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Showing posts from July 14, 2014

Obama urges Congress to pass migrant funding request quickly

President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to pass his request quickly for $3.7 billion in funds to address the influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America crossing the U.S. border. _0"> After meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, Obama said he would consider deploying the National Guard to the border as Perry and other Republicans have requested. Obama told reporters he urged Perry to press Texas lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to support the White House's funding request. The president also rejected criticism that he did not visit the border during his Texas visit. "This isn't theater. This is a problem," Obama said. (Reporting by Steve Holland in Dallas and Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler )

New Orleans-area school district agrees to rules protecting Hispanics

A New Orleans-area school district reached a deal with federal officials on Wednesday to make changes that address allegations of discrimination against Hispanic students and parents. The settlement, which ends a federal probe, stems from a formal complaint filed against the Jefferson Parish Public School System in 2012 alleging it required proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status from Hispanic students, failed to provide interpreters for parents with limited English and overlooked racially charged bullying. “We applaud Jefferson Parish for ensuring that all students will have access to their public schools and that all parents... are equipped with the information necessary for their children to fully participate,” Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a statement. The three-year agreement between the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education and the school district will require it to change any policies dissuading non-citi

Obama rejects criticism over border crisis

President Barack Obama rejected demands from Texas Governor Rick Perry and others that he visit the border where a child migrant crisis is unfolding and said his critics should get behind his request for $3.7 billion if they want to solve the problem. "Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem," Obama said he told Perry. "If they are interested in solving the problem then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics then it won’t be solved." Obama visited Texas for the first time since the influx of child migrants from Central America overwhelmed border resources. He had talks with Perry aboard his Marine One helicopter and in a group meeting with local officials that Obama called constructive. In a brief news conference after the meeting, Obama dismissed criticism from Perry, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, that he should personally visit the border region for a first-hand look. "

Colorado puts annual marijuana demand at 130 tonnes

Total marijuana demand in Colorado, where the nation's first recreational pot shops opened in January, is estimated at 130 tonnes this year, a study for the state's revenue authority said on Wednesday. A day after Washington became only the second state to allow recreational sales of the drug to adults, the report said the projected demand in Colorado was much higher than anticipated. More than 90 percent of it came from residents, while out-of-state visitors accounted for only about 9 tonnes. "The primary difference is caused by much heavier dosage amounts consumed by the state's 'heavy user' population – those who consume marijuana on a daily basis," said the report, prepared for the Colorado Department of Revenue. It said tax figures showed that the retail supply of marijuana was growing in the state, while supply via medical marijuana dispensaries had remained relatively constant. "The retail demand is derived primarily from out-of-state

Shooting at Tennessee National Guard armory leaves one soldier dead

A 20-year-plus veteran of the Tennessee National Guard was shot to death on Wednesday by an intruder at an armory outside Nashville, and a man described as a "person of interest" in the case was detained hours later for questioning, authorities said. The shooting occurred about 5 p.m. local time in the National Guard armory in Lobelville, a town in Perry County, Tennessee, about 75 miles (120 km) southwest of Nashville. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh Devine said late Wednesday night that detectives were probing how the shooter gained access to the building, which is normally kept locked to outsiders for security reasons. The victim was a sergeant first-class in the Tennessee Guard who was rushed to Perry County hospital but died of his wounds while being prepared for a helicopter flight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, authorities said. Authorities did not identify the detained man, but Devine said he was not a member of the Guard.

