LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The Nigerian Air Force says a drone bombed a Boko Haram logistics base in the northeast, possibly hitting an ammunition depot and dealing a “major setback” to the Islamic extremists.
A statement from Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa said the first attack by an unmanned combat aerial vehicle took place when it was activated over a large gathering of vehicles a kilometer (mile) north of the Sambisa Forest, an insurgent stronghold.
It says multiple explosions and huge fire ball shown in an attached video suggest the drone hit an ammunition and fuel depot.
The military said Saturday that the air force has conducted 286 operations in a sustained aerial bombardment of the Sambisa Forest over the past month, covering an area of 157,000 square kilometers (60,618 square miles).
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who allegedly posed as a priest and officiated at Masses, funerals, confessions, and at least one marriage was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of selling thousands of dollars in phony tickets to see Pope Francis during last year’s U.S. visit.
Erwin Mena, 59, declined to comment to the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1Pf92jI) as detectives escorted him in handcuffs from police headquarters. He remained jailed, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.
Mena faces about 30 charges, including grand theft, perjury — for filing a marriage license he signed as a priest — and practicing medicine without a license in connection with offering “a system or mode of treating the sick,” according to an arrest warrant.
Last year, Mena allegedly posed as a priest at St. Ignatius of Loyola parish in northeastern Los Angeles and sold tickets to a pilgrimage to visit New York and see the pope during his Philadelphia visit in September, prosecutors said.
The trip supposedly included airfare and lodging at convents.
Michelle Rodriguez, 60, and some of her friends and co-workers paid more than $950 each in cash for the trip.
“It was a great deal for the price,” Michelle Rodriguez told the Times. “We were thinking, ‘Oh, we’ll have this great time in New York. We’ll see the pope and it will be a great experience.’ “
“He used us, he stole from us, and that’s it,” she said.
Mena, who was acting as a substitute priest, made a good impression.
“He smiled, talked about how good things were. There was never anything negative,” Joaquin Oviedo, a retired public high school teacher, told the paper. “He was not a fire and brimstone kind of preacher.”
“We had always been raised not to question authority figures,” Oviedo said. “He’s a priest – what he said is holy writ. We never imagined he was a phony.”
Mena had been posing as a priest since the mid-1990s, appearing at parishes or prayer groups in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Stockton, Fresno and Orange counties, then vanishing before Roman Catholic authorities could act, court papers indicated.
Mena showed up at St. Mary parish in Fontana more than five years ago and celebrated Mass on a few occasions, John Andrews, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, told the Times.
Mena allegedly made money by borrowing from people and selling his services or videos.
One group loaned him about $16,000 to produce CDs about Pope Francis that turned out to be pirated, and one person loaned him $6,000, Los Angeles police Detective Gary Guevara told the Times.
Mena’s name is on a list of dozens of unauthorized priests and deacons that is kept by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Some victims have been reimbursed, and those who received the sacraments from Mena can receive them again, said Doris Benavides, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles archdiocese.
BELLE GLADE, Fla. (AP) — Dozens of farmworkers looked up at the little yellow plane buzzing over the Florida radish field, a mist of pesticide falling from its wings.
Farmworkers are supposed to be protected by government rules regulating exposure to toxic farm chemicals. But in this case, the breeze pushed the pesticide over the crew in a neighboring field, where it fell mostly on women, including at least one who was pregnant.
“I smelled a strong odor and started feeling bad,” worker Maria Garcia later told a state investigator. “I had a headache, itchy eyes and threw up.”
The health investigator assigned to the case said more than a dozen workers showed symptoms of pesticide poisoning, and also found evidence that the farm and crop-dusting contractor may have violated federal farmworker safety laws.
An Associated Press review of federal and state enforcement data and other records revealed that the pesticide-safety system is riddled with problems: Investigations often take years to complete and result in few penalties. Written warnings are common, fines rare. Compliance is sometimes voluntary, not required. And worker anonymity can be compromised, making employees reluctant to report violations.
The agriculture industry defends the system, saying the low numbers are a sign that farms are doing a good job of protecting workers.
President Barack Obama’s administration recently adopted tougher farmworker protections after 20 years of debate and fierce resistance from the chemical and agricultural lobbies. However, when they take effect in 2017, all of the new rules will still rely on the existing enforcement system.
