After 2 years of waiting, Americans will see Mueller report

By CHAD DAY, ERIC TUCKER and MICHAEL BALSAMO Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight from Robert Mueller— but not before President Donald Trump’s attorney general has his say.
The Justice Department on Thursday is expected to release a redacted version of the special counsel’s report on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country.
Even the planned release of the nearly 400-page report quickly spiraled into a political battle Wednesday over whether Attorney General William Barr is attempting to shield the president who appointed him and spin the report’s findings before the American people can read it and come to their own judgments.
Barr will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to present his interpretation of the report’s findings, before providing redacted copies to Congress and the public. The news conference, first announced by Trump during a radio interview, provoked immediate criticism from congressional Democrats.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect” Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The process is poisoned before the report is even released.”
“Barr shouldn’t be spinning the report at all, but it’s doubly outrageous he’s doing it before America is given a chance to read it,” Schumer said.
Hours before Barr’s press conference, Pelosi and Schumer issued a joint statement calling for Mueller to appear before Congress “as soon as possible.”
They said Barr’s “partisan handling” of the report has “resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality.”
A Justice Department official confirmed Barr’s plan to speak and answer questions about his “process” before the report’s public release. He will be accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the investigation after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017. Mueller and other members of his team will not attend, special counsel spokesman Peter Carr said.
After the news conference, the report will be delivered to Congress on CDs between 11 a.m. and noon and then be posted on the special counsel’s website, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Barr formulated the report’s roll-out and briefed the White House on his plans, according to a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The White House declined to comment on an ABC News report that it had been briefed on the contents of Mueller’s report beyond what Barr has made public.
At a later date, the Justice Department also plans to provide a “limited number” of members of Congress and their staff access to a copy of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the public version, according to a court filing Wednesday.
The report is expected to reveal what Mueller uncovered about ties between the Trump campaign and Russia that fell short of criminal conduct. It will also lay out the special counsel’s conclusions about formative episodes in Trump’s presidency, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey and his efforts to undermine the Russia investigation publicly and privately.
The report is not expected to place the president in legal jeopardy, as Barr made his own decision that Trump shouldn’t be prosecuted for obstruction. But it is likely to contain unflattering details about the president’s efforts to control the Russia investigation that will cloud his ability to credibly claim total exoneration. And it may paint the Trump campaign as eager to exploit Russian aid and emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign even if no Americans crossed the line into criminal activity.
The report’s release will be a test of Barr’s credibility as the public and Congress judge whether he is using his post to protect Trump.
Barr will also face scrutiny over how much of the report he blacks out and whether Mueller’s document lines up with a letter the attorney general released last month. The letter said Mueller didn’t find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but he found evidence on “both sides” of the question of whether the president obstructed justice.
Barr has said he is withholding grand jury and classified information as well as portions relating to ongoing investigation and the privacy or reputation of uncharged “peripheral” people. But how liberally he interprets those categories is yet to be seen.
Democrats have vowed to fight in court for the disclosure of the additional information from the report and say they have subpoenas ready to go if it is heavily redacted.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Wednesday he will “probably find it useful” to call Mueller and members of his team to testify after reading the version of the report Barr releases.
Nadler also criticized the attorney general for trying to “bake in the narrative” of the report to the benefit of the White House.
Late Wednesday, Nadler joined the chairs of four other House committees in calling for Barr to cancel his news conference. But Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, defended Barr and accused Democrats of “trying to spin the report.”
Collins said Barr has done “nothing unilaterally,” saying he had worked with Rosenstein and Mueller’s team “step by step.”
Mueller is known to have investigated multiple efforts by the president over the last two years to influence the Russia probe or shape public perception of it.
In addition to Comey’s firing, Mueller scrutinized the president’s request of Comey to end an investigation into Trump’s first national security adviser; his relentless badgering of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation; and his role in drafting an incomplete explanation about a meeting his oldest son took at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
Overall, Mueller brought charges against 34 people — including six Trump aides and advisers — and revealed a sophisticated, wide-ranging Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Twenty-five of those charged were Russians accused either in the hacking of Democratic email accounts or of a hidden but powerful social media effort to spread disinformation online.
Five former Trump aides or advisers pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation, among them Trump’s campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal lawyer.
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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Lisa Mascaro and Zeke Miller in Washington and Jonathan Lemire and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.

