Kerry brokers deal between Afghan political rivals, easing threat of political crisis
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghanistan’s two rival candidates reached a breakthrough agreement Saturday to a complete audit of their contested presidential election and, whoever the victor, a national unity government.
The deal, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, offers a path out of what threatened to be a debilitating political crisis for Afghanistan, with both candidates claiming victory and talking of setting up competing governments.
Such a scenario could have dangerously split the fragile country’s government and security forces at a time the U.S. is pulling out most of its troops and the Taliban continues to wage a fierce insurgency.
Instead, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah agreed to abide by a 100 percent, internationally supervised audit of all 8 million ballots in the presidential election. They vowed to form a national unity government once the results are announced, presumably one that includes members of each side.
Kerry, who conducted shuttle diplomacy between the two candidates late into the night Friday and Saturday, warned that much work still remained.
Israeli ground troops raid rocket launching site in Gaza; 4 soldiers hurt in battle
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and deployed ground troops inside Gaza for the first time early Sunday to raid a rocket launching site in the Palestinian territory. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.
Four Israeli soldiers were hurt in clashes during the brief incursion to destroy a rocket launching site in northern Gaza, the military said. It said they have returned to Israeli territory.
It was the first time that Israeli ground troops are known to have entered Gaza in the current offensive. But the operation was carried out by special forces and did not appear to be the beginning of a broad ground offensive.
On Saturday, Israel announced it would hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel.
One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza’s police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.
NYC-bound Delta flight from Israel has mechanical problem, returns to Tel Aviv; lands safely
NEW YORK (AP) - A New York-bound Delta Air Lines flight from Israel declared an emergency and returned to Tel Aviv early Sunday after flaps on the jumbo jet failed to retract properly on takeoff, the airline said.
Flight 469 - a Boeing 747 with 370 passengers and 17 crew members aboard - landed safely back at Ben Gurion Airport around 2:30 a.m. local time, about two hours after it left for John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
Delta spokeswoman Jennifer Martin said the crew made the emergency landing “out of an abundance of caution.”
The emergency landing came amid heightened sensitivity in Israel, as the military continues to exchange rocket fire with Palestinian militants. Martin said there was no indication the plane’s problem was related to the conflict or terrorism.
Warning sirens sounded Friday in Tel Aviv as militant rockets targeted the airport, but they were intercepted and there was no disturbance to Israel’s air traffic.
UN warns of ‘chaos’ if Iraqi leaders fail to break political deadlock and form new government
BAGHDAD (AP) - The U.N. urged Iraq’s leaders Saturday to overcome their deep divisions and move quickly to form a new government that can unite the country and confront a surging militant threat, warning that failure to do so “risks plunging the country into chaos.”
The Sunni insurgent blitz over the past month has driven Iraq into its deepest crisis since the last American troops left in 2011, pushing bloodshed to levels unseen since the height of the Iraq war, sending Sunni-Shiite tensions soaring and raising the specter of a nation cleaved in three along ethnic and sectarian lines.
Iraq’s new parliament is scheduled on Sunday to hold its second session amid hopes that lawmakers can quickly decide on a new prime minister, president and speaker of parliament - the first steps toward forming a new government. It failed to make any progress in its first session, and postponed its second session until Sunday.
U.N special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, called on lawmakers to attend the meeting and forge an agreement on new leaders. He warned of dire consequences if the current political deadlock drags on.
“It will only serve the interests of those who seek to divide the people of Iraq and destroy their chances for peace and prosperity,” he said in a statement. “Iraq needs a team that can bring people together. Now is not the time for mutual accusations, now is the time for moving forward and compromising in the interest of the Iraqi people.”
Tommy Ramone, last original member of punk band, dies at age 65
NEW YORK (AP) - The Ramones always seemed too fast. Their songs rushed by, often two minutes or less of pure adrenaline. Their influence outstripped their sales. And now, with the death of drummer Tommy, all four original members of the seminal punk rock band are gone.
Tommy Ramone, born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest, Hungary, died Friday at age 65, said Dave Frey, who works for Ramones Productions and Silent Partner Management. Frey had no further details.
Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and Tommy Ramone, taking their surname from an alias Paul McCartney used to check into hotels, formed in Queens, N.Y. in 1974. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members were among the leaders of the original punk rock movement with songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated,” ”Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Rockaway Beach.”
Wearing ripped jeans, black leather and bad haircuts, the Ramones stripped rock down to its essentials: two guitars, drums, a singer and no solos. Their 1976 debut album had 14 songs in less than 30 minutes, with “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and “Beat on the Brat” reflecting their twisted teen years.
Their taste also reflected a love for early 1960s rock, before it became “progressive.”
Workers struggle to get by in New York’s Hamptons, America’s playground for rich and famous
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) - This is a town where people are so rich that a $2 million home can be a handyman’s special. A town where the thrift shop is stocked with donations of designer dresses and handbags.
But Southampton, with its privet hedges, pristine beaches and some estates costing tens of millions, also is where 40 percent of children get free or reduced school lunches, where a food pantry serves up to 400 clients a month and where some doctors and nurses share homes owned by the local hospital because they can’t afford to buy or rent.
Studies show the wealth gap separating the rich from everyone else is widening, and few places in the country illustrate that as starkly as Long Island’s Hamptons - America’s summer playground for the haves and have-mores, where even middle-class workers struggle with the high cost of living.
“We have a tremendous amount of millionaires who live 3 miles from the food pantry, and they really have no idea that there’s a need in this community,” said Mary Ann Tupper, who retired last month after 21 years as the executive director of Human Resources of the Hamptons, a charity that assists 6,000 people annually through its food pantry and other services for the working poor.
“In the summer they’re working and everything is pretty good, but come the winter, all the nannies, the gardeners, the pool people, all those people are out of work, and then there’s no money,” Tupper said. “The income disparity is tremendous.”
Body of Guatemalan boy who died in Texas after crossing into US buried in hometown
SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, Guatemala (AP) - A 15-year-old Guatemalan boy whose death became a symbol of the perils facing children attempting to illegally cross into the United States was buried in his hometown Saturday, amid prayers and tears from his family.
Neighbors in this mountain village filled the small home where Gilberto Francisco Ramos Juarez grew up, turning the room where he slept on the floor into a space to mourn over his gray and silver coffin.
A white bow hung on the front door in a sign of mourning. Inside the humble concrete home, women cried and prayed while men waited to carry Gilberto’s body to the hilltop cemetery overlooking the village. Amid highland flowers and candles sat a photograph of the boy.
“Ay, my son, now I won’t see you again,” his mother, Cipriana Juarez, shouted between tears.
The boy’s decomposed body was discovered on June 15 in the Rio Grande Valley, not far inside Texas from the border with Mexico. Around his neck was a rosary he had received as a gift for his first communion as a Roman Catholic. Scribbled inside his belt buckle was the phone number of an older brother in Chicago he had hoped to reach.
Split-screen presidency: Obama hits the road campaign-style, but his agenda remains gridlocked
WASHINGTON (AP) - Welcome to Barack Obama’s split-screen presidency.
On one side: a confident Obama making campaign-style stops around the country and ridiculing his political opponents to the delight of cheering supporters. On the other side: an increasingly unpopular president hobbled by gridlock on Capitol Hill and a steady stream of vexing foreign policy crises.
Obama has long sought refuge outside of Washington when his frustrations with the nation’s capital reach a boiling point. But his ability to rally public support in a way that results in progress for his legislative agenda has perhaps never been weaker than it is as he nears the midpoint of his second term.
To the White House, the take-away is that Washington - and the Republican Party in particular - is out of touch with the American people and failing to address their priorities. But to GOP leaders, Obama’s activities in a midterm election year reinforce their view of a president more focused on soaring speeches and partisan politics than on working toward compromise solutions to the nation’s problems.
Each side has at least some evidence to support its case.
In speeches, Republican governors back away from gay marriage bans as court fights continue
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Deep in the nation’s Bible Belt, new signs emerged this weekend of an evolution among Republican governors on gay marriage, an explosive social issue that has divided American families and politics for years.
While the Republican Party’s religious conservatives continue to fight against same-sex marriage, its governors appear to be backing off their opposition- in their rhetoric, at least. For some, the shift may be more a matter of tone than substance as the GOP tries to attract new voters ahead of the midterm elections. Nonetheless, it is dramatic turn for a party that has long been defined by social conservative values.
“I don’t think the Republican Party is fighting it,” Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker said of gay marriage. He spoke with The Associated Press during an interview this weekend at the National Governors Association in Nashville.
“I’m not saying it’s not important,” continued Walker, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid should he survive his re-election test this fall. “But Republicans haven’t been talking about this. We’ve been talking about economic and fiscal issues. It’s those on the left that are pushing it.”
Walker, like other ambitious Republican governors, is trying to strike a delicate balance.
Netherlands beats host Brazil 3-0 to win 3rd-place match at World Cup
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - When it was all over, it was the Netherlands receiving a standing ovation from the Brazilian crowd. Brazil walked off the field to boos, after another demoralizing loss to end its home World Cup.
The Netherlands’ remarkable campaign ended on a high note after Robin van Persie and Daley Blind scored early goals to help give the team a 3-0 win over Brazil in the third-place game on Saturday.
“We can look back at a very successful tournament,” Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal said. “I’m proud of my players.”
The Netherlands finishes a World Cup unbeaten in regular play for the first time, having lost to Argentina on penalties in the semifinals. After finishing runner-up in 2010, the third place is the best position for the Dutch squad since it lost the final in 1974 and 1978.
The Brazilian fans loudly greeted the Dutch players after they received the third-place medals, applauding on their feet.
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