TIME Yemen

American Among Hostages Targeted in Yemen Raid

"We found the eight hostages chained. We found al-Qaida cell phones and documents"

(SANAA, YEMEN) — U.S operation forces took part in a rescue mission that freed eight hostages in a remote corner of Yemen, but a Yemeni official said Wednesday that it did not liberate five others, including an American journalist and a Briton who were moved elsewhere by their al-Qaida captors days before the raid.

Eight hostages — including a Saudi— were liberated in the joint U.S.-Yemeni operation, a rare instance of American forces intervening on the ground in Yemen. A member of the Yemeni anti-terrorism forces was quoted on a website connected to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, saying that the mission searched for a group of hostages from several nations in an eastern province, but when the commandos arrived at the cave where al-Qaida militants had chained and covered the hostages in blankets, the American and four others were already gone.

A senior U.S. official had earlier confirmed U.S. involvement and said no American was rescued, without elaborating whether the operation had intended to free one.

The mission was carried out in a vast desert area dotted with dunes called Hagr al-Saiaar, an al-Qaida safe haven where local tribes offer them protection near the Saudi border.

The operations come as U.S. drone strikes target militants amid a Shiite rebel power grab in the politically unstable, impoverished nation and fierce battles between al-Qaida and Shiite rebels.

Yemenis initially gave no mention of American involvement in the operation and said its special forces and anti-terrorism units carried out the raid alone.

However, a Yemen Special Forces member identified only as Abu Marouf gave a detailed account of the operation to the semi-official Yemen Defense Ministry online portal, named Sept. 26.

He said that his unit received intelligence information about al-Qaida militants moving hostages chained in shackles and covered with blankets in pickup trucks to Hagr al-Saiaar where they kept them in caves. He added some 30 troops, including snipers, were deployed in the early hours Tuesday some seven kilometers (four miles) from the caves, which he described as 10 meters deep and 30 meters wide.

Divided into four groups, he said he was among the main group that stormed the entrance of the cave then engaged in a shootout that ended with the killing of all seven kidnappers.

“We found the eight hostages chained. We found al-Qaida cellphones and documents,” he said, adding that the hostages said five of their companions had been moved out to an unknown location. He listed nationalities of the other hostages as an American journalist, one Briton, one South African, a Yemeni and a fifth believed to be Turkish. He did not identify them.

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is considered by the U.S. to be the world’s most dangerous branch of the terror network and has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland. Yemen has seen both foreigners and Yemenis targeted in kidnap attempts, either for ransom, political reasons or over suspicions that victims worked as spies helping Americans carry out the drone strikes.

The strikes targeting suspected militant gatherings are increasingly unpopular in Yemen due to civilian casualties, legitimizing for many the attacks on American interests. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa has been closed several times recently over militant threats.

The site shed light on the riskiness surrounding the operation. Other Yemeni officials said that one of the main tribes in the area is led by the well-off Waqash al-Saiaari, who gave shelter to the militants. They say al-Qaida set up large training camps in the area.

Members of al-Qaida affiliates from this area were recently arrested while trying to flee the country after alleged involvement in the beheading of 16 Yemeni soldiers in August.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

 

TIME Crime

4 People Shot at Pennsylvania Mall Barbershop

(READING, Pa.) — Authorities say four people have been shot at an eastern Pennsylvania strip mall barbershop where another shooting happened a day earlier.

Reading (RED’-ing) Police Chief Robert Heim says one person has been critically injured while the other three victims suffered minor injuries in the Wednesday afternoon shooting.

Authorities say no one is in custody.

The Reading Eagle newspaper says the shooting happened Wednesday afternoon at the All Stars Hair Salon and Unisex Hair Studio. On Tuesday night, a gunman fired several shots into the shop.

The newspaper reports nearly a dozen people were in the shop Tuesday but no one was injured. That shooting remains under investigation.

TIME National Security

Judge Frees Alleged ISIS Recruit From Minnesota

18-year-old accused of trying to travel to Syria to join militant group

(MINNEAPOLIS) — An 18-year-old Minnesota man accused of trying to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group has been released to the custody of his parents.

A federal complaint unsealed this week says Abdullahi Yusuf was stopped at the Minneapolis airport last May, though he wasn’t arrested until Tuesday. He’s charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

During a detention hearing Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Docherty said Yusuf should remain in custody. He noted that Yusuf was living with his parents when planning his trip, yet they had no knowledge of his plans to leave the U.S.

Yusuf’s attorney, Jean Brandl, said he’s a college student with a job and isn’t a flight risk.

The judge decided to release Yusuf. Docherty says he’ll appeal.

TIME tennis

Tennis Star Andy Murray Is Engaged

Kim Sears and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, after the presentation of the Freedom of Stirling, presented to Murray at a special council meeting at his old school, Dunblane High, in his home town on April 23, 2014.
Kim Sears and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, after the presentation of the Freedom of Stirling, presented to Murray at a special council meeting at his old school, Dunblane High, in his home town on April 23, 2014. Andrew Milligan—PA Wire/Press Association Images/AP

The tennis star will marry long-time girlfriend Kim Sears

(LONDON) — Andy Murray is to marry long-time girlfriend Kim Sears.