Poll: Church membership in US plummets over past 20 years

By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has plunged by 20 percentage points over the past two decades, hitting a low of 50% last year, according to a new Gallup poll. Among major demographic groups, the biggest drops were recorded among Democrats and Hispanics.
Gallup said church membership was 70% in 1999 — and close to or higher than that figure for most of the 20th century. Since 1999, the figure has fallen steadily, while the percentage of U.S. adults with no religious affiliation has jumped from 8% to 19%.
Among Americans identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics — dropping from 76% to 63% over the past two decades as the church was buffeted by clergy sex-abuse scandals. Membership among Protestants dropped from 73% to 67% percent over the same period.
Among Hispanic Americans, church membership dropped from 68% to 45% since 2000, a much bigger decline than for non-Hispanic white and black Americans.
There was a big discrepancy over that 20-year period in regard to political affiliation: Church membership among Democrats fell from 71% to 48%, compared to a more modest drop from 77% to 69% among Republicans.
David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion’s role in U.S. civic life, attributed the partisan divide to “the allergic reaction many Americans have to the mixture of religion and conservative politics.”
“Increasingly, Americans associate religion with the Republican Party — and if they are not Republicans themselves, they turn away from religion,” he said.
Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, said that as recently as the 1970s, it was difficult to predict someone’s political party by the regularity with which they went to church.
“Now it’s one of the best predictors,” he said. “The correlation between religiosity and being Republican has increased over the years.”
The overall decline in church membership is driven by cultural and generational factors, said Nancy Ammerman, a professor of the sociology of religion at Boston University.
“Culturally, we are seeing significant erosion in the trust people have for institutions in general and churches in particular,” she said. “We are also seeing a generational shift as the ‘joiner’ older generation dies off and a generation of non-joiners comes on the scene.”
The new Gallup findings underscore that generational dynamic. Among Americans 65 and older, church membership in 2016-2018 averaged 64% percent, compared to 41% among those aged 18-29.
“The challenge is clear for churches, which depend on loyal and active members to keep them open and thriving,” wrote Gallup poll analyst Jeffrey Jones. “How do they find ways to convince some of the unaffiliated religious adults in society to make a commitment to a particular house of worship of their chosen faith?”
“These trends are not just numbers, but play out in the reality that thousands of U.S. churches are closing each year,” Jones added. “Religious Americans in the future will likely be faced with fewer options for places of worship, and likely less convenient ones, which could accelerate the decline in membership even more.”
Professor Scott Thumma, who teaches sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary, suggested several likely factors behind the decline. Among them, he said religious young adults are delaying marriage, postponing having children, and, when they do, having fewer children.
He also suggested there was diminished social pressure to formally join organizations.
“I’ve encountered many persons in churches that have attended for several years but did not officially join or become a member,” he said by email. “This is also evident in persons switching from one congregation to another without joining any.”
The findings are based on Gallup surveys conducted over the last 20 years, with most surveys including at least 2,000 U.S. adults and having a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Some findings are based on aggregated interviews from 1998-2000 and 2016-2018, with each period including interviews with more than 7,000 adults.

Man with gas cans arrested at St. Patrick’s church in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey man was arrested after entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying two cans of gasoline, lighter fluid and butane lighters, the New York Police Department said, just days after flames ravaged the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.
The unidentified 37-year-old man had pulled up Wednesday night in a minivan outside the landmark cathedral on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, walked around the area, then returned to his vehicle at 7:55 p.m. and retrieved the gasoline and lighter fluid, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller.
“As he enters the cathedral he’s confronted by a cathedral security officer who asks him where he’s going and informs him he can’t proceed into the cathedral carrying these things,” said Miller. “At that point some gasoline apparently spills out onto the floor as he’s turned around.”
Security then notified officers from the counter-terrorism bureau who were standing outside, Miller said. The officers caught up to the man and arrested him after he was questioned.
“His basic story was he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue. That his car had run out of gas,” Miller said. “We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas and at that point he was taken into custody.”
“It’s hard to say exactly what his intentions were, but I think the totality of circumstances of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters is something that we would have great concern over,” Miller said. “His story is not consistent.”
Miller said the suspect is known to police, who are currently looking into his background.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in 1878 and has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations. Its wooden roof is also coated with fire retardant.

