Good morning, and happy TGIF! Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. Challenges ahead at Ukraine crash site of Malaysian airliner
Investigators are headed to the site where a Malaysia Airlines jetliner crashed in eastern Ukraine after it was shot down Thursday by a ground-to-air missile. Flight 17 was traveling from Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur. At least 181 bodies have been removed so far, and airline officials say the 298 people on board came mostly from the Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia. About 20 passengers’ nationalities are still unknown. One of the biggest challenges for investigators will be working in a combat zone, where Ukrainian security forces are fighting with pro-Russian separatists. Meanwhile, the crash has also flared tensions between the West and Russia. Read more in NEWS.
2. Israeli troops hit the ground in Gaza against Hamas
One Israeli soldier has died after the country’s military rushed into the Gaza Strip. Israel intensified its 11-day campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers by launching a ground operation late Thursday after becoming increasingly exasperated with unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza. Israeli aircraft have struck more than 2,000 targets in Gaza, and more than 250 Palestinians have died in the air campaign. Israel said it entered Gaza to destroy Hamas tunnels built between the area and Israel. Read more in NEWS.
3. Hundreds flee as wildfire rages into Washington state town
Dozens of homes have burned down in the small town of Pateros, about 200 miles northeast of Seattle. The fire has caused the closings of highways and has burned through more than 7,000 acres. Seventy miles to the south, another complex of wildfires has chased people from nearly 900 homes near the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth. Nearly 30,000 acres have burned in the Mills Canyon Complex. Read more in NEWS.
4. Chelsea Manning to begin gender treatment in prison
Manning, the Army private convicted of sharing intelligence secrets to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, won the right to legally change her name from Bradley in April. Now, she’ll have access to treatment for gender reassignment, the military said, which will include psychiatric and psychological counseling. Manning remains in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she is being held in a men’s facility. Read more in NEWS.
5. California bank robbers belonged to violent gang
The suspects in the violent bank robbery in Stockton were members of the city’s Nortenos gang, police said Thursday. Two of the three alleged gunmen died at the scene along with one of the three hostages. Police in Stockton have been targeting the gang — a local group affiliated with the dominant Latino gang in Northern California — for years. After putting the number of rounds fired at about 100 on Wednesday, police now say that “hundreds” of rounds were fired during the chase and final gun battle with cops. Read more in INVESTIGATIONS.
6. FedEx indicted in scheme to distribute prescription drugs
The courier is accused of conspiring with two separate but related illegal Internet pharmacy groups and knowingly sending prescription drugs and other controlled substances to people with no prescriptions. Those drugs include phendimetrazine, Ambien, phentermine, Valium and Xanax, according to an 11-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on Thursday. In a statement, FedEx said it “will defend against this attack on the integrity and good name of FedEx and its employees.” Read more in INVESTIGATIONS.
… What’s trending today?
“Orange is the New Black” actor Jason Biggs is apologizing after criticism over a tweet about the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine. Biggs initially tweeted, “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?” After some backlash, he responded to his critics that it was a joke and “you don't have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all.”
But the avalanche of outrage forced him to tweet a long mea culpa: