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Sunday, June 22, 2014,AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Posted: Jun 22, 2014 4:00 AM

Updated: Jun 22, 2014 4:00 AM

Iraq militants capture another town in Anbar province, fourth since Friday

BAGHDAD (AP) Sunni militants have seized another town in Iraq's western Anbar province, the fourth to fall in two days, officials said Sunday, in what is shaping up to be a major offensive in one of Iraq's most restive regions.

The officials said the militants captured Rutba, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) east of the Jordanian border, late Saturday. Residents were on Sunday negotiating with the militants to leave after an army unit on the town's outskirts threatened to start shelling.

The latest advance has dealt another blow to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting for his political life even as forces beyond his control are pushing the country toward a sectarian showdown.

In a reflection of the bitter divide, thousands of heavily armed Shiite militiamen eager to take on the Sunni insurgents marched through Iraqi cities in military-style parades Saturday on streets where many of them battled U.S. forces a half decade ago.

The towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba are the first seized in predominantly Sunni Anbar province since fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overran the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi earlier this year.

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John Kerry in Cairo for highest-level US meeting with new Egyptian president since election

CAIRO (AP) The United States, seizing on Egypt's weak economy and shaky security, is seeking to convince its new president to embrace more moderate policies to achieve stability and deliver more American aid.

In the few weeks since President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi officially took office, U.S. officials say they have seen some small encouraging signs that he is prepared to protect his people's rights, including issuing severe penalties for sexual assault against women and freeing a jailed journalist.

But Washington remains concerned about the Egyptian government's widespread crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, which el-Sissi ousted from power last July in a coup when he was serving as the nation's army chief.

The Brotherhood, an Islamist political organization, has responded with protests that have turned into violent clashes between demonstrators and government security forces. Egypt is also facing a growing jihadi threat in the Sinai Peninsula, where militants are thriving on a flood of heavy weapons that are easily smuggled in from Libya.

Taken together, the security problems have contributed to a severe slowing of Egypt's tourism industry that began in early 2011 when the country went through its second political revolution in as many years.

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Military authorities have surrounded South Korean soldier who killed 5 comrades

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korean military authorities have surrounded a soldier who fled his border outpost after killing five comrades the day before and were trying to persuade him to surrender, a defense official said Sunday.

One platoon leader was wounded when the runaway soldier, identified only by his surname Yim, fired on the military personnel closing in on him, according to a defense ministry official who asked not to be named, citing department rules. It wasn't clear how officers were communicating with Yim.

Yim had opened fire Saturday night with his standard issue K2 assault rifle at an outpost near the North Korean border in Gangwon province, east of Seoul, killing five fellow soldiers and wounding seven others.

Villagers in a nearby area have been warned not to leave their houses. The village head, Jang Seok-kwon, told YTN news channel that he heard guns fire about 10 times.

Yim, who was scheduled to be discharged from the military in September, fled with his weapon, but it wasn't clear how much live ammunition he had.

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Putin backs Ukraine cease-fire, warns it will fail without peace talks; rebels call truce fake

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support Saturday for Ukraine's unilateral cease-fire in its battle against pro-Russian separatists and appealed to both sides to halt all military operations.

But he warned that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's blueprint for peace would not be viable without action to start peace negotiations.

The qualified Russian backing for Poroshenko's effort to halt the conflict was another in a series of shifting Kremlin moves and statements that leave unclear the level of Moscow's commitment to de-escalating the conflict.

Putin's conciliatory words came on the same day he ordered large-scale military exercises that NATO criticized as likely to raise tensions. U.S. officials also accused Russian troops of moving back into positions near the border with Ukraine's troubled east.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin "calls on the opposing sides to halt any military activities and sit down at the negotiating table."

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Jindal says a rebellion is brewing with people ready for 'a hostile takeover' of Washington

WASHINGTON (AP) Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Saturday night accused President Barack Obama and other Democrats of waging wars against religious liberty and education and said that a rebellion is brewing in the U.S. with people ready for "a hostile takeover" of the nation's capital.

Jindal spoke at the annual conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group led by longtime Christian activist Ralph Reed. Organizers said more than 1,000 evangelical leaders attended the three-day gathering. Republican officials across the political spectrum concede that evangelical voters continue to play a critical role in GOP politics.

"I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States," Jindal said, "where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."

The governor said there was a "silent war" on religious liberty being fought in the U.S. a country that he said was built on that liberty.

"I am tired of the left. They say they're for tolerance, they say they respect diversity. The reality is this: They respect everybody unless you happen to disagree with them," he said. "The left is trying to silence us and I'm tired of it, I won't take it anymore."

