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    Worries about Islamic extremism will be paramount for many Sri Lankan voters while others hope to block former leaders accused of human rights violations from returning to power in Saturday’s presidential election, the country’s first national polls since last Easter’s deadly suicide attacks. Simply put, fear is driving the election in Sri Lanka, a South Asian island nation of 22 million people off India’s southern tip. A decade of peace following three decades of civil war was shattered earlier this year when homegrown militants pledging loyalty to the Islamic State group detonated suicide bombs at three churches and three hotels, killing 269 people. The election also mirrors the global trend of populist strongmen appealing to disgruntled majorities amid rising nationalism — seen as well in recent elections in neighboring India. With a record 35 candidates vying for the presidency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense official under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was widely expected to triumph over ruling party Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa. But as the election approached, the race became very close. Premadasa entered the fray after an open rebellion against his party leader, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, rallying support by pledging to boost welfare programs and by embracing disgruntled party stalwarts. Many in Sri Lanka’s ethnic Sinhalese Buddhist majority favor Gotabaya because of his role in the Rajapaksa government’s decisive victory a decade ago over ethnic Tamil rebels, ending the secessionist civil war. But some minority Tamils and Muslims fear his reputation. Gotabaya is accused of persecuting critics and overseeing what were called “white van squads” that whisked away journalists, activists and Tamil civilians suspected of links to the Tamil Tigers rebel group. Some were tortured and released, while others simply disappeared. The Rajapaksa brothers are also accused of condoning rape and extrajudicial killings and deliberately targeting civilians and hospitals during the war. Gotabaya, a retired army officer, migrated to the United States after leaving service. He returned when his brother was elected president in 2005 and was appointed secretary to the Ministry of Defense. Though a bureaucratic position, he was given immense power and acted as a virtual second-in-command. Gotabaya says he has renounced his U.S. citizenship to seek the presidency, focusing his campaign on national security following the Easter attacks, which exposed serious lapses in intelligence coordination between spy and security agencies. “The first duty of our government is to ensure total security within the country,” Gotabaya said in August when he was named the opposition’s presidential candidate. “I state with confidence that we can make our country the safest in the world again.” Gotabaya has said he will disregard a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution that Sri Lanka signed promising to investigate alleged wartime atrocities and share political power with Tamils. The ruling party candidate, Premadasa, is the son of former President Ranasingha Premadasa, who was assassinated by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1993. Premadasa entered politics the following year, joining Parliament in 2000 and later serving as deputy health minister. His party lost power in 2004 and for the next decade he was an opposition lawmaker. Following his father’s footsteps, Premadasa built up his reputation through pro-poor projects, but with Sri Lankans demanding justice for the Easter Sunday attacks, he has also emphasized security on the campaign trail. “We shall institute strong legislative measures to ensure that we eradicate terrorism and extremism of all sorts — ethnic, religious-based extremism, including hate speech,” he said Tuesday. He has promised to appoint Sarath Fonseka, the army commander who led government troops to victory over the Tamil Tigers, as defense minister, in a bid to match Gotabaya’s defense credentials. “The main issue that is driving the election is the fear factor,” said Jehan Perera, head of the independent peace activist group National Peace Council. “The fear, on the one hand, that international forces are interfering in this country, are subverting this country as occurred more spectacularly with the Easter Sunday bombings, which created havoc in our country.” On the other hand, he said, people fear “a return to the past where there were human rights violations, where there were disappearances.” Lakshman Senanayake, a businessman from southern Sri Lanka, said he backs Gotabaya because “from a security point of view I believe there will be a good improvement if Gotabaya gets elected.” “There were many presidents before who could not finish off the war for so many years. It was possible only because the brothers worked in one accord without looking back.” The concern among Tamils in the north is to ensure that Gotabaya doesn’t return. “How many lives were lost and how many abductions took place under the Mahinda government?” said a 71-year-old man in northern Jaffna, who identified himself only as Joseph.
  • Protesters who have barricaded themselves in a Hong Kong university partially cleared a road they were blocking and demanded that the government commit to holding local elections on Nov. 24. One lane of the Tolo Highway was cleared in both directions Friday morning, but the road remained closed after workers sent to clean up shattered glass and other remaining debris were threatened by protesters with bows and arrow and hard objects, authorities said. “Since the highway is still filled with hard objects and devoid of any road signs or traffic cones, reopening the road would certainly cause danger to road users,” a government statement said. The protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said the road would be blocked again and warned of other unspecified consequences if the government didn’t meet their demand within 24 hours. The district council elections are seen as a barometer of public sentiment in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, which has been riven by anti-government protests for more than five months. Pro-democracy activists say the government may use the escalating violence as a reason to cancel the elections. The police, meanwhile, said they would investigate the death of a 70-year-old man who was hit in the head by a brick as a murder case. The man died of injuries Thursday night, and the Hong Kong government expressed outrage over what it called “the malicious acts of the rioters.” In London, Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng was pushed to the ground by activists who were following her and shouting at her, injuring her hand, the Chinese Embassy said. “We express strong indignation and unequivocally condemn the activists,” the embassy said in a statement. 'Now, they are taking such violence abroad and into the U.K.” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam called the attack “barbaric” and said it violated the principles of a civilized society. Students and other protesters have taken over major campuses in Hong Kong, building barricades and stockpiling gasoline bombs and other weapons. A masked protester at Chinese University announced in a 3 a.m. statement to assembled media that the group would clear the road for 24 hours.
  • Bolivia’s Evo Morales on Friday called for the United Nations, and possibly Pope Francis, to mediate in the Andean nation’s political crisis following his ouster as president in what he called a coup d’etat that forced him into exile in Mexico. In an interview with The Associated Press in Mexico City, Morales said he is in fact still the president of Bolivia since the country’s Legislative Assembly has not yet accepted his resignation, which he presented Sunday at the urging of military leaders following weeks of protests against a re-election that his opponents called fraudulent. “The assembly has to reject or approve the resignation” which it has not done, said the man who ruled Bolivia for almost 14 years as its first indigenous president. “If they don’t approve or reject it I can say that I am still president.” Morales said he would return to Bolivia from Mexico, which has granted him political asylum, if that would contribute to his country’s pacification. Political analyst Kathryn Ledebur of the nonprofit Andean Information Network in Bolivia, who has lived in the country for nearly 30 years, said Morales could have a case. “A resignation letter has to be presented and considered, and accepted in the plenary before it goes into effect,' she said. “Do I think that Evo wants to return and be president - I don’t see that. But does he want to mess with them? Yes. He wants to keep them guessing.” Two days after arriving in Mexico, Morales told the AP he has received information that some Bolivian army troops are planning to “rebel” against the officers who urged him to resign. But he gave no further specifics on how many were in on the plan, or how they would rebel. Morales said he was “surprised by the betrayal of the commander in chief of the armed forces,” Williams Kaliman. He called for calm and dialogue in Bolivia. “I want to tell them (his supporters) that we will have to recover democracy, but with a lot of patience and peaceful struggle.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday he is sending Jean Arnault, a personal envoy, to Bolivia to support efforts to find a peaceful solution to the nation’s crisis. “I have a lot of confidence in the U.N.,” Morales said. But he noted he wants the world body “to be a mediator, not just a facilitator, perhaps accompanied by the Catholic church and if Pope Francis is needed, we should add him.” He said the United States was the “great conspirator” behind the “coup d’etat” that forced him from Bolivia. Morales has long had a tense relationship with Washington and in 2008 expelled U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials from Bolivia. Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Añez has been recognized by some countries, but faces an uphill battle in organizing new elections. According to the constitution, an interim president has 90 days to organize an election. The disputed accession of Añez, who until Tuesday was second vice president of the Senate, was an example of the long list of obstacles she faces. Morales’ backers, who hold a two-thirds majority in Congress, boycotted the session she called Tuesday night to formalize her claim to the presidency, preventing a quorum. Late Thursday, legislators with Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism party, or MAS, and Añez were working on an agreement for new elections that would help resolve the crisis. The deal would make Eva Copa Murga Senate president with the backing of legislators from Añez’s Democratic Unity party. “It’s a historic agreement to pacify the country,” Copa Murga said. But other legislators said a deal had not yet been reached. Meanwhile Thursday, Morales’ backers demonstrated for his return from asylum in Mexico. “Evo: Friend, the people are with you!” shouted protesters in the city of Sacaba. They had come overnight from Chapare, a coca-growing region where Morales became a prominent union leader before he became president. Soldiers blocked them from reaching the nearby city of Cochabamba, where Morales’ supporters and foes have clashed for weeks. Morales’ resignation followed nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an Oct. 20 election in which he claimed to have won a fourth term in office. An Organization of American States audit of the vote found widespread irregularities. Morales denies there was fraud. Much of the opposition to Morales sprang from his refusal to accept a referendum that would have forbidden him from running for a new term. In the wake of Morales’ resignation, it was unclear whether Bolivian election officials would have to formally bar him from running in a new election. Añez, who claimed the interim presidency, was moving to establish authority in the turbulent country. She announced that Morales could not participate in elections again but his MAS party could. Morales upended politics in this nation long ruled by light-skinned descendants of Europeans by reversing deep-rooted inequality. The economy benefited from a boom in prices of commodities and he ushered through a new constitution that created a new Congress with seats reserved for Bolivia's smaller indigenous groups while also allowing self-rule for all indigenous communities. Although some supporters became disenchanted by his insistence on holding on to power, Morales remains popular, especially among other members of his native Aymara ethnic group. ___ AP journalist Luis Andres Henao in Cochabamba, Bolivia contributed to this report.
  • Chileans are accustomed to seeing violent clashes between police and demonstrators but a new trend is leaving them shaken: the blinding of protesters by shotgun pellets fired by state’s security agents. Chile’s main medical body says at least 230 people have lost sight after being shot in an eye in the last month while participating in the demonstrations over inequality and better social services that have overwhelmed the South American nation. Of those, at least 50 people will need prosthetic eyes. “This means that the patient doesn’t only lose their vision, but they lose their actual eye,” said Dr. Patricio Meza, vice president of the Medical College of Chile. The victims are on average 30 years old. In 80% of the cases, the damage is caused by the impact of a lead or rubber projectile on their eyes, Meza said. “We are facing a real health crisis, a health emergency given that in such few days, in three weeks, we have had the highest number of cases involving serious ocular complications due to shots in the eye,” he said. What began on Oct. 18 as a student protest over a modest increase in subway fares has turned into a much larger and broader movement with a long list of demands that largely have to do with the wide gap between the rich and ordinary Chileans. People are calling for reforms to health care, education, the pension system and even the constitution, which dates back to 1980 and the military dictatorship. At demonstrations, it’s common to see police firing pellet guns at crowds. Often, “they’re firing at 90 degrees, which is to say, directly at the face,” said Meza. He said most of the injured say it’s the national police force - known as the Carabineros - who are the ones firing. The National Institute of Human Rights has said that while it condemns violence by protesters, this does not justify “the indiscriminate use” of pellet guns by riot police. Meza said other countries seem to follow protocols about the use of pellet guns but in Chile, “this is clearly not happening.” There are protocols in Chile around use of force by the police. They must first seek to establish order with verbal commands. The use of force is permitted in cases of active resistance, while the use of non-lethal arms is allowed during acts of active violence. Lethal arms are limited to situations that could be deadly. The National Institute of Human Rights, Amnesty International and the Medical College have been urging the government to ban the use of pellet guns by police since the start of the Chilean unrest, but they have come up against a wall. The appeal courts of Antofagasta, in the north, and Concepción, in the south, this week banned the use of lethal arms and projectiles against people who are protesting peacefully. University of Santiago rector Juan Manuel Zolessi said the Council of Rectors, which represents 29 private and public universities, has asked the courts in Santiago to ban the use of lead and rubber pellets by the national police in demonstrations. On Sunday, police director Gen. Mario Rozas said the use of pellet guns will “be limited.” The following day, theatre student Vicente Muñoz was hit by projectiles fired by a police officer two meters away, according to his sister. He lost sight in his left eye. “I think it’s absolutely incredible that, after all these cases of lost eyes, immediate action has not been taken to ensure it doesn’t keep happening,” said Ennio Vivaldi, rector of the University of Chile, where Muñoz studies. In response to demands that pellet guns not be used, Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said that “we need to be very careful about introducing changes that could result in a violent situation that is actually worse.” The massive demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but it’s common to see hooded protesters infiltrate the gatherings, hurling rocks, raising barricades and confronting police, who clamp down with violence. Rozas said police will start using a camera on their helmets to track their actions and the use of pellet guns will be limited to situations of “real danger” for police and citizens. “Evidently, they are recognizing that they were doing something wrong,” said Sergio Micco, director of the National Institute of Human Rights. Health Minister Jaime Mañalich announced an “ocular reparation program” for “victims of political violence” that covers the cost of treatment and psychological care. The national prosecutors have opened 1,089 criminal investigations into allegations of “institutional violence” during the first two weeks of the conflict. Of those 70% are directed at the police.
  • Spanish King Felipe VI has called for political diversity and freedom of expression during an official visit to Cuba. The king, who was ending his trip on Thursday, said he hopes Cuba turns to a multi-party political model that guarantees media rights. At a Wednesday dinner with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Felipe said Cubans will have to choose their future and that change cannot be imposed from outside. Felipe and Queen Letizia arrived in Cuba this week. The trip sparked some criticism in Spain from conservatives who say Spain should take a harder line on Cuba, a single-party communist state that cracks down harshly on dissent. The royal couple arrived the week that Havana celebrates the 500th anniversary of its founding. The actual anniversary falls on Saturday.
  • The Latest on the escalation between Gaza’s militant Islamic Jihad group and Israel (all times local): 1:20 a.m. Israel says it has resumed strikes on targets linked to the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza after it fired a number of rockets into Israel. The announcement by the Israeli military early Friday indicated that an unofficial cease-fire declared nearly 24 hours earlier was breaking down. The truce had ended two days of fighting ignited by Israel’s targeted killing of one of the Iran-backed militant group’s top Gaza commanders. The fighting killed 34 Palestinians, including 16 civilians, according to rights groups. Islamic Jihad fired at least 450 rockets into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of which landed in open areas or were intercepted. Sporadic rocket fired continued Thursday after the cease-fire was announced. Israel began responding early Friday. ___ 10:30 p.m. Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired a barrage of rockets at Israel several hours after the start of an unofficial cease-fire between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group. The renewed rocket fire came late Thursday as supporters of the militant group held sporadic protests around Gaza to express anger at the truce, which went into effect at 5:30 a.m. (0330 GMT). The Israeli military says two projectiles were fired from Gaza and both were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The truce came after two days of fighting triggered by the targeted killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza. The Iran-backed group is pledged to Israel’s destruction. The fighting killed at least 34 Palestinians, including 16 civilians, according to rights groups. Islamic Jihad militants fired some 450 projectiles toward Israel, with most landing in open areas or being intercepted. Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, appears to have stayed out of the fighting. ___ 11:05 a.m. Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into Israel hours after a cease-fire was declared to bring to an end to two days of intense fighting. Air raid sirens went off in several communities on Thursday near the Gaza Strip as at least five rockets could be seen blasting out of the territory. The rockets come after both Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group said they were holding their fire following the heaviest bout of cross-border violence in months. It was not immediately clear whether Israel would respond and what the fate of the cease-fire might be. The fighting killed at least 34 Palestinians, among them three women, eight children and 18 militants. The rockets brought life in southern Israel to a standstill. ___ 10:10 a.m. The Israeli military is defending its attacks on private homes in the Gaza Strip during two days of fighting with Islamic Jihad militants despite the deaths of at least nine civilians — six children and three women. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters on Thursday that Islamic Jihad commanders used their homes to store weapons, making them legitimate targets. Eight members of a single family were killed in one airstrike. Conricus says he doesn’t have information on that incident but that militants used their families as human shields. He says: “All of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to the Islamic Jihad.” Palestinian officials say 34 people were killed, including at least 18 militants. Among the six children killed were a pair of 7-year-olds; three women were also among the dead. ___ 9:25 a.m. An Israeli military spokesman says the two-day round of fighting in Gaza “is over,” confirming a cease-fire announced earlier by Islamic Jihad militants. Spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said in a tweet on Thursday morning that the operation had ended with Israel having targeted 25 Gaza militants, most of them from the Islamic Jihad group. Adraee tweeted that the Israeli airstrikes targeted “terrorist infrastructure” above and below ground as well as Islamic Jihad naval positions. Israel killed a top Islamic Jihad commander on Tuesday, setting off a barrage of rockets from Gaza militants. Israel in turn carried out dozens of airstrikes, killing at least 34 Palestinians. Three Israelis were lightly wounded by shrapnel or shattered glass and the rockets paralyzed parts of the country. ___ 7:30 a.m. Israel’s foreign minister says his country intends to continue its policy of targeting Gaza militants with deadly strikes — a warning that came just a few hours after a cease-fire to end the latest round of Israel-Gaza fighting was announced. The fighting began when Israel killed a senior commander with the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza early on Tuesday, setting off a barrage of rockets and a two-day round of violence. Foreign Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio on Thursday that Israel intends to continue its policy of targeted killings. He says: “Israel will harm anyone who tries to harm it.” Islamic Jihad announced earlier that it had reached a cease-fire with Israel. The fighting killed at least 32 Palestinians and paralyzed much of southern Israel. ___ 6:16 a.m. The Islamic Jihad militant group says a cease-fire has been reached to end two days of heavy fighting with Israel. Spokesman Musab al-Berim says the Egyptian-brokered deal went into effect at 530 a.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday. He says the cease-fire was based on a list of demands presented by his group late Wednesday, including a halt to Israeli targeted killings of the group’s leaders. The fighting broke out early Tuesday after Israel killed a senior commander of the militant group. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador faced criticism Thursday over the newly appointed head of the country’s human rights agency. López Obrador vowed respect for human rights when he took office nearly a year ago. But he has criticized the National Human Rights Commission in crude terms and brushed aside its recommendations, calling it a “pimp” and a “front” organization. This week, his Morena party pushed through Congress the appointment of a new head for the rights agency who critics say is neither impartial nor familiar with the country’s problems. Rosario Piedra Ibarra, the daughter of a well-known activist, was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday in a vote marred by allegations of miscounts and double-voting, ending in a scuffle among legislators. Moments after she was sworn in as head of the agency — whose recommendations are not binding but are usually accepted by government agencies — Piedra Ibarra expressed disbelief when asked about the killing of journalists. “Are they killing journalists?” she retorted, with an expression of doubt. In fact, almost a dozen have been killed since López Obrador took office. Mexico is the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. Piedra Ibarra was a member of López Obrador’s Morena party until this week, and a member of the party’s national leadership council until the beginning of November. Critics say current regulations require the head of the commission to have resigned from any party posts at least a year in advance of being named to the post. López Obrador had previously faced criticism for his use of the military in police work and for using the militarized National Guard to prevent Central American migrants from travelling through Mexico. But his policy has also been to hold the military back from open confrontation, to the point of praising units that backed down in the face of angry townspeople or drug gangs. On Thursday, the president stood behind Piedra Ibarra’s appointment and said those who didn’t like to could file complaints with international organizations such as the Organization of American States. He harshly criticized non-governmental organizations that objected to Piedra Ibarra’s marred election, saying they had done little to fight the excesses of past administrations. “They disguised themselves as civic groups, when in reality they were acting, openly or clandestinely, in favor the ruling regime,” he said. The president railed against independent regulatory agencies that have sought to limit some of the president’s more extravagant projects. “These are all agencies that were created to act as if they were protecting human rights,” he said. López Obrador’s natural instinct of austerity abhors the high paychecks that government regulatory agencies have long received. Often educated abroad and part of the elite, regulators and heads of NGOs seldom lived in close contact with the poor. “They talk about defending democracy, but it was all about their pocketbooks,” Federico Estevez, a political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, said of some regulatory agencies. But Estevez also said the president doesn’t like taking pointers on ethics or morality from anyone else. “He is our president-preacher, after all,” noted Estevez. López Obrador currently enjoys high approval ratings, but analysts believe his pugnacious attitude toward opponents could eventually cost him. “This is polarizing, and not just at the rhetorical level,” Estevez said, noting: “You’re going to see polarization on the streets.”
  • A general named to oversee reconstruction of fire-devastated Notre Dame Cathedral has received a public reprimand for advising the chief architect for France’s historic monuments to “shut his mouth.” Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin’s battlefield-style talk irked Culture Minister Franck Riester who tweeted on Thursday that such remarks are “unacceptable.” The incident highlights disagreements over the medieval Paris landmark’s reconstruction. Architect Philippe Villeneuve insists that the building’s signature 19th Century spire, which collapsed in the April fire, should be rebuilt exactly as it was — instead of being redesigned from scratch with a possible contemporary touch. Georgelin told a parliament commission Wednesday the decision should be taken “serenely,” indicating that all options should be left open. He said he had told Villeneuve “several times ... to shut his mouth.”
  • Branko Lustig, an Oscar-winning Croatian film producer and Holocaust survivor, died Thursday. He was 87. The Yad Vashem center in Jerusalem said Lustig died in Zagreb, the capital of his native Croatia. No other details were immediately released. Lustig is best known for winning Academy Awards for Best Picture for Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler's List” and for Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.” He was also an assistant director on Volker Schlondorff's Oscar-winning “The Tin Drum” (1979) and was a local production supervisor on Alan J. Pakula's “Sophie's Choice” (1982), another Oscar winner. Lustig was born in the eastern Croatian town of Osijek, which was part of the Yugoslavia at the time. In World War II, he was imprisoned at Auschwitz and later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Most members of Lustig's family were slain during the wartime rule of Croatian pro-Nazi puppet Ustasha regime. 'Branko Lustig's life story is interwoven with the tragic history of the Holocaust,' said Yad Vashem Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib. 'He made it his life's mission to tell the story of the Holocaust.' Croatian media and officials have praised Lustin as the nation’s most successful and most prominent film producer. Croatia’s capital declared Lustig an honorary citizen for promoting democratic values, culture and tolerance. “Only a supreme act of creation could express the horrific experience of a boy who has known life and death in the Nazi death camps,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.
  • European and other members of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group must take back and prosecute their nationals detained in Iraq and Syria to help keep IS from regaining territory, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday. Pompeo told foreign ministers and senior officials from some 30 coalition members that it’s imperative that they hold thousands of detained foreign fighters accountable for atrocities committed while the Islamic State held swaths of territory in the two countries. Many of the detained foreign fighters are from Europe, but countries have been reluctant to take them back and officials acknowledged there are still differences of opinion among coalition partners about how best to deal with them. The meeting came amid concerns about the U.S. commitment to the fight against IS remnants. Those concerns have increased as President Donald Trump has pressed to withdraw American troops from Syria. It was also the first meeting at such a senior level since IS was driven from the last of its major strongholds in March and the first since the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed himself during a U.S. raid last month. Pompeo said bringing the foreign fighters to justice in their home countries is critical to preventing IS from resurrecting its caliphate and exporting its ideology. “That work begins with carrying out justice against those who deserve it,” he said. “Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said coalition members need “more coordinated efforts” to resolve the issue of foreign fighters and must also train more local forces to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State. “If you can enable local forces to fight terrorism themselves, to stabilize the country, ... that's in the long run the best way to also fight terrorism,” he said in an Associated Press interview after the meeting. Nathan Sales, the director of the State Department’s counterterrorism bureau, said the U.S. rejected suggestions such as asking countries in the region to accept them or establishing an international tribunal to try them. “Each country has a responsibility to handle this situation on their own,” he said. “Our view is that it’s not a viable option to ask other countries in the region to import another country’s foreign fighter and pursue prosecution and incarceration there.” Pompeo also dismissed concerns about America’s commitment and said the U.S. would continue to lead the coalition. He noted that U.S. forces had killed Baghdadi and his deputy. “Ask them if there’s a deficit of American leadership in fighting ISIS,” he said, referring to the militant group by one of its other names and pointing out that the U.S. still has forces in Syria despite the recent Turkish invasion. Those troops, he said, will allow the U.S. to retain the ability to launch airstrikes on IS targets and protect oil fields that the militants had once used to bring in significant revenue. Pompeo also urged coalition participants to step up funding for U.N. relief and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Syria to allow for the return of millions of civilians displaced by years of conflict. As the effort in Iraq and Syria goes on, Pompeo said it will also be critical to keep IS from expanding its reach to other areas, notably the Sahel region in west Africa where he said the group ``is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address the threat.” “The fight against ISIS is a long-term test of will, a test of civilization against barbarism,” he said. “We know where we stand. Let’s work together to make sure our enemy does too.”

