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World

    A spokesman for China's ceremonial legislature has condemned statements from U.S. lawmakers supportive of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. You Wenze called the comments 'a gross violation of the spirit of the rule of law, a blatant double standard and a gross interference in China's internal affairs.' He says Hong Kong's 7.5 million people and Chinese population as a whole reject the actions of a 'very small group of violent protesters' as well as 'any interference of foreign forces.' You did not mention any specific lawmaker or comments, but numerous U.S. senators and Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have affirmed the U.S. commitment to human rights and urged the Hong Kong government to end the standoff. Congress also has the power to pass legislation affecting Hong Kong's trading status.
  • The latest on a suicide bombing inside a crowded wedding hall in Afghanistan's capital (all times local): 2:45 a.m. A witness to a suicide bombing at a wedding party in Afghanistan's capital says the attacker set off the explosives near the stage where children had gathered. Gul Mohammad tells The Associated Press that everyone gathered there was killed. Another witness, Mohammad Toofan, says that 'a lot of guests were martyred.' Afghan officials have not released an official death toll, but Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi has said dozens of people were dead or wounded in the Saturday night attack in Kabul. A relative of the groom says some 1,200 people had been invited to the wedding hall. ___ Midnight An Afghan official says dozens of people have been killed or wounded in an explosion that ripped through a wedding hall in Kabul while hundreds were thought to be inside. Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi tells The Associated Press the blast occurred at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home. The explosion shattered more than a week of calm in the Afghan capital. Ten days ago a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces ripped through a busy west Kabul neighborhood in the same district, killing 14 people and wounding 145. Most were civilians. That blast and this one occurred on the same road. ___ 11:42 p.m. An Afghan official says an explosion has occurred at a wedding hall in western Kabul and casualties are feared. Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi tells The Associated Press there is no immediate information on the cause of the blast, which occurred on a busy Saturday night. Kabul's brightly lit wedding halls can hold hundreds of people. The explosion shattered more than a week of calm in the Afghan capital. Ten days ago a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces ripped through a busy west Kabul neighborhood, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.
  • A suicide-bomb blast ripped through a wedding party on a busy Saturday night in Afghanistan's capital and dozens of people were killed or wounded, a government official said. More than 1,000 people had been invited, one witness said, as fears grew that it could be the deadliest attack in Kabul this year. Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi told The Associated Press the attacker set off explosives among the wedding participants. Both the Taliban and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group carry out bloody attacks in the capital. The blast occurred near the stage where musicians were and 'all the youths, children and all the people who were there were killed,' witness Gul Mohammad said. One of the wounded, Mohammad Toofan, said that 'a lot of guests were martyred.' Officials were not expected to release a toll until daytime Sunday. 'There are so many dead and wounded,' said Ahmad Omid, a survivor who said about 1,200 guests had been invited to the wedding for his father's cousin. 'I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn't find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall.' Outside a local hospital, families wailed. Others were covered in blood. The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul, a part of the city that many in the minority Shiite Hazara community call home, shattered a period of relative calm. On Aug. 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians. Kabul's huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centers of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening. 'Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!!' Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post. The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The Taliban denied involvement in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State affiliate. Saturday night's explosion came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday under heavier security in a city long familiar with checkpoints and razor wire. The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America's longest conflict. The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi said earlier Saturday that his government was waiting to hear results of President Donald Trump's meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks. While the Taliban earlier this year pledged to do more to protect civilians, it continues to stage deadly attacks against Afghan security forces and others in what is seen by many as an attempt to strengthen its position at the negotiating table. The conflict continues to take a horrific toll on civilians. Last year more than 3,800, including more than 900 children, were killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, U.S. and allied forces, the Islamic State affiliate and other actors, the United Nations said.
