US, Russia seal Syria cease-fire, new military partnership
GENEVA (AP) — The United States and Russia early Saturday announced a breakthrough agreement on Syria that foresees a nationwide cease-fire starting on Monday, followed a week later by an unlikely new military partnership targeting the Islamic State and al-Qaida as well as new limits on President Bashar Assad’s forces.
After a daylong final negotiating session in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said shortly after midnight Saturday that the plan could reduce violence in Syria and lead to a long-sought political transition, ending more than five years of bloodshed. He called the deal a potential “turning point” in a conflict that has killed as many as 500,000 people, if complied with by Syria’s Russian-backed government and U.S.-supported rebel groups.
The cease-fire begins at sundown Sept. 12, Kerry said, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
“Today the United States and Russia are announcing a plan which we hope will reduce violence, ease suffering and resume movement toward a negotiated peace and a political transition in Syria,” Kerry said. “We are announcing an arrangement that we think has the capability of sticking, but it is dependent on people’s choices.”
“It has the ability to stick, provided the regime and the opposition both meet their obligations, which we — and we expect other supporting countries — will strongly encourage them to do,” he added.
Rhetoric or real? N. Korea nuclear test may be a bit of both
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s latest nuclear test, its most powerful to date, is a game-changer … according to North Korea.
As with anything reported by Pyongyang, an authoritarian state run by a third-generation dictator who allows zero dissent or outside investigation, there’s reason to be skeptical. But even if the North’s assertion that it has rounded a crucial corner in nuclear development is more rhetoric than real, the content of its claim holds some important clues about where the country’s atomic efforts may be heading.
Friday’s test raises many big questions, including:
WHAT DID NORTH KOREA ACCOMPLISH?
Federal government halts work on part of pipeline project
NEAR THE STANDING ROCK SIOUX RESERVATION, N.D. (AP) — The federal government stepped into the fight over the Dakota Access oil pipeline Friday, ordering work to stop on one segment of the project in North Dakota and asking the Texas-based company building it to “voluntarily pause” action on a wider span that an American Indian tribe says holds sacred artifacts.
The government’s order came minutes after a judge rejected a request by the Standing Rock Sioux to halt construction of the $3.8 billion, four-state pipeline.
The tribe, whose cause has drawn thousands to join their protest, has challenged the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits for the pipeline at more than 200 water crossings. Tribal leaders allege that the project violates several federal laws and will harm water supplies. The tribe also says ancient sites have been disturbed during construction.
The tribe’s chairman, Dave Archambault II, spoke at the state Capitol in front of several hundred people, some carrying signs that read “Respect Our Water” and “Water Is Sacred.” He called the federal announcement “a beautiful start” and told reporters that the dispute is a long way from over.
“A public policy win is a lot stronger than a judicial win,” he said. “Our message is heard.”
Clinton: Time for ‘rethinking’ of US approach to North Korea
PENSCACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Hillary Clinton said Friday it was time for a “rethinking” of America’s strategy for North Korea following the regime’s latest test of a nuclear weapon. Donald Trump and his campaign chief, meanwhile, refused to outline the Republican presidential candidate’s plans for defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The New York billionaire, however, vowed to deploy military muscle to attack America’s enemies if provoked.
Largely ignoring North Korea, he noted a recent incident in which he said Iranian ships were “toying with” an American destroyer near the Strait of Hormuz. During a Trump presidency, he promised at a Friday night rally in Pensacola, Florida, ships trying to provoke the U.S. “will be shot out of the water.”
In New York, Clinton was focused on the North Korean threat after meeting with a bipartisan group of national security experts.
The former secretary of state said she would seek to impose tougher sanctions on the communist nation, arguing the latest test provides an opening to pressure China, which has been tepid in its response to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Pence releases tax returns, while Trump’s remain a secret
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Donald Trump hasn’t publicity released his tax returns. The same can no longer be said of his running mate, Mike Pence.
The Republican vice presidential nominee and Indiana governor on Friday released a decade worth of returns, roughly a month after promising to do so. The campaign said Pence paid a state and federal tax rate that ranged between 10 percent and 16 percent over the past decade.
An analysis of just his federal taxes shows he paid an effective rate since 2006 that ranges between 6.4 and 12 percent, based on his family’s adjusted gross income.
Pence’s income topped out at $187,000 while he was still a member of Congress, but dropped to $113,000 last year. The family has donated 10 percent of their take-home pay to charity, the campaign said, which reflects an average 7.4 percent of their adjusted gross income.
“The Pence family has been honored to serve their state and their nation for the past 16 years, while raising three great children and putting them through college,” said Marc Lotter, Pence’s spokesman. “These tax returns clearly show that Mike and Karen Pence have paid their taxes, supported worthy causes, and, unlike the Clintons, the Pences have not profited from their years in public service.”
