Israel agrees to extend Gaza war truce for 24 hours, but says it will respond to Hamas fire
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel's offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.
Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel's Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. However, it warned that its military would respond to any fire from Gaza and would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels during this period.
A temporary lull on Saturday saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
With the retrieval of the corpses, the number of Palestinians killed reached 1,047 in 19 days of fighting, while more than 6,000 were wounded, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, meeting in Paris, had hoped to transform the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce. That effort was thrown into doubt with the Hamas' rejection of the extension.
AP PHOTOS: Cease-fire in Gaza war between Israel, Hamas allows civilians to see destruction
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A brief cease-fire Saturday in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants allowed thousands to return home to see the destruction.
Palestinians walked through the concrete rubble that once used to be homes, collecting what keepsakes they could recover. Some openly wept when they saw what little remained. Two men poured water for birds left behind in one demolished home.
Some Palestinian men climbed over an Israeli armored vehicle, apparently left behind during a military operation. Others held funerals for their dead.
At least 985 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded over the past 19 days, according to Palestinian officials. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.
Israel has lost 37 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed in fighting and in Hamas rocket attacks. On the edge of Gaza, Israeli soldiers regrouped as Israel's defense minister warned he might soon expand the ground operation in Gaza "significantly."
US has not been able to show Russian government was involved in downing of airliner
ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.
Citing satellite imagery, intercepted conversations and social media postings, U.S. intelligence officials have been able to present what they call a solid circumstantial case that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
But they have not offered proof of what they say is their strong belief that the separatists obtained the sophisticated missile system from the Russian government. And they say they have not determined what, if any, involvement Russian operatives may have had in directing or encouraging the attack, which they believe was a mistaken attempt to hit a Ukrainian military aircraft
Moscow angrily denies any involvement in the attack; on Saturday the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of waging "an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia, ever more relying on open lies."
U.S. officials said they still don't know who fired the missile or whether Russian military officers were present when it happened. Determining that will take time, they said, if it's possible at all. As one put it, "this isn't '24,'" referring to the TV series that often exaggerates the speed and capabilities of the American spying machine.
AP Essay: When disasters don't stick to script, world struggles to give shape to grief
LONDON (AP) — When air travel goes wrong, the modern world has given us a script to follow.
Forensic workers in coveralls descend on the crash scene. Police tape seals off the site and keeps the full horror at a distance. There is an orderly numbering of the dead and gathering of the evidence. Bodies are repatriated, funerals are held. Eventually, there is explanation.
The bereaved, and the rest of us, take solace in science, logic, investigation, the gradual restoration of order. It's a process that organizes tragedy into a shape the mind can process and the heart can grieve. Whether it was mechanical failure, human error or terrorism, we are reassured by the notion that knowledge brings the power to stop it from happening again.
But 2014 has been different.
Twice this year, when disaster struck two Malaysia Airlines planes, fate has torn up the script. One plane disappeared, leaving investigators combing a vast ocean, a disaster with no wreckage and no bodies.
US shutters embassy in Libya, evacuates staff to Tunisia as security deteriorates in Tripoli
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said "free-wheeling militia violence" prompted the move.
American personnel at the Tripoli embassy, which had already been operating with limited staffing, left the capital around dawn and traveled by road to neighboring Tunisia, with U.S. fighter jets and other aircraft providing protection, the State Department said. The withdrawal underscored the Obama administration's concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad, particularly in Libya where memories of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi are still vivid.
The evacuation was accompanied by a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. "The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security," it said. "Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including anti-aircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation."
Speaking Saturday in Paris where he was meeting with other diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kerry said the U.S. remains committed to the diplomatic process in Libya despite the suspension of embassy activities there. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the evacuated employees will continue to work on Libyan issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.
"Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly," Harf said. "Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions."
Lengthy Arizona execution rekindles debate over appropriate death penalty methods
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A third execution by lethal injection has gone awry in six months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to humanely kill condemned criminals, and whether it's even worth looking for one.
Death penalty opponents say any killing is an unnecessarily cruel punishment. Proponents may favor the most humane execution method possible, but many reject the idea that a few minutes or hours of suffering by a criminal who caused great suffering to others should send government back to the drawing board.
Thirty years ago, states and the federal government gave little thought to the condemned inmates comfort. Most executioners used electric chairs, but death row inmates were also hanged, put to death in the gas chamber or faced a firing squad.
Mistakes occurred. Inmates appeared to suffer in the gas chamber. Electric chairs caught fire or malfunctioned and didn't kill. So a growing number of law enforcement officials, legislators and advocates began searching for a foolproof, constitutional method for executions.
In 1977, an Oklahoma medical director appeared to have found a solution. Dr. Jay Chapman came up with a three-drug combination that promised to put the inmate to sleep before painlessly and quickly drifting off to death. Chapman's formula replaced the state's use of the electric chair.
Death in Nigeria shows Ebola can spread by air travel; West Africa airports take precautions
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian health authorities raced to stop the spread of Ebola on Saturday after a man sick with one of the world's deadliest diseases brought it by plane to Lagos, Africa's largest city with 21 million people.
The fact that the traveler from Liberia could board an international flight also raised new fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa due to weak inspection of passengers and the fact Ebola's symptoms are similar to other diseases.
Officials in the country of Togo, where the sick man's flight had a stopover, also went on high alert after learning that Ebola could possibly have spread to a fifth country.
Screening people as they enter the country may help slow the spread of the disease, but it is no guarantee Ebola won't travel by airplane, according to Dr. Lance Plyler, who heads Ebola medical efforts in Liberia for aid organization Samaritan's Purse.
"Unfortunately the initial signs of Ebola imitate other diseases, like malaria or typhoid," he said.
At 50, Upward Bound remains a welcome pathway to college for students from low-income families
Nervous but determined, the 15-year-old boy walked into a conference room in Columbus, Ohio, for a fateful interview. If it went well, perhaps he'd have a chance to be the first member of his impoverished family to attend college.
That was 34 years ago, but Wil Haygood — the renowned journalist and author whose writing inspired the film "The Butler" — says he remembers it "like it was yesterday."
"I knew in my heart and soul that this was a monumental moment for little Wil Haygood," he recalled.
At stake was a place in Upward Bound — founded as an experimental program in 1964 as part of Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty with a goal of helping students from low-income families get a college education.
A few weeks after his interview, Haygood received a letter accepting him in the Upward Bound college prep program taking place that summer of 1970 on the campus of Ohio Dominican University. "The college wasn't but a few miles from our housing project, but as a poor kid, you never set foot there," Haygood said. "It was as if I had been lifted up and taken to an oasis."
Lawmakers in both parties gripe about poor, disjointed White House outreach to Congress
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn't get it when it comes to working with Congress.
Top GOP leaders got no notice of the $3.7 billion emergency request. The administration sent contradictory messages about what it wanted to deal with the border crisis. And as the proposal drew fierce criticism, the White House made few overtures to lawmakers in either party to rally support.
House and Senate lawmakers in both parties plus several senior congressional aides said this past week that the handling of the proposal by Obama and the White House is emblematic of the administration's rocky relationship with Congress: an ad hoc approach that shuns appeals to opponents and doesn't reward allies.
Combined with a divided Congress — GOP-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate — and election-year maneuvering, neither basic nor crisis-driven legislation is getting done.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described the lack of communication between the White House and Congress as "stunning." He said he first learned many details of Obama's border request from news reports.
FedEx charges raise questions about shipping industry's role in scrutinizing online pharmacies
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — FedEx Corp., the latest company accused in a federal probe involving illegal online pharmacies, says it will fight the charges that it knowingly shipped drugs to people who lack valid prescriptions.
The company says it would have to invade the privacy of customers to stop such deliveries.
By contrast, UPS Inc. paid $40 million last year to resolve similar allegations and vowed to overhaul its procedures and work with investigators to detect suspicious activity.
The contrasting responses to the decade-long federal probe of the prescription drug black market underscore the difficulty shippers have in determining how far to go to ferret out illicit online pharmacies among their customers and to alert the government.
Wall Street analysts, legal experts, anti-drug crusaders and the companies themselves are split on the issue.