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The top U.S. and German diplomats met in a bid to overcome a spying dispute after Germany asked an American intelligence officer to leave the country.
Amid their alliance’s most serious conflict in a decade, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier talked yesterday for about an hour while in Vienna for meetings on Iran’s nuclear program.
“The German-American relationship is essential and indispensable and that goes for us both,” Steinmeier told reporters in the Austrian capital. “We’ll continue to work on our relationship on the basis of trust and mutual respect.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel renewed her objections to what she called the U.S.’s Cold War-style intelligence gathering even as she sought to shield joint projects such as trade talks and curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
The latest revelations of US spying on Germany have unleashed unprecedented levels of distrust in Berlin. The government has already expelled the CIA's chief here and may soon be planning additional measures as it seeks answers from Washington.
It was an unusual invitation that took four members of a German parliamentary control committee to London early last week. For the ninth time, lawmakers in the so-called "Five Eyes" countries tasked with supervising their respective intelligence services were meeting in the British capital. They had faced serious accusations of spying within the last year. This time, the British, Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders had invited their somewhat disgruntled German counterparts to join the group.
Al Jazeera America
Civil liberties groups took Britain's spy agencies to court Monday in a bid to limit electronic surveillance, as the country’s government tries to pass legislation to extend snooping powers.
A special court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, is hearing a challenge to mass online surveillance from groups including Liberty, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The organizations claim that mass collection of individuals’ communications data breaches the rights to private life and freedom of expression.
“Not content with forcing service providers to keep details of our calls and browsing histories, the government is fighting to retain the right to trawl through our communications with anyone outside and many inside the country,” said Liberty legal director James Welch. “When will it learn that it is neither ethical nor efficient to turn everyone into suspects?”
The rights groups launched their legal action after leaks about cyber-spying from former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. He revealed details of a program called PRISM, which gives the NSA access to Internet companies' customer data, and a British operation, TEMPORA, that allows Britain's electronic spy agency to harvest data from undersea cables.
British authorities have not confirmed the existence of TEMPORA.
Citigroup Inc has agreed to pay $7 billion to settle a U.S. investigation into shoddy mortgage-backed securities the bank sold in the run-up to the financial crisis, including the largest civil fraud penalty ever levied by the U.S. Justice Department.
The settlement is more than twice what many analysts had expected but less than the $12 billion the government sought in negotiations with Citi, the third largest U.S. bank.
Citi said it took a related pretax charge of about $3.8 billion in the second quarter, which led the bank to report a 96 percent drop in earnings on Monday.
Citi shares rose 3.2 percent at $48.52.
The settlement, signed over the weekend, capped months of negotiations, during which the government threatened to sue the bank, sources said.
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is transitioning to regular active duty status, having completed therapy and counseling following his return from captivity in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said on Monday.
Bergdahl, who was released in May after five years as a Taliban prisoner of war in Afghanistan, is being assigned to work at the Army North headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, the department said in a statement.
"He will now return to regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission," it said.
Officials characterized the move as "the final phase of the reintegration process."
The Pentagon also said the Army was still investigating the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's 2009 disappearance from his post in Afghanistan and subsequent capture by Taliban militants.
The New York Times reported that he would meet with Major General Kenneth Dahl, who is leading the investigation.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has stayed on in Vienna for a second day of talks with his Iranian counterpart in an attempt to break an impasse in international negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme.
Kerry entered what the US described as a "serious and potentially lengthy conversation" with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, in a Vienna hotel late on Monday morning, continuing talks adjourned on Sunday night. The discussions come six days before a deadline for completing a comprehensive deal between Iran and six world powers on the future size and shape of an Iranian programme, and at a moment when the talks are deadlocked on a range of issues.
The most serious obstacle is a fundamental agreement on whether Iran should have an industrial-scale uranium enrichment capacity, enabling it to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel for its nuclear power station at Bushehr, or to retain only a research-scale facility and rely on continued fuel imports from Russia, which built the Bushehr reactor.
Diplomats said Kerry and Zarif were looking for a compromise that could lead to an agreement by Sunday, or would justify agreeing an extension to the talks in anticipation of a deal.
