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Spanish, Catalonia leaders meet on secession push

In this Monday, June 2, 2014 photo, demonstrators wave a pro-independence "estelada" flag during a protest calling for the independence and the implementation of the republic in Catalonia after the announcement of the abdication of Spain's King Juan Carlos in Barcelona, Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the leader of the economically powerful Catalonia region are scheduled to hold a crucial face-to-face meeting on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, in what could be a last chance for the two men to resolve a bitter dispute over the region?s plans to hold a secession referendum in November. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)MADRID (AP) ? Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the leader of the economically powerful Catalonia region are holding a crucial face-to-face meeting Wednesday in what could be a last chance for the two men to resolve a bitter dispute over the region's plans to hold a secession referendum in November.


Russia's VTB slides on Western sanctions, market rises as impact priced in
Shares in Russia's second-largest bank VTB slid over 3 percent at the start of trading on Wednesday, but the broader stock market rose as investors had priced in the impact of a new wave of Western sanctions. Brussels and Washington announced new punitive measures on Tuesday, targeting Russia's energy, banking and defence sectors over what they say is Moscow's support for rebels in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. Treasury imposed targeted sanctions on Russian banks including VTB, VTB subsidiary Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank. VTB recouped some of its early losses to trade 1.55 percent lower at 0635 GMT, sharply underperforming the broader rouble-denominated MICEX index, which rose 1 percent.

Japan practices amphibious landing in Hawaii

Japanese soldiers on a reconnaissance team come ashore at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii during amphibious landing practice on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. The amphibious landing exercises, which are relatively new to Japan?s military, come as Tokyo tries to boost its ability to defend small islands it controls but China claims as its own. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii (AP) ? Japan has been practicing storming beaches with the U.S. and other countries in Hawaii this month. The amphibious landing exercises, which are relatively new to Japan's military, come as Tokyo tries to boost its ability to defend small islands it controls but China claims as its own.


Libyan militants overrun Benghazi special forces base as chaos deepens
By Ayman al-Warfalli BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - Militant fighters overran a Libyan special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people. A special forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp in the southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city. "We have withdrawn from the army base after heavy shelling," Saiqa Special Forces officer Fadel Al-Hassi told Reuters. A separate special forces spokesman confirmed the militants had taken over the camp after the troops pulled out.

Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor dies from virus
By Umaru Fofana and Adam Bailes FREETOWN (Reuters) - The doctor leading Sierra Leone's fight against the worst Ebola outbreak on record died from the virus on Tuesday, the country's chief medical officer said. The death of Sheik Umar Khan, who was credited with treating more than 100 patients, follows the deaths of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two American medics in neighbouring Liberia, highlighting the dangers faced by staff trying to halt the disease's spread across West Africa. Ebola is believed to have killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in February, according to the World Health Organisation. The contagious disease, which has no known cure, has symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding.

Three of four Ethiopian athletes missing after U.S. track meet located
Three Ethiopian athletes who came to the United States for a track meet in Oregon and then failed to fly home with their teammates have been located and are safe after disappearing in a possible asylum bid, local officials said on Tuesday. The four athletes were reported missing on Saturday from University of Oregon in Eugene, where they were competing in the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships. Police launched a missing persons investigation, and three of the athletes were found staying with acquaintances on Monday in Beaverton, about 106 miles (170 km) away, said University of Oregon spokeswoman Julie Brown. The rest of the Ethiopian team left Eugene on Monday en route to their home country, McIver said.

Obama administration kicks off bid to renew Africa trade program

U.S. President Obama speaks about new sanctions imposed on Russia as he departs White House in WashingtonBy Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Tuesday pushed for Congress to renew a 14-year-old trade program giving African countries duty-free access to U.S. markets, warning that allowing the program to expire would disrupt trade flows between the two regions. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the African Growth Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which expires on Sept. 30 next year had both benefited African countries and supported 120,000 U.S. jobs. Froman's remarks came just days before the White House is set to host 50 African leaders at a three-day U.S.-Africa summit aimed at strengthening relations. AGOA, which is at the heart of U.S.-Africa trade ties, will be a key issue.


UCLA wades through damages from pipe flooding

In this photo taken from video provided by nbc4la.com, water reaches into the air after a water main burst on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles near UCLA Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/nbc4la.com) MANDATORY CREDITLOS ANGELES (AP) ? The quiet summer campus of UCLA found itself suddenly steeped in water and chaos after a major water pipe burst and spewed some eight million gallons, stranding people in parking garages and flooding the school's storied basketball court less than two years after a major renovation.


Barclays says first-half net profit soars to £1.13bn

Barclays said Wednesday that first-half net profits surged 68 percent, despite a poor performance at its investment banking divisionLondon (AFP) - Barclays said Wednesday that first-half net profits surged 68 percent, despite a poor performance at its investment banking division.


