Flight 17
July 21, 2014
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President Obama on Monday said international investigators must be granted "immediate and full access" to the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed, and he questioned why the pro-Russian separatists controlling the area are reportedly removing key evidence.

"All of which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?" he said.

Rebels over the weekend reportedly seized at gunpoint the bodies of some 200 crash victims and loaded them on to train cars. The separatists also recovered the plane's black boxes, though they promised to turn them over to investigators.

Speaking from the White House, Obama also called on Russia to prod the rebels into working with the international community, saying Moscow and President Vladimir Putin in particular had a "direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate." Then pivoting to the broader conflict in eastern Ukraine, Obama warned Russia that it would face more consequences should it continue to aid the rebels with training and equipment. However, he declined to say what those consequences could be, saying only that "costs will increase."

Ukraine Crisis
7:03 a.m. ET
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On Monday, the United Nations released its latest report on the war in Ukraine, putting the number of dead at above 6,000 and the number of wounded at nearly 15,000. The conflict had died down a bit in December, but an influx of military support from Russia had led to an escalation in fighting, dampening prospects for a peaceful resolution, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Ivan Simonovic said in Geneva.

"Credible reports indicate a continuing influx of heavy and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as foreign fighters, including from the Russian Federation," said the U.N. in its ninth report on the Ukraine conflict, focusing on the period from December through mid-February. "This has fueled the escalation of the conflict and new offensives by armed groups, undermining the potential for peace as armed groups extend their areas of control." The big losers have been Kiev and civilians. You can read the entire report at the U.N.'s website.

israel
4:24 a.m. ET
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The growing fissure between Israel and the U.S. is apparently personal, not business. A day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a divisive speech before Congress about the purported dangers of President Obama's prospective nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary or State John Kerry is going to chide the United Nations Human Rights Commission over what the U.S. sees as an unfair bias against Israel. Kerry's "vigorous defense of Israel," The Associated Press reports, will include a demand for "a more balanced approach."

Jonathan Alter at The Daily Beast argues that despite mutual personal antipathy, Obama "has provided more support for Israel (including critical spare parts for the Iron Dome missile defense system that protected the country from Hamas rockets) than any president since Nixon." In 2013, for example — a year after Netanyahu all-but-endorsed Obama's GOP presidential rival, Mitt Romney — "Obama allowed Israel to become the first country other than the U.S. to operate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most advanced military aircraft in the world." That's something to think about on Tuesday.

your health
4:11 a.m. ET
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Researchers at the Albany Medical Center believe they may have found something to help people who suffer from excruciating migraines.

"Migraine headaches are one of the most common, debilitating diseases in the United States, and the cost and side effects of medicine to address migraines can be overwhelming," Dr. Kenneth Mandato, the study's lead researcher and an interventional radiologist at Albany Medical Center, said in a statement. For the treatment, clinicians put a catheter through the patient's nasal passages and administer lidocaine to the sphenopalatine ganglion, the nerve bundle behind the nose that is tied to migraines.

"Administration of lidocaine to the sphenopalatine ganglion acts as a 'reset button' for the brain's migraine circuitry," Mandato said. "When the initial numbing of the lidocaine wears off, the migraine trigger seems to no longer have the maximum effect that it once did." Following the procedure, researchers found that 88 percent of patients said they needed less or no additional medication for ongoing relief.

Foreign affairs
3:19 a.m. ET

One of five recipients of Saudi Arabia's prestigious King Faisal international prize once called the 9/11 attacks an "inside job" perpetuated by then-president George W. Bush.

Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India and founder of Peace TV, received the award in Riyhad on Sunday for his "service to Islam." The television preacher has an English language audience of more than 100 million, and he is considered to be "one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam," The Guardian reports.

He's also known for comments he made in July 2008, when he suggested on air that al Qaeda did not fly airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. "Even a fool will know that this was an inside job," he said, before claiming that Bush was behind the attacks. In 2010, he was reportedly barred from entering Britain for "numerous comments" that showed his "unacceptable behavior."

