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State media: Iran fires cruise missiles during naval drill

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, amid heightened tensions with the U.S.State TV showed footage of missiles being launched from both land units and ships at sea but didn't elaborate on their range or other details. In July, Iran said it test-fired cruise missiles with a range of some 280 kilometers (some 275 miles). “Enemies should know that any violation and invasion of Iranian marine borders will be targeted by the cruise missiles from both coast and sea,” said Adm. Hamzeh Ali Kaviani, spokesman for the exercise. The two-day drill began Wednesday when the country's navy inaugurated its largest military vessel. The exercise takes place amid heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills. On Saturday, the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard held a naval parade in the Persian Gulf and a week earlier Iran held a massive drone maneuver across half the country. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing.Following the U.S.'s re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, Tehran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development as a series of escalating incidents pushed the two countries to the brink of war at the beginning of the year.

Indonesian searchers hunt for crashed plane's voice recorder

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Divers looking for a crashed plane's cockpit voice recorder were searching in mud and plane debris on the seabed between Indonesian islands Wednesday to retrieve information key to learning why the Sriwijaya Air jet nosedived into the water over the weekend.Indonesian navy divers on Tuesday recovered the flight data recorder from the jet that disappeared Saturday minutes after taking off from Jakarta with 62 people aboard. The information on both black boxes will be key to the crash investigation.The 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 had resumed commercial flights last month after almost nine months out of service because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration sent an airworthiness directive requiring operators of various Boeing 737 aircraft models, including the 737-500, to carry out engine checks before they can be flown again after being out of service. The order followed reports of engines shutting down in mid-flight because of corrosion in a key valve.Director General of Air Transportation Novie Riyanto said the plane was inspected on Dec. 2, including checks for engine corrosion, and was declared airworthy by Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry on Dec. 14. It resumed commercial flights on Dec. 22, according to ministry data. After returning to service, the plane made 132 flights, including the last one, according to aviation-data firm Flightradar24. Aviation experts said planes that are parked for long stretches can be returned to flight safely.“It depends on how the airline maintains the aircraft while it is grounded,” said William Waldock, an aviation-safety expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona. He said airlines should run engines periodically and perform other maintenance. “It tends to keep everything lubricated, and it reduces the likelihood of corrosion building up in places you don’t want it to be.”John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said preparing a long-grounded jet can be an intensive and expensive chore, taking a team of mechanics up to two weeks to check engines and make sure that electronic, hydraulic and fuel systems are operating and free of contamination.“My initial thought” on learning about the plane’s long grounding, “was if they did the proper due diligence,” Goglia said, “because sometimes that stuff doesn’t show up for a little while.”Navy officials have said the two black boxes were buried in seabed mud under tons of sharp objects in the plane’s wreckage, slowing the search efforts. A signal that may be from the cockpit voice recorder was detected near where the flight data recorder was recovered, between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain just north of Jakarta.At least 160 divers were deployed Wednesday to boost the search for the recorder that holds conversations between pilots.More than 3,600 rescue personnel, 13 helicopters, 54 ships and 20 raft boats are searching in the area where the jet crashed and have found parts of the plane and human remains.So far, the searchers have sent nearly 90 body bags containing human remains to police identification experts and anguished family members have been providing samples for DNA tests to the disaster victim identification unit who on Tuesday said they had identified four victims.Indonesia's aviation industry grew quickly after the nation's economy was opened following the fall of dictator Suharto in the late 1990s. Safety concerns led the United States and European Union to ban Indonesian carriers for years, both since lifted due to better compliance with international aviation standards. ___Associated Press writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