At least 24 reported killed in Guinea beach concert stampede
At least 24 people were killed in a stampede at a beachside concert celebrating the end of Ramadan in Guinea's capital, news agency AFP said, with Guinea's Presidency declaring a week of mourning after what it described as a "tragic drama". A statement from the Presidency said the incident occurred at a beach in the Ratoma neighbourhood of the capital, Conakry. The stampede, which occurred during celebrations to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in mainly Muslim Guinea, comes at a time when health workers are already stretched by an outbreak of Ebola.

West seeks to inflict more economic pain on Russia

President Barack Obama speaks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, as he announces new economic sanctions against key sectors of the Russian economy in the latest move to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his support for Ukrainian rebels. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)WASHINGTON (AP) ? Citing Russia's stalled growth rate and a flow of foreign capital out of Moscow, U.S. and European officials hope a new round of sanctions targeting energy and defense entities, as well as major banks, will deepen Russia's economic pain even further and force President Vladimir Putin to end provocations in Ukraine.


Trafficking bust reveals worries over missing kids

In this June, 2014 image from video provided by the FBI, authorities raid a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi. When FBI agents and police officers fanned out across the country last month in a weeklong effort to rescue child sex trafficking victims, they pulled kids as young as 11 from dingy motel rooms, truck stops and homes. (AP Photo/FBI)WASHINGTON (AP) ? When FBI agents and police officers fanned out across the country last month in a weeklong effort to rescue child sex trafficking victims, they pulled minors as young as 11 from hotel rooms, truck stops and homes.


Indian online retailer Flipkart raises $1 billion
MUMBAI, India (AP) ? India's largest online e-commerce company, Flipkart, raised $1 billion in new capital this week as the company gears up for competition with Amazon's push into the Indian market.

AP ANALYSIS: Amid war, endgames in Gaza emerge

Israeli soldiers give the victory sign on the top of armored vehicle near the Israel Gaza border, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the strip's only power plant. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) ? The savage fighting between Israel and Hamas is escalating in Gaza, cease-fire efforts take on elements of farce, and bravado rules the public discourse. But even through the fog of war, a few endgame scenarios can nonetheless be glimpsed.


Court to start genocide trial of top Khmer Rouge leaders

Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan smiles in in the courtroom of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on July 30, 2014Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge court on Wednesday began a second trial of two former regime leaders on charges including genocide of Vietnamese people and ethnic Muslims, forced marriages and rape. The complex case of the regime's two most senior surviving leaders has been split into a series of smaller trials, initially focusing on the forced evacuation of people into rural labour camps and related crimes against humanity. The first trial against "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 88, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, was completed late last year, with the verdict -- and possible sentences -- set to be delivered on August 7. Nuon Chea did not attend the hearing for health reasons, while Khieu Samphan sat in court alongside his defence team.


Processing issue delays bar exam submissions
DALLAS (AP) ? Testing software provider ExamSoft Worldwide Inc. says a processing issue has caused a delay for some bar exam takers in multiple states in submitting their answers.

Poll: Americans cool to border-crossing children

FILE - In this June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. For nearly two months, images of immigrant children who have crossed the border without a parent, only to wind up in concrete holding cells once in United States, have tugged at heartstrings. Yet most Americans now say U.S. law should be changed so they can be sent home quickly, without a deportation hearing. A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds two-thirds of Americans now say illegal immigration is a serious problem for the country, up 14 points since May and on par with concern about the issue in May 2010, when Arizona's passage of a strict anti-immigration measure brought the issue to national prominence. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool)SAN DIEGO (AP) ? Americans are wary of granting refugee status to children crossing the U.S. border to flee strife-torn countries in Central America, and most in an Associated Press-GfK poll say the U.S. does not have a moral obligation to accept asylum seekers generally.


US sues Pennsylvania over police fitness tests
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) ? The Pennsylvania State Police, one of the nation's largest forces, is faced with ending the physical fitness tests it gives to applicants for state trooper positions or defending in court a practice that the federal government says illegally discriminates against women.

ESPN suspends Smith for comments on abuse

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009 file photo, Stephen A. Smith arrives at Spike TV's Video Game Awards in Los Angeles. ESPN says it has suspended sportscaster Stephen A. Smith, Tuesday, July 29, 2014 for a week because of comments about domestic abuse suggesting women should make sure they don't provoke attacks. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)NEW YORK (AP) ? ESPN has suspended outspoken sportscaster Stephen A. Smith for a week because of his comments about domestic abuse suggesting women should make sure that they don't do anything to provoke an attack.


