US sending 5,200 troops to border, double Syria deployment
By ROBERT BURNS, COLLEEN LONG and JILL COLVIN
Tuesday, October 30
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon is deploying 5,200 troops to the Southwest border in an extraordinary military operation a week before nationwide elections in which President Donald Trump wants voters to focus on what he calls an “invasion” — a slow-moving caravan of Central American migrants.
The number of troops being sent is more than double the 2,000 who are in Syria fighting the Islamic State group.
Two caravans of migrants, traveling mostly on foot, are still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border with Mexico. Most are poor, carrying the belongings that fit into a knapsack and fleeing gang violence or poverty. And any who complete the long trek to the border already face major hurdles to asylum in the country — both physical and bureaucratic — to being allowed to remain in the United States.
Trump, eager to keep voters trained on immigration in the lead-up to the midterm elections, stepped up his dire warnings about the caravans, tweeting, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
And in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” he declared that he wanted to order an end to the constitutional right to citizenship for babies born in the United States to non-citizens.
Asked about the legality of such an executive order, Trump said, “they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” He added that “we’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States,” though a 2010 study showed that 30 countries offered birthright citizenship.
And in a late Monday interview, Trump said the U.S. would build tent cities for asylum seekers.
“We’re going to put tents up all over the place,” told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham. “They’re going to be very nice, and they’re going to wait, and if they don’t get asylum they get out.”
Under current protocol, migrants who clear an initial screening are often released until their cases are decided in immigration court, which can take several years.
Trump denied his focus on the caravan is intended to help Republicans in next week’s midterms, saying, “This has nothing to do with elections.”
The Pentagon’s Operation Faithful Patriot was described by the commander of U.S. Northern Command as an effort to help Customs and Border Protection “harden the southern border” by stiffening defenses at and near legal entry points. Advanced helicopters will allow border protection agents to swoop down on migrants trying to cross illegally, said Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy.
Troops planned to take heavy concertina wiring to unspool across open spaces between ports.
“We will not allow a large group to enter the U.S. in an unlawful and unsafe manner,” said Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Eight hundred troops already are on their way to southern Texas, O’Shaughnessy said, and their numbers will top 5,200 by week’s end. Some of the troops will be armed. Troops would focus first on Texas, followed by Arizona and then California.
The troops will join the more than 2,000 National Guardsmen whom Trump has already deployed to the border. It remained unclear Monday why the administration was choosing to send active-duty troops given that they will be limited to performing the support functions the Guard already is doing.
The number of people in the first migrant caravan headed toward the U.S. has dwindled to about 4,000 from about 7,000 last week, though a second one was gaining steam and was marked by violence. About 600 migrants in the second group tried to cross a bridge from Guatemala to Mexico en masse Monday. The riverbank standoff with Mexico police followed a more violent confrontation Sunday, when the migrants used sticks and rocks against officers. One migrant was killed Sunday night by a head wound, but what caused it was unclear.
The first group passed through the spot via the river — wading or on rafts — and was advancing through southern Mexico. That group appeared to begin as a collection of about 160 who decided to band together in Honduras for protection against the gangs that prey on migrants traveling alone and snowballed as the group moved north. They are mostly from Honduras, where it started, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala.
A smaller caravan earlier this year dwindled greatly as it passed through Mexico, with only about 200 making it to the California border.
Migrants are entitled under both U.S. and international law to apply for asylum. But there already is a bottleneck of would-be asylum seekers waiting at some U.S. border crossings to make their claims, some waiting as long as five weeks.
McAleenan said the aim of the operation was to deter migrants from crossing illegally, but he conceded his officers were overwhelmed by a surge of asylum seekers at border crossings. He also said Mexico was prepared to offer asylum to members of the caravan.
The White House also is weighing additional border security measures, including blocking those traveling in the caravan from seeking legal asylum and preventing them from entering the U.S.
The military operation drew quick criticism.
“Sending active military forces to our southern border is not only a huge waste of taxpayer money but an unnecessary course of action that will further terrorize and militarize our border communities,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s border rights center at El Paso, Texas.
Military personnel are legally prohibited from engaging in immigration enforcement. The troops will include military police, combat engineers and others helping on the border.
The ramped-up rhetoric over the migrants and expected deployments comes as the president has been trying to turn the caravans into a key election issue just days before elections that will determine whether Republicans maintain control of Congress.
