China grants year-long tariff exemptions for 16 U.S.-made items

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Shipping containers are transferred to trucks after being unloaded from arriving cargo ships at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, Calif., on May 13. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 11 (UPI) — The Chinese government announced Wednesday it will exempt several U.S. items from its tariffs list for one year, beginning next week.

The exemptions apply to 16 American-made products and will take effect Sept. 17 — two lists of goods to be excluded from Chinese tariffs, Beijing’s Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council said in a statement.

Items on “List 1” include fish meal, shrimp and prawn seedlings and cancer drugs. China said tariffs already imposed on the products will be refunded and companies can apply for those within six months.

Products on “List 2” include whey for feed and lubricating base oil, but tariffs already paid on those items will not be given back.

The announcement comes about a week after China announced plans for new high-level trade talks next month. It would be the 13th round of talks between Beijing and Washington since the trade dispute began more than a year ago.

U.S. President Donald Trump has recently threatened “much tougher” action against China. A new round of tariffs took effect Sept. 1, which Chinese authorities asked the World Trade Organization this month to oppose. More are set for Dec.

Hundreds arrested worldwide in cyber scam crackdown

Sept. 11 (UPI) — Hundreds of people were arrested worldwide during a four-month operation targeting scammers who hijack wire transfers for profit, federal authorities said.

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that 281 people were arrested worldwide, including 167 people in Nigeria, 74 people in the United States, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana during Operation reWired. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia and Britain.

The operation — which was a coordinated effort between the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department, the Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of State — sought to disrupt Business Email Compromise schemes, which are sophisticated scams targeting employees who regularly perform wire transfer payments.

The Justice Department said in a statement that scammers who perpetrate BEC also target real estate purchasers and the elderly, through persuading them to make wire transfers to bank accounts under their control.

RELATED Cyber team busts global malware unit that hijacked 850K computers

They are often members of criminal organizations that originated in Nigeria but the spread globally, the Justice Department said.

“The Department of Justice has increased efforts in taking aggressive enforcement action against fraudsters who are targeting American citizens and their businesses in business email compromise schemes and other cyber-enabled financial crimes,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said.

The FBI said the operation resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million and the disruption and recovery of some $118 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

RELATED ‘Destructive’ malware attacks have surged 200% in past year, experts say

“In unraveling this complex, nationwide identity theft and tax fraud scheme, we discovered that the conspirators stole more than 250,000 identities and filed more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns, attempting to receive more than $91 million in refunds,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort. “We will continue to work with our international, federal and state partners to pursue all those responsible for perpetrating this fraud, preying on innocent victims and attempting to cheat the U.S. out of millions of dollars.”

According to the FBI’s Crime Complaint Center, nearly $1.3 billion was lost to BEC in 2018, which was twice the amount reported the year prior.

Operation reWired followed last year’s Operation WireWire, during which federal authorities arrested 74 people and seized some $2.4 million.

RELATED Justice Department indicts 80 in online scams linked to Nigeria

“We’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes: We’ll keep coming after you, no matter where you are,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Elliott invests $3.2B in AT&T, seeks changes

FILE – In this July 18, 2019, file photo, a sign is displayed at an AT&T retail store in Miami. Activist hedge fund manager Elliott Management is making a new $3.2 billion investment in AT&T, saying the company could be valued at more than $60 a share by 2021’s end. AT&T stock jumped nearly 6% to $38.31 in Monday, Sept. 9, premarket trading. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Activist hedge fund manager Elliott Management is making a new $3.2 billion investment in AT&T, roughly a 1% stake, and calling for changes at the company such as selling assets and paying down debt.

The move comes as AT&T readies a streaming service following its $81 billion purchase of Time Warner. It plans to launch HBO Max in the spring of 2020 as more people cut the cord and move to streaming services. It joins an increasingly crowded field with Disney, Comcast, Apple and others readying their own streaming services.

But Elliott said AT&T has yet to come up with a “clear and strategic rationale” as to why it needs to own Time Warner. A federal appeals court cleared the deal in February .

AT&T said it a statement it will review Elliott Management’s proposals and said many of the actions proposed are things the company is already doing.

