Friday, August 22, 2014

MH17 Remains Return Home As Govt. Battles Fallout

Family members of Nur Shazana, a Malaysia Airlines crew member who was among the victims onboard Flight MH17, cry during a burial ceremony at Taman Selatan Muslim cemetery in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Carried by soldiers and draped in the national flag, coffins carrying Malaysian victims of Flight MH17 returned home Friday to a country still searching for those onboard another doomed jet and a government battling the political fallout of the twin tragedies.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (AP) — Carried by soldiers and draped in the national flag, coffins carrying Malaysian victims of Flight MH17 returned home Friday to a country still searching for those onboard another doomed jet and a government battling the political fallout of the twin tragedies.
The bodies and ashes of 20 victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July were given full military honors and a day of national mourning was declared, the first in the country's history.
Many people in offices in the nation of 30 million observed a minute's silence as the hearses were driven from the tarmac of Kuala Lumpur International Airport to private funerals. Some public trains in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, stopped operating.
All 298 people onboard died when the jet was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The victims included 43 Malaysians and 195 Dutch nationals. An international investigation is ongoing, but no one has been arrested.
The return of the bodies also represented a political triumph for Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose already shaky popularity ratings were hit by his handling of the still unsolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and its 239 passengers and crew in March.
"Today we mourn the loss of our people. Today, we begin to bring them home," Najib said in a statement. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives. Today we stand with you, united as one."
Najib claimed personal credit for negotiating a deal with pro-Russian separatists for the return of all the bodies of the 298 people on board. Few details have been released over what the separatists were given in return, and some critics have said that the negotiations with people many regard as terrorists set a dangerous precedent.
"Everyone wants closure for the families, there is no question," said Bridget Welsh, a research associate at the National Taiwan University. "But on the other hand, they (Najib's advisers) saw this as an opportunity for him to look good. It was critical for the government to be seen as responsive and differentiate itself from the handling of MH370."
The victims were carried aboard a specially chartered Malaysia Airlines jet from Amsterdam, where they were taken from the crash site. Three had already been cremated. The coffins were individually lowered from the plane and slowly carried by teams of eight soldiers to waiting hearses.
"They were casualties of war, unfortunately, and the world community needs to work toward a solution to these conflicts," said Abdul Mueiem, a Malaysia Airlines pilot who attended the ceremony. "Everyone is feeling sad and depressed, but the important thing is that Malaysia Airlines is one big family, and we are together with the nation."
The repatriation was the first of the Malaysian passengers and crew on the flight. The government has said that the bodies of the remaining Malaysians would follow soon. The country may never witness a similar homecoming for the victims on board Flight 370. The plane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.
After several surface and underwater searches have turned up nothing, a new underwater search is expected to begin in September and take up to a year to search 60,000 square kilometers (23,000 square miles) of the Indian Ocean seabed.
Assuming the plane is found, the depth of the ocean will make recovery of any bodies difficult. Relatives might also prefer the bodies to stay where they are.
Associated Press videojournalist Syawalludin Zain contributed to this report. Brummitt reported from Singapore.
Follow Chris Brummitt at www.twitter.com/cjbrummitt

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Supreme Court Case To Shape Ferguson Investigation

