- Associated Press
Sunday, September 27, 2015

France fires first airstrikes on extremists in Syria, president’s office says

PARIS (AP) - France has fired its first airstrikes in Syria as it expands military operations against Islamic State extremists, President Francois Hollande’s office announced Sunday.

The office said that “France has hit Syria” based on information from French reconnaissance flights sent earlier this month. It didn’t provide any further details.

France has been firing airstrikes on IS extremists in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition since last year, but had resisted airstrikes in Syria because it didn’t want to strengthen President Bashar Assad. Hollande announced a change in strategy earlier this month because of growing concern about the Syrian refugee crisis.

The president’s office argued Sunday that it was a question of national defense, as France has been attacked and threatened by extremists claiming ties to IS.

Hollande, heading to the U.N. General Assembly, also stressed the importance of seeking a political solution for Syria.


Wrapping up tour of US, pope to celebrate Mass in Philadelphia with as many as a million

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Greeted by throngs of cheering faithful at every turn, Pope Francis is capping his whirlwind visit to the United States in an entirely fitting way - Mass for the masses on Philadelphia’s grandest boulevard - while also spending time with inmates at its largest jail.

The 78-year-old “people’s pope,” who seems to feed off the energy of the crowds, is expected to see the largest of his six-day tour on Sunday when he celebrates a climactic outdoor Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before flying back to Rome.

The Mass is the culminating event of a Vatican-sponsored conference on the family that drew the wildly popular pontiff to Philadelphia.

He’ll begin his day by speaking to bishops from around the world before heading to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, where he’ll visit with 100 inmates - a cross-section of suspected killers, rapists, mobsters. He’s expected to offer them words of hope, forgiveness and redemption.

“His mission is the marginalized, the forgotten,” prison spokeswoman Shawn Hawes said. “From our understanding, he wants those who are in custody to know that they are not forgotten and they can be redeemed.”


High after Boehner’s resignation, GOP religious conservatives channeling anger toward victory

WASHINGTON (AP) - Religious activists in the Republican Party, bolstered by House Speaker John Boehner’s sudden exit, say the next GOP presidential nominee must share their uncompromising stance on abortion rights, gay marriage and other priorities.

The Family Research Council Action’s annual Values Voter Summit drew nearly 2,700 activists to Washington this weekend.

The group’s president, Tony Perkins, says a GOP candidate cannot win a primary and succeed in the general election without voters who are socially conservative.

Participants cheered Boehner’s announcement Friday that he would resign from Congress by the end of October. That the veteran congressman was viewed by many in the party base as unwilling to do everything possible to thwart Democrats, including shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, was evidence of the deep divide within the GOP.


AP Interview: Egypt’s leader says country in ‘ferocious war,’ some nations face ‘failure’

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in an interview that the Mideast region needs to cooperate to defeat a worsening terrorist threat that has led to a “ferocious war” in Egypt and created the danger of some countries “sliding into failure.”

In a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press Saturday night, el-Sissi also said that Syria should not be divided after its civil war, that the Egyptian military needs to be “augmented” to defeat terrorists fighting in the Sinai and Western Desert, and that efforts should be renewed to solve the Palestinian issue and expand Egypt’s nearly 40-year-peace with Israel to include more Arab countries.

Resolving the Palestinian question, he said, could “change the face of the region and … bring about enormous improvement to the situation. … I’m optimistic by nature and I say that there is a great opportunity.”

The 60-year-old former military chief, who ran for president and assumed office in 2014 after the army ousted his predecessor Mohammed Morsi the year before, spoke with AP at a New York hotel on Saturday night after he addressed a U.N. summit that adopted new development goals for the next 15 years. He will also attend the annual ministerial meeting of the General Assembly at U.N. headquarters that begins Monday.

Speaking just days after pardoning and releasing two jailed Al-Jazeera English journalists in Cairo, el-Sissi said he is open to clemency to other journalists who have been tried and convicted in absentia. But he said he would only act within his powers as president and would also respect the prerogatives of Egypt’s judiciary.


From hostel operators to traffickers, Europe’s migrant crisis proves boon for some businesses

BERLIN (AP) - People crammed into boats and trekking across borders have become the dominant images of Europe’s migrant crisis. In the shadows, however, there are those who are profiting, for whom every migrant is a business opportunity.

The business of migration extends far beyond the human traffickers, who often grab migrants’ money and send them on life-threatening journeys on rubber boats or in cramped trucks. It include bus companies and shelter operators that provide essential logistical help to authorities overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in need of housing and transportation. Telecoms companies that sell SIM cards with special contracts for cross-border calls. And petty food-and-drink vendors at train stations are even known to be price-gouging, charging migrants double or triple the amount they’d be charged in stores around the corner.

There are no overall estimates for how much the business of migration rakes in - but there’s no doubting it’s a multi-million dollar industry. Authorities in Germany estimate the cost of housing and feeding migrants alone at about 12,000 euros ($13,400) per person, per year.

Entrepreneur Bert Karlsson is among those profiting from the wave of migrants coming to Europe. The record company boss and founder of a now-defunct anti-immigrant party in Sweden raised eyebrows recently when Swedish media reported that his company, Jokarjo, had billed the government 132 million Swedish kronor ($16 million) to house asylum seekers.