AT&T Inc. stock jumped more than 3% to $37.58 in Monday morning trading.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump called the disclosure of an activist investor “great news” for AT&T, which owns news channel CNN, long a target for Trump’s tweets. He again criticized the network’s news coverage on Twitter and also went after MSNBC, owned by Comcast.

Elliott sent a letter to AT&T’s board saying it should look into divesting noncore assets like DirecTV and its Mexican wireless operations. Elliott said it has identified opportunities for more than $10 billion in savings, but that its plan represents $5 billion in cost cuts. It called on the company to stop making large acquisitions and instead repurchase stock and commit to growing its dividend. The investor also suggested separating the CEO and chairman positions at the Dallas company. Randall Stephenson has held the roles since 2007.

Elliott believes the stock can top $60 by the end of 2021.

AT&T has said the idea behind the merger with Time Warner was to help AT&T — which claims about 25 million of the 90 million U.S. households that are pay TV customers — compete better with online rivals like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu.

“The merger of these innovative companies has already yielded significant consumer benefits, and it will continue to do so for years to come,” AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement when the deal was cleared by a federal appeals court in February.

AT&T’s HBO Max service will offer HBO content, other video from the Warner Bros. studio — like “Friends” — and new series and movies that are exclusive to the service. AT&T has not announced a price.

Founded in 1977 by Republican billionaire Paul Singer, Elliott Management has stakes in or owns a wide array of organizations including online retailer eBay, bookseller Barnes & Noble and soccer team AC Milan.

Airstrikes on Iran-backed groups in Syria kill 18

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Spanish U.N peacekeepers patrol the Lebanese side of the Lebanese-Israeli border in the southern village of Kfar Kila, Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Monday that Israel’s air force attacked a Palestinian base in the country’s east near the border with Syria. Lebanese President Michel Aoun told the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, that the attacks violate a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT (AP) — Unknown warplanes targeted overnight an arms depot and posts of Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border, killing at least 18 fighters, Syrian opposition activists said Monday.

The strikes come amid rising tensions in the Middle East and the crisis between Iran and the U.S. in the wake of the collapsing nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

An official with an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Boukamal. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that Iran has no immunity anywhere and that the Israeli military “will act — and currently are acting — against them.”

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the airstrikes began late on Sunday and continued after midnight, killing 18 Iranian and pro-Iranian fighters and also causing extensive damage.

The Sound and Pictures, a local activist collective in eastern Syria, gave a higher death toll and said 21 fighters were killed and 36 wounded. The collective said the strikes targeted positions belonging to Iranian militias and those of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a mostly Iran-backed Shiite militias, but did not say who the dead and wounded were.

A Syria-based official for the Iraqi militia claimed that Israel was behind the attack, adding that four missiles fired by warplanes hit a post manned by Iranian gunmen and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said there were no Iraqi casualties in the strike, which he said hit about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Iraqi border.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military had no comment on the airstrike but said rockets launched from Syria on Monday fell short and did not land in Israel. The military said the rockets were launched from the outskirts of Damascus by Shiite militants operating under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The military said it holds the Syrian government responsible for the attempted attack.

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat and has allegedly struck Iran-linked targets as far away as Iraq in recent weeks. Israel is known to have struck Iranian targets in Syria on numerous occasions — as well as in Lebanon.

Also Monday, Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it shot down an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon, shortly after it crossed from Israel amid rising tensions along the border between the two countries in recent weeks.

A Hezbollah statement said the drone was downed with “suitable weapons” over the village of Ramieh and that the militants now have it. The statement did not elaborate further.

The Israeli military said a “drone on a routine mission in northern Israel fell,” without elaborating on what it was doing nor how it was downed. It said the drone was “simple” and that there was no risk of a breach of information if it fell into enemy hands. The military said the drone fell Sunday, not Monday, and the reason for the discrepancy was not clear.

Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group would confront and shoot down any Israeli drones that enter Lebanese airspace, raising the potential for conflict amid heightened tensions.

Nasrallah spoke after authorities said one alleged Israeli drone crashed in a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, landing on the roof of a building that houses Hezbollah’s media office, and another exploded and crashed in a plot behind the building, causing material damage.