Police wait to advance after tear gas was used to disperse a crowd during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer on Aug. 9, in Ferguson, Mo. The national legal standards that govern when police officers are justified using force against people trace their lineage to a 1984 case from Charlotte, N.C. Brown's shooting has prompted multiple investigations and triggered days of rioting reflecting long-simmering racial tensions in a town of mostly black residents and a majority white police force.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It started with a bottle of orange juice 30 years ago.
The national legal standards that govern when police officers are justified in using force against people trace their lineage to a 1984 case from Charlotte, North Carolina. In that case, a diabetic man's erratic behavior during a trip to a convenience store for juice to bring up his low blood sugar led to a confrontation with officers that left him with injuries from head to foot.
Dethorne Graham's subsequent lawsuit against police for his injuries led to a 1989 Supreme Court decision that has become the prism for evaluating how police use force. As soon as Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, the Graham v. Connor case became the foundational test for whether Wilson's response was appropriate or criminal.
To most civilians, an 18-year-old unarmed man may not appear to pose a deadly threat. But a police officer's perspective is different. And that is how an officer should be judged after the fact, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in the 1989 opinion.
"The 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight," Rehnquist wrote. The sequence of events that led to the death of Brown, a black man shot by a white officer, remains unclear. An autopsy paid for by Brown's family concluded that he was shot six times, twice in the head. The shooting has prompted multiple investigations and triggered days of rioting reflecting long-simmering racial tensions in a town of mostly black residents and a majority white police force.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday the incident had opened a national conversation about "the appropriate use of force and the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for everyone who comes into contact with the police."
A grand jury is hearing evidence to determine whether Wilson, 28, who has policed the St. Louis suburbs for six years, should be charged in Brown's death. The key question will be: Would a reasonable police officer, with a similar background as Wilson, have responded the same way?
The answer is typically yes. "Except in the most outrageous cases of police misconduct, juries tend to side with police officers and give them a lot of leeway," said Woody Connette, the attorney who represented Graham.
In Graham's case, his behavior as he was experiencing low blood sugar looked similar to that of a belligerent drunk. On Nov. 12, 1984, Graham, 39, felt the onset of an insulin reaction, and asked a friend to drive him to buy orange juice that would increase his blood sugar, Connette said.
According to the Supreme Court, Graham rushed into the store and grabbed the orange juice but saw the line was too long, so he put the juice down and ran back to the car. Charlotte police officer M.S. Connor thought this was suspicious and followed him. When Connor stopped Graham's friend's car, Graham explained he was having a sugar reaction. But Connor didn't believe him.
As Connor was following up with the store to see whether anything had happened, Graham left the car, ran around it twice, then sat down and passed out for a short time. Other police officers arrived, and Graham was rolled over and handcuffed. The officers lifted Graham from behind and placed him face down on the car.
When Graham asked the officers to check his pocket for something he carried that identified him as a diabetic, one of the officers told him to "shut up" and shoved his face against the hood of the car. Then four officers grabbed Graham and threw him head-first into the police car. Once police confirmed no crime had been committed inside the convenience store, they dropped Graham off at his home and left him lying in the yard, Connette said.
Graham ended up with a broken foot, cuts on his wrists, a bruised forehead and an injured shoulder. Graham, who died in 2000, lost in his first jury trial, and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which set out the standards still used today. He then had a new trial, which he also lost.
The Graham decision found that an officer's use of force should be considered on the facts of each case. Officers are to weigh the seriousness of the crime, whether the suspect poses a threat to the safety of police or others and whether the suspect is trying to resist arrest.
Since then, police officers across the U.S. have been trained to use force in that context. States and police departments have their own policies, but the standards set in the Graham case are always the minimum. Some departments, like the Los Angeles Police Department, even reference Graham v. Connor in their manuals.
The police force in St. Louis, where officers shot and killed a knife-wielding robbery suspect 10 days after the Ferguson shooting, also alludes to the Graham standards. The jury that acquitted four Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney King in the early 1990s was instructed to consider the Graham standards — the officers' "reasonable perceptions" — as they deliberated.
Officers are to be judged by those standards — even if things look different to people who weren't involved. "What a police officer, what she perceives at the moment of application of force, may seem very different in the hard light of the following Monday morning," said Ken Wallentine, a recently-retired police chief and former law professor in Utah. "And there's the rub."
Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis, Nancy Benac and researcher Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.
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Boko Haram Takes Over Another Nigerian Town: Witnesses; Official

A grab made on May 5, 2014 from a video obtained by AFP shows the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau (C) delivering speech. (AFP Photo)

KANO, NIGERIA (AFP):  Boko Haram has seized control of a town in northeastern Nigeria, the latest to fall into Islamist hands in the crisis-hit region, witnesses and a local official said on Thursday.

Several residents who fled the Boko Haram assault on Buni Yadi in Yobe state said it began late last month, with the insurgents ultimately taking over the main government building.

They have reportedly raised their flag above the building and have carried out summary executions, including of two people who were caught smoking cigarettes.

Abdullahi Bego, the spokesman for Yobe's Governor Ibrahim Geidam, could not confirm the executions.

But he told AFP: "As I speak there are no military in Buni Yadi and locals say that Boko Haram come and go as they please.

"So many people from Buni Yadi have fled to the state capital Damaturu," he added.

Residents said the rebels, who massacred dozens of students at a boarding school in Buni Yadi in February and kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from neighbouring Borno state in April, had set up roadblocks.

They were also robbing people as they tried to flee.

"I left Buni Yadi yesterday (Wednesday) because it was no longer safe for me and my family," said trader Surajo Muhammad.

The gunmen "shot dead two men for smoking and they also killed a known drug peddler", he added.

Tijjani Bukar, who also fled, reported the same executions.

"I couldn't stay any longer because I came to realise these people have come to stay," he said.

"I thought they would be there for a few days but from our understanding they have turned the town into their (territory)."

The United Nations has confirmed that Boko Haram had seized control of the towns of Damboa and Gwoza in Borno state in recent weeks.

There are indications that Damboa was retaken by the military in an offensive earlier this month but details are not clear.

CBN Gov. Stresses Need To Strengthen MSME

In order to forestall the inevitable adverse socio-economic consequences of financial exclusion in the Nigerian economy, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele has canvassed the need for the strengthening of the nation’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
Emefiele who stated this during the opening ceremony of the two day 8th MSME Finance Conference holding at Sheraton Hotels, said that the counsel became imperative given the economic and financial viabilities of MSME to any given economy.
According to him, MSMEs, particularly the micro entrepreneurs account for more than 90 per cent of the MSMEs in Nigeria.
Besides, the CBN Governor attributed the sustained remarkable economic growth and development in the recent years in the country to the resilience of Nigerians, innovations of the nation enterprises as well as programmes of governments at all levels.
In the last seven years according to the CBN Boss, the nation’s economy expanded by an average of Seven per cent, adding that sub-sahara Africa’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaged 5.2 per cent.
He said that in the first quarter of 2014, Nigeria’s real GDP grew by 6.2 per cent which he noted was driven mainly by an 8.2 per cent growth in the non-oil sector.
“Sustaining this development strides with a balanced and inclusive economic growth will depend largely on the provision of affordable and efficient financial services to the MSMEs, particularly the micro entrepreneurs who account for more than 90 per cent of the MSMEs in Nigeria”.
While saying that that was part of the reasons why the CBN launched the N220 Billion MSME Development Fund, Emefiele disclosed that the fund would provide financial resources to the entrepreneurs across the country through participating Financial Institutions (PFIs).
“I am therefore very pleased that Mr. President has agreed to flag-off the disbursement of these funds tomorrow (Today) Emefiele said.

Liberia Gives Food In Slums Sealed To Stop Ebola

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Government officials handed out bags of rice and sachets of drinking water Thursday to residents of an impoverished slum in Liberia's capital where tens of thousands of people have been barricaded in an effort to stop the spread of Ebola.
International aid workers warned that more help was needed as the country battles not only the virulent disease but also hunger as travel restrictions have blocked food from getting to parts of the seaside capital.
In the tense township of West Point, hundreds of residents lined up to receive government provisions a day after authorities put up barbed wire barricades and enforced a blockade of the area that kept market traders from entering or leaving.
Prices were skyrocketing inside the community on a peninsula, with the price of water quadrupling in a matter of days in the slums where there is no clean running water amid steamy temperatures. "At the moment West Point is stuck at a standstill and is in an anarchy situation," said Moses Browne, who works for aid group Plan International in Liberia.
"We need food, we need water," he said, appealing for international support. "We're not fighting Ebola here, we are fighting hunger too." On Wednesday, residents of West Point clashed with police and soldiers hours after the neighborhood was sealed off, furious that they were being blamed and cut off from markets and jobs. The situation calmed down on Thursday, though fears remain about how much food and water will be brought into the half-mile-long (kilometer-long) peninsula.
By afternoon, hundreds of anxious residents lined up at the food distribution point to await their rations. The World Food Program said it would also begin distributing food in the area in the coming days.
Liberia is being hit especially hard by the dreaded virus that has killed 1,350 people in West Africa, accounting for 576 of the deaths. Several counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been cordoned off, and there are concerns this is slowing the supply of food and other goods to these areas. The World Food Program is preparing to feed 1 million people affected by such travel restrictions.
In the United States, two aid workers who were infected in Liberia have recovered and were discharged from a hospital. Both Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol had received ZMapp, an experimental and unproven treatment for Ebola.
Three health workers are currently receiving the same treatment in Liberia — the first and so far only Africans to get the drug. They were showing "very positive signs of recovery," Liberia's information ministry said earlier this week.
A Spaniard who had contracted Ebola and also received the treatment died. The drug supply is now exhausted, the U.S. manufacturer has said. Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick and showing symptoms. To stop its spread, experts say, the sick should be isolated and not have any contact with the healthy. Overcrowded treatment centers, reluctance on the part of sick people to seek medical care, and burial practices that involve touching the dead have helped fuel the disease's spread.
A number of airlines have suspended flights to the affected countries, despite the World Health Organization's advice that Ebola is unlikely to spread through air travel. Guinea's president, Alpha Conde, met airline representatives and foreign diplomats on Wednesday to reassure them that Guinea is screening passengers leaving the country for fever and other symptoms, in line with WHO recommendations.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Wade Williams in Monrovia, Liberia; and Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.

Foley's Death Isn't Changing Views In Congress

Journalist James Foley receives applause from students at the Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School in Framingham, Mass. Foley had been released a month prior after being detained for six weeks in Libya. Students at the school had written government leaders to work for his release. Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq.

