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Sri Lanka security brief warned of attacks on churches

21 hours 6 min ago
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The warning in the April 11 letter was plain: A local group was planning a suicide terror attack against churches in Sri Lanka. Priyalal Disanayaka, the deputy inspector general of police, signed the letter addressed to the directors of four Sri Lankan security agencies. He identified Mohammed Zaharan as the leader of “National Thawheek Jaman” and said state intelligence showed Zaharan’s group was planning a suicide attack in the country. Disanayaka asked the four security directors to “pay extra attention” to the places and VIPs in their care. The intelligence report attached to his letter, which has circulated widely on social media, was written in both the local Sinhala language and English. It called the group National Towheed Jamaar and said was led by Zahran Hashmi, and was targeting “some important churches” in a suicide terrorist attack that was planned to take place “shortly.” The report named six individuals likely to be involved in the plot. The variance on the names wasn’t explained. The letter bears the seal of the ministerial security division. On Monday, Sri Lanka’s health minister held up a copy of the intelligence report while describing its contents, spurring questions about what Sri Lanka police had done to protect the public from an attack. It was not immediately clear what steps were taken by any of these security directors. Disanayaka did not answer calls or messages seeking comment Tuesday. But as Sri Lanka’s leaders wrangled with what appeared to be a massive intelligence failure leading to Sri Lanka’s deadliest violence since its civil war, the military took advantage of newly granted war-time powers to make arrests. Among the 40 people arrested on suspicion of links to the Easter bombings were the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived, officials said Tuesday. The military’s powers to detain and arrest suspects had not been invoked since Sri Lanka’s bloody 26-year civil war ended in 2009. The security was evident Tuesday at Bandaranaike International Airport outside the capital where security personnel walked explosive-sniffing dogs and checked car trunks and questioned drivers on roads nearby. The government has blocked social media access to curtail false information and ease tension, but the vacuum was fueling confusion and giving little reassurance the danger had passed. Even after an overnight curfew was lifted, the streets of central Colombo were mostly deserted Tuesday and shops closed as armed soldiers stood guard. On what was declared a national day of mourning for the attacks, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the death toll had risen to 310, with hundreds more wounded. Sri Lankan authorities also Tuesday planned to brief foreign diplomats and receive assistance from the FBI and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies. The six near-simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels and three related blasts later Sunday were the South Asian island nation’s deadliest violence in a decade. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defence forces” to act against those responsible. Word from international intelligence agencies that a local group was planning attacks apparently didn’t reach the prime minister’s office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the warnings started April 4, the defence ministry wrote to the police chief and police wrote April 11 to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division. Sirisena, who was out of the country Sunday, had ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October and dissolved the Cabinet. The Supreme Court reversed his actions, but the prime minister has not been allowed into meetings of the Security Council since October, leaving him and his government in the dark about the intelligence. Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the seven suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the other suspects taken into custody. All seven bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links, Senaratne said. Also unclear was a motive. The history of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million including large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities, is rife with ethnic and sectarian conflict. In the 26-year civil war, the Tamil Tigers, a powerful rebel army known for using suicide bombers, was finally crushed by the government in 2009 but had little history of targeting Christians. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently, but there is no history of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment. Two of the stricken churches are Catholic and one Protestant. The three hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreigners. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said 39 foreigners were killed, although the foreign ministry gave the figure as 31. The reason for the discrepancy wasn’t clear, but some victims were dual nationals. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the attacks could have been thwarted. “We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided. Why this was not prevented?” he said. ___ Associated Press journalists Bharatha Mallawarachi, Jon Gambrell and Rishabh Jain in Colombo and Gemunu Amarasinghe in Negombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report. ___ Follow Emily Schmall on Twitter @emilyschmall Emily Schmall And Krishan Francis, The Associated Press

Powerful quake hits Philippines, day after deadly temblor

21 hours 11 min ago
PORAC, Philippines - A new powerful earthquake hit the central Philippines on Tuesday, a day after 6.1 quake hit the country’s north and killed at least 11 people. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of Tuesday’s quake at 6.4, while the local seismology agency said it was a 6.5. The quake was centred near San Julian town Eastern Samar province and prompted residents to dash out of houses and office workers to scamper to safety. There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from the new quake. Classes and office work were suspended in San Julian, where cracks on roads and small buildings and a church were reported. Power was deliberately cut as a precaution in the quake’s aftermath, officials said. Rescuers worked overnight to recover bodies in the rubble of a supermarket that crashed down in Monday’s quake, which damaged other buildings and an airport in the northern Philippines. The bodies of four victims were pulled from Chuzon Supermarket and three other villagers died due to collapsed house walls, said Mayor Condralito dela Cruz of Porac town in Pampanga province, north of Manila. An Associated Press photographer saw seven people, including at least one dead, being pulled out by rescuers from the pile of concrete, twisted metal and wood overnight. Red Cross volunteers, army troops, police and villagers used four cranes, crow bars and sniffer dogs to look for the missing, some of whom were still yelling for help Monday night. Authorities inserted a large orange tube into the rubble to blow in oxygen in the hope of helping people still pinned there to breathe. On Tuesday morning, rescuers pulled out a man alive, sparking cheers and applause. “We’re all very happy, many clapped their hands in relief because we’re still finding survivors after several hours,” Porac Councilor Maynard Lapid said by phone from the scene, adding that another victim was expected to be pulled out alive soon. Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said at least 10 people died in her province, including some in-hit Porac town. The magnitude 6.1 quake damaged houses, roads, bridges, Roman Catholic churches and an international airport terminal at Clark Freeport, a former American air base, in Pampanga. A state of calamity was declared in Porac to allow contingency funds to be released faster. A child died in nearby Zambales province, officials said. At least 24 people remained missing in the rice-growing agricultural region, most of them in the rubble of the collapsed supermarket in Porac, while 81 others were injured, according to the government’s disaster-response agency. The four-story building housing the supermarket crashed down when the quake shook Pampanga as well as several other provinces and Manila, the Philippines’ capital, on the main northern island of Luzon. More than 400 aftershocks have been recorded, mostly unfelt. The U.S. Geological Survey’s preliminary estimate is that more than 49 million people were exposed to some shaking from the earthquake, with more than 14 million people likely to feel moderate shaking or more. Clark airport was closed temporarily because of damaged check-in counters, ceilings and parts of the departure area, airport official Jaime Melo said, adding that seven people were slightly injured and more than 100 flights were cancelled. In Manila, thousands of office workers dashed out of buildings in panic, some wearing hard hats, and residents ran out of houses as the ground shook. Many described the ground movement like sea waves. A traffic-prone Manila street was partially closed after a college building was damaged by the quake and appeared to tilt slightly sideways toward an adjacent building, officials said. Many schools and government offices, including courts, in the densely packed Manila metropolis were closed Tuesday to allow inspections of their buildings. One of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it lies on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active arc of volcanos and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990. ___ Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report. Bullit Marquez, The Associated Press