Kuwait's government quits, deepening political deadlock

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Kuwait’s Cabinet submitted its resignation Tuesday, the latest development in a cycle of clashes between the government and lawmakers that long has convulsed the sheikhdom with the strongest parliament in the Gulf.The move, while not a surprise after some 30 lawmakers backed a no-confidence motion against the government this month, reveals how the country's politicking has caused instability, diminished public confidence and aggravated the oil-rich state's worst economic crisis in decades. The ministers quit after the recently elected members of parliament, more than 60% of them new faces, grilled the prime minister to protest his new Cabinet appointments. The decision to reinstate the old parliament speaker, who hails from an elite merchant family, stirred anger among new lawmakers skeptical of corruption and the country’s patronage system.The prime minister must now submit the resignations to the country's ruling emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who is widely expected to accept them. During their interrogation of the prime minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah last week, lawmakers accused him of staffing the Cabinet with “provocative and unqualified members,” according to local media. Other sore points included the choices for interior minister and justice minister, who opposed a draft law on Kuwait’s stateless people that parliament had hoped to pass.The tensions boiled over in last week’s parliamentary session, with footage showing shouting matches and physical brawls in the chamber. Security guards struggled to restrain lawmakers wearing traditional headdress and robes as they clambered over rows of chairs, screaming at supporters and friends of the parliament speaker.“The lawmakers are trying to bring reforms, but they feel their hands are tied because the government keeps bringing in the same old faces,” said Mohammed al-Yousef, an independent Kuwaiti political analyst. “The system is designed to create deadlock.”The resignation of the government raises concerns that the emir may dissolve parliament and force a second election in as many months. It wouldn’t be the first time. Kuwait’s unusual combination of an emir-appointed government and elected parliament frequently gives rise to wrangling that analysts say impedes the country’s economic and social progress. The parliament can introduce legislation and question ministers, though the country’s emir retains ultimate authority and ruling family members hold senior posts. Last year, the ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Kuwait for the first time in its history as the coronavirus pandemic and plunging oil prices burned a hole in the country's finances. Even with the treasury rapidly depleting, the government has no legal framework to deficit-spend beyond its current limit of $33 billion without parliamentary approval. Lawmakers have fiercely opposed raising the debt ceiling, fearing the money will be pillaged thanks to corruption.

Fox News shuffles daytime lineup; CNN makes changes

NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel is shuffling its daytime lineup and adding a new hourlong opinion show at 7 p.m. Eastern to replace that hour's current anchor, Martha MacCallum.Both Fox and CNN announced lineup changes Monday, as is often the case for news organizations with a new president about to take power. CNN's Jake Tapper and Fox's John Roberts are among those taking on new roles.Starting next Monday, Fox's 7 p.m. hour will be led by a rotating group of opinion hosts, with a permanent host to be named later. For years, first with Shepard Smith and then with MacCallum, Fox has stressed news instead of opinion in that hour.Yet MacCallum, who had been comfortably ahead in the ratings, has slipped behind both MSNBC and CNN at 7 p.m. since the election, the Nielsen company said. That's also when Newsmax has seen its greatest success with a strongly pro-Trump show hosted by Greg Kelly.In fact, Newsmax issued a statement that its improved daytime and 7 p.m. ratings since the election has triggered changes at Fox. “The Fox is on the run,” Newsmax said.Fox denied that Newsmax had anything to do with its moves, and pointed to a quote from an October article that said schedule changes were being considered. While Newsmax has sharply increased its audience since the election, with viewers spurred on by President Donald Trump, Fox routinely has more than triple Newsmax's viewers.Still, there's been a dramatic change in Fox's daytime position.During the first three months of 2020, Fox's average of 2.1 million viewers during the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekday hours was essentially equal to CNN and MSNBC combined, Nielsen said. Since the election, CNN has averaged 1.92 million viewers in those daytime hours, with Fox and MSNBC both at 1.53 million.Roberts, Fox's White House correspondent during the Trump administration, will co-anchor a daily news show from 1 to 3 p.m. Eastern, with Sandra Smith starting Monday, Fox said. Bill Hemmer is moving back to mornings, co-hosting a two-hour “America's Newsroom” with Dana Perino at 9 a.m.MacCallum is taking over the 3 p.m. Eastern hour from Hemmer, while Harris Faulkner's daily hour shifts from 1 p.m. to 11 a.m. and changes its name to “The Faulkner Focus.”At CNN, Tapper's daily news show will increase an hour, running from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, taking an hour from Wolf Blitzer's “Situation Room.” Tapper will also be CNN's lead anchor for all Washington-based events, the network said.Tapper will keep his Sunday “State of the Union” show but time-share with new co-anchor Dana Bash. Both will anchor two Sundays a month.Abby Phillip, a rising star at CNN, will host the Sunday morning show “Inside Politics” and has been named senior political correspondent. John King will continue to host “Inside Politics” on weekdays.Jim Acosta, who became well known for his run-ins with Trump at the White House, is moving off that beat with the incoming Biden administration. He'll become a weekend anchor and chief domestic correspondent. Kaitlan Collins is replacing him as head of the White House team.CNN says Pamela Brown will anchor a three-hour news program each Saturday and Sunday evening.

