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World briefly for Dec. 11

POSTED: December 11, 2012 9:10 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — HSBC, the British banking giant, said Tuesday it will pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe by federal and state authorities in the United States.

The probe of the bank — Europe's largest by market value — has focused on the transfer of funds through the U.S. financial system from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations like Iran that are under international sanctions.

Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive of HSBC, released a statement Tuesday saying: "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again."

The bank also said it has reached agreements over investigations by other U.S. government agencies. It also expects to sign an agreement with British regulators shortly.

A U.S. law enforcement official said Monday that the investigation by federal and state authorities will result in HSBC paying $1.25 billion in forfeiture and paying $655 million in civil penalties. The $1.25 billion figure is the largest forfeiture ever in a case involving a bank. Under what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement, the financial institution will be accused of violating the Bank Secrecy Act and the Trading With the Enemy Act.

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From NH to Colo., voter disdain spreads as 'fiscal cliff' debate rages

HOOKSET, N.H. (AP) — Fear and frustration course through the lunch crowd at Robie's Country Store and Deli, a popular outpost 500 miles from where Washington is again locked in tense negotiations over taxes and spending as a critical deadline looms.

"I'm worried," Lorraine Cadren of nearby Manchester says between bites of her chicken sandwich. Her doubt in the nation's elected leaders is palpable: "I'm not sure what's going to come out of Washington next." Not that she has the time to pay much attention; the 64-year-old is unemployed and preoccupied with finding a new job as Christmas approaches.

A few tables away, John Pfeifle shares Cadren's angst while trying to enjoy his $6.99 chicken parmesan special.

"Somebody's gotta have some smarts," says the 63-year-old business owner, complaining that both President Barack Obama and House Republicans seem willing to allow the nation to go over the "fiscal cliff," triggering broad tax increases and massive spending cuts that economists warn could lead to another recession.

"I have no faith at all they'll do the right thing," Pfeifle said of Congress.

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Mali's prime minister resigns under duress, after being arrested by junta

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali's prime minister resigned on state television early Tuesday, hours after soldiers who led a recent coup burst into his home and arrested him, in the latest sign of the volatile political situation in this once-stable West African nation.

Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra addressed the nation, saying: "Our country is living through a period of crisis. Men and women who are worried about the future of our nation are hoping for peace.

"It's for this reason that I, Cheikh Modibo Diarra, am resigning along with my entire government on this day, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. I apologize before the entire population of Mali," he said.

Diarra appeared on TV at 4 a.m. local time dressed in a dark suit, his forehead glistening with sweat, his expression somber.

A police officer and an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press confirmed that the 60-year-old Diarra had been arrested at his private residence at around 10 p.m. Monday by soldiers loyal to Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, the leader of the country's recent coup.

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Shrines to Jenni Rivera sprout up from Mexico to California, as investigators study crash

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tearful fans set up candlelight shrines and memorials to Jenni Rivera from California to Mexico, as investigators said it would take days to piece together the wreckage of the plane carrying the Mexican-American music superstar and find out why it went down.

Authorities, meanwhile, began looking into the history of the plane's owner, Starwood Management of Las Vegas, which had another one of its planes seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in McAllen, Texas in September.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to help investigate the crash of the Learjet 25, which disintegrated on impact Sunday with seven people aboard in rugged terrain in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico.

Alejandro Argudin, of Mexico's civil aviation agency, said it would take at least 10 days to have a preliminary report on what happened to the plane.

"We're in the process of picking up the fragments and we have to find all the parts," Argudin told reporters on Monday. "Depending on weather conditions it would take us at least 10 days to have a first report and many more days to have a report by experts."

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AP Interview: Mexican president will fight marijuana smuggling despite US legalizations

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Newly elected President Enrique Pena Nieto says he will continue combatting all illegal drug production and trafficking in Mexico, including marijuana, despite its legalization in two U.S. states and liberalized use for medical purposes in others.

In an interview with The Associated Press late Monday on goals for his new administration, Pena Nieto was asked if votes to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Washington state and Colorado would make him rethink Mexico's drug-war policy.

"The short answer is no," said Pena Nieto, who added that he remains personally opposed to legalization. "My government will continue mounting a real fight against the trafficking of marijuana and all other drugs."

He has proposed focusing on reducing violence in Mexico rather than capturing top drug lords, a change from his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Many have viewed that as a signal that as long as drug gangs don't attack civilians, they would be left alone.

Murder, extortion and kidnapping skyrocketed under Calderon, with some estimates reaching 60,000 drug-related killings during his six-year term. Top Pena Nieto campaign aide Luis Videgaray, now secretary of the treasury, said in November that the U.S. legalization votes would complicate Mexico's anti-drug efforts.

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South Africa presidency: Nelson Mandela has recurring lung infection, responding to treatment

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela is suffering from a recurring lung infection and is responding to medical treatments, the nation's presidency said Tuesday.

