- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

APNewsBreak: US weighs unprecedented abstention on UN vote condemning Cuba embargo

WASHINGTON (AP) - For the first time, the United States may be willing to accept a United Nations condemnation of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba without a fight, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials tell the AP that the Obama administration is weighing abstaining from the annual U.N. General Assembly vote on a Cuban-backed resolution demanding that the embargo be lifted. The vote could come next month.

No decision has yet been made, said four administration officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on sensitive internal deliberations and demanded anonymity. But merely considering an abstention is unprecedented. Following through on the idea would send shock waves through both the United Nations and Congress.

It is unheard of for a U.N. member state not to oppose resolutions critical of its own laws.

And by not actively opposing the resolution, the administration would be effectively siding with the world body against Congress, which has refused to repeal the embargo despite calls from President Barack Obama to do so.


Pope meets with Fidel, but misses out on seeing dissidents after they’re blocked from vespers

HAVANA (AP) - Pope Francis flies to eastern Cuba on Monday for the next leg of his pilgrimage after having met with both Raul and Fidel Castro but missing out on an encounter with Cuban dissidents.

The Vatican stressed that no official meeting had been planned with the dissidents. The Vatican embassy in Havana did make calls to some leaders “as a sign of attention to these people,” the Vatican spokesman said, but in the end the dissidents were prevented from reaching the cathedral where the greeting was planned.

The Castro meetings went off without a hitch.

The Vatican described the 40-minute session with Fidel Castro at the former president’s home as “informal and familial,” with an exchange of books and discussion about big issues facing humanity, including Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment and the global economic system.

Video of the encounter broadcast on Cuban state media showed the 89-year-old Castro chatting animatedly with Francis and shaking the pope’s hand, the pope standing in his white vestments and Castro sitting in a white button-down shirt and Adidas sweat top.


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In an unprecedented move, Washington may be willing to accept a United Nations condemnation of the trade restrictions against Havana without a fight, the AP learns.


AP Investigation: World Health agency’s bungling hindered Ebola response in Sierra Leone

KENEMA, Sierra Leone (AP) - The chlorine was expired. The protective gear was missing. And the red tape was so thick that responders fighting last year’s Ebola outbreak had trouble getting approval for boots and buckets.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic pitted a lethal virus against barely-there health systems, and it was always going to be deadly. But an Associated Press investigation has found that a string of avoidable errors badly undermined the work of international aid workers.

The World Health Organization, charged with leading the fight against global outbreaks, already has been criticized over its management of the disease-fighting effort. Earlier this year, an AP investigation found that WHO delayed declaring an international emergency - similar to an SOS signal - on political and economic grounds. Newly obtained emails, documents and interviews show that WHO and other responders failed to organize a strong response even after the signal was issued.

Experts say the bungling ultimately cost lives across West Africa.

“There’s no question that a better and earlier response from WHO could have resulted in thousands and thousands of fewer deaths than we saw,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University in New York.


The Latest: Austria: Over 24,000 migrants came in this weekend from Hungary; more on Monday

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) - The latest developments as European governments rush to cope with the huge number of people moving across Europe. All times local:


11:40 a.m.

Austrian police say people keep streaming in by the thousands across the border from Hungary.

Police spokesman Helmut Marban says Monday that nearly 24,000 people fleeing their homelands had crossed in over the weekend.


Syrian refugee family rebuilds life in the US, hopeful relatives will be able to join them

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - Hussam Al Roustom and his wife didn’t tell anyone before they and their two small children left Syria, fearing their plans for escape could fall apart.

Leaving their homeland had never been part of the picture before. Al Roustom had a supermarket and owned their home in the western Syria city of Homs. But a civil war that started with unrest in 2011 had taken its toll, especially on his son Wesam, already dealing with autism and so traumatized by the barrage of violence that he stopped speaking entirely.

“When they would exit the house, it was only to the sounds of war,” Al Roustom said through a translator. “When they would sleep, they would hear the sound of bullets.”

These days, it’s the sounds of passing cars and conversations between people on the street for Al Roustom and his wife, Suha, as they and their children settle into their small apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. They’ve been here about three months, among the 1,500 or so Syrian refugees who have been resettled in the U.S. out of an estimated 4 million who had fled the country in recent years.

Wesem, now 7, speaks “a few words,” his father said. He and Maaesa, 3, have been to the park, the pool and the beach, and Wesem has learned to swim. Al Roustom just started a job with a moving company, work found through the help of Church World Service, the organization that is helping resettle the family.