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all its horror, the beheading of an American journalist in Syria appears unlikely to change lawmakers' minds about military intervention against Islamic State extremists. It's equally unclear whether the Obama administration will be asking them to back a new U.S. approach.
President Barack Obama said the United States wouldn't scale back its military posture in Iraq in response to James Foley's killing. But he offered no specifics Wednesday about what new steps he might take to protect additional captives and other Americans, and ward off what he described as the al-Qaida offshoot's genocidal ambitions.
The initial response from members of Congress was mixed, reflecting the divide of the American people. While all decried Foley's death, hawks, particularly Republicans, continued to assail the Obama administration's limited airstrikes in Iraq and its refusal to target Islamic State bases in neighboring Syria. The president's supporters voiced support for the current, cautious intervention in Iraq. No tea partiers or dovish Democrats who have cautioned against military action publicly changed position.
"The president's rhetoric was excellent, but he didn't outline steps to stop the slaughter," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of Obama's harshest foreign policy critics, said in a telephone interview. "The strategy should be to launch all-out air attacks in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIL," he said, using an alternative acronym for the Sunni militants.
Interrupting his family vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Obama denounced the Islamic State as a "cancer" threatening the entire Middle East. And military planners weighed the possibility of sending a small number of additional U.S. troops to Baghdad. Still, Obama was vague about what more his administration would do, saying the U.S. will stand with others to "act against" the extremists.
"We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," he said. "When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done." That message was clearly inadequate for McCain, the Republican candidate Obama defeated for the presidency in 2008. The Arizona senator, who has clamored for years for U.S. action against government forces and extremists in Syria, said the Islamic State has "erased the boundaries between Syria and Iraq, and we must treat it the same way." Otherwise, he said, the militants will enjoy a sanctuary in Syria where they can regroup and create more chaos.
Other Republicans echoed that message. "The Iraqis have already demonstrated that they cannot stop them on their own," said Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., a House Intelligence Committee member and former Army officer. "The president's current path of action has been far too limited to make a difference."
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, said the U.S. must aggressively arm the Islamic State's opponents. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called Obama's approach "piecemeal."
Some Democrats, too, pushed for expanding U.S. military action into Syria. "Otherwise, they will continue to threaten Americans and the interests of our country," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. Others, however, expressed caution and said the president was reacting appropriately.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and House Intelligence Committee member, said the administration has to be on guard against mission creep after launching operations to protect Americans and Iraqi infrastructure, provide humanitarian relief and solidify Iraq's new government.
"The mission already crept a bit," Schiff said in a telephone interview. "The administration would be wise to not get sucked in. That's going to be very hard." He said Foley's death "brings home in the most horrifically graphic terms what a scourge" the Islamic State is, but it doesn't provide a broader lesson for U.S. policy.
"If they have time to consolidate their gains, they will attack us. If we take the fight to them, they will attack us," Schiff said.

Israeli Airstrike Kills 3 Senior Hamas Leaders

Graphic tracks fighting and cease-fires in the latest Israel-Palestinians war. 2c x 5 inches; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed three senior commanders of the Hamas military wing on Thursday, the group said, in what is likely to be a major blow to the organization's morale and a significant achievement for Israel's intelligence agency.
The pre-dawn strike leveled a four-story house in the southern town of Rafah, killing six people, including the three senior military commanders, identified by Hamas as Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Raed Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.
Israel said Abu Shamaleh had been the top Hamas commander in southern Gaza, overseeing fighters there during the current war. Attar was in charge of weapons smuggling into Gaza and the construction of attack tunnels, the Israeli military said.
In 2006, Attar was involved in the capture of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, through such a tunnel, said the statement. It did not refer to Barhoum. The Rafah attack came just a day after an apparent Israeli attempt to kill the top Hamas military leader, Mohammed Deif, in an airstrike on a house in Gaza City.
Deif's wife and an infant son were killed in that strike, but the Hamas military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said Deif was not in the targeted home at the time and was alive. The back-to-back targeting of top Hamas military leaders came after indirect Israel-Hamas negotiations in Cairo on a sustainable truce broke down.
As talks ran aground on Tuesday, Gaza militants resumed rocket fire on Israel, even before the formal end of a six-day truce at midnight that day. Since then, Hamas and other groups have fired dozens more rockets, and Israeli aircraft have struck dozens of targets in Gaza, a sign that prospects for a resumption of the Cairo talks are slim.
Despite the crisis, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was holding talks in Qatar on Thursday with the top political leader of Hamas in exile, Khaled Mashaal, and the emir of Qatar. Before the collapse of the truce talks, Abbas had planned to use the meetings in Qatar to urge Mashaal and his Qatari backers to support an Egyptian cease-fire plan.
Hamas has since rejected the Egyptian proposal, saying it contained no specific commitments by Israel to ease the border blockade of Gaza. The blockade had been imposed by Israel and Egypt after the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007.
Hamas leaders said they could not return to Gaza from Cairo with a deal they feared would simply restore the closure regime that was in place before the start of the latest round of fighting on July 8. The border restrictions prevent most Gazans from traveling outside the crowded coastal strip and bar most exports.
Over the past six weeks, more than 2,000 Gaza residents have been killed and about 100,000 left homeless, according to figures by the U.N. and Palestinian officials. Israel lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.
It was not clear if Thursday's targeted killing of the three Hamas leaders will prompt a change in the group's strategy or diminish its ability to fire rockets. Israel estimated that Hamas had about 10,000 rockets before the war and that it lost about two-thirds of its arsenal.
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said in a statement Thursday that Israel "will not succeed in breaking the will of our people or weaken the resistance," and that Israel "will pay the price." Thursday's airstrike on the house in the Tel Sultan neighborhood of Rafah was carried out shortly before 3 a.m.
Gaza police said a number of Israeli aircraft were involved, and that at least 12 missiles hit the four-story building. The Israeli military declined comment on the report. In addition to the Hamas operatives, three others were killed, including a resident of the house and two neighbors, according to Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
At least six people, including four children and a 27-year-old man, were killed in three other airstrikes across Gaza, according to al-Kidra. Israel also hit at smuggling tunnels along the Gaza border with Egypt and at agricultural lands west of Rafah in the latest airstrikes.
The military said 18 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza since midnight Wednesday, compared to more than 210 over the previous 30 hours. One Israeli was seriously injured when a mortar hit south of the southern city of Ashkelon on Thursday, it said.
In a nationally televised address Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed little willingness to return to the negotiating table after six weeks of war with Hamas. "We are determined to continue the campaign with all means and as is needed," he said, his defense minister by his side. "We will not stop until we guarantee full security and quiet for the residents of the south and all citizens of Israel."
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" over the breaking of the cease-fire. It said in a statement Wednesday that it "continues bilateral contacts" with both sides aimed at restoring calm and securing a lasting truce.
The Egyptian compromise proposal called for easing the Gaza blockade but not lifting it altogether or opening the territory's air and seaports, as Hamas has demanded. While the plan does not require Hamas to give up its weapons, it would give the Western-backed Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas from the Gaza Strip, a foothold back in the territory, running border crossings and overseeing internationally backed reconstruction.

