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WASHINGTON — With little fanfare, the Obama administration has been pursuing an aggressive campaign to restore protections for workers that have been eroded by business activism, conservative governance and the evolution of the economy in recent decades.
In the last two months alone, the administration has introduced a series of regulatory changes. Among them: a rule that would make millions more Americans eligible for extra overtime pay, and a guidance suggesting that many employers are misclassifying workers as contractors and therefore depriving them of basic workplace protections. That is an issue central to the growth of so-called gig economy companies like Uber.
A little more than a week ago, a federal appeals panel affirmed an earlier regulation granting nearly 2 million previously exempted home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections. And on Thursday, President Obama’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board issued an important ruling that makes it easier for employees of contractors and franchises to bargain collectively with the corporations that have sway over their operations.
“These moves constitute the most impressive and, in my view, laudable attempt to update labor and employment law in many decades,” said Benjamin I. Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School and a former assistant general counsel for the Service Employees International Union. The goal, he said, is to “keep pace with changes in the structure of the labor market and the way work is organized. That’s a theme that runs through all of this.”
In one sense, Mr. Obama foreshadowed these efforts as a candidate in 2008, when he famously suggested that, if elected, he would aim to be a Democratic version of Ronald Reagan. “Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” he told a newspaper editorial board in Nevada. “He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.”
Once in office, Mr. Obama delivered on that implied promise in a few critical ways, particularly his signature health care legislation. But throughout much of his first term, he disappointed supporters with his inability to pursue a larger progressive agenda and with his insufficient focus on the balance of power between workers and their employers.
Labor unions complained that he failed to throw his energy behind a measure that would have made it easier for workers to organize by requiring employers to recognize a union once a majority of workers had signed cards, rather than allowing employers to insist on a secret ballot election.
Liberals criticized the pace at which Mr. Obama put judges on the federal bench, including the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has enormous influence over federal regulations. And they complained that he failed to move quickly in placing appointees at agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, which went without two of its three Democratic members until well into the second year of his presidency.
“They were very weak on getting people into their positions in the first term,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning research and advocacy group. “They lost many years of potential fruitful activity.” (The White House says that the president was prompt in naming appointees, whose nominations then became bogged down in the Senate.)
After spending several months in 2011 on a failed effort to negotiate a deficit-cutting “grand bargain” with the new House Republican majority, however, Mr. Obama did an apparent about-face, deciding that he would use every tool available to enact what he considered to be a bold pro-worker agenda on his own.
“Perhaps the most substantively important speech of the Obama presidency was the Osawatomie speech in 2011,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former communications director and senior adviser to the president, referring to a speech that December. “It was a set of marching orders to the entire government that increasing income inequality and declining economic mobility are the key challenge of our time. Given the congressional gridlock, the president pushed us very hard to pull every lever possible.”
To be sure, since he has not been able to advance legislation through the Republican-controlled Congress, Mr. Obama has failed to achieve a number of important goals, most notably raising the federal minimum wage. And many of the recent actions could be undone by a future administration.
At the same time, the economic and political forces pushing in the other direction have proved extremely difficult to overcome. From 1979 until 2009, the hourly wage for the typical worker grew about 10 percent after adjusting for inflation, falling far behind the increase in productivity, a measure that wages once closely tracked. After the Great Recession, the median wage fell for a few years and then made up little ground through 2014.
Meanwhile, critics abound across the ideological spectrum.
Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute who served as Mitt Romney’s domestic policy director in 2011 and 2012, said that calling the Obama economic agenda pro-worker “misses the forest for the trees — or perhaps, more precisely, misses the trees for a few stray weeds.”
In an email, Mr. Cass said that “increasingly onerous employment regulation is driving employers to avoid employment relationships altogether, which benefits no one.”
Liberals and union supporters, while applauding Mr. Obama’s record in the narrow realm of labor rights, complain that he has undercut workers with his efforts to promote global trade agreements and balanced budgets.
“As long as the budget deal the administration negotiated continues to restrict domestic discretionary spending,” the Department of Labor’s ability to enforce the laws guaranteeing workers a minimum wage and overtime pay “and fight misclassification will be severely limited,” Ross Eisenbrey, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute who was one of the architects of the overtime regulation, said in an email.
Still, there is little doubt that the Obama administration has become more ambitious in pursing worker rights during the president’s second term.
Consider the home health care decision. The Labor Department wrote the original rule exempting home care professionals employed by staffing agencies from minimum wage and overtime protections in 1975, back when very few home care workers of that sort existed. In recent decades, however, the field has exploded, turning what was once a small exemption into a yawning regulatory gap at the heart of the service economy.
The Clinton administration proposed closing the exemption three times, but the proposals were never made final. Mr. Obama’s Labor Department pushed through new rules in 2013, but they only stuck after a protracted legal fight. After the home care industry challenged the rule and a Federal District Court struck it down, it took a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia to revive it. Obama helped make that decision possible back in 2013, when he appointed two of the three judges.
In many cases, the administration and its appointees have understood themselves to be not merely updating laws and regulations to reflect current economic realities, but also explicitly undoing what they considered to be efforts of Republican administrations to put workers at a disadvantage.
“The overtime provision was intended in no small measure to correct a regulation from the Bush era that took leverage from workers and gave it to employers — by design,” said Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez. “We were restoring what was a time-honored economic and social compact, which is that as we have productivity and profitability in this country, that is shared between business and workers.”
Last week’s ruling by the labor board, which changed the standard for when a corporation may be designated a joint employer of workers hired by its contractors and franchisees, followed a similar logic.
For decades before the mid-1980s, the N.L.R.B. considered a corporation to be a joint employer, and therefore on the hook for violations of workers’ rights, as long as it enjoyed a fair amount of control over working conditions at facilities run or staffed by a contractor or franchisee. It didn’t really matter whether the control was hands-on or arms-length.
In 1984, the Reagan-era N.L.R.B. began to sharply tighten the standard. On Thursday, voting 3 to 2 along partisan lines, the board tossed out the Reagan era rule, arguing that it was essentially returning to what had existed beforehand.
Taken together with other key regulatory actions and executive orders — an N.L.R.B. rule that effectively sped up the process for holding elections on whether to form a union and Mr. Obama’s order raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 — the effect has been to significantly alter the tilt of federal law.
“We’re really digging out of a 40-year hole,” Mr. Mishel said. “The Clinton years were ones where they more triangulated between business and workers rather than weigh in on the side of workers.”
Indeed, Mr. Obama has long seen himself as working to empower the economically marginal, as steadfast in his commitment to labor protections as President Reagan was in rolling them back.
That self-image dates all the way back to one of his first jobs after college, as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. “Those are the folks he worked with,” said Gerald Kellman, the organizer and labor activist who hired him back then. “He feels strongly about this stuff.”
Picture above: Credit Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press
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TIANJIN, China (AP) — Four new fires burned Friday within a disaster zone in China’s Tianjin port where massive warehouse explosions more than a week ago killed at least 116 people and contaminated the area with toxic chemicals.
The fires were spotted in a car parking lot and at three other locations within a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) evacuated area, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It did not give more details, but the state-run Legal Evening News said firefighters put out the fire in the parking lot and that cleanup work in the disaster zone soon resumed.
Technicians have detected levels of cyanide as much as 356 times the safe level within the evacuated zone, although no abnormal contamination was found outside the zone, according to state media reports.
Workers in protective suits have started clearing wreckage, including charred car bodies and crumpled shipping containers, from the area of chemical warehouses that exploded Aug. 12. Xinhua said excavating equipment was being used to clear the site, and trucks were carrying out debris.
The financial new media group Caijing said Friday that small animals such as rabbits, pigeons and chickens were placed in the disaster zone to test whether it is safe for humans.
Officials have ordered nationwide checks on dangerous materials. Driving home the importance of such efforts, President Xi Jinping and other top leaders gathered in Beijing to hear a report on progress in investigating the disaster.
“Lately, in some places there have been major industrial safety accidents, one after the other, revealing yet again that problems in the area of industrial safety remain prominent and grave,” said a statement issued after the meeting Thursday.
Suspicions that official corruption contributed to the disaster were underlined in revelations Wednesday in a Xinhua article that the two silent owners used their connections with police, fire, port and workplace safety officials to secure approval for their company, Ruihai International Logistics, to operate warehouses for hazardous materials.
The Ruihai owners were able to secure permits to store toxic chemicals, including sodium cyanide, ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, even though their facility is located less than the required 1,000 meters (yards) from homes and public roads — a clear violation of state safety rules.
An Associated Press review of corporate documents found that the principal owner, Yu Xuewei, also was a board member of a state-owned company that operates hazmat warehouses that have similarly been accused of violating the 1,000-meter rule. The state-owned company’s parent, Sinochem, has disavowed any connection with Ruihai.
