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Updated: Sat, 23 Aug 2014 01:15:08 EST


Obama aide: US won't let borders hamper fight vs. extremists

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior White House official is raising the possibility of a broader American military campaign that targets an Islamic extremist group's bases in Syria.

President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, says the U.S is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect national security.

Rhodes tells reporters, in his words, "We're not going to be restricted by borders."

The White House says the president has received no military options beyond those he authorized earlier this month for limited airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and military aid to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Thus far, the United States has avoided military involvement in Syria's three-year civil war. But faced with the Islamic State making gains across the region and the beheading an American journalist, the administration's resistance may be weakening


New Obama birth control fixes for religious groups

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is trying again to end a fight with religious-oriented businesses and institutions over birth control.

Officials on Friday announced measures aimed at allowing religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception.

Even so, the accommodations may not fully satisfy religious groups who oppose any system that makes them complicit in providing coverage they believe is immoral.

Effective immediately, the U.S. will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government — rather than their insurers — that they object to birth control on religious grounds.

A previous accommodation offered by the administration allowed those nonprofits to avoid paying for birth control by sending their insurers a document called Form 700, which transfers responsibility for paying for birth control from the employer to the insurer. But Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argued that simply submitting that form was like signing a permission slip to engage in evil.


Obama and Merkel voice alarm at Russian moves

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say the presence of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, the buildup of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border and Russian shelling into Ukraine represent dangerous escalations of tensions by Moscow.

The White House says the two leaders agree that a Russian convoy that entered Ukraine without approval is yet another provocation by Moscow that violates Ukraine's sovereignty.

Obama and Merkel spoke by phone Friday while Obama vacationed in the island resort of Martha's Vineyard.

Russia says the convoy that entered Ukraine on Friday is for humanitarian purposes, but Ukraine and the U.S. say the Russians failed to abide by conditions set by Ukraine and the International Red Cross.

Obama and Merkel agree that Russia must remove the convoy and withdraw from Ukrainian territory.


Russia's actions in Ukraine criticized at emergency Security Council session

NEW YORK (AP) — Russia has come under harsh criticism at an emergency, closed session of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the movement of a convoy of trucks into eastern Ukraine.

British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, the council president, tells reporters that several countries rebuked Moscow for what they called an illegal and unilateral action by the Russian federation.

Grant says it was "an undeniable and blatant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty."

Grant also says "there was no unanimity of views" during the emergency consultations, which were held at the request of Lithuania.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin says he defended his country during the discussions, reminding his colleagues that Moscow had received an "official note" from Kiev welcoming the idea of the Russian convoy. He reiterated Russia's stance that Ukrainian border guards were deliberately stalling the convoy.


NEW: Wash. flash flooding damages estimated 10 homes

TWISP, Wash. (AP) — Officials in an area of north-central Washington scarred by massive wildfires say heavy rains unleashed mudslides that damaged or destroyed 10 homes and dived highways.

Okanogan County Emergency Manager Scott Miller told the Wenatchee World that authorities are still trying to identify everyone affected by the Thursday night storms. He said the Red Cross is on standby if shelter is needed.

Resident Janie Lewis stays the storm left two feet of mud in her home. She says she and her husband are grateful to be alive and thankful for the neighbors who arrived Friday to help clean up.

There were no reports of injuries from the slides. A section of one state highway remains closed.

The National Weather Service says a few showers blew through the area Friday but nothing like Thursday's storms.


NEW: St. Louis officer suspended after video comments

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis County Police chief says an officer who had been assigned to patrols in Ferguson has been suspended while the department reviews a 2012 video in which the officer calls himself "a killer" and makes incendiary comments about religion and U.S. political leaders.

Police Chief Jon Belmar told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1AFT5NV ) Friday that an internal review will start next week into the video of Officer Dan Page, a 35-year veteran of the department.

Belmar called the comments in the video first reported by CNN disturbing and "beyond the scope of acceptable police conduct."

Belmar says that the officer was assigned to day patrols in Ferguson, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer.

A phone number for Page couldn't immediately be found.


NEW: Officer charged in hot-car death of police dog

UNDATED (AP) — A Wyoming police officer has pleaded not guilty to an animal cruelty charge that alleges a police dog died after he left it in a hot patrol car for several hours.

