Rivals of Iraq prime minister, embattled by sweeping militant offensive, seek to force him out
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, embattled by the militant offensive sweeping his country’s north, faces a growing campaign to force him out of office as insurgents press on with their campaign.
Nouri al-Maliki, who rose from relative obscurity to the country’s top political office in 2006, has seen his credibility challenged by the Sunni militants of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The insurgents launched a stunning offensive last week that swallowed up a large chunk of northern Iraq, together with the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul.
With the country now in turmoil, al-Maliki’s rivals have mounted a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights. On Thursday, their effort received a massive boost from President Barack Obama.
The U.S. leader stopped short of calling for Nouri al-Maliki to resign, saying “it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.” But, his carefully worded comments did all but that.
“Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis,” Obama declared at the White House.
7 Ukrainian troops killed in eastern Ukraine, rebel tanks sighted
YANAKIYEVE, Ukraine (AP) - Seven Ukrainian troops were killed in overnight fighting in the restive east, Ukrainian officials said Friday, as clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels flared two days after the president said he would soon call a unilateral cease-fire.
Rebels were operating tanks in the region, a particular sore spot for Ukraine, which accuses Russia of letting the vehicles cross the border.
Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, said the seven soldiers had been killed since Thursday and 30 injured in fighting against pro-Russian separatists outside the village of Yampil in the Donetsk region. He said 300 rebels were killed, but that could not be immediately verified.
An Associated Press reporter saw pro-Russian fighters moving in a column with two tanks and three armored personnel carriers near the town of Yanakiyeve in the direction of the town of Horlikva in the Donetsk region. The tanks flew small flags of a pro-Russian militia but otherwise had no markings. The fighters declined to say what they were doing, other than that it was a “secret operation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced concern about the Ukrainian military onslaught, while NATO on Thursday reported that Russia was resuming a military build-up at the Ukrainian border.
10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
1. CAR BLAST ROCKS SYRIAN VILLAGE
A powerful car bomb explosion has killed 34 civilians and wounded more than 50 others in the government-controlled area near the central city of Hama.
Speedy rise through ranks for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, new House majority leader, in GOP shakeup
WASHINGTON (AP) - Not so long ago Kevin McCarthy was working as an aide to his local congressman in hot, dusty Bakersfield, California. Now the genial 49-year-old is a new face of the GOP, selected by House Republicans as their majority leader after a whirlwind round of politicking prompted by last week’s primary election upset of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.
McCarthy’s lightning-fast ascent to the No. 2 House job in just his fourth term is a testament to his political skills and talent for forming and maintaining relationships. Now he has the daunting challenge of working to unite a fractious House Republican caucus that’s still in upheaval after Cantor’s loss, with the most conservative lawmakers smarting over McCarthy’s quick rise.
“I’ll make one promise: I will work every single day to make sure this conference has the courage to lead with the wisdom to listen,” McCarthy said Thursday after his victory in the secret ballot elections.
McCarthy has served as majority whip, the No. 3 job, and will be replaced in that post by Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chairman of a caucus of conservatives in the House. Scalise adds a Southern, red state voice to a GOP leadership team otherwise populated by establishment-aligned Republicans from the West Coast and Midwest.
“I’m looking forward to bringing a fresh new voice to our leadership table,” Scalise said.
Found: 1 ancient parasite egg linked to disease that still infects 200 million people globally
LONDON (AP) - In a skeleton more than 6,200 years old, scientists have found the earliest known evidence of infection with a parasitic worm that now afflicts more than 200 million people worldwide.
Archaeologists discovered a parasite egg near the pelvis of a child skeleton in northern Syria and say it dates back to a time when ancient societies first used irrigation systems to grow crops. Scientists suspect the new farming technique meant people were spending a lot of time wading in warm water - ideal conditions for the parasites to jump into humans. That may have triggered outbreaks of the water-borne flatworm disease known as schistosomiasis.
“The invention of irrigation was a major technological breakthrough (but) it had unintended consequences,” said Gil Stein, a professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Chicago, one of the report’s authors. “A more reliable food supply came at the cost of more disease,” he wrote in an email.
People can catch the flatworm parasite when they are in warm fresh water; the tiny worms are carried by snails and can burrow into human skin. After growing into adult worms, they live in the bladder, kidneys, intestines and elsewhere in the body for years. The parasites can cause symptoms including a fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting and paralysis of the legs. These days, the disease can be easily treated with drugs to kill the worms.
