Buqayq, Sep 20 (AP/UNB) — The heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry remained wrapped in scaffolding Friday as workers sought to repair the charred innards and shrapnel-blasted arteries caused by drone-and-cruise-missile attacks that raised tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Saudi officials brought journalists to the kingdom's crucial Abqaiq oil processing facility, described by the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco as "the largest crude oil stabilization plant in the world." It was the first such trip for outsiders to see the damage done to its facilities that have been targeted in a summer-long campaign of attacks.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to build international consensus ahead of the U.N. General Assembly next week after the Sept. 14 attack that it claims was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran." The U.S. has gone further, alleging Iran carried out the attack as part of a campaign seeking to roil the region as American sanctions on its oil industry prevent it from selling crude oil abroad as Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers collapses.
Iran has denied involvement in the attack that was initially claimed by Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, now heading to New York for the high-level meetings at U.N. headquarters, has warned that any retaliatory strike on Iran by the U.S. or Saudi Arabia will result in "an all-out war."
President Donald Trump, who withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal more than a year ago, said separately Friday that America "just sanctioned the Iranian national bank." He did not elaborate.
In Abqaiq, an oil facility in the Arabian Peninsula's sprawling Empty Quarter desert, journalists saw what previously only had been glimpsed in satellite photos released earlier by the U.S.
The attack punched holes in giant metal onion-shaped structures that help separate gas from crude oil. Separation towers there, which process crude oil, were scorched and damaged, with the top of one looking like a melted candle.
Officials said they put out about 10 large fires at the site less than seven hours after the attack. There were at least 18 direct hits on 11 of the spherical structures, five column stabilizers and two small processing facilities, they said.
Abqaiq processes sour crude oil into sweet crude, and it is transported to transshipment points on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea or to refineries for local production. Estimates suggest it can process up to 7 million barrels of crude oil a day. By comparison, Saudi Arabia produced 9.65 million barrels of crude oil a day in July.
The plant has been targeted before by militants. Al-Qaida-claimed suicide bombers tried but failed to attack the oil complex in February 2006. However, the Sept. 14 attack reached deep inside a facility that analysts long warned was vulnerable, knocking out half of the kingdom's oil production and spiking crude prices this week by a percentage unseen since the 1991 Gulf War.
Saudi Arabia also flew journalists to its Khurais oil field to see damage done to the oil field, which is believed to produce over 1 million barrels of crude oil a day. Officials there said 110 contractors evacuated the site after the attack, but there were no injuries. They said the oil field was back online within 24 hours of the attack.
An oil stabilization tower was damaged and other pipes had holes from the attack.
Repair crews swarmed both sites beneath large cranes, working through the heat. Saudi Arabia says it already has restored half of the cut production and hopes to have it fully online by the end of the month, although damage at several structures seen by journalists looked severe.
The trip comes as Saudi Arabia hopes to offer a sliver of Saudi Aramco in an initial public offering, a key component of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's development plans for the kingdom. Opening up the facilities slightly to journalists both bolsters Saudi Arabia's push for international condemnation of the attack while offering at least a glimpse at the crown jewels ahead of the IPO.
While Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the assault, analysts say the missiles used wouldn't have enough range to reach the site from the impoverished nation. The missiles and drones used resembled Iranian-made weapons, although analysts say more study is needed to definitively link them to Iran.
A Saudi-led coalition has battled the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and sparked what the U.N. describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
The International Crisis Group warns that the Saudi attack could push the wider Persian Gulf into war, saying the risk of conflict is "arguably the highest it has been in years."
"The Aramco strikes were no minor incident: They were perhaps the most significant attacks on Saudi Arabian infrastructure in modern history, and the result of a series of provocations and tit-for-tat exchanges that have been allowed to gather momentum for too long," the group said. "At this point, a single misstep could set off a chain reaction."
Underlining that Friday was Iranian Gen. Rahim Safavi, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"If the Americans think of a conspiracy, the Iranian nation will respond to them from the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean," Safavi said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Also on Friday, the tiny, oil-rich country of Kuwait said it would increase security at both its commercial and oil ports. Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency reported the decision, quoting Khaled al-Roudhan, the minister of commerce and industry.
Hiko, Sep 20 (AP/UNB) — About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to "storm" the facility to see space aliens — and at least two were detained by sheriff's deputies.
