AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EDT

7/21/2014 8:15 PM
By Associated Press

Rebels let train with dead from Malaysian jet leave Ukrainian town after international outcry

HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) — Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

With body parts decaying in sweltering heat and signs that evidence at the crash site was mishandled, anger in Western capitals has mounted at the rebels and their allies in Moscow. Their reluctant cooperation will soothe mourning families and help investigators, but may do little to reconcile the East-West powers struggling over Ukraine's future.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday it saw no evidence a missile was fired and denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17 — and suggested the Ukrainian military was at fault. President Vladimir Putin spoke out but showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.

President Barack Obama accused the rebels of tampering with evidence and insulting victims' families, warning of new sanctions. Europeans will consider their own sanctions Tuesday.

The bodies of the 298 victims, most from the Netherlands, have become a part of the conflict in Ukraine because they could hold evidence of what brought the plane down on July 17 as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

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Victims' bodies, plane debris could hold vital clues to who shot down airliner over Ukraine

LONDON (AP) — "What exactly are they trying to hide?" President Barack Obama asked Monday as he demanded that Ukrainian rebels give investigators access to the wreckage of the downed jetliner.

The answer is: potentially a lot.

Aviation and defense experts say the victims' bodies could contain missile shrapnel. Chemical residue on the plane could confirm the type of weapon that brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. And the location of the wreckage could yield information on how the attack unfolded.

The black boxes could offer vital clues as well. The cockpit voice recorder would record the bang of a missile. The data recorders, which register altitude and position, would be able to tie that information to the timing of a known missile launch in the area.

"You can effectively backtrack and give a relatively high degree of confidence in the location where that missile took off from," said a Manchester, England-based aviation industry consultant, Chris Yates. "If that location happens to be in rebel-held territory, which we all suspect it is, that would be the first point where you could point the finger of blame."

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. UKRAINE REBELS COOPERATING — RELUCTANTLY

The pro-Russian militants finally release a train full of bodies and hand over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane.

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Israelis resolute for now, but mounting military casualties could bring pressure on Netanyahu

JERUSALEM (AP) — For almost two weeks, Israel practically bristled with confidence and pride: The Iron Dome air defense system was dependably zapping incoming Hamas rockets from the skies, the military was successfully repelling infiltration attempts on the ground and from the sea, and the conflict with Hamas was causing almost no casualties in Israel.

That has changed in what seems like a flash, after at least 25 soldiers were killed and scores injured — a predictable yet still stunning outcome of the fateful decision, announced late Thursday, to send troops and tanks by land into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

In a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, and military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones, the reaction to the setbacks was electric. Newspapers and broadcasts have been dominated by images and tales of the fallen — mostly young faces barely out of high school — and interviews with parents concerned for offspring so clearly now imperiled.

Angst over the highest military toll since the 2006 Lebanon war now mixes with a cocktail of emotions: on one hand, a strong current of determination to press on with efforts to end the rocket fire from Gaza; on the other, the sinking feeling that a quagmire is at hand.

"It's ugly and it's no walk in the park," said Alon Geller, a 42-year-old legal intern from central Israel. "But we have to finish the operation. If we stop now before reaching our goals, the soldiers will have died in vain."

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Johns Hopkins to pay $190M after doctor secretly took gynecological images with tiny cameras

BALTIMORE (AP) — A "rogue" gynecologist who used tiny cameras to secretly record videos and photos of his patients has forced one of the world's top medical centers to pay $190 million to 8,000 women and girls.

Dr. Nikita Levy was fired after 25 years with the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore in February 2013 after a female co-worker spotted the pen-like camera he wore around his neck and alerted authorities.

Levy committed suicide days later, as a federal investigation led to roughly 1,200 videos and 140 images stored on computers in his home.

"All of these women were brutalized by this," said their lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor. "Some of these women needed counseling, they were sleepless, they were dysfunctional in the workplace, they were dysfunctional at home, they were dysfunctional with their mates. This breach of trust, this betrayal — this is how they felt."

The preliminary settlement approved by a judge Monday is one of the largest on record in the U.S. involving sexual misconduct by a physician. It all but closes a case that never produced criminal charges but seriously threatened Hopkins' reputation.

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Whistleblower complaints about VA's problems bring retaliation, watchdog group alleges

WASHINGTON (AP) — A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

Medical professionals from coast to coast have pointed out problems at the VA, only to suffer retaliation from supervisors and other high-ranking officials, according to a report Monday by a private government watchdog.

The report compiled by the Project on Government Oversight, a group that conducts its own investigations and works with whistleblowers, is based on comments and complaints filed by nearly 800 current and former VA employees and veterans. Those comments indicate that concerns about the VA go far beyond the long waiting times or falsified appointment records that have received much recent attention, extending to the quality of health care services veterans receive, the report said.

