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Afghanistan marks day of national mourning after huge attack

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan is marking a national day of mourning a day after at least 80 people were killed by a suicide bomber attack on a peaceful demonstration. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

Funerals were due to begin quietly in western Kabul on Sunday. Authorities say another 231 people were wounded, some seriously, in the attack Saturday afternoon on a march by members of the ethnic Hazara community, who are predominantly Shiite Muslim. Most Afghans are Sunni, and the IS group regards Shiites as apostates.

The Ministry of Interior has banned all public gatherings and demonstrations for 10 days. The square where the attack took place remains closed by Hazara protesters.

The IS group has had growing a presence in Afghanistan for the past year.

2016 Houston Texans Fantasy Projections
Senior Fantasy Football Expert Shawn Childs projects how each player on the Houston Texans will perform during the 2016 Fantasy Football season.
Prosecutor: Venezuela first lady’s nephews confess drug deal

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Two nephews of Venezuela’s powerful first lady confessed to trying to smuggle 800 kilograms (1,763 pounds) of cocaine into the U.S., according to prosecutors in the politically-charged case.

The court filings Friday by prosecutors shed new light on the case that has sounded alarm bells about high-level corruption and drug trafficking by Venezuela’s political elite at a time of increasing economic and political turmoil in the South American nation.

Efrain Campo and Francisco Flores were arrested last November in Haiti in a sting operation coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. They were then flown to New York, where they are in jail awaiting trial for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The documents filed Friday seek to refute a motion by the defendants’ attorneys to suppress their post-arrest statements to DEA agents on their way to New York because they allegedly hadn’t been informed of their rights and were coerced after being taken into custody by armed men in ski masks in what they at first thought was a kidnapping.

Prosecutors allege Campo and Flores hatched the drug deal in about two months. They said it was first brought to the attention of the DEA by a wheelchair-bound cooperating witness nicknamed “El Sentado,” who met Campo and Flores in Honduras and ended up killed three weeks after their arrest.

As part of the DEA investigation, confidential sources were sent to Caracas to meet with the two young men. The court documents include photographs allegedly taken from a secret video of those meetings that prosecutors say show Campo examining a brick of cocaine with plastic gloves as Flores looks on. Campo allegedly said the narcotics came from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

During the meetings, Campo allegedly brags about owning several Ferraris and being at “war” with the U.S. and Venezuela’s opposition. He also describes high-level connections with the government that will make it easy to move drugs through Caracas’ international airport and prevent any cocaine-laden plane from being follow by law enforcement because, he said, “it departs as if …. someone from our family was on the plane,” according to a statement by U.S. attorneys for the southern district of New York.

In the court filings, Campo first suggested to agents that the cocaine deal was to fund Cilia Flores’ congressional campaign.

“I know I said that but in reality it was for me,” a court document quotes Campo as telling a DEA agent.

“Campo stated that friends in the drug business had told him to be careful not to get robbed so he made the statement regarding his Mom’s campaign for protection,” the DEA agent wrote in his post-arrest report.

In reality, Campo said he was struggling financially, earning just $800 a week from a fleet of taxis he owned in Panama, according to the documents. He also described being rebuffed by his cousin, Erick Malpica-Flores, then finance director of state-run oil giant PDVSA, in a plan to charge commissions to businesses trying to collect on debts owed them by the company.

Campo, 29, said he and his wanted to make $20 million from multiple drug shipments, enough to go live in the U.S. with his wife and child. He said his family would “kill him” if they knew what he was up to, according to the documents.

Campo’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

The U.S has been steadily stepping up pressure on high-ranking members of Venezuela’s military, police and government officials for their role in making the country an important transit zone for narcotics. Several Venezuelan officials, including a former defense minister and head of military intelligence, have been indicted or sanctioned in the U.S., and many more are under investigation.

Cilia Flores, who President Nicolas Maduro calls the “First Combatant,” is one of the most influential members of Venezuela’s socialist government and a constant presence alongside her husband.

The single time she commented on her nephews’ case in January she said they had been kidnapped by the DEA, which was kicked out of Venezuela a decade ago, in an attempt to destabilize her husband’s rule.


Joshua Goodman is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjoshgoodman His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/joshua-goodman

AP Top U.S. News at 1:36 a.m. EDT

Weary of protest, Baltimore activists seek change elsewhere

ASEAN split on how to deal with China in South China Sea row

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — Southeast Asia’s main grouping opened a meeting of their foreign ministers Sunday, deeply divided on how to deal with China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea that has impacted some of its members and whipped up an increasing diplomatic quagmire.

Laos is hosting the gathering of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which traditionally ends with a joint statement. But the sticking point is whether to include a reference to the South China Sea. ASEAN’s cardinal principle is decisions by consensus, which means any country can veto a proposal. This time, it appears to be Cambodia, China’s close ally.

In welcoming remarks, Laotian Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith made no mention of the dispute.

In 2012, Cambodia also blocked a reference to the dispute, which ended with the ministers failing to issue a statement for the first time in the bloc’s history.

“Despite conflicts and challenges that have occurred in different parts of the world in general, peace, stability and development cooperation among nations remain the prevailing trend in this era,” Kommasith said. “Our collective efforts are imperative to seize opportunities and address challenges facing various parts of the world in an effective manner.”

The Sunday talks are expected to deal with terrorism, economy, climate change, security, the impact of Brexit and other issues. But at the top of everyone’s mind is the July 12 decision by The Hague-based tribunal in a dispute between China and the Philippines.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration found that China had no basis for its expansive claims to territorial waters around the Philippines. China has similar claims against other ASEAN nations, including Vietnam and Malaysia, and the ruling should have emboldened ASEAN to challenge Beijing more forcibly.

But that’s being prevented by Cambodia, said diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media. They said the draft statement to be issued by the ministers on Tuesday left blank spaces under the heading “South China Sea” until a consensus can be reached.

Laos, which also is a China ally, has trod carefully and not taken sides because of their position as the host.

A diplomat who attended closed door meetings told The Associated Press: “Cambodia is the villain deja vu 2012. It’s really a loyalist of the big country C,” the diplomat said, referring to China.

Tran Viet Thai, deputy director of the Institute of Strategic Studies, a Vietnamese government think tank, described the arbitration tribunal’s ruling as very important because, theoretically at least, it should help resolve disputes, uphold the law and clarify the stance of the parties. “But at this point, it is not a magic stick … it’s not a solution to everything, but rather it needs to be combined with other measures.” .

The South China Sea is dotted with reefs and rocky outcroppings that several governments claim, including China and the Philippines. The arbitration panel didn’t take a position on who owns the disputed territories. It did conclude that many of them are legally rocks, even if they’ve been built into islands, and therefore do not include the international rights to develop the surrounding waters. That and other findings invalidated much of what China’s called its historic claims to the resource-rich sea.

In order to ease tensions, China, the Philippines and possibly other claimants must define what the ruling means for fishing, offshore oil and gas exploration, and military and other activities in the vast body of water that lies between the southern Chinese coast and the Philippine archipelago.

China has rejected the ruling as bogus, and called for bilateral negotiations with the Philippines. In recent days, its military has staged live-firing exercises in the area and said it would begin regular aerial patrols over the sea. It also has asserted that it will not be deterred from continuing construction of its man-made islands.

The Philippines also remains in a tight spot despite the legal and moral victory it gained through the tribunal’s decision. It simply cannot afford to antagonize China, especially since the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, has made friendly overtures to Beijing to repair relations that were strained under his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III.

The meetings will also be notable for the presence of Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, who will be attending an ASEAN meeting for the first time in that role since her party took power earlier this year after decades of military rule.


Associated Press writers Minh V. Tran in Hanoi, Vietnam, and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

Energized white supremacists cheer Trump convention message

CLEVELAND (AP) — They don’t like to be called white supremacists.

The well-dressed men who gathered in Cleveland’s Ritz-Carlton bar after Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination for president prefer the term “Europeanists,” ”alt-right,” or even “white nationalists.” They are also die-hard Trump supporters.

And far from hiding in chat rooms or under white sheets, they cheered the GOP presidential nominee from inside the Republican National Convention over the last week. While not official delegates, they nevertheless obtained credentials to attend the party’s highest-profile quadrennial gathering.

Several gathered in the luxury hotel well after midnight following Trump’s Thursday address, a fiery appeal they said helped push the Republican Party closer to their principles.

“I don’t think people have fully recognized the degree to which he’s transformed the party,” said Richard Spencer, a clean-cut 38-year-old from Arlington, Virginia, who sipped Manhattans as he matter-of-factly called for removing African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews from the United States.

Like most in his group, Spencer said this year’s convention was his first. On his social media accounts, he posted pictures of himself wearing a red Trump “Make America Great Again” hat at Quicken Loans Arena. And he says he hopes to attend future GOP conventions.

“Tons of people in the alt-right are here,” he said, putting their numbers at the RNC this week in the dozens. “We feel an investment in the Trump campaign.”

He and his group chatted up convention goers late into the night, including an executive from a major Jewish organization and a female board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition. They sat at the marble bar as Spencer explained his position on blacks, Hispanics and Jews. They challenged him repeatedly and expressed shock at how calmly he dismissed their rejection of his ideals.

“We’ll help them go somewhere else. I’m not a maniac,” Spencer said of the minorities he wants to eject from the country. “I know in order to achieve what I want to achieve, you have to deal with people rationally.”

The New York billionaire has publicly disavowed the white supremacist movement when pressed by journalists.

Asked to respond to the white supremacists presence at the convention, campaign spokesman Jason Miller said, “Donald Trump has a lifetime record of inclusion and has publicly rebuked groups who seek to discriminate against others on numerous occasions. To suggest otherwise is a complete fabrication of the truth.”

Sean Spicer, chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, said convention organizers release credentials in large blocks to state delegations, special guests and media outlets. Officials have little control over where they end up, he said, noting that even protesters from the liberal group Code Pink managed to get into the convention hall.

“People get tickets through various means, including the media,” Spicer said. “In no way, shape or form would we ever sanction any group or individual that espoused those views.”

Yet Trump’s “America First” message, backed by his call for a massive border wall and focus on immigrants who are criminals, has energized people like Spencer. He described their mood as “euphoric.”

Seizing on that energy, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke on Friday announced a bid for the Senate. The Louisiana Republican likened his policies on trade and immigration to Trump’s in an announcement video.

“I’m overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years,” Duke said. “My slogan remains ‘America First.'”

“America First” was first used in 1940 by the America First Committee, a short-lived isolationist faction that formed to pressure the U.S. government not to join the Allies’ war against Germany.

Trump referred to “America First” repeatedly in his convention speech Thursday night, highlighting people murdered by immigrants in the country illegally and warning of rising inner-city crime. Earlier in the week, a convention screen displayed a tweet with the hashtag “#TrumpIsWithYou” from a self-described member of the alt-right, one of the thousands of tweets promoted over the course of the week.

“Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens,” Trump charged in his speech.

Such a message, combined with the Trump campaign’s repeated brushes with white supremacist material on social media, has drawn criticism from Republican leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan was among those who spoke out against a recent Trump tweet that showed an image shaped like the Star of David over Hillary Clinton’s likeness and a pile of money.

Trump has repeatedly re-tweeted messages from Twitter users with questionable profiles, including an individual with the handle “@WhiteGenocideTM.”

And late last year, he re-tweeted inaccurate and racially charged crime statistics that vastly overstated the percentage of whites killed by blacks. His team — accidentally, it said — selected as a delegate a white nationalist leader who paid for pro-Trump robo-calls during the GOP primary. He was removed.

There are no indications Trump himself has consciously courted these groups, but the series of errors, compounded by Trump’s muddled condemnation of supremacist supporters early in the campaign, have forced allies to answer uncomfortable questions as Republican leaders try to improve the party’s standing with minority voters.

When asked about Trump’s white supremacist supporters, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, noted that Trump has repudiated Duke.

“He’ll be more aggressive with Duke than you will have Hillary being with people who are saying terrible things with Black Lives Matter. Let’s hear her condemn some of the guys who called for killing cops,” Gingrich said.

