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Top doctor dies from Ebola

A leading doctor who risked his own life to treat dozens of Ebola patients died Tuesday from the disease, officials said, as a major regional airline announced it was suspending flights to the cities hardest hit by an outbreak that has killed more than 670 people.

Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who was praised as a national hero for treating the disease in Sierra Leone, was confirmed dead by health ministry officials there. He had been hospitalized in quarantine.

Health workers have been especially vulnerable to contracting Ebola, which is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat, blood and urine. Two American health workers are currently hospitalized with Ebola in neighbouring Liberia.

The Ebola outbreak is the largest in history with deaths blamed on the disease not only in Sierra Leone and Liberia, but also Guinea and Nigeria. The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 per cent.

Binyah Kesselly, chairman of the Liberia Airport Authority board, said police are now present at the airport in Monrovia to enforce screening of passengers.

"So if you have a flight and you are not complying with the rules, we will not allow you to board," he said.

In a statement released Tuesday, airline ASKY said it was temporarily halting flights not only to Monrovia but also to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Flights will continue to the capital of the third major country where people have died — Guinea — though passengers departing from there will be "screened for signs of the virus."

Passengers at the airline's hub in Lome, Togo also will be screened by medical teams, it said.

"ASKY is determined to keep its passengers and staff safe during this unsettling time," the statement said.

The measures follow the death Friday of a 40-year-old American man of Liberian descent, who had taken several flights on ASKY, causing widespread fear at a time when the outbreak shows no signs of slowing in West Africa.

Patrick Sawyer, who worked for the West African nation's Finance Ministry, took an ASKY Airlines flight from Liberia to Ghana, then on to Togo and eventually to Nigeria where he was immediately taken into quarantine until his death.

His sister had died of Ebola though he maintained he had not had close physical contact with her when she was sick. At the time, Liberian authorities said they had not been requiring health checks of departing passengers in Monrovia.

The World Health Organization says the risk of travellers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva, experts say. Ebola can't be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

The Canadian Press




23 killed over past 2 days

Shelling in at least three cities in eastern Ukraine has hit a home for the elderly, a school and multiple homes, adding to a rapidly growing civilian death toll Tuesday.

The use of unguided rockets in fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatist rebels has been causing a notable increase in casualties in recent days and drawn criticism from the U.N. and rights groups.

And with turmoil raging across a swathe of Ukraine's troubled east, international investigators were again prevented Tuesday from visiting the site of the Malaysia Airlines jet shot down earlier this month.

At least one person was killed when several shells hit an apartment block in early in the afternoon in the centre of the main separatist rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

The government has refrained to date from attacks on the centre of Donetsk and direct strikes on the city may mark an escalation in efforts to break the rebels' resolve there.

An Associated Press reporter on the scene saw gaping holes in the side of a nine-story apartment block after it was fired on. Around 50 people took refuge in a nearby underground car park and the area was heavy with the smell of household gas.

An international observer team was taking photos of another nearby building that was also struck by rocket fire.

City hall in Luhansk, which is also controlled by separatist rebels, said that five people were killed Monday when a home for the elderly was struck by artillery fire. Russian television showed images of bodies in wheelchairs covered with blankets.

Ukraine security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that rebels had blocked the railroad out of Luhansk, barring residents from leaving the city.

"If we were earlier able to organize additional trains to and from Luhansk, to Kyiv, now they have completely blocked the railway line," Lysenko said.

Lysenko also accused separatist fighters of using children as human shields and stopping cars from leaving Luhansk. It was not immediately possible to confirm those claims.

In Horlivka, a city besieged by government troops, the mayor's office reported Tuesday that 17 people, including three children, were killed as a result of shelling.

The mayor's office said there has been major damage to many homes and government offices in the centre of the city. It also said the top floor of a school was destroyed as a result of direct hit from a shell.

Rebels accuse the government of indiscriminately using heavy artillery against residential neighbourhoods in areas under their control.

A U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine says there has been an alarming buildup of heavy weaponry in civilian areas of Donetsk and Luhansk — including artillery, tanks, rockets and missiles that are being used to inflict increasing casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

The Canadian Press


Gay marriage bans overturned

An appeals courts' decision to strike down Virginia's same-sex marriage ban adds to the growing list of decrees on a hot-button issue that will likely end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, after the Denver circuit, and is the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favouring marriage equality is testing concepts of states' rights and traditional, conservative moral values that have long held sway.

"I am proud that the Commonwealth of Virginia is leading on one of the most important civil rights issues of our day," said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who had refused to defend the state ban when he took office in January. "We are fighting for the right of loving, committed couples to enter the bonds of marriage."

Virginians voted 57 per cent to 43 per cent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage and state law prohibits recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states, which the court said infringes on its citizens' fundamental right to marry.

The court itself also highlighted the debate that pits moral values and the idea of equality against states' rights, recognizing that same-sex marriage "makes some people deeply uncomfortable," but argued in its ruling Monday that those concerns are "not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws."

"Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security," Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. "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."

The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they'll do next.

North Carolina's top lawman, Roy Cooper, quickly announced that he will stop defending his state's ban, but a spokesman said South Carolina's attorney general, Alan Wilson, sees no need to change course.

Maryland already allows same-sex marriages. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, for his part, said he's reviewing the decision and won't comment until it's final.

The ruling came as Colorado's attorney general, John Suthers, asked his state Supreme Court on Monday to stop county clerks from issuing licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Colorado's gay marriage ban, passed by voters in 2006, is still the law although recent rulings in federal and state court have found it to be unconstitutional. Those rulings have been put on hold during appeals. Suthers argues the state needs to have a consistent practice on gay marriage licenses until the issue is ultimately settled.

Defenders of gay marriage bans are likely to ask for a stay pending their next appeal; otherwise, licenses could be issued to Virginia's same-sex couples in 21 days. And once it becomes final, the decision will apply to the entire circuit, American Civil Liberties Union lawyer James Esseks said.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defence of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court could have at least five appellate decisions to consider if it takes up gay marriage again in its next term, beginning in October.

The 6th Circuit in Cincinnati will hear arguments Aug. 6 for Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The 7th Circuit in Chicago is set for arguments on Aug. 26, and the 9th Circuit in San Francisco for Sept. 8. The 10th Circuit in Denver overturned Utah's ban in June.

The Canadian Press


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Israel hits power plant

Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the war so far.

Hours after the power plant was hit, a tall column of thick black smoke still rose from the plant's burning fuel tank. The station's shutdown was bound to lead to further serious disruptions of the flow of electricity and water to the 1.7 million people packed into the narrow Palestinian territory.

The heavy strikes were a new blow to international efforts to reach a sustainable truce in the fighting, now in its fourth week.

At least 100 Palestinians were killed Tuesday, including 26 who died in airstrikes and tank shelling on four homes, according to Palestinian health officials and the Palestinian Red Crescent. That pushed the overall death toll since the conflict began on July 8 to at least 1,156, according to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra.

Israel has reported 53 soldiers and three civilians killed.

In the West Bank, a top PLO official offered a 24-hour truce Tuesday, saying he also spoke in the name of Hamas, but the Islamic militants said they want to hear from Israel first. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined comment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned of a "prolonged" campaign against Hamas.

But it was not clear if Netanyahu has decided to expand the Gaza war into an all-out effort to topple Hamas or planned to limit Israel's operation to the previously stated goal of ending Hamas rocket fire and destroying Hamas's sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.

Already, the intensity and the scope of the current Gaza operation is on par with an invasion five years ago, which ended with a unilateral Israeli withdrawal after hitting Hamas hard.

On Tuesday, Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of attacks, levelling the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and damaging the offices of the movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, a central mosque in Gaza City and government offices.

The scene at the Gaza power plant after two tank shells hit one of three fuel tanks was daunting. "We need at least one year to repair the power plant, the turbines, the fuel tanks and the control room," said Fathi Sheik Khalil of the Gaza Energy Authority. "Everything was burned."

He said crew members who had been trapped by the fire for several hours were evacuated.

Even before the shutdown, Gaza residents only had electricity for about three hours a day because fighting had damaged power lines. Most of the power lines from Israel that provided electricity for payment were previously damaged in the fighting.