Stein said there was evidence of wheat and barley farming in the town where the skeletons were found and that irrigation might have also spurred outbreaks of other diseases like malaria by creating pools of stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed.
Saving Pvt. Smith: British town recalls a family’s deep sacrifice in the Great War
BARNARD CASTLE, England (AP) - Carved into the simple obelisk commemorating the fallen are the names of five sons of Margaret and John McDowell Smith. There’s a story behind the name that isn’t there - a sixth brother, Wilfred - and a century after World War I a local historian has dug out the details from archives.
Wilfred Smith’s survival is a story of sacrifice amid a war that demanded so much of it from virtually every family in Britain.
Because long before there was the fictional tale of “Saving Private Ryan,” there was the real-life story of saving Pvt. Smith.
The people of Barnard Castle have long known the story of the Smith brothers and that Wilfred, or Willie as he was known, survived.
Adopted off the books decades ago, ‘Hicks babies’ hope to find biological family through DNA
MCCAYSVILLE, Ga. (AP) - They were adopted off-the-books decades ago, scattered by a Georgia doctor who took $100 or $1,000 or something in between to send desperate couples home with new sons and daughters. Now some of the adoptees have turned to fresh DNA testing in hopes of reconnecting with the biological families they never knew, before time runs out.
“This is our shot in the dark, really,” said Melinda Elkins Dawson, one of more than 200 newborns relocated to other states from the clinic in McCaysville in the 1950s and ‘60s.
As children, their true ancestry was erased on birth certificates falsely listing adoptive couples as their natural parents. Genetic codes are the only links left.
So Dawson worked with Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center to arrange free cheek-swab sampling Saturday at a motel in Ducktown, Tennessee, a few miles from where the clinic was located. The adoptees hope potential relatives from the area come forward to give samples, even if they remain anonymous.
“We’re not trying to make anyone look bad,” she said. “We’re just trying to get some answers. Every adopted child has questions. We deserve some answers.”
What to watch at World Cup: Italy can take control of Group D, France takes on Swiss
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A draw between Italy and Costa Rica on Friday would put England out of contention at the World Cup.
Luckily for England, neither team will want to settle for one point with so much still at stake in Group D.
Italy and Costa Rica already have a win each, and another victory would let either team take control of the standings. Costa Rica opened with a stunning win over 2010 semifinalist Uruguay, which rebounded with a 2-1 victory over an England team that lost its opener to Italy.
In Group E, the top spot will likely go to the winner of the France-Switzerland match on Friday, when Ecuador and Honduras also are playing for survival on Day Nine of the World Cup.
Things to watch for Friday:
Lyricist Gerry Goffin, Carole King’s ex-husband and prolific writing partner, dies at 75
NEW YORK (AP) - Gerry Goffin, a prolific and multi-dimensional lyricist who with his then-wife and songwriting partner Carole King wrote such hits as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” ”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” ”Up on the Roof” and “The Loco-Motion,” died early Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 75.
His wife, Michelle Goffin, confirmed his death.
Goffin, who married King in 1959, penned more than 50 top 40 hits, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” for the Monkees, “Some Kind of Wonderful” for the Drifters and “Take Good Care of My Baby” by Bobby Vee. Goffin was able to pen jokey lyrics or achingly sad ones, and he did it for solo artists and multiple voices.
Louise Goffin, one of his daughters, said her dad “wore his heart on his sleeve, and I am deeply blessed to have had a father who could so easily make the world laugh and cry with just a spiral notebook and a pen.”
King and Goffin divorced in 1968, but Goffin kept writing hits, including “Savin’ All My Love for You” for Whitney Houston. Goffin and King were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three years later.
Audit seeks investigation into unlawful sterilization of 39 California female prison inmates
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - State auditors found 39 cases where female state prison inmates may not have understood they were submitting to medical procedures that would leave them sterile, according to a report released Thursday that recommended authorities investigate the doctors and hospitals involved.
State law prohibits inmates from elective sterilizations as methods of birth control. However, prison officials allow sterilizations in cases deemed medically necessary.
The audit was prompted by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which last year found that doctors sterilized nearly 150 female prisoners without obtaining proper consent. Auditors confirmed 144 cases between 2006 and 2013 in which inmates had their fallopian tubes tied or cut for the sole purpose of birth control.
The report identified 39 “unlawful” cases with apparent violations of state rules requiring inmates understand the nature and permanence of the procedures.
Margarita Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the California State Auditor, said those “tubal ligation” sterilizations involved 17 doctors and eight hospitals. The sterilizations were performed by private doctors at facilities outside the prisons, which is typical, she said. No names were released.
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