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US Says Russian Missile Launch 'Serious' Violation of Treaty


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is publicly accusing Russia of violating a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, a declaration likely to deepen tensions between the two countries already at odds over crises in Ukraine, Syria, and the Middle East.

The allegations, raised by President Obama in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, center on ground-launched cruise missile tests conducted in 2011, an administration official said.

The United States determined those tests violated Russia's treaty agreement to not to, "possess, produce, or flight-test" missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said, requesting anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement Tuesday.

The issue was first raised with Russia in early 2013 but its responses, "did not resolve our concerns," the official said.

An annual State Department compliance report on arms control treaties, due out on Tuesday, is expected to outline in detail the U.S. findings of the alleged Russian treaty violation.

While bilateral talks with Russia on a variety of topics have broken down in recent months, the White House has extended an invitation to Russian officials for high-level dialogue on the missile treaty effective immediately, officials said. The administration, which has informed Congress of its determination, believes Russia has the potential to return to treaty compliance if it chooses.

The treaty violation allegations were first reported by The New York Times.

The Obama administration's announcement comes as the U.S. and European Union impose another round of tighter economic sanctions against Russia this week over alleged Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine.

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Liberia Woman Describes How She Lived Through Ebola


iStock/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of at least 672 people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, but one person who survived the virulent disease is shedding light on what it's like to battle the virus.

Tawa Tamba, a mother of three in Liberia, was recently discharged after fighting off the potentially fatal disease.

Tawa's husband became very ill and died about four weeks ago. Tawa then went to a clinic run by the group Samaritan's Purse when one of her children fell ill with symptoms similar to that of her husband's.

Two of her children died, and she herself became very sick, according to Dr. Azaria Marthyman of Samaritan's Purse.

Tawa eventually recovered and was discharged on July 20.

"Tawa expressed her gratitude to God foremost and to all those who helped," Marthyman wrote in a blog post on the group's website.

"Thank you for praying for me every time you treated me!" Tawa told the staff, according to Marthyman.

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Palestinian-American Teen Held in Israeli Custody for 3 Weeks


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- United States officials are "gravely concerned" about a Palestinian-American teen who has been in Israeli custody for three weeks, the State Department said Monday.

Another teen, Tariq Khdeir, drew headlines when he was arrested and allegedly beaten by Israeli authorities, but the State Department said another teen, 15-year-old U.S. citizen Mohamed Abu Nie, was arrested in Israel on July 3 during protests in the Shoafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

"Considering his age, we are calling for a speedy resolution to this case," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday. "This 15-year-old has now been held for three weeks in Israeli custody and has seen his parents only once briefly during that night. And so we are certainly gravely concerned about the detention of an American citizen child."

A U.S. consular official visited him on July 17 and attended a hearing on July 22, Psaki said, and the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv is in contact with his lawyer. The teen did not immediately inform Israeli officials that he was an American citizen, Psaki said, resulting in his delayed consular access.

He faces charges of, "rock-throwing, attacking police, carrying a knife and leading protests," Psaki said.

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As Attacks Continue, Netanyahu Says to 'Be Prepared for a Long Operation'


iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) --  Last week, Israel and Hamas blamed each other for explosions at a shelter that left at least 16 Palestinian civilians dead, and on Monday, fatal strikes near a hospital and refugee camp left 10 Palestinian children dead, according to Gazan health officials.

The Israeli Army insists its air and land forces were not operating in the area of the Al-Shifa hospital and the Al-Shati refugee camp when those two explosions occured.

Israeli military officials believes rocket misfires by Islamic Jihad were responsible for the fatal strikes at a park and hospital outpatient clinic.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhari blamed Israeli airstrikes for the attacks while eyewitness reportedly saw a drone.

In a press conference Monday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis, "We must be prepared for a long operation."

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Report: Afghan Forces Lose Track of Deadly Weapons


Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Afghan armed forces are not keeping proper track of the hundreds of thousands of weapons given to them by the U.S. military, prompting fears U.S.-supplied arms could be falling into the hands of insurgents, a new U.S. government report says.

The report, from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), details troubling discrepancies in various inventory systems used by Afghan security forces to track the $626 million-worth of small arms and auxiliary equipment provided by the U.S. -- some discrepancies indicating hundreds of weapons are unaccounted for.

In one case, an audit found over 900 weapons listed in the property book at the Afghan National Army’s Central Supply Depot weren’t actually there. The missing small arms included 740 M16 rifles and all 112 M23 pistols.

“ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] record-keeping and inventory processes are poor and, in many cases, we were unable to conduct even basic inventory testing at the ANSF facilities we visited,” the SIGAR report says. “Although CSTC-A [Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan] has established end use monitoring procedures, the lack of adherence to these procedures, along with the lack of reliable weapons inventories, limits monitoring of weapons under Afghan control and reduces the ability to identify missing and unaccounted for weapons that could be used by insurgents to harm U.S., coalition, and ANSF personnel.”

Sometimes the Afghan forces had a surplus of weapons from the U.S. For instance, in the same depot as the 900 weapons that were unaccounted for, the Afghan military had an excess of nearly 200 M48 rifles and 80 M24 rifles.

SIGAR also found that some 80,000 AK-47s are floating around the Afghan military unnecessarily after the U.S. decided to stop providing those weapons in favor of NATO-standard weapons. There is no plan to round them up, SIGAR said.

“Given the Afghan government’s limited ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons, there is a real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents, which will pose additional risks to U.S. personnel, the ANSF, and Afghan civilians,” the SIGAR report states.

In the report, SIGAR called on the DoD to audit the systems that track the delivery of supplied arms and to perform a full inventory check.

In a response included in the SIGAR report, the Department of Defense said it agreed with a reevaluation of record keeping systems and aims to consolidate their databases, but says the U.S. military does not have the authority to require Afghan National Security Forces to reevaluate inventory, or to recover or destroy Afghan weapons.

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Kerry: 'No Apologies' for Engagement in Israel/Gaza Conflict


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Facing down domestic criticism of the U.S. response to the conflict in Israel and Gaza, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that America “will make no apologies” for the role it has played in the region.

“Make no mistake,” Kerry said. “When the people of Israel are rushing to bomb shelters, when innocent Israeli and Palestinian teenagers are abducted and murdered, when hundreds of innocent civilians have lost their lives; I will and we will make no apologies for our engagement.”

Kerry made the remarks at an event inaugurating the Center for American Progress' India: 2020 program, his second public address since returning from the Middle East and Paris.

A recent Gallup poll out last Thursday showed general support for Israel’s actions against Hamas in the current conflict, with 42 percent calling its actions ‘justified’ and 39 percent considering them "unjustified."

But inside that figure is notable dissent within the Democratic Party and especially among younger people, with only 31 percent supporting Israel’s actions among Democrats and just 25 percent of 18-29 year olds considering Israel’s actions "justified."

Kerry called out those in opposition to American involvement, saying, “This is who we are and this is what we do.”

“There are some in America who question America’s efforts,” Kerry said. “They question our efforts to bring peace to various conflicts around the world. I think the question they ought to ask is what’s the alternative?”

Kerry is set to make a three-day trip to India starting Wednesday this week. In a short preview of his trip, Kerry said he will stress trade, climate change and women’s equality in his meetings with the nation’s leaders in an effort to strengthen American relations there.

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West Africa's Ebola Outbreak: What You Need to Know


Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak continues to spread in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where at least 1,093 people having contracted the virus and 660 people have died, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization.

Two American aid workers are among the victims of the growing outbreak, which has taken a heavy toll on health care providers treating the sick and working to contain the outbreak.

Liberia's president has closed all but three land border crossings, restricted public gatherings and quarantined communities heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak in the West African nation.

The Ebola virus continues its grim march across west Africa as the first two Americans were reported to be infected and a top Liberian doctor died this past weekend.

Officials are also concerned after an infected man managed to board a plane from Liberia to Nigeria, potentially spreading the deadly virus to a fourth country.

