- Associated Press - Saturday, August 30, 2014

Military officials say 5 US airstrikes hit Islamic State forces near Iraq’s Mosul Dam

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. military says fighter aircraft and unmanned drones have struck Islamic State militants near Iraq’s Mosul Dam.

In a statement issued Saturday, U.S. Central Command says the five latest U.S. airstrikes were in support of operations conducted by Iraqi security forces.

Officials say the airstrikes destroyed an armed vehicle, a fighting position and weapons and significantly damaged an Islamic State building.

Central Command says it has conducted a total of 115 airstrikes across Iraq.

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EU inches toward new sanctions on Russia in response to military incursion in Ukraine

BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union on Saturday warned that the apparent incursion of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil pushes the conflict closer to a point of no return, with new economic sanctions being drawn up to make Moscow reconsider its position.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed a summit of the 28-nation EU’s leaders in Brussels, said a strong response was needed to the “military aggression and terror” facing his country.

“Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine,” Poroshenko told reporters in English. “There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole … of Europe.”

French President Francois Hollande and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said at the summit in Brussels the leaders will make a political decision and then ask the EU’s executive arm to finalize the fine print of new sanctions.

However, because several EU nations fear the fallout of sanctions on their own economies, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the required unanimity would be reached for immediate punitive measures, or whether the leaders would set Russia another ultimatum.

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Syrian rebels holding 44 Fiji peacekeepers attack Filipino troops in Golan Heights

BEIRUT (AP) - Clashes erupted between al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebels and U.N. peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on Saturday after the militants surrounded their encampment, activists and officials said, as the international organization risked being sucked further into the conflict.

Other U.N. peacekeepers were able to flee from a different encampment that that was also surrounded by rebels of the Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, they said.

The clashes came after Syrian rebel groups, including the Nusra Front, overran the Quneitra crossing - located on the frontier between Syrian and Israeli controlled parts of the Golan Heights - on Wednesday, seizing 44 Fijian peacekeepers.

The Nusra Front also surrounded the nearby Rwihana and Breiqa encampments, where other U.N. peacekeepers were holed up.

The gunbattle began early Saturday at the Rwihana base some 1.5 miles (2.3 kilometers) from Quneitra, where 40 Filipino peacekeepers were surrounded by Nusra fighters who were ordering them to surrender, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Philippines’ Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin gave a similar account but did not name the armed group.

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Ebola’s toll on health care in W. Africa hits hard, will be felt for years to come

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) - When the dreaded Ebola virus began infecting people in the Sierra Leone town of Kenema, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan and his team were on the front lines. After stepping out of his protective suit following hours on a sweltering ward, he would jump on the phone to coordinate with the Ministry of Health, to deal with personnel issues and tend to hospital business.

He was jovial but forceful. When he walked into a room everyone looked to him for direction and he gave it decisively, said Daniel Bausch, an American doctor who worked with Khan.

But then Khan tested positive for Ebola at the end of July and died soon after. He is one of at least two leading doctors in Sierra Leone who have died in the outbreak, which has also hit Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. The World Health Organization says it has sickened a higher proportion of medical staff than any other on record, with 240 contracting Ebola and more than half of them dying.

The toll on health workers was felt immediately by grieving and frightened colleagues and by patients who had fewer people to attend to them, and it will likely set back health care systems - poorly equipped amid rampant poverty to begin with - for years to come.

“These are people who were the backbone” of efforts to improve struggling health systems, said Bausch, a professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “are trying to dig themselves out of years of stalled or retrograde development and making some progress. This is setting them back immeasurably.”

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Saudi king warns Europe and US of terrorist threat from extremist groups in Iraq, Syria

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism after the Islamic State group seized a wide territory across Iraq and Syria.

While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah’s statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against the Islamic State group and its supporters in the region. Saudi Arabia openly backs rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but is concerned that the breakaway al-Qaida group could also turn those very same weapons on the kingdom.

“If neglected, I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America,” he said at a reception for foreign ambassadors Friday.

Official Saudi media carried the king’s comments early Saturday.

“These terrorists do not know the name of humanity and you have witnessed them severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street,” the king said, urging the ambassadors to relay his message directly to their heads of state.

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Resurgent pro-Russia rebels brim with confidence in Ukraine after gaining ground

STAROBESHEVE, Ukraine (AP) - As the survivor of a tank attack on a Ukrainian army truck was being carried into an ambulance, he was showered with verbal abuse by a rebel fighter.

