Pro-Russian rebels shoot down military transport plane, killing all 49 aboard
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian separatists shot down a military transport plane Saturday in the country's restive east, killing all 49 service personnel on board, Ukrainian officials said.
It was a bitter setback for Ukrainian forces, which have struggled to suppress an armed insurgency by foes of the new government.
Nine crew and 40 troops were aboard the Il-76 when it went down early Saturday as it approached the airport at the city of Luhansk, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said in a statement.
That exceeded the loss of 12 soldiers including a general on May 29 when rebels shot down a troop helicopter near the eastern city of Slovyansk.
The incident underlines questions about rebel access to military gear. Ukraine has accused Russia of permitting three tanks to cross the border where they were used by rebels. Russia denies supplying the separatists.
Hundreds of young Iraqis flock to volunteer centers after top cleric's call to take up arms
BAGHDAD (AP) — Hundreds of young Iraqi men flocked to volunteer centers across Baghdad Saturday to join the fight against Islamic militants who have advanced across the country's north this week.
They were responding to a call by Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric for Iraqis to defend their country against the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which seized Iraq's second-largest city Mosul and Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in a lightning advance.
Fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant made fresh gains on Friday, driving government forces at least temporarily from two towns in an ethnically mixed province northeast of Baghdad.
President Barack Obama said Friday he is weighing options for countering the insurgency in Iraq, but warned Iraqi leaders that he would not take military action unless they moved to address the country's political divisions.
The massive response to the call by the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which was issued via his representative, could aggravate the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide, which nearly tore the country apart in 2006 and 2007.
Afghans line up to vote in presidential runoff amid tight security
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Amid tight security, Afghans lined up Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West and combat corruption as they confront a powerful Taliban insurgency and preside over the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year.
Whoever wins faces major challenges in trying to bolster Afghanistan's security forces against a relentless insurgency and improving the nation's economy and infrastructure at a time when international aid for Afghanistan is drying up
The presidential hopefuls —former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-World Bank official and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — differ more in personality in policy. Both have promised to sign a long-delayed security pact with the United States. That would allow nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country for two more years to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training and advising the ill-prepared Afghan army and police.
President Hamid Karzai, who has grown increasingly alienated from his one-time U.S. allies during his two terms in office, has refused to sign the pact.
Many voters said they were eager to get the bilateral security agreement signed after watching Islamic extremists seize large sections of Iraq nearly three years after U.S. troops withdrew from that country. Iraq's Shiite-led government had discussed with the Americans the possibility of a residual U.S. force but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.
A look at the remaining US military and diplomatic presence in Iraq
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, but America's presence in Iraq has been shrinking. Some questions and answers about America's role in Iraq, where the U.S. military fought an eight-year war that ousted President Saddam Hussein and cost hundreds of billions of dollars and more than 4,400 U.S. lives:
Q. How many U.S. troops are in Iraq?
A. There have not been any American combat forces in Iraq since the U.S. military mission ended in December 2011. There are a little over 100 U.S. military personnel in a section of the U.S. Embassy that coordinates U.S. foreign military sales to Iraq. It is called the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq and is headed by Army Lt. Gen. John M. Bednarek. That office is at the forefront of U.S. efforts to help the Iraqi government further develop its security forces. More than 100 U.S. Marines provide security at the embassy.
Q. Do U.S. troops still train Iraqi forces in the field?
A. No. The Obama administration had proposed providing troops for that purpose before the U.S. departure in 2011, but Baghdad rejected Washington's insistence that its troops be granted immunity for prosecution while in the country. So what remained after 2011 was the small group that is coordinating security assistance. One of the largest training missions was based at the air base in the city of Balad, about an hour northwest of Baghdad, where three planeloads of Americans were evacuated this week as insurgents worked their way toward Baghdad.
A Hollywood sequel: Los Angeles Kings finish off the New York Rangers, raise Stanley Cup again
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dustin Brown skated over to Gary Bettman and practically snatched the 35-pound silver trophy out of the NHL commissioner's hands, thrusting it skyward while a packed arena roared.
Although the electric moment had a familiar feel to the Los Angeles Kings and their fans, all this success is still a bit surreal to anybody who loves this long-struggling club.
After 45 years spent mostly as a hockey punch line and a Los Angeles afterthought, the Kings have won the Stanley Cup twice in the last three seasons.
And after eliminating the New York Rangers in five games at the close of an epic two-month playoff run, the Kings are unshakably confident in themselves, in each other — and in the idea they could relive this defining moment a few more times.
"We have a team that simply will not be denied," playoff MVP Justin Williams said.
Chuck Noll, Hall of Fame coach who led Pittsburgh Steelers to 4 Super Bowl titles, dead at 82
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chuck Noll, the Hall of Fame coach who won a record four Super Bowl titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Friday night at his home. He was 82.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said Noll died of natural causes.
Noll transformed the Steelers from a long-standing joke into one of the NFL's pre-eminent powers, becoming the only coach to win four Super Bowls. He was a demanding figure who did not make close friends with his players, yet was a successful and motivating leader.
The Steelers won the four Super Bowls over six seasons (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979), an unprecedented run that made Pittsburgh one of the NFL's marquee franchises, one that breathed life into a struggling, blue-collar city.
"He was one of the great coaches of the game," Steelers owner Dan Rooney once said. "He ranks up there with (George) Halas, (Tom) Landry and (Curly) Lambeau."
Presbyterian vote on divestment in protest of Israeli policy key moment for effort in US
NEW YORK (AP) — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) appears to be on the brink of handing a major victory to a movement that wants institutions to wield their investment dollars against Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.
The Presbyterian General Assembly, gathering in Detroit through next week, will consider withdrawing its investments from some companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories. Divestment advocates were narrowly outmaneuvered at the last Presbyterian convention in 2012, losing a crucial ballot by just two votes. They enter this year's fight with signs of increasing momentum, within and outside the church.
"I remember in 2006, the use of the word 'occupation' in General Assembly circles — it was like using a bad word. You just didn't say it and when you said it sounded outrageous," said the Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe of the Presbyterian's Israel Palestine Mission Network, which advocates for Palestinians. "We've come a long way from there."
Presbyterian national assemblies have for a decade considered adopting some type of sanctions over Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. In 2004, delegates voted overwhelmingly to start "phased, selective divestment" of corporations operating in Israel, then in later meetings took a step back, apologizing for the hurt they caused Jews. Still, delegates continued criticizing Israeli policy in official resolutions, and at the 2012 convention, came within two votes of directing the church to divest. The 2012 delegates did win enough votes to call for a boycott of Israeli products manufactured in the Palestinian territories.
The broader movement known as BDS — which stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — has scored some successes in Europe and elsewhere, but has had far less influence in the United States, Israel's closest and most important ally. However, the boycott campaign is gaining some ground in America, with small but symbolic victories meant to pressure Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and end the occupation.
Transit strike forces Philly commuters, tourists to find new ride; no talks planned
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Workers, employers and travelers in the Philadelphia area have been forced to make contingency plans as a commuter rail strike adds to the region's summer transportation woes.
Four hundred workers at the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's regional rail system went on strike Saturday morning, shutting down 13 train lines that carry commuters to the suburbs and Philadelphia International Airport.
The strike began after negotiations between the transit agency and two unions failed to reach a new contract deal Friday. No further talks were scheduled.
Subways, trolleys and buses operated by SEPTA will continue to run.
Gov. Tom Corbett is counting on negotiators to reach an agreement and keep the trains running, spokesman Jay Pagni said. President Obama could also appoint a Presidential Emergency Board to intervene in the negotiations and prevent a strike for up to 240 days.
The melting pot: German-Americans more than 20 percent of US World Cup roster
SAO PAULO (AP) — Timmy Chandler says the melting pot of the U.S. soccer team speaks the same language.
"We understand everything good: English, German, Mexican, Chinese," the defender explained.
But, ja, German is a plus on this year's American World Cup team.
Chandler is among five German-Americans on the 23-man roster, the sons of American servicemen and German mothers. A sixth was among the final cuts, and another three members of the player pool weren't even invited to the 30-man training camp last month in California.
All speak decent English, some more accented than others. Thomas Dooley said that puts them far ahead of where he was when he joined the U.S. team in 1992, 5 1/2 weeks after picking up his U.S. passport. The tall defender started all four American games at the 1994 World Cup and was captain in 1998.
Who won the game? No poker faces here
Who won the big World Cup soccer tilt between the Netherlands and defending champion Spain? You don't need to look further than the fans.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, one of the game's greatest, deployed a clinical display of counterattacking football that had Spain chasing shadows at the end as Oranje fans roared "Ole!" each time their team passed the ball.
All that added up to a 5-1 thrashing of the Spaniards.
Dejected fans of La Roja witnessed Spain's worst loss in the tournament since a 6-1 defeat to Brazil in 1950.
Here's a composite of fan reaction. Truly, the thrill of victory ... and the agony of defeat.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.