“This will be the election of the caravans, the Kavanaughs, law and order, tax cuts, and you know what else? It’s going to be the election of common sense,” Trump said at a rally in Illinois on Saturday night.
On Monday, he tweeted without providing evidence, “Many Gang Members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border.”
“Please go back,” he urged them, “you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
It’s possible there are criminals mixed in, but Trump has not substantiated his claim that members of the MS-13 gang, in particular, are among them.
The troops are expected to perform a wide variety of functions such as transporting supplies for the Border Patrol but not engage directly with migrants seeking to cross the border, officials said. One U.S. official said the troops will be sent initially to staging bases in California, Texas and Arizona while the CBP works out precisely where it wants the troops positioned. U.S. Transportation Command posted a video on its Facebook page of a C-17 transport plane that it said was delivering Army equipment to the Southwest border in support of the operation.
The U.S. military has already begun delivering jersey barriers to the southern border in conjunction with the deployment plans.
Associated Press writers Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Lolita C. Baldor in Prague contributed to this report.
Migrant caravan demands transport as 2nd group enters Mexico
By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN and SANTIAGO BILLY
Tuesday, October 30
NILTEPEC, Mexico (AP) — The migrant caravan slowly advancing through southern Mexico is demanding the Mexican government help its 4,000 participants reach Mexico City even as a smaller group of Central Americans entered the country, presumably with the intention of joining it.
Worn down from long miles of walking and frustrated by the caravan’s slow progress, some migrants have been dropping out and returning home or applying for protected status in Mexico. Conscious of that frustration, its representatives demanded “safe and dignified” transportation to the capital Monday after the group arrived in the Oaxaca state town of Niltepec.
The Mexican government has shown no inclination to assist, however, with the exception of its migrant protection agency giving some of the caravan’s stragglers rides to the next town over the weekend.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a group supporting the caravan, has said it hopes to hold meetings in Mexico City with federal lawmakers and authorities as well as representatives of the incoming government to discuss migrants’ rights and the caravan’s future.
But Mexican officials seem intent only on seeing the caravan melt away as it travels toward the U.S. border. The government regularly trumpets the number of migrants who have applied for refugee status or asked to return to their home countries.
On Monday, the Federal Police aggressively tried to turn back hundreds more migrants who crossed the Suchiate River to enter Mexico from Guatemala.
A low-flying police helicopter hovered overhead as the migrants waded in large groups across the murky river, apparently trying to use the downdraft from its rotors to discourage them. Guatemala’s Noti7 channel reported that one man drowned and aired video of a man dragging a seemingly lifeless body from the river, but Honduran Vice Foreign Minister Nelly Jerez later told TV station Televicentro that the man was alive and being treated at a hospital in Tapachula, Mexico.
Once on the Mexican side, the migrants were surrounded and escorted by dark-uniformed officers as sirens wailed. The standoff at the riverbank followed a more violent confrontation on the border bridge over the river Sunday night, when migrants threw rocks and used sticks against Mexico police. One migrant died from a head wound during the clash, but the cause was unclear.
The group was much smaller than the first caravan. In the Mexican border town of Ciudad Hidalgo, they said they hoped to continue onward Tuesday morning.
With the original caravan still at least 1,000 miles or more from its goal of reaching the United States, the Pentagon announced it would send 5,200 active-duty troops to “harden” the U.S.-Mexico border. There are already more than 2,000 National Guard troops providing assistance at the border.
The Pentagon announcement comes as President Donald Trump has been focusing on the caravan to stir up his base a week before midterm elections.
Migrants in the caravan planned to walk to Juchitan on Tuesday, a trek of some 32 miles to the west. They may have been emboldened Monday by the efforts of one small town to help them move. More than 100 migrants lined up at a gas station parking lot to wait for rides in Zanatepec.
Mayor Ramiro Nolasco said locals organized a bus and several trucks to carry migrants.
“We are helping our brothers from other countries with food, water, and transportation,” Nolasco said. “It is going to be very little, compared to what they need.”
Illustrating the waning enthusiasm, some migrants gathered at a checkpoint near Tapanatepec to ask for help returning home to Honduras, the origin of the great majority of those in the caravan. Exhausted from many days on the road, and disheartened by the many miles yet to go and misbehavior by some fellow travelers, people have been dropping out and the caravan has contracted from its peak of an estimated 7,000 participants.
“Of the friends that I have been with, all want to go back,” said Hasiel Isamar Hernandez, a 28-year-old mother of three. For her, the last straw was when she heard from her husband that her 3-year-old daughter back home had stopped eating because she missed her mother.
The second group at the border with Guatemala has been more unruly than the first. Guatemala’s Interior Ministry said Guatemalan police officers were injured when the migrants broke through border barriers on Guatemala’s side of the bridge.
Mexico’s Interior Department said in a statement that two Hondurans ages 17 and 22 were arrested Monday when one of them tried to shoot at police in the town of Ignacio Zaragoza, near the Hidalgo border crossing. It said the Glock failed to fire, and no agents were injured.
El Salvador’s immigration agency, meanwhile, said a group of Salvadorans including several dozen children and adolescents that crossed legally into Guatemala on Sunday numbered about 500.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman reported this story in Niletpec, Mexico, and AP photojournalist Santiago Billy reported from Tecun Uman, Guatemala. AP writers Julie Watson in Tapanatepec, Mexico, and Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City contributed to this report.
Svitolina beats Stephens to win season-ending WTA Finals
By SANDRA HARWITT
Sunday, October 28
SINGAPORE (AP) — Elina Svitolina secured the biggest title of her career on Sunday, becoming the first Ukrainian player to win the season-ending WTA Finals trophy.
The No. 6-seeded Svitolina rebounded from a one-set deficit for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over fifth-seeded Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion.
Svitolina fell onto her back on the court in celebration, and then shared a hug with Stephens.
“I think I have nothing to prove anymore to anyone and it’s definitely a good statement for myself,” Svitolina said. “I think mental toughness is what I really had to show.
“I played great tennis and I worked my way into the tournament. It’s going to bring me lots of confidence.”
The Ukrainian raced to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but Stephens managed to secure a break in the fifth game. Svitolina broke back immediately to take a 4-2 lead.
Stephens, making her debut at the WTA Finals, surrendered her serve again on a first match point for Svitolina in the eighth game by sending a backhand crosscourt wide.
“I thought she played well and it was obviously a tough match from the beginning,” Stephens said. “I was really excited to be here and compete with everybody.”
The victory means Svitolina became the eighth player to go undefeated in winning the season-ending title, which features a three-match round-robin format at the outset, and first since Serena Williams in 2013.
She has now won 13 of 15 finals she’s played in her career, including the last nine with her last final loss coming in 2016 to Petra Kvitova at the Zhuhai tournament.
“Of course I know that I’ve won lots of finals,” Svitolina said. “For me, every final is a big challenge. I always try to be there for that challenge.”
The WTA Finals ends its five-year run in Singapore this season and moves to Shenzen, China for a 10-year run starting in 2019.
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Federer wins 99th title, beats Copil in Swiss Indoors final
Sunday, October 28
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer won his 99th career ATP tour title on Sunday, beating qualifier Marius Copil 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the Swiss Indoors final.
A ninth title at Federer’s hometown event in Basel, where he was once a ball boy, matched the nine he has won at the Halle grass-court event in Germany. He closed the gap on the all-time singles titles list to Jimmy Connors, who leads with 109.
Federer blew kisses to a 12,000 crowd in the renovated St. Jakobhalle, which now gives Basel’s local hero a bigger main stage.
“It’s been a magical week. It was dream run for me,” Federer said in his on-court acceptance speech, before his fans’ ovation brought tears welling in his eyes.
“To come through and win again here in my hometown, never knowing if this might be your last time … it obviously means a lot to me and it becomes very emotional,” he said later.
The top-seeded Swiss rallied from trailing by a service break in each set against the 93rd-ranked Romanian, whose serve was measured at 243 kph (151 mph) in his opening service game.
Federer clinched minutes after saving a break point, taking his first match-point chance when Copil sent a backhand into the net.
The title was the 37-year-old Federer’s first in more than four months since winning on grass at Stuttgart in June.
Federer’s 151st singles final on the ATP tour shaped as one of his biggest mismatches by ranking. He has never lost a final to an opponent ranked below No. 87.
Their first meeting came after Federer amassed 20 Grand Slam singles titles, while Copil has just one career match win at a Grand Slam — in the 2015 Australian Open first round.
The 28-year-old Copil came to Basel with career prize money — $1.67 million — significantly less than Federer earned just for winning the Australian Open in January. His second career runner-up finish, both this season, earned almost 210,000 euros ($239,000).
