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A lull in Gaza hostilities in deference to a Muslim holiday unraveled with deadly force at a children’s playground and an area near Gaza City’s main hospital.







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MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York City parolee has been convicted of killing a police officer and a second man in 2012.

Thirty-four-year-old Darrell Fuller faces a sentence of life without parole. He was convicted of murder Monday in the shooting of Nassau County Emergency Services Officer Arthur Lopez and bystander Raymond Facey near the Belmont Park racetrack on Long Island.

The officer was shot at point-blank range by Fuller, who was pulled over after a brief highway chase. Police had stopped the Queens man after witnessing a hit-and-run car accident.

Facey was killed moments after Lopez was shot. Authorities said Fuller carjacked the man’s vehicle because the tires on his car had been blown out in the earlier car accident.


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A lull in Gaza hostilities in deference to a Muslim holiday appeared to end when Gaza’s main hospital was hit by a rocket or missile of uncertain origin.







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On July 25, the London Financial Times published a lengthy and fascinating report dealing with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Courtney Weaver, a Moscow staffer for the newspaper, described how Konstantin V. Malofeev, a Russian Orthodox Christian billionaire little known in the West, traveled to Sevastopol, on the southwest coast of the Crimean Peninsula, in January of this year. Malofeev had gone to the Crimean port and naval base unintentionally, when his airplane was forced to land in bad weather.

Malofeev went to Sevastopol some weeks prior to the arrival there of Russian soldiers. In March, Crimea was annexed by Russia. According to the Financial Times, Malofeev is “a key figure linking the pro-Russia forces on the ground in Ukraine and the political establishment in Moscow.”

The 40-year-old oligarch’s journey to Sevastopol took place, in the FT account, during a pilgrimage with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, from Moscow through Belarus, to end in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. The group, under the rubric of the “St. Basil the Great Charity Foundation,” which is headed by Malofeev, exhibited relics borrowed from the Orthodox monastic complex of Mount Athos in Greece. The religious artifacts are known as “the Gifts of the Wise Men to the Newborn Jesus.” The Russian news agency ITAR-TASS portrayed the objects as those mentioned traditionally at Christmas: 28 small plates of decorated gold, and 70 olive-shaped lumps of frankincense and myrrh.

ITAR-TASS stated that the “Gifts” had been deposited first in Byzantium, or Constantinople, and that after that city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the “Gifts” were moved to Mount Athos by a Serbian Orthodox nun named Mary.

When the sojourners landed unexpectedly at Sevastopol, Malofeev told the FT, 100,000 believers turned out to pray. The worshippers counted a third of the population in the area, and Malofeev asserted, “It was one prayer from all the people: for Sevastopol to once more be part of Russia… God’s will.” This claim seems irrational when one considers that the Orthodox Christian faith is not exclusively Russian, and that the largest number of Ukrainian believers, including many who oppose Russian power, are Orthodox Christians. But what appears as unreason may be deliberate manipulation.

Malofeev and Kirill’s exercise in evangelism has a disturbing echo for those who recall the events preceding the bloody wars in ex-Yugoslavia during the 1990s. In 1989, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic went to Gazimestan, a location in Kosovo, on the 600th anniversary of the battle fought there between Christians and Muslims. Preceding the event at Gazimestan, the bodily remains of Serbian Prince Lazar, who died in the Kosovo battle and was elevated to sainthood by the Serbian Orthodox Church, were taken around Serbian areas of the former Yugoslavia as a pretext for nationalist rallies. Milosevic’s Gazimestan speech, attended by as many as a million Serbs transported by bus in Yugoslavia and coming from abroad, stressed Serbian grievances.

A traveling display of symbolic Orthodox Christian memorabilia, as a ploy to stir up ethnic emotions, is not the only item that Russian extremists intervening in Ukraine have in common with their Serbian counterparts. As I have argued since the annexation of Crimea, Moscow appears to be operating in Ukraine based directly on the strategy of Milosevic and his cohort.

Thus, Putin supported the detachment from rule by Kiev, and proclamation of “people’s republics,” in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, on the pretext of protecting Russians from Ukrainians. In the same manner, Milosevic attempted the division of Croatia and accomplished the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina through creation of “Serb republics” – that in Bosnia continues to exist, and efforts continue to implant a similar separate, Serbian authority in northern Kosovo.

Putin claims that the Ukrainian government is “fascist” and reflects pro-Nazi politics during the second world war. Milosevic used the same demagogic vocabulary against the leaders of Croatia, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Kosovar Albanians.

Putin accuses the Ukrainians of acting for the U.S., which, in Russian media, is depicted as a “fascist” country seeking, with the European Union, to diminish Moscow’s power. Milosevic and his propaganda machine blamed America and Germany for a supposed conspiracy to break up Yugoslavia.

