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Friday, July 25, 2014

Taiwan plane survivor crawls out, phones dad

Taiwan plane survivor crawls out, phones dad

AP Photo
Emergency workers watch an engine lifted from the TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 crash site on the outlying Taiwan island of Penghu, Friday, July 25, 2014. Investigators on Friday were examining wreckage and flight data recorders for clues into a plane crash on the Taiwanese island that killed 48 people.

XIXI, Taiwan (AP) -- The 10 survivors of Taiwan's worst air disaster in more than a decade include a 34-year-old woman who called her father after scrambling from the wreckage and seeking help at a nearby home.


Hung Yu-ting escaped through a hole in the fuselage that opened up after the plane plowed into homes Wednesday while attempting to land on the outlying resort island of Penghu, killing 48 people. She used the phone at the nearby house to call her father.

"She called me on the phone to say the plane had crashed and exploded but that she had already crawled out and I should come right away to get her," said Hung's father, Hung Chang-ming, who lives just a few hundred meters (yards) from the crash site.

Hung rushed to the scene, but his daughter had already been taken away by rescuers.

"When I was halfway there the fire was still really big, but it was smaller when I arrived on the scene," Hung told reporters. "There were two other injured outside and the first ambulance had already taken away three, including my daughter."

Hung Chang-ming joined rescuers and other residents in putting out the fire and rescuing other survivors before going to the hospital to check on his daughter.

Hung Yu-ting was recovering Friday from burns to her arms, legs and back suffered during her escape. The condition of the other survivors wasn't immediately known.

Other relatives weren't so lucky, some recalling the last phone conversations with their loved ones.

Shu Chi-tse said he had spoken to his son, Shu Chong-tai, just before the flight left the southern city of Kaohsiung on Taiwan's main island for the short ride west across the Taiwan Strait.

"He is a good boy. He cares for me and his mom. He loves his grandma a lot," Shu said.

Among the dead were all four members of the flight crew, a family of six and a family of four. They included several children, among them 9-year-old Ho Po-yu, who was returning home to Penghu with his mother after attending a summer camp for young choral singers.

Stormy weather and low visibility are thought to have been factors in the crash of the twin-propeller ATR-72 operated by TransAsia Airways.

The investigation is expected to focus on a four-minute gap between the pilot's request for a second approach and the plane's crashing into village homes at 7:10 p.m., during which visibility dropped by half.

One of the questions is why the pilots decided to proceed with the flight despite rough weather on the heels of a typhoon that had forced the cancellation of about 200 flights earlier in the day. However, aviation authorities said conditions were safe for flying and two other planes had landed at Penghu prior to the crash.

The mother of one of the victims screamed at TransAsia Chairman Vincent Lin when he arrived to pay respects at the funeral hall Friday.

Lin kneeled down, bowed to the woman and apologized.

"Give me back my son, he is only 27 years old," the woman cried. "He is still young, but now he is lying there at the morgue. I want my son back."

"This is an unpredictable tragedy. The priority for us is to assist victims' relatives," Lin later told reporters as Buddhist monks conducted rituals for the dead.

Local media reported Friday that the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder had been sent to the main island of Taiwan for analysis. One of the devices was damaged in the crash and ensuing fire, and it wasn't immediately clear when results of the investigation would be made public.

The TransAsia crash was Taiwan's first deadly civil aviation accident since 2002, when a China Airlines plane went down shortly after takeoff, killing 225.
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

Planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands
 

AP Photo
Graffiti under a railway bridge commemorates the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, July 24, 2014. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he is sending 40 unarmed military police to eastern Ukraine as part of a ramped-up effort to find the last victims of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 still at the crash site. Rutte told The Associated Press he is sending the police not as security for the site in rebel-held territory but as “extra hands and eyes to look for remaining remains and personal belongings” of victims.

KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.


Human remains continue to be found a full week after the plane went down - underlining concerns about the halting and chaotic recovery effort at the sprawling site spread across farmland in eastern Ukraine. Armed separatists control the area and have hindered access by investigators.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 - most of them Dutch citizens - were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster. Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was traveling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.

International experts found more remains still at the crash site both Wednesday and Thursday, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters in Donetsk on Thursday. OSCE observers, sent to monitor the conflict, escorted a delegation from Australia to examine the wreckage Thursday for the first time. More Australian specialists are expected to join them Friday, Bociurkiw said.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes Thursday brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working in Hilversum at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead. Around the world some 1,000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.

Staff will "examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days," police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said in a telephone interview. "Then we have to see if there is a match."

There are three scientific methods of identifying bodies - dental records, finger prints and DNA.

After the experts believe they have positively identified a body, they defend their findings to an international panel. If both agree, the positive identification will be sent to a Dutch prosecution office, which has the power to release the body to the next of kin.

Zorko warned that the process of identification could be drawn out.
"Unfortunately this type of investigation often takes time," she said. "Count on weeks and maybe even months."

The Dutch Safety Board said investigators in England successfully downloaded data from Flight 17's Flight Data Recorder. It said "no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorder was found." It did not release any details of the data.

Meanwhile, police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes by Thursday on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum.

On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the number of Dutch victims had risen by one to 194, taking into account a woman with joint German and Dutch nationalities who earlier had been listed as German.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the crash, but offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

Russia on Thursday brushed off the accusations. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a video statement that if the U.S. officials indeed had the proof the plane shot down by a missile launched from the rebel-held territory, "how come they have not been made public?"

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands.

The Obama administration on Thursday accused Russia of firing artillery from its territory into Ukraine to hit Ukrainian military sites and asserted that Moscow is boosting its supply of weaponry to pro-Russian separatists.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russian to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. She said the evidence derived from "some intelligence information" but declined to elaborate, saying it would compromise sources and methods of intelligence collection.