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Russia Wants UN Investigation into Downed Malaysia Airlines Plane


(MOSCOW) -- Russia is calling for the United Nations Security Council to approve a UN-led investigation into what brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

“We believe that such an inquiry must begin as quickly as possible under the UN aegis. To that end the Security Council must make yet one more decision. We are alarmed that some of our partners have been trying to steer practical efforts to organize the inquiry into separate bilateral contacts with the Ukrainian authorities,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Monday.

The United States has accused pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine of shooting down the plane. Russia, however, has dismissed the accusations and suggested that Ukrainian authorities were responsible.

“I do not want to attack with accusations too soon, but I hope no one will be trying to cover tracks,” Lavrov said about an investigation facilitated by Kiev.

In the wake of the Flight 17 disaster, Western countries have increased pressure on Russia to end what they say is an attempt to covertly support pro-Russian rebel fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Investigators have had trouble visiting the site of the downed plane due to nearby fighting. So far, only a small team, led by the Netherlands, has visited the site. The international monitors at the site have raised concerns that significant portions of the wreck have been altered and cut apart, perhaps during the search for remains -- but potentially also to hide evidence.

British intelligence sources told the BBC last week that they had intercepted phone calls suggesting rebels in the area wanted to give the black box fight recorders to Russia. Those recorders were eventually handed to investigators and sent to the United Kingdom for analysis.

On Monday, Lavrov seemed to confuse the U.S. intelligence images published over the weekend, suggesting they were about Flight 17 when they were about accusations Russia fired into Ukraine last week.

“It appears some images have just been published. Ten days later. We do not know what they did to these images, whether or not they were prepared,” he said, calling the images a “pretext to punish Russia.”

The images, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Sunday, claim to show evidence that “Russian forces have fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russian-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine.”

One slide provided by U.S. intelligence claims to show evidence of “self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units” aimed at Ukrainian targets.

In what appears to have been a contentious phone call Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Lavrov “to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine, and to begin to contribute to de-escalating the conflict,” according to a State Department statement.

The unusually blunt statement added that Kerry “did not accept Foreign Minister Lavrov’s denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict.”

Ukrainian authorities and the United States have sounded the alarm about fighters, weapons, and funding crossing into Ukraine from Russia. The White House has warned that unless the Kremlin halts the flow they will face more sanctions. On Monday, Lavrov said Russia will allow OSCE observers to monitor a few border crossings with Ukraine.

Lavrov said he was confused by Western demands that Russia change its policies or face consequences.

“I don't know what they mean by policy changes,” he said, adding defiantly that Russia will adapt to sanctions.

“We will overcome the difficulties that will arise in certain parts of our economy. Maybe, we will become more self-reliant and more self-confident. This, too, is useful,” he said.

Lavrov said Russia will not go “eye for an eye” with the West over sanctions because it’s not “worthy of a big country.”

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Muslims Mark the End of Ramadan


Paula Bronstein/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Eid al-Fitr, a celebration marking the end of Ramadan, will be widely observed Monday in North America, though some Muslims will observe it on Tuesday.

PHOTOS: Muslims Around the World Celebrate Eid al-Fitr

The celebration, also known as Id al-Fitr or Eid ul-Fitr, is a festival of merriment and thanksgiving in which Muslims will gather with friends and family and prepare sweet delicacies in honor of the end of the fast.

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S. Korean Baseball Team So Bad It's Putting Robots in Seats


Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- You know it's bad when robotic fan proxies are brought in to liven up the atmosphere. The long suffering Hanwha Eagles baseball team has turned to a crew of robo-fans to help boost spirits at the South Korean team's games.

In the past five years, the team has lost more than 400 times and has consistently ranked last in their league.

Solution: Bring in the robots.

Hanwha supporters who just can't be bothered to come to the stadium can project their face onto a robot from the comfort of their own homes and can even control some of the machine's movements.

They can also hold up digital signs and coordinate group cheers.

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Rising Violence in Tripoli Leads to US Clearing Out Embassy


iStock/Thinkstock(TRIPOLI, Libya) -- Members of the U.S. embassy in Tripoli had to be relocated outside of Libya Saturday due to ongoing violence.

