by a declaration from the regional leader of Spain's Catalonia region setting a Nov. 9 independence referendum deemed illegal by the central government in Madrid.
Opus still enjoys favor in Rome, boasting two influential cardinals and about 25 bishops from its ranks at the Vatican and in dioceses around the world. But Francis' papacy and his focus on a "poor church" has taken the spotlight off of the order.
Francis reportedly enjoyed good relations with Opus Dei while serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires. But on the eve of Portillo's beatification, he sacked an Opus Dei bishop in Paraguay who had clashed with more progressive bishops.
Opus Dei has 90,502 members, nearly all of them laymen and women. Only 2,073 are priests. The movement, Latin for "God's Work," emphasizes personal holiness in daily life.
Winfield contributed from Rome.

HK Activists Start Bigger Protest Amid Standoff

Protesting students climb on top of electrical boxes as they occupy main streets in Hong Kong, China, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Riot police in Hong Kong on Saturday arrested scores of students who stormed the government headquarters compound during a night of scuffles to protest China's refusal to allow genuine democratic reforms in the semiautonomous city.


HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong activists kicked off a long-threatened mass civil disobedience protest Sunday to challenge Beijing over restrictions on voting reforms, escalating the battle for democracy in the former British colony after police arrested dozens of student demonstrators.
The announcement by civil leaders came after a big crowd of tens of thousands turned out around midnight Saturday to support the student protesters who stormed into a courtyard of the government complex and scuffled with police wielding pepper spray. Police arrested at least 74 people, including some in their teens.
The night passed peacefully as more than 1,000 exhausted and weary protesters — most of them students — remained on the streets outside government headquarters. They slept wearing face masks and makeshift protective gear of Saran-wrapped arms, cheap plastic raincoats and goggles, as tired-looking riot police looked on. More students anxiously hurried to join them Sunday morning, some saying they didn't want to leave their friends in fear police would crack down.
Leaders of Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a broader movement fighting for democratic reform, said they were starting their mass protest by continuing the sit-in begun earlier by a separate group of student demonstrators.
The Occupy Central movement had originally planned to paralyze the Asian financial hub's central business district on Wednesday, but organizers moved up the start of their protest and changed the location in an apparent bid to harness momentum from the student rally outside the government complex in the southern Chinese city.
Democracy supporters are demanding that China's Communist leaders allow fully democratic elections in 2017. China, which took control of the former British colony in 1997, has promised that Hong Kong's top leader can be chosen through universal suffrage. But tensions over Hong Kong's political future boiled over after China's legislature last month ruled out letting the public nominate candidates, instead insisting they be screened by a committee of Beijing loyalists similar to the one that currently picks the city's leader.
Hong Kong's young people have been among the most vocal supporters of full democracy in recent years, fueled by anger over widening inequality. They also fear that Beijing's tightening grip is eroding the city's rule of law and guaranteed civil liberties unseen on the mainland such as freedom of speech.
Organizers of Occupy Central said they want Beijing to abandon its decision and the Hong Kong government to resume political reform consultations "The courage of the students and members of the public in their spontaneous decision to stay has touched many Hong Kong people," the group said in a statement. "Yet, the government has remained unmoved. As the wheel of time has reached this point, we have decided to arise and act."
The protest at the government headquarters followed a weeklong strike by thousands of students demanding China's Communist leaders allow Hong Kong fully democratic elections in 2017. University and college students who had spent the week boycotting classes were joined Friday by a smaller group of high school students.
Organizers estimated that 50,000 people had flooded the streets around the government complex at the peak of the protest. Police did not give an estimate. At least 34 people have been injured since the protest began, including four police officers and 11 government staff and guards, authorities said. One of the officers suffered a gash after being poked by one of the umbrellas the protesters have been using to deflect pepper spray.
Police issued a news release urging the protesters to leave peacefully and avoid obstructing officers, saying that otherwise they would "soon take actions to restore public order." Many young protesters appeared conflicted that their protest was morphing into Occupy Central.
"A lot of students left as soon as Occupy made the announcement they were starting their occupation," said Vito Leung, 24, a recent university graduate. "I think they were really forcing it. This was always a separate student movement with similar goals but different directions. I don't think it should be brought together like this," said Leung, who was vowing to stay until police released Joshua Wong, the 17-year-old leader of the activist group Scholarism.
Wong was among the first of the protesters to be arrested after storming the government complex, and was carried away by four officers. A recent high school graduate, he gained prominence two years ago after he organized protests that forced Hong Kong's government to back off plans to introduce a Chinese national education curriculum that some feared was a form of brainwashing.

