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Monday, July 29, 2013 - Updated: 9:49 AM

Israelis and Palestinians skeptical as their negotiators go to Washington for talks

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli and Palestinian teams headed to Washington on Monday for preliminary talks on resuming formal negotiations after five years of stalemate.

Both sides emphasized that many obstacles stand between them and a final deal on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Talks will be complex, said Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni. She said she was heading to the Washington meetings, which are to begin later Monday, “cautiously, but also with hope.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian spokeswoman, said the upcoming talks are being held under more difficult conditions than previous negotiations. She cited the Palestinian political split, with Western-backed moderates and Islamic militants running rival governments, and the more hawkish positions of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, compared to his predecessor.

“But I think there is a recognition of the urgency,” she said. “If we don’t move fast and decisively, things could fall apart.”

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Italian tour bus plunges off highway bridge and into a ravine killing at least 37 people

ROME (AP) — Rescuers wielding electric saws cut through the twisted wreckage of an Italian tour bus for survivors of a crash in southern Italy that killed at least 37 people after it crashed into traffic and plunged into a ravine on Sunday night.

Reports said as many as 49 people — mostly Italians — had been aboard the bus when it ripped through a guardrail, then plunged some 30 meters (100 feet) off a viaduct near a wooded area. In its plunge, the bus tore away whole sections of concrete barriers as well as guardrail. The concrete lay in large chunks in a clearing in a wooded area where the bus landed. State radio quoted Avellino police as saying the bus driver was among the dead.

The bus lost control near the town of Monteforte Irpino in Irpinia, a largely agricultural area about 40 miles (60 kilometers) inland from Naples and about 250 kilometers (160 miles) south of Rome.

The radio report said 11 people were hospitalized with injuries, two of them in critical condition. It was not immediately known if there were other survivors or any missing.

Flashing signs near Avellino, outside Naples, had warned of slowed traffic ahead along a stretch of a major highway crossing southern Italy, before the crash occurred, said highway police and officials, speaking on state radio early Monday.

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New Zealand government says no evidence of unlawful spying on journalist in Afghanistan

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand said Monday there is no evidence that either the U.S. or the New Zealand military spied on a journalist in Afghanistan who was freelancing for American news organization McClatchy.

But Prime Minister John Key said it’s theoretically possible that reporters could get caught in surveillance nets when the U.S. spies on enemy combatants.

The comments came in response to a report in the Sunday Star-Times newspaper that the New Zealand military, assisted by U.S. spy agencies, collected phone metadata to monitor journalist Jon Stephenson, a New Zealander. The story by journalist Nicky Hager said the military became unhappy at Stephenson’s reporting on how it treated Afghan prisoners.

“We have identified no information at this time that supports Mr. Hager’s claims,” Maj. Gen. Tim Keating, the acting defense force chief, said in a statement.

U.S. surveillance programs have become the focus of a global debate since former defense contract worker Edward Snowden leaked classified information about the National Security Agency in June. The U.S. says the NSA programs are necessary to avert terror attacks, while critics have called it unregulated spying.

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Spanish royals to attend Mass for train dead; driver charged provisionally but released

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain (AP) — Spain’s royal family and leading politicians are to attend a Mass in the Catholic pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela in homage to the 79 people killed in the country’s worst rail accident in decades.

The Mass is taking place Monday, a day after the train’s driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide.

Judge Luis Alaez released Francisco Jose Garzon Amo without bail late Sunday but ordered him to appear before court once a week and not to leave Spain.

Garzon was driven from the court in a police car to an unknown location.

Garzon was driving the train carrying 218 passengers that hurtled off the tracks Wednesday while apparently travelling well over the 80-kph (50-mph) speed limit.

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Wave of car bombings in central, southern Iraq kills at least 47

BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of over a dozen car bombings hit central and southern Iraq during morning rush hour on Monday, officials said, killing at least 47 people in the latest coordinated attack by insurgents determined to undermine the government.

The blasts, which wounded scores more, are part of a months-long surge of attacks that is reviving fears of a return to the widespread sectarian bloodshed that pushed the country to the brink of civil war after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Suicide attacks, car bombings and other violence have killed more than 3,000 people since April, including more than 500 since the start of July, according to an Associated Press count.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida’s Iraqi arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently sets off such coordinated blasts in an effort to break Iraqis’ confidence in the Shiite-led government.

Eight police officers said a total of 12 parked car bombs hit markets and parking lots in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad within one hour. They say the deadliest was in the eastern Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, where two separate explosions killed nine civilians and wounded 33 others.

Ambulances rushed to the scene where rescuers and police were removing the charred and twisted remains of the car bombs from the bloodstained pavement. The force of the two explosions lightly damaged nearby houses and shops.

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French police: Estimated $53 million in jewels stolen from famed hotel in Cannes

PARIS (AP) — A staggering 40 million euro ($53 million) worth of diamonds and other jewels was stolen Sunday from the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes, in one of Europe’s biggest jewelry heists in recent years, police said. One expert noted the crime follows recent jail escapes by members of the notorious “Pink Panther” jewel thief gang.

The hotel in the sweltering French Riviera was hosting a temporary jewelry exhibit over the summer from the prestigious Leviev diamond house, which is owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev.

A police spokesman said the theft took place around noon, but he could not confirm local media reports that the robber was a single gunman who stuffed a suitcase with the gems before making a swift exit. The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.