Colorado schools reopen as FBI examines teen suspect’s past

By COLLEEN SLEVIN and KATHLEEN FOODY Associated Press
LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — The death of a Florida teenager who authorities say was obsessed with the Columbine school shooting and may have planned to carry out her own attack in Colorado did not end an investigation into the 18-year-old, authorities said as they examine whether the young woman acted alone and Denver-area schools prepared to reopen their doors.
The body of Sol Pais was discovered in the mountains outside Denver with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Wednesday after investigators got a tip from the driver who took her there, the FBI said.
Dozens of schools that closed as a precaution during the daylong manhunt planned to reopen Thursday with heightened security measures. Events planned to mark the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine attack will go on as scheduled throughout the week, including a ceremony near the school on Saturday.
Two teenagers attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives. They have inspired cult-like admirers, some of whom committed other mass shootings over the decades. A growing “no notoriety” movement has urged news organizations to avoid naming the perpetrators of mass shootings to deprive them of the notoriety they seek.
The details of Pais’ travel from Florida to Colorado began to trickle out Wednesday along with some classmates’ confusion at her involvement. The student at Miami Beach High School dressed in black and kept mostly to herself, said Adam Charni, a senior at the school.
Charni said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for. Another classmate, 17-year-old Drew Burnstine, described Pais as quiet and smart.
But the Miami Beach high school student made troubling remarks to others about her “infatuation” with the 1999 assault at Columbine High and this weekend’s anniversary, said Dean Phillips, FBI agent in charge in Denver. He did not elaborate on what she said.
Investigators will seek to learn more from Pais’ social media and her other online presence, largely to ensure that she had no “accessories” or “accomplices,” Phillips said. He confirmed that the material being scrutinized includes a blog containing hand-written journal entries that occasionally feature sketches of guns or people holding large firearms.
In Pais’ hometown, Surfside Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.” Pais’ parents had reported her missing on Monday night, police said.
“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” Yero said.
Pais purchased three one-way tickets to Denver on three consecutive days, then flew in on Monday night and went directly to a gun store, where she bought a shotgun, authorities said. Authorities said she did not threaten a specific school. But Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver reacted by locking their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.
“We’re used to threats, frankly, at Columbine,” John McDonald, security chief for Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly had our attention.”
McDonald described her trip as a “pilgrimage” to Columbine, though Pais is not believed to have been on the campus.
The threats and response added an emotional burden for many with ties to the Columbine community ahead of this weekend’s anniversary .
Frank DeAngelis, Columbine’s principal at the time of the shooting, said he was on campus Tuesday when the threat prompted officials to lock the high school’s doors. He immediately went to check on several staff members who continue working there 20 years after the attack.
“The support was so great,” he said. “Everybody came together.”
Denver-area parents faced the difficult job of explaining to their children why they had the day off school without scaring them.
“This is definitely a challenge in their generation, and watching my kids learn how to navigate this is really hard. It is really heartbreaking,” said Suzanne Kerns of suburban Arvada, whose children are 8 and 15.
Kerns said she was angry about how easy it was for someone reported missing to come from out of state and buy a gun.
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said the sale of the shotgun apparently followed the state’s legal process. Out-of-state residents who are at least 18 can buy shotguns in Colorado. Customers must provide fingerprints and pass a criminal background check.
Pais’ body was found off a trail not far from the base of Mount Evans, a recreation area about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southwest of Denver, authorities said. She used the weapon she bought, Phillips said.
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Associated Press writers Ellis Rua in Miami Beach, Florida, and James Anderson and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

