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National News

Minister: Texas gunman grew angry in past over cash requests

By JAKE BLEIBERG and JAMIE STENGLE Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — The man who fatally shot two people at a Texas church was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial in 2012 and was repeatedly fed by the congregation but got angry when church officials refused to give him money, according to court records and the pastor.
It’s unclear whether Keith Thomas Kinnunen’s extensive criminal record and psychological history would have barred him from legally buying the shotgun he used during Sunday’s attack at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth-area town of White Settlement.
Kinnunen, 43, shot worshipers Richard White and Anton “Tony” Wallace in the sanctuary before a member of the church’s volunteer security team shot and killed him, according to police and witnesses.
Minister Britt Farmer told The Christian Chronicle that he recognized Kinnunen after seeing a photo of him without the fake beard, wig, hat and long coat he wore as a disguise to the service. Kinnunen visited the congregation several other times this year and was given food but denied money, the minister said.
“We’ve helped him on several occasions with food,” Farmer said in the interview. “He gets mad when we won’t give him cash.”
Authorities have said Kinnunen’s motive remains under investigation and they declined to comment on how he obtained the gun he used, though a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it had successfully traced the weapon.
Court records portray Kinnunen as being deeply troubled long before Sunday’s attack.
In 2012, a district judge in Oklahoma ruled him mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered him committed to a psychiatric facility for treatment.
Kinnunen was charged with felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after he attacked the owner of a Chickasha, Oklahoma, doughnut shop in 2011, court records state. He was separately charged with arson that year after allegedly starting a fire in a cotton field by tying tampons soaked in lamp oil to the crop.
Earlier on the day of that fire, Kinnunen soaked a football in the accelerant, lit it on fire and then threw it back and forth with his son, who was a minor, according to the arrest affidavit. The boy told police he was afraid his father would get mad if he asked to stop.
A forensic psychologist who examined him in 2012 for both cases wrote that “Kinnunen currently evidences signs that are consistent with a substantial mental illness and that meet the inpatient criteria of a ‘person requiring treatment.'”
Records show that Kinnunen was found competent to stand trial in February 2013, however both criminal cases were ultimately reduced to misdemeanors, to which he pleaded guilty.
One of Kinnunen’s ex-wives, Cynthia L. Glasgow-Voegle, also filed for a protective order against him in 2012, Oklahoma records show.
“Keith is a violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and battery w/ and without firearms,” Glasgow-Voegle said in the petition. She also wrote that Kinnunen was prone to religious fanaticism and “says he’s battling a demon.”
Kinnunen got “more and more” into drugs and “it messed with his head” during his second marriage, said Angela Holloway, whose divorce from him was finalized in 2011.
Holloway, a 44-year-old Fort Worth resident, said she hadn’t spoken to Kinnunen in years and learned from news reports that he was the church attacker. She said she and Kinnunen used to attend church together and that there were times he appeared to be off drugs, but that he was frightening by the end of their six-year marriage.
“He was really disturbed,” Holloway told The Associated Press.
Holloway said she doesn’t know whether Kinnunen was ever diagnosed with a mental illness and that she wasn’t sure if he could legally have guns, but that he consistently did.
“I don’t know how he got them, I just know that he did have them,” she said.
In 2016, Kinnunen was arrested in New Jersey and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser crime of criminal trespass, court records show. In Texas, he was charged with aggravated assault in 2008 but pleaded down to misdemeanor deadly conduct.
Federal law defines nine categories that would prohibit someone from being legally allowed to own or possess a firearm. They include being convicted of any felony charge or misdemeanor domestic violence, being subject to a restraining order or active warrants, being addicted to drugs and being involuntarily committed to a mental health institution or being found by a court to be “a mental defective.” However, it remained unclear if Kinnunen qualified under any of the categories.
Seconds after Kinnunen opened fire in the church Sunday, Jack Wilson, a 71-year-old firearms instructor, shot him once in the head.
The actions of Wilson and other armed churchgoers quickly drew praise from some Texas lawmakers and gun-rights advocates. Texas officials hailed the state’s gun laws, including a measure enacted this year that affirmed the right of licensed handgun holders to carry a weapon inside places of worship unless a facility bans them.
“We can’t prevent every incident, we can’t prevent mental illness from occurring, and we can’t prevent every crazy person from pulling a gun, but we can be prepared like this church was,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters Monday.
President Donald Trump tweeted Monday night and Tuesday morning about the attack, both times highlighting the role of armed citizens in stopping the shooter. “If it were not for the fact that there were people inside of the church that were both armed, and highly proficient in using their weapon, the end result would have been catastrophic. A big THANK YOU to them!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
But other Texas lawmakers, while praising the churchgoers’ actions, called for a special legislative session to address gun violence after a devastating year that included mass shootings in El Paso and the West Texas cities of Odessa and Midland.
“We must respect the Second Amendment while also working together to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm to Texans worshiping in a church, attending school or shopping for their children,” state Sen. Beverly Powell, D-Fort Worth, said in a statement Monday.
___
Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber in Austin, Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City, David Porter in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

