MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Doctors say former Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle was in critical condition following surgery after he fainted and struck his head.
The 88-year-old underwent surgery on Friday to stop a cerebral hemorrhage.
Dr. Martin Fernandez, a neurosurgeon on operated on the former president, said Batlle’s situation remained critical Friday despite the procedure’s success.
Batlle fell and hit his head in the city Tacuarembo, about 245 miles (395 kilometers) north of Montevideo. Still politically active, he was there for an event by his Colorado Party.
Among Uruguay’s most important politicians of the 20th century, he was president from 2000-2005.
CAIRO (AP) — For two weeks now, the shelf once piled with bags of sugar — for better or worse Egypt’s most loved commodity — has stood empty at this grocery store in bustling downtown Cairo.
“This is nothing — they’re missing even more things in my village,” said Mahmoud Sulayman, a former army conscript from the Nile Delta now working as a store clerk. “People are not upset, they are angry!”
Economic pressures are bearing down on Egypt, with several key steps to be taken in the days ahead to secure a bailout by the International Monetary Fund at a time when goods shortages and ever-rising prices are prompting public outrage at the leadership of President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.
An escalating spat with main backer Saudi Arabia will likely be of less immediate importance for the economy, after Egypt announced the kingdom had already contributed much-needed funding to help meet preconditions for the loan.
But the Arab world’s most populous country still needs some additional $2 billion in foreign reserves to reach a position of strength it agreed to with the IMF before it starts to gradually float its currency against the dollar and cut fuel subsidies, the other two main parts of the reform package the U.S.-based lender of last resort is poised to support.
With the central bank holding back its reserves for the big push, a shortage of the currency has reached epic proportions, with a single dollar costing upward of 15 pounds compared to 14 last week and an official rate of 8.9. The collapse has made an array of common imported products more expensive, and some — including spare parts, medicines, industrial goods and foodstuff — are not entering the country at all.
“It’s like a sick patient in need of medicine, and the longer you delay the worse the condition gets,” said Angus Blair of Cairo-based Pharos bank, who hopes Cairo can raise the final funds from international donors next week so the IMF can decide to release the loan.
Egypt’s economy has been battered in the five years since an uprising toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, ushering in turbulent rule first by the army, then an Islamist government, and now el-Sissi, the former general who overthrew his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor.
Foreign currency reserves are being built up with help from abroad after they dwindled when tourism dried up over fears of terrorism, remittances dropped because of low oil prices, and Suez Canal revenues shrunk because of a decline in global trade. Inflation and unemployment rates are in the double digits.
Hopes are that by managing the currency’s flotation and putting dollars into circulation gradually at rates closer to the pound’s real value, the black market will ease and eventually disappear once the official value is determined by supply and demand and economic fundamentals. Another idea would be set the official rate to the same as the black market rate, or even overshoot it, in order to spark a flood of investment.
As part of the IMF-endorsed reform package, Egypt is expected to gradually lift state subsidies on fuel, basic services and food items, while aiming to support the poor with direct, often army-run welfare to offset the ensuing surge in inflation.
Some of the pain expected to increase in the near term for Egypt’s 91 million people, nearly half of whom are at or near the poverty line, has already appeared.
Stores, especially state-governed cooperatives, have begun to limit purchases of certain goods like sugar, oil and rice, with sugar in particularly short supply this week. Many stores in the capital were completely out of stock, while others posted signs explaining the rationing.
Popular anger usually has little opportunity to express itself in el-Sissi’s Egypt, where he has stamped out opposition and stifled dissent by jailing thousands since he led the army’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
But a video that emerged this week of an angry tuk tuk driver criticizing the government and relentless poverty in a working class neighborhood has gone viral, gaining nearly 100,000 social media likes from an audience of millions since it was initially broadcast then pulled by a private television station.
El-Sissi, who promised to fix the economy when he came to power, has been preaching the virtues of austerity for weeks, urging Egyptians to prepare for belt-tightening and even donate money to the state. Some have said this shows he’s out of touch with most average Egyptians, many of who feel they have not directly benefited from his vast purchases of military hardware, or grandiose plans to build cities in the desert.
Lurking in the background is the dispute with Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador has been recalled for consultations after Egypt angered Riyadh by voting for a U.N. Syria resolution sponsored by its Russian rivals in that battlefield. The resolution did not pass, but the kingdom’s U.N. envoy publicly berated Egypt over it.
