Thursday, April 24, 2014

Published:

Afghan government guard opens fire at Kabul hospital, kills 3 Americans, wounds another

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Three Americans -- a pediatrician and a father and son -- were killed by an Afghan government security officer at a hospital Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on foreign civilians that has rattled aid workers, contractors and journalists.

Another American, a female medical worker, was wounded in the attack at Cure International Hospital of Kabul, run by a U.S.-based Christian charity, and the gunman also was wounded, officials said.

The hospital staff performed surgery on the attacker, who had shot himself, before he was handed over to Afghan authorities, Cure said in a statement. However, Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said the assailant was shot by other security guards.

The attacker's motive was not clear, police said, and there was no Taliban claim of responsibility by Thursday night.

As international troops withdraw, civilian workers increasingly fear they are considered prime targets by militants. Some are rethinking their safety -- and even if they will stay.

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Ukraine launches operation against insurgents in the east; Russia ramps up military exercises

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia announced new military exercises Thursday involving ground and air forces near its border with Ukraine, swiftly responding to a Ukrainian operation to drive pro-Russia insurgents out of occupied buildings in the country's tumultuous east.

The Ukrainian move, which killed at least two people, brought new threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denounced it as a "punitive operation."

"If the Kiev government is using the army against its own people, this is clearly a grave crime," Putin said.

Putin's statement and the announcement of new military maneuvers sharpened anxiety over the prospect of a Russian incursion into Ukraine. Russia's foreign minister warned a day earlier that any attack on Russian citizens or interests in eastern Ukraine would bring a strong response.

Secretary of State John Kerry quickly denounced the Russian actions, and in unusually blunt language warned that unless Moscow took immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, Washington would have no choice but to impose additional sanctions.

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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. THREE AMERICANS SLAIN BY AFGHAN SECURITY GUARD

The shootings at a hospital in Kabul are the latest in a string of deadly attacks on foreign civilians in the city this year.

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Families of ferry's lost confront SKorea officials; signs that ship was heavily overloaded

JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- Frustrated relatives of the scores of people still missing from the sinking of the ferry Sewol staged a marathon confrontation with the fisheries minister and the coast guard chief, surrounding the senior officials in a standoff that lasted overnight and into Friday morning as they vented their rage at the pace of search efforts.

As the death toll rose to 181, relatives camped out under a tent where details about the recovered dead are posted, setting up mattresses and blankets. Dozens crowded around the grim-faced officials, who sat on the ground and tried to explain the search efforts. One man threatened to punch reporters gathered near the tent.

Relatives occasionally shouted, accusing the officials of lying about the operation and asking why hundreds of civilian divers have not been allowed to join coast guard and navy personnel in searching for bodies. Some of the relatives cried through the early hours of the tense scene. As morning came the mood of the discussion mellowed some.

It was the latest expression of fury and desperation in a disaster filled with signs that the government did too little to protect passengers. An opposition politician said he has a document showing that the ferry was carrying far more cargo than it should have been.

Relatives of the missing passengers surrounded Oceans and Fisheries Minister Lee Ju-young, coast guard chief Kim Seok-kyun and deputy chief Choi Sang-hwan.

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Israel halts US-brokered peace talks in response to Palestinian reconciliation deal

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel broke off Mideast peace talks and brought the U.S.-brokered process to the brink of collapse Thursday, protesting a reconciliation agreement between the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and the militant group Hamas, the Jewish state's sworn enemy.

Israel's Security Cabinet made the decision during a marathon emergency meeting convened to discuss the new Palestinian deal. The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah announced the reconciliation plan Wednesday, meant to end a seven-year rift.

Israel objects to any participation in Palestinian politics by Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks over the past two decades.

In a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, the government said it would not hold negotiations with a government "backed by Hamas."

"Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel," the statement said, referring to a name Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also known by.

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Tiny Pacific nation sues world's 9 nuclear-armed powers, demanding disarmament action

NEW YORK (AP) -- The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands is taking on the United States and the world's eight other nuclear-armed nations with an unprecedented lawsuit demanding that they meet their obligations toward disarmament and accusing them of "flagrant violations" of international law.

The island group that was used for dozens of U.S. nuclear tests after World War II filed suit Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Barack Obama, the departments and secretaries of defense and energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Marshall Islands claims the nine countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of negotiating disarmament, and it estimates that they will spend $1 trillion on those arsenals over the next decade.

"I personally see it as kind of David and Goliath, except that there are no slingshots involved," David Krieger, president of the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told The Associated Press. He is acting as a consultant in the case. There are hopes that other countries will join the legal effort, he said.

The countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under "customary international law." The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.

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Major oil and gas supplier to disclose all chemicals used in fracking fluids

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A major supplier to the oil and gas industry says it will begin disclosing 100 percent of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, with no exemptions for trade secrets. The move by Baker Hughes of Houston is a shift for a major firm; it's unclear if others will follow suit.

The oil and gas industry has said the fracking chemicals are disclosed at tens of thousands of wells, but environmental and health groups and government regulators say a loophole that allows companies to hide chemical "trade secrets" has been a major problem.

A statement on the Baker Hughes website said the company believes it's possible to disclose 100 percent "of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations," to increase public trust.

"This really good news. It's a step in the right direction," said Dr. Bernard Goldstein, the former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. "One hopes that the entire industry goes along with it."

But Goldstein noted one "major hedge" in the Baker Hughes position, since the company said it will provide complete lists of the products and chemical ingredients used in frack fluids "where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities."

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AP sources: US government effort to seek release of US soldier is disorganized

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Critics of the U.S. government's nearly five-year effort to seek the release of the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan claim the work suffers from disorganization and poor communication among numerous federal agencies involved, leaving his captors unclear which U.S. officials have the authority to make a deal.

The shrinking U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan has refocused attention on efforts to bring home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009.

About two dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, the military's U.S. Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, the CIA and FBI are working the case -- most of them doing it alongside their other duties, a defense official said.

Bergdahl's captors are anxious to release him, according to a defense official and a military officer, who both spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

"Elements in all echelons -- from the top of the Taliban down to the folks holding Bergdahl -- are reaching out to make a deal," the defense official said.

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Buffalo Bills cheerleaders stop appearances after lawsuit over pay, work conditions

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Pack up the pom-poms in Buffalo, because the Bills will be playing without the support of their official cheerleaders this year.

Stephanie Mateczun, whose company manages the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad, said Thursday she has suspended operations through at least the end of the season. The decision was made two days after five former Jills filed a lawsuit complaining they worked hundreds of hours for free, and were subjected to groping and sexual comments.

The civil action was filed in state Supreme Court and seeks unspecified back pay and legal fees. It names Mateczun's company, Stejon Productions Corp., the Bills, and the Jills' former manager, Citadel Communications Co., as defendants. Stejon took over managing the cheerleaders in 2011.

Mateczun is in the process of hiring legal representation, and declined further comment.

The Bills have been made aware of the Jills' decision to suspend operations, but otherwise declined comment.

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Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda suspended 10 games for using pine tar, won't appeal

BOSTON (AP) -- Michael Pineda says he was just trying to get a better grip on the ball.

Now, he won't need one for a while.

A day after being caught using pine tar on the mound, the New York Yankees pitcher was suspended for 10 games by the commissioner's office on Thursday.

Pineda said he won't appeal, costing him two starts before he can return May 5 at the Los Angeles Angels.

"I accept it," Pineda said before Thursday night's game at Fenway Park. "I know I made a mistake."