In Brussels, ambassadors from the 28 European Union nations agreed Thursday to add more names to the list of Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians subject to EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans for allegedly acting against Ukraine's territorial integrity. Seventy-two people are already covered by the measures.

European Union officials said the new names would be made public only Friday and the fresh sanctions could for the first time result in Russian companies being blacklisted from doing business in the EU.

On Friday, the ambassadors will meet again to discuss the possible imposition of further sweeping measures, targeting Russia's high-tech, energy, defense and banking sectors, if Russia fails to cease its alleged support for the rebellion.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the White House expects that at least some of the individuals targeted by the EU will overlap with those sanctioned already by the U.S.
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israeli mood turns dark with mounting casualties

Israeli mood turns dark with mounting casualties 

AP Photo
Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, Monday, July 21, 2014. Melako was one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, as Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers. In Israel, a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones.

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."

But the Haaretz newspaper warned against mission creep and the "wholesale killing" of Palestinian civilians. 

"The soft Gaza sand ... could turn into quicksand," it said in its editorial Monday. "There can be no victory here. ... Israel must limit its time in the Strip."

There was always near-consensus among Israelis for the airstrikes aimed at ending the rocket fire, which they considered unreasonable and outrageous. The Palestinian fatalities caused by the airstrikes - over 500 in two weeks, many of them civilians - are generally blamed here on Hamas, for locating launchers in civilian areas and for proving to be cynical and nihilistic, to Israeli eyes, at every turn.

But a ground invasion of Gaza is another story, and the government had clearly hesitated to take the risk. House-to-house fighting, tanks exposed in fields, the danger of a soldier being kidnapped, to be traded for thousands after years in captivity: It is an untidy and dispiriting affair.

The government felt it necessary to take such a risky step because despite all the damage being inflicted on Gaza by the airstrikes, the Hamas rocket fire simply did not stop. Israeli officials also felt world opinion would understand after Hamas rejected a cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted.

Complicating the situation from Israel's perspective, Hamas does not seem to be coming under significant pressure from the people of Gaza despite the devastation they are enduring. While Gaza is no democracy and Hamas rules by force, this seems to reflect genuine support for Hamas' aim of breaking the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the strip.

Emboldened, Hamas ratcheted up attempts to carry out deadly attacks against Israeli border communities through tunnels dug underneath the fence separating Israel from Gaza. For Israelis, that raised a terrifying specter of families in placid farming areas on the edge of the Negev desert waking up to find swarms of Islamic militants in their midst.

"This brought it home that they are out to kill us and we have to stop them," said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a political analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies. "No one can say he (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) was trigger-happy. It convinced the Israeli public that the decision taken by Netanyahu came from a sense of `we have no other choice.'"

Despite the absence of panic Monday, it is clear that if soldiers continue to be killed at this rate, the flexibility enjoyed by Netanyahu to date will likely be replaced by a growing sense of urgency to stop the casualties. Many Israeli leftists will demand an end to the operation. Hard-liners will demand more radical action, up to and including a takeover of Gaza. That will add to the already mounting pressure from an outside world horrified by the carnage on the Palestinian side.

The prime minister is probably mindful that the popularity tipping point for his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, came when the public concluded too many soldiers were being killed and that the military was not fully prepared during the 2006 war.

Some - in the government and on the street - are already calling for a total invasion aimed at ousting Hamas, even if this leaves Israel again occupying a hostile and impoverished population of 1.8 million, as it did for nearly four uncomfortable decades until its pullout from Gaza in 2005. For the moment the ground operation is mostly limited to areas relatively near the Israeli border, where Israel is shutting down tunnels and hunting for rocket launchers; a takeover of Gaza City would probably be much more costly still.

"I hate war. I'm pained by every death," said Haviv Shabtai, a 61-year-old Jerusalem bus driver who has served in several wars, has a son currently called up, and had opposed a ground invasion because of the risk. Shabtai said he took the losses personally and was even physically overwhelmed at the news."After recovering from that shock," he said, "I say go all the way."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

US outlines case against Russia on downed plane

US outlines case against Russia on downed plane 

AP Photo
A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, July 20, 2014. Rebels in eastern Ukraine took control Sunday of the bodies recovered from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and the U.S. and European leaders demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin make sure rebels give international investigators full access to the crash site.
  
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

"A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence ... it's powerful here," said Secretary of State John Kerry, a former prosecutor, and it holds Russian-supported rebels in eastern Ukraine responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, with the Kremlin complicit in the deaths of nearly 300 passengers and crew members.

"This is the moment of truth for Russia," said Kerry, leveling some of Washington's harshest criticism of Moscow since the crisis in Ukraine began.

"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists, and Russia has not yet done the things necessary in order to try to bring them under control," he said.

In a round of television interviews, Kerry cited a mix of U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence and social media reports that he said "obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists" for firing the missile that brought the plane down, killing nearly 300 passengers and crew.

"It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists," he said.
Video of an SA-11 launcher, with one of its missiles missing and leaving the likely launch site, has been authenticated, he said.

An Associated Press journalist saw a missile launcher in rebel-held territory close to the crash site just hours before the plane was brought down Thursday.

"There's a buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence," Kerry said. "We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing, and it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar. We also know from voice identification that the separatists were bragging about shooting it down afterward."

In one set of calls, said by Ukrainian security services to have been recorded shortly after the plane was hit, a prominent rebel commander, Igor Bezler, tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane.

Shortly before Kerry's television appearances, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, released a statement saying experts had authenticated the calls.

"Audio data provided to the press by the Ukrainian security service was evaluated by intelligence community analysts who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders, based on comparing the Ukraine-released internet audio to recordings of known separatists," the statement said.

A new set of recordings apparently made Friday also appears to implicate rebels in an attempted cover-up at the crash site.

