MILAN (AP) — Silvio Berlusconi is marking his 80th birthday quietly with his family, amid a flurry of greetings and reflections on his political career in Italy spanning more than two decades.
Italian television and dailies used the occasion Thursday to contemplate the legacy of the three-time former premier and billionaire media mogul, with Corriere della Sera commenting that Berlusconi had “colonized the imagination of the Italians like no other political leader.”
Commentators also noted his frequent gaffes, long judicial battles and penchant for unusual headgear.
Berlusconi’s political fortunes have waned since being ousted from parliament over a tax fraud conviction. He underwent open-heart surgery earlier this year.
The AC Milan football club posted a birthday video for Berlusconi on its website, while political allies tweeted their greetings under the hashtag Berlusconi80.
LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — Firefighters near Atlanta were battling a fierce fire at a warehouse in metro Atlanta.
Authorities say the blaze broke out before dawn Thursday in the Lithonia area of DeKalb County, just northeast of Atlanta.
Video from WSB-TV (http://2wsb.tv/2dBXYlX) showed flames stretching from one end of the massive building to another, with smoke pouring into the night sky. Video showed that much of the roof had collapsed.
DeKalb Fire Rescue Capt. Eric Jackson said in a statement that no injuries have been reported.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the fire is at the National Equipment Development Co. Inc., a bagging equipment company.
BEIJING (AP) — In a city where smog routinely blankets the streets, a Dutch artist has offered an eccentric solution: a 7-meter (23-foot) metal structure that takes in smog and expels cleaner air.
Daan Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower opened Thursday on a small, grassy lot in Beijing’s famed 798 arts district. Comprised of 45 silver plates resembling partially open window blinds, the tower contains an air-purifying machine that runs continuously with a low hum.
“That is not noise!” Roosegaarde told a visitor standing next to the tower. “That is the beautiful sound of clean air moving toward you!”
There’s hardly a more scarce resource than clean air in Beijing on a high-pollution day, particularly in wintertime when the region’s coal-fired electrical plants are running at full capacity. The levels of dust and harmful particles in Beijing’s air are among the highest in the world.
Government researchers have linked the pollution to higher rates of lung cancer and on particularly bad days, schools keep children inside during playtimes and many pedestrians don masks designed for hospitals or construction zones.
Roosegaarde, whose projects focus on connecting people with nature and energy, came up with the idea for the tower after a visit to Beijing three years ago during which he saw the view outside his window blocked by the thick gray haze.
“I couldn’t even see the next street,” he said. “That image changed me.”
At his studio in the Netherlands, Roosegaarde and a team of designers began working on a project that would respond to Beijing’s pollution and highlight the benefits of fighting it, in however limited a way. They raised more than $120,000 online to help pay for the tower by selling metal rings with a clear cube that includes a bit of black carbon from smog.
The tower began running in Beijing one week ahead of its formal unveiling. The tower will also be shown in other Chinese cities, including the central city of Hebei and the southern commercial center of Shenzhen.
Roosegaarde wants to eventually build more towers, perhaps with funding from the Chinese government, which has publicly made reducing pollution a priority.
He also said he hopes the tower will inspire creative thinking and innovation among people in China and other countries that are grappling with heavy pollution. He’s planning to meet with inventors of projects like a bicycle that purifies air as it is pedaled.
“We shouldn’t wait for the government to tell us what to do,” he said. “I want to start a movement, a community, which does not accept pollution anymore. We should use the energy of creative thinking to create cities where ultimately in 10-15 years, these beauties are not necessary anymore.”
The tower was unveiled on a relatively good day by Beijing standards, with a bright sky and a cool early fall breeze. Standing next to dignitaries with red roses pinned to their lapels, Roosegaarde used a remote control to raise part of the tower’s panels into the air to show the machine inside.
Whether the air was actually cleaner was hard to say. An unscientific test using a handheld monitoring device throughout the day showed the air next to the tower was slightly cleaner than further away.
The tower did draw visitors walking through the district who stopped to stare at it and take pictures.
Ma Zhongqing, an information technology worker, said she was reminded of a larger version of the air purifiers many Beijing residents keep running in their homes during winter.
Ma and others were cautiously optimistic that it would make a difference, albeit a small one.
“It being exhibited here makes people feel that they need to pay attention to this kind of thing,” Ma said. “But a lot of problems need to be solved while it’s being put into use.”
Associated Press videojournalist Thomas Suen and researcher Yu Bing contributed to this report.
Follow Nomaan Merchant on Twitter at twitter.com/nomaanmerchant
SYDNEY (AP) — An Iranian citizen extradited from Indonesia was charged in a Sydney court on Thursday with attempting to smuggle 73 asylum seekers by boat to Australia.
Mohammad Naghi Karimi Azar, 56, on Wednesday became the eighth suspected people smuggler to be extradited from Indonesia to Australia since 2008, a government statement said.
Azar was charged in Sydney Central Local Court with 43 counts of people smuggling, an offense that carries a minimum five-year sentence and a maximum of 20 years.
He appeared by video from a Sydney police station.
Court documents allege Azar facilitated the passage of 73 men, women and children between 2011 and 2013. His lawyer, Archie Hallas, told the court that Azar had spent the last two and a half years in an Indonesian jail.
Azar did not apply for bail. Hallas told the court his client needed time to read the 100-page prosecution case against him. Azar is to appear in court next on Oct. 5.
Outside the court, another lawyer for Azar, Sayar Dehsabzi, told reporters his client intended to plead not guilty.
Dehsabzi said Azar told him he was a refugee registered with the United Nations and had fled Iran in fear of persecution because he was a member of an ethnic minority.