This means most of Gaza will now be without power. The lack of electricity will also affect water supplies, since power is needed to operate water pumps.

The Canadian Press


1 dead, 3 wounded in shootout

A California man who skipped town after being accused of molesting a boy was killed and three law enforcement officers trying to arrest him were wounded in a daytime shootout inside a small smoke shop in one of New York's most bustling neighbourhoods, officials said Monday.

The man, Charles Richard Mozdir, was recently featured on a CNN show about fugitives. He was wanted in a San Diego case and was charged with lewd acts upon a child younger than 14, a criminal complaint said.

The shootout between Mozdir and members of the New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force happened just after 1 p.m. in Greenwich Village not far from New York University in a highly trafficked tourist area bounded by jazz clubs, restaurants, a subway station and a basketball court.

Mozdir's handgun was recovered at the scene, and 20 extra rounds of ammunition were found in his pocket, Police Commissioner William Bratton said.

A police detective first entered the narrow smoke shop and identified Mozdir, who apparently was alone, Police Commissioner Bratton said, before leaving and returning with the U.S. marshals.

The detective was shot at least twice, in the stomach below his protective vest and in the right chest, which could have been deadly were it not stopped by the vest, Bratton said at a hospital.

One U.S. marshal was shot in the elbow and another in his buttocks, he said. All three were in stable condition and had been visited by city and federal officials.

The detective didn't fire his weapon, but the federal agents fired multiple rounds, authorities said.

"They do what law enforcement personnel do every day," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "They have to put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us."

Edoardo Gelardin, who was heading to lunch shortly after the shooting when he saw officers loading the victims into ambulances and officers with assault weapons sealing off the scene, said it was "shocking and out of place."

"It was a little overwhelming to see a scene like that," he said.

A $1 million bench warrant was issued for Mozdir's arrest in June 2012 after he skipped an arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on child sexual assault charges, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney said.

Mozdir, a wedding photographer, also had been charged with attempting to dissuade a witness from prosecution, the criminal complaint said. He had posted $250,000 bail.

Mozdir's case had recently been featured on CNN's "The Hunt with John Walsh." Mozdir was accused of abusing the boy while babysitting him, and authorities later found evidence of child pornography and bestiality on his cellphone and computers, according to the show's website, quoting federal authorities.

Authorities had searched for him in Coronado, Georgia, California and Mexico, the show said.

The San Diego County public defender's office, which represented Mozdir in the child molestation case, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.

The violence recalled a deadly shootout that left a gunman and two auxiliary police officers dead on another Greenwich Village street in March 2007.

That gunman, David Garvin, killed a bartender, according to police, and then turned crowded streets packed with storied taverns into a shooting gallery. Unarmed volunteer officers Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas Todd Pekearo were killed.

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Associated Press reporter Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.

The Canadian Press


NYC shootout

A California man who skipped town after being accused of molesting a child was killed and three law enforcement officers trying to arrest him were wounded in a daytime shootout inside a New York City smoke shop, officials said Monday.

Officials didn't disclose details of the injuries sustained by the two U.S. Marshals and a New York City detective, but Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters all three were in stable condition.

"We pray everything we are hearing is true and that these officers will be OK in the long run," de Blasio said.

The suspect was identified by federal and police officials as Charles Richard Mozdir, whose case had recently been featured on CNN. He was wanted in a San Diego case and charged with five counts of lewd acts upon a child younger than 14, according to a criminal complaint. His weapon had been recovered, the mayor and commissioner said.

The shootout between Mozdir and a fugitive apprehension task force happened just after 1 p.m. in the West Village not far from New York University in a highly trafficked tourist area bounded by jazz clubs, restaurants a subway station and basketball court.

"It was shocking and out-of-place," said Edoardo Gelardin, 24, who was heading to lunch shortly after the shooting when he saw officers loading the victims into ambulances and officers with assault weapons sealing off the scene. "It was a little overwhelming to see a scene like that."

