Bad timing. Just as Russian President Vladimir Putin was sitting down with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to talk about ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine, government forces announced they captured a group of Russian paratroopers fighting alongside pro-Russian separatist rebels. Russia claims the highly trained soldiers strayed across the border by accident during a routine patrol. Ukrainian officials scoffed at the excuse and posted videos of the captured soldiers saying they were sent in as “cannon fodder” in a conflict they wanted nothing to do with. A man who gave his name as Sgt. Aleksei Generalov, said: “Stop sending in our boys. Why? This is not our war. And if we weren’t here, none of this would have happened. They would have sorted things out with the government themselves.”
A victory for peace? Fighting in Gaza may really be over, at least for longer than just a few days. A Hamas official announced today the terror group has reached an agreement with Israel for a long-term ceasefire. The Palestinian fighters claim the agreement calls for easing the Israeli blockade on Gaza, put in place to restrict the terrorists’ access to weapons and materials that could be used to manufacture and fire rockets. More than 2,000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis have died since the fighting began July 8.
Oral arguments. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing two same-sex marriage cases this morning. Attorneys general from Indiana and Wisconsin are arguing to have their voter-approved traditional marriage laws upheld. Lower court judges in both states declared the laws unconstitutional earlier this year. The 7th Circuit issued an emergency stay in Indiana after a district judge allowed marriages there to go forward despite Supreme Court precedent forbidding clerks from issuing marriage licenses until the legal challenges play out.
Costly quake. The U.S. Geological System estimates the cost of damage from Sunday’s 6.0-magnitude earthquake in California’s Napa Valley could top $1 billion. The devastation is prompting renewed calls for an early warning system, although it’s not clear how that would have helped save historic buildings and thousands of barrels of wine destroyed by the temblor. Similar systems already are in use in Mexico and Japan and are mainly designed to give people enough time to take cover from falling debris or get out of buildings that might collapse. Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the Office of Emergency Services to develop such a system and identify potential funding sources by 2016. A statewide system could cost as much as $80 million.
A fight over inches. A fight over legroom between two passengers on a United Airlines flight forced the plane to land early and required police intervention. The tussle started after a male passenger used a Knee Defender, a device that attaches to the tray table and prevents the seat from reclining. He refused to remove it when asked by the flight attendant, so the woman sitting in front of him stood up and threw her cup of water at him. The pilot diverted the flight, en route to Denver from Newark, to Chicago and kicked the two off the plane. Transportation Security Administration officials declined to name the man and woman, both 48. After talking to them, TSA agents deemed the issue a customer service problem. No one was arrested.