The "Storm Area 51" invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.
An Associated Press photographer said it wasn't immediately clear if a woman who began ducking under a gate and a man who urinated nearby were arrested after the crowd gathered about 3 a.m. Friday.
Lee scheduled a media briefing later Friday morning.
Millions of people had responded to a June internet post calling for people to run into the remote U.S. Air Force test site that has long been the focus of UFO conspiracy theories.
"They can't stop all of us," the post joked. "Lets see them aliens."
The military responded with stern warnings that lethal force could be used if people entered the Nevada Test and Training Range, and local and state officials said arrests would be made if people tried.
"It's public land," the sheriff said. "They're allowed to go to the gate, as long as they don't cross the boundary."
A music group called Wily Savage erected a stage Thursday near the Little A'Le'Inn in Rachel and began playing after dark for several hundred campers who braved overnight temperatures about 45 degrees (7 Celsius).
Daniel Martinez, 31, a Pokemon collectible cards dealer from Pomona, California, was among the first to whirl and dance at the dusty makeshift festival grounds — warm beneath a wolf "spirit hood" and matching faux fur jacket.
"Here's a big open space for people to be," he said. "One person starts something and it infects everybody with positivity. Anything can happen if you give people a place to be."
The entertainment kicked off weekend events that also feature a gathering Friday and Saturday at the Alien Research Center souvenir store in Hiko.
Owner George Harris said it would focus on music, movies and talks about extraterrestrial lore.
Authorities reported no serious incidents related to festivals scheduled until Sunday. Hiko and Rachel are about a 45-minute drive apart on a state road dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, and a two-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Earlier, as Wily Savage band members helped erect the wooden frame for a stage, guitarist Alon Burton said he saw a chance to perform for people looking for a scene in which to be seen.
"It started as a joke, but it's not a joke for us," he said. "We know people will come out. We just don't know how many."
Michael Ian Borer, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, sociologist who researches pop culture and paranormal activity, called the festivities sparked by the internet joke "a perfect blend of interest in aliens and the supernatural, government conspiracies, and the desire to know what we don't know."
The result, Borer said, was "hope and fear" for events that include the "Area 51 Basecamp" featuring music, speakers and movies in Hiko, and festivals in Rachel and Las Vegas competing for the name "Alienstock."
"People desire to be part of something, to be ahead of the curve," Borer said. "Area 51 is a place where normal, ordinary citizens can't go. When you tell people they can't do something, they just want to do it more."
Eric Holt, the Lincoln County emergency manager, said he believed authorities could handle 30,000 visitors at the two events. Still, neighbors braced for trouble after millions of people responded to the "Storm Area 51" Facebook post weeks ago.
"Those that know what to expect camping in the desert are going to have a good time," said Joerg Arnu, a Rachel resident who can see the festival grounds from his home.
Those who show up in shorts and flip-flops will find no protection against "critters, snakes and scorpions."
"It will get cold at night. They're not going to find what they're looking for, and they are going to get angry," Arnu said.
The Federal Aviation Administration closed nearby airspace, although Air Force jets could be heard in the sun-drenched skies, along with an occasional sonic boom.
Manila, Sep 20 (AP/UNB) — Philippine health officials on Friday confirmed a second case of polio in a 5-year-old child a day after declaring the country's first outbreak in nearly two decades, and announced plans for a massive immunization program.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said authorities confirmed the new case in a boy from Laguna province south of Manila after samples were found positive for the polio virus.
Health officials declared a new outbreak Thursday after confirming the disease in a 3-year-old girl in southern Lanao del Sur province. They said the polio virus has also been detected in sewage in Manila and in waterways in the southern Davao region, prompting plans for an immunization drive starting next month that is likely to include tens of thousands of children under age 5.
At least 95% of children that age need to be vaccinated to halt the spread of polio in the Philippines, according to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund, which expressed deep concern over the disease's reemergence in the country and pledged to support the government in immunizing children and strengthening surveillance.
The boy afflicted with polio in Laguna experienced the onset of paralysis late last month but has been discharged from a hospital, is able to walk and is being closely monitored for residual symptoms, health officials said.
Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which mainly afflicts young children. There is no known cure and polio can only be prevented by immunization, according to WHO.
"We continue to urge parents and caregivers of children below five years old, health workers, and local chief executives to take part in the synchronized polio vaccination to be scheduled in their communities," said Duque, who administered polio vaccine to a child a suburban Quezon city.
The government's immunization programs were marred in 2017 by a dengue fever vaccine made by French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur which some Philippine officials linked to the deaths of at least three children. Duque and other Philippine health officials say many parents became scared about immunizations but they have worked to restore public trust in vaccines since then.
The government halted the dengue immunization drive after Sanofi said a study showed the vaccine may increase the risk of severe dengue infections. More than 830,000 children received the Dengvaxia vaccine under the campaign, which was launched in 2016 and halted in 2017.
Sanofi officials said the Dengvaxia vaccine was safe and would reduce dengue infections if the vaccination drive continued.
Taiwan, Sept 20 (AP/UNB) — The Pacific island nation of Kiribati cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan on Friday, becoming the second country to do so this week and strengthening Beijing's hand.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that Kiribati had officially notified his government of the decision.
Kiribati is expected to recognize China, which has pledged billions of dollars in aid to help lure it and six other countries into switching allegiance since 2016, when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office.
Taiwan "deeply regrets and strongly condemns the Kiribati government's decision, which disregards the multifaceted assistance and sincere friendship extended by Taiwan to Kiribati over the years," Wu said at a news conference.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang commended Kiribati's switch, which comes four days after the Solomon Islands, once Taiwan's largest ally in the South Pacific, severed ties in favor of China.
"This fully testifies to the fact that the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and constitutes an irresistible trend of the times," he said.
China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan and wants the island to reunite with the mainland. The two split in 1949 during a civil war. Beijing resents Tsai for rejecting its precondition for dialogue that both belong to a single China. It has flown military aircraft near the island and pared back Taiwan-bound tourism to add pressure on her government.
Taiwan has 15 allies left, compared to about 180 countries that recognize China.
"China has made the point that it can snatch as many diplomatic allies of Taiwan as it wishes," said Fabrizio Bozzato, a Taiwan Strategy Research Association fellow who specializes in the Pacific.
Taiwan looks to its allies, mostly small, poor countries, for international legitimacy and a voice in the United Nations. Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 as the international body recognized China.
A total loss of allies would cut all formal outside recognition of Taiwan's government, formally called the Republic of China, and make it easier for Beijing to claim it, said Chao Chien-min, dean of social sciences at the Chinese Cultural University in Taipei.
"Other countries will call you a non-state and then what happens?" he said. "Let's say the People's Liberation Army uses non-peaceful means for an activity in the Taiwan Strait. The United Nations can't do anything. If other countries get involved, what legitimacy do they have to help Taiwan?"
The Chinese pressure is scaring ordinary Taiwanese, he said.
In the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in a statement Friday that his country had recognized China to ensure stability and avoid uncertainty over what might happen if Taiwanese decide to unite with China.
Wu remained defiant, saying that Taiwan is not a province of the People's Republic of China, the Communist government that took power in 1949.
"China's international pressure will only consolidate the Taiwanese people's determination never to capitulate to the Chinese government," he said.
Some analysts believe Taiwan has built legitimacy by strengthening an informal alliance with the United States, its chief arms supplier, and joining the World Trade Organization and the inter-governmental Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
"Taiwan is globally relevant economically, geopolitically and geo-strategically," Bozzato said. "It is indisputable that the Republic of China would continue to be independent, effectively exerting civil and military jurisdiction over a territory and a population."
Wu said China had used investments in fisheries and other industries to build up a presence in Kiribati, penetrating political circles and extending its influence."
Kiribati President Taneti Mamau requested "massive financial assistance" from Taiwan to buy commercial aircraft, he said, a request inconsistent with Taiwan's international aid law.
China's Geng said that "those used to dollar-diplomacy may not understand that certain principles cannot be bought with money, neither can trust."
China and Taiwan competed for South Pacific allies before 2008, often using aid to motivate switches in recognition. The two sides observed an informal diplomatic truce from 2008 to 2016, during China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou's term.
Albuquerque, Sep 20 (AP/UNB) — The scandal surrounding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a yearbook photo showing him in brownface at a 2001 costume party was published is bringing attention to a practice that scholars say white people have been using for years to demean Latinos and other minorities.
In the picture, the then-29-year-old Trudeau is wearing a turban and robe, with dark brown makeup on his hands, face and neck. Like U.S. governors in Virginia and Mississippi who have apologized for wearing blackface years before entering politics, Trudeau, who also has said he's sorry, is facing the political crisis of his career.
The practice of members of a dominant population darkening their skin with makeup reinforces racial stereotypes and reduces Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans and others based on skin tones and exaggerated physical features, social scientists say.
A look at how white people have used makeup to darken their complexion throughout history and in recent times to portray or mock members of racial minority groups:
William Shakespeare's plays featured several minority characters but in the early days of their adaptions — and in the modern era — they were played by white male actors. These performers wore blackface or brownface to portray Othello, a Moor, in "Othello" and dark face makeup to depict the indigenous Caliban in "The Tempest."
In 19th century U.S., performer Thomas Dartmouth Rice popularized minstrel shows by wearing blackface and adopting what he thought was African American vernacular. Other performers mimicked Rice and used blackface and stereotypes of African Americans to create one of the most popular forms of art in the nation's history despite protests from black intellectuals and activists. Blackface would influence how white people would depict other ethnic groups in the U.S.
Hollywood would continue to allow white actors to wear racist makeup to portray black, Latino and Asian American characters through the 20th century instead of using actors of color. In the 1951 film adaption of "Othello," white actor-director Orson Welles donned bronze makeup in his portrayal of Othello. Charlton Heston wore brownface to portray Mexican law enforcement officer Ramon Vargas in the 1958 movie "Touch of Evil."
In 2012, an advertisement for Popchips starring Ashton Kutcher in brownface and using an exaggerated Indian accent was pulled following an outcry from Indian Americans. But blackface and brownface images aren't only found in the U.S. and have shown up in media around the world.
The producer of a British documentary about Muslims came under criticism in 2017 for putting a white woman in brownface to immerse her into the life of a Pakistani Muslim family in Manchester, England. The documentary "My Week as a Muslim" required Katie Freeman to darken her skin, wear fake teeth and don brown contact lenses.
Earlier this year, Italian airline Alitalia pulled an advertisement promoting flights to Washington, D.C., in which an actor in blackface portrayed former President Barack Obama.
In Singapore, a recent e-payment advertisement featuring a Chinese comedian in brownface sparked criticism among some ethnic Indians and Malays. The company and the creative agency later apologized.
A leading television station in Peru was fined $26,000 for airing the popular comedy character Negro Mama on an entertainment show in 2013. The character is played by Jorge Benavides, who dons blackface, exaggerated lips and a flaring nose.
Earlier this year, a television personality for the Mexican-based Televisa network faced sharp criticism after dressing up in brownface and wearing a prosthetic nose to make fun of indigenous Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio. Televisa later deleted a tweet of a video of the television personality in brownface mimicking Aparicio, who attended the Oscars after being nominated for best actress.
The New York Times reported in August that a private channel in Libya came under fire earlier this year following a comedy skit in which an actress in blackface tells elevator passengers to "Watch my babies!" When passengers pull back a carriage cover, monkeys jump out. Activists say the skit was an example of racist stereotypes regularly seen in Arab comedy.
IN SPORTS, OTHER EVENTS
Every year, confrontations break out in the Netherlands over the helper of the Dutch version of Santa Claus. Known as Black Pete, the character is played by white people in blackface at children's events. The tensions come as Dutch children anticipate the arrival of their country's version of Santa Claus, which feature Black Pete. White people often daub their faces with black paint when they dress up to play the character. Opponents say the annual recreations of Black Pete promote racist stereotypes.
Throughout America's history, white people have donned redface, worn fringe and feathers, and spoken in broken English as they "played" or portrayed Native Americans. But almost every week during football season, fans paint themselves "red" in honor of their Native American mascot names like the Washington Redskins. Native American activists have responded with protest and a #notyourmascot social media campaign.
In 2014, then-University of Louisville President James Ramsey issued an apology after the Courier-Journal published a photo of him and staff wearing fake mustaches, mantilla veils and sombreros. It was unclear if the photo was related to the annual Hispanic Heritage Month on campus.
Russell Contreras reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is a member of The Associated Press' race and ethnicity team.