Atlanta, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. East Coast could be hit with a powerful hurricane next week as Tropical Storm Florence continues to strengthen as it moves toward the mainland, forecasters said Saturday.
Florence is expected to become a major hurricane by Monday, the National Hurricane Center said, adding that "a rapid intensification" is forecast to begin Sunday.
The storm is forecast to become a "major hurricane" Monday, travel between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday before approaching the southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday, the Miami-based weather center said.
Officials in the Carolinas warned residents to prepare and to brace for impact.
Governors in both South Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency Saturday to give their states time to prepare for the possible arrival of the storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster emphasized that there's no way to know yet when and where the storm will hit land, or when evacuations might be called.
On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency and urged residents to use the weekend to prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster.
"We are entering the peak of hurricane season and we know well the unpredictability and power of these storms," Cooper said.
The U.S. Navy is making preparations this weekend for its ships in the Hampton Roads area to leave port. The U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release Saturday that the ships will get ready in anticipation of getting under way Monday to avoid storm damage.
Adm. Christopher Grady said in a statement that the decision was based on Florence's current track, which indicates the area could see strong sustained winds and storm surges.
The news release notes that plans could change if forecasts indicate a decrease in the strength or change in the track of the storm.
Swells generated by Florence are affecting Bermuda and starting to reach parts of the Eastern Seaboard, the National Weather Service said.
At 5 a.m. EDT, the hurricane center said Florence's maximum sustained winds were estimated to be 70 mph (110 kph). The storm was centered about 765 miles (1,235 kilometers) southeast of Bermuda and moving west at 6 mph (9 kph).
Istanbul, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — Turkey's arrests of an American pastor and other Western citizens have thrust its troubled judicial system to the forefront of ties with allies, reinforcing suspicions that the Turkish government is using detainees as diplomatic leverage.
Turkey scoffs at the idea that it treats detained foreigners as foreign policy pawns, and points the finger at the U.S. for cases against Turks in American courts. Turkey's top appeals court judge weighed in this week, saying only "independent" courts can free pastor Andrew Brunson.
The reality is more complex in a nation where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tightened his grip on the state, including a judiciary purged of thousands of judges and prosecutors after an attempted coup in 2016. Constitutional changes have since expanded Erdogan's control of judicial appointments, undermining Turkey's avowals that it wants to mold impartial courts.
There is no evidence that jailed foreigners in Turkey were arrested to be used as "hostages," and Erdogan could genuinely believe they were acting on behalf of foreign governments against Turkey, said Nicholas Danforth, an analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
"In taking and holding prisoners to combat the West's presumed hostility, Ankara ends up creating the kind of hostility it imagines," Danforth wrote in a blog post last week.
Recent Turkish court rulings seemed to align with diplomatic outreach to Europe. Two Greek soldiers held for months were freed; Taner Kilic, an Amnesty International representative, was released; and a judge lifted a travel ban on a German of Turkish descent accused of terror offenses.
Conversely, the courts ruled against freeing Brunson, who is accused of links to Kurdish rebels and the 2016 coup plotters, after U.S. economic penalties deepened the Turkish currency's slide.
A coincidence? Some analysts don't think so.
"As the crisis with the U.S. heated up and as the economic crisis heated up, Erdogan saw a need to speed up the process of normalization with Europe," said Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor of Middle East history in Canton, New York.
Eissenstat, also a fellow at the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy, speculated that President Donald Trump's focus on freeing Brunson had backfired, encouraging Turkish officials to think: "'This guy's really valuable and we can get a lot for him.'"
For Turkey, "a lot" would be the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and denies Turkish allegations that he engineered the coup attempt, which killed nearly 300 people.
Turkey has also criticized the case against Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an official at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank who was jailed in the U.S. for helping Iran avoid American sanctions.
Last year, Erdogan floated a possible trade in which the U.S. sends Gulen to Turkey in exchange for the release of Brunson, now under house arrest in the city of Izmir. However, comments on Monday by Ismail Rustu Cirit, the Turkish judge, reflected an official view that Turkey's sovereignty in the matter is paramount.
"The only and absolute power that can rule on the arrest of a foreign citizen in Izmir and decisions about his trial are the independent and impartial courts," Cirit said.
The European Union has urged Turkey to guarantee the impartiality of its courts, a key requirement in an EU candidacy bid that stalled years ago.
Judicial reforms more than a decade ago, in the early years of Erdogan's rule, reduced the power of the military and moved Turkey closer to European standards. But backsliding followed, amid increasing accusations that the ruling party was using the courts to muzzle opponents.
In another twist, internal conflict erupted at the end of 2013 when prosecutors launched an investigation of alleged corruption at the top of the government, a move described by Erdogan's camp as a power grab by Gulen supporters.
Detainees remain an irritant between Germany and Turkey, which freed Die Welt journalist Deniz Yucel and activist Peter Steudtner. But Turkey still holds a number of Germans for what Berlin considers political reasons.
Turkey, meanwhile, has bemoaned a Greek court's decision to grant asylum to some servicemen who fled to Greece a day after Turkey's coup attempt. In a reverse scenario, Turkey would never "shelter" coup plotters acting against Greece, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
Turkey doesn't have "very much" to show for what may be opportunistic attempts to use detainees as leverage with other countries, according to Eissenstat.
He said there could be a parallel with similar cases in Iran or the former Soviet Union, in which "local officials would sometimes make decisions and then the central government would decide, 'OK, how does this fit into a larger policy?'"
Juba, Sept 9 (AP/UNB) — A local official says 17 people are dead after their aircraft crashed into a lake in South Sudan.
The minister of information for the town of Yirol, Taban Abel Aguek, tells The Associated Press that the 19-seater commercial Baby Air plane had been traveling from the capital, Juba.
Officials are investigating the cause of Sunday's crash.
Aguek says the three survivors are a 6-year-old child, an adult man and a foreigner from Europe who is in surgery and in serious condition.
"There were people everywhere," Aguek says of the crash site.
Yirol is in the central part of the civil war-torn East African country.
Majuli, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Every morning, on an island in the Brahmaputra River, centuries-old monasteries come alive with the sounds of rhythmic chants and the footsteps of young monks closely watched by their teachers.
Majuli island is home to more than 20 Vaishnavite monasteries, traditional prayer halls belonging to an offshoot of Hinduism dedicated to the god Vishnu. Inside the monasteries, thousands of monks are keeping alive an ancient tradition that melds worship with the arts.
Vaishnava monks believe the way to salvation is through dance, drama and music. Their work centers around dance dramas, based on ancient Indian texts that often focus on the god Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. The young monks, many of whom come from poor families, perform the dances at Krishna festivals across India and around the world.
The monasteries, called satras, are outposts of traditionalism. No girls are permitted to live inside them, and teachers and students live together, following the ancient Indian teaching tradition.
Apart from training in the arts and praying, the young monks also get a secular education and learn to cook and farm.
Stockholm, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Polls have opened in Sweden's general election in what is expected to be one of the most unpredictable and thrilling races in the Scandinavian country for decades amid heated debate on immigration.
Sunday's election will be Sweden's first since the government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country of 10 million. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation. It's highly unlikely that any single party will get a majority, or 175 seats.
The latest opinion poll suggests that Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's ruling Social Democrats will substantially lose seats but still emerge a winner with an estimated 24.9 percent of the votes.
The polls showed far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would get 19.1 percent of the votes.