DHARMSALA, India (AP) — A weekend fire at the sprawling Jokhang monastery in Tibet did not affect the main chapel at the 1,300-year-old religious site, considered the spiritual heart of Tibetan Buddhism, the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile said Monday.
The main Jokhang chapel houses many Tibetan cultural treasures, including the Jowo Sakyamuni, a life-sized statue of the 12-year-old Buddha.
Video on Chinese social media showed a roof in the monastery complex hit by large flames that were visible from hundreds of meters (yards) away. Saturday’s fire occurred when many Tibetans were celebrating Losar, the New Year festival that began Friday.
No injuries were reported from the blaze. The cause of the fire remained unknown.
Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the government-in-exile, who is currently visiting Japan, expressed relief that the fire did not affect the Jokhang chapel. But he cautioned Tibetans in Tibet to remain alert at large public gatherings, especially during occasions such as Losar, according to a statement by the government-in-exile.
It’s mandatory to have adequate safety measures put in place at holy sites such as Jokhang, Sangay said.
“At this point in time, I cannot comment much until the cause of the fire is brought to light, but it is disturbing to see tragic accidents take place at Jokhang temple premises, one of the most hallowed sites in Tibet and a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” said Ven Karma Gelek Yuthok, the government-in-exile’s Tibetan minister for religion and culture.
The Dalai Lama has been living in Dharmsala, a northern Indian town, since he fled from Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Beijing accuses him of seeking to separate Tibet from China, which he denies.
China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.
Some cities and regions are highlighting racial diversity along with positive business climates, competitive tax rates and available land in pitches to lure tech companies and high-paying jobs to town.
Places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Detroit are touting their populations of people of color to chief executives and other corporate officials as part of being open for business.
“For Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, ethnic and racial diversity has been an integral part of our history and a rich part of our narrative,” said Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among 20 cities still under consideration by online retail giant Amazon as locations for the company’ second headquarters.
Pashman said to succeed as a player in a global economy, Pittsburgh “must be a place where there’s a base of talent that looks and thinks like the world because the world is the customer in today’s economy.”
When Seattle-based Amazon sought proposals for its second headquarters, more than 240 cities and regions submitted bids and pitches about what they could offer the retailer. Many pitches came with sleek, professionally filmed videos of bright and busy downtowns, historic landmarks and recreational opportunities.
Some also featured snapshots of racial diversity in neighborhoods, shops and classrooms. That’s something sought by younger workers who will come to dominate a more tech-driven global economy, according to marketing experts.
Companies generally are looking to employ a lot of millennials and those hires are saying they “want to be able to work and live in a place where there are these interesting and diverse cultures,” said Matthew Quint, director of Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership.
But tech-based corporations are lacking in diversity, according to some data.
High-tech employment of African-Americans in the U.S. was 7.4 percent compared with 14.4 percent employment of blacks in the public sector overall, according to 2014 data collected by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hispanic high-tech employment was 8 percent compared to 13.9 percent in the public sector overall.
The data also showed that less than 1 percent of executives at some leading Silicon Valley tech firms were black and fewer than 2 percent were Hispanic.
“All tech companies are under this lens, presently, for their lack of diversity,” Quint said. “CEOs are talking about ‘we know we need to change.'”
Meanwhile, he said, cities recognize the racial diversity they offer is attractive and they’re telling companies, “You are going to have this diverse population to choose from as you’re looking to change your brand.”
Pittsburgh is in Allegheny County. About 202,000 of Pittsburgh’s 305,000 residents are white, and about 74,000 are black, according to census data. An additional 16,000 are Asian.
In its pursuit of Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters project, which could result in possibly 50,000 jobs, Pittsburgh’s video entry is titled “Future. Forged. For all.”
In Philadelphia’s pitch to Amazon, a half-dozen or so non-white professionals tell why it would be the best place for the company’s new headquarters.
Dallas-Fort Worth also is among the more than 240 cities and regions to make a run at Amazon and also made the cut down to 20. A video that’s part of Dallas-Fort Worth’s proposal shows a boy of eastern Indian heritage holding a sign that reads: “Diversity.”
