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AP News in Brief 11-13-17

Updated: 
November 13, 2017 - 12:05am

Powerful earthquake on Iran-Iraq border kills more than 140

TEHRAN, Iran — A powerful earthquake shook the Iran-Iraq border late Sunday, killing more than 140 people and injuring 860 in Iran alone, state media there said.

The Baghdad government did not immediately give word on damage or casualties in that country.

The 7.3-magnitude quake was centered 19 miles (31 kilometers) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes into the night in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah.

The state-run IRNA news agency disclosed the increase in casualties early Monday and said rescue work was continuing overnight and would accelerate during the daytime.

Trump unlikely to rebuke Duterte for drug war killings

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sanctioned a bloody drug war that features extrajudicial killing. He called Barack Obama a “son of a whore.” This week, he boasted that he murdered a man with his own hands.

All that may well go unmentioned in public by President Donald Trump when the leaders hold talks Monday.

Breaking with his presidential predecessors, Trump has largely abandoned publicly pressing foreign leaders on human rights, instead showing a willingness to embrace international strongmen for strategic gain. He has cozied up to autocrats such as Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. And earlier in this trip to Asia he made no mention of human rights during multiple appearances in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Trump seems very comfortable with strongmen. It’s not just that he won’t criticize Duterte. I wouldn’t be surprised if he patted him on the back,” said Mike Chinoy, senior fellow at U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California.

Duterte’s war on drugs has alarmed human rights advocates around the world who say it has allowed police officers and vigilantes to ignore due process and to take justice into their own hands. Government officials estimate that well over 3,000 people, mostly drug users and dealers, have died in the ongoing crackdown. Human rights groups believe the victim total is far higher, perhaps closer to 9,000.

Liz Smith, syndicated gossip columnist, dies at 94

Liz Smith, the syndicated gossip columnist whose mixture of banter, barbs, and bon mots about the glitterati helped her climb the A-list as high as many of the celebrities she covered, died Sunday at the age of 94.

Joni Evans, Smith’s literary agent, told The Associated Press she died of natural causes.

For more than a quarter-century, Smith’s column — titled simply “Liz Smith” — was one of the most widely read in the world. The column’s success was due in part to Smith’s own celebrity status, giving her an insider’s access rather than relying largely on tipsters, press releases and publicists.

With a big smile and her sweet southern manner, the Texas native endeared herself to many celebrities and scored major tabloid scoops: Donald and Ivana Trump’s divorce, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s impending parenthood. One item proved embarrassingly premature: In 2012, she released a column online mourning the death of her friend Nora Ephron. But Ephron, who was indeed gravely ill, did not die until a few hours later and an impending tragedy that Ephron had tried to keep secret became known to the world.

Smith held a lighthearted opinion of her own legacy.

Texas town holds 1st Sunday service since church attack

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas — Hundreds of mourners crowded into the tiny town of Sutherland Springs for the first Sunday service since a gunman stormed the First Baptist Church a week earlier, killing more than two dozen people in the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

After an emotional sermon held outdoors under a massive white tent, congregants and the public were invited to return to the church for the first time since the tragedy. A chilling memorial set up inside the church included 26 white chairs — including one for the unborn baby of a victim who was pregnant — bearing each victim’s name or nickname painted in gold.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy shared his personal heartache and a message that the community bound together by faith can move past the evil that attacked the church seven days earlier.

“Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” Pomeroy said during the service, his voice cracking as he spoke about his 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle, who was among those killed in the Nov. 5 rampage.

“I know everyone who gave their life that day,” he said, pausing to gather himself. “Some of whom were my best friends and my daughter.” He wiped his eyes, then added, “I guarantee they are dancing with Jesus today.”

From wire sources

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Trump offers to mediate in protracted South China Sea feud

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Donald Trump on Sunday offered to mediate in the South China Sea disputes, while his Chinese counterpart played down concerns over Beijing’s military buildup and the prospects of war in the contested waters.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke separately about the territorial rifts ahead of an annual summit of Southeast Asian nations that also includes the U.S., China and other global players. The disputes are expected to get the spotlight at the summit, along with the North Korean nuclear threat and terrorism.

The long-simmering disputes are one issue where the two major powers’ influence, focus and military might have been gauged, with the U.S. and China both calling for a peaceful resolution but taking contrasting positions in most other aspects of the conflict.

Unlike China, the U.S. is not a claimant to the potentially oil-rich and busy waters, but it has declared that it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of the disputes. Several nations back an active American military presence in the region to serve as a counterweight to China’s increasingly assertive actions, including the construction of seven man-made islands equipped with military installations.

“I’m a very good mediator and arbitrator,” Trump said at a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, before flying to Manila for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

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Shawn Mendes, Eminem among winners at MTV EMAs in London

LONDON (AP) — Shawn Mendes beat Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran to win the best-artist prize Sunday at the MTV EMAs, while U2 were proclaimed global icons in a show that celebrated London’s diverse culture, from pubs to pirate radio.

Mendes, the 19-year-old Canadian star, also won the best-song trophy for “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” to the delight of fans standing in a polite onstage mosh-pit at the city’s SSE Arena. Fittingly, he also took the prize for best fans.

The show, formerly known as the MTV Europe Music Awards, opened with a clip of Eminem performing his new single “Walk on Water” in a London pub. He then emerged onstage in jeans and a black hoodie to perform the slow-burning number live, with Skylar Gray filling in on the duet duties Beyoncé performed on the recording.

Eminem was also named best hip-hop artist, and proclaimed surprise.

“I don’t know how I got this because I haven’t had an album out in a few years,” he said.

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