AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT

Powerful, 7.8-magnitude quake hits Ecuador’s central coast

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A powerful, 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Ecuador’s central coast on Saturday, cracking buildings and rattling homes as far away as the capital of Quito.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 27 kilometers (16 miles) south-southeast of Muisne, Ecuador, in a touristic area of fishing ports. It had a depth of 19 kilometers.

Local media reported that at least one house and an overpass had collapsed in the port city of Guayaquil.

In the capital, the quake was felt for about 40 seconds and people fled buildings to the streets in fear. Quito is located about 170 kilometers (105 miles) from the quake’s epicenter.


Plucked from the uncertainty of Lesbos: 12 Syrian refugees

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis says his gesture is “a drop of water in the sea” of Europe’s migration crisis. Yet for 12 Syrian refugees, the pope’s decision to fly them back to Italy from Greece is an act of kindness that will resonate for the rest of their lives.

“Thanks be to God,” exulted Wafa, mother of two children who made the trip with her husband Osama as she arrived in Rome. “I thank the pope for this very human gesture.”

The three Muslim families, including six children, had all fled their homes amid the devastation of Syria’s civil war. They were plucked from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where they have been stranded for weeks. They were chosen because they had their documents in order, not to make a political point to Europe about the need to better integrate Muslims, the pope said.

“Their privilege is that they are children of God,” Francis told reporters en route home to Italy after an emotional trip to Lesbos on Saturday.

The Roman Catholic charity Sant’Egidio, which is providing the refugees with preliminary assistance, welcomed them at their headquarters in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood late Saturday. The mothers were given red roses, and they were applauded as they arrived.


Cruz wins all 14 Wyoming Republican delegates

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Painstaking organization and in-person campaigning paid off again for Ted Cruz on Saturday as he nailed down all 14 delegates up for grabs at the Republican Party convention in Wyoming. The result leaves Donald Trump facing yet another loss in a string of defeats in Western states.

Saturday’s sweep for Cruz follows his victory last month in Wyoming, when he scored 9 of 12 available delegates at county conventions. Trump and Marco Rubio each won one delegate last month in Wyoming while one remained undecided.

Trump still leads the overall delegate race. The AP delegate count: Trump, 744; Cruz, 559; and Kasich, 144. Needed to win: 1,237.

Cruz was the only candidate to address the convention in Casper on Saturday, promising to end what he called President Barack Obama’s “war on coal” if he’s elected. Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal-producing state.

Trump largely bypassed the state. In a telephone interview Saturday on “Fox and Friends,” he said: “I don’t want to waste millions of dollars going out to Wyoming many months before to wine and dine and to essentially pay off these people, because a lot of it’s a payoff, you understand that?”


Some sleep in cars after 2 nights of quakes kill 41 in Japan

OZU, Japan (AP) — The wooden home barely withstood the first earthquake. An even stronger one the next night dealt what might have been the final blow — if not to the house, then to the Tanaka family’s peace of mind.

The Tanakas joined about 50 other residents of the southern Japanese town of Ozu who were planning to sleep in their cars at a public park Saturday after two nights of increasingly terrifying earthquakes that have killed 41 people and injured about 1,500, flattened houses and triggered major landslides.

“I don’t think we can go back there. Our life is in limbo,” said 62-year-old Yoshiaki Tanaka, as other evacuees served rice balls for dinner. He, his wife and his 85-year-old mother fled their home after a magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Saturday at 1:25 a.m., just 28 hours after a magnitude-6.5 quake hit the same area.

Army troops and other rescuers, using military helicopters to reach some stranded at a mountain resort, rushed Saturday to try to reach scores of trapped residents in hard-hit communities near Kumamoto, a city of 740,000 on the southwestern island of Kyushu.

Heavy rain started falling Saturday night, threatening to complicate the relief operation and set off more mudslides.


Police: Man who shot firefighters released from custody

TEMPLE HILLS, Md. (AP) — As police worked Saturday to determine why a person opened fire on firefighters who were responding to a call for help at a home in a Maryland suburb of Washington, they shooter was released from custody.

John Ulmschneider, a 13-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Fire Department, died Friday night after he was shot while trying to enter a home to make a welfare check, police said.

Volunteer firefighter Kevin Swain, 19, also was shot, and was in serious but stable condition after coming out of surgery Saturday, department officials said. Swain, who authorities say was shot four times, is expected to survive.

Firefighters had gone to the Temple Hills home after the brother of the man who lived there told authorities he was concerned about the man’s safety, said Mark Brady, spokesman for the fire department. The man said his brother had trouble controlling his blood sugar and recently blacked out. He told authorities he was worried because his brother wasn’t answering the phone or the door and his car was parked in the driveway, Brady said.

