2.27.15:  Group claims it killed US blogger in Bangladesh


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A previously unknown militant group is claiming responsibility for a cleaver attack in Bangladesh last night that killed a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger and wounded his wife.

Avijit Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair in the capital Dhaka when they were attacked.

Roy was a prominent voice against religious intolerance.

The group Ansar Bangla 7 says on Twitter that Roy “was the target because of his crime against Islam.”

2.26.15:  Ukraine will start pulling back heavy weapons in the east


KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s military says it will start pulling back its heavy weapons from the front line with Russian-backed separatists as required under a cease-fire agreement.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement Thursday that it reserved the right to revise its withdrawal plans in the event of an attack by rebel forces.

The international monitors overseeing the cease-fire in Ukraine complained earlier in the day that the warring sides were dragging their feet in complying with requirements to pull back their weapons.

Ukrainian officials said the first weapons to be pulled back Thursday would be 100-mm caliber field guns.


Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Russian gas giant Gazprom says the company could cut off supplies to neighboring Ukraine by the end of the week, barring further payments.

The company said in televised remarks today that “if no new funds are received from Kiev, then naturally we cannot continue delivering gas to Ukraine.”

Following a bruising dispute over prices and debt that raised fears of supply disruptions in Europe, Russia and Ukraine signed a deal in October requiring Kiev to pay in advance for gas shipments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Ukraine’s latest payment would be good for “another three to four days.”

2.25.15:  US church says missionary kidnapped from Nigerian compound


SEATTLE (AP) — An American missionary has been kidnapped in Nigeria, according to her sponsoring denomination.


The Free Methodist Church says on its website that it received a report Monday that the Rev. Phyllis Sortor was kidnapped from the Hope Academy compound in Emiworo. The message from Bishop David Kendall says U.S. officials are working with Nigerian authorities to find and rescue her.


Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria and most victims are returned unharmed.


According to the church website, Sortor works with a child sponsorship ministry and recently opened a school for the children of Fulani herdsmen, who are Muslim.


The Rev. Brenda Young, lead pastor with Cornerstone Free Methodist Church in Akron, Ohio, says she’s been working with Sortor on projects to get clean drinking water to people in Nigeria. Young says she’s sure that Sortor “will handle herself as a follower of Christ, as a lover of people and as a loyal American.”


2-24-15  Assyrian Christians Reportedly Killed by ISIS


BEIRUT (AP) — Two activist groups say Islamic State militants have abducted at least 70 Assyrians after overrunning several villages in northeastern Syria.

The head of the activist group A Demand For Action that focuses on religious minorities in the Middle East, says Islamic State fighters are holding between 70 and 100 captive, most of them from a Christian Assyrian village.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of Assyrian captives at 90.

2-20-15  Car Bomb in Libya Kills 30

CAIRO (AP) — A Libyan army spokesman says a massive car bombing has struck a town in the country’s east, killing at least 30 people, according to initial reports.

The spokesman, Mohammed Hegazi, told The Associated Press that a car bomb exploded next to a gas station in the eastern town of Qubba where motorists had lined to fill their tanks on Friday.

Hegazi says scores have also been wounded in the blast. He says the gas station is close to the towns’ security headquarters.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which Hegazi says bore the hallmarks of Islamic militants who have battled the army for months in and around the eastern city of Benghazi.

Libya has sunk into chaos, four years since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster and death.

2-20-15  Greece Trying Desperately to Get Out of Debt


BRUSSELS (AP) — Greece and its European creditors are converging on Brussels to try to bridge major differences over Athens’ request for a six-month loan extension to help pay off massive debts.

The meeting on Friday is the third among finance ministers from the 19-nation eurozone in just over a week.

It was called to respond to the left-wing government’s demand for more time to finalize its current bailout program and negotiate new arrangements with its partners that will be less onerous on Greek citizens.

Greece’s most influential creditor, Germany, claims the request is a “Trojan horse” to help the government dodge its commitments.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras swept to power last month on a pledge to ease the austerity measures championed by Germany and reorganize the 240 billion euro bailout debt.


2.19.15:  Study finds diets of people worldwide are worsening despite more healthy food


LONDON (AP) — A new study finds the world is increasingly hungry for junk food, despite there being more fruit, vegetables and healthy options available than ever before

In survey of eating habits in nearly 190 countries, researchers found that even though people are eating more healthy foods including whole grains and fish, there has been an even bigger jump in the amount of junk food eaten.

Among the findings, older adults ate better than younger adults and women ate healthier diets than men.

There was a mixed picture in the U.S., with increases both in the amount of healthy and unhealthy foods eaten.

One of the study authors says while Westerners are among the biggest eaters of junk food, China and India are catching up and that governments should step in.

Mongolia had some of the best nutritional improvements.

But researchers found in some countries in Africa and Asia, there has been no improvement in their diet during the past 20 years.

The study was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Britain’s Medical Research Council and was published online in the journal, Lancet Global Health, as part of an obesity series.

2.19.15:  Denmark to beef up fight against terrorism


COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s government has pledged 970 million kroner ($130 million) to strengthen anti-terrorism measures, including by boosting foreign and domestic intelligence gathering.

The announcement follows weekend attacks against a free speech event and a synagogue left two people dead and five wounded in Copenhagen.

The government started drafting the plans last month after lawmakers demanded a review of anti-terror measures following the terror attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris.

Social Democratic Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt says the plan includes 415 million kroner ($56 million) to boost efforts to monitor Danes joining Islamic militant groups abroad and 200 million kroner to the domestic intelligence agency.

The center-right opposition is expected to back the government’s plan.

The gunman who carried out the weekend attacks was killed by a SWAT team early Sunday.

2.18.15:   Strategic rail hub of Debaltseve falls as Ukrainian president says government troops are pulling out


ARTEMIVSK, Ukraine (AP) — A strategic rail hub in eastern Ukraine has fallen to rebel forces today after weeks of relentless fighting.

Ukrainian forces have been seen retreating from the battlefield and Ukraine’s president confirms that he has ordered troops to pull out of Debaltseve. The town links the two major separatist cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Meanwhile, Russian-backed separatist rebels say they’ve taken hundreds of soldiers captive.

Associated Press reporters on the road to a government-controlled town (Artemivsk) have seen several dozen Ukrainian troops retreating with their weapons this morning. Covered in dirt and looking tired, some were riding in trucks while several others, unshaven and visibly upset, were on foot. They expressed anger that they had not received any reinforcement from the government.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says 80 percent of government troops have withdrawn from the town but two more columns have yet to leave.



2.16.15:   Grief and anger in Egypt over beheading of Christian hostages in Libya


EL-AOUR, Egypt (AP) — In a village in central Egypt today, there’s been an outpouring of grief and anger over the beheading of a group of Egyptian Christian hostages on a beach in Libya by Islamic State militants.

The killings were shown on a video that was released online today.

Thirteen of the 21 Christians who were kidnapped in Libya in December and January were from the same village. Family members there have been trying to console one another. Inside the village’s only church, relatives and other mourners today cried out the names of the men who had been killed.

Egypt’s government, meanwhile, has wasted no time in retaliating. Egyptian warplanes today struck Islamic State targets in Libya. It’s the first time Cairo has publicly acknowledged taking military action in the neighboring country.

A military statement says the warplanes targeted weapons stockpiles and training camps before returning safely.