WORLD IN BRIEF
Russia cuts gas supplies to Ukraine amid unpaid bills, mounting tensions
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia halted natural gas deliveries to Ukraine on Monday, spurning Ukraine’s offer to pay some of its multibillion-dollar gas debt and demanding upfront payments for future supplies.
The decision, coming amid deep tensions over eastern Ukraine, provoked strong words from both sides but does not immediately affect the crucial flow of Russian gas to Europe. Ukraine has enough reserves to last until December, according to the head of its state gas company Naftogaz.
Still, the Russian move could disrupt Europe’s long-term energy supplies if the issue is not resolved, analysts said. Previous gas disputes left Ukraine and some Balkan nations shivering for nearly two weeks in the dead of winter.
The gas conflict is part of a wider dispute over whether Ukraine aligns itself with Russia or with the 28-nation European Union and comes amid a crisis in relations following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March. Ukraine accuses Russia of supporting an armed separatist insurgency in its eastern regions, which Russia denies.
Ukraine’s new president, meanwhile, said Monday that he will propose a detailed peace plan this week that includes a cease-fire with the separatist rebels. But before that happens, the armed forces must secure control over Ukraine’s porous border with Russia, President Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting of his national security council.
Powerful Iranian general in Iraq to help roll back Sunni militants who captured city
BAGHDAD (AP) -- In a sign of Iran’s deepening involvement in the Iraqi crisis, the commander of Tehran’s elite Quds Force is helping Iraq’s military and Shiite militias gear up to fight the Sunni insurgents advancing across the country, officials said Monday.
Washington signaled a new willingness work with Iran to help the Iraqi government stave off the insurgency after years of trying to limit Tehran’s influence in Baghdad -- a dramatic shift that would have been unthinkable a few weeks ago.
The White House also is considering sending a small number of U.S. special forces to Iraq to help the government slow the insurgency, U.S. officials said.
The insurgents seized the strategic city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border Monday, part of its goal of linking areas under its control on both sides of the Iraq-Syria frontier. West of Baghdad, an army helicopter was shot down during clashes near the city of Fallujah, killing the two-man crew, security officials said.
The Quds Force commander, Iranian Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, has been consulting in Iraq on how to roll back the al-Qaida-breakaway group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to Iraqi security officials. Medical speed-dating: Novel study will match lung cancer drugs to patients’ gene profiles
A bold new way to test cancer drugs started Monday in hundreds of hospitals around the U.S. In a medical version of speed dating, doctors will sort through multiple experimental drugs and match patients to the one most likely to succeed based on each person’s unique tumor gene profile.
It’s a first-of-a-kind experiment that brings together five drug companies, the government, private foundations and advocacy groups. The idea came from the federal Food and Drug Administration, which has agreed to consider approving new medicines based on results from the study.
Its goal is to speed new treatments to market and give seriously ill patients more chances to find something that will help. Instead of being tested for individual genes and trying to qualify for separate clinical trials testing single drugs, patients can enroll in this umbrella study, get full gene testing and have access to many options at once.
The study, called Lung-MAP, is for advanced cases of a common, hard-to-treat form of lung cancer -- squamous cell. Plans for similar studies for breast and colon cancer are in the works.
"For patients, it gives them their best chance for treatment of a deadly disease," because everyone gets some type of therapy, said Ellen Sigal, chairwoman and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, a Washington-based research and advocacy group that helped plan and launch the study. "There’s something for everyone, and we’ll get answers faster" on whether experimental drugs work, she said.
2 years after court ruling on GPS tracking, muddled landscape for judges, law enforcement
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Judges around the country are grappling with the ripple effects of a 2-year-old Supreme Court ruling on GPS tracking, reaching conflicting conclusions on the case’s broader meaning and tackling unresolved questions that flare in a world where privacy and technology increasingly collide.
The January 2012 opinion in United States v. Jones set constitutional boundaries for law enforcement’s use of GPS devices to track the whereabouts of criminal suspects. But the different legal rationales offered by the justices have left a muddled legal landscape for police and lower-court judges, who have struggled in the last two years with how and when to apply the decision -- especially at a time when new technologies are developed at a faster rate than judicial opinions are issued.
The result is that courts in different jurisdictions have reached different conclusions on similar issues, providing little uniformity for law enforcement and judges on core constitutional questions. Technological advancements are forcing the issue more and more, a development magnified by a heightened national debate over privacy versus surveillance and the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records.
