AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

4/29/2015 3:15 AM
By Associated Press

Baltimore police enforce curfew with tear gas; streets once rocked by riots nearly empty

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore streets previously rocked by riots were eerily quiet early Wednesday as residents obeyed an all-night curfew enforced by 3,000 police and National Guardsmen.

The curfew, which went into effect at 10 p.m. Tuesday, got off to a not-so-promising start, however, as about 200 protesters initially ignored the warnings of police officers and the pleas of community activists to disperse.

Some threw water bottles or lay down on the ground. A line of police behind riot shields hurled tear gas canisters and fired pepper balls at the crowd and slowly advanced forward to push it back. Demonstrators picked up the canisters and hurled them back at officers. But the crowd rapidly dispersed and was down to just a few dozen people within minutes.

The clash came after a day of high tension but relative peace in Baltimore, which was rocked by looting and widespread arson Monday in the city's worst outbreak of rioting since 1968.

Police, city leaders and many residents condemned the violence, and hundreds of volunteers showed up Tuesday to sweep the streets of glass and other debris.


Nepal earthquake death toll passes 5,000 as aid reaches area near epicenter

PASLANG, Nepal (AP) — Aid reached a hilly district near the epicenter of Nepal's earthquake for the first time Wednesday, four days after the quake struck and as the death toll from the disaster passed the 5,000 mark.

But it will still take time for the food and other supplies to reach survivors in remote communities who have been cut off by landslides, warned said Geoff Pinnock, a World Food Program emergencies officer.

"It doesn't happen overnight," said Pinnock from the village of Majuwa, 20 kilometers (16 miles) downhill from Gorkha town, a staging area for relief efforts to areas worst-hit by Saturday's magnitude-7.8 earthquake.

Nearby, five cargo trucks filled with rice, cooking oil and sugar stood on a grassy field fringed with banana and acacia trees beneath the soaring Himalayas, waiting for a helicopter carry the supplies to remote, quake-hit villages.

Soon, the U.N. food agency was expected to deliver shipments of high-energy food biscuits to be sent out to areas without enough water for cooking, Pinnock said. The first aid shipments had reached Dhading district, just east of Gorhka, he said.


In a country overwhelmed by grief, Nepalese family mourns 18 lost in single house collapse

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Flanked by funeral pyres flickering in the darkness, Shankar Pradhan stood barefoot on the edge of Kathmandu's sacred Bagmati River, where the dead pulled daily from the city's ruins have been brought nonstop since a massive earthquake shook this impoverished mountain nation.

He doused his daughter's feet and lips in holy water three times. He knelt down and kissed the orange shroud she was wrapped in. And then helped by grieving relatives, he spread red ochre and marigolds over the corpse, encased it in a tomb of dry wood and set it ablaze.

The ancient Hindu cremation rite is meant to purify souls for the afterlife, and this was far from the only one for Pradhan and his extended family. When the quake crumpled his brother's four-story house into a cloud of dust Saturday, it left them with a total of 18 souls to prepare.

"I don't know why this happened. But I don't blame anyone. I don't blame the government, I don't blame the gods," he said, struggling to fight back tears. "You can't escape the rules of this life. None of us escape the fact that one day you'll have to leave it."

Pradhan's 21-year-old daughter was one of nearly 5,000 people who perished in the worst tremor this country has seen in more than 80 years. Even in a nation where death and destruction have touched a vast area stretching from the icy peaks of Mount Everest to remote villages that rescue workers have yet to reach, the grief visited upon Pradhan's family is overwhelming.


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"We do not have a lot of active movement throughout the city as a whole. Tonight I think the biggest thing is the citizens are safe, the city is stable," says Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.


Justice Kennedy offered clearer sign of vote in last gay marriage arguments at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years ago, Justice Anthony Kennedy left little doubt during Supreme Court arguments that a part of the federal anti-gay marriage law was doomed.

When the justices heard arguments Tuesday in a broader case about the right of same-sex couples to marry anywhere in the United States, the 78-year-old Kennedy's comments were less clear-cut and his potentially decisive vote less certain than it was two years ago.

He left people on both sides of the issue with hopes and fears about the outcome in the landmark civil rights case, although Kennedy's track record as the author of the court's three earlier rulings in favor of gay rights probably gives same-sex marriage supporters less to fear.

Kennedy's role as the often-pivotal vote on the court was reinforced by the apparent deep divide between the court's liberal and conservative justices over whether the Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry. Those couples can do so now in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and the court is weighing whether gay and lesbian unions should be allowed in all 50 states.

The drama played out in the packed, grand courtroom with its 44-foot ceiling, marble columns and mahogany bench. Kennedy's wife, as well as those of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer watched the arguments along with many of the plaintiffs whose cases were before the court. Also in the crowd was Rives Miller Grogan, who briefly interrupted the proceedings after about 30 minutes with an anti-gay harangue that warned gay marriage supporters they would "burn in hell." Supreme Court police officers quickly removed Grogan from the courtroom.


