Arms or aid? Ukrainian officials announced today they will not allow a Russian convoy of aid to cross the border into the country’s conflict-plagued eastern region. International leaders, including President Barack Obama, said they feared the convoy could be a front for Russia to sneak troops into Ukraine, where it has backed pro-Russian separatists locked in a battle with Ukrainian forces. A video taken surreptitiously shows trucks similar to those allegedly loaded with humanitarian aid parked at a Russian military base. Reports on Russian media claim the 280 trucks are carrying 2,000 tons of aid, including sleeping bags and baby food. But a spokesman for the Red Cross in Kiev said he could not confirm the trucks’ content.
No troops, no way. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the Obama administration’s determination not to send ground troops into Iraq, despite the ISIS threat knocking on Baghdad’s door. “This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq because if you do not have government that is inclusive and that works nothing else will work, plain and simple,” said Kerry, who is traveling in Australia. An Australian minister said he expected the United States to continue airstrikes against the Islamic militants, which have helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces regain a military advantage. Obama called to congratulate the new Iraqi prime minister, though it is not clear yet whether current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will step down or try to cling to power. Both Kerry and Obama have urged Iraqi lawmakers to form a government that all of their constituents can support.
Friendly fire. A woman who was shot after she was taken hostage by bank robbers fleeing from police in Stockton, Calif., died at the hands of her would-be rescuers. The Stockton police announced yesterday that all 10 bullets that hit Misty Holt-Singh, 41, were fired by officers, likely in one final burst of gunfire during the July 16 incident. The three robbers were armed with three handguns and an AK-47. As they fled the bank in an SUV belonging to a bank employee, they fired at officers, who believed they might try to take more hostages at another business or possibly a nearby school. Two of the robbers also died in the shootout. The lone survivor, 19-year-old Jaime Ramos, has been charged with murder.
Government attack ad. Elton John, the flamboyant British pop icon and gay rights advocate, appears in a new Voice of America video about AIDS in Africa. In it, he blames American evangelical missionaries who “targeted Africa for 30 years.” The video implies that a stigma against the disease is responsible for its spread, rather than risky sexual activity. Voice of America is funded by the U.S. government.
May I help you? Guests at Starwood Hotel’s Aloft properties may soon feel like they’ve awakened in an episode of The Jetsons. The national hotel chain is rolling out a robotic butler—Botlr—named A.L.O. (pronounced “el-oh”) to handle small requests. Guests who call down to the front desk for an extra tube of toothpaste or more towels will get the items from A.L.O., which will be able to navigate hallways and even ride the elevator. Company executives insist the Botlr rollout is not an attempt to replace staff. The robot’s job is to free the humans up to interact with other humans, a novel idea. A.L.O. will make its first appearance in Cupertino, Calif., of course.