Last week, Israel and Hezbollah traded fire for the first time in years. Hezbollah launched anti-tank missiles at an Israeli armored vehicle near the border, causing no casualties. Israel retaliated with artillery fire into southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah said last week’s missile attack was retaliation for an Israeli airstrike near Damascus last month that killed two of its members. Israel said the attack thwarted an Iranian-orchestrated drone attack squad. Days after the airstrike, Hezbollah said two Israeli attack drones crash-landed in Beirut.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a monthlong war in 2006.

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Noises heard as Coast Guard searches for 4 inside cargo ship

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Smoke rises from a cargo ship that capsized in the St. Simons Island, Georgia sound Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Bobby Haven/The Brunswick News via AP)

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — A rescue team has heard noises from inside a cargo ship where four crew members are missing after their huge vessel overturned and caught fire, but the flames and smoke have so far prevented the rescuers from safely penetrating the unstable vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday.

“They heard noises, but we can’t confirm that it’s signs of life,” Petty Officer 3rd class Ryan Dickinson told The Associated Press on Monday morning. “We can’t confirm that without going in and looking, but they did hear sounds.”

A Coast Guard helicopter was able to land on the side of the ship Monday as part of the rescue effort.

The Golden Ray listed heavily and then rolled over on its side early Sunday in St. Simons Sound as it left the Port of Brunswick with a pilot and 23 crew members, bound for Baltimore with a load of cars.

Coast Guard Capt. John Reed said 20 were safely evacuated from the ship before rescuers determined the smoke and flames and unstable cargo made it too risky to venture further inside. The 656-foot (200-meter) vehicle carrier is now stuck in the shipping channel, its hull exposed and its deck empty, in view of beachgoers on the shoreline.

Dickinson sought Monday to clarify comments Coast Guard Station Brunwick Commander Justin Irwin made to The Brunswick News on Sunday. Irwin said they heard tapping from locations coming from inside the vessel, and that Coast Guard members were tapping back on the Golden Ray’s hull to let them know they are not forgotten.

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“We don’t know if it is all four of them, but there has to be something in there tapping back at us,” Irwin said then. “We are going to go at it tomorrow and try to find them.”

Dickinson said the Brunswick commander “has a positive mindset, which is something we all have.”

Rescued crew members have been helping the Coast Guard focus the search for their four missing mates, he added.

“It is our understanding that they are inside the vessel. We’ve had crews talking with the crew of the Golden Ray, trying to hone on in the best place to search,” Dickinson said.

Reed told a news conference Sunday afternoon that the Coast Guard was trying to determine if it’s safe to get inside.

“Once salvage professionals have determined the vessel to be stable, we will identify the best option to continue our rescue efforts for the four crew members who remain on board,” Reed said.

The Coast Guard said it was notified of the capsized vessel by a 911 call at about 2 a.m. Sunday.

The cause remains under investigation. Dickinson said it isn’t clear if weather conditions caused the ship to lurch. Hurricane Dorian was already well beyond the Georgia coast, where it blew past last week before being downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone.

The Coast Guard said the overturned ship hasn’t released any pollutants so far, but mitigation responses are ready in case they’re needed.

The Golden Ray is flagged out of the Marshall Islands and was headed to Baltimore, according to the website vesselfinder.com. The ship’s registered owner is Hyundai Glovis, a South Korean company.

The Port of Brunswick, one of the busiest U.S. seaports for shipping automobiles, is currently closed to vessel traffic, with an established emergency safety zone in St. Simons Sound. Vessels are not authorized within a half mile of the Golden Ray. Nearly 614,000 vehicles and heavy machinery units moved across its docks in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Georgia Ports Authority

Marchers ask Trump to ‘liberate’ Hong Kong, as clashes erupt

 

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A protester waves a U.S. flag in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong urge President Donald Trump to “liberate” the semi-autonomous Chinese territory during a peaceful march to the U.S. consulate, but violence broke out later in the business and retail district after protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong urged President Donald Trump to “liberate” the semiautonomous Chinese territory during a peaceful march to the U.S. Consulate on Sunday, but violence broke out later in the business and retail district as police fired tear gas after protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic.