The explosions that rocked Tianjin were among China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years and the deadliest on record for the country’s firefighters, who accounted for 104 of the 176 total dead and missing. Authorities say 646 people remain hospitalized, including 52 in critical or serious condition, while 30,000 people in and around the area have had their lives turned upside down by the disaster.
Authorities said schools in the neighborhood are expected to start on time this fall.
Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday said the investigation into the disaster must be thorough and cover all parties that helped the company obtain the license to store hazardous materials.
Associated Press writers Christopher Bodeen and Didi Tang in Beijing and Erika Kinetz in Shanghai contributed to this report. Soldiers from a People’s Liberation Army chemical-defence unit work to neutralize sodium cyanide residue on the charred car bodes after the massive explosions at a port in northeastern China’s Tianjin Municipality Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. Officials have ordered nationwide checks on dangerous materials, and the Chinese military said it was inspecting storage measures for weapons, ammunition, and fuel as well as chemical, explosive and toxic materials, the official newspaper People’s Liberation Army Daily reported. (Chinatopix Via AP) CHINA OUT
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BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police issued arrest warrants Monday for two more suspects, a Thai woman and a foreign man of unknown nationality, and released their images in the widening investigation into Bangkok’s deadly bombing two weeks ago that yielded its first arrest over the weekend.
National police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri said he was certain the two were part of a group police say was responsible for the Aug. 17 blast at the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok that killed 20 people, more than half of them foreigners.
During a televised statement on Monday, Prawuth displayed a photograph of the woman’s Thai identification card showing a young woman in a black headscarf and a sketch of the man. He later said police were asking for additional arrest warrants.
The development came after police arrested a man from an apartment in Bangkok’s outskirts on Saturday and seized bomb-making equipment that included detonators, ball bearings and a metal pipe believed to be a bomb casing.
Thai police, meanwhile, awarded themselves a 3 million baht, or $84,000, reward Monday for tips leading to the arrest of bombing suspects.
National police chief Somyot Poompanmoung said he was taking the unusual step of giving the reward to the police force both to motivate his officers and to show that Thailand’s police are good at their job.
“This money should be given to officials who did their job,” he said at a news conference as aides brought out stacks of 1,000 baht notes. It wasn’t immediately clear how the money would be distributed to police officers.
More bomb-making materials were discovered in a second apartment during a raid Sunday in a nearby neighborhood, said Prawuth. He said the second apartment, in a neighborhood known as Min Buri, was rented by the Thai woman identified as 26-year-old Wanna Suansun. He said the woman has a house registration in the southern Thai province of Phang Nga, and is also known by the name Mai Saloh.
Prawuth described what police found in the second apartment as “important bomb-making materials such as gunpowder, urea-based fertilizer which can be used as explosive powder when mixed with other substances, a remote-controlled car with its controller which can be used as a detonator, nuts and bolts, small light bulbs and digital watches,” among other things.
The arrest warrants for them say they are wanted on a charge of conspiracy to possess unauthorized war material, a reference to the gunpowder.
The wanted man, whose face is shown in a police sketch with short brown hair and a light beard and mustache, is believed to have lived in the apartment, said Prawuth, adding that his nationality was not known. He told The Associated Press the man’s name is Jusuf, but did not explain how he learned that or give a precise spelling.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, sparking an array of theories about who might be behind it. Police have suggested that the suspects were part of a people-smuggling group who held a grudge against Thai authorities.
Much remains unknown about the man arrested Saturday, including his nationality and his motive. On Sunday, Prawuth said police were working with “a number of embassies” and interpreters to try to establish the man’s nationality, adding that he did not speak Thai but spoke some English.
Speculation has grown that the suspect might be part of a group seeking to avenge Thailand’s forced repatriation of ethnic Uighurs to China after images circulated online of a fake Turkish passport found in his apartment bearing his apparent picture.
Uighurs are related to Turks, and Turkey is home to a large Uighur community.
Authorities have dodged questions about whether the suspect is believed to be Turkish, saying that he was traveling on a fake passport.
The Turkish Embassy in Bangkok could not immediately be reached for comment. A Turkish government spokesman contacted over the weekend in Istanbul said he had no information on the suspect or any possible Turkish link to the attack.
Another possibility is that the perpetrators are Muslim separatists from southern Thailand, opponents of Thailand’s military government and feuding factions within the security services.
The blast at the Erawan Shrine was unprecedented in the Thai capital, where smaller bombs have been employed in domestic political violence over the past decade, but not in an effort to cause large-scale casualties.
This image released Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) shows Wanna Suansun who police said is renting the second apartment which was raided by authorities in Min Buri, in Bangkok’s outskirts, and where police found fertilizer, gun powder, digital clocks and remote-controlled cars whose parts can be used for detonation. Thai police said Monday they were seeking two new suspects — a Thai woman and a foreign man of unknown nationality — in the widening investigation into Bangkok’s deadly bombing two weeks ago. Words in Thai say “Official Police Photo”. (National Council for Peace and Order via AP)
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TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Defense Ministry wants to buy an advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyer and more F-35 fighters under its largest-ever budget to bolster the defense of southern islands amid a territorial dispute with China.
The ministry endorsed a 5.1 trillion yen ($42 billion) budget request Monday for the year beginning next April, up 2.2 percent from this year. It would be the fourth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 10 years of defense budget cuts.
Abe’s government says Japan needs to bolster its military role amid China’s growing territorial assertiveness and the rising risk of terrorist attacks. Parliament is expected to approve a set of contentious bills to expand Japan’s military role by late September.
The budget increase results largely from proposed purchases of new equipment, including 17 surveillance helicopters, six F-35 fighters and three advanced “Global Hawk” drones. The construction of a Soryu-class submarine is also planned to bolster island defense and surveillance.
The budget request also includes the cost of planned new troop deployments on two southern islands, Amami Oshima and Miyako.
The ministry also requested funds to enhance information gathering by posting intelligence officials in three new locations, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.
The requests are based on new defense guidelines allowing Japan’s military a larger role amid tensions over China’s growing military might.
The budget is to be formally drafted into a bill in December that will be submitted to parliament for approval.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — It’s hard enough to redefine a genre once in a career, but horror virtuoso Wes Craven managed to do it twice.
The prolific writer-director, who died Sunday at age 76, ushered in two distinct eras of suburban slashers, first in the 1980s with his iconic “Nightmare on Elm Street” and its indelible, razor-fingered villain Freddy Krueger. He did it again in the 1990s with the self-referential “Scream.”
Both reintroduced the fringe genre to mainstream audiences and spawned successful franchises.
Perhaps it was his perfectly askew interpretation of the medium that resonated with his nail-biting audiences.
“Horror films don’t create fear,” Craven said. “They release it.”
Craven didn’t solely deal in terror. He also directed the 1999 drama “Music of the Heart,” which earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination. But his name, and his legacy, will always be synonymous with horror.
“He was a consummate filmmaker and his body of work will live on forever,” said Weinstein Co. co-chairman Bob Weinstein, whose Dimension Films produced “Scream.” ”My brother (Harvey Weinstein) and I are eternally grateful for all his collaborations with us.”
Wesley Earl “Wes” Craven was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 1939, to a strictly Baptist family. Though he earned a Master’s Degree in philosophy and writing from John Hopkins University and briefly taught as a college professor in Pennsylvania and New York, his start in movies was in pornography, where he worked under pseudonyms.
Craven’s feature debut under his own name was 1972’s “The Last House on the Left,” a horror film, inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring,” about teenage girls abducted and taken into the woods. Made for just $87,000, the film, though graphic enough to be censored in many countries, was a hit. Roger Ebert said it was “about four times as good as you’d expect.”
“Nightmare on Elm Street,” however, catapulted him to far greater renown in 1984. The Ohio-set film about teenagers (including a then unknown Johnny Depp) who are stalked in their dreams, which Craven wrote and directed, spawned a never-ending franchise that has carried on until, most recently, a 2010 remake.
The concept, Craven said, came from his own youth in Cleveland — specifically an Elm Street cemetery and a homeless man that inspired Krueger’s raged look.
Along with John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” ”Nightmare on Elm Street” defined a horror tradition where helpless teenagers are preyed upon by knife-wielding, deformed killers in cruel morality tales; usually promiscuous girls were the first to go.
“There is something about the American dream, the sort of Disneyesque dream, if you will, of the beautifully trimmed front lawn, the white picket fence, mom and dad and their happy children, God-fearing and doing good whenever they can,” Craven once said. “And the flip side of it, the kind of anger and the sense of outrage that comes from discovering that that’s not the truth of the matter, that gives American horror films, in some ways, kind of an additional rage.”
The formula would work again for Craven with “Scream,” albeit with an added layer of self-aware spoof. By 1996, the Craven-style slasher was a well-known type, even if it wasn’t always made by him. (He had no involvement with many of the “Elm Street” sequels.)
“Scream,” written by Kevin Williamson and starring a cast including Drew Barrymore and Neve Campbell, played off of the horror clichés Craven helped create. It hatched three sequels, all of which Craven directed.