Cairo had to scramble to buy oil on the international markets after Saudi cancelled October’s delivery of monthly oil supplies it had been giving Egypt on generous repayment terms. Local media reported the cancellation cost $500 million, a sum all the more important when Egypt is counting every cent.
El-Sissi has downplayed the incident, saying in a speech that Cairo remains committed to close relations with Gulf Arab allies. But it is unlikely to be quickly forgotten by investors, given that the Saudis have poured billions of dollars into Egypt to keep its faltering economy afloat since el-Sissi took power.
It remains to be seen just how the public will react if prices swing wildly and shortages become endemic once the coming steps are triggered. Shop clerk Sulayman has a clue, showing videos from his phone of angry crowds pushing their way toward delivery trucks in his village.
“I hope it doesn’t get like this in Cairo, they’re just too many people here,” he said.
Follow Brian Rohan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brian—rohan
OTISVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Bear hugs are nothing. Jim Kowalczik hugs bears.
Kowalczik lies on the ground as his 1,500-pound bear buddy, Jimbo, rests a heavy paw on his waist. He feeds Jimbo a marshmallow from his mouth and laughs as a big bear tongue slobbers on his ear.
If that sounds suicidal, consider that Kowalczik and his wife, Susan, have cared for Jimbo for almost 23 years, since he first came to the couple’s upstate New York haven for injured or unwanted animals as a bottle-feeding cub.
“He’ll play with you all day if you have the time,” Kowalczik says after a recent horseplay session, adding that it’s fortunate the bear doesn’t throw his weight around casually. “If he lays on you, you’ve got a problem.”
Jimbo is among the 11 bears living at the couple’s nonprofit Orphaned Wildlife Center 60 miles northwest of New York City. One of them, a black bear named Frankie, was born in the wild and found his way here in 2012 after being hit by a car. The rest of the bears here were born in captivity, eight of them Syrian brown bears or mixes that came from a breeding program. Jimbo came from a West Coast game farm with an injured leg.
There are plenty of wildlife rehabilitators and other centers that care for bears. But Kowalczik has grabbed attention for his hands-on approach. One Facebook video of him playing with Jimbo has received more than 16 million views. Kowalczik describes it as if it was something as natural as petting your dog. The bears are like his children, he says, and they have never injured him.
“There’s no false pretenses like there are with people and stuff,” Kowalczik says. “What you see is what you get.”
The couple has been rehabilitating squirrels, ducks, deer, mink and other animals together since the early 1990s. The main goal is to release animals, but the bears here cannot be released because of injuries or because they are too accustomed to captivity.
Bears are in 57-year-old Susan Kowalczik’s bloodline. Her father, Albert Rix, was a well-known circus veteran from Germany who raised Syrian brown bears. Jim, 60, is a retired corrections officer.
The Kowalcziks funded the venture out of their own pockets until creating the nonprofit last year, which allows them to take donations. It’s still just them, plus director Kerry Clair, who handles administrative duties.
The videos help with exposure. But experts are pretty clear: Do not get up close with bears, like Kowalczik does.
Even with captive bears, there’s a chance their instincts will take over, says Matt Merchant, senior wildlife biologist with New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Plus, there are inherent dangers of rolling around with an animal that’s three-quarters of a ton.
“I don’t think people get a lot of good information or education from that kind of behavior,” Merchant says. “They’d be better off watching a naturalist show off bears in the wild, or just going out and hiking around and seeing them on their own.”
Sitting on the ground next to Jimbo, Kowalczik shrugs at the thought of personal danger from his bear buddies.
“They’re content, they’re happy. If they weren’t,” Kowalczik pauses as Jimbo licks him, “you would know it.”
ATLANTA (AP) — A national police organization’s endorsement of Donald Trump has exposed a divide within the ranks of law enforcement: Can they support someone who calls himself the law-and-order candidate but was caught on tape bragging about sexually predatory behavior toward women?
And what about Trump antagonizing the very minority communities that police agencies need to win over amid turmoil over police shootings of unarmed black men?
Last month, the national Fraternal Order of Police endorsed the New York businessman, saying he’s the one candidate who takes time to understand the issues facing law enforcement. Now, some officers — particularly African-Americans — are questioning whether Trump is worthy of the endorsement.
