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home : news : world news September 30, 2014

8/25/2014
AP News in Brief

US says American held in Syria for nearly 2 years by al-Qaida-linked group has been freed

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An American journalist kidnapped and held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria was released Sunday, less than a week after the horrific execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamic militants.

The freed American is 45-year-old Peter Theo Curtis of Massachusetts, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice said Curtis is now safe outside of Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis was held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Curtis was not believed to be among the hostages held by the Islamic State group that executed Foley. Islamic State was formally disavowed by al-Qaida earlier this year after being deemed too brutal.

President Barack Obama, who was wrapping up a vacation in Massachusetts, was briefed Sunday morning on Curtis' release.

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Rebels parade captive Ukrainian soldiers on streets of Donetsk as citizens shout and hurl eggs

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- To shouts of "Fascists!" and "Hang them from a tree!" captured Ukrainian soldiers were paraded through the streets of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on Sunday as bystanders pelted them with eggs, water bottles and tomatoes.

The spectacle of the bruised and filthy soldiers being marched hands bound and surrounded by gun-toting pro-Russian insurgents came as Ukrainians in Kiev celebrated their country's independence from the Soviet Union -- a stark display of the growing divisions between east and west.

While support and mobilization for Kiev's campaign against the separatists has grown in many parts of the country, resentments fester in much of the east, where civilian casualties and shelling have become a part of daily life.

Illustrating the divisions, an ostentatious procession of tanks and weaponry rumbled through downtown Kiev to mark Ukraine's 23rd anniversary of independence from Moscow -- a highly publicized event accompanied by speeches and a vow by President Petro Poroshenko to boost defense spending to defeat the rebels.

In Donetsk, thousands gathered in the main square as the insurgents staged their own spectacle mocking the national army. To jeers and catcalls, dozens of captive soldiers, some wearing tattered Ukrainian military uniforms and some in torn and dirty civilian clothing, were forced to march past as nationalistic Russian songs blared from loudspeakers. They were flanked by rebels pointing bayoneted rifles.

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Egypt's top Islamic authority, revered worldwide, says extremist group not an 'Islamic State'

CAIRO (AP) -- The top Islamic authority in Egypt, revered by many Muslims worldwide, launched an Internet-based campaign Sunday challenging an extremist group in Syria and Iraq by saying it should not be called an "Islamic State."

The campaign by the Dar el-Ifta, the top authority that advises Muslims on spiritual and life issues, adds to the war of words by Muslim leaders across the world targeting the Islamic State group, which controls wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. Its violent attacks, including mass shootings, destroying Shiite shrines, targeting minorities and beheadings including American journalist James Foley, have shocked Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, previously said the extremists violate all Islamic principles and laws and described the group as a danger to Islam as a whole. Now, the Dar el-Ifta he oversees will suggest foreign media drop using "Islamic State" in favor of the "al-Qaida Separatists in Iraq and Syria," or the acronym "QSIS," said Ibrahim Negm, an adviser to the mufti.

This is part of a campaign that "aims to correct the image of Islam that has been tarnished in the West because of these criminal acts, and to exonerate humanity from such crimes that defy natural instincts and spreads hate between people," Negm said according to Egypt's state news agency MENA. "We also want to reaffirm that all Muslims are against these practices which violate the tolerant principles of Islam."

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi also weighed in. On Sunday, speaking to editors of Egyptian newspapers, he said the extremist group is part of a plot aiming to "undermine Islam as a belief."

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Palestinian president prepares new UN statehood appeal for after Gaza war

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Aides to the Palestinian president said Sunday that he will soon appeal to the international community to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and make way for an independent Palestinian state.

President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to unveil his proposal as part of a "day after" plan following the current war in the Gaza Strip, likely at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been made public.

Abbas is plotting his move even as the fighting continues to rage. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned Sunday that the 7-week-old military campaign in Gaza would stretch into September -- despite growing anger among residents in southern Israel over the military's inability to halt rocket and mortar fire out of the Palestinian territory following the death of a 4-year-old Israeli boy over the weekend.

In new fighting Sunday, the Israeli air force flattened a seven-floor office building and severely damaged a shopping center in southern Gaza, signaling a new escalation.

Palestinian officials said 13 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, bringing the death toll to more than 2,100 Palestinians since fighting erupted on July 8. Sixty-eight Israelis have also died, all but four of them soldiers.

