RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The shipwreck-hunting company that found Blackbeard’s sunken ship off the North Carolina coast nearly 300 years ago has sued the state for more than $8 million, saying officials violated a contract involving photos and videos of the wreck and recovery.
Florida-based Intersal Inc. also says in the lawsuit filed Monday that the amount being sought could increase as the company discovers further violations of the contract involving the ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The lawsuit also seeks a temporary order preventing the state from violating the contract and from recovering more objects from the ship. North Carolina has created a tourist industry based on Blackbeard and the ship since its discovery in 1996.
A spokeswoman for the state says North Carolina denies violating the contract.
OZD, Hungary (AP) — The workers wake up in the middle of the night and walk miles to get to their jobs by 6 a.m. Taking up hoes and rakes, they toil for hours with little chance of rest. Soon surveillance cameras shaped like eyeglasses will track their every move.
The workers are mostly Gypsy men and women, and their boss is a new far-right mayor who is cracking down on a group his Jobbik party often casts as an enemy. David Janiczak’s leaderhip in Ozd gives clues into what Hungary might feel like if the surging Jobbik managed to unseat Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative Fidesz party — which is slumping in popularity.
Jobbik now runs about a dozen Hungarian towns and holds 12 percent of the seats in the national parliament. It is also the most popular party with young voters. If the trend continues, the party could pose a serious challenge to Fidesz in 2018 parliamentary elections.
Since Janiczak won power in Ozd — whose population of 34,000 is about one-third Gypsy — members of the minority who work on city-run farmland and other public projects have seen their work conditions get much harsher. The mayor has imposed longer hours, fewer breaks and soon the introduction of surveillance cameras to ensure that they don’t slack off.
Janiczak, 28, suggested that the tough work conditions were at least in part intended to drive Roma away. “Every person in Ozd has two options — they either live in order and integrity and build the city, or they destroy it,” Janiczak told The Associated Press. “The majority of these destructive people are Gypsies, without whom … it would be easier for the city to develop.”
With fewer Roma, Janiczak said, the city would spend less on social benefits and people would feel safer. Jobbik often uses the term “Gypsy crimes” to refer to petty thefts and other law-breaking rarely investigated by police. If efforts to integrate the “destroyers” are unsuccessful, he added, “authorities will use the full force of the law.”
Jobbik is using Ozd as a “laboratory of government,” experimenting with policies and ideas at the municipal level as its support grows across the country, said Peter Kreko, director of the Political Capital Institute, which has been closely following Jobbik for years.
While Jobbik’s electoral campaigns last year presented candidates with their families or pets — and downplayed the party’s radical views — Kreko said that Ozd showed that beneath the surface Jobbik has not really changed.
“The intentions and plans of Jobbik and its treatment of the public works employees clearly refute its efforts to soften its image,” Kreko said. “What is functioning is a very ideological, discriminative racism.”
During the communist era, Ozd, 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, had a steel mill which employed some 14,000 people. After the mill and a coal mine closed in the 1990s, the unemployment rate jumped to over 20 percent and unskilled Roma were among the most affected.
Roma laborers make up the bulk of 1,300 Ozd residents taking part in a public employment program that was introduced across Hungary in late 2013 by the Orban government. After Janiczak took office last year he enforced the rules in a stricter way and implemented new ones, such as the use of surveillance cameras. Net pay for unskilled workers is around 51,000 forints ($180, 165 euros) per month, and many are glad to take it as the government has also greatly cut unemployment benefits, which are now called “work search allowances.”
On a recent spring day, a crew of about a dozen laborers was preparing some farmland for planting on the outskirts of town. Rakes and hoes in hand, their complaints ranged from getting only one 5-minute break an hour to a lack of drinking water and toilet facilities. Their work day now starts as much as two hours earlier than before Janiczak took over, meaning many need to walk to work because there are few public transportation options so early in the day.
Indignation was strongest over a clause in the new work contract allowing officials to take video and photos of their work performance.
