- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

Businesses reopening at scene of on-air shootings; gunman remembered for bizarre outbursts

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - Businesses are reopening at the scene of this week’s on-air shooting as more details surface of the gunman’s long history of confronting and bullying co-workers at a succession of television and customer-service jobs.

Friday’s reopening of Bridgewater Plaza comes two days after Vester Flanagan, 41, killed two journalists from a Roanoke TV station where he once worked, and wounded the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce official they were interviewing. The chamber’s lakeshore visitor center is set among tourist shops and restaurants in the strip mall in Moneta, about 20 miles southeast of Roanoke.

Flanagan’s hair-trigger temper became evident at least 15 years ago at WTWC-TV in Tallahassee, Florida, said Don Shafer, who hired him there in 1999. Shafer recalled Flanagan as a good reporter and a “clever, funny guy” - but said he also had conflicts with co-workers “to the point where he was threatening people.”

“Had some physical confrontations with a couple of people, and at one point became such a distraction that we finally had to terminate him,” said Shafer, now news director with XETV in San Diego.

After stints in California, Florida and North Carolina, Flanagan’s last television job was at WDBJ in Roanoke. On the day he was fired in 2013, he pressed a wooden cross into his boss’ hand and said, “You’ll need this,” as two police officers escorted him out. Cameraman Adam Ward filmed Flanagan’s departure.

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The Latest: Police say 71 dead migrants total in Austrian food truck, 3 suspects arrested

VIENNA (AP) - Austrian police say three people have been arrested in connection with the deaths of 71 migrants found in a food struck on an Austrian highway.

The toll includes eight women and four children, one of them an infant.

The death toll and the arrests were announced at a news conference Friday, a day after the vehicle was found on the main highway between Vienna and Budapest, Hungary.

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Libya authorities collect bodies from latest migrant disaster after drownings off coastal city

ZUWARA, Libya (AP) - Libyan authorities were collecting the bodies of migrants who drowned off the Libyan 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.

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.

Dozens of boats are launched from lawless Libya each week, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the surge.

Since a 2011 civil war that ended with the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammer Gadhafi, the oil-rich north African country has plunged into chaos.

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Puerto Rico braces for Tropical Storm Erika after it kills 4 people in Dominica

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 145 miles (235 kilometers) southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was moving west at 12 mph (19 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

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.”

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Sierra Leone Ebola survivor who miscarried, lost 21 relatives gives birth to healthy son

KENEMA, Sierra Leone (AP) - Ebola did not take Victoria Yillia’s life. And it could not prevent the birth of her son.

And yet it loomed, even on this, her happiest day.

She delivered her child just a few minutes’ walk from the ward where just last year she had hovered between life and death, and nurses and medical staff still wore full protective suits and masks for fear of any lingering infection. Doctors gave her formula and told her not to nurse her baby until they ran tests to be sure there were no traces of the virus in her breast milk.

Her husband Anthony beamed in the maternity ward as they talked about names for the boy nestled in a blanket with a yellow knit cap. But Victoria burst into tears: Her mother was not here to help her, to show her what to do with her first child. Nor was her grandmother, or her three older sisters.

The couple and their new baby are all that remain: Twenty-one members of her family died of Ebola when the virus ripped through this corner of Sierra Leone.

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Vatican says ex-envoy to Dominican Republic, charged with abusing minors, has died.

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who had been charged by church prosecutors with sexually abusing children in the Caribbean country, died Friday of apparent natural causes as he awaited trial, the Vatican said.

Jozef Wesolowski, 67, was found dead early Friday in the Vatican room where he has been held on house arrest, a statement from the Vatican said.

Vatican officials immediately intervened and initial checks “indicated that the death was from natural causes,” a press statement said.

It said the Vatican prosecutor ordered an immediate autopsy and that Pope Francis was informed.

Wesolowski had been due to go on trial in a Vatican tribunal on July 11 for allegedly causing grave psychological harm to victims and possessing an enormous quantity of child pornography. But on the morning of the hearing, he was hospitalized in intensive care because of an unidentified “sudden illness.” No new trial date was made public and the presiding judge had adjourned the trial indefinitely.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dismisses top officials after standoff with South Korea eases

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.

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Brazil’s Rousseff facing ‘political suicide bomber,’ growing calls for impeachment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - If the worst economic crisis in a decade, a massive corruption scandal centered on her ruling party and approval ratings in the single digits weren’t rough enough for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, she’s now faced with a “political suicide bomber.”

That would be Eduardo Cunha, the powerful speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress. Rousseff’s sworn enemy, he has been charged by her attorney general with taking millions in bribes in connection with a sprawling corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.

He’s also the man who can call for an impeachment vote in the Chamber of Deputies against the president, an action that two-thirds of Brazilians say they want to see happen, according to polls.

“Dilma is walking on the high wire without a net,” said Eliane Cantanhede, one of Brazil’s best-known political commentators for the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper and Globo television. “Nobody knows what Cunha is going to do, and this situation is a double-edged sword for Dilma.”

Cunha, an avowed obstructionist to important economic and political reform measures Rousseff needs to push through Congress, was weakened after federal prosecutors charged him last week with corruption, which “may be good for Dilma, because he’s losing the political backing to push through impeachment,” Cantanhede said.

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With endorsements and fundraising, Clinton quietly trying to discourage Biden from a 2016 bid

WASHINGTON (AP) - In ways both subtle and blunt, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign is sending a message to Vice President Joe Biden about his potential presidential campaign: This won’t be easy.

As Biden ponders a challenge to Clinton for the Democratic nomination, she has rolled out a string of high-profile endorsements in the early-voting contests of Iowa and South Carolina and scheduled an onslaught of fundraisers across the country in the effort to throw cold water on a possible Biden bid.

Donors who have publicly expressed support for a Biden run have been contacted by the Clinton team, according to donors and Democratic strategists who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private conversations. Even Clinton herself has made a few calls, they said, to express her disappointment.

While Clinton and her team speak warmly of Biden in public, they have taken steps to show their dominance over the party’s establishment and President Barack Obama’s political infrastructure in hopes of quietly discouraging the vice president from entering the race.

The effort comes as Clinton and the Democratic field of candidates prepare to address members of the Democratic National Committee on Friday during their summer meeting in Minneapolis. The night before her formal address, Clinton made her case in private briefings to attendees. Meanwhile, representatives from a super PAC backing Biden plan to woo delegates in his absence.

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Researchers team up with tribe to study Washington state glacier melting nearly 3 inches a day

MOUNT BAKER, Wash. (AP) - Mauri Pelto digs his crampons into the steep icy slope on Mount Baker in Washington state and watches as streams of water cascades off the thick mass of bare, bluish ice. Every 20 yards, the water carves vertical channels in the face of the glacier as it rushes downstream.

What little snow from last winter is already gone, so ice is melting off the glacier at a rate of nearly three inches a day this summer, he said.

“At the rate it’s losing mass, it won’t make it 50 years,” said Pelto, a glaciologist who returned this month for the 32nd year to study glaciers in the North Cascades range. “This is a dying glacier,” he said.

Glaciers on Mount Baker and other mountains in the North Cascades are thinning and retreating. Seven have disappeared over the past three decades, and the overall volume of glaciers in the range have lost about one-fifth of their volume.

The shrinking glaciers here mirror what is happening around the U.S. and worldwide: As the planet warms, glaciers are losing volume, some faster than others.

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