In one exchange, a man identified as the leader of the rebel Vostok Battalion Alexander Khodakovsky states that two recording devices are being held by the head of intelligence of the insurgency's military commander. The commander is then heard to order the militiaman to ensure no outsiders, including an international observation team near the crash site at the reported time of the call, get hold of any material.

The man identified as Khodakovsky says he is pursuing inquiries about the black boxes under instructions from "our high-placed friends ... in Moscow."

In another conversation with a rebel representative at the crash site who reports finding an orange box marked as a satellite navigation box, Khodakovsky is purported to order that the object be hidden.

U.S. aviation safety experts say they are especially concerned the site will be "spoiled" if it cannot be quickly secured by investigators. Based on photographs, they say it is a very large debris field consistent with an in-flight explosion and the main evidence to be collected would be pieces of the missile.

Because the integrity of the plane and actions of the pilots are not an issue, the experts do not believe the flight recorders will yield much useful information.

U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have been at the forefront of accusations that the separatists, aided by Russia, are responsible, although other countries, including Australia and Britain have offered similar, if less definitive, assessments.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in an unusual front-page piece in the Sunday Times that there is growing evidence that separatist backed by Russia shot down the aircraft.

"If President (Vladimir) Putin does not change his approach to Ukraine, then Europe and the West must fundamentally change our approach to Russia," Cameron wrote.

Putin and other Russian officials have blamed the government in Ukraine for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed, but have yet to directly address the allegations that the separatists were responsible or were operating with technical assistance from Moscow.

In his interviews, Kerry accused Russia of "playing" a dual-track policy in Ukraine of saying one thing and doing another. That, he said, "is really threatening both the larger interests as well as that region and threatening Ukraine itself."

He lamented that the level of trust between Washington and Moscow is now at a low ebb, saying it "would be ridiculous at this point in time to be trusting" of what the Kremlin says.

Kerry also said the administration was hopeful that the incident would galvanize support in Europe for increasing sanctions on Russia over its overall actions in Ukraine.

"We hope this is a wake-up call for some countries in Europe that have been reluctant to move," Kerry said, noting that President Barack Obama had signed off on a new round of sanctions on Russia the day before the plane went down.

Kerry made his comments in appearance on five talk shows: CNN's "State of the Union," "Fox News Sunday," CBS's "Face the Nation," NBC's "Meet the Press," and ABC's "This Week."


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Owner of raided Mexico child shelter was admired

Owner of raided Mexico child shelter was admired 

AP Photo
A boy peers out through the door of a cell-like room inside The Great Family group home in Zamora, Mexico, Thursday, July 17, 2014. After a police raid on the refuse-strewn group home Tuesday, residents of the shelter told authorities that some employees beat residents, fed them rotting food or locked them in a tiny "punishment" room. Shelter residents were still being kept at the home while officials look for places to transfer them.

ZAMORA, Mexico (AP) -- For more than six decades, poor parents struggling to support their children or raise troubled youths sent them to a group home in western Mexico run by a woman who gained a reputation as a secular saint.

Rosa del Carmen Verduzco raised thousands of children in The Great Family home. She cultivated patrons among Mexico's political and intellectual elites, and was visited by presidents and renowned writers.

Then, last year, parents began complaining to authorities that they couldn't visit their children at the home. 

Residents told investigators of Dickensian horrors - rapes, beatings and children held against their will for years in trash-strewn rooms with filthy toilets.

On Tuesday, heavily armed federal police and soldiers raided the home and arrested nine caretakers, including the 79-year-old woman known as Mama Rosa.

The revelations spawned disgust and horror, but also a rush to Mama Rosa's defense by supporters who include some of Mexico's most respected intellectuals and some of the very children who say they were mistreated at her facility.

"It was a great job that she did in Zamora and now, clearly, she is being persecuted," Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico's most prominent writers, told Milenio Television. "What should be done, really, is that the government should take better care of people."

The outpouring of support appears based on the belief that Verduzco was not complicit in any abuse, even if her age and declining health stopped her from correctly overseeing the home. It also reflects deep skepticism of President Enrique Pena Nieto's government, which publicized the raid as an example of its efforts to protect children.

Tomas Zeron, federal chief of criminal investigations, told the Televisa network Friday that he doubts Verduzco will be charged with a crime, saying she lost control of a once-worthy charity because of her age, and would probably go free.

The Great Family appears to have operated more as a commune than a professionally run children's home. In interviews with The Associated Press, current and former residents described a chaotic world where troubled teenagers were overseen by adult residents, many of whom started living there as children themselves, with virtually no professional supervision.

The police raid on Tuesday found six babies, 154 girls, 278 boys, 50 women and 109 men, federal officials said. Prosecutors said 10 people were so severely malnourished they couldn't determine their ages.

Children and adult residents couldn't leave the home without a chaperone. Sex inside the facility was common, both consensual and, according to the government, rape and sexual abuse.

Luis Perez Juarez, 32, a waiter at a local bar, said he fled the home in 2003 after almost a decade there.

"She punished me, she hit me, she pulled my ears and she left me without food for a week," prompting other children to sneak him food, Juarez said of Verduzco. But, "she gave me a bed, a place to stay, food and an education, and I am grateful to her for that."

Many members of Mexico's elite remain loyal to her.

"Filth, abuse. Did that merit a military operation?" historian and essayist Enrique Krauze wrote on his Twitter account.

Former President Vicente Fox, whose administration helped gather donations for the home, wrote in his Twitter account that "a great injustice is being committed .... Mama Rosa, we know you and your great work."

The country's child-protection agency referred many of the children to the home after their parents said they were financially or emotionally unable to care for them. Funding was a mix of private donations and public money. Inspections apparently were lax or non-existent.

Former residents told the AP that Verduzco adopted many of the children, giving them her name.

