Robin Williams hanged himself with belt, found by personal assistant, sheriff’s official says

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities on Tuesday detailed how Robin Williams’ took his life, saying the actor and comedian hanged himself with a belt in a bedroom of his San Francisco Bay Area home.

Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams was last seen alive by his wife Sunday night when she went to bed. She woke up the next morning and left, thinking he was still asleep elsewhere in the home.

Shortly after that, Williams’ personal assistant came to the Tiburon home and became concerned when Williams failed to respond to knocks at a door. The assistant found the 63-year-old actor clothed and dead in a bedroom.

Boyd said all evidence indicates Williams, star of "Good Will Hunting," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and dozens of other films, committed suicide by hanging himself. But he said a final ruling will be made once toxicology reports and interviews with witnesses are complete.

The condition of the body indicated Williams had been dead for at least a few hours, Boyd said. Williams also had superficial cuts on his wrist, and a pocketknife was found nearby.

Addiction seemed to stalk Robin Williams, tempting him when he was weak and taunting him when he least expected it.

"It waits," he told "Good Morning America" in 2006. "It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m OK.


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’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not OK. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland."’

Williams, the comic whirlwind known for his hilarious stream-of-consciousness ramblings, hanged himself in his San Francisco Bay Area home and finally silenced the demons that relentlessly targeted him.

On film, he played everything from a genie to a psychiatrist. In life, he battled periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression, opening up about them to journalists with self-deprecating wit and making his struggles fuel for his comedy.

"Cocaine for me was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down," he told People in 1988.

Rev. Al Sharpton urges peaceful protests, says police must identify cop who shot Missouri teen

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton pressed police Tuesday to release the name of the officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in suburban St. Louis, but he also pleaded for calm after two nights of violent protests.

The officer was placed on administrative leave Saturday after fatally shooting 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, where the case has stoked racial tension, rallies and a night of looting. Police say death threats prompted them to withhold the officer’s name.

Investigators have released few details, saying only that the shooting was preceded by a scuffle between the officer and a man in which the officer’s weapon fired inside a patrol car. Witnesses say Brown had his hands raised when the officer repeatedly shot him in the predominantly black city of about 21,000 residents.

"The local authorities have put themselves in a position -- hiding names and not being transparent -- where people will not trust anything but an objective investigation," Sharpton, standing with Brown’s parents, said during a news conference in St. Louis.

He also echoed pleas for peaceful protests by the NAACP and Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., who told the crowd: "I need all of us to come together and do this right. ... No violence." President Barack Obama released a statement also urging calm, saying people must comfort each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

Racial tensions are nothing new in St. Louis suburb where teen was fatally shot by police

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- Racial tensions have run high for decades in this former railroad town that was once a mostly white St. Louis suburb until school busing and urban decay sent many families packing for more distant communities.

Today, Ferguson is nearly 70 percent black, but the law here is still enforced by a police department that is more than 90 percent white, a fact that helps engender widespread distrust of officers -- never more so than last weekend, when a white officer shot and killed an unarmed young black man who was about to start college.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said 50 of the city’s 53 police officers are white. He said he made recruiting and promoting black officers a priority when he took over four years ago after a three-decade police career in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Jackson said he promoted two black officers to sergeant in his first year in Ferguson, though one of those officers has since left for a better-paying job.

"I’m constantly trying to recruit African-Americans and other minorities," he said. "But it’s an uphill battle. The minority makeup of this police department is not where I want it to be."

A look at other racially charged killings in wake of fatal police shooting in Mo.

CHICAGO (AP) -- In the wake of the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen in suburban St. Louis, civil-rights groups and a lawyer for the teen’s family have compared Michael Brown’s death to other racially charged killings of black men. Here’s a look at some prominent examples:

TRAYVON MARTIN

On a rainy February night in 2012, George Zimmerman was patrolling his gated community in Sanford, Florida, as a neighborhood watch volunteer when he came across an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin. The two fought, and Zimmerman pulled out a gun he was legally allowed to carry and shot Martin, killing him.

Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, was arrested weeks later and charged with second-degree murder. Though he was not a police officer, his actions raised some of the same questions as Brown’s killing about the role of race in the slaying of young black men by people in positions of authority. Among those asking questions was the Martin family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, who now represents Brown’s relatives.

With cease-fire deadline looming, Israel and Hamas press ahead on truce talks to end Gaza war

CAIRO (AP) -- Israeli and Hamas negotiators huddled for a second day of Egyptian-mediated talks Tuesday, seeking a formula for an extended cease-fire meant to end a monthlong war and bring relief to the embattled Gaza Strip.

With the talks continuing well into the evening, it was unclear whether the two enemies had made any progress as a temporary truce expires midnight Wednesday.

The negotiations took place after a three-day truce brokered by Egypt took effect Monday. A similar truce collapsed last Friday after Gaza militants quickly resumed rocket fire with its expiration.

The monthlong Gaza war has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers.

Hamas is demanding an end to an Israel-Egyptian blockade that has ravaged Gaza’s economy. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel during the war, from smuggling weapons. Israel is seeking guarantees that it disarm.

Israeli shelling of Gaza mosques targets Hamas’ capabilities, but also hurts social fabric

NUSEIRAT REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Only the minaret still stands after an Israeli airstrike reduced Gaza’s Al-Qassam Mosque to a heap of concrete, iron rods and dust. Hours after the pre-dawn attack, rescue workers searched in the rubble, residents gathered -- and plainclothes Hamas security agents mingled among them.

Also known as the Grand Mosque, it was one of 63 that Israel has destroyed in its monthlong war with Hamas, according to Palestinian officials. The reason, Israel says, is that Hamas is using mosques to stockpile weapons and rocket launchers, and to hide tunnels used to infiltrate into Israel and carry out attacks.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers deny the accusation, saying Israel is waging a war against Islam. On the ground, many Gazans react the same, saying Israel is attacking their faith.

In its determination to go after what it says are militant arsenals, Israel is throwing aside any reluctance it had in the past to hit religious sites for fear of a diplomatic backlash. In Israel’s week-long 2012 air campaign in Gaza, not a single mosque was hit. In the three-week 2008-2009 war with Hamas, Israel shelled 17 mosques and toppled 20 minarets, saying they were used as Hamas military antennas.

During recent visits by The Associated Press to a half-dozen Gaza mosques destroyed by Israeli strikes, residents categorically denied they were used by Hamas as hideouts for its fighters or as storage places for its hardware.

Ukraine insists aid must be delivered by Red Cross as Russian help convoy leaves Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) -- With a theatrical flourish, Russia on Tuesday dispatched hundreds of trucks covered in white tarps and sprinkled with holy water on a mission to deliver aid to a desperate rebel-held zone in eastern Ukraine.

The televised sight of the miles-long convoy sparked a show of indignation from the government in Kiev, which insisted any aid must be delivered by the international Red Cross. Ukraine and the West have openly expressed its concern that Moscow intends to use the cover of a humanitarian operation to embark on a military incursion in support of pro-Russian separatists.

Amid those anxieties, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday was set to travel to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia annexed in March, where he was to preside over a meeting involving the entire Russian Cabinet and most members of the lower house of parliament.

Putin so far has resisted calls from both pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and nationalists at home to send Russian troops to back the mutiny, a move that would be certain to trigger devastating Western sanctions. But dispatching the convoy sent a powerful visual symbol helping the Kremlin counter criticism from the nationalists who accuse Putin of betrayal.

The convoy provoked controversy as soon as it started moving early Tuesday from the outskirts of Moscow on its long voyage toward the Ukrainian border.

Kurdish fighters create safe passage for Iraqi Yazidis stranded for days on mountain

MALIKIYA, Syria (AP) -- In a dusty camp here, Iraqi refugees have new heroes: Syrian Kurdish fighters who battled militants to carve out an escape route for tens of thousands trapped on a mountaintop.

While the U.S. and Iraqi militaries struggle to aid the starving members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority with supply drops from the air, the Syrian Kurds took it on themselves to rescue them. The move underlined how they -- like Iraqi Kurds -- are using the region’s conflicts to establish their own rule.

For the past few days, fighters have been rescuing Yazidis from the mountain, transporting them into Syrian territory to give them first aid, food and water, and returning some to Iraq via a pontoon bridge.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient Mesopotamian faith, started to flee to the Sinjar mountain chain on Aug. 2, when militants from the extremist Islamic State group took over their nearby villages. The militants see them as heretics worthy of death.

"The (Kurdish fighters) opened a path for us. If they had not, we would still be stranded on the mountain," said Ismail Rashu, 22, in the Newroz camp in the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya some 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Iraqi border. Families had filled the battered, dusty tents here and new arrivals sat in the shade of rocks, sleeping on blue plastic sheets. Camp officials estimated that at least 2,000 families sought shelter there on Sunday evening.

Iraq’s prime minister
seems increasingly
isolated; urges military
not to meddle in politics

BAGHDAD (AP) -- His days in power in Iraq appear increasingly numbered. World leaders, including his biggest ally, Iran, hail the nomination of the man who would be his successor.

There’s seemingly little left for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to cling to, beyond the support of party stalwarts and high-ranking loyalists in the military.

Al-Maliki looked even more isolated Tuesday, a day after Iraq’s president appointed Haider al-Abadi as prime minister-designate to form a caretaker government -- a move seen as a major step toward breaking the political deadlock that has paralyzed the country since April elections. It also comes after Islamic extremists have swept across northern Iraq, prompting the U.S. to launch airstrikes and directly arm Kurds who are battling the militants.

Despite the backing he enjoys among the top military brass, al-Maliki told the Iraqi army Tuesday to keep out of politics and focus on protecting the nation.

Al-Maliki, who has been in power for eight years, insists he should keep his post as prime minister of the Shiite-led government for a third term because his bloc won the most seats in the assembly, even though he has lost some support with the main coalition of Shiite parties.