Nation & World Briefs

Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Threats against school official after teacher’s arrest

ABBEVILLE, La. — A Louisiana school superintendent complained of obscenities and death threats directed at himself, his family and staff on Wednesday after a teacher who questioned his pay raise was roughly handcuffed at a school board meeting and taken to jail.

Superintendent Jerome Puyau said the hate emails and phone calls began pouring into the Vermilion Parish School District soon after videos spread of the arrest of teacher Deyshia Hargrave, whose ouster from the meeting and subsequent arrest shocked the audience and prompted outrage online.

“I’ve stopped reading them because they’re just so bad and disgusting,” Puyau said, at times struggling to compose himself in an interview with The Associated Press. He said the school system offices went into temporary lockdown, and his daughters had to delete threats in their social media.

The turmoil follows the board’s 5-3 vote Monday night approving a new 3-year contract raising Puyau’s salary by roughly $30,000, to about $140,000 annually, with incentive targets that could add 3 percent per year.

He said the raise matches what other school officials make in similar jobs.

Russian gains in Syria threatened by rebel attacks

MOSCOW — Just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Syria, Russian military outposts in the country have come under rebel attacks that are challenging Moscow’s gains.

Russian bases located in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Alawite heartland had been immune to rebel raids ever since Moscow launched its campaign in Syria in September 2015. But a series of drone attacks and mortar and rocket shelling in recent days has broken the calm.

The incursions have raised doubts both about the sustainability of the Assad government’s recent victories and Moscow’s ability to protect its assets in the country.

A drone raid on Saturday was unusually massive, involving 13 of the aircraft equipped with satellite navigation and launched from a distance of up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. It said seven of the drones were shot down by air defense systems and the remaining six were forced to land.

Trump maybe open to N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump threw his weight behind the Olympics-inspired diplomatic opening with North Korea, telling South Korea’s leader Wednesday that the U.S. was open to talks with Kim Jong Un’s government under the right circumstances.

A White House statement said Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in still underscored the importance of continuing the “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons — the U.S.-led barrage of international sanctions that is starting to bite the North’s meager economy.

But South Korea’s presidential office also said Trump told Moon to let North Korea understand that there will be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold dialogue, the Yonhap news agency reported. On Tuesday, the two Koreas held their first talks in two years and agreed on the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics being held in the South next month.

The prospects of resolving decades-old tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula remain deeply uncertain. North Korea has shown no willingness to discuss its nuclear weapons which pose an emerging threat to the American mainland, and it has stuck to its tough stance toward Washington while it tries to woo the South.

The newspaper of the ruling party on Tuesday called Trump a “lunatic” and said the U.S. needs to accept North Korea is now a nuclear power.

Diet Coke gets new look, new flavors amid sinking sales

NEW YORK — Diet Coke is getting a makeover to try to invigorate the sugar-free soda’s slumping sales.

Coca-Cola Co. said Wednesday it’s adding a slimmer 12-ounce Diet Coke can, updating the logo and offering the 35-year-old drink in four new flavors, including mango and ginger lime. The taste of the plain Diet Coke will stay the same, the Atlanta-based company said.

Diet Coke sales have fallen as more people switch to other low-calorie drinks, such as flavored fizzy water. In fact, Coca-Cola said the new slim 12-ounce cans are the same ones used for its Dasani sparkling water. Diet Coke will still come in standard 12-ounce cans, as well as other sizes, such as bottles and mini cans.

“We’re maintaining the essence of Diet Coke while modernizing the brand to invite a new generation of drinkers to try it,” the company said in a post on its website.

Coca-Cola said the new flavors and look — with a different color vertical stripe for each flavor and red for plain — are aimed at appealing to millennials. It spent two years on the makeover, and tested more than 30 flavors before settling on the four, which also include cherry and blood orange.

Italy: Modigliani art exhibit found to be full of fakes

ROME — Consumer advocates in Italy demanded refunds for ticketholders Wednesday after an expert concluded that almost all the paintings in a Genoa exhibition of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani were fakes.

The expert, appointed by a Genoa court as part of a prosecutor’s probe, determined that at least 20 of the 21 paintings displayed during the 2017 Ducal Palace exhibit were clearly forged, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The palace shuttered the show in July, three days before the scheduled end of its four-month run, after prosecutors began investigating the doubts art experts had expressed over the authenticity of the paintings being attributed to Modigliani.

The palace, which had outsourced the show to private organizers, is itself seeking damages for the embarrassment caused by the episode.

From Associated Press