EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 27, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — After turkey pardon, Obama helps pack Thanksgiving meals

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is continuing an annual family tradition by helping to pack bags of food and distribute them to the needy on Thanksgiving eve.

Obama, his wife, Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, dropped in on the Capital Area Food Bank, one of the largest serving the Washington area.

They dropped bundles of sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and apples into reusable bags people held open as they walked by. They also handed out small white boxes stamped with the presidential seal that contain M&M’s candy.

Obama wished people a “Happy Thanksgiving,” and Malia shook their hands.

Identity of US spy in Pakistan revealed

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Rising anger over deadly drone attacks spurred a Pakistani political party Wednesday to reveal the secret identity of what it said was the top U.S. spy in the country. It demanded he be tried for murder, another blow to already jagged relations between the two nations.

A pair of U.S. missile strikes in recent weeks — including one that killed the Pakistani Taliban’s leader as the government prepared to invite him to hold peace talks — has increased simmering tensions between Washington and Islamabad after years of public fury over the covert attacks. The apparent disclosure of the top CIA officer’s name will almost certainly strain the fragile diplomacy that the U.S. is relying upon to help negotiate an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

It was the second time in recent years that Pakistanis opposed to drone strikes targeting Islamic militants have claimed to have revealed the identity of the top CIA spy in the country.

Two die in collapse at 2014 World Cup stadium in Brazil

SAO PAULO (AP) — Part of the stadium that will host the 2014 World Cup opener collapsed Wednesday, killing two workers and aggravating already urgent concerns Brazil won’t be ready for soccer’s signature tournament.

The accident at the Arena Corinthians, known locally as the Itaquerao, could hardly have come at a worse time — just a week ahead of the draw that will determine the tournament’s schedule and with the top names in soccer all descending on Brazil.

Preparations have been plagued by setbacks including cost overruns, stadium delays, accidents, labor strife and huge street protests in the run-up to the June tournament, once envisioned as a coming out party for South America’s largest nation, which is also scheduled to host the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Already, public prosecutors and a workers union in Sao Paulo were demanding an investigation into conditions at the venue, saying work shouldn’t resume until authorities deem the stadium safe.

The accident could also lead to recriminations between local organizers and world soccer’s organization FIFA, which has set a December deadline for all 12 World Cup stadiums to be ready. The tournament begins June 12.

Cheaper gas lifts hopes for holiday sales, though retailers’ success may hinge on sharper drop

WASHINGTON (AP) — No one begs Santa Claus for cheaper gasoline. Yet falling gas prices are shaping up as an unexpected gift for drivers — and for people on their holiday shopping lists.

The average price of gasoline has tumbled 49 cents from its peak this year to $3.29 a gallon, putting it on track for the lowest average since 2010, according to AAA. Because many Americans have had no pay raises, whatever money they’re saving on gas has freed up a bit more for other purchases.

And history shows that when gas prices drop, consumers become more likely to splurge on dinners out. Impulse buys at the mall seem like less of a stretch. More people buy a gas-station gift card after fueling up.

Many retail analysts have forecast a ho-hum sales gain of around 2 percent this year; others predict an increase of up to 3.9 percent. But steadily cheaper gas could send holiday sales shooting above 5.4 percent, analysts say.

“Every little thing moves the needle at this point,” said Carl Riccadonna, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. “The benefit at this time of the year certainly helps retailers, since it is not spread evenly throughout the year.”

US offering to destroy the deadliest portion of Syria’s chemical arms aboard US ship at sea

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is offering to destroy some of Syria’s deadliest chemical weapons in international waters aboard a nearly 700-foot, U.S. government-owned ship, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The plan, still subject to final approval, would involve destroying the weapons, likely aboard the MV Cape Ray in the Mediterranean Sea, with U.S. Navy warships patrolling nearby.

This approach would avoid the vexing diplomatic, environmental and security problems posed by disposing of the materials on any nation’s soil.

The Obama administration has used international oceans in other sensitive cases where land-based options were precluded. The U.S. Navy buried al-Qadia leader Osama bin Laden at sea to avoid his tomb becoming an attraction for extremists. The government has been questioning terror suspects for as long as it takes aboard Navy ships since the CIA closed its secret prisons overseas and President Barack Obama has refused to send more prisoners to the detention center at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision to proceed with the chemical disposal plan would be made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a global chemical weapons watchdog agency with 190 member states.

Syrian government says it will take part in peace talks, but won’t hand over power

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government said Wednesday it will participate in U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the country’s civil war, but insisted that it is not going to the conference to hand over power.

The United Nations on Monday announced that the long-delayed peace talks will begin Jan. 22 in Geneva. The meeting, which would be the first face-to-face talks between President Bashar Assad’s government and its opponents since the Syrian war began, has raised hopes that a resolution to a conflict that activists say has killed more than 120,000 people could be within reach.

In Tehran, the Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers called for a ceasefire as soon as possible, saying that a halt in fighting would enhance chances of peace talks succeeding. Even the most modest attempts to stop the war in Syria, now in its third year, have failed. The two ministers declined to give details of the latest ceasefire efforts when they talked to reporters at a joint press conference Wednesday.

The continued bloodletting is but one of huge hurdles that remains ahead of talks. There is also no decision on the full list of participants.

The main Western-backed Syrian opposition group has said it is ready to attend, but wants the government to establish humanitarian corridors and release political prisoners as a confidence-building measure.