Khamis, 5 Jun 2014

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GM CEO axes 15 over switches, says 'no conspiracy' - USA TODAY

Posted: 05 Jun 2014 08:31 AM PDT

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said this morning she fired 15 people who either were incompetent or irresponsible in their actions involving fatally flawed ignition switches that are linked to 13 deaths in crashes where airbags failed to inflate.

"A disproportionate number of those were in senior roles or executives," she said. Two high-ranking engineers previously put on paid leave were among them, Barra said. That would be switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio and development engineer Gary Altman.

Barra wouldn't identify others.

Barra said five more -- "one level removed" -- were disciplined in unspecified ways because they "simply didn't take action." She wouldn't name them.

"A unique series of mistakes was made," she said. And the problem was misunderstood to be one of owner satisfaction and not safety. GM engineers didn't understand that when the switches failed, they cut power to the airbags.

"I wish I could" understand how they made that mistake, she said. "It was a mis-diagnosis."

The 15 were terminated after an internal report she commissioned, conducted by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas. She said the the Valukas report "is enormously painful" and details "fundamental failure" by GM in dealing with safety issues in years past.

Valukas reviewed more than 41 million GM documents, she said.

There was "no conspiracy found" within GM and no specific decision "to trade off safety" for costs, she said the report found.

The Valukas report shows a pattern of "Incompetence and neglect" and discloses that "numerous individuals" failed to fix the switch instead of "finding ways to protect our customers."

"I hate sharing this with you as much as you hate hearing it," she told 1,200 GM employees assembled at the company's technical and engineering center in Warren, Mich. The 15-minute speech, marbled with references to her pride in GM and its high-quality workforce, was broadcast live to other GM employees located elsewhere.

In a press conference afterwards, she said GM will compensate "everyone who has lost a loved one or suffered a serious injury" as a result of the defect. But she gave no details on how much compensation amounts.

At the press conference, GM President Dan Amman said GM's official number of deaths linked to the flawed switches remains 13, but he said many more than that will be eligible for compensation: "Rules on eligibility for compensation are being determined independently by (Kenneth) Feinberg," the mediation and compensation specialists that GM hired to run its victim compensation program, Amman said. .

Amman said it will be entirely up to Feinberg to decide who gets paid, how much, and thus, the amount GM ultimately will have to spend on compensation.

Claims for compensation will begin Aug. 1.

At the press conference, Barra said more than 113,000 defective switches have been replaced, "as of last night."

"Despite the damaging nature of this situation, Mary Barra has handled it as well as any CEO in her position could," Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book's KBB.com said.

Barra "has already taken several steps to address the issue of 'internal silos' that restricted information and caused a lack of accountability within the company," Bauer said.

Among them, overhauling the company's safety decision-making process to be sure top executives know of potential problems.

Barra told a U.S. House committee on April 1, during tough questioning, that she had hired Valukas "to conduct a thorough and unimpeded investigation of the actions of General Motors. He has free rein to go where the facts take him, regardless of the outcome.

"The facts will be the facts. Once they are in, my management team and I will use his findings to help assure this does not happen again. We will hold ourselves fully accountable."

Valukas led a similar inquiry after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

GM on May 16 agreed to pay the maximum fine, $35 million, because it failed to tell the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within five business days after determining the switches were a safety defect.

It also agree to "unprecedented oversight" by the government of its safety processes and agreed to turn the entire Valukas report over to Congress and NHTSA. Barra had fought to keep some parts of the report confidential.

Though the details spotlight dramatic failures within GM to aggressively seek out and fix safety problems, there is a bit of anti-climax to it.

GM already had blown the whistle on itself. In documents submitted to NHTSA as part of the recall of 2.6 million 2003-2011 small cars worldwide for the defective switches, GM disclosed that its engineers first knew in 2001 the switches could unexpectedly move out of the "run" position.

That kills the engine, shuts off the power assist to steering and brakes, and usually disables front airbags.

