PICHARI, Peru (AP) — The dynamiting of clandestine airstrips by Peruvian security forces in the world's No. 1 coca-growing valley cuts into profits but hardly discourages cocaine traffickers who net tens of thousands of dollars with each Bolivia-bound flight.
As authorities wound up a 54-airstrip "cratering" mission, Peru's counternarcotics police chief Gen. Vicente Romero told reporters that traffickers pay local villagers up to $100 each to fill the holes blasted into the landing strips that dot the flood plain of the vast and verdant Apurimac and Ene river valley.
Two of the landing strips targeted in the latest operation have each been repaired four times this year, Romero said on Friday. Sometimes, the 500-meter airstrips are fixed overnight.
An average of about four or five small planes fly daily into Peru from Bolivia, picking up about 300 kilograms each of coca paste worth about a third of a million dollars in Bolivia, where it is further refined, authorities say. Romero says pilots earn from $10,000 to $25,000 per flight.
The border has no radar coverage and the neighboring nations' air forces are limited so drug flights can only be intercepted on the ground. Romero said 14 planes have been seized this year.
Last week, Peruvian and Bolivian officials agreed to share information in real time on cross-border drug flights. They did not, however, divulge details.
Peru's anti-drug police, known as Dirandro, says the country produces 450 tons of cocaine a year, half of which leaves the country on small Bolivia-bound narco planes.
Most Peruvian cocaine ends up in Brazil and Europe.
The so-called air bridge between Peru and Bolivia has been especially active since 2011, the year before the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the United Nations said Peru surpassed Colombia as the world's top cocaine producer.
Peru halted shoot-downs of suspected drug flights in 2001 after a Peruvian air force jet mistakenly fired on a plane carrying U.S. missionaries, killing a woman and her infant daughter.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Down a concrete path, between rail tracks that buzz with each approaching train and a river choked by plastic and raw sewage, Asih Binti Arif cradles her baby and reflects on dreams gone dark.
Five years ago, Arif and her husband left impoverished Madura Island, joining the stream of migrants from across the vast Indonesian archipelago seeking a better life in its capital.
Across the developing world, migration from country to city has long been a potential path out of poverty. Less and less is that true for Arif and millions of others in Asia, where the wealth gap is growing in many of the most densely populated cities in human history.
Experts say the trend could worsen as a widening gulf between the richest and everyone else undercuts efforts to reduce poverty, bringing a litany of problems: poorer health, less education, more family breakups, crime and unstable societies.
"With inequality, the impact of growth on poverty eradication is muted," said Indu Bhushan, an Asian Development Bank official.
Against the backdrop of gleaming office towers and luxury hotels, Arif's family lives in the sprawling Tanah Abang slum. They scavenge the garbage of those who can afford to discard plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and frayed clothes.
"I can't even dream of that life," Arif said. "The gap is so big. They are in the sky and we are on the earth."
Asia's ultra-rich, with their private jets, yachts and platoons of servants, are matching if not outdoing their counterparts elsewhere in the world, inviting famous pop stars to perform at their birthday bashes, building their own museums and collecting mansions.
Rising industries such as online commerce have made some business mavericks enormously wealthy. Most of Asia's richest, however, are second- and third-generation beneficiaries of family fortunes.
In past decades, the power of industrialization allowed hundreds of million to emerge from extreme poverty.
In 1981, nearly 1.7 billion Asians were living on less than $1.25 a day. Today, the figure is about 700 million.
But vast numbers cannot aspire to rise much further. About 80 percent of the 3.6 billion people in developing Asian countries still live on less than $5 a day, many relying on day labor, rag picking or other meager livelihoods.
Even migrants who arrived in cities years ago feel trapped in a seemingly permanent underclass.
In chaotic Mumbai, India's financial capital, Pandurang Bithobha Salvi, 52, is a veteran migrant from Naganwadi, a village 500 kilometers (300 miles) away in Maharashtra state.