Craven increasingly oversaw a cottage industry of horror branded with his name, including remakes of his 1977 film “The Hills Have Eyes” (2006) and “The House on the Left” (2009).
Craven was also a published author (the 2000 novel “The Fountain Society”) and an ardent bird conservationist, serving as a long-time member of the Audubon California Board of Directors. He recently penned a monthly column “Wes Craven’s The Birds” for Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.
He was active up until his death. Craven had numerous television projects in development, including a new “Scream” series for MTV. He’s an executive producer of the upcoming film “The Girl in the Photographs,” which is to premiere in September the Toronto International Film Festival.
In a statement, Craven’s family said that he died in his Los Angeles home, surrounded by family, after battling brain cancer.
He is survived by his wife, producer Iya Labunka, a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter.
In 2010, he told The Los Angeles Times: “My goal is to die in my 90s on the set, say, ‘That’s a wrap,’ after the last shot, fall over dead and have the grips go out and raise a beer to me.”
Coyle reported from New York. AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr contributed from Los Angeles. File- This Oct. 16, 2010, file photo shows Wes Craven arriving at the Scream Awards in Los Angeles. Craven, whose “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” movies made him one of the most recognizable names in the horror film genre, has died. He was 76. Craven’s family said in a statement that he died in his Los Angeles home Sunday after battling brain cancer. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)
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BEIJING (AP) — Global stocks were mostly lower Monday after a U.S. Federal Reserve official suggested a September interest rate hike still was possible and weak Japanese factory activity provided more evidence of a sluggish global economy.
KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC-40 fell 1.2 percent to 4,619.91 and Germany’s DAX lost 1.3 percent to 10,164.90. Wall Street looked set for losses at the open. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 were both off 1 percent. On Friday, the Dow lost 0.1 percent and the S&P rose 0.1 percent while the Nasdaq composite gained 0.3 percent.
FED PLANS: The Fed vice chairman, Stanley Fisher said there was a “pretty strong case” for raising rates in September. That ran counter to recent market sentiment that China’s economic slowdown and global market volatility might prompt the Fed to wait. Speaking at the U.S. central bank’s annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fisher emphasized he was not saying what action the Fed might take at its September meeting but analysts took his comments to mean he saw the economy moving close to satisfying the Fed’s conditions for a hike. It would be the Fed’s first reverse from its policy in place since the 2008 crisis of ultra-low rates that have pushed up stock prices.
ANALYST’S TAKE: “The Fed is still at the drawing board with regards to the specifics of the timing of a rate hike this year. But to be sure conviction for a hike this year was not watered down,” said Mizuho Bank in a report. “What’s more, a rate hike sooner rather than later is preferred on forward-looking inflation.”
ASIA’S DAY: The Shanghai Composite Index was down by as much as 2.6 percent during the day but recovered to close down 0.8 percent at 3,205.99. The index is down more than 30 percent over the past three months despite government efforts to halt a tumble in prices. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng also spent most of the day in negative territory before closing up 0.3 percent at 21,670.58. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.3 percent to 18,890.48 and Sydney’s S&P ASX 200 lost 1.1 percent to 5,207.00. India’s Sensex shed 0.3 percent to 26,316.54 and Seoul’s Kospi advanced 0.2 percent to 1,941.49. Taiwan, Bangkok and Jakarta rose while Singapore and New Zealand fell.
JAPAN WEAKNESS: Industrial production declined unexpectedly by 0.6 percent in July from the previous month, defying forecasts of a small increase following June’s 1.1 percent rise. “The drop in industrial production in July suggests that economic activity will recover only slowly this quarter,” said analyst Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics in a report.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude declined 77 cents to $44.45 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract soared $2.66 the previous session to close at $45.22. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell $1.06 to $48.99 per barrel in London after jumping $1.49 the previous day to $50.05.
CURRENCIES: The dollar declined to 121.17 yen from 121.38 yen on Friday. The euro rose to $1.1215 from $1.1180.
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Gulf Coast and New Orleans observed the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest storms in American history, in ways both devout and festive. Church bells rang and brass bands played as people across the storm-ravaged coast remembered the past and looked to the future.
“Some people said that we shouldn’t come back. Some people said that we couldn’t come back,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Yet 10 years later here we are. Still standing.”
The storm killed more than 1,800 people and caused $151 billion in damage, in one of the country’s deadliest and most costly natural disasters. Many of the dead came in New Orleans when levees protecting the city burst, submerging 80 percent of the Crescent City in water.
The dead and those who still struggle to rebuild were not far from anyone’s thoughts Saturday, from Mississippi where church bells rang out to mark when the storm made landfall to a commemoration at the New Orleans memorial containing bodies of people never claimed or never identified.
As the church bells rang, 80-year-old Eloise Allen wept softly into a tissue as she leaned against her rusting Oldsmobile.
“I feel guilty,” said Allen, whose house in Bay St. Louis was damaged but inhabitable after the storm. “I didn’t go through what all the other people did.”
Saturday was a day to remember what “all the other people” went through. Those who were lifted from rooftops by helicopters, those who came home to find only concrete steps as evidence of where their house used to be, those whose bodies were never claimed after the storm.
But the mourning Saturday was balanced by a celebration of how far the region has come.
At the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, thousands of people gathered to take part in an evening of prayer, music and speeches including by former President Bill Clinton. He had helped raise money for Katrina victims.
He weighed into a debate that has bubbled up during the Katrina anniversary about whether New Orleans’ post-Katrina story is one of a city resurrected or of people left behind. Tourism in the Crescent City is booming, real estate prices have skyrocketed and the city’s population continues to grow after Katrina. But the recovery has been uneven with many neighborhoods — especially African-American ones — still struggling. Clinton said the city should be happy and celebrate its progress but at the same time keep working.
“Have a good time New Orleans. You earned it,” Clinton said. “And tomorrow wake up and say ‘Look at what we did. I bet we can do the rest too.'”
In Biloxi, Mississippi, clergy and community leaders gathered at a newly built Minor League Baseball park for a memorial to Katrina’s victims and later that evening the park hosted a concert celebrating the recovery.
During a prayer service at a seaside park in Gulfport, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour praised volunteers who worked on the Katrina recovery. He said more than 954,000 volunteers came from around the country to Mississippi in the first five years after the storm, and many were motivated by faith.
“They thought it was God’s command to try to help people in need,” Barbour said.
Katrina’s force caused a massive storm surge that scoured the Mississippi coast, pushed boats far inland and wiped houses off the map.
Glitzy casinos and condominium towers have been rebuilt. But overgrown lots and empty slabs speak to the slow recovery in some communities.
In New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, residents and community activists gathered Saturday at the levee where Katrina’s storm waters broke through and submerged the neighborhood.
Once a bastion of black home ownership, it still hasn’t regained anywhere near its pre-Katrina population. But a day of events illustrated how attached the residents who have returned are to their community.
After the speeches were done, a parade snaked through the neighborhood while music played from boom boxes and people sold water from ice chests under the hot sun.
Clarence Davis’ family home was four blocks from the levee. He evacuated before Katrina and eventually returned to the region, but now lives in the suburbs. He came back Saturday just to find old faces from the neighborhood but he couldn’t bring himself to see the vacant lot where his house used to be.
“The family home is what kept us together and it’s gone,” he said. His family is scattered now in Houston, Atlanta and Louisiana as are many of his neighbors.
Thousands of volunteers spread out across New Orleans, echoing the volunteers who helped the city and region recover after Katrina and still come to the city to this day.
In a city where people form strong bonds over neighborhoods, from the Lower 9th Ward, to Broadmoor, to Gentilly and Lakeview, many choose to stay local on Saturday in one of the many neighborhood events across the city.
“New Orleans will always be in my blood,” a silver-haired Juanita Fields said Saturday in what was the badly flooded Pontchartrain Park, an African-American neighborhood near Southern University New Orleans.
She recounted her post-Katrina experiences — fear and thirst in a sweltering Superdome, eventual transport to Kansas — with humor, grace and at times defiance. She finally returned in 2012. She is happy about the city’s recovery, but not about the unevenness of that recovery that saw the city’s poorest suffer. She believes some “grieved themselves to death,” over the destruction and their inability to return or rebuild.
But she’s optimistic that the city will continue to recover. “It will. It’s going to take us a while.”
Kevin McGill reported from Bay St. Louis and Gulfport, Mississippi. Waveland fireman Tim Burchett rings a bell each time a name of an area resident killed by Hurricane Katrina is read at a 10th anniversary memorial service, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 in Waveland, Miss.,(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for mass deportation of millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, as well as their American-born children, bears similarities to a large-scale removal that many Mexican-American families faced 85 years ago.
During the Great Depression, counties and cities in the American Southwest and Midwest forced Mexican immigrants and their families to leave the U.S. over concerns they were taking jobs away from whites despite their legal right to stay.
