AP World and National News Briefs for Monday, June 16, 2014
Will Bergdahl exchange for 5 Taliban detainees embolden militants, or make peace more likely?
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite securing the release of five top detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, there are few indications that the Taliban will head into peace talks with the Afghan government any time soon.
The peace process is virtually on hold anyway until it's clear who will succeed Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Results of the second round of the Afghan presidential election Saturday won't be known until July, and it will be months before the winner will be able to set up his administration and lay the groundwork for possible talks. It's also unclear what role the Obama administration can or is willing to play to coax the Taliban to the negotiating table.
The Taliban say exchanging Bergdahl, held by Afghan militants for nearly five years, for the five detainees is a victory for their side. Still, U.S. and former and current Afghan officials say the transfer is evidence that the two sides can come together and deal peacefully. They say they hope the deal will bolster the influence of more moderate members of the Taliban interested in reconciliation talks.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the swap could provide a "new opening" that can produce a peace agreement.
When Obama appeared in the Rose Garden with Bergdahl's parents after their son was released, he said the U.S. would continue to support an Afghan-led process of reconciliation but didn't offer any specifics.
Gunmen attack hotels, police station, bank in Kenyan town, killing 48 people, police say
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Dozens of extremists wielding automatic weapons attacked a small Kenyan coastal town for hours, assaulting the police station, setting two hotels on fire, and spraying bullets into the street. At least 48 people were killed, officials said Monday.
The assault in Mpeketoni began around 8 p.m. local time on Sunday night as residents were watching World Cup matches on TV and lasted until early Monday, meeting little resistance from Kenya's security forces.
At the Breeze View Hotel, the gunmen pulled the men aside and ordered the women to watch as they killed them, saying it was what Kenyan troops are doing to Somali men inside Somalia, a police commander said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share that detail of the attack.
Authorities blamed al-Shabab, Somalia's al-Qaida-linked terror group, who have vowed to carry out terror attacks to avenge the Kenyan military presence in Somali. Along with its Somali fighters, the group also has many Kenyan adherents.
Kenya's top police commander, David Kimaiyo, said the death toll was 48.
Russia to cut gas supply to Ukraine, rejects deal of initial $1B payment
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Monday said it would cut off gas supplies to Ukraine as a payment deadline passed and negotiators failed to reach a deal on gas prices and unpaid bills.
The decision does not immediately affect the gas flow to Europe, but could disrupt the long-term energy supply to the region if the issue is not resolved, analysts said.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said that since Ukraine had paid nothing for the gas by Monday Moscow has no legal grounds to supply Ukraine any more.
"Gazprom supplies to Ukraine only the amount that has been paid for, and the amount that has been paid for is zero," Kupriyanov said Monday morning.
The pipeline to Ukraine also carries gas meant for Europe, but Kupriyanov said that the supply to Europe will continue as planned. Ukraine has the obligation to make sure the gas will reach European customers, he said.
Manager: F1 great Michael Schumacher has left hospital in Grenoble, is no longer in coma
BERLIN (AP) — Michael Schumacher's manager says the Formula One great is no longer in a coma and has left a French hospital where he had been receiving treatment since a skiing accident in December.
Manager Sabine Kehm says in a statement that Schumacher has left the hospital in Grenoble "to continue his long phase of rehabilitation." The statement did not say where the seven-time F1 champion was taken or give any details of his condition.
Kehm adds: "For the future we ask for understanding that his further rehabilitation will take place away from the public eye."
Security bolstered at US embassy in Iraq; some personnel to be flown out
WASHINGTON (AP) — With Baghdad threatened by the advance of an al-Qaida-inspired insurgency, the State Department is reinforcing security at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq's capital — and sending some personnel out of town.
Much of the embassy staff will stay in place, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement released Sunday. The statement did not say the number of personnel affected. The embassy, along the Tigris River in Baghdad's Green Zone, has about 5,000 personnel and is the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world.
Some embassy staff members were being temporarily moved elsewhere to more stable places at consulates in Basra, in the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq, and Irbil, in the Kurdish semi-autonomous region in northeastern Iraq, and to Jordan, she said.
"Overall, a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission," she said.
U.S. travelers in the country were encouraged to exercise caution and limit travel to certain parts of Iraq.
2 years after court ruling on GPS tracking, muddled landscape for judges, law enforcement
WASHINGTON (AP) — A 2-year-old Supreme Court decision has caused more confusion than clarity on how police may track the whereabouts of criminal suspects, illustrating how hard it is for the slow-moving judicial system to keep up with the light speed of technology.
In the case of United States v. Jones, decided in January 2012, the justices unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling that police erred when, without a valid warrant, they attached a GPS tracking device to the Jeep of a Washington, D.C., nightclub owner, leading them to a stash house for drugs.
But in three separate opinions, the justices offered different legal rationales for that decision. That left a muddled legal landscape for police and lower-court judges, who have since struggled with how to apply it to a world where privacy and technology increasingly collide.
"Courts are all over the place on all of these issues," said Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group.
Technological advancements are forcing the issue more and more, a development magnified by a heightened national debate over privacy versus surveillance and the disclosure of the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records.
Spurs win fifth NBA championship with 104-87 victory over Heat in Game 5 of the finals
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the winningest trio in NBA postseason history, shared hugs.
Players wrapped themselves in flags from around world, a reminder that the San Antonio Spurs look far beyond the border to build champions, as confetti fell from above.
Painfully denied 12 months ago by the Miami Heat, this victory party was worth the wait.
"It makes last year OK," Duncan said.
The Spurs finished off a dominant run to their fifth NBA championship Sunday night, ending the Heat's two-year title reign with a 104-87 victory that wrapped up the series in five games.
Russia solves Crimea tourism problem by asking state companies to send employees on free trips
MOSCOW (AP) — When Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea earlier this year, it regained not only harbors for its navy and abandoned Ukrainian military bases but also long stretches of pebble beaches that were the summer destination of choice for millions of Soviet citizens. This summer, however, tourists need a push to go and some help in getting there.
For years, two-thirds of the 6 million tourists traveling to Crimea each summer came from Ukraine. But many Ukrainians are still bitter over Russia's seizure of the peninsula as well as over local residents' submission to Russian rule; as a result, few are planning to vacation there this year.
But Russians are not rushing to go to the newest part of their country either. Some may prefer more luxurious destinations or be deterred by the difficulties of getting to Crimea, with land routes across southeastern Ukraine effectively blocked because of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists.
With Crimea's beaches eerily empty at the start of the summer season and the livelihood of many under threat, the Kremlin has come up with an ingenious way to attract tourists to the peninsula: It has asked state-controlled companies to get their employees to go there on vacation by paying for all or part of their trips.
In the Soviet era, many state enterprises provided a summer vacation, known as a putyovka, for their employees. Organized by trade unions, these were either free or heavily subsidized. They were more readily available for industrial workers, particularly those who worked in harsh conditions and climates. Major enterprises owned sanitariums, leaving a legacy of magnificent "palaces for the workers" in seaside resorts across the former Soviet Union.
World Cup teams make sure players are well-fed with in-house nutritionists and chefs
SAO PAULO (AP) — Italy packed Parmesan, olive oil and prosciutto. The U.S. brought oatmeal, Cheerios, peanut butter and A1 Steak Sauce.
The Mexican team, of course, required a little more spice. El Tri traveled with the ingredients for pozole, along with chile peppers, chipotle chiles and nopales — or cactus.
When it comes to World Cup food, teams aren't willing to leave anything to chance. They expect their players to have top nutrition, and also want them to enjoy some favorites so they are comfortable and at their best when it's time to play.
For the Azzurri, attention to culinary detail is nothing new. The Italians are particular about their pasta.
"Pasta is our preferred fuel, and before matches we play with the tricolore: pasta (white), tomato (red) and extra virgin olive oil (green)," explained Italy team nutritionist Elisabetta Orsi, referring to the country's flag colors.
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