Fiat Chrysler shares drop as CEO exit creates uncertainty

MILAN (AP) – Financial investors sent shares in Fiat Chrysler tumbling 4 percent on Monday as they weighed the potential impact of the accelerated exit of CEO Sergio Marchionne due to serious health issues.

Shares in the Italian-American carmaker were trading at 16.10 euros in volatile trading in Milan. Ferrari, where Marchionne was also replaced at the helm, shed 5 percent to 113.50 euros on opening. The losses weighed on the Milan stock exchange overall, where the heft of FCA pulled down the benchmark FTSE MIB by 1.1 percent.

The FCA board on Saturday named long-time Jeep executive Mike Manley as CEO, unexpectedly accelerating a transition that was planned for early next year. The company said the 66-year-old Marchionne suffered complications from shoulder surgery last month that meant he could not resume his duties. No other details were released.

Boards also named replacements for Marchionne as Ferrari CEO and CNH Industrial chairman. Louis Camilleri, a chairman at Ferrari sponsor Philip Morris, is the new Ferrari CEO, while Suzanne Heywood takes over as CNH Industrial chair.

Manley’s first appointment in the role is at a regular FCA executive council meeting in Turin on Monday, and his first public appearance will be to present FCA’s second quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Marchionne had announced in his last major presentation to analysts last month that the quarterly results would show FCA at zero debt for the first time — an occasion for which the normally casually attired Italian-Canadian manager donned a tie — even if only briefly. The five-year plan included a significant shift to electrified motors.

Marchionne engineered both the turnarounds of Italian carmaker Fiat, which he took over in 2004, and Chrysler, which Fiat acquired in 2009 in a deal with the U.S. government, creating the world’s seventh-largest carmaker out of two formerly dysfunctional entities. He created shareholder value for the Fiat founding Agnelli family with successful spinoffs of Fiat’s heavy vehicle maker CNH Industrial and of the iconic Ferrari super sports car company. But his goal of another big merger failed to find any takers.

Manley, 54, has been key to transforming the quintessentially American Jeep brand into a global marquee since taking over there in 2009, and he also has been the head of the Ram truck division since 2015. Both brands have formed the leading edge of FCA’s North American strategy to move away from passenger car production and focus on SUVs and trucks to meet market demand.

“Although Mr. Manley’s public profile has been relatively low and limited to operational matters, he was heavily involved in setting the 2019-22 strategic plan,” Philippe Houchois, an analyst at Jeffries Financial Services, said in a note. “We expect continuity.” But he also expressed concern that FCA’s success has been linked to Marchionne’s ability to shift strategy to meet targets.

Tokyo-based auto analyst, Anindya Das, called Manley “a natural choice” to replace Marchionne as “Manley has been heading FCA’s main profit and growth engine Jeep since 2009.”

Bernstein analyst Max Warburton, who had often publicly tussled with Marchionne on earnings calls, said a drop in FCA’s shares was to be expected. But he also said shares were “very cheap with not much evidence of a Sergio premium.”

“The market knew Sergio was retiring as CEO in early 2019, but some of us assumed he’d remain as chairman and be there to phone in his instructions,” Warburton said in a note. He forecast a solid 2019 but said the risks were longer-term.

Marchionne ran FCA in a command and control style, with constant firefighting measures. There is no operating manual to follow,” he said.

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Asian stocks mixed as trade tensions take center stage

SINGAPORE (AP) – Asian markets were mixed on Monday as concerns over trade tensions moved to the forefront at the meeting this weekend of the Group of 20 industrial nations.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 tumbled 1.3 percent to 22,401.08 and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.9 percent to 2,269.31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 28,295.55. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.1 percent to 2,860.39, recouping Friday’s losses. Australia’s S&P-ASX; 200 fell 0.9 percent to 6,227.60.

WALL STREET: U.S. indexes closed slightly lower on Friday as a jump in bond yields helped banks but hurt big-dividend stocks. The S&P; 500 index lost 0.1 percent to 2,801.83. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up less than 0.1 percent to 25,058.12. The Nasdaq composite dipped 0.1 percent to 7,820.20 while the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dropped 0.3 percent to 1,696.81.

