BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Greg Mortenson doesn't want to talk about his best-selling "Three Cups of Tea" book, but everybody else does — including his own charity.
Three years ago, "60 Minutes" and author Jon Krakauer alleged that Mortenson fabricated much of the book and mismanaged the charity he co-founded, Central Asia Institute. The allegations pushed Mortenson to lock himself in his bedroom. He fought off depression and eventually underwent heart surgery. The Central Asia Institute lost most of its donors, with contributions plummeting from a high of about $22 million in 2010 to $2.7 million last year.
The organization's new leaders have slashed the budget and cut school construction programs, but they still had to borrow from savings to meet expenses. Board chairman Steve Barrett is worried about the organization's long-term financial health.
So Barrett and the other board members are calling on Mortenson to help reverse the skid by appearing in promotional videos and resuming the speaking engagements he put on hold in 2011. Mortenson, who said he's feels healthier than he has in 18 years, has reluctantly agreed.
"There's a lot of pressure on me to go out and start talking to the public and the media, which I was reluctant to do. Not only because things kind of quieted down and I'm kind of liking my life, but I also don't want to have to open up all these cans of worms again," he told The Associated Press in an interview at his Bozeman home on Tuesday.
"I feel like a criminal coming back," he added.
He knows the questions that will dog him. Did he make up the story about how he decided to devote his life to building schools? Was he really kidnapped by the Taliban when visiting a remote part of northwestern Pakistan? Did he lie to sell books?
Mortenson doesn't relish the prospect of having to answer those questions, but that's exactly what Central Asia Institute wants. The organization wants Mortenson to tell his side of the story in hopes that it can move past the "60 Minutes" piece and get back to educating children.
Krakauer told the AP Wednesday that Mortenson must come clean before the public will forgive him. He believes that Central Asia Institute will not prosper as long as Mortenson is its public face.
"Greg needs to go, right now," Krakauer said. "Until Greg is gone, there is no hope for having an honest organization."
Barrett, for his part, said Mortenson must be involved in any effort to bring the institute back to financial stability.
"Greg is recognizable, he commands an audience and people want to hear what happened," Barrett said. "People are going to be wondering, so he has to be a part of it."
It's a risky gambit, and Mortenson is not sure if the public will give him a second chance. But he said the Central Asia Institute is doing good work by supporting the education of children, especially girls, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and it's up to him to raise funds to make sure it can continue.
"You wish the past could just be done with, but there are still a lot of questions. So I'd like to answer those questions (and) let the public decide, but then let me move on and help those girls and kids overseas," Mortenson said.
Mortenson apologized for letting people down. He insists the stories in "Three Cups of Tea" are true, though he has changed the telling of some of them since they were published. He also disputes the Montana attorney general's findings that he enriched himself by taking charter flights on Central Asia Institute's dime, and by keeping all the speakers' fees and the royalties from books the organization bought and gave away.
An attorney general's investigation resulted in Mortenson reimbursing the organization more than $1.1 million, removing him from any financial decisions and making wholesale changes to the organization's leadership.
Mortenson said he plans to eventually leave the organization. First, he wants to help raise contributions so they match expenses. Then, he wants to see the graduation of the first wave of girls who entered Central Asia Institute's schools built in Afghanistan about a decade ago.
He still is the highest-paid employee of Central Asia Institute, drawing $169,000 in salaries and benefits last year.
If he left Central Asia Institute, Mortenson said he would go on a long trip overseas before pursuing new projects advocating for girls' education. He said he has been quietly helping groups working in Uganda and South Sudan.
He also has not shelved his writing career. He said he has written enough during the past two years to have material for three books, all about empowering girls and women. But he said he is under pressure to write a book in response to 60 Minutes and Krakauer.
He said he won't do it.
"Some people like to make themselves look good by making others look bad. It's not in my nature to make others look bad,' he said.
ATLANTA (AP) — An uptick in Georgia's unemployment rate overtook education as the top issue in the governor's race Thursday, as Democratic candidate Jason Carter seized on the opportunity to blame Gov. Nathan Deal while the Republican incumbent questioned the federal statistics used to develop the number.
Georgia's Department of Labor reported the employment rate had increased in August to 8.1 percent — up from 7.7 percent in July and close to the 8.2 percent rate reported last year. August is the fourth month in a row with reported increases in the unemployment rate.
Education and the economy have dominated the campaign, with Carter arguing that Deal has harmed the economy with cuts to schools and higher education and Deal pointing to job growth while maintaining that he protected education from steeper cuts than other areas of government.
Deal told reporters that the unemployment rate reported Thursday doesn't square with other measures of the state economy, including the number of jobs counted in Georgia rising to its highest level since June 2008 and a drop in initial unemployment applications. Holding up a spreadsheet, he said almost all states led by Republican governors — colored red— had increased unemployment rates and Democrat-led states —colored blue — had lower rates.
"Now I don't know how you account for that, maybe there is some influence here that we don't know about," Deal said. "But when you say that California is in a better position in terms of unemployment than the state of Georgia, there is something that just doesn't ring true about those numbers."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics generates local unemployment rates by using household surveys and modeling, and sometimes revises initial rates after more study. Georgia's July unemployment rate, for example, was revised down slightly from 7.8 percent to 7.7 percent. The agency is scheduled to release rates for all states on Friday.
Carter called the unemployment rate "disturbing" economic news and told reporters that Deal is making excuses to cover fundamental problems in the state. He blamed cuts to the state's technical college system in part for the unemployment figures and said higher investment in education will have long-term impact on Georgia's economy.
He acknowledged those results can take time. However, he said that lag shouldn't be a reason for staying the same but "an argument for why we have to change now."
"The disinvestment from our children and from our people is now evident," Carter said. "We are reaping what we have sown in this state."
Economists and other experts vary on how much stock to place in the unemployment rate. Some argue it can be valuable when used in combination with other measures. For Wesley Tharpe, a tax and economic policy analyst with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, four months of increasing unemployment is hard to discount.
"There is always some variability in month to month numbers that sometimes get changed later on," Tharpe said. "The fact it continues to go up month to month when the national economy is recovering is very worrisome."
Rajeev Dhawan, director of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University, said unemployment rates don't give an accurate snapshot of economic health, and the state appears to be doing better economically than the unemployment rate alone might suggest. Dhawan, who does a monthly forecast for the state's economy, said sales and income taxes and job growth are more reliable measures and called the unemployment rate is a "problematic statistic."
"It's what I call my triangle of money," he said. "If jobs are being created, sooner or later that money shows up."
BEIRUT (AP) — The Islamic State group on Thursday released a video showing a British journalist who says he is a prisoner of the extremists.
In a slick, three-minute video shot with three cameras, John Cantlie, a photojournalist, said he worked for publications including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph and came to Syria in November 2012 where he was subsequently captured by the Islamic State group.
The group which now controls roughly a third of Syria and Iraq has beheaded two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker, and has threatened to kill another British hostage.
The British government declined to comment on the video.
In Copenhagen, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the Islamic State group "is not just a threat to the stability of the Middle East region but to all of us in our homelands."
Asked about the video, he told reporters that he had heard about it but has not yet seen it.
"Obviously we'll look very closely at any material that's been released on the Internet," he said, declining further comment.
The just over three-minute long clip released Thursday by the Islamic State group's media arm, Al-Furqan, was different than previous videos.
Entitled "Lend me Your ears," it is previewed as the first in a series of lecture-like "programs" in which Cantlie says he will reveal "the truth" about the Islamic State group.
Wearing an orange T-shirt and sitting behind a desk, he criticized the war on the Islamic State group and said he and other British and U.S. hostages have been abandoned by their governments. Cantlie's name has not been mentioned among foreign hostages held by the group.
He was briefly held up by Islamic extremists along with a Dutch photographer in Syria in July 2012.
No Islamic State fighters appear in the video, which was posted online by users associated with the Islamic state group and reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. terrorism watchdog.
In addition to beheaded U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines, the Islamic State group has threatened to kill Alan Henning, a British former taxi driver who was taken captive in December shortly after joining an aid convoy and crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.
Associated Press writers Jan Olsen in Copenhagen and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — For some, it's a day they have dreamed of for decades. For others, the time has finally come to make up their minds about the future — both for themselves and for the United Kingdom.
Excitement vied with apprehension Thursday in Scotland as voters went to the polls in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to dissolve a union with England that brought great prosperity but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling.
On the fog-shrouded streets of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, there is a quiet thrill of history in the making — as Scots prepare to stay up all night in bars to watch the results roll in.
Earlier, voters had lined up outside some polling stations even before they opened at 7 a.m.
"Fifty years I fought for this," said 83-year-old Isabelle Smith, a Yes supporter in Edinburgh's maritime district of Newhaven, a former fishing port. "And we are going to win. I can feel it in my bones."
For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during three decades living in the U.S. with her late husband.
"The one thing America has that the Scots don't have is confidence," said Smith, who returned to Scotland years ago. "But they're getting it, they're walking tall.
"No matter what, Scotland will never, ever be the same again."
The question on the ballot paper cannot be simpler: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
Yet it has divided Scots during months of campaigning, generating an unprecedented volume and intensity of public debate and participation. The Yes side, in particular, has energized young people and previously disillusioned working-class voters.
Polls suggest the result is too close to call. A final Ipsos MORI poll released Thursday put support for the No side at 53 percent and Yes at 47 percent. The phone survey of 991 people has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The future of the 307-year-old union with England will be decided in 15 hours of voting on Thursday. Turnout is expected to be high, with more than 4.2 million people registered to vote — 97 percent of those eligible. Residents as young as 16 can vote.
Until recently, polls suggested as many as one in five voters was undecided, but that number has shrunk dramatically. In the latest poll, only 4 percent remained uncertain how they would vote.
