ANNISTON, Ala. (AP) — An east Alabama city says it’s firing a police supervisor over ties to a neo-Confederate group that believes the South should leave the United States.
Anniston officials held a news conference Friday to announce the dismissal of Lt. Josh Doggrell and the retirement of Lt. Wayne Brown.
The move comes days after the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery published an article saying both men are members of the League of the South.
The organization advocates a second secession by states of the old Confederacy. While the League describes itself as a Southern nationalist organization, others call it a hate group.
An online video shows Doggrell speaking at a League event.
No one answered calls to a phone number listed for Doggrell. A phone number for Brown couldn’t be located.
NEW YORK (AP) — James Taylor is OK with the booming streaming music business, but he believes artists deserve 50 percent of the profits.
“If someone’s going to be making money off of my recorded music, I think that I should be getting half of that money that they’re making because I’m the one who generated the product,” Taylor said in a recent interview. “What I’d like to see about Spotify is how much money is the company making relative to what the artist is making? For every dollar they take in, they should be giving 50 cents to the people who actually recorded the music.”
Taylor, 67, has a new album, “Before This World,” that features collaborations with Sting and Yo-Yo Ma. It’s his first batch of new tracks in 13 years. The singer-songwriter said he doesn’t need to depend on album sales “because I’m a touring artist and that’s how I make my living.”
He’ll launch a tour July 2 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He will also perform at Boston’s Fenway Park on Aug. 6 with Bonnie Raitt, where he will sing “Angels of Fenway,” his song about the Boston Red Sox’s comeback to win the American League Championship Series in 2004 against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series that year, their first since 1918.
“People pulled over to the side of the road, got out of their cars and just ran into the bushes. People walked out of their offices, walked onto the street just dancing,” he said. “The thing that really moved me was that there were pictures in the newspaper of graveyards all across New England with little Red Sox pennants and ‘We won!’ and ‘Congratulations grandpa, we finally did it.'”
Taylor talked about his new album, his family and Taylor Swift.
Associated Press: Has your approach to songwriting changed over the years?
Taylor: I feel like I get a start on a song, but then I follow it wherever it goes, and sometimes it surprises me where it ends up.
AP: What inspired you to write the track “Far Afghanistan”?
Taylor: I’ve never been in the service, although I have lost close friends who are in the service. … It’s something I can’t stop thinking about. It’s so amazing to me that people can do this kind of service, that they can put themselves in harm’s way … it’s so extreme a thing to have to do and it’s such a sacrifice that I knew I wanted to try and write this song. … It’s my speculation about what it means to prepare yourself mentally to go to war.
AP: Your tour with Carole King in 2010 was so successful, would you do it again?
Taylor: I think it’s certainly possible that we could do it again, but Carole, at the end of it … we were looking at the possibility of going to Europe and I actually booked the tour, but Carole said, ‘The nature of these things is when they’re successful people want them to go on forever, but it’s important to quit while you’re ahead.’
AP: What was it like working with your wife, Caroline Smedvig, and son on this album?
Taylor: Her voice has a great, pure quality to it, so I often, if she’s around when I’m touring, she’ll sing a few songs. … As for Henry, he was hanging around all the time at the barn and on one occasion I said, ‘I’ve got this part that I think I hear a kid singing. You want to give it a try?’ And I just thought he’d sketch it in and I’d find the right kid somewhere, but it just turned out great.
AP: Do your teenage boys introduce you to new music?
Taylor: They do. They are in the popular culture and listening to what’s coming through their age group that they hear in school, they hear from their friends. It’s funny, some of it comes from unusual places like soundtracks to video games. Some amazing stuff is being made there.
AP: Did you know Taylor Swift’s parents named her after you?
Taylor: She told me that and I was equally flattered. I really, I love Taylor and I admire her, and I also deeply admire her mom and dad. That was very flattering. You bet. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me that. I was really surprised.
AP: What are your thoughts on the today’s music industry?
Taylor: It’s easier to make an album, harder to figure out how to get people to notice it. … Recording on pro-tools on computers, that’s made it a lot more accessible; so people are making a lot of music and higher and higher quality. I can’t say the same thing for how people are listening to music. People are hearing music through terrible speakers, little computer speakers, there’s a lot to get back to in terms of hi-fi and people listening to better quality, technically better quality music. People are definitely making progress: Neil Young’s got the Pono player.