“At a time when we’re all trying to unite and bring the world to a calm, the last person we need is a Donald Trump,” said David Fisher, president of the greater Philadelphia chapter of the National Black Police Association. “And the last thing the police need is to hitch its wagon to a Donald Trump.”
The FOP and Trump were to have appeared at a rally last Monday in Philadelphia, weeks after the endorsement was made. But the event was abruptly canceled after the release of a video from 2005 in which Trump can be heard making a series of vulgar and sexually aggressive remarks about women.
The cancellation triggered talk among police ranks that it was done in response to the video and to pushback from officers who already were angry over the endorsement. Chuck Canterbury, president of the 340,000-member organization, told The Associated Press that the event was canceled because Hurricane Matthew struck his hometown of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and that he hopes to reschedule it.
Canterbury said any endorsement is determined by agreement of at least two-thirds of the group’s 45 state lodges. The national FOP and its executive board have no say in the matter, he said.
The FOP has a history of backing Republicans. The recent exception was Bill Clinton during his re-election in 1996, after the Crime Bill of 1994 paid for the hiring of thousands of new officers across the country.
The only time the group hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate in its 102-year history was 2012, when neither Republican Mitt Romney nor Democrat Barack Obama was seen as friendly enough to its cause.
Several leaders among black police groups said they considered the FOP endorsement to be a reflection of an organization dominated by whites who are insensitive to the needs of black communities and black officers.
“Trust me, it was a group of white males who made that decision,” said Fisher, who retired a year ago after nearly three decades as a Philadelphia detective and officer. He noted that black officers often live in the communities they serve, some of the same neighborhoods feeling disenfranchised and at odds with police.
“I go home to an African-American community,” Fisher said. “I go to an African-American barbershop. After every shooting and every illegal stop, I go and I have to sit in a barbershop. There are some things you can never defend.”
Canterbury rejected any suggestion that the endorsement decision was made by “50 old white guys sitting around a table. … Members all across the country made that decision.”
Reggie Miller, the chairman of the National Black Police Association and a retired officer from Nashville, Tennessee, disputed the idea that Trump is a law-and-order candidate and said Trump has offered more platitudes than detail on how to combat police shootings, racism and inequities.
“When you say ‘restore law and order,’ what does that mean? How do you do that? Or do you want to bring back stop and frisk,” said Miller in reference to a police tactic widely seen as based on racial profiling. “Well, who are they stopping and who are they frisking?”
Trump has won considerable support within law enforcement circles and is widely credited for carving out time at his stops around the country to shake hands of the police providing security. But it hasn’t been without controversy.
In Summit County, Ohio, Sheriff Steve Barry took flak after SWAT team officers posed for a photo with Trump — a move that to some underscored the image of the militarization of police and appeared to be a political endorsement. Barry, a Democrat, took to Facebook to say the photo op was simply a memento.
In San Antonio, 12 police officers were disciplined after a video surfaced showing them donning Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” hats while in uniform, some of them wearing the caps while providing a motorcycle escort to the airport. And in Phoenix, the city asked the Trump campaign to pull an ad that showed officers in uniform.
But those stops have endeared Trump to officers who believe he has their backs. Even if Trump is a flawed candidate, few officers seem interested in supporting Hillary Clinton, who has long had a frosty relationship with law enforcement — and her own perceived legal troubles and a husband with a history of infidelity.
“Law enforcement in general feels Donald Trump is genuine when he talks about law enforcement. He’s been complimentary. He has defended law enforcement,” said Travis Yates, editor of lawofficer.com. “There is a sense that he genuinely cares.”
Associated Press writer Jeff Horwitz in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Lisa Marie Pane on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lisamariepane . Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/journalist/lisa-marie-pane
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that Republicans who are disavowing Donald Trump deserve no credit for their sudden change of heart after having “stood by silently” for so long. He accused Republicans of filling a “swamp of crazy” by allowing unfounded and hate-filled rhetoric to go unchallenged within the party for years.
Campaigning for Democrats in Ohio, Obama said most Republicans aren’t like Trump and “know better,” but hadn’t renounced the kind of rhetoric Trump embraces out of deference to the Republican base. The president said that it was GOP complacency that led the party to nominate a candidate who he said brags and jokes about sexually assaulting women.