On July 26, the day after the Financial Times profile of Malofeev appeared, a correspondent for the newspaper, Guy Chazan, wrote in the same newspaper’s weekend news section about the opening of “a number of mass graves” in and close by Slovyansk, a city in the Donetsk region that was occupied by pro-Russian irregular forces from mid-April until the first week of July. The dead, Chazan declared, were “thought to be victims of pro-Russian rebels.”

Such carnage is the aspect of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s that remains most prominent in global memory. On July 11, 2014, 175 more bodies were interred at the immense graveyard in Srebrenica, site of the worst homicidal incident of the Bosnian war. There and at neighboring locations 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered by Serbian forces in 1995.

Step by step, Russia is following the path of Milosevic, from mobilization based on religious rhetoric to gross atrocities. But Russia is bigger and bolder than Serbia. World opinion increasingly points to Russian personnel in Ukraine as responsible for the annihilation of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 (MH17), on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, an act of which Serbia was probably incapable.

The shooting down of MH17 has already had significant effects in Western Europe, where the Netherlands, which lost the greatest number of dead in the episode, has called for stronger sanctions against Russia. Russians who support adventures in Ukraine should recall that the Netherlands includes The Hague, where Milosevic and other plotters of aggression against Serbia’s neighbors have been imprisoned, tried, and sentenced.

When Serbia found that Milosevic was an impediment to its campaign to regain world respect, it sent the architect of genocidal crimes to The Hague. Russia’s elite may decide the same about Putin — especially after the ghastly circumstances surrounding the destruction of MH17 — and dump him as a liability… if they can.


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For well over a month, Americans have read headlines capturing the humanitarian crisis of approximately 52,000 Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran unaccompanied minors being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet, judging by the actions of the government officials in countries where these refugees originated — Central America’s Northern Triangle — one would think there are real issues to be addressed.

Just last month, Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernandez flew out to Brazil to root on his soccer team and missed a key meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The meeting was convened by Vice President Biden with his Central American counterparts to announce an aid package and review joint efforts to address the crisis.

Honduras happens to be the country with the highest number of detained children at the border.

A couple of weeks after Hernandez’ trip, the Vice President of El Salvador, Oscar Ortiz, and a couple other cabinet members reportedly visited Brazil coinciding with the final match of the 2014 World Cup. This week, the president of the Salvadoran national Congress, Sigfrido Reyes, announced a trip to Gaza to “express solidarity with the people of Palestine.” A day before Reyes’ announcement 14 families in the suburban town of Mejicanos were forced by gangs to leave their apartments.

El Salvador is the Central American country with the third highest number of unaccompanied minors at the border.

The presidents’ first reaction to the crisis was to have the first ladies hold bilateral meetings to deal with the surge of unaccompanied minors. A nice thought, but generally speaking, first ladies in Latin America — like much of the world — play a mostly ceremonial role. To delegate this critical issue to the this caucus of first ladies is to demonstrate that lack of seriousness with which these leaders have approached the crisis and its underlying causes.

There is a profound lack of political will to change the conditions that brought about the crisis in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Joaquin Villalobos, a Salvadoran former guerrilla commander who now works as an international conflict mediator, wrote a scathing column in El País detailing how the aloofness of the elites in Central America’s Northern Triangle contrasts with the structural inequality and subsequent exodus: “The rich of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have become totally insensitive to the reality around them. They hired their own private security, pay starvation wages, do not invest in their countries and are reluctant to pay taxes [...] There are 125,000 private security guards in Guatemala while there are only 22,000 police officers.”

The presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in their comments about the crisis have yet to make a statement about the need to reform their economic and legal systems. On the contrary, when President Obama announced the $3.7 billion supplemental package to address the situation in the U.S., the Honduran president didn’t hesitate to ask that at least $2 billion of the package should be destined to help his country and neighbors to deal with the migration.

For there to be real progress, there must be a real focus on the issues that matter. It’s time for the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to assume responsibility, look introspectively, clean up and strengthen their institutions to stop the exodus. Otherwise we can expect those dreaded headlines to become permanent fixtures before our eyes.


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SHAKHTARSK, Ukraine (AP) — Heavy fighting raged Monday around the Malaysia Airlines debris field, once again preventing an international police team charged with securing the site from even getting there.

Government troops have stepped up their push to win back territory from pro-Russian separatists in fighting that the United Nations said Monday has killed more than 1,100 people in four months. The international delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts stopped Monday in Shakhtarsk, a town around 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.

Sounds of regular shelling could be heard from Shakhtarsk and residents were seen fleeing town in cars.

Associated Press reporters saw a high-rise apartment block in Shakhtarsk being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

The mandate of the police team is to secure the currently rebel-controlled area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies can be recovered.