Some See Qatar's Hand In Collapse Of Gaza Talks

A traditional dhow floats in the Corniche Bay area with tall buildings of the financial district in the background, a day ahead of the start of AFC Asian Cup soccer tournament in Doha, Qatar. The explosions rocking the Gaza Strip may seem far removed from the flashy cars and skyscrapers of ultra-rich Qatar, but efforts to end fighting between Hamas and Israel could hinge on how the tiny Gulf state wields its influence over a militant group with few friends left.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The explosions rocking the Gaza Strip may seem far removed from the flashy cars and skyscrapers of ultra-rich Qatar, but efforts to end fighting between Hamas and Israel could hinge on how the tiny Gulf Arab state wields its influence over a Palestinian militant group with few friends left.
Qatar has been home to Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal since 2012 and has carved out a role as a key financial patron for Gaza, buying influence while shoring up an economy overseen by Hamas. That support is prompting accusations that Qatar helped scuttle a lasting truce in the monthlong Gaza war, piling on pressure as the U.S. ally finds itself increasingly isolated as larger Mideast powers marginalize Islamists following the Arab Spring
An official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement suggested Wednesday that Qatar torpedoed the peace talks. After signs of progress last week, Hamas negotiators returned to the table after consultations in Qatar with new conditions — prompting a similar response by Israel, he said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly, said the experience indicated the Qataris "have no interest" in seeing Egyptian-led talks succeed, and that Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood are working together to undermine Egypt.
The London-based pan-Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat separately quoted a senior Fatah official saying Qatar threatened to expel Mashaal if Hamas accepted an Egyptian peace proposal. It said Hamas demanded that Egypt grant Qatar a role in resolving the Gaza crisis, but Cairo rejected the idea until Qatar formally apologizes for its policies in Egypt since the military overthrow of Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi last summer.
Qatari officials could not be reached to comment on the claims. A Qatar-based spokesman for Hamas dismissed the Al-Hayat report as baseless and said it was an attempt to sabotage the negotiations. "This is nonsense ... The nature of relations between Qatar and Hamas are not like that," Hamas spokesman Husam Badran told The Associated Press.
Khaled al-Batsch, a representative of the Islamic Jihad militant group, also denied Qatari interference. "We never felt at any point that there was a Qatari presence in the talks," he said. An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with journalists, said he did not know if Qatar actively encouraged Hamas to take a hard line, but said Qatar was at least indirectly responsible for the talks' failure.
"Qatar unfortunately has been part of the problem. They are the major supporter of Hamas," the Israeli official said. Qatar at one point allowed an Israeli trade office to operate there — a rarity in the Arab world — before ordering it closed following a 2008 Israeli conflict with Hamas.
The outpost's former head, Eli Avidar, told the AP that he believes Qatar has "enormous influence" over Hamas and has been pushing Mashaal to take a much more extreme position in negotiations. "Right now Qatar is the main problem and definitely not part of the solution," he wrote in an email. "The ruling family in Qatar should understand that this is a dangerous game their emir is playing."
But in a development reflecting both Qatar's significance and influence over Hamas, the Gulf country's news agency reported that Abbas arrived Wednesday in Doha, where he was due to hold talks with Mashaal and the emir.
It is hardly the first time Qatar has been accused of taking an unpopular stance in the region. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar in March, saying it failed to uphold its end of a security agreement to stop meddling in other nations' politics and backing groups threatening regional stability. Analysts widely saw that as a rebuke of Qatar's support for Islamist groups and its activist foreign policy, including its backing of the Al-Jazeera satellite network, which has nettled governments across the region.
Qatar's leaders reject suggestions that they are behind Hamas, and insist that the Gaza funding is intended for those who live there. "Qatar does not support Hamas. Qatar supports the Palestinians," Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah told CNN in late July.
The former Qatari emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has at least publicly attempted to promote reconciliation between Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank. He brokered an interim unity government between Abbas and Hamas in early 2012, but that was never implemented.
Before the year was out, the emir traveled to Gaza, becoming the first head of state to visit the seaside territory since Hamas militants seized control in 2007. He launched more than $400 million worth of projects, including plans for housing, a hospital and roads, and called for Palestinian unity.
Khalil Shaheen, a political analyst in Ramallah, suggested the idea that Qatar is solely in Hamas' camp is overblown. He said it has also provided funding for Abbas' government and has not tried to tie its Gaza aid to Hamas' military activities.
"There never was a real crisis between Qatar and the Palestinian Authority even during the worst times between Fatah and Hamas," Shaheen said. He said Qatar wanted a role in the ceasefire talks based on its good relations with Hamas and to show that Egypt is "not the only dominant player in the region."
For the U.S., Qatar plays a role that it often can't by acting as a go-between with groups deemed unsavory by Washington. It earlier this year brokered the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban operatives in Afghanistan.
U.S. State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf described the Qataris as "a key partner" in the effort to forge a peace deal in Gaza earlier this week, before talks collapsed. Responding to questions about whether they support terrorism and Hamas, she said they play a key role in getting Hamas to agree to a cease-fire.
"We need countries that have leverage over the leaders of Hamas who can help get a cease-fire in place, and Qatar certainly plays that role," she said.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Cairo, Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Karin Laub in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Abdullah Rebhy in Doha, Qatar, contributed reporting.
Follow Adam Schreck on Twitter at www.twitter.com/adamschreck.

As US Strikes In Iraq Grow, Details Stay Thin

Displaced Iraqis settle at a new camp outside the Bajid Kandala camp in Feeshkhabour town, Iraq, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced by fighting in Iraq since the Islamic State's rapid advance began in June, and thousands more have died. The scale of the humanitarian crisis prompted the U.N. to declare its highest level of emergency last week.