Adding to the troubles are the regulators themselves. In all states except California, enforcement of federal pesticide-safety laws is managed by the same agencies that promote agricultural industries.
The Florida workers fell ill on Oct. 14, 2014, in Belle Glade, a farm town near Lake Okeechobee where the motto is “Her soil is her fortune.” They had been moved at the last minute to a celery field owned by Duda Farms. Rains the previous night had made the fields they were supposed to plant too soggy.
That was not communicated to the crop-duster pilot, who should have waited to spray a “restricted-use” pesticide called Bathyroid XL, records show.
Twelve women including Garcia and one man were hospitalized. Many were released and cleared to go back to work after a few hours. But some, including the pregnant worker, required follow-up medical screening for lingering symptoms, according to state health records about the incident.
Despite the findings about pesticide poisoning and evidence of violations, a state investigation resulted in no punishment for the farm and, after more than a year, only the small fine for the crop duster, according to the case file obtained by the AP through a public-records request. Workers contacted by the AP said they were never interviewed.
“The Florida system is terribly broken,” said Greg Schell of Florida Legal Services, a national expert who has been litigating farmworker cases for decades. “Unless you see somebody being sprayed, it’s your word against the employer.”
It’s not clear how many workers get sick from pesticides each year. No one gathers comprehensive data.
A program run by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health identified 5,200 workers with acute pesticide-related illness, and eight deaths, in 11 states between 1998 and 2006. Those cases included only poisonings confirmed by doctors.
Using that data and other sources, the EPA estimates that the nation’s 2 million farmworkers suffer 10,000 to 20,000 cases of doctor-diagnosed pesticide poisoning in the U.S. every year.
Many workers are afraid to report problems, especially those who have come to the U.S. illegally or are here on worker visas, and their immigration status is controlled by their employers.
After the incident in Belle Glade, some of the Florida workers sprayed by the crop duster were advised by supervisors against taking legal action, according to state documents obtained by AP.
“They were told ‘You would never find a job in agriculture again. Their husbands may also be fired, and it would take years to get a settlement,'” said Antonio Tovar, the Florida health department investigator on the case.
Luis Martinez, one of the workers in the field that day, confirmed that he was discouraged from filing a formal complaint with the state.
Defenders of the agriculture industry say the lack of fines and violations in Florida and other places shows a high level of compliance, not lax enforcement.
“The culture has changed. There may be a few bad apples, but they are few and far between,” said Gene McAvoy, who runs state pesticide safety trainings for farm supervisors in Florida.
Farm spokeswoman Donna Duda denied that anyone from the company had spoken to the workers. Jose Ojeda of Martinez & Sons Trucking, the contractor in charge of the workers that day, denied his staff discouraged workers from filing a complaint.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services never interviewed any workers about the retaliation or intimidation claims, despite a tip from the health inspector that some workers were talking about it.
In a statement, the agency denied being told about the intimidation allegations and said it would have investigated if it had known.
When workers do come forward, they face a yearslong process that often ends with nothing but a warning for the farm. In other cases, people who complain are sometimes put in professional exile.
North Carolina tobacco worker Cayetano Dominguez-Rosales complained to state investigators when 12 workers on his crew got sick in 2010 after witnessing pesticides being sprayed in a field that was no more than 40 paces away. Records show they all sat down and felt dizzy and nauseas.
After going to the hospital, he returned to work and was told to sign a “voluntary quit” paper giving up his job. He had worked for 15 years on North Carolina tobacco farms and never fallen ill, he said, but the incident left him without work. He returned to Mexico.
Nearly a year after he left, a state investigation issued a warning to the farm.
Pesticide investigations in North Carolina can take up to two years, and the vast majority nationwide end in warnings.
“A warning just says ‘We’re not going to hold you responsible for these actions,'” said Caitlin Ryland, an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina. “Really, there’s no teeth at all in that law.”
Associated Press video journalist Josh Replogle contributed to this report.
Follow Jason Dearen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen. His work can be found here: http://bigstory.ap.org/author/jason-dearen .
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police were licking their wounds Wednesday after an enraged mob of vendors chased them away when they tried to seize fake goods at a famous border market.
The Department of Special Investigation said 12 officers were injured when police and French Embassy observers went to the Rong Kluea market on the border with Cambodia to seize items such as fake perfumes that violate intellectual property laws.
A DSI statement said its officers identified themselves and presented court orders to vendors before trying to seize their goods, which it said the vendors acknowledged were counterfeits.
It said about 400 Cambodian laborers then surrounded the police and began pelting them with rocks and bottles, and also pushed over an SUV belonging to the police and damaged a truck being used by them. Video circulating on social media showed people running up to remove items from the back of the truck before it drove off as people chased it, tossing rocks and other objects.
The DSI said the police were withdrawn from the market, in the Thai district of Aranyaprathet, to ease tensions.
Thailand, like much of Asia, is awash with counterfeit products ranging from cosmetics to DVDs.
The market sells clothes, bags, shoes, watches, food and knock-offs of famous fashion brands, though it originally was best-known for second-hand goods.
The DSI described the market as one of the main centers in Thailand for counterfeit goods, and vowed that those involved in Wednesday’s action would face criminal charges.
This story has been corrected to show that the police vehicle pushed over was an SUV, not a pickup truck.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo is laying off about 1,700 employees and shedding some of its excess baggage in a shake-up likely to determine whether CEO Marissa Mayer can save her own job.
The long-anticipated purge, announced Tuesday, will jettison about 15 percent of Yahoo’s workforce along with an assortment of services that Mayer decided aren’t worth the time and money that the Internet company has been putting into them.
The cost-cutting is designed to save about $400 million annually to help offset a steep decline in net revenue this year.
Mayer also hopes to sell some of Yahoo’s patents, real estate and other holdings for $1 billion to $3 billion.
Products to be dumped include Yahoo Games, Yahoo TV and some of the digital magazines that Mayer started as CEO. She will also close offices in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Mexico City; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Madrid and Milan.
In an apparent concession to frustrated shareholders, Mayer also said Yahoo’s board will mull “strategic alternatives” that could result in the sale of all the company’s Internet operations. Analysts have speculated that Verizon, AT&T and Comcast might be interested in buying Yahoo’s main business, despite years of deterioration.
Mayer expressed confidence that her plan to run Yahoo as a smaller, more focused company “will dramatically brighten our future and improve our competitiveness, and attractiveness to users, advertisers, and partners.”
Shareholders have questioned whether she has figured out how to revive the Internet company’s growth after three-and-half years of futility. Yahoo’s stock shed 34 cents to $28.72 extended trading after details of Mayer’s latest turnaround attempt came out. The stock has fallen by more than 40 percent since the end of 2014 as investors’ confidence in Mayer has faded.
“The investment community has given up on this becoming a resurrection story,” said Douglas Melsheimer, managing director of Bulger Partners, a technology banking and consulting firm. “At this point, it needs to be managed for maintenance or very slow growth. Marissa is more of a visionary whose background lends itself to a more ambitious strategy. I don’t think she is the one to navigate the company through job cuts or a restructuring.”
Ken Goldman, Yahoo’s chief financial officer, said he got a “neutral” reaction after talking to some investors following Mayer’s presentation. He also acknowledged that both Mayer and he had made some mistakes that they are now trying to correct with this overhaul.
“None of us are perfect in all of our decision making, but I feel good about the plan that we put in place and believe it’s the right one,” Goldman told The Associated Press.
Some of Yahoo’s most outspoken shareholders, such as SpringOwl Asset Management, already have concluded that Mayer should be laid off, too.
Mayer, a former rising star at Google who helped that company eclipse Yahoo, defended her performance.
“Yahoo is a far stronger, more modern company that it was three-and-half years ago,” she said in a video presentation Tuesday.
She also lashed out at reports that Yahoo spent $7 million on its holiday parties in December, labeling the figure as an “untruth” that is more than three times the actual cost of the festivities.
Even after the mass firings are completed by the end of March, Yahoo will still have about 9,000 workers — three times the roughly 3,000 people that SpringOwl believes the company should be employing, based on its steadily declining revenue.
“We would like to see a higher stock price, and we think Marissa and her current management team have become a hindrance to that,” said Eric Jackson, SpringOwl’s managing director. He declined to disclose the size of SpringOwl’s Yahoo investment.
