Iraq working to determine authenticity of video purportedly showing militant leader
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq security agencies are working to verify the authenticity of a video that purportedly shows the elusive leader of the Sunni extremist group that has declared an Islamic state in a large chunk of territory it controls leading prayers this week in northern Iraq, authorities said.
The video said to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State group, was reportedly filmed on Friday at the Great Mosque in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. It was posted on at least two websites known to be used by the organization and bore the logo of its media arm.
The sermon in Mosul would the first public appearance for al-Baghdadi, a shadowy figure who has emerged as perhaps the preeminent figure in the international jihadi community. Al-Baghdadi, who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, took over the group four years ago and has since transformed it from an al-Qaida affiliate focused on Iraq into an independent transnational force that controls of a huge stretch of land straddling the Syria-Iraq border.
The purported appearance in Mosul, a city of some 2 million that the militants seized last month, came five days after al-Baghdadi’s group declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the territories it has seized in Iraq and Syria. The group proclaimed al-Baghdadi the leader of its state and demanded that all Muslims pledge allegiance to him.
After setback, pro-Russia rebels regroup in Donetsk, vow to keep fighting Ukraine’s military
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Discouraged but defiant, pro-Russia separatists vowed to keep fighting the government in Kiev from the largest city in eastern Ukraine, where they regrouped Sunday after being driven out of a key stronghold.
At a rally in a central Donetsk square, the rebels were cheered on by thousands of supporters waving flags from Russia and the self-proclaimed independent Donetsk People’s Republic. Many urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to quickly come to their aid -- but there was no comment Sunday from Russia.
While the rebel withdrawal Saturday from Slovyansk, a city of 100,000 they had held for months, was not a total victory, President Petro Poroshenko said purging the city of the insurgents had "incredible symbolic importance." It was unclear whether the government -- after abandoning a cease-fire last week and going back on the offensive -- was now winning the fight that had sputtered for months.
Rebel fighters from Slovyansk could be seen walking through Donetsk on Sunday in groups of 10 to 15. Most were still wearing camouflage, but some sported identical new bright-colored shorts and shirts. It was an unsuccessful effort to blend in with the civilian population, since they still carried automatic weapons.
At one money-exchange office in the city center, about 20 rebels lined up to trade U.S. dollars for Ukrainian hryvnas. The dollar is considered a more stable currency in Ukraine and Russia, but it was not known who had given them to the rebels. They refused to speak with Associated Press journalists and their mood appeared black.
After VA scandal, veterans turn
to American Legion for help
with claims, appointments
EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- A counselor at the local Veterans Affairs office looked at Rebecca King, a victim of domestic violence and abuse who was seeking help for depression, and told her she would not be able to see a psychologist. She looked too nice and put together for someone depressed, King was told.
Like others who’ve failed to receive help at troubled VA offices, the Army veteran then gave up.
"I have a son, I’m his only support system, I have to keep it together" King recalled telling the VA office in El Paso, trying to explain why she didn’t look disheveled.
She is now among nearly 1,800 people who have turned to the American Legion, which has held town-hall meetings and opened temporary crisis centers in Phoenix, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and El Paso. People can gain access to health benefits, schedule doctor’s appointments, enroll in the VA and even get back pay.
The centers come in the wake of the VA scandal that brought to light long wait times and false record-keeping among other things, and are being established in towns where the VA audit showed wait times were longer.
Report: NSA surveillance collects data on far more ordinary online users than actual targets
WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary Internet users, both Americans and non-Americans, according to a probe by The Washington Post.
Nearly half of those surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents, the Post reported in a story posted on its website Saturday night. While the federal agency tried to protect their privacy by masking more than 65,000 such references to individuals, the newspaper said it found nearly 900 additional email addresses that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or residents.
At the same time, the intercepted messages contained material of considerable intelligence value, the Post reported, such as information about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S.computer networks.
As an example, the newspaper said the files showed that months of tracking communications across dozens of alias accounts led directly to the capture in 2011 of a Pakistan-based bomb builder suspected in a 2002 terrorist bombing in Bali. The Post said it was withholding other examples, at the request of the CIA, that would compromise ongoing investigations.
The material reviewed by the Post included roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts. It spanned President Barack Obama’s first term, 2009 to 2012, and was provided to the Post by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.
6 Jewish suspects arrested in slaying of Palestinian teen;
killers had ‘nationalistic’ motives
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel arrested six Jewish suspects Sunday in the grisly slaying of a Palestinian teenager who was abducted and burned alive last week -- a crime that set off a wave of violent protests in Arab sections of the country.
Leaders of the Jewish state appealed for calm amid signs the death was revenge for the recent killings of three Israeli teenagers.
"We will not allow extremists, it doesn’t matter from which side, to inflame the region and cause bloodshed," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a nationally televised statement. "Murder is murder, incitement is incitement, and we will respond aggressively to both."
He promised to prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.
The region has been on edge since three Israeli teens -- one of them a U.S. citizen -- were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank last month. Last week, the teens’ bodies were found in a West Bank field in a crime Israel blamed on the militant group Hamas.
Memorial at Oregon mental hospital to honor ‘forgotten souls’ who were cremated, never claimed
SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- They were dubbed the "forgotten souls" -- the cremated remains of thousands of people who came through the doors of Oregon’s state mental hospital, died there and whose ashes were abandoned inside 3,500 copper urns.
Discovered a decade ago at the decrepit Oregon State Hospital, where "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" was filmed, the remains became a symbol of the state’s -- and the nation’s -- dark history of treating the mentally ill.
A research effort to unearth the stories of those who moved through the hospital’s halls, and to reunite the remains with surviving relatives, takes center stage Monday as officials dedicate a memorial to those once-forgotten patients.
"No one wants to be laid to rest without some kind of acknowledgement that they were here, that they contributed, that they lived," said state Senate President Peter Courtney, who led a successful effort to replace the hospital and build the memorial.
Between 1913 and 1971, more than 5,300 people were cremated at the hospital.
New York firefighter died in accidental fire started by air-conditioning electric cord
NEW YORK (AP) -- A high-rise blaze that killed a fire lieutenant started in a pinched electrical cord in a cluttered apartment, fire officials said Sunday, adding that the fire had been ruled accidental.
An air-conditioner cord was pinned between a bed frame and a wall in the 19th-floor Brooklyn apartment, where Lt. Gordon Ambelas became trapped while looking for possible victims, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in a statement as investigators probed the conflagration responsible for the Fire Department of New York’s first line-of-duty death in more than two years.
"Though the cause and origin of the fire has been determined, the Department’s investigation remains ongoing," Nigro added in a statement. A pinched electrical cord can fray or otherwise become damaged enough to spark a fire if it’s near combustible items, especially if heat builds up in a tight space.
Earlier Sunday, firefighters solemnly hung flag bunting at the Brooklyn firehouse where Ambelas had worked for the last several months of his 14-year career as residents returned to the building where he had died.
Swimmer in California recalls attack: Great white shark looked at me, ‘locked into my chest’
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Steven Robles was an hour into his regular weekend swim off some of Southern California’s most popular beaches when he came face-to-face with a great white shark.
The 7-foot-long juvenile had been trying to free itself from a fisherman’s hook for about half an hour when it attacked.
"It came up to the surface, it looked at me and attacked me right on the side of my chest," Robles told KABC-TV. "That all happened within two seconds, I saw the eyes of the shark as I was seeing it swim towards me. It lunged at my chest, and it locked into my chest."
He tried to pry open the shark’s mouth, but it quickly disappeared.
Robles was familiar with the waters of the Southern California coast. His Saturday morning routine included a swim from Hermosa Beach north to Manhattan Beach with fellow amateur distance swimmers, and last summer he completed a difficult swim approximately 20 miles from Santa Catalina Island to the Rancho Palos Verdes peninsula to raise money for a school in Nicaragua.