American Press: Your Best News And Advertising Source - World American Press: The Only Local Daily Newspaper In Southwest Louisiana. en-US Copyright (c) December, 2016 American Press. All rights reserved <![CDATA[Russia's Putin warns artists against offending believers]]> By The Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Top Russian cultural figures urged President Vladimir Putin on Friday to protect the freedom of artistic expression — something the Russian leader pledged to do, even as he warned artists to be careful not to offend religious believers.

Putin also firmly rejected a plea to release an imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker, saying that a Russian court had found him guilty.

Putin's comments at a meeting with Russian creative figures came amid increasing attempts by officials and conservative vigilantes to meddle in the arts sphere.

Russia's growing conservative streak has worried many in the country's artistic community. A Moscow art gallery recently shut down an exhibition of nude photos by an American photographer after a raid by vigilantes. A theater in the Siberian city of Omsk also was forced to cancel a performance of the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" following a petition by devout Orthodox believers.

In an emotional speech Friday, Alexander Sokurov, who won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2011 for his film "Faust," strongly urged Putin to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of plotting terror attacks.

Sentsov, a native of Crimea, opposed Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. The United States, the European Union, international rights groups and global filmmakers have demanded his release.

"He must compete with me at film festivals, not sit in our Arctic prison," Sokurov said. "It's a shame, it's sad."

Unmoved, Putin insisted that the court found Sentsov guilty of preparing terror attacks.

At the same meeting, Yevgeny Mironov, a prominent actor who is the artistic director for Moscow's Theater of Nations, urged Putin to stop officials and conservative groups from trying to censor the creative arts.

"Any hooliganism, any attempts to thwart a theater performance or an exhibition are absolutely inadmissible and must be punished in all severity of law," Putin said.

But he also added that "any freedom has another side: responsibility."

"There is a very narrow edge between dangerous buffoonery and freedom of expression," Putin said.

He pointed to a 2015 attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people as an example of the dangers of offending religious feelings.

"A question arises, did those cartoonists need to offend Islamic believers?" he said. "The artists might not have wanted to offend anyone, but they did."

"We must bear that in mind and not to allow that, not to split the society," Putin added.

Sokurov, the filmmaker, asked: "Who will protect atheists?"

Russia's conservative trend has come in sync with the tightening of controls over the nation's political scene after Putin's election to a third presidential term in 2012.

Members of the punk provocateur band Pussy Riot were arrested in 2012 for staging an anti-Putin protest in Moscow's largest cathedral. Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" despite an international outcry against their conviction.

In 2015, performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky was jailed on charges vandalism in 2015 after setting fire to the doors of the headquarters of the main KGB successor agency. He spent seven months behind bars until a court ordered his release earlier this year.

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:42:23 CST 13475055 at
<![CDATA[UK Brexit minister: Leaving EU won't mean economic isolation]]> By The Associated Press

LONDON -- Britain's minister for leaving the European Union tried to reassure businesses on Thursday that exiting the bloc won't cut the U.K. off from much-needed international workers and investment.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the U.K. was seeking "the freest possible market in goods and services with the EU and the rest of the world."

In a speech to the Welsh arm of the Confederation of British Industry, Davis said Britain and the EU "should steer clear of protectionist measures."

He conceded that many business leaders wanted to remain in the 28-nation EU and its tariff-free single market for goods and services.

The British government has refused to say whether it will try to stay in the single market after it leaves the bloc. EU leaders say that's impossible unless Britain allows the free movement of workers from other EU countries ?€” something the government says it won't do.

Davis said while Britain will be "ending free movement as it has operated before ... we won't do it in a way that is contrary to the national end economic interest."

"No one wants to see labor shortages in key sectors," he said.

Davis also said Thursday that Britain might be willing to pay into EU coffers in return for access to the single market. He told lawmakers in the House of Commons that "of course we would consider" making a contribution to the bloc if it means better access.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:38:22 CST 13473207 at
<![CDATA[Niagara Falls gets $4M lighting makeover; LEDs brighten view]]> By The Associated Press

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario -- A $4 million lighting makeover promises to dial up the wow factor of Niagara Falls at night.

