'I feel like Job': Hurricane lays waste to homes in Bahamas
FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) — The ground crunched under Greg Alem's feet on Wednesday as he walked over the ruins of his home, laid waste by Hurricane Dorian. He touched a splintered beam of wood and pointed to the fallen trees, overcome by memories.
"We planted those trees ourselves. Everything has a memory, you know," he said. "It's so, so sad. ... In the Bible there is a person called Job, and I feel like Job right now. He's lost everything, but his faith kept him strong."
The devastation wrought by Dorian — and the terror it inflicted during its day-and-a-half mauling of the Bahamas — came into focus Wednesday as the passing of the storm revealed a muddy, debris-strewn landscape of smashed and flooded-out homes on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands. Officially the death toll from the strongest hurricane on record ever to hit the country stood at seven, but there was little doubt it would rise.
With a now-distant Dorian pushing its way up the Southeastern U.S. coast, menacing Georgia and the Carolinas, many people living in the Bahamas were in shock as they slowly came out of shelters and checked on their homes.
In one community, George Bolter stood in the bright sunshine and surveyed the ruins of what was once his home. He picked at the debris, trying to find something, anything, salvageable. A couple of walls were the only thing left.
UK Parliament delivers Boris Johnson third defeat in 2 days
LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Wednesday for a national election on Oct. 15, saying it was the only way out of Britain's Brexit impasse after opposition lawmakers moved to block his plan to leave the European Union next month without a divorce deal.
But Parliament delivered Johnson his third defeat in two days, refusing to vote in sufficient numbers for a motion triggering a vote. Johnson indicated he would try again, saying an election was the only way forward, and accusing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of being afraid of the public's judgment.
"The obvious conclusion, I'm afraid, is that he does not think he will win," Johnson said.
After lawmakers in the House of Commons approved a bill designed to halt a no-deal Brexit, he said: "There is only one way forward for the country."
Johnson insists Britain must leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and he accused the opposition of trying to "overturn the biggest democratic vote in our history," referring to the outcome of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU.
'Can't feel my heart:' IG says separated kids traumatized
WASHINGTON (AP) — Separated from his father at the U.S.-Mexico border last year, the little boy, about 7 or 8, was under the delusion that his dad had been killed. And he thought he was next.
Other children believed their parents had abandoned them. And some suffered physical symptoms because of their mental trauma, clinicians reported to investigators with a government watchdog.
"You get a lot of 'my chest hurts,' even though everything is fine" medically, a clinician told investigators. The children would describe emotional symptoms: "Every heartbeat hurts," or "I can't feel my heart."
Children separated during the Trump administration's "zero tolerance policy" last year, many already distressed in their home countries or by their journey, showed more fear, feelings of abandonment and post-traumatic stress symptoms than children who were not separated, according to a report Wednesday from the inspector general's office in the Department of Health and Human Services.
The chaotic reunification process only added to their ordeal.
Michigan to become 1st state to ban flavored e-cigarettes
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer moved Wednesday to make her state the first to ban flavored electronic cigarettes, accusing companies of using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to "hook children on nicotine."
The Democrat ordered the state health department to issue emergency rules that will prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, including to adults, and the misleading marketing of e-cigarettes. Retailers will have 30 days to comply with the rules once they're filed in coming weeks. The rules will almost certainly be challenged in court.
New York last November began taking steps to bar the sale of flavored e-cigarettes but withdrew proposed rules to allow more time for legal review. The federal government and states ban the sale of vaping products to minors, yet government survey figures show that last year, one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping in the previous month. Top government health officials, including the surgeon general, have flagged the trend as an epidemic.
"Right now, companies selling vaping products are using candy flavors to hook children on nicotine and misleading claims to promote the belief that these products are safe. That ends today," Whitmer said in a written statement, noting that Michigan's chief medical executive determined that youth vaping constitutes a public health emergency.
As of last week, 215 possible cases of severe pulmonary disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes had been reported by 25 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan officials are investigating six such cases. At least two deaths in the U.S. have been linked to vaping, one announced in Illinois last month and another in Oregon announced this week. The Oregon death is the first linked by health officials to a product purchased at a marijuana dispensary.
Walmart introduces new gun restrictions but will they help?
NEW YORK (AP) — Walmart has won praise from gun control advocates for its decision to discontinue sales of certain gun ammunition and request that customers no longer openly carry firearms in its stores. But whether the moves will translate into fewer guns on the street remains an open question.
The announcement Tuesday follows similar steps by other retailers responding to public pressure to restrict gun and ammunition sales. In March, Dick's Sporting Goods said it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at 125 of its 700-plus locations. Meanwhile, Starbucks, Target, Wendy's and most recently Kroger have also asked customers not to openly carry guns when visiting their stores.
Supporters of stricter gun laws say that as the nation's largest retailer, Walmart will have outsized influence on the gun debate, sending a strong message to Congress as well as other corporations to also take action.
"Walmart deserves enormous credit for joining the strong and growing majority of Americans who know that we have too many guns in our country and they are too easy to get," said Igor Volsky, executive director and founder of Guns Down America, in a statement. "That work doesn't end with Walmart's decision today. As Congress comes back to consider gun violence, Walmart should make it clear that it stands with Americans who are demanding real change."
