Also trending on your Monday: Rapper Juice WRLD dies after medical emergency in Chicago, Walmart apologizes for Christmas sweater with apparent drug reference, ‘Star Trek’ actor René Auberjonois dies at 79
5 dead, many more missing in eruption of New Zealand volcano
WHAKATANE, New Zealand (AP) — A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing five people and leaving many more missing.
Police said the site was still too dangerous hours later for rescuers to search for the missing.
Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said the number of missing was in the double digits but he couldn't confirm an exact number. He said there were fewer than 50 people on the island when it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.
Tims said experts had told them the island remained unstable but search and rescue teams wanted to get back as quickly as they could. He said there had been no contact with any of those who were missing.
He said both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among those who were dead, missing or injured. He said most of the 18 who survived were injured and some had suffered severe burns.
Some of those involved were tourists from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.
“A number of our guests were touring the island today," the company said. “We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”
The cruise ship, which had left from Sydney last week, was scheduled to sail to the capital Wellington on Monday night but the company said it would instead remain in the Tauranga port overnight until it learned more on the situation.
“My god,” wrote Michael Schade on Twitter as he posted video of the eruption. “My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”
His video showed a wall of ash and steam around the island and a helicopter badly damaged and covered in ash. He said one woman was badly injured but seemed “strong” by the end.
White Island sits about 50 kilometers (30 miles) offshore from mainland New Zealand. Already people are questioning why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern traveled to the region late Monday. She said the incident was “very significant."
“All our thoughts are with those affected,” she said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he'd offered Ardern his support.
“Australians have been caught up in this terrible event and we are working to determine their wellbeing,” Morrison wrote on Twitter.
Brad Scott, a volcanologist with research group GNS Science, said the eruption sent a plume of steam and ash about 12,000 feet (3,660 meters) into the air. He said it had also affected the whole of the White Island crater floor.
The GeoNet agency, which monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, raised the alert level on White Island from one to two on Nov. 18, noting an increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also said at the time that over the previous weeks, the volcanic tremor had increased from weak to moderate strength.
Scott said the alert level was often raised and then later dropped again without any eruption. He said there hadn't been any major incidents with tourists visiting the island in the past, although there had been some close calls.
Scott said it was not for him to say whether the island was safe enough to host tourists immediately before Monday's eruption.
Ardern said the focus remained on the search and rescue mission for now and questions about whether tourists should be visiting would be addressed later.
GeoNet at first raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption. It later dropped the alert level back down to three. Scott said that was because the eruption wasn't sustained beyond the initial blast.
“In the scheme of things, for volcanic eruptions, it is not large," said Ken Gledhill from GeoNet. “But if you were close to that, it is not good.”
White Island is northeast of the town of Tauranga on North Island, one of New Zealand's two main islands. Experts say it's New Zealand’s most active cone volcano and about 70% of the volcano lies under the sea.
Twelve people were killed on the island in 1914 when it was being mined for sulfur. Part of a crater wall collapsed and a landslide destroyed the miners' village and the mine itself.
The remains of buildings from another mining enterprise in the 1920s are now a tourist attraction, according to GeoNet. The island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year.
The island is also known by the indigenous Maori name Whakaari.
Rapper Juice WRLD dies after medical emergency in Chicago
CHICAGO (AP) — Rapper Juice WRLD, who launched his career on SoundCloud before becoming a streaming juggernaut and rose to the top of the charts with the Sting-sampled hit “Lucid Dreams,” died early Sunday after a “medical emergency” at Chicago's Midway International Airport.
The rapper, whose legal name was Jarad A. Higgins, was 21. Authorities have not released details about his cause of death.
He was pronounced dead at a hospital around 3:15 a.m. and taken to the Cook County medical examiner's office several hours later, according to office spokeswoman Natalia Derevyanny, who said an autopsy would take place Monday.
Chicago police launched a death investigation after a 21-year-old male experiencing a “medical emergency” was transported from Midway to an area hospital. Police said there were no signs of foul play and those aboard the aircraft were cooperating with authorities. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the man experienced cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital from a hangar operated by Atlantic Aviation at Midway, away from the main terminal, where private planes land.
The rapper, who was named top new artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in May, lived in the Chicago suburb of Homewood where he stood out as a musician early on.
Juice WRLD turned 21 only days earlier. He was only two years out of high school.
Like a good number of young hip-hop performers, Juice WRLD blended rapping and singing on his songs, sometimes mumbling words and focusing more on melody. His hit “Lucid Dreams,” which heavily samples Sting’s 1993 song “Shape of My Heart,” was a six-times platinum success and reached No. 2 on the all-genre Hot 100 chart. It reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts.
“I was very impressed by what he put on top of (my version),” Sting told The Associated Press this year. “It’s a really good song.”
Juice WRLD got his start on the music sharing platform SoundCloud before signing to a record label and finding major success on streaming services. His major-label debut album, “Goodbye & Good Riddance,” was a platinum success.
Russia banned from Olympics, World Cup over doping scandal
(CNN) -- The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has unanimously agreed to ban Russia from major international sporting competitions — notably the Olympics and the World Cup — for four years over doping non-compliance.
WADA's compliance review committee (CRC) had suggested several sanctions because of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's (RUSADA) failure to cooperate fully during probes into Russian sport.
WADA's executive committee decided to uphold the recommendations at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday.