Officials say energy-efficient LED lighting being unveiled Thursday will provide brighter and more robust color than the halogen technology that's been used to cast the Falls in rainbow hues after dark for the past 20 years.

The light beams emanate from banks of spotlights on the Canadian side of the Falls, lighting up the Horseshoe and American Falls that, along with the Bridal Veil Falls, make up the bi-national tourist attraction.

The Falls were lit for the first time in 1860 with 200 lights like those used to signal for help at sea. Electricity was first used in 1879. The Illumination Tower where most of the lights are located was built in 1899.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:38:20 CST 13473206 at
<![CDATA[Grief turns to anger amid reports of lack of fuel in crash]]> By The Associated Press

MEDELLIN, Colombia -- Authorities prepared Thursday to transport the bodies of dozens of victims of this week's air tragedy in Colombia as grief turned to anger amid indications the airliner ran out of fuel before slamming into the Andes. Bolivian aviation officials announced they were indefinitely suspending the charter company that operated the flight.

Many of the victims were players and coaches from a small-town Brazilian soccer team that was headed to the finals of one of South America's most prestigious tournaments after a fairy-tale season that had captivated their soccer-crazed nation.

On Thursday, row upon row of caskets, many covered with white sheets printed with the logo of the Chapocoense soccer team, filled a Medellin funeral home in preparation for being flown home, as family members of some victims gathered there to say their final good-byes.

Grieving relatives of the dead spoke out in disbelief after a recording of conversations between a pilot of the doomed flight and air traffic controllers, as well as the account of a surviving flight attendant, indicated the plane ran out of fuel before crashing late Monday, killing all but six of the 77 people on board.

Osmar Machado, whose son, Filipe, a defender on the Chapecoense team, died on his father's 66th birthday, questioned why the plane, which was flying at its maximum range on the flight from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the team.

"Profit brings greed," Machado said, speaking in the Brazilian team's hometown of Chapeco. "This plane ended (the lives of) 71 people."

Williams Brasiliano, uncle of midfielder Arthur Maia, said the crash was avoidable if the team had chosen a commercial airline to travel to Colombia — not a charter.

"Look how complicated that flight was going to be even if it had arrived," Brasiliano said tearfully of the team's itinerary, which included a flight from Sao Paulo to Bolivia on a commercial airliner before the ill-fated flight to Medellin.

"Even if they had arrived, it is clear that they would be tired from the trip to play a final. This can't be right. I doubt that a bigger club would have done the same," he said.

Chapecoense spokesman Andrei Copetti defended the team's decision, saying that more than 30 clubs had used the Bolivia-based company, LaMia airlines, including Argentina and Bolivia, and that the team itself had flown on its flights before.

"They had a good service then. It was the airline that got in touch with us because they have experience in doing these long flights in South America," he said.

A recording of the flight's final minutes showed the pilot repeatedly requested permission to land because of "fuel problems," although he never made a formal distress call. He was told another plane had been diverted with mechanical problems and had priority, and was instructed to wait seven minutes.

As the jetliner circled in a holding pattern, the pilot grew more desperate. "Complete electrical failure, without fuel," he said before the plane set off on a four-minute death spiral.

By then the controller had gauged the seriousness of the situation and told the other plane to abandon its approach to make way for the charter jet. But it was too late.

The recording appeared to confirm the accounts of a surviving flight attendant and a pilot flying nearby who overheard the frantic exchange. These, along with the lack of an explosion upon impact, pointed to a rare case of fuel burnout as a cause of the crash of the British Aerospace 146 Avro RJ85, which experts said was flying at its maximum range.

The Bolivian Civil Aviation Authority announced Thursday it was indefinitely suspending all flights operated by LaMia. British aviation authorities said the flight data and cockpit voice recorders recovered from the accident site were being brought to Britain for study.

Meanwhile, authorities prepared to repatriate the victims' remains, most of which had been identified by Thursday. Relatives of some of the victims gathered at a Medellin funeral home, and a Brazilian air force transport plane was on stand-by to take the bodies home Friday. The remains of the Bolivian crew members were also expected to be flown home Friday.