Copil, currently ranked No. 93, will rise to a career-best ranking of No. 60 when the new list is published Monday.
“I would love for it to be the beginning of my career at this level,” said Copil, who played his first tour-level match in 2009.
The first-set tiebreaker was likely to be crucial given Copil’s career record of 8-52 when losing the opening set in top-tier matches.
Federer got a mini-break in the seventh point, being rewarded for solid defense from the baseline when Copil netted an attempted drop shot.
After Copil saved two set points with big serves, Federer took the first on his own serve when his opponent sent a forehand long. Federer celebrated with a shout and a pump of his right fist.
In the second set, Copil again quickly broke serve and this time held the key fifth game when Federer had two break points.
It was a brief respite until Federer broke in Copil’s next service game despite the Romanian ending one long rally with a backhand lob for a winner.
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Djokovic aiming to take No. 1 ranking from Nadal in Paris
By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, October 28
PARIS (AP) — Novak Djokovic is in commanding form and well poised to wrestle back the No. 1-ranking from longtime rival Rafael Nadal at the Paris Masters.
Heading into the Paris event, which starts Monday, Djokovic was only 215 points behind Nadal at a tournament he has won a record four times, the last time in 2015. Nadal has never won here.
The two tennis greats have won a combined 31 Grand Slam titles, with Nadal ahead 17-14. But Djokovic appears to be on an ever-upward curve while Nadal is tentatively returning from a right knee injury.
Djokovic has won four of the last five tournaments he has entered, a strong run including Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and most recently the Shanghai Masters.
“In both the U.S. Open and Shanghai, I’ve played as good as ever,” Djokovic said Sunday at a news conference in Paris. “So I really enjoy tennis at the moment and enjoy competing. When you have a lot of confidence, you approach the practice sessions and the tournaments and the matches in a just completely different way.”
Djokovic feels he’s reaching the ultra-dominant level he was leading up to at the time of winning the French Open in 2016, which turned out to be his last Grand Slam title before a slump of two years without winning one.
In 2017, Djokovic’s level of play started dropping due to complications with an elbow injury. In January, he finally underwent right elbow surgery and, by the time he reached the French Open in June, his ranking had dropped to No. 22.
“It was quite opposite extremes in terms of how I felt and how I played five months ago and today,” Djokovic said. “I do think that I’m playing at my best at the moment (now). I always feel like I can improve, but I feel like this is a very high level.”
Djokovic has a bye into the second round in Paris. The Serb will face either Joao Sousa of Portugal or Italian Marco Cecchinato, who upset Djokovic at Roland Garros in the French Open quarterfinals.
Djokovic’s third Shanghai title moved him onto 72 for his career, eight behind Nadal. Roger Federer collected his 99th title after winning the Swiss Indoors on Sunday.
Nadal, meanwhile, is optimistic his right knee has recovered well. He retired in the semifinals of the U.S. Open against Juan Martin del Potro in early September. He then skipped the Asia swing to recover, missing tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.
“I am happy to be here. I am having better feelings on court. I am practicing a little bit more every day,” Nadal said Sunday. “(It) is nothing new for me. Something that happened in my career a couple of times. So more or less we know the process.”
The Spaniard has a bye to the second round, where he faces either countryman Fernando Verdasco or Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
The 32-year-old Nadal could face defending champion Jack Sock in the third round, and potentially Borna Coric or sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals.
Considering he is returning from injury, Nadal is cautious about his chances.
“I am not thinking about big improvements or big things,” he said. “I am just thinking about small improvements, and that’s the goal.”
Federer, who beat qualifier Marius Copil of Romania for his ninth title in Basel, has yet to confirm he will play in Paris.
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Can Seabiscuit’s DNA explain his elite racing ability?
October 29, 2018
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Institute for Equine Genomics, Binghamton University, State University of New York
Steven Tammariello does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Binghamton University, State University of New York provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Seabiscuit was not an impressive-looking horse. He was considered quite lazy, preferring to eat and sleep in his stall rather than exercise. He’d been written off by most of the racing industry after losing his first 17 races. But Seabiscuit eventually became one of the most beloved thoroughbred champions of all time – voted 1938 Horse of the Year after winning his legendary match race as an underdog against Triple Crown winner War Admiral in 1938.