Suns fire Igor Kokoskov after 1 losing season

22 hours 14 min ago
PHOENIX - One season was not enough for Igor Kokoskov to convince the Phoenix Suns that he was the man to lead the franchise into the future. The Suns fired Kokoskov Monday night, ending the tenure of the NBA’s first European-born coach after one disappointing season. “After extensive evaluation, I determined it is best to move in a different direction with our head coaching position,” Suns GM James Jones said in a statement. “I want to thank Igor for his work this past season and wish him the best with his future endeavours.” Kokoskov arrived in the desert with hopes of rebuilding a franchise coming off its second-worst record at 21-61. He was hired to replace Jay Triano, named interim coach after Earl Watson was fired last season. The Suns entered the 2018-19 season with one of the NBA’s most dynamic scorers in Devin Booker and added the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft, big man Deandre Ayton. Instead of a revitalizing season, the Suns continued to mire in mediocrity, missing the playoffs for the ninth straight season. Phoenix had a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak in 2018-19 and became the first team in the shot-clock era (1954-55) to be held under 10 points in the first quarter of consecutive games. The Suns finished 19-63 in Kokoskov’s only season in the desert, worst in the Western Conference. Jones became the full-time GM after the Suns removed the interim tag earlier this month and his first big move was to fire Kokoskov, an assistant with the franchise from 2008-13. Now, Phoenix is in limbo again, searching for its fifth coach in five seasons. The Serbian Kokoskov spent 18 seasons as an NBA assistant before becoming a head coach, including stints with Utah, Orlando Cleveland, Detroit and the Los Angeles Clippers. He also was the head coach of the Georgia national team from 2008-15 and led Slovenia to its first EuroBasket title in 2017. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports John Marshall, The Associated Press

Suns fire Igor Kokoskov after 1 season

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 23:54
PHOENIX - The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Igor Kokoskov after one season. The team announced Kokoskov’s firing in a statement Monday night. A longtime NBA assistant, Kokoskov was the first European-born head coach in NBA history when Phoenix hired him to replace interim coach Jay Triano in 2018. The Suns, despite adding No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton, went 19-63 in Kokoskov’s only season in the desert, worst in the Western Conference. Phoenix had a franchise-worst 17-game losing streak in 2018-19 and became the first team in the shot-clock era (1954-55) to be held under 10 points in the first quarter of consecutive games. The Suns recently removed the interim tag from James Jones, naming him full-time general manger. Kokoskov’s firing leaves Phoenix searching for its fifth head coach in five seasons. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports John Marshall, The Associated Press

Kings coach Luke Walton sued for sexual assault

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 23:31
LOS ANGELES - New Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton has been accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit by a former sports reporter. Kelli Tennant filed the suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday alleging that Walton assaulted her in a hotel room in Santa Monica during his time as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. TMZ first reported the lawsuit. According to the suit, Tennant considered Walton to be a friend and mentor and was also friendly with his wife before the incident that occurred when she tried to deliver him a copy of her book that Walton wrote the forward for while he stayed at the Casa Del Mar Hotel during a Warriors road trip to Los Angeles. Tennant said Walton met her in the lobby and invited her back to his room. After discussing the book, Tennant said Walton suddenly pinned her to the bed, and forcibly kissed her. She said she yelled “Stop!” but Walton used his full body weight to keep her on the bed, where he groped her and forcibly kissed her. She said he laughed as she asked him to stop. Tennant said Walton finally relented and she started to leave the room when he grabbed her again and kissed her ears and neck. She said he finally stopped, laughed and said “Good to see you” before she left the room. Tennant said she confided with people at the time of the alleged attack but never filed charges. She said Walton continued to harass her after he became coach of the Lakers and she was working as a broadcaster in Los Angeles for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA. The Warriors and Lakers said they both first heard of the allegations after TMZ reported the lawsuit on Monday night and had no further comment. Walton was an assistant with Golden State from 2014-16 before being hired as Lakers head coach. Walton was dismissed by the Lakers earlier this month and hired by the Kings. The Kings say they are aware of the report and gathering additional information. The team had no other comment. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press

Jazz stave off elimination with 107-91 win over Rockets

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 23:26
SALT LAKE CITY - Donovan Mitchell scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Utah Jazz to a 107-91 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their Western Conference series on Monday night. Jae Crowder added 23 points. Ricky Rubio chipped in 18 points and 11 assists and Derrick Favours finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Utah staved off elimination to force Game 5 on Wednesday. James Harden scored 30 points to lead Houston. Chris Paul added 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Eric Gordon chipped in 16 points. Utah’s offence got a major boost from Crowder and Rubio in the first quarter. The duo combined for 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the quarter to help the Jazz carve out a double digit lead. The Jazz opened the fourth quarter with a 15-1 and outscored the Rockets 31-12 in the period. Mitchell scored 13 points in three minutes to fuel the run after totalling just 12 points in the first three quarters. He capped off the surge with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving the Jazz a 91-80 lead with 9:02 remaining. Mitchell later had an incredible alley-oop dunk when he caught an errant pass and threw it down. Crowder got things going by scoring five of Utah’s first six baskets. Rubio built on the momentum by fueling a 14-1 run with four baskets and a pair of free throws. It helped the Jazz carve out a 30-16 lead with 3:03 left in the quarter. Houston had three straight turnovers to open the door for Utah to seize a double-digit lead. The Jazz scored 10 points off six Rockets turnovers in the quarter. An 8-0 run, capped by Austin Rivers’ dunk off a steal by Chris Paul, helped Houston trim the deficit to 30-24 before quarter’s end. The Rockets continued to cut into the lead during the second quarter, but could not overtake Utah until the third quarter. Houston opened the quarter on a 10-2 run sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from Gordon. Harden capped it off with three free throws to give the Rockets a 57-55 lead. TIP INS Rockets: Harden and Gordon each shot 50 per cent from 3-point range. … Houston committed 16 turnovers leading to 21 points for the Jazz. … The Rockets finished with just five bench points. Jazz: After starting 4-of-6 from 3-point range, Utah missed 13 of its next 14 shots from long distance. … Royce O’Neale grabbed a playoff career high 11 rebounds. O’Neale also finished with 11 points. The Jazz outscored Houston 52-22 in the paint and 17-3 in second chance points. UP NEXT Game 5 is in Houston on Wednesday. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports John Coon, The Associated Press