Demonstrators flooded a park in central Hong Kong, chanting “Resist Beijing, Liberate Hong Kong” and “Stand with Hong Kong, fight for freedom.” Many of them, clad in black shirts and wearing masks, waved American flags and carried posters that read “President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong” as they marched to the U.S. Consulate nearby.

“Hong Kong is at the forefront of the battle against the totalitarian regime of China,” said Panzer Chan, one of the organizers of the march. “Please support us in our fight.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by three months of unrest sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Many saw the extradition bill as a glaring example of the erosion of civil liberties and rights promised under a “one country, two systems” framework when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s government promised this past week to formally withdraw the bill, but that failed to appease the demonstrators, who have widened their demands to include calls for direct elections for the city’s leaders and an independent probe into alleged police brutality against protesters.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since Hong Kong’s return from Britain. Beijing and the entirely state-controlled media have portrayed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by hostile foreigners.

Protesters on Sunday urged Washington to pass a bill, known as the Hong Kong Democratic and Human Rights Act, to support their cause. The bill proposes sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city, and could also affect Hong Kong’s preferential trade status with the U.S.

A group of protesters sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before handing over an appeal letter to a U.S. Consulate official.

Just before the rally ended, violence broke out after riot police detained several people and chased a crowd out of the nearby Central subway station. Angry protesters smashed glass windows and sprayed graffiti at the station’s exits.

Protesters burned cardboard boxes and other debris to start a fire at one of the exits. They also set fire at a nearby street, but firefighters quickly snuffed it out.

The government said protesters also blocked traffic at a major thoroughfare near City Hall in the area, paralyzing traffic. In the type of cat-and-mouse battle that has characterized the summer-long protests, riot police pursued groups of protesters down streets, but they kept regrouping.

Police fired multiple rounds of tear gas in the Causeway Bay shopping area after protesters heckled them and refused to leave. They also searched dozens of young people on the street and inside subway stations.

The U.S. State Department said in a travel advisory Friday that Beijing has undertaken a propaganda campaign “falsely accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.” It said U.S. citizens and embassy staff were targeted and urged them to exercise increased caution.

Some American legislators are pressing Trump to take a tougher stand on Hong Kong. But the president has suggested that it’s a matter for China to handle, though he also has said no violence should be used. Political analysts suggest Trump’s response has been muted because he doesn’t want to disrupt talks with China over their tariff war.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said last week that he would recommend Trump take “more forceful action” if Chinese authorities crush the demonstrations. The protests are an embarrassment to China’s ruling Communist Party ahead of the Oct. 1 celebration of its 70th anniversary in power.

Separately, well-known Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said in a statement through his lawyer that he was detained at the city’s airport early Friday for breaching bail conditions. Wong, a leader of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy protest movement, was among several people detained last month and was charged with inciting people to join a protest in June.

Wong had just returned from Taiwan, where he gave speeches on Hong Kong’s protests, and is due to visit Germany and the U.S. He said a court had approved his overseas trips.

He described his detention as a procedural hiccup and said he expected to be released Monday. His prosecution comes less than two months after his release from prison for a two-month sentence related to the 2014 protests.

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Dorian topples crane, knocks out power in eastern Canada

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An unidentified man raises his arms in the winds from Hurricane Dorian along the Halifax harbor in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — Dorian arrived on Canada’s Atlantic coast Saturday with heavy rain and powerful winds, toppling a construction crane in Halifax and knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of people a day after the storm wreaked havoc on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Residents of Nova Scotia braced for heavy rainfall and potential flooding along the coast, as officials in Halifax urged people to secure heavy objects that might become projectiles. Businesses were encouraged to close early in Halifax, the provincial capital and home to 400,000 people.

A crane toppled and crashed into the side of a downtown apartment building under construction. In the city’s south end, a roof was ripped off an apartment complex, and firefighter Jeff Paris said several apartment buildings were being evacuated. With the collapsed crane and all the down trees and power lines, it’s fortunate there are no significant injuries or deaths, he said.