Saudi king removes half-brother, names nephew as crown prince, elevates son in major reshuffle

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The Saudi king on Wednesday removed his half-brother from the post of crown prince, replacing him with his nephew, and elevated his son to the position of deputy crown prince in the most significant repositioning of power among members of the kingdom's royal family since King Salman assumed the throne in January.

The appointments, announced in a decree from the royal court, further thrust a new generation of Saudi princes into the line of succession and mapped out the future of the throne for potentially decades to come.

The post of crown prince secures Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, as the most likely successor to the king. The prince, who is also the interior minister, is widely known internationally as Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism czar and was previously also deputy crown prince.

The prince becomes the first from among his generation to be elevated to such a high position — first in line to the throne. He has survived several assassination attempts, including one in 2009 by al-Qaida. He takes over the post of crown prince from Prince Muqrin.

The royal decree also announced that the king's son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had been appointed deputy crown prince. He is believed to be around 30 years old and is also the country's defense minister. As deputy crown prince, he is essentially seen as being second in line to the throne.


Immigrant removals under Obama continue to decline as arrests along border also drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is on pace to deport the fewest number of immigrants in nearly a decade, according to internal government data obtained by The Associated Press.

As of April 20, federal immigration officials sent home 127,378 people in the United States illegally. That puts immigrant removals on track to be among the lowest since the middle of President George W. Bush's second term.

The internal statistics reveal a continuing decline in deportations even as the Obama administration fights a legal challenge to a plan it announced late last year to shield millions of immigrants from deportations.

"With the resources we have ... I'm interested in focusing on criminals and recent illegal arrivals at the border," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing Tuesday.

The new figures, contained in weekly internal reports not publicly reported, average about 19,730 removals a month for the first six months of the government's fiscal year that began in October.


Vietnamese-Americans recall losses, relish gains since fall of Saigon 40 years ago

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — In the chaotic final days before the Vietnam she knew collapsed in 1975, Bang Van Pham was rushed onto a U.S. military plane with her newborn son, headed to a land she had learned about in school but never seen.

Weeks later at a refugee camp in Southern California, they were reunited with her two other children who were sent abroad with relatives and her husband, the son of a rice farmer turned lawmaker, who stayed behind with his constituents until communist troops stormed Saigon.

In the U.S. they began a new life: Pham taught English to immigrant night school students while her husband, Nho Trong Nguyen, worked as a handyman's helper before eventually becoming a judge. The couple, who say they helped resettle 1,000 other refugees, raised three children who became lawyers and a doctor, and now have three American-born grandchildren.

Forty years later, they still remember what they lost. Every April, Pham helps plan a ceremony to mark the fall of Saigon. It is also a moment to reflect on how her family and other Vietnamese refugees have rebuilt their lives.

"I am very pleased and grateful because our children became good citizens," Pham said, recalling her doubts back then about how they would make a living. "We are so close together. And we haven't spent any time neglecting living a good life."


Indonesia executes 8 drug convicts by firing squad, but grants Filipino reprieve

CILACAP, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia brushed aside last-minute appeals and executed eight people convicted of drug smuggling on Wednesday, although a Philippine woman was granted a reprieve.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo confirmed that each of the eight had been executed simultaneously at 12:35 a.m. (1735 GMT) by 13-member firing squads. Medical teams confirmed their deaths three minutes later, he said.

"The executions have been successfully implemented, perfectly," Prasetyo said. "All worked, no misses," he said of the deaths of two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian man.

Prasetyo earlier announced that Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso had been granted a stay of execution while the Philippines investigates her case.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will withdraw its ambassador from Jakarta in response to the executions of the two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31.


For Afghanistan's abandoned and orphaned children, decades of war have brought little help

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Starved and beaten by his stepmother, the little boy with big brown eyes was already withdrawn and unhappy by the time his father banished him from the family home and sent him to an orphanage in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

There, the beatings and the abuse continued, this time by older boys, and it took a while before a teacher at school noticed just how much in pain the 10-year-old was and slowly got him to tell her his story.

The boy's mother had become sick and died, he said, and when his father remarried, the new wife took against the boy and his sister, often beating them, and withholding food for days on end.

It would have been an all too common story in Afghanistan had not the teacher reached out to a parliamentarian, who got in touch with a government rights commission, which then contacted a non-government organization that in turn provided a lawyer — and after a complicated cascade of events the boy was eventually brought to a shelter run by Hagar International, the NGO.

After almost four decades of war, two generations of Afghans have no experience of life without a backdrop of brutality. The 10-year-old was one of the lucky few to escape what can appear to be a never-ending cycle of violence.

Will the U.S. cattle industry be able to sustain the current high prices for beef?

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