Salvi and 20-odd men share the $130 a month rent on their 17-square-meter (180-square-foot) room festooned with drying shirts and pants. Sleeping arrangements are a nightly conundrum. Despite India's ascent as a center for business outsourcing, migrants like Salvi can only find low-paying work.
Across town on the tony Altamount Road, billionaire Mukesh Ambani and his family luxuriate in an expansive 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter) super home.
Three years ago, Ambani moved into the purpose built 27-story tower with its three helipads, a movie theater, a two-story recreation center and a reported price tag of more than $1 billion.
It is one of the world's most expensive residences in a city where 40 percent of 20.7 million people live in slums without basic sanitation such as toilets.
"In the past, some of us have made a better life for ourselves and our families," said Salvi. "But such cases are becoming rarer now."
Using a scale of zero to 100, where zero means everyone has exactly the same wealth and 100 means a single person has all the wealth, Indonesia's inequality score rose to 41.3 in 2013 from 30.8 in 1999. Such sharp increases, which reflect wealth concentrating in fewer hands, have occurred in India, China and elsewhere, too.
The challenges are acute for countries such as Myanmar that are latecomers to industrialization.
A treasure land of gems and timber, Myanmar's economy stagnated for decades under generals who yielded power in 2011.
The economic reforms since then are transforming the skyline of its biggest city, Yangon, but not the lives of people like Thein Tun Oo and his wife Thin Thin Khaing, whose extended family of 10 ekes out a living from a one-room bamboo shack perched on the muddy banks of a creek.
Thein Tun Oo wagered everything in moving five years ago to Yangon from Bago, a region 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the north. There is little to show for the effort.
Asked what will come of Myanmar's reforms, including plans for factory parks that might provide better-paying jobs, Thin Thin Khaing and her husband burst out laughing.
"We don't know about such things," she said. "We work a day and eat a day."
In Indonesia, the increasing ostentation of the wealthy is a potential lightning rod for social strife.
Socialite Amanda Subagio, whose father founded a telecommunications and satellite empire, said the flaunting of extravagant wealth is deepening dissatisfaction among poor Indonesians.
"You should be at least aware of how other people are living in this country," she said.
The "other people" are those like Arif, the scrap collector in Jakarta's slum, and her neighbor, Samia Dewi Baturara, who share the same shack divided by a plywood wall.
Unlike Arif, Baturara still allows herself to dream.
As she peddles coffee from a stall opposite the luxury Shangri-La hotel, Baturara stares at the windows and pictures herself as part of the exclusive world inside. She would have to work 40 days, without spending a penny, to be able to afford just one night in the cheapest room.
"Almost every day, I imagine how I can sleep there."
Kurtenbach reported from Tokyo and Yangon, Myanmar. Esther Htusan in Yangon, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta and Kay Johnson in Mumbai, India contributed.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center indicates American support for gay marriage could be leveling off.
The study's authors caution it's too soon to draw any definitive conclusion. But the new poll released Monday found a 5 percentage point drop since February in Americans who want legal recognition for same-sex relationships.
Last month, 49 percent of Americans said last month they support same-sex marriage, compared to 54 percent in February. The margin of error for the new poll is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
The latest Gallup survey on gay marriage found acceptance of gay marriage was at 55 percent in May, but support was increasing by smaller margins than it had in previous years.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Streets in Sierra Leone's capital bustled again Monday after an unprecedented nationwide shutdown during which officials said more than 1 million households were checked for Ebola patients and given information on how to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
The government delayed an announcement on how many new cases had been discovered.
The national health system, already hit by the Ebola deaths of several leading doctors and many nurses, would be further strained if many additional patients were found.
Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have been hardest hit in this outbreak, have only about 20 percent of the beds they need to treat patients, according to the World Health Organization.
The Sierra Leone government has ordered tents for temporary treatment centers to make room for those additional cases, said Abdulai Bayraytay, a government spokesman.
Liberia opened a 150-bed treatment center on Sunday, its largest so far, and ambulances immediately rushed patients there. By Monday, the new clinic had admitted 112 people, though only 46 of those have tested positive for Ebola, said Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah. The rest are being held for observation and treated for other diseases, like malaria.
Ebola, transmitted through bodily fluids, is blamed for the deaths of more than 2,800 people in West Africa, according to new figures released Monday by the World Health Organization. More than 5,800 people are believed to have been sickened in the outbreak. The vast majority of the cases and deaths have been in Liberia but the disease has also affected Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal.
The hardest hit countries have resorted to extraordinary measures. Liberia has cordoned off entire towns or neighborhoods and Sierra Leone's nationwide shutdown is believed to be the most sweeping lockdown against disease since the Middle Ages.
During Sierra Leone's shutdown, at least 77 bodies were buried during the shutdown and half of them tested positive for Ebola, Bayraytay, the spokesman, said. Officials are waiting on laboratory tests for the other half to see whether they also died of Ebola. The disease is thought to have killed more than 600 people in Sierra Leone, a nation of 6 million.
The number of new suspected Ebola cases that were discovered during the lockdown will be announced by Sierra Leone authorities at a press conference Tuesday, originally scheduled for Monday.
There is little reason to believe the lockdown had been effective in ending transmission since such measures are so hard to enforce, said Joe Amon, director of health and human rights for Human Rights Watch. Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods.
"You could argue that it's strictly necessary not because it's an effective way to break transmission but because it's necessary to reach people with communication messages," he said.
Teams carrying soap and information about Ebola reached about 75 percent of 1.5 million households in this nation, the Health Ministry said. Rumors that the soap being distributed had been poisoned showed the importance of education efforts.
Sierra Leone residents overwhelmingly complied by staying in their homes but in one incident health workers trying to bury five bodies 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Freetown were attacked on Saturday. After police reinforcements arrived, the health workers completed the burial.
Nearly 350 health workers in West Africa have been infected, and more than half of those have died. A Spanish priest who became infected while serving as a medical director for a hospital in Sierra Leone was flown back to Spain on Monday.
There are no approved treatments or vaccines for Ebola, but officials have been trying out experimental drugs during this outbreak. The small supply of one drug, ZMapp, was exhausted after being used on a few patients.
On Monday, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals of Canada said that its experimental Ebola treatment had been used for a number of patients, and regulators in the U.S. and Canada had approved its use in more. It said the drug had been well tolerated so far.
Tekmira said there were limited supplies of its TKM-Ebola drug and because it has not been used in an actual study, the company acknowledged it is impossible to tell if it had any effect.
Paye-Layleh reported from Monrovia, Liberia. Associated Press journalist Wade Williams in Monrovia, Liberia, contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.N. Security Council is expected to adopt a binding resolution this week that would require nations to bar their citizens from traveling abroad to join terrorism organizations, part of a U.S.-led effort to galvanize the international community against what Obama administration officials call an "unprecedented" threat from extremists flocking to Syria and Iraq.
Obama administration officials touted the measure, which they said had been negotiated over several months, as a significant step in their strategy against the Islamic State group and other militant organizations that are drawing Europeans, Americans into their violent orbit. But they acknowledged that the UN resolution has no enforcement mechanism and that the international community has no single definition of what constitutes a terrorist group.
"This is really designed to sort of elevate the collective nature of the threat," a senior Obama administration official told a group of reporters Monday, speaking under ground rules that she not be identified.
The U.S. and many European nations already have laws on the books that allow them to prosecute their citizens who attempt to or succeed in traveling to join extremist groups. The UN resolution is intended to prod other countries, such as Saudia Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to step up efforts to stop the flow of foreign fighters. It is also designed to facilitate more sharing of travel data and other intelligence designed to allow the tracking of foreign fighters, the officials said.
The U.S. has been dealing for more than decade with the problem of Islamic extremists flocking to various battlefields, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. But the movement of an estimated 15,000 foreign fighters to the civil war in Syria, which has spilled into Iraq, is an "unprecedented flow," that creates an increased risk that some of those people will return to their home countries to attempt terrorist attacks, officials said.
Officials are particularly concerned that a cell of veteran al-Qaida operatives called the Khorasan group is trying to recruit Westerners to attack U.S. aviation with the help of Yemeni bomb makers. And they are also worried about the presence of foreigners within the Islamic State, including the militant with the British accent who appeared to behead two American journalists and a British aid worker.
U.S. intelligence agencies are working to track people traveling to fight with extremists in Syria, but there are major gaps. An Obama administration official said Monday that the U.S. "didn't have full knowledge" of the travel patterns of Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who returned to Europe this year after fighting in Syria.
On May 24, prosecutors say, he methodically shot four people at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels. Three died instantly, one afterward. Nemmouche was arrested later, apparently by chance.
The U.S. also failed to detect when Moner Mohammad Abusalha, an American who grew up a basketball fan in Vero Beach, Florida, traveled back home from the Syrian battlefield. He later returned to Syria, and in May killed 16 people and himself in a suicide bombing attack against Syrian government forces.
President Barack Obama is expected to lead the UN Security Council session that begins Wednesday, just the second time a U.S. president has done so. Obama chaired a session in 2009 on non-proliferation. It's the sixth time such a session has convened the heads of government, a U.S. official said.
"We've seen that there are several dozen countries from around the globe — not just the United States and not just from in West, but from around the globe — where individuals have traveled to the region, taken up arms alongside ISIL fighters," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. "These are individuals who've been trained. These are individuals who have access to military equipment. And these are individuals who have indicated a willingness to die for their cause."
What President Obama wants out of the UN meeting, Earnest said, "is to have a discussion about what kinds of global standards can be put in place to mitigate the threat from these individuals."
AP White House correspondent Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this story.
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron sought Monday to limit the divisive political fallout following the Scottish referendum, gathering senior Conservatives at his official country retreat to placate anger over promises made to Scotland to keep it in the United Kingdom.
Britain's politicians now have the headache of mapping out how to implement the new powers pledged to Scotland and how that impacts the rest of the realm — England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here is a guide to the issues being discussed.
WHAT IS THE 'ENGLISH QUESTION?'
Cameron's main problem is anger over the "English question," or the "English votes for English laws" issue.
That refers to the question of whether Scottish lawmakers elected to the House of Commons can continue to vote on policies that only affect England — a longstanding grievance in the U.K.'s system.
The Cameron-led Conservative Party is upset that its leader, together with the two main opposition parties, promised to allow the Scottish Parliament to decide on their own tax, spending and welfare issues in a last-minute attempt to encourage voters to reject independence.
The Tories argue that if Scots get that package, then other parts of the U.K. should also be granted similar powers.
Conservative John Redwood said that some party members feel that "we too need our own devolved government to balance the kingdom."
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCOTLAND?
Cameron has drawn an acrimonious backlash for suggesting that handing power to the Scots should take place "in tandem" with a decision on constitutional reforms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister Danny Alexander called Cameron's position "deeply frustrating."
Cameron's office has since stressed that it will honor the promise made last week.
But there is no consensus among the parties on the way forward. That doesn't bode well for Scotland, which was promised legislation setting out the transfer of powers by mid-2015.
Many say that is an impossible timeline because there is simply no quick fix to constitutional changes that affect the whole of the U.K.
Alex Salmond, the Scottish independence leader, has said Scottish voters are angry and hurt by the political fallout, and claimed they have been "tricked" into voting to stay in the union.
Cameron is now in a bind to calm the rebellion within his own ranks and has to convince the public he hasn't backtracked on a promise.
But the opposition Labour Party, which is seeking a return to power in next year's general election, stands to lose the most in the fallout. The party, which has 41 of Scotland's 59 lawmakers, will suffer from any measures to restrict Scottish voting rights.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband refused to back or reject Cameron's stance, only saying he would be open to the idea of greater scrutiny by English lawmakers.