Weapons convoys seen rolling in eastern Ukraine from the direction of Russia
KRASNODON, Ukraine (AP) -- For several evenings this month, convoys of military weaponry passed with clockwork-like regularity through Krasnodon, a rebel-held town in eastern Ukraine near the porous border with Russia.
The convoys were seen three times last week by Associated Press reporters, and one of them carried about 30 units of weaponry and supplies. All were coming from the direction of Russia and heading west to where pro-Moscow separatists were fighting Ukrainian troops.
One rebel fighter described how easy it was to cross into Ukraine through a Russian-controlled frontier post in a convoy that included a tank, adding that the border officer appeared unfazed at the deadly cargo.
NATO and Ukraine have accused Moscow of covertly shuttling heavy artillery and other weapons to the separatists -- allegations that Russia routinely denies. NATO says since mid-August, those weapons have been fired from both inside Ukraine and from Russian territory.
U.S. nuclear expert calls for California nuclear plant
shutdown until proven safe
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A senior federal nuclear expert is urging regulators to shut down California’s last operating nuclear plant until they can determine whether the facility’s twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from any one of several nearby earthquake faults.
Michael Peck, who for five years was Diablo Canyon’s lead on-site inspector, says in a 42-page, confidential report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not applying the safety rules it set out for the plant’s operation.
The document, which was obtained and verified by The Associated Press, does not say the plant itself is unsafe. Instead, according to Peck’s analysis, no one knows whether the facility’s key equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults -- the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built.
Continuing to run the reactors, Peck writes, "challenges the presumption of nuclear safety."
Peck’s July 2013 filing is part of an agency review in which employees can appeal a supervisor’s or agency ruling -- a process that normally takes 60 to 120 days, but can be extended. The NRC, however, has not yet ruled. Spokeswoman Lara Uselding said in emails that the agency would have no comment on the document.
Mourners fill huge church for Michael Brown’s funeral, urge black Americans to take action
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The mourners filled an enormous church to remember Michael Brown -- a "gentle giant," aspiring rapper and recent high school graduate on his way to a technical college.
But the funeral that unfolded Monday was about much more than the black 18-year-old who lay in the closed casket after being shot to death by a white police officer. The emotional service sought to consecrate Brown’s death as another in the long history of the civil rights movement and implored black Americans to change their protest chants into legislation and law.
"Show up at the voting booths. Let your voices be heard, and let everyone know that we have had enough of all of this," said Eric Davis, one of Brown’s cousins.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called for a movement to clean up police forces and the communities they serve.
"We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in our community that are wrong need to be dealt with," Sharpton said.
Syrian government warns against unilateral U.S. airstrikes on
Islamic militants inside Syria
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syria said Monday it was ready to help confront the rising threat from the Islamic State group, but warned the United States against carrying out airstrikes without Damascus’ consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression.
In seeking to portray itself as a partner for the international community, Syria seemed intent on capitalizing on the growing clamor among some U.S. officials, including military leaders, to expand the current American air campaign against the Islamic extremists in Iraq and to hit them in Syria as well.
President Barack Obama has long been wary of getting dragged into the bloody and complex Syrian civil war that the United Nations says has killed more than 190,000 people. He has resisted intervening militarily in the conflict, even after a deadly chemical weapons attack a year ago that Washington blamed on President Bashar Assad’s government.
But the extremist group’s rampage across wide swaths of Iraq, declaration of a state governed by their harsh interpretation of Islamic law in territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border, and grisly beheading of an American journalist, have injected a new dynamic into those calculations. Now, Obama faces pressure from his own military leaders to go after the extremists inside Syria.
Speaking in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem appeared acutely aware of how much has changed since last August, when the U.S. was threatening to carry out punitive airstrikes against Assad’s government in the wake of the chemical attack. Since then, global disapproval has shifted away from Assad and toward the Islamic extremists who are fighting him and spreading destruction across Syria and Iraq.
American freelance journalist held in Syria for nearly 2 years by Nusra Front now free
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As the U.S. mourned an American journalist beheaded by Islamic militants, the nation found something of a reprieve with the release of another freelance reporter who had been held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria.
