- Associated Press - Sunday, September 21, 2014

100,000 Syrians pour into Turkey telling of atrocities as Islamic State group advances

KUCUK KENDIRCILER, Turkey (AP) - The 19-year-old Kurdish militant, who has been fighting the Islamic State group in Syria, brought his family across the border into Turkey to safety Sunday. But in the tranquility of a Turkish tea garden just miles from the frontier, Dalil Boras vowed to head back after nightfall to continue the fight.

Pulling a wad of Syrian bills from his pocket, the young fighter - who has already lost a 17-year-old brother to the Islamic militants’ brutal advance - said that if the Turkish border guards tried to stop him, money would persuade them.

Boras and his relatives are among some 100,000 Syrians, mostly Kurds, who have flooded into Turkey since Thursday, escaping an Islamic State offensive that has pushed the conflict nearly within eyeshot of the Turkish border.

The al-Qaida breakaway group, which has established an Islamic state, or caliphate, ruled by its harsh version of Islamic law in territory it captured straddling the Syria-Iraq border, has in recent days advanced into Kurdish regions of Syria that border Turkey, where fleeing refugees on Sunday reported atrocities that included stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes.

On Sunday, heavy clashes broke out between the Islamic State militants and Kurdish fighters only miles from the Syrian border town of Kobani, where the Islamic State group was bombarding villagers with tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers, said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region.

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Arab governments slow to combat Islamic State group’s sophisticated social media campaign

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - As the Islamic State group battles across Syria and Iraq, pushing back larger armies and ruling over entire cities, it is also waging an increasingly sophisticated media campaign that has rallied disenfranchised youth and outpaced the sluggish efforts of Arab governments to stem its appeal.

Long gone are the days when militant leaders like Osama bin Laden smuggled grainy videos to Al-Jazeera. Nowadays Islamic State backers use Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms to entice recruits with professionally made videos showing fighters waging holy war and building an Islamic utopia.

The extremist group’s opponents say it is dragging the region back into the Middle Ages with its grisly beheadings and massacres, but its tech-savvy media strategy has exposed the ways in which Arab governments and mainstream religious authorities seem to be living in the past.

Most Arab governments see social media as a threat to their stability and have largely failed to harness its power, experts say. Instead, they have tried to monitor and censor the Internet while churning out stale public statements and state-approved sermons on stuffy government-run media.

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s top council of religious scholars issued a lengthy Arabic statement via the state-run news agency denouncing terrorism and calling on citizens to back efforts to fight extremist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. Leading Sunni Muslim authorities in Egypt have issued similar government-backed statements.

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Relatives: Veteran accused of sneaking into White House needs help, wouldn’t have hurt anyone

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) - An Iraq war veteran accused of scaling a fence and making it into the White House before the Secret Service stopped him posed no threat to anyone and needs counseling instead of prosecution, members of his family said Sunday.

Omar Gonzalez, 42, was arrested Friday and is expected in federal court Monday to face charges of unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon - a small folding knife in this case.

Jerry Murphy, whose mother was married to Gonzalez for several years, said Gonzalez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he needs treatment. He said Gonzalez has been driving around the country and living out of his truck for the past couple of years, and that he always carries his knife.

“I know he’s got heavy artillery, you know?” Murphy added. “He’s got all kinds of weapons and he was trained to use them. I believe if he wanted to make a scene or cause problems, he very well could have. But it’s clear that he didn’t.”

The Secret Service has come under heavy criticism since the embarrassing security breach, which happened when the first family wasn’t at the White House. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson ordered increased surveillance and more officer patrols at the White House, as the agency investigates what went wrong.

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Residents complain of food shortages on Sierra Leone’s final day of Ebola lockdown

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) - Frustrated residents complained of food shortages in some neighborhoods of Sierra Leone’s capital on Sunday as the country reached the third and final day of a sweeping, unprecedented lockdown designed to combat the deadly Ebola disease, volunteers said.

While most residents welcomed teams of health care workers and volunteers bearing information about the disease, rumors persisted in pockets of the city that poisoned soap was being distributed, suggesting that public education campaigns had not been entirely successful.

The streets of the capital, Freetown, were again mostly deserted on Sunday in compliance with a government order for the country’s 6 million residents to stay in their homes.

Spread by contact with bodily fluids, Ebola has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 across West Africa in the biggest outbreak ever recorded, according to the World Health Organization. The disease, which has also touched Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal, is believed to have sickened more than 5,500 people.

Sierra Leone’s government was hoping the lockdown - the most aggressive containment effort yet attempted - would turn the tide against the disease. There were rumors in Freetown on Sunday that officials would opt to extend the lockdown, but a Health Ministry statement issued Sunday night confirmed it had ended.

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Police say rifle left in woods by ambush suspect was found, believe they’re hot on his trail

CANADENSIS, Pa. (AP) - Nine days after a gunman went on a deadly ambush at a state police barracks, authorities said Sunday they have recovered one of the weapons he was carrying and believe they are hot on his trail as he travels on foot through rugged forests in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Investigators said they believe the suspect they describe as a self-taught survivalist had been planning a confrontation with law enforcement for months, if not years.