Taking the plunge
2:54 a.m. ET

Forget that ice-bucket challenge (if you haven't already): If you really care about supporting a good cause, you'll apparently gracefully flop backward into the 33-degree waters of Lake Michigan. On Sunday, actor Vince Vaughn kicked off Chicago's 15th annual Polar Plunge, wading into the machine-carved hole in the frozen lake with bagpipes blaring. He wasn't the only one to take the plunge: Among the 4,500 brave souls were Lady Gaga and her fiancé, actor Taylor Kinney, and mayoral hopeful Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. This year's event raised $1.1 million for Special Olympics Chicago. Watch Vaughn go "Vinny-dipping" below —Peter Weber

This just in
2:32 a.m. ET

A large-scale military operation by Iraqi government forces to take back Tikrit from ISIS is underway, Iraqi state television reports.

The forces are backed by allied Shiite and Sunni fighters and artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets, The Associated Press reports. Some militants are said to have been forced out of areas near Tikrit, which is 80 miles north of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Tikrit fell to ISIS last summer, and before the operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Sunni fighters that if they left the militant orgnanization, they would be pardoned.

Noted
2:13 a.m. ET

Early Monday, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, 35, declared victory for his pro-Western Reform Party in Sunday's elections. With all votes counted, the Reform Party got 28 percent of the vote and 30 seats, beating the ethnic-Russian-favored opposition Center Party by five seats. In all, though, the ruling center-right coalition lost seven seats, giving it a 45-seat plurality in the 101-seat legislature.

A quarter of Estonia's population is ethnic Russian, and security concerns about an expansionist Moscow loomed large in the election. But all major political parties favor increased defense spending and continued membership in NATO. The main economic issue, The Associated Press reports, concerned whether to transform Estonia's 20 percent flat tax to a progressive tax, an idea opposed by the Reform Party and favored by the Center Party and the Social Democrats, a minority party in the governing coalition.

you go girl
1:22 a.m. ET

Meet the Kristy Thomas of her generation: 15-year-old Noa Mintz has started her own babysitting agency that brings in an estimated $300,000 a year.

The New Yorker has three younger siblings, and came up with the idea to launch her own company after seeing how difficult it was for her parents to find the right sitter for their family. Nannies by Noa started with Mintz matching babysitters she found with the friends of her parents, charging $100 to $200 for each pairing. Today, she has 25 full-time nannies and 50 babysitters, and charges a standard 15 percent of their initial gross salary, which People says can range from $50,000 to $80,000.

It's not surprising to Mintz's mother, Meredith Berkman, that her daughter has become successful at a young age. Berkman told the New York Post her daughter "was always trying to start these mini-companies," although this time it's "not a hobby for her. This isn't a lemonade stand." Noa's Nannies hired its first CEO in July, 26-year-old Allison Johnson, who said while it is a bit surreal to take orders from a high schooler, "I really support women who do things for themselves and get their visions out there."

LLAP
1:12 a.m. ET

Leonard Nimoy originally got the idea for the V-shaped Vulcan hand greeting during a chanting ceremony in a synagogue when he was younger, he told the Yiddish Book Center Wexler Oral History Project, in this video posted by The New York Times. During a "chilling" call-and-response, Nimoy peeked at the chanters, "and I saw them with their hand sticking out of their tallit like this," he said, holding his hands up in the now-famous Vulcan gesture.

Nimoy said he remembered that gesture when he was set to meet his first fellow Vulcans on the TV show Star Trek, and he pitched it to the director as a greeting between Vulcans. "Boy, that just took off through the culture — it was amazing," Nimoy told the interviewer. "Within days after it aired, I was getting it on the street." Fans continued greeting him with the V gesture up until his death, but "people don't realize they're blessing each other with this," Nimoy added, laughing. Presumably, "live long and prosper" came from a scriptwriter. —Peter Weber

shootings
12:34 a.m. ET

Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a homeless man in the skid row area of downtown, and a video of the incident has been shared on Facebook.

The video shows several officers in an altercation with a man on a sidewalk Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reports. One drops his nightstick, and a woman who picks it up is quickly handcuffed. The Times says it sounds like one officer says, "Drop the gun. Drop the gun." At least one officer then opens fire, and five gunshots are heard. Police spokesman Sgt. Barry Montgomery said the officers responded to a robbery call, and at one point a Taser was deployed. The man, who has not been identified, was declared dead at a hospital.

Witnesses gave conflicting accounts about what happened: One told the Times the man was on the sidewalk and when he got up the officers "went straight to lethal force," while another said he would not come out of his tent and then fought after being tackled. One woman said the man moved to skid row a few months ago and told her he had been released from a mental facility after being there for a decade.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff saw the video for the first time on social media, and told the Times the LAPD's independent inspector general and the district attorney's office would be investigating the shooting "very, very carefully."

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