The group set up a website in mid-May for complaints and said it has received allegations of wrongdoing from 35 states and the District of Columbia.

"A recurring and fundamental theme has become clear: VA employees across the country fear they will face repercussions if they dare to raise a dissenting voice," said Danielle Brian, the group's executive director. "Until we eliminate the culture of intimidation and climate of fear, no reforms will be able to turn this broken agency around."

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Teens in homeless beating deaths may have attacked 50 others, police say; bond set at $5M

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Three teenagers accused of fatally beating two homeless men beyond recognition with cinder blocks, bricks and a metal fence pole may have been terrorizing transients around Albuquerque for months, police said Monday.

A man who identified himself as the father of two of the boys said they were once homeless themselves and he had no idea what prompted the beatings. One of the boys told police they had attacked about 50 homeless people over the last few months, but had never gone that far. But on Friday night, he was angry about breaking up with his girlfriend, he said.

Alex Rios, 18, and two boys ages 16 and 15 were ordered held on $5 million bond each during initial court appearances Monday. They face murder charges stemming from the brutal attack in an Albuquerque lot where neighbors say transients regularly camped at night.

Following their arrest, the 15-year-old also told police that the trio had been targeting homeless people for the past year, according to a criminal complaint.

Prosecutors requested bonds of just $1 million, but Metropolitan Court Judge Linda Rogers set it higher, citing the gravity of the alleged crimes and the suspects' potential to flee. The district attorney's office said the younger suspects were charged as serious youthful offenders, meaning they could be tried in adult court.

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Red meat isn't very green: Study finds beef pollutes far more than pork, poultry, dairy, eggs

WASHINGTON (AP) — Raising beef for the American dinner table does far more damage to the environment than producing pork, poultry, eggs or dairy, a new study says.

Compared with the other animal proteins, beef produces five times more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out six times as much water-polluting nitrogen, takes 11 times more water for irrigation and uses 28 times the land, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cows are not efficient at converting feed to protein for human consumption, said lead author Gidon Eshel, an environmental physics professor at Bard College in New York.

Eshel used U.S. government figures to calculate air and water emissions and how much water and land were used in the lifetime production of beef, pork, poultry, dairy and eggs. While other studies have looked at the issue, this is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research quantifying and comparing the U.S. environmental costs of different meats and other animal protein.

The beef industry called the study "a gross oversimplification of the complex systems that make up the beef value chain."

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Obama bans discrimination against federal workers and contractors who are gay and transgender

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts, telling advocates he embraced the "irrefutable rightness of your cause."

"America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people," Obama declared at a White House signing ceremony.

Obama said it was unacceptable that being gay is still a firing offense in many places in the United States, and he called on Congress to extend the ban to all employers. But legislation that would extend the ban has become embroiled in a dispute over whether religious groups should get exemptions.

The president had long resisted pressure to pursue an executive anti-discrimination order covering federal contractors in the hope that Congress would take more sweeping action. The Senate passed legislation last year with some Republican support, but it has not been considered by the GOP-controlled House. Now, said Obama, "It's time to address this injustice for every American."

Mia Macy of Portland, Oregon, watched Obama's announcement in tears as an invited guest in the East Room. The military veteran and former Phoenix police detective applied to be a ballistics expert with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as a male but was rejected after she changed her name and began identifying as a woman. She filed a successful complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and settled a discrimination lawsuit against the government last year.

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Mexican 'coyotes': New wave of Central American migration puts light on decades-old smuggling

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala (AP) — The man-in-the-know nursed a late-morning beer at a bar near the Suchiate River that separates Guatemala from Mexico, and answered a question about his human smuggling business with a question: "Do you think a coyote is going to say he's a coyote?"

Dressed as a migrant in shorts and sandals but speaking like an entrepreneur, he then described shipments of tens of thousands of dollars in human cargo from the slums of Honduras and highlands of Guatemala to cities across the United States.

"It's business," he said, agreeing to speak to a reporter only if guaranteed anonymity. "Sometimes, business is very good."

Judging by the dramatic increase in the number of minors apprehended in the United States in recent months, it seems the human smuggling business from Central America is booming. The vast majority of migrants who enter the U.S. illegally do so with the help of a network of smugglers known as "coyotes," so named for the scavengers that prowl the border.

It is a high-risk, often high-yield business estimated to generate $6.6 billion a year for smugglers along Latin America's routes to the U.S., according to a 2010 United Nations report. The migrants pay anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 each for the illegal journey across thousands of miles in the care of smuggling networks that in turn pay off government officials, gangs operating on trains and drug cartels controlling the routes north.


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