A $1 million bench warrant was issued for Mozdir's arrest on June 15, 2012, after he skipped an arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on child sexual assault charges, according to Steve Walker, a spokesman for the San Diego County district attorney. He had posted $250,000 bail.

He had also been charged with attempting to dissuade a witness from prosecution, according to the criminal complaint.

His case had recently been featured on CNN's "The Hunt with John Walsh." Mozdir, a wedding photographer, was accused of abusing a young boy while babysitting him and authorities later found evidence of child pornography and bestiality on his cellphone and computers, according to the show's website, quoting federal authorities.

Authorities have searched for him in Coronado, Georgia, California and Mexico, according to the show.

The San Diego County Public Defender's Office, which represented Mozdir in the child molestation case, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Canadian Press


Things to know about Ebola

DAKAR, Senegal - There has been panic and fear about the deadly Ebola disease spreading ever since Nigerian health officials reported Friday that a Liberian man sick with the disease had travelled to Togo and then Nigeria before dying. Here are five things to know about Ebola and how it is spread:

1. THE WEST AFRICA EBOLA OUTBREAK IS NOW THE LARGEST IN HISTORY. The World Health Organization says more than 672 people have died from Ebola. A total of 1,201 cases had been reported as of last week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In addition, one Liberian man has died in Nigeria.

2. BUT SOME PEOPLE HAVE SURVIVED EBOLA. While the fatality rate for Ebola can be as high as 90 per cent, health officials in the three countries say people have recovered from the virus and the current death rate is about 70 per cent. Those who fared best sought immediate medical attention and got supportive care to prevent dehydration even though there is no specific treatment for Ebola itself.

3. EBOLA CAN LOOK A LOT LIKE OTHER DISEASES. The early symptoms of an Ebola infection include fever, headache, muscle aches and sore throat, according to the World Health Organization. It can be difficult to distinguish between Ebola and the symptoms of malaria, typhoid fever or cholera. Only in later stages do people with Ebola begin bleeding both internally and externally, often through the nose and ears.

4. EBOLA IS ONLY SPREAD THROUGH BODILY FLUIDS. The Ebola virus is not airborne, so people would have to come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. These include blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen — making transmission through casual contact in a public setting unlikely.

5. FEAR AND MISINFORMATION THOUGH IS MAKING THINGS WORSE. In each of the affected countries, health workers and clinics have come under attack from panicked residents who mistakenly blame foreign doctors and nurses for bringing the virus to remote communities. Family members also have removed sick Ebola patients from hospitals, including one woman in Sierra Leone's capital who later died. Police had to use tear gas to disperse others who attacked a hospital in the country.

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The Canadian Press


Flight 17 a possible war crime

The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 may be a war crime, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Monday.

Pillay, the U.N.'s top human rights official, called for a thorough investigation into the violation of international law that occurred when the flight was shot down with a surface-to-air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists on July 17, killing all 298 people on board.

Pillay's comments coincided with a new report by her office that says at least 1,129 people had been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine's fighting as of Saturday, and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April.

"This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime," Pillay said of the downed jetliner, which U.S. and Ukrainian officials say was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.

"It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event," she said.

Fighting over the weekend prevented a team of Dutch and Australian police officers from visiting the crash site to start searching for evidence and the remaining bodies. The Dutch government said a team of 26 forensic experts left Donetsk for the crash site on Monday.

A full-fledged investigation still has not begun at the crash site. Some bodies are still unrecovered and the site has been forensically compromised.

The report by the U.N.'s team of 39 field monitors in Ukraine says there has been an alarming buildup of heavy weaponry in civilian areas of Donetsk and Luhansk — including artillery, tanks, rockets and missiles that are being used to inflict increasing casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

The report says such attacks could amount to violations of international humanitarian law.

Gianni Magazzeni, head of the U.N. office's branch that oversees Ukraine, told reporters in Geneva that all governments must respect "the presumption of innocence of civilians."

"There is an increase in the use of heavy weaponry in areas that are basically surrounded by public buildings," he said. "All international law needs to be applied and fully respected."

Wouter Oude Alink, an expert at Leiden University's International Institute of Air and Space Law in the Netherlands, said shooting down the airliner and killing all 298 people onboard violates the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, including an important addition to it ratified by Russia and Ukraine, and the 1945 U.N. Charter.