When the firefighters arrived on the scene, the person inside was unresponsive, so they decided to force entry, police said. As that was happening, the person inside fired several rounds, striking two firefighters and his brother, authorities said. Police said that once officers got into the home, the gunfire stopped.


Raul Castro presents grim portrait of Cuban reforms

HAVANA (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro delivered a grim report on the state of the country on Saturday, acknowledging that the communist bureaucracy he oversees has failed to implement most of the hundreds of changes launched five years ago to stimulate the stagnant centrally controlled economy.

In a two-hour address to the twice-a-decade meeting of the Cuban Communist Party, Castro praised a new era of detente with the United States and an ensuing boom in tourism. He lamented that his government remained unable to address a series of deeper structural problems that have left millions of Cubans struggling to feed their families.

Cuba remains saddled by an overdependence on imports, slow growth, a byzantine double currency system, insufficient agricultural production and an inability or unwillingness among state employees to enact guidelines for change approved at the last party congress.

Citing a government statistic that only 21 percent of the 313 guidelines approved in 2011 have been carried out, Castro blamed the government’s inability to turn goals into facts on the ground.

“The obstacle that we’ve confronted, just as we expected, is the weight of an obsolete mentality that takes the form of an attitude of inertia,” he said.


With friends like these: GOP race spurs awkward endorsements

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Lindsey Graham says Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz is “not my favorite.” Ben Carson says there are “better people” than Donald Trump to serve as commander in chief.

And those are the candidates Graham and Carson want to win.

Presidential endorsements often create strange alliances — remember over-the-top Trump validating buttoned-up Mitt Romney four years ago? But rarely have so many partnerships of political necessity appeared to be as reluctant, awkward, even downright tortured as in the 2016 GOP race.

“Neither Trump nor Cruz win Mr. Congeniality contests,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist whose preferred candidate, Jeb Bush, flamed out in February. When it comes to the leading GOP candidates, Navarro said she’s “not sure why anybody would want to hang out with them.”

Bush found a way to throw his support behind Cruz without ever actually having to hang out with the Texas senator. Rather than join Cruz for the traditional on-camera grip-and-grin that normally accompanies an endorsement, Bush took a more subdued approach: a brief, 219-word statement posted on Facebook.


Poll: Americans happy at home, upset with federal government

CHICAGO (AP) — All that talk of an angry America?

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds that most Americans are happy with their friends and family, feel good about their finances and are more or less content at work. It’s government, particularly the federal government, that’s making them see red.

Almost 8 in 10 Americans say they’re dissatisfied or angry with the way the federal government is working, while about the same proportion say they’re satisfied or enthusiastic about their personal lives. Republicans are far more likely to be angry — half of GOP voters, compared with about one-quarter of Democrats or independents — and those Republicans are much more supportive of Donald Trump, the front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination.

Still, anger isn’t so much driven by political ideology as it is by an overall disdain for a political system that doesn’t seem to be working, voters said in follow-up interviews. They’re upset with both parties, as well as career politicians and Washington insiders who, those surveyed said, don’t put their constituents’ interests first.

“There are too many lobbyists and people who are not really working for the people anymore. They’re working to line their own pockets,” said 37-year-old Greg Boire of Belding, Michigan, who works as a bank customer service representative and voted for Trump in that state’s Republican primary. “It happens on both sides. … It’s just the whole government in general.”


How Trump can lock up GOP nomination before the convention

WASHINGTON (AP) — To all the political junkies yearning for a contested Republican convention this summer: not so fast.

It’s still possible for Donald Trump to clinch the nomination by the end of the primaries on June 7. His path is narrow and perilous. But it’s plausible and starts with a big victory Tuesday in his home state New York primary.

Trump is the only candidate with a realistic chance of reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the July convention in Cleveland. His rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, can only hope to stop him.

If Cruz and Kasich are successful, politicos across the country will have the summer of their dreams — a convention with an uncertain outcome. But Trump can put an end to those dreams, and he can do it without any of the 150 or so delegates who will go to the convention free to support the candidate of their choice.

What comes next isn’t a prediction, but rather, a way in which Trump could win the nomination outright on June 7.


Rule targets prosecutors who don’t reveal innocence evidence

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — As four men sat in prison for a murder they didn’t commit, records show that state investigators sent proof of their innocence to a North Carolina prosecutor, but he never revealed it to the convicted men.

He didn’t have to. Nothing in North Carolina’s legal standards requires a prosecutor to turn over evidence of innocence after a conviction.

The four, along with a fifth who also was convicted, were eventually cleared through the work of a commission that investigates innocence — but not until they’d served years in prison, including several years when a judge says the prosecutor and sheriff “did nothing to follow up on” another man’s confession.

Some people now are calling for change.

“If prosecutors have an ethical duty to avoid wrongful convictions, then they should have some sort of ethical duty to remedy wrongful convictions,” said attorney Brad Bannon, of the North Carolina Bar’s ethics committee.

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