The ailing Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized since Saturday for medical tests at 1 Military Hospital near South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

The announcement ended speculation about what was troubling the ailing anti-apartheid icon. Government officials had declined repeatedly to say what caused the nation's military, responsible for Mandela's care, to hospitalize the leader over the last few days. That caused growing concern in South Africa, a nation of 50 million people that largely reveres Mandela for being the nation's first democratically elected president who sought to bring the country together after centuries of racial division.

The tests Mandela underwent at the hospital detected the lung infection, said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj in a statement.

"Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment," Maharaj said, referring to Mandela by his clan name as many do in South Africa in a sign of affection.

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New tests could make it faster to spot food poisoning but harder to detect outbreaks

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's about to get faster and easier to diagnose food poisoning, but that progress for individual patients comes with a downside: It could hurt the nation's ability to spot and solve dangerous outbreaks.

Next-generation tests that promise to shave a few days off the time needed to tell whether E. coli, salmonella or other foodborne bacteria caused a patient's illness could reach medical laboratories as early as next year. That could allow doctors to treat sometimes deadly diseases much more quickly — an exciting development.

The problem: These new tests can't detect crucial differences between different subtypes of bacteria, as current tests can. And that fingerprint is what states and the federal government use to match sick people to a contaminated food. The older tests might be replaced by the new, more efficient ones.

"It's like a forensics lab. If somebody says a shot was fired, without the bullet you don't know where it came from," explained E. coli expert Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that losing the ability to literally take a germ's fingerprint could hamper efforts to keep food safe, and the agency is searching for solutions. According to CDC estimates, 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses each year, and 3,000 die.

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AP Exclusive: ACLU tells OAS panel that US interrogation of terror suspect Padilla was torture

NEW YORK (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union says it will ask the Organization of American States' human rights commission to investigate the U.S. government for allegedly violating the rights of convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla by labeling him an "enemy combatant" a decade ago and subjecting him to interrogation that amounted to torture, including sleep and sensory deprivation in solitary confinement.

The watchdog legal group told The Associated Press that it plans to file a petition Tuesday morning to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which serves as the human-rights investigation arm of the Washington-based OAS. The regional international organization promotes cooperation among the 35 independent countries of the Americas.

Jamil Dakwar, the ACLU's human rights program director, said this will be the first-ever petition to be filed to the OAS commission by an American citizen against the U.S. government alleging torture and abuse.

It asks the OAS body to recommend that the United States publicly acknowledge the violations and apologize for its unlawful conduct.

The State Department and the Justice Department were contacted about the issue, but did not have an immediate response on Monday night.

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US on track to upgrade ties with Syrian opposition as international diplomacy intensifies

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is getting ready to tighten its ties to Syria's main opposition group, a step in the intensifying diplomacy that officials hope will craft an end to Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled regime.

Officials say the administration is on track to recognize the new Syrian opposition council as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people at an international conference on the crisis in Morocco this week.

The move will pave the way for greater U.S. support for those seeking to oust Assad and follows the blacklisting of a militant Syrian rebel group with links to al-Qaida. That step is aimed at blunting the influence of extremists amid fears that the regime may use or lose control of its stockpile of chemical weapons.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had been due to attend Wednesday's meeting in the Moroccan city of Marrakech but canceled her trip because she was ill with a stomach virus, her spokesman, Philippe Reines, said. Instead, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will lead the U.S. delegation.

On Monday, Clinton designated Jabhat al-Nusra, or "the Support Front" in Arabic, a foreign terrorist organization. The move freezes any assets its members may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bars Americans from providing the group with material support. The designation is largely symbolic because the group is not thought to have holdings or support in the United States, but officials hope the penalties will encourage others to take similar action and discourage Syrians from joining.

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After more than 9 months, players to get ruling from Tagliabue on bounty appeal

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — More than nine months after the NFL first disclosed its bounty investigation of the New Orleans Saints, four players will finally get a ruling on whether their initial suspensions are upheld, reduced or thrown out.

Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed to handle a second round of player appeals to the league, has informed all parties he planned to rule by Tuesday afternoon. His decision could affect whether two current Saints — linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith — get to play out the season.

If the sanctioned players find Tagliabue's decision palatable, that could finally bring the bounty saga to an end. If not, it will be up to a federal judge to either disqualify Tagliabue or let his ruling stand.

Even if Tagliabue maintains the suspensions, any punishment will delayed a week, allowing Vilma and Smith to at least play this Sunday at home against Tampa Bay, a person familiar with the decision said.

The delay is aimed at giving U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan in New Orleans time to review Tagliabue's ruling and decide if she still believes she must take the unusual step of getting involved in a collectively bargained process in order to protect the players' rights, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because no ruling had been announced.

 

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