Azar’s wife and children remained in Iran, Dehsabzi said.
There has not been a successful people-smuggling venture from Indonesia to Australia in more than two years.
Australian border protection ships turn back boats carrying asylum seekers from the Middle East, Asia and Africa who pay people smugglers to bring them to Australia.
The government estimates there are 14,000 asylum seekers in Indonesia who want to come to Australia by boat.
The extradition “underlines that fact that the Australian and Indonesian governments will continue to cooperate to do what we can to prosecute those who are responsible for the human misery of the people smuggling trade,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan told reporters in the Australian capital, Canberra.
Australia refuses to resettle any refugees who come by boat. It pays the Pacific island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea to keep such asylum seekers in camps.
CORNWALL-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (AP) — While Donald Trump talks tough about dealing with China, his old military prep school is building bridges to that country.
The New York Military Academy began classes this fall with new Chinese backing and a former New York City high school principal, originally from China, in charge.
Students here still march and study like when a teenage Trump donned a buttoned tunic and sash in the early ’60s. But administrators trying to renew the 127-year-old school also are looking hard at the growing number of students coming from overseas.
“We’re in a position of rebuilding,” said the new superintendent, Jie Zhang.
The academy is a picturesque but partially timeworn boarding and day school hosting students in grades seven through 12 on a campus of 120 rolling acres near the Hudson River. Founded in 1889 by a Civil War veteran, the school used to teach hundreds of students at a time at its campus 60 miles north of New York City. Last year, that number dwindled to 10.
The school was purchased at a bankruptcy auction last September for $15.8 million by the nonprofit Research Center on Natural Conservation. The center was formed by the family of the chairman of SouFun Holdings, a real estate internet portal in China, and in 2011 bought a nearby Gilded Age estate nearby once owned by the railroad magnate E.H. Harriman.
SouFun’s chairman, Vincent Tianquan Mo, noted that he studied in both China and at Indiana University and saw the purchase of the military academy as a way to give back to education.
The academy has 31 students this fall, still short of the 100 needed to avoid a deficit. Classrooms and barracks around the main grassy rectangle are kept up, but some outer buildings need care, and weeds sprout from the unused tennis courts.
This school taught composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and film director Francis Ford Coppola, though Trump is easily the alum most in the news since his presidential run. He played baseball and was noted as a “ladies’ man” in his yearbook.
During an April visit — his helicopter landed here before a political rally across the river — Trump stood at a podium and said he learned about toughness and the military here, according to a YouTube video.
“It was five of my better years in life. I don’t know if it was my best. It was good,” Trump jokes in the video.
Trump’s headshot now hangs on a wall of the main building among a long row of notable alumni. Zhang said that she is mindful of tradition here and that recruiting local and U.S. students, who will continue to make up the majority of the students, is more important than looking overseas. She plans to continue the long-running junior ROTC program.
But Zhang’s mere presence represents a break from the past. The 56-year-old educator is the first woman and the first Asian to lead the academy.
She came to the United States in 1985 from Shanghai to earn a master’s degree in applied math and began a long public school career teaching female inmates at the New York City jail complex on Rikers Island. She retired this year as principal at the city’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School.
“I am Chinese, but my whole entire career has been in the United States,” she said.
While the academy has hosted international students for decades, Zhang could help it compete in a time of quick economic growth in China and other countries.
The number of students attending U.S. private and independent schools on academic visas more than tripled between 2005 and 2015 to 94,766, according to the National Association of Independent Schools, which represents nonprofit, private K-12 schools, including the New York Military Academy. China sent over more students on academic visas than any other country over that time among schools belonging to the association, from 348 in 2005 to 14,579 last year.
“I think that families abroad feel that having facility with English will get their children ahead in life, whether it’s in college admissions or in the professional realm, ” according to the association’s Myra McGovern.
The seven students here with Chinese backgrounds include two on student visas. As they seek more international students, Zhang will go to Beijing and Shanghai in October on a recruiting trip, and her dean plans to go to Moscow in the spring.
Thirteen-year-old cadet Charlie Dong emigrated from Shanghai four years ago and lives with his family in New York City. He wants to go to West Point, which is near here, and he hopes the academy gives him a better chance.
“Actually I didn’t even know that military high school existed in this world,” Dong said. “When I heard about this school, I was very excited.”
NEW YORK (AP) — Investigators probing bomb blasts in New Jersey and New York believe they’ve identified two men who walked off with a bag abandoned by the bomber on a street as Egyptian tourists.
Police began looking for the men after they were seen in security video handling a bag prosecutors say was used by bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami to conceal an explosive that failed to detonate in Manhattan.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Wednesday the two men have since returned home to Egypt. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. investigators have notified Egyptian authorities they want to question the men.
“They’re not in any jeopardy of being arrested,” Jim Watters, chief of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit, said last week. “We have no reason to believe they’re connected.”
Rahami has been accused of detonating a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town and a pressure cooker bomb in New York on Sept. 17. No one was injured in the Jersey blast, and 31 people were injured in the New York blast.
Surveillance video shows Rahami rolling a suitcase down a Manhattan street, then abandoning it on the sidewalk where that unexploded device was found, authorities said.
A few minutes later, two men pass by the luggage and appear to admire it, police said. They then remove a pressure cooker from the luggage, leave the pressure cooker on the sidewalk and walk away with the luggage, police said.
“I think they were more interested in the bag, not what they were taking out,” Watters said, adding that they were “very, very lucky” the bomb didn’t explode.
Rahami has been hospitalized since he was caught following a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, last week, days after the bombings. Officials on Tuesday said he remained unconscious. He has not made an initial court appearance, and his American Civil Liberties Union lawyers declined to comment.