DAMASCUS, Syria – The U.N. on Tuesday confirmed an outbreak of polio in Syria, the first in over a decade, warning that the disease threatens to spread among an estimated half-million children who have never been immunized because of the civil war.
The grim finding added another layer of misery to a brutal conflict that has already killed more than 100,000 people and uprooted millions. The aid group Save the Children urged a vaccination cease-fire to try to prevent an epidemic of the highly contagious disease.
Meanwhile, hopes for a negotiated settlement to the three-year conflict appeared ever more distant as Syrian President Bashar Assad fired a deputy prime minister for meeting Western officials to discuss the possibility of holding a peace conference – the latest blow to diplomatic efforts to bring the countrys warring parties to the negotiating table.
At least 10 cases of polio among babies and toddlers were confirmed in northeast Syria, the World Health Organization said – the first outbreak of the crippling disease in 14 years. Nearly all Syrian children were vaccinated against polio before the civil war began.
Also Tuesday, nearly 2,000 Syrians fled the war-ravaged Damascus district of Moadamiyeh with the help of aid workers during a temporary cease-fire, a result of a rare agreement between government forces and rebels to avert a humanitarian crisis.
26 more prisoners freed by Israel
Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners early today, the second of four batches to be released as part of a deal that set in motion the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The decision to release the 26 has triggered anguish and anger in Israel, but jubilant celebrations kicked off in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The release was part of an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that brought Israel and the Palestinians back to the table for peace talks. In all, 104 convicts are to be released in four batches over the coming months.
$50 million stolen from Libyan bank
Gunmen ambushed a Libyan bank van and made away with over $50 million on a highway east of Tripoli, officials said Tuesday. The brazen heist underscores the weakness of the central government in the North African country, where authorities are struggling to control unruly militias.
A security official told the Associated Press that the Central Bank van had no guards accompanying it when was ambushed near the city of Sirte late Monday.
Arrest made after 5 killed in Texas
Fear and confusion gripped a rural North Texas community for several hours until an early-morning arrest Tuesday, as investigators sought desperately to stop a series of shooting and arson attacks that left five people dead, including the suspects mother.
Charles Everett Brownlow Jr. was arrested at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday after running into the woods following a high-speed chase, authorities said.
Brownlow, 36, was being held on one preliminary count each of capital murder and evading arrest, although additional charges were expected.
Terrell, Texas, police Chief Jody Lay declined to discuss a possible motive. According to Lay, victims included Brownlows mother, Mary Brownlow, 61; and his aunt, Belinda Walker, 55; and three others.
Couple sentenced in abuse death
A Washington couple accused of starving, beating and forcing their adopted daughter outside as punishment were sentenced Tuesday to decades in prison for her death. Larry Williams was sentenced to nearly 28 years and Carri Williams was handed a 37-year sentence. They were convicted Sept. 9 of manslaughter in the death of a teenage girl they adopted.
Hana Williams was found dead May 12, 2011, in the backyard of the family home. The autopsy said she died of hypothermia, with malnutrition and a stomach condition as contributing factors.
Senate confirms Obama’s NLRB pick
The Senate approved President Barack Obamas pick for a top post at the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday. In the key roll call, senators voted 62-37 to end Republican delaying tactics against Richard Griffin, whom Obama nominated to be NLRB general counsel. Senators then confirmed the appointment on a near-party line 55-44 tally.
O’Connor performs same-sex marriage
Retired Justice Sandra Day OConnor has officiated at the wedding of a gay couple at the Supreme Court, at least the second such ceremony at the court since its June decision that expanded federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg says OConnor presided over the private ceremony Tuesday in the courts lawyers lounge for Jeffrey Trammell and Stuart Serkin of Washington, D.C.
Yale lands medieval book collection
Yale University has received what it calls the largest and most comprehensive privately owned collection of Middle English texts, including among the last three privately held copies of Chaucers The Canterbury Tales.
Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya gave his collection to Yale on long-term loan to allow researchers and students to study it.