Putin’s inner circle sheds light on "sinister, lonely life"

More than a week after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the world’s attention remains focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Despite his leading role on the world stage, Putin has remained much a mystery. Now, interviews with members of his inner circle, done over the course of more than three years and revealed in Newsweek’s recent cover story, portray much more about the life he leads beyond the public eye, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

In public, Putin is known for his icy stare, seemingly impenetrable, much like the life he leads.

“He doesn’t talk,” one interpreter told Newsweek writer Ben Judah. “He feels no need to smile.”

The interpreter was one of dozens of sources who spoke to Judah about the side of Putin the public does not see.

“The question of what does Putin do every day I think is a huge, important question,” Judah said.

Photos of the shirtless president horseback riding and fishing have given us a glimpse of his personal life.

fishing-ap233133881611.jpg

But those close to him have revealed new details, like his morning routine: a late breakfast, then a solitary swim where assistants suggest “he gets much of Russia’s thinking done.”

In his office he shuns technology, instead relying on paper documents and Soviet War-era landlines.

“It paints a weird, miserable, sinister, lonely life in which Putin talks to very few people. He’s extremely isolated,” Judah said.

Putin is obsessed with knowing what the world is saying about him. Aides prepare daily press clippings, and while he rarely uses the Internet, his advisers show him parodies. “He must know how they mock him,” sources say.

In reality, Putin has a strained relationship with President Barack Obama and other world leaders. When he travels abroad, he only eats food cleared by the Kremlin. A prep team comes a month in advance.

According to Newsweek, “everything he will need to arrive by the planeload: Russian cooks, Russian cleaners, Russian waiters; the President is indifferent to the offense of the host nation.”

He’s clung to power ever since becoming president in 2000, even finding a way to side-step term limits with a stint as prime minister, before returning to the presidency four years later.

His inner circle calls him “Tsar,” implicitly linking him to the iron-fisted rulers of Russia’s past.

“Calling him the tsar, stopping a joke and it became real, it just reflects how he grew more and more powerful and they grew to fear him more,” Judah said.

Putin is now under growing pressure to stop supporting the rebels accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane. But so far he’s shown no signs of giving in to demands from the West.

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Minimum-wage workers are getting left behind

In 1968, the federal minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, which in 2012 dollars (the latest year for which federal data is available) amounts to $10.34 per hour. For the millions of low-wage workers around the U.S., real income has gone downhill ever since.

Although the minimum wage has risen to $7.25 over the ensuing years (tipped workers typically earn much less), the purchasing power of employees earning that baseline level pay has steadily shrunk because it isn’t rising along with inflation. In fact, minimum-wage workers earn less today in real dollars than they did more than 50 years ago. In financial terms, they have effectively defied the laws of physics and traveled backward in time.

Today marks the five-year anniversary since the federal minimum was last raised, from $6.55 an hour. Since 2009, earners making that amount have lost nearly 6 percent of their buying power, according to the Pew Research Center.

Here’s what that means in terms the average consumer can appreciate:

  • In July 2009, a pound of ground beef cost about $2.15; today that will run you $3.88, up 80 percent.
  • Five years ago a gallon of whole milk cost about $3, versus $3.62 today.
  • A gallon of regular gas in the summer of 2009 ago ran $2.61, compared with $3.54 today.
  • Rent? Over that time that’s risen from a U.S. median of $461 a month to more than $760.

Of course, everyone knows daily life tends to be pricier today than it was yesterday. A better way to get a sense of how much low-paid workers have fallen behind is to look at their earnings relative to what most employees make.

John Schmitt, an economist with the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, has calculated that in 1968 someone earning the minimum wage made 53 percent as much as what the typical production worker earned. If that same general ratio had held constant until the present day, minimum-wage workers would make more than $10 an hour, or around the $10.10 wage the Obama administration has backed and that Senate Republicans nixed in April.

Minimum-wage workers in the U.S. now earn roughly 38 percent of the median wage, or lower than in most wealthier countries, according to the Organisation for Economic and Cooperative Development.

It’s worth noting that wages have stagnated even as productivity — which in economic terms measures how much work employees do in an hour — has continued to rise. If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as average productivity, as of 2012 it would’ve reached $21.72 an hour, Schmitt points out, adding that the base wage would be set at $12.25 even it had grown only a fourth as fast workers were churning out goods.

Despite the current political impasse in Washington ahead of the November midterm elections, even conservatives who might have been expected to join the GOP chorus on the minimum wage have started to sing a different tune. That includes former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who spoke out earlier this year in favor of raising pay. More broadly, a poll out this week shows 37 percent of Republican voters back increasing the minimum wage to $10.10, a surprising measure of support for an issue ostensibly of interest only to Democrats.

Maybe such voters were convinced by the recent U.S. Labor Department research that showed that the 13 states around the U.S. that raised their minimum wage since 2013 are showing stronger economic growth than states where pay remains frozen. Or it could be the support that many small business owners — the very companies that are supposed to take the biggest hit by raising workers’ pay — are showing for a wage hike.

Perhaps it’s just common sense. After all, the minimum wage is supposed to provide a floor for pay, a fair and economically sensible threshold both for workers and employers. But neither side benefits if the floor keeps dropping.

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CRISIS IN GAZA Israel finds additional, sophisticated tunnels

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    The Israeli Defense Forces were surprised by the number of tunnels under the Gaza border. (Courtesy: IDF)

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    Some 60 shafts connect to at least 28 tunnels. (Courtesy: IDF)

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    Shafts leading down to tunnels began in mosques, schools, houses and even fields. (Courtesy: IDF)

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    Israel plans to demolish all of the underground passageways with explosives. (Courtesy: IDF)

While rockets and mortar fly through the sky in Gaza and southern Israel, the focus of the Jewish state’s military is underground, on the warren of tunnels they say allow Hamas operatives to move freely in and out of the Palestinian territory committing acts of terror.

Pictures released by the Israel Defense Forces show tunnels, some primitive and others sophisticated enough to include walls and ladders, running under the border from the Hamas-controlled district before they were intentionally destroyed. More than 60 access shafts leading to 28 tunnels have been uncovered since Israel’s ground operation — dubbed Operation Protective Edge — began on July 8.

“An IDF force uncovered a terror access shaft in Gaza in which were weapons, maps and IDF uniforms, all intended for the execution of terror attacks against Israel,” said an IDF statement. “In addition, an IDF force attacked several militants emerging from a tunnel opening in the southern Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the ground operation more than 60 access shafts leading to some 28 tunnels have been uncovered.”

“This can be dealt with diplomatically or militarily – now it’s being done militarily with a lot of success.”

- Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said shutting down the tunnels is critical to security in Israel.

“We’ve been busy with the tunnels for a long time — in the last year we have discovered four in our territory,” Ya’alon said. “This can be dealt with diplomatically or militarily — now it’s being done militarily with a lot of success.”

IDF officials initially expected that most of the tunnels would be destroyed within days, but once on the ground learned there were more than intelligence sources knew. And on Tuesday, a U.S. intelligence source revealed that American satellite imagery had suggested that as many as 60 tunnels might have been built underneath Gaza.

The maze of tunnels and access shafts appears to weave its way throughout much of the Gaza Strip. Access points are reportedly found in homes, mosques, public buildings, and more. In the last week, two discoveries of missile caches have been found in UNRWA schools that most likely arrived via tunnel.

“UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations” wrote Christopher Gunness, director of advocacy and strategic relations for UNRWA. Today, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon revealed his dismay at learning that at least one of the two caches has “disappeared” after being handed over by UNRWA to unidentified persons.

“The rockets were passed on to the government authorities in Gaza, which is Hamas,” a senior Israeli official told the Times of Israel. “In other words, UNRWA handed to Hamas rockets that could well be shot at Israel.”

The tunnels vary in length, height and width, but some are well-constructed using concrete blocks. Some have electricity feeds and sewage channels, suggesting they are designed for terrorists to remain inside for long periods, possibly days at a time. The materials used to construct the tunnels appear most likely to have been diverted by Hamas from the building materials allowed into Gaza by Israel for civilian construction.

On Monday, an attempt by a force of terrorists dressed in mock Israeli Army uniforms was thwarted after they emerged into the night and were involved in a firefight with an IDF unit. Ten would-be attackers were killed, along with four Israeli soldiers.

Israelis close to the border are living in fear that at any moment a tunnel delivering well-trained and merciless terrorists could emerge within their community, or even within the very boundaries of their own house or garden. Should Hamas or Islamic Jihad succeed in emerging undiscovered from one of these tunnels, there could be carnage on a massive scale.

Paul Alster is an Israel-based journalist who can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster and at www.paulalster.com

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100,000-YEAR-OLD CASE? Skull may contain oldest evidence of brain damage

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A Paleolithic child that died 100,000 years ago may have suffered from brain damage after an injury. Researchers used a 3D reconstruction (shown here) to reveal the compound fracture and surface changes inside the skull.Coqueugniot H, Dutour O, Arensburg B, Duday H, Vandermeersch B, et al. (2014)

An ancient skeleton unearthed in Israel may contain the oldest evidence of brain damage in a modern human.

The child, who lived about 100,000 years ago, survived head trauma for several years, but suffered from permanent brain damage as a result, new 3D imaging reveals.

Given the brain damage, the child was likely unable to care for himself or herself, so people must have spent years looking after the little boy or girl, according to the researchers who analyzed the 3D images. People from the child’s group left funerary objects in the youngster’s burial pit as well, the study authors said.

Those signs of care for a disabled person suggest that the roots of human compassion go way back, said Hélène Coqueugniot, an anthropologist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the University of Bordeaux in France, and lead author of the study.

“It is some of the most ancient evidence of compassion and altruism,” Coqueugniot said.

Young child

The child’s skeleton was first uncovered decades ago in a cave site known as Qafzeh in Galilee, Israel, which also contained 27 partial skeletons and bone fragments, as well as stone tools and hearths. [See Images of the Damaged Skull and Skeleton]

The child, whose sex couldn’t be determined, was found with a visible fracture in the skull and a pair of deer antlers placed across the chest.

The researchers wanted to know more about the damage to the child’s skull, so they created a cast of the interior of it and then used computed tomography (CT) scanning to create a 3D picture of the head.

The images revealed that the child suffered a blunt-force trauma at the front of the skull that created a compound fracture, with a piece of bone depressed in the skull. It wasn’t clear whether child abuse or an accident caused the injury, the researchers concluded.

In addition, tooth growth indicated that the youngster was 12 or 13 years old when he or she died, but the child’s brain volume was more akin to that of a 6- or 7-year-old — likely because the head trauma permanently halted brain growth, Coqueugniot told Live Science.

The brain injury would have led to difficulties in controlling movements and speaking, as well as caused personality changes and impaired the child’s social functioning, the researchers wrote in their study, which was published July 23 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Human compassion?

Yet despite the youngster’s severe disability, he or she was apparently cared for, in life and in death. Despite lacking the ability to survive on his or her own, the Paleolithic child lived for several years after the head injury. And when the child died, someone wanted to honor his or her memory by placing the deer antlers in his or her burial — a funerary marker that wasn’t found in any of the other burials at the site, Coqueugniot said.

“He was very, very special in this group, and he has a very, very special burial,” Coqueugniot said.

The findings are not the oldest example of compassion and care for the disabled in a hominid; a 500,000-year-old fossil human from Sima de los Huesos in Spain shows signs of severe brain deformity starting at birth, but that child still lived to age 5, which mean someone cared for the child despite his or her disorder.

But the Qafzeh child reveals a striking example of compassion and care for the disabled in early modern humans, who are anatomically similar to humans today, said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of human evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

It’s not clear that head trauma caused brain development to halt, said Hublin, who was not involved in the study. “There is a large variation in brain size among humans, and this is perceptible already in infancy and childhood,” Hublin told Live Science.

Therefore, the child may have simply have started out with a small brain, which would have remained relatively small as he or she grew, he said.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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IRON-RICH DIET Feds spend $10M on robot pals to train kids

The National Science Foundation has committed $10 million to build robots that will act as “personal trainers” for children, in an effort to influence their behavior and eating habits.

The government has spent $2.15 million so far for the five-year project, which is being led by Yale University. The project, “Robots Helping Kids,” will ultimately “deploy” robots into homes and schools to teach English as a second language, and encourage kids to exercise.

The project will develop a “new breed of sophisticated ‘socially assistive’ robots,” designed to help children “learn to read, appreciate physical fitness, overcome cognitive disabilities, and perform physical exercises,” according to a news release by Yale University when the grant was first announced in 2012.

“Just like a good personal trainer, we want the robots to be able to guide the child toward a behavior that we desire,” said Brian Scassellati, a computer science professor at Yale and principal investigator for the study.

“What we want to do is move these robots out of the laboratory and into schools and homes and clinics, places where we can directly help children on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The NSF grant said the project is necessary due to “critical societal problems.”

Click for more from The Washington Free Beacon

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FREE AT LAST Sudanese Christian who faced death meets Pope

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    July 24, 2014: In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms, in his Santa Marta residence, at the Vatican. The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith has arrived in Italy along with her family, including the infant born in prison.AP/L’Osservatore Romano/File

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    July 24, 2014: In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L’;Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis, left, meets in his Santa Marta residence, Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, center, accompanied by her children Maya in her arms, Martin, and her husband, Daniel Wani, right, at the Vatican.AP/L’Osservatore Romano

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    July 24, 2014: Meriam Ibrahim disembarks with her children Maya, in her arms, and Martin, accompanied by Italian deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli, after landing at Ciampino’s military airport on the outskirts of Rome. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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    June 5, 2014: In this file image made from an undated video provided by Al Fajer, a Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Meriam Ibrahim breastfeeds her newborn baby girl as the NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)

Pope Francis met privately Thursday with Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who faced a death sentence for refusing to renounce her faith, blessing the woman after she was flown to Italy on an Italian government jet.

The Vatican characterized the visit with Ibrahim, 27, her husband and their two small children as “very affectionate.”

The 30-minute encounter took place just hours after the family landed at Rome’s Ciampino airport, accompanied by an Italian diplomat who helped negotiate her release, and welcomed by Italy’s premier, who hailed it as a “day of celebration.”

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope “thanked her for her faith and courage, and she thanked him for his prayer and solidarity” during the half-hour meeting Thursday. Francis frequently calls attention to the suffering of those persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Lombardi said the presence of “their wonderful small children” added to the affectionate tone of the meeting. Ibrahim was presented with a rosary, a gift from the pope.

Ibrahim and her family are expected to spend a few days in Rome before heading to the United States.

Earlier Thursday, Reuters reported that Italian television broadcast images of Ibrahim and her family arriving in Rome with Italian politician Lapo Pistelli. Pistelli had posted a picture on his Facebook page depicting himself with Ibrahim and her two children. The caption, translated from Italian, read “With Meriam, Maya, Martin and [Ibrahim's husband] Daniel, a few minutes from Rome. Mission accomplished.”

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was among those who greeted the plane, calling it “a day of celebration.”

Ibrahim had spent more than a month at the American Embassy in Khartoum after a previous attempt to leave Sudan was halted by that country’s authorities. They said she had attempted to use false travel documents, a claim Ibrahim denied.

Last month, Sudan’s Supreme Court threw out the death sentence Ibrahim had received for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Ibrahim’s father, a Muslim, claimed she had abandoned Islam and committed adultery with her husband Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen who lives in New Hampshire. However, Ibrahim insisted that she had been raised Christian by her Ehiopian Orthodox mother after her father left the family when she was still young.

Pistelli told the Associated Press that Italy had leveraged its historic ties within the Horn of Africa region to help win her release, though the specifics were not immediately clear. Ibrahim’s lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, told Reuters that he had not been aware of her departure.

“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Mariam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” he said.

Click for more from The Daily Telegraph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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ObamaCare getaway: Administration exempts 5 US territories from law

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Beachside file photo of Tumon Bay, Guam.Reuters

The Obama administration is coming under fire for once again making a unilateral change to ObamaCare — this time, quietly exempting the five U.S. territories and their more than 4 million residents from virtually all major provisions of the health care law. 

The decision was made a week ago, and was a long time coming. For months, the territories have been complaining that the law was implemented so poorly in their regions that it destabilized their insurance markets. 

Until now, the Department of Health and Human Services claimed its hands were tied. But last Wednesday, the department reversed course. 

The about-face has some questioning the department’s authority to suddenly grant 4.1 million Americans an out from ObamaCare. It follows a cascade of prior unilateral actions delaying and nixing parts of the law for certain groups — actions which in part prompted House Republicans to launch a lawsuit against President Obama challenging his use of executive power. 

“The White House knows that ObamaCare is a train wreck,” Republican National Committee spokesman Raffi Williams told FoxNews.com. “Excluding the territories from their train wreck of a law is just the latest example of delays and waivers the administration has issued to quietly limit the damage of the law without admitting that they have ruined the American health care system.” 

The decision covers residents in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner acknowledged in her notice last week that the law was “undermining the stability” of the territories’ insurance markets. 

That’s because the territories were subject to some parts of the law but exempt from others. Namely, their residents did not receive subsidies to help defray the cost of insurance and their residents were largely exempt from the requirement to buy insurance. But insurance companies were still supposed to follow the law’s requirements to cover everyone with a certain minimum set of benefits, and other standards. 

The lopsided requirements crippled the individual markets in some of the territories. In the Northern Mariana Islands, the top provider, for example, told the insurance commissioner it would stop selling new plans to residents. Premiums shot through the roof and the idea of long-term affordable health care became more myth than reality. 

Last year, HHS told the territories it had no legal authority to exclude them from the provisions in ObamaCare. It furthered its case by saying the law adopted an explicit definition of “state” that includes the territories for the purpose of the mandates. 

But late last week, Tavenner sent a letter to the governments of those same five territories exempting their individual health insurance markets from virtually all the major remaining provisions. She said that after a “careful review,” the department determined the definition of “state” actually means “these new provisions do not apply to the territories.” 

“This means that the following Affordable Care Act requirements will not apply to individual or group health insurance issuers in the U.S. territories: guaranteed availability (PHS Act section 2702), community rating (PHS Act section 2701), single risk pool (Affordable Care Act section 1312(c)), rate review (PHS Act section 2794), medical loss ratio (PHS Act section 2718), and essential health benefits (PHS Act section 2707),” she wrote. According to CMS, the territories would still have to follow certain requirements for group health plans. 

The legal issues for Obama’s landmark legislation have been piling on in recent days. 

On Tuesday, two federal appeals court rulings put the issue of ObamaCare subsidies in limbo, with one invalidating some of the subsidies and the other upholding them. 

The first decision came Tuesday morning from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The panel, in a major blow to the law, ruled 2-1 that the IRS went too far in extending subsidies to those who buy insurance through the federally run exchange, known as HealthCare.gov. 

A separate federal appeals court — the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals — hours later issued its own ruling on a similar case that upheld the subsidies in their entirety. 

The conflicting rulings could eventually put the issue before the Supreme Court.   

Calls to the HHS for comment were not returned.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/24/obamacare-free-getaway-for-5-us-territories/

Putin’s inner circle sheds light on "sinister, lonely life"

More than a week after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the world’s attention remains focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Despite his leading role on the world stage, Putin has remained much a mystery. Now, interviews with members of his inner circle, done over the course of more than three years and revealed in Newsweek’s recent cover story, portray much more about the life he leads beyond the public eye, CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller reports.

In public, Putin is known for his icy stare, seemingly impenetrable, much like the life he leads.

“He doesn’t talk,” one interpreter told Newsweek writer Ben Judah. “He feels no need to smile.”

The interpreter was one of dozens of sources who spoke to Judah about the side of Putin the public does not see.

“The question of what does Putin do every day I think is a huge, important question,” Judah said.

Photos of the shirtless president horseback riding and fishing have given us a glimpse of his personal life.

fishing-ap233133881611.jpg

But those close to him have revealed new details, like his morning routine: a late breakfast, then a solitary swim where assistants suggest “he gets much of Russia’s thinking done.”

In his office he shuns technology, instead relying on paper documents and Soviet War-era landlines.

“It paints a weird, miserable, sinister, lonely life in which Putin talks to very few people. He’s extremely isolated,” Judah said.

Putin is obsessed with knowing what the world is saying about him. Aides prepare daily press clippings, and while he rarely uses the Internet, his advisers show him parodies. “He must know how they mock him,” sources say.

In reality, Putin has a strained relationship with President Barack Obama and other world leaders. When he travels abroad, he only eats food cleared by the Kremlin. A prep team comes a month in advance.

According to Newsweek, “everything he will need to arrive by the planeload: Russian cooks, Russian cleaners, Russian waiters; the President is indifferent to the offense of the host nation.”

He’s clung to power ever since becoming president in 2000, even finding a way to side-step term limits with a stint as prime minister, before returning to the presidency four years later.

His inner circle calls him “Tsar,” implicitly linking him to the iron-fisted rulers of Russia’s past.

“Calling him the tsar, stopping a joke and it became real, it just reflects how he grew more and more powerful and they grew to fear him more,” Judah said.

Putin is now under growing pressure to stop supporting the rebels accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane. But so far he’s shown no signs of giving in to demands from the West.

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/d78KO38tSOc/

French official: Missing Air Algerie flight carrying 116 crashed in Mali

 

A French Ministry of Defense official tells Fox News that the Air Algerie jet carrying 116 people that vanished from radar shortly after takeoff late Wednesday night has crashed in Mali, and that two French fighter jets have located the wreckage.

Air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair MD-83 roughly 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 9:55 p.m. ET Wednesday, the official Algerian news agency said.

France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told The Associated Press that the flight “probably crashed.”

The French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the plane went down near the Malian city of Gao, a city essentially under the control of the Malian government, though it has seen lingering separatist violence.

On Ougadougou airport’s website, it listed Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro and niece of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, as being on the plane. However, the claim could not be verified.

The list of passengers includes 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, five Canadians, four Germans, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Belgium, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian, Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said. The six crew members are Spanish, according to the Spanish pilots’ union.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the plane departed Burkina Faso for Algiers at 9:17 p.m. ET Wednesday, but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 1:10 a.m. ET Thursday. Swiftair said it was unable to make contact with the plane.

“In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan,” the APS news agency quoted the airline as saying.

Burkina Faso authorities also set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to update families of people on board the plane, Reuters reports.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers wasn’t immediately clear. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

The plane sent its last message around 9:30 p.m. ET, asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area, Ouedraogo said.

A source also told Sky News that the plane asked to divert its path “to avoid another aircraft.”

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Algerian state television that 10 minutes before disappearing, the pilots were in contact with air traffic controllers in Gao.

Last week, an armed Islamist group formed by Al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar reportedly claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed a French soldier in northern Mali. In a video posted on the Internet, a spokesman for the group Al-Mourabitoun, identifying himself as Abu Assem Al-Muhajir, said the attack north of Gao, was “a response to French claims that they had annihilated the Mujahideen (Islamic fighters)”.

Al-Mourabitoun was formed last year from the fusion of two Islamist groups operating in northern Mali: the Mulathameen brigade, led by the one-eyed Belmokhtar who is thought to have masterminded an attack on an Algerian gas plant last year in which nearly 40 hostages were killed, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), Reuters reports.

A senior French official told The Associated Press that it seems unlikely that these fighters had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a plane.

The official, not authorized to speak publicly, said on condition of anonymity that they primarily have shoulder-fired weapons — not enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude.

Swiftair took ownership of the plane on Oct. 24, 2012, after it spent nearly 10 months unused in storage, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets, which sells and tracks information about aircraft. It has more than 37,800 hours of flight time and has made more than 32,100 takeoffs and landings. The plane has had several owners over the years, including Avianca and Austral Lineas Aereas.

The MD-83 is part of a series of jets built since the early 1980s by McDonnell Douglas, a U.S. plane maker now owned by Boeing Co. The MD-80s are single-aisle planes that were a workhorse of the airline industry for short and medium-range flights for nearly two decades. As jet fuel prices spiked in recent years, airlines have rapidly being replacing the jets with newer, fuel-efficient models such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.

There are 496 other MD-80s being flown by airlines around the world, according to Ascend

“We’re aware of reports on Air Algerie Flight AH5017,” Boeing spokesman Wilson Chow said. “Our team is gathering more information.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/24/air-algerie-plane-reportedly-disappears-from-radar/

CHIEFS TAKE AIM Mass. top cops seek right to control long-gun permits

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Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, as well as the city’s former top cop, Ed Davis, and other police chiefs from across The Bay State rallied at the Statehouse on Tuesday, blasting state senators for removing a provision granting them authority to deny firearms identification cards to individuals they deem unsuitable to own shotguns and rifles – discretion they already have regarding handgun licenses. (AP)

Police chiefs in Massachusetts are blasting state lawmakers for shooting down a provision that would have given them sole discretion over who can get rifle or shotgun permits.

The Bay State, which has some of the nation’s toughest gun laws, has long left it up to a community’s top cop to sign off on handgun permits. Lawmakers were considering extending that to include the Firearms Identification Card, or FID, needed to possess long guns. But lawmakers, leery of the constitutionality of the law, which critics say can result in law-abiding citizens being denied their Second Amendment rights, have stripped a proposed bill of that provision. This week, police chiefs from throughout the state and gun control advocates converged on the Statehouse in Boston to blast state senators for removing the provision.

“Our position is really very, very simple,” said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. “We, as an association, believe that it’s unconscionable that if we determine a person is unsuitable to carry a handgun, that they can then turn around and apply for a Firearms Identification Card, which allows them, by law, to purchase rifles and shotguns. And there’s no way we can impose any restrictions on that. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s all about public safety.”

- Wayne Sampson, executive director, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association

Sampson, who attended Tuesday’s rally along with Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, the city’s former top cop, Ed Davis, and several other chiefs, told FoxNews.com that the organization’s 351 chiefs are willing to work with legislators to find a compromise, but stressed that no one else in the state’s patchwork of towns and communities has a better grasp of who is fit to possess firearms.

“In our smaller communities, it’s very easy to check how many responses we’ve received for a certain address,” he said. “We know whether it’s a parent or a child having problems, or if it’s a domestic situation [involving a gun]. These are things that are very legitimate for us to take into consideration. It’s all about public safety.”

Davis cited an incident during Tuesday’s rally regarding a man who killed an 80-year-old victim and then held a police officer hostage using a shotgun after he was issued an FID card. Davis, he said, learned that the man had mental problems only after the incident.

The state’s local affiliate of the National Rifle Association, meanwhile, strongly favors the Senate version of the bill that removes that measure, and noted other key provisions it contains, including requiring schools to develop plans for students with mental health needs and increased penalties for certain firearm violations.

“Massachusetts police chiefs have had discretionary ability [to issue handgun permits] for decades here and the system has been pretty widely abused as far as suitability goes because it’s left up to the chief to decide,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League. “Some chiefs say they just don’t hand out those licenses, or some are granted for target and hunting purposes only.”

Asked if he had constitutional concerns regarding the House version of the bill, Wallace told FoxNews.com: “I don’t see how you could see otherwise.”

Both chambers named three members apiece to a conference committee on the legislation, including four Democrats and two Republicans. They will now have until next Thursday to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.

State Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, said while it’s clear that police chiefs want more authority regarding Firearms Identification Cards, it remains foggy how that will be done without violating rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment.

“The issues of FID suitability, MSBA security upgrades, increased penalties for committing gun crimes, and expanded tools for district attorneys to keep pre-trial violent offenders off the streets are just some of the differences in the Senate and House bills to reduce gun violence,” Timilty said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “I look forward to working with my Senate and House colleagues to come to a consensus on this important piece of legislation so we can make our schools and streets safer.”

Some critics of the Senate bill, meanwhile, accused state lawmakers of “caving into” pressure from gun lobbying groups like the NRA.

“The Massachusetts Senate has chosen to support the NRA over public safety and law enforcement,” said John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence. “It’s as clear as day.”

As a gun owner himself, Rosenthal said long guns can be just as dangerous — possibly more — than handguns.

“Any gun owner will tell you that you can do as much damage from a distance, or even more damage, with a long gun than you could with a handgun,” Rosenthal told FoxNews.com. “There needs to be recognition that a deadly weapon is a deadly weapon, whether it has a long barrel or a short barrel.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/24/police-chiefs-gun-rights-advocates-at-odds-over-discretion-in-massachusetts/

HAMAS RESISTS DEAL Kerry cease-fire bid fails as militants aim at Israel

Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(23)640.jpg

July 24, 2014: An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a cease-fire that would halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip have been resisted by the Islamic militant group Hamas, who insist that any truce agreement must meet the group’s main demand that a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory be lifted.

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday in a televised speech from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that diplomats from the U.S., Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries are reworking a cease-fire proposal made by Egypt’s foreign ministry last week. The paper reports that the new proposal would call for both Israel and Hamas to cease military operations in the coming days before calling on the U.S. and the international community to begin talks on a long-term economic program for Gaza.

Hamas rejected the initial Egyptian cease-fire proposal on the grounds that it had not been consulted by Cairo, and claimed that the plan did not provide for the lifting of the blockade or the release of militant prisoners from Israeli custody.

The Journal reports that Hamas’ demands to open up the movement of goods into Gaza are likely to be met with resistance by Israel unless it is allowed to monitor the trade for weapons bound for Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told The Journal this week that Hamas’s fighters are better-equipped and better-trained than in previous clashes in 2009 and 2012, said an Israeli military officer who requested anonymity.

The militants are using a strategy of avoidance, relying on snipers and improvised explosive devices to hit Israeli forces rather than engaging in face-to-face fighting where they would be at a big disadvantage, he said. They have infiltrated Israel through five cross-border tunnels, even as the army moves to destroy others.

Israeli tanks and warplanes continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel said that three of its soldiers had died Wednesday, bringing the military’s death toll to 32 since ground operations in Gaza began on July 17 with the aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of 736 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say.

Gaza health officials say at least seven people were killed when Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the seven were among hundreds of people seeking shelter in the school from heavy fighting in the area. At least 150 people were injured.

The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed that seven people were killed by tank shells at the school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

Thursday’s incident was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.  UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, has said it has found militant rockets inside two vacant schools.

Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed Thursday when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors.

An airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Abassan killed five members of another family, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Abassan is near Khan Younis, in an area that saw intense fighting on Wednesday.

Heavy fighting was reported along the border of central Gaza, according to Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. Israeli troops fired tank shells that reached parts of the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Clashes also erupted between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, and the sound of explosions was audible across the town, Batniji said.

Israeli naval vessels meanwhile fired more than 100 shells along the coast of Gaza City and northern Gaza, the spokesman said, adding that rescue teams were unable to operate in the area because of the heavy fire.

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 after Hamas and other militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid. It tightened the siege in 2007 after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but had eased some of the restrictions in recent years.

Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border smuggling tunnels that sustained Gaza’s economy, and which were also used by Hamas to bring in arms.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/24/kerry-attempts-to-coax-cease-fire-agreement-out-hamas-as-gaza-violence-rages/

Hamas resists Kerry’s attempts at cease-fire deal as fighting rages

Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(23)640.jpg

July 24, 2014: An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a cease-fire that would halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip have been resisted by the Islamic militant group Hamas, who insist that any truce agreement must meet the group’s main demand that a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory be lifted.

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday in a televised speech from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that diplomats from the U.S., Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries are reworking a cease-fire proposal made by Egypt’s foreign ministry last week. The paper reports that the new proposal would call for both Israel and Hamas to cease military operations in the coming days before calling on the U.S. and the international community to begin talks on a long-term economic program for Gaza.

Hamas rejected the initial Egyptian cease-fire proposal on the grounds that it had not been consulted by Cairo, and claimed that the plan did not provide for the lifting of the blockade or the release of militant prisoners from Israeli custody.

The Journal reports that Hamas’ demands to open up the movement of goods into Gaza are likely to be met with resistance by Israel unless it is allowed to monitor the trade for weapons bound for Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told The Journal this week that Hamas’s fighters are better-equipped and better-trained than in previous clashes in 2009 and 2012, said an Israeli military officer who requested anonymity.

The militants are using a strategy of avoidance, relying on snipers and improvised explosive devices to hit Israeli forces rather than engaging in face-to-face fighting where they would be at a big disadvantage, he said. They have infiltrated Israel through five cross-border tunnels, even as the army moves to destroy others.

Israeli tanks and warplanes continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel said that three of its soldiers had died Wednesday, bringing the military’s death toll to 32 since ground operations in Gaza began on July 17 with the aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of 736 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say.

Gaza health officials say at least seven people were killed when Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said the seven were among hundreds of people seeking shelter in the school from heavy fighting in the area. At least 150 people were injured.

The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed that seven people were killed by tank shells at the school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

Thursday’s incident was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.  UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, has said it has found militant rockets inside two vacant schools.

Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed Thursday when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors.

An airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Abassan killed five members of another family, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Abassan is near Khan Younis, in an area that saw intense fighting on Wednesday.

Heavy fighting was reported along the border of central Gaza, according to Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. Israeli troops fired tank shells that reached parts of the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Clashes also erupted between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, and the sound of explosions was audible across the town, Batniji said.

Israeli naval vessels meanwhile fired more than 100 shells along the coast of Gaza City and northern Gaza, the spokesman said, adding that rescue teams were unable to operate in the area because of the heavy fire.

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 after Hamas and other militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid. It tightened the siege in 2007 after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but had eased some of the restrictions in recent years.

Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border smuggling tunnels that sustained Gaza’s economy, and which were also used by Hamas to bring in arms.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/24/kerry-attempts-to-coax-cease-fire-agreement-out-hamas-as-gaza-violence-rages/

Hamas resists Kerry’s attempts at cease-fire deal as fighting rages

Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(23)640.jpg

July 24, 2014: An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a cease-fire that would halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip have been resisted by the Islamic militant group Hamas, who insist that any truce agreement must meet the group’s main demand that a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory be lifted.

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday in a televised speech from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that diplomats from the U.S., Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries are reworking a cease-fire proposal made by Egypt’s foreign ministry last week. The paper reports that the new proposal would call for both Israel and Hamas to cease military operations in the coming days before calling on the U.S. and the international community to begin talks on a long-term economic program for Gaza.

Hamas rejected the initial Egyptian cease-fire proposal on the grounds that it had not been consulted by Cairo, and claimed that the plan did not provide for the lifting of the blockade or the release of militant prisoners from Israeli custody.

The Journal reports that Hamas’ demands to open up the movement of goods into Gaza are likely to be met with resistance by Israel unless it is allowed to monitor the trade for weapons bound for Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told The Journal this week that Hamas’s fighters are better-equipped and better-trained than in previous clashes in 2009 and 2012, said an Israeli military officer who requested anonymity.

The militants are using a strategy of avoidance, relying on snipers and improvised explosive devices to hit Israeli forces rather than engaging in face-to-face fighting where they would be at a big disadvantage, he said. They have infiltrated Israel through five cross-border tunnels, even as the army moves to destroy others.

Israeli tanks and warplanes continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel said that three of its soldiers had died Wednesday, bringing the military’s death toll to 32 since ground operations in Gaza began on July 17 with the aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of 736 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say.

Six members of the same family and an 18-month-old infant boy were killed Thursday when an Israeli airstrike hit the Jebaliya refugee camp in the early morning hours, according to Gaza police and health officials. Twenty others were injured in the strike, they said, and rescuers were digging through the rubble of flattened homes, looking for survivors.

An airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza town of Abassan killed five members of another family, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Abassan is near Khan Younis, in an area that saw intense fighting on Wednesday.

Heavy fighting was reported along the border of central Gaza, according to Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji. Israeli troops fired tank shells that reached parts of the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Clashes also erupted between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, and the sound of explosions was audible across the town, Batniji said.

Israeli naval vessels meanwhile fired more than 100 shells along the coast of Gaza City and northern Gaza, the spokesman said, adding that rescue teams were unable to operate in the area because of the heavy fire.

More than 2,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since July 8, and the Israeli military says it has uncovered more than 30 tunnels leading from Gaza to Israel, some of which have been used by Hamas to carry out attacks.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 after Hamas and other militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid. It tightened the siege in 2007 after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but had eased some of the restrictions in recent years.

Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border smuggling tunnels that sustained Gaza’s economy, and which were also used by Hamas to bring in arms.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/24/kerry-attempts-to-coax-cease-fire-agreement-out-hamas-as-gaza-violence-rages/

BREAKING NEWS Air Algerie plane carrying 116 disappears from radar

 

An Air Algerie flight carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria’s capital disappeared from radar early Thursday, according to the the plane’s owner.

Air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair MD-83 roughly 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 9:55 p.m. ET Wednesday, the official Algerian news agency said. That means that Flight 5017 had been missing for hours before the news was made public.

Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, said the plane carrying 110 passengers and six crewmembers – including two pilots and four cabin staff — departed Burkina Faso for Algiers at 9:17 p.m. ET Wednesday, but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 1:10 a.m. ET Thursday.

Swiftair said it was unable to make contact with the plane.

“In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan,” the APS news agency quoted the airline as saying.

Burkina Faso authorities also set up a crisis unit in Ouagadougou airport to update families of people on board the plane, Reuters reports.

The flight path of the plane from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers wasn’t immediately clear. Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

An Algerian aviation official told Reuters that the last contact authorities had with the missing plane was when it was flying over Gao, Mali.

France’s transport minister, Frederic Cuvillier, told The Associated Press that the plane vanished over northern Mali.  

But officials in Mali were less certain as to where the plane could be.

“We do not know if the plane is [in] Malian territory,” Issa Saly Maiga, head of Mali’s National Civil Aviation Agency, told Reuters. “Aviation authorities are mobilized in all the countries concerned – Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Algeria and even Spain.”

A diplomat in Mali’s capital of Bamako said the northern part of the country was hit by a powerful sandstorm overnight, according to Reuters.

Last week, an armed Islamist group formed by Al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar reportedly claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing this week that killed a French soldier in northern Mali. In a video posted on the Internet, a spokesman for the group Al-Mourabitoun, identifying himself as Abu Assem Al-Muhajir, said the attack north of Gao, was “a response to French claims that they had annihilated the Mujahideen (Islamic fighters)”.

Al-Mourabitoun was formed last year from the fusion of two Islamist groups operating in northern Mali: the Mulathameen brigade, led by the one-eyed Belmokhtar who is thought to have masterminded an attack on an Algerian gas plant last year in which nearly 40 hostages were killed, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), Reuters reports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/24/air-algerie-plane-reportedly-disappears-from-radar/

Air Algerie plane vanishes from radar

Last Updated Jul 24, 2014 7:39 AM EDT

ALGIERS, Algeria — An Air Algerie flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers has disappeared from radar, the official Algerian news agency said Thursday.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane 50 minutes after takeoff early Thursday, last sited at 1:50 a.m. GMT (10:50p EDT), the agency said.

“In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan,” the agency quoted the airline as saying.

Swiftair, a Spanish company that leases aircraft to other carriers, said in a statement that it owns the missing aircraft being operated by Air Algerie. The company has confirmed to CBS News that it is a McDonnell Douglas MD-83.

Swiftair said there were 116 people on board, including six crew members.

France’s transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said there were likely many French passengers on the plane, Reuters report. An Air Algerie representative in Burkina Faso told Reuters there were 50 French citizens on the passenger list.

The flight path of AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.

Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali, where unrest continues in the north.

Reuters reports that, according to a diplomat in the Malian capital of Bamako, a powerful sandstorm stuck’s the nation’s northern overnight.

An Algerian official says the plane was over Mali when it disappeared, according to the Reuters news agency.

A message on the website of Ouagadougou Airport states that contact has been broken with the Air Algerie plane. The home page has been amended to include an image of a lit candle, with the flight designation AH5017.

CBS News’ Debora Patta reports diplomats have told her insurgents in northern Mali are not believed to have weapons capable of shooting down a commercial airliner flying at cruising altitude.

But she notes that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a warning for U.S. carriers not to fly over Mali.

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/1zI4FAHWf3o/

Probe at a crawl week after Flight 17 crash

Last Updated Jul 24, 2014 7:15 AM EDT

GRABOVO, Ukraine – As the remains of more victims from the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were loaded onto planes Thursday in eastern Ukraine for the flight to the Netherlands, the deteriorating security situation around the crash site kept a waiting team of international aviation inspectors away for yet another day.

As CBS News’ Mark Phillips reports from the sprawling debris field — a full week since the Boeing 777 was hit by a surface-to-air missile that U.S. officials believe pro-Russian separatists likely got from their backers across the nearby border — only three experts from Malaysia Airlines have visited the site.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sent 50 of his nation’s police officers to London to join an anticipated United Nations security team to be sent to secure the crash site. But that plan was still in the works, and Abbott made it clear progress was coming too slowly.

Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard in front of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Grabovo

“It’s still clear that nothing is happening without the approval of the armed rebels who most likely brought the plane down in the first place. There has still not been anything like a thorough professional search of the area where the plane came down,” he told lawmakers in Canberra on Thursday. “There can’t be while the site is controlled by armed men with a vested interest in the outcome of any investigation.”

Rather than tensions easing in eastern Ukraine, where the separatists have clashed with state security forces since April, the self-declared rebel administration in the region, the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” said in a statement on its website Wednesday that its fighters had shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets — just 20 miles from the charred remains of Flight 17.

According to the group, one of the pilots was killed and another was being sought by rebel fighters.

Later Wednesday, however, Ukraine’s Security Council said preliminary information suggested the missiles which downed the planes were fired from the Russian side of the border, according to Reuters. Moscow denied the charge.

While the ongoing violence and trading of blame for it continue to keep the full team of investigators at bay, Phillips says the few who have examined the wreckage are finding evidence to support the widely-held belief that an advanced surface-to-air missile bought Flight 17 down.

Much of the wreckage shows signs of having been hit by shrapnel, most likely from an exploding warhead. Neither Phillips nor the investigators had to search long or hard to find pieces of the plane’s fuselage with what appear to be shrapnel exit wounds, likely indicating pieces of metal flying straight through the body of the plane.

Other parts of the shredded plane have big holes where shrapnel appears to have penetrated from the outside in.

The team of security monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who arrived days before the three Malaysian experts, said they were handing over a report on what they found to the investigators, and according to spokesman Michael Borciukiv, they found “significant puncture marks to the fuselage.”

The jet’s two data recorders or “black boxes” were in the hands of British Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) in southern England on Thursday.

On Wednesday the AAIB confirmed that it had downloaded “valid data” from the Cockpit Voice Recorder. Investigators were to examine the other black box, the Flight Data Recorder, on Thursday and they were then expected to hand over all relevant data to the Dutch team leading the investigation.

Meanwhile, to the west of the crash site, in the eastern government-held city of Kharkiv, dozens of containers holding more Flight 17 victims were loaded onto two military transport planes for the journey back to the Netherlands, where the ill-fated journey began.

As the first planes carrying remains arrived Wednesday, CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer reported that it was declared a national day of mourning. Two-thirds of the passengers killed when Flight 17 was shot down were Dutch.

Two military transports, one Dutch and one Australian, brought the first 40 victims back to Netherlands.

One by one, the simple coffins were carried off the planes by Dutch soldiers and loaded into waiting hearses. The somber procedure went on for 90 minutes under the broiling sun.

Flanking the Eindhoven air base, the national flags of all those aboard the plane flew at half staff.

In all, 40 plain coffins left Eindhoven on Wednesday, setting off on a grim procession of hearses through the central Netherlands — lined much of the way by Dutch mourners — to a forensic center where the task of positively identifying all the remains was to take place.

Palmer reported that, according to Dutch officials, an additional 74 bodies were expected to arrive on the two transport planes Thursday at Eindhoven. Further flights were to arrive on Friday and Saturday.

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Producer’s video-diary: 8 days in Tehran

It took 60 Minutes producers Michael Karzis and James Jacoby more than a year to get their hands on visas to travel to Iran on a reporting trip for the broadcast. But when the producers finally arrived in Tehran, they were surprised by how freely they were allowed to do their work.

Karzis and Jacoby spent eight days roaming the streets with correspondent Steve Kroft, taking the pulse of the city through interviews with day-laborers, merchants, families, students, entrepreneurs, and anyone who stood up and had something to say. (The producers shot a video-diary of their trip, which can be viewed in the video player above.)

“It was unbelievable,” says Karzis. “Five people would turn into 15 people, into 40 people, into 55 people. And then Steve would be in this scrum.”

“The Iranians feel as though they rarely get their voice heard,” says Jacoby. “And so everybody in the streets wanted to congregate around Steve to talk in great granularity about the details of the nuclear deal or their grievances with the U.S. support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.”

Kroft was surprised by the reaction of ordinary Iranians when he stopped them on the street. “Most these people haven’t seen American journalists in more than 30 years, and I think that they really wanted to talk– to speak their mind to an American. It wasn’t hostile.”

“The place is just totally charged up,” says Jacoby. “There’s a palpable sense of an historic moment going on there right now. Our governments are talking officially, and notably, for the first time, really, in 35 years– and it was really exciting to people.”