The state of Missouri is hours away from executing its sixth prisoner this year despite new evidence that raises doubts about the inmate’s culpability in the three 1995 murders for which he was put on death row.
Barring eleventh-hour intervention by the courts, John Middleton, 54, will be killed by lethal injection at 12.01am on Wednesday morning for crimes that he insists he did not commit. His legal team has uncovered new evidence that they believe not only gives him a rock-solid alibi but also incriminates two other men who they name in legal documents.
A petition has been lodged on Middleton’s behalf with the eighth circuit federal court of appeals calling for his execution to be halted while the new evidence is digested. It argues that on the day that one of the three victims was murdered, Middleton was in fact locked up in jail in Iowa, 40 miles away from the crime scene.
“It’s hard to think of a more iron-clad alibi than that,” the prisoner’s co-counsel, Joseph Perkovich, said.
Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. plans to close one of its two Atlantic City casinos in September, putting about 1,000 people out of work in the seaside New Jersey resort town.
Employees were notified today that the company is reviewing options for the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and plans to shutter it as soon as Sept. 16, according to a statement from the company. That would leave the Atlantic City-based company with one property, the Trump Taj Mahal, in the market.
The East Coast gambling hub is withering amid growing regional competition. The Atlantic Club closed in January, Caesars Entertainment Corp. (CZR) plans to shut the Showboat on Aug. 31, and Revel, the $2.4 billion mirrored-glass casino that was supposed to usher in a resurgence for the city, is searching for a buyer in bankruptcy.
When Kwok-Ming Cheng went to a Whole Foods in New York City to pick up some pre-ordered sandwiches over the Fourth of July weekend, he wasn't expecting to get tapped with a new nickname.
"Are you Ching Chong?"
That's the question Cheng said he heard from a customer service representative at the grocery store.
It's a slur I and many other Asian-American folks have heard at some point in our lives. But every time I hear it, I can't help but wonder, "How is this thing still around? And where did it even come from?"
Cheng, who works in finance, moved to the States from Hong Kong when he was 7. He said while racism was certainly nothing new to him, he was caught completely off-guard.
"I was mortified," Cheng told me. "Because the thing is, OK. I'm in New York, I've seen racism, and if I'm on the street, if someone goes 'Ching Chong', I'm like, You're just being stupid. And I'm going to let it go and I'm going to walk away. ... But I'm at Whole Foods, and the Whole Foods is literally right next to Chinatown."
President Barack Obama is facing a clash with Democrats in Congress over proposals to water down a law intended to combat human trafficking in order to speed up the repatriation of unaccompanied children crossing the US southern border from Central America.
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, together proposed legislation on Monday that would include changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and allow children from countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to be returned within a week of their arrival in the US rather than holding them for months as they await a full asylum hearing, as currently required.
The proposal from Cornyn and Cuellar matches White House demands for changes to the Wilberforce Act, which has paradoxically been blamed for encouraging smuggling gangs and families in Central America by allowing unaccompanied children to remain with relatives in the US while their cases are processed.
planeload of single mothers and children arrived in this gang-ridden Honduran city on Monday, ferried back on a U.S.-chartered flight as an unprecedented surge of Central American migrants has overwhelmed U.S. border enforcement officials in recent months.
It was the first in a series deportation flights that are expected to leave the United States for Honduras carrying only women and children in the coming days.
A total of 18 mothers, 13 girls and nine boys, who were being held at a U.S. detention center in Artesia, N.M., were scheduled to be on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement charter Monday. But two passengers fell ill and didn't board, officials said.
Hordes of politicians, camera crews and aid workers were on hand to welcome the women and children when they landed at the Ramon Villeda Morales airport. Even the nation’s first lady and her entourage were present, a show of support by government officials who have been scrambling to figure out how to alleviate what’s been called a humanitarian crisis.
But some activists and aid workers remain critical of the Honduran government’s efforts, saying that federal officials have largely ignored the exodus from their country until now and still don’t have a solid plan to deal with the escalating crisis.
Ukraine on Monday accused Russian army officers of fighting alongside separatists in the east of the country and said Moscow was once more building up its troops on the joint border.
A missile that downed a Ukrainian transport plane carrying eight people near the border was probably fired from Russia, Ukrainian officials said.
