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Bank of America to pay $16.6 million to resolve U.S. sanctions violations

A Bank of America sign is shown on a building in downtown Los Angeles, California By Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp's banking unit agreed to pay $16.6 million to resolve allegations that it processed several hundred transactions for drug traffickers who are subject to U.S. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday. The bank processed around $91,000 in transactions for six designated narcotics traffickers between 2005 and 2009, and failed to file timely reports on accounts owned by four others, the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said. Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said the settlement concluded a matter the bank addressed in 2009 by improving its sanctions-related systems and controls. In announcing the settlement, OFAC said it determined that 79 transactions the bank processed after October 2006 constituted an "egregious" case, because the bank knew of a problem with its screening tool, but didn't fix it until more than two years later.


Results, jobs data buoy Wall St, S&P eyes 2,000

A trader watches his screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange By Rodrigo Campos NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 hit a record high for a third straight session on Thursday, lifted by jobs data and earnings, but a weak reading in new home sales kept other key stock indexes little changed. Stocks had opened higher on strong job market data in the United States and overseas factory readings, while Facebook shares rallied after results beat expectations. Jobless claims fell to the lowest since mid-February 2006, pointing to continued strength in the labor market, but new home sales fell 8.1 percent in June, the most in almost a year, and May's initial reading of a more than 18 percent gain was revised to just above 8 percent, putting a damper on sentiment as the housing market struggles.


U.S. jobless claims lowest since early 2006; new home sales tumble

People attend a job fair in Detroit By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in nearly 8-1/2 years last week, suggesting the labor market recovery was gaining traction. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000 for the week ended July 19, the lowest level since February 2006, the Labor Department said. The data provided further confirmation that the labor market is tightening.


Russia says being forced into WTO dispute over U.S. sanctions

GENEVA (Reuters) - The latest U.S. sanctions against Russia are a violation of World Trade Organization rules that may force Moscow into a destabilizing trade dispute, Russia's ambassador told the Geneva-based trade body on Thursday. "It looks like we are being forced to seek the protection of our legitimate rights and interests through the WTO mechanisms," Ambassador Gennady Ovechko said. "Thus, the U.S. actions might cause the unfortunate chain of events that would ultimately undermine the credibility of the multilateral trading system." (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Alison Williams)

Israeli fire hits UN facility in Gaza, killing 15

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed forward with its 17-day war against the territory's Hamas rulers.

London critics fall for 'Shakespeare in Love'

A June 2014 photo made available by Cornershop PR showing Lucy Briggs-Owen as Viola with members of the company. A hit. A very palpable hit. So says a character in the new West End production "Shakespeare in Love," quoting "Hamlet." And so say most London critics about the big-budget stage version of the Tudor-set rom-com that charmed its way to seven Academy Awards in 1998. On Thursday, July 24, 2014 critics showered the play with accolades that will make producers' ad campaign a dream. The Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings praised the play's "fizzy, infectious exuberance," while the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer said it "generates a glow you could warm your hands by." Paul Taylor in The Independent topped them all: "It makes you feel grateful to be alive." Adapted by Lee Hall _ and co-produced by Disney, whose backing has helped fund a large-scale production with a 28-strong cast _ the play sticks close to the film’s plot. (AP Photo/Cornershop PR, Johan Persson) LONDON (AP) — A hit. A very palpable hit.


Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says a key lesson from Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident is that the nation's nuclear industry needs to focus more on the highly unlikely but super-serious worst case scenarios.

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says a key lesson from Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident is that the nation's nuclear industry needs to focus more on the highly unlikely but super-serious worst case scenarios.

Israeli shelling kills at least 10 in U.N. Gaza shelter: ministry

At least 10 people were killed and many wounded when Israeli forces shelled a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinian refugees in northern Gaza, the Gazan Ministry of Health said on Thursday. The director of a local hospital said various medical centers around Beit Hanoun were receiving the wounded. "Such a massacre requires more than one hospital to deal with it," said Ayman Hamdan, director of the Beit Hanoun hospital. More than 140,000 Palestinians have fled 17 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants, many of them seeking refuge in buildings run by the U.N. UNWRA agency.