“The power went out hours ago, but we were well prepared,” said Tim Rissesco, who lives on the east side of Halifax harbor in Dartmouth. “We’ve got snacks and food and we’re hunkered down in the house playing board games and watching the rain and the wind.”

As Canada prepared for Dorian, floodwaters receded Saturday from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, leaving behind a muddy trail of destruction. The storm’s worst damage in the U.S. appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches. Longtime residents who waited out the storm described strong but manageable winds followed by a wall of water that flooded the first floors of many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.

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“We’re used to cleaning up dead limbs and trash that’s floating around,” said Ocracoke Island resident and business owner Philip Howard. “But now it’s everything: picnic tables, doors, lumber that’s been floating around.”

Howard said by phone Saturday that flooding at his properties on the North Carolina island is 13 inches (0.3 meters) higher than the levels wrought by a storm in 1944, which he said had long been considered the worst. He raised his home higher than the 1944 flood level and still got water inside.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Howard, who owns the Village Craftsmen, a store that sells handcrafted pottery, glass and kitchen items. He said much of the merchandise on the lower shelves is ruined. Pieces of pottery were floating around inside.

Inside his house, the floorboards were buckling and curling up after being warped by the water, he said.

Gov. Roy Cooper said about 800 people had remained on the island to wait out Dorian . The storm made landfall Friday morning over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the monster that devastated the Bahamas . Yet despite having been downgraded to a Category 1 storm, it still sent seawater surging into homes on Ocracoke, many for the first time in memory.  More than 1,100 Bahamians arrived in Palm Beach, Florida, after being evacuated by cruise ship from their hurricane-battered islands.

The Grand Celebration cruise ship returned to its home port after setting sail Thursday for Freeport, Grand Bahama, to deliver more than 112 tons of supplies and ferry dozens of health workers and emergency crews.

The storm made landfall Saturday evening near Sambro Creek, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Halifax with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (161 kph).

Dorian swept across the Canadian Maritimes and forecasters expected it to pass near or over western Newfoundland on Sunday.

Canadian officials prepared for the possibility of flooding, washouts and storm surges, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the military was mobilizing to assist Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Power Inc. reported more than 300,000 customers were in the dark by 7 p.m. (6 p.m. EDT), with power out in parts of Halifax, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Karen Hutt, the utility’s chief executive, said Dorian is the largest weather event the company had ever responded to, and 1,000 workers were ready to restore power once it’s safe.

Hurricanes in Canada are somewhat rare in part because once the storms reach colder Canadian waters, they lose their main source of energy. Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist Ian Hubbard said the last hurricanes to make landfall in Canada were Hurricane Igor and Hurricane Earl in September, 2010.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Dorian was officially a post-tropical cyclone, not a hurricane, though it still packed hurricane-force winds.

Dorian lashed the eastern tip of Maine with heavy rain, strong winds and high surf as the storm passed offshore. Several hundred homes and businesses lost power.

In North Carolina, the governor said officials were aware of no serious injuries on the Outer Banks from the storm. About 200 people were in shelters and 45,000 without power as of mid-day Saturday, according to the governor’s office. Emergency officials transported fuel trucks, generators, food and water to Okracoke.

At least five deaths in the Southeast were blamed on Dorian. Four were men in Florida or North Carolina who died in falls or by electrocution while trimming trees, putting up storm shutters or otherwise getting ready for the hurricane. North Carolina officials said a 67-year-old man died Friday in Pamlico County after he collapsed while cleaning storm debris.

Dorian slammed the Bahamas at the start of the week with 185 mph (295 kph) winds, killing at least 43 people and obliterating countless homes. From there, it swept past Florida and Georgia, then sideswiped the Carolinas on Thursday, spinning off tornadoes that peeled away roofs and flipped recreational vehicles.

Ocracoke resident and restaurant owner Jason Wells said he lost three vehicles and a golf cart to floodwaters, and he has $5,000 worth of food in a freezer on an island that still lacks power. He said by text message Saturday that he and family members were already bleaching and disinfecting their houses, but he feared weeks could pass before electricity returned to most houses because of wiring problems caused by floodwaters.