“This is only about intimidation,” said Bela Biro, a Roma former steel mill worker who works on the city-run farming project. “We don’t dare sit down for five minutes. They said we can’t, even if blood is running from our nose.”
Janiczak said he is only carrying out existing laws. “We want nothing else but to enforce order, enforce employment regulations and educate these people to work,” he said. “I think their issue is not with walking, but with … having to do actual work instead of just showing up.”
As for the surveillance, Janiczak said the city had spent 340,000 forints ($1,260; 1,100 euros) on eight video cameras, including two which look like eyeglasses, not just to oversee workers but also to protect supervisors from threats and attacks.
“This is going to clear up many disputes,” said the mayor. “In the developed, civilized world every workplace has cameras. Why should the public workers be exempt from this?” Those in the public employment program, he said, should “get used to being observed.”
Janiczak said the surveillance plan had been cleared by an official investigation, and that recordings would be made on “exceptional occasions.”
Human rights activists said the measures amounted to harassment.
“To burden the already defenseless public works employees with the issue of surveillance is unacceptable and embitters their lives,” said Mate Szabo, a director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. “It would be more justified to keep the job inspectors under surveillance instead and monitor their treatment of the workers.”
Kriszta Bodis, a rights advocate who has been working with the Roma in Ozd for many years, said the mood in the community had deteriorated since Janiczak’s victory.
“I think the humiliation is what is much stronger now than before,” Bodis said.
The new mayor said he his job-creation plans would potentially draw back many of the 15,000 Ozd residents who left over the past two decades. As part of that plan, Janiczak has nominated Ozd as the location for one of several new prisons being built by the government by 2019, which could add 250 jobs. A prison “also deters criminals,” the mayor said.
Many of the local Roma live in dire poverty in slums where they lack running water and where the city does not come to remove their garbage. They share a communal water pump and burn garbage nearby.
Bodis, who runs the Your Place foundation which mentors disadvantaged Roma students, argued for a more compassionate approach.
“Discipline and order are important,” Bodis said. “But it is more important to provide opportunities.”
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The weapons of Afghanistan’s long decades of war can be seen almost everywhere, from the burned-out hulks of Soviet tanks to the Kalashnikov assault rifles slung over policemen’s shoulders and helicopter gunships roaring overhead.
It should be no surprise then that young children play “police and Taliban,” chasing each other around with toy guns and weaponry designed to mimic the real thing. And like the real war, there have been casualties.
At least 184 people, nearly all children, suffered eye injuries over the recent Eid al-Fitr holiday from toy weapons that fire BB pellets and rubber shot, health officials said. In response, authorities have banned toy guns.
“The Afghan Interior Ministry orders all police forces to confiscate toy guns, which can lead to physical and psychological damage to people,” the order read.
It didn’t elaborate on what psychological damage the toy guns can cause. The noise of gunfire is almost unmistakable to most Afghans, and unlike in the U.S., there have been no prominent cases of police officers here killing children brandishing toy Kalashnikovs or plastic pistols.
Afghans have grown familiar with firearms over long decades of war, from the 1979 Soviet invasion and the resulting insurgency to the civil war and the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s. The U.S.-led invasion in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks introduced the population to a new host of armaments, from the M4 rifles carried by American soldiers to the heavy-duty armored vehicles known as MRAPs chugging down city streets.
The toy guns come mostly from China and neighboring Pakistan, and many were given to young boys as gifts during the recent Eid, or festival, that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Authorities had tried to warn parents about the dangers the guns pose before the holiday.
“An awareness video was prepared as an initiative to inform people how much these toy guns can be dangerous,” said Dr. Abdul Rahim Majeed, the program manager for the public Noor Eye Hospital. “Unfortunately, the families did not take it seriously and didn’t pay attention to this important message and it caused many people to get injured and come to hospitals for treatments.”
Majeed said many of those injured by toy guns came to Noor, which treated 116 cases during this most recent holiday — double the number from last year. He said the national figure of those injured likely was higher, as some may have not sought treatment or gone to private clinics.
Since the ban went into effect, police have been told to search shops and seize toy guns from children, but the Interior Ministry could not offer any statistic for the number confiscated.
Parents like Shakib Nasery, a 38-year-old father of two, welcomed the effort to destroy the toy guns. Any reduction of violence in the insurgency-wracked country — even if just children’s play — would be good, he said.
“It is not good for a society to have kids with such mentality of using guns or playing gun battles,” Nasery said. “Unfortunately, this is the negative impact of an ongoing war in our country.”
Follow Rahim Faiez on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRahimFaiez
PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas (AP) — Hundreds have gathered in Southeast Texas for a vigil and march in memory of Sandra Bland, the Illinois woman found dead in a jail days after her arrest during a traffic stop.
Houston TV station KPRC reports attendees met at a Prairie View church Sunday, then marched across Prairie View A&M University, which Bland attended.
Some carried signs that said “Justice for Sandra.” Others called for a Justice Department investigation into her death.
Authorities have said Bland hanged herself, a finding her family disputes.
Also Sunday, The Houston Chronicle reports dozens protested outside a residence in Katy, west of Houston, that they believed belongs to the state trooper who arrested Bland. Protesters criticized his actions, which were captured on dashcam video, and called for him to be fired and criminally charged.
The trooper is on administrative leave pending an investigation.
RENO, Nev. (AP) — For decades, forest rangers in wooden towers across the West scanned the horizon with binoculars for smoke that could signal the start of a wildfire.
Now, scientists in Nevada and California are helping federal land managers develop technology to expand a network of high-definition cameras to do the job, including one in northern Nevada that recently captured a blaze in real-time more than 100 miles away in Oregon.
The latest project led by the Nevada Seismology Laboratory began two years ago at Lake Tahoe in conjunction with the Forest Service and other local agencies. In recent weeks, the Bureau of Land Management has mounted four cameras on remote mountain peaks stretching from central to northeast Nevada about 100 miles from the Utah line.
“With the system we have developed here in Nevada and eastern California, I think we are on the cusp of a new era in the way we fight fires,” said Graham Kent, director of the lab at the University of Nevada, Reno which tied the communication network into the system it uses to monitor seismic activity and climactic conditions.
The goal is to detect fires faster, especially in unpopulated areas where they can burn several hours or even days before anyone reports them. The cameras with pan-tilt-zoom capability provide a 360-panoramic view with infrared night vision and specialized software to track smoke.
“Basically we are developing 21st century fire tower watchers,” Kent said. “Because we have this on-demand time lapse, you can look at the last 15 minutes or hour or six hours and it makes it easy to see the fire go ‘poof.’ We can get on top of these things a lot more quickly.”
Paul Petersen, BLM’s acting state fire management officer for Nevada, said the cameras provide incident commanders better intelligence when allocating air tankers and other precious resources, especially when stretched thin during peak fire season.
“We had a fire last week just south of Battle Mountain and we were able to move fast and send a heavier aircraft response than we would have,” Petersen said. “At that time, there was only one fire, so that was easy. But there are times we’ve got fires all over.”
The camera that picked up that fire — from the top of the 6,500-foot Midas Peak 40 miles north of Battle Mountain, Nevada — is the same one that gave BLM officials a look at the smoke billowing 104 miles north in Oregon’s Jordan Valley along the Idaho line.
Last month, a camera at Lake Tahoe picked up the first wisps of smoke an hour before anyone reported a fire that eventually burned about 25 square miles of forest near Markleeville, California.
Kent believes some of the 254 homes destroyed in south Tahoe’s 2007 Angora fire may have been spared if cameras were in place.
“You still have to go put the fire out, but the fact that it smoldered all morning and into the afternoon, it would have been very easy to see,” he said.
Kent said they’re working with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, which began utilizing cameras for firefighting intelligence in 2002. The new push is to speed detection by not only providing the video feeds to dispatchers but to the public via the Internet.