Peterson says he's got 5-year, $70 million deal

Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson (21) runs drills during an NFL football training camp, Monday, July 28, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)PHOENIX (AP) ? Cornerback Patrick Peterson says he has reached agreement on a five-year, $70 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, with $48 million guaranteed.


Microsoft says complies with law in China amid probe

A Microsoft logo at a electronic store in Shanghai on July 29, 2014Microsoft said Wednesday it seeks to comply with Chinese law, after Beijing announced an anti-monopoly investigation of the US technology giant over its business practices. "Microsoft complies with the laws and regulations of every market in which we operate around the world and we have industry leading monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in place to ensure this," it said in a brief statement. "Our business practices in China are designed to be compliant with Chinese law." China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) said Tuesday it was investigating Microsoft for "monopoly actions" related to its flagship Windows operating system and Office suite of software.


U.S. judge says Kurdish tanker near Texas out of court's jurisdiction
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge said on Tuesday her court "has no jurisdiction" over a tanker near Texas loaded with Kurdish crude oil because it is some 60 miles offshore, meaning the order she issued earlier to seize the $100 million cargo cannot be enforced at this time. Federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson said the dispute between Iraq's central government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan should be resolved in Iraq. (Reporting By Anna Driver and Kristen Hays; Editing by Terry Wade)

'Out of nowhere': Twins add undrafted 24-year-old
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? In one of their craziest scouting experiences, the Minnesota Twins have reached a deal with a 24-year-old pitching prospect who has thrown 100 mile per hour fastballs but has never been drafted.

Ticket me Elmo? NYC mulls law for impersonators

A visitor to Times Square poses for photos with iconic costumed characters, Monday, July 28, 2014, in New York. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he believes the people wearing character costumes in Times Square should be licensed and regulated. (AP Photo/Rachelle Blidner)NEW YORK (AP) ? New York City officials are turning up the heat on Elmo, Cookie Monster and Statues of Liberty impersonators ? Times Square costumed characters who often demand money for posing in photos with tourists.


Shells hit UN school in Gaza, kill 15

Palestinians collect body parts in a classroom at the Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike earlier, on Wednesday, July 30, 2014. A Palestinian health official says 13 people were killed after tank shells hit the U.N. school in Gaza where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge from Israeli attacks. Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency, says tank shells hit the school around 4:30 a.m. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) ? Several Israeli tank shells slammed into a crowded U.N. school used as shelter for refugees in the Gaza war early on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and wounding 90, a Palestinian health official and a U.N. official said.


Crews make gains on 2 California wildfires

Rick Ogden who lost his home in the Sand Fire, waits for fire updates from officials at the evacuation center in Shingle Springs, Calif., on Monday, July 28, 2014. Their home of 12 years was completely destroyed at 2pm on Saturday.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)SHINGLE SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) ? Fire crews gained ground Tuesday on two of the largest wildfires in California, lifting evacuation orders for about half the homes in the path of a blaze in Yosemite National Park and redeploying firefighters battling another fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.


Broken water main floods UCLA; 5 people rescued

In this photo taken from video provided by nbc4la.com, water reaches into the air after a water main burst on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles near UCLA Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/nbc4la.com) MANDATORY CREDITLOS ANGELES (AP) ? A broken water main near the UCLA campus Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 30 feet into the air, trapping people in underground parking garages and covering some of the best-known parts of campus in water, including the school's famed basketball arena.


Time almost up for Argentina to avoid debt default

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez arrives at a Mercosur summit in CaracasBy Richard Lough BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina faced a race against on time on Wednesday to avert its second default in 12 years, needing to either cut a deal by the end of the day with "holdout" investors suing it or win more time from a U.S. court to reach a settlement. Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof scrambled to New York on Tuesday to join last-ditch negotiations, holding the first face-to-face talks with the principals of New York hedge funds who demand full repayment on bonds they bought at a discounted rate after the country defaulted in 2002. The hedge funds are owed $1.33 billion, but an equal treatment clause in an agreement Argentina made with bondholders in 2005 would cost Argentina many billions more. Latin America's No. 3 economy has for years fought the holdout hedge funds that rejected large writedowns, but after exhausting legal avenues Argentina faces default if it cannot reach a last-minute deal.


Deadly Israeli shelling hits UN school as Hamas mulls truce

An Israeli 155mm canon fires towards targets in the Gaza Strip from a position along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on July 29, 2014An Israeli shelling on a UN school in Gaza killed 20 people early Wednesday, medics said, as Palestinian factions were to head to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire. The shell slammed into the school in northern Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its 23rd day, with international efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed continuing apace.


