Iraq's clerical leadership urges national defense as militants seize more territory
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Shiite clerical leadership Friday called on all Iraqis to defend their country from Sunni militants who have seized large swaths of territory, and a U.N. official expressed "extreme alarm" at reprisal killings in the offensive, citing reports of hundreds of dead and wounded.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he is weighing options for countering the insurgency, but warned Iraqi leaders that he would not take military action unless they moved to address the country's political divisions.
Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant made fresh gains, driving government forces at least temporarily from two towns in an ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad. The assault threatens to embroil Iraq more deeply in a wider regional conflict feeding off the chaos caused by the civil war in neighboring Syria.
The fast-moving rebellion, which also draws support from former Saddam Hussein-era figures and other disaffected Sunnis, has emerged as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. It has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that could partition it into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish zones.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shiite-led government is struggling to form a coherent response to the crisis, traveled to the city of Samarra to meet with military commanders late Friday, according to state TV.
'It just feels like a waste': US veterans watch as insurgents undo sacrifices of long Iraq war
Marine Sgt. Colin Archipley's unit suffered heavy casualties in the savage house-to-house fighting against insurgents holed up in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004.
Nearly a decade later, he watched in frustration from his organic farm north of San Diego as an al-Qaida splinter group seized control of Fallujah, Mosul and other Iraqi cities that Lima Company and other units risked so much to protect.
Iraq's opportunity "was squandered," he said. "I'm not sure what else we could have done."
At VFW halls, kitchen tables and rehabilitation clinics around the country, this week's stunning advance into Mosul left many U.S. veterans reflecting with bitterness and sadness on the sacrifices of a war that lasted for more than eight years and killed nearly 4,500 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
"In many ways, it just feels like a waste — a waste of many lives, a waste of many years," retired Army Col. Barry Johnson said from his home in Potlatch, Idaho.
Army: Bergdahl 'looked good' upon return to US after 5 years in Taliban captivity
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — In the moments after Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl arrived back in the United States following five years of captivity by the Taliban in Afghanistan, he was nervous but "looked good" and saluted a commanding officer who welcomed him home, military officials said Friday.
Bergdahl is working daily with health professionals to regain a sense of normalcy and move forward with his life, officials added.
Bergdahl's family has not joined him since he arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas after midnight Friday, and Army officials would not say when relatives might show up.
In a statement read at a news conference Friday, Bergdahl's parents said they "are overjoyed that their son has returned to the United States" but asked for privacy.
Maj. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo, who greeted Bergdahl upon his arrival from an Army medical facility in Germany, said he exchanged a few words with Bergdahl after a three-vehicle convoy met him.
IRS tells Congress it has lost trove of emails by central figure in tea party investigation
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service said Friday it has lost a trove of emails to and from a central figure in the agency's tea party controversy, sparking outrage from congressional investigators who have been probing the agency for more than a year.
The IRS told Congress Friday it cannot locate many of Lois Lerner's emails prior to 2011 because her computer crashed during the summer of that year.
Lerner headed the IRS division that processed applications for tax-exempt status. The IRS acknowledged last year that agents had improperly scrutinized applications for tax-exempt status by tea party and other conservative groups.
"The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS' response to congressional inquiries," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the inspector general."
The Ways and Means Committee is one of three congressional committees investigating the IRS over its handling of tea party applications from 2010 to 2012. The Justice Department and the IRS inspector general are also investigating.
Thailand's military government lifts curfew throughout nation, says no threat of violence
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's military government announced that it has fully lifted a nationwide curfew it imposed after seizing power last month, saying there is no threat of violence and that tourism needs to be revived.
Political protests and criticism of the coup, however, remain banned by the junta, which said a return to elected civilian rule cannot be expected for at least 15 months.
The curfew had earlier been reduced to four hours from seven hours, and had been lifted in several resort areas popular with tourists after complaints from the tourism industry over the financial damage it was causing.
"The overall situation in other areas of the country has been resolved and there is no tendency toward possible violence. Therefore, in order to relieve and mitigate the impact on people's daily lives, and to boost tourism by Thais and foreigners, the curfew order is being canceled in the rest of the country," the junta said in a statement issued Friday night over all domestic TV stations.
"It's brilliant because like last night we wanted to see the World Cup match but we couldn't because it was on at 2 a.m.," said Sinead Dowd, 27, a tourist from County Kerry, Ireland. "So yes, it's great."
Still mulling White House run, Clinton readily lists reasons she would launch 2016 campaign
WASHINGTON (AP) — She insists she hasn't decided on a second bid for the presidency. But Hillary Rodham Clinton is laying out more reasons to run than not during her coast-to-coast book tour.
The Republicans' inquiry into the deadly raid in Benghazi emboldens her, she says. She knows how not to run a campaign after losing the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. And she'd be doing something for the women and girls she felt she let down that year, and perhaps, she suggests, be more effective in the struggle by both parties to get gender politics right.
"We live with a double standard," Clinton told ABC News as she kicked off a tour for "Hard Choices," her memoir. "People ought to think about their own daughters, their own sisters, their own mothers, when they make comments about women in public life."
Her main reason to sit 2016 out?
"I really like my life," Clinton said. "I like what I'm doing. I'm thrilled about becoming a grandmother in the fall. I have lots of hopes for what that means to me and my family."
Ukrainian troops attack pro-Russia separatists in Mariupol, US says Russia sent rebels tanks
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia separatists clashed Friday in a southern port town, as the United States confirmed earlier reports that a convoy of armored vehicles including three T-64 Russian tanks moved into Ukraine from Russia and now are in the hands of the rebels.
About 100 soldiers emerged triumphant from the previously rebel-occupied buildings in Mariupol, shouting the name of their battalion, Azov, and singing the Ukrainian national anthem. They also destroyed an armored vehicle and a heavy truck used by the separatists, leaving the vehicles scorched and riddled with large-caliber bullet holes.
Mariupol is the second-largest city in the eastern Donetsk region, where armed separatists have declared independence from the government in Kiev. The Azov Sea port sits along the main road leading from Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in March from Ukraine.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said four government troops were wounded in what he called a successful operation. Witnesses said they saw troops capture at least four separatist fighters. There was no immediate word of casualties on the rebel side, and Associated Press journalists at the site were blocked from entering the buildings.
Ukraine and the West have accused Moscow of fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine and supporting the separatist fighters. Russia, however, has denied sending troops or weapons to Ukraine and has described the Russian citizens fighting with the separatists as volunteers.
Obama, in first visit as president to Indian reservation, says there is more US can to do help
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday became only the third U.S. sitting president in eight decades to set foot in Indian Country, encountering both the wonder of Native American culture and the struggle of tribal life on a breeze-whipped afternoon in the prairie. Amid snapping flags and colorful, befeathered dancers, Obama declared that there was more the U.S. could do to help Native Americans.
Obama drew attention to inroads his administration has made with tribes even as he promoted the need to help reservations create jobs, strengthen justice, and improve health and education.
"Young people should be able to live, and work, and raise a family right here in the land of your fathers and mothers," Obama told a crowd of about 1,800 during a Flag Day Celebration at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Citing legendary tribal chief Sitting Bull, Obama said: "Let's put our minds together to build more economic opportunity in Indian country. Because every American, including every Native American deserves a chance to work hard and get ahead."
The president and first lady arrived by helicopter under sunny skies as native songs and dances at the Flag Day Celebration were already underway. The couple first met privately with tribal youth about their challenges growing up on the reservation that was home to Sitting Bull.
Angelina Jolie, Daniel Day-Lewis awarded honors by Queen Elizabeth II
LONDON (AP) — Angelina Jolie can add royal recognition to Hollywood stardom. The Oscar-winning actress has been named an honorary dame — the female version of a knight — by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
Jolie, a United Nations special envoy, received the honor on Friday for her work combating sexual violence in war zones.
Jolie, who won a supporting actress Academy Award in 2000 for "Girl, Interrupted," has spoken of scaling back her movie roles to focus on humanitarian work. She said that "to receive an honor related to foreign policy means a great deal to me, as it is what I wish to dedicate my working life to."
Because she is not a British or Commonwealth citizen, Jolie won't be entitled to use the title "dame" before her name. Previous U.S recipients of honorary knighthoods include director Steven Spielberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former President Ronald Reagan.
Jolie, who was in London this week to co-host an international summit on sexual violence, was one of hundreds of people recognized in the queen's annual Birthday Honors List for services to their community or national life.
Revenge is sweet as Netherlands humiliates defending champion Spain 5-1 at World Cup
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — The Netherlands thrashed the world champions 5-1 Friday in the World Cup's first shocker, toying with an aging Spanish team that has dominated global football for the past six years and avenging a loss in the 2010 final.
Although Spain could still advance out of the group stage, the game may have signaled the end of the run by a generation of Spanish stars whose quick passing, "tiki-taka" style delighted the world and helped them win the last three major tournaments.
Dutch strikers Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben both scored twice, including Van Persie's diving header off of an audacious 40-yard pass. The ball looped over hapless Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas as Van Persie slid on his stomach on the wet grass before running to the sidelines with his fists clenched to celebrate what is sure to be one of the goals of the tournament.
Defender Stefan de Vrij also scored — his first international goal — in a dominating second half that had the orange-clad Dutch fans in Arena Fonte Nova on their feet the whole time.
It was the worst loss for Spain in the game's showcase tournament since a 6-1 defeat to Brazil in 1950.