France giving aid to rebel-held Syrian cities, pushing for ‘liberated zones’
PARIS (AP) -- A diplomatic source says France has started providing direct aid to five rebel-held Syrian cities in the first such move by a Western power.
France is also stepping up contacts with armed opposition groups as it pushes to secure "liberated zones" in Syria, the official said.
The aid is notably helping restore water supplies, bakeries and schools affected by Syria’s civil war, the source said Wednesday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the French actions amid Syria’s violence.
He would not name the cities or explain how the aid is being provided, citing security reasons. He said the cities house a total of 700,000 residents and are securely outside control of President Bashar Assad’s regime.
He said France’s allies are also interested in providing similar aid.
Hundreds of Afghan soldiers fired in probe
into insider attacks on foreign troops
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan authorities have detained or removed hundreds of soldiers in an investigation into rising insider attacks against international service personnel who are their supposed partners in the fight against Taliban insurgents and other militants, officials said Wednesday.
The crackdown is the result of the Afghan Defense Ministry’s effort to re-evaluate
The U.S. military is taking precautionary measures too and recently stopped training about 1,000 members of the Afghan Local Police, a controversial network of village-defense units that is growing but remains a fraction of the country’s army and police force. Karzai has expressed concern that without careful vetting, the program could end up arming local troublemakers, strongmen or criminals.
So far this year, 45 international service members, most of them Americans, have died at the hands of Afghan soldiers or policemen or insurgents wearing their uniforms. There were at least 12 such attacks in August alone, resulting in 15 deaths.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said that hundreds of Afghan National Army soldiers were removed from the service, but he declined to provide an exact number or specify how many were detained.
Israeli Gaza strike kills 4 Palestinian militants
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- A Palestinian health official in Gaza says four men have been killed in an Israeli airstrike.
Ashraf al-Kidra says the airstrike hit the central Gaza district of Maghazi on Wednesday evening.
The Israeli military said the men were militants about to fire rockets toward nearby Jewish communities.
It was not known to which group the men belonged.
Israel and Gaza’s ruling Hamas have had a tenuous, unwritten truce since a three-week war more than three years ago. Despite that, militants -- some from Hamas and others from splinter groups -- continue to fire rockets at southern Israel, triggering Israeli airstrikes.
The frequency of the attacks is considerably lower than before the war, when Israel sent forces into Gaza to try to stop the barrages.
Doctors racing to save Colorado girl’s life sifted clues before diagnosing bubonic plague
DENVER (AP) -- The parents of 7-year-old Sierra Jane Downing thought she had the flu when she felt sick days after camping in southwest Colorado.
It wasn’t until she had a seizure that her father knew something was seriously wrong and rushed her to a hospital in their town of Pagosa Springs.
"I didn’t know what was going on. I just reacted," Sean Downing said. "I thought she died."
An emergency room doctor who saw Sierra Jane for the seizure and a 107-degree fever late Aug. 24 wasn’t sure what the cause was either and called other hospitals before the girl was flown to Denver.
There, a pediatric doctor at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children racing to save Sierra Jane’s life got the first inkling that she had bubonic plague. Dr. Jennifer Snow suspected the disease based on the girl’s symptoms, a history of where she’d been, and an online journal’s article on a teen with similar symptoms.
This summer’s scary bugs -- West Nile, hantavirus, plague -- are rare: Tips on how to stay safe
The "bugs" of late summer are biting. The nation is having its worst West Nile virus season in a decade, and up to 10,000 people who stayed in California cabins are at risk of hantavirus. A second case of bubonic plague in the West has been confirmed -- in a girl in Colorado -- and scientists fear that a bumper crop of ticks could spread Lyme disease, the nation’s most common bug-borne malady.
Yet the risk of getting these scary-sounding diseases is small. With the right precautions, you can still enjoy spending time outdoors. And that helps fight much more common threats to your health -- obesity and too little exercise.
How it’s spread: Touching or breathing air particles of urine or droppings from certain types of mice or rats, especially deer mice.
Symptoms: Develop one to six weeks later and can include flulike symptoms that progress into a dry cough, headache, nausea and vomiting, then shortness of breath.
Wis. cops: Man sets dog on teen while dad watches
FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin authorities say a homeowner who accused an 18-year-old man of theft bound the teen by the ankles, hung him upside-down and commanded a pit bull attack him while the teen’s father watched.
The homeowner and father are due in court Thursday in Fond du Lac County.
Sheriff’s Lt. Cameron McGee says the alleged incident happened Friday in the Town of Osceola.
Authorities say the homeowner had the dog attack once as a means of interrogation. The teen was then allegedly bound and hung upside-down from porch rafters while the dog attacked again. McGee says the teen’s father may have participated.
The teen was treated for dog bites all over his body.
Another person arrived at the home and called 911.
BP says old oil from spill exposed by Isaac
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- BP says Hurricane Isaac’s scouring waves exposed deposits of buried tar on the Louisiana coast that were left over from its massive oil spill in 2010.
Louisiana officials closed a stretch of beach near Fourchon on Tuesday after scouts said they found large tar mats. BP acknowledged Wednesday the oil was from its spill.
Ray Melick, a BP PLC spokesman, said in an email that "as this area has undergone severe coastal erosion by Hurricane Isaac, much of the oil has now been exposed."
He says the company was working with the Coast Guard, state officials and land managers to clean up the exposed oil.
Since Isaac’s surge has receded, tar balls and oil have been reported in Alabama and Louisiana on beaches that previously had appeared clean.
N.Y.’s top court to decide whether a lap dance is
tax-exempt art form
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The lawyer for a suburban Albany, N.Y., strip club says it may not be the Bolshoi Ballet, but its lap dances are entitled to the same tax exemption that other artistic performances enjoy.
W. Andrew McCullough made that argument Wednesday in front of New York state’s highest court, in what may be one of the racier tax cases it has ever heard.
He said the club, called Nite Moves, should qualify for the exemption that covers "dramatic or musical arts performances."
An attorney for the state said the club failed to make its case. The state is demanding an estimated $300,000 in back taxes.
A ruling is expected next month.
Far from being mostly junk, human DNA is ‘a jungle’ of complex activity, huge project shows
NEW YORK (AP) -- A colossal international effort has yielded the first comprehensive look at how our DNA works, an encyclopedia of information that will rewrite the textbooks and offer new insights into the biology of disease.
For one thing, it may help explain why some people are more prone to common ailments such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
The findings, reported Wednesday by more than 500 scientists, reveal extraordinarily complex networks that tell our genes what to do and when, with millions of on-off switches.
"It’s this incredible choreography going on, of a modest number of genes and an immense number of ... switches that are choreographing how those genes are used," said Dr. Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which organized the project.
The work also shows that at least 80 percent of the human genetic code, or genome, is active. That’s surprisingly high and a sharp contrast to the idea that the vast majority of our DNA is junk.
Talk show host Beck ratchets up campaign against American Airlines, vows to boycott carrier
DALLAS (AP) -- Radio talk show host Glenn Beck isn’t backing down from his public attack on American Airlines.
For a second straight day, Beck on Wednesday used his show to complain that a flight attendant treated him rudely. Beck claims it was punishment for his conservative views.
Beck said American should fire the flight attendant, and he vowed to never fly on American again.
"These big, stodgy airlines that think they can treat people like garbage -- they can’t," Beck said during a 14-minute segment on Wednesday’s show.
American said it regretted that Beck "had a disappointing experience" on his flight home Monday from Newark, N.J., to Dallas. The airline said that it was still looking into Beck’s complaint.