Weeping, hopeful, Cubans look to future without Fidel Castro
HAVANA (AP) — Music fell silent, weddings were canceled and people wept in the streets Saturday as Cubans faced their first day without the leader who steered their island to both greater social equality and years of economic ruin.
Across a hushed capital, dozens of Cubans said they felt genuine pain at the death of Fidel Castro, whose words and image had filled schoolbooks, airwaves and front pages since before many were born. And in private conversations, they expressed hope that Castro's passing will allow Cuba to move faster toward a more open, prosperous future under his younger brother and successor, President Raul Castro.
Both brothers led bands of bearded rebels out of the eastern Sierra Maestra mountains to create a communist government 90 miles from the United States. But since taking over from his ailing brother in 2006, the 85-year-old Raul Castro has allowed an explosion of private enterprise and, last year, restored diplomatic relations with Washington.
"Raul wants the country to advance, to do business with the whole world, even the United States," said Belkis Bejarano, a 65-year-old homemaker in central Havana. "Raul wants to do business, that's it. Fidel was still holed up in the Sierra Maestra."
In his twilight years Fidel Castro largely refrained from offering his opinions publicly on domestic issues, lending tacit backing to his brother's free-market reforms. But the older Castro surged back onto the public stage twice this year — critiquing President Barack Obama's historic March visit to Cuba and proclaiming in April that communism was "a great step forward in the fight against colonialism and its inseparable companion, imperialism."
Fidel Castro clung to socialism, mentored new leftists
HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro's revolution was slowly dying — or so it seemed.
Communism had collapsed in Europe, and Cuba's Soviet lifeline was severed. Food was in short supply. Power outages silenced TV sets normally tuned to a nighttime soap opera. Factories rusted in the tropical heat.
The title of an American book seemed just right: "Castro's Final Hour." That was in 1992.
Castro's "final hour" became weeks, then months, then years. Even as China and Vietnam embraced free markets, Castro clung to his socialist beliefs and Communism's supposed dinosaur went on to rule for another decade and a half. Along the way he became godfather to a resurgent Latin American left, mentoring a new generation of leaders: Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador.
No other Third World leader prompted so much U.S. hostility for so long. Castro brought the planet to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, sent tens of thousands of troops to aid leftist governments in Africa and nurtured guerrilla movements that fought U.S.-backed governments across Latin America. He endured a crippling U.S. embargo and outlasted 10 U.S. presidents — all of them preaching regime change in Cuba — finally resigning 11 months before Barack Obama moved into the White House, not from U.S. pressure but because of serious illness.
Miami's joyous Cubans hope for change with Castro's death
MIAMI (AP) — Wearing his "Bay of Pigs Veteran" shirt, 80-year-old Rafael Torre stood amid hundreds of Cuban-Americans celebrating the death of Fidel Castro and marveled that he remained in power for so long.
Cuban exiles such as Torre tried numerous ways to dislodge Castro after he took power in 1959, including the failed 1961 CIA-backed invasion memorialized on his shirt. Now, like many others, Torre is hopeful for Cuba's future with the bearded revolutionary leader finally gone.
"We tried for more than 50 years but couldn't do it. Now he's dead, and maybe things can change," Torre said. "It might take three or four years. Maybe the revolution will be on the streets in three or four months."
Thousands of people took to the streets of Miami and nearby cities Saturday shortly after the early morning announcement of Castro's death at age 90, and kept the party going all day. They banged pots with spoons, honked car horns, waved Cuban and U.S. flags in the air and whooped in jubilation on Calle Ocho — as Little Havana's 8th Street is universally known.
Police blocked off streets leading to Cafe Versailles, the quintessential Cuban-American hotspot where strong cafecitos — sweetened espresso — were as common as a harsh word about Castro, the nemesis of so many exiles for so long. Many said they recognize his death alone doesn't mean immediate democracy or freedom for the communist island.
Trump disavowal of white supremacists doesn't quiet concerns
ATLANTA (AP) — Donald Trump's disavowal this week of white supremacists who have cheered his election as president hasn't quieted concerns about the movement's impact on his White House or whether more acts of hate will be carried out in his name.
Members of the self-declared "alt-right" have exulted over the Nov. 8 results with public cries of "Hail Trump!" and reprises of the Nazi salute. The Ku Klux Klan plans to mark Trump's victory with a parade next month in North Carolina. Civil rights advocates have recoiled, citing an uptick in harassment and incidents of hate crimes affecting African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, gays, lesbians and other minority groups since the vote.
The president-elect has drawn repeated criticism for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign.
Further, Trump has named Stephen Bannon, the conservative media provocateur who shaped the final months of Trump's campaign, as a White House chief strategist who will work steps from the Oval Office. Bannon's appointment has become as a flashpoint for both sides.
Trump's detractors and his "alt-right" supporters broadly agree on one thing: It may not even matter what Trump himself believes, or how he defines his own ideology, because his campaign rhetoric has emboldened the white identity politics that will help define his administration.