A Yes vote would trigger 18 months of negotiations between Scottish leaders and London-based politicians on how the two countries would separate their institutions before Scotland's planned Independence Day of March 24, 2016.
Many questions — the currency independent Scotland would use, its status within the European Union and NATO, the fate of Britain's nuclear-armed submarines, based at a Scottish port — remain uncertain or disputed after months of campaigning.
After weeks in which British media have talked of little else, the television airwaves were almost a referendum-free zone Thursday. Electoral rules forbid discussion and analysis of elections on television while the polls are open.
On the streets, it was a different story, with rival Yes and No billboards and campaigners outside many polling places.
At an Edinburgh polling station, Thomas Roberts said he had voted Yes because he felt optimistic about its future as an independent country.
"Why not roll the dice for once?" he said.
Once the polls close, ballot boxes will be transported to 32 regional centers for counting. The result is anticipated Friday morning.
Roberts said he was looking forward to learning of the outcome in a pub, many of which are staying open overnight.
"I'm going to sit with a beer in my hand watching the results coming in," Roberts said.
Englishman John Loughrey, who wore a cap and outfit with the Union Jack on it, traveled to Edinburgh from London to try to persuade Scots to stay in the U.K. family.
"It's not going to work. England will survive," he said. "This is the biggest mistake of Scotland's life if they go independent. They need, we need the United Kingdom together. We're all cousins and it's worked for over 300 years."
Many who oppose independence agreed that the campaign had reinvigorated Scottish democracy.
"I support the No side, but it's been a fascinating, worthwhile discussion about Scotland's future," writing consultant David Clarke said.
"If it's a No, it's a win-win situation. If it's a Yes, we will have to deal with the fact that it's a Yes."
First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the independence campaign, cast his vote near his home in northeastern Scotland. If the Yes side prevails, he will realize a long-held dream of leading his country to independence after an alliance with England formed in 1707.
In a final speech on Wednesday night, Salmond told voters: "This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands."
Pro-independence forces got a last-minute boost from tennis star Andy Murray, who signaled his support of the Yes campaign in a tweet to his 2.7 million followers early Thursday.
Anti-independence leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have implored Scots not to break their links with the rest of the United Kingdom, and have stressed the economic uncertainties independence would bring.
Many Yes supporters planned to stay up late in bars, or to gather in symbolic spots like Calton Hill, overlooking Edinburgh — hoping the sun will rise Friday on a new dawn and not a hangover.
But financial consultant Michael MacPhee, a No voter, said he would observe the returns coming in "with anxiety."
Scottish independence was "the daftest idea I've ever heard," he said.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge has resentenced an ex-Birmingham police officer who was convicted of using excessive force during an arrest.
U.S. District Judge Inge. Johnson sentenced 36-year-old Corey Hooper on Thursday to a year and one day in prison for repeatedly punching Martez Gulley while he was handcuffed and in the backseat of a patrol car on Sept. 6, 2007.
Hooper was initially sentenced to five years of probation but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled in May that the punishment violated federal sentencing guidelines.
The appeals court said Hooper's initial sentence wouldn't adequately discourage other law enforcement officials from using excessive force.
Hooper was convicted of depriving Gulley of his civil rights in 2012 and is ordered to report to prison Dec. 1.
POLLOCK PINES, Calif. (AP) — A man has been arrested on suspicion of arson in an out-of-control Northern California wildfire that has driven nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday.
Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37, is suspected of starting the fire east of Sacramento on Saturday, authorities said at a news conference.
By Thursday, the blaze had burned through 111 square miles as winds surged to 25 mph and continued to fuel its rapid expansion, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It was 5 percent contained.
"This fire is definitely eye-opening," Cal Fire spokeswoman Alyssa Smith said.
The blaze has been fueled by heavy timber and grass that is extremely dry because of California's third straight year of drought.
Many of the more than 2,000 threatened homes were in Pollock Pines, 60 miles east of Sacramento. Though the fire grew substantially late Wednesday, it burned mostly into wilderness land in the El Dorado National Forest away from the town, according to Cal Fire.
The blaze was burning about 20 miles from the Desolation Wilderness, a popular hiking area south of Lake Tahoe.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency late Wednesday, freeing up funds for the two fires. Brown also had secured federal grants to fight each of them.
Rain was possible in the area Thursday, though more gusty, erratic winds also were expected, and there was a chance of lightning.
Meanwhile, farther north in the town of Weed, teams of firefighters went house-to-house Wednesday to survey damage by a wildfire that officials estimated had destroyed 110 homes and damaged another 90. The damage assessment was expected to continue Thursday.
Four firefighters lost their homes. Two churches, a community center and the library also burned to the ground, while an elementary school and the city's last wood-products mill were damaged by flames that were pushed by 40-mph winds.
Insurance companies worked to find places to live for the people who lost their homes.
The cause of the blaze that rapidly swept across town was under investigation. It was 65 percent contained after burning 375 acres.