Categories
National News

Final goodbye: Recalling influential people who died in 2019

By BERNARD McGHEE Associated Press
A lauded writer who brought to light stories overshadowed by prejudice. An actress and singer who helped embody the manufactured innocence of the 1950s. A self-made billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president.
This year saw the deaths of people who shifted culture through prose, pragmatism and persistence. It also witnessed tragedy, in talent struck down in its prime.
In 2019, the political world lost a giant in U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. He was born the son of a sharecropper, became a lawyer, then an influential congressman and champion of civil rights.
Cummings, who died in October, was chairman of one of the U.S. House committees that led an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump and was a formidable advocate for the poor in his Maryland district.
Another influential political figure, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, died in July. Stevens was appointed to the high court as a Republican but became the leader of its liberal wing and a proponent of abortion rights and consumer protections.
Wealth, fame and a confident prescription for the nation’s economic ills propelled H. Ross Perot ‘s 1992 campaign against President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. He recorded the highest percentage for an independent or third-party candidate since 1912. He died in July.
The death of Toni Morrison in August left a chasm in the publishing world, where she was a “literary mother” to countless writers. She helped elevate multiculturalism to the world stage and unearthed the lives of the unknown and unwanted. She became the first black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize for “Beloved” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
Among those in the scientific world who died in 2019 was Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space. Leonov died in October. Others include scientist Wallace Smith Broecker, who died in February and popularized the term “global warming” as he raised early alarms about climate change.
In April, Hollywood lost director John Singleton, whose 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood” was praised as a realistic and compassionate take on race, class, peer pressure and family. He became the first black director to receive an Oscar nomination and the youngest at 24.
Doris Day, a top box-office draw and recording artist who died in May, stood for the 1950s ideal of innocence and G-rated love, a parallel world to her contemporary Marilyn Monroe. She received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004.
The year also saw the untimely deaths of two young rappers, leaving a feeling of accomplishments unfulfilled. Grammy-nominated Nipsey Hussle was killed in a shooting in Los Angeles in March. Juice WRLD, who launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut, died in December after being treated for opioid use during a police search.
Here is a roll call of some influential figures who died in 2019 (cause of death cited for younger people, if available):
JANUARY
Eugene “Mean Gene” Okerlund, 76. His deadpan interviews of pro wrestling superstars like “Macho Man” Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan made him a ringside fixture in his own right. Jan. 2.
Bob Einstein, 76. The veteran comedy writer and performer known for “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and his spoof daredevil character Super Dave Osborne. Jan. 2.
Daryl Dragon, 76. The cap-wearing “Captain” of Captain & Tennille who teamed with then-wife Toni Tennille on such easy listening hits as “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love.” Jan. 2.
Harold Brown, 91. As defense secretary in the Carter administration, he championed cutting-edge fighting technology during a tenure that included the failed rescue of hostages in Iran. Jan 4.
Jakiw Palij, 95. A former Nazi concentration camp guard who spent decades leading an unassuming life in New York City until his past was revealed. Jan. 9.
Carol Channing, 97. The ebullient musical comedy star who delighted American audiences in almost 5,000 performances as the scheming Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway and beyond. Jan. 15.
John C. Bogle, 89. He simplified investing for the masses by launching the first index mutual fund and founded Vanguard Group. Jan. 16.
Lamia al-Gailani, 80. An Iraqi archaeologist who lent her expertise to rebuilding the National Museum’s collection after it was looted in 2003. Jan. 18.
Nathan Glazer, 95. A prominent sociologist and intellectual who assisted on a classic study of conformity, “The Lonely Crowd,” and co-authored a groundbreaking document of non-conformity, “Beyond the Melting Pot.” Jan. 19.
Antonio Mendez, 78. A former CIA technical operations officer who helped rescue six U.S. diplomats from Iran in 1980 and was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film “Argo.” Jan. 19.
Harris Wofford, 92. A former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and longtime civil rights activist who helped persuade John F. Kennedy to make a crucial phone call to the wife of Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960 presidential campaign. Jan. 21.
Russell Baker, 93. The genial but sharp-witted writer who won Pulitzer Prizes for his humorous columns in The New York Times and a moving autobiography of his impoverished Baltimore childhood. He later hosted television’s “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS. Jan 21. Complications after a fall.
Michel Legrand, 86. An Oscar-winning composer and pianist whose hits included the score for the ’60s romance “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and the song “The Windmills of Your Mind” and who worked with some of biggest singers of the 20th century. Jan. 26.
Kim Bok-dong, 92. A South Korean woman who was forced as a girl into a brothel and sexually enslaved by the Japanese military during World War II, becoming a vocal leader at rallies that were held every Wednesday in Seoul for nearly 30 years. Jan. 28.
James Ingram, 66. The Grammy-winning singer who launched multiple hits on the R&B and pop charts and earned two Oscar nominations for his songwriting. Jan. 29.
Donald S. Smith, 94. He produced the controversial anti-abortion film “The Silent Scream” and, with help from Ronald Reagan’s White House, distributed copies to every member of Congress and the Supreme Court. Jan. 30.
Harold Bradley, 93. A Country Music Hall of Fame guitarist who played on hundreds of hit country records and along with his brother, famed producer Owen Bradley, helped craft “The Nashville Sound.” Jan. 31.
FEBRUARY
Kristoff St. John, 52. An actor best known for playing Neil Winters on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Feb. 4. Heart disease.
Anne Firor Scott, 97. A prize-winning historian and esteemed professor who upended the male-dominated field of Southern scholarship by pioneering the study of Southern women. Feb. 5.
Frank Robinson, 83. The Hall of Famer was the first black manager in Major League Baseball and the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. Feb. 7.
John Dingell, 92. The former congressman was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history at 59 years and a master of legislative deal-making who was fiercely protective of Detroit’s auto industry. Feb. 7.
Albert Finney, 82. The British actor was the Academy Award-nominated star of films from “Tom Jones” to “Skyfall.” Feb. 8.
Jan-Michael Vincent, 73. The “Airwolf” television star whose sleek good looks belied a troubled personal life. Feb. 10.
Gordon Banks, 81. The World Cup-winning England goalkeeper who was also known for blocking a header from Pele that many consider the greatest save in soccer history. Feb. 12.
Betty Ballantine, 99. She was half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team that helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451.” Feb. 12.
Lyndon LaRouche Jr., 96. The political extremist who ran for president in every election from 1976 to 2004, including a campaign waged from federal prison. Feb. 12.
Andrea Levy, 62. A prize-winning novelist who chronicled the hopes and horrors experienced by the post-World War II generation of Jamaican immigrants in Britain. Feb. 14.
Lee Radziwill, 85. She was the stylish jet setter and socialite who found friends, lovers and other adventures worldwide while bonding and competing with her sister Jacqueline Kennedy. Feb. 15.
Armando M. Rodriguez, 97. A Mexican immigrant and World War II veteran who served in the administrations of four U.S. presidents while pressing for civil rights and education reforms. Feb. 17.
Wallace Smith Broecker, 87. A scientist who raised early alarms about climate change and popularized the term “global warming.” Feb. 18.
Karl Lagerfeld, 85. Chanel’s iconic couturier whose accomplished designs and trademark white ponytail, high starched collars and dark enigmatic glasses dominated high fashion for the past 50 years. Feb. 19.
David Horowitz, 81. His “Fight Back!” syndicated program made him perhaps the best-known consumer reporter in the U.S. Feb. 21.
Peter Tork, 77. A talented singer-songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical skills were often overshadowed by his role as the goofy, lovable bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees. Feb. 21.
Stanley Donen, 94. A giant of the Hollywood musical who, through such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Funny Face,” helped provide some of the most joyous sounds and images in movie history. Feb. 21.
Jackie Shane, 78. A black transgender soul singer who became a pioneering musician in Toronto where she packed nightclubs in the 1960s. Feb. 21.
Katherine Helmond, 89. An Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress who played two very different matriarchs on the ABC sitcoms “Who’s the Boss?” and “Soap.” Feb. 23.
Charles McCarry, 88. An admired and prescient spy novelist who foresaw passenger jets as terrorist weapons in “The Better Angels” and devised a compelling theory for JFK’s assassination in “The Tears of Autumn.” Feb. 26.
Jerry Merryman, 86. He was one of the inventors of the handheld electronic calculator. Feb. 27. Complications of heart and kidney failure.
Ed Nixon, 88. The youngest brother of President Richard Nixon who was a Navy aviator and geologist and spent years promoting his brother’s legacy. Feb. 27.
Andre Previn, 89. The pianist, composer and conductor whose broad reach took in the worlds of Hollywood, jazz and classical music. Feb. 28.
MARCH
John Shafer, 94. The legendary Northern California vintner was part of a generation that helped elevate sleepy Napa Valley into the international wine powerhouse it is today. March 2.
Keith Flint, 49. The fiery frontman of British dance-electronic band The Prodigy. March 4. Found dead by hanging in his home.
Luke Perry, 52. He gained instant heartthrob status as wealthy rebel Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210.” March 4. Stroke.
Juan Corona, 85. He gained the nickname “The Machete Murderer” for hacking to death dozens of migrant farm laborers in California in the early 1970s. March 4.
Ralph Hall, 95. The former Texas congressman was the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House and a man who claimed to have once sold cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the bank-robbing duo of Bonnie and Clyde in Dallas. March 7.
Carmine “the Snake” Persico, 85. The longtime boss of the infamous Colombo crime family. March 7.
Vera Bila, 64. A Czech singer dubbed the Ella Fitzgerald of Gypsy music or the Queen of Romany. March 12. Heart attack.
Birch Bayh, 91. A former U.S. senator who championed the federal law banning discrimination against women in college admissions and sports. March 14.
Dick Dale, 83. His pounding, blaringly loud power-chord instrumentals on songs like “Miserlou” and “Let’s Go Trippin'” earned him the title King of the Surf Guitar. March 16.
Jerrie Cobb, 88. America’s first female astronaut candidate, the pilot pushed for equality in space but never reached its heights. March 18.
Scott Walker, 76. An influential singer, songwriter and producer whose hits with the Walker Brothers in the 1960s included “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” March 22.
Rafi Eitan, 92. A legendary Israeli Mossad spy who led the capture of Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann. March 23.
Larry Cohen, 77. The maverick B-movie director of cult horror films “It’s Alive” and “God Told Me To.” March 23.
Michel Bacos, 95. A French pilot who’s remembered as a hero for his actions in the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane to Uganda’s Entebbe airport. March 26.
Valery Bykovsky, 84. A pioneering Soviet-era cosmonaut who made the first of his three flights to space in 1963. March 27.
Agnes Varda, 90. The French New Wave pioneer who for decades beguiled, challenged and charmed moviegoers in films that inspired generations of filmmakers. March 29. Cancer.
Ken Gibson, 86. He became the first black mayor of a major Northeast city when he ascended to power in riot-torn Newark, New Jersey, about five decades ago. March 29.
Billy Adams, 79. A Rockabilly Hall of Famer who wrote and recorded the rockabilly staple “Rock, Pretty Mama.” March 30.
Nipsey Hussle, 33. A Grammy-nominated rapper. March 31. Killed in a shooting.
APRIL
Sydney Brenner, 92. A Nobel Prize-winning biologist who helped decipher the genetic code and whose research on a roundworm sparked a new field of human disease research. April 5.
Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, 97. The silver-haired Democrat who helped shepherd South Carolina through desegregation as governor and went on to serve six terms in the U.S. Senate. April 6.
Cho Yang-ho, 70. Korean Air’s chairman, whose leadership included scandals such as his daughter’s infamous incident of “nut rage.” April 7.
Marilynn Smith, 89. One of the 13 founders of the LPGA Tour whose 21 victories, two majors and endless support of her tour led to her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. April 9.
Richard “Dick” Cole, 103. The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders who carried out the daring U.S. attack on Japan during World War II. April 9.
Charles Van Doren, 93. The dashing young academic whose meteoric rise and fall as a corrupt game show contestant in the 1950s inspired the movie “Quiz Show” and served as a cautionary tale about the staged competitions of early television. April 9.
Monkey Punch, 81. A cartoonist best known as the creator of the Japanese megahit comic series Lupin III. April 11.
Georgia Engel, 70. She played the charmingly innocent, small-voiced Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and amassed a string of other TV and stage credits. April 12.
Bibi Andersson, 83. The Swedish actress who starred in classic films by compatriot Ingmar Bergman, including “The Seventh Seal” and “Persona.” April 14.
Owen Garriott, 88. A former astronaut who flew on America’s first space station, Skylab, and whose son followed him into orbit. April 15.
Alan García, 69. A former Peruvian president whose first term in the 1980s was marred by financial chaos and rebel violence and who was recently targeted in Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal. April 17. Apparent suicide.
Lorraine Warren, 92. A world-wide paranormal investigator and author whose decades of ghost-hunting cases with her late husband inspired such frightening films as “The Conjuring” series and “The Amityville Horror.” April 18.
Mark Medoff, 79. A provocative playwright whose “Children of a Lesser God” won Tony and Olivier awards and whose screen adaptation of his play earned an Oscar nomination. April 23.
John Havlicek, 79. The Boston Celtics great whose steal of Hal Greer’s inbounds pass in the final seconds of the 1965 Eastern Conference final against the Philadelphia 76ers remains one of the most famous plays in NBA history. April 25.
Damon J. Keith, 96. A grandson of slaves and figure in the civil rights movement who as a federal judge was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps. April 28.
Richard Lugar, 87. A former U.S. senator and foreign policy sage known for leading efforts to help the former Soviet states dismantle and secure much of their nuclear arsenal but whose reputation for working with Democrats cost him his final campaign. April 28.
John Singleton, 51. A director who made one of Hollywood’s most memorable debuts with the Oscar-nominated “Boyz N the Hood” and continued over the following decades to probe the lives of black communities in his native Los Angeles and beyond. April 29. Taken off life support after a stroke.
Ellen Tauscher, 67. A trailblazer for women in the world of finance who served in Congress for more than a decade before joining the Obama administration. April 29. Complications from pneumonia.
Peter Mayhew, 74. The towering actor who donned a huge, furry costume to give life to the rugged-and-beloved character of Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and two other films. April 30.
MAY
John Lukacs, 95. The Hungarian-born historian and iconoclast who brooded over the future of Western civilization, wrote a best-selling tribute to Winston Churchill, and produced a substantial and often despairing body of writings on the politics and culture of Europe and the United States. May 6.
Peggy Lipton, 72. A star of the groundbreaking late 1960s TV show “The Mod Squad” and the 1990s show “Twin Peaks.” May 11. Cancer.
Leonard Bailey, 76. The doctor who in 1984 transplanted a baboon heart into a tiny newborn dubbed “Baby Fae” in a pioneering operation that sparked both worldwide acclaim and condemnation. May 12.
Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, 98. The former patriarch of Lebanon’s Maronite Christian church who served as spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian community through some of the worst days of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. May 12.
Doris Day, 97. The sunny blond actress and singer whose frothy comedic roles opposite the likes of Rock Hudson and Cary Grant made her one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and ’60s and a symbol of wholesome American womanhood. May 13.
Tim Conway, 85. The impish second banana to Carol Burnett who won four Emmy Awards on her TV variety show, starred in “McHale’s Navy” and later voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for “Spongebob Squarepants.” May 14.
I.M. Pei, 102. The versatile, globe-trotting architect who revived the Louvre with a giant glass pyramid and captured the spirit of rebellion at the multi-shaped Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May 16.
Niki Lauda, 70. A Formula One great who won two of his world titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry. May 20.
Binyavanga Wainaina, 48. One of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists. May 21. Illness.
Judith Kerr, 95. A refugee from Nazi Germany who wrote and illustrated the best-selling “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” and other beloved children’s books. May 22.
Murray Gell-Mann, 89. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist who brought order to the universe by helping discover and classify subatomic particles. May 24.
Claus von Bulow, 92. A Danish-born socialite who was convicted but later acquitted of trying to kill his wealthy wife in two trials that drew intense international attention in the 1980s. May 25.
Prem Tinsulanonda, 98. As an army commander, prime minister and adviser to the royal palace, he was one of Thailand’s most influential political figures over four decades. May 26.
Richard Matsch, 88. A federal judge who ruled his courtroom with a firm gavel and a short temper and gained national respect in the 1990s for his handling of the Oklahoma City bombing trials. May 26.
Bill Buckner, 69. A star hitter who made one of the biggest blunders in baseball history when he let Mookie Wilson’s trickler roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series. May 27.
Thad Cochran, 81. A former U.S. senator who served 45 years in Washington and used seniority to steer billions of dollars to his home state of Mississippi. May 30.
Patricia Bath, 76. A pioneering ophthalmologist who became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent after she invented a more precise treatment of cataracts. May 30. Complications of cancer.
Leon Redbone, 69. The blues and jazz artist whose growly voice, Panama hat and cultivated air of mystery made him seem like a character out of the ragtime era or the Depression-era Mississippi Delta. May 30.
Frank Lucas, 88. The former Harlem drug kingpin whose life and lore inspired the 2007 film “American Gangster.” May 30.
JUNE
Leah Chase, 96. A New Orleans chef and civil rights icon who created the city’s first white-tablecloth restaurant for black patrons, broke the city’s segregation laws by seating white and black customers, and introduced countless tourists to Southern Louisiana Creole cooking. June 1.
Dr. John, 77. The New Orleans singer and piano player who blended black and white musical styles with a hoodoo-infused stage persona and gravelly bayou drawl. June 6.
John Gunther Dean, 93. A veteran American diplomat and five-time ambassador forever haunted by his role in the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia during the dying days of the Khmer Republic. June 6.
Sylvia Miles, 94. An actress and Manhattan socialite whose brief, scene-stealing appearances in the films “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely” earned her two Academy Award nominations. June 12.
Lew Klein, 91. A broadcast pioneer who helped create “American Bandstand” and launched the careers of Dick Clark and Bob Saget. June 12.
Pat Bowlen, 75. The Denver Broncos owner who transformed the team from also-rans into NFL champions and helped the league usher in billion-dollar television deals. June 13.
Charles Reich, 91. The author and Ivy League academic whose “The Greening of America” blessed the counterculture of the 1960s and became a million-selling manifesto for a new and euphoric way of life. June 15.