G-20 CONCERNS: G-20 finance ministers and central bankers called Sunday for more dialogue on trade disputes that threaten global economic growth. Their communique said that although the global economy remains strong, growth is becoming “less synchronized” and risks over the short and medium term have increased. These include financial vulnerabilities, heightened trade and geopolitical tensions and global imbalances. “We … recognize the need to step up dialogue and actions to mitigate risks and enhance confidence,” the communique said.

TRUMP OFFENSIVE: On Friday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse the European Union and China of harming the U.S by manipulating their currencies and reducing interest rates. Speaking to CNBC, Trump renewed his threat to ultimately slap tariffs on a total of $500 billion of imports from China – roughly equal to all the goods Beijing ships annually to the United States. He shrugged off the prospect that a trade war with China could cause the stock market to tumble. “If it does, it does,” Trump said. Analysts say they’re becoming more convinced that Trump’s multi-front trade fights aren’t merely a short-term negotiating ploy. Rather, he may be prepared to wait for as long as he feels it’s necessary to force other countries to adopt trade rules more favorable to the United States.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The hope is that this bluster is a negotiation tactic that will be watered down during negotiations but increasingly it looks difficult to duck trade blowback,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank.

CURRENCIES: The U.S. dollar fell sharply after Trump claimed countries were manipulating their currencies. It extended its losses on Monday, easing to 110.93 yen from 111.42 yen. The euro rose to $1.1728 from $1.1724.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 13 cents to $68.13 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract settled at $68.26 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 12 cents to $72.95.

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Harper homers, Nationals outlast Braves, rain in 6-2 win

WASHINGTON (AP) – Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals closed out a rainy weekend at home on a high note.

Harper homered, Max Scherzer struck out seven in six innings and the Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-2 on Sunday in a game hampered by a pair of long weather delays.

Anthony Rendon also had two hits and drove in two runs for Washington, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and helping the Nationals earn a split of the series after Saturday’s game was rained out. Adam Eaton and Juan Soto each had three hits.

“It’s part of it. We play outdoors,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of the rain. “But the boys hung in there. They were all pretty loose in the clubhouse, honestly. Watching Shark Week. So, it was good.”

The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 55 minutes by rain, and another downpour stopped play for almost 100 minutes between the sixth and seventh innings.

Two days after a heated exchange with teammate Stephen Strasburg during Friday’s 8-5 loss, Scherzer (13-5) allowed two runs and eight hits in his third straight win. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has pitched six or more innings in his last 19 starts, though the Braves made him work for it.

“A division team, they know everything I got,” Scherzer said. “They absolutely grind apart every at-bat. It’s really hard to put them away. Our defense played outstanding today.”

Speaking with reporters for the first time since Friday’s dugout disagreement with Strasburg, Scherzer shed no new light on the exchange, saying only: “Look, it was miscommunication, settled it. It’s over. End of story.”

Kelvin Herrera got five outs for his first save with Washington.

Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz (7-6), an All-Star who spent much of this week in Washington, gave up four runs and nine hits over 5 2/3 innings.

“Just waiting around this long, it’s kind of irritating,” he said of Sunday’s delays. “I’m ready to get out of D.C. It’s been a while here.”

Harper singled in Eaton to give Washington a 4-2 lead in the sixth. Matt Adams added another RBI single in the seventh, and Harper hit a solo drive in the eighth for his 24th homer.

Scherzer was staked to an early 3-0 lead and then got some help from his defense.

Atlanta rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the third with a drive off the wall in center, but he was thrown out by Harper while trying for a double. With a runner on first in the fifth, Freddie Freeman’s blast to right was chased down by Eaton on the warning track.

Then in the seventh, Michael A. Taylor made a leaping catch at the wall in center to rob Dansby Swanson of extra bases with one runner on.

Washington got off to a fast start with three runs in the first. Rendon drove in Eaton and Harper with a triple down the right-field line, and then scored on Soto’s groundout.

Swanson drove in Atlanta’s runs with a groundout in the second and a single in the fourth, but the Braves couldn’t land any big blows on Scherzer.

“Got his pitch count up, but that guy never gives in,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s an unbelievable competitor, as good as there is in the game.”

MAKEUP DATE

Saturday’s game will be made up Aug. 7 as part of a split doubleheader, with games beginning at 1:05 and 7:05 p.m.

