- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

Greeks wake up to open banks, higher taxes on basic goods; cash restrictions still in place

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greek banks reopened Monday for the first time in three weeks, but strict limits on cash withdrawals and higher taxes on everything from coffee to diapers meant the economic outlook for the recession-battered country was far from back to normal.

There were hopeful developments: The cash-strapped nation got a short-term loan from European creditors to pay more than 6 billion euros ($6.5 billion) owed to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. Non-payment of either would have derailed Greece’s latest bailout request.

But for most Greeks, already buffeted by six years of recession, Monday was all about rising prices as tax hikes demanded by creditors took effect.

Dimitris Chronis, who has run a small kebab shop in central Athens for 20 years, said the higher tax rates could push his business over the edge.

“I can’t put up my prices because I’ll have no customers at all,” lamented Chronis, who said sales have already slid by around 80 percent since banking restrictions were imposed on June 29.

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Grievances linger as Cuba, US symbolically mark start of new era in post-Cold War relations

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Cuban national flag fluttered in the Washington sun Monday as the U.S. and Cuba formally ended more than a half-century of estrangement, formally re-establishing relations severed at the height of the Cold War. But the symbolism of an embassy ceremony could not conceal deep, lingering conflicts between the nations.

In the sweltering July heat and humidity of America’s capital, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the flag-raising ceremony just hours after an agreement to restore diplomatic ties broken in 1961 took effect at the stroke of midnight. He later met with Secretary of State John Kerry, becoming the first Cuban foreign minister to set foot in the State Department since 1958.

Kerry announced that he would make a reciprocal visit to Cuba to dedicate the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Aug. 14. He spoke of a need to move beyond the enmity that was spawned as President John F. Kennedy grappled with Fidel Castro’s revolution and Soviet expansionism and that hardened over the 54 years that followed.

Despite pledges of goodwill and mutual respect, ghosts of past animosity hung over the events.

At the reopening of the Cuban embassy and again at a joint news conference with Kerry, Rodriguez repeated demands for the U.S. to end its 53-year embargo, return the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, stop efforts to change or reform Cuba’s communist government and pay compensation for damage done to the island and its people over the past five decades.

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UN Security Council unanimously endorses nuclear deal between Iran and 6 world powers

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously endorsed the landmark deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and authorized measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions, but also approved a provision that would automatically reinstate the harsh measures if Tehran reneges on its promises.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels immediately followed suit, endorsing the agreement between Iran and six major powers and taking the first step to lift EU sanctions.

President Barack Obama told reporters he hopes the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, where there is strong opposition to the deal, will pay attention to the “broad international consensus,” stressing that the deal is “by far our strongest approach to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.”

But House Speaker John Boehner accused Obama of “ignoring the concerns of the American people” by allowing “such a consequential vote” to go ahead in the U.N. just 24 hours after submitting the agreement to Congress, which has 60 days to consider it. “This is a bad start for a bad deal,” he said.

While sharp differences remain between the United States and Iran, ambassadors from both countries called the agreement an important achievement for diplomacy.

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He’s not going away: With no donor pressure, billionaire Donald Trump brushes off critics

WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump faced an avalanche of fresh criticism Monday for questioning Sen. John McCain’s heroism. But he’s getting no pressure at all from the one community that could push a candidate out of the 2016 presidential race: political donors.

The billionaire businessman is paying for his own campaign, and that means Republicans may have him around far longer than some party leaders would like.

“Nobody leaves a race because they get tired, or because they think they don’t have the votes. They leave the race because they run out of money,” said Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster. “Donald Trump will never run out of money, and that makes him incredibly powerful.”

Indeed, Republican operatives suggest that Trump enjoys a rare freedom.

Because he doesn’t need tens of millions of dollars from wealthy donors - a notoriously risk-averse crowd - the standard rules of politics simply don’t apply. He can afford, literally, to continue dropping the verbal bombs that have defined his presidential campaign since the day he joined the 2016 contest in June.

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Turkey suspects Islamic State behind bombing that killed 31 near Syrian border

ISTANBUL (AP) - Authorities suspected the Islamic State group was behind an apparent suicide bombing Monday in southeastern Turkey that killed 31 people and wounded nearly 100 - a development that could represent a major expansion by the extremists at a time when the government is stepping up efforts against them.

Turkish officials vowed to strike back at those behind the attack in the city of Suruc targeting a group of political activists who wanted to help the shattered Syrian city of Kobani, a bombing that turned a moment of hope into a scene of horror.