NKorea says it tested new weapon, wants Pompeo out of talks

By FOSTER KLUG and KIM TONG-HYUNG Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Thursday that it had test-fired a new type of “tactical guided weapon,” its first such test in nearly half a year, and demanded that Washington remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from nuclear negotiations.
The test, which didn’t appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle negotiations, allows North Korea to show its people it is pushing ahead with weapons development while also reassuring domestic military officials worried that diplomacy with Washington signals weakness.
Separately, the North Korean Foreign Ministry accused Pompeo of playing down the significance of comments by leader Kim Jong Un, who said last week that Washington has until the end of the year to offer mutually acceptable terms for an agreement to salvage the high-stakes nuclear diplomacy. Both the demand for Pompeo’s removal from the talks and the weapon test point to North Korea’s displeasure with the deadlocked negotiations.
In a statement issued under the name of Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the American Affairs Department at the Foreign Ministry, North Korea accused Pompeo of “talking nonsense” and misrepresenting Kim’s comments.
During a speech at Texas A&M on Monday, Pompeo said Kim promised to denuclearize during his first summit with President Donald Trump and that U.S. officials were working with the North Koreans to “chart a path forward so we can get there.”
“He (Kim) said he wanted it done by the end of the year,” Pompeo said. “I’d love to see that done sooner.”
The North Korean statement said Pompeo was “misrepresenting the meaning of our requirement” for the negotiations to be finalized by the year’s end, and referred to his “talented skill of fabricating stories.” It said Pompeo’s continued participation in the negotiations would ensure that the talks become “entangled” and called for a different counterpart who is “more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
In a speech at his rubber-stamp parliament last week, Kim said he is open to a third summit with Trump, but only if the United States changes its stance on sanctions enforcement and pressure by the end of the year.
Kim observed the unspecified weapon being fired Wednesday by the Academy of Defense Science, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim was reported to have said “the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army.”
The Associated Press could not independently verify North Korea’s claim, and it wasn’t immediately clear what had been tested. A major ballistic missile test would jeopardize the diplomatic talks meant to provide the North with concessions in return for disarmament. A South Korean analyst said that details in the North’s media report indicate it could have been a new type of cruise missile. Another possible clue: one of the lower level officials mentioned in the North’s report on the test — Pak Jong Chon — is known as an artillery official.
Some in Seoul worry that the North will turn back to actions seen as provocative by outsiders as a way to force Washington to drop its hard-line negotiating stance and grant the North’s demand for a removal of crushing international sanctions. A string of increasingly powerful weapons tests in 2017 and Trump’s response of “fire and fury” had many fearing war before the North shifted to diplomacy.
Russia announced Thursday that Kim will visit later this month for talks at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin, but gave no further details. Russian media have been abuzz in recent days with rumors about the rare meeting between the leaders.
Putin is to visit China later this month, and some media speculated that he could meet with Kim in Vladivostok, the far eastern port city near the border with North Korea.
Trump said last month that he “would be very disappointed if I saw testing.” There have been fresh reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research center and long-range rocket site where the North is believed to build missiles targeting the U.S. mainland. North Korean media said Wednesday that Kim guided a flight drill of combat pilots from an air force and anti-aircraft unit tasked with defending the North from an attack.
Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said North Korea’s descriptions of the test show the weapon is possibly a newly developed cruise missile. The North’s report said the “tactical guided weapon” successfully tested in a “peculiar mode of guiding flight” and demonstrated the ability to deliver a “powerful warhead.”
The analyst said the test could also be intended as a message to the North Korean people and military of a commitment to maintaining a strong level of defense even as it continues talks with Washington over nukes.
Melissa Hanham, a non-proliferation expert and director of the Datayo Project at the One Earth Future Foundation, said the North Korean weapon could be anything from an anti-tank weapon to a cruise missile.
The North said Thursday that Kim Jong Un mounted an observation post to learn about and guide the test-fire of the weapon.
This is the first known time Kim has observed the testing of a newly developed weapon system since last November, when North Korean media said he watched the successful test of an unspecified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon.” Some observers have been expecting North Korea to orchestrate “low-level provocations,” like artillery or short-range missile tests, to register its anger over the way nuclear negotiations were going.
North Korean officials accompanying Kim at the test included Ri Pyong Chol and Kim Jong Sik, two senior officials from the North’s Munitions Industry Department who have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for their activities related to the country’s ballistic missile program. Ri is believed to be a key official involved in North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile development, while Kim Jong Sik has been linked to the country’s efforts to build solid-fuel missiles. The Pyongyang-based Munitions Industry Department is sanctioned both by the United States and the U.N. Security Council.
“Even if this is not a ‘missile’ test the way we strictly define it, these people and MID are all sanctioned entities for a reason,” Hanham said.
The White House said it was aware of the report and had no comment. The Pentagon also said it was aware but had no information to provide at this point. South Korea’s presidential office said it has no immediate comment. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it is analyzing the test but did not specifically say what the weapon appeared to be.
After the animosity of 2017, last year saw a stunning turn to diplomacy, culminating in the first-ever summit between the U.S. and North Korea in Singapore, and then the Hanoi talks this year. North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range rocket tests, and the North and South Korean leaders have met three times. But there are growing worries that the progress could be killed by mismatched demands between the U.S. and North Korea over sanctions relief and disarmament.
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Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