The addition to the Chicago Convention reflected the 1983 downing of a Korean jetliner by the Soviets. It said nations must not use weapons against civil aircraft in flight or endanger the passengers and aircraft if intercepted. The U.N. Charter's Article 51 says the use of force by nations is only allowed for self-defence.

Though the treaties only mention nations, "this does not imply that these international laws do not apply" to armed groups like the pro-Russian rebels, Alink said.

"Being rebels means exactly that the Ukrainian separatists are not considered a legal entity or representing a recognized state; from an international point of view this is still Ukrainian territory," he said in an email to The Associated Press. "As Ukraine (and Russia) is obliged to refrain from violence against civil aircraft, so are its citizens."

The Canadian Press


Strike on Gaza kills 9 kids

A strike on a Gaza park killed 10 people Monday, nine of them children, as Israeli and Palestinian authorities traded blame over the attack and fighting in the Gaza war raged on despite a major Muslim holiday.

A truce between the sides remained elusive as diplomats sought to end the fighting at the start of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In Israel, meanwhile, the military said Gaza militants infiltrated into the country through a tunnel under the Gaza-Israel border and opened fire on soldiers. Israeli media reported that five of the militants were apparently killed in a firefight, but the military did not immediately elaborate.

Meanwhile, the military said a mortar attack on southern Israel caused "deaths and injuries," but did not disclose further details. Israeli media reported that the attack killed at least four people, which saw military helicopters rushing stretchers away to local hospitals.

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 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 Defence and Sahabani blamed the attacks on Israeli airstrikes.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, denied Israel was involved. "This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp," he said.

Gaza's Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozum said he believes that shrapnel found in dead bodies and in the wounded is evidence of Israel's role in the incident.

"The occupation claims that Palestinian rockets hit the hospital and the park," he said. "This is an attempt to cover their ugly crime against children and civilians, and because of their fear of scandal and international legal prosecution."

In a text message, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the strike on the park a "massacre." The Hamas military wing said that in response to the strike, it fired three rockets toward the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

Israel's military on Monday also ordered residents of parts of northern Gaza to evacuate towards central Gaza City, a sign that Israel may be broadening its assault. The areas warned included Shijaiyah, which saw one of the bloodiest days of fighting last week.

Earlier, Israeli jets struck several sites in Gaza and rockets continued to fall on Israel, the Israeli military said, disrupting a relative lull.

The Canadian Press


Oil depot catches fire

A fire at the oil depot for the airport in Libya's capital raged out of control Monday after being struck in the crossfire of warring militias battling for control of the airfield, the latest violence to plague the country as foreigners flee the chaos.

Libya's interim government said in a statement posted that the fire could trigger a "humanitarian and environmental disaster" in Tripoli, appealing for "international help" to extinguish the inferno. It did not say what it specifically needed.

The blaze had spread to a second depot by Monday afternoon, the government said. It was unclear if there were any injuries from the fire.

"The government appeals to all concerned parties to immediately stop firing as the situation has become very grave," the government said.

Libyan television stations called on residents to evacuate areas within a 5-kilometre (3-mile) radius of the airport. Many Libyan families scrambled to leave. Black smoke billowed over the Tripoli skyline.

Mohammed al-Harari, the spokesman for the Libyan National Oil Company, said the oil depot had a capacity of 6 million litres (1.6 million gallons) and that if the fire was not brought under control, it could ignite liquid gas nearby.

Fire trucks from several nearby cities and towns have been deployed to help extinguish the blaze, said a Libyan security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to journalists.

The battle for control of the airport began two weeks ago when Islamist-led militias — mostly from the western city of Misrata — launched a surprise assault on the airport, which has been under control of a rival militia from the western mountain town of Zintan. It wasn't clear whose fire started the oil depot blaze.

The Health Ministry said Sunday that the fighting has so far killed 79 people and wounded more than 400.

The Canadian Press


Fighting erupts near crash site

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 kilometres) 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.

Their visit was cancelled Sunday amid safety concerns.

The Defence 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.

