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It took the shooting down of a Boeing jet carrying almost 300 people before the EU agreed on the first true economic sanctions against Russia. The Americans want further action, but it is impossible to know if punitive measures can sway Vladimir Putin.
It was the images. Absurdly tattooed pro-Russian fighters, cigarettes dangling from their lips and Kalashnikovs tucked under their arms, stomping around in the field of bodies and wreckage at the crash site, as if the dead children from the downed Boeing had nothing to do with them. Experts holding their noses as they opened a railroad car full of dead bodies. A seemingly endless convoy of hearses leaving Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands. And Russian President Vladimir Putin took it all in without losing his composure.
It's usually the images.
Dutch and Australian police called off an attempt to reach the wreckage of MH17 on Monday due to reports of explosions in the region, the second time they have been forced to turn back due to clashes near the site of the crash.
Initially, the Netherlands and Australia had contemplated sending an armed mission to secure the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner and retrieve human remains that have not yet been recovered. But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called off the idea of an armed mission after a ceasefire negotiated with the rebels around the crash site fell through.
"We had the intention to send a unit of the air mobile brigade which was very lightly armed, so it's not a real unit which would provoke hostilities," Kees Homan, a retired major general with the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, told DW.
"But as the fighting continued in the area, our prime minister then took the decision that a military unit for protection of the investigators was not a real option," said Homan, who now works with the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.
Prime Minister Rutte had concluded that "there's a real risk of such an international military mission becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine."
Data from recovered flight recorders shows that Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine because of an explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel, a Ukrainian security spokesman says.
Andrei Lysenko said on Monday 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.
The data was released as heavy fighting flared around the debris field, once again preventing an international police team charged with securing the site from even getting there.
Government troops stepped up their push to win back territory from pro-Russian separatists in fighting that the United Nations said on Monday had killed more than 1,100 people in four months.
The international delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts stopped on Monday in Shakhtarsk, a town around 30km from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.
The unarmed police team's mandate is to secure the currently rebel-controlled area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies can be recovered.
The U.S. State Department has released satellite images it says back up the assertion by Washington and Kiev that Russian forces are firing artillery into eastern Ukraine in support of separatists.
In a four-page document titled Evidence of Russian Shelling into Ukraine, released Sunday, blast marks from rocket launches in Russia and craters in Ukraine can be seen, the State Department says.
The document also shows "self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units, on the Russian side of the border, oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine."
It also states that: "Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine."
The images are attributed to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and were taken between July 21 and July 26, officials say — days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
According to The Associated Press, they "claim to show multiple rocket launchers fired at Ukrainian forces from within Ukraine and from Russian soil. One image shows dozens of craters around a Ukrainian military unit and rockets that can travel more than 7 miles."
The Obama administration in Washington has accused Russia of conducting missile tests in violation of a 1987 nuclear treaty, calling the breach "a very serious matter" and bringing into the public sphere allegations that have simmered for some time.
The treaty confrontation comes at a highly strained time between the US president and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, over Russia's intervention in Ukraine and granting of asylum to Edward Snowden, who exposed widespread surveillance and collection of innocent people's data by US intelligence agencies.
An administration official said Obama had notified Putin of the US objections in a letter Monday. The finding is to be included in a US state department annual report on compliance with arms control treaties due for release on Tuesday.
The US is accusing Russia tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that Ronald Reagan signed with Mikhail Gorbachev during the Soviet era.
"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said in a statement.
"We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner."
Another official said the US was prepared to hold high-level discussions on the issue immediately.
WASHINGTON — The CIA obtained a confidential email to Congress about alleged whistleblower retaliation related to the Senate’s classified report on the agency’s harsh interrogation program, triggering fears that the CIA has been intercepting the communications of officials who handle whistleblower cases.
The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.
At the time, the CIA was embroiled in a furious behind-the-scenes battle with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the panel’s investigation of the agency’s interrogation program, including accusations that the CIA illegally monitored computers used in the five-year probe. The CIA has denied the charges.
The email controversy points to holes in the intelligence community’s whistleblower protection systems and raises fresh questions about the extent to which intelligence agencies can elude congressional oversight.
WASHINGTON, DC - The US government's prosecution of terrorism cases in America since 9/11 has been fraught with widespread human rights abuses adding up to an enduring miscarriage of justice that has had a chilling effect on American Muslim communities, according to a recently released study.