Official: 13 killed as shells hit Gaza UN school

Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Israel escalated its military campaign against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the group's control in Gaza and firing tank shells that shut down the strip's only power plant in the heaviest bombardment in the fighting so far. The plant?s shutdown was bound to lead to further serious disruptions of the flow of electricity and water to Gaza?s 1.7 million people.(AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) ? At least 13 people were killed early Wednesday after tank shells hit a U.N. school in Gaza where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge from Israeli attacks.


Economy seen regaining muscle in second quarter

A carpenter works on a new home at a residential construction site in the west side of the Las Vegas Valley in Las VegasBy Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. economic growth likely regained steam in the second quarter as activity picked up broadly, which would bolster expectations for a stronger performance in the last six months of the year. Gross domestic product likely grew at a 3.0 percent annual rate after shrinking at a 2.9 percent pace in the first quarter, according to a Reuters survey of economists. "I don't think the contraction we saw in the first quarter is reflective of what's truly going on in the economy," said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh. Earlier in the second quarter, growth estimates were as high as 4 percent, but they were cut as trade, consumer spending and business investment rebounded from the winter slump by less than expected.


Canada intends to impose more sanctions on Russia: prime minister
Canada said on Tuesday it plans to impose additional sanctions on Russia in the coming days, in close coordination with partners in the United States and Europe. The sanctions will be in addition to those announced last week on a broad range of Russian companies and banks, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "In the wake of continued aggression by Russia, which includes the ongoing supply of logistical support and weapons systems to agents of the Putin regime in eastern Ukraine, Canada is announcing its intent to once again increase economic and political pressure, in the coming days, by imposing additional sanctions on the regime and those closest to it," Harper said. Harper made the statement as U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States has expanded sanctions against Russia over its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Vin Scully to return for 66th season in LA in 2015

Broadcaster Vin Scully, left, embraces his wife, Sandi, at Dodger Stadium during a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers announced that Scully will remain with the team for the 2015 season. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)LOS ANGELES (AP) ? Vin Scully is staying in the booth for the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Ukraine welcomes U.S., EU Russia sanctions, says Moscow must respond
By David Storey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ukraine's foreign minister welcomed U.S. and European sanctions on Russia announced on Tuesday and pledged Kiev would not attack cities now controlled by pro-Russian separatists in its drive to re-establish control over its territory. Pavlo Klimkin, in an interview with Reuters, supported the convening of a new international conference to end months of violence in eastern Ukraine and said he had discussed the idea with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day. Speaking at Ukraine's Washington embassy, he said ultimately only a political solution would end the conflict, in which pro-Russian forces hold a large swathe of territory near the border, including the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. Intense fighting on Tuesday between Ukrainian government forces and rebels killed dozens of civilians, soldiers and rebels as Kiev pressed on with its offensive to defeat the Moscow-backed revolt.

At least 43 Palestinians killed as Israel maintains pressure on Gaza

Smoke rises after an explosion in the northern Gaza StripBy Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ori Lewis GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli fire killed at least 43 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday as the Jewish state said it targeted Islamist militants at dozens of sites across the coastal enclave, while Egyptian mediators prepared a revised ceasefire proposal. Israel's Channel Two TV said progress was being made to achieve a deal in Cairo, where a Palestinian delegation was expected to arrive for discussions. An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was checking for details. Eight people, including five members of the same family in Jebalya, were killed in other strikes, Gaza officials said.


Palestinian health official says 13 killed in tank shell attack on UN school in Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) ? Palestinian health official says 13 killed in tank shell attack on UN school in Gaza .

Argentina, US bondholders meet as deadline looms

Argentina's economy minister, Axel Kicillof, speaks to the media after leaving negotiations aimed at avoiding his country's second default in 13 years, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in New York. U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa last week ordered round-the-clock negotiations to avert a Wednesday default deadline. But talks have been sporadic and have failed to bring representatives of Argentina to the table with lawyers for U.S. hedge funds. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)NEW YORK (AP) ? Argentina's economy minister emerged from daylong negotiations aimed at preventing a default Tuesday to say both sides had finally spoken for the first time, a development that raised hopes that a deal might be reached to avert a financial crisis.


PG&E charged with obstruction over San Bruno blast
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? A federal grand jury charged Pacific Gas & Electric on Tuesday with lying to federal investigators in connection with a fatal pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a suburban Northern California neighborhood in 2010.

Billions of GI Bill funds go to for-profit schools
WASHINGTON (AP) ? Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have flocked to for-profit colleges, including a troubled chain that is closing or selling its campuses amid a series of federal and state investigations.

Small cars fare poorly in crash tests
DETROIT (AP) ? The four-door Mini Cooper Countryman was the only one of 12 cars to earn a top rating of "good" in new frontal crash tests.

 
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