Saturday, December 7, 2013

Published:

In a changing world, few heirs apparent to Nelson Mandela's powerful symbol of freedom

The passing of Nelson Mandela leaves a waning number of global figures representing freedom and resilience against oppression -- and a changing world that makes it harder for anyone to approach Mandela's iconic power.

There are a few whose trials have made them symbols of freedom, including the former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, the Dalai Lama and, more recently, Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl turned women's rights activist .

But Mandela, the black revolutionary who emerged from 27 years in prison to embrace his white oppressors and lead a new South Africa, may be one of the last of a breed for all sorts of reasons -- including the circumstances of his heroism, his extraordinary success and the onset of an age when heroes' foibles are often exposed.

"He lived and worked in a context and historical period where his extraordinary individual qualities could help make change in his country and ripple throughout the world," said Daniel Calengaret, executive vice president of the Freedom House, a watchdog group working to expand freedom around the world.

"It's hard to think of someone who was both an iconic dissident figure and was actually central to building a new system," Calengaret said.

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After blanketing much of US, millions more residents likely to see snow, sleet, ice from storm

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- A late fall cold snap that has gripped much of the country is being blamed for a handful of deaths and has forced people to deal with frigid temperatures, power outages by the thousands and treacherous roads.

Weather forecasters say the powerful weather system has Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic in its icy sights next.

Temperatures in Montana and South Dakota were more than 20 degrees below zero during the day Saturday while much of the Midwest was in the teens and single digits. Wind chill readings could drop as low as 50 below zero in northwestern Minnesota, weather officials said.

Icy conditions were expected to last through the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee, and Virginia officials warned residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.

In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay area and about a half-dozen traffic-related deaths were blamed on the weather in several states.

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Doctors report success with gene therapy, a big win against leukemia and other blood cancers

In one of the biggest advances against leukemia and other blood cancers in many years, doctors are reporting unprecedented success by using gene therapy to transform patients' blood cells into soldiers that seek and destroy cancer.

A few patients with one type of leukemia were given this one-time, experimental therapy several years ago and some remain cancer-free today. Now, at least six research groups have treated more than 120 patients with many types of blood and bone marrow cancers, with stunning results.

"It's really exciting," said Dr. Janis Abkowitz, blood diseases chief at the University of Washington in Seattle and president of the American Society of Hematology. "You can take a cell that belongs to a patient and engineer it to be an attack cell."

In one study, all five adults and 19 of 22 children with acute lymphocytic leukemia, or ALL, had a complete remission, meaning no cancer could be found after treatment, although a few have relapsed since then.

These were gravely ill patients out of options. Some had tried multiple bone marrow transplants and up to 10 types of chemotherapy or other treatments.

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85-year-old Korean War vet Merrill Newman arrives in California after detention in North Korea

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A tired but smiling 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained in North Korea for several weeks returned home Saturday to applause from supporters, yellow ribbons tied to pillars outside his home and the warm embrace of his family.

Merrill Newman arrived at the San Francisco airport after turning down a ride aboard Vice President Joe Biden's Air Force Two in favor of a direct flight from Beijing. He emerged into the international terminal smiling, accompanied by his son and holding the hand of his wife amid applause from supporters. He spoke briefly to the assembled media, declining to answer any questions or discuss his ordeal.

"I'm delighted to be home," he said. "It's been a great homecoming. I'm tired, but ready to be with my family."

He also thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping to secure his release.

Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

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1 month since Typhoon Haiyan, signs of progress and challenges in Philippine disaster zone

TACLOBAN, Philippines (AP) -- The government is back at work, and markets are laden with fruits, pork, fish and bread. Shredded trees are sprouting new leaves. Above all, the sounds of a city getting back on its feet fill the air: the roar of trucks hauling debris, the scrape of shovel along pavement, the ping of hammer on nails.

One month since Typhoon Haiyan, signs of progress in this shattered Philippine city are mixed with reminders of the scale of the disaster and the challenges ahead: Bodies are still being uncovered from beneath the debris. Tens of thousands are living amid the ruins of their former lives, underneath shelters made from scavenged materials and handouts.

City administrator Tecson Lim says a sense of "normality" has returned and has begun talking of a silver lining: "The opportunity to transform our city into a global city, a city that is climate change resilient and that can perhaps be a model."

Rebuilding will take at least three years, and success will depend on good governance and access to funds. The Philippines is currently posting impressive economic growth, but corruption is endemic and the country remains desperately poor, with millions living in slums.

National and regional authorities had ample warnings and time to prepare before the storm hit early on the morning of Nov. 8, but evacuation orders were either ignored or not enforced in a region regularly hit by powerful typhoons. Haiyan plowed through Tacloban and other coastal areas, leaving over 5,700 dead and more than 1,700 missing throughout the region. Some 4 million people were displaced.

