Missouri Highway Patrol seizes control of Ferguson; protest turns lighter, even festive
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Highway Patrol seized control of a St. Louis suburb Thursday, stripping local police of their law-enforcement authority after four days of clashes between officers in riot gear and furious crowds protesting the death of an unarmed black teen shot by an officer.
The intervention, ordered by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, came as President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about Saturday's fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent violence that shocked the nation and threatened to tear apart Ferguson, a town that is nearly 70 percent black patrolled by a nearly all-white police force.
Obama said there was "no excuse" for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters.
Nixon's promise to ease the deep racial tensions was swiftly put to the test as demonstrators gathered again Thursday evening in the neighborhood where looters smashed and burned businesses on Sunday and police repeatedly fired tear gas and smoke bombs.
But the latest protests were a world apart from the earlier demonstrations, with a light, even festive atmosphere and no hint of violence. The streets were filled with music, free food and even laughter.
Images of police clashing with protesters fuel outrage in St. Louis suburb and beyond
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — The images were reminiscent of a war zone: Helmeted officers pointing weapons from armored trucks, flash grenades lighting the night sky and tear gas exploding in crowded streets.
The ugly clashes between police and protesters in this St. Louis suburb fueled a torrent of criticism and raised questions about whether the officers' tactics were inflaming the same violence they aimed to suppress after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
The repeated scenes of police officers wearing military-style camouflage and gas masks and training their rifles on unarmed civilians — some holding their hands up — looked to critics more like an Army trying to quell a revolution than a police department trying to keep the peace in a small suburb.
"It's clear what is going on in Ferguson is a complete, hyper-exaggerated, hysterical response on the part of law enforcement," said Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police officer and criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. "It's clear that there is no one in charge and no one to corral the officers ... and restrain them from engaging in an unprecedented show of brutal force against civilians. It's horrifying and shameful and a disgrace."
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the Missouri State Highway Patrol would take over supervising security in Ferguson. He said the change was intended to ensure "that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit."
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. MISSOURI MOVES TO DEFUSE TENSION OVER KILLING OF UNARMED BLACK TEEN
The state Highway Patrol supplants the much-criticized local police in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb roiled by protests since Saturday's shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer.
Iraq's al-Maliki steps aside as prime minister, supports rival, ending political deadlock
BAGHDAD (AP) — Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced late Thursday that he was relinquishing his post to his nominated replacement, ending a political deadlock that has plunged the country into uncertainty as it fights a Sunni militant insurgency.
Standing alongside senior members of his party, including rival Haider al-Abadi, al-Maliki said he was stepping aside in favor of his "brother," in order to "facilitate the political process and government formation."
Al-Maliki had been struggling for weeks to stay on for a third four-year term as prime minister amid an attempt by opponents to push him out, accusing him of monopolizing power and pursuing a fiercely pro-Shiite agenda that has alienated the Sunni minority. The United States, the U.N. and a broad array of political factions in Iraq had backed al-Abadi, saying only a new leader could unify a country under siege from Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group that have captured large swathes of Iraqi territory.
Al-Maliki said his decision to throw his support behind al-Abadi reflected a desire to "safeguard the high interests of the country," adding that he would not be the cause of any bloodshed. "My position is your trust in me, and no position is higher than your trust," he declared in a televised address.
Al-Maliki's refusal to give up his position after eight years in power had provoked a political crisis that escalated this week in Baghdad, where armed guards patrolled most major bridges, intersections and roadways.
Robin Williams: wife: He had Parkinson's disease, was sober at time of death
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease at the time of his death, his wife said Thursday.
In a statement, Susan Schneider said that Williams, 63, was struggling with depression, anxiety and the Parkinson's diagnosis when he died Monday in his Northern California home. Authorities said he committed suicide.
"Robin's sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson's disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly," Schneider said.
Schneider did not offer details on when the actor comedian had been diagnosed or his symptoms.
The Marin County Sheriff's Department, which said Williams hanged himself, is conducting toxicology tests and interviews before issuing a final ruling. Lt. Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff's Department did not return phone calls and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment on Schneider's statement.
In Hamas-ruled and ravaged Gaza, suffering and loss from latest war breed subtle dissent
BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) — The group of neighbors surveyed the destruction wreaked on their residential complex by Israeli bombardment, with building after building flattened or punctured by shells. The men then began to voice something almost never heard out loud in Gaza: criticism of its Hamas rulers.
Exhausted by a month of pounding by Israel's military — on top of seven years of stifling closure of the tiny Mediterranean coastal strip — they questioned Hamas' handling of the crisis and the wisdom of repeatedly going to war with Israel.