AP: Have you tried Pono?
Taylor: Yeah, I have. Over the right system, I can definitely hear it. But if you’re going to be playing it over a three-inch TV speaker, why bother?
AP: Do you have any interest in jumping into the hi-fi sound business?
Taylor: I have. I’ve got something I’d like to see somebody try, and I don’t know if I’ll do it or not.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series in 2004, not the World Series.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Representatives of the families of the nine victims of a fatal shooting at a black church in Charleston addressed shooting suspect Dylann Roof in court ahead of a bond hearing Friday. Roof appeared via video link and seemed to show no emotion as family members spoke, showing their anger, sadness and even forgiveness.
Felecia Sanders , mother of Tywanza Sanders:
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same.”
“Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you.”
Bethane Middleton-Brown, representing family of the Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor:
“DePayne Doctor was my sister. And I just thank you on the behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry.”
“But one thing DePayne always joined in my family with is that she taught me we are the family that love built.”
“We have no room for hate. We have to forgive. I pray God on your soul. And I also thank God I won’t be around when your judgment day comes with him.”
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel Simmons:
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”
Anthony Thompson, representing family of Myra Thompson:
“I forgive you, my family forgives you. We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
Daughter of Ethel Lance:
“I forgive you. You took something really precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. It hurts me, it hurts a lot of people but God forgive you and I forgive you.”
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — With the clock running down on Greece’s chances of avoiding a painful exit from the euro, the country got a temporary lifeline Friday to help it cope with a bank deposit drain and turned its hopes to a European leaders’ summit next week.
The European Union president warned the situation was “getting critical” as Greece approaches a deadline on June 30, when it has to make a debt repayment it cannot afford without more loans from creditors.
Uncertainty over whether Greece might default on that payment — something that could lead to the country eventually falling out of the euro — increased after a meeting Thursday ended in discord over what reforms the country should make to get more loans.
Several European countries are now openly saying they are getting ready for the possibility that Greece might leave the euro.
“The game of chicken needs to end and so does the blame game,” EU President Donald Tusk said in a video message.
“We are close to the point where the Greek government will have to choose between accepting what I believe is a good offer of continued support or to head towards default.”
In the streets of Athens, there were no visible signs of distress or larger than usual lines at banks or supermarkets. Officials, however, signaled an increase in withdrawals and transfers, which can also be made electronically.
An EU official said Greeks had taken about 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) out of their accounts in the last three days.
“Money is going out of the Greek banks faster than at any time before,” said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
As a result, the European Central Bank’s governing council decided to provide more emergency credit for Greece’s banks to help them cope with the situation.
A Greek banking official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not made public, confirmed the decision. The official declined to give a sum.
The ECB has been steadily increasing the support it allows Greek banks to draw on. It’s not thought it would turn off that tap until it thinks Greece is definitely going bust, and certainly not before an emergency summit of the eurozone’s 19 leaders on Monday.
However, if no deal emerges with creditors soon that will allow the country to pay upcoming debt payments, starting with one at the end of the month, the ECB would be under intense pressure to stop pumping money into a banking system that might collapse.
The creditors want Greece to agree to new reforms and a tighter budget before they give it more loans. Greece’s radical left-led government, on the other hand, came to power in January on the promise to end such measures, which may have helped tame the budget deficit but have also increased poverty and unemployment.
Greece has to pay 1.6 billion euros to the International Monetary Fund on June 30. It cannot afford that without a deal that would unlock 7.2 billion euros in bailout loans.
Around Greece on Friday, newspaper headlines warned time was running out. The daily Ethnos called Monday’s summit the “Last Chance for a Deal” while the pro-government Efimerida ton Syntakton said creditors had put a “Knife to our Throat.”
Athenian Giorgos Tsakoyiannis, 55, said he believed a deal would emerge eventually.
“When two parties want to resolve something, there’s no way it won’t happen,” he said. “It looks extreme, but politics is never extreme. It’s a dirty game.”
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who visited Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, sought to portray Monday’s summit as “a positive development on the road to agreement.” He claimed that those “who invest in crisis and horror scenarios will be proven wrong.”
“We sought final negotiations to be at the highest political level in Europe and now we are working for the success of this summit,” he said. The central bank of Greece said “the gap between Greece and its creditors is not a large one.”
