- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

House GOP works to derail Iran nuclear deal, saying Obama has not disclosed side deals

WASHINGTON (AP) - Conservative House Republicans have embarked on an eleventh-hour political maneuver to derail the Iranian nuclear deal, saying they can’t vote on it until the president coughs up copies of side deals Tehran negotiated with atomic inspectors.

The last-ditch effort to snarl implementation of the deal was part of a political spectacle that unfolded on Wednesday in Washington over one of President Barack Obama’s key foreign policy initiatives.

Inside the Capitol, congressional Republicans turned on each other angrily as they moved closer to a vote on the deal, which gives Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for restraints to keep it from becoming a nuclear-armed state.

Outside on the lawn, GOP presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump whipped up several thousand demonstrators with remarks harshly criticizing the deal. “Never ever, ever in my life have I seen a deal so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran,” Trump bellowed on the hot, humid afternoon.

The maneuvering and speechifying did little to change the reality: Barring unlikely success of the House Republicans’ strategy, the international accord will move ahead. Even if Congress succeeds in passing legislation aimed at undermining the deal, Obama would veto it and Democrats command enough votes to sustain the veto.


Study: Bone trove deep in South African cave reveals a new human ancestor, raises mysteries

MAGALIESBURG, South Africa (AP) - Scientists say they’ve discovered a new member of the human family tree, revealed by a huge trove of bones in a barely accessible, pitch-dark chamber of a cave in South Africa.

The creature shows a surprising mix of human-like and more primitive characteristics - some experts called it “bizarre” and “weird.”

And the discovery presents some key mysteries: How old are the bones? And how did they get into that chamber, reachable only by a complicated pathway that includes squeezing through passages as narrow as about 7½ inches (17.8 centimeters)?

The site, about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg, has yielded some 1,550 specimens since its discovery in 2013. The fossils represent at least 15 individuals.

Researchers named the creature Homo naledi (nah-LEH-dee). That reflects the “Homo” evolutionary group, which includes modern people and our closest extinct relatives, and the word for “star” in a local language. The find was made in the Rising Star cave system.


Thousands of refugees, migrants brave torrential rain waiting to cross Greek-Macedonian border

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) - Thousands of people, including many families with young children, are braving torrential downpours to cross Greece’s northern border with Macedonia, after Greek authorities managed to register about 17,000 people on the island of Lesbos in the space of a few days, allowing them to continue their journey north into Europe.

Greece’s caretaker government chartered two extra ferries and sent additional staff to Lesbos to speed up the registration and ease overcrowding on the island, where more than 20,000 refugees and migrants had been living in precarious conditions after arriving on dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast.

About 7,000 people waited in the mud of an open field near the northern village of Idomeni to cross the Macedonian border early Thursday, with more arriving in trains, buses and taxis.


Migrants using social media to guide them on their journey to Western Europe

MOLIVOS, Greece (AP) - The 26-year-old Syrian economics graduate knew exactly what to do and where to go.

Amr Zaidah, with the aid of GPS, helped pilot the inflatable boat that brought him and about 30 more migrants to the closest spot to the village of Molivos on Lesbos, one of several Greek islands that have this summer served the tens of thousands of migrants as a first stop on the journey to western Europe.

Molivos, he knew, was where buses were taking migrants to the capital of Lesbos, Mytilene, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the south. The alternative would be a punishing trek on narrow dirt tracks hugging the coast and lined by olive trees, a stretch of highway and a narrow road that cuts through rolling hills.

At Mytilene, Zaidah also knew, he and the eight friends he came with could seek the official document that allows them to continue their journey.

“I have researched our journey for more than two months,” said Zaidah, a native of the Syrian city of Aleppo who has worked the past two years as an accountant in Istanbul. “I used social media networks to look into where to go, who is the best smuggler to hire and what stuff we needed for the trip,” he said as he had chocolate cake and coffee at a posh seafront cafe, his sneakers still wet from the landing.


Islamic State group’s emergence in Saudi Arabia puts focus on hajj security

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - The Islamic State group is extending its reach in Saudi Arabia, expanding the scope of its attacks and drawing in new recruits with its radical ideology. Its determination to bring down the U.S.-allied royal family has raised concerns it could threaten the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage later this month.

So far, the extremist group’s presence in the kingdom appears to be in a low-level stage, but it has claimed four significant bombings since May, one of them in neighboring Kuwait. And it has rapidly ramped up its rhetoric, aiming to undermine the Al Saud royal family’s legitimacy, which is rooted in part in its claim to implement Islamic Shariah law and to be the protectors of Islam’s most sacred sites in Mecca and Medina that are at the center of hajj.

“Daesh and its followers have made it very clear that Saudi Arabia is their ultimate target,” Saudi analyst Fahad Nazer said, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym. “Because of Mecca and Medina … That’s their ultimate prize.”

An attack last month in which IS claimed responsibility appeared to mark a significant spread in the group’s reach. Militants claiming loyalty to the group had already carried out three major bombings - two in eastern Saudi Arabia in May and one in Kuwait City in June, all targeting Shiite mosques and killing 53 people.