Detroit’s pitch included a 240-page “Move Here. Move the World” book that featured blacks and other minorities who own businesses and also highlighted Hispanic heritage events. But the Motor City, which is 80 percent black and anchors a metropolitan area that also has sizable Arab-American and Hispanic populations, didn’t make Amazon’s cut.
Officials in Detroit say the city’s promotion of its diversity didn’t start with its run at Amazon and won’t stop now that the company has its eyes elsewhere.
“We are going to use that material as much as we can with all of our other business opportunities,” said Jed Howbert, the city’s group executive for Planning, Housing and Development. “We think the diversity of Detroit and the whole metro area is one of the most important assets we have in attracting companies.”
Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Haddonfield, New Jersey-based Buzz Marketing Group, said she’s not aware of other instances in which cities pushed their diversity to companies like some have to Amazon. But, she said, it’s “less about marketing a city’s blackness and more about showing a city is diverse and open to everyone.”
“When you think about vibrant cities you want to make sure you tell people, ‘You’re welcome here,'” Wells said. “I just think we’re a little slow in reflecting what these cities look like.”
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this story.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — This wasn’t the first time Devante Smith-Pelly has had racial taunts directed at him during a hockey game.
And the Washington Capitals forward knew immediately what the intent of the message was when a few fans began chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball,” while Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a 7-1 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. Smith-Pelly, a black player in a sport dominated by white athletes, heard a similar taunt years before while playing in a tournament in British Columbia.
“It’s pretty obvious what that means. It’s not really a secret,” Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday. “Whether it’s that word or any other word, I got the idea. And I’m sure they got the idea, too. Just one word, and that’s really all it takes.”
What stunned the 25-year-old is how incidents such as these keep happening.
“It’s disgusting,” Smith-Pelly said. “You’d think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we’re still working toward it, I guess, and we’re going to keep working toward it.”
The Blackhawks and United Center officials reacted swiftly by ejecting four fans shortly after an off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly — serving a fighting major for a scrap with Chicago’s Connor Murphy — notified building security.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday, saying the league condemns the fans’ behavior as being “unacceptable and reprehensible.”
“While this was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games,” Bettman said.
The Capitals released a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior” by a select group of fans in Chicago.
In thanking the Blackhawks and arena security, the Capitals said: “It is crucial to confront such appalling conduct.”
The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they “are committed to providing an inclusive environment.”
Video shows Smith-Pelly seated in the penalty box while looking and pointing to his left. He then gets up with his stick and gets into a verbal exchange with a male fan on other side of the glass.
Smith-Pelly said he stepped forward publicly to call out the fans for what they said because he didn’t want to “brush it under the rug.”
“I guess I’m trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people were their true colors,” he said.
Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players’ fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad.
“We’ve had this conversation before,” said Smith-Pelly, who is from Toronto. “So he said, ‘It’s just a few idiots being ignorant.'”
Smith-Pelly has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games is in his first season with the Capitals. He has 40 goals and 53 assists in 320 regular-season games with in seven seasons with Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey and the Capitals.
Capitals rookie defenseman Madison Bowey said what happened in Chicago made him “sick to my stomach.”
Assistant captain Brooks Orpik said: “I wish I could say it’s surprising but it’s probably not all that surprising.”
“I think no matter what you do, you’re going to find pockets of ignorance anywhere you go,” Orpik said. “Devo is as well liked as anyone in this room. I think it’s important for him to know that, and to know that everyone respects him a ton in this room.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz reiterated his post-game comments by saying there’s no place for racism in hockey or the country.
“For the 22,000 people in Chicago at the game last night, there were a lot, a lot, a lot of good people,” Trotz said. “And a few individuals keep bringing the ugly part of society out, and that was unfortunate.”
The fans’ taunts occurred during the NHL’s monthlong “Hockey is for Everyone ” campaign to promote the game as being inclusive for all players regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or gender. February is also Black History Month in the United States.
