Good morning, and TGIF! Here are some of the stories we're following today:
1. Weather ‘most probable’ cause of Air Algerie crash
There were no survivors after Flight AH5017 crashed in Mali about 50 minutes after departing Burkina Faso, officials said. The pilot reportedly asked permission to change routes to avoid a severe storm in the region. Despite militant violence in Mali, the Swiftair jet appeared to have broken apart upon hitting the ground, suggesting it wasn’t shot down. Read more in NEWS.
2. Putin accused of escalating violence in Ukraine
Instead of trying to calm the fighting in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is only fanning the rhetoric and “may actually light a fire,” the U.S. military’s top commander, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Thursday. Tensions have also been heightened by the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner in the rebel-held Donetsk region. The U.S. has said there is evidence that the jet with 298 aboard was hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by the pro-Russian separatists battling Ukraine's government. Read more in NEWS.
3. Friendly skies are also still safe, airline industry says
With the Air Algerie crash being the third deadly commercial jet accident over the past eight days, travelers have every reason to feel anxious about flying. But industry leaders are adamant that air travel remains one of the safest ways to get around. Despite 2014’s high casualty totals, there isn’t a pattern in the recent incidents that shows a common safety issue for travelers to worry about, said Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network. “Especially the last couple of years, both in terms of the number of accidents and the number of fatalities, were among the safest in airline history,” he said. Read more in BUSINESS.
4. Palestinians plan to step up protests amid truce talks
Israeli military forces are bracing for large protests by Palestinians angered over the ongoing airstrikes in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority gave permission for demonstrations after Friday prayers as a sign of solidarity. Violence flared overnight as Israeli soldiers in Gaza shot a Palestinian protester and wounded about 200 in the West Bank. On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the shelling of a U.N.-run school in the Gaza Strip that killed 15 civilians. Could a truce be in the works? The Israeli Security Cabinet is expected to meet Friday to talk about international cease-fire efforts, which the U.S. has been pushing for since Secretary of State John Kerry began touring the region Monday. Read more in NEWS.
5. ISIS may be forcing females to undergo genital mutilation
The United Nations said Thursday that the Sunni militants who’ve overrun part of Iraq appear to be ordering all girls and women in Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, to undergo genital mutilation. Such a “fatwa” issued by ISIS would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, said the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. But it remained unclear whether the militants would actually force females to undergo the practice, which is condemned as a human rights abuse. Read more in NEWS.
Meanwhile, new reports say ISIS militants blew up a revered mosque in Mosul said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale in a biblical story:
6. Border immigration prompts revival of detention program
Detention centers once criticized for prison-like conditions are being reopened to accommodate the flood of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico. Families apprehended are increasingly being treated like single adult immigrants — locked up in secure facilities to await what is intended to be expedited deportation back to their home countries. The U.S. has tried large-scale family detention before. That operation sparked a lawsuit after it was discovered that children and their parents were being held in a former prison for long periods in punitive conditions. Read more in INVESTIGATIONS.
7. Dwindling groundwater could lead to crisis in Southwest
A major drought affecting states including California, Arizona and Oklahoma could have a devastating effect on lost crops and jobs. A new UC Irvine study shows that groundwater in the Colorado River basin has dropped by 40 million acre-feet over the past five years — the equivalent of two of the nation’s largest reservoirs. The ongoing lack of the natural resource means that groundwater storage could be “entirely depleted.” Read more in NEWS.
… What’s trending today?
The ‘creepy doll’ mystery has been solved.
Someone had been leaving porcelain dolls on the doorsteps of homes in San Clemente, California, with some of the figures resembling neighborhood children. That “disturbed” families in the area wondering if there was a more significant — even sinister — message being sent.
That got Orange County deputies on the case, and they discovered what exactly was the intention of the mysterious gift giver.