United States

Around the World: March 3, 2015

Here's what's happening across the United States and around the world today.
Netanyahu to use bully pulpit in Congress to issue stern warning about Iran nuclear talks
WASHINGTON (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seizing the bully pulpit of the U.S. House to deliver his stern message about the danger Iran poses to his nation's survival and voice reservations about any nuclear deal President Barack Obama and international negotiators might sign with Israel's archenemy.
Netanyahu insists he is privy to emerging details of a deal and is expected to lay out specific concerns in Tuesday's speech to a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a last-ditch effort for Netanyahu to speak out against any agreement that would leave open a chance for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.
The controversial speech comes just two weeks ahead of a tight national election in which Netanyahu is fighting to hold onto his job. It has already aggravated strained relations between Israel and the Obama administration and it comes as negotiators are rushing to reach a nuclear agreement by the end of the month.
"I plan to speak about an Iranian regime that is threatening to destroy Israel, that's devouring country after country in the Middle East, that's exporting terror throughout the world and that is developing, as we speak, the capacity to make nuclear weapons — lots of them," Netanyahu told America's leading pro-Israel lobby on Monday in what amounted to a warm-up to his speech to Congress.
The Israeli leader is deeply suspicious of international efforts to reach a nuclear deal. Netanyahu fears the U.S. and its negotiating partners will give Iran too many concessions, leaving it on the cusp of developing an atomic bomb.
Body-camera maker has financial ties to police chiefs; questions of influence are raised
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Taser International, the stun-gun maker emerging as a leading supplier of body cameras for police, has cultivated financial ties to police chiefs whose departments have bought the recording devices, raising a host of conflict-of-interest questions.
A review of records and interviews by The Associated Press show Taser is covering airfare and hotel stays for police chiefs who speak at promotional conferences. It is also hiring recently retired chiefs as consultants, sometimes just months after their cities signed contracts with Taser.
Over the past 18 months, Taser has reached consulting agreements with two such chiefs weeks after they retired, and it is in talks with a third who also backed the purchase of its products, the AP has learned. Taser is planning to send two of them to speak at luxury hotels in Australia and the United Arab Emirates in March at events where they will address other law enforcement officers considering body cameras.
The relationships raise questions of whether chiefs are acting in the best interests of the taxpayers in their dealings with Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser, whose contracts for cameras and storage systems for the video can run into the millions of dollars.
As the police chief in Fort Worth, Texas, successfully pushed for the signing of a major contract with Taser before a company quarterly sales deadline, he wrote a Taser representative in an email, "Someone should give me a raise."
Mourners line up to view body of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov
MOSCOW (AP) — One by one, thousands of mourners and dignitaries filed past the white-lined coffin of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov on Tuesday, many offering flowers as they paid their last respects to one of the most prominent figures of Russia's beleaguered opposition.
Nemtsov was shot to death late Friday while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin with a companion. No suspects have been arrested.
The killing has deeply shaken Russia's small and marginalized opposition movement. Many opposition supporters suspect the killing was ordered by the Kremlin in retaliation for Nemtsov's ardent criticism of President Vladimir Putin, while authorities have suggested several possible motives, including a provocation aimed at tarnishing Putin's image.
With an hour to go until the scheduled end of the viewing, the line of mourners stretched for hundreds of meters (yards) and included mourners both young and old.
"He was our ray of light. With his help, I think Russia would have risen up and become a strong country. It is the dream of all progressive people in Russia," said 80-year-old Valentina Gorbatova.
Airlines slowly move to better track planes a year after Malaysia Airlines disappearance
NEW YORK (AP) — At 656,000 pounds fully loaded and the length of six school buses, the Boeing 777-200ER is hard to miss.
Yet nearly one year ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, taking the lives of 239 passengers and crew in one of aviation's greatest mysteries.
Live satellite tracking might have led searchers to the plane but it wasn't turned on for that trip. The flight was supposed to remain mostly over land, well within the coverage area of ground-based radar stations.
Airlines and regulators spent the past year debating how much flight tracking is necessary, balancing the economic costs against reassuring travelers another plane won't disappear. Now a plan is moving forward that would require airlines, by the end of 2016, to know their jets' positions every 15 minutes.
It's not the constant measures first proposed by safety advocates after Flight 370 disappeared and it's questionable if they would prevent another such loss. But it could make for quicker recovery of a missing aircraft and comfort the public. In an age when a missing iPhone or a FedEx package can be tracked, it's unfathomable that something the size of a Boeing 777 could never be found.
Georgia postpones its 1st execution of a woman in 70 years after concerns about injection drug
JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — Citing concerns about the drug to be used in a lethal injection, corrections officials in Georgia postponed the execution of the state's only female death row inmate for the second time in a week.
