Far-right, antifa counterprotesters both claim victory in Portland
PORTLAND — With both the left and the right declaring victory following a long-hyped rally that had Portland on edge, it seems the liberal city will continue to be a flashpoint in an increasingly divided country.
City officials were mostly relieved that a downtown gathering Saturday of more than 1,000 far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators wasn’t as violent as feared.
“I’m grateful this was largely a peaceful event,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said. “We were preparing for and planning for a worst-case scenario.”
There were 13 arrests and police seized bear spray, shields, poles and other weapons. But by using barriers and bridge closures — and allowing a large contingent of right-wingers to leave when they asked to — authorities were able to mostly keep the two sides apart. Six minor injuries were reported.
Joe Biggs, the organizer of the right-wing gathering that featured the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and other far-right groups, said they accomplished their goal of drawing attention to black-clad anti-fascist protesters — known as antifa –who showed up to meet them.
President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday that “major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION of TERROR.'” It wasn’t immediately clear what he meant by that because there’s no mechanism for the United States government to declare a domestic organization a terror group.
Biggs told The Oregonian/OregonLive he was pleased the rally attracted Trump’s attention.
“He talked about Portland, said he’s watching antifa. That’s all we wanted,” he said.
Biggs said he and the right-wing groups would keep coming back to Portland so long as antifa was around.
But Eric K. Ward, executive director of the Portland-based Western States Center, said the right-wing rally was a bust.
“Portland won today, and far-right leaders like Joey Gibson and Joe Biggs lost,” Ward said in a statement.
The Western States Center stated mission is to increase inclusive democracy.
In an interview, Ward said Biggs’ groups cut short a planned five-hour rally after only one hour and left.
“The white nationalist, alt-right coalition that came to Portland were denied what they sought to create, which was large-scale civil disturbances,” Ward said.
While antifa protesters get a lot of attention, Ward said there were many others who came out to oppose the right-wing groups. He also praised police and city officials for their actions.
“What I saw yesterday was the first step in Portland really putting together a citywide response,” he said.
Wheeler, Portland’s mayor, said at a Saturday evening news conference that Biggs and anyone espousing hate or violence was not welcome.
“We do not want him here in my city. Period,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler tied the demonstrations to “a rising white nationalist movement” and a growing sense of fear in the country.
“Portland being a very progressive community is always going to be at or near ground zero of this battle.”
Wheeler emphasized that there are hundreds of protests every year in Portland, and most don’t get any attention.
The latest rally began late Saturday morning. Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys, Three Percenters militia group and others gathered downtown, some wearing body armor and helmets like the antifa protesters.
More than two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were in the city for the right-wing rally.
As of early afternoon, most of the right-wing groups had left the area. But hundreds of people remained downtown and on nearby streets, and there were tense skirmishes, mostly with antifa protesters who were trying to find right-wing rallyers, throughout the day.
Patriot Prayer’s Gibson, who organized similar rallies in 2017 and 2018 that erupted in clashes, surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting. He was at a confrontation that broke out on May 1 outside a bar where antifa members had gathered after a May Day demonstration.
In a video he livestreamed on Facebook, Gibson accused the police of playing politics by arresting him but not the masked demonstrators who beat up conservative blogger Andy Ngo at a June 29 rally that drew national attention.
A video of that attack went viral and led the Proud Boys, who have been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to organize Saturday’s event.
Gibson was also at Saturday’s rally.
Ward said even if right-wing groups return to Portland he is confident in the community’s ability to turn out and stay true to its values.
“The tables have really turned in a significant way,” he said.
Associated Press writer Chris Grygiel contributed from Seattle.
Sanders plan aims to cut prison population in half
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing a criminal justice overhaul that aims to cut the nation’s prison population in half, end mandatory minimum sentencing, ban private prisons and legalize marijuana. He says the current system does not fairly treat people of color, addicts or the mentally ill.
“We have a system that imprisons and destroys the lives of millions of people,” Sanders told The Associated Press before the planned released of his proposal Sunday. “It’s racist in disproportionately affecting the African American and Latino communities, and it’s a system that needs fundamental change.”
Sanders was promoting the plan during a weekend of campaigning in South Carolina, where the majority of the Democratic electorate is African American. The Vermont senator, who won the support of some younger black Democrats during the 2016 primary, has stepped up his references to racial disparities, particularly during stops in the South and urban areas.