President Petro Poroshenko held an emergency meeting of his security chiefs after a weekend of Ukrainian air strikes on rebel positions near the border with Russia and charges by Moscow that Kiev killed a Russian man with a cross-border shell.
The war of words between Kiev and Moscow and intense fighting, in which Ukrainian forces say they inflicted heavy losses on the rebels, marked a sharp escalation in the three and a half month conflict in which several hundred Ukrainian servicemen, civilians and rebels have been killed. "Information has ... been confirmed that Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces," Poroshenko said.
Israel carried out airstrikes on 40 sites in the Gaza Strip on Monday as it continues its campaign to halt cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian militants.
At least 20 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in the past 12 hours.
Medics said the Israeli raids hit three training facilities used by the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas, killing two people.
Palestinian security sources additionally reported shelling of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, where Israel had told thousands of residents to leave on Sunday ahead of a major assault that failed to materialize.
Israeli military have also said they shot down an unmanned drone on Monday off the coast of the southern port of Ashdod. Israeli media said the drone was launched from the Gaza Strip.
The death toll from Israeli aerial attacks in the Gaza Strip has now hit 172, with a further 1,230 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) has said more than three quarters of the victims were civilians.
So far, no Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire, although there have been some injuries.
Demonstrators have gathered in Jerusalem's city center, close to the former border between east and west. They carry Israeli flags and signs, and shout "Mavet la aravim" (Death to Arabs). They flag down taxi drivers, so they can check if they are Jews or Palestinians. The atmosphere is tense. Many Palestinian taxi drivers from occupied East Jerusalem work in the city.
... a young Palestinian from East Jerusalem, was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered. The perpetrators belong to Israel's extreme right-wing religious scene.
Their teachers and educators are rabbis with a racist world view. They support the settlement movement and claim that all the land between the Mediterranean and Jordan is rightfully theirs. There is no room for Palestinians in this picture.
Rabbi Dov Lior is one of the leaders of the settlement movement. He was arrested in 2011 for making racist remarks, and questioned by police on suspicion of inciting violence. Lior was also the spiritual teacher of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Al Jazeera America
South African Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer, an uncompromising moralist who became one of the most powerful voices against the injustice of apartheid, has died at the age of 90, her family said on Monday.
Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, died peacefully at her Johannesburg home on Sunday evening in the presence of her children, Hugo and Oriane, a statement from the family said.
"She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people and its on-going struggle to realize its new democracy," the statement said.
Regarded by many as South Africa's leading writer, Gordimer was renowned as a rigid moralist whose novels and short stories reflected the drama of human life and emotion in a society warped by decades of white-minority rule. Many of her stories dealt with the themes of love, hate and friendship under the pressures of the racially segregated system that ended in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president. A member of Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) – banned under apartheid – Gordimer used her pen to battle against the inequality of white rule for decades, earning her the enmity of sections of the establishment.
The Church of England has finally agreed that women may become bishops next year, breaking with nearly 2,000 years of tradition and ending 20 years of bitter compromises since women were allowed to become priests in 1994.
Applause in the public gallery greeted the overwhelming vote in favour of the measure. Only 45 lay members of the synod voted against it and 152 in favour. The majorities among bishops and clergy were even greater.
The synod had been threatened with parliamentary action if the measure had failed, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had prepared contingency plans to dissolve it and call fresh elections if the vote had gone the wrong way.
But the crisis was averted by a change of mind, and vote, among lay members. A previous attempt in 2012 failed when 74 lay members voted against, preventing the required two-thirds majority among the laity.
The vote means the first woman might become a suffragan (assistant) bishop early next year and her appointment could be announced before the end of 2014. Suffragan vacancies are expected to be filled soon in St Albans and Gloucester.
Boko Haram, the extremist group that kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls last April, has released a new video mocking international calls for the girls' release.
The video was seen as a snub of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who gained prominence after being shot in 2012 by the Pakistani Taliban for campaigning for girls' education. She met with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday to discuss the plight of the missing girls.
In the video, obtained by Agence France-Presse, militant leader Abubaker Shelam stands in front of tanks and masked, armed men and chants, "bring back our army," ridiculing the social media slogan "bring back our girls."
Malala, who turned 17 on Saturday — her birthday is recognized annually by the United Nations as Malala Day — arrived in Nigeria over the weekend. She drew a direct parallel between her situation and that of the abducted girls in terms of violent resistance to the education of women.
"When I heard about the Nigerian girls, that they are being abducted, I felt that my sisters were in prison," Malala said. "This is my feeling, that if we remain silent, then this will spread, this will happen more and more and more."
Residents of a town north of Baghdad found 12 corpses with execution-style bullet wounds on Monday, after fighting between rival Sunni insurgent groups that could eventually unravel the coalition that seized much of the north and west of the country.
The incident points to an intensification of infighting between the Islamic State and other Sunni groups, such as supporters of former dictator Saddam Hussein, which rallied behind the al Qaeda offshoot last month because of shared hatred for the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
Police in Muqdadiya, a town 80 km (50 miles) northeast of the capital, said residents from the nearby town of Saadiya found the 12 corpses on Monday after intense fighting overnight between Islamic State fighters and the Naqshbandi Army, a group led by Saddam allies.
Egypt has called for a ceasefire in the week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas, starting with "de-escalation" from 6am on Tuesday, amid growing international concern about bloodshed in Gaza.
Israel said its security cabinet was preparing to discuss the Egyptian proposal.
After a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, an Egyptian statement suggested a full ceasefire could in place by 6pm on Tuesday, to be followed by separate talks between the two sides and neutral mediators to discuss a longer-term agreement.
The statement, from the Egyptian foreign ministry, called on "Israel and all Palestinian factions to immediately enforce a ceasefire, in view of the fact that escalation and mutual violence … is not in the interest of either party".
Both sides, it said, should stop "hostilities … via land, sea and air".
Israel should refrain from a ground invasion as part of its military offensive, and Palestinian factions in Gaza should refrain from firing rockets, attacks on borders or targeting civilians.
The United Nations on Monday pulled its staff out of Libya where at least 13 people have been killed in fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi and in Tripoli, forcing the closure of the international airport.
Security and medical sources said at least six people had been killed and 25 wounded in Benghazi in heavy fighting between security forces and rival militias since late Sunday.
Militias also clashed in the capital Tripoli on Sunday, killing at least seven people, shutting the main airport and air control centre and effectively leaving Libya with no international flights. The fighting was the worst in the capital for six months.
The U.N. mission in Libya said the closure of Tripoli International Airport and the deteriorating security situation made it impossible to fulfil its work.
Al Jazeera America
Four years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion devastated the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 and gushing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the water, the company found responsible has shut down an internal claims program utilized by small business owners, injured rig workers and even casino companies affected by the disaster.
At one point, BP’s internal claims program, a separate entity from the controversial Deepwater Horizon Court Supervised Settlement Program, covered thousands of claimants who weren’t eligible to join the court-supervised settlement. It also covered those who chose to opt out because they felt the settlement didn’t offer enough, but didn’t want to go through the time-consuming, expensive process of filing an independent lawsuit.
In an emailed statement, BP announced that the program’s closure would affect very few people. “The fact is that 99 percent of the claims received by the BP Claims Program have been resolved,” said Geoff Morrell, senior vice president for the company’s U.S. communications and external affairs.
But lawyers representing Gulf Coast clients say that the company’s statement is simply not true — and that as many as 10,000 people could be affected by the decision.
Now those lawyers, as well as claimants and a congressman, are demanding the oil company pay out the funds they feel are due — even if it means reinstating the program.
Al Jazeera America
RENO, Nev. — A sprinkler head had cracked, so water spurted not only into Amanda Beyer’s thriving flowerbeds and lush lawn but also onto the driveway and then into burbling pools in the gutter. Rather than be concerned, Beyer was defiant, offended by anyone pointing out the waste of the region’s most precious resource at a time when farms a few miles away were browning.
“It’s none of your or anybody else’s business,” she said through the screen door as the water continued to gush before she slammed her front door. “We pay our water bills. I’ll get the thing fixed whenever I get around to it. Until then, that’s the way it is.”
As brash as Beyer is about it, she’s also right. As one of 400,000 residents of the Reno-Sparks area, which is mainly served by water that flows from rivers sourced at Lake Tahoe, she’s under no legal obligation to change her approach.