MOVES

The Nationals acquired minor league right-hander Jacob Condra-Bogan from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Brian Goodwin. The Nationals also recalled lefty Sammy Solis from Triple-A Syracuse.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: All-Star 2B Ozzie Albies, who left Friday’s game with right hamstring tightness, got the day off.

Nationals: RHP Sean Doolittle (left toe inflammation) experienced extended soreness after throwing off the mound Friday. An MRI Saturday revealed a stress reaction, comparable to a bone bruise, in the bridge of his foot and he is wearing a walking boot. … RHP Koda Glover (right shoulder tendinitis) was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

UP NEXT

Braves: LHP Sean Newcomb (8-5, 3.51 ERA) pitches the opener of a two-game series in Miami on Monday. He already has beaten the Marlins twice this season, allowing one run in 12 innings.

Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6, 3.72 ERA) opens a three-game series in Milwaukee on Monday night. He is 2-4 with a 4.93 ERA in nine career starts versus the Brewers.

___

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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Europe resists Donald Trump’s zero-tariff trade offer

President Trump offered European nations and other countries a zero-tariff deal as a way out of an escalating trade war, but so far he has no takers despite a zero-tariff agreement signed last week between the European Union and Japan.

With a battle over auto tariffs breaking out between the U.S. and Europe, Mr. Trump’s proposal to eliminate all import duties and trade barriers will be on the table again when EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sits down Wednesday at the White House.

“Not going to get ahead of the president’s meeting, but this is something the president has said he would like to see,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

The EU so far would rather fight than deal.

In retaliation against the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs, the EU imposed tariffs on $3.25 billion of American-made staples including bourbon and motorcycles.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will accompany Mr. Juncker to Washington this week, said they will bring a new list of U.S. goods targeted for sanctions if Mr. Trump doesn’t back down.

“The aim of President Juncker’s visit is to try to establish good relations, try to see how we can de-escalate the situation,” Ms. Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels. “We don’t go there to negotiate anything.”

Mr. Trump gets most of the blame — both in the U.S. and abroad — for igniting the trade war in March when he slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum to bolster domestic production of those metals, which that have vital military uses.

The trade fight quickly heated up with the Trump administration hitting $34 billion worth of Chinese goods with tariffs and Beijing responding in kind. The threat of tit-for-tat tariffs with the EU is the next flashpoint.

After winning the White House with a get-tough trade agenda, Mr. Trump insists that he is doing what he promised: standing up for American workers.

The president argues that American workers and business suffered for decades because of lopsided trade deals in which the U.S. levies low tariffs while major trading partners such as the EU hammer U.S. goods with steep import duties and other trade barriers.

The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on passenger cars, compared with the 2.5 percent U.S. duty on European autos.

A study by the CESifo Institute in Germany found unweighted average EU tariffs of 5.2 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 3.5 percent.

“The EU is by no means the paradise for free traders that it likes to think,” Gabriel Felbermayr, director of the think tank’s Center for International Economics, told the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Sometimes the tariffs are unbalanced in the opposite direction. The U.S. has a higher, 25 percent duty on imported pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, while the EU charges the same 10 percent tariff on most vehicles. For commercial trucks, the U.S. levies a 25 parent tariff and the EU 22 percent.

At last month’s meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations, Mr. Trump floated the idea of zero tariffs to leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

“Ultimately that’s what you want. You want tariff-free, no barriers, and you want no subsides because you have some countries subsidizing industries, and that’s not fair,” he told them. “So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free. That’s the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance.”

Last week, the EU and Japan signed a sweeping trade deal that will eliminate nearly all tariffs when they trade. They said it sent a clear message against protectionism — an apparent dig at Mr. Trump.

Neither the EU nor Japan has publicly entertained Mr. Trump’s zero-tariff proposal.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership deal eventually would have reduced tariffs to zero for the 12 countries involved, including the U.S. and Japan. Pulling out of the deal was one of Mr. Trump’s first acts as president. He said the multination agreement would have increased U.S. trade deficits and shipped American jobs overseas.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal between the U.S. and the EU would have cut most tariffs to zero. But negotiations were suspended indefinitely in 2016 amid opposition on both sides of the Atlantic, but with the fiercest resistance from Europeans.

Moves to rekindle the talks after Mr. Trump took office in 2017 have been overshadowed by the tariff wars.