Still, most firearms sales come from thousands of unaffiliated gun shops or gun shows, not big retail chains, so it's not clear how much difference Walmart's moves will make. About half of its more than 4,750 U.S. stores sell firearms, or only around 2% of all U.S. firearms.
Hong Kong withdraws extradition bill that sparked protests
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced Wednesday the withdrawal of an extradition bill that sparked months of demonstrations, bowing to one of the protesters' demands in the hope of ending the increasingly violent unrest.
But activists rejected the decision as insufficient and vowed not to yield until the government accepts other demands including an independent investigation into alleged police brutality against protesters, the unconditional release of those detained and greater democracy.
The bill would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trials. It has prompted massive protests since June that disrupted transport links and caused the airport to shut down earlier this month.
Lam said the government would not accept other demands, and instead named two new members to a police watchdog agency investigating police misconduct.
"The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a recorded television message.
Pope on critics: It's 'an honor if the Americans attack me'
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis acknowledged his growing opposition within the conservative right-wing of the U.S. Catholic Church and said in off-hand remarks aboard the papal plane Wednesday it is "an honor if the Americans attack me."
Francis commented on critics of his papacy when he received a copy of a new book about his detractors in the United States, "How America Wants to Change the Pope." Author Nicholas Seneze, who covers the Vatican for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, presented it to Francis on a flight to southern Africa.
The plane landed in Maputo, Mozambique late in the afternoon. Francis is on a trip this that also takes him to Madagascar and Mauritius.
In his book, Seneze charts the fierce criticism of Francis among American conservatives who loathe his outreach to migrants and China, his denunciation of free-market capitalism, his environmental concerns and his relaxation of church rules on the death penalty and sacraments for civilly remarried Catholics. Some have gone so far as to accuse Francis of heresy.
The pope's most outspoken conservative critics in the U.S. include Cardinal Raymond Burke, who Francis ousted as a Vatican supreme court justice, and former White House adviser Steve Bannon. Well-funded, right-wing Catholic media amplified their disapproval. Wealthy Catholics are putting money behind initiatives to discredit Francis' allies with the goal of electing a conservative, doctrine-minded churchman as the next pope.
Military base cuts affect schools, target ranges, more
WASHINGTON (AP) — Schools, target ranges and maintenance facilities are among $3.6 billion in military base projects to be cut by President Donald Trump to pay for 175 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, stoking the ire of Capitol Hill Democrats, who promise they won't replace the money needed to revive the projects.
Projects in 23 states, 19 countries and three U.S. territories would be stalled or killed by the move, though just $1.1 billion in cuts would strike the continental U.S., according to a list released Wednesday by the Pentagon. Almost $700 million would come from projects in U.S. territories, with another $1.8 billion coming from projects on overseas bases.
Trump's move would take the biggest step yet in delivering on his longstanding promise to build a wall to block immigrants from entering the country illegally. But that may come at the expense of projects that the Pentagon acknowledged may be difficult to fund anew.
A senior defense official told reporters the Pentagon is having conversations with members of Congress to urge them to restore the funding. The official agreed that the department has "a lot of work ahead of us," considering that Congress has given no guarantee it will provide money for the defunded projects. The official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
In addition, new stretches of fencing proposed along the Rio Grande and through a wildlife refuge in Arizona promise to ignite legal battles that could delay the wall projects as well.
YouTube to pay $170M fine after violating kids' privacy law
WASHINGTON (AP) — Google will pay $170 million to settle allegations its YouTube video service collected personal data on children without their parents' consent.
The company agreed to work with video creators to label material aimed at kids and said it will limit data collection when users view such videos, regardless of their age.
Some lawmakers and children's advocacy groups, however, complained that the settlement terms aren't strong enough to rein in a company whose parent, Alphabet, made a profit of $30.7 billion last year on revenue of $136.8 billion, mostly from targeted ads.
Google will pay $136 million to the Federal Trade Commission and $34 million to New York state, which had a similar investigation. The fine is the largest the FTC has levied against Google, but it's tiny compared with the $5 billion fine against Facebook this year for privacy violations.
YouTube "baited kids with nursery rhymes, cartoons, and more to feed its massively profitable behavioral advertising business," Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a tweet. "It was lucrative, and it was illegal."
Margaret Atwood returns us to Gilead in 'The Testaments'
TORONTO (AP) — From a park bench on the Victoria College campus, Margaret Atwood — class of 1961 — can trace her life of the mind.
"It was here that I decided to become a Victorian (literature student) at a time when it wasn't at all fashionable. They were considered gauche, kitsch, sentimental, absurd," she says, remembering the times she would dash back and forth across the park to take English classes on one side and history and philosophy on the other. "But the foundations of women's equality — John Stuart Mill, those kinds of thinkers — were Victorians and the position of women was a real hotbed topic, extending all the way from proper undergarments to higher education.
"One of my cherished facts is that women weren't allowed into classical art schools because they might see naked women," she adds with a laugh. "What a shock!"
Atwood is among the world's most celebrated authors and most famous Canadians, but on this humid afternoon she is undisturbed by passersby, beyond a few who momentarily turn their heads at the woman in the dark sun hat and blue buttoned shirt.
Just months shy of her 80th birthday, the longtime Toronto resident has otherwise never been more noticed. She has written the year's most anticipated novel, "The Testaments," the sequel to her classic "The Handmaid's Tale" and a Booker Prize finalist. Its contents were so guarded over the summer that early review copies were sent under a different title for fear of their being stolen.