TIME Ukraine

Bodies of Malaysia Jet Victims Leave Ukraine

A coffin containing the body of a victim of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is loaded onto a plane for transport to the Netherlands during a departure ceremony on July 23, 2014 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A coffin containing the body of a victim of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is loaded onto a plane for transport to the Netherlands during a departure ceremony on July 23, 2014 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images

(KHARKIV, Ukraine) — Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash left the embattled plains of eastern Ukraine Wednesday, while British investigators began work on a pair of “black boxes” to retrieve data on the flight’s last minutes.

Pro-Russian rebels shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets, Kiev’s defense ministry said, as fighting flared again in the east.

The Dutch government declared a day of national mourning as the country prepared for the arrival of the first bodies in the afternoon. The crash on Thursday killed all 298 people — most of them Dutch citizens — aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Ukraine and western nations are pressing the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site to allow an unfettered an investigation, something Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would use his influence to achieve. Though confident that a missile brought down the aircraft, U.S. officials say Russia’s role remains unclear.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Wednesday that Dutch authorities had delivered the plane’s voice and data recorders to the agency’s base at Farnborough, southern England, where information will be downloaded. Experts will also check for signs of tampering.

Two military transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, departed Ukraine at midday, heading for Eindhoven air base where the flights will be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives.

For one grieving mother, the arrival of the bodies marked a new stage of mourning and brought to an end the pain of seeing television images of victims lying in the undulating fields or in body bags being loaded into a train.

“If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it,” Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash, said before setting off for Eindhoven. “Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare.”

Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said about 60 coffins were expected, but the number wasn’t immediately confirmed.

There was confusion as well about how many of the 282 corpses which the rebels said they have found were on the train which arrived in Kharkiv, a government-controlled city, on Tuesday.

Jan Tuinder, the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead, said that at least 200 bodies were aboard the train and that more remains could be found once the body bags are examined fully.

The Dutch Safety Board announced that it will lead an international team of 24 investigators, and said unhindered access to the crash site — controlled by pro-Russian separatists — is critical.

“At the moment, there are no guarantees for the investigators’ safety” at the scene, the board said, adding that it “and other parties” are working to get access to the site and to secure it.

Rebel leader Pavel Gubarev wrote on his Facebook page that his men had retreated Wednesday from the villages of Chervona Zorya and Kozhevnya, which are on the Russian border about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the scene of the crash. Gubarev said 30 rebels had been injured.

Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell on territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists who have been battling the Kiev government since April. U.S. officials say the plane was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by accident.

The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions against more Russian individuals but refrained from targeting entire sectors of the Russian economy while waiting for clearer evidence of Moscow’s role in the disaster.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led crash, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials, who briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used, said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

TIME Israel

Kerry Cites Progress in Gaza Cease-Fire Talks

Israeli soldiers stand near their tank while smoke due to airstrikes and shelling rises from Gaza on July 22, 2014 near Sderot, Israel.
Israeli soldiers stand near their tank while smoke due to airstrikes and shelling rises from Gaza on July 22, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

(JERUSALEM) — Offering the first glimmer of hope for a Gaza cease-fire, the United States on Wednesday said negotiations to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas militants are making some progress even if an end to more than two weeks of bloodshed is nowhere near.

“We certainly have made steps forward,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Jerusalem, where he was meeting for the second time this week with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. “There’s still work to be done.”

He did not offer any specifics about the progress he cited in his third day of talks with Mideast leaders. He was in Jerusalem shortly after landing in Tel Aviv on an Air Force jet — one day after the FAA banned commercial flights into Ben-Gurion Airport because of a Hamas rocket attack nearby.

The U.S., Israel and the European Union all consider Hamas a terrorist organization. But the U.N. does not, and Ban said he and Kerry were jointly lobbying officials in the region to push Hamas and Israel to a cease-fire as soon as possible.

“We don’t have much time to wait and lose,” Ban told reporters before the meeting with Kerry. Neither Ban nor Kerry answered media questions during their brief remarks.

Kerry also offered “profound gratitude” to what he described as 30,000 Israelis who spontaneously lined Jerusalem streets on Wednesday for the funeral procession of Israeli soldier Max Steinberg, a 24-year-old American citizen who grew up in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley and was killed in the fighting. “That’s a remarkable statement — we’re very grateful,” Kerry said.

Kerry also planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during what appeared to be a crucial day in the talks. U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

At the least, Kerry’s mission Wednesday sought to define the limits of what each side would accept in a potential cease-fire.