India enters 2nd phase of elections with Kashmir in lockdown

By AIJAZ HUSSAIN Associated Press
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Voting began in the second phase of India’s general election Thursday amid massive security and a lockdown in parts of the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Srinagar is one of 95 constituencies across 13 Indian states where voting was taking place.
Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over the disputed region urged a boycott of the vote, calling it an illegitimate exercise under military occupation. Most polling stations in the Srinagar and Budgam areas of Kashmir appeared deserted, with more police, paramilitary soldiers and election staff than voters.
“This is not our vote. Our vote will be on the day we’re allowed to exercise plebiscite (on Kashmir’s status),” said Intizar Ahmed, a young trader in Srinagar. Another resident, Abdul Hamid, said he only voted in the hope that a Kashmiri representative in India’s Parliament will seek a resolution for the disputed region.
Authorities shut down mobile internet service and closed some roads with steel barricades and razor wire as soldiers and police in riot gear patrolled the streets. However, men and women in long queues voted briskly in Kashmir’s Hindu-dominated Udhampur constituency.
The Indian election is taking place in seven phases over six weeks in the country of 1.3 billion people. Some 900 million people are registered to vote for candidates to fill 543 seats in India’s lower house of Parliament. Voting concludes on May 19 and counting is scheduled for May 23.
The election, the world’s largest democratic exercise, is seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. The campaigning has been marred by accusations, insults and unprecedented use of social media for fake news.
Also voting Thursday was Tamil Nadu state in the south, where tens of thousands lined up to cast their ballots for 37 seats. Voting was postponed for the Vellore seat following the seizure of 110 million ($1.57 million) in unaccounted cash allegedly from the home of a local opposition politician, Kathir Anand.
His party accused federal tax authorities of raiding the homes and offices of party leaders running against Modi’s party. The governing party in the state, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is an ally of Modi’s party.
The Election Commission said authorities had recovered 2 billion rupees ($29 million) from leaders, workers and supporters of various political parties in the state in the past month. They suspect the money was for buying votes.
In vote-rich Uttar Pradesh state, election officials directed authorities to provide drinking water and sun shelters at polling stations to cope with the scorching summer heat, said Vekenteshwar Lu, the state’s chief electoral officer.
Modi promised big-ticket economic reforms, but with unemployment rising and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices, his party has adopted a nationalist pitch trying to win the majority Hindu votes.
A report by Azim Premji University in India’s southern state of Karnataka, released on Wednesday, said 5 million men lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018, coinciding with Modi’s demonetization program aimed at curbing black market money by taking high currency notes out of circulation. The decision ultimately hurt the poor, while most of the illicit funds re-entered the banking system.
The report said the overall unemployment rate in India was around 6% in 2018, double the average between 2000 and 2011.
Modi has used Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record, playing up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers, in a bid to appear a strong, uncompromising leader on national security. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.
Opposition parties have consistently said that Modi and his party leaders are digressing from the main issues such as youth employment and farmers’ suicides. The main opposition Congress party has dubbed him a “national disaster.”
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Anti-India unrest has risen significantly since Modi came to power in 2014 amid a rise in Hindu nationalism and attacks against Muslims and other minorities.
Modi supporters say the tea seller’s son from Gujarat state has improved the nation’s standing. But critics say his party’s Hindu nationalism has aggravated religious tensions in India.
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Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow, India, contributed to this report.

