ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking the oath of office as Turkey's first popularly elected president, a position that will keep him in the nation's driving seat for at least another five years.
Erdogan is stepping down as prime minister and being installed as president on Thursday in a ceremony to be attended by scores of foreign dignitaries.
He is scheduled to appoint Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, his designated successor, to form a new government later in the day.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for a decade, has indicated he wants to transform the presidency from a largely ceremonial post into a more powerful position.
Erdogan has ruled over Turkey as prime minister since 2003 following three successive electoral victories. He won Turkey's first direct presidential elections on Aug. 10.News Topics: General news, Government and politics
People, Places and Companies: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey, Middle East, Western Europe, Europe
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
ANKARA, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Wednesday elected incumbent Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the sole candidate for the party helm, as premier and party leader.
In a vote at a congress just one day before President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan takes office, the AKP overwhelmingly approved Davutoglu with 1,382 concurring votes out of 1,388.
Last Thursday Erdogan announced in the capital Ankara that Davutoglu will become the ruling AKP chairman and the new prime minister as his successor. Addressing supporters before the ruling AKP congress on Wednesday, Erdogan said "We will give Davutoglu the mandate to form the government tomorrow, and the new cabinet will be announced on Friday."
Erdogan, who dominated Turkey's political scene for 11 years as the prime minister, was elected as president on Aug. 10. He will step down as the leader of the ruling party when inaugurated as the head of state on Thursday.
Davutoglu has been loyal to the outgoing prime minister as an advisor from 2003 to 2009 when he was the foreign minister in Erdogan's cabinet. He has been famous, for the last 12 years, as the chief architect and ideologue of Turkey's assertive foreign policy, which aims to make Turkey more influential in international community.
The AKP, founded on Aug. 14, 2001 as the 39th political party of Turkey, came to power after winning the general elections in November, 2002.
The next Belgian government has intended to cut public spending in order to meet its commitments to the European Union, local media reported on Wednesday.
The political parties, which have committed themselves to forming a grand, or so-called "Swedish coalition", have agreed to restrict state spending as a "priority", intending to save some 17 billion euros during its term of office.
"It takes a reduction of costs to ensure compliance with European commitments," said Alexander De Croo, the president of Open-VLD, one of the potential coalition partners.
However, he said it is not the right time to discuss new revenues at the moment.
According to De Croo, the new government "will not start with new taxes, it would not be a good thing to pay more while there is an opportunity for the four parties -- N-VA, CD & V, MR, Open VLD -- to do otherwise".
For his part, the outgoing Minister of Budget, Olivier Chastel (MR) has also called for spending cuts, but does not rule out new taxes, if need be.
It will take 12 or 13 billion euros to restore the fiscal balance, to which must be added a few extra billion for budgetary consolidation, he said.
For him, the new government needs to find a good "balance" between revenue and expenditure.
The next government will make employment a priority, requiring employers to lower costs and boost consumption, he added.
LONDON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Britain leads the European hubs on fueling Renminbi (RMB), or Chinese yuan, internationalization, with a 123.6 percent growth of RMB payments value between July 2013 and July 2014, said SWIFT in its latest RMB Tracker report this week.
Europe represents 10 percent of RMB payments worldwide in value, and four European countries have been setting into the top 10, excluding the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, said SWIFT.
The RMB payment values in a year to July in Germany, Luxembourg and France increased by 116, 41.9 and 43.5 percent respectively, data showed.
Overall, the RMB strengthened its position as the seventh most used global payments and accounted for 1.57 percent of global payments.
Compared to a month earlier, RMB payments value grew by three percent, overshadowed the two percent growth of all currencies in the same month, data also showed.
"We are delighted to see these encouraging figures, which demonstrate the adoption of RMB worldwide and the steady growth of offshore RMB business in Europe," commented Mark Boleat, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation Wednesday.
Britain's RMB figures highlight the continued interest from corporates in making use of the country's diverse range of RMB products and services, and there remains much potential for growth in RMB usage in the United Kingdom, as well as in other financial centers in Europe, added Boleat.
SWIFT is a member-owned cooperative that provides the communications platform, products and services to connect more than 10,500 banking organizations, securities institutions and corporate customers in 215 countries and territories.
SOFIA, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Bulgarian State Agency for National Security has seized over 130 ancient weapons and over 100 medieval coins in a multi-city raid, the agency said in a statement Wednesday.
The valuable objects, which the agency found in seven addresses in the towns of Veliko, Tarnovo and Shumen in eastern Bulgaria, were intended for export to the United States, Western Europe and Russia, the statement said.
Agents also found belts, seals, ancient medical instruments and World War II-era guns with ammunition.
One suspect has been arrested. The investigation continues, the agency said.
BERLIN (AP) — A German union representing pilots says it is planning a new round of strikes in a long-running dispute over wages and early retirement benefits.
The Vereinigung Cockpit union says in a statement it will order pilots of Germanwings, a subsidiary of Germany's biggest airline Lufthansa, to go on strike Friday if further negotiations on Thursday fail to achieve their goals.
The union said all Germanwings flights departing from German airports would be affected by the strike Friday from 6 a.m. until noon local time.
Lufthansa spokesman Andreas Bartels said the company regrets that the dispute may affect customers and is considering whether to continue negotiating with the union.
A three-day pilots' strike in April grounded Lufthansa and its Germanwings and Lufthansa Cargo subsidiaries.News Topics: Business, General news, Strikes, Labor unions, Labor negotiations, Labor issues, Social issues, Social affairs, Personnel
People, Places and Companies: Germany, Western Europe, Europe
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
CANBERRA, Australia — The search area for a missing Malaysian airliner in the southern Indian Ocean has been refined based on the latest analysis, while the investigation into how the plane came to crash cannot proceed until the wreckage and black boxes are recovered. Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said analysis of a failed attempted satellite phone call from Malaysia Airlines to Flight 370, which disappeared March 8, "suggests to us that the aircraft might have turned south a little earlier than we had previously expected." By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 400 words.
SEOUL, South Korea — Are dogs for petting or eating? Two answers to that question have coexisted uneasily in South Korea's recent history, feeding a controversy that becomes most bitter in the summer. On three "dog days," which are among the hottest times of the year, many South Koreans queue for a bowl of dog soup, believing it gives strength to fight off the heat. Animal rights activists protest nearby, urging people not to devour man's best friend. Waning sales led to the closure this month of a famous dog soup restaurant in Seoul that was often frequented by two former presidents. Hundreds of such establishments remain but complaints from butchers of dwindling demand suggest one view of dogs is gaining more traction among young South Koreans. By Youkyung Lee. UPCOMING: 900 words by 0700 GMT, photos.