As finance ministers from across the 28-country EU wrapped up talks in Luxembourg on Friday, there were indications that technical talks would resume over the weekend before eurozone finance ministers meet again on Monday ahead of the leaders’ summit later in the day.
“We are a little skeptical that we will be able to prepare a great deal more than today,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. “But maybe the readiness in Greece to do what is necessary will increase over the weekend. The ball is in Greece’s court.”
“I’m not so sure that I will be able to announce sensational news to you on Monday,” he said.
It’s not just eurozone countries that would be affected by a Greek exit from the euro. Some investors think a so-called Grexit could be another “Lehman Brothers” moment for the world economy — sparking a potentially destabilizing chain reaction, the way the collapse of the investment bank did in 2008. Others say it would be manageable, though the uncertainties are great.
“In the United Kingdom we’ve taken the measures to increase our economic security so we can deal with risks like this from abroad and clearly now we must go on and complete that plan,” said George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister.
Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, said his country was “technically prepared” for a Greek euro exit. “We wish for Greece to remain in the eurozone but not at all costs.”
Investors appeared to take developments in stride, with the Stoxx 50 index of leading European shares up 0.3 percent. The main stock market in Athens closed up 0.6 percent.
Elena Becatoros, Derek Gatopoulos and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens, David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, Raf Casert in Brussels and Lorne Cook in Luxembourg contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It’s really happening.
At this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, the video game industry’s annual trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, several hardware and software creators highlighted the evolution of forthcoming virtual and augmented reality systems.
A look at the technology’s latest advances:
Oculus, which jump started the latest VR trend in 2012, allowed attendees to go hands on with Oculus Touch, the pair of controllers it unveiled ahead of E3 last week for its Oculus Rift system.
The doodads feel like a mash-up of the Wii Remote and PlayStation Move controllers with a twist: sensors surrounding users’ hands can detect basic motions like pointing an index finger or giving a thumb’s up.
Equipped with analog sticks and pairs of trigger buttons, the Touch controllers are intended to simulate users’ grabby hands in virtual environments.
In the Oculus “Toy Box” demo, for example, one hand could grip a lighter to ignite a Roman candle held in the other, resulting in virtual fireworks comically blowing up in a wearers’ face — all without a trip to the emergency room.
After exhibiting several prototypes of the Rift at E3 and other events over the past three years, Oculus boasted a sleeker version of the headset intended for consumers at this year’s E3.
“Last year, we were showing off just development kits, things for game developers to use to develop,” said Oculus founder Palmer Luckey earlier this week. “This year, we’re showing off the final consumer Oculus Rift, which is going to be shipping really early next year.”
There’s still no word on the system’s final release date or price.
Microsoft demonstrated another rendition of its HoloLens augmented reality headset after originally debuting the device in January.
Unlike VR headsets, HoloLens doesn’t block a wearer’s vision to immerse them in a virtual world. Instead, a visor-like screen on the headset displays three-dimensional imagery that appears as if it’s in the real world.
An untethered HoloLens was shown off with a holographic “Halo” battlefield map appearing on a table, an interactive shooting game called “Project X-Ray” simulating alien bug-like creatures popping out of walls and a version of “Minecraft” that seemingly constructed the beloved blocky franchise in the real world.
“The hope is that game developers will now see HoloLens and come back with great ideas and ways to take advantage of it,” said Shannon Loftis, head of publishing at Microsoft Game Studios.
While a demonstration of HoloLens broadcast with a special camera on stage at Microsoft’s E3 briefing wowed many viewers, the reality is the imagery inside HoloLens doesn’t completely envelop a user’s field of view. It’s more akin to looking at a 3D smartphone screen than actually being surrounded.
There’s currently no release date or price set for HoloLens.
Sony showcased several games coming to Project Morpheus, the VR headset that works in concert with the PlayStation 4 console. A few of the titles on display highlight the system’s multiplayer capabilities — both on TV screens and with other headsets.
For instance, “Rigs” pits teams of three Morpheus-clad gamers against each other as mechanized laser-blasting combatants in a futuristic arena, while the latest version of “Playroom VR” casts one Morpheus wearer as a Godzilla-like creature who must chase and evade three other gamers portraying robots on a TV screen.
“I think being in VR with someone else is a really different experience than being alone,” said Richard Marks, senior director of research at Sony Computer Entertainment America. “With something like ‘Rigs,’ it’s just like a regular multiplayer game except the other players feel like they’re right there with you. It’s a very compelling feeling.”
As with Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus is set to be released in early 2016, with no specific date or price announced as of yet.
AP writer Peter Banda contributed to this report.
ESKI MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — When the Islamic State fighters burst into the Iraqi village of Eski Mosul, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim knew his wife was in trouble.
Buthaina Ibrahim was an outspoken human rights advocate who had once run for the provincial council in Mosul. The IS fighters demanded she apply for a “repentance card.” Under the rule of the extremist group, all former police officers, soldiers and people whose activities are deemed “heretical” must sign the card and carry it with them at all times.
“She said she’d never stoop so low,” her husband said.
Buthaina Ibrahim was an outlier in her defiance of the Islamic State. It would cost her dearly.
The “caliphate,” declared a year ago, demands obedience. Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the IS, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, extending its control into every corner of life to enforce its own radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.
The Islamic State is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend.
There is no safe way out. People vanish — their disappearance sometimes explained by an uninformative death certificate, or worse, a video of their beheading.
“People hate them, but they’ve despaired, and they don’t see anyone supporting them if they rise up,” said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family, which still lives under IS rule. “People feel that nobody is with them.”
The Associated Press interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians describing life under the group’s rule. One AP team travelled to Eski Mosul, a village on a bend in the Tigris River north of Mosul where residents emerged from nearly seven months under IS rule after Kurdish fighters drove the extremists out in January. IS forces remain dug in only a few miles away, so close that smoke is visible from fighting on the front lines.
Another AP team travelled to the Turkish border cities of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, refuges for Syrians who have fled IS territory.
The picture they paint suggests the Islamic State’s “caliphate” has evolved into an entrenched pseudo-state, based on a bureaucracy of terror. Interviewees provided AP with some documents produced by the IS ruling machine — repentance cards, lists inventorying weapons held by local fighters, leaflets detailing rules of women’s dress, detailed forms for applying for permission to travel outside IS territory. All emblazoned with the IS black banner and logo “Caliphate in the path of the prophet.”
Adnan described the transformation that the Syrian city of Raqqa underwent after the Islamic State took it over in January 2014. At the time, he fled, but after a few months of missing his family, the 28-year-old returned to see if he could endure life under the extremists. He lasted for almost a year in the city, now the IS de facto capital. He spoke to AP in the Turkish border town of Gaziantep.
The once colorful, cosmopolitan Syrian provincial capital has been transformed, he said. Now, women covered head to toe in black scurried quickly to markets before rushing home. Families often didn’t leave home to avoid any contact with the “Hisba” committees, the dreaded enforcers of the innumerable IS regulations.
IS fighters turned a soccer stadium into a prison and interrogation center, known as “Point 11.” The city’s central square was referred to by residents as “Jaheem” Square — Hell Square, an execution site where Adnan said he saw the corpses of three men left dangling for days as a warning.
Armed members of the Hisba patrolled the streets, cruising in SUVs and wearing Afghan-style baggy pants and long shirts. They sniffed people for the odor of cigarettes, and chastised women they considered improperly covered or men who wore Western clothes or hair styles. Adnan said he once was dealt 10 lashes for playing music in his car.
In this world, the outspoken Buthaina Ibrahim was clearly in danger. The sheikh tried to save his wife, sending her away to safety, but she soon returned, missing their three daughters and two sons, he said. In early October, the militants surrounded the house and dragged her away.
Not long after, Ibrahim received the death certificate. A simple sheet of paper from an “Islamic court” with a judge’s signature, it said only that Buthaina’s death was verified, nothing more. He has no idea where her body is.
Delivery from IS came to Eski Mosul at the hands of Kurdish fighters. Amid the joy over liberation, many residents discarded documents from the Islamic State.
But Ibrahim is keeping the death certificate as a connection to his wife, “because it has her name on it.”
A former soldier in the village, Salim Ahmed, said he is keeping his repentance card. IS might be gone, but the fear it instilled in him is not.
“We live very close to their front line,” he said. “One day, they might come back and ask me for my repentance card again.”