The result: Around 500,000 to 1 million Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans were pushed out of the country during the 1930s repatriation, as the removal is sometimes called.
During that time, immigrants were rounded up and sent to Mexico, sometimes in public places and often without formal proceedings. Others, scared under the threat of violence, left voluntarily.
About 60 percent of those who left were American citizens, according to various studies on the 1930s repatriation. Later testimonies show families lost most of their possessions and some family members died trying to return. Neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, San Antonio and Los Angeles became empty.
The impact of the experience on Latinos remains evident today, experts and advocates say.
“It set the tone for later deportations,” said Francisco Balderrama, a Chicano studies professor at California State University, Los Angeles.
Two weeks ago, Trump said that, if elected president, he would expand deportations and end “birthright citizenship” for children born to immigrants who are here illegally. Under his plan, American-born children of immigrants also would be deported with their parents, and Mexico would be asked to help build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“They’re illegal,” Trump said of U.S.-born children of people living in the country illegally. “You either have a country or not.”
Amid his comments on immigration, polls show negative impressions of Trump among Latinos. A Gallup poll released Aug. 24 found that Hispanics were more likely to give Trump unfavorable ratings than favorable ones by 51 percentage points.
Some immigrant advocates pointed to the removal of prominent Latino journalist Jorge Ramos from an Iowa press conference last week as a metaphor for the candidate’s desire to remove Latinos from the United States.
“Mr. Trump should heed the following warning: Our Latino and immigrant communities are not going to forget the way he has treated them,” the Washington, D.C.-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement said in a statement.
Ramos, an anchor for Univision, was escorted out by a Trump aide after Ramos, who had criticized Trump previously, tried to question Trump about his immigration plan. Trump interrupted Ramos, saying he hadn’t been called on, and ultimately told Ramos, “Go back to Univision.”
Ramos was saying, “You cannot deport 11 million people,” as he was escorted away. He was later allowed to return.
Trump has provided few details on how his proposed deportation effort would be carried out. The conservative-leaning American Action Forum concluded in a report it would cost between $400 billion to $600 billion and take 20 years to remove an estimated 11.2 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
The large-scale deportation he envisions would be impractical to enact, due to the extent to which Mexican immigrants have integrated into U.S. society, said Columbia University history professor Mae Ngai.
U.S.-born children of immigrants have been automatically considered American citizens since the adoption of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment in 1868. A Supreme Court ruling in 1898 halted previous attempts to limit the birthright of Chinese-American citizens after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The ruling upheld the clause for all U.S.-born children, Ngai said, and there have been no successful challenges to the clause since.
In the 1930s, Balderrama said, officials skirted the issue of birthright citizenship by saying they did not want to break up families.
“But they did break up families and many children never saw their parents again,” said Balderrama, co-author of a book about Mexican repatriation in the 1930s with the late historian Raymond Rodriguez, who testified before a California state committee about seeing his father for the last time at age 10, before the father left for Mexico.
That legacy lingers in songs, often played on Spanish-language radio stations, that allude to mass deportations and separation of loved ones, said Lilia Soto, an American studies professor at the University of Wyoming.
For example, the lyrics to “Ice El Hielo,” by the Los Angeles-band La Santa Cecilia, speak of a community afraid that federal agents about to arrive and launch deportations raids at any moment. The ballad “Volver, Volver,” sung by Mexican ranchera performer Vicente “Chente” Fernandez, speaks of someone vowing to return to a lover despite all obstacles.
“They’re about families being apart,” Soto said. “The lyrics are all indirectly linked to this past.”
This 1932 photo from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library shows hundreds of Mexicans at a Los Angeles train station awaiting deportation to Mexico. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for mass deportation of millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, as well as their American-born children, bears similarities to a large-scale removal that actually happened to many Mexican-American families 85 years ago. During the Great Depression, counties and cities in the American Southwest and Midwest forced Mexican immigrants and their families to leave the U.S. over concerns they were taking jobs away from whites despite their legal right to stay. The traumatic impact of the experience on Latinos remains evident today, experts and advocates say.(Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library via AP)
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras
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HOUSTON (AP) — Investigators were trying to determine Sunday what may have motivated a 30-year-old man accused of ambushing a uniformed suburban Houston sheriff’s deputy filling his patrol car with gas in what authorities believe was a targeted killing.
Shannon J. Miles was charged Saturday with capital murder in the fatal shooting of Darren Goforth, a 10-year veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Goforth, 47, was pumping gas at a Chevron station on Friday night when the gunman approached him from behind and fired multiple shots, continuing to fire after the deputy had fallen to the ground.
The deputy had gone to the station in Cypress, a middle-class to upper middle-class suburban area of Harris County that is unincorporated and located northwest of Houston, after responding to a routine car accident earlier Friday.
Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said the attack was “clearly unprovoked,” and there is no evidence so far that Goforth knew Miles. Investigators have no information from Miles that would shed light on his motive, Hickman said.
“Our assumption is that he was a target because he wore a uniform,” the sheriff said.
The killing has evoked strong emotions in the local law enforcement community, with Hickman linking it to heightened tension over the treatment of African-Americans by police. Goforth was white and Miles is black.
The nationwide “Black Lives Matter” movement formed after the killing of a black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has sought sweeping reforms of policing. Related protests erupted recently in Texas after a 28-year-old Chicago area black woman, Sandra Bland, was found dead in a county jail about 50 miles northwest of Houston three days after her arrest on a traffic violation. Texas authorities said she committed suicide but her family is skeptical that she would have taken her own life.
Hickman and Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson on Saturday pushed back against the criticism of police. There must not be open warfare on law enforcement, Anderson said.
“We’ve heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops’ lives matter, too,” Hickman said.
Local law enforcement officers were worried after the Goforth killing that others could be targeted, he said.
“It gives us some peace knowing that this individual is no longer at large and that he wasn’t somebody that would be targeting the rest of the community,” Hickman said.
Miles is likely to be arraigned in court on Monday.
Mourners gather at a gas station in Houston on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 to pay their respects at a makeshift memorial for Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth who was shot and killed while filling his patrol car. On Saturday, prosecutors charged Shannon J. Miles with capital murder in the Friday shooting. (James Nielsen/Houston Chronicle via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT: JAMES NIELSEN/HOUSTON CHRONICLE
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A large fire broke out Sunday in the basement of a sprawling residential complex in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich east, killing at least seven people and injuring more than 200, civil defense officials in the kingdom said.
The early morning blaze happened in a residential compound known as Radium in the eastern city of Khobar. It is used by the state oil giant Saudi Aramco, which oversees petroleum production in the OPEC powerhouse.
The company said an investigation has begun into the cause of the fire.
The Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Civil Defense said the casualties involved victims of various nationalities, without elaborating. Like many companies in the Gulf, Aramco relies on migrant laborers to help bolster its workforce.
Some of those injured were in critical condition, the directorate said. It put the number of injured at 219 by early afternoon.
Aramco said some of the injured were treated at the scene, where an emergency command center had been set up, while others were taken to company medical facilities and local hospitals.
Mohammed Siddique, an engineer who lives nearby, told The Associated Press he first saw smoke coming from the complex at around 6 a.m. Emergency crews struggled to contain the blaze.
Images posted by witnesses on social media showed thick smoke pouring from the complex as helicopters hovered overhead.
“I saw at least 30 ambulances and three helicopters. The smoke was very heavy,” Siddique said.
Siddique described the complex, which includes multiple buildings, as relatively new and “nicely built” with a mix of Western, Asian and Saudi residents. It is rented by Aramco and guarded by security teams affiliated with the company, he said.
Residents affected by the blaze were being moved to alternate accommodation. Aramco promised to use “all means and available resources” to help those affected.
Khobar was the site of a 1996 truck bombing at a dormitory for U.S. Air Force personnel that killed 19 Americans and wounded 372. The man described as the mastermind of the attack, Ahmed al-Mughassil, was arrested after a nearly two-decade manhunt, American and Saudi officials said last week. The FBI has described him as the head of the armed wing of the Saudi Hezbollah group.
Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed to this report. In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Civil Defense, smoke billows from a fire at a residential complex used by state oil giant Saudi Aramco in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015. Authorities say one person has been killed and dozens were injured in the fire. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Tropical Storm Erika lashed Puerto Rico early Friday with heavy rains and wind after killing four people and causing devastating floods in the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, where several people remained missing.
The storm was expected to dump up to 12 inches (31 centimeters) of rain across portions of the drought-stricken northern Caribbean as it carved a path toward the U.S. Forecasters said Erika might fall apart over Hispaniola or Puerto Rico or possibly strengthen into a hurricane as it nears South Florida early next week.
Erika was located about 155 miles (250 kilometers) east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and was moving west near 17 mph (28 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph (85 kph).
Authorities in Puerto Rico closed certain roads in anticipation of numerous landslides, while rescue crews fanned across Dominica overnight to search for missing and injured people.