Edward Alden, a senior fellow specializing in U.S. economic competitiveness and trade at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it was easier for the EU and Japan to strike a zero-tariff deal than to do the same with the U.S.

Beyond tariffs, the Europeans don’t see eye to eye with the U.S. on environmental and agriculture issues that frustrate trade agreements.

“We bathe our chickens in a light chlorine solution, and we like hormones in our beef, and we use genetically modified crops in ways that they don’t do,” said Mr. Alden. “Japan doesn’t raise the same set of issues because Japan is not trying to force Europeans to recognize Japanese regulatory standards. They are happy to live with the European regulatory standard.”

He agreed with Mr. Trump that most trade deals — including the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement and China’s membership in the World Trade Organization — backfired on the U.S. and caused jobs to be shipped abroad and higher trade deficits. But he also questioned Mr. Trump’s sincerity in proposing zero-tariff deals.

“I think what the president really wants is unilateral concessions from the Europeans. He wants to get rid of their 10 percent car tariff, for example, without the U.S. having to respond in kind,” Mr. Alden said. “But the truth is I don’t know. Nobody really knows.”

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Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin was noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though his nonprofit space education foundation is a sponsor and he typically is the star attraction.

Aldrin said he didn’t attend Saturday’s Apollo Celebration Gala because of objections over the foundation’s current aims and ongoing legal matters associated with the foundation.

The former astronaut is locked in a legal battle with family members who say he is suffering from mental decline. The black-tie event, held under a Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center, featured a panel discussion by astronauts, an awards ceremony, and an auction of space memorabilia.

Hundreds of people attended the sold-out event, including British physicist Brian Cox, who presented Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson with the ShareSpace Foundation’s Innovation award.

Branson, whose company is developing a new generation of commercial spacecraft, said in a recorded video that the Apollo missions influenced his generation.

“Space is still hard, really hard. It still really matters,” Branson said. “There would be no Virgin Galactic, no Virgin Orbit and no spaceship company had it not been for Apollo astronauts and the thousands of talented people who made their mission possible.”

Dr. Carolyn Williams of the nonprofit From One Hand To AnOTHER received the foundation’s Education award, and former Johnson Space Center director Gerry Griffin, a flight director for all of the crewed Apollo missions, was honored with the Pioneer award.

“It’s very humbling, it kind of came out of the blue,” Griffin said. “It is so neat to know that we’ve passed the torch that will let this next generation take us to this next step.”

That next step, Griffin said, is a return of Americans to the Moon and, eventually, Mars – something former Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Harrison Schmitt, Rusty Schweickart and Tom Stafford discussed during a conversation with Cox.

“We’re sort of going through a second door here. The door isn’t all the way open – we haven’t gone all the way through it – but it’s cracked open,” Schweickart, who flew as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 9, told The Associated Press. “Space is going to be much less expensive to go to, and that’s going to open up not just opportunities for people to fly, but because of the decreased cost, real opportunities for innovators to generate new ideas and to do things that have never been done before.”

Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation is one of the sponsors of the annual gala, which raises money for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics – or STEAM education – and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation scholarships.

Renowned Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto donated artwork from his “Buzz Aldrin Space Series” for the auction, which also included a behind-the-scenes tour of Virgin Galactic in California and autographed space memorabilia. Tickets for the event ranged from $750 to $2,500 per person.

The former astronaut’s expected absence comes just a month after he sued two of his adult children and a former business manager, accusing them of misusing his credit cards, transferring money from an account and slandering him by saying he has dementia. Only weeks before the lawsuit, Andrew and Jan Aldrin filed a petition claiming their 88-year-old father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion.

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

Buzz Aldrin said in a statement that he didn’t attend the gala “due to the present course of events related to my space initiatives, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation.”

“I formed ShareSpace Foundation in 1998 for the promotion of individual space voyagers,” Aldrin added. “The Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives.”

Buzz Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, was part of the Apollo 11 mission which landed the first two humans on the moon on July 20, 1969.

___

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The Latest: Man in LA standoff arrested on murder charge

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Latest on a man who took customers and employees hostage at a Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles (all times local):

10:05 a.m.

Police say a gunman who took hostages inside a Los Angeles supermarket has been booked on suspicion of murder.

Officer Drake Madison, a police spokesman, says 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins was booked Sunday and being held on $2 million bail.