The NHL has had to previously deal with racial insults.
During the 2014 playoffs, the Boston Bruins denounced fans who posted racial comments on social media targeting then-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black, after he scored in double overtime.
In 2011, a fan was fined $200 after pleading guilty to engaging in a prohibited activity for throwing a banana on the ice at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who is black, during an exhibition game at London, Ontario.
AP freelance reporter Matt Carlson in Chicago contributed to this report.
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QAIM, Iraq (AP) — From their outpost on Iraq’s westernmost edge, U.S. 1st Lt. Kyle Hagerty and his troops watched civilians trickle into the area after American and Iraqi forces drove out the Islamic State group. They were, he believed, families returning to liberated homes, a hopeful sign of increasing stability.
But when he interviewed them on a recent reconnaissance patrol, he discovered he was wrong. They were families looking for shelter after being driven from their homes in a nearby town. Those who pushed them out were forces from among their “liberators” — Shiite militiamen who seized control of the area after defeating the IS militants.
It was a bitter sign of the mixed legacy from the United States’ intervention in Iraq to help defeat the militants. American-backed military firepower brought down the IS “caliphate,” but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists’ rise remain unresolved.
The U.S.-led coalition, which launched its fight against IS in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists in December. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the exact size of the drawdown has not yet been decided.
U.S. and Iraqi commanders here in western Iraq warn that victories over IS could be undercut easily by a large-scale withdrawal. Iraq’s regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq’s minority communities view the U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.
That has left an uncomfortable limbo in this area that was the last battlefield against the extremists. Coalition commanders still work with Iraqi forces to develop long-term plans for stability even as a drawdown goes ahead with no one certain of its eventual extent.
HEARTS AND MINDS — AGAIN
“Let’s go win us some hearts and minds,” Sgt. Jonathan Cary, 23, joked as he and Hagerty and the patrol convoy set off from a base outside the town of Qaim, evoking a phrase used in American policy goals for Iraq ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.
“Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?” Hagerty said later, back at the base. “But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves.”
After victories against IS, the PMF has built up a presence in many parts of Sunni-majority provinces, including western Anbar. It formally falls under the command of the prime minister, but some Iraqi commanders accuse the PMF of being a rival to government power.
PMF flags line highways crisscrossing Anbar. At a PMF checkpoint outside al-Asad airbase — a sprawling complex used by both Iraqi and coalition forces — U.S. convoys are regularly stopped for hours while busloads of PMF fighters are waved through.
U.S. Marine Col. Seth Folsom works closely with the branches of Iraq’s security forces — Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army — who are increasingly concerned about the rise in power of the PMF. Iran has given no indication of dialing back its support after the defeat of IS extremists.
“The biggest question I get now is, ‘how long can we count on you being here?'” Folsom said of his conversations with Iraqi commanders and local politicians.
That decision ultimately rests with Iraq’s political leadership, he said.
“I guess some people could see that as a cop-out, but at the same time it’s not my place as a lowly colonel to define how long the U.S. presence is going to be.”
‘FORWARD LINE OF FREEDOM’
For the senior officers leading the current fight against IS, decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq has defined their careers.
The top U.S. general in Iraq — Lt. Gen. Paul Funk — served in Iraq four times: in the Gulf war in 1991; in the 2003 invasion; in the surge when some 170,000 American troops were serving in Iraq in 2007; and most recently in the fight against IS.
“It will definitely be positive,” Funk said of the legacy of the U.S. role against IS in Iraq. “People see their young men and women out here defeating evil. That’s a positive thing.”
On a recent flight from Baghdad to a small U.S. outpost in northern Syria near Manbij — a trip that traversed the heart of the battlefield with IS for the past 3½ years — Funk described the future of the fight as ideological and open-ended.
“The problem is people believe it’s already over, and it’s not,” he said. “Beating the ideology, destroying the myth, that’s going to take time.”
Touching down outside an orchard on the perimeter of the Manbij base, Funk exclaimed: “Welcome to the front line of freedom!”