Myanmar court rejects appeal of jailed Reuters reporters

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 23:02
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar - Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeal of two Reuters journalists and upheld seven-year prison sentences for their reporting on the military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo earlier this month shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s highest honours. The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced last September after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of a colonial-era law. The court did not given a reason for its decision. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are being held in a prison in Yangon, were not present for the ruling, but their wives were. Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife, Chit Su, broke down in tears when the ruling was read. “Both he and I hoped for the best,” Chit Su told reporters. “I am terribly sad for this decision.” Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, had denied the charges against them and contended they were framed by police. International rights groups, media freedom organizations, U.N experts and several governments condemned their conviction as an injustice and an attack on freedom of the press. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Gail Gove, Reuters chief counsel, said in a statement after the ruling. “Instead, they were victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.” Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer for the two, said the pair could still seek their freedom by petitioning the president’s office or the legislature. President Win Myint could reduce the sentence, order a retrial or have them released. Legislative action for a retrial would be a lengthier, more complicated process. “I am greatly disappointed by the decision of the court because it damaged very much our country’s prestige and our right of information and press freedom, it damaged very much,”Khin Maung Zaw said. But, I’m not losing hope completely, because all the whole world is on our side. So, as I always said, the case was lost, but the cause was won throughout the whole world. “ Myanmar’s military launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the western state of Rakhine in 2017, driving more than 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to flee to Bangladesh. Reporting on the crackdown has proven sensitive in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar, where many support the campaign and bristle at worldwide condemnation of the military’s alleged human rights abuses. The military has denied it any rights abuses and says the campaign is a response to a series of attacks on security personnel by Rohingya insurgents. The Reuters reporters had worked on an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which the government last year said seven soldiers were sentenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labour. Investigators working for the U.N.’s top human rights body said last year that genocide charges should be brought against senior Myanmar military officers, while other critics accused the army of ethnic cleansing. Prosecution witnesses at the reporters’ trial gave confusing and conflicting testimony, lending weight to the belief that the arrests were a clumsy setup by the government. The reporters’ claim that they were framed was supported by surprise testimony from a whistleblower in the police department, Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing. Although summoned as a prosecution witness, he told the court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them. As a result of his testimony, he was jailed for a year for violating the Police Disciplinary Act and his family was forced to leave their police housing unit. A report released in February by Human Rights Watch noted that expectations of a new era of freedom of expression under the government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remain unfulfilled nearly three years after her party ended more than five decades of harsh military rule. The military, however, remains powerful and controls key ministries that are not under civilian oversight, such as defence and internal security. The report said Suu Kyi’s government has failed to roll back many of the legal restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, and has instead toughened some of those laws and enacted a new measure limiting free speech. Journalists have been some of the most high-profile targets. The report cited a Myanmar freedom of expression organization, Athan, as saying that at least 43 journalists have been arrested from when Suu Kyi’s government took power in 2016 through last September. In a new case, the online magazine The Irrawaddy reported Monday that it has been sued by the army for its coverage of recent fighting between the government and the Arakan Army ethnic rebel group. It said the suit was filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which provides for up to three years in prison for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.” There has been an upsurge of fighting since late last year involving attacks by the Arakan Army, which is aligned with Rakhine state’s Buddhist population and seeks autonomy for the region. Aung Naing Soe, The Associated Press

Quake in northern Philippines kills 11, leaves 24 missing

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:57
PORAC, Philippines - Rescuers found more bodies overnight in the rubble of a supermarket that crashed down in a powerful earthquake that also damaged other buildings and an airport in the northern Philippines, raising the death toll to 11, officials said Tuesday. The bodies of four victims were pulled from Chuzon Supermarket and three other villagers died due to collapsed house walls, said Mayor Condralito dela Cruz of Porac town in Pampanga province, north of Manila. An Associated Press photographer saw seven people, including at least one dead, being pulled out by rescuers from the pile of concrete, twisted metal and wood overnight. Red Cross volunteers, army troops, police and villagers used four cranes, crow bars and sniffer dogs to look for the missing, some of whom were still yelling for help Monday night. Authorities inserted a large orange tube into the rubble to blow in oxygen in the hope of helping people still pinned there to breathe. On Tuesday morning, rescuers pulled out a man alive, sparking cheers and applause. “We’re all very happy, many clapped their hands in relief because we’re still finding survivors after several hours,” Porac Councilor Maynard Lapid said by phone from the scene, adding that another victim was expected to be pulled out alive soon. Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said at least 10 people died in her province, including some in-hit Porac town. The magnitude 6.1 quake damaged houses, roads, bridges, Roman Catholic churches and an international airport terminal at Clark Freeport, a former American air base, in Pampanga. A state of calamity was declared in Porac to allow contingency funds to be released faster. A child died in nearby Zambales province, officials said. At least 24 people remained missing in the rice-growing agricultural region, most of them in the rubble of the collapsed supermarket in Porac, while 81 others were injured, according to the government’s disaster-response agency. The four-story building housing the supermarket crashed down when the quake shook Pampanga as well as several other provinces and Manila, the Philippines’ capital, on the main northern island of Luzon. More than 400 aftershocks have been recorded, mostly unfelt. The U.S. Geological Survey’s preliminary estimate is that more than 49 million people were exposed to some shaking from the earthquake, with more than 14 million people likely to feel moderate shaking or more. Clark airport was closed temporarily because of damaged check-in counters, ceilings and parts of the departure area, airport official Jaime Melo said, adding that seven people were slightly injured and more than 100 flights were cancelled. In Manila, thousands of office workers dashed out of buildings in panic, some wearing hard hats, and residents ran out of houses as the ground shook. Many described the ground movement like sea waves. A traffic-prone Manila street was partially closed after a college building was damaged by the quake and appeared to tilt slightly sideways toward an adjacent building, officials said. Many schools and government offices, including courts, in the densely packed Manila metropolis were closed Tuesday to allow inspections of their buildings. One of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines has frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions because it lies on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active arc of volcanos and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A magnitude 7.7 quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the northern Philippines in 1990. ___ Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report. Bullit Marquez, The Associated Press

Smollett case could undermine prosecutor’s reform efforts

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:43
Chicago’s top prosecutor drew heavy criticism after she recused herself from the case against Jussie Smollett and then complained in text messages to a subordinate that her office had overcharged the “Empire” actor. But anyone who has followed Kim Foxx’s work recognized in the texts the same reforms she has been implementing for years: Don’t overcharge for nonviolent crimes and, whenever possible, offer alternatives to taking a suspect to court. “Just because we can charge something doesn’t mean we should,” Foxx said in a March 8 text to her top deputy at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, referring to the 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct that were filed against Smollett, who was accused of staging a racist, anti-gay attack on himself. “It’s not who we want to be.” The decision to dismiss the charges against Smollett may have followed Foxx’s reform agenda, but it prompted an outburst of personal threats. Her chief of staff, Jennifer Ballard Croft, says the threatening messages came in the form of emails and calls, but declined to provide additional details about the specific nature of the threats. Ballard Croft on Monday told the Chicago Sun-Times that in addition to threats to Foxx’s personal safety, multiple threats “have contained racially-charged language.” Anger about the decision in March to drop all charges against Smollett could undermine Foxx’s efforts to overhaul the nation’s second-largest district attorney’s office, which for decades has been seen as too aggressive and reliant on abusive police practices. “It’s given her a public credibility problem that still isn’t resolved,” said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Foxx, who grew up in poverty in Chicago’s notoriously crime-ridden Cabrini Green housing project, became the first black woman elected Cook County state’s attorney in late 2016. Her victory on a reform platform was largely propelled by anger that the prosecutor she ousted had waited a year to charge a police officer in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager. At Foxx’s request, the county’s inspector general is now reviewing her office’s decision to drop charges against Smollett. Any revelations that she applied undue pressure on her staff could potentially damage her prospects of winning a second term, halting her reforms before they are fully adopted. The clumsy handling of the case and questions about Foxx’s intervention have also given fresh ammunition to those who have long opposed the agenda she laid out at the start of her term. That program has included instructions to about 800 prosecutors she oversees to abandon past practices of always seeking the most serious possible charges and to be more discerning and nuanced in deciding when to charge someone with a felony. Potential employers, she explained in a February interview, rarely distinguish if the felony was for shoplifting or murder. “The burden of the felony conviction is very real and onerous, even if it’s for the lowest level of felony,” Foxx told The Appeal podcast in February. That thinking led to one of her most contentious reforms - a new policy of charging suspects accused of retail theft with a felony only if the value of items stolen exceeds $1,000, which is more than three times higher than the $300 threshold in previous years. She has said that the policy has enabled her office to shift more resources to gun crimes. Another campaign pledge she helped fulfil was changing the cash-bond system to ensure suspects are not held behind bars solely because they are too poor to pay. Before that change in 2017, up to 300 people were jailed daily because they could not post bonds of $1,000 or less, contributing to overcrowding in the county jail. She veered away, too, from policies that put people behind bars for driving on licenses suspended simply for failure to pay traffic tickets. The old policy, she explained, inordinately impacted the poor and essentially made prosecutors debt collectors. Among her sharpest critics has been the Chicago police union president, Kevin Graham, who called on Foxx to step down earlier this month. He said the handling of the Smollett case was just another example of her office letting someone off too lightly. “We need to have a prosecutor who is going to charge people when they commit a crime,” he said. With Foxx more vulnerable after the Smollett case, dozens of police chiefs from communities in Cook County but outside Chicago also stepped up attacks on reforms that they never liked in the first place. They complain that that Foxx imposed changes with little consultation and provided often-muddled, contradictory guidance about who should and should not be arrested. Their biggest gripe is about decisions by prosecutors not to charge as many felonies and sometimes to avoid filing charges at all when it comes to nonviolent crimes, including for certain retail thefts and for possession of small amounts of marijuana. “It appears your strategy to address non-violent crime in Cook County is to decriminalize or ignore it,” Duane Mellema, president of the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote in a letter to Foxx earlier this month. Reform advocates, among Foxx’s most enthusiastic supporters, have stood by her. “We feel good about her reforms overall,” said Kristi Sanford, a spokeswoman for The People’s Lobby, a Chicago-based activist group that lobbies for criminal justice reform. “She has a big job, because her predecessors were all about throwing the book at people.” Sanford dismisses the criticism of Foxx’s reforms as “opportunistic” attacks by people who have consistently opposed changes for years. She said Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case should not enter into calculations about her performance. “It’s a nonissue,” Sanford said. “This is not a situation that leads us to question her commitment to reform.” Simpson said the Smollett case has been Foxx’s highest-profile misstep since getting elected. But he doubted that her base of support among reformers and African-Americans was at risk. Whether her supporters abandon her before she seeks a second term will come down to whether she completes more of her reforms. “If she can do that, I think she’ll be fine,” he said. Michael Tarm, The Associated Press

Antetokounmpo scores 41, leads Bucks to sweep of Detroit

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:28
DETROIT - Giannis Antetokounmpo drove to the basket and drew yet another foul, this one a hard hack on the arm by Blake Griffin. Griffin fouled out and headed to the bench, and the home crowd gave him a standing ovation. Then many fans headed toward the exits. Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were on their way to another rout against Detroit. Antetokounmpo scored 41 points, and the Bucks beat Detroit 127-104 on Monday night, completing a four-game sweep of the Pistons and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The last time Milwaukee won a post-season series, the Bucks made it all the way to the conference finals. This year’s team isn’t there yet, but so far Milwaukee looks the part of the top seed in the East. “I remember our first playoff series (in 2015),” Antetokounmpo said. “Chicago, the last game, Game 6, they beat us by 50 or something insane. But where we were and where we are right now, it’s been an unbelievable journey.” Milwaukee closed the third quarter with a 17-3 run, taking a 10-point lead into the fourth after the Pistons had led much of the way. Detroit set an NBA record with its 14th consecutive playoff loss, a skid that began in 2008. The Bucks will face Boston in the second round. The Celtics are coming off a sweep of their own against Indiana. “I think it’s important that we take a second tonight. Enjoy it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s a good night for Milwaukee. It’s a good night for the Bucks.” Reggie Jackson scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half for Detroit. Griffin fouled out with 7:06 remaining after scoring 22. Griffin missed the first two games of the series with knee problems. “Blake played his heart out with basically one leg,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey, whose voice was hoarse at his postgame news conference. “He fought through a lot of pain, swelling.” Griffin was on the bench for much of Milwaukee’s crucial run. He sat for the final 4:35 of the third. Antetokounmpo scored 16 points in that quarter, half of which came on free throws. Detroit led 20-8 early on after a dunk by Griffin. The Pistons were up 62-56 at halftime but still couldn’t prevent a fourth straight blowout at the hands of the team that had the NBA’s best regular-season record. Milwaukee won the four games by a total of 95 points, and no game was closer than 16. TIP-INS Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon remains out because of a right foot injury, but Budenholzer said he might have a better sense in the next 3-5 days about a timetable for his availability. … The Bucks won every game they played against Detroit this season, including all four in the regular season. … Milwaukee had not swept a best-of-7 series since the 1983 conference semifinals against Boston. Pistons: Detroit’s most recent post-season victory was May 26, 2008, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston. The New York Knicks lost 13 straight playoff games from 2001-2012, but the Pistons have now eclipsed that mark. TO THE LINE Milwaukee went 31 of 41 on free throws, while Detroit was only 9 of 12. Casey was called for a technical foul in the third, and the fans weren’t at all pleased with the officiating. At one point, Milwaukee had a 32-8 edge in free throw attempts. A stat showing that was put on the main video board, but there didn’t seem to be any further reaction from the crowd. “Giannis shooting eight more free throws than our entire team - you’re not going to win a game like that,” Griffin said. “And their team shooting 41 - you’re not going to win a game like that. … Some of that’s on us.” BLOCK PARTY The Bucks outscored the Pistons 62-42 in the paint and finished with 10 blocked shots to Detroit’s one. Brook Lopez had five blocks and Antetokounmpo had four, including one on Ish Smith that looked more like a volleyball spike . OWNER SPEAKS Pistons owner Tom Gores was courtside at the game. This was the team’s second playoff appearance since he took over and the first at Detroit’s downtown arena. “It’s just the beginning of what we can do here,” Gores said. “Dwane and I and the team accomplished a goal by getting in the playoffs. We’re not happy with the way it ended.” UP NEXT The Bucks move on to face the Celtics, who knocked Milwaukee out of the playoffs in seven games last year. ___ Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Noah Trister, The Associated Press