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  • Three Indiana circuit judges who were involved in a drunken fight outside an Indianapolis White Castle restaurant in April -- which ended with two of the judges being shot -- have been suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court. Two Clark County Circuit Court judges, Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs, and Crawford County Circuit Judge Sabrina Bell were disciplined in the ruling handed down Tuesday. Adams was suspended without pay for 60 days, while Jacobs and Bell were each suspended without pay for 30 days. The judges engaged in judicial misconduct that was “not merely embarrassing on a personal level; they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary,” the unanimous ruling states. “All three respondents joined in a profane verbal altercation that quickly turned into physical violence and ended in gunfire, and in doing so, gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana’s judiciary,” the justices ruled. The suspensions are serious black marks on the judges’ records. “A suspension from office without pay, regardless of duration, is not a minor sanction,” the ruling states. “Even more than a public reprimand, any such suspension is a significant blemish on a sitting judge’s reputation.” >> Read more trending news  The near-deadly incident took place on the night of April 30 after all three judges traveled to Indianapolis to attend the Spring Judicial College the next day, the high court’s opinion states. The Spring Judicial College, initiated in 2000, is a professional development conference for judicial officers from across the state. After checking into their hotel rooms, Adams, Jacobs and Bell spent the evening socializing and drinking with others attending the conference. Around 12:30 a.m. on May 1, the trio met up with Clark Circuit Court Magistrate William Dawkins at a local bar, where they kept drinking, the opinion states. They attempted to go to a strip club, identified in charging documents as the Red Garter Gentleman’s Club, around 3 a.m. but found it to be closed, the document says. That’s when the four judges walked to a nearby White Castle. As Dawkins went inside the restaurant, Adams, Jacobs and Bell remained in the parking lot, where two strangers, Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser, drove by, the ruling says. The men, both of Indianapolis, shouted something out the car window at the group. “Judge Bell extended her middle finger to Vazquez and Kaiser, who pulled into the White Castle parking lot and exited the vehicle,” the opinion states. “Judge Bell, who was intoxicated, has no memory of the incident but concedes that the security camera video shows her making this gesture.” The two groups began a heated argument, “making dismissive, mocking, or insolent gestures” toward one another, the document says. At no time did the judges try to leave to avoid the confrontation or de-escalate the situation. That’s when the fight turned violent, authorities said. Charging documents indicate the judges moved toward Kaiser and Vazquez prior to the fight turning physical. Adams and Vazquez began punching and kicking one another, while Jacobs and Kaiser wrestled one another on the ground, according to the charging documents. “At one point, Judge Jacobs had Kaiser contained on the ground. With his fist raised back, Judge Jacobs said, ‘Okay, okay, we’re done, we’re done,’ or ‘This is over. Tell me this is over,’ or words to that effect,” the court ruling states. Vazquez tried to get Jacobs off of Kaiser, at which point he and Jacobs began tussling, the charging documents say. As Kaiser began to sit up, Adams kicked him in the back. Kaiser pulled out a gun and opened fire, shooting Adams once in the abdomen and Jacobs twice in the chest, the ruling states. Bell immediately called 911, the document says. It states she also attempted to stop the fight prior to the gunfire and sought help from people inside the White Castle by banging on the door. Adams and Jacobs were rushed to different hospitals, where Adams underwent two emergency surgeries, including a colon resection, the ruling says. Jacobs also underwent two surgeries and remained hospitalized for two weeks. Adams’ serum blood alcohol level upon admission to the hospital was 0.213, or about 0.157 using whole blood, the justices wrote. Jacob’s serum blood alcohol level was 0.177, or 0.13 using whole blood. Blood serum is the fluid left behind after blood coagulates, or clots. The legal limit for intoxication in Indiana, like most states, is 0.08. Bell’s blood alcohol level was not tested, but she was “intoxicated enough that she lacks any memory of the incident,” the ruling states. The judge, who was taken to the police station to give a statement, told investigators she did not remember what she said to Kaiser and Vazquez, or what started the physical fight. “However, while on the scene, the media videotaped Judge Bell telling police detectives, in an excited state, ‘I feel like this is all my fault’ or words to that effect. Judge Bell does not remember making this statement,” the ruling states. Footage from RTV6 in Indianapolis appears to show a tearful, obviously distraught Bell telling an investigator, “I feel like this is my fault.” The video shows her pacing and repeatedly running her hands through her hair. After being told that detectives had video of the incident, Bell told them in a recorded statement that she was afraid she instigated the incident that left her fellow judges seriously injured. “We’re all very good friends, and they’re very protective of me,” Bell told detectives. “And I don’t know, and I’m afraid that I said something to those two strange men at first, and then they said something back to me. And then I said something and then (Adams and Jacobs) went to defend me.” She acknowledged getting “mouthy” when she drinks, the documents says. “I mean, I fully acknowledge that I drink and get mouthy, and I’m fiery and I’m feisty but, if I would have ever thought for a second that they were gonna fight or that that guy had a gun on him, I would never, never,” she said, according to the court. On May 3, two days after the shooting, police released surveillance footage of the two then-unidentified men with whom the judges had brawled. The footage, broadcast by multiple news stations, shows Bell, Adams and Jacobs standing outside the White Castle as Kaiser and Vazquez pull up in an SUV. As the two men walk toward the door of the burger restaurant, they appear to stop and turn toward the judges as the verbal sparring begins. Kaiser, 41, and Vazquez, 23, were arrested four days later, according to The Associated Press. Kaiser initially faced charges of attempted murder, battery, aggravated battery and carrying a handgun without a license. Vazquez initially faced a charge of assisting a criminal, the AP reported. A special grand jury on June 28 indicted Adams on two counts of felony battery resulting in moderate injury, four counts of misdemeanor battery and one count of disorderly conduct. Jacobs was also targeted by the grand jury investigation but ultimately faced no charges. Bell was not under investigation. Adams was suspended from the bench the day the indictment was handed down. He pleaded guilty on Sept. 9 to a single count of misdemeanor battery resulting in bodily injury, for kicking Kaiser. The