AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT

Haiti death toll jumps as receding waters reveal more bodies

LES CAYES, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s death toll jumped late Thursday after rescue crews began reaching remote corners cut off when Hurricane Matthew slammed into the country’s southwest peninsula, the first Category 4 storm to hit Haiti in more than a half century.

At least 283 people died in just one part of Haiti’s southwest, the region that bore the brunt of the storm, Emmanuel Pierre, an Interior Ministry coordinator in Les Cayes, told The Associated Press.

The overall death toll in Haiti is not clear. Shortly before Pierre spoke, the headquarters for Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency had put the number of confirmed deaths for the whole country at 122.

Authorities expect the number of deaths to rise, with mayors and other local officials in marooned areas reporting higher numbers. Most deaths are thought to have occurred in the southwest region.

Bodies started to appear as waters receded in some places two days after Matthew’s 145 mph (235 kph) winds smashed concrete walls, flattened palm trees and tore roofs off homes, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee.


‘A monster’: A deadly Hurricane Matthew closes in on Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Hurricane Matthew pelted Florida with heavy rains as the deadly storm steamed ever closer to the coast with potentially catastrophic winds of 130 mph Thursday. Two million people across the Southeast were warned to flee inland.

It was the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in more than a decade, and had already left more than 280 dead in its wake across the Caribbean.

“This storm’s a monster,” Gov. Rick Scott warned as it started lashing the state with periodic heavy rains and squalls around nightfall. He added: “I’m going to pray for everybody’s safety.”

As it moved north in the evening, Matthew stayed about 100 miles or more off South Florida, sparing the 4.4 million people in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas from its most punishing effects.

But by Thursday night, more than 80,000 homes and businesses were without power. Streets in Vero Beach were partially covered with water, and hotel guests in Orlando were told to stay inside, though a few sneaked out to smoke or watch the rain.


10 Things to Know for Friday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:


Some 2 million people are warned to flee inland to escape the most powerful storm to threaten the U.S. Atlantic coast in over a decade.


Haitian officials say at least 283 are dead as they finally begin to reach corners of the country that had been cut off by the rampaging storm.


Can’t compete with Matthew: Candidates cut Florida campaigns

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Like thousands of other Americans, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton abruptly upended their plans Thursday in Florida, where Hurricane Matthew threatened to wreak havoc on final-stretch presidential campaigning in a critical swing state.

The campaigns rushed to move staff and volunteers, close offices and cancel events in the path of the storm. And as many Floridians heeded calls to evacuate, both candidates began the delicate and difficult task of pursuing votes during a crisis.

“Even if you want to do politics, no one is there to listen,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who directed or advised Barack Obama’s campaigns in Florida in 2008 and 2012.

Clinton’s campaign asked the state for more time to register voters — a request Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected — and the Trump team pulled its negative TV ads.

“It looks like it’s a big one and it’s going to be a bad one,” said Trump at a town hall in New Hampshire. “Please know that we are praying for you and everyone in the path: You’ve got to take care of yourself, you’ve got to get out of the area, you’ve got to listen.”


Debate minefield: Town hall will test candidates’ stagecraft

WASHINGTON (AP) — President George H.W. Bush conspicuously checked his watch. Al Gore got too close for comfort. Mitt Romney strode across stage to confront President Barack Obama face to face.

For presidential candidates, a town hall debate is a test of stagecraft as much as substance. When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet Sunday night in St. Louis, they’ll be fielding questions from undecided voters seated nearby. In an added dose of unpredictability, the format allows the candidates to move around the stage, putting them in unusually close proximity.

“There’s a lot more interaction, physical interaction,” says Judd Gregg, the former New Hampshire senator who helped President George W. Bush prepare for debates. He said a candidate who is too aggressive in a town hall, either with the voters or a rival, “can come across looking really chippy, not looking presidential.”

After an uneven showing in his first debate, Trump’s candidacy may rise or fall on his ability to avoid falling into that trap. The Republican repeatedly interrupted Clinton in their opening contest and grew defensive as she challenged his business record and recited his demeaning comments about women.

The GOP nominee has reviewed video of this year’s first presidential debate, and his aides have stressed a need to stay calm and not let Clinton attacks get under his skin in the second of three contests. The campaign has built in more rehearsal time ahead of Sunday’s showdown in St. Louis.


Professor: American killed in Ethiopia had bright future

DAVIS, Calif. (AP) — An American researcher killed in a rock attack by protesters in Ethiopia this week was a talented scientist with a bright future, the chairman of her department at the University of California, Davis said Thursday.

Sharon Gray, 31, was a leader in the study of how climate change affects plants, said Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar, chair of the plant biology department at UC Davis.

“She’s really an always-smiling slip of sunshine. She’s a smart, energetic scientist,” Dinesh-Kumar said. “She had a very bright future ahead of her. And everyone knew she was going to be the star in the plant biology research area.”