Klingberg’s OT goal pushes Stars over Preds to advance

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:18
DALLAS - John Klingberg scored from the left circle 17:02 into overtime and the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 to wrap up their first-round Western Conference playoff series in six games. Klingberg’s first goal of the playoffs came on a cross-ice pass from Alexander Radulov. The win by the Stars came 11 years after the previous time they clinched a playoff series on home ice. They needed overtime for a 2-1 win in that Game 6 as well - four overtimes to beat San Jose in the second round of the 2008 playoffs. The Stars will play St. Louis in the second round of these playoffs, just as they did in their previous post-season appearance three years ago. The Blues, who have home-ice advantage this time, won that 2016 series with a Game 7 win in Dallas. Ben Bishop, Vezina Trophy finalist, had a playoff career-high 47 saves for the Stars. Pekka Rinne, who won the Vezina Trophy last year as the NHL’s top goalie, also set a playoff career best by stopping 49 shots. That included an impressive pad save on Jamie Benn’s shot just more than five minutes into the overtime period, when the Stars had a 14-8 advantage on shots. Blake Comeau scored his first playoff goal for the Stars, tying the game at 1-1 in the second period. But he also had a tripping penalty with 1:53 left in regulation that put Nashville on the power play. But the Predators didn’t even get a shot on goal before the third period ended, or when finishing the final seconds with a man advantage to start overtime. They were 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6, and finished 0-for-15 in the series. Austin Watson scored a goal for Nashville in the first period. ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press

Sri Lanka arrests 40 suspects after bombings, toll up to 310

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:11
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - As a state of emergency took effect Tuesday giving the Sri Lankan military war-time powers, police arrested 40 suspects, including the driver of a van allegedly used by suicide bombers involved in deadly Easter bombings and the owner of a house where some of them lived, officials said. Sri Lanka’s president gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects - powers that were used during the 26-year civil war but withdrawn when it ended in 2009. The death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose to 310, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said. On Tuesday, which President Maithripala Sirisena declared a day of mourning, Sri Lankan authorities planned to brief foreign diplomats and receive assistance from the FBI and other foreign intelligence-gathering agencies after officials disclosed Monday that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed. The six near-simultaneous attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels and three related blasts later Sunday were the South Asian island nation’s deadliest violence in a decade. The government blocked most social media to curtail false information. Even after an overnight, nationwide curfew was lifted, the streets of central Colombo remained mostly deserted and shops closed as armed soldiers stood guard. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could unleash instability and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defence forces” to act against those responsible. In an indication of the tensions, three explosions caused panic but apparently no injuries Monday as police were defusing bombs inside a van parked near one of the stricken churches. Dozens of detonators were discovered near Colombo’s main bus depot, but officials declined to say whether they were linked to the attacks. At Bandaranaike International Airport outside of Colombo early Tuesday morning, police walked explosive-sniffing dogs outside as inside cheery video advertisements of gamblers and snorkelers played. At a roadside checkpoint at the airport, security officials checked car trunks and questioned drivers. The lack of social media access was contributing to the confusion and doing little to reassure residents and visitors that the danger had passed. International intelligence agencies had warned that the little-known group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, was planning attacks, but word apparently didn’t reach the prime minister’s office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the warnings started April 4, the defence ministry wrote to the police chief with information that included the group’s name and and police wrote April 11 to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division. Sirisena, who was out of the country Sunday, had ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in October and dissolved the Cabinet. The Supreme Court reversed his actions, but the prime minister has not been allowed into meetings of the Security Council since October, leaving him and his government in the dark about the intelligence. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken after the threats. Authorities said they knew where the group trained and had safe houses, but did not identify any of the suicide bombers, whose bodies were recovered, or the two dozen other suspects taken into custody. All the bombers were Sri Lankans, but authorities said they strongly suspected foreign links, Senaratne said. Also unclear was a motive. The history of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, a country of 21 million including large Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities, is rife with ethnic and sectarian conflict. In the 26-year civil war, the Tamil Tigers, a powerful rebel army known for using suicide bombers, was finally crushed by the government in 2009 but had little history of targeting Christians. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently, but there is no history of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment. Two of the stricken churches are Catholic and one Protestant. The three hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreigners. Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said 39 foreigners were killed, although the foreign ministry gave the figure as 31. The reason for the discrepancy wasn’t clear, but some victims were dual nationals. India and Britain have confirmed eight dead each. The U.S. State Department confirmed that at least four Americans dead and several seriously wounded. Others were confirmed to be from Bangladesh, China, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and Australia. The scale of the violence recalled the worst days of the civil war, when the Tamil Tigers, from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Sinhalese-dominated, majority Buddhist country. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. The six near-simultaneous blasts were set off Sunday morning at St. Anthony’s and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, as well as the two churches outside Colombo. They collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests, and leaving behind scenes of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms. The military confirmed two other related blasts, one near an overpass and another at a guesthouse where two people were killed. A ninth blast, which killed three police officers, was set off by occupants of a safe house trying to evade arrest, authorities said. A morgue worker in Negombo, outside Colombo, where St. Sebastian’s Church was targeted, said many bodies were hard to identify because of the blasts. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said at least 110 of the dead were killed at St. Sebastian’s, making it the deadliest of the attacks. Nilantha Lakmal, a businessman who took his family to St. Sebastian’s for Mass, said they all escaped unharmed, but he remained haunted by images of bodies being taken from the sanctuary. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the attacks could have been thwarted. “We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided. Why this was not prevented?” he said. ___ Associated Press journalists Bharatha Mallawarachi, Jon Gambrell and Rishabh Jain in Colombo and Gemunu Amarasinghe in Negombo contributed to this report. Krishan Francis And Emily Schmall, The Associated Press