Atkins surrendered after a three-hour standoff at a Trader Joe’s in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood on Saturday.

Authorities say earlier Saturday he shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car. He then fled with officers pursuing him through the city, exchanging gunfire.

The chase ended with Atkins crashing the car outside the store and heading inside.

One woman was shot and killed.

On Saturday, authorities said Atkins‘ grandmother was hospitalized in critical condition. Police had no update on her condition.

A message left at a number listed for Atkins wasn’t immediately returned.

___

5:45 a.m.

Police say they’re trying to determine what prompted a man to shoot his grandmother and then run into a busy Los Angeles supermarket and hold dozens of people hostage for hours.

A woman was shot and killed when the gunman ran into the Trader Joe’s supermarket in the city’s Silver Lake section on Saturday, but no hostages were seriously hurt before he handcuffed himself and surrendered to police. The grandmother was hospitalized in critical condition on Sunday.

Police say the man shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car. They say they chased the car and exchanged gunfire with the man, who crashed into a pole outside the supermarket and then ran inside.

Frightened customers and workers dove for cover as police bullets fired at the man shattered the store’s glass doors.

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Grandmother shot, hostages held at supermarket; 1 woman dead

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Police said they were trying to determine what prompted a man to shoot his grandmother and wound another woman before he crashed his car and ran into a busy supermarket, where he held dozens of people hostage in a tense standoff with scores of heavily armed officers outside.

A woman was shot and killed when the gunman ran into the Trader Joe’s supermarket in Los Angeles‘ Silver Lake section on Saturday, but no hostages were seriously hurt before the man handcuffed himself and surrendered about three hours later, police said. The man’s grandmother was hospitalized in critical condition on Sunday.

The man shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car, police said. Officers tracked the car, gave chase and exchanged gunfire with the man, who crashed into a pole outside the supermarket and then ran inside, they said.

Frightened customers and workers dived for cover as police bullets fired at the man shattered the store’s glass doors.

Some people inside the supermarket climbed out windows, and others barricaded themselves in rooms as scores of police officers and firefighters and 18 ambulances converged on the scene and prepared for mass casualties.

Heavily armed officers in riot gear stood along the side of the store and used mirrors to look inside as hostage negotiators tried to coax the man into freeing his 40 to 50 hostages and surrendering.

At about 6:30 p.m., the man agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. The unidentified man was immediately taken into custody.

Mayor Eric Garcetti congratulated police and firefighters for their work and mourned the loss of life at the Trader Joe’s, where he and his wife regularly shopped when they lived in the neighborhood.

“The heroism that was shown today was second to none, and the teams that were able to respond, secure the perimeter and engage in conversation with the suspect no doubt saved lives today,” he said.

Among those who survived the harrowing afternoon was 91-year-old Don Kohles, who lives in the neighborhood and was walking into the supermarket when he saw “two police cars coming like a bat out of hell” and the man crashed into the pole.

The driver got out, and police started firing at him as he ran toward the supermarket. Kohles hurried inside, and he and others took cover as the man ran in.

“Those bullets went right over the back of me as he was running right down the main aisle,” Kohles said.

Christian Dunlop, a real estate agent and actor who lives nearby and frequents the Trader Joe’s, was on a corner near the store when he saw four people run out. One person, an employee, was dragging an injured woman by the hands.

“She appeared lifeless,” Dunlop said.

He then saw about five employees hang out a second-floor window and drop to the ground and about 15 other people run to safety from the back of the store. Among them was a police officer carrying a small child, he said.

“I know all the employees,” Dunlop said. “I see them all the time. My heart was just racing and thinking about all the endless possibilities.”

Police Chief Michel Moore said the gunman made a “series of demands” during the standoff but crisis negotiators believed they could persuade him to surrender peacefully.

Police aren’t sure what led to the initial violence that produced the car chase and standoff. Moore said at about 1:30 p.m. the suspect shot his grandmother and another woman in a South Los Angeles home and then forced the other woman into his grandmother’s car. The other woman suffered a graze wound.

Officers tracked the car using a stolen-vehicle tracking system and tried to stop the man in Hollywood, but he refused to pull over, Moore said. During the chase, the man fired at officers, shooting out the back window of his car.