“Why didn’t you say before that you were alive? Why so quiet?” the rebel taunted. Minutes later, the Ukrainian soldier drew his last breath.

Under the gaze of rebels, Ukrainian soldiers loaded the bodies of six other dead comrades onto trucks outside the village of Starobesheve. A couple of kilometers away, in the village itself, other rebels made wisecracks and boasted about dealing another punishing blow to Ukrainian forces.

After weeks of yielding ground, the Russian-backed separatists are brimming with confidence following a string of seemingly effortless victories.

On Saturday, Ukraine announced it was abandoning Ilovaisk, a city 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Starobesheve. Surrounded on all sides over several days, they sustained fire so intense that the government was compelled to plead for a corridor out.

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Liberian Ebola survivor calls for more experimental drug to be sent to Africa; blockade lifted

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - A Liberian health worker who recovered from Ebola after receiving an experimental drug urged the manufacturer to speed up its production and send it to Africa, while crowds celebrated in the streets Saturday after authorities reopened a slum that had been barricaded for more than a week to try to contain the disease.

Physician’s assistant Kyndy Kobbah was expected to be released from hospital Saturday after she survived Ebola, which has been fatal in more than half the cases sweeping West Africa. Kobbah contracted the disease while working at a government-run hospital north of the capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press before her release, she said when she informed her family that she had been cured, the home exploded with joy “and the house is on fire right now” with celebration.

“I am very fine and all right, glory be to God,” she said. “I trusted God that I was going to be healed.”

Kobbah urged the manufacturer of the experimental drug known as ZMapp to step up production. The company has said that all its supplies are exhausted and it will take months to make more.

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International group says it will take 20 years to build adequate housing for Gaza

JERUSALEM (AP) - An international organization involved in assessing post-conflict reconstruction says it will take 20 years under current levels of restrictions to rebuild the Gaza Strip’s battered and neglected housing stock following the war between Hamas and Israel.

Most of the new building would be to make up for the current housing deficit, rather than to address damage from fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Meanwhile, appearing in a round of post-war interviews on Israeli TV channels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not ready to return to the negotiating table with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas unless he distances himself from Hamas militants. Hamas and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority have a unity government in Gaza.

Netanyahu has regularly condemned the formal Abbas-Hamas relationship.

The housing assessment by Shelter Cluster, chaired by the Norwegian Refugee Council with the participation of the U.N. refugee agency and the Red Cross, underscores the complexities involved in an overall reconstruction program for the Gaza Strip, which some Palestinian officials have estimated could cost in excess of $6 billion.

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Nicaraguan officials: 22 trapped miners rescued; others still being sought

BONANZA, Nicaragua (AP) - Rescue workers and trapped miners alike frantically dug away at opposite sides of rock and mud that blocked a Nicaragua gold mine, finally succeeding in freeing at least 20 men. Efforts to reach five miners still missing continued Saturday.

Antonio Diaz said the miners tried to cheer each other up inside the dark, cold shaft, attacking the slide with their picks and shovels by the light of helmet lamps. But after 24 hours, they began feeling hungry and some started losing hope.

“The sadness of feeling yourself trapped in a hole is inmense but I never lost hope,” said the 32-year-old miner from a hospital bed in the town of Bonanza, near the El Comal gold and silver mine. “I kept thinking I was too young to die and above all, I thought about my two daughters.”

He said the miners finally cut a hole through the blockage and started shouting, but at first there was no answer.

“Hours later, someone heard us, and when he answered us we felt life returning to our bodies,” Diaz said. “God had answered our pleas to keep living.”

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A Labor Day conundrum: Why are so few of America’s construction jobs held by women?

NEW YORK (AP) - Janice Moreno graduated from college with a degree in English literature, but never landed a job paying more than $12 an hour. Now, at 36, she’s back in the classroom - in safety glasses and a T-shirt - learning how to be a carpenter.

“I believe it’s going to pay off,” she said amid instruction in sawing techniques.

If Moreno’s six-week training program in New York City leads to a full-time job, she’ll have bucked long odds. On this Labor Day weekend, ponder the latest federal data: About 7.1 million Americans were employed in construction-related occupations last year - and only 2.6 percent were women.

That percentage has scarcely budged since the 1970s, while women have made gains since then in many other fields.

Why the low numbers, in an industry abounding with high-paying jobs that don’t require college degrees? Reasons include a dearth of recruitment efforts aimed at women and hard-to-quash stereotypes that construction work doesn’t suit them.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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