Parched California proposes steep fines for over-watering lawns

Regulators in drought-stricken California are proposing stringent new conservation measures to limit outdoor water use, including fines of up to $500 a day for using a hose without a shut-off nozzle. _0"> The most populous U.S. state is suffering its third year of drought and in January Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, allowing the state to request federal aid. In some cities and towns about half the water residents use is for lawns and cleaning cars, according to the State Water Resources Control Board, which made the proposal public on Tuesday. Voluntary measures do not go far enough, it said. "It's not meant to spank people, it's meant to make people aware and say, 'This is serious; conserve'," said agency spokesman Timothy Moran, noting that the rules authorize local law enforcement agencies to write tickets imposing fines. The new restrictions prohibit watering gardens enough to cause visible runoff onto roads or walkways

Florida set to execute convicted murderer of 11-year-old girl

A Florida man who confessed to the rape and murder of a child is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday, while another convicted murderer in Georgia had his death sentence, also due to be carried out on Thursday, commuted to life imprisonment. Their cases follow a string of executions in the U.S. South last month, including those of two other men in Florida and Georgia, in the wake of a botched Oklahoma execution in April that sparked an uproar among death penalty opponents. Florida's Eddie Wayne Davis, 45, was sentenced to death in Florida after he admitted to taking an 11-year-old girl from her mother’s home, sexually assaulting and strangling her in 1994. Davis confessed three times to the murder of Kimberly Waters, who was found strangled in a dumpster. He was 25 years old at the time of her killing, but his defense team claimed that he was mentally still a juvenile. The Georgia man, Tommy Lee Waldrip, was convicted of the 1991 shooting death of a man who had be

Six killed, including four children, in Houston-area shooting

A man accused of fatally shooting four children ages 4 to 14 and their parents after entering their suburban Houston home disguised as a FedEx delivery man while looking for his former wife was charged with capital murder on Thursday. Ronald Lee Haskell, 33, went to the home searching for his former wife, who is related to the victims, and held the children at gunpoint until their parents returned, authorities said. He then brought all seven family members into a room and shot them, killing all except a teenage girl, authorities said. "I've not personally in 40 years seen a tragedy in one family this horrific," Harris County Constable Ron Hickman told reporters. Haskell, who formerly worked for a contractor used by FedEx, is being held without bail. In Texas, the charge of capital murder carries the possibility of the death penalty. Police in Logan, Utah, said in a statement that Haskell and his then-wife lived in the city from 2006 to 2013. They said they had once

Exclusive: U.S. grills suspects in new strategy to build bank laundering cases

U.S. prosecutors are using a new tactic to crack down on banks that fail to fight money laundering: systematically asking suspects in a wide range of criminal cases to help them follow the money back to their bankers. The efforts are paying off in probes of banks and other financial institutions now filling the prosecution pipeline, according to Jonathan Lopez, who last month left his post as deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit (MLBIU). "Asking criminals the simple question 'Who is moving your money?' can lead the Department of Justice to a financial institution's doorstep," said Lopez, who declined to identify specific targets. The department confirmed the stepped up reliance on criminal informants in anti-money laundering investigations, but also declined to discuss probes underway. The four-year-old MLBIU, which includes a dozen prosecutors, is responsible for insuring that financial institutions adhere to U.S

Former IRS official sought to hide information, lawmakers assert

Congressional Republicans asserted on Wednesday that new emails show a former Internal Revenue Service official deliberately sought to hide information from Congress, opening a new chapter in a probe of IRS treatment of conservative groups. An email exchange released by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa shows the former official, Lois Lerner, asking a colleague whether communications made through an internal messaging system can be searched by Congress. Issa said the exchange, culled from documents provided to Congress last week, showed that Lerner was "leading an effort to hide information from congressional inquiries." The latest accusation prompted heated questioning of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen at a hearing and angry exchanges among a Democrat and Republicans on the panel. In the emails, Lerner says she has been telling colleagues to be cautious about what they say in emails and asks whether internal messages are subject to the same data transparen

BNP pleads guilty again in $9 billion U.S. sanctions accord

BNP Paribas, for the second time in nine days, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions, as part of a nearly $9 billion settlement in which the French bank admitted to breaking embargoes against Sudan, Cuba and Iran. Prosecutors had accused the bank of processing billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of the Sudanese and others barred because of human rights abuses, support for terrorists and other national security concerns. U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield accepted the plea at a hearing in Manhattan federal court. The plea was entered by the bank's general counsel, Georges Dirani. BNP Paribas admitted to having conspired from 2004 to 2012 to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act. The U.S. Justice Department unveiled the record settlement on July 1, when the bank pleaded guilty in New York state court to charges of falsifying business records and conspiracy brought by