Outside the store, the man exchanged gunfire with police again and the woman was shot and killed, Moore said. It was unclear if she died from police gunfire or was killed by the gunman. Moore said police and firefighters responded quickly but could not save her.

Fire officials said six people, ranging in age from 12 to 81, were taken to the hospital. None had been shot, and all were in fair condition.

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Aldrin skips Space Center gala amid feud with his children

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin was noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the first moon landing, even though his nonprofit space education foundation is a sponsor and he typically is the star attraction.

The black-tie Apollo Celebration Gala held under a Saturn V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday evening featured a panel discussion by astronauts, an awards ceremony and an auction of space memorabilia.

Hundreds of people attended the sold-out event, including British physicist Brian Cox, who presented Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson with the ShareSpace Foundation’s Innovation award.

Branson, whose company is developing a new generation of commercial spacecraft, said in a recorded video that the Apollo missions influenced his generation.

“Space is still hard, really hard. It still really matters,” Branson said. “There would be no Virgin Galactic, no Virgin Orbit and no spaceship company had it not been for Apollo astronauts and the thousands of talented people who made their mission possible.”

Dr. Carolyn Williams of the nonprofit From One Hand To AnOTHER received the foundation’s Education award, and former Johnson Space Center director Gerry Griffin, a flight director for all of the crewed Apollo missions, was honored with the Pioneer award.

“It’s very humbling, it kind of came out of the blue,” Griffin said. “It is so neat to know that we’ve passed the torch that will let this next generation take us to this next step.”

That next step, Griffin said, is a return of Americans to the Moon and, eventually, Mars – something former Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Harrison Schmitt, Rusty Schweickart and Tom Stafford discussed during a conversation with Cox.

“We’re sort of going through a second door here. The door isn’t all the way open – we haven’t gone all the way through it – but it’s cracked open,” Schweickart, who flew as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 9, told The Associated Press. “Space is going to be much less expensive to go to, and that’s going to open up not just opportunities for people to fly, but because of the decreased cost, real opportunities for innovators to generate new ideas and to do things that have never been done before.”

Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation is one of the sponsors of the annual gala, which raises money for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics – or STEAM education – and Astronaut Scholarship Foundation scholarships.

Renowned Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto donated artwork from his “Buzz Aldrin Space Series” for the auction, which also included a behind-the-scenes tour of Virgin Galactic in California and autographed space memorabilia. Tickets for the event ranged from $750 to $2,500 per person.

The former astronaut’s expected absence comes just a month after he sued two of his adult children and a former business manager, accusing them of misusing his credit cards, transferring money from an account and slandering him by saying he has dementia. Only weeks before the lawsuit, Andrew and Jan Aldrin filed a petition claiming their 88-year-old father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion.

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

Buzz Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, was part of the Apollo 11 mission which landed the first two humans on the moon on July 20, 1969.

___

Follow Alex Sanz at https://twitter.com/AlexSanz and Mike Schneider at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

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Disappearing messages, private phones test open records laws

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) – One app promotes itself as a way to discuss sensitive negotiations and human resources problems without leaving a digital record.

Another boasts that disappearing messages “keep your message history tidy.” And a popular email service recently launched a “confidential mode” allowing the content of messages to disappear after a set time.

The proliferation of digital tools that make text and email messages vanish may be welcome to Americans seeking to guard their privacy. But open government advocates fear they are being misused by public officials to conduct business in secret and evade transparency laws.

Whether communications on those platforms should be part of the public record is a growing but unsettled debate in states across the country. Updates to transparency laws lag behind rapid technological advances, and the public and private personas of state officials overlap on private smartphones and social media accounts.

“Those kind of technologies literally undermine, through the technology itself, state open government laws and policies,” said Daniel Bevarly, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. “And they come on top of the misuse of other technologies, like people using their own private email and cellphones to conduct business.”

Some government officials have argued that public employees should be free to communicate on private, non-governmental cellphones and social media platforms without triggering open records requirements.

Lawmakers in Kentucky and Arizona this year unsuccessfully proposed exempting all communications on personal phones from state open records laws, alarming open government advocates. A Virginia lawmaker introduced a bill to exempt all personal social media records of state lawmakers from disclosure.

New Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer went the opposite direction in February with an executive order that requires his staff to use official email accounts for all government business. He also banned private accounts for any communications related to “the functions, activities, programs, or operations” of the office.