Funk predicts the ideological fight could take years and easily require U.S. troop deployments elsewhere. He said that is one reason he believes it’s so important to visit U.S. troops on the current front lines — to show them “the American people believe in their purpose.”
“We have got to recruit the next generation,” he said.
Many of the young U.S. troops interviewed by The Associated Press said they didn’t know anything about the Islamic State group when they enlisted.
Rayden Simeona, a 21-year-old corporal in the Marines, enlisted in 2014, when all he knew about the U.S. military was from movies and video games.
“I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, I had no idea what IS was. I just knew I wanted to go to war,” he said. Once deployed, he said talk rarely broached the big questions of “What we are doing here?” or “Why?”
“But I do wonder all the time: Why are we spending all this money in Iraq?” he said. “There’s probably some greater plan or reason that someone much higher up than me knows.”
IS THE JUICE WORTH THE SQUEEZE?
Along Iraq’s border with Syria, the two Iraqi forces charged with holding a key stretch of territory lack direct communication. Because one force falls under the Defense Ministry and the other under the Interior Ministry, their radios are incompatible.
Instead, the troops use Nokia cellphones in a part of the country where network coverage is spotty to nonexistent.
At the nearby coalition outpost near Qaim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Payne spends much of his time filling communications gaps by relaying messages between different branches of Iraq’s military.
“The coordination is not where we hoped it would be,” Payne said. “But they do talk to each other, and we see that as a sign of progress.”
Tactical shortcomings within Iraq’s military are partially what fueled the expansion of the coalition’s footprint in Iraq in the past three years. As Iraqi ground forces demonstrated an inability to communicate and coordinate attacks across multiple fronts, U.S. forces moved closer to the fighting and sped up the pace of territorial gains.
Despite the caliphate’s collapse, those weaknesses have persisted. Iraqi forces remain dependent on coalition intelligence, reconnaissance, artillery fire and airstrikes to hold territory and fight IS insurgent cells.
Payne regularly shuttles between his base, Qaim and the Syrian border, meeting with different members of Iraqi forces to coordinate security and repel IS attacks from the Syrian side.
“I would say we are still needed,” Payne said. “We are getting great results with this model, but you see how much goes into it.”
The base, once a small, dusty outpost, now houses a few hundred coalition troops and is a maze of barracks, gyms, a dining facility, laundry services and a chapel.
“At some point, someone much higher up than me is going to decide the juice is just not worth the squeeze,” Payne said, referring to the cost of such a large outpost in a remote corner of the country.
Iraqi army Lt. Col. Akram Salah Hadi, who works closely with Payne’s soldiers at the Qaim outpost, said coalition training and intelligence sharing have improved the performance of his unit. But overall, the U.S. effort in Iraq gives him little hope for the future.
Corruption in the military, Hadi said, remains as bad as it was in 2014, when it was seen as a major reason why entire Iraqi divisions simply dissolved in the assault on Mosul by a few hundred IS fighters.
Young Iraqi soldiers with ambition and talent can’t rise through the ranks without political connections. Top ranks are bloated with officers who have bought their promotions. Within his division alone, Hadi said he can think of 40 officers with no military background who attained their rank because of their membership in a political party.
“With leadership like this, the rest will always be rotten,” he said.
Coalition programs that have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have largely focused on the infantry, not the junior officers needed to lead units and instill a culture of service that will make a professional force.
Folsom, the U.S. Marine colonel, said military power will not root out corruption or heal Iraq’s longstanding divisions.
“I have a saying out here,” he added, “‘You can’t want it more than them.'”
You may take the school bus to school every day — but can you imagine living in one? A new trend is putting a spin on the all-too-familiar yellow vehicle and turning it into a cozy and affordable housing space. Skoolies have become popular in places where rent and home prices are high, and for young people who can’t afford the cost of living, skoolies offer a fun and cost-effective alternative to own a home. Plus, you can travel the country without ever having to leave the comfort of your home!
So what do you think — are skoolies the Next Big Thing? Vote and tell us your opinion in the comments section below. Or submit your video comments to email@example.com. We will feature the results of the poll and some of your comments on the show!
