Solemn ceremony held as 40 bodies from jetliner
shot down in Ukraine return to Dutch soil
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) -- Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.
The carefully choreographed, nearly silent ceremony contrasted sharply with the boom of shells and shattered glass in eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels fought to hang onto territory and shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets. The bold new attack showed the separatists are not shying away from shooting at the skies despite international outrage and grief at the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Even though they are still unidentified, the corpses that arrived on two military transport planes in Eindhoven were embraced by a nation unmoored by the loss of so many people caught in someone else’s faraway war.
Boys going to visit their grandparents, a flight attendant hurrying to get home, a bouncer heading to see his sweetheart were among the 298 victims of the jetliner that was blown out of the sky on July 17, intensifying anger at the separatists suspected of bringing it down with a surface-to-air missile.
Nearly a week later, international investigators still don’t have unfettered access to the crash site, some remains have yet to be recovered, and armed men roam the region, defying their government.
UN says three-fourths of Gaza dead are civilians; Israel says Hamas fires from homes, schools
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Shopkeepers say they were sitting outside their shuttered businesses Wednesday, catching a break from being cooped up during wartime, when an Israeli missile struck a nearby mosque, killing a truck driver and wounding 45 people.
One of those wounded by shrapnel said from his hospital gurney that the strike came without warning.
Israel has defended such strikes on civilian sites -- nearly 500 homes, 16 mosques and at least two hospitals, by Palestinian count -- by saying that Hamas hides weapons and fighters there or that tunnels into Israel originate in such places.
Israel says it is defending its civilians against rocket fire and other attacks from Gaza and doing its utmost to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians.
However, three-fourths of the Palestinians killed in more than two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting were civilians, according to U.N. figures. One in four was a minor, it said.
Top U.S. diplomat pushes for cease-fire as Gaza families flee heavy fighting
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- The United States announced signs of progress in cease-fire talks Wednesday, but prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim as Palestinian families fled fierce battles in southern Gaza and the death toll rose to at least 695 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.
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 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 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."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met for the second time this week with United Nations chief 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 Wednesday and many major European carriers also canceled more flights due to security concerns. Plane crashes while landing in storm at Taiwan airport, killing 47
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- A plane attempting to land in stormy weather crashed on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday, killing 47 people and wrecking houses and cars on the ground.
The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed on Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China, authorities said. The plane was arriving from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
Two people aboard the plane were French citizens and the rest Taiwanese, Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters. The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, Yeh said.
The crash of flight GE222 was Taiwan’s first fatal air accident in 12 years and came after Typhoon Matmo passed across the island, causing heavy rains that continued into Wednesday night. Some 200 airline flights had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.
The official death toll was 47, according to Wen Chia-hung, spokesman for the Penghu disaster response center. He said the 11 other people were injured.
Nazi war crimes suspect, 89, dies hours before federal judge grants extradition to Germany
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An 89-year-old Nazi war crimes suspect died in custody hours before a U.S. ruling Wednesday that he should be extradited to Germany to face trial.
Johann Breyer died Tuesday night at a Philadelphia hospital, where he had been transferred Saturday after a month in jail, his lawyer and the U.S. Marshals Service said. His death was disclosed Wednesday just as U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice approved the extradition request, which would still have needed final U.S.government review.
Rice found probable cause that Breyer was the person being sought by German authorities over his suspected service as an SS guard at Auschwitz during World War II.
"No statute of limitations offers a safe haven for murder," he wrote in his ruling.
U.S. marshals had arrested Breyer in June outside his longtime home in Philadelphia. He was facing charges of aiding in the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children at a Nazi death camp.
Texas gov’s deployment
of troops to border
echoes previous push
amid election concerns
McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- When Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced the deployment of up to 1,000 armed National Guard troops to the Mexican border he was speaking to voters in Iowa as much as Texas.
The one-time and possible future presidential candidate is in the waning months of his third and final term as governor. His visits to Iowa, including the weekend before his National Guard announcement, suggest he is considering another run for the Republican presidential nomination.
If Perry’s call for troops to the border sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not new. In early 2009, as he was running for re-election, Perry urged then Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to deploy 1,000 troops along the border in Texas. At the time Perry was quick to note that his concerns focused on the growing violence from Mexico’s warring drug cartels and the potential for a spillover into U.S. cities, including nearby El Paso.
Now, his worry is the arrival of more than 57,000 child immigrants, most of who are from Central America and crossing the border along a narrow corridor in the Rio Grande Valley. Perry had previously asked President Barack Obama to send National Guard troops to the border to help stem the flood of immigrants, and this week Perry deployed them under his own authority as governor.
"I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor," Perry said Monday.
Massive influx of Medicaid enrollees strains Oregon, exacerbates doctor shortage
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Low-income Oregon residents were supposed to be big winners after the state expanded Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul and created a new system to improve the care they received.
But an Associated Press review shows that an unexpected rush of enrollees has strained the capacity of the revamped network that was endorsed as a potential national model, locking out some patients, forcing others to wait months for medical appointments and prompting a spike in emergency room visits, which state officials had been actively seeking to avoid.
The problems come amid nationwide growing pains associated with the unprecedented restructuring of the U.S. health care system, and they show the effects of a widespread physician shortage on a state that has embraced Medicaid expansion.
It’s too early to tell whether there will be lasting troubles associated with these immediate challenges. Overhaul supporters say they anticipated the need for more doctors and are already implementing solutions to improve access to care. They also point to the crush of new Medicaid enrollees as proof that their efforts are necessary and working.
Still, early indications show clear challenges associated with expanding Medicaid and establishing coordinated care networks, the centerpiece of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan to reduce costs and improve care by focusing on primary care and keeping patients out of emergency rooms.
Jury hears opening
remarks in Detroit-area porch shooting; defense says man was afraid
DETROIT (AP) -- A suburban Detroit man who killed an unarmed woman on his porch was rocked out of sleep by a series of "boom, boom, boom" pounding sounds outside his home, causing him to grab a shotgun, open the front door and fire, a defense lawyer told jurors during opening statements Wednesday.
Theodore Wafer is on trial and claiming self-defense in the death last year of Renisha McBride, 19, in Dearborn Heights. But prosecutors have charged the 55-year-old with second-degree murder, saying there was no reason to use deadly force instead of calling police.
Defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter repeatedly told jurors that they need to put themselves in Wafer’s shoes. Raising and lowering her voice for dramatic effect, she portrayed him as a man under siege in his own home around 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 2.
Wafer and McBride didn’t know each other. She ended up on his porch 3 1/2 hours after crashing her car into a parked car about a half-mile away in Detroit. An autopsy found her blood-alcohol level was about 0.22, which is nearly three times above Michigan’s legal limit for driving.
Asleep in his recliner, Wafer heard pounding at a side door -- "boom, boom, boom, boom" -- Carpenter said. He dropped to the floor, couldn’t find his cellphone and then heard more pounding at the front door, she added.
Back to a bleak future: Deported Honduran families flown home by
U.S. face few options
TOCOA, Honduras (AP) -- Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago.
Then the killers came looking for her.
Ramirez had seen Facebook messages and heard from relatives that mothers travelling to the United States with children would be allowed to stay if they made it across the border, so she took off for the North with her 8-year-old, Sandra, and 5-year-old Cesar, named for his dead father.
Two weeks and many thousands of miles later, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement flight brought Ramirez back to the badlands of Honduras in Colon province, still fearing her husband’s killers and now lacking a plan for survival.
"I didn’t want to come back," she said. "I wanted to give my children a better life and I can’t do that here."