But on Aug. 6, a suicide bomber attacked in western Saudi Arabia, hitting a mosque inside a police compound in Abha, 350 miles south of Mecca, killing 15 people in the deadliest attack on the kingdom’s security forces in years. Eleven of the dead belonged to an elite counterterrorism unit whose tasks include protecting the hajj pilgrimage.


Away from Olympics, sewage blights vast swaths of Rio, presents daily health danger

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Rivulets of waste crisscross the labyrinth of alleyways that serve as 5-year-old Kaike de Oliveira Benjamin’s playground, forming dark, fetid puddles and gurgling streams of refuse and trash. It’s little better inside the tiny, one-room apartment he shares with his mother, two little brothers and infestations of roaches and rats. When it rains, the basement apartment floods ankle-deep with a mixture of rainwater and sewage, and drinking water often comes out of the tap looking and smelling contaminated.

Rio de Janeiro’s lack of basic sanitation is in the headlines because Olympic athletes will compete in polluted waters during next year’s games, but it’s hardly news in areas like the Rocinha slum, where contact with untreated waste is an everyday reality for the Benjamins and tens of thousands of other families.

The consequences are not fleeting - they reverberate for decades, dooming many children exposed to this filth to lives stunted by illness.

One public health expert calls the sewage system in Rio largely “medieval,” comparable with London or Paris in the 14th or 15th century.

And it’s not just Rio. Fewer than half of households nationwide are hooked up to sewage mains, meaning that much of the waste generated by about 100 million people runs through open-air ditches that bisect neighborhoods like Kaike’s across this continent-sized nation, befouling streams and rivers that in turn contaminate lakes and lagoons, beaches and bays.


Helicopters pluck residents to safety as heavy rains in Japan trigger flooding and landslides

JOSO, Japan (AP) - Raging floodwaters broke through a flood berm Thursday and swamped a city north of Tokyo, washing away houses, forcing dozens of people to rooftops to await helicopter rescues and leaving one man clinging for his life to a utility pole.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but rescue officials said they were overwhelmed by pleas for help.

As heavy rain pummeled Japan for a second straight day, the Kinugawa River broke through a flood berm at 12:50 p.m., sending water gushing into the eastern half of Joso, a city of 60,000 people about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Aerial footage showed a wide swath of cityscape underwater, more than one-story deep in some places. The rains came on the heels of Tropical Storm Etau, which caused flooding and landslides elsewhere Wednesday as it crossed central Japan.

Japanese broadcasters showed live aerial footage of rescuers being lowered from helicopters and clambering onto second-floor balconies to reach stranded residents.


New Justice Department policies encourage more prosecutions of corporate executives

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department issued new guidance to its prosecutors Wednesday, aimed at encouraging more white-collar criminal and civil cases against corporate executives.

The new policies come amid persistent criticism that the Justice Department, even while negotiating multi-billion-dollar settlements with large banks, has not been aggressive enough in prosecuting individuals for financial misconduct - including after the mortgage crisis that devastated the U.S. economy.

The directives were outlined in a memo issued to Justice Department attorneys and to the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates was expected to lay out the policy changes in a speech Thursday at New York University’s law school.

Though it’s not clear whether the new policies will actually result in additional prosecutions, they are intended to address concerns that the department could be doing more to hold individual, high-level executives accountable for corporate fraud.

“Regardless of how challenging it may be to make a case against individuals in a corporate fraud case, it’s our responsibility at the Department of Justice to overcome these challenges and do everything we can to develop the evidence and bring these cases,” Yates will say in her speech, according to excerpts provided by the Justice Department. “The public expects and demands this accountability. Americans should never believe, even incorrectly, that one’s criminal activity will go unpunished simply because it was committed on behalf of a corporation.”


Investigators in Las Vegas seek cause of a British Airways Boeing 777 engine fire

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Federal safety investigators are trying to determine what caused a British airliner’s left engine to burst into flames as it hurtled down a Las Vegas runway, forcing the pilot to abort the takeoff and passengers to flee the burning plane.

Passengers on the London-bound Flight 2276 reported hearing two loud booms Tuesday before flames and the smell of burning rubber sent them dashing to the inflatable evacuation slides, unsure if they were fleeing a bomb or a blown tire.

“Everyone was screaming, ‘Just keep on running,’” said Karen Bravo, a 60-year-old who abandoned the flip-flops she had taken off minutes before to settle in for the 10-hour flight to Gatwick Airport south of London.

When the running stopped and they turned around, there was nothing but black smoke and flames.

“It was like a scene out of ‘Die Hard’,” she said.


From late flights to website failures, new CEO of United Airlines faces daunting fix-it list

The new CEO of United Airlines faces a daunting list of problems he must fix, including late flights and technology that too often suffers embarrassing outages.

But if Oscar Munoz listens to people who fly his airline - and some who have stopped - he’ll start his tenure by addressing a longtime problem for the world’s second-biggest airline: poor customer service.

Early signs point to a honeymoon for Munoz, the railroad executive tapped to replace Jeff Smisek as CEO. United’s labor unions and Wall Street analysts were mostly upbeat about Munoz’s arrival - or maybe more accurately, Smisek’s departure.

Munoz knows the airline from his combined 11 years as a director first of Continental Airlines and then at United Continental Holdings Inc. Now he must guide United on a day-to-day basis:

“I know from my time on the board we’ve made significant progress, but there’s still a lot to be done,” he says.

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