Peter Theo Curtis, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos, was freed Sunday, offering consolation to U.S. officials, a journalism community and family members deeply unnerved by the grisly video of James Foley’s beheading in a desolate desert landscape.
Curtis’ father, Michael Padnos, said his wife spoke to their son briefly by telephone Monday morning and that he seemed to be in good physical health.
Padnos said his son was apparently in Tel Aviv but would be flown back to Boston soon. He praised the work of the U.S. and other governments in getting his son freed.
"We are very thrilled, and we hope the same thing is going to be true for all the others (journalists held)," said Padnos, speaking in a telephone interview from a boat outside Paris.
Thousands of Israelis living next to Gaza clear out amid Palestinian mortar attacks
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Hundreds of Israelis left their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, reflecting growing frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire raining down on their communities. Tens of thousands of Israelis have fled the area in nearly two months of fighting, which has turned the communities into virtual ghost towns.
With the school year fast approaching, the government began offering assistance to residents Monday in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.
Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left over the course of the fighting, including hundreds on Monday. Some went to stay with relatives and friends, while others are staying at hostels or were taken in by strangers who want to help fellow Israelis.
Fields that once yielded vegetables and flowers are barren and pockmarked by Palestinian mortar shells. Streets are empty and most homes eerily silent.
The fighting has killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, according to Gaza officials, leveled thousands of buildings and left tens of thousands of people homeless.
Liberian doctor who got experimental Ebola drug dies, says information minister
MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) -- A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday, as Canada said it has yet to send out doses of a potential vaccine that the government is donating.
Ebola has left more than 1,400 people dead across West Africa, underscoring the urgency for developing potential ways to stop and treat the disease. However, health experts warn these options have not undergone the rigorous testing that usually takes place before drugs and vaccines are approved.
The experimental vaccines are at still at a Canadian laboratory, said Patrick Gaebel, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, who declined to speculate how many weeks it could be before those are given to volunteers.
"We are now working with the (World Health Organization) to address complex regulatory, logistical and ethical issues so that the vaccine can be safely and ethically deployed as rapidly as possible," Gaebel said.
Only six people in the world are known to have received the untested drug known as ZMapp. The small supply is now said to be exhausted and it is expected to be months before more can be produced by its U.S. maker.
Burger King may move to Canada despite upset U.S. customers
NEW YORK (AP) -- Some Burger King customers are finding it hard to swallow that the home of the Whopper could move to Canada.
Investors seemed to welcome the announcement by Burger King late Sunday that it was in talks to buy Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create the world’s third-largest fast-food restaurant company. The news pushed shares of both companies up more than 20 percent.
But customers were already voicing their discontent with the 60-year-old hamburger chain because of its plans to relocate its corporate headquarters to Canada in a deal that could lower its taxes. By Monday afternoon, Burger King’s Facebook page had more than 1,000 mostly negative comments about the potential deal.
Shawn Simpson, who hadn’t heard of the talks until approached by a reporter while he was at a Burger King in New York City on Monday afternoon, said he didn’t like the idea of the company paying its taxes to another country.
"For them to take their headquarters and move it across the border is a negative for me," said Simpson, 44, who was ordering a Double Whopper and onion rings. "It’s an American brand."
Archaeologists enter underground tomb in northern Greece that appears looted long ago
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Archaeologists excavating an ancient tomb under a massive burial mound in northern Greece have entered the underground structure, which appears to have been looted in antiquity.
The Culture Ministry said Monday that archaeologists have partially investigated the antechamber of the tomb at Amphipolis and uncovered a marble wall concealing one or more inner chambers. However, a hole in the decorated wall and signs of forced entry outside the huge barrel-vaulted structure indicate the tomb was plundered long ago. The excavation will continue for weeks.
The tomb dates between 325 B.C. -- two years after the death of ancient Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great -- and 300 B.C. Its discovery and a visit there by Greece’s prime minister have sparked extensive speculation on its contents.
Alexander was buried in Egypt.