As a molecular physiologist, the concept of understanding how specific gene variants can affect performance, whether in athletics, learning or even how an organism develops, has always intrigued me. Thoroughbred racing seemed a promising arena to study this idea, since successful racehorses need not only elite physical attributes, but also the mental makeup of a champion, sometimes referred to as the “will to win.”
At the Institute for Equine Genomics here at Binghamton University, we try to better understand the genetic components associated with breeding success in thoroughbreds and other horse breeds. We are also interested in finding gene variants that could help horses before and after their racing careers. We’ve successfully run tests for horse farms across the U.S. and in South Africa and New Zealand to assist with breeding decisions and help them identify early which horses were probably not suited for the track.
A few years back, Jacqueline Cooper from the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation got in touch. She wanted to genetically test a fifth-generation descendant of Seabiscuit, named Bronze Sea, for breeding purposes. Jacqueline asked if any genetic information about Seabiscuit could be obtained from sequencing Bronze Star. But since Seabiscuit was so far back in the pedigree, our lab really couldn’t be sure which of Bronze Star’s genes came from his famous great-great-great grandsire. It would only work if comparison tissue from Seabiscuit still existed – an unlikely proposition since he died in 1947 and is buried in an undisclosed grave at Ridgewood Ranch in Northern California.
During a group phone call between me, Jacqueline and Michael Howard, the great-grandson of Seabiscuit’s owner, he mentioned that Seabiscuit’s hooves had been removed and preserved after the champion died. Now this piqued my interest; my lab group has had great success extracting reasonably intact DNA from ancient bone samples.
It turned out that Seabiscuit’s silvered hooves – think of a baby’s booties coated in metal – were on display at the California Thoroughbred Foundation. Although not common practice today, historically it was customary to remove the hooves of a champion racehorse as a keepsake prior to burial. The silvered hooves often served as decorative mementos, sometimes even being used to hold cigarettes and matches.
When our lab received two of Seabiscuit’s hooves, though, the most noticeable thing about them was how deteriorated they were. A great portion of each hoof had pulled away from the silver shoe. The best word to describe them was ragged. And the hollowed out top was so deep into each hoof, we were afraid the bones had been completely removed from the samples during the silvering process. We decided to push forward and see what we could find.
Ph.D. student Kate DeRosa, with assistance from Andy Merriwether, who directs the Ancient DNA and Forensic Laboratory on campus, drilled into the hooves, hoping to find what’s called the coffin bone, the bottom-most bone inside of an equine hoof capsule. As Kate drilled, the resulting powder turned from dark brown, signifying it was a non-bone substance, to white, suggesting the coffin bones were indeed still there.
Our team went on to extract DNA from the powdered bone. The nuclear DNA was somewhat degraded, which didn’t surprise us given the age of the samples and the harsh chemical treatment the hooves had been exposed to during the silvering process. The mitochondrial DNA, though, was intact. We used it to verify the maternal lineage of the samples and confirm that the hooves were indeed from Seabiscuit.
Although the nuclear DNA from the hoof sample was not intact, Kate was still able to partially sequence specific genes associated with optimal racing distance in thoroughbreds. We found that Seabiscuit had gene variants that are often found in horses that are good distance runners. Interestingly, though, underlying this were variants in minor racing genes that are usually found in sprinting horses.
This somewhat rare genetic combination of stamina and speed seems to be reflected in the champion’s race record, as he won races from as short as 5 furlongs (sprint) to as long as 1¼ miles (distance). Further, horses of today that we’ve identified with this genotype tend to be late bloomers, winning their first race almost three months later, on average, than horses with a genotype associated with precocity. Sounds like Seabiscuit’s race record: He didn’t become a true racing star until his 4-year-old racing season.
Our lab will continue to examine Seabiscuit’s genome, focusing on genes linked to other physical attributes, as well as genes that control temperament traits such as aggression, curiosity and trainability. Perhaps Seabiscuit had variants in these behavioral genes that gave him the incredible desire to win despite his less-than-ideal physical attributes.
Through this study, the collaborating partners hope to get an idea of what genetic components made Seabiscuit the great racehorse that he was. We know that racing thoroughbreds in the early 20th century looked quite different than today’s horses, so it will be interesting to see if Seabiscuit’s DNA is noticeably different than that of his modern counterparts. For now, the prospect of cloning Seabiscuit is not possible, due to the insufficient quantity and poor quality of the nuclear DNA we could recover.