“We are a close knit community. We will power on,” Wells wrote. “We will persevere. We are family. Time to get to work.”

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Finley reported from Nags Head, North Carolina. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Gary D. Robertson and Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; Tom Foreman Jr. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Seth Borenstein in Washington.

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Arbitrator: Teacher can’t be fired over alleged racial slur

PENNS GROVE, N.J. (AP) — A state arbitrator has ruled that a southern New Jersey school district cannot fire a tenured middle school teacher who allegedly used a racial slur in class.

The arbitrator found Bruce Bassetti was “muttering to himself” and not addressing students in his 7th grade class.

Bassetti, a 14-year science teacher at Penns Grove Middle School, allegedly used the slur after he confronted an unruly student. Bassetti has denied using the word and noted the student in question was white.

The Penns Grove-Carneys Point Regional School District had voted in April to bring tenure charges against Bassetti. They also sought to suspend him for 120 days without pay and seek his dismissal.

District officials announced Wednesday that they will appeal the arbitrator’s ruling to the state’s education commissioner.

Desperate for leniency: Macy, Longoria go to bat for Huffman

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FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 file photo,Felicity Huffman, from left, writer/director William H. Macy and Eva Longoria arrive at the Los Angeles VIP screening of “Rudderless” at The Vista Theater. Felicity Huffman and her lawyers pleaded Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 for probation, community service and a fine instead of jail time for her role in the college admissions scandal, buoyed by letters of support from her famous husband, William H. Macy, and her “Desperate Housewives” co-star Eva Longoria.(Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP, File)

BOSTON (AP) — Felicity Huffman and her lawyers pleaded Friday for probation, community service and a fine instead of jail time for her role in the college admissions scandal, buoyed by letters of support from her famous husband, William H. Macy, and her “Desperate Housewives” co-star Eva Longoria.

Huffman, in a three-page letter filed Friday with the federal court in Boston that is handling the sweeping bribery scheme, said she has “a deep and abiding shame” for her actions.

She said she has found motherhood to be “bewildering” and had turned to the scheme in the hopes of giving her oldest daughter a chance to pursue her dream of acting.

Huffman said in the letter that her daughter has a diagnosed learning disability and struggles with math.

“In my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,” Huffman wrote to U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani. “I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family.”

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, meanwhile, argues that Huffman should spend 30 days in jail because she knew the scheme was wrong and participated anyway.

“Her efforts weren’t driven by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity,” his office wrote in its filing Friday. “Millions of parents send their kids to college every year. All of them care as much she does about their children’s fortunes. But they don’t buy fake SAT scores and joke about it (‘Ruh Ro!’) along the way.”

Huffman used the Scooby-Doo catchphrase in an email after her daughter’s high school tried to make her take the exam with its own proctor instead of one preferred by the consultant she was paying.

Huffman’s filing also included more than two dozen letters of support, among them pleas from Macy and Longoria.

Macy, who wasn’t charged in the scheme, said in his own letter to the judge that their family has struggled since his wife’s arrest.

Huffman has rarely left the house and hasn’t received an audition or job offer since her arrest six months ago, he said.

Their oldest daughter is taking a gap year and not attending college for now, Macy said. And the family, which also includes a younger daughter in high school, is also seeing a therapist together.

“Felicity’s only interest now is figuring out how to make amends,” Macy wrote, “and help her daughters heal and move on.”

Longoria, in her two-page statement, recalls Huffman had a “gentle character” and “kind heart” while the two starred in “Housewives.”

“When I began the TV show, I was very new to the business and industry as a whole. Felicity was the first one to take me under her wing,” she wrote. “I know I would not have survived those years if it wasn’t for the friendship of Felicity.”

Longoria also wrote: “She always leads with her heart and has always put others first.”

Huffman is among 51 people charged in a scheme in which prosecutors say wealthy parents paid an admissions consultant to bribe coaches and test administrators to help their children get into prestigious colleges.

She pleaded guilty in May to fraud charges for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT exam answers. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 13.