Carly Fiorina’s rocky tenure as Hewlett-Packard CEO is still a matter of campaign debate

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Ten years after GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was unceremoniously fired from her job as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, her tumultuous business career is still the subject of heated discussion.

Even as she enjoys a surge in momentum after last week’s Republican debate, Fiorina is facing more jibes about her tenure at HP. Rival candidate Donald Trump declared her time there “a disaster,” after Fiorina boasted of HP’s growth and the “tough choices” she made as CEO.

The truth is, her HP tenure was rocky. “It is pretty hard to find too many people who think she did a great job there,” said journalist Peter Burrows, who wrote “Backfire,” a book about Fiorina’s reign at HP. “Her reputation is definitely tarnished in Silicon Valley.”

Yet one outspoken Fiorina supporter is venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who clashed with Fiorina when he was on HP’s board but now says it was a mistake to dump her. “I think she is brilliant and has gotten a lot of unwarranted criticism,” Perkins told The Associated Press.

Some issues the 61-year-old Fiorina has encountered in her career:


Israel struggles to counter new wave of Palestinian rock-throwing attacks in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) - After finding high-tech solutions to halt suicide bombings and rockets, tech-savvy Israel is struggling with the resurgence of a weapon dating back to David and Goliath: the hurled rock.

Rock throwing is becoming commonplace in Jerusalem amid a wave of Palestinian unrest, leading to calls for a harsh crackdown and adding to tensions over access to a key holy site. But the outbursts appear to be decentralized and unorganized, and any tough new measures risk setting off another full-fledged conflict.

The Palestinian rock thrower emerged as an iconic image of the first uprising against Israeli occupation in the 1980s and even as the second uprising last decade took on a more militant nature with suicide bombings and shooting attacks, rock throwing has been a regular feature of demonstrations since then. But in recent months, stone throwing has become a near daily occurrence in some neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, the section of the city captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.

After an Israeli motorist was killed when his car crashed after being pelted with stones on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the Israeli government pledged to crack down.

Israel quickly built a new fence and installed greater surveillance measures at the site of the attack, and the government has pushed for more lenient rules of engagement for police. It is also promising tougher minimum sentences for offenders and heavy fines for minors and their parents as part of a zero-tolerance approach.


Greek left-wing leader Tsipras sees off rivals right and left, but must impose new cutbacks

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greek left-wing leader Alexis Tsipras will receive the formal mandate to govern for a second straight term Monday, after his unexpectedly decisive victory in early national elections that saw most Greeks back parties committed to the debt-heavy country’s harsh bailout commitments.

At 41, Tsipras now dominates Greek politics, having seen off both the main, center-right opposition and his own party rebels despite a sharp policy U-turn that kept the country in the eurozone but ditched the anti-austerity platform which first swept him to power in January.

Tsipras quickly announced that he will renew his pro-European coalition with the small, right-wing populist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, which beat opinion polls to clear the three percent parliamentary entry threshold.

With more than 99.7 percent of Sunday’s votes counted, Tsipras’ Syriza had 35.5 percent, while New Democracy trailed with 28.1 percent. But in a sign of widespread discontent, more than four in 10 Greeks stayed away from the parliamentary election - the second this year - and Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn remained the country’s third-strongest party with 7 percent.

Just two months ago, Syriza abandoned its pledges to reverse income cuts, tax hikes and labor reforms under duress to secure a third, 86-billion-euro ($97 billion) international bailout for the recession-battered country. Tsipras has promised to put as human a face as possible on the inevitable new cutbacks and pension reforms his government must enforce to continue receiving the rescue loans.


HBO takes home a haul of Emmys; Davis, Hamm and Morgan win some hearts

HBO claimed the hardware at the annual Emmy Awards. Viola Davis, Jon Hamm and Tracy Morgan captured the hearts.

In the 67th edition of the television awards show Sunday, Davis became the first woman of color to win best actress in a drama series. Hamm was a sentimental favorite for winning best actor in his last chance with “Mad Men,” and Morgan was an emotional surprise in appearing onstage following his traumatic brain injury in an auto accident last year.

For sheer awards tonnage, it was a triumph for HBO. The pay cable network won 14 awards Sunday night, with “Game of Thrones” named best drama, “Veep” best comedy and the miniseries “Olive Kitteridge” best limited series.

The next closest network was Comedy Central with four. Add in the creative arts Emmys awarded a week ago and HBO took a total of 43 awards (NBC was second with 12). The fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” was the most-honored program in any single year, with a total of 12 awards.

“Thanks again, HBO, for believing in dragons,” said David Benioff, producer of “Game of Thrones.” The show’s Peter Dinklage won a best supporting actor award.

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