Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan after abandoning his post, is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, people with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press.
A look at key events from his capture until now.
June 2009 — Bergdahl, who is serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment, vanishes from a base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province near the border of Pakistan.
July 2009 — The Taliban post video online showing Bergdahl saying he is “scared I won’t be able to go home.” Bergdahl says he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured.
December 2009 — The Taliban release a video showing Bergdahl apparently healthy and making a lengthy statement criticizing the U.S. military operation.
June 2013 — The Taliban propose a deal in which they would free Bergdahl in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay.
May 2014 — Obama administration officials announce Bergdahl has been handed over to U.S. special forces by the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo detainees. Debate quickly rises over whether Bergdahl is a hero or a deserter.
June 2014 — The Army says it is investigating the facts and circumstances around Bergdahl’s disappearance.
December 2014 — The Army says it has finished its investigation.
March 2015 — Bergdahl is charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
October 2017 — People familiar with the case tell the AP that Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The ballot boxes arrived from France under the cover of night, were stored in homes and improvised hiding places, and then secretly shuttled to polling stations right under the nose of police.
Grassroots activists who staged a disputed referendum of independence in Catalonia described to The Associated Press how they managed to hold the Oct. 1 vote despite a police crackdown that left hundreds injured.
“It was cat and mouse,” said one activist who was in charge of organizing the vote in a village of about 2,000 residents south of Barcelona.
“In order to not jeopardize the operation, you were told that on such a day at such an hour a ballot box would arrive, and then a few days later, the ballots. The vans would arrive at night,” he said.
Three activists and a source close to the regional Catalan government spoke about the plan on condition of anonymity, fearing prosecution by Spanish authorities, who had declared the vote illegal.
By using code words and clandestine meetings with information strictly limited to a need-to-know basis, hundreds of separatists defied the law — and the odds — by keeping what they claim were 10,000 ballot boxes hidden in tiny stashes around the region and out of the hands of authorities for weeks.
A source close to the regional government who had been briefed about the operation said the ballot boxes, which look like large Tupperware containers with the Catalan government seal, had been ordered online from a Chinese company. They were shipped to a location in southern France.
From there, the ballot boxes were smuggled across the Spanish border in small loads, an activist with knowledge of overall planning said. They were then distributed from one trusted separatist to another, without any single person knowing who else was involved beyond their direct contacts to avoid the police from taking down the operation in one fell swoop.
“Everything was done on a very small scale,” said the activist. “You would receive a message from somebody who had to distribute 100 ballot boxes to people you trusted. There was no macro-planning on a general level.”
The same activist said that any talk of the operation via mobile phone was done in coded language, such as “tomorrow you will receive 10 cakes for your mother” or “you have to hand out five cakes to your mother and five to your father.”
Another activist who hid ballot boxes in his home and organized the vote in a village in the Osona county north of Barcelona said that he used the terms “shoe boxes” or “presents” to stand in for ballot boxes.
Regardless of the intricate plan, the chances of holding the vote looked very slim on the eve of the referendum, even when officials of the Catalan regional government finally unveiled one of the ballot boxes to journalists.
In the previous two weeks, police had confiscated millions of ballots in raids, taken out the computing systems for the vote, and arrested around a dozen Catalan government officials suspected to have been involved in the planning for the referendum. That led Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to declare that the infrastructure for the referendum was dismantled. Just to make sure, the Interior Ministry sent thousands of extra police officers to the region.
But Catalonia’s leaders urged people to go to the polls on Sunday anyway, assuring would-be voters the ballot boxes would be there.
An AP reporter witnessed the arrival of a ballot box to a polling station early Sunday when rain was drizzling on a crowd outside the Jaume Fuster high school in Barcelona. A small red hatchback pulled up and a man and woman popped the trunk, grabbed a plastic bag with the ballot boxes inside, and hustled them through the hushed crowd and into the school.
A couple of hours later those same ballot boxes would be grabbed by officers of the National Police, after agents in riot gear had shoved through the crowd and shattered the school’s front door with a mace.
Once videos of the police raids at that school and several others across the region went viral, organizers started to make backup plans.
“I stationed some girls down the road so they could warn us (if police came) and give us a five-minute head start. We were planning to hide the ballot boxes down by the river,” the man who organized the vote in the village south of Barcelona said.
His counterpart in Osona said that he decided to stop voting early just to make sure the police didn’t get there in time. They then did the recount in a home in an isolated area.