Many of the 500 terrorism cases prosecuted in US federal courts since 2001 appear to have targeted individuals who were not actually involved in terrorist plots or financing them and likely would not have committed acts of violence, according to the report by Human Rights Watch and the Columbia University Law School's Human Rights Institute.
"Five hundred is a number that sounds really big and it makes it sound like Americans are being kept safe from terrorism attacks, but we found that in a lot of these cases, people were prosecuted who never would have committed a terrorist act in the first place if it weren't for the involvement of the FBI," said Andrea J Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel at HRW and a co-author of the report.
'Illusion of justice'
The report, titled "Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions," details a pattern of US law enforcement targeting American Arabs and Muslims in FBI "sting" operations in which informants cajoled, pressured, and sometimes even bribed young men to participate in plots created by law enforcement. The sweeping laws enacted by Congress after 9/11 helped create a conducive atmosphere, according to critics.
Al Jazeera America
After weeks of sometimes-testy talks, a tentative deal has been reached between Senate and House negotiators over new legislation aimed at fixing a veterans affairs health program scandalized by long patient wait times and a cover up of delays.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who heads the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and his House counterpart, Republican Representative Jeff Miller, are expected to outline the agreement at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, their spokesmen said.
"Miller and Sanders continued negotiations on a VA reform package this weekend and made significant progress toward an agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals," their offices said in a statement.
The VA has been rocked by a scandal over cover-ups of months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.
The controversy led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in late May.
A US climber who filmed his children, aged nine and 11, being knocked off their feet in a mini-avalanche as they tried to set a new mountaineering record on Mont Blanc has been condemned by the local mayor and climbers' associations.
Patrick Sweeney, who caught the incident on camera and posted on YouTube, was interviewed with his children on US breakfast television about how they survived the mountain's notorious "corridor of death".
On seeing the footage, however, Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of St-Gervais-les-Bains – the town where mountaineers begin their ascent of Mont Blanc – went on the attack on Monday.
He denounced Sweeney's "recklessness" and the promotion of the incident in the media, and told FranceInfo radio that Europe's highest peak was "becoming an amusement park where we're going to have gendarmes, rescuers and Pamela Anderson to save us".
Sweeney, a self-described "adrenaline junkie", was trying to beat the record set by a 10-year-old boy from London in reaching the summit with his younger son, PJ, and daughter Shannon.
Police in Washington DC have been instructed not to enforce a citywide ban on carrying handguns outside the home, after a federal judge ruled Saturday that the ban was unconstitutional. The city’s attorney general is expected to request a stay of the ruling until the city decides whether to appeal, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
Washington’s metropolitan police department has interpreted the ruling to mean the ban is no longer in effect, and that city residents with properly registered handguns can carry guns outside the home.
Rules that prevent convicted felons from carrying firearms are still in effect, and residents of other states must abide by their respective states’ registration and carry laws, or they could face charges.
“If you are a DC resident, of course your gun must be registered, you cannot just walk around with an unregistered weapon,” said Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson, Iftmania Bonilla.
The ruling is the result of a 2009 lawsuit filed by Tom G Palmer and the Second Amendment Foundation. An attorney for the group, Alan Gura, told the Washington Post that the ruling invalidated the ban, that residents of Washington with registered handguns should be able to carry immediately and that the measure would improve public safety.
Contracts to buy previously-owned U.S. homes unexpectedly fell in June, but the data did little to change perceptions the housing sector was gradually recovering after slumping in late 2013.
Another report on Monday showed services sector activity held at a 4-1/2 year-high in July, a sign of economic momentum early in the third quarter.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed last month, fell 1.1 percent to 102.7. The decline followed three straight months of increases.
Economists, who had expected contracts to rise 0.5 percent last month, were not fazed by the drop.
"The June pullback could be seen largely as a correction in a broadly improving trend, with housing data remaining somewhat choppy as the sector gradually continues to recover," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York.
Pending home sales, which lead sales by a month or two, increased 6.0 percent in May. They were down 7.3 percent compared to June of last year. On a regional basis, contracts fell in the Northeast and the South, but rose in the West and the Midwest.
A U.S. appeals court on Monday struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, the latest in a string of court rulings across the country to back gay marriage.