In neighboring Missouri, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill that would make clear that personal social media pages and messages sent through digital platforms such as Confide and Signal are public records as long as they relate to official business. The legislation arose because of a controversy involving use of the Confide app by former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned in June amid a series of scandals.

“We need to clarify the expectations, because we should not be allowed to conduct state business using invisible ink,” said state Rep. Ingrid Burnett, who said she’s disappointed the bill didn’t advance.

The proposals were captured by a new Associated Press application called SunshineHub, a digital tool that tracks bills related to government transparency in all 50 states. They point to the mushrooming challenge of defining and maintaining government records in the smartphone era.

The issue exploded into public view last year amid reports that several employees in the office of Greitens, then Missouri’s governor, had accounts on Confide. The app makes messages disappear immediately after they are read and doesn’t allow them to be saved, forwarded, printed or captured by screenshot.

The news prompted an inquiry from the state attorney general, an ongoing lawsuit alleging the practice violated the state’s sunshine law and the bill that would declare all such communications relating to government business to be public records.

Greitens and aides have said they used Confide only to discuss logistics such as scheduling matters that were insignificant, “transitory” and therefore not required to be maintained as public records. An inquiry by Attorney General Josh Hawley found no evidence the practice as described was illegal, but investigators didn’t recover the disappeared messages.

Greitens’ explanation for using the app has drawn skepticism from critics, who question why mundane messages would be sent on a platform that promotes “honest, unfiltered confidential conversations” on sensitive topics.

“That’s absurd. Nobody switches out to a secret burner app to do that,” said Missouri attorney Mark Pedroli, who is suing Greitens on behalf of an open government group and using the case to investigate whether the former governor used the app to communicate with donors and political aides.

“One of the motivating factors of this lawsuit is to find out – what could be the worst-case scenario of a governor or elected official using a secretive app like this?”

He said government agencies should move to ban or severely restrict the use of such applications before they become commonplace. He already has obtained during the litigation a training slide that repeatedly instructed members of Greitens’ staff to never send text messages on government cellphones, an apparent suggestion to do such business only on personal phones.

In Kentucky, language added to an unrelated bill in March would have exempted all electronic communications related to public business – including calls, text messages and emails – from the state open records law. Those messages would be exempt from disclosure as long as the phone or computer was paid for with private money and used non-governmental accounts.

Open government advocates protested the legislation, which would have been the first of its kind in the nation. Lawmakers modified it so it would exempt only “communications of a purely personal nature unrelated to any governmental function.” Media and open government advocates called the language unnecessary, saying personal communications already aren’t subject to disclosure.

A similar bill introduced in Arizona to shield all communications created, stored or received on electronic devices paid for with private money died without a hearing.

The measures in Kentucky and Arizona were introduced after the states’ attorneys general issued legal opinions concluding that government agencies were not responsible for managing their employees’ personal phones, and because of that such communications are not subject to open records laws.

Similar concerns arose after Gmail introduced its confidential mode, which allows senders to control who can access, forward, print or copy sensitive data and to set a time for messages to “expire.”

National Freedom of Information Coalition board president Mal Leary recently wrote a letter to Google arguing that those features, which were recently launched as part of a redesign, could promote the illegal destruction of public records. Leary noted that Google’s suite of services is commonly used by state and local governments and urged the company to disable that feature from accounts and emails linked to public agencies.

“Technology that allows the self-destruction of official, electronic public communications is not promoting transparency, and under most state open government laws, is illegal,” Leary wrote.

Google responded that those features are similar to other tools in the marketplace, and that government administrators will be able to choose to disable them on their networks.

The company noted that even after a message in “confidential mode” expires and its content is no longer available, a history of the message remains available in the sent folder and the headers and subject line remain visible in the recipient’s inbox.

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Inspector warned duck boat company of design flaws last year

A private inspector said Saturday that he warned the company operating duck boats on a Missouri lake about design flaws putting the watercraft at greater risk of sinking, less than a year before the accident that killed 17 people during a sudden storm.

Steve Paul, owner of the Test Drive Technologies inspection service in the St. Louis area, said he issued a written report for the company in August 2017. It explained why the boats’ engines – and pumps that remove water from their hulls – might fail in inclement weather.

He also told The Associated Press that the tourist boats’ canopies make them hard to escape when they sink – a concern raised by regulators after a similar sinking in Arkansas killed 13 people in 1999.