Sara Sundelius, a spokeswoman for the Swedish migration service, said the government would normally house asylum seekers in regular apartments. But due to the sharp rise in numbers, some 21,000 asylum seekers are being put up in cabins, small hotels and hostels at a cost of between 250-300 Swedish Kronor per day, per person.


Catalans vote in election that could determine their northern region’s future as part of Spain

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Voters in Catalonia participated in an election Sunday that could propel the northeastern region toward independence from the rest of Spain or quell secessionism for years.

Secessionists have long pushed for an independence referendum, but Spain’s central government has not allowed one, arguing it would be unconstitutional because only it can call such a vote.

Sunday’s election is for Catalonia’s 135-member Parliament, located in the region’s capital Barcelona. Secessionists argue that if they win 68 seats, the result would give them a democratic mandate to initiate a split from Spain that could include a unilateral declaration of independence.

The central government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says it will use all legal means to prevent Catalonia from breaking away, an exit European leaders warn would include ejection from the European Union.

Polls have forecast a slim win for the pro-independence parties. But they also indicate that the leading bloc of separatist parties “Together for Yes” will likely need the support of the extreme left-wing CUP to cobble together a majority of seats needed to launch their push to sever century-old ties with the rest of Spain.


Twin polygamous towns on Utah-Arizona border host memorial for 13 in family who died in flood

HILDALE, Utah (AP) - A survivor so young he stepped on a stool to reach a podium microphone, remembered his heart “whacking like a sledgehammer” in the moments before a flash flood swept him and his family away nearly two weeks ago.

Joseph Jessop Jr. spoke Saturday during a rare public memorial service hosted by two often-secretive polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona border that typically shun outsiders and loathe government interference.

Funerals have previously been handled discreetly, with no invitations extended to outsiders, including family of the deceased, if they aren’t members of this sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Nine of 12 bodies recovered have already been buried in a town cemetery with modest markers.

But Saturday’s memorial was open to anyone and held in the same lush park surrounded by rich red rock canyon walls where sisters Josephine Jessop, Naomi Jessop and Della Black are thought to have been on Sept. 14 with their 13 children before driving down the canyon during a flash-flood alert.

A display affixed to a backstop at the park’s baseball field told their story, with a writerly touch and images captured on cellphones of the women moments before, describing the red-brown water, “tumbling its load and writhing like a massive serpent.”


Concert-goers injured after crowd rushes stage at music festival in Arizona; 10-12 people hurt

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - As many as 12 people were injured after a crowd rushed a stage during a music festival Saturday night at a park near the city’s downtown, authorities said.

Tempe fire officials tell KNXV-TV (https://bit.ly/1OZaFFbhttps://bit.ly/1OZaFFb ) that nine people were taken to a nearby hospital after the incident 7 p.m. at Tempe Beach Park. The station reports that two minors were taken from the Summer Ends Music Festival with life-threatening injuries.

The city’s fire department, aided by fire departments in Scottsdale and Phoenix, came to the scene after getting reports that as many as 40 people were hurt at the event after concert-goers began rushing the stage.

People who were at the front of the stage had trouble breathing, KNXV reported.

Witnesses told the station two women collapsed at the front of one of the stages after apparently suffering seizures.


Chris Brown’s Australian tour in jeopardy after government warns it may refuse singer a visa

SYDNEY (AP) - Chris Brown’s plans to tour Down Under were in jeopardy on Sunday after the Australian government formally warned the troubled R&B; singer that he is likely to be denied a visa because of his criminal conviction for assaulting pop star Rihanna.

The immigration department issued Brown a “notice of intention to consider refusal,” giving him 28 days to present evidence as to why he should be allowed to enter the country, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement.

The notice comes just days after former Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash urged Dutton to refuse the 26-year-old American a visa on character grounds.

“People need to understand if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you: ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character we expect in Australia,’” Cash, who is now minister for women, told reporters last week.

Australia isn’t the first country to consider rejecting Brown. Britain, Canada and New Zealand have also refused to give him visas.


Pac-12 after dark turns horrific for No. 13 Oregon, No.16 Arizona; Big 12 goes batty

Pac-12 after dark was a horror show for No. 13 Oregon and No. 16 Arizona as No.18 Utah and No. 9 UCLA turned the only games matching ranked teams on Saturday into routs.

The Utes (4-0) put a record-breaking beat down on the Ducks at Autzen Stadium, pounding Oregon 62-20.

After a week spent discussing whether Alabama was on the decline after the Crimson Tide lost at home, maybe it’s time to start having that conversation about Oregon in the post-Chip Kelly and post-Marcus Mariota era.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Ducks look done before October even starts. The last time the Ducks (2-2) lost two games in September was 2004. They finished 5-6 that season, the only losing record for the program since 1993.

If quarterback Vernon Adams can get healthy and the defense can figure out a way to plug massive holes, Oregon could still win the Pac-12 North. But the Ducks have a long way to bounce back from allowing the most points ever by an opponent ever in Autzen.

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