BEIJING — Six people died and 21 remained missing after a landslide hit a village in southwestern China. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that 77 houses collapsed or were buried in the Wednesday night landslide in the village of Yingping in Guizhou province. SENT: 100 words.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine economy expanded by 6.4 percent in the second quarter and tied with Malaysia as the second fastest growing in Asia during the period. The April-June growth was higher than the 5.6 percent posted in the first quarter, driven by industry, which grew by 7.8 percent, followed by services, which posted 6.0 percent growth, the government statistics agency reported. SENT: 330 words.
SYDNEY — Qantas Airways Ltd. posts a record 2.8 billion Australian dollar ($2.6 billion) loss, reflecting a profit-draining battle with its smaller rival Virgin Australia and aircraft write downs. The loss for the financial year ended June 30 is the largest the former state-owned airline has posted in its 94-year history. It made an AU$1 million profit in the previous year. SENT: 300 words, photo.
US & INTERNATIONAL
WASHINGTON — One year ago, President Barack Obama was barreling toward airstrikes against Syria's government when he abruptly decided he first wanted congressional approval — throwing the policy into confusion. The strikes never happened. Now, Obama is once again contemplating military action in Syria, against the Islamic State militants. This time, the White House is suggesting such authorization might not be necessary. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 940 words, photos.
BEIRUT — The mother of a hostage American journalist pleads for his release in a video directed at the Islamic State group, while new images emerge of masked militants shooting kneeling men after the capture of a strategic air base in Syria. Shirley Sotloff's plea comes as a U.N. commission accuses the group of committing crimes against humanity and President Barack Obama weighs options for targeting the extremists' stronghold in Syria. By Diaa Hadid and John Heilprin. SENT: 1,200 words, photo, video.
— ISLAMIC STATE HOSTAGE-JOURNALIST — Mother of US journalist held hostage by Islamic militants describes him as 'honorable.' SENT: 800 words.
— HOSTAGE FREED-CURTIS — US journalist Peter Curtis thanks those who helped secure his release from Syrian group. SENT: 300 words, photos, video.
— AP PHOTO CAITH112 — Fighter from the Islamic State group armed with a knife and an automatic weapon stands next to captured Syrian army soldiers and officers following battle for air base in Raqqa, Syria.
NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Pushing west in a new offensive along Ukraine's strategic coastline, heavily armed Russian-backed separatist forces capture new territory far from their previous battles with government troops. The bold offensive along a new southeastern front raises the prospect that the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them control over the entire Azov Sea. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.
GIRL WITH UZI
PHOENIX — "All right, full auto," the firing-range instructor tells a 9-year-old girl. She braces the Uzi submachine gun and opens fire at a target. But the recoil wrenches the fully automatic weapon upward, and the instructor is shot in the head and killed. The death has many people debating laws that regulate children and guns. Some are wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle an Uzi. By Jacques Billeaud. SENT: 790 words, photos, audio.
WASHINGTON — A government board establishes for the first time that domestic violence victims can qualify for asylum in the United States. The ruling comes in the case of a Guatemalan woman who crossed into the U.S. illegally in 2005 after fleeing her husband. She said she called local police in Guatemala to report the abuse, but was repeatedly told that the authorities would not interfere in her marriage. She argued that the abuse and the lack of police response should make her eligible for asylum. By Alicia A. Caldwell. SENT: 530 words.
ICE BUCKET OUTPOURING
In the time it took an official of the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" brought in a few million more. At nearly $100 million — and counting — the viral fundraising campaign for the ailment better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease has put the group into the top ranks for medical charity donations — while being copied by other campaigns for everything from clean water to raising awareness about Michael Brown's killing. Realizing this is likely a one-off phenomenon, the ALS group now faces the task of spending all that money wisely. SENT: 930 words, photos.
TEL AVIV, Israel — The third Gaza War in six years appears to have ended in another sort of tie, with both Israel and Hamas claiming the upper hand. Their questionable achievements have come at a big price, especially to long-suffering Palestinians in Gaza. An AP News Analysis. By Dan Perry. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
— ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS — Israeli prime minister and Hamas declare victory in Gaza war as questions over future linger. SENT: 890 words, photos, video.
— ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-GLANCE — A look at the Gaza cease-fire, the cost of the war and what remains unclear. SENT: 400 words, photo.
BRITAIN SEX ABUSE
ROTHERHAM, ENGLAND — Rotherham is a town remarkable only in its ordinariness, a drab working-class collection of discount stories, betting shops and kebab counters. But a report said that 1,400 girls and boys were subjected to widespread sex exploitation here over the last 16 years, mostly by ethnic Pakistani men. The report on Rotherham has stirred uncomfortable questions about the extent of child sex crimes in poorer, job-deprived areas of Britain and the way British authorities handle sensitive race issues when tackling crime. By Sylvia Hui. SENT: 980 words, photos.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Corrupt Kenyan wildlife rangers are killing poachers to cover up the officers' collusion with the gangs decimating the country's elephants, a rights group alleges. The disappearances and extrajudicial killings of 18 suspected poachers were documented by Muslims for Human Rights over the last three years around Kenya's Tsavo National Park, a huge wildlife sanctuary that hosted 25,000 elephants in the 1970s but only 11,000 today. By Tom Odula and Jason Straziuso. SENT: 600 words, photos.
PARIS — Christine Lagarde, the chief of the International Monetary Fund, is placed under official investigation for negligence in a French corruption probe that dates to her days as France's finance minister. Lagarde says the investigation is "without basis" and she will return to her work in Washington. At the heart of the case is what role Lagarde had in a 2007 corporate dispute in which a businessman and government supporter was awarded over $500 million. By Lori Hinnant. SENT: 520 words, photos.
ITALY-VENICE FILM FESTIVAL
VENICE, Italy — Stars start arriving on the Venice Lido as the 71st annual film festival opens with the world premiere of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Birdman," a twisted comedy that stars Michael Keaton — best known for playing an iconic superhero — as an actor burdened by his fame for playing an iconic superhero. By Jill Lawless. SENT: 650 words, photos.
— ITALY-VENICE WATCH — Short items charting the sights, sounds and stars of the festival. SENT: 440 words, photos.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
— CHAPMAN-PAROLE TRANSCRIPT — John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, tells parole board he's sorry for being 'an idiot'. SENT: 220 words, photo.
— EBOLA — A third doctor dies from Ebola in Sierra Leone as health workers try to determine how a scientist also contracted the disease before being evacuated to Europe. SENT: 760 words, photos.
YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at email@example.com.
The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.
Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.News Topics: General news, Hostage situations, Militant groups, Wildlife poaching and smuggling, War and unrest, Animal poaching and smuggling, Territorial disputes, Landslides and mudslides, Natural disasters, Government and politics, Film festivals, Environmental concerns, Environment, Environment and nature, Wildlife, Crime, Accidents and disasters, Movies, Entertainment, Arts and entertainment
People, Places and Companies: Qantas Airways Ltd, Barack Obama, Michael Brown, Christine Lagarde, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Michael Keaton, John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, Dave Chapman, United Kingdom, Syria, Israel, South Korea, Malaysia, Seoul, Philippines, Australia, Italy, France, Crimea, Kenya, Southeast Asia, Gaza Strip, Ukraine, United States, Western Europe, Europe, Middle East, East Asia, Asia, Oceania, Eastern Europe, East Africa, Africa, Palestinian territories, North America
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing some EUR 170 million for a central stretch of the A7 motorway, which is being financed by means of a project bond. Firstly,the EIB is providing a subordinated financing tranche (Project Bond Credit Enhancement, "PBCE") under its Project Bond Initiative, which has considerably improved the risk profile for capital market investors in the project. Together with institutional investors the EIB also invests in bonds issued by contractors.
This is the first project to be implemented under the European Project Bond Initiative in Germany.
EIB Vice-President Wilhelm Molterer stated that the conclusion of the financing agreement sent an important signal to private investors in particular: “To make Europe’s infrastructure competitive, investments of a scale that cannot be effected by the public sector alone, are required. The repeated successful implementation of the principle of PPPs in motorway construction (A-model) in Germany guarantees the competitive integration of the construction industry and financing banks. By optimising the financing cost, the EIB has always played an important role in PPP projects. However, the A7 is unique in this respect insofar as the project companycan finance itself directly on the capital markets with the support of the EU Project Bond Initiative, which benefits centralised infrastructure projects by improving the rating of the project companies. Institutionalinvestors looking for long-term, reliable and attractive investment opportunities also benefit.”
This financing operation concerns the main road link between Denmark and Germany. As part of the trans-European road network (TEN-T) the A7 is a key component of Europe’s transport network. This is one of thepilot projects for credit enhancement under the EU’s 2020 Project Bond Initiative. This common instrumentof the EIB and the European Commission aimed at facilitating capital market financing via project bonds can only be used in support of TEN-T, TEN-E (energy) or ICT broadband projects.
The project will be implemented as a public-private partnership (PPP) in the German transport sector. Forthe actual construction element a special purpose vehicle is created. It acts as general contractor andbenefits from the credit enhancement instrument. The public partner is DEGES (Deutsche Einheit Fernstraßenplanungs- und -bau GmbH), which is the project promoter representing the Federal Republic of Germany via the Federal States of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. DEGES is also responsible for procurement. The contractor is a consortium led by the construction company HOCHTIEF.
The EIB is providing a subordinated loan of around EUR 90 million for the project, representing about 20% of the volume of the senior debt through the issuance of capital market instruments. The EIB and theEuropean Commission share the risk and benefits of the instrument on a portfolio basis. The European Investment Bank is also one of the key investors in the project bond, on the same level as other capitalinvestors.
The project company is paid on the basis of the infrastructure’s availability (“availability model”). The fee therefore depends chiefly on the extent and quality of the road section made available for use by motorists. Compliance with the contractual requirements ensures that the contractor receives the full availability payment as agreed; in the event of non-compliance, a deduction is made.
The proposed extension concerns an approx. 65 km long section between the Bordesholm junction in Schleswig-Holstein and the Hamburg Nordwest junction. This section will be widened from four to six lanes and over a 500 m long stretch to eight lanes. During the construction phase, scheduled for completion by 2018 at the latest, traffic will be maintained. Capacity expansion in this important European corridor (TEN-T Corridor 5, Scandinavia- Mediterranean) will ease what has hitherto been a traffic bottleneck. By speeding up traffic flow and improving safety along this key economic artery, this project will make a significant positive contribution to the economy. The swift implementation of the project as a PPP will make a decisive contribution to its positive impact.
NEW YORK (AP) — In the heat of the moment, locked in a suddenly tight match after midnight at Flushing Meadows, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka snapped at a rowdy spectator, telling him to "Shut up."
An hour later, his 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (1) victory over 91st-ranked Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil in the second round of the U.S. Open complete, Wawrinka was able to laugh about the exchange.
"At the end of the day, they start to get a little bit drunk," Wawrinka said at his news conference, shaking his head and chuckling. "It was OK. I had to talk to a few of them. At the end, it's normal. ... Everybody was into the match. That's OK. It can happen."
In a match that began Wednesday and finished after 12:30 a.m. Thursday, the third-seeded Wawrinka quickly built a two-set lead before faltering a bit, muttering aloud at himself after one miss: "Too many mistakes!"
By the time he was in the grind of the fourth set, Wawrinka was talking directly to a fan who was bothering him, turning toward the Arthur Ashe Stadium stands and saying: "Shut up, man! Seriously, shut up."
Once his mind was back on the tennis, Wawrinka was fine.
At the outset of the match, Wawrinka explained afterward, "It was comfortable, because I was playing really good tennis. I think I was serving big. I was moving really well and taking the ball early, dictating every point. That's why it (looked) like — not easy, but it (looked) good for me."
Bellucci, a left-hander, was ranked as high as 21st in 2010, but arrived in New York with a record of only 11-10 this season.
He entered Wednesday with a 5-19 record against opponents ranked in the top 10, including 0-9 on hard courts.
But after a poor start, he began giving Wawrinka some trouble.
Bellucci finally earned his first break point of the match in the fourth game of the third set. He converted the chance on a 10-stroke exchange, stumbling as he flubbed a shot that clipped a net cord, then righting himself to deliver a backhand lob winner that landed on the baseline for a 3-1 lead that helped him take that set.
Wawrinka called that "one bad game."
And then, making things really interesting, Bellucci went up a break at 2-1 in the fourth set.
But Wawrinka was able to break back to get back on serve. At 5-4 in the fourth set, Wawrinka held two match points, but Bellucci saved them to hold serve there and get to 5-all. With a chance to force a fifth set, though, Bellucci faltered in the tiebreaker.