“You can’t wait until that finally happens and then say, ‘That’s too much, that’s enough,’ and then say somehow you are showing some type of leadership and deserve to be elected to the United States Senate,” Obama said. “In fact, I’m more forgiving of the people who actually believe it than the people who know better and stood silently by out of political expediency.”
Obama’s attempted take-down of Republicans seeking distance from Trump was the clearest signal to date of the strategy Democrats plan to deploy in congressional races in the final weeks of the campaign.
Across the country, dozens of Republicans up for re-election have called for Trump to step down as nominee or have renounced their support, hoping to spare themselves the fallout of Trump’s sexually aggressive comments about women. They include prominent senators like Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and John McCain of Arizona — both face tough re-election challenges.
But Democrats are working to tie those Republicans to Trump nonetheless, in large part by arguing their last-minute denunciations are too little, too late.
Obama said “all that bile, all that exaggeration” from Republicans had bubbled up over the years and that Trump, just like one of his skyscrapers, had “just slapped his name on it and took credit for it.”
“The problem is not that all Republicans think the way he does,” Obama said. “The problem is that they’ve been riding this tiger for a long time. They’ve been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years.”
As his case study, Obama chose Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who is working to fend off a challenge from Democratic former Gov. Ted Strickland. Though Democrats had expected the race to be one of their better prospects to win a GOP-held Senate seat, Strickland has been running consistently behind Portman in the polls.
“People like Ted’s opponent, who know better, have stood silently by,” Obama said. “This is the nominee you get. You make it possible.”
Obama noted that Portman had revoked his support for Trump, but not until video emerged late last week of Trump bragging about kissing women without their permission and groping them. Obama said that meant Portman hadn’t been sufficiently bothered by Trump’s previous remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, Gold Star mothers and disabled people.
“Why was that OK?” asked an incredulous Obama. “And now he says he’ll vote for the vice presidential nominee instead,” he added, referring to Mike Pence. “Except that guy still supports Donald Trump.”
Obama’s remarks came at the start of a two-day visit aimed at revving up Democrats in Ohio, one of the few remaining swing states late in the campaign. On Friday, Obama will hold a rally in Cleveland for Clinton emphasizing early voting, a major focus for Democrats across the U.S.
This week Obama entered the final 100 days of his presidency, and he’s increasingly devoting his time to trying to push Clinton over the finish line in the presidential race. With Trump and Republicans threatening to undo much of what Obama has accomplished over the last eight years, campaigning for Democrats is the most productive way for Obama to try to protect his legacy.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The prosecution rested its case Thursday against two former allies of Republican Gov. Chris Christie charged in the George Washington Bridge lane-closing trial.
The trial of former Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and former bridge authority executive Bill Baroni is in its fourth week.
Kelly and Baroni are charged with closing access lanes to the bridge in 2013 to cause traffic jams to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, who didn’t support Christie’s re-election. They have pleaded not guilty and have said the government has twisted federal law to turn their actions into crimes. They also have said other people with more power and influence were involved in the lane closures but aren’t being prosecuted.
Jurors on Thursday saw video of Baroni’s testimony before a state legislative committee in 2013 in which he says the lane closures were part of a traffic study. Prosecutors contend that was a cover story to hide the true nature of the scheme.
An FBI agent also testified several emails had been deleted from Kelly’s account, including one in which she wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The bridge, one of the busiest in the world, connects Fort Lee with New York City.
Baroni’s attorney, Michael Baldassare, called as his first witness Charles McKenna, Christie’s chief counsel in 2013 and an assistant U.S. attorney under Christie before that.
McKenna described meeting separately with Baroni and former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey colleague David Wildstein, who has pleaded guilty, in December 2013 to ask them to resign.
McKenna testified that even though Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye had told a legislative committee in early December that no traffic study existed, he didn’t question Baroni on details about the lane closures.
“I was under the impression there was a traffic study — a traffic study that didn’t go well but a traffic study nonetheless,” he said.
Fort Lee was plunged into four days of gridlock during the week of Sept. 9, 2013. Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s pleas for help were ignored, part of the plan cooked up by Baroni, Kelly and Wildstein, prosecutors say.
Baroni is expected to testify early next week. Kelly also is expected to testify.
Christie, who is advising Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, has denied knowing anything about the traffic plot while it was taking place.