Kremlin says Kim Jong Un will visit Russia this month

MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia later this month.
It said in a brief statement Thursday that Kim will visit Russia “in the second half of April” on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation, but gave no further details.
Russian media have been abuzz in recent days with rumors about the rare meeting between the leaders.
Putin is set to visit China later this month, and some media speculated that he could meet with Kim in Vladivostok, the far eastern port city near the border with North Korea.

Indonesia’s Widodo declares victory in presidential election

By NINIEK KARMINI Associated Press
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday he was won re-election after receiving an estimated 54% of the vote, backtracking on an earlier vow to wait for official results after his challenger made improbable claims of victory.
Widodo, after meeting with parties in his coalition, told reporters that the leaders of Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and numerous other nations have congratulated him on securing a second term.
The vote estimate is based on so-called quick counts of a sample of polling stations by a dozen reputable survey organizations. Widodo said that 100% of sample polling stations have now been counted or close to that. The quick counts have been accurate in previous elections.
“We all know that the QC (quick count) calculation is a scientific calculation method. From the country’s experiences of past elections the accuracy is 99.9%, almost the same as real count results,” Widodo said.
Widodo’s rival, former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, has claimed he won 62% of the vote in Wednesday’s election based on his campaign’s own counts, repeating a similar claim when he lost to Widodo in 2014.
The Election Commission is required to release official results by May 22.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighborhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world’s biggest economies by 2030. A second term for Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the Jakarta elite, could further cement the country’s two decades of democratization.
Subianto, a strident nationalist, ran a fear-based campaign, highlighting what he sees as Indonesia’s weakness and the risk of exploitation by foreign powers or disintegration.
Widodo said he had sent a representative to talk to Subianto and his camp.
“This afternoon I have sent an envoy to meet Prabowo to set a meeting, and if people see our meeting, we will be able to show how the elections have ended smoothly, safely and peacefully,” he said.
The country’s security minister and its military and police chiefs said earlier Thursday that they will crack down on any attempts to disrupt public order while official results from presidential and legislative elections are tabulated.
Security minister Wiranto, who uses a single name, told a news conference with the chiefs of police and all military branches that security forces will “act decisively” against any threats to order and security.
He said the voter turnout of 80.5% gives the winner of the presidential election “high legitimacy.”
National police chief Tito Karnavian said the Election Commission and courts are the appropriate institutions for resolving complaints about the election.
Subianto’s hard-line Muslim supporters plan mass prayers in central Jakarta on Friday but it was unclear if the event will be allowed to go ahead.
“I appeal to everybody not to mobilize, both mobilization to celebrate victory or mobilization about dissatisfaction,” Karnavian said.
The election was a huge logistical exercise with 193 million people eligible to vote, more than 800,000 polling stations and 17 million people involved in ensuring the polls ran smoothly. Helicopters, boats and horses were used to get ballots to remote and inaccessible corners of the archipelago.
Voting ran smoothly, apart from a few districts where logistical problems caused delays, and was peaceful, a remarkable achievement for a country steeped in political violence.
Widodo’s campaign highlighted his progress in poverty reduction and improving Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure with new ports, toll roads, airports and mass rapid transit. The latter became a reality last month in chronically congested Jakarta with the opening of a subway.

‘We don’t get over it’: Pain of mass shootings stretches on

By TERRY SPENCER, KELLI KENNEDY and COLLEEN SLEVIN Associated Press
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rozenblat can still hear the cries of a wounded boy calling for help as she hid from the gunfire that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year.
Talking to therapists at the school in Parkland, Florida, didn’t help. Each session had a different counselor, and she found herself rehashing traumas she had already expressed. She would rather turn to her friends, who understand what she went through.
“There is slight pressure to get better as quickly as you can, and since it’s been a year, everyone thinks that you are better,” the 16-year-old said.
The mental health resources after a school shooting range from therapy dogs and grief counselors at school to support groups, art therapy and in-home counseling. But there is no blueprint for dealing with the trauma because each tragedy, survivor and community is different. Many survivors don’t get counseling right away — sometimes waiting years — making it difficult to understand the full impact.
The struggle is getting them to seek help in the first place. In the two decades since the Columbine High School massacre, a network of survivors has emerged, reaching out to the newest victims to offer support that many say they prefer to traditional therapy.
As the anguish festers, the danger grows, illustrated by the recent suicides of two Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors and a father whose young child died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
“It changes the community,” said psychologist Robin Gurwitch, a trauma specialist at Duke University Medical Center.
Grief, troubling memories and emotions can bubble up any time for survivors and even community members who didn’t see the bullets fly, she said. They can hit on anniversaries of the tragedy, birthdays of victims, graduations and new mass shootings, Gurwitch said. The trauma can even rush back with a song, favorite meal, video game or fire alarms.
“There’s never a time limit. We don’t get ‘over it.’ We hope we learn to get through it and cope,” Gurwitch said.
Survivors of the Columbine attack, which killed 12 Colorado students and a teacher on April 20, 1999, started The Rebels Project, which is part of a loose nationwide network of survivors of mass attacks.
The groups reach out after each shooting. They held a packed meeting for survivors and parents in Parkland this month, describing how they have learned to cope over the years through therapy, exercise and hobbies and assuring the Florida community that their pain is normal.
“We are one family,” said meeting organizer Mike Dempsey, a survivor of 9/11 and the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. “What helped me after 9/11 was that Oklahoma City bombing survivors drove all the way up to New York to help us. They weren’t mental health professionals, but they were able to offer comfort and outreach and just to let us know: ‘We’ve been through this.'”
Rozenblat refuses to talk about the Parkland shooting. If she feels anxious during the school day, she holes up in a TV production classroom because there are no windows for a gunman to shoot through.
Her mother worries. Alex had been an honors student but now struggles with schoolwork, is constantly angry and has a new group of friends, said her mother, Lissette Rozenblat.
She schedules therapy appointments, but Alex often makes excuses to postpone or cancel. The family bought a therapy dog and is trying to get Alex into art therapy.
“The common theme among parents … almost all of our kids don’t want to talk about the incident,” Lissette Rozenblat said.
Some students who were not physically wounded minimize their trauma and don’t seek help because they try to convince themselves they were lucky, said Columbine survivor Heather Martin, who co-founded The Rebel Project.
“You can’t measure trauma in that way,” Martin said. Still, she said people need to seek help when they feel ready, not when others think they should.
Victims often receive compensation for longer-term care, but many in recovering communities, especially those may have seen horror but avoided injury, say there’s still not enough help to go around.
Stoneman Douglas math teacher Kimberly Krawczyk said no typical school counselor — no matter how well-intentioned or trained — can fully help students or staff who survived a mass shooting.
“These kids have seen as much as soldiers who have been in battle. They survived gunfire. They walked over bodies. They had classmates who were right next to them who got shot,” Krawczyk said.
Teachers also are dealing with their own trauma and insecurities, she said.
“We don’t all have our marbles back in our bags yet, but we are in charge of those children. That gravity is a lot of responsibility, and for some teachers, it is too emotionally overwhelming,” Krawczyk said.
Managing long-term mental health effects poses unique challenges in each town touched by tragedy, but experts agree that isolation is a red flag and keeping victims connected to family, friends and community is critical.
Dr. April Foreman, a psychologist on the board of the American Association of Suicidology, called treating mass shootings “a profound lifetime health care issue” but stressed that a majority of those who have suicidal thoughts recover.
Marjory Stoneman sophomore Julia Brighton said she’s attempted suicide four times in the year since she watched the gunman shoot through the window of her English class, killing three friends. Despite an outpouring of community support and a bevy of mental health services, Brighton said she still felt ashamed to seek help.
After months of therapy, she said she realized “there’s nothing to be afraid of because it made me a better person in the long run.”
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Slevin reported from Denver. Associated Press Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago contributed to this report.