WASHINGTON (AP) — America has returned to war, of a sort, in Iraq with airstrikes that have intensified in recent days against Islamic State militants. But details about the execution of this limited campaign, which so far includes no reported U.S. ground combat, are thin.
Some questions and answers about the mission, which began Aug. 8: Q. What U.S. forces are involved? A. The specifics are hard to pin down in part because, as in any U.S. overseas conflict, many of the contributors work behind the scenes, sometimes in secret. We do know that the U.S. has about 750 military personnel in Iraq, not counting the 100 who have worked out of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad since before this crisis began.
None of the 750 are engaged in ground combat, but that does not mean they are not at risk. Among the 750 are about 160 at what the military calls "joint operation centers"— one in Baghdad and another in Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that is near the center of the latest fighting. Those 160 military personnel are coordinating with Iraqi and Kurdish military officials in support of their efforts to defend Irbil, including the U.S. Consulate there, and surrounding territory from the Islamic State group.
Q. Who is carrying out the airstrikes? A. The only portion of the air campaign that has been discussed publicly in detail is the work being done by a range of Navy aircraft launching off the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf area. These include F/A-18F Super Hornets, which carried out the first strikes authorized by President Barack Obama.
Also flying are EA-6B Prowlers, which are electronic warfare planes designed to suppress enemy air defenses on the ground. Speaking Wednesday from aboard the Bush, Rear Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, commander of the carrier strike group, said in a telephone interview with Washington reporters that his F/A-18F planes have launched about 30 strikes in Iraq. He would not talk about any air defenses his pilots may have encountered over Iraq.
Q. What about the Air Force? The Air Force has said little about its combat role, although it is widely known inside the military that its F-15E attack planes as well as B-1 bombers and armed drones have participated in the campaign. The Air Force also flies aerial refueling missions that enable attack planes to remain over target areas for extended periods.
Q. Where are the Air Force planes flying from? A. U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for all U.S. military operations in Iraq and across the greater Middle East, will not say what bases are being used. It cites "host nation sensitivities," which is a diplomatic way of saying the U.S. government is acceding to the wishes of Gulf states like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates that insist their involvement in U.S. offensive military operations not be publicly acknowledged.
It is no secret inside the Pentagon that the U.S. is flying some of its Iraq missions from al-Udeid air base in Qatar. The U.S. has an advanced air operations center at al-Udeid but specifics are rarely acknowledged publicly; it used the center to coordinate air operations during the 2003-11 Iraq War as well as the war in Afghanistan.
The U.S. also has considerable ground and air forces in Kuwait. Q. How many targets have been bombed in Iraq so far? A. Central Command said Wednesday that it has conducted a total of 84 airstrikes since Aug. 8. That includes 14 on Wednesday against a range of Islamic State militant targets in the vicinity of a Tigris River dam just north of Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq. Of the 84 strikes, 51 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the dam. President Barack Obama declared Monday that Iraqi and Kurdish forces had recaptured the dam.
Q. What else is being struck? A. U.S. warplanes have hit a wide range of Islamic State militant targets, including artillery, armored personnel carriers, armored Humvees, light trucks, mortar positions, checkpoints and roadside bomb emplacements.
There's the potential for the air campaign to expand into Syria, in which case the U.S. would have to call on aircraft and other elements of its military based in the Middle East and possibly Europe.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nigeria's Kayode For WBA Title


The Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions announced Wednesday, August 20, 2014, that the vacant WBA Heavyweight World Title will be held in the Main Event Golden Boy Live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes. Nigeria's Lateef Kayode fighting out of Hollywood, California, will put his name in the history books when he meets Cuba's Luis Ortiz Thursday, September 11, 2014 for the WBA title at The Joint, Hard Rock Cafe $ Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada. Both fighters are unbeaten and Kayode will be Nigeria's second fighter to win the title in that division. The Kayode-Ortiz 12 round bout sponsored by Corona and O'reilly Auto Parts. Kayode is trained by 4-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

US Officials: Video Shows American's Beheading

Journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company Global Post.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A grisly video released Tuesday shows Islamic State militants beheading American journalist James Foley, U.S. officials said, in what the extremists called retribution for recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. The militants threatened to kill another captive they also identified as an American journalist.
Separately, Foley's family confirmed his death in a statement posted on a Facebook page that was created to rally support for his release, saying they "have never been prouder of him." "He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people," said the statement, which was attributed to Foley's mother, Diane Foley. She implored the militants to spare the lives of other hostages. "Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world."
The statement was posted on a Facebook page called "Find James Foley," which his family has used a number of times since his November 2012 disappearance. Earlier Tuesday, a red-eyed but gracious Diane Foley said the family would not have an immediate statement when approached at her home by an Associated Press reporter. A priest arrived at the home several hours later.
Foley, a 40-year-old journalist from Rochester, New Hampshire, went missing in northern Syria while freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. The car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control. He had not been heard from since.
The video released on websites Tuesday appears to show the increasing sophistication of the Islamic State group's media arm and begins with scenes of President Barack Obama explaining his decision to order airstrikes.
It then cuts to a bald man in an orange jumpsuit kneeling in the desert, next to a black-clad militant with a knife to his throat. Foley's name appears in both English and Arabic graphics on screen, and he is wearing a clip-on microphone as he begins his statement. The scene is captured on at least two video cameras and has been edited in a professional style.
After the captive speaks, the masked man is shown apparently beginning to cut at the neck of the captive; the video fades to black before the beheading is completed. The next shot appears to show the captive lying dead on the ground, his head on his body. The video appears to have been shot in an arid area; there is no vegetation to be seen and the horizon is in the distance where the sand meets the gray-blue sky. The sound quality is sharp.
At the end of the video, a militant shows a second man, who was identified as another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, and warns that he could be next captive killed. Sotloff was kidnapped near the Syrian-Turkish border in August 2013 and freelanced for Time, the National Interest and MediaLine.
One U.S. official said the video appeared to be authentic, and two other U.S. officials said the victim was Foley. All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the killing by name.
One of the officials said Obama was expected to make a statement about the killing on Wednesday. Obama was briefed about the video on Air Force One on Tuesday as he flew from Washington to resume his vacation on the resort island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. A White House statement said he would continue to receive regular updates.
The beheading marks the first time the Islamic State has killed an American citizen since the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011, upping the stakes in an increasingly chaotic and multilayered war. The killing is likely to complicate U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Obama administration's efforts to contain the group as it expands in both Iraq and Syria.
The group is the heir apparent of the militancy known as al-Qaida in Iraq, which beheaded many of its victims, including American businessman Nicholas Berg in 2004. The Islamic State militant group is so ruthless in its attacks against all people they consider heretics or infidels that it has been disowned by al-Qaida's leaders. In seeking to impose its harsh interpretation of Islamic law in the lands it is trying to control, the extremists have slain soldiers and civilians alike in horrifying executions — including mounting the decapitated heads of some of its victims on spikes.
Several senior U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation said the Islamic State very recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge the crushing airstrikes over the last two weeks against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar, the Mosul dam and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
Both areas are in northern Iraq, which has become a key front for the Islamic State as its fighters travel to and from Syria. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. military has struck more than 70 Islamic State targets — including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches. It's not clear how many militants have been killed in the strikes, although it's likely that some were.
Officials from the State Department and Pentagon contacted social media sites Tuesday to inform them of the video and ask them to remove it. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the Obama administration asked the sites to "take appropriate action consistent with their stated usage policies."
In 2011, Foley was among a small group of journalists held captive for six weeks by the government in Libya and was released after receiving a one-year suspended sentence on charges of illegally entering the country. In a May 2011 interview about his experience, he recounted watching a fellow journalist being killed in a firefight and said he would regret that day for the rest of his life. At the time, Foley said he would "would love to go back" to Libya to report on the conflict and spoke of his enduring commitment to the profession of journalism.
"Journalism is journalism," Foley said during the AP interview, which was held in GlobalPost's office in Boston. "If I had a choice to do Nashua (New Hampshire) zoning meetings or give up journalism, I'll do it. I love writing and reporting."
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimated Tuesday that about 20 journalists are missing in Syria, and has not released their nationalities. In its annual report last November, CPJ concluded that the missing journalists are either being held and threatened with death by extremists, or taken captive by gangs seeking ransom. The group's report described the widespread seizure of journalists as unprecedented and largely unreported by news organizations in the hope that keeping the kidnappings out of public view may help in the captives' release.
Earlier Tuesday, GlobalPost CEO and co-founder Philip Balboni in a statement asked "for your prayers for Jim and his family." AFP chairman Emmanuel Hoog said the French news agency was "horrified" by the video and called Foley "a brave, independent and impartial journalist."
Associated Press Writers Julie Pace, Rik Stevens in Rochester, New Hampshire, and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.

Suspected Ebola Cases In Germany, Austria

Police officers wearing protective masks receive instructions stand outside the job center in the Berlin district of Pankow, August 19, 2014. Image: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

BERLIN - Several people have been taken for testing at European hospitals after fears that they may have contracted the deadly Ebola virus
 
German health authorities on Tuesday took to hospital and quarantined a 30-year-old West African woman who showed symptoms consistent with the deadly Ebola disease.
 
Dozens of other visitors and staff at a Berlin employment office building were also stopped from leaving for several hours as emergency services sealed off part of the street.
 
The mass-circulation Bild daily said the woman had fainted, that she hailed from Nigeria and that she said later that she had recently been in contact with people infected with Ebola.
 
Several people who had been with the woman inside the building in the northeastern district of Prenzlauer Berg were later also taken to hospital for testing.
 
Berlin fire department spokesman Rolf Erbe said that because the patient came from "an area affected by a highly contagious disease, we took these precautions".
 
He said the testing in the city's Charite hospital would take some time.
 
"The patient was isolated inside the ambulance, the staff took the appropriate protective measures. An emergency medic, the public health officer, arrived and the necessary precautions were taken," he added.
 
West Africa's Ebola epidemic, which has hit four nations since it broke out in Guinea early this year, is by far the deadliest since the virus was discovered four decades ago in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
 
Two men who arrived in Austria last week from Nigeria have been hospitalised on suspicion of carrying the Ebola disease, a regional Austrian governor said on Tuesday.
 
Blood samples were sent to a laboratory in Germany with results expected later on Tuesday, Josef Puehringer, governor of Upper Austria province said.
 
The two men were hospitalised in Voecklabruck after developing a fever following their return from Lagos and were currently being held in quarantine, Puehringer said.
 
Authorities were also trying to locate anyone the pair may have been in contact with in case further action was needed, he said.
 

------AFP