"I tried to focus more on my game and not on what he was doing," Wawrinka said in an on-court interview. "Tried to make him work a lot. I was playing a little bit smarter at the end of the match."
Wawrinka made a real breakthrough at Flushing Meadows last year, eliminating defending champion Andy Murray and getting to his first major semifinal in the 35th Grand Slam tournament of his career.
He now has reached the third round of the U.S. Open for the fourth time in the past five years.
Wawrinka's next opponent is 92nd-ranked Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia, who eliminated 30th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrichNews Topics: Sports, U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Tennis, Men's tennis, Men's sports, Lead markets, Events, Base metal markets, Metal markets, Commodity markets, Financial markets, Business
People, Places and Companies: Stanislas Wawrinka, Thomaz Bellucci, Andy Murray, Blaz Kavcic, Jeremy Chardy, New York City, United States, Queens, New York, North America
BEIRUT (AP) — As the U.S. strikes Islamic State targets in Iraq, extremists belonging to the same militant group across the border in Syria are capturing new territory and becoming bolder by the day.
There, in its power base, the Islamic State group controls thousands of square kilometers (miles) of territory, including most of Syria's oil-producing region. In the areas under its control, it has established an elaborate governing system that oversees every aspect of people's lives.
The U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria as a possible precursor for airstrikes against Islamic State targets there. U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the group cannot be defeated "without addressing that side of the organization which resides in Syria."
A look at the Islamic State group in Syria:
SCOPE AND SIZE
By some estimates, the Islamic State group occupies up to 35 percent of Syria, or about a third of the country. It has consolidated its hold over an impressive stretch of territory from its westernmost end on the outskirts of the city of Aleppo, across northern Syria and most of the east. It spreads into most of the Sunni-dominated areas of northern and western Iraq, right up to the edges of Baghdad. That terrain includes the oil fields of Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province and parts of Hassakeh. It also includes parts of Aleppo province, including the major towns of Manbej and al-Bab, where the group's black flags flutter over government buildings and main squares. Because it controls territory on both sides of the border, the group can move fighters, weapons and goods between Iraq and Syria with relative ease.
The Islamic State's declared capital is Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria along the Euphrates River. With a population of 500,000, Raqqa is the group's power base. Foreign fighters, some with their families, have flocked there from all over the world. Although it always has been a conservative city with strong tribal presence, Raqqa was once a diverse, thriving commercial center. Today, it is patrolled 24 hours a day by vice squads known as the Hisba — armed fighters in long robes who make sure their strict interpretation of Islam is observed. The militants have banned music and smoking, and have forced women to cover up. They have carried out beheadings in the main square for violators of Shariah, or Islamic law. People who were killed have had their bodies hung from crosses. The group recently imposed a curriculum in Raqqa schools, scrapping subjects such as philosophy and chemistry.
RESOURCES AND GOVERNING
The group controls virtually all major oil fields of eastern Syria, including the Omar oil field, Syria's largest, with a capacity to produce 75,000 barrels a day. According to several activists, the group has resumed some pumping and has secured revenue by selling crude oil at lower-than-market prices and exporting to Iraq and Turkey through middlemen with tankers. The group also enjoys other assets, such as three major border crossings, grain silos and the al-Furat dam, Syria's largest. In the past two years, the group has become entrenched in parts of Syria, establishing a governing system that includes administrative offices, Islamic courts and traffic police.
The group is a formidable fighting force in Syria, battling anyone who stands in its way. Since about the beginning of the year, the group has been engaged in a war of attrition with Western-backed rebels, overwhelming their outposts and picking off towns and villages one by one through force and intimidation. Hundreds of people have been killed in the fighting, which has detracted from the rebellion's main goal of toppling President Bashar Assad. More recently, the jihadists have turned their attention to Assad's forces, seizing a series of military bases, including the Tabqa airfield in Raqqa province. Following its blitz in Iraq, the group has moved tanks, cannons, Humvees and surface-to-surface missiles into Syria, parading the hardware recently in Raqqa. Most of the group's leaders are believed to be in Syria, including Omar al-Shishani, a Chechen and one of its most prominent military figures.
Assad has recently stepped up airstrikes against strongholds of the Islamic State group, perhaps to try to ward off U.S. involvement, to show he can do the job himself and to portray himself as a partner for the international community. The Syrian government has opened the door for potential cooperation with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State group but says any strikes should be done in coordination with Damascus. That's a problem for the U.S., which risks appearing on the same side as Assad, whose ouster the Obama administration has sought for years. U.S. strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria may help Assad by legitimizing his government at the expense of those seeking to topple him. Any U.S. airstrikes would likely focus on areas near the Iraqi border and militant targets such as training camps in Raqqa, where Assad's air defense capabilities are almost nonexistent.
U.S. airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group would be much more complicated than in Iraq, where they are sanctioned by Baghdad and where battle lines are more clearly drawn. The picture in Syria is more complex, with a host of military players operating in close proximity to each other, including the Islamic State group, the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, Western-backed rebels and pro-government forces. While the Western-backed rebels have urged the U.S. to extend airstrikes to target the Islamic State group, more hard-line groups in Syria oppose any U.S. involvement.News Topics: General news, Militant groups, War and unrest, Government and politics
People, Places and Companies: Bashar Assad, Syria, Baghdad, Middle East, United States, Iraq, North America
NEW YORK (AP) — A look at Wednesday's play at the $38.3 million U.S. Open tennis championships:
WEATHER: Mostly sunny and very warm.
ATTENDANCE: Day: 33,413. Night: 23,771. Total: 57,184.
MEN'S SEEDED WINNERS: First Round: No. 6 Tomas Berdych, No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 11 Ernests Gulbis, No. 14 Marin Cilic, No. 18 Kevin Anderson, No. 19 Feliciano Lopez and No. 32 Joao Sousa; Second Round: No. 3 Stan Wawrinka.
MEN'S SEEDED LOSERS: First Round: No. 27 Santiago Giraldo; Second Round: No. 30 Jeremy Chardy.
WOMEN'S SEEDED WINNERS: Women, Second Round: No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 5 Maria Sharapova, No. 6 Angelique Kerber, No. 9 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 13 Sara Errani, No. 14 Lucie Safarova, No. 18 Andrea Petkovic, No. 19 Venus Williams, No. 22 Alize Cornet, No. 26 Sabine Lisicki, and No. 28 Roberta Vinci.
WOMEN'S SEEDED LOSERS: No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 21 Sloane Stephens and No. 31 Kurumi Nara.