Before about 300 at a town hall in Columbia on Sunday afternoon, Sanders conducted a conversation on the plan with several state lawmakers who have endorsed him. Also part of the discussion was Donald Gilliard, Sanders’ South Carolina deputy political director, who was at one time sentenced to life in federal prison for a nonviolent drug crime.
“Sometimes you don’t even believe what you’re hearing here,” Sanders said Sunday, of the problems he sees in the criminal justice system.
As president, Sanders said he would abolish mandatory minimum sentencing and reinstate a federal parole system, end the “three strikes law” and expand the use of alternative sentencing, including community supervision and halfway houses. The goal is to reduce the prison population by one-half.
“A very significant number of people who are behind bars today are dealing with one form or another of illness,” Sanders said. “These should be treated as health issues, not from a criminal perspective.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness , 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails annually.
Taking aim at what his proposal calls “for-profit prison profiteering,” Sanders would ban private prisons, make prison phone calls and other inmate communications free, and audit prison commissaries for price gouging and fees.
The plan would legalize marijuana and expunge previous marijuana convictions, and end a cash bail system that Sanders says keeps hundreds of thousands who have not been convicted of a crime languishing in jail because they cannot afford bail.
“Can you believe that, in the year 2019, 400,000 people are in jail awaiting a trial because they are poor?” Sanders said. “That is a moral outrage, it is a legal outrage.”
According to the Prison Policy Initiative , more than 460,000 people are being held in local jails around the country while they await trial, with a median bail amount of $10,000 for felony offenses.
Sanders wants to improve relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. To do that, he proposes to end federal programs that provide military equipment to local police forces, establish federal standards for the use of body cameras, provide bias training and require that the Justice Department review all officer-involved shootings.
“You have a lot of resentment in minority communities all over this country, who see police forces not as an asset but as an invading force,” Sanders said.
On capital punishment, Sanders’ plan formalizes his call to end the federal death penalty and urges states to eliminate the punishment as well.
“When we talk about violence in society and trying to lower the levels of violence, it is not appropriate that the state itself is part of capital punishment,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that over the long term, his plan will save the public money because of reductions to overall incarceration costs.
“It will cost money but it will pay for itself many, many times over,” Sanders said. “Locking people up is very, very expensive.”
Suburban voters are pressuring Republicans to act on guns
GILBERT, Ariz. — Following the news has grown stressful for Angela Tetschner, a 39-year-old nurse raising four children in this sprawling Phoenix suburb of tile roofs, desert yards, young families and voters who are increasingly up for grabs.
“Sometimes I do think about the school shootings,” said Tetschner, who doesn’t pay much attention to politics but has been disappointed in President Donald Trump, days after sending her 5-year-old boy to kindergarten. She’d like to see Congress tighten gun laws, but her expectations for action are low.
“You can’t not put your kid in school,” she said. “I just hope and pray that nothing happens.”
Tetschner’s worries are weighing heavy on Republicans in Arizona and elsewhere in the wake of recent mass shootings. The party has seen once-reliable suburbs turn competitive as women worry about their children’s safety and bristle at Trump’s harsh rhetoric on race and immigration, and they embraced Democratic alternatives in last year’s midterm elections.
GOP candidates looking ahead at tough races increasingly are eyeing new ways to address anxieties about gun violence, and to do that without crossing the party’s base, which sees gun restrictions as an infringement on the constitutional right to bear arms.
“Republicans’ backs are already against the wall among suburban voters, particularly college-educated women,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant. “And the inability of our political system to pass what most Americans see as commonsense reforms related to gun violence only makes the matter worse.”
That tension is palpable in Arizona, a state with an ardent gun culture as well as a growing population of newcomers seeking sun, jobs and affordable housing in the suburbs that ring Phoenix.
Republican Sen. Martha McSally’s challenge is to navigate that divide. The freshman senator is facing a difficult reelection fight, probably against Democrat Mark Kelly , a former astronaut who became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife, then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head in an attempted assassination in Tucson in 2011.
While gun control often fades from the conversation weeks after a high-profile shooting, the issue is likely to be a steady presence in this race, but not determine the outcome by itself. “It’s a part of their decision-making process, but it’s only a part of it,” said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises GOP congressional leaders.
Pressure on McSally has been evident since shootings in California, Texas and Ohio. She has adopted a softer tone and spoken forcefully against hate and domestic terrorism. A vocal supporter of gun rights who once called universal background checks unconstitutional, McSally now says she is open to talking about new gun laws. She also says she intends to introduce legislation to make domestic terrorism a federal crime.