Yahoo’s revenue has been shrinking through most of Mayer’s reign, even though she has spent more than $3 billion buying more than 40 companies, while bringing in new talent and developing mobile applications and other services designed to attract more traffic and advertisers.
The decline has persisted while advertisers have been steadily increasing their digital marketing efforts. Most of that money has been flowing to Google and Facebook — two companies once far smaller than the now 20-year-old Yahoo Inc.
Yahoo’s fourth-quarter report provided fresh evidence of the company’s deterioration. After subtracting ad commissions, revenue plunged 15 percent to $1 billion compared with the previous year — the biggest drop since Mayer became CEO in July 2012. Things continue to look bleak, as Yahoo forecast a net revenue decline of 12 to 17 percent this year.
The Sunnyvale, California, company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $4.4 billion, reflecting the eroding value of its services. The amount included a $1.2 billion hit for acquisitions made under Mayer, including a $230 million decrease in the value of blogging service Tumblr, which the company bought for $1.1 billion in 2013.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Excitement transcends all languages, and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had a good quip was asked Tuesday about the popularity of the team’s Spanish language radio broadcasters.
“Well I’m trilingual myself,” Newton said. “I am. I know how to speak Spanish, English obviously, and I speak pretty good Ebonics.”
Newton said the Panthers hear lots of the play-by-play from the team’s Spanish-language broadcasters along with highlight videos before upcoming games. He said it’s kind of weird to hear their calls with the Panthers not really sure what the broadcasters are saying. So they often ask coach Ron Rivera to help translate.
“I know they’re screaming and their tone, and I think that’s the great thing about language as a whole,” Newton said. “You don’t necessarily have to know what they’re talking about to hear their tone and notice that they’re excited about whatever they’re saying.”
EMULATING CAM: Denver has pretty tall backup quarterbacks in Brock Osweiler at 6-foot-8 and Trevor Siemian at 6-3. So they can replicate the challenges the 6-5 Newton presents as the Broncos prepare to play the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl, right?
“Of course everyone knows about speed, him being fast, fast strong and tall and all that stuff,” said Broncos linebacker Von Miller, like Newton an All-Pro this season. “His ability to make others play to a level that they would not normally play at is what I think is his greatest attribute.”
Newton’s ability to run, whether powerfully or swiftly, is not something Osweiler nor Siemian truly can emulate in practice. So, Miller said, the Broncos have tried another approach.
“You can’t simulate that speed,” Miller said. “You can the size somewhat, but that’s all. So we figured maybe put a running back back there. Stick anybody who has speed.”
Miller said the coaches have used several running backs and even cornerback Taurean Nixon, all with one thing in mind.
“Speed, speed, speed,” Miller said. “It happens so fast with Cam.”
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: No Super Bowl hitches so far for NFL field director Ed Mangan at Levi’s Stadium.
The turf is ready, the end zones are painted and the grass is being cut daily to three-quarters of an inch.
“Weather like this is outstanding,” said Mangan, also the Atlanta Braves’ field director and working his 27th Super Bowl. “There’s been no real hitches.”
He was referring to the sunny skies Tuesday in Santa Clara, crossing his fingers the weather holds as expected.
The field was covered with a lighter tarp overnight Sunday into Monday in case of frost.
Also Tuesday, the company View — a leader in dynamic glass — announced that its smart windows have been installed at Levi’s Stadium to enhance the fan experience. View Dynamic Glass said that it “maximizes natural light and provides unobstructed views while reducing heat and glare.” There had been issues since the opening of the $1.3 billion stadium in 2014 of fans on one side becoming too hot under the glare of the sun.
BYRON WHITE AWARD: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is one of the finalists for the NFL Players Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Award.
The award annually recognizes players who go above and beyond to perform community service in their team cities and hometowns.
Giants running back Rashad Jennings, Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson and Titans tight end Delanie Walker are the other finalists.
The winner, who will receive $100,000 for his foundation or a charity of his choice, will be announced on Feb. 4 at the NFLPA’s annual Super Bowl news conference.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning won the award in 2005 and Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway won it last year.
The award is named after former NFL running back and Supreme Court Justice Byron Raymond “Whizzer” White.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker and AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Santa Clara, Calif., contributed.
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