A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 to affirm a February ruling by a federal judge who struck down the state ban as unconstitutional.
Judges Roger Gregory and Henry Floyd wrote that barring gay couples from marrying violated rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.
"Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance," they said.
A US judge has ruled that the LA Clippers basketball team can be sold, despite the objections of banned co-owner Donald Sterling.
Judge Michael Levanas said the $2bn sale could go ahead.
Mr Sterling, 80, had been contesting his estranged wife Shelly's decision to sell the basketball team franchise to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
Mr Sterling was banned from basketball for life after he was recorded making racist remarks in April.
The Los Angeles court case focused on allegations that Mrs Sterling used medical tests of her husband's mental capacity to remove him as a member of the trust that owned the team, and deceived him into selling.
Mr Sterling had originally agreed to the sale of the basketball team, but then revoked his blessing, saying he had been improperly removed from the trust.
Judge Levanas of the California Superior Court said he found Mrs Sterling to be a more credible witness than her husband and that she had acted properly over the sale, the BBC's Peter Bowes in Los Angeles reports.
A rocket hit a fuel storage tank in a chaotic battle for Tripoli airport that has all but closed off international flights to Libya, leaving fire-fighters struggling to extinguish a giant conflagration.
Foreign governments have looked on powerless as anarchy sweeps across the North African oil producer, three years after NATO bombardment helped topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi. They have urged nationals to leave Libya and have pulled diplomats out after two weeks of clashes among rival factions killed nearly 160 people in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.
The Netherlands, the Philippines and Austria on Monday prepared to evacuate diplomatic staff. The United States, United Nations and Turkish embassies have already shut operations after the worst violence since the 2011 uprising.
Billed as "Irbil's newest jewel that glitters under one of the region's largest glass domes," the Family Mall is a Western-style shopping arcade a few miles from the Kurdistan regional capital's city center. Opened in 2010, it's now home to an amusement park, a vast new cinema complex and over 100 different stores, including international brands such as Carrefour, Mango, and DKNY.
In short, wandering through the neon-lit halls, you could be at any mall anywhere in the world.
And while that might disappoint foreign visitors hoping for a taste of Middle Eastern culture, for many locals the mall symbolizes Kurdistan's rapidly developing economy and the success of its first decade as a fully autonomous region within an increasingly unstable and fragmented Iraq.
Kurdistan's economic boom also provides the ground for the regional government's recent announcement that it plans to seek full independence from Baghdad and set itself up as its own nation state, says Mewan Dolamari, a 21-year-old student at the University of Kurdistan-Hewler.
Sitting in one of the shopping center's eye-wateringly expensive juice bars, Dolamari's fluent English and hip Western clothing are as transnational as the mall itself.
Al Jazeera America
Airstrikes in Gaza resumed Monday despite an earlier lull in fighting and a United Nations Security Council demand for an “immediate and unconditional” humanitarian cease-fire to break the weeks-long conflict.
A Gaza park was hit, killing at least 10 Palestinians, including children, a Palestinian health official said. Israelis and the Palestinians traded blame for the strike.
Children were playing on a swing when the strike hit the park in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, said Ayman Sahabani, head of the emergency room at nearby Shifa Hospital. He gave the death toll and said 46 people were also wounded.
The strike on the park occurred a few minutes after the hospital's outpatient clinic was hit, leaving several people wounded. Camera crews were prevented from filming the area of impact at Shifa. Gaza's police operations room, Civil Defense and Sahabani said the deaths and injuries were caused by Israeli airstrikes.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, denied Israel was involved.
The strikes occurred on a day of heavy fighting following a temporary humanitarian cease-fire as international efforts intensified to end the three-week war between Israel and Hamas militants.
Israeli jets struck several sites in Gaza and rockets continued to fall on Israel, the Israeli military said, disrupting a relative lull in the Gaza war at the start of a major Muslim holiday.
Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar's 2022 football World Cup organisers have told the Guardian they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings.
Officials in Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have been using offices on the 38th and 39th floors of Doha's landmark Al Bidda skyscraper – known as the Tower of Football – which were fitted out by men from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India who say they have not been paid for up to 13 months' work.
The project, a Guardian investigation shows, was directly commissioned by the Qatar government and the workers' plight is set to raise fresh doubts over the autocratic emirate's commitment to labour rights as construction starts this year on five new stadiums for the World Cup.