A call and email to Spain’s Interior Ministry asking about the activists’ plot were not immediately answered.
Catalan officials said police had closed or raided 400 of the more than 2,000 polling stations before or during the vote. Nonetheless, they said 2.2 million votes were cast, with 90 percent in favor of independence.
The result was not surprising given that many Catalans opposed to independence were not expected to turn out. The last regional election and polls show that the 7.5 million residents of Catalonia are almost evenly divided on the issue.
Many of the people involved in the organization of the vote were activists aligned with the Assemblea Nacional Catalana, the main grassroots secessionist group that counts 40,000 members and another 40,000 sympathizers. Analysts say the ANC has been the driving force behind the independence movement.
ANC president Jordi Sanchez, whose Twitter account boasts a photo of one of the ballot boxes, and the leader of another separatist group Jordi Cuixart, are being investigated for alleged sedition in connection protests ahead of the referendum. Both were released after questioning by a Madrid judge on Monday but are to be questioned again in coming days.
Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont has vowed to declare independence based on the result. That could happen as early as Monday.
AP writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton apologized Thursday night in a Twitter video post for sexist comments made to a female reporter.
“After careful thought, I understand that my word choice was extremely degrading and disrespectful to women,” the Carolina Panthers quarterback said at the start of the nearly two-minute video. “To be honest, that was not my intentions. And if you are a person who took offense to what I said, I sincerely apologize to you.”
On Wednesday when Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue asked the 2015 NFL MVP about wide receiver Devin Funchess’ route running, Newton laughed and said, “It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes. It’s funny.”
In the video, Newton said he’s a man who strives to be a positive role model in the community and who tries to use his platform to inspire others. He said he takes ownership to everything that comes with that.
“What I did was extremely unacceptable,” Newton said. “I’m a father to two beautiful daughters and I try to instill in them that they can be anything that they want to be. The fact that during this process I have already lost sponsors and countless fans I realize that the joke is really on me. I have really learned a valuable lesson from this.”
Newton also sent a message to the “young people” who follow him.
“Don’t be like me,” Newton said. “Be better than me. To the reporters, to the journalists, to the moms, the super moms, the daughters, the sisters all around the world I sincerely apologize and hope that you can find the kindness in your heart to forgive me. Thank you.”
The NFL quickly released a statement Wednesday saying that Newton’s response to the question was “just plain wrong and disrespectful to the exceptional female reporters and all journalists who cover our league.”
However, it doesn’t appear there will be any punishment handed out to Newton.
“I think there are conversations going on at the club level with the appropriate people, with the Panthers,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said in a conference call Thursday. “I don’t want to anticipate the league stepping in there.”
Newton’s remarks have proven costly.
Dannon, the maker of Oikos yogurt, cut ties with spokesman Newton on Thursday. Company spokesman Michael Neuwirth released a statement saying it was “shocked and disheartened” at the former league MVP’s behavior and comments.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera addressed the situation briefly during his press conference Thursday, saying, “I think Cam made a mistake. I understand he had a conversation where he pretty much said he shouldn’t have said what he said.”
Rodrigue issued a statement Wednesday evening saying she and Newton did speak after the news conference, but said the quarterback didn’t apologize for his remarks.
Rodrigue was back in the locker room Thursday, flanked by Mike Persinger, the executive sports editor of The Charlotte Observer.
She issued an apology herself Thursday after coming under fire for using a racial slur in tweets she posted about four years ago. The tweets were first reported by BlackSportsOnline.com.
“I apologize for the offensive tweets form my Twitter account from 4/5 years ago,” Rodrigue said on her Twitter account. “There is no excuse for these tweets and the sentiment behind them. I am deeply sorry and apologize.”
Rodrigue was a college student at Arizona State at the time of the tweets. When asked about the tweets, Persinger said “she has owned them and apologized for them.”
Newton’s teammate, Thomas Davis, said he doesn’t think the issue will affect the team as it prepares for the game against Detroit on Sunday.
“He’s going to have to deal with that moving forward,” Davis said about Newton. “I feel like it’s a situation he’s going to handle and he’s going to handle it well. But for us as a football team we’ll remain focused on Detroit.”
Persinger said Wednesday evening that Newton’s comments were “unfortunate and out of line.”
The Associated Press Sports Editors announced that it “agrees wholeheartedly that Mr. Newton’s response was out of line” and “we ask for a formal apology to Jourdan Rodrigue from Mr. Newton and the Carolina Panthers organization.”
AP Sports Writers Barry Wilner and John Nicholson contributed to this report.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP—NFL
PHOENIX (AP) — Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wants to go to Congress, announcing Thursday that he’ll seek to replace fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema representing the 9th Congressional District.
Stanton’s announcement, which was expected, comes a week after Sinema announced that she was vacating the seat to challenge Republican Jeff Flake next year for his U.S. Senate seat.
The vacancy in Sinema’s Phoenix-area congressional seat is drawing lots of other interest. Democrat Talia Fuentes, who lost in the heavily Republican 5th District last year, has also pulled papers to run.
Four Republicans have filed for the seat: Radio host and political activist Seth Leibsohn, retired Navy physician Steve Ferrara, businessman David Giles and Irina von Behr, who ran for Tempe city council in 2016. Giles lost to Sinema last year.
The 9th District includes parts of Phoenix and several suburbs to the southeast.
Stanton, 47, is an attorney who was first elected mayor in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. As mayor, he has supported expansion of Phoenix’s light rail system and redevelopment of the city’s central core.
He announced his candidacy through a video, saying his record of helping the city recover from the Great Recession and working with both parties is what’s needed in Washington.
“Arizonans deserve better than what we’re getting from Washington, and there has never been a more consequential time in the fight to protect the middle class,” Stanton said in a statement. “In Congress, I’ll continue to do what we’ve done in Phoenix: deliver real results that improve people’s lives.”
The 9th District was drawn about six years ago as a swing district that either party could win. But Sinema won by nearly five percentage points in 2012 and widened that to 22 percent last year.
Nuclear-armed North Korea profits from US, EU seafood sales
HUNCHUN, China (AP) — Americans may have been unwittingly helping North Korea get cash as it develops its nuclear weapons programs by buying seafood processed by North Korean workers in China. An AP investigation has found that American companies including Walmart and ALDI have exported seafood from Chinese companies that employ North Koreans. The U.S. companies now promise to examine their supply chains and crack down on forced labor. The North Korean government takes up to 70 percent of the workers’ salaries.
Technology crammed into cars worsens driver distraction
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study says automakers are worsening driver distraction by cramming more and more infotainment options into vehicles. The government says infotainment systems should be quick and easy to use, but AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety finds they are making drivers take their eyes off the road, and hands off the wheel, for dangerously long periods of time.
Study: Over half of for-profit students defaulted on loans
WASHINGTON (AP) — A government study shows that more than half of students who attended for-profit colleges ten years ago defaulted on their federal student loans. By comparison, one quarter of community college students were unable to pay off their loans. The report National Center for Education Statistics was published Wednesday.
House passes GOP budget in key step for upcoming tax debate
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has approved a $4.1 trillion budget plan that takes a critical step forward in the GOP drive to rewrite the tax code later this year. The 2018 House budget calls for deep cuts to social programs and Cabinet agency budgets and reprises a controversial plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees. But Republicans controlling the chamber have no plans to actually implement those cuts.
Watching Netflix’ ‘Stranger Things’ likely to cost you more
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix is raising the price for its most popular U.S. video streaming plan by 10 percent— a move that could boost its profits but slow the subscriber growth that drives its stock price. The change announced Thursday affects most of Netflix’s 53 million U.S. subscribers, although some won’t be hit so long as they don’t mind going without high-definition video. Netflix will now charge $11 per month instead of $10 for a plan that includes HD video
Federal regulator clamps down on payday lending industry
NEW YORK (AP) — Payday and auto title lenders will have to adhere to stricter rules that could significantly curtail their business under rules finalized Thursday by a federal regulator. But the first nationwide regulation of the industry is still likely face resistance from Congress.
As tax overhaul unfolds, some investing angles to consider
The Trump administration’s plans to slash corporate taxes and make other business-friendly changes to the nation’s tax laws have helped lift U.S. stocks in recent weeks. And depending on which changes, if any, ultimately end up in signed into law, more companies could see bigger gains.
Not so sweet: 75 percent of honey samples had key pesticide
WASHINGTON (AP) — Swiss researchers tested honey samples from around the world and found a common type of pesticide in three-quarters of them. They say it is not near levels that would come close to harming humans, but it is a big worry for bees, which already are in trouble. The scientists got experts, friends and relatives to collect honey for the study published Thursday in the journal Science.