Paid professionals living outside the home ran the elementary, junior high school and music programs, but most work was done by residents who came as children and stayed on as adults, helping care for youngsters in exchange for room, board and a tiny stipend. Of the eight people arrested with Verduzco, one was a professional teacher and the rest were former residents who stayed on, said Montserrat Marin Verduzco, Mama Rosa's niece. None have been formally charged.

Inside the home Thursday, government workers prepared lunch as the nearly 600 residents lounged and played on blankets and mattresses piled in rooms and on the patio. The children's fate is uncertain, although many will probably be returned to their parents.

Residents said consensual sex was common at the home, as were fights among residents, bullying and physical abuse. Karen Rodriguez Medina, 18, has a 6-month-old baby girl with a young man who also lives there.

"Yes, I am thankful to Mama Rosita for what she has done, but in other aspects no, because she allowed violence among us," Rodriguez Medina said. "She didn't give us diapers or things the baby needed, but she did give us a roof to live under."

Relatives said they were allowed only limited visits and when they sought to withdraw their family members Verduzco requested money for their release.

Maria Valdivia Vasquez, 65, said she was allowed only two visits a year with her 17-year-old grandson, whose mother abandoned him at the home a decade ago. She said when she requested the boy's release, Verduzco demanded 70,000 pesos ($5,400).

Raquel Briones Gallegos, 44, said she tried to get her 20-year-old son out in April. "They ran me out of the 
 house and said insulting things," she said.

On Saturday, authorities said the first children had been transferred to official institutions. Michoacan state Gov. Salvador Jara said 48 children left the home on Friday for Guadalajara in neighboring Jalisco state, where they came from. Another 19 children could leave for the same destination on Saturday or Sunday. Other residents have been transferred to Guanajuato or Mexico state.

Dr. Alberto Sahagun, director of the hospital where Verduzco is under police guard while being treated for diabetes and blood pressure problems, said she was a strict but selfless crusader, adopting children nobody else wanted.

"She had to be tough, to handle several hundred children," said Sahagun.

He suggested that as Verduzco grew older, she may have lost control of the institution. And the iron character that forged her project kept her from delegating responsibility. "Her sin was not asking for help as she grew old

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ukraine: Pro-Russia rebels downed Malaysian plane

Ukraine: Pro-Russia rebels downed Malaysian plane

AP Photo
Fire engines arrive at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, as the sun sets Thursday, July 17, 2014. Ukraine said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday as it flew over the country, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane.
  
HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down a Malaysian jetliner with 298 people aboard Thursday, sharply escalating the crisis and threatening to draw both East and West deeper into the conflict. The rebels denied downing the aircraft.

American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile brought the plane down but were still working on who fired the missile and whether it came from the Russian or Ukrainian side of the border, a U.S. official said.

Bodies, debris and burning wreckage of the Boeing 777 were strewn over a field near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting has raged for months.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden described the plane as having been "blown out of the sky."

The aircraft appeared to have broken up before impact, and there were large pieces of the plane that bore the red, white and blue markings of Malaysia Airlines - now familiar worldwide because of the carrier's still-missing jetliner from earlier this year.

The cockpit and one of the turbines lay at a distance of one kilometer (more than a half-mile) from one another. Residents said the tail was about 10 kilometers (six miles) farther away. Rescue workers planted sticks with white flags in spots where they found human remains.

There was no sign of any survivors from Flight 17, which took off shortly after noon Thursday from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers, including three infants, and a crew of 15. Malaysia's prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down and that the flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

President Petro Poroshenko called it an "act of terrorism" and demanded an international investigation. He insisted his forces did not shoot down the plane.

Ukraine's security services produced what they said were two intercepted telephone conversations that showed rebels were responsible. In the first call, the security services said, rebel commander Igor Bezler tells a Russian military intelligence officer that rebel forces shot down a plane. In the second, two rebel fighters - one of them at the crash scene - say the rocket attack was carried out by a unit of insurgents about 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the site.

Neither recording could be independently verified.

Earlier in the week, the rebels had claimed responsibility for shooting down two Ukrainian military planes.

President Barack Obama called the crash a "terrible tragedy" and spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as Poroshenko. Britain asked for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine.

Later, Putin said Ukraine bore responsibility for the crash, but he didn't address the question of who might have shot it down and didn't accuse Ukraine of doing so.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said, according to a Kremlin statement issued early Friday. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

At the United Nations, Ukrainian Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the AP that Russia gave the separatists a sophisticated missile system and thus Moscow bears responsibility, along with the rebels.

Officials said more than half of those aboard the plane were Dutch citizens, along with passengers from Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada. The home countries of nearly 50 were not confirmed.

The different nationalities of the dead would bring Ukraine's conflict to parts of the globe that were never touched by it before.

Ukraine's crisis began after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was driven from office in February by a protest movement among citizens angry about endemic corruption and seeking closer ties with the European Union. Russia later annexed the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine, and pro-Russians in the country's eastern regions began occupying government buildings and pressing for independence. Moscow denies Western charges it is supporting the separatists or sowing unrest.

Kenneth Quinn of the Flight Safety Foundation said an international coalition of countries should lead the investigation. Safety experts say they're concerned that because the plane crashed in area of Ukraine that is in dispute, political considerations could affect the investigation.

The RIA-Novosti agency quoted rebel leader Alexander Borodai as saying talks were underway with Ukrainian authorities on calling a short truce for humanitarian reasons. He said international organizations would be allowed into the conflict-plagued region.

Some journalists trying to reach the crash site were detained briefly by rebel militiamen, who were nervous and aggressive.

Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine prior to Thursday's crash, but many carriers, including cash-strapped Malaysia Airlines, had continued to use the route because "it is a shorter route, which means less fuel and therefore less money," said aviation expert Norman Shanks.

Within hours of Thursday's crash, several airlines said they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.

Malaysia Airlines said Ukrainian aviation authorities told the company they had lost contact with Flight 17 at 1415 GMT (10 a.m. EDT) about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Tamak waypoint, which is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border.