TOP PLAYERS ON COURT THURSDAY: Men, Second Round: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu, No. 5 Milos Raonic vs. Peter Gojowczyk, No. 8 Andy Murray vs. Matthias Bachinger, No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Women, Second Round: No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Vania King, No. 3 Petra Kvitova vs. Petra Cetkovska, No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard vs. Sorana Cirstea, No. 8 Ana Ivanovic vs. Karolina Pliskova.
STAT OF THE DAY: 63 — The number of unforced errors committed by Sloane Stephens in her loss to Johanna Larsson.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Think about this as a little speed bump and work through it and I will get better." — Sloane Stephens, who lost her second-round match to Johanna Larsson.
ON THIS DATE (Aug. 28, 1990): Stefan Edberg loses to Alexander Volkov, becoming the first No. 1 seed since 1971 to lose in the first round.News Topics: Sports, U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Men's tennis, Women's tennis, Tennis, Men's sports, Women's sports, Events
People, Places and Companies: Tomas Berdych, Grigor Dimitrov, Ernests Gulbis, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson, Feliciano Lopez, Joao Sousa, Stanislas Wawrinka, Santiago Giraldo, Jeremy Chardy, Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova, Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sara Errani, Lucie Safarova, Andrea Petkovic, Venus Williams, Alize Cornet, Sabine Lisicki, Roberta Vinci, Agnieszka Radwanska, Sloane Stephens, Kurumi Nara, Novak Djokovic, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Milos Raonic, Peter Gojowczyk, Andy Murray, Matthias Bachinger, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Serena Williams, Vania King, Petra Kvitova, Petra Cetkovska, Eugenie Bouchard, Sorana Cirstea, Ana Ivanovic, Karolina Pliskova, Johanna Larsson
%byline(By The Associated Press%)East Division W L Pct GB Baltimore 75 56 .573 — New York 69 62 .527 6 Toronto 67 66 .504 9 Tampa Bay 65 68 .489 11 Boston 58 75 .436 18 Central Division W L Pct GB Kansas City 74 58 .561 — Detroit 71 60 .542 2½ Cleveland 67 64 .511 6½ Chicago 60 72 .455 14 Minnesota 58 74 .439 16 West Division W L Pct GB Los Angeles 79 53 .598 — Oakland 78 54 .591 1 Seattle 72 60 .545 7 Houston 56 78 .418 24 Texas 52 80 .394 27
Texas 12, Seattle 4
Tampa Bay 3, Baltimore 1
Toronto 5, Boston 2
N.Y. Yankees 8, Detroit 4
Chicago White Sox 3, Cleveland 2
Kansas City 6, Minnesota 1
Oakland 5, Houston 4
L.A. Angels 6, Miami 1Thursday's Games
N.Y. Yankees at Detroit
Tampa Bay at Baltimore
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox
Minnesota at Kansas City
Texas at Houston
Oakland at L.A. AngelsNews Topics: MLB baseball, Professional baseball, Sports, Baseball, Men's sports
People, Places and Companies: Houston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Texas, New York City, Toronto, United States, North America, California, New York, Ontario, Canada
MIAMI (AP) — An American freelance journalist held hostage and threatened with death by Islamic militants wanted to tell the world through his writing about oppressed people in the Middle East, his mother said in a video.
Steven Sotloff, 31, was last seen in August 2013 in Syria. He was threatened with death by Islamic State militants on a video released last week unless the U.S. stopped air strikes on the group in Iraq. The same video showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley.
In her video released Wednesday, Shirley Sotloff, who lives in the Miami area, appealed to her son's captors to have mercy on a man sympathetic to the suffering of Muslims. "He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak," she said.
The new video marked the first detailed public comments the family has made since Steven Sotloff went missing. Several U.S. officials, including Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, say they have been working behind the scenes to find out more about him and try to secure his release.
"This is a tragic situation and we have seen that (the Islamic State group) has no respect for human life," Ros-Lehtinen said.
At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters he did not know whether President Barack Obama had seen Shirley Sotloff's video, but he said the administration is "deeply engaged" in trying to gain release of all Americans held hostage in the Middle East.
"She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so, and that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff's family at this very difficult and trying time."
On his Twitter feed, Sotloff described himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami. Currently in Libya."
Before Sotloff was shown on the Islamic State video, only a few friends and family knew he had been taken hostage, said Sotloff's former roommate at the University of Central Florida, Emerson Lotzia. His parents didn't want anyone to go public. Lotzia said he recently spoke to Sotloff's father, Arthur Sotloff.
"He was in the best of spirits, then he was in the worst of spirits," said Lotzia, now a local TV sports anchor in West Palm Beach. "He told me, 'At last I know my son is alive. But look at the situation.' It's killing him, and he's trying his best to stay on an even keel."
Just how Sotloff made his way from Florida to Middle East hotspots is not clear. But Lotzia told the UCF student newspaper, the Central Florida Future, that Sotloff was doing what he loved.
"A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish, it seemed like it to us (as) outsiders looking in, but to him it was what he loved to do and you weren't going to stop him," Lotzia said. "Steve said it was scary over there. It was dangerous. It wasn't safe to be over there. He knew it. He kept going back."
According to a society notice in The Miami Herald's archives, Sotloff graduated from Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire in May 2002 and began attending the University of Central Florida that fall. The notice says Sotloff was co-editor of the student newspaper, The Kimball Union, and received an award for student journalism.
UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala said school records show Sotloff was a student majoring in journalism from fall 2002 until fall 2004. She said the school has no record of him graduating.
UCF student newspaper archives show Sotloff wrote frequently for the publication on topics ranging from presidential politics to a fire at a campus-affiliated apartment complex.
More recently, Sotloff published articles from Syria, Egypt and Libya in a variety of publications, including Time.com, the World Affairs Journal and Foreign Policy. He posted links to many of them on his Twitter feed, and several focus on the plight of average people in war-torn places such as Aleppo, Syria.
James Denton, publisher and editor in chief of World Affairs, said Sotloff was an occasional and well-regarded contributor.
"He is known to us as an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly," Denton said in an email statement. "He is certainly courageous."
Aside from the Middle East, Sotloff's Twitter feed shows he was a big fan of the NBA's Miami Heat.
"Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?" he tweeted in June 2013 before the team won its second consecutive title.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this story.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MiamicurtNews Topics: General news, Hostage situations, Newspapers, Social media, Journalism, Journalists, Government and politics, News media, Media, Online media
People, Places and Companies: Steven Sotloff, James Foley, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Josh Earnest, Barack Obama, Miami, Syria, Florida, United States, Middle East, North America
%byline(By The Associated Press%)EASTERN CONFERENCE W D L GF GA Pts D.C. United 13 4 8 40 30 43 Sporting Kansas City 12 6 7 36 26 42 Toronto 9 6 8 35 36 33 Columbus 8 9 8 35 32 33 New York 7 10 7 39 36 31 New England 9 3 12 31 36 30 Philadelphia 7 9 9 40 41 30 Chicago 4 14 6 31 37 26 Houston 7 4 13 25 45 25 Montreal 4 5 15 25 45 17 WESTERN CONFERENCE W D L GF GA Pts Seattle 14 3 7 43 33 45 Los Angeles 12 7 5 45 27 43 Dallas 12 6 7 45 33 42 Real Salt Lake 11 9 5 39 30 42 Vancouver 7 12 5 33 31 33 Portland 7 10 8 41 43 31 Colorado 8 6 11 37 39 30 San Jose 6 7 10 28 32 25 Chivas 6 6 12 21 37 24
Los Angeles 4, D.C. United 1Friday's Games
Sporting Kansas City vs. HoustonSaturday's Games
Seattle vs. Colorado
Toronto vs. New England
Montreal vs. Columbus
Chicago vs. Dallas
San Jose vs. Real Salt Lake
Vancouver vs. PortlandSunday's Games
D.C. United vs. New York
Chivas vs. Los AngelesNews Topics: Men's soccer, Professional soccer, Soccer, Sports, Men's sports
People, Places and Companies: Los Angeles, Vancouver, Dallas, Houston, Toronto, Montreal, California, United States, North America, Washington, Texas, Ontario, Canada, Quebec
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama faces a familiar question as he contemplates airstrikes in Syria: Should Congress have a say in his decision? Obama was barreling toward strikes last summer when he abruptly announced that he first wanted approval from congressional lawmakers. But Congress balked at Obama's request for a vote and the operation was eventually scrapped. By Julie Pace.
GIRL WITH UZI
PHOENIX — The accidental shooting death of a firing-range instructor by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi has intensified a debate over youngsters and guns, with many Americans wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun. By Jacques Billeaud and Gene Johnson.
AMERICANS' ECONOMIC OUTLOOK-SURVEY
WASHINGTON — Americans are more anxious about the economy now than they were right after the Great Recession ended despite stock market gains, falling unemployment and growth moving closer to full health. By Josh Boak.
COLOMBIA-ESCOBAR'S HIT MAN
BOGOTA, Colombia — A man who confessed to hundreds of murders as head of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's army of assassins has been freed from a maximum security prison under heavy police guard. By Joshua Goodman.
TORONTO — Few things unite Canadians the way Tim Hortons does. For half a century, they have warmed themselves on chilly mornings with the chain's coffee and Timbits — or doughnut holes to Americans. So news this week that Burger King will buy Tim Hortons served as a bittersweet reminder of how beloved the homegrown chain is in Canada. By Rob Gillies.
MEXICO CITY — Relatives of people missing in Mexico blasted authorities as seemingly more interested in manipulating the data on the disappeared than on conducting thorough investigations. By E. Eduardo Castillo.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — People in Uruguay who want to grow their own marijuana at home were able to register to do so as the government launched the latest phase in its first-of-its-kind legalization program. By Leonardo Haberkorn.
SAN FRANCISCO — Alibaba's quarterly revenue growth is surging again, a development that should help the Chinese e-commerce company sell its shares in what could be one of the world's largest IPOs. By Michael Liedtke.
ARTS and ENTERTAINMENT:
X-MEN DIRECTOR-SEX ABUSE LAWSUIT
HONOLULU — A former child model can drop his lawsuit accusing "X-Men" director Bryan Singer of sex abuse in Hawaii and has the option of refiling it later, a federal judge ruled. Michael Egan III said in a previous court filing that he wanted to dismiss the lawsuit, not because it lacks merit but because he can't find a new lawyer to represent him. By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher.News Topics: General news, Missing persons, Sexual abuse, Crime, Violent crime, Government and politics
People, Places and Companies: Barack Obama, Pablo Escobar, Bryan Singer, Mexico, Canada, Uruguay, North America, Central America, Latin America and Caribbean, South America
Tomas Berdych (6), Czech Republic, def. Lleyton Hewitt, Australia, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Grigor Dimitrov (7), Bulgaria, def. Ryan Harrison, United States, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-2.
Ernests Gulbis (11), Latvia, def. Kenny de Schepper, France, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
Marin Cilic (14), Croatia, def. Marcos Baghdatis, Cyprus, 6-3, 3-1 (0-15), retired.
Kevin Anderson (18), South Africa, def. Pablo Cuevas, Uruguay, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (1).
Feliciano Lopez (19), Spain, def. Ivan Dodig, Croatia, 1-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 1-1 (15-0), retired.
Santiago Giraldo (27), Colombia, lost to Teymuraz Gabashvili, Russia, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Joao Sousa (32), Portugal, def. Frank Dancevic, Canada, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (2).Second Round
Stan Wawrinka (3), Switzerland, def. Thomaz Bellucci, Brazil, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (1).
Jeremy Chardy (30), France, lost to Blaz Kavcic, Slovenia, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3.Women Second Round
Simona Halep (2), Romania, def. Jana Cepelova, Slovakia, 6-2, 6-1.
Agnieszka Radwanska (4), Poland, lost to Peng Shuai, China, 6-3, 6-4.
Maria Sharapova (5), Russia, def. Alexandra Dulgheru, Romania, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Angelique Kerber (6), Germany, def. Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, 6-2, 6-4.
Jelena Jankovic (9), Serbia, def. Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, 7-5, 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki (10), Denmark, def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Belarus, 6-3, 6-4.
Sara Errani (13), Italy, def. Anastasia Rodionova, Australia, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
Lucie Safarova (14), Czech Republic, def. Zheng Saisai, China, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Andrea Petkovic (18), Germany, def. Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
Venus Williams (19), United States, def. Timea Bacsinszky, Switzerland, 6-1, 6-4.
Sloane Stephens (21), United States, lost to Johanna Larsson, Sweden, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Alize Cornet (22), France, def. Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3.
Sabine Lisicki (26), Germany, def. Madison Brengle, United States, 6-4, 6-1.