Report: Trump-tied lobbyists cash in on their connections
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite President Donald Trump’s campaign to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests, Washington’s influence industry is alive and well and growing. Former members of the Trump transition team, his presidential campaign and the administration — as well as friends — have set up shop as lobbyists and cashed in on connections, according to a new analysis by Public Citizen, a public interest group, and reviewed by The Associated Press.
Spain’s top court halts Catalan secession parliament meeting
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered Catalonia’s parliament to suspend a planned session next week during which separatist lawmakers wanted to declare independence — further fueling Spain’s worst political crisis in decades. Catalan regional authorities previously have ignored Constitutional Court orders, so it was not immediately clear if the session would go ahead and if all parties would attend.
The S&P 500 rose 14.33 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,552.07. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 113.75, or 0.5 percent, to 22,775.39 and the Nasdaq composite rose 50.73, or 0.8 percent, to 6,585.36. All three indexes added to their records set a day earlier, again.
In the commodities markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose 81 cents, or 1.6 percent, to settle at $50.79 per barrel. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, rose $1.20 to $57 per barrel.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix is raising the price for its most popular U.S. video streaming plan by 10 percent — a move aimed at bringing in more money to outbid HBO, Amazon and other rivals for addictive shows such as “Stranger Things.”
The change announced Thursday affects most of Netflix’s 53 million U.S. subscribers.
WHAT GOES UP
Netflix will now charge $11 per month instead of $10 for a plan that includes HD and allows people to simultaneously watch programs on two different internet-connected devices.
The price for another plan that includes ultra-high definition, or 4K, video, is going up by 17 percent, to $14 from $12 a month. A plan that limits subscribers to one screen at a time without high-definition will remain at $8 a month.
The increase will be the first in two years for Netflix, although it won’t seem that way for millions of subscribers. That’s because Netflix temporarily froze its rates for long-time subscribers the last two times it raised its prices, delaying the most recent increases until the second half of last year for them.
Netflix isn’t giving anyone a break this time around. It will start emailing notifications about the new prices to affected subscribers Oct. 19, giving them 30 days to accept the higher rates, switch to a cheaper plan or cancel the service.
WHY PRICES ARE RISING
The price increase are being driven by Netflix’s desire to boost its profits as it spends more money to finance a critically acclaimed slate of original programming that includes shows such as “House of Cards,” ”Orange Is The New Black,” and “The Crown,” in addition to “Stranger Things.”
Those series’ success helped Netflix land more Emmy award nominations than any TV network besides HBO this year. It’s also the main reason Netflix’s U.S. audience has nearly doubled since the February 2013 debut of “House of Cards” kicked off its expansion into original programming.
But paying for exclusive TV series and films hasn’t been cheap. Netflix expects to spend $6 billion a year alone on programming this year, and the expenses are likely to rise as it competes against streaming rivals such as Amazon, Hulu, YouTube and, potentially, Apple for the rights to future shows and movies.
Amazon (at $99 per year, or about $8.25 per month) offers a lower price than Netflix’s while Hulu’s monthly fee ranges from $8 for a plan with commercials to $11 for a commercial-free plan.
POSSIBILITY OF BACKLASH
Netflix believes its price rate is justified by recent service improvements, such as a feature that allows people to download shows onto phones or other devices to watch them offline.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney believes Netflix’s programming line-up is so compelling that the service could charge even higher prices and still retain most of its audience. He predicted the upcoming price increase will generate an additional $650 million in revenue next year.
But Netflix subscribers have rebelled against price increases in the past, most notably in 2011 when the company stopped bundling its streaming service with its DVD-by-mail service, resulting in price increases of as much as 60 percent for customers who wanted both plans. Netflix lost 600,000 subscribers and its stock price plummeted by 80 percent in the subsequent backlash. The company rebounded strongly, though, propelling its stock from a split-adjusted low of $7.54 in 2012 to $194.39 Thursday after investors reacted positively to the higher prices, driving up the shares by 5 percent.
And Netflix blamed a temporary slowdown in subscriber growth last year on the lifting of its price freeze on long-time customers who decided to drop the service rather than pay slightly more money.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter believes less than 10 percent of current subscribers will cancel Netflix as prices rise again, but he predicts it will be tougher to attract new customers who will choose Amazon’s cheaper alternative.
This story has been corrected from an earlier version to reflect that Hulu charges $8 to $11 per month for its streaming service, not $10. The Wedbush analyst is Michael Pachter, not Wedbush.