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

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Associated Press

Posted on August 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Magnitude-6.0 earthquake leaves many fumbling in dark, comes at bad time for Napa vintners

NAPA, Calif. (AP) — A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them. Scores were injured as the temblor knocked out power to thousands, caused gas and water lines to rupture and sparked fires.

The magnitude 6.0-quake struck at 3:20 a.m. PDT Sunday near the city of Napa, an oasis of Victorian-era buildings nestled in the vineyard-studded hills of Northern California.

The fires also flared in a mobile home park where four homes were destroyed and two others were damaged, officials said.

By midday Sunday, the fires were out and power was starting to be restored, said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

"While it was bad, it wasn't as bad as it could be and it was very manageable from a regional perspective," Ghilarducci said.

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Sharpton seizes the moment, despite past setbacks: 'To The Rev, every day is a new day'

Stepping to the pulpit at Greater Grace Church — minutes from where a suburban St. Louis police officer shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old — the Rev. Al Sharpton wielded the fiery words that have marked his long, often notorious career.

"These parents are not going to cry alone," he preached to the crowd that packed the pews last Sunday in Ferguson, Missouri. "We have had enough!" But when Sharpton sat down days later with New York's mayor to discuss the response to a Staten Island man's death in a police officer's chokehold, he recalibrated his rhetoric. "We don't have to agree on everything, but we don't have to be disagreeable," Sharpton said, facing the city's police commissioner.

Plenty has been said in recent years about Sharpton's "reinvention," as he shed nearly 170 pounds, traded warmup outfits for tailored suits, took to the camera for a daily cable television show, and built relationships with the White House and New York's city hall. But to allies and critics who have watched him parachute into racially charged crises for more than three decades, recent weeks are just testament to Sharpton's unflagging ability to seize the moment, regardless of setbacks and no matter how the opening presents itself.

"He always seems to be in the right places and seems to be able to absorb and overcome some devastating blows," said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, 84, who has known Sharpton since he was a boy preacher at Brooklyn's Washington Temple and has marched alongside him time and again. "I don't see that he's changed. The core of Rev. Sharpton is the same ... the root is the same, the substance is the same."

Sharpton returns to Ferguson on Monday to speak at the funeral for Michael Brown, following a weekend protest march in New York, cementing his place at the intersection of advocacy and controversy.

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Heart group: E-cigarettes need tighter control but may be a 'last resort' to help smokers quit

The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit. The American Cancer Society has no formal policy but quietly took a similar stance in May.

Both groups express great concern about these popular nicotine-vapor products and urge more regulation, especially to keep them away from youth. They also stress that proven smoking cessation methods should always be tried first.

But if those fail, "it is reasonable to have a conversation" about e-cigarettes, said the Heart Association's president, Dr. Elliott Antman. The Cancer Society said e-cigarettes "may be a reasonable option" for people who could not quit after trying counseling and approved methods, such as nicotine patches.

Neither group recommends e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, and makers of the devices do not market them that way.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize nicotine. They've been sold in the U.S. since 2007 and now have millions of users worldwide and nearly $2 billion in annual sales. They contain less toxic substances than traditional cigarettes do, but little is known about their health effects.

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Hotels collecting record amounts in fees; they'll guarantee that king bed for $30

NEW YORK (AP) — Forget bad weather, traffic jams and kids asking, "Are we there yet?" The real headache for many travelers is a quickly-growing list of hotel surcharges, even for items they never use.

Guaranteeing two queen beds or one king bed will cost you, as will checking in early or checking out late. Don't need the in-room safe? You're likely still paying. And the overpriced can of soda may be the least of your issues with the hotel minibar.

Vacationers are finding it harder to anticipate the true cost of their stay, especially because many of these charges vary from hotel to hotel, even within the same chain.

Coming out of the recession, the travel industry grew fee-happy. Car rental companies charged extra for services such as electronic toll collection devices and navigation systems. And airlines gained notoriety for adding fees for checking luggage, picking seats in advance, skipping lines at security and boarding early. Hotel surcharges predate the recession, but recently properties have been catching up to the rest of the industry.

"The airlines have done a really nice job of making hotel fees and surcharges seem reasonable," says Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University's hospitality school.

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Obama juggling Islamic militants, Russian provocations and more upon return to capital

WASHINGTON (AP) — While in office, former President George H. W. Bush once plaintively asked, "What is it about August?"

Indeed, this sultry month usually associated with the doldrums of summer has burdened modern presidents with personal, domestic or international crises. And for President Barack Obama, who returned to Washington Sunday from a two-week Martha's Vineyard vacation, what remains of the August calendar looks perhaps more daunting than when he left.

Islamic militants personalized their fight in Iraq and Syria by executing American journalist James Foley. Russia escalated tensions in Europe by moving artillery and troops on the Ukrainian border and pushing a convoy into the former Soviet republic without Kiev's approval. And a Chinese fighter jet provocatively buzzed a Navy plane in international air space.

His arrival back in the nation's capital came with one positive note — Sunday's release of an American freelance journalist who had been held hostage by al-Qaida affiliates in Syria.

Still, Obama faces his own self-imposed end-of-summer deadline for how to sidestep Congress on changes to U.S. immigration policies. And while racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police killing of an unarmed young black man have subsided, the St. Louis suburb remains under the White House's wary gaze. Amid all that, he'll give a speech to the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday and raise money for Democrats in New York and Rhode Island on Friday.

