Rebels let train with dead from Malaysian jet leave Ukrainian town after international outcry
HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) -- Bowing to international pressure Monday, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and agreed to hand over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.
With body parts decaying in sweltering heat and signs that evidence at the crash site was mishandled, anger in Western capitals has mounted at the rebels and their allies in Moscow. Their reluctant cooperation will soothe mourning families and help investigators, but may do little to reconcile the East-West powers struggling over Ukraine’s future.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it saw no evidence a missile was fired and denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17 -- and suggested the Ukrainian military was at fault. President Vladimir Putin spoke out but showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.
President Barack Obama accused the rebels of tampering with evidence and insulting victims’ families, warning of new sanctions. Europeans will consider their own sanctions Tuesday.
The bodies of the 298 victims, most from the Netherlands, have become a part of the conflict in Ukraine because they could hold evidence of what brought the plane down on July 17 as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Aviation and defense experts say the victims’ bodies could contain missile shrapnel. Chemical residue on the plane could confirm the type of weapon that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. And the location of the wreckage could yield information on how the attack unfolded.
The black boxes could offer vital clues as well. The cockpit voice recorder would record the bang of a missile. The data recorders, which register altitude and position, would be able to tie that information to the timing of a known missile launch in the area.
"You can effectively backtrack and give a relatively high degree of confidence in the location where that missile took off from," said a Manchester, England-based aviation industry consultant, Chris Yates. "If that location happens to be in rebel-held territory, which we all suspect it is, that would be the first point where you could point the finger of blame."
Red meat isn’t very green: Study finds beef pollutes far more than pork, poultry, dairy, eggs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Raising beef for the American dinner table does far more damage to the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs or dairy, a new study says.
Compared with the other animal proteins, beef produces five times more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out six times as much water-polluting nitrogen, takes 11 times more water for irrigation and uses 28 times the land, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Cows are not efficient at converting feed to protein for human consumption, said lead author Gidon Eshel, an environmental physics professor at Bard College in New York.
Eshel used U.S.government figures to calculate air and water emissions and how much water and land were used in the lifetime production of beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs. While other studies have looked at the issue, this is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research quantifying and comparing the U.S. environmental costs of different meats and other animal protein.
The beef industry called the study "a gross oversimplification of the complex systems that make up the beef value chain."
Kerry joins diplomatic effort for new truce amid low expectations for breakthrough to end war
CAIRO (AP) -- With high hopes but low expectations, the U.S. stepped up calls Monday for an international push to end fighting in the Gaza Strip as President Barack Obama sent his top envoy to the Mideast to help broker a new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants -- the third since 2009.
Voicing fresh concern about civilian casualties, Obama reaffirmed his belief that Israel has the right to defend itself against a barrage of more than 1,500 rockets being launched by Hamas.
Yet he said Israel’s military assault of Gaza had already done "significant damage" to Hamas’ network of tunnels, safe havens and other infrastructure, and said he doesn’t want to see more civilians getting killed.
"We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives," Obama said in Washington. "And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel."
As Obama spoke, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Cairo to join diplomatic efforts to resume a truce that last had been agreed to in November 2012. He will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement offered by Egypt that would halt two weeks of fighting that has descended into war and killed at least 500 Palestinians and more than two-dozen Israelis.
Obama bans discrimination against federal workers and contractors who are gay and transgender
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Monday ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts, telling advocates he embraced the "irrefutable rightness of your cause."
"America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people," Obama declared at a White House signing ceremony.
Obama said it was unacceptable that being gay is still a firing offense in many places in the United States, and he called on Congress to extend the ban to all employers. But legislation that would extend the ban has become embroiled in a dispute over whether religious groups should get exemptions.
The president had long resisted pressure to pursue an executive anti-discrimination order covering federal contractors in the hope that Congress would take more sweeping action. The Senate passed legislation last year with some Republican support, but it has not been considered by the GOP-controlled House. Now, said Obama, "It’s time to address this injustice for every American."
Mia Macy of Portland, Oregon, watched Obama’s announcement in tears as an invited guest in the East Room. The military veteran and former Phoenix police detective applied to be a ballistics expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as a male but was rejected after she changed her name and began identifying as a woman. She filed a successful complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and settled a discrimination lawsuit against the government last year.