  • German police say a man and a woman were fatally stabbed at a crowded train station in the town of Iserlohn in what was described as an 'act of relationship violence.' The incident was the third fatal attack at a German train station within a month. The dpa news agency reported Saturday that police had arrested a 43-year-old man in connection with the attack on the woman, 32, and another man, who was 23. The station was full of people at the time, police said, including a wedding party of around 20 people. The suspect surrendered to police at the scene without resisting. Police said in a statement that investigators found no reason to consider the attack as anything other than a case of domestic violence. The killings follow two other widely reported homicides at train stations in Germany. An 8-year-old boy died July 29 after being pushed in front of a train in Frankfurt; police say the suspect, a 40-year-old Eritrean residing in Switzerland, had been under psychiatric treatment. On July 20, a 34-year-old woman was pushed in front of a train in Voerde. She and the 28-year-old suspect weren't acquainted. After the Frankfurt killing, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called for more police at train stations and more security cameras in public places.
  • A small plane made an emergency landing Saturday on a main highway in Croatia after its engine failed, surprising drivers but causing no injuries. The incident happened on the highway connecting the capital Zagreb with the northern Adriatic port of Rijeka. It is one of the main roads in the country and is usually crowded during the tourist season and on weekends. Local firefighters from the nearby region of Vrbovsko cited a 'technical malfunction' on the plane as the reason for the landing. They added the incident caused no casualties, only damage. The pilot of the single-engine Cessna 150 said he had a choice either to land on a field or on the highway after the engine malfunctioned. 'It was a hard decision because the traffic was very dense today and I had to find space to land between cars,' Teodor Goricanec told local media. 'Luckily no one was injured.' A video from the scene made from a driving car showed the plane landing heavily on the highway, swaying left and right with one wing apparently scraping the road before stopping on the emergency lane near a metal barrier. Photos show damage to one of the wings as well as front of the plane. News portal 24sata said a woman and her flight instructor were on the plane.
  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has had to cut short his summer holiday and be rushed to his home nation of Luxembourg where he will undergo an emergency gallbladder operation. The European Union's executive said in a statement that the 64-year-old Juncker 'will undergo an urgent cholecystectomy,' referring to the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Juncker had been on vacation in Austria. He is in the final months of his five-year term as European Commission president, one of the leading jobs in the 28-nation EU. He had been scheduled to go to the Group of Seven meeting in Biarritz, France, next week. Juncker had been troubled by a bad back over the past years.
  • Richard Williams, a Canadian-British animator whose work on the bouncing cartoon bunny in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' helped blur the boundaries between the animated world and our own, has died. He was 86 years old. The Oscar-winning artist died from cancer at his home in Bristol, England, on Friday, his daughter Natasha Sutton Williams said Saturday. Williams' career straddled the 'Golden Age of Animation,' which petered out between the 1950s and 1960s, and the rise of computer-assisted animation in the 1990s and beyond. His best-known work may be as director of animation for 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit,' a 1988 film that married live action cinema and cartoons from all eras, a process involved the laborious insertion of animated characters into each individual frame and complex lighting effects. The result — a madcap and slightly dark comedy where 'toons' and humans interact seamlessly against a live action film noir background — was commercial and critical hit and helped revitalize Disney's flagging animation department. Famed film critic Roger Ebert declared the movie 'a breakthrough in craftsmanship,' but Williams gave a more self-deprecating account, joking to an audience in 2013 that all it took was for the director, Robert Zemeckis, to leave enough room in each shot for the cartoon characters and for the animators to whack them into each frame very, very quickly. 'I used to stand at my door every once in a while and yell, 'DRAW FASTER!'' he said. Williams was born in Toronto in 1933 to a pair of commercial artists, and his stepfather worked on the business side of the commercial art world, his daughter, Sutton Williams, said in a telephone interview. She said her father's interest in animation was piqued when he saw Disney's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' as a 5-year-old. He won critical acclaim with his first film, a no-dialogue short called 'The Little Island ' in 1958 and he won his first Oscar for an animated version of 'A Christmas Carol ' in 1971. Two more Oscars would follow for 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit.' Williams was part of a team that took home the Oscar for visual effects for the film, and he also won a special achievement award for animation direction at the 1989 Academy Awards. Sutton Williams said her father's best-selling book, 'The Animator's Survival Kit ,' was a distillation of decades' worth of experience and is still 'essentially the bible that every single animator has around the world.' Her father 'was still animating and writing till the day he died,' she said. Williams is survived by his wife and longtime collaborator, Imogen Sutton, their two children, and four children from two previous marriages. ___ Online: Williams' website: http://www.theanimatorssurvivalkit.com/
  • Sudan's pro-democracy movement and ruling military council signed a final power-sharing agreement Saturday at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum, after weeks of tortuous negotiations. The historic deal paves the way for a transition to a civilian-led government after the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir months ago and the more recent deadly suppression of protests. Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and amid growing concerns that the political crisis that followed al-Bashir's ouster could ignite civil war. Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the military council, called the signing a 'victorious and historic day for our nation.' 'The revolution has achieved its goals,' he said, vowing the military would guarantee the transition to civilian rule. Protest leader Mohammed Naji al-Asam said the two sides have ushered in a 'new page' in Sudan's history after three decades of 'repression and corruption.' The power-sharing deal creates a joint military and civilian sovereign council to rule for a little over three years until elections can be held. A military leader is to head the 11-member council for the first 21 months, followed by a civilian leader for the next 18. Lt. Gen. Shams el-Din Kabashi, spokesman for the military council, said Burhan would be the initial leader. The agreement also establishes a Cabinet appointed by the activists, as well as a legislative body to be assembled within three months. The protest coalition is to have a majority in that body, as nominated by the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of opposition parties and movements representing the protesters. The two sides appeared to agree on the soundness of a deal that came about in part because of international pressure. Ethiopia and the African Union co-led mediation efforts between the military and protesters. Many regional leaders and international envoys attended Saturday's ceremony, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Attendees in the Friendship Hall where the ceremony took place received Ahmed with cheering and chanting. But at least one analyst, Suliman Baldo, a senior researcher with the Enough Project, said the country will still face obstacles during the coming months of transition. 'Daunting challenges will face Sudan's progress to democracy and sound governance, chief among them the survival of the elements of the former regime in the institutions of the transition,' Baldo said. Still, the Sudanese celebrated in Khartoum and elsewhere across the country Saturday. Video posted online showed people celebrating in the streets in Darfur and the eastern province of Kassala. Railway workers and other protesters had traveled to the capital Friday by train from Atbara, the northern transport hub where the uprising began in December. The military overthrew al-Bashir in April following months of protests against his three-decade-long authoritarian rule. The protesters then remained in the streets, demanding a rapid transition to civilian leadership. The ruling military council and the activists came under renewed pressure to reach an accord after security forces opened fire on student protesters on Aug. 1 in the city of Obeid, leaving six people dead. At least nine troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support forces were arrested over the killings. In June, security forces violently dispersed the protesters' main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing dozens of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis. The power-sharing agreement includes the establishment of an independent investigation into the crackdown on protests, specifically the dispersal of the sit-in. Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, the leader of the opposition Umma party, said the deal was a 'first step' in the democratic change until 'fair' elections are held. 'Today is the day of transition to civilian rule. ... The next stage will be a test for us, without exclusion. We will open the door so all people can participate,' said al-Mahdi, who led Sudan's last freely elected government before an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989. Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, and protest leader Ahmad Rabie, who is a high school teacher, signed the deal. Both had initialed the documents earlier this month. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres congratulated the Sudanese people and looked forward to 'engaging with and supporting the transitional governing institutions.' The Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change nominated a well-known economist, Abdalla Hamdok, to be prime minister during the transition. He served as the deputy executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa since November 2011, and has yet to be confirmed by the sovereign council. The council's members are to be announced Sunday, after which the ruling military council will immediately be disbanded. The power-sharing deal has been criticized by the Sudan Revolutionary Front, an alliance of the largest rebel groups in Darfur. The rebels have stressed to protest leaders that the agreement did not include 'basic principles' to achieve peace in Sudan. The deal calls for the government to reach a peace agreement with the rebels within six months. The rebel alliance, which is part of the FDFC opposition coalition, wanted to include a peace document agreed on by the protest movement in the power-sharing deal. The rebel leaders have engaged in talks with other protest leaders to settle the disputed points.