The former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion’s management company confirmed the engagement.

Earlier Wednesday, the 27-year-old Scot announced further changes to his professional support team by splitting with assistant coach Dani Vallverdu and fitness trainer Jez Green.

Murray hired Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in June, three months after parting ways with Ivan Lendl.

Mauresmo’s position has been under scrutiny in Britain after Murray was eliminated from Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals this year, then lost 6-0, 6-1 to Roger Federer in the ATP Finals in London.

Vallverdu has been a close friend of Murray’s for more than a decade since meeting at an academy in Spain.

TIME Health Care

Health Insurance Sign-Ups Coming to Shopping Malls Starting on Black Friday

Customers shop at a Walmart store in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles November 26, 2013. This year, Black Friday starts earlier than ever.
Customers shopping at a Walmart store on Black Friday 2013. Kevork Djansezian—Reuters

Through the busiest shopping days of the holiday season

(CHICAGO) — The Obama administration will promote health insurance coverage at shopping malls starting on Black Friday and continuing through the busiest shopping days of the holiday season, officials announced Wednesday. They said more than 462,000 people selected a private insurance plan in the first week of 2015 enrollment through the online marketplace HealthCare.gov.

The government’s enrollment push with Westfield Shopping Centers will involve setting up outreach tables at malls in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Washington state. Westfield will post information about enrollment services on its website.

The administration released what it called a snapshot of signups for the first week of the enrollment period, which started Nov. 15. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said 462,125 people chose a health plan in the 37 states using the federal website.

Of those, 48 percent are new customers, including enrollees in Oregon and Nevada, which turned over their troubled insurance markets to the federal government. The figures don’t include states running their own insurance markets. The numbers represent only the choice of a plan, and not whether consumers paid their first month’s premium — a requirement for coverage to start.

“We’re off to a solid start but we’ve got a lot of work every day between now and Feb. 15,” the last day of the enrollment period, Burwell said in a conference call with reporters. About 1 million people phoned the enrollment site’s help line, she said, and roughly an additional 100,000 callers chose to speak with a Spanish-speaking representative.

Burwell said the administration is sticking with its previously announced goal of signing up 9.1 million consumers for coverage in 2015.

Unlike last year, the website suffered no outages in the first week, officials said, and it’s ready to handle 250,000 users at a time during anticipated surges around deadlines. Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 for coverage to start on Jan. 1.

The figures announced Wednesday don’t include dental plans, Burwell stressed. Last week, the administration acknowledged it had been over-reporting the number of enrollees by double-counting about 400,000 who had both medical and dental plans. Burwell said she has directed her staff to find out how the double-counting happened.

Burwell promised a weekly update on enrollment along with more thorough monthly reports that will include what’s happening in state-based markets.

Along with the shopping mall campaign, HHS announced marketing partnerships with the National Community Pharmacists Association and the XO Group, a company that runs websites targeting brides, new mothers and homeowners. The pharmacists group will get enrollment information to its members and pharmacy customers, officials said. The XO Group will post blog content on its sites.

TIME

Residents Asking Why City Smells Like Cat Urine

Air samples to determine what's causing the smell will take weeks to complete

(NEW CASTLE, Pa.) — Residents are hoping tests on air samples can explain why their western Pennsylvania city smells like cat urine.

New Castle residents began noticing the smell Nov. 1 in the city about 45 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The New Castle News says the smell is still lingering near a sewage treatment plant in the city’s Mahoningtown neighborhood.

State environmental officials don’t believe the odor is harmful, but they don’t yet know what’s causing it.

A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection says on-site monitoring didn’t detect any hazardous substances in the air.

But tests on air samples to determine what’s causing the smell will take weeks to complete. The DEP is also testing wastewater to determine whether it’s causing the smell.

TIME

Applications for US Jobless Aid Jump to 313,000

The increase is unlikely to raise concerns about the broader health of the job market

(WASHINGTON) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits jumped last week, pushing total applications above 300,000 for the first time in nearly three months.

The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, the highest level since the first week of September. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose 6,250 to 294,000.

The increase is unlikely to raise concerns about the broader health of the job market. At least some of the rise occurred because of seasonal layoffs in businesses affected by the cold weather, such as construction. The department seeks to control for such seasonal factors but doesn’t always do so perfectly.

Applications had been under 300,000 for 10 straight weeks, an unusually low level that indicates companies are laying off few workers.

TIME

Cleveland to Release Video of Boy Shot by Officer

Protesters display a picture of Tamir Rice during a rally at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 24, 2014.
Protesters display a picture of Tamir Rice during a rally at the Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Nov. 24, 2014. David Maxwell—EPA

Tamir Rice was shot Saturday by an officer responding to a call about someone with a gun near a playground

(CLEVELAND) — Cleveland police planned to release surveillance video from an officer’s fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy who turned out to be carrying a replica gun.