State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens revealed a few more details about the manhunt for Eric Frein, saying trackers have discovered items he hid or abandoned in the woods - including an AK-47 assault rifle and ammunition they believe he had been carrying while on the run.

“We are pushing him hard, he is no longer safe and I am confident that he will be apprehended,” Bivens said.

Authorities did not yet know if the weapon had been used in the ambush, he said. Still, police believe Frein remains dangerous and possibly armed with a .308 rifle with a scope that police say was missing from the family home along with the AK-47.

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Tens of thousands around the world march to draw attention to global warming

NEW YORK (AP) - Tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan on Sunday, warning that climate change is destroying the Earth - in stride with demonstrators around the world who urged policymakers to take quick action.

Starting along Central Park West, most came on foot, others with bicycles and walkers, and some even in wheelchairs. Many wore costumes and marched to drumbeats. One woman played the accordion.

But their message was not entertaining:

“We’re going to lose our planet in the next generation if things continue this way,” said Bert Garskof, 81, as a family member pushed his wheelchair through Times Square.

He had first heard about global warming in 1967, “when no one was paying much attention,” said Garskof, a native New Yorker and professor of psychology at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University.

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Despite disappointment, backers of civil rights ‘cold case’ law want it expanded

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - There has only been one prosecution under the Emmett Till Act, even though the law was passed with the promise of $135 million for police work and an army of federal agents to investigate unsolved killings from the civil rights era. Some deaths aren’t even under review because of a quirk in the law.

Still, proponents are laying the groundwork to extend and expand the act in hopes it’s not too late for some families to get justice.

In nearly six years since the signing of the law, named for a black Chicago teenager killed after flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955, only one person has been prosecuted: A former Alabama trooper who pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a black protester in 1965.

The government has closed the books on all but 20 of the 126 deaths it investigated under the law, finding many were too old to prosecute because suspects and witnesses had died and memories had faded. And Congress hasn’t appropriated millions of dollars in grant money that was meant to help states fund their own investigations.

Perhaps most frustrating, an unknown number of slayings haven’t even gotten a look because the law doesn’t cover any killings after 1969. That saddens people like Gloria Green-McCray, whose brother James Earl Green was shot to death on May 14, 1970 by police during a student demonstration at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Thousands march through central Moscow to demonstrate against fighting in Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) - Tens of thousands of people marched through central Moscow on Sunday to demonstrate against the fighting in Ukraine and Russia’s alleged complicity in the conflict.

An Associated Press reporter estimated the crowd at about 20,000, although the city police department put the number at about 5,000.

The demonstrators chanted slogans including “No to war” and “The junta is in the Kremlin, not Kiev.” The latter refers to Russia’s contention that the ousting of Ukraine’s former Russia-friendly president was a coup.

The fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine that erupted after the ouster has killed more than 3,000 people. Ukraine and Western countries claim Russia is supplying troops and equipment to the rebels, which Moscow denies.

“Our country is acting as an aggressor, like Germany in the war,” said demonstrator Konstantin Alexeyev, 35.

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Chief: Arrest warrants issued on reckless driving charge for man seen with missing UVa student

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - A man seen with a University of Virginia student before she disappeared was being sought Sunday on arrest warrants charging him with reckless driving, police announced at a news conference.

Virginia State Police issued the warrants for Jesse Matthew on Saturday after he left the Charlottesville Police Department’s station, authorities said. Matthew came to the station with several family members and asked for a lawyer, they said. He was provided with a lawyer and left in a vehicle, driving at a high rate of speed that endangered other drivers, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said, adding Matthew was at the station for about an hour.

Law enforcement authorities who had been monitoring Matthew chased the vehicle but abandoned the pursuit due to the high speeds, Longo said.

Matthew has not been charged in the disappearance of 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who was last seen early on Sept. 13 in Charlottesville. Longo said police want to talk to Matthew, who was seen with Graham before she disappeared.

“I believe Jesse Matthew was the last person she was seen with before she vanished off the face of the Earth because it’s been a week and we can’t find her,” Longo said.

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Police departments cited for civil rights violations can still get surplus military weapons

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Pentagon program that distributes military surplus gear to local law enforcement allows even departments that the Justice Department has censured for civil rights violations to apply for and get lethal weaponry.

That lack of communication between two Cabinet agencies adds to questions about a program under review in the aftermath of the militarized police response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Pentagon, which provides the free surplus military equipment, says its consultation with the Justice Department will be looked at as the government reviews how to prevent high-powered weaponry from flowing to the untrustworthy.

The Justice Department has opened civil rights investigations into the practices of some 20 police departments in the past five years, with the Ferguson force the latest. The investigations sometimes end in negotiated settlements known as consent decrees that mandate reforms. Yet being flagged as problematic by Washington does not bar a police department from participating in the program.

“Given the fact that they’re under a consent decree it would make sense that the Department of Defense and Department of Justice coordinate on any such requests, (but) that is currently not the state,” said Jim Bueermann, who heads the nonprofit Police Foundation.


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