The amount she paid is among the smaller bribes alleged in the scheme. Fellow actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, for example, are charged with paying $500,000 for their two daughters to get into college. Unlike Huffman, they are fighting the charges.

Huffman’s lawyers are arguing for one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. They say in their filing that fraud cases involving standardized tests “almost always” result in probation and that incarceration is “exceptionally rare.”

They also argue that a sentence including 250 hours of community service would be significantly more than judges typically hand down.

Huffman’s lawyers say the 56-year-old Emmy Award-winning actress proposes completing those service hours with organizations that work with at-risk youth in the Los Angeles area, where she lives.

The U.S. attorney’s office also seeks a year of probation after jail and a $20,000 fine.

It argues that a one-month jail sentence recognizes that Huffman quickly accepted responsibility after being arrested and charged. Under federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors could have sought up to six months’ incarceration.

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Associated Press writer Bill Kole contributed to this report.

‘Hour of darkness’ for Bahamas; 43 dead, with toll to rise

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A woman is overcome as she looks at her house destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Friday Sept. 6, 2019. The Bahamian health ministry said helicopters and boats are on the way to help people in affected areas, though officials warned of delays because of severe flooding and limited access. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

ABACO, Bahamas (AP) — Search and rescue teams are still trying to reach some Bahamian communities isolated by floodwaters and debris after Hurricane Dorian, while the official death toll has risen to 43 and is likely to increase even more, top officials said.

Full Coverage: Hurricane Dorian

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said late Friday 35 were known dead on Abaco Island and eight in Grand Bahama. “We acknowledge that there are many missing and that the number of deaths is expected to significantly increase,” he said. “This is one of the stark realities we are facing in this hour of darkness.”

Security Minister Marvin Dames said authorities were striving to reach everyone, but the crews can’t just bulldoze their way through fallen trees and other rubble because there might be bodies not yet recovered.

“We have been through this before, but not at this level of devastation,” Dames said. “These are very serious times and very sensitive times.”

He expressed understanding for the complaints of people who are calling for help after having their lives shattered by Dorian, but he urged patience for efforts by authorities to get in humanitarian aid.

“Nothing is going to happen overnight. The knee-jerk reaction is always, ‘Let’s get everything all in at once,’ but there’s only so much you can move at any one time,” he said.

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The search for victims and survivors went on five days after Dorian slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph (295 kph) winds that obliterated countless homes.

An array of organizations, countries and companies, including the United Nations, the U.S. government, the British Royal Navy, American Airlines and Royal Caribbean, have mobilized to send in food, water, generators, roof tarps, diapers, flashlights and other supplies. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the U.S. aid agency has asked the Defense Department to provide heavy-lift cargo planes to fly in supplies.

Dames said the runway at the airport on Grand Bahama island had been cleared and was ready for flights. Authorities also said that all ports had been reopened on that island and Abaco, both of which were devastated by the Category 5 storm.

Hundreds of desperate storm victims gathered Friday at the port on Grand Abaco in hopes of getting off the devastated island amid signs of rising frustration over the pace of the disaster-relief effort.

“It’s chaos here,” said Gee Rolle, a construction worker who waited with his wife for a boat that could take them to the capital, Nassau. “The government is trying their best, but at the same time, I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job to evacuate the people. It ain’t livable for nobody. Only animals can live here.”

Also, a barge that had dropped off portable toilets and heavy equipment in Abaco carried away about 300 other people to Nassau.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis spoke to the crowd at the port, using a Creole interpreter for a group of Haitians awaiting evacuation. “All of you will be treated with respect,” he assured them.

Minnis said he was satisfied with the speed of the government’s response and told the storm victims, “All I need you to do is just be patient and wait because everybody is coming.”

On Grand Bahama, a long line formed at a cruise ship that had docked to distribute food and water. Among those waiting was Wellisy Taylor, a housewife.

“What we have to do as Bahamians, we have to band together. If your brother needs sugar, you’re going to have to give him sugar. If you need cream, they’ll have to give you cream,” she said. “That’s how I grew up. That’s the Bahamas that I know.”

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Associated Press journalist Gerardo Carrillo in Freeport, Bahamas, and AP writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.

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