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American freelance journalist held in Syria for nearly 2 years by Nusra Front now free

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. mourned an American journalist executed by Islamic militants, the nation found something of a reprieve with the release of another freelance reporter who had been held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria.

Peter Theo Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, was freed Sunday, offering consolation to U.S. officials, a journalism community and family members deeply unnerved by the grisly video of James Foley's beheading in a desolate desert landscape.

Curtis' release appeared to have been aided by the oil-rich nation of Qatar, which said Sunday that it had "exerted relentless efforts" to win the American's freedom. Qatar is a leading supporter of the Syrian rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad and has been involved in mediating past hostage releases.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis had been held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting Assad's government.

Curtis was not believed to be among the hostages held by the Islamic State group that executed Foley. Islamic State was formally disavowed by al-Qaida earlier this year after being deemed too brutal.

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Israeli premier tries to link Hamas to extremist Islamic State group amid world outrage

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister is trying to capitalize on the gruesome video of an American journalist's beheading by the Islamic State extremist group, saying Hamas is an equally vicious foe as he tries to rally international support in Israel's war in the Gaza Strip. But the comparisons between Hamas and Islamic State are being met with reservations by Israel's allies and enemies alike.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu always has prided himself on his ability to attract media attention. Netanyahu, who grew up in the U.S. and speaks fluent English, often uses catchy quips, props or visual aids in public speeches or briefings to journalists.

A day after the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, posted the video of journalist James Foley's killing, Netanyahu debuted his latest catchphrase: "Hamas is ISIS. ISIS is Hamas." He voiced the slogan at a news conference, on Twitter and even at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday.

As Israel's military campaign against Hamas in Gaza nears its eighth week, Netanyahu is fighting an uphill battle for international support. While the international community generally supports Israel's right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket fire, the world has grown increasingly uncomfortable with the scenes coming out of Gaza.

Hundreds of Israeli airstrikes, along with tank and artillery fire, have killed more than 2,100 people and caused widespread destruction. U.N. and Palestinian officials say most of the dead have been civilians, including some 500 children.

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Egypt's top Islamic authority, revered worldwide, says extremist group not an 'Islamic State'

CAIRO (AP) — The top Islamic authority in Egypt, revered by many Muslims worldwide, launched an Internet-based campaign Sunday challenging an extremist group in Syria and Iraq by saying it should not be called an "Islamic State."

The campaign by the Dar el-Ifta, the top authority that advises Muslims on spiritual and life issues, adds to the war of words by Muslim leaders across the world targeting the Islamic State group, which controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. Its violent attacks, including mass shootings, destroying Shiite shrines, targeting minorities and beheadings including American journalist James Foley, have shocked Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, previously said the extremists violate all Islamic principles and laws and described the group as a danger to Islam as a whole. Now, the Dar el-Ifta he oversees will suggest foreign media drop using "Islamic State" in favor of the "al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria," or the acronym "QSIS," said Ibrahim Negm, an adviser to the mufti.

This is part of a campaign that "aims to correct the image of Islam that has been tarnished in the West because of these criminal acts, and to exonerate humanity from such crimes that defy natural instincts and spreads hate between people," Negm said according to Egypt's state news agency MENA. "We also want to reaffirm that all Muslims are against these practices which violate the tolerant principles of Islam."

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi also weighed in. On Sunday, speaking to editors of Egyptian newspapers, he said the extremist group is part of a plot aiming to "undermine Islam as a belief."

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Do bamboo caterpillars and grasshoppers have a future on dining room tables?

THANON NANG KLARN, Thailand (AP) — Depending solely on the rains to either yield a good rice crop or leave their fields dry and barren, farmers in this village in northeastern Thailand, the country's poorest region, led a precarious and back-breaking existence. Then they discovered bugs.

At Boontham Puthachat's home, six concrete pens seethe with crickets munching on chicken feed, pumpkins and other vegetables — treats to fatten them up before they are harvested and sold to hungry humans increasingly eager for a different type of dining experience.

"We haven't become rich, but now we have enough to better take care of our families," Boontham says proudly. "We are self-sufficient."

Boontham's family is one of 30 in this village raising mounds of the profitable crisp and crunchy critters in their backyards, satisfying a big domestic appetite for edible insects, and a slowly emerging international one in countries where most diners would rather starve than sample fried grasshoppers or omelets studded with red ant eggs.

Replicated across the country, these enterprises have spawned a multimillion-dollar industry with more than 20,000 registered farms, most of them small-scale household operations, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Averaging an annual output of 7,500 tons in recent years, Thailand leads the world in producing insects for the dining table.

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BACK TO SCHOOL: Pediatricians push for later start times for teens to curb lack of sleep

CHICAGO (AP) — Pediatricians have a new prescription for schools: later start times for teens.

Delaying the start of the school day until at least 8:30 a.m. would help curb their lack of sleep, which has been linked with poor health, bad grades, car crashes and other problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy.

The influential group says teens are especially at risk; for them, "chronic sleep loss has increasingly become the norm."

Studies have found that most U.S. students in middle school and high school don't get the recommended amount of sleep — 8½ to 9½ hours on school nights; and that most high school seniors get an average of less than seven hours.

More than 40 percent of the nation's public high schools start classes before 8 a.m., according to government data cited in the policy. And even when the buzzer rings at 8 a.m., school bus pickup times typically mean kids have to get up before dawn if they want that ride.

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