  • There's an American leader whose words resonate on the global stage. Who draws attention in foreign capitals. Who carries a message from the United States by simply arriving. It's not just President Donald Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is emerging as an alternative ambassador abroad, an emissary for bedrock democratic values and the promise of stability that some see as diminishing in the Trump era. As the president heads to the Group of Seven summit in France next week with his 'America First' agenda , Pelosi has been quietly engaging the world from another point of view. She is reviving a more traditional American approach to foreign policy, in style and substance, reinforcing long-standing U.S. alliances and commitments to democracy and human rights, at a time when the old order appears to be slipping away. 'What's really important for people to know is, we're all in this together,' Pelosi told The Associated Press in an interview. 'This isn't about me. It's about our country and our shared values, to show our strength of who we are and what we believe.' Since retaking the speaker's gavel this year, Pelosi has led large congressional delegations abroad: to assure European allies at a Munich security conference; warn Britons of the pitfalls of Brexit; assess the migrant crisis in Central America; and mark the 400th anniversary of the slave trade in Africa with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including the immigrant congresswoman who became the subject of a Trump rally chant, 'Send her back!' Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that at a time when U.S. policy is 'confusing everybody in the world,' Pelosi and the members of Congress are trying to 'present the best face of America.' 'Thank goodness that they're doing this,' Albright said. With the lawmakers, Pelosi is sending a 'very clear message' to the foreign officials in the room, said Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., a Guatemalan American who joined the Central American trip. 'Presidents come and go. Congress will always be there,' Torres said. The scope of Pelosi's diplomacy often resonates with members of the president's party, creating rare bipartisan accord. This past week, when Trump said he hopes it works out with Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters facing retaliation from China — 'I hope nobody gets killed,' he told reporters — Pelosi affirmed the U.S. commitment to human rights and urged the Hong Kong government to end the standoff. It was a sentiment shared by several top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Congressional leaders routinely play a role influencing policy abroad. While House speaker, Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., visited the former Soviet Union. More recently, when John Boehner, R-Ohio, was speaker, he invited Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress amid opposition to the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran. Pelosi, as a young lawmaker, went to China to oppose the violent crackdown on democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. But not since the late Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., globe-trotted the world has a U.S. lawmaker emerged with such a presence, as a protector of long-held American values, as Pelosi. 'This is what diplomacy looks like,' said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who traveled with Pelosi this month to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border played out. Trump has not been pleased with some of Pelosi's trips. In a stunning move this year, the president abruptly ordered the grounding of the military aircraft that was set to take lawmakers to Belgium and Afghanistan to visit troops. The move was in retaliation for Pelosi's decision to postpone Trump's State of the Union address during the federal government shutdown. Trump dismissed Pelosi's 'excursion' as a 'public relations event' and suggested the lawmakers could fly on commercial aircraft to the combat zone. Congressional travel is, by law, federally funded. Critics may see the trips as merely junkets or, worse, meddling in the administration's foreign affairs. American politicians generally abide by a rule to leave their political differences at water's edge. During a trip to Africa, Pelosi surprised some when she declined to answer questions about Trump's racist tweets against members of Congress. Sometimes more can be said diplomatically by saying little. At the Munich security conference this year, Pelosi was embraced by European leaders at a time when Trump's attacks on NATO were threatening the decades-old alliance of Western nations. 'She was greeted like a rock star,' said Wendy Sherman, an Obama-era ambassador and former State Department counselor under Albright. Around that time, Pelosi and McConnell invited the NATO secretary-general address to Congress. Still, words matter and Pelosi's interventions in Brexit rippled this past week across the United Kingdom again. She reiterated the message delivered earlier this year, in London and in a speech to the Irish Parliament, that there will be 'no chance' of a U.S.