- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Al-Qaida confirms deputy leader, who headed its Yemen affiliate, killed in US strike

CAIRO (AP) - A U.S. airstrike has killed Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader, who commanded its powerful Yemeni affiliate, dealing the global network its biggest blow since the killing of Osama bin Laden and eliminating a charismatic leader at a time when it is vying with the Islamic State group for the mantle of global jihad.

In a video statement dated June 14 and released Tuesday by the Yemeni affiliate, a senior operative announced the death of Nasir al-Wahishi, a veteran jihadi who once served as bin Laden’s aide-de-camp, and said his deputy, Qassim al-Raimi, has been tapped to replace him.

“Our Muslim nation, a hero of your heroes and a master of your masters left to God, steadfast,” Khaled Batrafi said in the video, vowing that the group’s war on America would continue.

“In the name of God, the blood of these pioneers makes us more determined to sacrifice,” he said. “Let the enemies know that the battle is not with an individual… the battle led by crusaders and their agents is colliding with a billion-member nation.”

Yemeni security officials had earlier said a U.S. drone strike killed three suspected militants in the al-Qaida-held southern port city of Mukalla last week. U.S. officials had said they were trying to verify whether al-Wahishi was killed.


NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal’s world crumbles after parents say she has been posing as black

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Rachel Dolezal carefully constructed a life as a black civil rights activist in the last decade in the inland Northwest, but that world is falling apart following the disclosure by her parents that she was a white woman who for years has posed as African-American.

Dolezal has resigned as president of the local branch of the NAACP, lost her position as a part-time African studies instructor at a local university, lost her job as a freelance newspaper columnist and become the subject of a probe by the city Ethics Commission.

The furor has touched off national debate over racial identity and divided the NAACP itself.

“In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP,” Dolezal, who was elected the Spokane chapter’s president last fall, wrote on the group’s Facebook page Monday. “Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights.”

Dolezal, a 37-year-old woman with a light brown complexion and dark curly hair, graduated from historically black Howard University and was married to a black man. For years, she publicly described herself as black and complained of being the victim of racial hatred in the heavily white region.


Activists, Kurdish commander say Kurds in full control of Tal Abyad ,dealing major blow to IS

BEIRUT (AP) - Kurdish fighters took full control on Tuesday of the border town of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group’s ability to wage war in Syria.

Haqi Kobane told The Associated Press that Kurdish units known as the YPG along with their allies from the Free Syrian Army were starting to clean up the town along the border with Turkey from booby traps and mines planted by the extremists so that residents can return. The militants had been in control of the key town for more than a year.

“Daesh has been broken at the hands of the YPG… it is a victory for all Syrians,” he said by telephone from northern Syria, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

The Kurdish advance caused the displacement of some 20,000 people who fled to Turkey in the past two weeks.

An Associated Press team on the Turkish side of the Akcakale border crossing said a large black and white Islamic State group flag was taken down from a pole in Tal Abyad Tuesday and replaced with a yellow, triangular YPG flag.


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The death of Nasir al-Wahishi is announced in a video statement. It’s the biggest blow for the militant network since the death of Osama bin Laden.


The $9 billion man? Donald Trump set to announce if he’ll contest GOP presidential primaries

WASHINGTON (AP) - With a presidential field approaching 20 high-profile Republicans, the GOP’s 2016 class offers voters a little bit of everything.

There is the top-tier, a group that includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who formally launched his candidacy on Monday. There are the single-issue candidates such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who talks about national security and little else. There are even the quixotic underdogs, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, ambitious against all odds.

And then there is Donald Trump.

The Donald, as he is known as a celebrity, will announce his 2016 intentions on Tuesday at a Manhattan skyscraper that bears his name.

He is a businessman, a reality television star and a master of self-promotion. And should he decide to run, Trump is positioned to have a greater impact on the early months of the Republican presidential primary contest than many GOP leaders would like.


Escaped murderers elude capture as woman charged with helping them makes 2nd court appearance

DANNEMORA, N.Y. (AP) - Two escaped murderers remained at large as a woman charged with helping the killers flee from a maximum-security prison by providing them hacksaw blades, chisels and other tools made a second appearance in a New York court.