“I came back more optimistic,” says Kroft. “I don’t think that the Iranians are ready to become or want to be our friends–our best friends. But I don’t think they wanna be bitter enemies.”

ooiranvideodiary1920.jpg

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/Yb8a1UM2VUQ/

Eye Opener: Execution of Arizona inmate takes nearly two hours

July 24, 2014, 7:13 AM|The investigation into the botched execution in Arizona begins. Also, the FAA lifts the ban on flights to Tel Aviv. All that and all that matters in today’s “Eye Opener.” Your world in 90 seconds

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‘YOU CAN’T BOARD’ Minn. man claims tweet got him yanked off plane

SouthwestAirlinesGlitch.jpg

Feb. 9, 2012: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 waits to take off at Chicago’s Midway Airport as another lands.AP

A Minnesota man says he and his two children were asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight and were not allowed back on the plane until he deleted an uncomplimentary tweet about a gate agent. 

Duff Watson told WCCO-TV that he was flying home to Minneapolis from Denver Sunday. Prior to boarding the plane, Watson said he got into a disagreement with the agent over whether his 6-year-old and 9-year-old would be allowed to board with him. Watson’s ticket was marked with the letter “A,” which means he gets priority boarding. But Watson said the agent wouldn’t let his children board with him, forcing them all to wait. 

“In leaving I said, you know, ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it,’” Watson told the station.

Moments later, that’s exactly what Watson did. “Something to the effect of, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,’” he said.

Shortly after the three boarded, Watson says they were told to leave the plane. The agent allegedly told Watson that she felt her safety was threatened by what he had tweeted.

“She said, ‘You can’t board the plane unless you delete that tweet,’” Watson said.

Southwest Airlines told WCCO that a customer was removed from the flight for a short time, but continued on to Minneapolis. The airline also said that the incident was under review and could not elaborate on any disciplinary action. 

Watson said he and his children each received a $50 voucher from the airline, but has vowed to never fly Southwest again. 

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Hamas resists Kerry’s attempts at cease-fire deal as fighting rages

Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(23)640.jpg

July 24, 2014: An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a cease-fire that would halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip have been resisted by the Islamic militant group Hamas, who insist that any truce agreement must meet the group’s main demand that a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory be lifted. 

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday in a televised speech from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that diplomats from the U.S., Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries are reworking a cease-fire proposal made by Egypt’s foreign ministry last week. The paper reports that the new proposal would call for both Israel and Hamas to cease military operations in the coming days before calling on the U.S. and the international community to begin talks on a long-term economic program for Gaza. 

Hamas rejected the initial Egyptian cease-fire proposal on the grounds that it had not been consulted by Cairo, and claimed that the plan did not provide for the lifting of the blockade or the release of militant prisoners from Israeli custody. 

The Journal reports that Hamas’ demands for the freer movement of goods into Gaza are likely to be met with resistance by Israel unless it is allowed to monitor the trade for weapons bound for Hamas. 

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told The Journal this week that Hamas’s military wing has proven unexpectedly able in the current fighting. Hamas fighters are better-equipped and better-trained than in previous clashes in 2009 and 2012, said an Israeli military officer who requested anonymity.

The militants are using a strategy of avoidance, relying on snipers and improvised explosive devices to hit Israeli forces rather than engaging in face-to-face fighting where they would be at a big disadvantage, he said. They have infiltrated Israel through five cross-border tunnels, even as the army moves to destroy others.

Israeli tanks and warplanes continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel said that three of its soldiers had died Wednesday, bringing the military’s death toll to 32 since ground operations in Gaza began on July 17 with the aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

Palestinian health officials claim that 718 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, though it is unclear how many of the victims were civilians. 

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 after Hamas and other militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid. It tightened the siege in 2007 after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but had eased some of the restrictions in recent years.

Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border smuggling tunnels that sustained Gaza’s economy, and which were also used by Hamas to bring in arms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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FREE AT LAST Sudanese Christian who faced death flown to Italy

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June 5, 2014: In this file image made from an undated video provided by Al Fajer, a Sudanese nongovernmental organization, Meriam Ibrahim breastfeeds her newborn baby girl as the NGO visits her in a room at a prison in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who faced a death sentence for refusing to renounce her faith, has been flown to Italy on an Italian government jet, accompanied by that country’s vice-minister for foreign affairs. 

Reuters reported that Italian television broadcast images of Ibrahim, 27, arriving at Rome’s Ciampino airport accompanied by her family and Italian politician Lapo Pistelli. Earlier, Pistelli had posted a picture on his Facebook page depicting himself with Ibrahim and her two children. The caption, translated from Italian, read “With Meriam, Maya, Martin and [Ibrahim's husband] Daniel, a few minutes from Rome. Mission accomplished.”

Pistelli told The Daily Telegraph that Ibrahim and her family were due to fly to the United States in a few days. The minister also said that the family would be given an audience with Pope Francis. 

Ibrahim had spent more than a month at the American Embassy in Khartoum after a previous attempt to leave Sudan was halted by that country’s authorities. They said she had attempted to use false travel documents, a claim Ibrahim denied. 

Last month, Sudan’s Supreme Court threw out the death sentence Ibrahim had received for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. Ibrahim’s father, a Muslim, claimed she had abandoned Islam and committed adultery with her husband Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen who lives in New Hampshire. However, Ibrahim insisted that she had been raised Christian by her Ehiopian Orthodox mother after her father left the family when she was still young. 

It was not clear how Pistelli and the Italian government had facilitated Ibrahim’s departure from Sudan. Ibrahim’s lawyer, Mohaned Mostafa, told Reuters that he had not been aware of her departure. 

“I don’t know anything about such news but so far the complaint that was filed against Mariam and which prevents her from travelling from Sudan has not been cancelled,” he said. 

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‘GASPING AND SNORTING’ Arizona inmate’s execution takes nearly two hours

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This undated file photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood.AP/Arizona Department of Correction

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state’s execution process after a convicted double murderer gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half before his death Wednesday. 

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. local time, one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

Wood’s lawyers had filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour.”

In ordering the review, Brewer said she was concerned by the length of time the administered drug protocol took to kill Wood. 

“One thing is certain, however,” Brewer’s statement continued, “Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims – and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and 40 minutes.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. The 55-year-old finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” Baich said. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

Family members of Wood’s victims said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs,” said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz, who was 29 when she was killed in 1989. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?”

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

“I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all,” Wood said.

The case has highlighted scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after two controversial ones. An Ohio inmate executed in January snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren’t being administered properly.

Arizona uses the same drugs — the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone — that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

“States have been scrambling over the past many months to find new sources of drugs. They have been experimenting,” said Megan McCracken, of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s Death Penalty Clinic. “These procedures are unreliable and the consequences are horrific.”

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them, because of concerns over harassment.

Woods filed several appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that said his First Amendment rights were violated when the state refused to reveal such details.

Wood argued he and the public have a right to know details about the state’s method for lethal injections, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a new legal tactic in death penalty cases.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the execution on hold, saying the state must reveal the information. But the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the tactic, ruling against death penalty lawyers on the argument each time it has been before justices.

Deborah Denno, professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at Fordham Law School, said it may be up to Legislatures or the public to bring any change.

“I think every time one of these botches happens, it leads to questioning the death penalty even more,” she said. “It will reach a point where the public will question the value of these execution procedures generally, and perhaps the death penalty itself.”

Wood’s execution was Arizona’s third since October and the state’s 36th since 1992.

He was convicted of fatally shooting Dietz and her father, 55-year-old Gene Dietz, at their auto repair shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debbie Dietz had a tumultuous relationship during which he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

On the day of the shooting, Wood went to the auto shop and waited for Gene Dietz, who disapproved of his daughter’s relationship with Wood, to get off the phone. Once the father hung up, Wood pulled out a revolver, shot him in the chest and then smiled.

Wood then turned his attention toward Debbie Dietz, who was trying to telephone for help. Wood grabbed her by the neck and put his gun to her chest. She pleaded with him to spare her life. An employee heard Wood say, “I told you I was going to do it. I have to kill you.” He then called her an expletive and fired two shots in her chest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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‘YOU CAN’T BOARD’ Minn. man claims tweet got him yanked off plane

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Feb. 9, 2012: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 waits to take off at Chicago’s Midway Airport as another lands.AP

A Minnesota man says he and his two children were asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight and were not allowed back on the plane until he deleted an uncomplimentary tweet about a gate agent. 

Duff Watson told WCCO-TV that he was flying home to Minneapolis from Denver Sunday. Prior to boarding the plane, Watson said he got into a disagreement with the agent over whether his 6-year-old and 9-year-old would be allowed to board with him. Watson’s ticket was marked with the letter “A,” which means he gets priority boarding. But Watson said the agent wouldn’t let his children board with him, forcing them all to wait. 

“In leaving I said, you know, ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it,’” Watson told the station.

Moments later, that’s exactly what Watson did. “Something to the effect of, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,’” he said.

Shortly after the three boarded, Watson says they were told to leave the plane. The agent allegedly told Watson that she felt her safety was threatened by what he had tweeted.

“She said, ‘You can’t board the plane unless you delete that tweet,’” Watson said.

Southwest Airlines told WCCO that a customer was removed from the flight for a short time, but continued on to Minneapolis. The airline also said that the incident was under review and could not elaborate on any disciplinary action. 

Watson said he and his children each received a $50 voucher from the airline, but has vowed to never fly Southwest again. 

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Hamas resists Kerry’s attempts at cease-fire deal as fighting rages

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July 24, 2014: An Israeli tank moves through the morning mist near the Israel and Gaza border. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a cease-fire that would halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip have been resisted by the Islamic militant group Hamas, who insist that any truce agreement must meet the group’s main demand that a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the territory be lifted. 

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Wednesday in a televised speech from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that diplomats from the U.S., Israel, and other Middle Eastern countries are reworking a cease-fire proposal made by Egypt’s foreign ministry last week. The paper reports that the new proposal would call for both Israel and Hamas to cease military operations in the coming days before calling on the U.S. and the international community to begin talks on a long-term economic program for Gaza. 

Hamas rejected the initial Egyptian cease-fire proposal on the grounds that it had not been consulted by Cairo, and claimed that the plan did not provide for the lifting of the blockade or the release of militant prisoners from Israeli custody. 

The Journal reports that Hamas’ demands for the freer movement of goods into Gaza are likely to be met with resistance by Israel unless it is allowed to monitor the trade for weapons bound for Hamas. 

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials told The Journal this week that Hamas’s military wing has proven unexpectedly able in the current fighting. Hamas fighters are better-equipped and better-trained than in previous clashes in 2009 and 2012, said an Israeli military officer who requested anonymity.

The militants are using a strategy of avoidance, relying on snipers and improvised explosive devices to hit Israeli forces rather than engaging in face-to-face fighting where they would be at a big disadvantage, he said. They have infiltrated Israel through five cross-border tunnels, even as the army moves to destroy others.

Israeli tanks and warplanes continued to bombard the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Israel said that three of its soldiers had died Wednesday, bringing the military’s death toll to 32 since ground operations in Gaza began on July 17 with the aim of halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

Palestinian health officials claim that 718 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, though it is unclear how many of the victims were civilians. 

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 after Hamas and other militants abducted an Israeli soldier in a deadly cross-border raid. It tightened the siege in 2007 after Hamas seized power from forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but had eased some of the restrictions in recent years.

Egypt tightened its own restrictions last year after the overthrow of a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo and has destroyed many of the cross-border smuggling tunnels that sustained Gaza’s economy, and which were also used by Hamas to bring in arms.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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‘GASPING AND SNORTING’ Arizona inmate’s execution takes nearly two hours

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This undated file photo provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections shows inmate Joseph Rudolph Wood.AP/Arizona Department of Correction

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state’s execution process after a convicted double murderer gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half before his death Wednesday. 

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m. local time, one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

Wood’s lawyers had filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour.”

In ordering the review, Brewer said she was concerned by the length of time the administered drug protocol took to kill Wood. 

“One thing is certain, however,” Brewer’s statement continued, “Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims – and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

An Associated Press reporter who witnessed the execution saw Wood start gasping shortly after a sedative and a pain killer were injected into his veins. He gasped more than 600 times over the next hour and 40 minutes.

An administrator checked on Wood a half dozen times. His breathing slowed as a deacon said a prayer while holding a rosary. The 55-year-old finally stopped breathing and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later.

Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” Baich said. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

Family members of Wood’s victims said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs,” said Richard Brown, the brother-in-law of Debbie Dietz, who was 29 when she was killed in 1989. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?”

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

“I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all,” Wood said.

The case has highlighted scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after two controversial ones. An Ohio inmate executed in January snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren’t being administered properly.

Arizona uses the same drugs — the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone — that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

“States have been scrambling over the past many months to find new sources of drugs. They have been experimenting,” said Megan McCracken, of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s Death Penalty Clinic. “These procedures are unreliable and the consequences are horrific.”

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them, because of concerns over harassment.

Woods filed several appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that said his First Amendment rights were violated when the state refused to reveal such details.

Wood argued he and the public have a right to know details about the state’s method for lethal injections, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a new legal tactic in death penalty cases.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the execution on hold, saying the state must reveal the information. But the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the tactic, ruling against death penalty lawyers on the argument each time it has been before justices.

Deborah Denno, professor of criminal law and criminal procedure at Fordham Law School, said it may be up to Legislatures or the public to bring any change.

“I think every time one of these botches happens, it leads to questioning the death penalty even more,” she said. “It will reach a point where the public will question the value of these execution procedures generally, and perhaps the death penalty itself.”

Wood’s execution was Arizona’s third since October and the state’s 36th since 1992.

He was convicted of fatally shooting Dietz and her father, 55-year-old Gene Dietz, at their auto repair shop in Tucson.

Wood and Debbie Dietz had a tumultuous relationship during which he repeatedly assaulted her. She tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

On the day of the shooting, Wood went to the auto shop and waited for Gene Dietz, who disapproved of his daughter’s relationship with Wood, to get off the phone. Once the father hung up, Wood pulled out a revolver, shot him in the chest and then smiled.

Wood then turned his attention toward Debbie Dietz, who was trying to telephone for help. Wood grabbed her by the neck and put his gun to her chest. She pleaded with him to spare her life. An employee heard Wood say, “I told you I was going to do it. I have to kill you.” He then called her an expletive and fired two shots in her chest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/24/execution-joseph-rudolph-wood-arizona-inmate-takes-2-hours/

Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution begins

Last Updated Jul 23, 2014 8:45 PM EDT

FLORENCE, Ariz. – A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

Wood’s lawyers had filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court while the execution was underway, demanding that it be stopped. The appeal said Wood was “gasping and snorting for more than an hour.”

Word that Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the appeal came about a half hour after Wood’s death.

Wood, 55, gasped more than 600 times before he died. Defense lawyer Dale Baich called it a botched execution that should have taken 10 minutes.

Family members of the victims said they had no problems with the way the execution was carried out.

“This man conducted a horrific murder and you guys are going, let’s worry about the drugs,” said Richard Brown. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet, why didn’t we give him Drano?”

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement that she was “concerned by the length of time” it took Wood to die. She said she has ordered the Department of Corrections to conduct a complete review of the execution process.

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer. This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims – and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family,” the governor said.

Wood looked at the family members as he delivered his final words, saying he was thankful for Jesus Christ as his savior. At one point, he smiled at them, which angered the family.

“I take comfort knowing today my pain stops, and I said a prayer that on this or any other day you may find peace in all of your hearts and may God forgive you all,” Wood said.

Family members said they don’t think Wood suffered and they believe he got what he had coming to him.

“I saw the life go out of my sister-in-law’s eyes,” said Brown, who witnessed the shooting 25 years ago.

The execution came after the U.S. Supreme Court denied several appeals seeking details about the state’s execution methods.

The case has highlighted scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after two controversial executions, including that of an Ohio inmate in January who snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren’t being administered properly.

Arizona uses the same drugs – the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone – that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

States have refused to reveal details such as which pharmacies are supplying lethal injection drugs and who is administering them, because of concerns over harassment.

Woods filed several appeals that were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that said his rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution were violated when the state refused to reveal details such as the supplier of the drugs.

The Arizona Supreme Court also delayed the execution Wednesday morning to consider a last-minute appeal about whether Wood received inadequate legal representation at his sentencing. About an hour later, the state’s high court allowed the execution to proceed.

Wood argued he has a First Amendment right to details about the state’s method for lethal injections, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a new legal tactic in death penalty cases.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put the execution on hold, saying the state must reveal the information. But the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the tactic, ruling against death penalty lawyers on the argument each time it has been before justices.

Wood was convicted in the 1989 shooting deaths of Debra Dietz, 29, and Gene Dietz, 55, at an auto repair shop in Tucson.

Wood and Dietz had a tumultuous relationship during which he repeatedly assaulted her. Dietz tried to end their relationship and got an order of protection against Wood.

On the day of the shooting, Wood went to the auto shop and waited for Dietz’s father, who disapproved of his daughter’s relationship with Wood, to get off the phone. Once the father hung up, Wood pulled out a revolver, shot him in the chest and then smiled.

Wood then turned his attention toward Debra Dietz, who was trying to telephone for help. Wood grabbed her by the neck and put his gun to her chest. She pleaded with him to spare her life. An employee heard Wood say, “I told you I was going to do it, I have to kill you.” He then called her an expletive and fired two shots in her chest.

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FAA lifts ban on U.S. airlines flying into and out of Israel

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration lifted its ban Wednesday on U.S. flights in and out of Israel, which the agency had imposed out of concern for the risk of planes being hit by Hamas rockets.

The decision was effective at 11:45 p.m. EDT.

“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the FAA said. “The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions as necessary.”

The FAA said its prohibition was in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport as hostilities between Israel and Hamas militants raged on, with hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis killed in intense fighting. It also came after a Malaysian jetliner was shot down over Ukraine where pro-Russia separatists have been battling government forces. Rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets on Wednesday.

The directive, which was extended Wednesday for 24 hours, applied only to U.S. carriers. The FAA has no authority over foreign airlines operating in Israel.

The ban was criticized by the Israeli government and by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texasand by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who questioned whether President Obama used a federal agency to impose what he characterized as an economic boycott on Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected Cruz’s comments as “ridiculous and offensive.”

“The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands,” Cruz said in a statement in which he posed five questions about the agency’s actions, including whether it was politically motivated. Cruz said later Wednesday he would block Senate confirmation on all State Department nominees until his questions were answered.

Harf said, “There’s no place for these kinds of political stunts in confirming nominees for critical national security positions.”

Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jumbo jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday’s ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights to Israel even if U.S. authorities declare the area safe, the airline’s CEO said before the FAA lifted the ban.

CEO Richard Anderson said Delta would of course obey FAA orders but would continue to make its own decisions about safety.

“We appreciate the advice and consent and the intelligence we get, but we have a duty and an obligation above and beyond that to independently make the right decisions for our employees and passengers,” Anderson said on a conference call with reporters. “Even if they lift” the prohibition on flying in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport, “we still may not go in depending on what the facts and circumstances are.”

Anderson declined to discuss specifically how the airline would make the decision to resume the flights and spoke only in general terms. He said the airline decides whether flights are safe to operate “on an independent basis, so we will evaluate the information we have and we will make the judgment that our passengers and employees rely on us to make for them every day.”

The CEO of Middle East carrier Emirates said after the shootdown in Ukraine of a Malaysia Airlines jet last week that global airlines need better risk-assessment from international aviation authorities. Delta, however, seems more inclined to go it alone.

Cruz said tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel and the flight ban could be a crippling blow. Long before the flight prohibition, the fighting could have affected tourism in Israel.

Harf, the State Department spokeswoman, said the FAA makes its “decision based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period.”

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz, said the Obama administration’s foreign policy was itself “ridiculous and offensive.”

In a statement, the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which holds considerable sway with Congress, expressed concerns with the FAA ban and urged a review of the policy.

AIPAC said Israel has been subjected to hundreds of rockets the past two weeks and air travel has been safe and uninterrupted.

“The American people have shown in this difficult moment that they stand strongly with our democratic ally,” AIPAC said. “Now is not the time to send the entirely wrong message with a ban on flights to Israel.”

“We have a broad and deep security network around the world,” Anderson said. “We have security directors that work for Delta in all the regions of the world, and we have a very sophisticated capability and methodology to manage these kinds of risks, whether it’s this or a volcano or a hurricane.”

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Flight 17 victims brought home in emotional ceremony

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands – It was a national day of mourning in the Netherlands. Two-thirds of the passengers killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine were Dutch.

Six days of confusion and indignity ended at last. Two military transports, one Dutch and one Australian, brought the first 40 victims back to Netherlands.

One by one, the simple coffins were carried off the planes by Dutch soldiers and loaded into waiting hearses.

The procedure went on for 90 minutes under the broiling sun.

Flanking the airfield was the national flags at half staff of all those killed in the crash.

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Dutch dignitaries looked on. As did a thousand family members. They were kept out of sight for their privacy. But their grief was audible from behind a black screen.

Today’s austere ceremony included no speeches. The tragedy of MH17 lies beyond words.

A solemn motorcade was to carry the crash victims across central Holland, past crowds of Dutch people lining the roads to pay tribute, to a forensic center where the work of identification can finally begin.

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Along the way, a nation used to private emotions, united in a public display.

People paused to listen to church bells marking the day of collective pain and homecoming no one could have imagined.

Another two planes will arrive in Eindhoven Thursday and this time they will be carrying seventy bodies or more.

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Producer’s video-diary: 8 days in Tehran

It took 60 Minutes producers Michael Karzis and James Jacoby more than a year to get their hands on visas to travel to Iran on a reporting trip for the broadcast. But when the producers finally arrived in Tehran, they were surprised by how freely they were allowed to do their work.

Karzis and Jacoby spent eight days roaming the streets with correspondent Steve Kroft, taking the pulse of the city through interviews with day-laborers, merchants, families, students, entrepreneurs, and anyone who stood up and had something to say. (The producers shot a video-diary of their trip, which can be viewed in the video player above.)

“It was unbelievable,” says Karzis. “Five people would turn into 15 people, into 40 people, into 55 people. And then Steve would be in this scrum.”

“The Iranians feel as though they rarely get their voice heard,” says Jacoby. “And so everybody in the streets wanted to congregate around Steve to talk in great granularity about the details of the nuclear deal or their grievances with the U.S. support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.”

Kroft was surprised by the reaction of ordinary Iranians when he stopped them on the street. “Most these people haven’t seen American journalists in more than 30 years, and I think that they really wanted to talk– to speak their mind to an American. It wasn’t hostile.”

“The place is just totally charged up,” says Jacoby. “There’s a palpable sense of an historic moment going on there right now. Our governments are talking officially, and notably, for the first time, really, in 35 years– and it was really exciting to people.”

“I came back more optimistic,” says Kroft. “I don’t think that the Iranians are ready to become or want to be our friends–our best friends. But I don’t think they wanna be bitter enemies.”

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U.S. truce push continues as Gaza fighting rages on

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli tanks and warplanes were pummeling the Gaza Strip Thursday as U.S. and other diplomats pushed for a cease-fire with Hamas militants.

Gaza police say an infant boy was among those killed when Israeli fighter jets struck the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Palestinian health officials say 718 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on July 8. More than 400 Palestinians have lost their lives since the start of the Israeli operation’s ground phase on July 17, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israel’s military says it has lost 32 soldiers in the attempt to halt rocket fire from Gaza and destroy cross-border tunnels, including three troops killed Wednesday. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker in Israel have also been killed.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the region to pursue truce efforts, says some modest progress has been made.

But prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim.

An Israel cabinet minister was quoted as saying Thursday that a truce was unlikely before next week. The Reuters news agency reports Science Minister Yaakov Peri, a former security chief, told the Walla news site, “I do not see a ceasefire in the coming days where the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) leave” because Israeli troops need more time to destroy the tunnels.

Underscoring the challenges facing international negotiators shuttling around the Middle East in a high-profile bid to end the bloodshed, the leader of Hamas insisted the Islamic militants would not relent until their main demand of the lifting an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is met.

On the ground, meanwhile, Israeli troops backed by tanks and aerial drones clashed with Hamas fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on the outskirts of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, killing at least eight militants, according to a Palestinian health official. Hundreds of people fled their homes as the battle unfolded, flooding into the streets with what few belongings they could carry, many with children in tow. They said they were seeking shelter in nearby U.N. schools.

“The airplanes and airstrikes are all around us,” said Aziza Msabah, a resident of the city in the southern Gaza Strip. “They are hitting the houses, which are collapsing upon us.”

One family fled with what they could carry, including the family fan. And they brought their bitterness with them, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen.

“Everything is demolished back there,” one man said. “Trees, houses.”

“Nobody cares,” a woman said, “about the people who die here.”

Kerry, who met for the second time this week Wednesday with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, flew to Israel on an Air Force jet, despite a ban imposed a day earlier by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on commercial flights into Ben-Gurion Airport because of Hamas rocket fire nearby. The FAA extended the ban and many major European carriers also canceled more flights due to security concerns. The FAA dropped the ban just before midnight Wednesday.

“We certainly have made steps forward,” Kerry said in Jerusalem, without elaborating. “There’s still work to be done.”

Israel has insisted it must substantially curb the military capabilities of the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza – a position that appears to have gained support within the U.S. administration – while Hamas has demanded the lifting of the crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the impoverished coastal territory it has ruled since 2007.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in a televised speech that the opening of the border crossings was a red line.

“When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land,” he said from his home-in-exile in Doha, Qatar. “We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”

The U.S., Israel and the European Union all consider Hamas a terrorist organization, though the U.N. does not. Ban said he and Kerry were jointly lobbying officials in the region to push Hamas and Israel to a cease-fire as soon as possible.

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said there must be a way forward that does not involve Hamas having the ability to “rain down rockets on Israeli civilians.”

“One of the results, one would hope, of a cease-fire would be some form of demilitarization so that this doesn’t continue, doesn’t repeat itself,” Blinken said in an interview with NPR. “That needs to be the end result.”

The Hamas leader, however, rejected that idea. “Some are talking under the table about disarming the resistance. No one can take away the resistance’s arms,” Mashaal said.

He also dismissed Israel’s assertion that it tries to avoid civilian casualties but Hamas puts them in danger by hiding weapons and fighters in civilian areas.

“The truth is that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu could not reach the militants, so killed the civilians,” Maashal said.

U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce between Israel and Hamas. But Kerry said limited progress has been made.

“We’re doing this for one simple reason: The people in the Palestinian territories, the people in Israel, are all living under the threat or reality of immediate violence,” Kerry told reporters after a meeting of just over an hour with Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. “And this needs to end, for everybody. We need to find a way forward that works. And it’s not violence.”

He also offered “profound gratitude” to what he described as 30,000 Israelis who lined Jerusalem streets on Wednesday for the funeral procession of Israeli soldier Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old American from the San Fernando Valley of Southern California who was killed in the fighting. “That’s a remarkable statement – we’re very grateful,” Kerry said.

Kerry later met with Netanyahu for nearly two hours in Tel Aviv, but made no comments and headed immediately back to Cairo.

Israel launched a massive air campaign on July 8 to stop relentless Hamas rocket fire into Israel and expanded it last week to a ground war aimed at destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis.

Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire proposal that has been offered by Egypt, which would be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

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