Roberta Vinci (28), Italy, def. Irina-Camelia Begu, Romania, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Kurumi Nara (31), Japan, lost to Belinda Bencic, Switzerland, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.News Topics: U.S. Open Tennis Championships, Men's tennis, Women's tennis, Tennis, Sports, Events, Men's sports, Women's sports
People, Places and Companies: Tomas Berdych, Lleyton Hewitt, Grigor Dimitrov, Ryan Harrison, Ernests Gulbis, Kenny De Schepper, Marin Cilic, Marcos Baghdatis, Kevin Anderson, Pablo Cuevas, Feliciano Lopez, Ivan Dodig, Santiago Giraldo, Teymuraz Gabashvili, Joao Sousa, Frank Dancevic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Thomaz Bellucci, Jeremy Chardy, Blaz Kavcic, Simona Halep, Jana Cepelova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Maria Sharapova, Alexandra Dulgheru, Angelique Kerber, Alla Kudryavtseva, Jelena Jankovic, Tsvetana Pironkova, Caroline Wozniacki, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Sara Errani, Anastasia Rodionova, Lucie Safarova, Andrea Petkovic, Monica Puig, Venus Williams, Timea Bacsinszky, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Larsson, Alize Cornet, Daniela Hantuchova, Sabine Lisicki, Madison Brengle, Roberta Vinci, Irina-Camelia Begu, Kurumi Nara, Belinda Bencic, Germany, France, Switzerland, Romania, Slovakia, United States, Russia, Western Europe, Europe, Eastern Europe, North America
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine officials say that the country's economy expanded by 6.4 percent in the second quarter and tied with Malaysia as the second fastest growing in Asia during the period.
The government statistics agency reports Thursday that growth was higher than 5.6 percent posted in the first quarter, driven by industry, which grew by 7.8 percent, followed by services, which posted 6.0 percent growth.
Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan says the economy is "back on the higher trajectory" and on track to hit its 2014 target of 6.5-7.5 percent growth in gross domestic product.
The first quarter growth was dampened by a major earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan that wreaked havoc in the central Philippines late last year.News Topics: Business, Economic growth, Economy
People, Places and Companies: Manila, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Asia
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Alibaba's quarterly revenue growth is surging again, a development that should help the Chinese e-commerce company sell its shares in what could be one of the world's largest IPOs.
The latest evidence of Alibaba's financial allure surfaced in a regulatory update filed Wednesday as the company prepares to complete its initial public offering of stock next month.
Alibaba's latest quarter ending June 30 was highlighted by revenue of $2.54 billion, a 46 percent increase from last year based on current exchange rates for the yuan.
The performance is likely to ease concerns that cropped up in June when Alibaba disclosed revenue growth of 39 percent during the quarter ending March 31, the slowest rate in six years.
Alibaba Holding Group Ltd. earned nearly $2 billion in the latest quarter, including a one-time gain of $1 billion generated by a reassessment of the company's investment portfolio.
If not for that accounting maneuver and other items unrelated to the company's ongoing business, Alibaba said it still would have earned nearly $1.2 billion. That represented a 60 percent increase in Alibaba's adjusted earnings from the previous year, according to the documents.
The impressive numbers set the stage for Alibaba's management to begin meeting after the Labor Day weekend with money managers interested in investing in the IPO. The roving presentations, known as a "road show," give investors a chance to gather more information while Alibaba's bankers gauge the demand for the company's stock before setting a price for the IPO shares and determining how many will be offered.
Analysts believe the demand to invest in Alibaba will be so intense that the company will be able to eclipse the $16 billion that Facebook Inc. raised two years ago. That IPO is the largest ever for a technology company. What's more, Alibaba is expected to debut on the New York Stock Exchange with a market value ranging $150 billion to $200 billion, topping all but a few U.S. companies.
Barring any hitches, the IPO should be completed by late September.
Alibaba is thriving because it has built an e-commerce bazaar that has become a shopping magnet for businesses and consumers alike as China's economy steadily grows. The company's network of sites includes Taobao, Tmall, and AliExpress, as well as Alibaba.
The total sales made on Alibaba's sites is now running at $296 billion annually, according to Wednesday's update, up from $248 billion annually when the company first filed its IPO documents in May. Alibaba now boasts 279 million active buyers, up from 231 million when the IPO process began.
In another promising sign as more online activity shifts away from personal computer, Alibaba attracts 188 million monthly visitors on mobile devices who are spending $71 billion annually, according to Wednesday's filing.
Alibaba isn't the only Internet company in line for a major windfall from the upcoming IPO.
Yahoo Inc. currently owns a 23 percent stake in Alibaba, and will whittle its holdings by selling 140 million shares in the IPO. The value of the Alibaba stake is the main reason that Yahoo's stock price has nearly tripled during the past two years, even as Yahoo has been struggling to boost its own revenue.News Topics: Business, Corporate stock, Initial public offerings, Corporate news, Stock offerings
People, Places and Companies: Facebook Inc
PHOENIX (AP) — The accidental shooting death of a firing-range instructor by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi has intensified a debate over youngsters and guns, with many Americans wondering what sort of parents would let a child handle a submachine gun.
Instructor Charles Vacca, 39, was standing next to the girl Monday at the Last Stop range in Arizona, south of Las Vegas, when she squeezed the trigger. The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and Vacca was shot in the head.
Prosecutors say they will not file charges in the case.
Many American youth grow up around guns, and taking part in their first hunt with parents is a rite of passage in rural America. But giving a child an automatic Uzi is a different story.
Gerry Hills, founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety, a group seeking to reduce gun violence, said that it was reckless to let the girl handle such a powerful weapon and that tighter regulations regarding children and guns are needed.
"We have better safety standards for who gets to ride a roller coaster at an amusement park," Hills said. Referring to the girl's parents, Hills said: "I just don't see any reason in the world why you would allow a 9-year-old to put her hands on an Uzi."
The identities of the girl and her family have not been released.
Sam Scarmardo, who operates the outdoor range in the desert, said Wednesday that the parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules and were standing nearby, video-recording their daughter, when the accident happened.
Investigators released 27 seconds of the footage showing the girl from behind as she fires at a black-silhouette target. The footage, which does not show the instructor actually being shot, helped feed the furor on social media and beyond.
"I have regret we let this child shoot, and I have regret that Charlie was killed in the incident," Scarmardo said. He said he doesn't know what went wrong, pointing out that Vacca was an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jace Zack, chief deputy for the Mohave County Attorney's Office, said the instructor was probably the most criminally negligent person involved in the accident for having allowed the child to hold the gun without enough training.