“Erika has really, really visited us with a vengeance,” Assistance Police Superintendent Claude Weekes said by phone. “There are many fallen rocks and trees, and water. It’s really chaotic.”
Some 20 people were missing in Dominica, where authorities said an elderly blind man and two children died when a mudslide hit their home in the island’s southeast region. Another man was found dead near his home in the capital of Roseau after a mudslide, but the cause of death could not be immediately determined.
Police in the lush and mountainous island of Dominica expected to reach isolated communities via the ocean because of impassable roads and bridges. The Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency also pledged assistance. Ronald Jackson, the agency’s executive director, said in a phone interview that at least two helicopters would arrive early Friday in Dominica carrying supplies and two medics from Trinidad.
“The only way into Dominica at this time is via helicopter,” he said.
Erika downed trees and power lines in Dominica as it unleashed heavy floods that swept cars down streets and ripped scaffolding off some buildings.
The storm approached Puerto Rico overnight Thursday, prompting Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla to activate the National Guard as a precaution. Officials noted the storm’s outer bands had already downed several trees and power lines across the U.S. territory and caused small landslides. Some 18,000 people were without power, with widespread power outages reported on the popular sister island of Culebra late Thursday.
Garcia said schools and government offices would remain closed on Friday as he warned people to stay indoors.
“We don’t want to report any deaths,” Garcia said. “Use utmost precaution.”
The storm is expected to move near or over the Dominican Republic on Friday as it heads toward the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas.
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for areas across the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy.
Meanwhile in the Pacific, Ignacio strengthened into a hurricane. The storm’s maximum sustained winds increased Thursday morning to 90 mph (150 kph).
Hurricane Ignacio was centered about 890 miles (1,430 kilometers) east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, and was moving west-northwest near 12 mph (19 kph).
Also in the Pacific, Jimena strengthened to a hurricane Friday morning with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph). Jimena was centered about 1,045 miles (1,680 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
Baptiste reported from Roseau, Dominica. Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report.
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ZUWARA, Libya (AP) — Libyan authorities were collecting the bodies of migrants who drowned off the coastal city of Zuwara, with some 200 feared dead on Friday in the latest disaster involving desperate people trying to reach Europe.
An Associated Press photographer at the scene saw workers removing bodies from the water, and pulling a flooded boat into the harbor that contained several drowned victims floating face down. At least one victim, a man, was wearing a life vest. They were put into body bags and lined up on the waterfront.
Hussein Asheini, the head of Libya’s Red Crescent in Zuwara, said at least 105 people were killed, some while trapped inside the boat after it capsized. Fishermen and the coast guard found the waterlogged vessel at sea and towed it back to Zuwara, where they had to break the ship’s deck to reach people trapped inside.
“The boat sank out sea, and a coast guard team is still diving in and checking inside to see if there’s anyone else,” he said. There were conflicting casualty figures and the Red Crescent was still counting the bodies and the survivors, he added.
In a statement, the United Nations refugee agency said that up to 200 people were missing and feared dead after the Libyan coast guard carried out rescue operations Thursday for two boats carrying an estimated 500 migrants.
Othman Belbeisi, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration for Libya, said in a statement: “We are still waiting for more details, but we have learned there were 400 people on one of two boats.”
He said 100 were rescued, including nine women and two girls.
In a separate rescue operation by the Libyan coast guard on Wednesday, UNHCR said 51 people were found dead of suffocation in the hold of a boat, with survivors recounting how smugglers beat them with sticks to keep them under the deck. It said one survivor described how smugglers forced passengers into the packed hold and were demanding money to allow them to come up to breathe fresh air.
Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge of migrants.
Since a 2011 civil war that ended with the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammer Gadhafi, the oil-rich north African country of Libya has plunged into chaos. It is divided between an elected parliament and government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk and an Islamist militia-backed government in the capital Tripoli. Militants from the Islamic State group are also exploiting the chaos.
Violence and poverty in the Middle East and Africa are driving a surge in refugees headed to Europe, with many crowded rafts capsizing and leaving hundreds feared dead. Libya in particular has been a hotspot for human trafficking, although boats occasionally try to leave from Egypt as well.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Brian Rohan in Cairo contributed to this report. In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 photo, bodies of migrants are taken from the scene of a capsized boat in Zuwara, Libya. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ben Khalifa)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dismissed top officials in the wake of a recent standoff with South Korea, state media reported Friday, a move that suggests the young leader holds them responsible for allowing the confrontation to nearly spin out of control.
The rival Koreas earlier this week threatened strikes against each other before agreeing on measures to reduce animosity. The standoff began after land mines that Seoul says the North planted maimed two South Korean soldiers. Seoul responded by resuming propaganda broadcasts critical of Kim’s authoritarian rule for the first time in 11 years. Pyongyang then threatened to destroy the South Korean loudspeakers, and Seoul says the rivals exchanged artillery fire at the border.
During a ruling Workers’ Party meeting, Kim hailed the agreement, which came after marathon talks, as a “crucial landmark” that put “catastrophic” inter-Korean relations back on track toward reconciliation, according to Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency. Kim also dismissed an unspecified number of members of the party’s Central Military Commission, which handled the standoff, a KCNA dispatch said.
It gave no reasons for the dismissals, but outside analysts said they may have been sacked because they misjudged South Korea’s strong response to the mine blasts.
North Korea is intolerant of any outside criticism of its political system and worries, analysts say, that the broadcasts heard over the border could demoralize frontline troops and residents and eventually weaken Kim’s leadership.
South Korea switched off its loudspeakers Tuesday after North Korea expressed “regret” that the South Korean soldiers were injured by the mine explosion. The vague agreement allows Pyongyang to continue denying it laid the mines and Seoul to claim that the term “regret” signals an apology.
It was not known if the dismissed North Korean officials received heavier punishment other than being removed from their party posts. Since taking over after the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has orchestrated a series of executions and purges in what foreign analysts say was an attempt to bolster this grip on power. South Korea’s spy service said that in April Kim had his defense chief executed for disloyalty.
South Korean officials hope the agreement will help improve ties, but the two Koreas have a history of failing to follow through on past reconciliation accords, and their ties have been bad since conservatives took power in Seoul in early 2008.
In an indication that North Korea’s hard-line stance hasn’t changed despite the agreement, Kim said the deal was achieved not on the negotiating table but thanks to his country’s military capability based on its “nuclear deterrent,” according to the KCNA. He was quoted as saying the North’s military will guarantee peace on the Korean Peninsula.
During the party meeting Kim also ordered soldiers to help a recently flooded city, a sign of his need to show his people he cares about a decrepit economy.
Kim Jong Un has vowed to revive the economy and boost standards of living even as he pushes development of nuclear-armed missiles condemned by neighboring countries and the United States.
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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s top Shiite cleric says the government must show it is seeking genuine change to combat corruption and not just introduce temporary measures to placate the embattled nation.
In a message delivered by a representative in a Friday sermon, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also cautioned protesters who have staged weekly rallies to press demands for reform. He warned against groups seeking to hijack their movement to further other interests.
The comments, delivered in the holy Shiite city of Karbala south of Baghdad, came just hours before thousands of Iraqis were scheduled to rally in Baghdad and a string of other cities to demand better services and an end to corruption.
Followers of a radical, anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, are expected to join the rally in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square.
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HONG KONG (AP) — World stock markets were uneven on Friday as a global rally driven by upbeat U.S. economic data faded.
European stocks fell in early trading, with France’s CAC 40 down 0.5 percent at 4,636.26 and Germany’s DAX 0.9 percent lower at 10,219.43. Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.1 percent to 6,1845.64.
U.S. stocks were poised to open lower, with Dow futures down 1 percent to 16,493.00 while S&P 500 futures retreated 0.9 percent to 1,970.60.
The declines came a day after strong gains following a report that U.S. second-quarter economic growth was much stronger than initially estimated.
Global stock markets are settling down after the tumult of the past two weeks, which saw Chinese stocks plunge, wiping out gains for the year, on jitters over the economy and a surprise devaluation of the yuan. Analysts warn there may be further volatility ahead.
“Uncertainties regarding China and the emerging world are likely to linger and uncertainty still remains around the Fed,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.
However, he added that he believes markets have bottomed out and a “cyclical bull market” is likely to resume. “Despite the recent set back, share markets are likely to remain in a broad rising trend,” he said.
The recent market turmoil has thrown into doubt expectations for a Federal Reserve interest rate hike in September, with most economists now saying it’s off the table for now. Fed officials hold their annual meeting at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this weekend, which will be heavily scrutinized for clues on the rate hike timing.
Most Asian benchmarks ended strongly as the U.S. growth data, which also helped oil prices stage an impressive rebound, gave added encouragement to investors seeking bargains in beaten-down shares.
