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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
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AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EDT

Published:   |   Updated: July 15, 2014 at 03:00 AM

After a week of fighting, Egypt proposes a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas

JERUSALEM (AP) Egypt presented a cease-fire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead, and both sides said they were seriously considering the proposal.

The late-night offer by Egypt marked the first sign of a breakthrough in international efforts to end the conflict.

Hamas' top leader in Gaza confirmed there was "diplomatic movement," while Israel's policy-making Security Cabinet was set to discuss the proposal early Tuesday. Arab foreign ministers discussed the plan Monday night at an emergency meeting in Cairo, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected in the region Tuesday.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry announced the three-step plan starting at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT, 2 a.m. EDT) with a cease-fire to go into effect within 12 hours of "unconditional acceptance" by the two sides. That would be followed by the opening of Gaza's border crossings and talks in Cairo between the sides within two days, according to the statement.

Gaza's crossings should be opened for people and goods "once the security situation becomes stable," according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

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Distancing itself from financial meltdown, Citigroup agrees to $7B settlement over mortgages

WASHINGTON (AP) Citigroup has agreed to pay $7 billion to settle a federal investigation into its handling of risky subprime mortgages, admitting to a pattern of deception that Attorney General Eric Holder said "shattered lives" and contributed to the worst financial crisis in decades, the Justice Department said Monday.

The settlement represents a moment of reckoning for one of the country's biggest and most significant banks, which is now accountable for providing some financial support to Americans whose lives were dismantled by the largest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

In addition to a $4 billion civil penalty being paid to the federal government, the bank will also pay $2.5 billion in consumer relief in part to help borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure and about $500 million to settle claims from state attorneys general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The agreement does not preclude the possibility of criminal prosecutions for the bank or individual employees in the future, Holder said.

The $7 billion settlement, which represents about half of Citigroup's $13.7 billion profit last year, is the latest substantial penalty sought for a bank or mortgage company at the epicenter of the housing crisis. The Justice Department, criticized for not being aggressive enough in targeting financial misconduct, has in the last year reached a $13 billion deal with JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation's largest bank, and also sued Bank of America Corp. for misleading investors in its sale of mortgage-linked securities.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

1. ISRAEL DOWNS DRONE FROM GAZA STRIP

It's the first time the Israelis have encountered an unmanned aircraft since the start of their offensive against Hamas militants last week. Egypt, meanwhile, calls for a cease-fire.

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'Afghanistan is not Iraq,' contenders will work for unity, candidate says in AP interview

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Declaring his nation "is not Iraq," one of two contestants in Afghanistan's deadlocked presidential election told The Associated Press on Monday that both he and his rival are committed to lead their war-ravaged nation inclusively in cooperation with international partners.

Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai credited a U.S.-brokered deal for a full ballot audit with pulling his country back from the brink, putting the rule of law and government legitimacy back on track.

"What happened in the last days should show you our commitment to inclusiveness," Ahmadzai said of the deal for a national unity government, reached late Saturday with his opponent, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.

He said there can be no comparison to Iraq, where politicians from the two main Muslim sects and ethnic Kurds have failed to reach a political accord to either keep or replace Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In the meantime, Sunni militants have routed the Iraqi army and seized control of much of the country, even threatening to attack the capital, just 30 months after U.S. forces pulled out.

"I am not Maliki and Afghanistan is not Iraq," Ahmadzai added sharply.

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Answers to key questions on link between drilling industry's injection wells and earthquakes

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place have seen a surge in earthquake activity, raising suspicions that the unconventional drilling method could be to blame, especially the wells where the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Fracking generates vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground. No one knows for certain exactly what happens to the liquids after that. Scientists wonder whether they could trigger quakes by increasing underground pressures and lubricating faults.

Oklahoma has recorded nearly 250 small-to-medium earthquakes since January, according to statistics kept by the U.S. Geological Survey. That's close to half of all the magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes recorded this year in the continental United States.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Science suggests that just four wells injecting massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up much of the state, accounting for one out of every five quakes from the eastern border of Colorado to the Atlantic coast.

Another concern is whether injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures.

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Bowe Bergdahl, who spent 5 years as Taliban captive, returned to regular Army duty in Texas

WASHINGTON (AP) The Army has given Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a desk job, ending the formal phase of his transition from Taliban prisoner to not-quite-ordinary soldier, and setting the stage for Army investigators to question the Idaho native about his disappearance that led to five years in captivity.