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Hundreds attend St. Louis event promoting peace, which has new resonance after Brown shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Hundreds of people gathered Sunday in St. Louis' largest park for a festival encouraging peace over violence -- an event that took on new resonance after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer.

Peace Fest 2014 was already in the works before Michael Brown was killed in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. But the shooting and the nightly protests it touched off have put a larger spotlight on the event.

"I think this is divine," said James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life Inc., the nonprofit that organizes the festival each year. "The whole world is watching Peace Fest today."

Tracy Martin, the father of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin, was scheduled to speak at the event at Forest Park, a move that was also set prior to the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown. Organizers said a representative of Brown's family would join Tracy Martin.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was also unarmed when he was shot and killed in 2012. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who said he shot Martin in self-defense, was acquitted.

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At Mass for slain US journalist James Foley, a New Hampshire bishop says: He opened our eyes

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was living his faith by bringing images to the world of people suffering from war and oppressive regimes, a Roman Catholic bishop said Sunday at a Mass in his honor.

Bishop Peter Libasci said even after Foley was captured for the first time in Libya in 2011, he "went back again that we might open our eyes."

The Mass was attended by Foley's parents, John and Diane Foley, and hundreds of others in their hometown of Rochester, New Hampshire. Afterward, Libasci read aloud a letter from the Vatican extending the condolences of Pope Francis.

"Thank you for loving Jim," Diane Foley told the crowd after the Mass.

The crowd filled every pew and people stood three deep at the back of the church and along both sides of it. Gov. Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, attended the Mass.

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Remembering Michael Brown: College-bound shooting victim called 'little kid in a big body'

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) -- Michael Brown Jr. was on the verge of starting college, eager to launch himself into the adult world. Instead, on Monday he'll be mourned at his funeral, more than two weeks after his fatal shooting by a white police officer-- an act that ignited days of violent protests and reawakened racial tensions that still linger in the nation.

Brown, who was unarmed when he was killed, became an instant symbol of racial injustice as protesters flooded into the streets after his death. Civil rights leaders said the shooting in this predominantly black St. Louis suburb revived long simmering questions about police treatment of minorities across the country.

During more than a week of demonstrations -- marred by Molotov cocktails and billowing clouds of tear gas -- Brown's name and face were frequently visible on T-shirts and picket signs. Some also chanted: "I AM MIKE BROWN!"

Even as the details of what happened during the Aug. 9 confrontation remain unclear, a portrait has emerged of the 18-year-old Brown.

Family and friends recall a young man built like a lineman -- 6-foot-3, nearly 300 pounds -- with a gentle, joking manner. An aspiring rapper who dubbed himself "Big Mike." A fan of computer games, Lil Wayne, Drake, the movie, "Grown Ups 2" and the TV show "Family Guy." A kid who was good at fixing things. A struggling student who buckled down to finish his courses, don his green graduation gown with red sash and cross the stage in August to pick up his diploma.

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Earthquake strikes at heart of California wine country, just as harvest season begins

NAPA, Calif. (AP) -- Winemakers in California's storied Napa Valley woke up to thousands of broken bottles and barrels as a result of Sunday's earthquake.

The earthquake couldn't have come at a worse time for the region, which has just started harvesting the 2014 crop.

"It's devastating. I've never seen anything like this," said Tom Montgomery, a winemaker for B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen, California.

The epicenter of the 6.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Northern California, the strongest in the area in 25 years, was just six miles southwest of Napa, California, the center of California's winemaking region.

B.R. Cohn lost "as much as 50 percent" of its wine, Montgomery said. The winery focuses on high-end, single estate wines that retail between $40 and $100 a bottle.

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Citrus in crisis: A state fights back against the bug that threatens its economy, identity

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) -- The tourists stream to Florida in their cars, intent on a week at Disney or a sugar-sand seashore or a nonstop party on South Beach. Road weary and thirsty, they pull over at one of the state's five official welcome centers. They walk inside, and then they look up.

"The best start under the sun," reads a big sign. "FLORIDA ORANGE JUICE."

Behind a counter, a woman sits with a stack of paper cups. "Welcome to Florida," she says with a big smile. "Orange or grapefruit?"

The juice is cold and sweet. It tastes like the Sunshine State.

Once, emerald green trees bursting with citrus carpeted more than half of the state, from the northern reaches of Jacksonville and the parks of Orlando to the Miami coastline. Oranges, especially, have long been synonymous with the magic of Florida.







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