The State Department called the move a "temporary relocation," pointing to the recent clashes between Libyan militias in the vicinity of the embassy.

U.S. military personnel assisted in the relocation of embassy personnel, all of whom were taken to Tunisia without incident.

The State Department said that the situation in Libya is "unpredictable and unstable," and that U.S. citizens may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks or death.

In addition, all American citizens living or traveling in Libya were urged to leave the country immediately.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the decision to move the embassy on Saturday, noting "freewheeling militia violence." Still, Kerry said the U.S. is "deeply committed...to the diplomatic process in Libya."

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Investigators Cancel Trip to MH17 Crash Site Due to Fighting


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Personnel from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe won't risk a Sunday trip to the site of the Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down earlier this month.

Alexander Hug, Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine says that reports of fighting in the area caused the change of plans. "The security situation at the moment on the way to the site we planned to go today -- and on the site itself -- appears to be not safe," Hug said.

The team is expected to reassess the situation on Monday and deploy personnel then, if the situation is safer. "We will not risk our unarmed civilian observer mission to deploy to a site where we can't control the risk to a degree where we are confident we have it at the level where it is acceptable."

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US Releases Photos Purported to Show Russia Fired Artillery Into Ukraine


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has released images that, it says, prove Russian military forces have fired artillery from Russian territory into Ukraine.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a series of overhead images that, it says, show evidence of artillery fire from the Russian side of the border directed at Ukrainian military positions in Ukraine.

ODNI claims the images prove Russian military -- not Russian-backed separatists operating from across the border -- were responsible.

"The following images provide evidence that Russian forces have fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine," ODNI wrote atop a four-page file that includes four images ODNI says were taken July 21-26.

The newly released images back up the claim of direct Russian involvment made Thursday by the State Department and the Pentagon, as international tensions have risen sharply over the conflict in eastern Ukraine since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in rebel-held territory.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Dept. spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at a daily press briefing on Thursday.

The U.S. has alleged Russian complicity in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet, pointing to Russian support for separatists and alleged supplying of heavy weaponry. Recordings of phone conversations released by the Ukrainian government purportedly show separatists telling Russian officials they shot down the airliner.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not directly addressed recent allegations of Russian military support for the rebels, or that rebels downed the plane with a missile system provided to them by Russia.

In a statement on MH17 released through the Kremlin on July 21, Putin warned that "no one should and no one has the right to use this tragedy to pursue their own political goals" and promised that "[f]or its part, Russia will do everything within its power to move the conflict in eastern Ukraine from the military phase we see today to the negotiating phase, with the parties using peaceful and diplomatic means alone."

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Israel Resumes Attacks in Gaza, Hamas Offers Cease-Fire


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- The Israeli Army resumed its attacks on Gaza on Sunday, pointing at "incessant rocket fire" launched by Hamas throughout the previous humanitarian cease-fire.

The two sides had, on Saturday, agreed to a temporary truce to allow residents of Gaza to gather supplies and retrieve the bodies of those killed in the ongoing tension. Israel stated late on Saturday that it would extend the cease-fire for 24 hours -- through Sunday -- but promised that it would respond to any Hamas rocket fire.

Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said that seven rockets were fired from Gaza. Two of the rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.

Also on Sunday, Hamas spokesman Sami abu Zoihri said that the organization had agreed to call for a 24-hour cease-fire beginning at about 2 p.m. local time. Still, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas was not abiding by that cease-fire, firing rockets at Israel, which prompted the Israeli military activity to resume.

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Costa Concordia Refloated, Towed to Port on Final Voyage


Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images(GENOA, Italy) -- The Costa Concordia finished its final trip on Sunday, entering the port of Genoa in Italy with the help of tugboats.

The Italian cruise ship that struck a reef in January 2012 before capsizing was refloated earlier this week. Ship captain Francesco Schettino is being tried for alleged manslaughter after causing the 2012 wreck that killed 32.

Investigators also plan to search the ship for the body of an Indian waiter, the only body that was never found.

In total, BBC News reports that the operation to refloat and tow the Costa Concordia from the reef to Genoa will have cost about $2 billion.

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