French foreign minister: missing Air Algerie plane 'probably crashed'

PARIS (AP) — French foreign minister: missing Air Algerie plane 'probably crashed'

IMF says Israel-Gaza conflict already having economic costs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israel and Gaza are already facing economic costs from the fighting between them that has raged for the past two weeks, a spokesman from the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday. The fiscal cost to Israel is estimated at 0.2 percent of its gross domestic product, though that number could increase if the fighting continues for long, IMF deputy spokesman William Murray said, citing figures from "various sources. ...

Porch shooter: I didn't know gun was loaded

Theodore Wafer waits for the start of his trial at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 in Detroit. Wafer is charged with murder in the shooting of a young unarmed woman on his porch. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) DETROIT (AP) — A suburban Detroit man who killed an unarmed woman on his porch immediately suggested to police it was an accident and that he didn't know his shotgun was loaded, according to recorded remarks played in court Thursday.


Greece: Million-euro marble statue seized

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A police officer from Greece's antiquities protection department has been arrested and accused of being part of a smuggling ring that was trying to sell an ancient marble statue worth an estimated €1 million ($1.35 million).

Baby among nine dead as Israeli shell hits UN school in Gaza

A trail of blood is seen in the courtyard of a UN School in the northern Beit Hanun district of the Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014, after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell At least nine people were killed, including a baby, when an Israeli shell slammed into a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, an AFP correspondent said. It was the latest in a number of Israeli strikes on schools and hospitals in the embattled Palestinian territory, as the death toll from a 17-day operation to halt rocket fire by Gaza militants topped 770. A spokesman for the UN's Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA separately confirmed "multiple dead and injured" at the school in Beit Hanun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area. "Precise coordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanun had been formally given to the Israeli army," Chris Gunness said on his Twitter account.


EU targets state-owned Russia banks in sanctions plan

By Justyna Pawlak and Adrian Croft BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union would target state-owned Russian banks vital to financing Moscow's faltering economy in the most serious sanctions so far over the Ukraine crisis under proposals considered by EU governments on Thursday. Ambassadors of the 28-nation bloc met in Brussels to discuss options drafted by the executive European Commission in response to the downing of a Malaysian airliner in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. "If implemented such sanctions would be a serious blow to the Russian economy, exacerbating an already very likely recession this year and sustaining an economic depression for longer," said analyst Michal Dybula of BNP Paribas. The proposals included an arms embargo, although diplomats said it would apply to future deals and would not bar delivery of a French warship built for Russia under a 2011 contract.

Storm kills three, injures five at Virginia campground

A possible tornado swept through a Virginia campground on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring five, a fire department spokeswoman said. The storm hit the Cherrystone Campground at Cape Charles, Virginia, overturning three cars and an a tractor-trailer, said Brittney Eder, a spokeswoman for the Eastville Volunteer Fire Company.

Storm kills three, injures five at Virginia campground

A possible tornado swept through a Virginia campground on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring five, a fire department spokeswoman said. The storm hit the Cherrystone Campground at Cape Charles, Virginia, overturning three cars and an a tractor-trailer, said Brittney Eder, a spokeswoman for the Eastville Volunteer Fire Company.

6 dead in Mexico border shootings

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Six suspected cartel gunmen are dead following shootings in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas, near the Texas border.

Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. science advisory report says a key lesson from Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident is that the nation's nuclear industry needs to focus more on the highly unlikely but super-serious worst case scenarios.

Militants order female genital mutilation in Iraq: U.N.

This Tuesday, July 22, 2014 photo shows a motorist passing by a flag of the Islamic State group in central Rawah, 175 miles (281 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, nearly six weeks since a Sunni militant blitz led by the Islamic State extremist group seized large swaths of northern and western Iraq. (AP Photo) The United Nations, expressing deep concern, said on Thursday that militant group Islamic State had ordered all girls and women in and around Iraq's northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation. One document posted on Twitter suggested it may be a year old and have been issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, the group's previous name. Such a "fatwa" issued by the Sunni Muslim fighters would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Arbil. There was no immediate comment from Islamic State which has led an offensive through northern and western Iraq.


Marines investigate corporal who vanished in Iraq

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — Marine Corp officers in North Carolina are launching a formal investigation into whether a Lebanese-American Marine deserted his unit in Iraq or later after returning to the United States.

