Ukraine: Russia sending tanks
Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of entering its territory with tanks, artillery and troops, and Western powers said Moscow had “outright lied” about its role and dangerously escalated the conflict.
Russia dismissed the allegations, describing the fighters there as “Russian volunteers.” The Kremlin has repeatedly denied arming and supporting the separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian troops for four months in the gravest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine and later released what it said were satellite photos of Russian self-propelled artillery units moving last week.
Two columns of tanks and other equipment entered southeastern Ukraine at midday, following heavy shelling of the area from Russia that forced overmatched Ukrainian border guards to flee, said Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council.
“Russian forces have entered Ukraine,” President Petro Poroshenko said in Kiev, canceling a foreign trip and calling an emergency meeting of his security council.
2 boys turned to militant Islam
Two high school buddies who loved to shoot hoops and crack jokes with their friends both converted to Islam in early adulthood and were somehow recruited by terror groups to leave the United States and die for jihadist causes on separate continents.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Douglas McAuthur McCain and Troy Kastigar were drawn into radicalism after their initial conversion to the Muslim faith or whether they might have influenced one another along the way. But the two best friends went down similar paths and met the same end.
Both young men attended Robbinsdale Cooper High School in Minneapolis. Kastigar was in the class of 1999, though he left school in February of that year without a diploma, according to school records. McCain went to Robbinsdale from 1997 to 1999, before transferring to nearby Armstrong High School. He did not graduate either.
Address records show McCain lived at Kastigar’s house for a period from 2000 to 2001, although that could not be independently verified.
“They were really funny guys. They were goofy. They were just always laughing, hanging out together, joking around. They were just nice,” said Alicia Adams, a former classmate who was friends with both McCain and Kastigar in high school.
Europe seeks role in Gaza
European nations are offering to help enforce the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a scenario that could provide key international backing for maintaining the peace and step up the pressure on Hamas militants to relinquish power.
The European plan remains vague, and it is unclear whether Israel or the Palestinians will agree.
But a European presence in Gaza could go a long way toward meeting two key demands: the Palestinians’ insistence on freer movement in and out of the territory, and the Israeli requirement that Hamas be kept in check.
French President Francois Hollande laid out the case for European involvement on Thursday, telling international diplomats that Europe could help oversee the destruction of tunnels used by Hamas militants and monitor the territory’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
“It is necessary to move toward an end to the blockade and a demilitarization of the territory,” he said, indicating that international supervision could help pave the way for a return of Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority, to Gaza.
Details from execution probe
An Oklahoma death row inmate who writhed, moaned and clenched his teeth before he was pronounced dead about 43 minutes after his execution began succumbed to the lethal drugs he was administered, not a heart attack, after the state’s prisons chief halted efforts to kill him, an autopsy report released Thursday says.
Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton had said inmate Clayton Lockett died from a heart attack several minutes after he ordered the execution stopped. But an independent autopsy performed for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety says all three execution drugs Lockett was administered were found throughout his system.
The report, performed by the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, concluded that the cause of death was “judicial execution by lethal injection.” But it does not answer why the execution took so long and why Lockett writhed on the gurney.
Lockett’s attorney, David Autry of Oklahoma City, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. But Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Phoenix, who represents a group of Oklahoma death row prisoners who commissioned an independent autopsy of Lockett, said more information is needed.
“What this initial autopsy report does not appear to answer is what went wrong during Mr. Lockett’s execution, which took over 45 minutes, with witnesses reporting he writhed and gasped in pain,” Baich said in a statement.
Murder charge in boy’s death
A New York City child care worker has been indicted on a murder charge in the death of a toddler she was watching.
The district attorney says a grand jury charged Athena Skeeter of the Bronx with second-degree murder and first- and second-degree manslaughter.
He said she admitted throwing 20-month-old Cardell Williamson to the floor and repeatedly stepping on his stomach.
The indictment was announced just hours after Skeeter’s lawyer said in court Thursday that she would not testify before the grand jury.
The murder charge is an upgrade from the manslaughter charge on which Skeeter was arrested.
A call to her lawyer was not immediately returned.
According to a court document, Skeeter told police she had been wrestling Friday with the boy before he died.
UN: Ebola cases on rise
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could grow six times larger to infect as many as 20,000 people, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The U.N. health agency unveiled a new road map for containing the virus, and scientists are fast-tracking efforts to find a treatment or vaccine.
Ebola has menaced Africa for 40 years, but previously struck in remote villages and was contained fairly quickly. This time, it has spread to major cities in four countries, provoking unrest as whole neighborhoods and towns have been sealed to the outside.
An experimental vaccine developed by the U.S. government and GlaxoSmithKline will be tested on humans starting next week, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced Thursday. The NIH trial will use healthy adult volunteers in Maryland, and British experts will simultaneously test the same vaccine in healthy people in the U.K., Gambia and Mali.
Preliminary results on the vaccine’s safety — not its effectiveness — could be available in months.
Scientists also announced that they have mapped the genetic code of this strain of Ebola to better understand how it kills. In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers traced an explosion of cases in this outbreak to a single funeral in Guinea in May.