"Courts are all over the place on all of these issues," said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group.
Among the questions being confronted: Should GPS evidence gathered before the 2012 decision be admissible in court? What are the rights of a passenger in a car being tracked by GPS? And how might the ruling affect other types of technology, such as pole-camera surveillance and "Stingray" devices that capture cellphone data?
Obama to sign order banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After years of pressure from gay rights groups, President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the White House said Monday.
While Obama lacks the authority to extend that protection to all Americans, the order being drafted by the White House would impact about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do not ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. The scope of the measure was tabulated by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
The president has resisted signing the order in hopes Congress would pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers. While the Senate passed the legislation last year, the measure has languished in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that lawmakers will take it up in an election year.
"We’ve been waiting for quite a few months now for the House to take action and unfortunately there are no particularly strong indications that Congress is prepared to act on this," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The White House’s announcement was a significant victory for gay rights advocates, who widely praised Obama’s decision.
Terrorism comes to coastal Kenyan town as people gunned down for being non-Muslims
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- The gunmen went door to door in the Kenyan costal town, demanding to know if the men inside were Muslim and if they spoke Somali. If the extremists did not like the answers, they opened fire, witnesses said on Monday.
Al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaida-linked group, claimed responsibility for the hours-long assault on Mpeketoni in which 48 people were killed. The attack began Sunday night as residents watched World Cup matches on TV and lasted until early Monday, with little resistance from Kenya’s security forces.
After daybreak, Kenyan troops and residents stared at the bodies lying on dirt streets by still-smoldering buildings. Two hotels and many vehicles were set on fire.
The attack highlights the growing incidents of Islamic extremist violence in a country that was once viewed as the bastion of stability in East Africa, drawing tourists from around the world for safaris and beach holidays. The U.S. ambassador made Kenya’s entire coastal region off-limits for embassy employees after the attack.
The merciless life-or-death religious assessment recalled al-Shabab’s attack on an upscale mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, last September in which at least 67 people were killed, some of them after not being able to answer questions about Islam.
Miss. sues world’s largest credit-reporting firm, amid other investigation by 32 other states
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mississippi has sued Experian, the world’s largest firm that collects detailed information about consumers to evaluate their financial trustworthiness. The lawsuit -- and a separate investigation of the industry by 32 other states led by Ohio -- represent a significant new legal challenge to the industry over allegations of paperwork errors and violations of consumer protection laws.
Errors can jeopardize people’s ability to get loans and pass job-related background checks. Experian has even wrongly reported that consumers are on a federal terrorism watch list, the lawsuit alleges.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s complaint accuses Experian Information Solutions of knowingly including error-riddled data in the credit files of millions of Americans, jeopardizing their ability to obtain loans, employment-related background checks and sensitive government security clearances.
The lawsuit against Experian was filed without fanfare last month in a Biloxi state courthouse and transferred to Mississippi federal court late last week.
Experian and its competitors gather and maintain records of consumers’ credit history from banks, debt collectors and other sources, keeping files on more than 200 million Americans. Banks, prospective employers and other parties pay the credit bureaus to review this data, using it to determine whether a borrower is financially stable and a good credit risk. Consumers with blemishes like missed credit card payments or recent bankruptcies on their credit will struggle to get loans, while those with a long record of timely debt repayment are courted by lenders.
Israel’s search for 3 missing teens turns into widest crackdown on Hamas in almost a decade
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel warned Monday it would exact a heavy price from Hamas, as a massive search for three missing Jewish seminary students turned into the widest crackdown on the Islamic militant group in the West Bank in almost a decade.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the apparent abductions, without providing proof, and has arrested more than 150 Palestinians since the three teens disappeared in the West Bank late Thursday.
Most of those rounded up were from Hamas, including activists and political leaders, among them 10 members of the non-functioning Palestinian parliament. Israel’s Security Cabinet discussed further steps Monday, reportedly including the possible deportation of Hamas leaders from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is in control.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Hamas has begun "paying a heavy price, both in terms of arrests and assets," suggesting the aim is to try to dismantle the Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank. It’s not clear how far Israel will go, though, considering the risk of a conflagration in the West Bank after several years of relative calm.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has used the abductions to try to discredit Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the unity government Abbas formed with Hamas backing earlier this month.