Confederate statues likely to go undisturbed in SC in 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican South Carolina legislative leaders are unlikely to give permission this year to local governments or colleges who want to take down Confederate statues or rename buildings honoring segregationists.A state law passed in 2000 when lawmakers removed the Confederate flag from atop the Statehouse dome requires a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to alter the names of buildings or streets honoring historical figures or remove statues from local government land.Leaders in both the state House and state Senate said they have no plans to revisit the act this year or even any specific requests, like Clemson University wanting to remove the name of U.S. Sen. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who led violent racist mobs to stop Blacks from voting from the name of its administration building or Orangeburg wanting to remove a Confederate statue from outside its courthouse.Leaders said they want to see what happens to a lawsuit before the state Supreme Court of the legality of the Heritage Act before taking any action. That lawsuit was filed by the widow of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a pastor killed along with eight of his church members in a racist massacre at his Charleston church.The Heritage Act mentions a wide range of events from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. But in its more than 20 years on the books in South Carolina, it has almost exclusively protected Confederates and segregationists.After the May police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, statues of racists and Confederates across the South and the nation were taken down both by governments and by angry protesters. No Confederate statues were removed in South Carolina.At least nine bills altering or eliminating the Heritage Act have been filed before the 2021 General Assembly session starts Tuesday.Not all would dial back the act. Some deal with a lack of criminal or other penalties in the 2000 law. One bill would fine local governments $25 million for removing monuments or renaming buildings without permission. Others add criminal penalties for local leaders or withhold state money for violating the act.Rep. Kambrell Garvin said he is aware his bills to eliminate the Heritage Act or assert local governments can control their street names and statues likely won't get anywhere this session.But by filing them, Garvin said he reminds people that these memorials of racists honor people who treated a quarter of South Carolina's population as subhuman or worse and keeps pressure on lawmakers. After all, it took 15 years after the Heritage Act to get the Confederate flag off the Statehouse lawn, the Columbia Democrat said.“Whether it happens this session or five years, or 10 years, or 15 years from now — we are pushing the needle the right direction," Garvin said.After the 2015 vote to remove the Confederate flag, House Speaker Jay Lucas said his chamber would not consider changing any monuments or other items honoring the Confederacy or other historical era as long as he was leader.The Republican from Hartsville said through a spokeswoman earlier this month that he hasn't changed his mind on protecting monuments. Lucas has decided to make criminal justice reform bills like changing sentencing laws and debating whether the South Carolina needs a hate crime law a priority.Senate President Harvey Peeler also shut the door on Heritage Act changes last June, posting on Twitter that he felt problems like fighting COVID-19, improving broadband internet access in rural areas and reforming the criminal justice system were more important and more beneficial.“Changing the name of a stack of bricks and mortar is at the bottom of my to-do list,” Peeler said on Twitter.Only one statue came down over the summer in South Carolina. Charleston removed a statue of U.S. Vice President and South Carolinian John C. Calhoun from a pedestal 100 feet (30 meters) over downtown. The mayor said the statue was on private land and didn't honor specific historical events mentioned in the law. The state didn't challenge the city.One Democratic leader said that should remind locals they don't need to wait for the Legislature because of the current lack of penalties and in his opinion the likelihood the Supreme Court will rule the Heritage Act is illegal because it keeps local governments from ruling themselves.“They don't need our permission,” said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia. “They just need guts.”___Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

Hong Kong's new top judge urges impartiality in courts

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s new top judge warned Monday that the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s courts need to show they are impartial amid a flurry of politically charged cases or risk losing public trust.Hong Kong has been in a state of political crisis after months of antigovernment protests in 2019 led to Beijing imposing a national security law on the city to quash dissent. Pro-democracy supporters have decried the security legislation as authorities suppressing the freedoms Hong Kong was promised when it was handed over from British control in 1997. Last week, 55 pro-democracy activists were arrested in a sweeping police operation, and prominent pro-democracy activists such as Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and outspoken media tycoon Jimmy Lai are currently in jail for their activism.Hong Kong Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, who was sworn in on Monday, said that judges in the city’s courts must be careful with the appearance of impartiality in terms of what they say in court or what they write in their judgments, especially in cases with a political nature.“Any lapses in this regard, given the potentially polarizing nature of these cases, could lead to suspicion of partiality, which is not conducive to maintaining public confidence in our judicial system,” Cheung said in his first speech delivered as chief justice.He said that it is equally crucial to the public and business community that there is confidence in the judicial system. Cheung also said that it is important to the international reputation of Hong Kong that the city is governed by the rule of law under the so-called “one country, two systems” framework that allows Hong Kong freedoms not found in mainland China.Cheung also condemned threats of violence and doxxing attacks on judges, describing them as futile and reprehensible.“Comments and criticisms, sometimes extreme and harsh ones, are unavoidable. Whilst the freedom of speech of everyone in society must be fully respected, there must not be any attempt to exert improper pressure on the judges in the discharge of their judicial functions,” he said.Cheung said that while there is a system in place to ensure the accountability of judges in Hong Kong, “there is room for further enhancement of the transparency and accountability” of the complaint-handling mechanism.