But Gingrich conceded it bothered him that white supremacists were drawn to the Republican National Convention this year.

“I don’t want white supremacists anywhere,” Gingrich said. “Trump last night was pretty clear about that. This is a country that has to provide opportunity for everybody.”

Yet that wasn’t clear to the group gathered at the Ritz-Carlton after the speech. Spencer and a handful of like-minded friends, most wearing convention credentials and Trump paraphernalia, said the nativist overtones — and the series of tweets over the last year — marked a clear nod to them.

“Trust me. Trump thinks like me,” Spencer said. “Do you think it’s a coincidence that everybody like me loves Trump and supports him?”


Follow Steve Peoples on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/sppeoples

AP Top International News at 2:12 a.m. EDT

ASEAN split on how to deal with China in South China Sea row

AP Top News at 1:55 a.m. EDT

Clinton says veep pick Kaine is everything GOP ticket isn’t

Tiger mauls woman to death in Chinese wildlife park

BEIJING (AP) — Siberian tigers at a wildlife park in Beijing mauled a woman to death and wounded another when they stepped out of their car in an enclosure, a Chinese state-run newspaper said.

A tiger pounced on one of the women after she got out of a private car in which she was touring the Beijing Badaling Wildlife World on Saturday, the Legal Evening News reported.

The second woman was killed by another tiger that leapt at her after she stepped out of the vehicle to try to help her companion, the report said.

The Yanqing district government confirmed in an official microblog post that the tiger attack took place at the park, which lies at the foot of the Great Wall. It offered few details but said the injured person was being treated.

Visitors are allowed to drive their own vehicles around the park, but are forbidden from getting out while in certain enclosures, the report said.

A woman who answered the phone at the park refused to comment on the attack, saying only that the park was closed for two days due to forecasts of heavy rain.

Tim Kaine gets warm welcome from neighbors

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Sen. Tim Kaine received a hero’s welcome Saturday night outside his Richmond home, capping off his debut as Hillary Clinton’s running mate.

Hundreds of neighbors and other well-wishers greeted Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, on their return to their home in Richmond on a hot and sticky evening.

The Kaines had spent the day campaigning with the Democratic presidential candidate, who chose Kaine for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket just 24 hours earlier.

Cheers erupted when Kaine and Holton arrived at their home in the tree-lined Ginter Park neighborhood on Richmond’s north side about 10:30 p.m. They had been in Miami at midday for his first appearance with Clinton since joining her campaign.

Kaine spoke for about 10 minutes at his homecoming, noting that he had launched his political career three decades ago in the same neighborhood when he sought a seat on the Richmond City Council. He joked that far fewer people had showed up for that announcement.

Carol A.O. Wolf, a longtime friend of the Kaines, said the close-knit neighborhood felt it important to turn out and show their support for their neighbor.

“This is his ‘hood, this is Kaine country,” said Wolf. “He may be for her, but we’re with him.”

During his remarks, Kaine told his neighbors how thankful he was for their support, as well as for their indulgence for allowing the Kaine’s yard to sometimes look a little ragged.

But he also gave a mini-stump speech, which included pointing out the importance of Virginia in presidential politics, from its history of nurturing early presidents to its current status as a battleground state.

He urged his friends and supporters to help him win the state for Clinton, saying there was too much at stake to let Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win.

Kaine took jabs at some of Trump’s more controversial positions, including a proposed ban on the entry of Muslims from other countries. Kaine told the crowd that the American tradition is not to punish or prefer people based on religion and said, “If it’s Muslims, it could be Mormons next week.”

His wife coaxed him to finish up and told the crowd, “I’ve got to get him to bed.”

The Kaines are set to attend St. Elizabeth Catholic Church, their longtime parish, on Sunday morning.

One of the well-wishers outside the Kaine’s house was Larry Williford, a member of the church who has known Kaine for decades. Williford said he knew long ago that Kaine was destined for great things, but never pictured that Kaine would be a vice presidential candidate.

Williford joked that Kaine, who used to be a member of the church’s choir, had earned a special reward at Sunday’s church service.

“We’re thinking about letting him get a solo,” Williford said.

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