Sri Lanka arrests 40 suspects after bombings, toll up to 310

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 22:05
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - As a state of emergency took effect Tuesday giving the Sri Lankan military war-time powers, police arrested 40 suspects, including the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived. Sri Lanka’s president gave the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects - powers that were used during the 26-year civil war but withdrawn when it ended in 2009. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose to 310. President Maithripala Sirisena has declared a day of mourning for Tuesday, a day after officials disclosed that warnings had been received weeks ago of the possibility of an attack by the radical Muslim group blamed for the bloodshed. The Associated Press

Myanmar court rejects appeal of jailed Reuters reporters

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 21:53
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar - Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeal of two Reuters journalists and upheld seven-year prison sentences for their reporting on the military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo earlier this month shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s highest honours. The court did not given a reason for its decision. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are being held in a prison in Yangon, were not present for the ruling, but their wives were. Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife broke down in tears when the ruling was read. The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced last September after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of a colonial-era law. They denied the allegation and contended they were framed by police. International rights groups, media freedom organizations, U.N experts and several governments have condemned their conviction as an injustice and an attack on freedom of the press. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Gail Gove, Reuters chief counsel, said in a statement after the ruling. “Instead, they were victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.” Their appeal in January to a lower court was rejected on the ground that the lawyers for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, failed to submit enough evidence to prove they were innocent. Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer for the two, had said the latest appeal argued that lower court rulings involved errors in judicial procedure. The Myanmar army’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the western state of Rakhine in response to attacks on security personnel in 2017 drove 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to flee to Bangladesh. Reporting on the crackdown is sensitive in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar because of worldwide condemnation of the military’s human rights abuses, which it denies. The two reporters had worked on an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which the government last year said seven soldiers were sentenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labour. Investigators working for the U.N.’s top human rights body said last year that genocide charges should be brought against senior Myanmar military officers, while other critics accused the army of ethnic cleansing. Prosecution witnesses at the reporters’ trial gave confusing and conflicting testimony, lending weight to the belief that the arrests were a clumsy setup by the government. The reporters’ claim that they were framed was supported by surprise testimony from a whistleblower in the police department, Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing. Although summoned as a prosecution witness, he told the court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them. As a result of his testimony, he was jailed for a year for violating the Police Disciplinary Act and his family was forced to leave their police housing unit. A report released in February by Human Rights Watch noted that expectations of a new era of freedom of expression under the government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remain unfulfilled nearly three years after her party ended more than five decades of harsh military rule. The military, however, remains powerful and controls key ministries that are not under civilian oversight, such as defence and internal security. The report said Suu Kyi’s government has failed to roll back many of the legal restrictions imposed by past military regimes on freedom of speech and assembly, and has instead toughened some of those laws and enacted a new measure limiting free speech. Journalists have been some of the most high-profile targets. The report cited a Myanmar freedom of expression organization, Athan, as saying that at least 43 journalists have been arrested from when Suu Kyi’s government took power in 2016 through last September. In a new case, the online magazine The Irrawaddy reported Monday that it has been sued by the army for its coverage of recent fighting between the government and the Arakan Army ethnic rebel group. It said the suit was filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which provides for up to three years in prison for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.” There has been an upsurge of fighting since late last year involving attacks by the Arakan Army, which is aligned with Rakhine state’s Buddhist population and seeks autonomy for the region. The Associated Press

Myanmar court rejects appeal of jailed Reuters reporters

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 21:42
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar - Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the final appeal of two Reuters journalists and upheld seven-year prison sentences for their reporting on the military’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo earlier this month shared with their colleagues the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s highest honours. The court did not given a reason for its decision. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are being held in a prison in Yangon, were not present for the ruling, but their wives were. Kyaw Soe Oo’s wife broke down in tears when the ruling was read. The reporters were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced last September after being accused of illegally possessing official documents, a violation of a colonial-era law. They denied the allegation and contended they were framed by police. International rights groups, media freedom organizations, U.N experts and several governments have condemned their conviction as an injustice and an attack on freedom of the press. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Gail Gove, Reuters chief counsel, said in a statement after the ruling. “Instead, they were victims of a police setup to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.” Their appeal in January to a lower court was rejected on the ground that the lawyers for Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, failed to submit enough evidence to prove they were innocent. Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer for the two, had said the latest appeal argued that lower court rulings involved errors in judicial procedure. The Myanmar army’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the western state of Rakhine in response to attacks on security personnel in 2017 drove 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to flee to Bangladesh. Reporting on the crackdown is sensitive in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar because of worldwide condemnation of the military’s human rights abuses, which it denies. The two reporters had worked on an investigation of the killing of 10 Rohingya villagers in Inn Din village, for which the government last year said seven soldiers were sentenced to up 10 years in prison with hard labour. Investigators working for the U.N.’s top human rights body said last year that genocide charges should be brought against senior Myanmar military officers, while other critics accused the army of ethnic cleansing. Prosecution witnesses at the reporters’ trial gave confusing and conflicting testimony, lending weight to the belief that the arrests were a clumsy setup by the government. The reporters’ claim that they were framed was supported by surprise testimony from a whistleblower in the police department, Police Capt. Moe Yan Naing. Although summoned as a prosecution witness, he told the court that his superior had arranged for two policemen to meet the reporters at a restaurant and hand over documents described as “important secret papers” in order to entrap them. As a result of his testimony, he was jailed for a year for violating the Police Disciplinary Act and his family was forced to leave their police housing unit. A report released in February by Human Rights Watch noted that expectations of a new era of freedom of expression under the government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remain unfulfilled nearly three years after her party ended more than five decades of harsh military rule. The military, however, remains powerful and controls key ministries that are not under civilian oversight, such as defence and internal security. The report said Suu Kyi’s government has failed to roll back many of the legal restrictions imposed by past military regimes on freedom of speech and assembly, and has instead toughened some of those laws and enacted a new measure limiting free speech. Journalists have been some of the most high-profile targets. The report cited a Myanmar freedom of expression organization, Athan, as saying that at least 43 journalists have been arrested from when Suu Kyi’s government took power in 2016 through last September. In a new case, the online magazine The Irrawaddy reported Monday that it has been sued by the army for its coverage of recent fighting between the government and the Arakan Army ethnic rebel group. It said the suit was filed under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, which provides for up to three years in prison for “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person using a telecommunications network.” There has been an upsurge of fighting since late last year involving attacks by the Arakan Army, which is aligned with Rakhine state’s Buddhist population and seeks autonomy for the region. The Associated Press

Officials say 6 people died in Texas small plane crash

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 21:18
KERRVILLE, Texas - A man regularly volunteered to fly sick people in remote parts of the country to hospitals in Houston and Dallas was at the controls of a twin-engine airplane that crashed Monday in the Hill Country of central Texas, killing all six aboard. Jeffrey C. Weiss, 65, was a senior vice-president for investments at Raymond James and Associates in Houston. The Texas Department of Public Safety said Weiss, who co-owned the Beechcraft BE58, was at the controls when the aircraft went down just before 9 a.m. Monday while approaching Kerrville Municipal Airport, about 70 miles (110 kilometres) northwest of San Antonio. Also killed were Stuart Roben Kensinger, 55; Angela Webb Kensinger, 54; Mark Damien Scioneaux, 58; Scott Reagan Miller, 55; and Marc Tellepsen, 45, all of Houston, said DPS Sgt. Orlando Moreno. The aircraft went down just before 9 a.m. as it approached an airport in Kerrville, a city about 70 miles (110 kilometres) northwest of San Antonio, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford. State law enforcement officials secured the crash site ahead of FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators’ arrival Monday. The aircraft had taken from an airport outside Houston earlier Monday and crashed about 6 miles (10 kilometres) northwest of Kerrville Municipal Airport, Lunsford said. The flight was not a scheduled commercial route, he said. The downed plane was manufactured by Raytheon Aircraft in 1999 and was co-owned by Weiss and Charles Morina of Dallas, according to FAA records. Weiss loved to fly and the pair volunteered their time transporting sick people from remote regions to Texas hospitals for Angel Flight, Morina said. “We flew people from all over the country to Dallas and Houston” for medical treatment, he told The Associated Press. The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined. However, witnesses heard the plane struggling and sputtering moments before it crashed. “It was making a sput-sput sputtering sound, like the engines were cutting out,” Treva Hardeman, who was working at home about a quarter mile from where the aircraft crashed, told the San Antonio Express-News . “It was just a few seconds later that I heard the boom.” Construction worker Rodney Simmons said he heard a plane “struggle against the wind.” “I looked over and watched him drop down out of the clouds,” Simmons told the Express-News. “The rear end of the plane was real low, like he was trying to stay in the air. It was like he was dragging the tail end of that plane. Like he had a lot of weight in the back or something.” The plane flew southward into the wind, Simmons said, then “banked to the right, real hard, and just flipped on over, upside down, and nose-dived to the ground.” The family of one of the six people killed in the crash of a twin-engine aircraft in the Texas Hill Country said the purpose of the flight was to survey some property. In a statement to KTRK-TV of Houston, the family of Houston landscape architect Marc Teppesen said he and associate Mark Scioneaux were on the scouting trip when Houston architect Scott Reagan Miller, Houston real estate investor Stuart Kensinger and his wife Angela Kensinger, and Houston investment banker Jeffrey Weiss died in the Monday plane crash. Weiss was a philanthropist who not only flew the sick to hospitals but was active in charities supporting children with special needs or who suffered abuse, said friend Bob Fuller. He told KPRC-TV of Houston that Weiss helped him conduct his Keels and Wheels charity event in Seabrook each year to aid abused children, giving both his time and money. “I loved the man, I’ll tell you that. He was generous to a fault. He wanted to support our charity any way he can and one of those was if I wanted to fly to Detroit to talk to General Motors, ‘Call me first,'” Fuller said. The Associated Press

Antetokounmpo scores 41, leads Bucks to sweep of Detroit

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 21:16
DETROIT - Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Detroit 127-104 on Monday night, completing a four-game sweep of the Pistons and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Milwaukee closed the third quarter with a 17-3 run, taking a 10-point lead into the fourth after the Pistons had led much of the way. Detroit set an NBA record with its 14th consecutive playoff loss, a skid that began in 2008. The Bucks will face Boston in the second round. The Celtics are coming off a sweep of their own against Indiana. “I think it’s important that we take a second tonight. Enjoy it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s a good night for Milwaukee. It’s a good night for the Bucks.” Reggie Jackson scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half for Detroit. Blake Griffin fouled out with 7:06 remaining after scoring 22. The home fans gave him a nice ovation - then many headed for the exits. Griffin missed the first two games of the series with knee problems. “Blake played his heart out with basically one leg,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey, whose voice was hoarse at his postgame news conference. “He fought through a lot of pain, swelling.” Griffin was on the bench for much of Milwaukee’s crucial run. He sat for the final 4:35 of the third. Antetokounmpo scored 16 points in that quarter, half of which came on free throws. Detroit led 20-8 early on after a dunk by Griffin. The Pistons were up 62-56 at halftime but still couldn’t prevent a fourth straight blowout at the hands of the team that had the NBA’s best regular-season record. Milwaukee won the four games by a total of 95 points, and no game was closer than 16. TO THE LINE Milwaukee went 31 of 41 on free throws, while Detroit was only 9 of 12. Casey was called for a technical foul in the third, and the fans weren’t at all pleased with the officiating. At one point, Milwaukee had a 32-8 edge in free throw attempts. A stat showing that was put on the main video board, but there didn’t seem to be any further reaction from the crowd. TIP-INS Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon remains out because of a right foot injury, but Budenholzer said he might have a better sense in the next 3-5 days about a timetable for his availability. … The Bucks won every game they played against Detroit this season, including all four in the regular season. … Milwaukee had not swept a best-of-7 series since the 1983 conference semifinals against Boston. Pistons: Detroit’s most recent post-season victory was May 26, 2008, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston. The New York Knicks lost 13 straight playoff games from 2001-2012, but the Pistons have now eclipsed that mark. UP NEXT The Bucks move on to face the Celtics, who knocked Milwaukee out of the playoffs in seven games last year. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Noah Trister, The Associated Press

Hurricanes rally past Capitals 5-2, force Game 7

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 21:07
RALEIGH, N.C. - Justin Williams earned another chance to live up to his nickname. The rest of the Carolina Hurricanes aren’t yet ready to end their first playoff appearance in a decade. Jordan Staal scored the go-ahead goal and added an assist in the third period, and the Hurricanes beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Monday night to force Game 7 in their first-round playoff series. “We didn’t have a tomorrow,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. Williams scored an insurance goal seconds after the Capitals had the tying goal disallowed, Warren Foegele and Teuvo Teravainen also scored, Dougie Hamilton added an empty-netter and Petr Mrazek made 23 saves. The Hurricanes scored three third-period goals in bouncing back from a 6-0 beatdown in Game 5 and prolonging their first playoff appearance in a decade by one game at least. “We answered the bell,” said Williams - known as “Mr. Game 7” for his NHL-record 14 points in those games, plus his record-tying seven goals and his teams’ 7-1 record in them. “I said at the start of the series that if they’re going to knock us out, we’re not going to do it easy,” he added. “We’re not going to let it be easy on them. Let’s go play another game.” Game 7 is Wednesday night in Washington. The winner will play the New York Islanders in the second round. Alex Ovechkin scored for the third straight game, Brett Connolly also scored and Braden Holtby stopped 31 shots. Washington - which won 10 road games a year ago on its run to the first Stanley Cup title in club history - went 0-3 on the road in this series after winning both regular-season meetings in Raleigh. Staal gave the Hurricanes their first lead of the game at 3:51 of the third period, following a scramble in front of Holtby. Justin Faulk uncorked a shot from the point and Brock McGinn and Staal both poked at it, with Staal ultimately slipping it past the Capitals goalie to make it 3-2. “I was just trying to track the puck, and honestly, try to get a piece of it,” Staal said. “And it was fortunate to go in.” Then came the key momentum swing of this one - the waved-off goal that Washington thought should have counted. As Evgeny Kuznetsov tried to tuck the puck under Mrazek’s pads with 9:26 remaining, Ovechkin crashed into the goalie. The officials waved it off, ruling that the Capitals’ captain interfered with Mrazek by pushing his pad. Washington coach Todd Reirden said he felt the play was “worth a challenge” after consulting with his video review staffers. “That’s not how the league or the referees saw it,” he said. Williams then put Carolina up by two goals 84 seconds later by tipping Brett Pesce’s shot past Holtby and Hamilton extended the lead with his empty-netter with 3:06 left. By that point, the Capitals’ frustrations hit their breaking point, with Ovechkin receiving a slashing penalty and a game misconduct with 1:08 remaining. “I don’t want to be a bad guy or something, but it was not fun,” Ovechkin said. It helped the Hurricanes that they got a bit healthier, with one of the three forwards injured during this series returning to the lineup. Jordan Martinook was back after leaving Game 4 with a lower body injury. Another theme of the series was upended: At no point during the first five games of this series did the road team ever lead. Connolly ended that pesky bit of trivia by scoring at 5:06 of the first to make it 1-0. And Ovechkin’s fourth goal of the series - and his third in three games - put the Capitals up 2-1 with 4:48 left in the first. But they didn’t score again - and the Hurricanes kept pushing back. First, Foegele made it 1-all when he beat Holtby with a spinning shot from the slot with 9:25 left in the first, giving him four goals in three home games in the series. He’s the second player in club history with four home goals in a series, joining Mark Hunter - who did it with the Whalers against Boston in 1991. And Teravainen pulled Carolina to 2-2 at 1:56 of the second. Sebastian Aho swiped the puck from Jonas Siegenthaler behind the net and passed to Teravainen in the slot. “In the end, we weren’t playing terrible, but we had to find a way to tighten it up,” Staal said. “It was everybody tonight, and that’s what we need if we want to win this series.” NOTES: This was the first game in the series in which the team scoring first lost. … Ovechkin has 65 playoff goals and moved into sole possession of 22nd place on the NHL’s career list. … Former Carolina F Erik Cole cranked the ceremonial siren that sounds before the Hurricanes take the ice. Cole sustained a broken neck during Carolina’s Stanley Cup-winning season in 2006 when he was hit by Brooks Orpik - who’s now a defenceman with Washington. … Carolina RW Andrei Svechnikov (concussion) skated earlier in the day but was scratched. … Hurricanes LW Micheal Ferland (upper body) missed his third straight game. UP NEXT The series concludes Wednesday night in Washington in Game 7. ___ More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Joedy McCreary, The Associated Press

Quake kills at least 11, 24 missing in northern Philippines

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 20:31
PORAC, Philippines - Officials say rescuers have found more bodies overnight in the rubble of a supermarket that crashed down in a powerful earthquake that damaged buildings and an airport in the northern Philippines. The death toll is now 11, and 24 people are missing. Mayor Condralito dela Cruz said the bodies of four victims were pulled from Chuzon Supermarket in the town of Porac. Rescuers used cranes, crowbars and sniffer dogs to look for people in the rubble, some of whom were yelling for help. Authorities inserted a tube to blow in oxygen in the hope of helping people pinned there to breathe. On Tuesday morning, rescuers pulled out a man alive, sparking cheers. A Porac councillor told The Associated Press another victim was expected to be pulled out alive soon. The Associated Press

Officials say 6 people died in Texas small plane crash

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 20:19
DALLAS - A man regularly volunteered to fly sick people in remote parts of the country to hospitals in Houston and Dallas was at the controls of a twin-engine airplane that crashed Monday in the Hill Country of Central Texas, killing all six aboard. Jeffrey C. Weiss, 65, was a senior vice-president for investments at Raymond James and Associates in Houston. The Texas Department of Public Safety said Weiss, who co-owned the Beechcraft BE58, was at the controls when the aircraft went down just before 9 a.m. Monday while approaching Kerrville Municipal Airport, about 70 miles (110 kilometres) northwest of San Antonio. Also killed were Stuart Roben Kensinger, 55; Angela Webb Kensinger, 54; Mark Damien Scioneaux, 58; Scott Reagan Miller, 55; and Marc Tellepsen, 45, all of Houston, said DPS Sgt. Orlando Moreno. The aircraft went down just before 9 a.m. as it approached an airport in Kerrville, a city about 70 miles (110 kilometres) northwest of San Antonio, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford. State law enforcement officials secured the crash site ahead of FAA and National Transportation Safety Board investigators’ arrival Monday. The aircraft had taken from an airport outside Houston earlier Monday and crashed about 6 miles (10 kilometres) northwest of Kerrville Municipal Airport, Lunsford said. The flight was not a scheduled commercial route, he said. The downed plane was manufactured by Raytheon Aircraft in 1999 and was co-owned by Weiss and Charles Morina of Dallas, according to FAA records. Weiss loved to fly and the pair volunteered their time transporting sick people from remote regions to Texas hospitals for Angel Flight, Morina said. “We flew people from all over the country to Dallas and Houston” for medical treatment, he told The Associated Press. The cause of the crash hasn’t been determined. There was a low layer of broken clouds but no rain in the area around the airport at the time of the crash, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Cory Van Pelt. Weiss was a philanthropist who not only flew the sick to hospitals but was active in charities supporting children with special needs or who suffered abuse, said friend Bob Fuller. He told KPRC-TV of Houston that Weiss helped him conduct his Keels and Wheels charity event in Seabrook each year to aid abused children, giving both his time and money. “I loved the man, I’ll tell you that. He was generous to a fault. He wanted to support our charity any way he can and one of those was if I wanted to fly to Detroit to talk to General Motors, ‘Call me first,'” Fuller said. The Associated Press

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