AP News in Brief 05-13-18

  • In this Friday photo, Patrick Arbore, left, talks to Corazon Leano as he conducts an anti-bullying class at the On Lok 30th Street Senior Center in San Francisco. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

A surprising bullying battleground: Senior centers

SAN FRANCISCO — The unwanted were turned away from cafeteria tables. Fistfights broke out at karaoke. Dances became breeding grounds for gossip and cruelty.

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It became clear this place had a bullying problem on its hands. What many found surprising was that the perpetrators and victims alike were all senior citizens.

Nursing homes, senior centers and housing complexes for the elderly have introduced programs, training and policies aimed at curbing spates of bullying, an issue once thought the exclusive domain of the young.

“There’s the clique system just like everywhere else,” said Betsy Gran, who until recently was assistant director at San Francisco’s 30th Street Senior Center. “It’s like ‘Mean Girls,’ but everyone is 80.”

After the cafeteria exiles and karaoke brouhahas, the 30th Street Center teamed up with a local nonprofit, the Institute on Aging, to develop an anti-bullying program. All staff members received 18 hours of training that included lessons on what constitutes bullying, causes of the problem and how to manage such conflicts. Seniors were then invited to similar classes, held in English and Spanish, teaching them to alert staff or intervene themselves if they witness bullying. Signs and even place mats around the center now declare it a “Bully Free Zone.”

Trump welcomes N. Korea plan to blow up nuke-site tunnels

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Saturday that it will dismantle its nuclear test site in less than two weeks, in a dramatic event that would set up leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with President Donald Trump next month. Trump welcomed the “gracious gesture.”

In a statement carried by state media, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said all of the tunnels at the country’s northeastern testing ground will be destroyed by explosion, and observation and research facilities and ground-based guard units will also be removed.

Kim had already revealed plans to shut the test site by the end of May during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month. Analysts say that while the closure of the site is important, it doesn’t represent a material step toward full denuclearization.

“A ceremony for dismantling the nuclear test ground is now scheduled between May 23 and 25,” depending on weather, the Foreign Ministry’s statement said, adding that journalists from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain will be invited to witness the dismantling.

The ministry said the North will continue to “promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighboring countries and the international society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe.”

Sanders: Aide’s McCain comment shouldn’t have been leaked

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told staffers Friday that an aide’s recent comment about Sen. John McCain was inappropriate but shouldn’t have been leaked to the media.

Sanders told communications’ staffers in a private meeting that it was inappropriate for aide Kelly Sadler to dismiss McCain’s opinion during a recent closed-door meeting because, Sadler said, “he’s dying anyway.”

Sanders said the leak was selfish and distracted from the president’s agenda and “everything we’re trying to accomplish for the American people,” according to a person familiar with the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting. She noted that it garnered attention following the president’s welcoming home of three Americans detained in North Korea and an upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

During the meeting, White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp defended Sadler, saying the private comments shouldn’t have been leaked to the media, the person said.

Sanders declined to condemn Sadler’s comments during a White House briefing on Friday, saying she wouldn’t “validate a leak out of an internal staff meeting.”

Dinner diplomacy: Netanyahu’s unusual run-in with UAE envoy

WASHINGTON — Officially, their governments don’t speak. The United Arab Emirates doesn’t even formally recognize that Israel exists.

But an impromptu bit of dinner diplomacy between Israel’s prime minister and a prominent Emirati ambassador sheds light on one of the worst kept secrets in the Arab world: the quiet ties between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors that are increasingly coming out in the open as they find common cause against mutual foe Iran.

The venue back in March was Cafe Milano, the upscale Georgetown restaurant often frequented by powerful Washingtonians, from Barack Obama to Trump Cabinet members. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in town for an annual pro-Israel policy conference, was midway through dinner with his wife, Sara, when an unexpected request came his way.

By coincidence, the Emirati ambassador to the U.S., Yousef al-Otaiba, was at the restaurant hosting Brian Hook, the State Department’s policy planning chief, and a group of U.S. journalists, along with Bahrain’s ambassador, Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa.

The Americans dining with Otaiba got wind that Netanyahu was nearby. Word was sent to see if the Israeli would mind making an appearance at their dinner. That request first passed through the restaurant’s owner, then one of the journalists, who had walked by Netanyahu’s table while on the way to the restroom.

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Israel bombs Gaza tunnel, closes key crossing after attack

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Saturday it was shutting down its main cargo crossing into Gaza after Palestinian protesters caused extensive damage to it, and that it had also destroyed an attack tunnel militants dug near its main pedestrian crossing.

The twin developments come ahead of a potentially charged week along the Israel-Gaza border as weekly protests being staged there are expected to culminate with a potential breach of the border and a surge in casualties.

Once again, thousands of Palestinians protested Friday in various locations along the frontier. Later, a group of Palestinians burned a fuel complex and conveyor belt on their side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, causing more than $9 million in damages and disrupting the import of diesel fuel and building materials, the military said. It said the attack rendered the main fuel and gas lines unusable and caused further damage to electrical infrastructure and other vital equipment.

The military said the Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed until further notice and not before the damage is repaired.

A lengthy closing of the crossing would deliver further devastation to Gaza’s already dire humanitarian crisis. The fuel installation is the only way to bring diesel fuel into Gaza for operating generators for hospitals and other key facilities. The military distributed a video showing Palestinians cheering as a fire was set. It was the second such attack on the facility in a week, it said. “Hamas continues to lead the residents of Gaza to destroy the only assistance they receive,” the army said.

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Netta Barzilai wins 2018 Eurovision Song Contest for Israel

LISBON, Portugal — Netta Barzilai is sassy, she’s fun and she can sing — and now the Israeli has won the Eurovision Song Contest with a catchy techno dance tune about women’s empowerment.

The 25-year-old pre-competition favorite beat out competition from 42 other countries’ performers Saturday to claim the music extravaganza’s annual crown at the Grand Final with her song “Toy.”

There was a strong field of contestants at this year’s event in Lisbon, Portugal, which was watched by an estimated 200 million people. The votes coming in live from the capitals of participating countries delivered a tense finale, with Israel gripped in a tight, five-way race with Cyprus, Austria, Sweden and Germany.

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Barzilai eventually racked up 529 points, compared with 436 for runner-up Cyprus with “Fuego” by Eleni Foureira, and 342 for third-place Austria with Cesar Sampson’s “Nobody But You.”

The contest largely shed its traditional hallmarks of glitz and glitter in favor of a more restrained and tasteful tone in Lisbon, which was hosting the event because it won last year with Salvador Sobral’s sober and subdued ballad “Amar pelos Dois.”