RUSADA now has 21 days to accept the decision or send the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Svetlana Zhurova, first deputy chairperson of the international committee of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house, suggested an appeal was very likely and that a decision would be made when RUSADA meets on December 19.
"I am 100% sure [Russia will go to court] because we must defend our athletes," she told TASS News Agency.
If upheld, WADA's decision means Russia will be unable to compete in next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo nor the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
"For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport," said WADA President Sir Craig Reedie in a statement.
"The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA's reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today."
WADA's punishment relates to inconsistencies in data retrieved by WADA in January 2019 from the Moscow lab at the center of the 2016 McLaren report, which uncovered a widespread and sophisticated state-sponsored sports doping network.
RUSADA was initially deemed non-compliant after the publication of the McLaren report in 2016.
Commissioned by WADA, the report found the Russian state conspired with athletes and sporting officials to undertake a doping program that was unprecedented in its scale and ambition.
The findings led to sanctions, including no Russian team being present at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, with certain eligible athletes being forced to compete under a neutral flag.
The latest ban leaves the door open for Russian athletes, who can prove they are not tainted by the scandal, to compete as neutral athletes.
Walmart apologizes for Christmas sweater with apparent drug reference
(CNN) -- Walmart is saying sorry for making available a Christmas sweater with an apparent drug reference.
The sweater featured an image of Santa Claus behind a table with three white lines that look similar to cocaine lines. Below the image is the phrase "Let it snow." The Global News, a Canadian news organization, first reported the apology.
"These sweaters, sold by a third-party seller on Walmart.ca, do not represent Walmart's values and have no place on our website," Walmart said in a statement on Saturday. "We have removed these products from our marketplace. We apologize for any unintended offense this may have caused."
The sweater did not appear to be available as of Sunday night. Walmart declined to comment further on Sunday.
Third-party sellers are able to make products available on Walmart Marketplace — a portal on which Walmart can approve sellers to use its website.
‘Benson,’ ‘Star Trek’ actor René Auberjonois has died at 79
LOS ANGELES (AP) — René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows “Benson” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and his part in the 1970 film “M.A.S.H.” playing Father Mulcahy, has died. He was 79.
The actor died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles of metastatic lung cancer, his son Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois told The Associated Press.
René Auberjonois worked constantly as a character actor in several golden ages, from the dynamic theater of the 1960s to the cinema renaissance of the 1970s to the prime period of network television in the 1980s and 1990s — and each generation knew him for something different.
For film fans of the 1970s, he was Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain who played straight man to the doctors’ antics in “M.A.S.H.” It was his first significant film role and the first of several for director Robert Altman.
For sitcom watchers of the 1980s, he was Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the hopelessly highbrow chief of staff at a governor’s mansion on “Benson,” the ABC series whose title character was a butler played by Robert Guillaume.
And for sci-fi fans of the 1990s and convention-goers ever since, he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling and head of space-station security on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”
“I am all of those characters, and I love that,” Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with the “Star Trek” website. “I also run into people, and they think I’m their cousin or their dry cleaner. I love that, too.”
Fellow stars from “Star Trek" shows praised the actor on Twitter.
William Shatner said that “to sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René."
I have just heard about the death of my friend and fellow actor @reneauberjonois. To sum up his life in a tweet is nearly impossible. To Judith, Tessa & Remy I send you my love & strength. I will keep you in my thoughts and remember a wonderful friendship with René.— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) December 8, 2019
George Takei tweeted: ”Star Trek fans knew him as Odo from Deep Space Nine. We knew him as René. He was a wonderful, caring, and intelligent man. He shall be missed. When I look out to the stars, I shall think of you, friend."
Calif. nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees separated in cages
Claremont United Methodist Church in California updated their cover photo.
LOS ANGELES — A Methodist church in Claremont, Calif., unveiled a nativity scene Saturday night depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages, likening one of the most well-known images of the Christmas season to photos that have become synonymous with criticism of the Trump administration’s border separation policies.
The display, which has stoked debate on the Facebook page of the church’s lead pastor, shows classic nativity figurines of Joseph and Mary in cages on either side of a cage containing the manger of Jesus.
“We see this as, in some ways, the Holy Family standing in for the nameless families,” said the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the lead pastor at Claremont United Methodist Church. “We’ve heard of their plight; we’ve seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated. We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.”
While the nativity scene shows Jesus shortly after birth and is the foundation of the Christmas holiday, the Claremont depiction appears to be invoking Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt. Under most interpretations, the infant Jesus and his parents had to escape Jerusalem for fear King Herod would have the baby slaughtered, perceiving the child as a threat to his reign.
Ristine, who has served as the church’s lead pastor only since July, said the church often uses its nativity scene to tackle a societal issue. Southern California’s homelessness crisis has been invoked in past depictions, she said. A more traditional nativity scene, showing the Holy Family reunited, can be found inside the church, which serves a congregation of about 300 people, Ristine said.
“We don’t see it as political; we see it as theological. I’m getting responses from people I don’t know … I am having people tell me that it moved them to tears,” she said. “So if the Holy Family and the imagery of the Holy Family and the imagery of a nativity is something you hold dear, and you see them separated, then that’s going to spark compassion in many people.”
The Trump administration has faced broad criticism for its immigration policies, but the practice of separating children from their families while they were detained at the southern border drew especially strong bipartisan and international outrage before the president ordered an end to it in the summer of 2018.