US-Led Planes Strike Fighters Attacking Syria Town

AP --Provided by the U.S Air Force, an F-22A Raptor taxis in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility prior to strike operations in Syria. U.S. coalition-led warplanes struck Islamic State group militants near the northern Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, near the Turkish border for the first time Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, activists and a Kurdish official said. The coalition, which began its aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday, aims to roll back and ultimately crush the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

BEIRUT (AP) — U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck Islamic State fighters in Syria attacking a town near the Turkish border for the first time Saturday, as well as positions in the country's east, activists and a Kurdish official said.
The Islamic State group's assault on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani has sent more than 100,000 refugees streaming across the border into Turkey in recent days as Kurdish forces from Iraq and Turkey have raced to the front lines to defend the town.
Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said the strikes targeted Islamic State positions near Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, destroying two tanks. He said the jihadi fighters later shelled the town, wounding a number of civilians.
The United States and five Arab allies launched an aerial campaign against Islamic State fighters in Syria early Tuesday with the aim of rolling back and ultimately crushing the extremist group, which has created a proto-state spanning the Syria-Iraq border. Along the way, the militants have massacred captured Syrian and Iraqi troops, terrorized minorities in both countries and beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker.
The latest airstrikes came as Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV that airstrikes alone "will not be able wipe out" the Islamic State group. Speaking from New York where he is attending the U.N. General Assembly, al-Moallem said in remarks broadcast Saturday that the U.S. should work with Damascus if it wants to win the war.
"They must know the importance of coordination with the people of this country because they know what goes on there," al-Moallem said. The U.S. has ruled out any coordination with President Bashar Assad's government, which is at war with the Islamic State group as well as Western-backed rebels.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the coalition's strikes near Kobani came amid heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and members of the Kurdish force known as the People's Protection Units, or YPK.
The Britain-based group, which relies on activists inside Syria, had no immediate word on casualties from Saturday's strikes. The Observatory reported Friday that 13 civilians have been killed by the strikes since they began.
Kurdish fighter Majid Goran told the Associated Press by telephone from Kobani that two bombs were dropped over the nearby village of Ali Shar, at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), but that the positions they struck were empty.
Turkey's Dogan news agency reported Saturday that the sound of heavy fighting could be heard from the Turkish border village of Karaca. The agency said Kurdish forces retook some positions they had lost to the Islamic militants a few days ago. It did not cite a source for the report.
Dozens of people wounded in the fighting arrived in Turkey for treatment on Saturday, it said. Another Kurdish fighter, Ismet Sheikh Hasan, said the Turkish military on Saturday night retaliated after stray shells landed on Turkish territory, firing in the Ali Shar region. He said the Turkish action left Kurdish fighters in the middle of the crossfire.
He said that on Friday, the Islamic militants were attacking the Kobani area from the east with tanks and artillery, advancing on Ali Shar and Haja. He said some 20 people were killed, including Kurdish fighters and civilians, while another 50 people were wounded.
The fighting around Kobani sparked one of the largest single outflows of refugees since Syria's conflict began more than three years ago. The Syrian Kurdish forces have long been one of the most effective fighting units battling the Islamic State, but the tide has turned in recent weeks as the Islamic militants have attacked with heavy weapons likely looted from neighboring Iraq.
The Observatory said other coalition airstrikes targeted Islamic State compounds in the central province of Homs and the northern regions of Raqqa and Aleppo. The group said 31 explosions were heard in the city of Raqqa, the group's de facto capital, and its suburbs.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said the strikes in the east hit the province of Deir el-Zour as well as Raqqa. The LCC also said the coalition targeted grain silos west of Deir el-Zour city.
It was not immediately clear why the silos were targeted. Max Blumenfeld, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. airstrikes "don't target food or anything else than can be used by the civilian population." But he said that until the military reviews images from planes that participated in the strikes, he could not rule out that silos were hit.
He said the airstrikes are aimed at specific Islamic State targets such as command and control centers, transportation and logistics, and oil refineries, "but not food that could have an impact upon the civilian population."
"Our targets are structures that combatants would use," he said. Blumenfeld later said the U.S. did target what he called an Islamic State grain storage facility on Tuesday near Boukamal, a town close to the Iraqi border which was seized by the Islamic State group earlier this year.
In recent days coalition warplanes had struck oil-producing facilities in eastern Syria in a bid to cut off one of the Islamic State group's main revenue streams — black market oil sales that the U.S. says generate up to $2 million a day.
The coalition striking Syria includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, and the strikes are an extension of the U.S. campaign in neighboring Iraq launched in August. Near the capital Damascus, Syrian troops meanwhile entered the once rebel-held northeastern suburb of Adra after days of clashes, Syrian state TV said. The advance came two days after troops captured the nearby Adra industrial zone.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Thomas Strong in Washington and Mohammed Rasool in Suruc, Turkey, contributed to this report.