The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China rose 4.8 percent to close at 3,232.35, adding to its 5.3 percent gain Thursday, its first increase in six days. During the previous five days, it had shed nearly 23 percent. Most of Shanghai’s gains came in the last hour of trading, a curious pattern repeated from Thursday that led some to believe that Beijing was again intervening in the market to prop up prices.
“It’s just the state-owned funds that jumped in. I don’t know which ones, but definitely from the state,” said Dickie Wong, executive director at Kingston Financial Group.
He surmised that “they have to complete their order, so they jumped in at the last hour (because) time is running out.”
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index climbed 3 percent to close at 19,136.32 after lackluster monthly data on inflation and household spending raised hopes of further stimulus.
South Korea’s Kospi rose 1.6 percent to 1,937.16 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng swung into a loss in the final hour of trading, losing 1 percent to 21,612.39. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.6 percent to 5,263.60.
The dollar slipped to 120.87 yen from 121.12 in late trading Thursday. The euro climbed to $1.1274 from $1.1242.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 28 cents to $42.28 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday the contract posted its biggest one-day gain in six years, leaping $3.96, or 10.3 percent, to $42.56 a barrel. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils imported by U.S. refineries, fell 3 cents to $47.53 in London.
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MONETA, Va. (AP) — The fatal shooting of a reporter and cameraman unfolded on live TV during the early morning show, as tens of thousands of viewers watched a horrified anchor struggle to comprehend what had happened.
Within hours, the carefully scripted carnage carried out by a disgruntled former colleague spread to millions of viewers gripped by what had transformed into a social media storm. The governor initially described a car chase on his weekly radio show, with police on the shooter’s tail on an interstate highway.
Then, social media posts referencing the slain TV pair surfaced on an account under an on-air pseudonym used by the gunman — culminating with a first-person video of the ambush filmed by the shooter.
On Thursday, one day after the deaths shocked millions across the country, the grieving staff at WDBJ-TV came together for an emotional broadcast of its “Mornin'” show. At 6:45 a.m. — the time of the shooting that took the lives of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward — the station observed a moment of silence, showing the victim’s photos on the screens.
Anchor Kim McBroom, who was on the anchor desk during Wednesday’s shooting and tried to reassure viewers immediately after the attack was broadcast, joined hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and fellow anchor Steve Grant, who came in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri.
“Joining hands here on the desk. It’s the only way to do it,” she said just before the moment of silence.
During his forecast, Hirsbrunner’s voice trembled as he recalled how Ward would check in with him every morning about the weather before going out on assignment.
“I don’t even know how to do weather on a day like this,” he said. McBroom told him: “Good job, partner. We’re going to get through this together.”
The morning broadcast include a series of news pieces on the shooting. One looked at the criminal investigation of gunman Vester Lee Flanagan II, the former WDBJ-TV reporter known to viewers by his on-air name Bryce Williams. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after the shooting.
His family released a statement through a representative, expressing condolences for the victims’ families and asking for privacy: “Words cannot express the hurt that we feel,” it read in part.
The social media post made Wednesday through an account under the name Bryce Williams name had a 56-second video clip. It shows Vester Lee Flanagan II quietly approach Parker and Adam Ward, gun in hand, as they conduct an interview. But Ward’s camera was aimed at the mini-golf course nearby instead of the reporter. So the shooter waited, cursing Parker under his breath, for 20 seconds until the live television picture was back on the reporter. Then he fired eight shots without saying a word.
The attack seemed carefully planned. Flanagan was captured in a rental car he reserved at some point before the shootings; his own Mustang was found abandoned at the local airport, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton said. The interview was done at a shopping center not yet open for the day at a remote lake in Moneta, some 25 miles away from WDBJ’s studios in Roanoke. The station promoted where the reporter would be, including a plug on Twitter just a half hour before the shooting.
About three hours after the killing, ABC News reported it received a 23-page faxed statement from Bryce Williams, the on-air name used by Flanagan.
Unlike so many crimes, which have to be pieced together in reverse, this one played out in real time on Twitter and Facebook. The station’s live footage of the shooting was being shared over and over before even station managers knew the fate of their employees. Some 40,000 viewers had initially tuned in, including the local sheriff, and heard Parker scream. They saw her run as the camera fell, capturing a fleeting image of a man holding a handgun.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s assurance that an arrest was “imminent” spread quickly, only to be followed soon after with a post on the Twitter account Flanagan apparently used under the pseudonym: “I filmed the shooting see Facebook.” It was there that the video appeared.
Parker, Ward and their interview subject, local economic development official Vicki Gardner, don’t appear to notice Flanagan. They react as he opens fire, and Flanagan’s video goes to black after eight shots are fired; seven more are heard before it ends, more methodical than the initial burst.
It wasn’t Flanagan’s first encounter with the pair. The 41-year-old had been fired by the station in 2013 and had to be escorted out of the building, President and General Manager Jeffrey Marks said.
On Twitter, Flanagan described workplace conflicts with both of his victims. He said Parker had made racist comments and that she was still hired after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ward had reported him to human resources, he said.
Flanagan alleged that other employees made racially tinged comments to him, but his EEOC claim was dismissed and none of his allegations could be corroborated, Marks said.
Dan Dennison, now a state government spokesman in Hawaii, was the WDBJ news director who hired Flanagan in 2012 and fired him in 2013, largely for performance issues, he said.
“We did a thorough investigation and could find no evidence that anyone had racially discriminated against this man,” Dennison said. “You just never know when you’re going to work how a potentially unhinged or unsettled person might impact your life in such a tragic way.”
Flanagan was fired at least twice from small-market stations after managers said he caused problems with other employees.
In the fax to ABC, Flanagan called himself a gay black man who had been mistreated by people of all races. He said he bought the gun two days after nine black people were killed in a June 17 shooting at a Charleston church and wanted to use it to retaliate for what authorities called a racially motivated shooting. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the gun was purchased legally.
The fax also included admiration for the gunmen who carried out mass killings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.
He described himself as a “human powder keg” that was “just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”
Both Parker and Ward had worked at other stations, but a return to Roanoke meant a return to the area where they grew up. Ward was engaged to station producer Melissa Ott, who watched from the control room as he was shot, and was known as a happy-go-lucky guy who seldom missed a football game at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Parker had been dating a fellow anchor at WDBJ, Chris Hurst, who called her “the most radiant woman I ever met.”
He appeared on the broadcast Thursday morning, saying he wanted to tell Parker’s story even as he grieved.
“Alison, what great things she could have done,” he said.
Also appearing on Thursday’s show was Tim Gardner, husband of Vicki Gardner, who was wounded in the shooting as she was interviewed. He appeared outside the station before a memorial full of balloons, candles and other tokens to the victims. Nearby, media outlets from around the country filmed live shots.
Tim Gardner said his wife is doing better and is in fair condition.
He said the family has been buoyed by support of friends and the community: “It’s hard to explain, but … everyone’s been right there for us.”
WDBJ-TV7 anchor Chris Hurst, right, hugs meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner during the early morning newscast at WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, Va., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Hurst was the fiance of Alison Parker, who was killed during a live broadcast Wednesday, in Moneta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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LONDON (AP) — Britain gained almost 330,000 people through migration in the year to March 31, official figures showed Thursday. It’s the highest figure on record and a headache for the Conservative government amid a political storm about immigration.
The Office for National Statistics said 636,000 people arrived during the 12 months and 307,000 left. The net total surpasses the previous high of 320,000 in 2005. Eight million of Britain’s 64 million people were born outside the country.
Prime Minister David Cameron has long promised to reduce net migration below 100,000. Critics say the goal is unachievable, since members of the 28 European Union countries have the right to live in other member states. Roughly half the net migration from to the U.K. in the year came from within the EU.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said the figures should be a “wake-up call” for the EU. He the record flow of people across Europe was “not sustainable and risks the future economic development of other EU member states.”
Immigration has climbed up the political agenda this summer as migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia attempt to reach Europe in unprecedented numbers. Several thousand have gathered near the French side of the Channel Tunnel, aiming to reach Britain.
Although British media attention has focused on the Calais migrants, the vast majority of immigrants come to study or work rather than as refugees. There were 25,771 asylum applications in the year to March, up 10 percent from a year earlier.
The Institute of Directors, an employers’ group, said government attempts to curb immigration were harming Britain’s reputation as an open economy.
“Scrabbling around to find measures to hit a bizarre and unachievable migration target is no way to give British businesses the stable environment they need,” said Institute director Simon Walker.
FILE – This is a Friday, May 22, 2015 file photo of British Prime Minister David Cameron as he speaks during a media conference at the conclusion of the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga, Latvia. Official figures on Thursday Aug. 27, 2015 show Britain gained almost 330,000 people through migration in the year to March 31, the highest figure on record and a headache for the Conservative government amid a political storm about immigration. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will reduce net migration below 100,000, but critics say the goal is unachievable. Employers’ group the Institute of Directors said government attempts to curb immigration were harming Britain’s reputation as an open economy. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)
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CAIRO (AP) — The Yemeni government is not negotiating with Shiite rebels who captured the capital, Sanaa, last September, Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said Thursday.
