Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.
Iraq troops push on to Tikrit in battle against IS as militants 'bulldoze' archaeological site
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi forces pressed their offensive against the Islamic State group Friday, expecting to reach the outskirts of the militant-held city of Tikrit within hours, a day after the extremists reportedly "bulldozed" a famed archaeological site in the area.
The battle to wrest Tikrit — Saddam Hussein's hometown — from the Islamic State is a major test for the Iraqi forces and allied Shiite militias fighting on heir side.
The governor of Salahuddin, Raed al-Jabouri, said that Iraqi forces expect to reach Tikrit later Friday. He told The Associated Press they still have not made it to Tikrit's east airport as some reports have suggested.
Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, has been under the control of the Islamic State group since June, when the Sunni militants made a lightning advance across northern Iraq, prompting Iraqi troops to flee and abandon their weapons.
On Monday, Iraqi security forces launched a large-scale operation in an effort to retake the city from the militant group, but the offensive was stalled somewhat, with military officials saying the militants strategically lined roads leading to the city with explosives and land mines.
Harrison Ford survives crash-landing of vintage plane; a record of real-life adventure
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When a man battles Darth Vader, Nazis and other evil-doers for work, what does he do for fun? Harrison Ford's answer is found in a pilot's license and the freedom to take to the skies at will.
But with adventure comes risk, just as Han Solo, Indiana Jones and other daring movie characters brought to life by Ford realized. On Thursday, one of Hollywood's preeminent stars added a plane crash to an aviation record that includes both mishaps and public service.
Ford, 72, who as dashing archaeologist Jones battled Hitler's henchmen in the World War II-set "Raiders of the Lost Ark," was flying a vintage plane of that era when it lost engine power shortly after takeoff from Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
The plane crash-landed on a golf course near the airport where Ford houses the craft.
He was pulled from the plane and given initial help by doctors who happened to be playing golf on the course that is right next to Santa Monica Municipal Airport, Los Angeles fire officials said. He was then taken by ambulance to a hospital in a condition described as fair-to-moderate.
Harrison Ford is a daredevil on screen, in life: vintage plane crash latest example
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Harrison Ford is as much the daredevil in real life as Han Solo, Indiana Jones or the other larger-than-life characters that he has played on the screen.
While his fictional adventures in "Star Wars" and as bold archaeologist Jones have thrilled audiences, the star has run into real-life danger — and sometimes pain — while indulging in his love of aviation, fast driving and the unpredictability of filmmaking.
On Thursday, the actor's vintage plane crash-landed on a golf course in Los Angeles shortly after taking off from a nearby airport. Ford, 72, who had reported engine failure to air-traffic controllers, was taken to the hospital with injuries that his spokeswoman said were not life-threatening.
Beyond joy-riding in the skies, Ford also employs his skills as a pilot, acquired in his mid-50s, to help in search-and-rescue efforts.
What it means that Hillary Clinton ran a 'homebrew' email server: Genius as well as sneaky?
WASHINGTON (AP) — No, it's not always a room filled with wires and glowing blue lights. It's probably not even the size of your furnace. The personal email server used by Hillary Rodham Clinton during her time as secretary of state was probably about the size of your office desktop computer and could have been tucked quietly in a corner somewhere.
She's come a long way since 1997, when Clinton's staff bought the then-first lady a copy of the book "E-Mail for Dummies."
Setting up your own email server is something only the geekiest of tech geeks do because of the serious hassles involved, including spending every waking hour fending off spam. Like brewing your own beer, it's typically done just for fun — a way to challenge your smarts and fill the time. It also appeals to those who fear the government is sniffing around and could compel companies like Google or Yahoo to release customer data.
"It's not trivial to do it, but if you understand how all this works, you can certainly do it yourself," said Carole Fennelly, a New York City-area information security consultant who once operated her own mail server and has set them up for clients.
Setting up your own email server might only cost a few hundred dollars. A common and inexpensive solution might be to take an old computer running Windows; replace the guts of the machine with a free Linux operating system like Ubuntu; and install mail server software that lets you send and receive emails without the help of companies like Google or Yahoo.
Suspected Palestinian motorist rams car into people near Jerusalem police station, injures 5
JERUSALEM (AP) — A suspected Palestinian motorist rammed his car into a group of people near an Israeli police station in east Jerusalem on Friday, injuring five before being shot and wounded by guards, the police said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri described the assault as a "terror attack."
The attacker plowed onto the curb next to the police station in east Jerusalem, running over five people, including four officers, Samri said. The guards fired at the vehicle from the entrance to the station, she added.
The motorist then got out of the car, apparently holding a knife, and the guards shot and seriously wounded him, she said. The injured and the motorist were taken to hospital.
Police were still trying to identify the attacker. Samri said initial reports suggested he is a Palestinian from east Jerusalem and the car he was driving was registered as belonging to a Palestinian from east Jerusalem.