The second cancelled site visit over two days has strained tempers among the observation team.

“There a job to be done,” said Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire.”

The Defense Ministry says Ukrainian troops have entered Shakhtarsk, although checkpoints blocking the western entrance into town remain under rebel control. It also said fighting was taking place in Snizhne, which lies directly south of the crash site, and in other towns in the east.

The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said on its official Twitter that fighting was ongoing in the village of Rozsypne, where some of the wreckage still lays strewn and uncollected.

The head of the rebel’s military headquarters, Igor Ivanov, told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that the village had fallen into government hands, but that information could not immediately be confirmed.

Ukraine has accused rebels of tampering with evidence at the plane crash site and trying to cover up their alleged role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines jet down with an anti-aircraft missile.

Separatist officials have staunchly denied responsibility for shooting down the airliner and killing all 298 people onboard.

A Ukrainian security spokesman said Monday that data from the recovered flight recorders shows Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. Andrei Lysenko said the plane suffered “massive explosive decompression” after it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.

The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination.

In their campaign to wrest control over more territory from separatist forces, Ukraine’s army has deployed a growing amount of heavy weaponry. Rebels have also been able to secure large quantities of powerful weapons, much of which the United States and Ukraine maintain is being supplied by Russia.

Moscow dismisses those charges.

While Russia and Ukraine trade accusations, the death toll has been mounting swiftly.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report out Monday that at least 1,129 people have been killed between mid-April, when fighting began, and July 26. The report said at least 3,442 people had been wounded and more than 100,000 people had left their homes. A U.N. report from mid-June put the death toll at 356.

Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s top human rights official, also called for a quick investigation into the downing of the plane, which she said may be a war crime.

At least eight civilians were killed by fighting and shelling in two cities held by separatist militants overnight Sunday, officials in the rebellion-wracked region said.

Authorities in Luhansk said that five people were killed and 15 injured by overnight artillery strikes. Three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, the city’s government said.

Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas. Authorities deny that charge, but also complain of insurgents using apartment blocks as firing positions.

Meanwhile, a government-supported volunteer battalion said in a statement Monday that it lost 23 soldiers during fighting in a town called Lutuhyne, which is just south of Luhansk.

The U.N. said in its report that rebel groups continue to “abduct, detain, torture and execute people kept as hostages in order to intimidate” the population in the east. It said rule of law had collapsed in the rebel-held areas and that 812 people had been abducted in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since mid-April.

It also reported heavy damage to electrical, water and sewage plants and estimated the costs of rebuilding at $750 million — money the government would have to find by cutting social programs.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov on Monday dismissed the images as fake. He said in a statement carried by the Russian news agencies that the satellite images released by the U.S. State Department can’t serve as a proof because they lack precise locations and their resolution is too low.

A four-page document released by the State Department appears to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The images could not be independently verified by The Associated Press.

In a possible indication of sagging morale within the rebels’ ranks, the deputy leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic announced Monday that his immediate superior, Alexander Borodai, had left for Russia.

Viktor Antyufeyev, who is a Russian national like Borodai, said he will take over as the separatist government’s acting prime minister.

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Leonard reported from Kiev, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, David McHugh in Kiev, Ukraine, and John Heilprin in Geneva contributed to this report.


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At around two-thirty in the afternoon on May 8, 1993, Marshall Morgan left his mother’s house, on the South Side of Chicago, and drove off in her light-blue Chevrolet Cavalier. Morgan was borrowing the car and, in return, had agreed to get it washed. It was a warm day, and he wore denim shorts, a black-and-white pin-striped shirt, and black sneakers.


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Randy Browning watched from behind the glass as Kimberly McCarthy slipped quietly into unconsciousness, snored briefly, then finally stopped breathing. It didn’t matter to him that this woman — who’d brutally stabbed and mutilated his beloved godmother and mentor — was allowed a peaceful, painless death.

For Browning, it was enough to know that Dorothy Booth’s murderer was no more. “I’m happy not to share the planet with Kimberly McCarthy,” he said from his home in Austin, Texas. “But would I want her to be strung up and tortured? No.”

The prolonged — some say “botched” — execution of double murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood last week in Arizona fanned the flames of the unending debate over whether vicious killers should suffer as they die for their crimes. The controversy follows two other recent executions that went awry: In January, an Ohio inmate snorted and gasped for nearly a half hour before dying; in Oklahoma, a man died of a heart attack minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren’t being administered properly.

Talk with loved ones of their victims, and you’ll find some on all sides of the issue.

In Wood’s case, Richard Brown questions whether he suffered enough.

“This man conducted a horrifying murder, and you guys are going, ‘Let’s worry about the drugs,’” said Brown, brother- and son-in-law of Woods’ victims, Debra and Eugene Dietz. “Why didn’t they give him a bullet? Why didn’t we give him Drano?”