In fact, while the folks at the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA), which oversees her service, don’t condone or encourage such wanton and brazen waste, they also spent the spring reassuring customers that the extreme drought that has parched swaths of California and Nevada agricultural areas will have minimal impact on urbanites.
Apple has denied allegations from the Chinese state broadcaster that the location-tracking function of its iPhones poses a ‘national security threat’.
Apple issued a response on its Chinese website stating that the firm has never “worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services".
“We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It’s something we feel very strongly about,” said Apple.
Ma Ding, head of the online security institute at People’s Public Security University of China, reported on Friday via China Central Television – the state-owned television broadcaster – that Apple’s iPhone location functions can collect data and may result in a leak of state secrets.
The iPhone’s "frequent locations" tracking function is used to record frequently visited locations in order to speed up applications that show a user’s location or for driving directions that avoid traffic. The function was introduced as part of the iOS 7 software update last autumn and can be turned off.
From Ebola in West Africa to chikungunya in the Caribbean, the world has had plenty of strange — and scary — outbreaks this year.
Some pathogens have even landed in the U.S. Just a few months ago, two men boarded planes in Saudi Arabia and brought a new, deadly virus from the Middle East to Florida and Indiana.
Nobody along the way caught Middle East Respiratory syndrome. But all these plane-hopping pathogens got us wondering: How easily do bacteria and viruses spread on commercial jets? And is there anything we can do to cut our risk?
Microbiologist James Barbaree and his team at Auburn University have been trying a few simple experiments to figure out the first question.
The airlines gave the scientists parts on commercial jets where spread might take place — a steel toilet button, the rubber armrest, the plastic tray table and, of course, "the seat pocket in front of you."
The technology industry has done quite a lot in the name of "disruption."
That buzzword and guiding philosophy of startup culture underpins the pledge to change the world by ousting industry incumbents through sheer will and the glory of efficiency -- a process best illustrated by the car-hailing app Uber, now a real-time textbook for techies looking to shake things up. But one area that's seemingly off limits to tech's golden touch: restaurant reservations.
Brian Mayer learned that the hard way earlier this month when his brand-new service, ReservationHop.com, instantly became a lightning rod for heated discussion over how far startups will venture to make a buck under the guise of problem-solving. Mayer's service, born from an unpleasant wait for a popular food-truck burrito, was created to snatch up popular restaurants' prime-time reservations in San Francisco under fake names and sell them a few days in advance without the establishment's knowledge. If no one bought the reservation, Mayer would call up and cancel the reservation a few hours before. The service was live for a long weekend, from July 3 until July 8, before Mayer stopped taking orders.
Major Web companies called on US regulators to establish rules requiring all Web traffic be treated the same way -- regardless of what network it's routed through -- weighing in yet again on Net neutrality issues as federal officials consider new rules governing the open Internet.
The Internet Association -- a trade group that represents 36 companies including Google, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Yahoo, and PayPal -- submitted comments (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission on Monday to formally oppose a proposal to let Internet service providers charge content providers for priority access in their networks.
The FCC is currently weighing a proposal to establish guidelines to protect the open Internet. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has suggested a so-called fast lane for priority traffic on the Internet as part of his proposal -- an idea that critics say could lead to much slower Internet service for those unwilling to pay extra.
The same Web giants have spoken up in favor of Net neutrality before, though this time they have taken a specific stand on wireless and wireline traffic -- saying both should be treated using the same rules. Public comment on the latest FCC proposal closes Tuesday.
Being poor is stressful. That's no big surprise.
In a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 1 in 3 people making less than $20,000 a year said they'd experienced "a great deal of stress" in the previous month. And of those very stressed-out people, 70 percent said that money problems were to blame.
Scientists have long recognized that poverty can aggravate health problems. Now they're also beginning to understand that the stress of too little income actually changes the way people think.
Take Lauren Boria, a single mom from the Bronx in her early 30s. Boria's an upbeat redhead supporting herself and her 4-year-old daughter, Fallon. They're barely scraping by on the paychecks from Boria's waitressing job. So Boria finds herself constantly doing a mental tally.