A U.S. official said American intelligence authorities believe the plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile but were still working to determine additional details about the crash, including who fired the missile and whether it came from the Russian or Ukraine side of the border.

But U.S. intelligence assessments suggest it is more likely pro-Russian separatists or the Russians rather than Ukrainian government forces shot down the plane, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The U.S. has sophisticated technologies that can detect missile launches, including the identification of heat from the rocket engine.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page the plane was flying at about 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet). He said only that his information was based on "intelligence."

Igor Sutyagin, a research fellow in Russian studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said both Ukrainian and Russian forces have SA-17 missile systems - also known as Buk ground-to-air launcher systems.

Rebels had bragged recently about having acquired Buk systems.

Sutyagin said Russia had supplied separatists with military hardware but had seen no evidence "of the transfer of that type of system from Russia."

Earlier Thusday, AP journalists saw a launcher that looked like a Buk missile system near the eastern town of Snizhne, which is held by the rebels.

Poroshenko said his country's armed forces didn't shoot at any airborne targets.

"We do not exclude that this plane was shot down, and we stress that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not take action against any airborne targets," he said.

The Kremlin said Putin "informed the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory" without giving further details about their call. The White House confirmed the call.

Separatist leader Andrei Purgin told the AP he was certain that Ukrainian troops had shot the plane down, but gave no explanation or proof.

Purgin said he did not know whether rebel forces owned Buk missile launchers, but said even if they did, they had no fighters capable of operating them.

In Kuala Lumpur, several relatives of those aboard the jet came to the international airport.

A distraught Akmar Mohamad Noor, 67, said her older sister was coming to visit the family for the first time in five years. "She called me just before she boarded the plane and said `see you soon,'" Akmar said.

It was the second time a Malaysia Airlines plane was lost in less than six months. Flight 370 disappeared in March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It has not been found, but the search has been concentrated in the Indian Ocean far west of Australia.

There have been several disputes over planes being shot down over eastern Ukraine in recent days.

A Ukrainian fighter jet was shot down Wednesday by an air-to-air missile from a Russian plane, Ukrainian authorities said, adding to what Kiev says is mounting evidence that Moscow is directly supporting the insurgents. Ukraine Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said the pilot of the Sukhoi-25 jet hit by the missile bailed out after his jet was hit.

Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied Russia shot down the Ukrainian fighter jet.

Pro-Russia rebels claimed responsibility for strikes on two Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 jets Wednesday.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said the second jet was hit by a portable surface-to-air missile but the pilot landed safely.

Earlier this week, Ukraine said a military transport plane was shot down Monday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from Russian territory.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chef at Old City Restaurant ‘Fork’ Gets National Magazine Honor

Chef at Old City Restaurant ‘Fork’ Gets National Magazine Honor

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Chef at Old City Restaurant ‘Fork’ Gets National Magazine Honor

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(Chef Eli Kulp, standing outside Fork restaurant, on Market Street.   Photo by Hadas Kuznits)
Chef Eli Kulp, standing outside Fork restaurant, on Market Street.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia chef is being recognized in a national magazine.

Chef Eli Kulp of Fork restaurant, at Third and Market Streets in Old City, has been named one of the best chefs in the country by Food & Wine magazine.

“Yeah, they call it Food & Wine ‘best new chef,’ which is a bit of a misnomer,” Kulp tells KYW Newsradio,
“because typically you’ve had to been a chef for a little while.  But I believe their criteria is under five years operating as an executive chef of a restaurant.”

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Studies see new risks for cholesterol drug niacin

Studies see new risks for cholesterol drug niacin 

AP Photo
FILE - In this Wednesday, May 15, 2013, file photo, a pharmacist works at his desk located next to the prescription pick up counter in New York. New details from two studies reveal more side effects from niacin, a drug that hundreds of thousands of Americans take for cholesterol problems and general heart health.


New details from two studies reveal more side effects from niacin, a drug that hundreds of thousands of Americans take for cholesterol problems and general heart health. Some prominent doctors say the drug now seems too risky for routine use.

Niacin is a type of B vitamin long sold over the counter and in higher prescription doses. Some people take it alone or with statin medicines such as Lipitor for cholesterol problems.

Niacin users' main complaint has been flushing, so drug companies have been testing extended-release and combining other medicines with it to minimize that problem. Introduced in the 1950s, the drug hadn't been rigorously tested until recent years when makers of prescription versions were seeking market approval.

The two studies were testing prescription versions of niacin, and the bottom line - that it didn't help prevent heart problems any more than statins alone do - has already been announced. Some of the side effect information, including a troubling rise in deaths among niacin users in one study, also was known but many doctors have been waiting for full details and verification of the results before drawing firm conclusions about the drug's safety and effectiveness.

Those details are in this week's New England Journal of Medicine.

The larger study suggests that "for every 200 people that we treat with niacin, there is one excess death," plus higher rates of bleeding, infections and other problems - "a completely unacceptable level" of harm, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones of Northwestern University in Chicago. "Niacin should not be used routinely in clinical practice at all."

He co-led a panel for the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology that recently issued new cholesterol treatment guidelines. The group did not recommend niacin but said it could be considered for certain patients. If the panel had seen the new results, it "almost certainly" would have recommended against niacin's routine use, Lloyd-Jones said.

Heart specialists stress that patients never should stop taking any medicine without first talking with their doctors. Many have shied away from niacin since the initial results came out, but more than 700,000 prescriptions for various niacin drugs are written each month in the U.S. The top brand is Niaspan, long sold by Abbott Laboratories and now by AbbVie, which had nearly $900 million in sales in the U.S. alone last year, according to IMS Health, a health data firm.