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NBA dunk contest was a throwback in many ways, with a 21-year-old rookie and a 25-year-old, third-year pro fighting it out for the trophy.
Larry Nance Jr. rolled out his father’s old uniform — down to the knee-high socks — and then rolled out his father himself to help with one of his dunks. But he came up short against Donovan Mitchell, the precocious Utah Jazz rookie with his own sense of history.
Mitchell put on a show at Staples Center to win the slam dunk contest and cap off NBA All-Star Saturday.
Mitchell edged Nance Jr. 98-96, sealing his victory with a close approximation of the 360-degree spin dunk that Vince Carter used to win the 2000 contest.
“I wanted this so badly,” Mitchell said. “This is one of my favorite events of All-Star weekend. To not only be in it, but to win it, it’s crazy.”
Before making his winning dunk, Mitchell peeled off his Jazz jersey to reveal a vintage Carter jersey from the Toronto Raptors.
Mitchell — three inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Carter — needed a score of 47 to beat Nance, and he got a 48 from the five judges: DJ Khaled, Mark Wahlberg, Chris Rock and Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Lisa Leslie.
Minutes earlier, Nance, who was trying to win the contest 34 years after his father won it, had earned a perfect 50 with a slam off a double alley-oop off the glass.
“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, it’s incredible. I figured at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk. It would finish it.
“Actually, funny story, I haven’t made that dunk in half a year. I tried in in practice the past two days. I tried it in practice this morning, didn’t make it.”
Mitchell, the Jazz’s 21-year-old guard out of Louisville, is among the NBA’s top first-year players with a rookie-best 19.6 points per game. Though the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft might seem slightly undersized for a high-flying dunk champion, he showed more than enough athleticism to compete with the league’s best.
Mitchell advanced to the finals with a creative dunk in the first round that used his sister, Jordan, as well as Kevin Hart and the comedian’s son as props. For that dunk, Mitchell wore a Darrell Griffith Jazz jersey. Griffith participated in the first slam dunk contest in 1984.
Mitchel’s sister, Hart and the comedian’s son, crouched in a line in front of the basket. Mitchell had an assistant toss the ball off the side of the backboard. He caught it and did a one-handed tomahawk dunk as he jumped over his sister, Hart and his son.
It earned a perfect 50.
“I appreciate Kevin Hart coming out there and helping me out,” Mitchel said. “He’s my favorite comedian.”
Nance wore his father’s No. 22 Phoenix Suns jersey for his first dunk, replicating his dad’s rim-rattling cradle windmill that won the contest in 1984.
Nance was competing on his old team’s home floor nine days after being traded from the Lakers to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I felt great about it,” Nance said. “I felt great about it last Thursday, and then I got traded. I didn’t get to practice it again until yesterday.”
Later, Nance brought his dad out to toss him the ball for an alley-oop that earned a perfect score.
“It was obviously a big moment for my family,” Nance Jr. said. “It’s something I will cherish forever.”
Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers and Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated after the first round.
Earlier, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns won the 3-point contest with a record 28 points in the final round and Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets won the skills challenge.
Booker beat 2016 champion Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and Tobias Harris of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It feels really good,” Booker said. “I wanted to go out there and make a name for myself.”
Did he ever.
Booker was sensational in the final round, when he missed only five of 25 shots.
The previous record was 27 points, set by Stephen Curry in 2015 and matched by Thompson the following year.
Booker, the 21-year-old sharpshooter in his third season with Phoenix, is averaging 24.2 points per game this season as the NBA’s 12th-leading scorer. Eleven months after the shooting guard dropped 70 points against Boston to become the youngest player in NBA history to score even 60 in a game, Booker added another accolade to his promising career with the 3-Point title.
Dinwiddie, who played at Taft High in the Woodland Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, beat Lauri Markkanen of the Chicago Bulls in the final round of the skills challenge, which included dribbling around pylons, passing the ball into a net and shooting 3-pointers.
More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball