AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on January 13, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 13 at 7:00 AM

Iran, 6 world powers agree to deal opening Islamic Republic's nuclear program from Jan. 20

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has agreed to limit uranium enrichment and to open its nuclear program to daily inspection by international experts starting Jan. 20, setting the clock running on a six-month deadline for a final nuclear agreement, officials said.

In exchange, the Islamic Republic will get a relaxation of the financial sanctions that have been crippling its economy.

The announcement that Iran and six world powers had agreed on the plan for implementing an interim agreement came first from Iranian officials and was later confirmed elsewhere. Some U.S. lawmakers have been leery of the agreement, calling for tougher sanctions against Iran, rather than any loosening of controls.

Iran's official IRNA news agency on Sunday quoted Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi as saying the deal, which sets the terms of a landmark agreement reached in November, would take effect from Jan. 20. IRNA said Iran will grant the United Nations' watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency — access to its nuclear facilities and its centrifuge production lines to confirm it is complying with terms of the deal.

Araghchi later told state television that some $4.2 billion in seized oil revenue would be released under the deal. Senior officials in President Barack Obama's administration put the total relief figure at $7 billion.

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Day 5 of West Virginia water crisis: officials say the end of the ban on tap water is near

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — For the fifth straight day, hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia had to wash, cook and brush their teeth with bottled water, but officials promised the ban on tap water that was tainted by a chemical spill would soon be lifted.

Over the weekend, tests showed levels of the licorice-smelling chemical used in coal processing were consistently below a toxic threshold, and in some samples, there was no trace of the chemical at all. As the tests were expected to continue Monday, there were still questions about how and why the leak occurred and whether the company, Freedom Industries, took too long to let state officials know about the problem.

If tests continue to show the water is safe, the ban affecting about 300,000 people across a nine-county region will be lifted in waves for specific areas, the first of which would be in downtown Charleston, said West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre. He gave no timetable for when people could start using the water again.

"I can tell you at this point, I don't believe we're several days from starting to lift (the ban), but I'm not saying today," McIntyre said at a news conference Sunday.

"We see light at the end of the tunnel," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told reporters.

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Thai anti-government protesters block major roads in bid to shut down capital, unseat leader

BANGKOK (AP) — Anti-government protesters aiming to shut down central Bangkok took over key intersections Monday, halting much of the traffic into the Thai capital's main business district as part of a campaign to thwart elections and overthrow the democratically elected prime minister.

The intensified protests, which could last weeks or more, were peaceful and even festive, as people sporting "Shutdown Bangkok" T-shirts blew whistles, waved Thai flags of various sizes and spread out picnic mats to eat on the pavement. Otherwise, life continued normally in much of the capital, with most businesses and shops open.

Still, the protests raise the stakes in a long-running crisis that has killed at least eight people in the last two months and fueled fears of more bloodshed to come and a possible army coup. The army commander has said he doesn't want to be drawn into the conflict, which broadly pits the urban middle and upper class opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra against her supporters in the poorer countryside.

The protesters are demanding that Yingluck's administration be replaced by a non-elected "people's council" which would implement reforms they say are needed to end corruption and money politics. The main opposition party has boycotted Feb. 2 elections that Yingluck has called in a bid to ease tension — and which she would almost certainly win.

Critics have lashed out at the moves as a power struggle aimed at bringing the Southeast Asian nation's fragile democracy to a halt. Candlelight vigils have been held to counter the shutdown and urge the election be held.

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Ahead of funeral, Israel holds state memorial for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

JERUSALEM (AP) — Hundreds of Israeli VIPs and international dignitaries attended a state memorial ceremony for the late Ariel Sharon on Monday, remembering the controversial former prime minister as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting his country's security.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors who gathered outside Israel's parliament building for the ceremony. Later Monday, Sharon's body was to be taken from the Knesset to his farm in southern Israel for burial.

"Arik was a man of the land," President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and sometimes rival of Sharon, said in his eulogy. "He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety, when our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land."

Sharon died on Saturday, eight years after a devastating stroke left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He was 85.

One of Israel's greatest and most divisive figures, Sharon rose through the ranks of the military, moving into politics and overcoming scandal and controversy to become prime minister in his final years. He spent most of his life battling Arab enemies and promoting Jewish settlement on war-won lands. His backers called him a war hero. His detractors, first and foremost the Palestinians, considered him a war criminal and held him responsible for years of bloodshed.

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Supreme Court case holds fate of president's power to make recess appointments

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans are squaring off at the Supreme Court over the president's power to temporarily fill high-level positions.

The high court is hearing arguments Monday in a politically charged dispute that also is the first in the nation's history to explore the meaning of a provision of the Constitution known as the recess appointments clause. Under the provision, the president may make temporary appointments to positions that otherwise require confirmation by the Senate, but only when the Senate is in recess.

The court battle is an outgrowth of the increasing partisanship and political stalemate that have been hallmarks of Washington over the past 20 years, and especially since Obama took office in 2009.

Senate Republicans' refusal to allow votes for nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau led the president to make the temporary, or recess, appointments in January 2012.

Three federal appeals courts have said Obama overstepped his authority because the Senate was not in recess when he acted. The Supreme Court case involves a dispute between a Washington state bottling company and a local Teamsters union in which the NLRB sided with the union. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the board's ruling, and hundreds more NLRB rulings could be voided if the Supreme Court upholds the appeals court decision.

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Southwest Airlines flight lands at wrong southwest Missouri airport with much shorter runway

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — Federal officials are investigating why a Southwest Airlines flight that was supposed to land at Branson Airport in southwest Missouri, instead landed at another airport about 7 miles away that only had about half as much runway.

Southwest Airlines Flight 4013, carrying 124 passengers and five crew members, was scheduled to go from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Branson Airport, airline spokesman Brad Hawkins said Sunday in a statement. But the Boeing 737-700 landed at Taney County Airport, which is also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport.

"The landing was uneventful, and all customers and crew are safe," Hawkins said.

Hawkins did not have information on why the plane went to the wrong airport. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro says the agency is investigating the incident.

It's the second time in less than two months that a large jet has landed at the wrong airport.

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Russia: Syria's Assad considering opening humanitarian access

PARIS (AP) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Syria's government is considering opening humanitarian access and a prisoner exchange in the run-up to a peace conference that would bring together the opposition and the leadership for the first time.

Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Monday in Paris in a second day of talks to raise pressure on Syria's opposition to attend the peace conference, which is scheduled to begin in just over a week in Switzerland.

Kerry said he and Lavrov, who last year hammered out an agreement that saw Syrian President Bashar Assad give up chemical weapons, agreed on the need to press for humanitarian access, a cease-fire and a prisoner exchange. Assad has agreed to send a delegation.

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Swedish doctors transplant wombs into 9 women, will soon transfer embryos into new wombs

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed.

The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it's possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children.

Life-saving transplants of organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys have been done for decades and doctors are increasingly transplanting hands, faces and other body parts to improve patients' quality of life. Womb transplants — the first ones intended to be temporary, just to allow childbearing — push that frontier even farther and raise some new concerns.

There have been two previous attempts to transplant a womb — in Turkey and Saudi Arabia — but both failed to produce babies. Scientists in Britain, Hungary and elsewhere are also planning similar operations but the efforts in Sweden are the most advanced.

"This is a new kind of surgery," Dr. Mats Brannstrom told The Associated Press in an interview from Goteborg. "We have no textbook to look at."

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Michelle Obama turns a self-described '50 and fabulous' Friday, more confident in herself now

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearing a milestone birthday, Michelle Obama exuberantly describes herself as "50 and fabulous." She's celebrating already and a big birthday bash is in the works.

The nation's first lady hits the half-century mark on Friday and, by her own account, she feels more relaxed now that President Barack Obama's days as a candidate are over.

"That layer is gone now. It gives me a little more room to breathe," she told an interviewer.

Nearly five years after assuming the first lady's role following a bruising campaign in which she sometimes became a target, Mrs. Obama is showing increased comfort in what amounts to a volunteer position with a host of responsibilities and outsized expectations. Not to mention a sometimes-unforgiving spotlight.

"I have never felt more confident in myself, more clear on who I am as a woman," the first lady told Parade magazine when asked about the birthday. She started the celebration last week by spending extra time with girlfriends in Hawaii after her family's holiday vacation there. It was an early birthday present from the president. On Saturday, she'll be toasted at a White House party where guests have been advised to come ready to dance, and to eat before they come.

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'American Hustle' wins big at Golden Globes, '12 Years a Slave' lands best picture drama

Amy Poehler made out with Bono, Tina Fey mocked George Clooney's taste in women and Matt Damon emerged, bizarrely, as the night's recurring gag.

But at the end of a madcap Golden Globes (Fey toasted it as "the beautiful mess we hoped it would be"), the major honors soberly ended up with the favorites. David O. Russell's con-artist caper "American Hustle" led with three awards, including best film comedy. And despite missing out in the other six categories it was nominated in, the unflinching historical drama "12 Years a Slave" concluded the night as best film drama.

"A little bit in shock," said director Steve McQueen, before shrugging "Roll, Jordan, roll" — the lyrics to the old gospel song sung in the slavery epic.

Russell's 1970s Abscam fictionalization "American Hustle" had the better night overall, winning acting awards for Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Best picture was the only award for "12 Years a Slave," which came in with seven nominations, tied for the most with "American Hustle."

The awards returned Lawrence, a winner last year for Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," to the stage for an acceptance speech — something she said was no easier a year later.

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