Indonesia jet carrying 62 goes missing on domestic flight

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A Sriwijaya Air passenger jet carrying 62 people lost contact with air traffic controllers after taking off from Indonesia's capital on Saturday on a domestic flight, officials said.Indonesian Transportation Ministry spokesperson Adita Irawati said the Boeing 737-500 took off from Jakarta at about 1:56 p.m. and lost contact with the control tower at 2:40 p.m.A statement released by the airline said the plane was on an estimated 90-minute flight from Jakarta to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island. There were 56 passengers and six crew members onboard.Irawati said in a statement that a search and rescue operation was underway in coordination with the National Search and Rescue Agency and the National Transportation Safety Committee.Local media reports said fishermen spotted metal objects believed to be parts of a plane on Saturday afternoon in the Thousand Islands, a chain of islands north of Jakarta.Television footage showed relatives and friends of people aboard the plane weeping, praying and hugging each other as they waited at Jakarta’s airport and Pontianak’s airport. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, with more than 260 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents on land, sea and air because of overcrowding on ferries, aging infrastructure and poorly enforced safety standards. In October 2018, a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet operated by Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea just minutes after taking off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. It was the worst airline disaster in Indonesia since 1997, when 234 people were killed on a Garuda flight near Medan on Sumatra island. In December 2014, an AirAsia flight from Surabaya to Singapore plunged into the sea, killing 162 people.Sriwijaya Air is one of Indonesia’s discount carriers, flying to dozens of domestic and international destinations.

Journalists recount harrowing attacks amid Capitol riot

NEW YORK (AP) — Journalists were manhandled, threatened and had their equipment stolen or damaged by supporters of President Donald Trump during this week's riot at the U.S. Capitol.The attacks, including a chilling scene distributed on social media of a photographer for The Associated Press being shoved around, led the National Press Photographers Association to call on authorities to investigate and prosecute people who targeted journalists.“To do our jobs, photojournalists must be on the front lines to record the news,” the association said in a statement. “The threats, violence and aggression toward visual journalists are unconscionable acts that erode our democracy and our country's First Amendment rights.”In one striking image, the words “Murder the Media” were scrawled on an indoor doorway at the Capitol.The AP photographer, John Minchillo, is shown in a video taken by a colleague, being pushed, pulled and punched by a group of men standing outside of the Capitol. Some of the attackers are heard accusing him of being part of the left-wing group Antifa; Minchillo holds up his hands and show his press pass.After about a minute, one of the demonstrators guides him away from his attackers. Minchillo stayed on the job.Minchillo declined comment on Friday. On Twitter, he wrote, “Never become the story, that's the core principle. If I could ask for something? Don't linger on the outrage for too long.”But he asked anyone who sees his message to reflect on the importance of journalism and subscribe to a local newspaper.“While we are thankful he is OK, this is a reminder of the dangers journalists both in the U.S. and around the world face every day while simply trying to do their jobs,” said Patrick Maks, a spokesperson for the AP.Another group of AP journalists on Wednesday had photographic equipment stolen and trashed outside the Capitol. One picture on social media saw electrical cords tied into a noose.There were other incidents. Erin Schaff, a photojournalist for The New York Times, wrote in the newspaper about being surrounded by two or three men while in the Capitol who demanded to know who she worked for. One grabbed her press pass, saw she worked for the Times and she was thrown to the floor. One of her cameras was ripped away from her and the lens was broken on another, she wrote.After being knocked to the ground, she screamed for help as loudly as she could.“People just watched,” she wrote.Police eventually came, but drew their guns and ordered her back on the ground. At that point, two other photojournalists vouched for her, she said.Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, a photojournalist on assignment for The Washington Post, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that she had three different people threaten to shoot her on Wednesday. One man told her, “I'm coming back with a gun tomorrow and I'm coming for you,” she said.“Journalists covering a democratic transition of power in Washington shouldn't have to run for cover,” said Mark Lodato, dean of Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications. “We've hit bottom.”