Gray, a post-doctoral researcher, was in the East African country for a meeting to kick off a research project when she was killed Tuesday. She was traveling in a car in the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, an area that has seen months of deadly protests.

Gray is the first foreigner killed in the massive anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of hundreds of protesters since November 2015. At least 55 were killed in a stampede last weekend when police tried to disrupt a demonstration amid a massive religious festival that has been followed by clashes between security forces and protesters.


Husband fights for evidence to help US wife accused in China

BEIJING (AP) — Nine days had passed since Jeff Gillis, at home in Houston, Texas, had last heard from his wife. During that phone call, she told Gillis she was extending her business trip in China, but he grew anxious. He filed a missing person’s report with U.S. consular officials whose response left him flabbergasted: His wife, a business consultant, had been detained by Chinese state security agents almost two weeks earlier.

Now, 18 months later, Phan Phan-Gillis is still detained, charged with spying and awaiting trial in China, consigned to an unknown fate in a highly opaque and impenetrable legal system in which even the charges brought against her remain cloudy. Gillis says that his wife appears to have been accused of spying against China two decades ago, although even her Chinese lawyer says he has been barred by Chinese law from providing details.

Despite the scant information, Gillis has set about trying to prove his 56-year-old wife’s innocence. He hopes documents he has uncovered will help free Phan-Gillis, known as Sandy to friends. Her lawyer says her trial has been postponed indefinitely from its original Sept. 19 court date.

The case speaks to both rising suspicion between Beijing and Washington and China’s drive to pursue those accused of crimes occurring outside its borders. Gillis says part of the charge relates to alleged spying carried out within the United States.

“China probably is now more aggressive in pursuing anyone who can be regarded as harming China’s interests,” said Fu Hualing, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.


Jurors begins to deliberate in case against police officers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Jurors began deliberating Thursday in a murder case against two former New Mexico police officers who prosecutors said killed a mentally ill homeless man as he tried to surrender and defense attorneys countered was armed with two knives and posed a threat.

The three-week trial scrutinized how and when police should deploy force or deescalate encounters with people suffering from mental illness at a time when shootings by police have become a national conversation.

The final seconds of an hours-long standoff between Albuquerque police and James Boyd in the foothills of the Sandia Mountain have been in dispute since the 2014 shooting touched off protests and calls for police reform in Albuquerque, the largest city in the state.

In police video, a flashbang-grenade goes off and a K-9 unit advances on the camper during a rushed and failed attempt to take him into custody with less-lethal force. Boyd briefly shifted from side to side with two knives in hand before he started pivoting to his left away from the officers and was shot by then-Officer Dominique Perez and detective Keith Sandy, said special prosecutor Randi McGinn.

She disputed a contention by defense attorneys that Boyd took a step toward the K-9 officer, prompting the use of lethal force. McGinn called it a “phantom step.”


Cardinals capitalize on 49ers mistakes to win 33-21

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Drew Stanton threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald in his first start in two years, David Johnson ran for two scores and the Arizona Cardinals capitalized on San Francisco mistakes to beat the 49ers 33-21 on Thursday night.

The Cardinals (2-3) got 17 points off three turnovers by the 49ers (1-4) — two interceptions by Blaine Gabbert and a fumbled kickoff return by Chris Davis — and also had one drive extended by a running-into-the-kicker penalty.

Those three scoring drives totaled just 41 yards, but proved to be enough to beat the sloppy 49ers as the Cardinals survived a week without injured starting quarterback Carson Palmer .

Stanton didn’t produce much with Palmer sidelined by a concussion, going 11 for 27 for 124 yards. But Arizona didn’t turn the ball over and got 157 yards rushing from Johnson to get the win.

Calais Campbell’s interception of a deflected pass set up Arizona’s first score on a 21-yard pass from Stanton to Fitzgerald late in the second quarter. Davis’ fumble of the second-half kickoff then set up Johnson’s 4-yard run that put Arizona up for good.


Despite attention on Aleppo, Syria aflame on several fronts

BEIRUT (AP) — The battle for Aleppo has gripped the world, but it is hardly the only major front among the tangle of adversaries clashing across war-torn Syria.

Opposition forces are on the offensive in the country’s center trying to sever the government’s connection between Aleppo and the capital, Damascus, which is itself at the edge of a major theater of the war. In the northwest, Turkish-backed opposition forces are battling Islamic State militants, while to the east government forces are weathering an Islamic State siege of Deir El-Zour.

Here’s a look at some of the battles around Syria:


In the central province of Hama, insurgent groups led by the extremist Jund al-Aqsa have been on the offensive since late August, capturing dozens of villages and towns in areas close to the northwestern rebel stronghold of Idlib.

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