“We all need to do our part, whether there’s a federal element, a state element, a society element,” McSally told reporters in Phoenix on Thursday. “Let’s figure out what we can do that’s meaningful, that’s thoughtful, that’s not political theater in order to stop these crimes.”
McSally’s message echoes what other Republicans are saying.
After two shootings killed 31 people in less than 24 hours, President Donald Trump started talking about tougher background checks on gun buyers and prominent Republicans expressed support for laws that make it easier for authorities to seize weapons from people deemed suicidal or dangerous.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a longtime opponent of gun control laws, said the Senate could not fail to act, although he ignored a push by Democrats to call lawmakers back from summer recess to debate the issue.
McSally’s hopes for holding her seat hinge on holding onto voters in suburbs such as Gilbert, Mesa and Scottsdale where Republicans have traditionally performed well but saw their fortunes wane in last year’s midterms. Before she was appointed to the seat held by the late Sen. John McCain, McSally narrowly lost a 2018 Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, partly due to voters on the outskirts of Phoenix who split their tickets, voting for both Sinema and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
McSally said her talk about changing gun laws is not new. She said that as a congresswoman, she sponsored an National Rifle Association-backed bill to improve background checks by making sure the database of people barred from owning guns is complete. But her openness, at least rhetorically, to new restrictions is a departure from her responses to earlier large-scale shootings.
After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, McSally told an Arizona newspaper: “We have to address how we deal with those dealing with mental health issues.”
The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of about 50 GOP members of Congress representing suburban districts, believes women in suburbs overwhelmingly support action.
Suburban women “want their guns, but they also want some kind of background checks,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the group’s president and CEO.
Democrats have reason to be skeptical of Republican pledges on gun legislation. Trump has shifted gears before, under NRA pressure. McConnell has not taken up a House-passed bill approved in February that would require background checks for most private sales, including online and at gun shows, and not just for transactions involving registered gun dealers.
McSally, who may face a primary challenge from an opponent of gun restrictions, is against the House bill. She said the shooters in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, were cleared to buy firearms. She said she is concerned about making criminals of people who lend a gun to their family members or close friends without a background check.
Kelly called on the Senate to approve the House bill.
“To do nothing is irresponsible and dangerous,” Kelly said in a statement released by his campaign.
Polls show McSally’s red line on universal background checks does not align with the views of most Americans and may even face skepticism in Arizona.
Sixty-two percent of midterm voters in the U.S. and 56 percent in Arizona said gun laws should be made tougher, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of the 2018 electorate. A March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found about 8 in 10 Americans in favor of a federal law requiring background checks on all gun buyers, including at gun shows and by private sale. Three-quarters of Republicans backed the idea.
“Should a gun be sold online to just anybody? No,” said Brittany Barnum of Mesa, Arizona, a 32-year-old mother of a 3-year-old. Barnum, who voted for Trump, said she’s considered homeschooling her son out of concerns about school shootings.
Tetschner, the mother who lives outside Phoenix, said she is not against gun ownership, but would like to see “strict rules” to ensure people with psychological issues do not buy them.
“It’s kind of getting old,” she said, keeping a close eye on her two younger children chasing jets of water shooting from the ground of a splash pad on a hot morning. “It’s to the point where I guess I assume nothing’s going to get done, because it’s happened a few times and nothing’s been done.”
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly and AP polling editor Emily Swanson in Washington contributed to this report.
Iceland cuts teen drinking with curfews, youth centers
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — The clock strikes 10 p.m. on a Friday night when the “Parent Patrol” enters a popular playground in suburban Reykjavik. The teens turn down the music and reach for their phones to check the time: It’s ticking into curfew.
Every weekend, parents all over the Icelandic capital embark on a two-hour evening walk around their neighborhood, checking on youth hangouts.
The walk is one step toward Iceland’s success into turning around a crisis in teenage drinking. Focusing on local participation and promoting more music and sports options for students, the island nation in the North Atlantic has dried up a teenage culture of drinking and smoking. Icelandic teens now have one of the lowest rates of substance abuse in Europe.
Other countries are taking notice. The Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis, the institute pioneering the project for the past two decades, says it currently advises 100 communities in 23 countries, from Finland to Chile, on cutting teen substance abuse.
“The key to success is to create healthy communities and by that get healthy individuals,” said Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, a sociology professor who founded the “Youth of Iceland” program, which now has rebranded as “Planet Youth.”
The secret, she says, is to keep young people busy and parents engaged without talking much about drugs or alcohol.