The offices, which cost £2.5m to fit out, feature expensive etched glass, handmade Italian furniture and even a heated executive toilet, project sources said. Yet some of the workers have not been paid, despite complaining to the Qatari authorities months ago and being owed wages as modest as £6 a day.
By the end of this year several hundred thousand extra migrant workers from some of the world's poorest countries are scheduled to have travelled to Qatar to build World Cup facilities and infrastructure. The acceleration in the building programme comes amid international concern over a rising death toll among migrant workers and the use of forced labour.
In a resolution overnight, the United Nations Security Council called for an "immediate and unconditional" cease-fire in Gaza.
As USA Today reports, the Security Council called on both Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond."
Despite that call, fighting continued. The Associated Press reports that Israeli jets continued their offensive in Gaza, and Hamas militants continued to launch rockets into Israel.
With that, here's what you need to know as the conflict enters its 21st day:
— The Death Toll
The death toll has reached more than 1,000 in Gaza; 40 Israeli soldiers have been killed along with three civilians.The AP and Reuters are reporting that there were explosions reported near the grounds of Gaza's Shifa hospital and a nearby park.
The AP describes the scene:
"The Gaza park attack happened as children played on a swing in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, said Ayman Sahabani, head of the emergency room at nearby Shifa Hospital. Sahabani said nine of the 10 killed at the park were children under the age of 12 and 46 were wounded.
The war in Gaza erupted afresh on Monday as Israel warned of a protracted military campaign to destroy cross-border tunnels and disarm Hamas and other militant groups.
"We need to be prepared for a long operation until our mission is accomplished," Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a televised press conference, rejecting mounting international calls for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
Just after midnight , reports from Gaza described flares lighting up the sky amid intense shelling, with drones flying overhead. Gaza's interior ministry announced that the house of a Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was hit by a missile. No immediate casualties were reported.
Netanyahu – who described the conflict as a "just war" – spoke after a series of dramatic events following a lull in fighting on Sunday and early Monday. Eight children playing in a park in a Gaza refugee camp were killed, the main public hospital was struck, four Israeli soldiers were killed in a mortar attack and militants from Gaza infiltrated Israel through a tunnel.
Israel Defence Forces warned residents of neighbourhoods in northern Gaza – including Shujai'iya, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the three-week war – to evacuate immediately, suggesting a major escalation of military action was imminent.
Al Jazeera America
Not so long ago, the consensus in Europe — and across the Atlantic, too — was that hard-boiled energy security didn’t have time for extravagant clean-energy agendas. Every time Russia shut off Eastern Europe’s gas, some spooked nations questioned the logic of trying to meet EU climate goals while simultaneously wrangling energy independence from Putin’s petro-state. Even earlier this year — with Moscow’s springtime annexation of Crimea — some politicians panicked: Suddenly fracking was back on the agenda and Europe was once again grasping for new, short-term fossil-fuel sources and routes.
But Europe’s energy security and climate protection strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it’s by embracing a far-reaching green-energy transition that it will most effectively — and enduringly — be able to slash energy imports, with their accompanying exorbitant costs. Fortunately, there finally appears to be a shift toward this mentality in Europe, which until now has always seen energy security and climate-related energy concerns as separate issues.
A quick look at Europe’s acute import addiction underscores the dimensions of the problem at hand. At a cost of more than €500 billion a year, the EU imports 88 percent of its crude oil; 66 percent of its natural gas; and 42 percent of its solid fuels, such as coal. Russia supplies Europe with about a third of its oil and 39 percent of its gas, half of which flows through Ukraine. The Baltic and other Eastern European countries are almost entirely dependent on Russia for gas and oil.
Police and emergency crews in the city of Revere, Massachusetts, outside Boston scrambled to clean up after a rare tornado touched down on Monday, downing power lines, damaging homes and overturning at least one car.
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down during a storm that brought heavy rains, lightning and flooding to Boston and many of its northern suburbs. State emergency management officials said they were not aware of major injuries or fatalities from the storm.
"Obviously we had a monumental storm come through our city early this morning," Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo told reporters. "There's widespread damage, downed power lines, telephone poles, a lot of public buildings and homes that have been damaged."