Johns Hopkins to pay $190M after doctor secretly took gynecological images with tiny cameras
BALTIMORE (AP) -- A "rogue" gynecologist who used tiny cameras to secretly record videos and photos of his patients has forced one of the world’s top medical centers to pay $190 million to 8,000 women and girls.
Dr. Nikita Levy was fired after 25 years with the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore in February 2013 after a female co-worker spotted the pen-like camera he wore around his neck and alerted authorities.
Levy committed suicide days later, as a federal investigation led to roughly 1,200 videos and 140 images stored on computers in his home.
"All of these women were brutalized by this," said their lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor. "Some of these women needed counseling, they were sleepless, they were dysfunctional in the workplace, they were dysfunctional at home, they were dysfunctional with their mates. This breach of trust, this betrayal -- this is how they felt."
The preliminary settlement approved by a judge Monday is one of the largest on record in the U.S. involving sexual misconduct by a physician. It all but closes a case that never produced criminal charges but seriously threatened Hopkins’ reputation.
Man who died in NYC chokehold case was a ‘gentle giant,’ friends say; investigation continues
NEW YORK (AP) -- Eric Garner was a familiar figure on the streets near Staten Island’s ferry docks: to his friends, a congenial giant with a generous gesture or a calming word; to police, a persistent face of the small-time crime of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
Garner’s last run-in with police spiraled into a confrontation in which an officer applied an apparent chokehold, leaving the married father of six dead and police tactics under scrutiny. And it left some who knew him wondering why such conduct was used against a man they describe as a neighborhood peacemaker.
"That’s the ironic part about it. He’s the most gentle of everybody over there," friend Irvine Johnson said.
Public anguish over Garner’s death kept building Monday, as a small group of demonstrators gathered outside City Hall to demand the police commissioner’s resignation. Medical examiners were working to pinpoint the cause of Garner’s death, prosecutors and police internal affairs detectives were investigating officers’ conduct in the encounter, and the Fire Department was probing paramedics’ and emergency medication technicians’ actions.
Garner, 43, whose friends called him "Big E" and "Teddy Bear," had a son starting college, five other children and two grandchildren, and a quarter-century-long relationship with his wife, Esaw. He’d had had a couple of temporary jobs with the city Parks Department in recent years, most recently helping with horticulture crews and maintenance in 2013.
Mexican ‘coyotes’: New wave of Central American migration puts light on decades-old smuggling
TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (AP) -- The man-in-the-know nursed a late-morning beer at a bar near the Suchiate River that separates Guatemala from Mexico, and answered a question about his human smuggling business with a question: "Do you think a coyote is going to say he’s a coyote?"
Dressed as a migrant in shorts and sandals but speaking like an entrepreneur, he then described shipments of tens of thousands of dollars in human cargo from the slums of Honduras and highlands of Guatemala to cities across the United States.
"It’s business," he said, agreeing to speak to a reporter only if guaranteed anonymity. "Sometimes, business is very good."
Judging by the dramatic increase in the number of minors apprehended in the United States in recent months, it seems the human smuggling business from Central America is booming. The vast majority of migrants who enter the U.S. illegally do so with the help of a network of smugglers known as "coyotes," so named for the scavengers that prowl the border.
It is a high-risk, often high-yield business estimated to generate $6.6 billion a year for smugglers along Latin America’s routes to the U.S., according to a 2010 United Nations report. The migrants pay anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 each for the illegal journey across thousands of miles in the care of smuggling networks that in turn pay off government officials, gangs operating on trains and drug cartels controlling the routes north.
Family says 2 American soldiers from Texas, California killed in Gaza Strip
Max Steinberg and Nissim Sean Carmeli grew up in America and had a passion for Israel.
Their love of that nation led both to join the Israel Defense Forces and fight against Hamas in Gaza Strip, where they were killed on Sunday.
Steinberg, 24, and Carmeli, 21, were among 13 Israeli soldiers and 65 Palestinians who died during the first major ground battle in two weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Steinberg was part of an elite Golani infantry unit and had been working to locate terrorist tunnels and rocket launchers in Saja’iya when his armored vehicle was hit by an anti-tank rocket, said David Siegel, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles.
Stuart Steinberg, whose family lives in the San Fernando Valley in California, said his son was a sharpshooter for the Golani Brigade. The family left Monday for Israel, where their son will be buried.