Holder orders federal autopsy in Missouri shooting case, citing ‘extraordinary circumstances’
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes violent protests in suburban St. Louis.
The "extraordinary circumstances" surrounding the case of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and a request by Brown’s family members, prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.
"This independent examination will take place as soon as possible," Fallon said. "Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation."
The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation of the shooting. Officials said a day earlier that 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson, Missouri, neighborhood where an unarmed Brown was shot to death in the middle of the street on Aug. 9.
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. Attorney’s office, said a federally conducted autopsy "more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises" might help that investigation, and that the move is "not that unusual.
As Gaza cease-fire talks wind down, divisions emerge among Palestinians
CAIRO (AP) -- The Palestinians appeared divided Sunday as the clock was winding down on the latest Gaza cease-fire, with officials saying Hamas was still opposed to a compromise Egyptian proposal that would ease the closure of the territory, while other factions, including delegates representing President Mahmoud Abbas, were inclined to accept.
Hamas officials said they were holding out in hopes of getting more concessions in the Egyptian-mediated talks. With a temporary truce set to expire late Monday, a range of outcomes remained possible, including a return to fighting that has brought great devastation to Gaza, an unofficial understanding that falls short of a formal negotiated deal or yet another extension in negotiations.
The negotiations are aimed at ending the latest war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed -- mostly civilians -- and more than 10,000 people have been wounded since the war began July 8, according to United Nations figures. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers.
The indirect talks have been going on, through Egyptian mediators, since early last week. As Palestinian and Israeli negotiators returned to Cairo on Sunday following a weekend of consultations across the Middle East, the gaps remained wide.
The current five-day cease-fire is due to end Monday night at midnight.
Liberia: Fears of new infections rise as Ebola clinic looted in capital’s largest slum
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital’s largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients and took items including bloody sheets and mattresses.
The violence in the West Point slum occurred late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said Sunday.
Up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled at the time of the raid, said Nyenswah. Once they are located they will be transferred to the Ebola center at Monrovia’s largest hospital, he said.
West Point residents went on a "looting spree," stealing items from the clinic that were likely infected, said a senior police official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. The residents took medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids including blood, vomit, feces and sweat.
"All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," the official said, adding that he now feared "the whole of West Point will be infected."
Helped by U.S., Iraqi airstrikes, Kurdish forces take parts of dam from Islamic extremists
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) -- Aided by U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes, Kurdish forces Sunday wrested back part of Iraq’s largest dam from Islamic militants who had captured it less than two weeks ago, security officials said.
The U.S. began targeting fighters from the Islamic State with airstrikes Aug. 8, allowing Kurdish forces to fend off an advance on their regional capital of Irbil and to help tens of thousands of members of religious minorities escape the extremists’ onslaught.
Recapturing the entire Mosul Dam and the territory surrounding its reservoir would be a significant victory against the Islamic State group, which has seized swaths of northern and western Iraq and northeastern Syria. The dam on the Tigris supplies electricity and water to a large part of the country.
The Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, launched the operation early Sunday to retake the Mosul Dam, said Gen. Tawfik Desty, a Kurdish commander, after a day of U.S. and Iraqi airstrikes pushed back Islamic State fighters.
A spokesman for the peshmerga said the clashes were moving eastward.
Obama administration pressed to enforce anti-discrimination provisions of health law
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ending insurance discrimination against the sick was a central goal of the nation’s health care overhaul, but leading patient groups say that promise is being undermined by new barriers from insurers.
The insurance industry responds that critics are confusing legitimate cost-control with bias. Some state regulators, however, say there’s reason to be concerned about policies that shift costs to patients and narrow their choices of hospitals and doctors.
With open enrollment for 2015 three months away, the Obama administration is being pressed to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions. Some regulations have been issued; others are pending after more than four years.
More than 300 patient advocacy groups recently wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to complain about some insurer tactics that "are highly discriminatory against patients with chronic health conditions and may ... violate the (law’s) nondiscrimination provisions."
Among the groups were the AIDS Institute, the American Lung Association, Easter Seals, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Kidney Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. All supported the law.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry defends veto that led to indictment, says he stood for ‘rule of law’
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday defended the veto that led a grand jury to indict him on two felony counts of abuse of power, noting that even some Democrats have questioned the move by prosecutors.
"I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again I would make exactly the same decision," Perry, a potential candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said.
Already the longest-serving governor in state history, Perry has made it clear that he plans to complete his third and final term in January as planned. In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," the governor noted that David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Barack Obama, had called the indictment "sketchy" while Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz had questioned the move.
"Across the board you’re seeing people weigh in and reflecting that this is way outside of the norm. This is not the way that we settle differences, political differences in this country," Perry said. "You don’t do it with indictments. We settle our political differences at the ballot box."
A Travis County grand jury on Friday indicted Perry for carrying out a threat to veto state funds to the local district attorney, an elected Democrat, unless she resigned following her arrest and conviction for drunken driving. That 2013 veto prompted a criminal investigation.
Ukraine says govt. troops have entered rebel-held city, captured police station
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Army troops have penetrated deep inside a rebel-controlled city in eastern Ukraine in what could prove a breakthrough development in the four-month-long conflict, the Ukrainian government said Sunday.
However, the military acknowledged that another one of its fighter planes was shot down by the separatists, who have been bullish about their ability to continue the battle and have bragged about receiving support from Russia. An Associated Press reporter spotted a column of several dozen heavy vehicles, including tanks and at least one rocket launcher, rolling through rebel-held territory on Sunday.
Ukraine’s national security council said government forces captured a district police station in Luhansk on Saturday after bitter clashes in the Velika Vergunka neighborhood.
Weeks of fighting have taken their toll on Luhansk, which city authorities say has reached the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. The siege mounted by government forces has ground delivery of basic provisions to a halt and cut off power and running water.
Although rebel forces have regularly yielded territory in recent weeks, they have continued to show formidable fighting capabilities.
Trial of father accused of shooting driver who killed 2 sons raises legal, moral issues
ANGLETON, Texas (AP) -- David Barajas denies killing a drunk driver in a fit of rage after his two sons were fatally struck in 2012 on a rural road in Southeast Texas.
His defense attorney says Barajas is a good man, a grieving father and not a murderer. At the same time, his defense hasn’t publicly suggested who else might be responsible for Jose Banda’s shooting death.
Barajas’ trial is set to begin Monday in a case with many complexities: No weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified him as the shooter and many in Barajas’ community have strongly sympathized with him, with some saying they might have taken the law into their own hands if faced with a similar situation.
Legal experts acknowledge prosecutors could face a greater challenge than simply proving who committed the shooting, similar to another Texas case from 2012 in which a grand jury declined to indict a father who killed a man who molested his child.
"It’s not the right way to do it, but jurors a lot of times make judgments based on moral responsibility, not legal responsibility," said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney who isn’t connected to the case.
Brain scans show how kids learn early math, suggests practicing your sums can help
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sometime in elementary school, you quit counting your fingers and just know the answer. Now scientists have put youngsters into brain scanners to find out why, and watched how the brain reorganizes itself as kids learn math.
The take-home advice: drilling your kids on simple addition and multiplication may pay off.
"Experience really does matter," said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.
Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what’s called fact retrieval when they’re 8 years old to 9 years old, when they’re still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement.
Those who fall behind "are impairing or slowing down their math learning later on," Mann Koepke said.