The rebels, known as Houthis, and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh must lay down their arms and give the government full control over all of Yemen, as required by the United Nations, he said.
“The Houthis and Saleh’s militias must implement the U.N. resolution and surrender their weapons, and only then the dialogue and political process can begin, with the participation of all Yemeni parties,” Yassin told reporters in Cairo after meeting with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.
Referring to reports of envoys meetings in the Gulf nation of Oman, Yassin described them as mere “consultations” between U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and the Houthis, aimed at convincing them to implement a U.N. resolution from April.
That resolution requested the Houthis withdraw from areas they seized and surrender weapons they took from the military and state institutions.
“That is the only solution that is on the table; there is nothing else,” said Yassin, who along with the rest of Yemen’s internationally recognized government is in exile in Saudi Arabia.
Yemen’s conflict pits the Shiite Houthi rebels and troops loyal to Saleh against an array of forces including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants as well as troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
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BAGHDAD (AP) — An Islamic State suicide bomber killed two Iraqi army generals on Thursday as they led forces against IS positions in the turbulent Anbar province west of Baghdad, military officials said.
They said the bomber drove his explosives-laden vehicle into the advancing troops north of Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi, killing the two generals and three soldiers. A military spokesman said on state television that 10 other soldiers were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The IS group captured Ramadi earlier this year and also controls the nearby city of Fallujah.
In Syria, IS militants seized five villages from rebel groups in the north as part of an advance toward the strategic town of Marea near the Turkish border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activist groups said the IS carried out a suicide bombing on the outskirts of Marea amid fierce fighting in the area.
The Turkish Dogan news agency also reported renewed fighting between IS and rebels across the border from Kilis and said the U.S.-led coalition bombed IS targets in the region. Dogan video footage showed a large plume of smoke rising from across the border.
The IS advance is in the northern countryside of Aleppo province, near the area where Turkey and the United States have agreed to establish an IS-free safe zone.
A military statement read on Iraqi state television identified the two generals as Maj. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Abu-Regheef, deputy chief of operations in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Sefeen Abdul-Maguid, commander of the 10th Army Division.
Government forces and allied Sunni and Shiite militiamen have been battling IS militants in Anbar for months but have only made modest gains against the group in the vast province that stretches west of Baghdad.
Speaking on state television, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya al-Zobeidi sought to play down the psychological effect of the loss of the two generals. “We will not stop our operations and we will continue to advance,” he said.
There was no immediate comment on the attack from the IS group.
The Islamic State group controls about a third of Iraq and Syria. A U.S.-led coalition has been staging airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria over the past year.
Government forces and allied militiamen are coming under mounting pressure from IS militants in the oil refinery town of Beiji, north of Baghdad. Government forces retook Beiji late last year from the IS, but the militants are on the offensive there again and now control about half of the town and the refinery.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said this week that winning the ongoing battle over Beiji is key to defeating the IS group in Iraq.
Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.
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BEIJING (AP) — China’s main stock index surged 5.3 percent Thursday, its biggest gain in eight weeks, leading world markets higher and giving investors some relief after gut-wrenching losses.
The Shanghai Composite Index posted its first gain in six days to close at 3,083.59 points, bouncing back from losses that triggered worldwide selling and wiped nearly 23 percent off its value over the past week.
Wall Street was expected to rise on the open as European markets rose and Asian indexes closed higher.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 2.9 percent to 21,697.31 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 added 1.1 percent to 18,574.44. France’s CAC-40 increased 2.8 percent to 4,627.74 and Germany’s DAX gained 3 percent to 10,294.45.
The gains came after Wall Street rocketed up Wednesday, when the Dow Jones industrial average soared more than 600 points, or 4 percent. That was its third-biggest point gain of all time and its largest since Oct. 28, 2008.
Ahead of the open, Dow futures were up 1 percent and S&P 500 futures 0.9 percent higher.
Traders were encouraged by comments from William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, that the case for a U.S. interest rate hike in September is “less compelling” given China’s troubles, falling oil prices and emerging markets weakness.
As Fed officials prepare for their annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, “people are looking for insight on what’s really going to happen on interest rates,” said trader Andrew Sullivan at Haitong Securities in Hong Kong.
Following a six-year run-up in U.S. stocks that has pushed major indexes to all-time highs, investors worry the economy could falter if the Fed raises rates too soon.
The rebound also is driven by bargain-hunting after prices were beaten down over the past few days, said Sullivan.
“You’ve seen everything just bounce back today,” he said. “The real question is now whether you get the fundamental players coming back in.”
It might be too early to expect a long-term Chinese rebound, cautioned Huang Cengdong of Sinolink Securities in Shanghai. Worries about China’s economic outlook have risen after July exports shrank by an unexpectedly wide margin and August manufacturing weakened.
“Considering the weakening economic outlook, the rally gains won’t last long,” said Huang.
In currency markets, the dollar rose to 120.18 yen from Wednesday’s 120.14 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1308 from the previous session’s $1.1337.
Benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.28 to $39.88 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 71 cents on Wednesday to close at $38.60.
AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong contributed.
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has opened up a new media feud, taking on another popular TV news personality even as his appearances continue to draw big ratings.
Trump engaged in a prolonged confrontation Tuesday with Jorge Ramos, the Miami-based anchor for Univision, during a news conference in Dubuque, Iowa.
Ramos stood and began to ask Trump about his immigration proposal, which includes ending automatic citizenship for infants born in the United States to parents in the country illegally.
As Ramos began to speak, Trump interrupted him, saying he hadn’t called on Ramos before repeatedly telling him to “sit down” and then saying, “Go back to Univision.”
As one of Trump’s security detail approached Ramos, the anchor continued to speak, saying: “You cannot deport 11 million people.” Ramos was referring to Trump’s proposal to deport all people in the country illegally before allowing some of them to return.
As he was taken from the room, Ramos said, “You cannot build a 1,900-mile wall,” another proposal in Trump’s plan.
Moments later, Trump justified Ramos’ removal, saying: “He just stands up and starts screaming. Maybe he’s at fault also.”
The Incident happened the day after Trump resumed his feud with Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump welcomed Kelly back from a vacation Monday night by tweeting that he liked her show better while she was away. He said Kelly “must have had a terrible vacation” because “she’s really off her game,” and retweeted a message that referred to her as a bimbo.
That drew a response from Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who called on Trump to apologize.
The billionaire businessman’s immigration proposal has sparked intense debate within the 2016 Republican field. Several candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have called it “unrealistic,” and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker bobbled his answer on whether he supports ending birthright citizenship.
Ramos was later allowed back into Tuesday’s news conference. Trump greeted him politely, though they quickly resumed their argument, interrupting each other during an extended back-and-forth.
“Your immigration plan, it is full of empty promises,” Ramos began. “You cannot deny citizenship to children born in this country.”
“Why do you say that?” Trump replied. “Some of the great legal scholars agree that’s not true.”
Citizenship for infants born in the United States is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment, and changing that would require amending the Constitution.
During the five-minute exchange, Ramos claimed that 40 percent of people in the country illegally enter through airports, not over the Mexican border. “I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it,” Trump responded.
A 2006 report by the Pew Hispanic Center found that up to 45 percent of the people in the U.S. illegally entered with legal visas but overstayed them.
Trump said he did not believe that a majority of immigrants in the U.S. illegally were criminals, or in the country to commit crimes. “Most of them are good people,” he said. But he described recent cases where people had been killed by assailants later determined to be in the country illegally.
Finally, Trump reminded Ramos that he was suing Univision, which dropped Trump’s Miss Universe pageant after he described Mexican immigrants in the U.S. illegally as “criminals” and “rapists.”
“Do you know how many Latinos work for me? Do you know how many Hispanics work for me?” Trump said. “Thousands. They love me.”
Isaac Lee, chief executive officer of Univision, responded to the confrontation with a written comment: “We’d love for Mr. Trump to sit down for an in-depth interview with Jorge to talk about the specifics of his proposals.”
AP Television Writers David Bauder in New York and Lynn Elber in Los Angeles contributed to this report. Miami-based Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, left, asks Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump a question about his immigration proposal during a news conference, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Dubuque, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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PARIS (AP) — The Moroccan suspect in a foiled attack on a high-speed train is facing terrorism charges over what authorities say was a plan to unleash carnage among hundreds of passengers.
The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed Wednesday that Ayoub El-Khazzani was charged overnight. El-Khazzani, 26, was overpowered by at least five passengers, including three Americans and a Briton.
El-Khazzani has denied terrorism plans and said he stumbled upon a bag of weapons and decided to use them to rob passengers.
His older brother, Imran, reached by French radio network RMC, also said the younger man had no links with terrorism.
“He could have gone crazy. His life was without a doubt difficult. He didn’t have much money,” the brother said. “It could have gone from bad to worse.”
“I swear to you before God that my brother has nothing to do with a terrorist. We are Muslims. We respect people,” the brother said.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins has said El-Khazzani watched a jihadi video on his cellphone moments before the attack and that — although he claimed to be homeless — he used a first-class ticket. Molins said the suspect’s explanations became increasingly incoherent until he stopped speaking altogether to investigators.
Among the terrorism charges he faces are multiple counts of attempted murder, possession of weapons, and conspiracy.
Anthony Sadler, center, who helped stop a terror attack on a high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, walks across the tarmac to a waiting vehicle at Sacramento International Airport, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. Sadler and two Sacramento-area friends, U.S. Air Force Airman Spencer Stone, and Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, helped subdue Ayoub El-Khazzani, a man with ties to radical Islam who was carrying a handgun and an assault weapon on the train Friday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two men wearing Afghan security force uniforms opened fire Wednesday inside a military base in southern Afghanistan, killing two NATO service members before being shot dead themselves, the international force said.
NATO offered few details about the shooting in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, which appeared to be the latest so-called “insider attack” to target foreign troops or contractors in the country. Afghan officials said they had no immediate details about the attack.
In a statement, NATO said the two men in Afghan uniforms opened fire on a vehicle with international troops inside it. Both shooters were killed when NATO forces returned fire, it said.
NATO did not elaborate, nor did it identify the nationalities of the international troops killed nor the base the attack took place. It said the attackers wore “Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms,” which include the country’s police, military and border patrol.
The motive for the attack was not immediately known and no group claimed responsibility for the assault. In past attacks, Taliban insurgents have been known to wear Afghan police or military uniforms to stage attacks on the international troops. Others have opened fire apparently on the own accord, like an Afghan soldier who last year killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranked U.S. officer to be slain in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War.
The shooting is the third “insider attack” on foreign forces this year. In January, three American civilian contractors were shot dead at Kabul airport by an Afghan soldier who was also killed. In April, an American soldier was killed by an Afghan soldier inside the compound of the governor of eastern Nangarhar province’s city of Jalalabad.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Taliban insurgents overran the Musa Qala district in Helmand province, said Mohammad Sharif Musa, the district’s administrative chief. He said Afghan security forces had been resisting the Taliban attack for more than a week.
“We tried hard in the past days to fight the Taliban, but we didn’t get any support from the government and finally we lost control of the district,” Sharif said.
He said there were casualties among the Afghan security forces, though he couldn’t provide casualty figures.
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TOKYO (AP) — Shares fell Wednesday in Europe and Asian markets were mixed as an initial burst of euphoria over an interest rate cut by China the day before succumbed to lingering worries over longer-term problems with its economy.
European shares fell back from their surge the day before following Beijing’s announcement late Tuesday that it was easing monetary policy to help stabilize gyrating markets and counter short liquidity.
Germany’s DAX dropped 1.2 percent to 10,008.51, Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 1.4 percent to 5,997.09 and the CAC40 in France shed 1.3 percent to 4,506.19. However, Wall Street investors looked ready to plunge back in and buy, with Dow futures up 1.3 percent on Wednesday and S&P futures up 1.4 percent.
China’s own benchmark, the Shanghai Composite Index, dropped late in the day, losing 1.3 percent after a volatile series of ups and downs. That followed a 7.6 percent slump on Tuesday and an 8.5 percent loss the day before. But stocks in Japan, South Korea and Australia gained.
Markets have been zigzagging for weeks on deepening unease over the ramifications of slowing growth in China, the world’s second-largest economy and the driver of much of the global growth of the past decade.
So, many in Asia went to bed on Tuesday smiling over China’s decision to slash its key interest rate, only to awaken to yet another decline overnight on Wall Street, Nicholas Teo, an analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary.
“All of a sudden, China and the performance of the Chinese markets have now taken the lead in determining daily direction for trading in stocks worldwide,” he said.
The apparent inability of Chinese regulators to calm the markets has spooked investors already fretting over when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.
The Federal Reserve has signaled it could begin raising its key interest rate from near zero for the first time in nearly a decade as early as this year. But it is not expected to deliver a policy update until it wraps up a meeting of policymakers in mid-September.
In a last-minute sell-off Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial dropped 1.3 percent, extending Wall Street’s losing streak to six days, the longest such stretch in more than three years.
The Dow had surged more than 400 points Tuesday after China cut its interest rates for the fifth time in nine months in a renewed effort to shore up growth. The central bank also increased the amount of money available for lending by reducing the reserves banks are required to hold.
Those moves have alleviated a crippling shortage of cash available for funding, but do not address the wider problems behind a slowdown that is crimping demand for oil and other commodities, slowing exports and other business activity across Asia.
“This move may help calm the markets in the short term. But it will likely not be enough to fix China’s growth problem,” Credit Agricole economists Sébastien Barbé and Gary Yau said in a research note.
The bigger, more intractable problem is how to rebalance the economy away from excess reliance on investment in construction and property investments without tipping the economy into contraction.
“Bottom line, China is not in a position to address both challenges at the same time today,” they wrote.
Still, many in Asia took heart from China’s moves.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index advanced 3.2 percent to 18,376.83, South Korea’s Kospi gained 2.6 percent to 1,894.09 and Australia’s S&P ASX/200 rose 0.7 percent to 5,172.80, helped by buying of resource-related shares. Shares also rose in Taiwan.
But Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent to 21,305.17, and mainland China’s smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 3.1 percent. Markets were also lower in New Zealand and most of Southeast Asia.
In other trading, U.S. crude oil rose 15 cents to $39.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.07, or 2.8 percent, to $39.31 on Tuesday. Brent crude oil, which is used to price international trading, gained 20 cents a barrel, to $43.41.
The dollar rose to 119.54 yen versus 118.66 yen late Wednesday. The euro slipped to $1.1485 from $1.1524.
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(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT) —- PARIS — Given the sound, fury and millions of dollars swirling around the debate in Washington over the Iranian nuclear deal, the silence in Europe is striking. It’s particularly noticeable in Britain, France and Germany, which were among the seven countries that signed the deal on July 14.
Here in France, which took the toughest stance during the last years of negotiation, the matter is settled, according to Camille Grand, director of the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris and an expert on nuclear nonproliferation.
“In Europe, you don’t have a constituency against the deal,” he said. “In France, I can’t think of a single politician or member of the expert community who has spoken against it, including some of us who were critical during the negotiations.”
Mr. Grand said the final agreement was better than he had expected. “I was surprised by the depth and the quality of the deal,” he said. “The hawks are satisfied, and the doves don’t have an argument.”
“In the U.S., the Iran issue is much more polemical because it is part of a domestic debate,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
European countries have maintained diplomatic relations with Tehran, with the exception of Britain, which reopened its embassy on Sunday, nearly four years after it was stormed by protesters.
Nor, in the European view, were there other choices besides negotiations, backed by sanctions. “No Europeans were seriously advocating the military option, which has been in the U.S. debate for years,” Mr. Grand said.
Also missing here is Israel’s active role in fueling opposition to this or, arguably, any agreement with Iran. In the United States, pro-Israel groups have spent heavily on a campaign to block the deal in the Congress, organizing meetings with Israeli diplomats and a videoconference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has called the deal a “stunning historic mistake” that threatens Israel’s existence.
Although France’s main Jewish organization has expressed “very serious doubts” about the Iran deal, Mr. Grand said, its objections have not spilled into the political sphere.
“Netanyahu’s opposition was so extreme that it made it difficult for it to exist in any French debate,” he said. “Even critics couldn’t sign up to the Netanyahu narrative because it doesn’t offer a constructive solution.”
And then there is the money — huge sums being spent mainly by the pro-Israel groups, less by supporters of the deal — which shock Europeans unused to this kind of profligate lobbying. Some here are also baffled by the hyperbole coming out of Washington, with talk of a choice between war and peace, and oblique references to the Holocaust.
As seen from this side of the Atlantic, the shrill tone of the debate has worrying consequences, particularly when Republican presidential candidates talk about “undoing” the deal or when Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, suggests keeping sanctions in place to prevent American and foreign companies from doing business in Iran.
Europeans regard sanctions as a diplomatic tool, the means to an end. Their concern here is that the Americans will use them as a form of open-ended punishment. “How this debate develops on Iran could potentially be a test case on sanctions,” said Ms. Geranmayeh, of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “The U.S. Congress may underestimate how much their debate is going to have repercussions on sanctions unity.”
Even if the deal survives its congressional roller coaster, the words spoken in the heat of this summer’s debate are a matter of “serious concern,” said Mr. Grand of the Strategic Research Foundation. “It is broader than the Iran issue.” he said. “The problem is that the partisan nature of U.S. foreign policy is making it difficult to manage for its partners. It means you always have doubts that a major foreign policy initiative by a U.S. president will survive.”