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.

The Canadian Press


Liberia under Ebola quarantine

Liberia's president has closed all but three land border crossings, restricted public gatherings and quarantined communities heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak in the West African nation.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the measures late Sunday after the first meeting of a new taskforce she created and is chairing to contain the disease, which has killed 129 people in the country and more than 670 across the region.

A top Liberian doctor working at Liberia's largest hospital died on Saturday, and two American aid workers have fallen ill, underscoring the dangers facing those charged with bringing the outbreak under control.

Last week a Liberian official flew to Nigeria via Lome, Togo and died of the disease at a Lagos hospital. The fact that the official, Patrick Sawyer, was able to board an international flight despite being ill raised fears that the disease could spread beyond the three countries already affected — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding. The disease spreads through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids as well as indirect contact with "environments contaminated with such fluids," according to the World Health Organization.

"No doubt, the Ebola virus is a national health problem," Sirleaf said. "And as we have also begun to see, it attack our way of life, with serious economic and social consequences."

Sirleaf said all borders would be closed except for three — one of which crosses into Sierra Leone, one that cross into Guinea and another that crosses into both. Experts believe the outbreak originated in southeast Guinea as far back as January, though the first cases weren't confirmed until March. That country has recorded the most deaths, with 319. Sierra Leone has recorded more of the recent cases, however, and has seen 224 deaths in total.

Liberia will keep open Roberts International Airport outside Monrovia and James Spriggs Payne Airport, which is in the city.

Sirleaf said "preventive and testing centres will be established" at the airports and open border crossings, and that "stringent preventive measures to be announced will be scrupulously adhered to."

Other measures include restricting demonstrations and marches and requiring restaurants and other public venues to screen a five-minute film on Ebola.

Sirleaf also empowered the security forces to commandeer vehicles to aide in the public health response and ordered them to enforce the new regulations.

Ebola in the country has also claimed the life of a doctor.

The Canadian Press


Lightning strikes 14 in LA

Lightning struck 14 people, leaving two critically injured, as rare summer thunderstorms swept through Southern California on Sunday, authorities said.

Thirteen people, including a 15-year-old, were treated at Venice Beach in Los Angeles after lightning hit the area around 2:30 p.m., and at least one required CPR, city fire spokeswoman Katherine Main said.

Four people were treated at the scene and the rest were taken to hospitals, where two are in critical condition, she said. Other fire officials said most of those taken to hospitals were mainly shaken up and were expected to recover.

Some appear to have been in the water and others on the beach's famed boardwalk. Lifeguards performed CPR on at least one person pulled from the water.

On Santa Catalina Island, often called Catalina Island, off the coast, a 57-year-old man was struck by lightning on a golf course and was hospitalized in stable condition, said Steve Denning, a law enforcement technician with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He did not have other details.

The lightning strikes occurred as a thunderstorm hit the island, causing minor flooding and setting two small fires in the brushy backcountry that were quickly doused, Denning said.

The unusual weather came from monsoon moisture that brought a line of brief but fierce afternoon thunderstorms to the region.

Hundreds of lightning strikes were reported, but the storms were vanishing by later Sunday afternoon as they moved northwest.

The Canadian Press


UN agrees on Gaza ceasefire

The U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement Sunday calling for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas and scheduled a meeting at midnight to adopt it.

The council was meeting as Muslims started celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The push for a cease-fire follows new attacks by Israel and Hamas on Sunday despite going back and forth over proposals for another temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting.

The presidential statement, obtained by The Associated Press, says the humanitarian cease-fire would allow for the delivery of urgently needed assistance. It urges Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond."

The statement also calls on the parties "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected cease-fire, based on the Egyptian initiative."

Rwanda, the current council president, announced agreement Sunday night on the presidential statement and the immediate meeting. It was drafted by Jordan, the Arab representative on the U.N.'s most powerful body.

Presidential statements become part of the council's official record and must be approved at a council meeting, where they are almost always read. The statements are a step below Security Council resolutions and require approval of all 15 members.

The statement never names Israel or Hamas. Instead, it expresses "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties."

The Canadian Press




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