Gloria Vanderbilt, 95. The intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and ’80s as a designer jeans pioneer. June 17.
Jim Taricani, 69. An award-winning TV reporter who exposed corruption and served a federal sentence for refusing to disclose a source. June 21. Kidney failure.
Judith Krantz, 91. A writer whose million-selling novels such as “Scruples” and “Princess Daisy” engrossed readers worldwide with their steamy tales of the rich and beautiful. June 22.
Dave Bartholomew, 100. A giant of New Orleans music and a rock n’ roll pioneer who, with Fats Domino, co-wrote and produced such classics as “Ain’t That a Shame,” “I’m Walkin'” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.” June 23.
Beth Chapman, 51. The wife and co-star of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman. June 26.
JULY
Tyler Skaggs, 27. The left-handed pitcher who was a regular in the Los Angeles Angels’ starting rotation since late 2016 and struggled with injuries repeatedly in that time. July 1. Choked on his own vomit and had a toxic mix of alcohol and painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system.
Lee Iacocca, 94. The auto executive and master pitchman who put the Mustang in Ford’s lineup in the 1960s and became a corporate folk hero when he resurrected Chrysler 20 years later. July 2.
Eva Kor, 85. A Holocaust survivor who championed forgiveness even for those who carried out the Holocaust atrocities. July 4.
Joao Gilberto, 88. A Brazilian singer, guitarist and songwriter considered one of the fathers of the bossa nova genre that gained global popularity in the 1960s and became an iconic sound of the South American nation. July 6.
Cameron Boyce, 20. An actor best known for his role as the teenage son of Cruella de Vil in the Disney Channel franchise “Descendants.” July 6. Seizure.
Martin Charnin, 84. He made his Broadway debut playing a Jet in the original “West Side Story” and went on to become a Broadway director and a lyricist who won a Tony Award for the score of the eternal hit “Annie.” July 6.
Artur Brauner, 100. A Polish-born Holocaust survivor who became one of post-World War II Germany’s most prominent film producers. July 7.
Rosie Ruiz, 66. The Boston Marathon course-cutter who was stripped of her victory in the 1980 race and went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sports. July 8. Cancer.
H. Ross Perot, 89. The colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from delivering newspapers as a boy to building his own information technology company and twice mounted outsider campaigns for president. July 9. Leukemia.
Rip Torn, 88. The free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor in television, theater and movies, such as “Men in Black,” and win an Emmy in his 60s for “The Larry Sanders Show.” July 9.
Fernando De la Rúa, 81. A former Argentine president who attracted voters with his image as an honest statesman and later left as the country plunged into its worst economic crisis. July 9.
Johnny Kitagawa, 87. Better known as Johnny-san, he was a kingpin of Japan’s entertainment industry for more than half a century who produced famous boy bands including Arashi, Tokio and SMAP. July 9.
Jim Bouton, 80. The former New York Yankees pitcher who shocked and angered the conservative baseball world with the tell-all book “Ball Four.” July 10.
Jerry Lawson, 75. For four decades, he was the lead singer of the eclectic cult favorite a cappella group the Persuasions. July 10.
Pernell Whitaker, 55. An Olympic gold medalist and four-division boxing champion who was regarded as one of the greatest defensive fighters ever. July 14. Hit by a car.
L. Bruce Laingen, 96. The top American diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian protesters in 1979 and one of 52 Americans held hostage for more than a year. July 15.
Edith Irby Jones, 91. The first black student to enroll at an all-white medical school in the South and later the first female president of the National Medical Association. July 15.
John Paul Stevens, 99. The bow-tied, independent-thinking, Republican-nominated justice who unexpectedly emerged as the Supreme Court’s leading liberal. July 16.
Johnny Clegg, 66. A South African musician who performed in defiance of racial barriers imposed under the country’s apartheid system decades ago and celebrated its new democracy under Nelson Mandela. July 16.
Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, 85. The former Boston Red Sox infielder was the first black player on the last major league team to field one. July 17.
Rutger Hauer, 75. A Dutch film actor who specialized in menacing roles, including a memorable turn as a murderous android in “Blade Runner” opposite Harrison Ford. July 19.
Paul Krassner, 87. The publisher, author and radical political activist on the front lines of 1960s counterculture who helped tie together his loose-knit prankster group by naming them the Yippies. July 21.
Robert M. Morgenthau, 99. A former Manhattan district attorney who spent more than three decades jailing criminals from mob kingpins and drug-dealing killers to a tax-dodging Harvard dean. July 21.
Li Peng, 90. A former hard-line Chinese premier best known for announcing martial law during the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests that ended with a bloody crackdown by troops. July 22.
Art Neville, 81. A member of one of New Orleans’ storied musical families, the Neville Brothers, and a founding member of the groundbreaking funk band The Meters. July 22.
Chris Kraft, 95. The founder of NASA’s mission control. July 22.
Mike Moulin, 70. A former Los Angeles police lieutenant who came under fire for failing to quell the first outbreak of rioting after the Rodney King beating verdict. July 30.
Harold Prince, 91. A Broadway director and producer who pushed the boundaries of musical theater with such groundbreaking shows as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cabaret,” “Company” and “Sweeney Todd” and won a staggering 21 Tony Awards. July 31.
AUGUST
D.A. Pennebaker, 94. The Oscar-winning documentary maker whose historic contributions to American culture and politics included immortalizing a young Bob Dylan in “Don’t Look Back” and capturing the spin behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign in “The War Room.” Aug. 1.
Henri Belolo, 82. He co-founded the Village People and co-wrote their classic hits “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “In the Navy.” Aug. 3.
Nuon Chea, 93. The chief ideologue of the communist Khmer Rouge regime that destroyed a generation of Cambodians. Aug. 4.
Toni Morrison, 88. A pioneer and reigning giant of modern literature whose imaginative power in “Beloved,” “Song of Solomon” and other works transformed American letters by dramatizing the pursuit of freedom within the boundaries of race. Aug. 5.
Sushma Swaraj, 67. She was India’s former external affairs minister and a leader of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Aug. 6.
Peter Fonda, 79. The actor was the son of a Hollywood legend who became a movie star in his own right after both writing and starring in the counterculture classic “Easy Rider.” Aug. 16.
Richard Williams, 86. A Canadian-British animator whose work on the bouncing cartoon bunny in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” helped blur the boundaries between the animated world and our own. Aug. 16. Cancer.
Cedric Benson, 36. A former NFL running back who was one of the most prolific rushers in NCAA and University of Texas history. Aug. 17. Motorcycle crash.
Kathleen Blanco, 76. She became Louisiana’s first female elected governor only to see her political career derailed by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Aug. 18.
David H. Koch, 79. A billionaire industrialist who, with his older brother Charles, was both celebrated and demonized for transforming American politics by pouring their riches into conservative causes. Aug. 23.
Ferdinand Piech, 82. The German auto industry power broker was the longtime patriarch of Volkswagen AG and the key engineer of its takeover of Porsche. Aug. 25.
Baxter Leach, 79. A prominent member of the Memphis, Tennessee, sanitation workers union whose historic strike drew the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the city where he was assassinated. Aug. 27.
Jim Leavelle, 99. The longtime Dallas lawman who was captured in one of history’s most iconic photographs escorting President John F. Kennedy’s assassin as he was fatally shot. Aug. 29.
Valerie Harper, 80. She scored guffaws, stole hearts and busted TV taboos as the brash, self-deprecating Rhoda Morgenstern on back-to-back hit sitcoms in the 1970s. Aug. 30.
SEPTEMBER
Jimmy Johnson, 76. A founder of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and guitarist with the famed studio musicians “The Swampers.” Sept. 5.
Robert Mugabe, 95. The former Zimbabwean leader was an ex-guerrilla chief who took power when the African country shook off white minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise. Sept. 6.
Robert Frank, 94. A giant of 20th-century photography whose seminal book “The Americans” captured singular, candid moments of the 1950s and helped free picture-taking from the boundaries of clean lighting and linear composition. Sept. 9.
T. Boone Pickens, 91. A brash and quotable oil tycoon who grew even wealthier through corporate takeover attempts. Sept. 11.
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, 83. A former Indonesian president who allowed democratic reforms and an independence referendum for East Timor following the ouster of the dictator Suharto. Sept. 11.
Eddie Money, 70. The rock star known for such hits as “Two Tickets to Paradise” and “Take Me Home Tonight.” Sept. 13. Esophageal cancer.
Phyllis Newman, 86. A Tony Award-winning Broadway veteran who became the first woman to host “The Tonight Show” before turning her attention to fight for women’s health. Sept. 15.
Ric Ocasek, 75. The Cars frontman whose deadpan vocal delivery and lanky, sunglassed look defined a rock era with chart-topping hits like “Just What I Needed.” Sept. 15.
Cokie Roberts, 75. The daughter of politicians and a pioneering journalist who chronicled Washington from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump for NPR and ABC News. Sept. 17. Complications from breast cancer.
David A. Jones Sr., 88. He invested $1,000 to start a nursing home company that eventually became the $37 billion health insurance giant Humana Inc. Sept. 18.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, 83. The former Tunisian president was an autocrat who led his small North African country for 23 years before being toppled by nationwide protests that unleashed revolt across the Arab world. Sept. 19.
John Keenan, 99. He was the police official who led New York City’s manhunt for the “Son of Sam” killer and eventually took a case-solving confession from David Berkowitz. Sept. 19.
Barron Hilton, 91. A hotel magnate who expanded his father’s chain and became a founding owner in the American Football League. Sept. 19.
Howard “Hopalong” Cassady, 85. The 1955 Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State and running back for the Detroit Lions. Sept. 20.
Karl Muenter, 96. A former SS soldier who was convicted in France of a wartime massacre but who never served any time for his crimes. Sept. 20.
Sigmund Jaehn, 82. He became the first German in space at the height of the Cold War during the 1970s and was promoted as a hero by communist authorities in East Germany. Sept. 21.
Jacques Chirac, 86. A two-term French president who was the first leader to acknowledge France’s role in the Holocaust and defiantly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Sept. 26.
Joseph Wilson, 69. The former ambassador who set off a political firestorm by disputing U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion. Sept. 27.
José José, 71. The Mexican crooner was an elegant dresser who moved audiences to tears with melancholic love ballads and was known as the “Prince of Song.” Sept. 28.
Jessye Norman, 74. The renowned international opera star whose passionate soprano voice won her four Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor. Sept. 30.
Samuel Mayerson, 97. The prosecutor who took newspaper heiress Patty Hearst to court for shooting up a Southern California sporting goods store in 1974 and then successfully argued for probation, not prison, for the kidnapping victim-turned terrorist. Sept. 30.
OCTOBER
Karel Gott, 80. A Czech pop singer who became a star behind the Iron Curtain. Oct. 1.
Diogo Freitas do Amaral, 78. A conservative Portuguese politician who played a leading role in cementing the country’s democracy after its 1974 Carnation Revolution and later became president of the U.N. General Assembly. Oct. 3.
Diahann Carroll, 84. The Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series as “Julia.” Oct. 4. Cancer.
Ginger Baker, 80. The volatile and propulsive drummer for Cream and other bands who wielded blues power and jazz finesse and helped shatter boundaries of time, tempo and style in popular music. Oct. 6.
Rip Taylor, 88. The madcap, mustached comedian with a fondness for confetti-throwing who became a television game show mainstay in the 1970s. Oct. 6.
Robert Forster, 78. The handsome and omnipresent character actor who got a career resurgence and Oscar nomination for playing bail bondsman Max Cherry in “Jackie Brown.” Oct. 11. Brain cancer.
James Stern, 55. A black activist who took control of one of the nation’s largest neo-Nazi groups — and vowed to dismantle it. Oct. 11. Cancer.
Alexei Leonov, 85. The legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first person to walk in space. Oct. 11.
Scotty Bowers, 96. A self-described Hollywood “fixer” whose memoir offered sensational accounts of the sex lives of such celebrities as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Oct. 13.
Harold Bloom, 89. The eminent critic and Yale professor whose seminal “The Anxiety of Influence” and melancholy regard for literature’s old masters made him a popular author and standard-bearer of Western civilization amid modern trends. Oct. 14.
Elijah E. Cummings, 68. A sharecropper’s son who rose to become a civil rights champion and the chairman of one of the U.S. House committees leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Oct. 17. Complications from longstanding health problems.
Alicia Alonso, 98. The revered ballerina and choreographer whose nearly 75-year career made her an icon of artistic loyalty to Cuba’s socialist system. Oct. 17.
Bill Macy, 97. The character actor whose hangdog expression was a perfect match for his role as the long-suffering foil to Bea Arthur’s unyielding feminist on the daring 1970s sitcom “Maude.” Oct. 17.
Marieke Vervoort, 40. A Paralympian who won gold and silver medals in 2012 at the London Paralympics in wheelchair racing and two more medals in Rio de Janeiro. Oct. 22. Took her own life after living with pain from a degenerative spinal disease.
Sadako Ogata, 92. She led the U.N. refugee agency for a decade and became one of the first Japanese to hold a top job at an international organization. Oct. 22.
Kathryn Johnson, 93. A trailblazing reporter for The Associated Press whose intrepid coverage of the civil rights movement and other major stories led to a string of legendary scoops. Oct. 23.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, believed to be 48. He sought to establish an Islamic “caliphate” across Syria and Iraq, but he might be remembered more as the ruthless leader of the Islamic State group who brought terror to the heart of Europe. Oct. 26. Detonated a suicide vest during a raid by U.S. forces.
John Conyers, 90. The former congressman was one of the longest-serving members of Congress whose resolutely liberal stance on civil rights made him a political institution in Washington and back home in Detroit despite several scandals. Oct. 27.
Ivan Milat, 74. His grisly serial killings of seven European and Australian backpackers horrified Australia in the early ’90s. Oct. 27.
Vladimir Bukovsky, 76. A prominent Soviet-era dissident who became internationally known for exposing Soviet abuse of psychiatry. Oct. 27.
Kay Hagan, 66. A former bank executive who rose from a budget writer in the North Carolina Legislature to a seat in the U.S. Senate. Oct. 28. Illness.
John Walker, 82. An Arkansas lawmaker and civil rights attorney who represented black students in a long-running court fight over the desegregation of Little Rock-area schools. Oct. 28.
John Witherspoon, 77. An actor-comedian who memorably played Ice Cube’s father in the “Friday” films. Oct. 29.
NOVEMBER
Walter Mercado, 88. A television astrologer whose glamorous persona made him a star in Latin media and a cherished icon for gay people in most of the Spanish-speaking world. Nov. 2. Kidney failure.
Gert Boyle, 95. The colorful chairwoman of Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear Co. who starred in ads proclaiming her “One Tough Mother.” Nov. 3.
Ernest J. Gaines, 86. A novelist whose poor childhood on a small Louisiana plantation germinated stories of black struggles that grew into universal tales of grace and beauty. Nov. 5.
Werner Gustav Doehner, 90. He was the last remaining survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, who suffered severe burns to his face, arms and legs before his mother managed to toss him and his brother from the burning airship. Nov. 8.
Charles Rogers, 38. The former Michigan State star and Detroit Lions receiver was an All-American wide receiver who was the school’s all-time leader in touchdown catches. Nov. 11.
Raymond Poulidor, 83. The “eternal runner-up” whose repeated failure to win the Tour de France helped him conquer French hearts and become the country’s all-time favorite cyclist. Nov. 13.
Walter J. Minton, 96. A publishing scion and risk taker with a self-described “nasty streak” who as head of G.P. Putnam’s Sons released works by Norman Mailer and Terry Southern, among others, and signed up Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous “Lolita.” Nov. 19.
Jake Burton Carpenter, 65. The man who changed the game on the mountain by fulfilling a grand vision of what a snowboard could be. Nov. 20. Complications stemming from a relapse of testicular cancer.
Gahan Wilson, 89. His humorous and often macabre cartoons were a mainstay in magazines including Playboy, the New Yorker and National Lampoon. Nov. 21.
Cathy Long, 95. A Louisiana Democrat who won her husband’s U.S. House seat after his sudden death in 1985 and served one term. Nov. 23.
John Simon, 94. A theater and film critic known for his lacerating reviews and often withering assessment of performers’ physical appearance. Nov. 24.
William Doyle Ruckelshaus, 87. He famously quit his job in the Justice Department rather than carry out President Richard Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Nov. 27.
Yasuhiro Nakasone, 101. The former Japanese prime minister was a giant of his country’s post-World War II politics who pushed for a more assertive Japan while strengthening military ties with the United States. Nov. 29.
Irving Burgie, 95. A composer who helped popularize Caribbean music and co-wrote the enduring Harry Belafonte hit “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song).” Nov. 29.
DECEMBER
Allan Gerson, 74. A lawyer who pursued Nazi war criminals and pioneered the practice of suing foreign governments in U.S. courts for complicity to terrorism. Dec. 1.
Juice WRLD, 21. A rapper who launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut and rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams.” Dec. 8. Died after being treated for opioid use during a police search.
René Auberjonois, 79. A prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy. Dec. 8.
Caroll Spinney, 85. He gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on “Sesame Street.” Dec. 8.
Paul Volcker, 92. The former Federal Reserve chairman who in the early 1980s raised interest rates to historic highs and triggered a recession as the price of quashing double-digit inflation. Dec. 8.
Pete Frates, 34. A former college baseball player whose battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease helped inspire the ALS ice bucket challenge that has raised more than $200 million worldwide. Dec. 9.
Marie Fredriksson, 61. The female half of the Swedish pop duo Roxette that achieve international success in the late 1980s and 1990s. Dec. 9.
Kim Woo-choong, 82. The disgraced founder of the now-collapsed Daewoo business group whose rise and fall symbolized South Korea’s turbulent rapid economic growth in the 1970s. Dec. 9. Pneumonia.
Danny Aiello, 86. The blue-collar character actor whose long career playing tough guys included roles in “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” “Moonstruck” and “Once Upon a Time in America” and his Oscar-nominated performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” Dec. 12.
Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, 88. The moonshine runner turned NASCAR driver who won 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner and was part of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. Dec. 20.
Elizabeth Spencer, 98. A grande dame of Southern literature who bravely navigated between the Jim Crow past and open-ended present in her novels and stories, including the celebrated novella “Light In the Piazza.” Dec. 22.
Lee Mendelson, 86. The producer who changed the face of the holidays when he brought “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to television in 1965 and wrote the lyrics to its signature song, “Christmas Time Is Here.” Dec. 25. Congestive heart failure.
Jerry Herman, 88. The Tony Award-winning composer who wrote the cheerful, good-natured music and lyrics for such classic shows as “Mame,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “La Cage aux Folles.” Dec. 26.
Don Imus, 79. The disc jockey whose career was made and then undone by his acid tongue during a decadeslong rise to radio stardom and abrupt plunge after a nationally broadcast racial slur. Dec. 27. Complications from lung disease.