India’s millions of young voters can swing national election

By RISHABH R. JAIN Associated Press
NEW DELHI (AP) — Young Indians could play a crucial role in the ongoing general election in the world’s largest democracy.
With nearly two-thirds of India’s population below 35, and more than 15 million first-time voters aged 18 and 19, young men and women have the power to swing the national vote in any direction.
Ambitious, aspirational and impatient for change, young voters — at least in India’s capital — are less focused on issues such as caste and religion than older generations, according to interviews with The Associated Press.
They are interested, instead, on landing jobs after college, living in cleaner cities with breathable air, increasing women’s safety and competing with the world’s biggest economies.
Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be the favorite, riding a wave of Hindu nationalism that peaked after India’s air force attacked an alleged militant base in Pakistan to avenge a suicide attack that killed more than 40 soldiers in disputed Kashmir.
His main opponent, Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi, hopes to revive the glory of India’s grand old party that ruled the country for more than 50 years, since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Here are some of the views of young voters in New Delhi:
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Mayank Thakur, 18, engineering student
“Unemployment is very high in India currently. India has a lot of engineers who haven’t been able to develop their skills because there aren’t enough jobs for them in India.”
“Narendra Modi has provided a lot of facilities for the poor people of this country. In my home state of Uttar Pradesh, villages that were rarely lit now have electricity. Where food used to be cooked on firewood, he has given gas cylinders.”
“India is now a very secure nation in the last five years. When Pakistan attacked us, Narendra Modi gave them a jaw-breaking reply.”
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Vardha Kharbanda, 20, psychology student
“I am looking out for an issue that no government is actually talking about, that is pollution. I have been in Delhi for my entire life and my lungs are gone without ever smoking. So I might just die of lung cancer without touching a cigarette even once. Nobody is talking about pollution.”
“No left and no right can actually run a secular and democratic nation that is multilingual and multicultural in nature. It cannot be done with a single ideology.”
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Arjun Parcha, 32, hospital supplies assistant
“Nowadays, whoever comes into power is busy serving their own interests. Who is looking out for us? Nobody. They are only looking at filling their own pockets. What has happened? Every day we hear about fighting. One party blames the other for corruption, the other blames them back for corruption. There is no solution.”
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Jitesh Nagpal, 20, university student
“For me the biggest issue is job opportunities. Whichever party creates more jobs for the new industries will get my vote because I will have to start looking for jobs very soon.”
“I don’t care much about parties, but there is just one clear candidate for victory and that is Narendra Modi. I don’t think we have a better option to lead the country.”
“I haven’t seen any other strong candidate. I don’t trust Rahul Gandhi yet. Maybe my views about him will change in the future, but not right now.”
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Rajanvir Singh Luthra, 23, YouTube vlogger
“Whichever government comes to power, the first thing they should do is to look after the poor because the rate of poverty is very high in India. No doubt, we now have digital India, we have everything online, but do something for the poor people also.”
“India is still not on top. We don’t have basic facilities. If you go to a government hospital, you have to stand in long lines. You can only go in after waiting and filling forms. A lot of our police officers and other officers are corrupt. There is a lot of corruption in India.”
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Monika Dalal, 20, psychology student
“Women’s safety is the major issue for me. People are talking a lot about it and there are slogans like ‘Save girl child, educate girl child,’ being launched, but I don’t think these concepts are applied to the roots with practicality. I have been to the villages and seen how girls are treated. They are not even educated and if they do go to school, they are forced to marry right after completing grade 12.”
“Modi has done a lot definitely to help us establish ourselves globally and even in the U.N. By him visiting different countries we are getting recognition there. And they are coming up with some impressive projects to start in India, which has happened because of Modi. So, I think we have really progressed.”
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Kavita Srivastava, 18, studying banking and financial services
“The biggest issue in Delhi is girls’ safety, which is still not 100%.”
“Girls should feel safe leaving their homes and going out at whatever time of the night.”
“I don’t think Rahul Gandhi is the best option. I too am in support of Narendra Modi. I think he has the potential to take India to those heights.”
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Ashutosh Kumar Singh, 24, charity worker
“The issues that should be important aren’t even being discussed. We don’t see or hear about them. The issue should be education and increasing the level of education. Employment should be an issue. And they are working toward that, but it is not considered an important issue. Currently, the state of politics is so lowly in India that people are just busy in pointing fingers and avoiding key issues.”
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Mohammad Anjar, 18, engineering student
“At present only Narendra Modi is fit to run this country because they have done a tremendous amount of work in the last five years. The Modi government is taking the country forward. At least, that is what I hear.”
“Everyone should cast their votes. We all sit at home and say ‘This government is not working, that government is not working.’ Get out of your homes and vote as it is an invaluable weapon.”
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Associated Press video journalist Shonal Ganguly contributed to this report.