According to an investigator's statement filed in Natrona County Circuit Court, Mills police officer Zachary Miller left the female black lab named Nyx in his patrol car for over six hours July 9.

KCWY News 13 reports the car was running but the air conditioning was off and outside temperatures reached 86 degrees.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Miller, a four-year veteran of the Mills Police Department, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge at a court appearance on Friday.

Nyx had been with the department for almost seven years and lived with Miller's family.


Costa Rica to investigate US anti-Cuba program

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Rica's director of intelligence and security says his government will investigate undercover U.S. programs based in the Central American country that were designed to destabilize the government in Cuba.

Mariano Figueres says Costa Rica has found no records or information on a project overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Starting in 2009, the project sent young Venezuelans, Costa Ricans and Peruvians to Cuba in hopes of stirring opposition to the government.

Figueres said Friday the information came from an Aug. 4 Associated Press article, which said USAID and contractor Creative Associates International used the cover of health and civic programs hoping to provoke political change. Some were based in Costa Rica.

The travelers dressed as tourists scouted Cuba for people they could turn into political activists.


Governors: Deal may come soon in supermarket feud

BOSTON (AP) — The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire say they're optimistic the long-running family dispute that has hobbled the Market Basket supermarket chain will be resolved, perhaps as soon as this weekend, with an agreement to sell it to its ousted CEO.

In a statement issued late Friday, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said they expect the company will restore Arthur T. Demoulas to "operating authority" on an interim basis, pending completion of the sale.

The governors, who said they had been briefed by all parties involved in the dispute, were hopeful employees will return to work and stores will resume regular operations early next week. They added that the company's board of directors had agreed to "forestall taking adverse employment action" against employees who left their jobs in protest of Demoulas' ouster.


Missing Russian found dead in Grand Teton park

MOOSE, Wyo. (AP) — A Russian student who went missing in Grand Teton National Park has been found dead.

The body of 20-year-old Aleksandr "Sasha" Sagiev was found in the park Friday. The student from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, was reported missing Monday after going for a hike.

After a three-day search, Sagiev's body was discovered below a steep traverse, known as Cache Couloir, in Glacier Gulch. His body was found at an elevation of about 9,400 feet, and was removed via helicopter long-line. The National Park Service said Friday that his body has been taken to nearby Jackson, Wyoming.

Sagiev was a seasonal employee at Dornan's Pizza & Pasta Restaurant, a shop near the park. About 60 searchers had been looking for him since he was last seen at work Sunday. The search was complicated by heavy rain and thick clouds near Taggart Lake Trailhead, where authorities believed Sagiev started his hike.


Government warns US retailers about hacking software

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Homeland Security Department says it has notified over a thousand retailers that they could be infected with malicious software lurking in their cash register computers.

This software, according to the agency, allows hackers to steal customer financial data.

The government on Friday urged businesses of all sizes to scan their point-of-sale systems for software known as "Backoff," discovered last October. It previously explained in detail how the software operates and how retailers could find and remove it.

Earlier this month, United Parcel Service said it found infected computers in 51 stores. UPS said it was not aware of any fraud that resulted from the infection but said hackers may have taken customers' names, addresses, email addresses and payment card information. The company apologized to customers and offered free identity protection and credit monitoring services to those who had shopped in those 51 stores.


'Invisible caseload' of Ebola patients worries World Health Organization

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The World Health Organization is expressing concern that "an invisible caseload" of Ebola patients is going undetected by government surveillance measures in West Africa.

In a situation assessment issued today, the WHO notes that treatment centers opened over the past two weeks in Liberia were immediately overwhelmed by patients that had not been identified previously. That situation, it says, has "never before been seen in an Ebola outbreak" and suggests the scale of the outbreak is being underestimated, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Earlier this week, the WHO put the death toll at more than 1,300. Hundreds of cases have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone, while Liberia has seen the most deaths with 576.

A total of 213 people are under surveillance in Nigeria, where officials reported two new cases today. The country's health minister says the patients are the spouses of a man and woman who had cared for Patrick Sawyer. The Liberian-American was already infected with Ebola when he flew into Nigeria last month. He infected 11 others before he died.

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