Categories
National News

Cheers, tears, prayers for 2020: A new decade is ushered in

Revelers around the globe are bidding farewell to a decade that will be remembered for the rise of social media, the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement and, of course, President Donald Trump.
A look at how the world is ushering in 2020:
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HONG KONG
Revelers as well as pro-democracy protesters flocked to sites across Hong Kong to usher in 2020.
The semi-autonomous Chinese city has toned down New Year’s celebrations amid the monthslong demonstrations. The protests have repeatedly sparked pitched battles with police and have taken their toll on Hong Kong’s nightlife and travel industries.
A fireworks display that traditionally lights up famed Victoria Harbor was canceled amid safety concerns, while some roads were closed and barriers set up in the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district to control crowds.
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RUSSIA
Russians began the world’s longest continuous New Year’s Eve with fireworks and a message from President Vladimir Putin urging them to work together in the coming year.
Putin made the call in a short speech broadcast on television just before the stroke of midnight in each of Russia’s 11 time zones. The recorded message was followed by an image of the Kremlin Clock and the sound of its chimes. State TV showed footage of extensive festive fireworks in cities of the Far East.
But one holiday tradition was missing in Moscow this year — a picturesque layer of snow. The Russian capital has had an unusually warm December and temperatures in central Moscow as midnight approached were just above freezing.
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AUSTRALIA
More than a million people descended on a hazy Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas to ring in of the new year despite the ongoing wildfire crisis ravaging New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state.
The 9 p.m. fireworks over Sydney’s iconic landmarks was briefly delayed due to strong winds, but revelers clearly enjoyed themselves in a desperately needed tonic for the state.
New South Wales has born the brunt of the wildfire damage, which has razed more than 1,000 homes nationwide and killed 12 people in the past few months.
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NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s major cities greeted the new year with fireworks as the nation appeared happy to be done with a year of challenges, both natural and man-made.
On March 15, a lone gunman identified killed 51 people and wounded dozens at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch. In December, an eruption of volcanic White Island off the east coast of the North Island killed at least 19 tourists and tour guides.
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SAMOA
In Samoa, New Year’s Eve was more somber than usual. While fireworks erupted at midnight from Mount Vaea, overlooking the capital, Apia, the end of the year was a time of sadness and remembrance.
A measles epidemic in late 2019 claimed 81 lives, mostly children under 5.
More than 5,600 measles cases were recorded in the nation of just under 200,000. With the epidemic now contained, the Samoa Observer newspaper named as its Person of the Year health workers who fought the outbreak.
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LONDON
Londoners were making their way to the banks of the River Thames to jostle for position to watch a spectacular fireworks display launched from the London Eye and barges near Parliament.
The familiar chimes of London’s Big Ben clock tower were to ring in the new year, even though they have been silent for most of 2019 because of extensive restoration work.
To the north, the multi-day Hogmanay New Year’s celebrations in Edinburgh began Monday night with a torchlight parade through the streets of the Scottish capital.
Security was tight in both cities and elsewhere in Britain following a recent extremist attack on London Bridge that claimed two lives. Police arrested five men on suspicion of terrorism offenses Monday but said the arrests were not related to the London Bridge attack or to New Year’s Eve celebrations.
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SOUTH AFRICA
Thousands of revelers gathered at Cape Town’s Waterfront area to ring in the new year with music, dancing and fireworks in front of the city’s iconic Table Mountain.
In past years, residents of Johannesburg’s poor Hillbrow neighborhood would celebrate the New Year by tossing furniture, appliances and even refrigerators from the balconies of high-rise apartment buildings. Police have issued stern warnings, and it appears the dangerous tradition has declined.
In a somber statement, President Cyril Ramaphosa said “while our economy created jobs, these have not been nearly enough to stop the rise in unemployment or the deepening of poverty.”
South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka was deported from Uganda, where she was to perform at a New Year’s Eve event. Ugandan police cited visa issues, but Ugandan media reported it was because she had voiced support for Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine, the most potent opposition challenger to President Yoweri Museveni.
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ROME
Pope Francis delighted tourists and Romans in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday night when he took a stroll to admire the Nativity scene. Shouts of “Pope! Pope!” and “Happy New Year!” resounded as families rushed to catch a glimpse of him or thrust out their infant in hopes he would pat their heads or pinch their cheeks.
One woman grabbed the pope’s hand and pulled him toward her to shake it. Francis, 83, exclaimed and then struck the woman’s hand twice to free his hand.
At a New Year’s Eve Vespers service in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis urged people to practice more solidarity and to “build bridges, not walls.” Since becoming pontiff in 2013, Francis has preached openness — a reform-minded agenda that has irritated a small but vocal group of ultra-conservatives in the church.
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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
For nearly 10 minutes, fireworks will light the sky over Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, as hundreds of thousands gather downtown to watch the spectacular display.
The New Year’s Eve display at the 828-meter-tall (2,716-foot-tall) skyscraper is just one of seven different fireworks shows across the emirate. Tourists, especially from Europe and Russia, flock to the sunny beaches of Dubai at this time of year to escape the cold, dark winter.
To keep the massive crowds safe, police have created walkways around the Burj Khalifa tower for male-only groups to separate them from families and women.
Dubai this year will be hosting Expo 2020, a world fair that brings the most cutting-edge and futuristic technologies.
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JAPAN
People flocked to temples and shrines in Japan, offering incense with their prayers to celebrate the passing of a year and the the first New Year’s of the Reiwa era.
Under Japan’s old-style calendar, linked to emperors’ rules, Reiwa started in May, after Emperor Akihito stepped down and his son Naruhito became emperor. Although Reiwa is entering its second year with 2020, Jan. 1 still marks Reiwa’s first New Year’s, the most important holiday in Japan.
Stalls at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo sold sweet rice wine, fried noodles and candied apples, as well as little amulets in the shape of mice, the zodiac animal for 2020. Since the Year of the Mouse starts off the Asian zodiac, it’s associated with starting anew.
Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, an event that is creating much anticipation for the entire nation.
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INDONESIA
Tens of thousands of revelers in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta were soaked by torrential rains as they waited for New Year’s Eve fireworks while others in the country were wary of an active volcano.
Festive events along coastal areas near the Sunda Strait were dampened by a possible larger eruption of Anak Krakatau, an island volcano that erupted last year just ahead of Christmas Day, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 430 people.
The country’s volcanology agency has warned locals and tourists to stay 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) from the volcano’s crater following an eruption Tuesday that blasted ash and debris up to 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) into the air.
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SOUTH KOREA
Thousands of South Koreans filled cold downtown streets in Seoul ahead of a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall to send off an exhausting 2019 highlighted by political scandals, decaying job markets and crumbling diplomacy with North Korea.
Dignitaries ringing the old Bosingak bell at midnight included South Korean Major League Baseball pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Pengsoo, a giant penguin character with a gruff voice and blunt personality that emerged as one of the country’s biggest TV stars in 2019.
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GERMANY
Hundreds of thousands of revelers are expected to ring in the New Year in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Several German cities including Munich and Hamburg have banned private fireworks amid concerns about the danger and environmental impacts from the increasingly powerful fireworks. A recent poll by the Forsa research institute found 59% of Germans would support a ban on private fireworks in city centers, while 37% were opposed.
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PARIS
A joyful crowd of Parisians and tourists walked, biked and used scooters to reach the Champs-Elysees for the new year celebrations, in a city with almost no public transport amid massive strikes.
Revelers were converging toward the famous avenue to watch a light show at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a fireworks display at midnight.
Paris police set up a security perimeter around the Champs-Elysees area with a ban on alcohol and traffic restrictions.
All metro lines in the French capital were closed except for two automatic lines, and only a few night buses were running, as Tuesday marked the 27th consecutive day of transport strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the French pension system.
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NEW YORK
A Chinese dance performance, punctuated with red and gold pyrotechnics, will usher in a host of stars at Times Square’s six-hour New Year’s Eve extravaganza.
The throng of revelers in the heart of Manhattan will get to see rap-pop star Post Malone, K-pop group BTS, country singer Sam Hunt and singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette during the big street party.
While giddiness will likely prevail at the televised event, some important global issues will be driven home, as well.
High school science teachers and students, spotlighting efforts to combat climate change, will press the button that begins the famous 60-second ball drop and countdown to next year.
Then comes the 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of confetti, accompanied by more pyrotechnics.