That stands in sharp contrast to other anti-abuse programs, which try to sway teenagers with school lectures and scary, disgusting ads showing smokers’ rotten lungs or eggs in a frying pan to represent an intoxicated brain.
“Telling teenagers not to use drugs can backlash and actually get them curious to try them,” Sigfusdottir said.
In 1999, when thousands of teenagers would gather in downtown Reykjavik every weekend, surveys showed 56% of Icelandic 16-year-olds drank alcohol and about as many had tried smoking. Years later, Iceland has the lowest rates for drinking and smoking among the 35 countries measured in the 2015 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs.
On average, 80% of European 16-year-olds have tasted alcohol at least once, compared with 35% in Iceland, the only country where more than half of those students completely abstains from alcohol. Denmark — another wealthy Nordic country — has the highest rates of teen drinking, along with Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic, where 92% to 96% have consumed alcohol.
In the U.S., teen drinking is a significant health concern, because many U.S. teens are driving cars and don’t have access to good public transportation like teens in Europe. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that while U.S. high school drinking has declined substantially in the last 20 years to 32.8% in 2015, 17.7% of U.S. high school students still binge drink at least once a month. The CDC also reports that excessive drinking accounts for around 4,300 deaths a year in the U.S. among people under 21.
Reykjavik Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson said the Icelandic plan “is all about society giving better options” for teens than substance abuse. He believes the wide variety of opportunities that now keep students busy and inspired has dramatically altered the country’s youth culture.
Yet better options cost money. Local municipalities like Reykjavik have invested in sport halls, music schools and youth centers. To make the programs widely available, parents are offered a $500 annual voucher toward sports or music programs for their children.
As a teen, Eggertsson remembers taking the bus downtown on weekend nights to wander the streets of Reykjavik “without really going anywhere.”
“I remember watching a friend puke behind a police station and fishing another one from the harbor after falling in,” the 46-year-old father of four told The Associated Press. “What was socially acceptable then would now be a scandalous headline in the paper.”
Today’s news articles about teenagers have a different tone: Anxiety and symptoms of depression have never been higher, particularly among girls, where the rate has doubled in the past ten years. Vaping has replaced tobacco use, with about 40% of Icelandic 16-year-olds having tried the electronic cigarettes.
Researchers say the “Planet Youth” prevention model is evolving constantly because it is based on annual surveys to detect trends and measure policy effectiveness.
The group of parents patrolling the K?rar neighborhood — a lawyer, an advertising agent and a diplomat, among others — walk across empty parking lots to pass by known teenage hangouts.
By law — introduced when Icelandic police routinely dealt with alcohol-fueled street gatherings — children under 12 are not allowed to be outside after 8 p.m. without parents and those 13 to 16 not past 10 p.m. Over summer, when school is out, the curfew is extended by two hours.
“We tell the kids if they are out too late, polite and nice, and then they go home,” said Heidar Atlason, a veteran member of the patrol.
Over Iceland’s harsh winter, the one parent admits, evenings sometime pass without running into any students. Modern teens meet online rather than outside.
Wildfire forces 4,000 people to evacuate Spain’s Canary Islands
MADRID — Around 4,000 people were evacuated Sunday because of wildfires that, for the second time in a week, ravaged the countryside of one of Spain’s Canary Islands.
The latest blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon near the town of Valleseco on Gran Canaria island in the Atlantic Ocean archipelago.
By Sunday afternoon, the fire had taken two different directions, burning more than 4,200 acres as it continued advancing, the provincial government said in a series of tweets.
Nine helicopters and two planes were aiding at least 600 people including firefighters and army emergency personnel who were working in shifts to tackle the blaze.
Officials described the fire as having “great potential” to spread. The island was experiencing temperatures close to 104 degrees, humidity levels below 30 percent and strong winds, which usually provide what experts call the “perfect storm” for virulent wildfires.
“The environmental damage has already been done,” said Angel Victor Torres, the region’s president, in comments carried by the private Europa Press news agency.
“We are facing a complicated situation in which the security of people is the priority now,” the official added.
Evacuations extended to at least 40 towns in the vicinity of Valleseco.
At least 3,700 acres of field and low forest burned in the same area last week.
Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months. Nearly half of Spain’s provinces were on alert Sunday for a high risk of fires, according to the country’s weather agency AEMET.
From tusks to tails, nations eye trade in endangered species
GENEVA — From guitars to traditional medicines and from tusk to tail, mankind’s exploitation of the planet’s fauna and flora is putting some of them at risk of extinction. Representatives of some 180 nations are meeting in Geneva to agree on protections for vulnerable species, taking up issues including the trade in ivory and the demand for shark fin soup.
