Critics say Ferguson
protest response shows giving U.S. military gear
to police has gone too far
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Missouri police department at the center of an uproar over the shooting death of an unarmed black teen-ager acquired two armored Humvees and other military gear for free through a Pentagon program that critics blame for "militarizing America’s Main Streets" and aggravating clashes between police and protesters.
The Ferguson Police Department received the two Humvees as well as a generator and a flatbed trailer under the surplus equipment program run by the Defense Logistics Agency, which is in charge of getting supplies of all types for the military.
News footage and photos of police outfitted in paramilitary gear clashing with protesters in Ferguson -- a largely black suburb of St. Louis with a mostly white police force -- have provided new impetus to efforts to rein in the Pentagon program. It provides assault weapons and other surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the country.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said his committee will review the program to determine if the Defense Department surplus is being used as intended.
The program began in 1990 as a way to help states and local agencies fight drug-related crime. It was expanded in the mid-1990s.
Russia denies its military vehicles crossed into Ukraine or were destroyed on Ukrainian soil
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russia (AP) -- NATO on Friday said a Russian military column ventured overnight into Ukraine, and the Ukrainian president said his forces destroyed most of it. Russia denied all of this, but the reports spooked global markets and overshadowed optimism driven by agreement over a Russian aid convoy bound for eastern Ukraine.
The Russian aid convoy of more than 250 trucks has been a source of tensions since it set off from Moscow on Tuesday. Kiev and the West were suspicious that the mission could be a pretext for a Russian military incursion into eastern Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russia separatists and clawing back rebel-held territory.
Throughout the eastern crisis that erupted in April, there have been consistent allegations that Russia is fomenting or directing the rebellion. Moscow rejects the allegations and the high-profile aid convoy could be aimed, in part, at portraying Russia as interested in cooling the conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to cultivate that perception in a Thursday speech in which he said Russia hopes for peace in Ukraine.
It was not clear what Russia could hope to gain by sending in a military column while world attention was trained on its efforts to get the aid convoy into eastern Ukraine.
But some foreign journalists reported that Russian armored personnel carriers were seen crossing into Ukraine on Thursday night. On Friday, a statement on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s website said "the given information was trustworthy and confirmed because the majority of the vehicles were destroyed by Ukrainian artillery at night."
Iraqi prime minister was stern, unflinching, but many were put off by his heavy-handed style
When a rocket struck in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2007 during a news conference by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the world’s top diplomat ducked and looked unsettled. Al-Maliki, however, never flinched, and dismissed the attack as "nothing."
A year later, al-Maliki again stayed calm when an Iraqi journalist angrily threw his shoes at President George W. Bush at another news conference. As Bush deftly ducked out of the way, al-Maliki stood by his guest and even raised a hand to try to block one of the shoes.
As he leaves office, al-Maliki will be remembered for dominating Iraqi politics with a steely demeanor for much of the tumultuous decade that followed the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein.
The 64-year-old al-Maliki led the country through the height of Shiite-Sunni bloodshed. But his heavy-handed rule also helped plunge it back into chaos.
He was unafraid to move against perceived foes -- whether they were militants or political rivals -- and he projected an image of unflinching determination as the most influential prime minister since the U.S. invasion.
Iraqis welcome al-Maliki’s decision to step down, but immense challenges loom for successor
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Nouri al-Maliki’s decision to step down as Iraq’s prime minister raised hopes Friday for a new government that can roll back an increasingly powerful Sunni insurgency and prevent the country from splitting apart.
But to do that his successor has to unify Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions that deeply distrust each other and have conflicting demands, all while dealing with a humanitarian crisis and the extremists’ continuing rampage in the north.
The man tapped to become the next prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, a veteran Shiite lawmaker, faces the immense challenge of trying to unite Iraqi politicians as he cobbles together a Cabinet in just over three weeks.
Al-Abadi said Friday his government will be based on "efficiency and integrity, to salvage the country from security, political and economic problems" -- but that is easier said than done in a country where forming a government often falls victim to roadblocks and infighting.
Sunni politicians are pressing for greater political influence, saying their disenfranchisement under al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government fueled support among the Sunni minority for the insurgency, led by the extremist Islamic State group. At the same time, the military needs significant bolstering after falling apart in the face of the militants’ advance and proving incapable of taking back lost territory.
UN: Ebola may leave
1 million in need of food help as fear, price-hiking slow supplies
CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) -- The deadly Ebola virus that has killed more than 1,000 in West Africa is disrupting the flow of goods, forcing the United Nations to plan food convoys for up to a million people as hunger threatens the largely impoverished area.
Amid roadblocks manned by troops and pervasive fear among the population of the dreaded disease, the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola is increasingly impacting the food supply in three countries.
The impacts are evident in Guinea’s capital of Conakry, where fruit and vegetables no longer arrive from the country’s breadbasket. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, several markets have been shut down. The price of rice and other staples is soaring in areas under Ebola quarantine.
Hunters of bushmeat, which can carry the Ebola virus, have lost their livelihoods, and farmers in some areas have been cut off from their fields. Price-gouging hurts people who struggle to feed themselves in the best of times, observers say.
While none of the regulations restricts the movement of basic necessities, fear and inconvenience are disrupting supplies. Some 1 million people in isolated areas might need food assistance in the coming months, according to the U.N. World Food Program, which is preparing a regional emergency operation to bring food by convoy to the needy. The three-month operation can be extended.
Europe pledges aid,
arms to Iraq as Maliki resignation paves way
for political renewal
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union on Friday forged a unified response to the rapid advance of Islamic militants in Iraq and the resulting refugee crisis, allowing direct arms deliveries to Kurdish fighters battling the Sunni insurgents. Several EU nations pledged more humanitarian aid.
The emergency meeting of the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels marked a shift toward greater involvement in Iraq, following weeks during which the Europeans mainly considered the situation an American problem because of the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq invasion.
EU ministers pledged to step up efforts to help those fleeing advancing Islamic State militants, with several nations announcing they will fly dozens of tons of aid to northern Iraq over the coming days.
"First of all, we need to make sure that we alleviate humanitarian suffering," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told reporters. "Secondly, I believe we need to make sure that (Islamic State) is not in a position to overrun the Kurds or to take a stronger hold on Iraq."
France has pledged to ship weapons to the Kurds and Britain is delivering ammunition and military supplies obtained from eastern European nations and is considering sending more weaponry. Germany, the Netherlands and others said they would also consider requests to arm the Kurds.
Mourners pack medieval cathedral in Tuscan town to remember AP video journalist killed in Gaza
PITIGLIANO, Italy (AP) -- Several hundred mourners packed the ornate cathedral of this hilltop Tuscan town on Friday to remember Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli as a committed storyteller who had found personal and professional contentment in the Middle East.
An image of Camilli, leaning pensively over the balcony of the AP office in Gaza with smoke billowing behind him, stood near the simple unfinished wooden casket that accompanied his body back to Italy, and which his family chose to retain in deference to his preference for simplicity.
‘’You might think he was a thrill-seeker. Simone wasn’t one of those," said friend and AP colleague Chris Slaney. "His best work was filmed far from the front lines. He was proud of items which were simple, human stories well-told."
Camilli was killed Wednesday in the Gaza Strip when leftover ordnance believed to have been dropped in an Israeli airstrike blew up. Also killed was freelance Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, who was buried Wednesday. Four police engineers also died in the explosion and AP photographer Hatem Moussa was among three people badly wounded.
Video images made by Camilli were projected in the cathedral complex in Pitigliano, and mourners streaming to the funeral Mass were visibly moved as they paused to watch.