Revere police reported extensive damage to homes and trees after the violent weather. Boston and cities to its northeast reported extensive street flooding from the storm, which dropped rain at the rate of 1.5 to 2 inches (3.8 to 5 cm) per hour, the National Weather Service said.
We know that happiness and social connection can have positive benefits on health. Now research suggests that having a sense of purpose or direction in life may also be beneficial.
To find out if having a sense of purpose has an effect on aging and adult development, Patrick Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, looked at data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, which is funded by the National Institute on Aging.
Hill and his colleague Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center looked to see how more than 6,000 people answered questions like "Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them," and other questions that gauged positive and negative emotions.
They found that 14 years after those questions were asked, people who had reported a greater sense of purpose and direction in life were more likely to outlive their peers.
Medical tests are rarely a pleasant experience, especially if you're worried that something could be seriously wrong. That's true even though we know that regular screenings and tests often help doctors catch issues early.
But of course, humans don't always behave rationally. Sometimes people will go to great lengths to avoid hearing bad news. Social scientists call this sort of behavior information aversion, or the ostrich effect (based on the old myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they're scared). And it can have important implications for our health, researchers say.
In order to gauge how information aversion affects health care, one group of researchers decided to look at how college students react to being tested for a sexually transmitted disease.
This is a trick question. Where would you expect to find the greatest variety of birds?
Downtown, in a city?Or far, far from downtown — in the fields, forests, mountains, where people are scarce?<
Not the city, right?
"Everything I have learned as a conservation biologist tells me cities are bad for biodiversity," writes John Marzluff, of the University of Washington.
We all know this. Anyone who goes to downtown Chicago, Toronto, Seattle, L.A., Boston or New York will see the same five birds over and over: sparrows, starlings, mallards (ducks), geese, and, of course, street pigeons. Same goes for downtowns in Europe, Asia and South America. These five bird types are always there, always the same, never surprising. Rather than yawn, scientists have a category for this: "biotically homogenous." We've made cities. They've moved in.
Standing outside her sixth-floor apartment in the Bronx, Lissette Encarnacion says she sometimes forgets the place belongs to her.
"I'm thinking I'm at somebody else's [house]," she says. "I'm ringing my own doorbell."
Encarnacion used to have a career in banking, and lived in a real home with her son and husband. Then one night everything changed, she says, when her husband came home drunk and angry, and threw her off a balcony.
"He came home, pulled me from the hair, and just started beating the hell out of me," she says. She was seven months pregnant with her second child, a boy.
Encarnacion suffered traumatic brain injury and was never the same. She and her sons moved in with her sister, but Encarnacion often wandered off.
Eventually she became homeless, she tells NPR affiliate WNYC, and remained that way for a decade. She suffered from epileptic seizures, and was frequently picked up by paramedics and taken to emergency rooms.
It said the regulations for the new bidding round for licences - the first in six years - are stricter than before.
And companies applying to frack near beauty spots will have additional obligations.
But some environmental campaigners say the new rules are not tough enough.
Right to refuse
Fracking involves blasting water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into shale rock formations to release the gas and oil held inside.
Planning permission may be granted in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty if "it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest".
Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, will have the right to overturn planning decisions, if they don't satisfy the government's criteria.
But Greenpeace said: "In fact, so far as we can tell, the announcement actually makes it easier for developers to drill in national parks - by giving the communities secretary the automatic right to overrule local authorities who reject an application."
Panasonic has reached a basic agreement with electric-car maker Tesla to participate in a large-scale battery plant, or a so-called Gigafactory, according to a Japan-based report.
Panasonic is expected to invest between 20 billion yen and 30 billion yen (about $194 million to $291 million) initially and will be in charge of equipping the factory with the machines to produce the lithium-ion battery cells, Japan's Nikkei reported in its Tuesday edition.
An official announcement about the partnership will be made by the end of July, the Japanese business daily said.
Tesla is planning to begin the first phase of construction this fiscal year, the report said.
The Nigerian city of Lagos shut and quarantined a hospital on Monday where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous country.
Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia's Finance Ministry in his 40s, collapsed on arrival at the Lagos airport on July 20. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of a city that is home to 21 million people. He died on Friday.
"The private hospital was demobilized (evacuated) and the primary source of infection eliminated. The decontamination process in all the affected areas has commenced," Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris told a news conference. He said the hospital would be closed for a week and the staff would be closely monitored.