Obama urges Congress to pass migrant funding request quickly

President Barack Obama urged Congress on Wednesday to pass his request quickly for $3.7 billion in funds to address the influx of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America crossing the U.S. border. _0"> After meeting with Texas Governor Rick Perry, Obama said he would consider deploying the National Guard to the border as Perry and other Republicans have requested. Obama told reporters he urged Perry to press Texas lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to support the White House's funding request. The president also rejected criticism that he did not visit the border during his Texas visit. "This isn't theater. This is a problem," Obama said. (Reporting by Steve Holland in Dallas and Jeff Mason in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler )

Gaza rockets land deep in Israel as it bombards Palestinian enclave

Israeli air strikes shook Gaza every few minutes on Wednesday, and militants kept up rocket fire at Israel's heartland in intensifying warfare that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 53 people in the Hamas-dominated enclave. Missiles from Israel's Iron Dome defense system shot into the sky to intercept rockets launched, for the second straight day, at Tel Aviv, the country's commercial capital. Some were also aimed at Israel's Dimona nuclear plant, 80 km (50 miles) from Gaza, but were either shot down or landed in open country. With cries of "Allahu akbar" (God is Greatest), Palestinians in the Gaza Strip cheered as rockets streaked overhead toward Israel, in attacks that could provide a popularity boost for Islamist Hamas, whose rift with neighboring Egypt's military-backed government has deepened economic hardship. Dimona, desert site of a nuclear reactor and widely assumed to have a role in atomic weaponry, was targeted by locally made

Judge strikes down Colorado gay marriage ban, stays ruling

A state judge struck down Colorado's gay marriage ban on Wednesday, saying the prohibition violated constitutional rights, but put his ruling on hold pending appeal. It was the latest of several decisions by state and federal judges to strike down state bans on same-sex nuptials and then stay their rulings pending challenges to higher courts. Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree said in his decision that Colorado's prohibition, approved by voters in 2006, conflicted with the fundamental right to marry. "The Court rejects the State's attempt to too narrowly describe the marital right at issue to the right to marry a person of the same sex," Crabtree wrote. There are 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is now legal. Several other same-sex marriage lawsuits are moving toward the U.S. Supreme Court. Two other lawsuits, testing bans in Oklahoma and Virginia, have already been heard by appeals courts. The attorney gen

Obama rejects criticism over border crisis

President Barack Obama rejected demands from Texas Governor Rick Perry and others that he visit the border where a child migrant crisis is unfolding and said his critics should get behind his request for $3.7 billion if they want to solve the problem. "Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem," Obama said he told Perry. "If they are interested in solving the problem then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics then it won’t be solved." Obama visited Texas for the first time since the influx of child migrants from Central America overwhelmed border resources. He had talks with Perry aboard his Marine One helicopter and in a group meeting with local officials that Obama called constructive. In a brief news conference after the meeting, Obama dismissed criticism from Perry, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, that he should personally visit the border region for a first-hand look. "

Japan denies report on North Korea's abduction survivor list

Japan on Thursday denied as "sheer misreporting" a front page newspaper story that North Korea had provided a list of some 30 Japanese survivors still living in the isolated country, including known victims of state-sponsored kidnapping. _0"> The Nikkei business daily said North Korea produced the list at a July 1 meeting in Beijing to discuss North Korea's plan to resume investigations into the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s. North Korea agreed in May to reopen the probe, prompting Japan to ease some sanctions. "I'm aware of the report, but nothing like that happened during the meeting or during a recess," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference. "It's sheer misreporting." The Nikkei, citing sources, said Tokyo had matched about two-thirds of the names on the list with domestic records of missing persons. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made the abduc

Three Ukrainian soldiers killed in further clashes in the east

Three Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 27 wounded in clashes with pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east of the country, the military said on Thursday. _0"> Government forces have recently gained the upper hand in the three-month conflict against separatists in the Russian-speaking eastern regions in which more than 200 government troops have been killed as well as hundreds of civilians and rebel fighters. But though government forces pushed the rebels out of a stronghold in Slaviansk at the weekend, the heavily armed separatists have dug in in Donetsk, a city of 900,000 people, and remain active in and around Luhansk on the Russian border. The government's "anti-terrorist operation" said that one soldier was killed late on Wednesday when rebels fired machine-guns at a truck carrying soldiers at Muratova near Luhansk. "The vehicle was ambushed. In the course of the fighting one serviceman was killed and three were wounded," it said in a s

Fed independence questioned as Republicans ramp up pressure

A surge of Republican pressure is bringing the Federal Reserve's long-held independence into question again, as conservative lawmakers seek to place the U.S. central bank under tougher scrutiny. With Democrats controlling the Senate since the 2008 financial crisis, the bank and its supporters have had the luxury of shrugging off Fed-related laws from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. But a Republican takeover of the Senate in November's midterm elections would increase the chances of some of those measures hitting the Senate floor, and changing the way the Fed functions. Two Republican congressmen proposed a new bill on Monday that would force the Fed to disclose information it has historically kept private. That bill will be discussed at a hearing on Thursday by the House Financial Services Committee, which is convening a panel to discuss reforming the Fed. "I think there's a chance of legislation that affects us," Richmond Fed President J

Fifty-three blindfolded bodies found in Iraq as political leaders bicker

Iraqi security forces found 53 corpses, blindfolded and handcuffed, south of Baghdad on Wednesday as Shi'ite and Kurdish leaders traded accusations over an Islamist insurgency raging in the country's Sunni provinces. Officials said dozens of bodies were discovered near the mainly Shi'ite Muslim village of Khamissiya, with bullets to the chest and head, the latest mass killing since Sunni insurgents swept through northern Iraq. "Fifty-three unidentified corpses were found, all of them blindfolded and handcuffed," Sadeq Madloul, governor of the mainly Shi'ite southern province of Babil, told reporters. He said the victims appeared to have been killed overnight after being brought by car to an area near the main highway running from Baghdad to the southern provinces, about 25 km (15 miles) southeast of the city of Hilla. The identity and sectarian affiliation of the dead people was not immediately clear, he said. Sunni militants have been carrying out att

Kerry faces uphill battle to defuse Afghan election standoff

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive to a sceptical audience in Afghanistan this week to try to resolve a deepening crisis over a disputed presidential election which has stirred ethnic tensions in the fragile country. Afghanistan has plunged into political chaos in recent months as a protracted election process to pick a successor to President Hamid Karzai has run into a deadlock between two leading candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. Preliminary results from the June 14 second-round run-off put Ghani, a former World Bank official, in the lead with 56.4 percent of the vote, but Abdullah has rejected the count and his aides have threatened to set up an alternative administration. Kerry is expected to arrive in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday to try to mediate between the feuding camps, according to Abdullah, although U.S. officials have not confirmed the trip. Kerry is currently in neighbouring China. Ghani's camp, confident in its victory, is wary of

Australian minister under fire for not meeting Tamil groups on Sri Lanka trip

A Tamil group criticised Australia's immigration minister on Thursday for visiting northern Sri Lanka without meeting Tamil leaders, days after Australia returned a boat of asylum seekers, including Tamils, under its hardline border security policy. Some of the 41 Sri Lankans intercepted and sent home by Australia said on Tuesday they had been mistreated by Australian Customs, accusations Immigration Minister Scott Morrison denied. A second boat carrying 153 Sri Lankan asylum seekers remained in legal limbo as the Australian High Court considered whether their interception was legal. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power last September partly because of his tough stance on asylum seekers. His government has touted its success in blocking such boats, saying there have been no illegal arrivals since last December. During a visit on Wednesday to the northern city of Jaffna, Morrison met the governor of the Northern Province, G.A. Chandrasiri, a presidential appoin

Boeing sees $5.2 trillion jet market, win versus Airbus on twin-aisles

Boeing Co made its most bullish 20-year forecast for jetliner demand since 2011, saying on Thursday the world will need 36,770 new planes worth $5.2 trillion by 2033. The company's annual projection is up 4.2 percent from its 2013 forecast, and it predicted beating rival Airbus Group NV in the lucrative market for twin-aisle planes as the planes are built and delivered over the next two decades. "If Airbus doesn't do something with their product strategy, they're headed to 30-35 percent market share" in deliveries of next-generation twin-aisle aircraft, Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing, told reporters in a briefing. Boeing's 787 and 777X jets already make up 65 percent of all current orders, with the Airbus A350 accounting for the rest, and that gap will widen unless Airbus develops another jet as a competitor, he said. Planes are delivered years after orders are placed, so the final numbers may change as airlines change their plan

Exclusive: Commerzbank may pay $600 million-$800 million to settle U.S. probe - sources

Germany's second-biggest bank Commerzbank AG is expected to pay $600 million to $800 million to resolve investigations into its dealings with Iran and other countries under U.S. sanctions, sources familiar with the matter said. The penalty, previously reported to be more than $500 million, includes a demand from New York's top banking regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, for more than $300 million from the bank, the sources said. Other U.S. authorities, including the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Manhattan District Attorney, are also involved in the talks. The German bank is the latest bank to enter into settlement negotiations with U.S. authorities. French lender BNP Paribas SA struck a record-breaking $8.9 billion deal last week to resolve investigations into violations of sanctions and related misconduct involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba. U.S. authorities are also investigating Italy's UniCredit SpA, France's Credit Agricole

Seized nuclear material in Iraq 'low grade': IAEA

The U.N. atomic agency said on Thursday it believed nuclear material which Iraq said had fallen into the hands of insurgents was "low grade" and did not pose a significant security risk. Iraq told the United Nations that the material was used for scientific research at a university in the northern town of Mosul and appealed for help to "stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad". Iraq's U.N. envoy this week also said that the government had lost control of a former chemical weapons facility to "armed terrorist groups" and was unable to fulfil its international obligations to destroy toxins kept there. An al Qaeda offshoot, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, took over swathes of Syria and Iraq before renaming itself Islamic State in June and declaring its leader caliph - a title held by successors of the Prophet Mohammad. The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "is aware of the notification from Iraq and

Israel presses Gaza offensive, kills eight in air strike: officials

At least 78 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in Israel's Gaza offensive, Palestinian officials said on Thursday as militants in the enclave kept up rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities. As Israeli officials seemed to hint at a possible invasion by ground forces, eight members of one family, including five children, were killed in an early morning air strike that levelled two homes at Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip near the Egyptian border, the Palestinian Health ministry said. Israel's military made no comment on what would be the deadliest strike since its began its assault on Tuesday. The defence minister spoke of "long days of fighting ahead". U.S. President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call that the United States was willing to help negotiate a ceasefire, the White House said. French President Francois Hollande voiced his concern at the civilian deaths in the Pale

China, U.S. to boost security ties, but no breakthroughs

China and the United States agreed on Thursday to boost military ties and counter-terrorism cooperation during high-level annual talks in Beijing, but there was little immediate sign of progress on thorny cyber-security or maritime issues. The two-day talks, led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew for the United States and Vice Premier Wang Yang and top diplomat Yang Jiechi for China, were never expected to achieve great breakthroughs. The Strategic and Economic Dialogue, now in its fifth year, is more about managing an increasingly complex and at times testy relationship. After discussions on topics ranging from the value of China's currency to North Korea, Yang said the two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism, law enforcement and military-to-military relations. He gave few details. On two of the most sensitive issues - maritime disputes and cyber-spying - Yang largely restated Beijing's position on both. "The C