“We are face to face with a terrorism incident,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said. “We have the willpower to find and certainly punish those who are responsible.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but a senior government official told The Associated Press that Turkey suspected the IS group was behind the blast as retaliation for Turkey’s steps against the militants.

The midday explosion took place as the Federation of Socialist Youths was wrapping up a news conference on plans to help rebuild Kobani, a witness said.

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Lawyers may try to use Cosby’s own words against him in court; ‘treasure trove of admissions’

Bill Cosby’s lurid, decade-old testimony about his philandering could do more than damage what’s left of his fatherly image - it could very well be used against him in court by some of the women who accuse him of sexual assault.

Rocco Cipparone, a defense lawyer in New Jersey who is not connected to any of the legal action surrounding Cosby, said Monday that what the comedian said under oath could wind up hurting him in civil or criminal cases if judges can be persuaded to rule the testimony admissible.

For Cosby to avoid being damaged by his own words, Cipparone said, “you’d have to navigate a virtual minefield.”

Dozens of women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them over four decades, though few of the accusations have begun to play out in court, largely because the statute of limitations for criminal charges has run out in most instances.

Authorities have said one accusation is under criminal investigation in California, and three others are part of a defamation lawsuit against Cosby in Massachusetts by women who say they were slandered by his representatives.

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June, first half of 2015 break old records by far as Earth keeps heating up

WASHINGTON (AP) - Earth dialed the heat up in June, smashing warm temperature records for both the month and the first half of the year.

Off-the-charts heat is “getting to be a monthly thing,” said Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June was the fourth month of 2015 that set a record, she said.

“There is almost no way that 2015 isn’t going to be the warmest on record,” she added.

NOAA calculated that the world’s average temperature in June hit 61.48 degrees Fahrenheit (16.33 Celsius), breaking the old record set last year by 0.22 degrees (.12 degrees Celsius). Usually temperature records are broken by one or two one-hundredths of a degree, not nearly a quarter of a degree, Blunden said.

And the picture is even more dramatic when the half-year is considered.

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Doctors say French teen’s HIV has been controlled for 12 years despite stopping AIDS drugs

An 18-year-old French teen born with the AIDS virus has had her infection under control and nearly undetectable despite stopping treatment 12 years ago - an unprecedented remission, doctors are reporting.

The teen might have some form of natural resistance to HIV that hasn’t yet been discovered. But her case revives hope that early, aggressive treatment can limit how strongly the virus takes hold, and perhaps in rare cases, let people control it without lifelong drugs.

A few years ago, doctors reported a similar case: a Mississippi girl who kept HIV in check for 27 months without treatment. But then her virus rebounded, dashing hopes that early treatment might have cured her.

At least a dozen adults have had remissions for a median of 10 years after stopping HIV medicines, but the new French case is said to be the first long-lasting one that started in childhood.

The case was described Monday at an International AIDS Society conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, by Dr. Asier Saez-Cirion of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. The teen lives in the Paris area and her identity was not revealed.

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Country couple Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert announce divorce after 4 years of marriage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - After years of tabloid gossip claiming marital troubles, country music’s top couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert announced their divorce after four years of marriage.

The news was confirmed in a statement by the couple to The Associated Press, issued by their representatives Monday.

“This is not the future we envisioned,” the former couple said in the statement.

“And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”

The two multiplatinum stars came together just as their careers were hitting their peak, but the couple had to constantly deny rumors that their superstar careers were taking a toll on their marriage. Although sometimes they joked about competing against each other for awards, publicly they were constantly championing each other’s successes and there were no obvious signs of trouble when the couple appeared at the Academy of Country Music Awards together in April.

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Zach Johnson delivers clutch moments for claret jug, and stops Grand Slam bid for Spieth

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) - Zach Johnson cradled the silver claret jug in his arms. Jordan Spieth let it slip through his fingers.

Spieth was right where he wanted to be in his spirited bid for the Grand Slam - tied for the lead with two holes to go in the British Open, right after making a 50-foot birdie putt that made it feel as though he were destined to win at St. Andrews for his third straight major.

And he was still there at the very end Monday, but only as a spectator.

The slam gone, Spieth graciously returned to the steps of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse to watch Johnson finish off a sterling performance of his own. Johnson rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that got him into a three-man playoff, and he outlasted Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman to win the British Open.

Johnson described himself as a “normal guy” from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when he won the Masters in 2007.

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