The FAA was going to reassess its ban on Ben-Gurion — which the State Department said does not apply to military aircraft — by midday Wednesday in Washington. The European Aviation Safety Agency also issued an advisory saying it “strongly recommends” airlines avoid the airport. Israeli officials said the precautionary U.S. step was unnecessary and “gave terror a prize” by reacting to Hamas’ threats. It also prompted a complaint to Kerry by Netanyahu.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “The FAA is in close touch with Israel (and) continues to monitor and evaluate the situation.”

More than 630 Palestinians and about 30 Israelis have been killed in the violence. Israel says its troops have killed hundreds of Hamas gunmen, while Gaza officials say the vast majority have been civilians, many of them children.

Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire proposal that has been offered by Egypt, which would be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

But Hamas has rejected repeated Egyptian truce proposals. The militant group, with backing from its allies Qatar and Turkey, says it wants guarantees on lifting the blockade before halting its fire. In addition to discussions with Egypt officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Kerry spoke several times Tuesday from Cairo with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu said the international community must hold Hamas accountable for the latest round of violence, saying its refusal to agree to a cease-fire had prevented an earlier end to the fighting. He has long accused Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, of not wanting a two-state solution.

Egypt has also been negotiating with some Hamas officials, but relations between the two sides have been strained since Egypt outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, after last year’s overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi.

At least some diplomats also see cease-fire negotiations as an opportunity to revitalize stalled peace talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities that were personally shepherded by Kerry but broke off last April following nearly nine months of frustrated attempts. Both Ban and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri have pushed for broader talks than the cease-fire negotiations, and Shukri on Tuesday specifically called for action “to set in motion once again the peace process that Secretary Kerry has been so actively involved in so as to end this ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

It’s unlikely that Washington is ready to wade back into the morass of peace negotiations that broke off last April after nearly nine months of shuttle diplomacy by Kerry. But the new round of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants who control Gaza has reached the level of violence that U.S. officials warned last spring would happen without an enduring truce.

Kerry has stopped short of advocating a new round of peace talks. Still, he has left the door open for broad negotiations between Israel and Palestinian officials once a cease-fire is in place.

Israel launched a massive air campaign on July 8 to stop relentless Hamas rocket fire into Israel, and expanded it last week to a ground war aimed at destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. Israel has struck almost 3,000 sites in Gaza, killed more than 180 armed Palestinians and uncovered 66 access shafts of 23 tunnels, its military said.

TIME Crime

Man Charged in Oklahoma With Child Abuse in Kenya

The accused's attorney said on Tuesday the affidavit is riddled with inaccuracies and that his client is innocent

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — An Oklahoma man has been charged with sexually abusing boys and girls while volunteering at an organization in Kenya that assists neglected children.

Matthew Lane Durham, of Edmond, is accused of engaging in sex acts with as many as ten children aged from 4 to 10 years while volunteering at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi from April to June 2014.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Oklahoma last week says the 19-year-old Durham has volunteered with Upendo since June 2012.

Durham wrote and signed a confession that an Upendo official provided to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Scott Lobb.

In it, he admitted to sexually abusing boys and girls in a bathroom at the children’s home. At least one of the victims is HIV positive, according to the affidavit.

During previous visits, Durham lived with sponsor families in Nairobi, but for his most recent trip he requested to stay at the children’s home in an “overflow bunk,” Lobb wrote.

A live-in caretaker at the children’s home became suspicious of Durham’s behavior and inquired with the children, who told her about the abuse, the affidavit states. The caretaker then reported the allegations to Upendo officials, who obtained a confession from Durham, confiscated his passport and notified local police, Lobb wrote.

Durham’s attorney Stephen Jones said Tuesday the affidavit is riddled with inaccuracies and that his client is innocent.

“The FBI affidavit is based upon second-hand, or in some cases third-hand, hearsay,” Jones said.

Jones said Durham’s “alleged confession” was elicited by Upendo employees through “a bizarre combination of Kenyan tribal actions, pseudo-psychology, law enforcement techniques and religious zealotry.”

Durham returned to the U.S. last month. He was arrested Thursday in Edmond and is currently being held at the Logan County jail, according to the U.S. Marshal’s Office. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 1.

A statement from Upendo Kids International Director Eunice Menja said the Edmond-based company is cooperating with authorities, but declined further comment.

Durham faces four counts: traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct; engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places; attempt and conspiracy; and aggravated sexual abuse with children. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

TIME U.K.

Racehorse Owned by Britain’s Queen Fails Dope Test

Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne
Queen Elizabeth II, with Princess Anne, greet her horse Estimate on June 20, 2013 Alastair Grant—AP

Buckingham Palace said early indications suggest that Estimate consumed morphine as a result of contaminated feed

(LONDON) — A racehorse owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II that won the prestigious Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last year has tested positive for the banned painkiller, morphine.