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:38:18 CST 13473205 at
<![CDATA[Cubans line streets as Fidel Castro's ashes begin journey]]> By The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Surrounded by white roses and drawn by a green military jeep, Fidel Castro's ashes began a more than 500-mile (800-kilometer) journey on Wednesday across the country he ruled for nearly 50 years.

Just after 7 a.m, an honor guard placed a small, flag-draped cedar coffin under a glass dome on a trailer behind the Russian jeep. Thousands of soldiers and state security agents saluted the 90-year-old leader's remains as they rolled slowly out of Havana's Plaza of the Revolution and the cortege made its way to the Malecon seaside boulevard and east into the countryside.

Tens of thousands of Cubans lined the path of the funeral procession, which retraced the path of Castro's triumphant march into Havana nearly six decades ago. Many waved flags and shouted "Long may he live!"

Others filmed the procession with cell phones, a luxury prohibited in Cuba until an ailing Castro left power in 2006 and his younger brother Raul began a series of slow reforms.

The ashes will be interred Sunday, ending a nine-day period of mourning that saw the country fall silent as thousands paid tribute to photographs of Fidel Castro and sign oaths of loyalty to his socialist, single-party system across the country on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday's procession was the first moment in which ordinary Cubans saw the remains of the man who led a band of bearded young fighters out of the Sierra Maestra mountains, overthrew strongman Fulgencio Batista, faced off against the United States for decades and imposed Soviet-style communism on the largest island in the Caribbean.

For many Cubans, seeing the coffin of a man who dominated life here for a half-century made the idea of a Cuba without Fidel Castro real for the first time since his death Friday night.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez, 26, the owner of a private restaurant that serves traditional Cuban food in the central city of Santa Clara, said there was a greater sense of uncertainty without Fidel and he couldn't say whether that was positive or negative.

"The one who ruled the country was Fidel, in my opinion," Gonzalez said. "Now I don't know how things are going to be."

Some slept on sidewalks overnight to bid goodbye to Castro after attending a massive Revolution Plaza rally Tuesday night. The presidents of Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa, along with leaders of a host of smaller nations, offered speeches paying tribute.

Castro's younger brother and successor, Raul, closed with a speech thanking world leaders for praising his brother, whom he called the leader of a revolution "for the humble, and by the humble."

The crowds at the rally and along Wednesday's route were a mix of people attending on their own and sent by the government in groups from their state workplaces.

"We love the comandante and I think it's our obligation to be here and see him out," said Mercedes Antunez, 59, who was bused in by the state athletics organization from her home in east Havana along with fellow employees.

Carpenter Rene Mena, 58, said his mother had taken him out of their home on the seafront boulevard as a baby to see Castro arrive that year. On Wednesday he donned a Cuban flag and a military cap outside the same house where he still lives, and saluted Castro's caravan.

"I saw him when he came, and now I've seen him when he left," Mena said.

Outside Havana, the caravan passed through rural communities transformed by Castro's social and economic reforms. Many residents now have access to health care and education. But many towns are also in a prolonged economic collapse, the country's once-dominant sugar industry decimated, the sugar mills and plantations gone.

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:24:29 CST 13469577 at
<![CDATA[UN further tightens North Korea sanctions]]> By The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to further tighten sanctions on North Korea following months of diplomatic wrangling over how best to respond to North Korea's latest nuclear test in September and their repeated defiance of international sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

The council unanimously approved the sanctions resolution with diplomats hailing it as a major step forward in its efforts to get the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"In March, this council passed what were then the toughest sanctions to date on the DPRK. But the DPRK remained as determined as ever to continue advancing its nuclear technology. The DPRK found ways to continue diverting revenue from exports to fund its research, it tried to cover up its business dealings abroad, and it looked for openings to smuggle illicit materials by land, sea, and air. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said following the vote. "Today's resolution systematically goes after each of these illicit schemes."

The new sanctions target North Korea's hard currency revenues by placing a cap on coal exports, cutting them by at least 62 percent or by an estimated $800 million.

The new sanctions further clarify that the "livelihood" exemption, which allowed the Chinese imports, is meant only to protect the livelihoods of those currently living inside North Korea, not Chinese people or companies doing business with the country.

The sanctions also slap a ban on North Korea's exports of non-ferrous metals and sanction 11 government officials as well as 10 entities linked to the country's nuclear weapons program.

The sanctions include a host of other measures cracking down on the country's access to the international banking system and on North Korea's export of statues, which have earned the country hard currency mostly through sales to African nations.

The resolution also threatens, for the first time, to suspend some or all of North Korea's U.N. privileges if it does not comply.

North Korea's main ally and largest trade partner, China hailed the sanctions as striking a balance between punishing the rogue nation and protecting its people.

"The resolution adopted by the council today demonstrates the uniform stand of the international community against the development by DPRK of its nuclear missile programs and forward the maintenance of the international non-proliferation regime," China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi said, adding that the measures "are not intended to produce negative consequences on DPRK's humanitarian situation."

But Jieyi also criticized the planned U.S. deployment of a missile shield in South Korea as potentially destabilizing for the region.

Japan's Ambassador Koro Bessho said he hoped the increased pressure would bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

"We are introducing the sanctions, not for the sake of introducing sanctions but in order to change the course of DPRK policy. If the DPRK shows commitment to denuclearization, serious commitment and concrete actions, we are certainly ready to come into dialogue with them and try to solve the situation," Bessho said.

North Korea's persistent pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons has long been one of the most intractable foreign policy problems for U.S. administrations.

Diplomacy has so far failed. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for aid were last held in late 2008 and fell apart in early 2009.

The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:31:03 CST 13469424 at
<![CDATA[World's oldest living person celebrates 117th birthday]]> By Brian Hendrie and Antonio Calanni / Associated Press

VERBANIA, Italy -- Italy's Emma Morano, the world's oldest living person, marked her 117th birthday Tuesday, blowing out all the candles on her cake.

Beaming at the attention, Morano took in the festivities for her milestone celebration sitting in an armchair in her one-room apartment in the northern town of Verbania, joined by her two elderly nieces, a pair of caregivers and her long-time physician.

She received a greeting from Italy's president, read by an official, wishing her "serenity and good healthy," and appeared for a brief live broadcast on state-run television. She happily accepted some gifts, including her favorite cookies, which she ate with some milk.

Then she blew out the candles on her cake — not one for every year, but three numerals to show her age, 117 — and quipped: "I hope I don't have to cut it!"

To the assembled well-wishers, Morano said, "I am happy to turn 117," and drew encouragement from her physician, Dr. Carlo Bava.

"Who would have said it?!" the doctor remarked. "When you were young everyone used to say you were weak and sick."

"Yes, yes," she responded.

Another party, including a visit from the mayor and another cake, was planned for the afternoon, after a nap.

Morano, who is believed to be the last surviving person in the world born in the 1800s, became the oldest living person in May.

Italy is known for its centenarians — many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia — and gerontologists are studying Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out their longevity. Bava has credited Morano's long life to her genetic makeup, "and nothing else."

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 09:02:19 CST 13466516 at
<![CDATA[South African president in battle to continue in office]]> By Stuart Graham / Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Whether or not Jacob Zuma will continue as South Africa's president will be announced Tuesday afternoon when the ruling African National Congress party makes public the outcome of a motion by the party's leaders to remove the president.

The ANC said Monday night that the results of the motion against Zuma will be announced at its headquarters in Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon.

A meeting of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress was due to end in Pretoria on Sunday but was extended so that each of the 80 members could state their position on whether or not Zuma should continue as president.

The surprise motion for Zuma to step down was introduced by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

Zuma will travel to Havana later this week for the funeral of Fidel Castro, according to a statement issued from his office Monday.

The surprise motion for Zuma to step down was introduced by Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom.

The party's executive committee has the power to recall Zuma as president of South Africa. In 2008 the committee recalled then president Thabo Mbeki after he was defeated by Zuma in the ANC's leadership contest.

Should the motion succeed, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to take over the presidency from Zuma.

However, Zuma is a wily political survivor. Earlier this year he survived being recalled after South Africa's highest court ruled that he violated his oath of office by refusing to refund public money spent to upgrade his rural homestead.

But Zuma has come under mounting pressure to resign in recent months after allegations that he was using his position to benefit the wealthy Gupta family, Indian immigrants who are in business with members of his family. Zuma was also blamed after the ANC lost the major municipalities of Johannesburg and Pretoria to the main opposition party in local elections in August.

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:07:00 CST 13464771 at
<![CDATA[Pope confirms 2018 visit to Ireland, prime minister says]]>

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis has confirmed plans to make a 2018 trip to Ireland, a Roman Catholic country devastated by the clerical sex abuse scandal, where same-sex marriages are legal and a constitutional ban on abortion is being questioned.

Francis confirmed the plans during a meeting Monday with visiting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Kenny told reporters: "The pope has confirmed that he is coming to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families."

The prime minister says talks are under way about whether Francis would visit Northern Ireland, which St. John Paul II avoided as pope in 1979 on security grounds.

Kenny harshly criticized the Vatican in 2011 for its "dysfunction" in responding to the abuse scandal. Ireland temporarily closed its embassy to the Vatican, but it reopened in 2014.

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:21:08 CST 13464535 at
<![CDATA[Slovenia PM: Melania Trump could inspire US-Russia detente]]> By Dusan Stojanovic / Associated Press

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- As Melania Trump prepares to move into the White House, the future first lady's native Slovenia is offering to serve as a mediator between her husband and Russian President Vladimir Putin once Donald Trump takes office.

Slovenia's Prime Minister Miro Cerar said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that the tiny Alpine state where Melania Trump was born and raised "could become a bridge between the two superpowers," which have been at odds over a number of issues.

Although a member of the European Union and abiding by the bloc's sanctions against the Kremlin for its role in undermining Ukraine, Slovenia has maintained warm relations with Slavic ally Russia. Putin has twice visited Slovenia on rare visits by the Russian leader to Western states.

During the U.S. presidential campaign, Trump and Putin expressed respect for each other.

"If the United States and Russia give some initiative in this way, Slovenia could of course become a bridge between the two superpowers," Cerar said. "We proved that we are quite capable of organizing such meetings."

In June 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush and Putin had their first face-to-face meeting in Slovenia to explore the possibility of compromise on U.S. missile defense plans that Moscow had bitterly opposed.

Born Melanija Knavs, Melania Trump, 46, left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career. The last time she visited her native country was in July 2002, when she introduced Donald Trump to her parents at the lakeside Grand Hotel Toplice in the resort town of Bled two years before the couple's engagement.

Cerar said he received a phone call from her last week.

"She was very charming," Cerar said at his offices at the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. "We talked in Slovene language and I congratulated her and her husband for the great (electoral) success."

"She passed the telephone to the president-elect Mr. Trump. He knows a lot about Slovenia. I told him he would be very much welcome to come to see the situation here and he agreed. I hope the visit here or there (the U.S.) will happen soon," the prime minister added.

Cerar said the conversation with the future U.S. president "touched very briefly" on possible Slovenian mediation efforts, "but there was no specific statement about that."

"We are ready to consider very seriously such opportunity, but the initiative must come from Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin," Cerar said.

Slovenia, which has become one of Europe's most popular destinations for outdoor activities after splitting from Yugoslavia in 1991, often gets confused — especially in the U.S. — with another central European state, Slovakia.

Cerar said he thinks the Trump family will help clear up the confusion. Not only is Melania Trump a native Slovenian, but Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana — the mother of the future president's three oldest children — was from Czechoslovakia, of which Slovakia was part until the early 1990s.

"I know that Mr. Trump is very aware of the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia," Cerar said.

"People are not confusing Slovenia and Slovakia any more. Slovenia is well on the world map now," he said. "But of course, Mr. Trump and the next first lady can do a lot to show Slovenia to the rest of the world even better."

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 11:18:52 CST 13464533 at