9.2.14:  Obama leaves for Baltics today


WASHINGTON (AP) — With the Ukrainian crisis firmly in the forefront, President Barack Obama heads for Estonia today on his way to this week’s NATO summit, amid criticism that he’s being too tentative in the face of global threats.


The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has raised the stakes at the summit. Obama will press member states to increase their defense spending.

9.1.14:  Americans detained in North Korea call for US help


PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and — watched by officials as they spoke — called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom.


The three all described their situations as urgent.


American tourists Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller, expected to face trial within a month for alleged anti-state crimes, said they do not know what punishment they could face or what the specific charges against them are. Kenneth Bae, a tour guide and missionary serving a 15-year sentence, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.


They spoke with The Associated Press at a conference center in Pyongyang.

8.29.14  Israel identifies body as missing American student


JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police say a recently found body has been identified after a forensic investigation as that of a U.S. religious student who disappeared while hiking in Jerusalem last week.


Police spokeswoman Luba Samri says the body was confirmed early on Friday morning to be that of seminary student Aharon Sofer. She says “there is no suspicion of foul play,” meaning Sofer’s death was not a militant attack or a criminal attack.


Samri had no further details on how Sofer died.


The body was found on Thursday night in the same area where Sofer disappeared last week. The 23-year-old Sofer, of Lakewood, New Jersey, had been hiking with a friend in a hilly, forested area on the outskirts of Jerusalem.


Sofer’s parents had flown to Israel to assist with the search.

8.29.14  WHO: More Ebola cases in past week than any other


DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The World Health Organization says the past week has seen the highest increase of Ebola cases since the outbreak began, more evidence that the crisis is worsening.


In an update Friday, the U.N. health agency said more than 500 cases were recorded over the past week, by far the worst toll of any week so far. The vast majority of the cases were in Liberia, but the agency said it was also the highest number of cases in one week for Guinea and Sierra Leone.


WHO warned Thursday that the outbreak in West Africa is accelerating and could eventually infect 20,000 people.


So far, it has killed more than 1,500 of the 3,000 people it has sickened. Nigeria has also recorded a small number of cases.

8.28.14:   Ebola cases could eventually reach 20,000


GENEVA (AP) — The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak in West Africa could exceed 20,000 cases.


That’s more than six times as many as right now. A new study by the U.N. health agency also assumes that in many hard-hit areas, the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than is currently reported.


New figures show that 1,552 people have now died from the Ebola virus from among the 3,069 cases reported so far.


8.27.14:   3rd doctor dies from Ebola in Sierra Leone


FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — A senior adviser to Sierra Leone’s president says a third doctor has died from Ebola, marking a setback in the country’s fight against the virulent disease.


Presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday that Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working in a clinic in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted the virus.


News of his death came as a Senegalese epidemiologist working in Sierra Leone was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. He had been doing surveillance work for the World Health Organization.


Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of people sick with the virus. Health workers have been the most vulnerable because of their proximity to patients. The WHO says more than 120 health workers have died in the four affected countries.

8.27.14:  Journalist held captive in Syria back home in US


BOSTON (AP) — American journalist Peter Curtis says he’s “so touched and moved, beyond all words” by the people who’ve welcomed him home after he was held hostage in Syria for 22 months.


Curtis was freed over the weekend by the Syrian extremist group al-Nusra Front, and he returned to the U.S. yesterday.


He flew on to Boston last night, where he was reunited with his mother.

8.26.14:  UN health agency: E-cigarettes must be regulated


GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. health agency says electronic cigarettes should be regulated and banned from use indoors until the exhaled vapor is proven not to harm bystanders.


The World Health Organization also calls for a ban on sales to minors of the popular nicotine-vapor products, and to either forbid or keep to a minimum any advertising, promotion or sponsorship.


In a report Tuesday, the Geneva-based agency said the “apparently booming” $3 billion global market for more than 400 brands of e-cigarettes is increasingly becoming a competition between independent companies and transnational tobacco companies aggressively muscling for market share.


The report is to be discussed at a WHO conference on controlling tobacco in October.


The American Heart Association backs the battery-powered devices that vaporize nicotine as a last resort to help smokers quit.

8.26.14:  US makes surveillance flights over Syria


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey isn’t commenting on the U.S. beginning surveillance flights over Syria, but he says the U.S. does want a clearer picture of militants from the group Islamic State operating in the country. The information gathered could pave the way for airstrikes on militants in Syria. The U.S. began launching strikes against the Islamic State inside Iraq earlier this month.

8.25.14:  American journalist freed in Syria


WASHINGTON (AP) — The release of an American journalist in Syria is likely to renew questions about the intentions of different militant groups in Syria and Iraq and how the U.S. should deal with hostage takers.


Journalist Peter Theo Curtis was freed Sunday, days after another U.S. journalist kidnapped in Syria was beheaded by Islamic militants.


Secretary of State John Kerry says Curtis was held by an al-Qaida-linked militant group.


Journalist James Foley was executed by the group Islamic State, which al-Qaida disavowed earlier this year after deeming it too brutal.