The luxury Carlton hotel featured prominently in Alfred Hitchcok’s “To Catch a Thief,” which starred Cary Grant as a reformed burglar chasing a jewel thief. It is situated on the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile and a half (2.4 kilometers) along the French Riviera, and is thronged by the rich and famous throughout the year. The hotel’s position provides not only a beautiful view of the sea but also an easy getaway for potential jewel thieves along the long stretch of road.

“It’s a huge theft. Anytime you talk about a heist with many millions of dollars it turns heads and feeds the imagination,” said Jonathan Sazonoff, U.S. editor for the Museum Security Network website and an authority on high-value crime.

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Activists launch campaign depicting pigs, chickens, cows as smarter than commonly believed

NEW YORK (AP) — There’s extensive evidence that pigs are as smart and sociable as dogs. Yet one species is afforded affection and respect; the other faces mass slaughter en route to becoming bacon, ham and pork chops.

Seeking to capitalize on that discrepancy, animal-welfare advocates are launching a campaign called The Someone Project that aims to highlight research depicting pigs, chickens, cows and other farm animals as more intelligent and emotionally complex than commonly believed. The hope is that more people might view these animals with the same empathy that they view dogs, cats, elephants, great apes and dolphins.

“When you ask people why they eat chickens but not cats, the only thing they can come up with is that they sense cats and dogs are more cognitively sophisticated that then species we eat — and we know this isn’t true,” said Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary, the animal-protection and vegan-advocacy organization that is coordinating the new project.

“What it boils down to is people don’t know farm animals the way they know dogs or cats,” Friedrich said. “We’re a nation of animal lovers, and yet the animals we encounter most frequently are the animals we pay people to kill so we can eat them.”

The lead scientist for the project is Lori Marino, a lecturer in psychology at Emory University who has conducted extensive research on the intelligence of whales, dolphins and primates. She plans to review existing scientific literature on farm animals’ intelligence, identify areas warranting new research, and prepare reports on her findings that would be circulated worldwide via social media, videos and her personal attendance at scientific conferences.

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Donors trying to save portion of historic Detroit-area plant where Rosie the Riveter worked

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit-area factory where Rosie the Riveter showed that a woman could do a “man’s work” by building World War II-era bombers, making her an enduring symbol of American female empowerment, will be demolished if money can’t be found to save it.

The Willow Run Bomber Plant, a 332-acre former Ford Motor Co. factory west of Detroit that churned out nearly 9,000 B-24 Liberator bombers during World War II, is slated to be torn down unless a group can raise $3.5 million by Thursday to convert at least some of the structure into a new, expanded home for the nearby Yankee Art Museum.

“The younger generation needs to know what people went through and be able to go and see what they did and how they did it for our country,” Larry Doe, a 70-year-old Ypsilanti Township resident who has given to the cause, said recently before joining other donors for a trip on a B-17.

Although women performed what had been male-dominated roles in plants all over the country during the war, it was a Willow Run worker — one of an untold number of women in its 40,000-person workforce — who caught the eye of Hollywood producers casting a “riveter” for a government film about the war effort at home.

Rose Will Monroe, a Kentucky native who moved to Michigan during the war, starred as herself in the film and became one of the best-known figures of that era. She represented the thousands of Rosies who took factory jobs making munitions, weaponry and other things while the nation’s men were off fighting in Europe and the Pacific.

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House of cans: 1 man’s quest to throw nothing away, even beer cans, becomes Houston landmark

HOUSTON (AP) — A child of the Great Depression, John Milkovisch didn’t throw anything away — not even the empty cans of beer he enjoyed each afternoon with his wife.

So, in the early 1970s when aluminum siding on houses was all the rage, he lugged the cans he had stored in his attic for years downstairs, painstakingly cut open and flattened each one and began to wallpaper his home.

“The funny thing is that it wasn’t ... to attract attention,” said Ruben Guevara, head of restoration and preservation of the Beer Can House in Houston’s Memorial Park area. “He said himself that if there was a house similar to this a block away, he wouldn’t take the time to go look at it. He had no idea what was the fascination about what he was doing.”

Milkovisch passed away in the mid-1980s, but his wife, Mary, still lived there. Her sons would do work from time to time, replacing rusty steel cans with new ones and restoring a hurricane-destroyed beer wall. And when they feared for her safety because of the gawkers, they put up a privacy fence, embedding beer cans in that as well.

The neighborhood has rapidly transformed since Mary Milkovisch’s death in the mid-1990s, going from a working middle-class area to the condo- and loft-lined upper-class sector it is today. But the home remains a well-known entity.

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Shea’s quick goal gives US 1-0 victory over Panama in Gold Cup final

CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann likes to describe Brek Shea’s style of play as “unpredictable.”

Nobody could have predicted this.

Just 42 seconds after coming into the game as a substitute Sunday, Shea scored and his goal in the 69th minute gave the United States a 1-0 victory over Panama and the CONCACAF Gold Cup title. It is the fifth Gold Cup title for the Americans, but their first since 2007. It also is the first international title as a coach for Jurgen Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship with Germany.

“I was there just to put it away,” Shea said.

This was the 11th straight victory for the Americans, four more than their previous record, and they likely will leapfrog Mexico as the best team from the North and Central America and Caribbean region when the next FIFA rankings come out Aug. 8.

     

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