The British Horseracing Authority announced last week that tests on five horses under the care of various trainers showed the presence of morphine in their ‘A’ samples.

On Tuesday, the queen’s bloodstock and racing adviser, John Warren, said that the monarch’s five-year-old filly Estimate was one of the five.

Buckingham Palace said that early indications suggest that Estimate consumed the substance as a result of contaminated feed.

Warren said in a statement that Estimate’s trainer Michael Stoute “is working closely with the feed company involved to discover how the product may have become contaminated prior to delivery to his stables.”

Estimate finished second in this year’s Gold Cup behind Leading Light.

Warren added: “Her Majesty has been informed of the situation.”

Previously, Britain’s most publicized case of a horse testing positive for morphine was Be My Royal after he had won the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. The horse was subsequently disqualified.

TIME georgia

Georgia Man Pleads Guilty to Faking Allergy Tests

(ATLANTA) — The owner of an allergy-testing laboratory near Atlanta has pleaded guilty to faking the results of blood tests for food and environmental allergies.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release Tuesday that 39-year-old Rashaan Jackson Garth pleaded guilty to health-care fraud charges.

Prosecutors say Garth told a technician to not test blood samples that doctors sent to the Polaris Allergy Labs between September 2012 and February 2014. The lab is located in East Point, a city just south of Atlanta.

Prosecutors say Garth was trying to save money by faking the results that were sent back to patients’ doctors. They say Garth billed the patients’ health-care benefit programs despite failing to perform services he charged for.

The news release said no date has been set for Garth’s sentencing.

TIME Washington

Last Body Found in Washington Mudslide

(EVERETT, Wash.) — Search and rescue personnel believe they have found the last body from the March 22 mudslide that killed 43 people in Oso, Washington.

Although the search for victims ended in April, workers have been screening debris and watching for the body of 44-year-old Molly Kristine “Kris” Regelbrugge (reg-el-BREW’-gee).

Her husband, Navy Cmdr. John Regelbrugge III, also was killed in the slide that hit their home. His body was one of the 42 recovered earlier.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s office was expected to release details at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Everett.

TIME poverty

Southwest, South Score Low on Child Welfare Index

(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) — Several states in the Deep South and Southwest have earned dismal scores on an annual child welfare index that cited poverty and single-parent house households as worrisome trends that must be turned around for things to improve.

Mississippi rated as the worst state for overall child well-being, largely because of rising child poverty. It was the second time in three years the state has come in last in rankings complied in the Kids Count Data Book.

New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana and Arizona comprise the remaining bottom five states.

The study released Tuesday marks the 25th edition of the child well-being scorecard from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child advocacy group.

It ranks states based on 16 indicators of child welfare in areas of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

The good news, the foundation’s report indicated, is that nationally there has been steady improvement in the number of children attending preschool and a decline in the number of kids who aren’t proficient in reading and math.

Additionally, the national teen birth rate is at a historic low, and death rates for children and teens have fallen thanks to medical advances and the increased use of seat belts, car seats and bike helmets, according to the report.

However, the growing number children growing up in poor communities and increased percentage of children in single-parent households are causes for concern, the foundation said.

“We should all be encouraged by the improvements in many well-being indicators in the health, education and safety areas,” said Patrick McCarthy, the foundation’s president and CEO said in a news release.

“But we must do much more. All of us, in every sector — business, government, nonprofits, faith-based groups, families — need to continue to work together to ensure that all children have the chance to succeed,” he stated.

With a large number of impoverished children, New Mexico finished second-worst this year. It was a slight improvement from the 2013 index, when the state finished last, prompted by improvements in child poverty, high school graduation and teenage birth rates.

“It’s a tiny step forward, but only if we can keep up the positive momentum of change,” said Veronica García, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a child advocacy group affiliated with Kids Count.

She said the state’s perennially low scores show, “we need to do better by our children — much, much better.”

Nevada came in at 48th, mostly because of the number of children living in poverty.

Louisiana finished 47th despite a number of across-the board improvements, the report said.

Arizona completed the bottom-tier as its rate of children living in poverty has increased in 10 of the state’s 15 counties. Also, support for programs to help these children dropped significantly, the report said.

TIME

Delta Cancels All Israel Flights Over Missile Fear

Delta planes sit at their gates at John F. Kennedy Airport on April 23, 2014 in the Queens, New York City.
Delta planes sit at their gates at John F. Kennedy Airport on April 23, 2014 in the Queens, New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Delta Air Lines is canceling all flights to Israel until further notice, citing reports that a rocket landed near Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv on Tuesday when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

Airlines and passengers are growing more anxious about safety since last week, when a Malaysia Airlines jet was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

TIME russia

Dutch Minister Says E.U. Is Imposing New Sanctions on Officials Over Russia’s Actions in Ukraine

(BRUSSELS) — Dutch minister says EU is imposing new sanctions on officials over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

TIME

11 Parents of Nigeria’s Abducted Girls Die

(LAGOS, Nigeria) — Nearly a dozen parents of the more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls will never see their daughters again.

Since the mass abduction of the schoolgirls by Islamic extremists three months ago, at least 11 of their parents have died and their hometown, Chibok, is under siege from the militants, residents report.

Seven fathers of kidnapped girls were among 51 bodies brought to Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists.

At least four more parents have died of heart failure, high blood pressure and other illnesses that the community blames on trauma due to the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus, who provided their names.

“One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him,” said Bitrus.

President Goodluck Jonathan met Tuesday with many parents of the 219 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls and some classmates who managed to escape from Islamic extremists. For months the parents have been asking to see the president and he finally agreed last week to a request from Pakistani girls-education activist Malala Yousafzai.

Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped, is cut off because of frequent attacks on the roads that are studded with burned out vehicles. Commercial flights no longer go into the troubled area and the government has halted charter flights.

Through numerous phone calls to Chibok and the surrounding area, The Associated Press has gathered information about the situation in the town where the students were kidnapped from their school.

More danger is on the horizon.

Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok, attacking villages ever closer to the town. Villagers who survive the assaults are swarming into the town, swelling its population and straining resources. A food crisis looms, along with shortages of money and fuel, said community leader Bitrus.

On the bright side, some of the young women who escaped are recovering, said a health worker, who insisted on anonymity because he feared reprisals from Boko Haram. Girls who had first refused to discuss their experience, now are talking about it and taking part in therapeutic singing and drawing — a few drew homes, some painted flowers and one young woman drew a picture of a soldier with a gun last week.

Girls who said they would never go back to school now are thinking about how to continue their education, he said.

Counseling is being offered to families of those abducted and to some of the 57 students who managed to escape in the first few days, said the health worker. He is among 36 newly trained in grief and rape counseling, under a program funded by USAID.

All the escapees remain deeply concerned about their schoolmates who did not get away.

A presidential committee investigating the kidnappings said 219 girls still are missing. But the community says there are more because some parents refused to give the committee their daughters’ names, fearing the stigma involved.

Boko Haram filmed a video in which they threatened to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. It also showed a couple of the girls describing their “conversion” from Christianity to Islam.

At least two have died of snake bites, a mediator who was liaising with Boko Haram told AP two months ago. At that time he said at least 20 of the girls were ill — not surprising given that they are probably being held in an area infested with malarial mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and spiders, and relying on unclean water from rivers.

Most of the schoolgirls are still believed to be held in the Sambisa Forest — a wildlife reserve that includes almost impenetrably thick jungle as well as more open savannah. The forest borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara Desert. Sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in neighboring Cameroon and Chad.

In Chibok, the town’s population is under stress.

“There are families that are putting up four and five other families,” local leader Bitrus said, adding that food stocks are depleted. Livestock has been looted by Boko Haram so villagers are arriving empty handed. Worst of all, no one is planting though it is the rainy season, he said.

“There is a famine looming,” he warned.

Chibok and nearby villages are targets because they are enclaves of staunch Christians in predominantly Muslim north Nigeria.

The number of soldiers guarding Chibok has increased from 15 to about 200 since the kidnapping but they have done little to increase security in Chibok, said Bitrus. The soldiers often refuse to deploy to villages under attack though there is advance warning 90 percent of the time, he said.

Last month the extremists took control and raised their black flags over two villages within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of Chibok. Last week they ordered residents of another village just 16 kilometers (10 miles) away to clear out, Bitrus said. Every village in the neighboring Damboa area has been attacked and sacked, and all the villages bordering Cameroon have been burned and are deserted, Bitrus said, quoting residents who fled.

The attacks continue despite the fact the military placed the area under a state of emergency in May 2013.

Residents feel so abandoned that they appealed this month for the United Nations to send troops to protect them. The U.N. has repeatedly urged Nigeria’s government to live up to its international responsibility to protect citizens.

President Goodluck Jonathan insists his government and military are doing everything possible to ensure the girls’ release. The Defense Ministry says it knows where they are but fears any military campaign could lead to their deaths.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a new video released this week repeated his demands that Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls — an offer Jonathan has so far refused.

After three months, few Chibok residents believe all the schoolgirls will ever return home.

___

Associated Press writers Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria and Lekan Oyekanmi in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.

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