The execution drug was sent to an independent lab to check its potency and the test came back at an acceptable level, but during subsequent checks it appeared cloudy, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said. Corrections officials called the pharmacist and decided to postpone Kelly Renee Gissendaner's Monday night execution "out of an abundance of caution," she said. No new date was given.
Gissendaner, 46, was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. at the prison in Jackson for the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.
Pentobarbital is the only drug used in Georgia executions. For other recent executions, the state has gotten the drug from a compounding pharmacy, but officials did not immediately respond to an email late Monday asking if that was the source in this case. Georgia law prohibits the release of any identifying information about the source of execution drugs or any entity involved in an execution.
A request for a stay by Gissendaner's lawyers was pending when corrections officials decided to postpone the execution. Her lawyers sought a delay until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a case out of Oklahoma. Late Monday, her lawyers added additional arguments for the high court: that it should consider a stay because Gissendaner didn't kill her husband herself. They also argued she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.
Runners training for the Boston Marathon face new endurance test: relentless snow and ice
BOSTON (AP) — "Bam! Bam! Bam!" That's the sickening thud Becca Pizzi says runners make when they're out training for the Boston Marathon and bite the dust.
Or, more specifically, the snow.
"I was running on Heartbreak Hill and people were hitting the ground so hard they couldn't get up. You hear those 'bams!' and you're afraid they've broken something," said Pizzi, 34, a day care center owner who's struggling to get in proper shape for her 15th Boston.
Running 26.2 miles requires endurance, but 8½ feet of snow and lots of treacherous black ice are testing this year's participants in frustrating new ways. With race day less than two months away, the relentless winter is sending some runners indoors to basement treadmills and health clubs — and driving others just plain nuts.
One of the blizzards that hit the city in rapid succession forced the Boston Athletic Association, which administers America's premier marathon, to cancel a training clinic. Though the worst of the winter now seems past, there are only 48 days left until April 20, the 119th running of the venerable race.
Official: Fierce clashes, no major progress in operation to retake Iraq's Tikrit from IS group
BAGHDAD (AP) — Officials in northern Iraq say troops are clashing with Islamic State militants south of the militant-held city of Tikrit, as roadside bombs have slowed an offensive launched to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown.
The two local officials say fierce clashes were underway Tuesday outside the town of al-Dour, south of Tikrit.
They say government forces backed by Shiite militias and Sunni tribal fighters have made little progress on the second day of a large-scale military operation to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State group last summer. They say troops are shelling militant bases inside the city but their advance has been slowed by roadside bombs.
The officials spoke anonymously as they are not authorized to brief media.
In shifting North Korean economy, state-run chain stores try giving customers what they want
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Workers in sharp new uniforms open the doors and turn on the lights about an hour before sunrise at their chain store on the corner of one of Pyongyang's main streets, right smack in the middle of a showpiece area of the capital.
But unlike much of the neighborhood around it, this shop isn't a showpiece. It hasn't been profiled by the state media or been paid any visits by the leader. It's a real business — and a quiet but telling example of an ongoing shift in the North Korean economy as officials play catch-up with grassroots entrepreneurism that has been building for nearly two decades.
Business with a hint of capitalism isn't new in North Korea — it's how the common people have survived amid the breakdown in the government's ability to provide for them following the devastating famine and economic collapse of the 1990s. What's new is that, in a very real nod to the marketplace, this chain of state-owned stores is now fine-tuning their business strategy to actually give consumers what they need.
And their managers have no qualms about saying so.
The new chain stores — called Hwanggumbol, or "golden fields" — are open from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, unusually long hours in North Korea. They aim to provide a wide range of goods, with a stable supply, reasonable prices and reliable quality — none of which is taken for granted, even in the relative prosperity of Pyongyang.
Mikulski retirement gives O'Malley 2016 options: Make White House bid, or run for Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) — If Martin O'Malley harbors any doubts about running for president against Hillary Rodham Clinton, he now has a viable alternative.
For more than a year, the former Maryland governor has explored what looks today to be a longshot bid for the Democratic Party's nomination in 2016. A second option arrived Monday when Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced plans to retire.
If O'Malley is intent on returning to elected office, he now faces a choice between a Senate campaign in which he'd be an early favorite, and a presidential bid he would begin as a significant underdog, should Clinton enter the race as is widely expected.
The ex-governor's team declined to engage in such talk Monday. His spokeswoman, Lis Smith, said it was "a day to reflect on Senator Mikulski's service to the people of Maryland, not engage in political speculation."
But the prospect of running for an open Senate seat in a state where Democrats have a 2-to-1 edge among registered voters is sure to be tempting for O'Malley, who completed his final term as governor in January.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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