The World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which takes place every three years, aims to make sure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants doesn’t jeopardize their survival.
The conference opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 28, with key decisions expected to be finalized in the last two days. It had originally been due to take place in Colombo in May and June, but was moved to Geneva after a series of terror attacks in the Sri Lankan capital.
Three months ago, the first comprehensive U.N. report on biodiversity warned that extinction is looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals. There are growing concerns that policymakers aren’t acting quickly enough to stop it.
“Business as usual is no longer an option … The rate of wildlife extinction is accelerating,” said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero in her opening remarks to the conference.
“The assessment confirms that nature’s dangerous decline is unprecedented,” Higuero said.
The meeting also comes just days after the Trump administration announced plans to water down the U.S. Endangered Species Act — a message that could echo among attendees at the CITES conference, even if the U.S. move is more about domestic policy than international trade.
Alain Berset, head of the home affairs department of host Switzerland, noted that sustainable management of threatened species “of course requires taking into account the interests and the needs of the countries where these species live.”
CITES bans trade in some products entirely, while permitting international trade in other species provided it doesn’t hurt their numbers in the wild.
Demand is diverse for animal and plant products, prized for their medicinal properties or as pets, culinary delicacies, and products for knitwear and handbags — among many other uses.
Customs officials around the world know to be on the lookout for the CITES logo on shipments of plants and animals across borders: It amounts to a highly respected seal of approval that trade in such species is legitimate.
The meeting’s agenda contains 56 proposals to change — mostly strengthen — the level of protection among vulnerable or endangered species. But some argue that protections should be downgraded because the relevant populations have stabilized or even increased. Officials say the decisions are to be based on science, not political or other considerations.
“The new wildlife trade rules … cover an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, trees and other plants. Twenty listing proposals are inspired by concern over the growing appetite of the exotic pet trade for charismatic amphibians and reptiles,” CITES says.
Africa is facing an internal debate about elephants and ivory.
Zambia — which argues its population of wild African elephants is large and stable, at about 27,000 — wants to “downlist” that population to allow for ivory stockpile sales and exports of hunting trophies, hides and leathers. A few other countries in southern Africa want another rule on elephants eased. But 10 other countries — all but one African — want total protection for elephants from any international ivory trade.
Israel is even proposing tougher regulations on the legal trade of mammoth ivory, hoping to undercut illegal traffickers of elephant tusk who sneakily try to pass it off as “ice ivory” — ivory that comes from mammoth tusks.
Elephant and mammoth tusks can be almost indistinguishable to the untrained eye, and the mammoth ivory trade has become a booming business. Conference attendees will have to determine whether products from a long-extinct species can or should be covered by CITES.
Advocacy group Avaaz says one key question is whether Japan, home to the world’s largest legal ivory market, will join other countries committed to closing their ivory trade.
“Japan’s ivory market is fueling the international illegal ivory trade,” Avaaz campaigner Andy Legon said in an e-mail. “And with elephants facing extinction, China, the U.S., Hong Kong SAR, Singapore and others have recently committed to closing their ivory markets.”
Go Tsurumi, chairman of the Japan Federation of Ivory Arts and Crafts Association, insisted some people who live alongside elephants in Africa would be “very disappointed” if domestic demand for ivory is cut off in places like Japan.
“The many people who work in the ivory business will no longer be able to continue with their work in that business — and that is a serious problem,” he said.
Flora, arguably a less glamorous subject than animal life, also gets spots on the agenda. One proposal, for example, would exempt musical instruments from trade restrictions on a type of rosewood that’s prized by guitar makers.
Also on the agenda are sharks. Some researchers say commercial demand for shark fins — largely driven by the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup — is decimating populations.
Sharks are getting some support in high places, including from retired basketball all-star Yao Ming, who led China’s Olympic team three times. Yao became a WildAid ambassador in 2006 when he signed a pledge to give up shark fin soup and has since appeared in numerous ads calling for diners to skip the luxury soup to save sharks.
WildAid, an environmental group, also says Yao was instrumental in bringing about China’s ivory ban two years ago.
Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society said dried shark fin can command up to $1,000 per kilogram, and listing more shark species to the CITES list would be just one of several measures needed to help vulnerable populations of the predators of the deep.
“You’ve got this huge, unsustainable global trade in shark fin and huge parts of it, 80%, are not regulated, with millions of animals dying,” he told a Geneva news conference this week. “We’re watching them disappear before our eyes.”
Dr. Abdulla Naseer, the Maldives’ environment minister, said his island nation supports three proposals to protect 18 species of sharks and rays, namely the mako shark, white-spotted wedgefish and giant guitarfish.
“We would be ensuring future trade is sustainable … before it’s too late,” he said. “We want to see the oceans protected for future generations.”
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten reported this story in Geneva and AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from London. AP writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.
Early study results suggest 2 Ebola treatments saving lives
WASHINGTON — Two of four experimental Ebola drugs being tested in Congo seem to be saving lives, international health authorities announced Monday.
The preliminary findings prompted an early halt to a major study on the drugs and a decision to prioritize their use in the African country, where a yearlong outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people.
The early results mark “some very good news,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped fund the study. With these drugs, “we may be able to improve the survival of people with Ebola.”
The two drugs — one developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and the other by NIH researchers — are antibodies that work by blocking the virus.
While research shows there is an effective albeit experimental vaccine against Ebola — one now being used in Congo — no studies have signaled which of several potential treatments were best to try once people became sick. During the West Africa Ebola epidemic several years ago, studies showed a hint that another antibody mixture named ZMapp worked, but not clear proof.
So with the current outbreak in Congo, researchers compared ZMapp to three other drugs — Regeneron’s compound, the NIH’s called mAb114 and an antiviral drug named remdesivir.
On Friday, independent study monitors reviewed how the first several hundred patients in the Congo study were faring — and found enough difference to call an early halt to the trial. The panel determined that the Regeneron compound clearly was working better than the rest, and the NIH antibody wasn’t far behind, Fauci explained. Next, researchers will do further study to nail down how well those two compounds work.
The data is preliminary, Fauci stressed. But in the study, significantly fewer people died among those given the Regeneron drug or the NIH’s — about 30% compared to half who received ZMapp. More striking, when patients sought care early — before too much virus was in their bloodstream — mortality was just 6% with the Regeneron drug and 11% with the NIH compound, compared to about 24% for ZMapp, he said.
Among people who receive no care in the current outbreak, about three-fourths die, said Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization. All of Congo’s Ebola treatment units have access to the two drugs, he added, saying he was hopeful that the news would persuade more patients to seek care — as soon as symptoms appear.
Tackling Congo’s outbreak has been complicated both by conflict in the region and because many people don’t believe Ebola is real and choose to stay at home when they’re sick, which spurs spread of the virus.
“Getting people into care more quickly is absolutely vital,” Ryan said. “The fact that we have very clear evidence now on the effectiveness of the drugs, we need to get that message out to communities.”
Fauci said Regeneron and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which has licensed the NIH compound, told authorities enough doses are readily available.
One issue researchers will have to analyze: Occasionally people who receive the Ebola vaccine still become sick, including some in the treatment study, which raises the question of whether their earlier protection inflated the drugs’ survival numbers.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Iranian tanker sought by U.S. heads to unknown destination
GIBRALTAR — An Iranian supertanker hauling $130 million worth of light crude oil that the U.S. suspects to be tied to a sanctioned organization has lifted its anchor and begun moving away from Gibraltar, marine traffic monitoring data showed late Sunday.
The trail left by GPS data on Marinetraffic.com, a vessel tracking service, showed the Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously known as Grace 1, moving shortly before midnight. The tanker slowly steered southeast toward a narrow stretch of international waters separating Morocco and the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
The vessel had been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria. Gibraltar authorities rejected an eleventh-hour attempt by the United States’ to reseize the oil tanker on Sunday, arguing that EU regulations are less strict than U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The vessel’s next destination was not immediately known.
An on-duty officer at the Port Authority of Gibraltar declined to comment on the ship’s moves and deferred questions to the government. The Gibraltar government press office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, had earlier announced on Twitter that the ship was expected to leave Sunday night.
The tanker’s release comes amid a growing confrontation between Iran and the West after President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.
Shortly after the tanker’s detention in early July near Gibraltar — a British overseas territory — Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which remains held by the Islamic country. Analysts had said the Iranian ship’s release by Gibraltar could mean that the Stena Impero goes free.
Gibraltar’s government said Sunday it was allowing the Iranian tanker’s release because “The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.”
In a last-ditch effort to stop the release, the U.S. unsealed a warrant Friday to seize the vessel and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, citing violations of U.S. sanctions as well as money laundering and terrorism statutes.
U.S. officials told reporters that the oil aboard the ship was worth some $130 million and that it was destined for a designated terror organization.