Trump slams recount push as 'a scam,' says election is over
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday condemned a growing push to force recounts in three states pivotal to his Nov. 8 victory, confronting the Green Party-backed effort for the first time even as he worked to address key Cabinet vacancies.
The New York billionaire, who charged the election was "rigged" on a daily basis before his victory, called the developing recount effort "a scam" in a statement released by his transition team.
Trump had been ignoring Green Party nominee Jill Stein's fight to revisit vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin officials announced late Friday they are moving forward with the first presidential recount in state history.
"The people have spoken and the election is over," Trump declared Saturday. He added, "We must accept this result and then look to the future."
At the same time, Trump was scrambling to address unfilled administration jobs, having barely scratched the surface of creating the massive team needed to run the government before his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Pipeline protesters vow to stay camped on federal land
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Dakota Access oil pipeline protesters will not follow a government directive to leave the federal land where hundreds have camped for months, organizers said Saturday, despite state officials encouraging them to do so.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers confidently explained that they'll stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp and continue with nonviolent protests a day after Archambault received a letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that said all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to public access Dec. 5 for "safety concerns."
The Corps cited the oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters, who believe the pipeline could harm drinking water and Native American cultural sites, and police.
Standing Rock tribal members believe the land in which the encampment is on is owned by the Sioux through a more than century-old treaty with the U.S. government.
"We are wardens of this land. This is our land and they can't remove us," said protester Isaac Weston, who is an Oglala Sioux member from South Dakota. "We have every right to be here to protect our land and to protect our water."
Dialing up deals: Black Friday online sales hit new high
Holiday shoppers eager to snag big discounts turned to the internet in record fashion this week, one tracking company said, driving online sales on Black Friday to a new high.
Consumers spent $3.34 billion shopping online on Friday, a 21.6 percent increase from the same day last year, according to Adobe, which tracks online retail transactions.
More than ever before, shoppers used their mobile devices to dial up deals online, the firm said, as mobile purchases surged 33 percent on Black Friday to $1.2 billion.
Retailers also racked up online sales on Thanksgiving Day and the day before, the latest evidence that consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping as an alternative to wading into malls packed with holiday season bargain-hunters.
College student Emilia Ollearis works at the Water Tower Place mall in Chicago but is doing virtually all of her shopping online. She said she prefers to go to a store to get a close look at merchandise, but that's it.
Some fear California's tax on e-cigarettes may deter smokers
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Smoking has dropped to historic lows nationwide, dramatically decreasing revenue from tobacco taxes. In search of funds, a growing number of states are taxing electronic cigarettes — a trend that is sparking a fierce public health debate over whether it will deter smokers from switching to a safer alternative.
California became the seventh state to tax e-cigarettes with the overwhelming approval of a Nov. 8 ballot measure. Proposition 56 also will add a $2 per pack state tax to cigarettes onto the already existing 87 cents per pack tax.
State officials are still calculating the new tax structure. The vaping industry estimates the tax could hike up the price of the battery-operated devices and liquids by more than 60 percent, making it more expensive to vape than smoke, even with the additional per-pack tobacco tax.
"California just made the most attractive option unattractive for many smokers, and unaffordable," said Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association, which advocates for electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco. "Some may never make an attempt to quit."
The taxation of e-cigarettes has split the public health community between those who support e-cigarettes being treated the same as tobacco and those who see them as an important tool in the fight against smoking, the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
Ron Glass, co-star of TV's 'Barney Miller' dead at 71
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ron Glass, the handsome, prolific character actor best known for his role as the gregarious, sometimes sardonic detective Ron Harris in the long-running cop comedy "Barney Miller," has died at age 71.
Glass died Friday of respiratory failure, his agent, Jeffrey Leavett, told The Associated Press on Saturday.
"Ron was a private, gentle and caring man," said Leavett, a longtime friend of the actor. "He was an absolute delight to watch on screen. Words cannot adequately express my sorrow. "
Although best known for "Barney Miller," Glass appeared in dozens of other shows in a television and film career dating to the early 1970s.
He portrayed Derrial Book, the spiritual shepherd with a cloudy past in the 2002 science-fiction series Firefly" and its 2005 film sequel "Serenity."
AP TOP 25 TAKEAWAYS: A committee quandary and Heisman slip
Ohio State and Penn State are setting up for quite the potential problem for the College Football Playoff selection committee.
The second-ranked Buckeyes and No. 8 Nittany Lions each won Saturday, sending Penn State to the Big Ten championship game as East Division winners and Ohio State into wait-and-see mode. Both teams look playoff worthy for now.
The other race that changed on rivalry Saturday was the one for the Heisman Trophy.
And, oh, Texas and LSU hired new coaches, just like that.
Thoughts, takedowns and takeaways from week 13 of the college football season.