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Body found on Mt. Rainier; search for missing outdoors writer suspended

MOUNT RAINIER NATIONAL PARK, Wash. (AP) The Mount Rainier search for missing outdoors writer Karen Sykes has been suspended with the recovery of the body of a "deceased female" in the area where teams have been focusing their efforts.

The body, recovered about 3 p.m. Saturday, wasn't immediately identified.

Mount Rainier National Park spokeswoman Patti Wold said that the remains were found off the trail near Boundary Creek in rough, steep terrain an area difficult to access and not commonly traveled.

There was no immediate word on the cause of death, and Wold said the medical examiner would determine the person's identity.

Park officials had announced earlier in the day that the search had been suspended, but they did not elaborate at that time.

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In the land of Westeros: 'Game of Thrones' production helps Northern Ireland's economy, image

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) Giants, dragons and vengeful queens have for generations populated Northern Ireland's folk tales. Now, such creatures are visiting the land in a different version on the sets for the hit TV show "Game of Thrones." But rather than spells and destruction, they're bringing an economic boost to this British province still healing from its past of political violence.

Fans of the HBO fantasy drama would recognize here the landscapes from the fictional land of Westeros the castle of Winterfell, the seaside cliffs of the Iron Isles and the King's Road leading to the north. About 75 percent of the show is filmed in Northern Ireland, both in natural settings and in the Titanic Studios in Belfast.

Since the pilot episode began filming in 2009, attracted by the local government's financial incentives, the show's presence has helped foster a film industry that is catching the eye of other Hollywood productions. And Northern Ireland is taking advantage of the attention by promoting the filming locations as tourist destinations.

The latest and perhaps most illustrious visitor is Queen Elizabeth II, who will tour the studio sets on Monday. But thousands have already been visiting from across the globe.

Cara and Tom Collins from Springdale, Arkansas, were in Ballintoy Harbour recently to see the rocky coastal setting used in the show for the 'Iron Isles,' a kingdom of rugged sailors.

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What is a racial slur? Redskins case forcing America to answer the question

Something is happening just beneath the fight over the name of a certain Washington, D.C., pro football team: America is working through the process of determining what is or is not racially offensive.

What is a slur, and who gets to decide? How many people must be offended to tip the scales? Why should some be forced to sacrifice their traditions out of respect for others?

We are a long way from consensus on these questions, judging by the response to a federal ruling that the "Redskins" team name is disparaging and its trademarks should be canceled.

The team is appealing the decision, and even if it loses its trademark, it can still use the name. But this latest development highlights the limitations of how America wrestles with certain racial statements, and our struggle to balance free speech and social good.

A rapidly diversifying nation has more need than ever to figure out what is racially offensive.

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Crossing his 'T's': Obama quietly extends administration's advocacy to transgender rights

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) President Barack Obama, who established his bona fides as a gay and lesbian rights champion when he endorsed same-sex marriage, has steadily extended his administration's advocacy to the smallest and least accepted band of the LGBT rainbow: transgender Americans.

With little of the fanfare or criticism that marked his evolution into the leader Newsweek nicknamed "the first gay president," Obama became the first chief executive to say "transgender" in a speech, to name transgender political appointees and to prohibit job bias against transgender government workers. Also in his first term, he signed hate crime legislation that became the first federal civil rights protections for transgender people in U.S. history.

Since then, the administration has quietly applied the power of the executive branch to make it easier for transgender people to update their passports, obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, get treatment at Veteran's Administration facilities and seek access to public school restrooms and sports programs just a few of the transgender-specific policy shifts of Obama's presidency.

"He has been the best president for transgender rights, and nobody else is in second place," Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said of Obama, who is the only president to invite transgender children to participate in the annual Easter egg roll at the White House.

Religious conservative groups quick to criticize the president for his gay rights advocacy have been much slower to respond to the administration's actions. The leader of the Traditional Values Coalition says there is little recourse because the changes come through executive orders and federal agencies rather than Congress.

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Rousseff's pledge of Brazil 'World Cup without racism' puts more focus on old, hidden problem

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Former Brazilian national midfielder Arouca, playing for Pele's old club Santos, was doing a sideline TV interview a few months ago when opposing fans began to chant "monkey, monkey, monkey."

Those taunting hit him with another jab: Go to Africa and find a team. Get out of here.

President Dilma Rousseff, who has pledged a "World Cup without racism," tweeted quickly: "It is unacceptable that Brazil, the country with the largest black population after Nigeria, has racism issues."

It does, and Brazilians are slowly waking up to it.

Still, they are more accustomed to saying this is a country free of prejudice, and the subject is rarely discussed openly and seldom makes the news. Many hold to the myth of a "racial democracy" because the country never had laws separating the races.

Topics: World Briefly

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