The larger of the two studies tested Tredaptive - a Merck & Co. combo of niacin and an anti-flushing medicine - in nearly 26,000 people already taking a statin. Full results confirm there was a 9 percent increase in the risk of death for those taking the drug - a result of borderline statistical significance, meaning the difference could have occurred by chance alone, but still "of great concern," Lloyd-Jones wrote in a commentary in the medical journal.

The drug also brought higher rates of gastrointestinal and muscle problems, infections and bleeding. More diabetics on the drug lost control of their blood sugar, and there were more new cases of diabetes among niacin users.

The initial results in December 2012 led Merck to stop pursuing approval of Tredaptive in the U.S. and to tell doctors in dozens of countries where it was sold to stop prescribing it to new patients.

Prompted by that study, leaders of an earlier one that tested a different niacin drug, Niaspan, re-examined side effects among their 3,414 participants and detailed them in a letter in the medical journal.

Besides more gastrointestinal, blood-sugar and other complications, the new report details a higher rate of infections and a trend toward higher rates of serious bleeding.

The consistency of the results on studies testing multiple types of niacin "leaves little doubt that this drug provides little if any benefits and imposes serious side effects," said Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz.

"It's an astonishing reversal of fortune" for niacin, one of the very earliest cholesterol treatments, he said. 

"This is a billion-dollar drug and it never really had the evidence to warrant that sort of blockbuster status."

The studies were on prescription niacin; risks and benefits of over-the-counter forms are unclear.

Lloyd-Jones said niacin still may be appropriate for some people with very high heart risks who cannot take statins, and for people with very high triglycerides that can't be controlled through other means.

Krumholz said patients should talk with doctors about other treatment options besides niacin.

"This drug can hurt you," he said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Israel: Hamas to pay price for its `no' to truce

Israel: Hamas to pay price for its `no' to truce

AP Photo
Mourners gather at a funeral at a mosque in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, for Sarah Omar el-Eid, 4, bottom, and her father, Omar, 26, center, and her uncle Jihad, 27, top. The three were killed by an Israeli strike late Monday. Egypt presented a cease-fire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead, and both sides said they were seriously considering the proposal.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza on Tuesday and warned that Hamas "would pay the price" after the Islamic militant group rejected an Egyptian truce plan and instead unleashed more rocket barrages at the Jewish state.


Late Tuesday, the military urged tens of thousands of residents of northern and eastern Gaza to leave their homes by Wednesday morning, presumable a prelude to air strikes there.

Rocket fire from killed an Israeli man Tuesday, the first Israeli fatality in eight days of fighting. In Gaza, 197 people were killed and close to 1,500 wounded so far, Palestinian officials said, making it the deadliest Israel-Hamas confrontation in just over five years.

The Egyptian proposal, initially accepted by Israel, had been the first attempt to end the fighting.

It unraveled in less than a day, a sign that it will be harder than before to reach a truce. Hamas does not consider Egypt's current rulers - who deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo a year ago - to be fair brokers.

Violence is bound to escalate in coming days.

Hamas believes it has little to lose by continuing to fight, while a truce on unfavorable terms could further weaken its grip on the Gaza Strip, a territory it seized in 2007. Underscoring that position, Gaza militants fired more than 120 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel on Tuesday, during what Egypt had hoped would be a period of de-escalation.

A particularly heavy barrage came around dusk, with more than 40 rockets hitting Israel in just a few minutes, including one that fell on an empty school. TV footage showed children cowering behind a wall in Tel Aviv's main square as sirens went off. An Israeli man in his 30s was killed near the Gaza border when he was delivering food to soldiers - the first Israeli death.

Hamas' defiance prompted Israeli warnings. In an evening address aired live on TV, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that after Hamas' rejection of the truce, Israel had "no choice" but to respond more forcefully.

"Hamas chose to continue fighting and will pay the price for that decision," he said. "When there is no cease-fire, our answer is fire."

After holding its fire for six hours, the Israeli air force resumed its heavy bombardment of Gaza, launching 33 strikes from midafternoon, the military said. In all, Israeli aircraft struck close to 1,700 times since July 8, while Gaza militants fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel.

Netanyahu said Israel would have liked to see a diplomatic solution, but would keep attacking until rocket fire stops and Hamas' military capabilities are diminished. The Israeli leader said he would "widen and increase" the campaign against Hamas, but it remains unclear if that will include a ground offensive.

Israel has warned it might send troops into Gaza and has massed thousands of soldiers on the border. 

However, entering Gaza would likely drive up casualties on both sides. Israel has hesitated in the past to embark on ground operations for fear of getting entangled in the densely populated territory of 1.7 million.

Late Tuesday, the Israeli military told residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Gaza City neighborhoods of Shijaiyah and Zeitoun in automated phone calls to leave their homes by early Wednesday.

Sami Wadiya, a resident of one of the areas likely to be targeted, said he would not leave his home. "We know it's risky, but there are no secure places to go to," he said.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israel has the right to defend itself, but that "no one wants to see a ground war."

"Our effort remains focused on seeing if we can return to a cease-fire," she said.

The current round has been the deadliest since a major Israeli military offensive in the winter of 2008-09. The previous outbreak of cross-border violence, in 2012, eventually ended with the help of Egypt, at the time seen as a trusted broker by Hamas.

Hamas officials Tuesday rejected the current Egyptian plan as is, noting they weren't consulted by Cairo. Some portrayed the truce offer as an ultimatum presented to Hamas by Israel and Egypt.

The officials said the Egyptian plan offered no tangible achievements, particularly on easing the border blockade that has been enforced by Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since 2007. Egypt tightened the closure in the past year by shutting down smuggling tunnels that were crucial for Gaza's economy, pushing Hamas into a severe financial crisis.

"The siege on Gaza must be broken, and the people of Gaza should live freely like other people of the world," Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, told the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen. "There should be a new equation so that we will not have a war on Gaza every two years."

Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said the movement wants additional mediators and international guarantees of any deal.