-Britain trade deal passing Congress if British efforts to leave the European Union result in a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which could undermine the peace process there. Her stand countered the one Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, was taking during his own visit talking up a quick trade deal. Lawmakers who travel with Pelosi say the trips are demanding, with grueling schedules and working meals, but rewarding as she delegates others to speak for the group. Many of the trips were initially their ideas. When the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., asked her to Ghana, Pelosi sought out the highest ranking African American in the House, Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, to lead the group's discussion with the country's president. Later, Pelosi took a photo with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., the Somali American refugee who the Trump rally crowd wanted to send 'back,' as the two passed through a historic doorway at the coastal site where enslaved Africans were bound for the middle passage to the Americas. 'So much of what we are doing carried history,' Clyburn said. Mark Salter, a longtime aide to McCain, said while the Republican senator and the Democratic speaker disagreed on 'a million things,' Pelosi, like his former boss, 'believes in the ideals of this country' and fostering those ideals abroad. 'She's a statesman and McCain would applaud it,' Salter said. 'He would look at the speaker, those activities, with appreciation.' ___ Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London, Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City, Marcos Alemán in San Salvador, El Salvador, and Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington contributed to this report.
  • Italy's hard-line interior minister buckled under pressure Saturday and agreed to let 27 unaccompanied minors leave a migrant rescue ship after two weeks at sea, temporarily easing a political standoff that has threatened the viability of the populist government. In recent days, Premier Giuseppe Conte had written to Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanding that minors be allowed off the boat. After initially refusing, Salvini wrote back Saturday with a three-page missive of his own saying he would do so but made clear it was Conte's choice and that it didn't set a precedent. Spanish aid group Open Arms said the decision concerned 27 unaccompanied minors who were picked up off Libya earlier this month along with more than 100 other migrants. The minors were transferred Saturday to an Italian border patrol boat for disembarkation and processing on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. The fate of the other migrants still aboard the Open Arms off Lampedusa remained uncertain. The standoff laid bare the split between Salvini's anti-migrant League and the 5-Star Movement, which together govern Italy. Salvini is seeking to end Conte's populist coalition with a no-confidence vote and early election that Salvini hopes will give him the premiership. Open Arms had won a legal battle to enter Italy's territorial waters, and Conte had secured offers from Spain and five other European Union nations to take the migrants in. But the ship remained off the coast because of Salvini's policy prohibiting humanitarian aid groups from docking. Open Arms chief Oscar Camps warned Saturday that tensions were rising and fights breaking out that threatened the safety of all on board. He warned European leaders that as of Saturday 'we cannot be responsible nor guarantee the security of the people on board Open Arms.' Amid the standoff, the aid group filed a formal complaint with prosecutors in Sicily alleging that both the migrants and the crew were being held hostage. Salvini and other ministers have been investigated in the past for alleged kidnapping stemming from previous standoffs, but no charges have ever been brought. The standoff over the Open Arms came as another humanitarian rescue boat, the Ocean Viking, maintained its course off Italy with 356 migrants aboard and no port to disembark. The Norwegian vessel had plucked the migrants to safety in several rescues in the past few days and is operated by two humanitarian groups, Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee. And separately, the sole survivor of a tragedy that he said killed 14 others recalled how he was shouting for help to passing boats and a helicopter but no one heard his pleas. Mohammed Oga, an Ethiopian, spoke from a Maltese hospital, where he was taken after finally being rescued when his rubber dinghy was spotted by the European border agency Frontex. In an interview with Malta TV, Oga said the dinghy was carrying 15 people in all, including a pregnant woman, and that he had paid 700 euros to smugglers in the Libyan capital Tripoli for passage to Italy. 'I was shouting to seek help to the helicopter and to the boats that were passing,' he said. Safe in a Maltese hospital, he said he was feeling good but uncertain about the future. 'I am in God's hands,' he said. ___ Associated Press journalist Renata Brito in Barcelona contributed to this report.