The accident Thursday evening on Table Rock Lake outside the tourist town of Branson also is raising questions about whether storm warnings in the area went unheeded and whether any agency can keep boaters off the water when inclement weather approaches.

“If you have the information that you could have rough waters or a storm coming, why ever put a boat on that water?” Paul said.

A witness’ video of the duck boat just before it capsized suggests that its flexible plastic windows might have been closed and could have trapped passengers as the hybrid boat-truck went down. It does not show passengers jumping clear.

“The biggest problem with a duck when it sinks is that canopy,” Paul said. “That canopy becomes what I’ll call a people catcher, and people can’t get out from under that canopy.”

A spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, the company operating the duck boats in Branson, did not respond Saturday to telephone and email messages seeking comment. Spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala has noted that Thursday’s accident was the only one in more than 40 years of operation.

An archived version of Ripley’s website said it operates 20 duck boats in Branson and described them as “built from the ground up under United States Coast Guard (USCG) supervision with the latest in marine safety.”

In central Wisconsin, Original Wisconsin Ducks in the Dells has no plans to change how it operates after 73 years of safe rides, general manager Dan Gavinski said. But his company operates World War II-vintage boats, not the modified modern version.

Since 1999, duck boats have been linked to the deaths of more than 40 people, with a troubled safety record on the road and water alike. Their height can obscure cars, pedestrians or bicycles from a driver’s view, and maintenance problems can be severe.

Paul said he won’t know until the boat that sank is recovered from the lake whether it’s one of the two dozen he inspected for Ripley Entertainment in August 2017.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the boat that sank was built in 1944 and had passed an inspection in February, The Kansas City Star reported . But Paul said the boat would have been heavily modified to make it longer so that only part of it dates to World War II. He said it would still have the design flaw he identified in his report.

He declined to share a copy of his report with The Associated Press but said he said he is willing to make it available to authorities.

“I’m sure eventually it will be subpoenaed,” he said.

Paul said the duck boats he inspected – which the company had just purchased or repaired – vented exhaust from the motor out front and below the water line. He said in rough conditions, water could get into the exhaust system, and then into the motor, cutting it off. With the motor off, he said, its pump for removing water from the hull would not operate.

“If you watch that video, that water is definitely being slammed up into that exhaust without a doubt,” Paul said.

After the deadly sinking in Arkansas in 1999, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended doing away with the canopies and adding more floatation capacity so duck boats could remain upright and keep floating even if they took on water.

The industry took little heed, said Robert Mongeluzzi, a Philadelphia attorney who has represented victims of duck boat crashes. The canopies can protect customers from rain or sun, he noted, and closed windows allow companies to heat the cabins, extending operating hours.

The NTSB called the industry’s response to the recommendations disappointing, saying companies cited the cost of engineering and installing additional flotation capacity as prohibitive.

“The duck boat is notoriously unstable and unsuited for what they were attempting to do with it,” said Daniel Rose, an attorney whose New York-based law firm has represented victims in several accidents. “It tries to be a boat and a car and does neither, really, except under ideal circumstances.”

State officials said the Coast Guard regulates such craft; its officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information. Spokesmen said the Department of Transportation doesn’t regulate duck boats because they’re amphibious, and the Department of Public Safety doesn’t in this case because it’s a commercial vessel, as opposed to a recreational one.

It’s also not clear that any agency had the authority to keep boats off the lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built it in the late 1950s, but its officials said they don’t have such authority.

Witnesses have said the weather appeared calm before a storm suddenly whipped up strong waves and spray.

But nearly eight hours earlier, the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the western and central Missouri counties.

A severe thunderstorm warning that went out at 6:32 p.m. specifically mentioned Table Rock Lake. The first emergency calls over the accident occurred just after 7 p.m.

Meteorologist Elisa Raffa of KOLR-TV in Springfield said in a phone interview Saturday that her station was forecasting the threat of severe weather all morning.

“This storm didn’t come out of nowhere,” she said. “That is what pains me. I feel like we did everything, at least we tried to do everything, by the book as meteorologists and we still had this horrible tragedy on our hands.”

___

Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas. Johnson reported from Seattle. Jim Salter in St. Louis; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas, and James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota, contributed.

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