In a brief statement Monday, the Army said Bergdahl has been assigned to U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

Bergdahl has been decompressing and recuperating from the effects of captivity since his arrival there from a military base in Germany. Since he was handed over to U.S. special forces in Afghanistan on May 31, he has been debriefed for any possible intelligence he might have gleaned in his time with the Taliban. Otherwise, he has been gently coaxed back into a normal routine and a normal life, both physically and psychologically.

Bergdahl's case is one of the most extraordinary of recent times for the length of his captivity, for his apparent decision to abandon his unit during a combat deployment, and for the controversy triggered by the circumstances of his release May 31.

It's not clear when Bergdahl will face investigators on the disappearance probe, whose findings will help determine whether the 28-year-old is prosecuted for desertion or faces any other disciplinary action. The probe is headed by Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, deputy commanding general of 1st Corps at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state.

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US companies look more to overseas combinations for tax relief back home

A growing number of U.S. companies are looking to trim their tax bills by combining operations with foreign businesses in a trend that may eventually cost the federal government billions of dollars in revenue.

Generic drugmaker Mylan Inc. said Monday it will become part of a new company organized in the Netherlands in a $5.3 billion deal to acquire some of Abbott Laboratories' generic-drugs business. The deal is expected to lower Mylan's tax rate to about 20 percent to 21 percent in the first full year and to the high teens after that.

The Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-company's deal follows a path explored by several other U.S. drugmakers in recent months. AbbVie Inc. has entered talks with Shire Plc. over a roughly $53.68 billion deal that would lead to a lower tax rate and a company organized on the British island of Jersey.

But drugmakers aren't the only companies looking overseas for better tax deals.

Last month, U.S. medical device maker Medtronic Inc. said that it had agreed to buy Ireland-based competitor Covidien for $42.9 billion in cash and stock. The combined company would have executive offices in Ireland, which has a 12.5 percent corporate income tax rate. And drugstore chain Walgreen Co. which bills itself as "America's premier pharmacy" also is considering a similar move with Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots.

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Kerry, Zarif struggle for progress on nuclear talks amid newly complex US-Iranian relations

VIENNA (AP) The top U.S. and Iranian diplomats searched Monday for a breakthrough in nuclear talks, their efforts complicated by crises across the Middle East and beyond that have Washington and Tehran aligned in some places but often opposed.

The state of U.S.-Iranian relations was adding a new wrinkle to the long negotiation aimed at curbing the Islamic republic's uranium and plutonium programs.

While the two sides are arguably fighting proxy wars in Israel, Gaza and Syria, they're talking cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, perhaps in a first, the nuclear matter is battling for full attention.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif spoke for about two hours around midday Monday, the second day of talks in Vienna. They gathered again in the afternoon, hoping to make progress before Sunday's initial deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. An extension of the deadline is possible, though there are opponents of that idea on both sides.

"We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran's program," Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff in Vienna during a break in the conversations. "It is a really tough negotiation."

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Long dispute ends as Church of England national assembly says yes to women bishops

LONDON (AP) The Church of England ended one of its longest and most divisive disputes Monday with an overwhelming vote in favor of allowing women to become bishops.

The church's national assembly, known as the General Synod, voted for the historic measure, reaching the required two-thirds majority in each of its three different houses. In total, 351 members of the three houses approved of the move. Only 72 voted against and 10 abstained.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the long-awaited change marks the completion of a process that started more than 20 years ago with the ordination of women as priests. He called for tolerance and love for those traditionalists who disagree with the decision.

"As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of whose within the church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow," he said in a statement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called it a "great day for the Church and for equality."

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From Brazil to Russia: 2018 World Cup host insists finishing stadiums will not be a problem

MOSCOW (AP) Brazil just barely managed to get everything ready in time for the World Cup. Russia insists it won't have any such problems in 2018, although the country faces other issues ahead of football's next showcase tournament including the threat of racism and violence.

Just like in Brazil, the sheer size of Russia is set to cause logistical challenges for organizers and fans alike for the 2018 World Cup, with thousands of kilometers (miles) separating some of the host cities. But the successful staging of February's Winter Olympics without any major organizational problems has raised Russians' confidence in producing a high-class tournament.

After the games, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told parliament that Russia would avoid the "Brazilian scenario" of massive construction delays.

Of the 12 stadiums in 11 host cities, two are complete but must be reconfigured to host football games. A third, the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, will open in September. The others, including Moscow's 81,000-capacity Luzhniki where the final will be played, are brand new projects where construction has either started or will begin this year.

The Russian government insists it will complete the stadiums on time, although Mutko told local media in March that some aspects of the design process "gave cause for disquiet" as deadlines were missed.

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