rest of the charges were dismissed, and he was sentenced to a year in jail, with all but two of those days  suspended, the ruling states. He was given credit for two days served and spent no time behind bars following the sentencing. The Indianapolis Star reported at the time that Adams showed remorse during his sentencing hearing, apologizing to his wife and children, as well as to the court, the state judiciary and the State Bar Association. “This was a regretful situation and an incident that will not happen again,” Adams said in court, according to the Star. See a video on the case by the Star below. Marion County Judge William Nelson, who presided over Adams’ criminal case, said it was not an easy task, the newspaper said. Nelson was at the judicial conference in Indianapolis when he learned that Adams and Jacobs had been shot. “Little did I know I would be sitting here (judging) you,” Nelson said. Marion County court records show that Kaiser, who is scheduled for trial in January, faces a total of 14 charges, including eight felony charges. The charges include aggravated battery, battery by means of a deadly weapon and carrying a handgun without a license. Vazquez, who was ultimately charged with seven felony and misdemeanor crimes, took a plea deal and was sentenced Nov. 1 to 180 days of home confinement and a year of probation on one misdemeanor battery count and a probation violation, the Star reported. He was on probation at the time of the fight for a drunken driving conviction. “I am remorseful. I feel bad,” Vazquez said in court, according to the newspaper. The state Supreme Court took into account several things when handing down the judges’ suspensions, which were agreed upon by all three judges, according to the ruling. It states that none of the judges had prior disciplinary history, and they accepted responsibility and showed remorse. All three have seen counselors since the incident and have cooperated fully with the probe into their actions, the ruling states. Bell’s attempts to stop the fight and her immediate actions after the shooting were also taken into account, according to the document. Read the Indiana Supreme Court decision in its entirety below. Indiana Supreme Court Ruling by National Content Desk on Scribd “The purpose of judicial discipline is not primarily to punish a judge, but rather to preserve the integrity of and public confidence in the judicial system and, when necessary, safeguard the bench and public from those who are unfit,” the ruling states. The News and Tribune in Clark County reported that Adams admitted in a written statement that he had failed to live up to the standards of his position. “I am fully aware of the embarrassment I have brought to the Indiana judiciary, my family and specifically my community,” Adams said in the statement obtained by the newspaper. “There is not a minute in the day that I don’t think about the significant repercussions my actions have caused. “I take full responsibility for my actions as they neither met my expectations or the expectations placed upon me as a judicial officer.” He apologized to both his family and the community. “I am thankful this matter has come to a resolution and for all the prayers and support as I continue to recover from this incident,” he said. “With God’s grace, I look forward to returning to work and continuing to serve our community. I hope that the community can accept my sincere apology and remorse for my actions.” Jacobs’ attorney, Larry Wilder, expressed similar sentiments on behalf of his client, stating in a news conference that Jacobs nearly lost everything on May 1. “Today I submit myself to my family and my community and ask forgiveness for my choices on that day,” Jacobs said in a statement read by Wilder. “I wholeheartedly apologize for my behavior that evening that has embarrassed the Indiana Supreme Court, my fellow judges and all the members of my chosen profession. I cannot offer any excuse for the events of that evening nor do I attempt to offer any excuses for those choices.” Bell, who the News and Tribune reported represented herself in the proceedings, could not be reached for comment by the newspaper. Bell, who has served as a circuit judge since 2017, will begin her suspension on Nov. 22 and return to the bench on Dec. 23, the ruling says. Adams, who took the bench in 2015, has been on interim suspension since his criminal charges were filed. He will return to his position Jan. 13. Jacobs, who was sworn in on the same day as Adams in 2015, will, like Bell, begin his suspension on Nov. 22 and return to the bench on Dec. 23.
  • Officials closed all public schools in Roanoke, Virginia, Thursday as police searched for a former U.S. Marine accused of killing his mother's boyfriend in nearby Franklin County. >> Read more trending news  Sheriff's deputies said Michael Alexander Brown, 22, is wanted on suspicion of shooting and killing Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54, last week at the home his mother and Brown shared in Hardy. Here are the latest updates: Update 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 14: Roanoke City Public Schools officials said the shelter in place order was lifted Thursday afternoon after a search for Michael Alexander Brown, 22, turned up no sign of the man. Authorities said Brown is wanted on a second-degree murder charge following the shooting death last week of his mother's boyfriend, Rodney Wilfred Brown, 54. He remained at large Thursday afternoon. Update 9:30 a.m. EST Nov. 14: Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Michael Alexander Brown, 22. Franklin County sheriff's deputies said Brown is wanted on a charge of second-degree murder after his mother's boyfriend, 54-year-old Rodney Wilfred Brown, was found shot dead last week at his home in Hardy. Deputies said Brown deserted his post last month at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where he served as a combat engineer. Thursday's search was prompted by the discovery of his car on a road in Roanoke, officials said. 'It was unknown where Michael may be headed or where he has been staying since leaving his post,' deputies said Sunday in a news release. 'He has been known to live in the woods and frequent National Parks and National Forests. He is believed to be armed with a high-powered rifle and may have access to other weapons.' Deputies urged anyone with information on Brown's whereabouts to contact authorities at 540-483-6662. Update 8:17 a.m. EST Nov. 14: According to WSET, Roanoke police believe Michael Alexander Brown, who is wanted on a murder charge, was 'in the Roanoke area' and may be armed. According to NBC News, Brown, 22, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the Saturday shooting death of 54-year-old Rodney Brown. Police said Michael Brown, who had been a combat engineer at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune before he deserted last month, 'is most likely on foot and possibly looking for transportation,' WSET reported. The suspect, who is white with brown hair and blue eyes, stands 6 feet tall and weighs 145 pounds, WDBJ reported.  Original report: Police in Virginia are 'actively investigating a situation' near a Roanoke's Patrick Henry High School, authorities said early Thursday. As a result, all of the district's public schools are closed, WFXR and WDBJ are reporting. Please return for updates.
  • Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin conceded the gubernatorial race to Democrat Andy Beshear on Thursday amid a recanvass of vote totals. >> Read more trending news  Beshear declared victory last week over Bevin after election results showed the governor closely trailing him. According to The New York Times, Beshear led Bevin by 5,300 votes. Beshear received 49.2% of votes to Bevin's 48.8%, the outlet reported. >> Read the latest from our Washington Insider, Jamie Dupree Update 2:25 p.m. EST Nov. 14: Bevin announced Thursday that he wouldn't contest the results of the election as recanvass totals appeared to affirm the results of last week's election, according to the Courier Journal. He wished Beshear luck during a news conference Thursday, according to Kentucky Public Radio. Beshear, who is the state attorney general and the son of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, will be sworn in next month, Politico reported. Update 3:45 p.m. EST Nov. 6: Bevin formally requested a recanvass of the vote Wednesday afternoon, according to Kentucky's Secretary of State Alison L. Grimes. A recanvass is not a recount, but rather a check of the vote count to ensure the results were added up correctly. Bevin could also seek a recount in court. Grimes said the recanvass was scheduled to take place Nov. 14 at 9 a.m. Original report: 'Tonight, voters in Kentucky sent a message loud and clear for everyone to hear,' Beshear, currently Kentucky's attorney general, said in a victory speech late Tuesday. 'It's a message that says our elections don't have to be about right versus left; they are still about right versus wrong.' Beshear, whose father, Steve Beshear, served as governor from 2007 to 2015, added that he hoped Bevin 'will honor the election that was held tonight,' the AP reported. >> Watch Beshear's speech here But Bevin was not ready to give in. 'Would it be a Bevin race if it wasn't a squeaker? I mean, come on,' he said. 'I mean, really and truly, this is a close, close race. We are not conceding this race by any stretch.' He added that 'we truly don't know' who the next governor will be. 'Whoever it is will be the one determined by the process being followed, by the law being followed, by the process being truly sound,' Bevin said, claiming that there may have been unspecified 'irregularities.' >> See Bevin's speech here Democrats hailed the results as a win against President Donald Trump, who supported Bevin and appeared with him at a rally in Kentucky on Monday. Meanwhile, Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, released a statement saying the president 'just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line.'  Trump echoed the sentiment in a series of tweets early Wednesday and pointed out that Republicans won five of six statewide races. Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Saying it will make the facility so much better, leaders of the Florida Theatre officially launched a capital campaign to complete a $10 million renovation ahead of the 100th anniversary of the downtown landmark.   WOKV first reported about the renovation plans in July, when Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget outline offered up $1 million each of the next five years to match the Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center, Inc, which is the nonprofit that runs the historic venue. Total contribution from both parties combined at $10 million.  INDEPTH: Once in a generation - Florida Theatre looking at $10 million in renovations, upgrades To date, 72 donors have pledged or gifted $2.2 million toward the campaign that quietly began more than two years ago. The Theatre also instituted a $2.50 per ticket fee on all ticket sales that goes to restoration of the facility. That is projected to bring in approximately $1.5 million over the next five years.   “We’re a little over $7 million towards our $10 million goal as of today so we are super excited about all of this”, said Florida Theatre President Numa Saisselin.  Mayor Lenny Curry reflected on the decades of performances he has attended through the years at the Florida Theatre, and he looks forward to seeing the improvements come to fruition after funding was approved.  “Often times usually in a budget as large as ours some real jewels that are in the budget kind of get lost in the conversation so it’s good to be here today because this really is a jewel and a special nugget in the budget that we just put forward”, Curry said.   Theatre operators want to keep the same feel but install completely new seats. Plans involve better addressing ADA regulations- the seating arrangement now pre-dates those rules, according to Saisselin, so while the venue is in compliance, it is not always an ideal arrangement. Beyond that, there are a few different areas to address, with the auditorium remaining the focus. He says they want to upgrade the sound and lighting systems. Not only will this make for a more enjoyable show for you and the artist or event involved, but he says it could actually save FTPAC some money in the future, because currently, if an artist wants a certain speaker setup, the Florida Theatre may have to rent equipment, as an example. Over 3,000 people attend Florida Theatre every week, or 175,000 per year, according to Saisselin.  The work also includes renovating the bathrooms.  Air conditioning is another item on the list- updating the system so that there’s not a constant need for repairs. The iconic marquee and canopy are also in for some work, although Saisselin says they are not changing the overall look. Digital signs were recently installed at the Florida Theatre as a result of funds from a private donor, but Saisselin says there is still internal wiring work to do on the canopy, along with structural repairs. While the canopy and marquee are not original to 1927, Saisselin says he knows it’s how people recognize the venue, and they want to respect that.
  • A woman who disappeared after leaving a college football game in Athens has been found safe. >> Read more trending news  Update 11:45 a.m. EDT Nov. 14: The Athens-Clarke County Police Department said Linda Christine Tryon, 42, was missing since Saturday, Nov. 9.  Athens police found the woman and said she was unharmed. Original report: There's an urgent search underway for a Georgia mother last seen after leaving a college football game in Athens. The Athens-Clarke County Police Department said Linda Christine Tryon, 42, has been missing since Saturday, Nov. 9.  Tryon was last seen in the downtown Athens area during the University of Georgia vs. University of Missouri football game.  According to friends, Tryon left the game after the first quarter and went downtown to a bar. 'This is completely out of character,' a friend of Tryon told WSB-TV. If anyone has any information about her whereabouts, they are urged to call 706-613-3345.

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