Wood died by lethal injection Wednesday for the August 1989 slayings of his estranged girlfriend and her father. But he did not go quietly. About 10 minutes after the drugs began flowing, Wood started gasping. When it had continued for more than an hour, the condemned man’s lawyers made a desperate appeal to state and federal courts to halt the execution.

After nearly two hours and what witnesses say were hundreds of gasps, Wood was pronounced dead.

As the accounts played on television, cries of “cruel and unusual punishment” resounded, and calls came down for a nationwide stop to the death penalty. The Dietzes’ family lashed out.

“You don’t know what excruciating is,” said Brown’s wife, Jeanne. “What’s excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood; seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood.”

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Randy Browning was not seeking retribution as he sat in the viewing room on June 26, 2013. He was looking for closure.

McCarthy was convicted of killing her 71-year-old neighbor in 1997 during a robbery of the retired psychology professor’s home in Lancaster, Texas. Police say the former nursing home therapist beat Booth with a candelabra, stabbed her with a butcher knife, then cut off the elderly woman’s finger to steal her wedding ring.

McCarthy, who was linked to two other slayings, became Texas’ 500th execution since capital punishment resumed there in 1982.

“She was a vicious, psychopathic serial murderer,” says Browning, who credits Booth with setting him on the path to becoming a psychologist.

But as he sat watching her die, he could not help thinking of her own family, viewing the execution from another room.

“I did have feelings of compassion,” he said. “Not to the point where I wanted them to stop doing what they were doing. But, I mean, it’s just so much suffering.”

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To Randy Ertman, suffering is beside the point. In June 1993, his 14-year-old daughter Jennifer and Elizabeth Pena, 16, were rushing to make curfew on their way home from a party when they took a shortcut through a Houston neighborhood and stumbled into a gang initiation. What followed was what one prosecutor called a “feeding frenzy” of rape, torture and murder.

Six men were convicted in the killings. Three avoided the death chamber because of their ages at the time of the crimes, but the others were sentenced to die.

Randy Ertman attended all three executions. When told of Woods’ slow death in Arizona, Ertman let out a wheezing chuckle.

“Good for him,” said the grieving father. “It didn’t take him long enough.”

___

Brad Bowser understands Ertman’s rage. Glenn L. Benner II was convicted of the 1986 kidnapping, rape and murder of Bowser’s 21-year-old sister, Trina, a childhood neighbor in an Akron, Ohio, suburb. Benner left her body in the trunk of her car along a highway. A year earlier, he had strangled Cynthia Sedgwick, 26, in Cuyahoga Falls after a concert.

When Benner died by lethal injection in February 2006, Brad Bowser was there.

“I thought he got off easy,” Bowser said. “The way that he killed my sister, and I think for someone just to get a needle put in their arm and be able to go to sleep and go to the next world, or whatever, is about as easy as it gets, you know? I mean, I’m dying of cancer right now, and it’s going to be a lot slower, rougher death than what he had.”

Still, Bowser was sorry to hear how long it took Wood to die and wonders why the government can’t execute people “more efficiently.” But he’s also angry that it took 20 years for Benner — and even longer for Wood — to be put down.

“The way they’re doing it is about as humane as you can get right now,” he said.

___

Clara Byrd Taylor has read her Old Testament and its many references to the ultimate penalty. But her support for capital punishment has always been tempered by doubt.

“Government today being so imperfect, man being so imperfect, there are so many injustices,” she said, “it’s hard for me to say that in every case I think the death penalty should be carried out.”

For the murderers of her brother, she has no such qualms. The evidence was overwhelming.

On June 7, 1998, white supremacists chained James Byrd Jr. by his ankles to the bumper of a pickup truck and dragged him three miles down a rough asphalt road in Jasper, Texas. Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King dumped what was left of Byrd’s mangled body outside a black church and cemetery.

Brewer and King were convicted of capital murder. A third man received a life sentence.

Before she died in 2010, Taylor’s mother made her promise to see Byrd’s killers punished. So when an unrepentant Brewer was executed in September 2011, Taylor stood witness.

“It didn’t bring me any sense of peace or relief,” she said. “It’s just a matter of saying that this one chapter in the book was now closed, and we can move on to the next part of it.”

A date has not yet been set for King’s execution. When it is, Taylor plans to be there.

“And I hope it goes as peacefully as Brewer’s,” she said.

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Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at features@ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AllenGBreed.


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A 16-year-old Japanese girl has been arrested in Sasebo, Nagasaki prefecture, on suspicion of murdering a fellow student. Police confirmed that the alleged attacker also dismembered her victim’s body.


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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on the two sides in the 21-day conflict in Gaza to begin talks to “address root causes” to “break the endless, senseless cycle” of violence.