"The parents aren't culpable," Zack said. "They trusted the instructor to know what he was doing, and the girl could not possibly have comprehended the potential dangers involved."
In 2008, an 8-year-old boy died after accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi at a gun expo near Springfield, Massachusetts. Christopher Bizilj was firing at pumpkins when the gun kicked back. A former Massachusetts police chief whose company co-sponsored the gun show was later acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.
Two gun experts said Wednesday that what types of firearms a child can handle depend largely on the strength and experience of the child — though the notion of giving a 9-year-old a fully automatic Uzi made some queasy.
"So much of it depends on the maturity of the child and the experience of the range officer," said Joe Waldron, a shooting instructor and legislative director of the Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association.
Dave Workman, senior editor at thegunmag.com and a spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said it can be safe to let children shoot an automatic weapon if a properly trained adult is helping them hold it.
After viewing the video of the Arizona shooting, Workman said Vacca appeared to have tried to help the girl maintain control by placing his left hand under the weapon. But automatic weapons tend to recoil upward, he noted.
"If it was the first time she'd ever handled a full-auto firearm, it's a big surprise when that gun continues to go off," said Workman, a firearms instructor for 30 years. "I've even seen adults stunned by it."
Lindsey Zwicker of the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said that after the 2008 tragedy in Massachusetts, Connecticut adopted a law banning anyone under 16 from handling machine guns at shooting ranges.
"This is an action states can do to prevent something like this from happening again," she said.
Scarmardo said his policy of allowing children 8 and older to fire guns under adult supervision and the watchful eye of an instructor is standard practice in the industry. The range's policies are under review, he said.
Arizona has long had a strong pro-gun culture, including weapon ranges that promote events for children and families. Some of these ranges offer people the thrill of firing weapons such as the Israeli-made Uzi that are heavily restricted and difficult for members of the public to obtain.
The Scottsdale Gun Club in recent years has allowed children and families to pose with Santa Claus while holding machine guns and other weapons from the club. Children as young as 10 are allowed to hunt big game such as elk and deer in Arizona, provided they have completed a hunter safety course.
Scarmardo, who has been operating the gun range for more than a year and has run another for 14 years, said he hasn't had a safety problem before at his ranges.
"We never even issued a Band-Aid," Scarmardo said.
Johnson contributed to this report from Seattle.News Topics: General news, Gun violence, Homicide, Gun politics, Violent crime, Crime, Shootings, Violence, Social issues, Social affairs, Political issues, Government and politics, Human rights and civil liberties
People, Places and Companies: Arizona, Phoenix, United States, North America
TORONTO (AP) — Few things unite Canadians the way Tim Hortons does. For half a century, they have warmed themselves on chilly mornings with the chain's coffee and Timbits — or doughnut holes to Americans.
So news this week that Burger King will buy Tim Hortons served as a bittersweet reminder of how beloved the homegrown chain is in Canada, where 75 percent of the all the coffee sold at fast food restaurants comes from "Timmy's," as it is affectionately known. Tim Hortons is found in just about every small town and large city across Canada, and hockey-mad Canadians often head to their local Timmy's before or after their kids' games.
Tim Hortons, in a bid to quell any concerns that its distinctly Canadian brand could be watered down, went out of its way to assure that the red and brown coffee and doughnut shop won't change, taking out big ads in newspapers and declaring "fellow Canadians can all rest assured that Tim Hortons will still be Tim Hortons following this transaction."
The chain's aura in Canada comes from its namesake: hockey Hall of Famer Tim Horton, the co-founder who died at 44 in a 1974 car accident after playing in a game for the Buffalo Sabres. In a long run with Canada's most popular NHL team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the defenseman won four Stanley Cups, including Toronto's last in 1967. That, and the chain's omnipresence, puts his fame in Canada on the order of a New York Yankees baseball legend like Mickey Mantle or Yogi Berra.
"Tim Hortons is iconic in terms of Canada and I wouldn't like to see that diluted," said Daraius Bharucha, a 46-year old teacher from Ajax, Ontario, and a customer since he immigrated to Canada from India 21 years ago. Bharucha said the first thing he does when he returns home to Canada from a vacation is visit the local Timmy's. He knows he's home. "Even among new Canadians the idea of going to a Timmy's has become part of the vocabulary," he added.
While the takeover by Burger King, which is based in Miami but controlled by a Brazilian private equity fund, is getting much attention in Canada, it's not causing panic. U.S.-based Wendy's recently owned Tim Hortons and its brand remained intact. Wendy's then spun off Tim Hortons as a separate company in 2006 after more than a decade of ownership.
In the meantime, Tim Hortons kept expanding and now has 4,546 restaurants, including 3,630 in Canada, 866 in the United States and 50 in the Persian Gulf.
Both Burger King and Tim Hortons vow they will continue to be run independently. So don't expect to see Timbits alongside Whoppers on Burger King menus.
The global corporate headquarters of the two chains will be based in Oakville, Ontario, and the move is viewed as being driven by Burger King's desire for a tax haven.
The Canadian government welcomed the deal. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman said the government has been "reducing business taxes and creating jobs and boosting investment, making Canada one of the best countries in the world to do business."
Harper previously celebrated the return of Tim Horton's corporate headquarters to Canada in 2009 with a speech that talked about Timbits and the equally famous "double-double" coffee of two sugars and two creams.
"Millions of Canadian hockey parents like me know well that when it is 20 degrees below zero and everyone is up for a 6 a.m. practice, nothing motivates the team more than a box of Timbits, and nothing warms the parents in the stands better than a hot double-double," Harper said then.
Harper also quoted Canadian author Pierre Burton, who said "In so many ways the story of Tim Hortons is the essential Canadian story. It is the story of success and tragedy, of big dreams in small towns, of old fashioned values and tough-fisted business, of hard work and of hockey."
Harper's support is built in rural areas and with the "Tim Horton's crowd" — which is popular with blue-collar Canadians. While some wealthier Canadians might prefer Starbucks, most just want a Timmy's double-double.
And they hope something so Canadian won't be diluted.
"It's the association with hockey and the legend of Tim Horton and a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the tragic circumstances in which he died at a young age," Bharucha said. "There is that kind of mystique attached to that name."News Topics: Business, General news, NHL hockey, Hockey, Professional hockey, Sports, Men's hockey, Men's sports, Government and politics
People, Places and Companies: Yogi Berra, Stephen Harper, Ontario, Canada, Toronto, North America