"Mediation to end this aggression needs to come from different countries, and the guarantees should be given by different countries in order to commit the occupation (Israel) to what any future agreement might say," al-Masri said, without naming preferred brokers.

Qatar and Turkey, seen as more sympathetic to Hamas, have been involved behind the scenes, but it's not clear to what extent. The emir of Qatar visited Turkey for talks Tuesday with Turkish leaders.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas' main political rival, was to meet Wednesday in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and then fly to Turkey for high-level talks.

Before the latest fighting, Abbas had reached a tentative unity deal with Hamas that would have given him a new foothold in Gaza. However, a significant easing of the Gaza blockade in a truce deal would revitalize Hamas, make it less dependent on Abbas and possibly scuttle the unity agreement.

Abbas and his Western-backed Palestinian Authority have largely been sidelined in the past week, unable to change the course of events.

Hamas' popularity tends to rise when it fights Israel, usually at the expense of Abbas, who continues to advocate negotiating a deal with Israel on Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinian Authority's health minister, Jawad Awwad, who had traveled to Gaza to deliver medicine to the territory's largest hospital, was chased off by stone throwers. Hamas officials later apologized to him.

In Israel, there was also domestic political fallout.

Netanyahu is under a lot of pressure from hawks in his Cabinet and the ruling Likud Party to launch a ground offensive to put an end to the rocket fire. He faced blistering criticism from the right over initially agreeing to the Egyptian truce plan.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called a news conference in which he said Israel should not hesitate and "go all the way." He said the operation should conclude with the Israeli military controlling all of the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, fired Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, one of his fiercest critics who didn't tone down his rhetoric during the offensive. Netanyahu said that by attacking the government at a time of war, Danon played into the hands of Hamas.
 

Billing/Payment representative vacancy

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Billing/payment representative vacancy

Attention:Billing/Payment representative vacancy

We are currently recruiting globally and looking for competent Billing/Payment representatives.Send us your NAME,LOCATION & TELEPHONE number if you are interested. We shall contact you with further information.Only serious applicants need respond/apply.

Thanks
Mr. Andries Benjamin la Grange. (Steinhoff International Holdings Ltd U.K)
Email address:- steinhoffintlhldsltd@aol.com
Tel : +4470 1065 0028

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nutter Thinks TV Viewer Perception of July 4th Concert Profanity Was Overblown

Nutter Thinks TV Viewer Perception of July 4th Concert Profanity Was Overblown

(Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking with reporters about the "Welcome America" concert on July 4th.  Photo by Mike Dunn)
Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking with reporters about the “Welcome America” concert on July 4th. Photo
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter says reports of rampant profanities by performers at this month’s “Welcome America” Fourth of July concert were somewhat exaggerated.

WPVI-TV, which broadcast the concert live, frequently cut away from the audio and video during the songs of every performer except Jennifer Hudson.

Mayor Nutter says he later compared the raw concert footage to the tape of the broadcast, and believes that the profanities were less frequent than first thought.

For full story go to: .http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

EXCLUSIVE: Heroic Mother Of Children Who Perished In Gesner Street Fire Speaks To Eyewitness News

EXCLUSIVE: Heroic Mother Of Children Who Perished In Gesner Street Fire Speaks To Eyewitness News
 
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “I was sleeping and my daughter waked, knocked on my door. And the windows they were red, the fire was coming up.”

Dewen Bowah, her voice barely audible after a week of hospitalization for burns and other injuries, spoke exclusively to CBS 3’s Walt Hunter about the horrifying moments early on the morning of July 5th as fire tore through the Southwest Philadelphia home where she was asleep with her five children.

“I love them; I didn’t know what to do,” Bowah told Hunter.

For full story go to:  http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/

Church of England says yes to women bishops

Church of England says yes to women bishops 
 

AP Photo
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, second right, and unidentified members of the clergy, arrive for the General Synod meeting, at The University of York, in York England, Monday July 14, 2014. The Church of England is set to vote on whether women should be allowed to enter its top ranks as bishops. The Church's national assembly, known as the General Synod, is meeting in York, northern England, where it will debate the issue ahead of a vote Monday.

LONDON (AP) -- The Church of England ended one of its longest and most divisive disputes Monday with an overwhelming vote in favor of allowing women to become bishops.


The church's national assembly, known as the General Synod, voted for the historic measure, reaching the required two-thirds majority in each of its three different houses. In total, 351 members of the three houses approved of the move. Only 72 voted against and 10 abstained.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the long-awaited change marks the completion of a process that started more than 20 years ago with the ordination of women as priests. He called for tolerance and love for those traditionalists who disagree with the decision.

"As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of whose within the church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow," he said in a statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called it a "great day for the Church and for equality."

Opponents argued that allowing women into such a senior position in the church goes against the Bible. Others warned that the church should not be guided by secular ethics.

Lay member Lorna Ashworth, who did not support the move, said the church has entered new territory. "This is something we have to work out as we go along," she said.

The Church of England represents diverse religious groups from conservative evangelicals to supporters of gay marriage. Major changes can take years, even decades to bring about.

Two years ago similar legislation narrowly failed to reach the two-thirds majority with lay members, despite the approval from bishops and clergy.

After that vote failed, the church worked to build trust with its lay members, who lagged behind church leaders on the question of female bishops, and make the legislation more acceptable to opponents.

At the same time the church came under increasing pressure from the outside to reform in favor of women. Some of those who changed their vote this time around said they did not want to block changes the majority was happy with.

Monday's vote marks the latest advance of women in the church hierarchy.

The General Synod ruled in 1975 there was no fundamental objection to women becoming priests, but it took nearly two decades for the first women to be ordained.

Things are likely to move faster for aspiring female bishops. Welby told the BBC he expects the first woman bishop in the Church of England by next year.

He was less sure when asked if there will be a female Archbishop of Canterbury in his lifetime: "I've no idea. I'd be delighted if I did."

