- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

Official: Military mission to retake Mosul from IS militants likely to begin in April, May

WASHINGTON (AP) - The operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city from Islamic State militants will likely begin in April or May and will involve about 12 Iraqi brigades, or between 20,000 and 25,000 troops, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

Laying out details of the expected Mosul operation for the first time, the official from U.S. Central Command said five Iraqi Army brigades will soon go through coalition training in Iraq to prepare for the mission. Those five would make up the core fighting force that would launch the attack, but they would be supplemented by three smaller brigades serving as reserve forces, along with three Peshmerga brigades who would contain the Islamic State fighters from the north and west.

The Peshmerga are Kurdish forces from northern Iraq.

The official said there also would be a Mosul fighting force, largely made up of former Mosul police and tribal forces, who would have to be ready to go back into the city once the army units clear out the Islamic State fighters.

Included in the force would be a brigade of Iraqi counterterrorism forces who have been trained by U.S. special operations forces. The brigades include roughly 2,000 troops each. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Latest Snowden leak: NSA helped British spies hack Dutch company to break into mobile phones

WASHINGTON (AP) - Britain’s electronic spying agency, in cooperation with the U.S. National Security Agency, hacked into the networks of a Dutch company to steal codes that allow both governments to seamlessly eavesdrop on mobile phones worldwide, according to the documents given to journalists by Edward Snowden.

A story about the documents posted Thursday on the website The Intercept offered no details on how the intelligence agencies employed the eavesdropping capability - providing no evidence, for example, that they misused it to spy on people who weren’t valid intelligence targets. But the surreptitious operation against the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phone data chips is bound to stoke anger around the world. It fuels an impression that the NSA and its British counterpart will do whatever they deem necessary to further their surveillance prowess, even if it means stealing information from law-abiding Western companies.

The targeted company, Netherlands-based Gemalto, makes “subscriber identity modules,” or SIM cards, used in mobile phones and credit cards. One of the company’s three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas. Its clients include AT&T;, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint, The Intercept reported.

The Intercept offered no evidence of any eavesdropping against American customers of those providers, and company officials told the website they had no idea their networks had been penetrated. Experts called it a major compromise of mobile phone security.

A spokeswoman for Sprint Nextel said Thursday that her company had no comment on the report, while a spokeswoman for T-Mobile said her company was referring reporters to Gemalto and declined further comment.

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10 Things to Know for Friday

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

1. LATEST SNOWDEN LEAK DETAILS GOVERNMENT HACKING

The NSA helped Britain steal codes from a data chip manufacturer, allowing both governments to spy on mobile phones worldwide, the documents reportedly show.

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Raises help, but many Wal-Mart workers too poor to afford living costs without government aid

WASHINGTON (AP) - For roughly 500,000 Wal-Mart workers set to receive pay raises, something is better than nothing.

But it still won’t be enough for many of them to afford housing and transportation and feed and raise children without government aid, according to economists and researchers.

The nation’s largest private employer - with 1.3 million jobs - unveiled a salary bump for many of its lowest-paid workers on Thursday, promising a 1.1 percent increase in the average full-time wage over the next year, to $13 an hour. Part-time workers would get a 5.2 percent raise, to an average $10 an hour, by February 2016.

Both fall below the $15 an hour “living wage” many union-backed Wal-Mart employees have been pushing for. Driven by rising income inequality and a decades-long decline in middle-class jobs, workers are also campaigning for steep wage hikes at other major non-unionized employers, including McDonalds and other fast food chains.

Despite the raise, incomes for many Wal-Mart workers would still hover near the poverty line, reinforcing an image that some more socially-minded consumers find offensive.

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Police identify 19-year-old as gunman in Vegas road-rage killing

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Police made an arrest Thursday in the mysterious road-rage killing of a Las Vegas mother, apprehending a teenage neighbor who had a history with the family before the shootout.

Erich Nowsch, 19, was arrested on suspicion of murder after SWAT teams surrounded his home a block away from the residence of Tammy Meyers, the woman killed.

Authorities believe Nowsch was the gunman in the attack, Las Vegas police Capt. Chris Tomaino said. He has not been formally charged.