The unsealed court documents argued that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are the ship’s true owners through a network of front companies.
Authorities in Gibraltar said Sunday that, unlike in the U.S., the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is not designated a terrorist organization under EU, U.K. or Gibraltar law.
The Iranian ship was detained while sailing under a Panamanian flag with the name Grace 1. As of Sunday, it had been renamed the Adrian Darya 1 and had hoisted an Iranian flag. Workers were seen painting the new name on the side of the ship Saturday.
Iran has not disclosed the Adrian Darya 1’s intended destination and has denied it was ever headed for Syria.
The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said he had been assured in writing by the Iranian government that the tanker wouldn’t unload its cargo in Syria.
The Astralship shipping agency in Gibraltar, which has been hired to handle paperwork and arrange logistics for the Adrian Darya 1, had told The Associated Press that a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals had been expected to replace the sailors on board.
Messages seeking comment from the Iranian Embassy in London were not immediately returned.
AP reporters Raphael Satter in London and Mehdi Fattahi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.
Hundreds of thousands turn out for peaceful Hong Kong protest
HONG KONG — Hong Kong streets were turned into rivers of umbrellas on Sunday as hundreds of thousands of people marched through heavy rain down a major road in the Chinese territory, where massive pro-democracy demonstrations have become a regular weekend activity. Organizers said at least 1.7 million participated, though the police estimate was far lower.
The assembly was peaceful, with no reports of violence, making for a rare calm weekend in a protest movement that has been marked by violent clashes with police. Law enforcement officers kept a low profile, with no riot police seen from the procession’s main routes. When stragglers convened outside a government complex in the late evening, other protesters urged them to go home.
Demonstrators who were shining laser pointers at a government building were convinced to leave, prompting applause from others in the group.
“We hope to see whether the government gives a response to this peaceful protest,” said Michael Leung, a 24-year-old who was ushering his fellow demonstrators away. “If we get a negative response, we cannot control the next (gathering).”
Organizer Bonnie Leung of the Civil Human Rights Front said earlier in the day that she hoped there would be no “chaotic situations.”
“We hope we can show the world that Hong Kong people can be totally peaceful,” she said.
The Civil Human Rights Front had organized three previous massive marches in Hong Kong since June. The movement, however, has been increasingly marked by clashes with police as demonstrators vent their frustrations over what they perceive to be the government’s blatant refusal to respond to their demands.
“Peace is the No. 1 priority today,” said Kiki Ma, a 28-year-old accountant who participated in the march. “We want to show that we aren’t like the government.”
While police granted approval for the rally, they didn’t approve an accompanying march. Demonstrators nevertheless fanned out and filled the streets, as there was not enough space at the designated assembly area.
Public transit trains did not stop at stations near the assembly because of overcrowding.
Jimmy Shan of the Civil Human Rights Front said the group estimated that at least 1.7 million took part in the rally. He said the figure did not include those who were not able to make it to Victoria Park — where the march began — due to traffic constraints.
Police, whose crowd figures are generally lower than the organizers’ estimates, said the turnout at the assigned location and during the designated time period was 128,000. Many protesters, however, did not follow the pre-approved guidelines laid out by the authorities.
In Beijing, You Wenze, a spokesman for China’s ceremonial legislature, condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
You called the lawmakers’ comments “a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.”
He said that Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people and the Chinese population as a whole rejected the actions of a “very small group of violent protesters” as well as “any interference of foreign forces.”
You did not mention any specific lawmaker, but numerous U.S. senators and Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have affirmed the U.S. commitment to human rights and urged Hong Kong’s government to end the standoff.
Congress also has the power to pass legislation affecting Hong Kong’s relationship with the U.S. in ways that could further erode the territory’s reputation for stability and rule of law. That includes the recent reintroduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in Congress, which would among its other provisions require the secretary of state to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment afforded to the city.
More directly, President Donald Trump could simply issue an executive order suspending Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S., a move that could have a devastating effect on the local economy at a time when Beijing and Washington are engaged in a bitter trade war.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Beijing in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems,” which promised residents certain democratic rights not afforded to people in mainland China. But some Hong Kongers have accused the Communist Party-ruled central government of eroding their freedoms in recent years.
The protest movement’s demands include the resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, democratic elections and an independent investigation into police use of force.
Harley Ho, a 20-year-old social work student who attended Sunday’s rally, said protesters were undeterred by the rain and would not rest until their demands were met.
“We will stand here, we will take action until they respond to us,” she said. “In the rain, our spirit becomes stronger.”
