DAMASCUS, Syria – A Syrian government minister said Sunday that foreign fighters who have come to the country to wage jihad are responsible for the outbreak of polio in the rebel-controlled north.
Last week, the United Nations health agency confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the disease in the country in 14 years, raising a risk of it spreading across the region. The confirmed cases are among babies and toddlers, all under 2, who were “under-immunized,” according to the World Health Organization. The agency is awaiting lab results on another 12 cases showing polio symptoms.
Mayor sorry for ‘a lot of stupid things’
TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologized Sunday for “a lot of stupid things” and acknowledged the need to curb his drinking, but he didn’t address allegations of drug use and said he will continue to lead Canada’s largest city despite pressure to resign.
“I’m going to weather this storm,” he said.
Ford made his remarks on his local weekly radio show three days after police said they had obtained a copy of a video that appears to show the mayor puffing on a crack cocaine pipe.
The video was recovered from a computer hard drive during an investigation of an associate of Ford’s who is suspected of providing him drugs. Police have said they don’t have grounds to charge the mayor with any crime.
Ford didn’t address the contents of the video Sunday, saying he cannot comment on a tape he hasn’t seen. “Whatever this video shows, Toronto residents deserve to see it and people need to judge for themselves what they see on this video,” he said.
Police said the video will come out when Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug and extortion charges. Lisi is accused of threatening two alleged gang members who had been trying to sell the video to the media.
Police have said they want to talk to Ford, but his lawyer so far has declined.
Ford on Sunday acknowledged making “mistakes” but declined to take a leave of absence or resign.
“I sincerely apologize, there’s absolutely no excuse, no one to blame but myself,” he said. “I am going to fight like no one has seen before to win the next election” in October 2014.
Later, he told Toronto radio station AM640 in an interview that “I am not a crack addict. I’m not an addict of any type of drug, even alcohol.”
Germany defuses large WWII-era bomb
BERLIN – German authorities safely defused a huge bomb left over from World War II after evacuating large parts of the western city of Dortmund on Sunday.
About 20,000 people were taken to safety before explosives experts moved in to defuse the unexploded 4,000-pound bomb discovered by analyzing old aerial photographs.
The bomb was dropped by Allied aircraft over the Ruhr region, a key industrial center for the Nazi war machine.
While unexploded World War II-era bombs are regularly discovered in Germany, they are rarely as big as this one.
Swedish climber falls to his death
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A Swedish man who was climbing and skiing on New Zealand’s tallest mountain has fallen to his death.
Police said 32-year-old Magnus Kastengren fell about 2,000 feet Sunday while he and climbing partner Andreas Fransson were ski traversing near the lower summit of Mount Cook.
The mountain is also known by its indigenous Maori name, Aoraki.
Fransson was not injured and has now left the country bound for Sweden, police said.
The pair were experienced climbers and conditions were good at the time of the accident, police said. However, the area is not recognized as being suitable for skiing and what the men were attempting is considered by experts to be extreme.
Church van crash kills driver, hurts 11
INDIANAPOLIS – One person has been killed and several others injured after a crash involving a church van filled with passengers, police and fire officials said.
The driver of the van was pronounced dead at the scene Sunday night, police Lt. Christopher Bailey said.
Bailey said 11 passengers sustained minor injuries requiring hospital treatment. A 7-year-old girl was transported in serious condition, but her injuries do not appear life-threatening, he said.
The van carrying 18 people was heading back to the Jesus House of Prayer Temple shortly before 8 p.m. when it traveled westbound through a green light at an intersection, Bailey said. He said a northbound car did not stop and hit the van.
The car driver fled on foot, according to police, but was caught a few blocks away.
Alligator found under escalator at airport
CHICAGO – A small alligator found under an escalator at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has left authorities puzzled.
A maintenance worker discovered the alligator, which is about a foot long, on Friday in Terminal 3, Chicago police spokesman Jose Estrada said Sunday.
An officer captured the reptile by putting a trash can over it.
“We don’t know where it came from or how long it’d been residing in the airport facilities,” Estrada said. “It’s one of those random incidents.”
The gator is now being cared for by the Chicago Herpetological Society.