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An AP reporter's quest to find bodies of victims killed by Malian military ends in the desert

TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) -- Across the desert, the wind combs the sand into smooth ripples that roll out evenly for miles. So when a hole is dug, you see it immediately. The sand looks agitated. Its pattern is disturbed.

That's how you know where the bodies are buried.

Close to three dozen people in northern Mali disappeared earlier this year, killed or taken away by the country's military, according to human rights groups. The victims were caught in a backlash against Arabs and Tuaregs, desert people who form a small and shrinking ethnic minority in Mali. As the West Africa bureau chief for The Associated Press, I wanted to know what had happened to them.

Over six months, my colleagues and I tracked down what we would rather not have found: Six bodies in the desert, including that of a 70-year-old grandfather who had become a symbol of the killings. In each case, the victims had last been seen taken away by the Malian military at gunpoint. And in at least four of the cases, the military was found responsible in an internal report described to me but never released to the public.

The bodies offer concrete evidence for killings that Mali's government has so far denied in public. If the government acknowledges their deaths, it could open a path to bring those who killed the men to justice. It also finally could return the bodies to their bereft families, who did not know where their loved ones were buried, or were too terrified to recover them.

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As Cuba's new entrepreneurs adapt to free market, some see challenge to revolutionary values

HAVANA (AP) -- It's not dog-eat-dog. Not just yet.

But as more and more islanders go into business for themselves under President Raul Castro's economic reforms, the ethos of capitalism is increasingly seeping into Cuban daily life, often in stark conflict with fundamental tenets of the Cuban Revolution.

These days it seems there's a mom-and-pop snack shop or pirate DVD stand on every other block in parts of Havana. The chants of cart-pushing vendors echo through residential streets. Farmers line up before dawn at an open-air market to jockey for the best spot to sell their produce. After decades of being urged to report any black market activity in their neighborhoods, some Cubans now find themselves looking at their neighbors' legal businesses and worrying that they're falling behind.

The free market is still limited in Cuba, but already it is altering lives and reshaping attitudes in palpable ways. Some fear -- and others hope -- that values anathema to a half-century of Communist rule are taking root more with each passing day: It's OK to make money, within limits; workers can reap the benefits of their own labor directly, instead of seeing it redistributed; individual enterprise is rewarded.

"There have been changes, and as the country grows there will be more," said Luis Antonio Veliz, proprietor of the stylish, independent cabaret-nightclub Fashion Bar Habana. "It's a very positive thing, but some Cubans are having difficulty understanding that now not everything depends on the state."

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Good Samaritans abound in New York City, rescuing people from oncoming trains, burning cars

NEW YORK (AP) -- A personal trainer jumps down onto the subway tracks to save an unconscious man as a train barrels down. A trucker stops to pull a driver from a burning car. A quick-thinking plumber uses his belt as a tourniquet to save a woman badly injured in a crash.

In New York City, which often has a keep-to-yourself, don't-get-involved reputation, at least a dozen good Samaritans this past year were willing to risk their own safety to save a stranger.

"It's the way I was brought up: Always look out for each other," said Dennis Codrington, the personal trainer who, along with two others, helped pull up a bleeding, unconscious man who had fallen onto the tracks of the No. 1 train late one February night.

Codrington was headed home from a party when he saw the 6-foot-tall man at the edge of the platform and then disappear. About 55 people are struck by New York subway trains and die every year, and the 24-year-old Codrington wasn't going to let this guy be one of them.

So he and the two others jumped down to hoist the bleeding, heavy stranger up -- as the time clock flashed that another train was due in the station in one minute.

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AP WAS THERE: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, as reported by The Associated Press on Dec. 7, 1941

EDITOR'S NOTE -- On Dec. 7, 1941, Eugene Burns, AP's chief of bureau in Honolulu, couldn't get out the urgent news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which drew the U.S. into World War II, because the military had already taken control of all communication lines. In Washington, AP editor William Peacock and staff got word of the attack from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's press secretary. In the language and style used by journalists of his era, including the use of a disparaging word to describe the Japanese that was in common use, Peacock dictated the details of the announcement. Seventy-two years after their original publication, the AP is making the dispatches available to its subscribers.

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FLASH

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Mason rushes for 304 yards, 4 TDs as No. 3 Auburn beats No. 5 Missouri 59-42 in SEC title game

ATLANTA (AP) -- Tre Mason struck a pose -- a Heisman Trophy pose.

There's something the Auburn Tigers running back wants even more than an individual award.

A shot at the national title.

Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 3 Auburn to a wild 59-42 victory over No. 5 Missouri in a Southeastern Conference title showdown Saturday that looked more like a video game.

Auburn (12-1) kept alive its hopes of playing for the national championship, though the Tigers would likely need either top-ranked Florida State or No. 2 Ohio State to lose in their respective conference title games, which began about the time Auburn was wrapping up the shootout at the Georgia Dome.