A shirtless Nowsch was led into a car by an officer and taken to police headquarters for questioning. Police were still looking for one additional suspect.

“We still have a lot of investigative work to do,” Tomaino said.

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‘Superbug’ outbreak at hospital raises questions about medical tool and cleaning process

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A “superbug” outbreak suspected in the deaths of two Los Angeles hospital patients is raising disturbing questions about the design of a hard-to-clean medical instrument used on more than half a million people in the U.S. every year.

At least seven people - two of whom died - have been infected with a potentially lethal, antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria after undergoing endoscopic procedures at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center between October and January. More than 170 other patients may also have been exposed, hospital officials said.

The infections may have been transmitted through two contaminated endoscopes that were used to diagnose and treat pancreatic and bile-duct problems. The instruments were found to have “embedded” infections even though they had been cleaned according to manufacturer’s instructions, said Dr. Robert Cherry, the hospital’s chief medical and quality officer. Five other scopes were cleared.

Hospital officials said they immediately removed contaminated medical devices and adopted more stringent sterilization techniques.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, health officials sought to reassure the public that there is no broad danger.

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Immigrants going nowhere, frustration rising after judge blocks Obama’s executive orders

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Brenda Armendariz, her husband and their two Mexico-born children were hoping to resolve their constant fears of being deported after President Barack Obama issued his latest executive orders on immigration.

But now that a federal judge in Texas has blocked Obama’s efforts to protect four million more immigrants, her family is disillusioned and her children feel stuck as the president’s offer of temporary legal status moves frustratingly beyond their reach.

About a third of the immigrants now living in the United States illegally would be eligible for temporary protection if Obama’s latest orders are upheld in court, either because they were brought to the U.S. as children or because their own children have legal status in the country.

But the advances and retreats on reform have been so frequent over the years that many thousands of immigrants who are already eligible for protection have given up for now - they aren’t applying for the work permits and Social Security numbers they are entitled to under Obama’s first executive order in 2012.

There are a litany of reasons why, including general distrust of the government, fear they’ll be deported, and the nearly $500 in fees it costs to apply. But the constant uncertainty created by Washington’s political divide also keeps them away.

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Democrats call on GOP leaders to rebuke Giuliani for questioning Obama’s love of country

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats on Thursday assailed former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for questioning President Barack Obama’s love of country, and urged the potential field of Republican presidential candidates to rebuke him for his comments.

Giuliani said at a New York City event on Wednesday night, “I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.”

“He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country,” said Giuliani, who sought the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. His comments were reported by Politico and the New York Daily News.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said it’s time for Republican leaders to “stop this nonsense.”

Several likely GOP candidates declined to get involved Thursday. Giuliani, meanwhile, softened his remarks somewhat in an interview, saying he didn’t mean to question the president’s patriotism.

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Healthful diet report: Coffee and water instead of sugary drinks; more eggs are OK

WASHINGTON (AP) - An extra cup or two of coffee may be OK after all. More eggs, too. But you definitely need to drink less sugary soda. And, as always, don’t forget your vegetables.

Recommendations Thursday from a government advisory committee call for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats. But the panel would reverse previous guidance on limiting dietary cholesterol. And it says the caffeine in a few cups of coffee could actually be good for you.

The committee also is backing off stricter limits on salt, though it says Americans still get much too much. It’s recommending the first real limits on added sugar, saying that’s especially a problem for young people.

The Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments will take those recommendations into account in writing final 2015 dietary guidelines by the end of the year. The guidelines affect nutritional patterns throughout the country - from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to your doctor’s advice.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “it is by no means over” with the release of the report. The government will take comments on the advice before distilling it - and possibly changing it - into final guidelines for consumers.

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What will and should win at an Academy Awards that may come down to the wire

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ahead of Sunday’s 87th Academy Awards, Associated Press film writers Jake Coyle and Lindsey Bahr share their predictions for a ceremony that could be a nail biter.

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BEST PICTURE

COYLE:

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman” comes home to roost despite the landmark accomplishment of “Boyhood.” As a celebration of showbiz, it’s the “Shakespeare in Love” of its time.


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