Categories
National News

Warren blasts billionaires as Democrats end year campaigning

By WILL WEISSERT Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren marked one year of running for president on Tuesday by slamming billionaires from both parties who she says put corporate interests above the needs of the rest of the country, as many top Democrats looking to unseat President Donald Trump spent the last day of 2019 rallying core supporters. Warren addressed a raucous hometown crowd at Boston’s Old South Meeting House, a Congregational church famous for being the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is holding a “Big New Year’s Bash” featuring “Prince’s longtime backing band” in Des Moines, the capital of Iowa, which holds its lead-off caucuses on Feb. 3. Also campaigning in Iowa is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.
Businessman Andrew Yang invited supporters to mark midnight at a party in New Hampshire, which is set to hold the first primary, on Feb. 11. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is also in New Hampshire, while Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet plans to headline a house party in the state timed to begin one minute after midnight and billed as 2020’s first such gathering.
The crush of events reflects how little time there is to spare before voting begins. Even though campaigning ground to a near halt for Christmas Eve and Christmas, candidates are betting voters will be more amenable to their messages on the final day of the year.
“You’ve got to use every minute,” said Kelly Dietrich, founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee, which trains candidates and staff all over the country.
Warren said the coming of a new year is “normally a moment for optimism. But let’s face it: This year in America has been anything but normal.”
In a nod to the president’s impending impeachment trial, Warren said congressional Republicans “have turned into fawning, spineless defenders of his crimes.” She spoke to hundreds who filled the historic wooden pews painted in a deep, creamy white on the church’s polished wooden ground floor and stately balcony.
The senator also decried the “chaos and ugliness of the past three years” under Trump but didn’t miss a chance to swipe at other Democratic presidential hopefuls who argue that her support for a “wealth tax,” universal health care and proposals to overhaul the political and economic system are too radical for moderate and swing voters in a general election battle against Trump.
“One year into this campaign, you’ve never found me behind closed doors with corporate executives or spending hours on the phone sucking up to rich donors to fund my campaign,” said Warren, who first announced forming a presidential exploratory committee on Dec. 31, 2018.
Warren didn’t name any fellow Democrat on Tuesday, but has for months has slammed South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden for relying too heavily on fundraisers with big, powerful donors. She’s also accused ex-New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg of trying to buy the election.
Warren told the Boston crowd: “The billionaires know which candidates for president are on their side.”
“Many corporate executives and career politicians and billionaires on both sides of the aisle want to keep their influence and their wealth. And they are already deep in the fight to do so,” Warren said, arguing that Washington is too controlled by lobbyists and fossil fuel companies that have a “death grip on our planet.”
She also evoked the story of Phillis Wheatley, who was born in West Africa but shipped to New England by slave traders in 1761. Wheatley was a poet who eventually inspired George Washington and once sat in the pews of the Old South Meeting House. Warren quoted from a Wheatley poem to help acknowledge the struggles of modern society’s inherent biases that she said Africans Americans and women still face.
“Imagine an America where the lived experience of women is reflected in committee rooms and corner offices,” Warren said, “And yes, even that really nice oval-shaped office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
That prompted one of several standing ovations and chants of “Warren! Warren! Warren!”
Not everyone is getting into the New Year’s Eve action. Biden campaigned Monday in New Hampshire but had scheduled no public events Tuesday. Buttigieg’s New Year’s Eve calendar is similarly clear of rallies.
Most of the candidates also don’t have New Year’s Day event s scheduled, though former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to attend services at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine African American churchgoers were shot to death in 2015.
Dietrich, who trains Democratic candidates, said that activities like door-knocking can be more effective for candidates during the holidays since many people are home from work. They can also use times of traditional parties, like New Year’s Eve, to rally volunteers and others who have helped with campaigning over the long haul.
“You can’t take time off when you’re running for president,” Dietrich said. “Your vacation happens the day after the general election.”
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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

Categories
International Headlines

Attack on US Embassy in Iraq shows stark choices for Trump

By ROBERT BURNS and ELLEN KNICKMEYER Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-supported militiamen Tuesday is a stark demonstration that Iran can still strike at American interests despite President Donald Trump’s economic pressure campaign. Trump said Iran would be held “fully responsible” for the attack, but it was unclear whether that meant military retaliation.
The breach of the compound, which prompted the U.S. to send military reinforcements but caused no known U.S. casualties or evacuations, also revealed growing strains between Washington and Baghdad, raising questions about the future of the U.S. military mission there. The U.S. has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, mainly to train Iraqi forces and help them combat Islamic State extremists.
The breach followed American airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The U.S. said those strikes were in retaliation against last week’s killing of an American contractor and the wounding of American and Iraqi troops in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the U.S. blamed on the militia. The American strikes angered the Iraqi government, which called them an unjustified violation of its sovereignty.
Trump blamed Iran for the embassy breach and called on Iraq to protect the diplomatic mission even as the U.S. reinforced the compound with Marines from Kuwait.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” he tweeted from his estate in Florida. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!”
Even as Trump has argued for removing U.S. troops from Mideast conflicts, he also has singled out Iran as a malign influence in the region. After withdrawing the U.S. in 2018 from an international agreement that exchanged an easing of sanctions for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program, Trump ratcheted up sanctions.
Those economic penalties, including a virtual shut-off of Iranian oil exports, are aimed at forcing Iran to negotiate a broader nuclear deal. But critics say that pressure has pushed Iranian leaders into countering with a variety of military attacks in the Gulf.
Until Sunday’s U.S. airstrikes, Trump had been measured in his response to Iranian provocations. In June, he abruptly called off U.S. military strikes on Iranian targets in retaliation for the downing of an American drone.
Robert Ford, a retired U.S. diplomat who served five years in Baghdad and then became ambassador in Syria, said Iran’s allies in the Iraqi parliament may be able to harness any surge in anger among Iraqis toward the United States to force U.S. troops to leave the country. Ford said Trump miscalculated by approving Sunday’s airstrikes on Kataeb Hezbollah positions in Iraq and Syria — strikes that drew a public rebuke from the Iraqi government and seem to have triggered Tuesday’s embassy attack.
“The Americans fell into the Iranian trap,” Ford said, with airstrikes that turned some Iraqi anger toward the U.S. and away from Iran and the increasingly unpopular Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
The tense situation in Baghdad appeared to upset Trump’s vacation routine in Florida, where he is spending the holidays.
Trump spent just under an hour at his private golf club in West Palm Beach before returning to his Mar-a-Lago resort home in nearby Palm Beach. He had spent nearly six hours at his golf club on each of the previous two days. Trump spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and emphasized the need for Iraq to protect Americans and their facilities in the country, said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.
Trump is under pressure from some in Congress to take a hard-line approach to Iranian aggression, which the United States says included an unprecedented drone and missile attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September. More recently, Iran-backed militias in Iraq have conducted numerous rocket attacks on bases hosting U.S. forces.
Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and supporter of Trump’s Iran policy, called the embassy breach “yet another reckless escalation” by Iran.
Tuesday’s attack was carried out by members of the Iran-supported Kataeb Hezbollah militia. Dozens of militiamen and their supporters smashed a main door to the compound and set fire to a reception area, but they did not enter the main buildings.
Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blamed Iran for the episode and faulted Trump for his “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
“The results so far have been more threats against international commerce, emboldened and more violent proxy attacks across the Middle East, and now, the death of an American citizen in Iraq,” Menendez said, referring to the rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk last week that killed an American contractor and wounded U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.
By early evening Tuesday, the mob had retreated from the compound but set up several tents outside for an intended sit-in. Dozens of yellow flags belonging to Iran-backed Shiite militias fluttered atop the reception area and were plastered along the embassy’s concrete wall along with anti-U.S. graffiti. American Apache helicopters flew overhead and dropped flares over the area in what the U.S. military called a “show of force.”
The U.S. also was sending 100 or more additional Marines to the embassy compound to support its defenses.
The embassy breach was seen by some analysts as affirming their view that it is folly for the U.S. to keep forces in Iraq after having eliminated the Islamic State group’s territorial hold in the country.
A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is also a long-term hope of Iran, noted Paul Salem, president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
And it’s always possible Trump would “wake up one morning and make that decision” to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq, as he announced earlier with the U.S. military presence in neighboring Syria, Salem said. Trump’s Syria decision triggered the resignation of his first defense secretary, retired Gen. Jim Mattis, but the president later amended his decision and about 1,200 U.S. troops remain in Syria.
Trump’s best weapon with Iran is the one he’s already using — the sanctions, said Salem. He and Ford said Trump would do best to keep resisting Iran’s attempt to turn the Iran-U.S. conflict into a full-blown military one. The administration should also make a point of working with the Iraqi government to deal with the militias, Ford said.
For the president, Iran’s attacks — directly and now through proxies in Iraq — have “been working that nerve,” Salem said. “Now they really have Trump’s attention.”
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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Darlene Superville and Sagar Meghani contributed to this report.

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International Headlines

Protesters attack US Embassy in Baghdad after airstrikes

By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) — Angered by deadly airstrikes targeting an Iran-backed militia, dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday, smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area in one of the worst attacks on the embassy in recent memory.
American guards fired tear gas, and palls of smoke rose over the embassy grounds.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw flames rising from inside the compound and U.S. soldiers on the roof of the main embassy building with their guns pointed at protesters.
A man on a loudspeaker urged the mob not to enter the compound, saying, “The message was delivered.”
There were no reports of casualties. The State Department said all American personnel were safe and that there were no plans to evacuate the embassy. The government planned to send more troops to protect the compound.
The breach followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The U.S. military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the U.S. blamed on the militia.
President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the embassy breach and called on Iraq to protect the diplomatic mission.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!” he tweeted from his estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
By early evening, the protesters had retreated from the compound but set up several tents outside where they said they intended to stage a sit-in. Dozens of yellow flags belonging to Iran-backed Shiite militias fluttered atop the reception area and were plastered along the embassy’s concrete wall along with anti-U.S. graffiti. American Apache helicopters flew overhead and dropped flares over the area.
Trump, who is spending the holiday week at his Florida home, is in “close touch” and receiving regular updates from his national security team, said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. She echoed the sentiment contained in Trump’s tweet earlier Tuesday.
“As the president said, Iran is orchestrating this attack, and they will be held fully responsible,” Grisham said in an emailed statement. “It will be the president’s choice how and when we respond to their escalation.”
The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.
Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government. But the government’s angry reaction to the U.S. airstrikes and its apparent decision not to prevent the protesters from reaching the embassy signaled a sharp deterioration of U.S.-Iraq relations.
Iraqi security forces made no effort to stop the protesters as they marched to the heavily fortified Green Zone after a funeral for those killed in the airstrikes. The demonstrators were allowed to pass through a security checkpoint leading to the area.
The marchers, many of them in militia uniforms, shouted “Down, down USA!” and “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” outside the compound, hurling water and stones over its walls. The mob set fire to three trailers used by security guards along the wall. AP journalists saw some try to scale the walls.
Others then smashed the gates used by cars to enter, and dozens pushed into the compound. The protesters stopped in a corridor after about 5 meters (16 feet), and were only about 200 meters away from the main building.
The sprawling embassy compound enjoys a prominent position on the banks of the Tigris River in the heart of the Iraqi capital. Resembling a fortified college campus, the complex is rimmed with thick blast walls and cylindrical watch towers, lending it the look of a modern-day castle.
Gates visitors use to enter the complex consist of an airlock-like vestibule fortified with heavy doors and bulletproof glass. Even if protesters breached the first set of doors, they would have to force past heavily armed military contractors and U.S. Marine guards and a second set of heavy doors before entering the main compound.
Numerous buildings are inside the walls, including dormitories for staff, well-stocked dining and recreation facilities, and a power station.
The protesters taunted the embassy’s security staff, which remained behind glass windows in the gates’ reception area. They hung a poster on the wall declaring “America is an aggressor” and sprayed graffiti on the wall and windows reading, “Closed in the name of the resistance.”
“This is a victory in retaliation to the American airstrike. This is the initial retaliation, God willing, there will be more,” said Mahmoud, a fighter with the Imam Ali Brigades who was carrying a black bag filled with electricity cables that he said he took from the reception area.
A video obtained by the AP showed militiamen trashing the reception area and taking away paperwork.
The embassy, on its Facebook page, urged American citizens not to approach the compound and “to review their personal security and emergency preparedness.”
An Iraqi employee at the embassy told the AP that the embassy’s security team had evacuated some local staff from a rear gate while others left by helicopters and the rest remained inside “safe” areas within the embassy. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because of not being authorized to speak to journalists.
The U.S. ambassador was traveling outside Iraq at the time of the attack and planned to return, the State Department said.
Some commanders of militia factions loyal to Iran joined the protesters outside the embassy in a strikingly bold move. Among them was Qais al-Khizali, the head of one of the most powerful Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq who is on a U.S. terror list, and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the state-sanctioned paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units, the umbrella group for the Iran-backed militias.
Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataeb Hezbollah, said the protesters had no intention of storming the embassy. He told the AP that the sit-in will continue “until American troops leave Iraq and the embassy is closed.”
The U.S. airstrikes — the largest targeting an Iraqi state-sanctioned militia in recent years — and the subsequent calls by the militia for retaliation, represent a new escalation in the proxy war between the U.S. and Iran playing out in the Middle East.
The attack also outraged the Iraqi government, which said it will reconsider its relationship with the U.S.-led coalition — the first time it has said it will do so since an agreement was struck to keep some U.S. troops in the country. It called the attack a “flagrant violation” of its sovereignty.
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Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in West Palm Beach, Florida, Adam Schreck in Chicago, Samya Kullab in New York and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

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International Headlines

Making misery pay: Libya militias take EU funds for migrants

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, LORI HINNANT and RENATA BRITO Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — When the European Union started funneling millions of euros into Libya to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the money came with EU promises to improve detention centers notorious for abuse and fight human trafficking.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, the misery of migrants in Libya has spawned a thriving and highly lucrative web of businesses funded in part by the EU and enabled by the United Nations, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The EU has sent more than 327.9 million euros to Libya, with an additional 41 million approved in early December, largely channeled through U.N. agencies. The AP found that in a country without a functioning government, huge sums of European money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants. In some cases, U.N. officials knew militia networks were getting the money, according to internal emails.
The militias torture, extort and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms in detention centers under the nose of the U.N., often in compounds that receive millions in European money, the AP investigation showed. Many migrants also simply disappear from detention centers, sold to traffickers or to other centers.
The same militias conspire with some members of Libyan coast guard units. The coast guard gets training and equipment from Europe to keep migrants away from its shores. But coast guard members return some migrants to the detention centers under deals with militias, the AP found, and receive bribes to let others pass en route to Europe.
The militias involved in abuse and trafficking also skim off European funds given through the U.N. to feed and otherwise help migrants, who go hungry. For example, millions of euros in U.N. food contracts were under negotiation with a company controlled by a militia leader, even as other U.N. teams raised alarms about starvation in his detention center, according to emails obtained by the AP and interviews with at least a half-dozen Libyan officials.
In many cases, the money goes to neighboring Tunisia to be laundered, and then flows back to the militias in Libya.
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This story is part of an occasional series, “Outsourcing Migrants,” produced with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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The story of Prudence Aimée and her family shows how migrants are exploited at every stage of their journey through Libya.
Aimée left Cameroon in 2015, and when her family heard nothing from her for a year, they thought she was dead. But she was in detention and incommunicado. In nine months at the Abu Salim detention center, she told the AP, she saw “European Union milk” and diapers delivered by U.N.staff pilfered before they could reach migrant children, including her toddler son. Aimée herself would spend two days at a time without food or drink, she said.
In 2017, an Arab man came looking for her with a photo of her on his phone.
“They called my family and told them they had found me,” she said. “That’s when my family sent money.” Weeping, Aimée said her family paid a ransom equivalent of $670 to get her out of the center. She could not say who got the money.
She was moved to an informal warehouse and eventually sold to yet another detention center, where yet another ransom — $750 this time — had to be raised from her family. Her captors finally released the young mother, who got on a boat that made it past the coast guard patrol, after her husband paid $850 for the passage. A European humanitarian ship rescued Aimée, but her husband remains in Libya.
Aimée was one of more than 50 migrants interviewed by the AP at sea, in Europe, Tunisia and Rwanda, and in furtive messages from inside detention centers in Libya. Journalists also spoke with Libyan government officials, aid workers and businessmen in Tripoli, obtained internal U.N. emails and analyzed budget documents and contracts.
The issue of migration has convulsed Europe since the influx of more than a million people in 2015 and 2016, fleeing violence and poverty in the Mideast, Afghanistan and Africa. In 2015, the European Union set up a fund intended to curb migration from Africa, from which money is sent to Libya. The EU gives the money mainly through the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the High Commissioner for Refugees. (UNHCR).
But Libya is plagued by corruption and caught in a civil war. The west, including the capital Tripoli, is ruled by a U.N.-brokered government, while the east is ruled by another government supported by army commander Khalifa Hifter. The chaos is ideal for profiteers making money off migrants.
The EU’s own documents show it was aware of the dangers of effectively outsourcing its migration crisis to Libya. Budget documents from as early as 2017 for a 90 million euro outlay warned of a medium-to-high risk that Europe’s support would lead to more human rights violations against migrants, and that the Libyan government would deny access to detention centers. A recent EU assessment found the world was likely to get the “wrong perception” that European money could be seen as supporting abuse.
Despite the roles they play in the detention system in Libya, both the EU and the U.N. say they want the centers closed. In a statement to the AP, the EU said that under international law, it is not responsible for what goes on inside the centers.
“Libyan authorities have to provide the detained refugees and migrants with adequate and quality food while ensuring that conditions in detention centers uphold international agreed standards,” the statement said.
The EU also says more than half of the money in its fund for Africa is used to help and protect migrants, and that it relies on the U.N. to spend the money wisely.
The U.N. said the situation in Libya is highly complex, and it has to work with whoever runs the detention centers to preserve access to vulnerable migrants.
“UNHCR does not choose its counterparts,” said Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency. “Some presumably also have allegiances with local militias.”
After two weeks of being questioned by the AP, UNHCR said it would change its policy on awarding of food and aid contracts for migrants through intermediaries.
“Due in part to the escalating conflict in Tripoli and the possible risk to the integrity of UNHCR’s programme, UNHCR decided to contract directly for these services from 1 January 2020,” Yaxley said.
Julien Raickman, who until recently was the Libya mission chief for the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, believes the problem starts with Europe’s unwillingness to deal with the politics of migration.
“If you were to treat dogs in Europe the way these people are treated, it would be considered a societal problem,” he said.
EXTORTION INSIDE THE DETENTION CENTERS
About 5,000 migrants in Libya are crowded into between 16 and 23 detention centers at any given time, depending on who is counting and when. Most are concentrated in the west, where the militias are more powerful than the weak U.N.-backed government.
Aid intended for migrants helps support the al-Nasr Martyrs detention center, named for the militia that controls it, in the western coastal town of Zawiya. The U.N. migration agency, the IOM, keeps a temporary office there for medical checks of migrants, and its staff and that of the UNHCR visit the compound regularly.
Yet migrants at the center are tortured for ransoms to be freed and trafficked for more money, only to be intercepted at sea by the coast guard and brought back to the center, according to more than a dozen migrants, Libyan aid workers, Libyan officials and European human rights groups. A UNHCR report in late 2018 noted the allegations as well, and the head of the militia, Mohammed Kachlaf, is under U.N. sanctions for human trafficking. Kachlaf, other militia leaders named by the AP and the Libyan coast guard all did not respond to requests for comment.
Many migrants recalled being cut, shot and whipped with electrified hoses and wooden boards. They also heard the screams of others emerging from the cell blocks off-limits to U.N. aid workers.
Families back home are made to listen during the torture to get them to pay, or are sent videos afterward.
Eric Boakye, a Ghanaian, was locked in the al-Nasr Martyrs center twice, both times after he was intercepted at sea, most recently around three years ago. The first time, his jailers simply took the money on him and set him free. He tried again to cross and was again picked up by the coast guard and returned to his jailers.
“They cut me with a knife on my back and beat me with sticks,” he said, lifting his shirt to show the scars lining his back. “Each and every day they beat us to call our family and send money.” The new price for freedom: Around $2,000.
That was more than his family could scrape together. Boakye finally managed to escape. He worked small jobs for some time to save money, then tried to cross again. On his fourth try, he was picked up by the Ocean Viking humanitarian ship to be taken to Italy. In all, Boakye had paid $4,300 to get out of Libya.
Fathi al-Far, the head of the al-Nasr International Relief and Development agency, which operates at the center and has ties to the militia, denied that migrants are mistreated. He blamed “misinformation” on migrants who blew things out of proportion in an attempt to get asylum.
“I am not saying it’s paradise — we have people who have never worked before with the migrants, they are not trained,” he said. But he called the al-Nasr Martyrs detention center “the most beautiful in the country.”
At least five former detainees showed an AP journalist scars from their injuries at the center, which they said were inflicted by guards or ransom seekers making demands to their families. One man had bullet wounds to both feet, and another had cuts on his back from a sharp blade. All said they had to pay to get out.
Five to seven people are freed every day after they pay anywhere from $1,800 to $8,500 each, the former migrants said. At al-Nasr, they said, the militia gets around $14,000 every day from ransoms; at Tarik al-Sikka, a detention center in Tripoli, it was closer to $17,000 a day, they said. They based their estimates on what they and others detained with them had paid, by scraping together money from family and friends.
The militias also make money from selling groups of migrants, who then often simply disappear from a center. An analysis commissioned by the EU and released earlier this month by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime noted that the detention centers profit by selling migrants among themselves and to traffickers, as well as into prostitution and forced labor.
Hundreds of migrants this year who were intercepted at sea and taken to detention centers had vanished by the time international aid groups visited, according to Médecins Sans Frontières. There’s no way to tell where they went, but MSF suspects they were sold to another detention center or to traffickers.
A former guard at the Khoms center acknowledged to the AP that migrants often were seized in large numbers by men armed with anti-aircraft guns and RPGs. He said he couldn’t keep his colleagues from abusing the migrants or traffickers from taking them out of the center.
“I don’t want to remember what happened,” he said. The IOM was present at Khoms, he noted, but the center closed last year.
A man who remains detained at the al-Nasr Martyrs center said Libyans frequently arrive in the middle of the night to take people. Twice this fall, he said, they tried to load a group of mostly women into a small convoy of vehicles but failed because the center’s detainees revolted.
Fighting engulfed Zawiya last week, but migrants remained locked inside the al-Nasr Martyrs center, which is also being used for weapons storage.
TRAFFICKING AND INTERCEPTION AT SEA
Even when migrants pay to be released from the detention centers, they are rarely free. Instead, the militias sell them to traffickers, who promise to take them across the Mediterranean to Europe for a further fee. These traffickers work hand in hand with some coast guard members, the AP found.
The Libyan coast guard is supported by both the U.N. and the EU. The IOM highlights its cooperation with the coast guard on its Libya home page. Europe has spent more than 90 million euros since 2017 for training and faster boats for the Libyan coast guard to stop migrants from ending up in Europe.
This fall, Italy renewed a memorandum of understanding with Libya to support the coast guard with training and vessels, and it delivered 10 new speedboats to Libya in November.
In internal documents obtained in September by the European watchdog group Statewatch, the European Council described the coast guard as “operating effectively, thus confirming the process achieved over the past three years.” The Libyan coast guard says it intercepted nearly 9,000 people in 2019 en route to Europe and returned them to Libya this year, after quietly extending its coastal rescue zone 100 miles offshore with European encouragement.
What’s unclear is how often militias paid the coast guard to intercept these people and bring them back to the detention centers — the business more than a dozen migrants described at the al-Nasr Martyrs facility in Zawiya.
The coast guard unit at Zawiya is commanded by Abdel-Rahman Milad, who has sanctions against him for human trafficking by the U.N.’s Security Council. Yet when his men intercept boats carrying migrants, they contact U.N. staff at disembarkation points for cursory medical checks.
Despite the sanctions and an arrest warrant against him, Milad remains free because he has the support of the al-Nasr militia. In 2017, before the sanctions, Milad was even flown to Rome, along with a militia leader, Mohammed al-Khoja, as part of a Libyan delegation for a U.N.-sponsored migration meeting. In response to the sanctions, Milad denied any links to human smuggling and said traffickers wear uniforms similar to those of his men.
Migrants named at least two other operations along the coast, at Zuwara and Tripoli, that they said operated along the same lines as Milad’s. Neither center responded to requests for comment.
The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration acknowledged to the AP that it has to work with partners who might have contacts with local militias.
“Without those contacts it would be impossible to operate in those areas and for IOM to provide support services to migrants and the local population,” said IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli. “Failure to provide that support would have compounded the misery of hundreds of men, women and children.”
The story of Abdullah, a Sudanese man who made two attempts to flee Libya, shows just how lucrative the cycle of trafficking and interception really is.
All told, the group of 47 in his first crossing from Tripoli over a year ago had paid a uniformed Libyan and his cronies $127,000 in a mix of dollars, euros and Libyan dinars for the chance to leave their detention center and cross in two boats. They were intercepted in a coast guard boat by the same uniformed Libyan, shaken down for their cell phones and more money, and tossed back into detention.
“We talked to him and asked him, why did you let us out and then arrest us?” said Abdullah, who asked that only his first name be used because he was afraid of retaliation. “He beat two of us who brought it up.”
Abdullah later ended up in the al-Nasr Martyrs detention center, where he learned the new price list for release and an attempted crossing based on nationality: Ethiopians, $5,000; Somalis $6,800; Moroccans and Egyptians, $8,100; and finally Bangladeshis, a minimum $18,500. Across the board, women pay more.
Abdullah scraped together another ransom payment and another crossing fee. Last July, he and 18 others paid $48,000 in total for a boat with a malfunctioning engine that sputtered to a stop within hours.
After a few days stuck at sea off the Libyan coast under a sweltering sun, they threw a dead man overboard and waited for their own lives to end. Instead, they were rescued on their ninth day at sea by Tunisian fishermen, who took them back to Tunisia.
“There are only three ways out of the prison: You escape, you pay ransom, or you die,” Abdullah said, referring to the detention center.
In all, Abdullah spent a total of $3,300 to leave Libya’s detention centers and take to the sea. He ended up barely 100 miles away.
Sometimes members of the coast guard make money by doing exactly what the EU wants them to prevent: Letting migrants cross, according to Tarik Lamloum, the head of the Libyan human rights organization Beladi. Traffickers pay the coast guard a bribe of around $10,000 per boat that is allowed to pass, with around five to six boats launching at a time when conditions are favorable, he said.
The head of Libya’s Department for Combating Irregular Migration or DCIM, the agency responsible for the detention centers under the Ministry of Interior, acknowledged corruption and collusion among the militias and the coast guard and traffickers, and even within the government itself.
“They are in bed with them, as well as people from my own agency,” said Al Mabrouk Abdel-Hafez.
SKIMMING PROFITS
Beyond the direct abuse of migrants, the militia network also profits by siphoning off money from EU funds sent for their food and security — even those earmarked for a U.N.-run migrant center, according to more than a dozen officials and aid workers in Libya and Tunisia, as well as internal U.N. emails and meeting minutes seen by The Associated Press.
An audit in May of the UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency responsible for the center, found a lack of oversight and accountability at nearly all levels of spending in the Libya mission. The audit identified inexplicable payments in American dollars to Libyan firms and deliveries of goods that were never verified.
In December 2018, during the period reviewed in the audit, the U.N. launched its migrant center in Tripoli, known as the Gathering and Departure Facility or GDF, as an ” alternative to detention.” For the recipients of the services contracts, sent through the Libyan government agency LibAid, it was a windfall.
Millions of euros in contracts for food and migrant aid went to at least one company linked to al-Khoja, the militia leader flown to Rome for the U.N. migration meeting, according to internal U.N. emails seen by the AP, two senior Libyan officials and an international aid worker. Al-Khoja is also the deputy head of the DCIM, the government agency responsible for the detention centers.
One of the Libyan officials saw the multimillion-euro catering contract with a company named Ard al-Watan, or The Land of the Nation, which al-Khoja controls.
“We feel like this is al-Khoja’s fiefdom. He controls everything. He shuts the doors and he opens the doors,” said the official, a former employee at the U.N. center who like other Libyan officials spoke anonymously out of fear for his safety. He said al-Khoja used sections of the U.N. center to train his militia fighters and built a luxury apartment inside.
Even as the contracts for the U.N. center were negotiated, Libyan officials said, three Libyan government agencies were investigating al-Khoja in connection with the disappearance of $570 million from government spending allocated to feed migrants in detention centers in the west.
At the time, al-Khoja already ran another center for migrants, Tarik al-Sikka, notorious for abuses including beating, hard labor and a massive ransom scheme. Tekila, an Eritrean refugee, said that for two years at Tarik al-Sikka, he and other migrants lived on macaroni, even after he was among 25 people who came down with tuberculosis, a disease exacerbated by malnutrition. Tekila asked that only his first name be used for his safety.
“When there is little food, there is no choice but to go to sleep,” he said.
Despite internal U.N. emails warning of severe malnutrition inside Tarik al-Sikka, U.N. officials in February and March 2018 repeatedly visited the detention center to negotiate the future opening of the GDF. AP saw emails confirming that by July 2018, the UNHCR’s chief of mission was notified that companies controlled by al-Khoja’s militia would receive subcontracts for services.
Yaxley, the spokesman for UNHCR, emphasized that the officials the agency works with are “all under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.” He said UNHCR monitors expenses to make sure its standard rules are followed, and may withhold payments otherwise.
A senior official at LibAid, the Libyan government agency that managed the center with the U.N., said the contracts are worth at least $7 million for catering, cleaning and security, and 30 out of the 65 LibAid staff were essentially ghost employees who showed up on the payroll, sight unseen.
The U.N. center was “a treasure trove,” the senior Libaid official lamented. “There was no way you could operate while being surrounded by Tripoli militias. It was a big gamble.”
An internal U.N. communication from early 2019 shows it was aware of the problem. The note found a high risk that food for the U.N. center was being diverted to militias, given the amount budgeted compared to the amount migrants were eating.
In general, around 50 dinars a day, or $35, is budgeted per detainee for food and other essentials for all centers, according to two Libyan officials, two owners of food catering companies and an international aid worker. Of that, only around 2 dinars is actually spent on meals, according to their rough calculations and migrants’ descriptions.
Despite the investigations into al-Khoja, Tarik al-Sikka and another detention center shared a 996,000-euro grant from the EU and Italy in February.
At the Zawiya center, emergency goods delivered by U.N. agencies ended up redistributed “half for the prisoners, half for the workers,” said Orobosa Bright, a Nigerian who endured three stints there for a total of 11 months. Many of the goods end up on Libya’s black market as well, Libyan officials and international aid workers say.
IOM’s spokeswoman said “aid diversion is a reality” in Libya and beyond, and that the agency does its best. Msehli said if it happens regularly, IOM will be forced to re-evaluate its supports to detention centers “despite our awareness that any reduction in this lifesaving assistance will add to the misery of migrants.”
Despite the corruption, the detention system in Libya is still expanding in places, with money from Europe. At a detention center in Sabaa where migrants are already going hungry, they were forced to build yet another wing funded by the Italian government, said Lamloum, the Libyan aid worker. The Italian government did not respond to a request for comment.
Lamloum sent a photo of the new prison. It has no windows.
TUNISIA LAUNDERING
The money earned off the suffering of migrants is whitewashed in money laundering operations in Tunisia, Libya’s neighbor.
In the town of Ben Gardane, dozens of money-changing stalls transform Libyan dinars, dollars and euros into Tunisian currency before the money continues on its way to the capital, Tunis. Even Libyans without residency can open a bank account.
Tunisia also offers another opportunity for militia networks to make money off European funds earmarked for migrants. Because of Libya’s dysfunctional banking system, where cash is scarce and militias control accounts, international organizations give contracts, usually in dollars, to Libyan organizations with bank accounts in Tunisia. The vendors compound the money on Libya’s black-market exchange, which ranges between 4 and 9 times greater than the official rate.
Libya’s government handed over more than 100 files to Tunisia earlier this year listing companies under investigation for fraud and money laundering.
The companies largely involve militia warlords and politicians, according to Nadia Saadi, a manager at the Tunisian anti-corruption authority. The laundering involves cash payments for real estate, falsified customs documents and faked bills for fictitious companies.
“All in all, Libya is run by militias,” said a senior Libyan judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of risking his life. “Whatever governments say, and whatever uniform they wear, or stickers they put….this is the bottom line.”
Husni Bey, a prominent businessman in Libya, said the idea of Europe sending aid money to Libya, a once-wealthy country suffering from corruption, was ill-conceived from the beginning.
“Europe wants to buy those who can stop smuggling with all of these programs,” Bey said. “They would be much better off blacklisting the names of those involved in human trafficking, fuel and drug smuggling and charging them with crimes, instead of giving them money.”
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Michael reported from Tripoli, Libya. Hinnant reported from Zarzis, Tunisia. Brito reported from aboard the Ocean Viking. Contributors include Lorne Cook in Brussels; Rami Musa in Benghazi, Libya, and Jamey Keaten in Geneva.

Categories
International Headlines

Ex-Nissan chief skips bail, flees Japan to avoid ‘injustice’

By YURI KAGEYAMA and SARAH EL DEEB Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — Nissan’s former Chairman Carlos Ghosn skipped bail while awaiting trial in Japan on allegations of financial misconduct, confounding authorities by showing up in Lebanon, where he announced Tuesday that he had fled to avoid “injustice and political persecution.”
Ghosn, who is of Lebanese origin and holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian passports, disclosed his location in a statement through his representatives but did not describe how he left Japan, where he had been under surveillance. He promised to talk to reporters next week.
“I am now in Lebanon and will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied, in flagrant disregard of Japan’s legal obligations under international law and treaties it is bound to uphold,” the statement said.
Speaking anonymously, prosecutors in Japan told Japanese media they did not know how Ghosn got out. His lawyer also denied all knowledge of the escape, saying he was stunned. Japan does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, which said Ghosn had entered the country legally and there was no reason to take any action against him.
“He is home,” Ghosn’s friend, television host Ricardo Karam said in a message. “It’s a big adventure.”
Karam said Ghosn arrived in Lebanon on Monday morning, but declined to elaborate. The Lebanon-based newspaper Al-Joumhouriya said Ghosn arrived in Beirut from Turkey aboard a private jet.
Ghosn was arrested in November 2018 and was expected to face trial in April 2020. He posted 1.5 billion yen ($14 million) bail on two separate instances after he was arrested a second time on additional charges, and released again.
Prosecutors fought his release, but a court granted him bail on condition that he be monitored and not meet with his wife, Carole, who is also of Lebanese origin. Recently, the court allowed them to speak by video.
Ghosn, who was charged with under-reporting his future compensation and breach of trust, has repeatedly asserted his innocence, saying authorities trumped up charges to prevent a possible fuller merger between Nissan Motor Co. and alliance partner Renault SA.
“Maybe he thought he won’t get a fair trial,” said his lawyer, Junichiro Hironaka, stressing that he continues to believe Ghosn is innocent. “I can’t blame him for thinking that way.”
The charges Ghosn faces carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
How Ghosn managed to flee was, publicly at least, a mystery. Hironaka said the lawyers were holding Ghosn’s three passports, yet Lebanon’s minister for presidential affairs, Selim Jreissati, told the An-Nahar newspaper that Ghosn entered legally at the airport with a French passport and Lebanese ID.
France reacted with surprise and some confusion.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement that French authorities “have heard from the press about the arrival of Carlos Ghosn to Lebanon.” They “have not been informed of his departure from Japan and have no knowledge of the circumstances of his departure,” the statement said.
Agnes Pannier-Runacher, a junior finance minister, told broadcaster BFM-TV that “I was surprised as you when I learned about this escape.”
Ghosn’s lawyer, Hironaka, said he last spoke with his client on Christmas Day and was never consulted about leaving for Lebanon. However, he said the circumstances of Ghosn’s arrest, the seizure of evidence and the strict bail conditions were unfair.
Jreissati told An-Naharhe he had asked Japan to hand Ghosn over to be tried in Lebanon according to international anti-corruption laws. However, since there was no official word from Tokyo and it was not yet clear how Ghosn came to Lebanon, Beirut wouldn’t take a formal position. Jreissati did not immediately respond to calls from The Associated Press.
People in Lebanon take special pride in the auto industry icon, who is credited with leading a spectacular turnaround at Nissan beginning in the late 1990s, and rescued the automaker from near-bankruptcy.
Ghosn speaks fluent Arabic and visited the country regularly. Born in Brazil, where his Lebanese grandfather had sought his fortune, Ghosn grew up in Beirut, where he spent part of his childhood at a Jesuit school.
Before his fall from grace, Ghosn was also a celebrity in Japan, where he was revered for his managerial acumen.
Nissan did not have immediate comment Tuesday. The Japanese automaker of the March subcompact, Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models has also been charged as a company in relation to Ghosn’s alleged financial crimes.
Japanese securities regulators recently recommended Nissan be fined 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) over disclosure documents from 2014 to 2017. Nissan has said it accepted the penalty and corrected its securities documents in May.
The company’s sales and profits have tumbled and its brand image is tarnished. It has acknowledged lapses in its governance and has promised to improve its transparency.
Another former Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, an American, was arrested at the same time as Ghosn and is awaiting trial. He has said he is innocent.
Hiroto Saikawa, who replaced Ghosn as head of Nissan, announced his resignation in September after financial misconduct allegations surfaced against him related to his income. He has not been charged with any crime.
The conviction rate in Japan exceeds 99% and winning an acquittal through a lengthy appeals process could take years. Rights activists in Japan and abroad say Japan’s judicial system does not presume innocence enough and relies on long detentions that lead to false confessions.
In addition to under-reporting his future compensation, Ghosn is accused of diverting Nissan money and having it shoulder his personal investment losses. Other allegations against him involve payments to a Saudi dealership, as well as funds paid to an Oman business that were purportedly diverted to entities run by Ghosn.
Ghosn has said that the compensation was never decided, that Nissan never suffered losses from the investments and that all the payments were for legitimate business services.
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El Deeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut, and Sylvie Corbet and John Leicester in Paris contributed.
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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Categories
Ohio Sports

GM Dorsey, Browns part ways after disappointing 6-10 season

By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns “mutually parted ways” with general manager John Dorsey two days after the team fired coach Freddie Kitchens following a disappointing season.
Dorsey’s stunning departure on Tuesday came after he refused to take a reduced role within the organization offered to him by owner Jimmy Haslam, who once again with his wife, Dee, are cleaning house and restructuring the front office after the Browns finished 6-10.
The Browns are in the preliminary stages of their coaching search, which will be affected by Dorsey leaving. The team has received permission to interview several candidates, including New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Cleveland is also expected to meet with former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, who was believed to be the front-runner for the Browns’ job last year but surprisingly didn’t interview.
The Haslams have been unable to find any continuity since buying the team from Randy Lerner in 2012. They’ve fired five coaches and five lead football executives since buying the team from Randy Lerner in 2012.
Dorsey had revamped the Browns during his two seasons as GM, but his hiring of Kitchens backfired as the Browns fell way short of expectations and missed the playoffs for the 17th straight season — the NFL’s longest current drought.
In a statement, the Haslams thanked Dorsey for his efforts, saying “he has helped create a foundation that we need to continue to develop and build upon.’
The Haslams acknowledged Dorsey had “greatly” improved the team’s talent but added “we fully recognized that our team did not meet its potential on or off the field and additional changes in leadership give us the best opportunity for success in the future.
“As the role of the general manager continues to evolve in this league we felt there were areas that needed to be reassessed. Over the last 48 hours, we’ve had discussion with John about his role but could not come to an agreement on a position that would enable him to remain with the organization.
“As we conveyed on Sunday and our players reiterated yesterday, bringing in a strong leader with our head coach is our priority. Our process to improve upon the leadership will allow the flexibility to ensure we create the best partnership between our future head coach and general manager. We know the road of our tenure as stewards of this franchise has been a test of patience as we all want the success that our fans so deserve and we are relentlessly committed to and working towards. We fully appreciate, understand and empathize with our fans as we work towards our ultimate goal of building a championship-level football team.”
Earlier in the day, the Browns postponed a scheduled news conference with Dorsey, with the team saying it was pushing it back until Thursday because of the New Year’s holiday and meetings about the coaching search.
However, there was much more taking place as Dorsey was being pushed aside after just two years on the job.
“When I took this job, the history of this storied franchise and the passion of our fans was an integral part of my decision,” Dorsey said. “It is that same understanding and desire to see these fans enjoy the success they are so deserving of that helped me conclude, along with Jimmy and Dee, that it was best to part ways as they embark on the search for a new head coach.
“I know how critical the relationship is between a general manager and head coach and I also know how critical it is that the Browns have a strong leader in their next coach. I have a great appreciation for the men and women I have worked with since being in Cleveland and my family has the same love and appreciation for this community and are thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this journey.”
Dorsey joined the Browns in December 2017 after previous stints in Green Bay and Kansas City and immediately began overhauling a roster lacking talent and a front office with no direction. With Dorsey calling the shots, the Browns went from 0-16 in 2017 to 7-8-1 in 2018.
Dorsey made several astute moves and his decision to draft quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in 2018 looked like a winner when the QB broke the league rookie record for touchdown passes. Then, Dorsey pulled off a blockbuster trade last March by acquiring star wide receiver Odell Beckham in a trade with the New York Giants.
The Browns were a chic pick to make the playoffs this season, but Mayfield regressed in his second year under Kitchens, whom Dorsey favored over other candidates a year ago despite his lack of head coaching experience.
The Browns were undisciplined and one of the league’s most penalized teams in 2019. They collapsed down the stretch, losing their final three games, capped by Sunday’s 33-23 loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, who won just two games.
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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Categories
Ohio Sports

Ohio St. star RB J.K. Dobbins leaving to enter NFL draft

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Record-breaking Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins is leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.
Dobbins’ decision was expected. He announced it in a Twitter post Monday in which he thanked everyone at the university and said “coming to Ohio from Texas has been nothing short of a dream.”
Dobbins became the first Ohio State player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. He finished with 2,046 yards and could have had a lot more but sat for the second half of most regular-season games because they were early blowouts. He was a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his two seasons with the Buckeyes.
He ran for 174 yards and a touchdown in Ohio State’s 29-23 College Football Playoff semifinal loss to Clemson on Saturday but also dropped two passes that likely would have been touchdowns on drives that ended in field goals for the Buckeyes.
All-American defensive end Chase Young had previously announced that he would leave early to enter the draft. Young is expected to be a top pick.
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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25