Appeals court blocks proof-of-citizenship voting requirement
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday blocked Kansas, Georgia and Alabama from requiring residents to prove they are U.S. citizens when registering to vote using a national form.
The 2-1 ruling is a victory for voting rights groups who said a U.S. election official illegally changed proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal registration form at the behest of the three states.
People registering to vote in other states are only required to swear that that they are citizens, not show documentary proof.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia acted swiftly in the case, issuing a two-page, unsigned ruling just a day after hearing oral arguments. A federal judge in July had refused to block the requirement while the case is considered on the merits.
The League of Women Voters and civil rights groups argued that the requirements could lead to the “mass disenfranchisement” of thousands of potential voters — many of them poor, African-American and living in rural areas
California prosecutor to charge 7 officers in sex scandal
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Seven current and former San Francisco Bay Area police officers will be charged in a sexual misconduct scandal involving a teenager who was later arrested in Florida in an unrelated assault case, a prosecutor said Friday.
The wide-ranging scandal surfaced in June when the teenager, who described herself as a prostitute, said she had sex with about 30 law enforcement officials in Oakland and elsewhere in the region.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said Friday she was waiting until she’s certain the teen can be returned to California before filing charges against the officers.
The teen was jailed in Florida on suspicion of assaulting a guard at a drug treatment center where she was living.
O’Malley criticized the Richmond Police Department for helping arrange for the teen, now 19, to stay at the center on the other side of the country, saying her unavailability could hurt the prosecution if she is unable to testify.
Official: Police chief investigated for illegal gun sales
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi police chief killed himself soon after learning that authorities were investigating allegations he illegally sold city-owned firearms, including an assault rifle, a sheriff’s official said Friday.
Hancock County Chief Deputy Don Bass told The Associated Press that Bay St. Louis police chief Mike DeNardo illegally sold one city-owned assault rifle, and that authorities were looking into allegations that other city-owned weapons were sold as well.
Sheriff Ricky Adam said a “multipoint investigation” had been going on for four months and included payroll fraud, the Sun Herald reported. The police chief left three apology letters — to the sheriff, the mayor and one other unspecified person — for the payroll fraud, Adam said. Those were turned over to the FBI.
These are the latest developments in a case that has shocked many in this small, tourist-friendly beach community.
On Thursday, hours after DeNardo killed himself in the police station’s parking lot, the mayor had said the chief was under investigation. A federal official also had said investigators received “unsubstantiated criminal intelligence” about DeNardo. But until now, there were no details of what the investigation concerned.
After odd win, Djokovic to face Wawrinka in US Open final
NEW YORK (AP) — For quite a while, Novak Djokovic’s opponent in the U.S. Open semifinals, Gael Monfils, looked as if he didn’t want to win — or even be there at all.
That premeditated “great strategy” of hoping to lull the No. 1 seed and defending champion into complacency and mistakes, as Monfils described it later, worked briefly, yet did not prevent a two-set deficit. So he transformed back into his entertaining, athletic self. A sweat-soaked Djokovic sought help from a trainer for aches in both shoulders, and what was no contest suddenly became one.
Monfils forced a fourth set, and Djokovic ripped off his white shirt angrily a la “The Incredible Hulk.”
The ultimate outcome was only briefly in the balance, though. Djokovic regained the upper hand, as he so often does, reaching his 21st Grand Slam final and seventh at the U.S. Open with an eventful and, at times, bizarre 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Monfils on Friday.
“Well, it was a strange match,” said Djokovic, who will face No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, “as it always is, I guess, when you play Gael, who is a very unpredictable player.”
Rising Uighur militancy changes security landscape for China
BEIJING (AP) — They have been praised by the leader of al-Qaida and wooed by the head of the Islamic State group. They have distinguished themselves on battlefields in Syria and are accused of carrying out a devastating bombing in Thailand.
In the past two years, militants belonging to the Uighur ethnic group native to the vast Xinjiang region in western China have shown signs of becoming a force in Islamic extremism globally, a development that is reshaping both the ground war in Syria and Chinese foreign policy.
The predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people — ethnically distinct from China’s Han majority — have chafed for decades under Beijing’s heavy-handed rule. Uighur separatists belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant group based in the rugged tribal areas of nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan and allied with al-Qaeda, have been blamed for attacks in Chinese cities, often using crude but effective weapons such as knives, Molotov cocktails and speeding vehicles.
Their activities have taken on a transnational dimension in recent years as hundreds of Uighur fighters have flowed into Syria to participate in jihad. And instead of targeting China’s cities, militants have struck less guarded overseas targets.
The reach of ETIM, which seeks to establish an independent Islamic state called East Turkestan, was highlighted most recently when a man crashed a van packed with 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of TNT into the Chinese diplomatic compound in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, killing himself and wounding five people. Kyrgyz officials on Tuesday identified the bomber as Zoir Khalimov, an ethnic Uighur member of ETIM who carried out the attack with support from the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria.