Iraqi officials: militants captured 2 border crossings, 1 with Jordan, 1 with Syria
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Sunni militants on Sunday captured two border crossings, one along the frontier with Jordan and the other with Syria, security and military officials said, as they pressed on with their offensive in one of Iraq’s most restive regions.
The fall dealt Iraq’s embattled Shiite prime minister a further blow and brought the war to the doorstep of Jordan, a key ally of the United States that also borders embattled Syria to its north.
The blitz by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq’s vast western desert takes the al-Qaida-breakaway group closer to its dream of carving out a purist Islamic state straddling both Syria and Iraq.
Controlling the borders with Syria will also help it supply fellow fighters in Syria with weaponry looted from Iraqi warehouses, significantly reinforcing its ability to battle beleaguered Syrian government forces.
If they succeed in their quest, they could further unsettle the already volatile Middle East and serve as a magnet for Jihadists from across the world.
Without a respite in decades, Baghdad is gripped again by fear as militants advance
BAGHDAD (AP) -- "Allah, please make our army victorious," rang out the despairing voice of a worshipper making his way through a crowd to reach the ornate enclosure of the Baghdad tomb of a revered Shiite imam. Others in the crystal and marble mosque somberly read from the Quran or tearfully recited supplications.
"We pray for the safety of Iraq and Baghdad," said Mohammed Hashem al-Maliki, a Shiite, squatting on the marble plaza outside the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kazim in northern Baghdad. "I live close by, and I tell you I have not seen people this sad or worried in a long time," the 51-year-old said as his 10-year-old daughter, Zeinab, listened somberly.
While the Iraqi capital is not under any immediate threat of falling to the Sunni militants who have captured a wide swath of the country’s north and west, battlefield setbacks and the conflict’s growing sectarian slant is turning this city of 7 million into an anxiety-filled place waiting for disaster to happen.
Traffic is nowhere near its normal congestion. Many stores are shuttered and those that are open are doing little business in a city where streets empty hours before a 10 p.m. curfew kicks in. Arriving international and domestic flights are half empty, while outgoing flights to the relatively safe Kurdish cities of Irbil and Suleimaniya are booked solid through late July as those who can flee.
The number of army and police checkpoints has grown, snarling traffic. Pickup trucks loaded with Shiite militiamen roam the city, including in Sunni and mixed areas, chanting religious slogans. A climate of war reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s days permeates state-run television broadcasts dominated by nationalist songs, video clips of army and police forces in action and reruns of speeches by Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister.
Medical care for women vets lagging at VA facilities
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Already pilloried for long wait times for medical appointments, the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs has fallen short of another commitment: to attend to the needs of the rising ranks of female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them of child-bearing age.
Even the head of the VA’s office of women’s health acknowledges that persistent shortcomings remain in caring for the 390,000 female vets seen last year at its hospitals and clinics -- despite an investment of more than $1.3 billion since 2008, including the training of hundreds of medical professionals in the fundamentals of treating the female body.
According to an Associated Press review of VA internal documents, inspector general reports and interviews:
--Nationwide, nearly one in four VA hospitals does not have a fulltime gynecologist on staff. And about 140 of the 920 community-based clinics serving veterans in rural areas do not have a designated women’s health provider, despite the goal that every clinic would have one.
--When community-based clinics refer veterans to a nearby university or other private medical facility to be screened for breast cancer, more than half the time their mammogram results are not provided to patients within two weeks, as required under VA policy.
Lawyers given OK to scan jurors’ social media sites in search of bias, misconduct
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Lawyers have been given the green light to scan the social media sites of jurors.
The American Bar Association says it’s ethical for lawyers to scour online for publicly available musings of citizens called for jury service -- and even jurors in deliberations.
But the ABA does warn lawyers against actively "following" or "friending" jurors or otherwise invading their private Internet areas.
Though judges now universally admonish jurors to refrain from discussing trials on social media, the nationwide lawyers group for the first time is addressing how deeply attorneys, their investigators and their consultants can probe for information that might signal leanings of potential jurors, or unearth juror misconduct during trials.
Jurors’ online postings have disrupted many legal proceedings over the years, causing mistrials and special hearings over the effects of Facebook musings, tweets and blog writings about their trial experiences. Lawyers and judges have also been wrangling over how far attorneys can go in assembling a jury with help from online research of jurors’ social media habits.
Quebec police capture 3 men who escaped by helicopter from prison at Montreal residence
MONTREAL (AP) -- A heavily-armed SWAT team raided an upscale Montreal condominium early Sunday to capture the three men police say made a bold escape by helicopter from a Quebec jail two weeks ago.
The men, who were facing murder and gangsterism charges before the jailbreak, were found in a posh 10th-floor condo with a stunning view of the city in a ritzy new development in Old Montreal, just steps from the historic waterfront.
Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, were arrested after police busted open the door to enter the residence around 1:30 a.m., Quebec provincial police said. They are due in court in Quebec City on Monday to face fresh charges, but police did not spell out what the new accusations would be.
Fighting needles with needles: U.S. courts are turning to drug injections to end heroin scourge
LEBANON, Ohio (AP) -- The twice-arrested heroin user listened nervously as the judge reviewed her record, then offered a deal he thinks could save her life.
"You’re not a criminal, you’re an addict," Judge Robert Peeler told Cynthia Fugate. "Something is driving you to use heroin that is beyond your control. Is that fair to say?"
"Yes, sir," she replied quietly.
Peeler, a common pleas court judge in southwest Ohio’s Warren County, is among a growing number of judges and corrections officials across the country trying to combat the fast-growing national heroin problem by fighting heroin needles with treatment needles. Peeler told Fugate he could order monthly injections of the opiate-blocking drug Vivitrol if she were willing.
"I’m 30 years old. I’ve overdosed four times," Fugate said, her voice quavering. "I want to be clean. I really do."
Putin calls for compromise in Ukraine that respects rights of Russian speakers in the east
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly expressed support Sunday for Ukraine’s declaration of a cease-fire in its battle against pro-Russian separatists and called on both sides to negotiate a compromise.
Putin said such a compromise must guarantee the rights of the Russian-speaking residents of eastern Ukraine, who must feel like they are "an integral part" of their own country. Putin’s statement appeared to signal that he sees their future in Ukraine.
Separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions have declared independence and asked to join Russia. Moscow has rebuffed their appeals, but is seen by Ukraine and the West as actively supporting the insurgency. Putin’s conciliatory words came as Russia began large-scale military exercises and after NATO accused Russia of moving troops back toward the Ukrainian border.
Putin appears determined to keep up the pressure to force the Kiev government to give the eastern industrial regions more powers and to prevent Ukraine from moving too close to the European Union or NATO. But he also wants to avoid more punishing sanctions from the U.S. and particularly from the E.U., whose leaders will meet Friday in Brussels, and therefore needs to be seen as cooperating with efforts to de-escalate the conflict.
The Kremlin initially dismissed the peace plan that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid out on Friday. But in a statement issued late Saturday, Putin said he welcomed the cease-fire and Poroshenko’s "intention to take other concrete steps to reach a peaceful settlement."
Flawed system means child immigrants can legally stay in U.S. for years without consequences
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Thousands of immigrant children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America to cross alone into the United States can live in American cities, attend public schools and possibly work here for years without consequences.
The chief reasons are an overburdened, deeply flawed system of immigration courts and a 2002 law intended to protect children’s welfare, an Associated Press investigation finds.
Driving the dramatic increases in these immigrants is the recognition throughout Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that children who make the dangerous trip can effectively remain in the U.S. for years before facing even a moderate risk of deportation.
The Obama administration estimates it will catch 90,000 children trying to illegally cross the Mexican border without their parents by the end of the current budget year in September. Last year, the government returned fewer than 2,000 children to their native countries.
The administration has asked Congress for $2 billion to spend on the issue.