IMF says its board to meet on Ukraine in late August

The board of the International Monetary Fund is expected to meet about Ukraine's loan program in late August, an IMF spokesman said on Thursday, which would likely allow the embattled country to receive its next aid disbursement of an expected $1.4 billion. Ukraine, which is fighting a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in the east, received $3.2 billion in May as the first tranche of the two-year IMF aid package intended to shore up depleted foreign currency reserves and support the state budget.

Afghan vote recount moves at snail's pace, rival sides far apart

By Hamid Shalizi and Jeremy Laurence KABUL (Reuters) - The dusty ballot box from the disputed Afghan presidential election was supposed to contain 550 votes. "Both camps argued over one result sheet for hours," an Independent Election Commission (IEC) official told Reuters. Eventually a United Nations official stepped in, and told the two sides to move on and let the IEC investigate. Preliminary results from the election put Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, well ahead, but his rival Abdullah Abdullah rejected the result, claiming major fraud and calling the outcome a "coup" against the Afghan people.

Top Asian News at 2:30 p.m. GMT

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Eighteen children were killed Thursday when a train crashed into their school bus at an unmanned railroad crossing in southern India, police said. The bus driver also died while another 20 children ages 7 to 14 were injured and hospitalized, 15 of them in critical condition, said Telangana state education minister G. Jagdishwar Reddy.

Chicago police arrest man in 11-year-old's death

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police say they've arrested a man in the slaying of an 11-year-old girl who was struck in the head by a stray bullet while at a sleepover last week.

Questions surround DC gun arrest of poultry exec

WASHINGTON (AP) — There are questions this morning about the arrest of a South Carolina pork-and-poultry executive who allegedly tried to enter a congressional office building in Washington with a handgun in his bag.

At least 15 dead in Israeli shelling of Gaza school- Health Ministry

Israeli tanks take position just outside Gaza Strip By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli forces shelled a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in the northern Gaza strip, the Gaza health ministry said on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and raising the conflict's death toll to nearly 750. Israel Radio said, without citing a source, that most of those killed at the United Nations school were children. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said that as well as the 15 dead, another 200 people were wounded in the attack. More than 140,000 Palestinians have fled 17 days of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants, many of them seeking shelter in buildings run by the U.N. Refugee Works Agency (UNWRA).


Blatter discusses work for FIFA 2022 in Qatar

FIFA president Joseph Blatter smiles before the World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte, on July 8, 2014 The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani discussed Wednesday with FIFA president Sepp Blatter the preparations for the 2022 football World Cup which the Gulf state hosts. The FIFA website said discussions also included reforms to labour conditions in the wealthy state which has come under international pressure to clamp down on violations of the rights of migrant workers, who are mostly Asians. "Qatar takes its responsibility as hosts seriously," said Blatter after the meeting, according to the FIFA website, adding that Qatar is committed to improve labour conditions. "It was great to see his (emir's)and Qatar's commitment to use the 2022 FIFA World Cup to achieve positive social change and to promote the host country and region," Blatter said.


EBRD decision to curtail cooperation with Russia "unacceptable," -Russia's UK envoy

The decision by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to curtail cooperation with Russia is unacceptable and harmful to all parties, Russia's ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko, said on Thursday. The EBRD said on Wednesday that its board had given "clear guidance" it would not approve new investments in Russia, traditionally its biggest recipient.

Jefferson Montero signs 4-year deal with Swansea

SWANSEA, Wales (AP) — Ecuadorean winger Jefferson Montero has signed a four-year deal with Swansea for an undisclosed amount. Montero began training with the club immediately following his physical on Thursday.

Pope meets Christian sentenced to death for faith

In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, from Sudan, with her daughter Maya in her arms, in his Santa Marta residence, at the Vatican, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith has arrived in Italy along with her family, including the infant born in prison. Ibrahim, whose father was Muslim but whose mother was an Orthodox Christian from Ethiopia, was sentenced to death over charges of apostasy. She married her husband, a Christian, in a church ceremony in 2011. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, File) ROME (AP) — Pope Francis met privately Thursday with a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, blessing the woman as she cradled her infant born just weeks ago in prison.


Ukraine's Metinvest says shell-hit coke plant back at full capacity

Ukraine's largest steelmaker Metinvest said its Avdiivka coke plant had resumed working at full capacity after being hit by artillery fire and warned of the economic risks posed by the conflict in the country's east. "I can say without exaggeration that the combat operations have threatened not only the Avdiivka coke plant but also the entire Ukrainian economy," Avdiivka Chief Executive Musa Magomedov said in an online statement. Avdiivka, which produces 40 percent of Ukraine's coke - a key ingredient in steelmaking - was hit by shelling late on Monday, forcing it to halve output, as Ukrainian forces pressed their military campaign against the separatists. Metinvest said coke production had returned to a normal level of around 7,200 tonnes per day, although the facility was still experiencing problems with water and electricity supply.

Iraq elects Kurdish politician as president

FILE - in this Thursday July 29, 2004, file photo, Fouad Massoum speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq. Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum was named Iraq’s new president on Thursday, Massoum, 76, one of the founders of President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, known as PUK, accepted the position after winning two-thirds of the votes, noting the “huge security, political and economic tasks" facing the government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Uraibi, File) BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician as the nation's new president on Thursday, hours after an attack on a prison convoy killed dozens of people, brutally underscoring the challenges faced by the country's leaders as they struggle to form a new government.


Ukraine accused of targeting civilians in east

In this photo taken on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Alexander Litvinenko points to damage inflicted where a missile hit, two days before, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of his ninth-floor apartment, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death. Others in the residential neighborhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor’s office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — War literally came to Alexander Litvinenko's living room, when a missile punched a gaping hole into the wall of his ninth-floor apartment. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death.


German prosecutors criticized in Nazi probe

BERLIN (AP) — A lawyer for families of alleged victims of a suspected Nazi death camp guard who died this week before he could be extradited for trial says German investigators should have acted more quickly to bring charges.

Planes with Malaysia Airlines bodies leave Ukraine

In this framegrab made from a video provided by press service of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic and icorpus.ru, pro-Russians collect parts of the burning debris of a Ukrainian military fighter jet, shot down at Savur Mogila, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Two Ukrainian military Sukhoi-25 fighters have been shot down in the east, according to the country's Defense Ministry. (AP Photo/icorpus.ru, Press Service of the rebel Donetsk People's Republic) KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) — Two military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster departed for the Netherlands Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash scene which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.


AP reporter's account of Arizona execution

The Arizona state prison where the nearly two hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood took place on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, is photographed in Florence, Ariz. Wood was convicted in the 1989 shooting deaths of Debbie Dietz, 29, and Gene Dietz, 55, at an auto repair shop in Tucson. (AP Photo) FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — Joseph Rudolph Wood looked around the death chamber and glanced at the people making preparation for his execution, locating the proper veins and inserting two lines into his arms.


Title holder Youzhny advances at Swiss Open

Mikhail Youzhny of Russia celebrates his victory against to Kenny De Schepper of France during the second round match at the Suisse Open tennis tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Keystone,Peter Schneider) GSTAAD, Switzerland (AP) — Top-seeded Mikhail Youzhny began his Swiss Open title defense by beating Kenny De Schepper of France 6-3, 6-4 in a second-round match Thursday.


BNSF train carrying oil derails in Seattle: local media

(Reuters) - A Burlington Northern Santa Fe train carrying crude oil derailed in Seattle on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of a spill or injury, according to local television stations. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, was not immediately available for comment, but was cited in media reports as saying the train was carrying oil and that the cause of the accident was being investigated. (Reporting by Edward McAllister in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Christians face 'growing harassment' in post-breakup Sudan

Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, is pictured in his office in Khartoum on July 23, 2014 Church properties have been bulldozed and seized in a climate of growing harassment of minority Christians in Islamist-run Sudan since the south's 2011 independence, its council of churches said. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, told AFP that harassment has been on the rise ever since the separation three years ago of South Sudan, whose population follow mainly Christian and traditional beliefs. A death sentence issued in May to a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman convicted of apostasy from Islam drew worldwide attention to the issue of religious freedom in Sudan. Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag took refuge at the US embassy in Khartoum after a higher court annulled her conviction.


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