A department spokeswoman said video and audio evidence would be released Wednesday afternoon, when police Chief Calvin Williams provides an update on the investigation.

Tamir Rice was shot Saturday by an officer responding to a call about someone with a gun near a playground. Police say Tamir was told to raise his hands, then reached into his waistband for what appeared to be a firearm. Police later determined it was an airsoft gun, which typically shoots tiny plastic pellets, but it was missing an orange safety indicator.

The family’s attorneys saw the video Monday, a day after Rice died. They later called for the full footage to be released publicly.

City officials had been withholding the video, saying that it was evidence in the investigation and that they wanted to be sensitive to the family, the community and the officer, whom they described as distraught.

Police haven’t discussed details of what the video shows, but Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said the footage is “very clear” about what occurred.

The shooting has led to an investigation of the officer’s use of force and protests referencing this and other police-involved shootings.

On Tuesday evening, several hundred demonstrators marched down an exit ramp and temporarily blocked rush-hour traffic on a busy Cleveland freeway. Police diverted traffic but didn’t take action against the protesters, who chanted phrases such as “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace.”

The demonstration came as protesters across the country decried a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

TIME Crime

2 FBI Agents Shot, Wounded in St. Louis Area

(ST. LOUIS) — An FBI spokeswoman says two special agents have been shot in St. Louis County and that the incident isn’t directly related to the Ferguson protests.

Rebecca Wu, a spokeswoman with the FBI St. Louis Division, says the agents were assisting the University City Police Department execute an arrest warrant at 2:53 a.m. Wednesday.

One agent was shot in the shoulder and the other agent was shot in the leg. Wu says neither injury is life-threatening.

The flashing lights of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances could be seen near the scene of the shooting, which took place about 5 miles south of Ferguson.

TIME

Arkansas, Mississippi Gay Marriage Bans Overturned

Both states had voter-approved constitutional amendments pass in 2004

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Arkansas and Mississippi became the latest two states Tuesday to have their gay marriage bans overturned by federal judges, but there are no rushes to the altar as both orders are on hold so the states can consider appeals.

Like several states, Arkansas and Mississippi had voter-approved constitutional amendments pass in 2004 that defined marriage between one man and one woman.

In Arkansas, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled in favor of two same-sex couples who had challenged the amendment. They argued the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and discriminated based on sexual orientation.

“The fact that Amendment 83 was adopted by referendum does not immunize it from federal constitutional scrutiny,” Baker wrote in her ruling.

Besides the amendment, Mississippi has a 1997 law that bans same-sex marriage.

But U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his ruling, “The Fourteenth Amendment operates to remove the blinders of inequality from our eyes. Though we cherish our traditional values, they must give way to constitutional wisdom. Mississippi’s traditional beliefs about gay and lesbian citizens led it to defy that wisdom by taking away fundamental rights owed to every citizen. It is time to restore those rights.

“Today’s decision may cause uneasiness and concern about the change it will bring,” he wrote. “But “‘(t)hings change, people change, times change, and Mississippi changes, too.’ The man who said these words, Ross R. Barnett, Jr., knew firsthand their truth.”

Barnett Jr. is an attorney and son of segregationist Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, who was in office from 1960 to 1964.

The ruling was similar in Arkansas.

The state’s marriage laws and the amendment violate the U.S. Constitution by “precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same-sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender,” Baker wrote.

Baker put the ruling on hold, anticipating an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis.

A spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said McDaniel was reviewing the ruling and would decide after the Thanksgiving holiday whether to appeal in consultation with Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas.

Mississippi officials had already said they planned to appeal any ruling that overturned the law.

Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas’ since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S.

Jack Wagoner, a lawyer for the Arkansas couples who had told the judge last week that same-sex marriage would eventually be legal nationwide, said he was pleased with her decision.

“She’s on the right side of history,” Wagoner said. “It’s pretty clear where history’s heading on this issue.”

Another lawyer, Cheryl Maples, said eyes would turn now to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which heard arguments last week in a similar but separate case.

“If the state Supreme Court strikes down on state constitutional issues, then it’s gone as far as it can go,” Maples said.

Justices are weighing whether to uphold a decision in May striking down the 2004 amendment and earlier state law as unconstitutional. The decision led to 541 same sex couples getting married in the week before the state Supreme Court suspended his ruling.

Justices have not indicated when they will rule in that case.

Lawyers in McDaniel’s office had argued in federal court that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. McDaniel has said he personally supports allowing gay couples to marry but will stay in court defending the ban, which voters approved by a 3-1 margin.

One of Mississippi’s plaintiff couples, Jocelyn “Joce” (JOH’-see) Pritchett and Carla Webb, live in Mississippi and married in Maine in 2013. Pritchett said Tuesday that she, Webb and their two young children were dancing around their living room after hearing about Reeves’ ruling.

“If gay marriage can be legal in Mississippi, the whole country can feel hope,” Pritchett said.

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser