Nation and world news briefs

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceJuly 15, 2014 


Cigarette giant Reynolds American Inc. agreed to purchase rival Lorillard Inc. for $27.4 billion, gaining additional market share as Americans smoke less.

The deal, announced Tuesday, combines the second- and third-largest American tobacco companies, creating a cigarette behemoth with a projected $11billion-plus in annual revenue.

_Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON _In an unlikely partnership, two Texas lawmakers - one Democrat, one Republican - are proposing a bipartisan bill that would empower the U.S. to speed up immigration hearings in hopes of stemming the crisis of unaccompanied children at the border.

The proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents the south Texas border region, comes as Congress pans the White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to handle the migration crisis.

House Republicans are expected to consider alternatives to President Barack Obama's proposal privately Tuesday. Many have said they will not support the administration's request because it costs too much and does not provide policy changes to halt the flow of new arrivals.

_Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen told senators Tuesday that the economy still has not fully recovered the recession and did not indicate that central bank policymakers would soon begin to raise rock-bottom interest rates.

"Although the economy continues to improve, the recovery is not yet complete," Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee.

_Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON - A series of safeguards failed to prevent an oversize truck from hitting a low-clearance bridge on Interstate 5 in Washington state last year, leading to the collapse of one of its spans, federal safety investigators concluded Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board faulted a Canadian trucking company for failing to account for the low-clearance bridge over the Skagit River at Mount Vernon, Wash., in its route planning for shipments of unusual size.

A driver in an escort vehicle ahead of the truck who was supposed to detect restrictive clearances was using a hands-free cellphone at the time of the accident, the board found.

_McClatchy Washington Bureau


JERUSALEM - Hours after unilaterally accepting an Egyptian proposal, a nascent cease-fire collapsed as rocket fire continued from the Gaza Strip and Israel resumed military strikes on militant targets, government and army officials said Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet approved the proposal to end the week-long military offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip and instructed the army to hold its fire.

Spokesmen for Hamas and other militant factions rejected the cease-fire and vowed to persist until their demands were met, while other officials claimed the proposal was being studied.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Netanyahu said Israel was prepared to "continue and intensify" its military operation to halt end rocket attacks if Hamas rejected the proposal.

_Los Angeles Times

Nearly 100 people were killed Tuesday and around 50 others were wounded in two separate attacks in Afghanistan, officials said.

Eighty-nine people, mainly civilians, were killed when a suicide car bomb exploded in the eastern province of Paktika, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said.

It was the deadliest single attack in Afghanistan this year, and came in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Separately, two employees of the presidential office were killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.


MOSCOW - At least 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured Tuesday in Moscow when a packed underground train derailed at high speed during the morning rush hour.

The Russian Investigative Committee said that 20 people were killed, Interfax reported, citing the agency's spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Official said earlier that 12 bodies had not been recovered from the train's wagons.

The number of injured rose to 160, officials said. A senior city health official, Alexei Khripun, said on state television that 118 people were hospitalized, a third of whom were in critical condition.


BAGHDAD - Iraqi lawmakers took a step toward breaking their political deadlock Tuesday, voting for a new parliament speaker in the first step of a government formation process that analysts warn is unfolding too slowly to keep the country from fragmenting along ethnic and sectarian lines.

It remained unclear, however, whether the overwhelming approval of Sunni Muslim politician Salim al-Jubouri, a moderate Islamist with a background in law, as speaker signaled a broader power-sharing deal between the Shiite Muslim political bloc of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite detractors.

_McClatchy Foreign Staff

A North Korean freighter has run aground near a port in eastern Mexico, just days after a stop in Havana that sparked comparisons with another Pyongyang vessel seized last summer with a large and illegal shipment of Cuban weapons.

The 6,700-ton Mu Du Bong, built in 1983, ran aground Monday on a reef off the port of Tuxpan in the Gulf of Mexico, according to shipping and salvage industry officials. There was no immediate information on whether the freighter docked or planned to dock in Tuxpan.

_El Nuevo Herald

VIENNA - The Obama administration and Iran signaled Tuesday they were prepared to extend international negotiations over the latter's nuclear program beyond the Sunday deadline, buying time for the struggling effort but leaving its future cloudy.

After two days of face-to-face meetings with the Iranians, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the seven-country meetings have made substantial progress and made clear his desire to continue the effort if there is no breakthrough by the weekend.

Three hours later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was more explicit, saying at another news conference that he believed an extension was warranted.

_Tribune Washington Bureau

JOHANNESBURG - Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was involved in an altercation at an upscale nightclub Saturday and later insisted that a businessman accosted him aggressively, according to South African media.

But the businessman, Jared Mortimer, who runs a clothing company, told the Star newspaper that Pistorius was drunk, poked him in the chest and insulted his friends and South African President Jacob Zuma.

The incident at the VIP Room in Johannesburg occurred days after Pistorius' defense lawyers closed their case in Pretoria's high court, where he is on trial for murder in the shooting death last year of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

_Los Angeles Times

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