The Church of England was established by King Henry VIII who appointed himself as its head in 1534. The government still formally appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the church, and Queen Elizabeth II serves as its supreme governor.

Parliament maintains a role in church affairs, and will be called upon to ratify the female bishop legislation. Some 26 bishops are allocated seats in the House of Lords.

The Church of England is part of the global Anglican Communion with 77 million members in more than 160 countries. The Episcopal Church in the Unites States was the first member to have a woman bishop and is now led by a woman.
 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thousands of Palestinians flee northern Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians flee northern Gaza

AP Photo
Palestinians flee their homes to take shelter at the United Nations school in Gaza City, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening campaign against militant rocket fire that's seen more than 160 Palestinians killed. Israel accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there. Critics say Israel's heavy bombardment of one of the most densely populated territories in the world is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Thousands of Palestinian residents of the northern Gaza Strip fled their homes on Sunday and sought safety in U.N. shelters, heeding warnings from the Israeli military about impending plans to bomb the area in the sixth day of an offensive against Hamas that has killed more than 160 people.


The fighting showed no signs of slowing, despite international calls for a cease-fire and growing concerns about the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and voiced U.S. "readiness" to help restore calm, while Egypt, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas, continued to work behind the scenes.

Amid the diplomacy, Israel said it was pushing forward with preparations for a possible ground invasion of Gaza. Thousands of troops have massed along the border in recent days.

"We don't know when the operation will end," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. "It might take a long time." He said the military was prepared "for all possibilities."

Israel launched the offensive last Tuesday in what it said was a response to heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The military says it has launched more than 1,300 airstrikes, while Palestinian militants have launched more than 800 rockets at Israel. The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza says 166 people have been killed, including dozens of civilians. There have been no Israeli fatalities, though several people have been wounded, including a teenage boy who was seriously injured by rocket shrapnel Sunday.

Early Sunday, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets around the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia ordering people to evacuate their homes. Israel says much of the rocket fire has come from the area, and overnight Sunday, the military carried out a brief ground operation on what it said was a rocket-launching site that could not be struck from the air. Four Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded before returning to Israel.

The U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said some 17,000 Palestinians had headed to special shelters set up in 20 United Nations schools in Gaza.

"The fact that in a span of almost a few hours, 10,000 people sought refuge in these 15 schools is an indication to the difficult situation on the ground," said Sami Mshasha, a UNRWA spokesman.

Some raced by in pickup trucks, waving white flags. "Once we received the message, we felt scared to stay in our homes. We want to leave," said one resident, Mohammed Abu Halemah.

Shortly before nightfall, Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia. Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV station reported four airstrikes in a 10-minute span, and a large plume of black smoke could be seen over the area from the Israeli border. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, has remained defiant, and it continued to fire rockets into Israel throughout the day. It urged people in northern Gaza to stay in their homes and has so far rejected proposals for a cease-fire as unsatisfactory.

"They want us to put down our arms and leave the resistance," said Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, on his Facebook page. "They started the battle, and we will stay on our land and fight to protect our future."

Despite Israeli claims that it has inflicted heavy damage on the group, Hamas says it is largely unscathed, and Palestinian medics say most of the dead have been civilians.

The outbreak of violence follows the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack, and wide-ranging Israeli moves against Hamas militants and infrastructure in the West Bank. Hamas has demanded that hundreds of recently arrested activists be freed as part of a cease-fire.

Many of the airstrikes have been on the homes of wanted Hamas militants, putting their families at risk. In an attack on Saturday, the target of one such airstrike, Gaza's police chief, survived, while 17 members of his extended family were killed.

Israel accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields, putting people in the densely populated territory in danger.

"The leadership of Hamas and the other organizations has chosen - at a time when they are using the population of Gaza as human shields - to hide underground, to flee abroad and to deliberately put civilians in the line of fire," Netanyahu said.

Despite Israel's claims, the international community, including many of Israel's allies, have begun to express concerns about the growing civilian death toll.

The Israeli military said that one of the rockets fired by Gaza militants Sunday night "hit an electricity infrastructure in Israel that supplied electricity to the Gaza Strip, causing a power outage to some 70,000 Gaza civilians."

In Vienna, Kerry spoke Sunday with Netanyahu and highlighted U.S. concerns about the "escalating tensions," the State Department said.

Kerry "described his engagement with leaders in the region to help to stop the rocket fire so calm can be restored and civilian casualties prevented, and underscored the United States' readiness to facilitate a cessation of hostilities," the State Department said.

Egypt, meanwhile, said President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi spoke to the U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. El-Sissi's spokesman quoted Ban as praising Egyptian efforts to halt the fighting and affirming that "Egypt is the most capable party to effectively participate in reaching a calm between the two sides." Netanyahu's office declined comment on diplomatic efforts.

Other countries were also involved. Germany's foreign minister said he would head to the region on Monday, while French President Francois Hollande tried to rally Arab and Muslim leaders to push for a cease-fire.

Hollande held telephone talks over the weekend with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

Marzouki spokesman Adnane Mancer said the French and Tunisian presidents agreed that Marzouki would try to talk to Hamas leaders and urge a cease-fire, while Hollande would try to do the same with other parties. A French presidential official said Hollande was talking to Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab officials.

On Sunday, Palestinians with foreign passports began leaving Gaza through the Erez border crossing. Israel, which cooperated in the evacuation, said 800 Palestinians living in Gaza have passports from countries including Australia, Britain and the U.S.

Rawan Mohanna, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Texas, said she had arrived in Gaza with her family a month ago because her older sister was getting married to a Gazan.

Mohanna, who lives in Dallas, said her family is now returning to the U.S. with mixed feelings because her newlywed sister and other relatives were staying behind.

"It's bittersweet that we get to leave but they are still there and they can't get out," she said.
 

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