"We do not want to be bombarded every two or three years. We want to lead a good life: Sleep well, drink well and eat well," said Ziad Rizk, a 37-year-old father of two, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He stared at the damaged apartment building where he lived. His sofa and a blue baby carriage were perched precariously on a tilting concrete slab that was his floor.
It is impossible to say how widespread such discontent is among Gaza's 1.8 million residents. Under Hamas rule, it's rare and dangerous to share even as much as a hint of criticism of the government with outsiders.
Still, the men's boldness in voicing their opinions could be a telling sign that some Gazans see Hamas as weakened. It points to how desperate many Gazans have become after the most ruinous of three bouts of major Hamas-Israel violence since the militant group overran the territory in 2007. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, nearly 10,000 wounded and some 250,000 displaced since fighting started July 8.
Pope makes tough sell in SKorea, urges young people to reject materialism, competition
DAEJEON, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis has urged Asia's Catholic youth to renounce the materialism that afflicts much of Asian society today and reject "inhuman" economic systems that disenfranchise the poor, pressing his economic agenda in one of Asia's powerhouses where financial gain is a key barometer of success.
Francis received a boisterous welcome Friday from tens of thousands of young Asians as he celebrated his first public Mass in South Korea, whose small but growing church is seen as a model for the rest of the world.
In his homily, Francis urged the young people to be a force of renewal: "May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife."
Humanitarian dispute: Ukraine says it can block Russian aid convoy
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russia (AP) — Raising the stakes in Ukraine's conflict, a Russian aid convoy of more than 200 trucks pushed up to the border on Thursday but then stopped, provocatively poised to cross into rebel-held territory.
The Ukrainian government threatened to use all means available to block the convoy if the Red Cross was not allowed to inspect the cargo. Such an inspection would ease concerns that Russia could use the aid shipment as cover for a military incursion in support of the separatists, who have come under growing pressure from government troops.
The United States has warned Russia that it needs to secure Ukraine's permission for the convoy to enter.
"We've made that very clear to the Russians that they should not move these trucks in, without taking all of the steps the Ukrainian government has outlined," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday.
Amid the tensions surrounding the convoy, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso called Russian and Ukrainian leaders to arrange three-way consultations on ways to de-escalate the crisis. Barroso's office said that details will be worked out through diplomatic channels.
Fashion remembers Lauren Bacall as the icon who wore the clothes — not the other way around
NEW YORK (AP) — Lauren Bacall had one condition when the Fashion Institute of Technology wrote recently to ask if it could turn hundreds of personal garments she donated into an exhibition about her style.
"She said, 'Yes, it's fine, as long as it's high-quality — Diana Vreeland style,'" recalled Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at FIT.
Throughout her years, Bacall hadn't forgotten the fashion editor who plucked her from a Seventh Avenue showroom floor and delivered her to Hollywood's door via the pages of Harper's Bazaar at age 19.
And next spring, Steele's museum — with the help of FIT graduate students learning how to curate — will fulfill its promise in a show focused on five designers who helped define Bacall's subtle seductiveness, her sophisticated mix of classic femininity and raw masculine authority in fashion.
Bacall, who died Tuesday at 89, was a fashion darling of a unique sort. A model at 16, later a pal of Yves Saint Laurent and a frequent wearer of designs by Norman Norell, she wore the clothes — not the other way around.
Major League Baseball owners elect Rob Manfred to replace his boss, Bud Selig, as commissioner
BALTIMORE (AP) — Rob Manfred was elected baseball's 10th commissioner Thursday, winning a three-man race to succeed Bud Selig and given a mandate by the tradition-bound sport to recapture young fans and speed play in an era that has seen competition increase and attention spans shrink.
The 55-year-old Manfred, who has worked for Major League Baseball in roles with ever-increasing authority since 1998, will take over from the 80-year-old Selig on Jan. 25. It's a generational change much like the NBA undertook when Adam Silver, then 51, replaced 71-year-old David Stern as commissioner in February. And like Silver, Manfred was his boss's pick.
Manfred beat out Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner in the first contested vote for a new commissioner in 46 years. The third candidate, MLB Executive Vice President of Business Tim Brosnan, withdrew just before the start of balloting.
"I am tremendously honored by the confidence that the owners showed in me today," Manfred said. "I have very big shoes to fill."
Selig has led baseball since September 1992, first as chairman of the sport's executive council following Fay Vincent's forced resignation and as commissioner since July 1998. After announcing his intention to retire many times only to change his mind, he said last September that he really, truly planned to depart in January 2015.