5 nations want Iran to deliver justice on downed plane

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The countries whose citizens were killed when Iran accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner said Friday they want Iran “to deliver justice and make sure Iran makes full reparations to the families of the victims and affected countries.”In a joint statement marking the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash, Ukraine, France, Canada, Britain and Sweden said they want Tehran “to provide a complete and thorough explanation of the events and decisions that led to this appalling plane crash.”Sweden earlier had said that Iran had agreed to compensate the families’ of the foreign victims. The shootdown by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3.The plane was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The victims included 57 Canadian citizens as well as 11 Ukrainians, 17 people from Sweden, four Afghans and four British citizens. Those from Sweden included both Swedish nationals and people with staying permits in the Scandinavian country.At first, Iran had denied its involvement in the plane crash but then announced that its military had mistakenly and unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner.The statement was signed by ministers of Afghanistan, Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

PBS' 'All Creatures Great and Small' aims to be timely tonic

LOS ANGELES (AP) — “All Creatures Great and Small,” a beloved TV series of yore, is back as a reboot because producer Colin Callender saw the seriocomic adventures of veterinarians in a close-knit rural community as tonic for a politically divisive era.Then the pandemic arrived, and a series knitted together with vivid characters, engaging stories and the beautifully filmed British countryside — and, of course, lots of animals, farm and otherwise — provided more reason to revive the world depicted by author James Herriot.Herriot was the pen name for James Alfred ‘Alf’ Wight, who began working as a novice vet in northern England's Yorkshire area in 1940, kept at it for five decades, and drew on his experiences for his 1970s and ’80s semi-autobiographical works.“I first thought about revisiting the books after the Brexit vote in 2016 in England and the Trump election sort of happened back to back,” Callender said, events highlighting what he termed a “schism” between city and country dwellers in both the U.K. and the United States.Viewers might embrace a show that reinforced values of cooperation and collaboration — whatever one’s “political persuasion,” Callender said — and provides an escape from the “very complicated and messy and disturbing world that we’re all living in.”Enter the new take on “All Creatures Great and Small,” the title of Herriot’s first bestselling book published in America and of the original series of 90 episodes that aired from the late 1970s to 1990. The seven-part series debuts Sunday (check local listings for time) as part of PBS' “Masterpiece” from WGBH Boston and marks the start of the showcase's 50th season. Set in the late 1930s, its cast includes newcomer Nicholas Ralph as Herriot and oft-seen actors including Samuel West ("Darkest Hour," "Notting Hill"), who plays Herriot's mentor, and Anna Madeley ("Deadwater Fell") as housekeeper Mrs. Hall.Diana Rigg made one of her final screen appearances as Mrs. Pumphrey, the wealthy and devoted owner of frequent patient Tricki Woo, her overfed Pekingese played by the expressive Derek. A decision about how to handle the loss of Rigg, who died in September 2020 at age 82, has yet to be announced. Filming wrapped in February 2019, with production completed during last spring's COVID-19 lockdown. The series aired first in Britain and was a hit, with critics lauding it as a worthy remake; it was quickly renewed for a second season.For Ralph, a stage-trained actor who grew up in Scotland, it's a pinch-me start to his screen career.“I went to drama school because I wanted to be surrounded by the best and I wanted to train in that way,” he said. "You just can’t help but get inspired by that. And then when you meet these people like Samuel West, Dame Diana Rigg, they’re really lovely, and so helpful and open with any advice.”Ralph turned to Herriot's books in approaching the role and came away impressed by the author and his work.“What hit me immediately was his intelligence, his compassion for the animals and his dedication to his practice of veterinary, and also his compassion and patience in working with people — the farmers and Siegfried, his older, eccentric boss,” the actor said. “It's also a complete culture shock for James as well. He gets thrown in the deep end about the politics and the people of this little village, and he comes from the big city.”For Callender, going back to Herriot's work revealed to him ways to make the new series differ from the original and boost its appeal to a contemporary audience.“The books were much funnier than I remembered when I first read them many years ago, so humor was very important,” he said. "The fish-out-of-water story, the fact that the James Herriot character is from Scotland and going to Yorkshire, was really center stage in the way we told the story."There's also more attention to women and, with the help of technology, better scenery.“What we wanted to do was bring to life the female characters more fully” than they are portrayed in the books, Callender said. “So characters like Mrs. Hall have been given real backstories and real agency in the story this time.” And with digital cameras and drones now available for taping, the richly green and open landscape of the Yorkshire Dales comes to life as a place that “we, the audience wanted to be or want to go back to,” he said.