Members of China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police force have been training for days across the border in Shenzhen, including on Sunday morning, fueling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests. The Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the demonstrations.
Associated Press journalists Ken Moritsugu, Yves Dam Van and Phoebe Lai in Hong Kong, Dake Kang in Shenzhen, China, and Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.
Leaked memo says Britain faces economic, social chaos if it goes through with a ‘no-deal Brexit’
LONDON — An increasingly likely “no-deal” Brexit could wreak havoc on Britain’s economy, infrastructure and social fabric, the government says in classified documents leaked to a British newspaper.
The costs of food and social care would rise, while medicines could be delayed, the Sunday Times reported. Border delays would interrupt fuel supplies. Ports would suffer severe disruptions and recover only partially after three months, leaving traffic at 50 to 70 percent of the current flow.
Those are some of the effects predicted by “Operation Yellowhammer,” which the newspaper said was compiled this month by Britain’s Cabinet Office and available to those with “need to know” security clearances.
Government ministers pushed back against the reports on Sunday, saying the documents were outdated and the government had ramped up its no-deal planning in recent weeks.
Brexit critics have warned that crashing out of the European Union without an agreement with the rest of the bloc will damage the British economy, devalue its currency and create instability. British leaders have sought unsuccessfully since the 2016 Brexit vote to pass a “divorce” plan.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit supporter, has promised to get his country out of the EU, deal or no deal, during his first 100 days in office. He’s set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron this week to press his case for a new deal. At the moment, negotiations are at a standstill.
Opposition lawmakers have been discussing ways of blocking a no-deal Brexit, including bringing down the government by calling a no-confidence vote in early September.
It’s unclear whether Johnson would win such a vote.
The Yellowhammer documents provide a sobering view of what a no-deal Brexit could mean for Britain.
The Sunday Times said the government predicts a need to restore a “hard border” of limited, controlled crossing points in Ireland, which could cause protests.
Johnson has maintained that a “can-do spirit” can help avert such a change. But the government anticipates that measures to avoid a hard border would likely “prove unsustainable.”
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, tweeted that the country was “respectful” of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, but reiterated that a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, “must be avoided.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said there would be “no chance” of Congress approving a U.S.-U.K. trade deal after Brexit if it undermined the Good Friday agreement, the 20-year-old deal between Britain and Ireland that helped advance peace in Northern Ireland.
The government warns that some businesses would halt trade to avoid tariffs, while others who keep trading would pass higher costs on to customers. Agriculture “will be the hardest hit, given its reliance on highly integrated cross-border supply chains” and high trade barriers. And the black market could grow, it says, especially in border communities.
Protests around the country could monopolize police resources.
Michael Gove, a senior lawmaker in the ruling Conservative Party who is effectively in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit, told the BBC that the documents were “old” and detailed “worst-case” scenarios.
“Since it was published and circulated, the government has taken significant additional steps to ensure we are prepared to leave on October 31, deal or no deal,” Gove said.
But he conceded that if there were a no-deal Brexit, there could be some “bumps in the road.”
The Sunday Times quoted a senior government individual saying the findings present not a worst-case scenario but a “most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal.”
Other possible ramifications detailed in the memo:
Increased costs for social-care providers caused by inflation could lead some providers to fail.
Temporary cuts in tariffs would render the oil industry uncompetitive, closing two refineries, causing the loss of 2,000 jobs, spurring strikes and further disrupting fuel supplies.
Delays at European airports, the Eurotunnel and other transportation hubs.
Months of slowdowns of over four hours at the Spanish border with Britain’s overseas territory of Gibraltar, which could harm the area’s economy.
Shortages of certain fresh foods leading to less choice, higher prices and potential panic buying.
A risk of disruption to supplies of chemicals used to treat water.
A risk of dust-ups between British and European fishing boats in British waters.
The Government of Gibraltar said Sunday that mentions of the territory in the leaked documents are “out of date” and it has now “commissioned all necessary works” to accommodate extra traffic if needed. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said that while the territory’s government opposes a no-deal Brexit, it is ready for what it called the worst-case scenarios put forward in the leaked report.
The Sunday Times quoted a senior government individual as saying the Yellowhammer findings present not a worst-case scenario but a “most realistic assessment of what the public face with no deal.”
As the clock ticks down to Oct. 31, the day Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, the government insists that it wants a deal, but is preparing for every eventuality.
But the leaked documents show Britain is mostly unprepared amid “EU exit fatigue” after the country missed a planned departure date in March, the Sunday Times reported.