Landing mishap at NYC airport during snowstorm raises questions on runway closures
NEW YORK (AP) — The rough landing of a Delta jetliner at LaGuardia Airport in a driving snowstorm just minutes after the runway had been plowed has raised questions about when airports should close runways due to snow or ice.
Six people were hurt when the plane skidded off a runaway midday Thursday and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest just feet from the roiling waters of an icy bay.
There's no rule about how much snow or ice leads to a runway closing. Instead, the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to measure runways during winter storms to assure planes can safely brake: A specially equipped vehicle races down the runway with a computer checking braking action, and if the runway fails the test it must be closed.
The runway had been plowed minutes before, and two other pilots had reported good braking conditions, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. It appeared the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft, he said.
"The plane did not make contact with the water," Foye said. "Happily, that was not a risk today."
Skiing, snow-mobile riding Russian priest who adores penguins feels close to God in Antarctica
KING GEORGE ISLAND, Antarctica (AP) — Sophrony Kirilov pulls hard on the strings of the heavy Russian bells from inside the world's southernmost Eastern Orthodox church, calling to Mass anybody wanting to pray on this remote Antarctic island.
The 38-year-old Russian priest is clad in a loose black robe and a vest dotted with patches of penguins and seals, marking his four years of service at the bottom of the world. Although he often misses his family and the dark winters are hard, Kirilov says there is no place he feels closer to God than in this frigid land.
"In the world there's no tranquility and silence. But here, it's quiet enough," Kirilov said inside the Holy Trinity Church.
The small wooden building is perched precariously on a rocky hill above a smattering of pre-fabricated houses for scientists and service workers who call this frozen continent home, at least part of the year. Kirilov, who also works as a carpenter and mason at the Russian Bellinghausen base, says his passion for Antarctica is deeply connected to his love for the lonely building.
Russian priests here rotate in for yearlong stints, primarily to celebrate Mass for the workers on the Russian base, who number between 15 and 30 at a time. The priests also welcome any of the island's other inhabitants, about 100 in winter when temperatures can plunge to -13 Fahrenheit (-25 Celsius), and 500 in the still-chilly summer months.
Unwilling to give up hope, relatives of Flight 370 missing find solace in each other
NANJING, China (AP) — For the past year, Wang Zheng has been avoiding one place: the modest apartment where his parents had been living for more than 20 years in downtown Nanjing until they vanished along with the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Scrolls of paintings by his father, Wang Linshi, are in piles in the living room, the guest bedroom, and the studio. Paintbrushes — their heads long dry — hang from a workstation in a row. In the kitchen, the floor and stove have collected a thin layer of dust.
Wang Zheng, the only son of Wang Linshi and Xiong Deming, said he only comes into the apartment in this eastern Chinese city when absolutely necessary.
"I spend as little time as possible," the 30-year-old said. "It's uncomfortable here. I always dream about my parents after coming here."
Like other relatives of the 239 people that disappeared aboard MH370 in the early hours of March 8, 2014, Wang has gone through an emotional roller coaster that has hurled him through grief and hope, guilt and anger over the past year.
An exhausted Egypt finds aid, focus on investment from business-savvy United Arab Emirates
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — This small Gulf nation, known for its soaring skyscrapers and mercantile bent, is making itself into the most stalwart ally of the Arab world's biggest country.
The United Arab Emirates has pumped billions of dollars into Egypt and is lining up investors to try to stabilize its damaged economy, while building military cooperation. In their deepening relationship, an economically exhausted Egypt benefits from the UAE's finances, and the U.S.-allied Emirates gets a heavyweight with extensive manpower on its side in a region deeply unstable with threats of militant violence and Iranian expansion.
"We are among the vanguards calling for stability in Egypt, whose security represents a cornerstone of Arabworld security," Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan told a full house during his speech at a governance conference held in Dubai last month. "We cannot keep our fingers crossed about achieving stability and development in Egypt."
That conference put the UAE-Egypt relationship front and center among the 80 nations attending. A slick, museum-worthy display outside the vast conference hall spotlighted the countries' close ties, declaring in a logo, "Among its many brotherly neighbors, Egypt holds a special place with the United Arab Emirates." Egypt's prime minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, had a prime speaking spot, which he used to praise the Emirates' "wise leadership" and the two nations' friendship.
The Emirates is also a key organizer of an economic development conference aimed at enticing investors to Egypt and reviving its economy, to be held next week in the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Ready, set, orbit: NASA's Dawn spacecraft moves in on dwarf planet Ceres in final stop
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The largest celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter welcomes its first visitor Friday.
NASA's Dawn spacecraft was due to slip into orbit around Ceres for the first exploration of a dwarf planet. Unlike other orbit captures that require thruster firings to slow down, the latest event is ho-hum by comparison, unfolding gradually and automatically.
Since Dawn is out of contact with Earth during the encounter, flight controllers won't receive confirmation until hours later.
"The real drama is exploring this alien, exotic world," said mission chief engineer Marc Rayman at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $473 million mission.
Once circling Ceres, Dawn will spend the next 16 months photographing the icy surface to determine whether it's active today.
Copyright AP - Associated Press