“The more eyes the better,” said Ken Smith, the UNR lab’s associate director.
California and some other parts of the West still use manned towers, but many have found them to be too costly in remote areas, and Nevada only has one remaining near Caliente, Petersen said.
The Tahoe network includes ski resort cameras used to provide real-time looks at mountain conditions. Fire agencies in other states also utilize private cameras near urban areas, Kent said, but the expansion into such remote areas is unprecedented. They’ll be especially valuable now that the BLM has placed a priority on protecting sage grouse habitat, Petersen said.
“It really demonstrates how the technology can be put out in the wilderness, really far away from anybody,” Kent said. “You don’t have to be next to a university or famous resort. You can build this infrastructure anywhere there is a need to put out fires quickly.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Ant-Man” crept past new opener “Pixels” to claim the top spot at the box office this weekend by an ant-sized margin. The Disney and Marvel superhero pic brought in $24.8 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $106.1 million according to Rentrak estimates Sunday.
“Pixels,” meanwhile, just barely missed first place with a $24 million debut. While studios always hope for the bragging rights of a No. 1 debut, the real issue here is whether or not the Adam Sandler end of the world comedy will make up its $88 million production budget.
“It’s been a little competitive in the marketplace when you consider the extent of the performance of ‘Jurassic’ and ‘Inside Out,'” said Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution Rory Bruer. “To get to where we opened to was quite good.”
Critics were not fond of “Pixels,” which shows 1980s video arcade game characters attacking Earth, but younger audiences still turned out to theaters — an estimated 62 percent were under the age of 25.
Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst, said Sandler can still attract an audience, but the expensive film has a lot of ground to make up.
“They’re really going to have to count on the international component. That’s going to be key,” he said.
Overall, the box office is down 3 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Lucy” opened particularly strong. Dergarabedian said that though some are attempting to link last week’s theater shootings to any dip in the box office this weekend, “the numbers just don’t bear it out.”
Holdovers “Minions” and “Trainwreck” took the third and fourth spots with $22.1 million and $17.3 million, respectively.
Meanwhile, the R-rated boxing drama “Southpaw” surpassed expectations and landed a place in the top five with its $16.5 million opening.
Dergarabedian said that its performance is likely due to star Jake Gyllenhaal’s enthusiastic promotion of the film and also the fact that it provides an alternative to the standard summer blockbuster fare.
“‘Southpaw’ felt like a really good fall movie,” he said.
“Paper Towns,” an adaptation of John Green’s coming-of-age novel, opened in sixth place with $12.5 million. The Fox film only cost $12 million to produce, but considering Green’s fan base and last year’s massive $48 million debut of “The Fault in Our Stars,” which Green also wrote, it’s a bit disappointing.
A straight comparison isn’t entirely fair, though. “The Fault in Our Stars” had a much bigger following and transcended age and gender groups with its story of two teens dying of cancer and falling in love. “Paper Towns” is a more narrow and lighthearted high school tale.
According to exit polls, 71 percent of the “Paper Towns” audience was female and 78 percent were under age 25.
Also, Shailene Woodley was a much bigger name when “The Fault in Our Stars” came out, whereas Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff are somewhat lesser known.
Woodley’s “Divergent” association took the modest film “to another level,” Dergarabedian said.
“I think we have a job ahead of us in the coming weeks to find more of our potential audience who we weren’t able to reach this weekend. But I think we can do that,” said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution president.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. “Ant-Man,” $24.8 million.
2. “Pixels,” $24 million.
3. “Minions,” $22.1 million.
4. “Trainwreck,” $17.3 million.
5. “Southpaw,” $16.5 million.
6. “Paper Towns,” $12.5 million.
7. “Inside Out,” $7.4 million.
8. “Jurassic World,” $6.9 million.
9. “Mr. Holmes,” $2.8 million.
10. “Terminator Genisys,” $2.4 million.
Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ldbahr