More than 800 law enforcement officers on Monday kept up a methodical search for Richard Matt and David Sweat, who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility near the Canadian border on June 6.

Prosecutors say Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailoring shop instructor who had befriended the inmates, had agreed to be the getaway driver but backed out because she still loved her husband and felt guilty for participating.

Mitchell, 51, made her second court appearance in Plattsburgh on Monday wearing a striped prison jumpsuit and a bulletproof vest. She waived a preliminary hearing, and the case headed to a county court.

“Basically, when it was go-time and it was the actual day of the event, I do think she got cold feet and realized, ‘What am I doing?’” Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie said Sunday. “Reality struck. She realized that, really, the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.”


Colorado theater shooter’s university psychiatrist expected to testify against him

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) - The mental health professional with the most access to James Holmes’ mind before he carried out his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater is expected to testify in his death penalty trial on Tuesday.

Dr. Lynne Fenton saw Holmes five times in 2012 while he was a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado. She prescribed him medication for depression and anxiety, concerned that he had a social phobia after he confessed thoughts of killing people, according to testimony from other witnesses.

Her testimony is among the most highly anticipated, as Fenton has never spoken publicly about their sessions. She remains bound by the trial judge’s gag order, and a civil suit says she should have done more to stop Holmes. But Holmes waived his patient-client privilege when he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, opening the door for her to take the stand.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people, wounding 58 with gunfire and leaving 12 others injured in the attack on July 20, 2012. Questions remain about whether anyone could have stopped him.

Holmes said he pointedly kept Fenton uninformed as he plotted his attack. He never told her about the arsenal of weapons he was assembling. His elaborate schemes and to-do lists were kept in a journal that he didn’t send to her until hours before his assault, and it lingered in a campus mailroom for days thereafter.


The Latest on severe weather: Tropical Storm Bill headed northwest toward Texas coast

3:50 a.m. (CDT)

The National Hurricane Center says little change in strength is likely before Tropical Storm Bill makes landfall in Texas on Tuesday morning.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds remain near 50 mph (85 kph) and Bill is expected to weaken as its center moves inland.

The tropical storm is centered about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southeast of Port O’Connor, Texas, and is moving northwest near 13 mph (20 kph).



Man of peace tapped to be Afghanistan’s defense minister as war intensifies

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - War-torn Afghanistan may soon have a defense minister, nine months after the new government was formed and amid some of the toughest fighting since the Talban’s insurgency began 14 years ago.

Masoom Stanekzai is better known as a peacemaker than a battlefield strategist, having led the High Peace Council negotiating body charged with ending the conflict with the Taliban, but now he is directing the war. He is expected to be confirmed soon by parliament, though the law allows him to assume the post in an acting capacity.

His appointment will complete President Ashraf Ghani’s Cabinet and finally bring what one Western military official called “strong, positive, legitimate civilian leadership” to the military as it tackles an invigorated Taliban without the backing of international forces, which ended their combat mission last year.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Stanekzai takes the job as the Taliban are redefining their war against Kabul, joining forces with other militant groups and spreading the fight to every corner of the country. A change in tactics has taken Afghan security forces by surprise and forced them to spread ever-thinner as their casualty rates soar.


Millions of Muslims with diabetes face hard choice between health and faith during Ramadan

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) - For years, diabetic Shawkat al-Khalili ignored his doctor’s orders not to fast during the holy month of Ramadan when most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset.

Islam exempts the sick from fasting, but the 70-year-old al-Khalili said he couldn’t bring himself to violate one of the five pillars of his religion, even after he lost a toe to diabetes.

Like the retired teacher in Amman, tens of millions of diabetic Muslims struggle each year with such stressful choices. Increasingly, physicians team up with preachers or look for new methods to educate and protect the faithful.

The stakes are rising, particularly in the Arab world, where diabetes is spreading rapidly because of growing obesity caused by a more sedentary lifestyle and easy availability of processed food.

The Middle East and North Africa, which are overwhelmingly Muslim, have the world’s highest comparative prevalence of diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. In 2014, some 38 million people in the region, or one in 10, were diabetics, a figure expected to double in a generation, the federation says. Another 18 million suspected sufferers have yet to be diagnosed.

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