In 2003, a dealership technician cited the switch failure, the GM documents show..

And in 2004, development engineer Altman noted the switch problem.

In 2006, according to GM documents, switch engineer DeGiorgio approved a revised switch that was less likely to move out of "run," but didn't give it a new part number.

Barra said in congressional hearings in April that failing to distinguish a revised part with a new part number is "unacceptable" and violates GM engineering rules.

In a 2007 meeting with NHTSA about another matter, GM disclosed, it was told about a 2005 fatal crash in which the switch apparently moved out of the "run" position and the front airbags failed to inflate.

GM's legal staff got involved, but the matter apparently didn't percolate to upper management until late 2013, and a recall was begun in February this year.

GM also is under investigation by the Department of Justice over whether there were criminal acts committed in a cover-up of the deadly flaw.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing GM to see if it misled investors.

Lawyers are suing on behalf of owners who claim their recalled vehicles have lost value. GM is fighting that in court in New York, citing the 2009 bankruptcy reorganization's protection from liability for "economic loss" due to pre-bankruptcy actions of what's called "old GM."

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Authorities launch manhunt for suspect in New Brunswick police killings - Fox News

Posted: 05 Jun 2014 08:25 AM PDT

  • new-brunswick-police-checkpoint-060514.jpg

    June 5, 2014: Royal Canadian Mounted Police check a van at a roadblock in Moncton, New Brunswick. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police manhunt for a gunman suspected of killing three Mounties and wounding two others passed the 12-hour mark Thursday in Moncton as a large section of the New Brunswick city was under a virtual siege.AP/The Canadian Press

  • new-brunswick-manhunt-060514.jpg

    June 5, 2014: Royal Canadian Mounted Police check the trunk of a taxi at a roadblock in Moncton, New Brunswick. A RCMP manhunt for a gunman suspected of killing three Mounties and wounding two others passed the 12-hour mark Thursday in Moncton as a large section of the New Brunswick city was under a virtual siege.AP/The Canadian Press

  • Canada Shooting_Cham640.jpg

    June 4, 2014: Police officers take cover behind their vehicles in Moncton, New Brunswick. Three police officers were shot dead and two others injured Wednesday in the east coast Canadian province of New Brunswick, officials said, and authorities were searching for a suspect. (AP Photo/Moncton Times & Transcript, Ron Ward via The Canadian Press)

  • canada-shooting-060514.jpg

    June 4, 2014: Employees of a grocery store lock down their store in Moncton, New Brunswick.AP/The Canadian Press

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have launched a manhunt for a gunman after three of its officers were killed and two others were wounded in shootings Wednesday in Moncton, New Brunswick. 

Since the attacks, Justin Bourque, 24, has been seen in three different places around Moncton, the latest instance after daylight Thursday morning, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commander Marlene Snowman.

Heavily armed RCMP officers are combing streets and woods in search of Bourque, who was wearing military camouflage and carrying two rifles in a picture released by police on Twitter. Schools and government offices were closed, and the city pulled its buses off the roads. Mail delivery was suspended.

Police have commandeered armored trucks and told residents to stay indoors. They warned people to expect roadblocks and traffic disruptions. 

Moncton, a city of about 69,000 people, is about 95 miles northeast of St. John, New Brunswick.

Police released a map of a large portion of the northwest section of the city, including a heavily wooded area, where they wanted people to remain inside with their doors locked.

RCMP Constable Damien Theriault said the officers were shot responding to a call about an armed man in the north end of the city at around 7:30 p.m on Wednesday. The two officers who were injured received non life-threatening injuries and were in stable condition.

"We are still actively looking for the shooter," Theriault said. "He is believed to still be in the Pinehurst subdivision area of Moncton. We are urging people in that area to stay inside and lock their doors and for people to say away from that area."

Asked how he was dealing with his grief, Theriault said he personally knew the officers before breaking down and excusing himself because he couldn't complete his sentence. 

Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with his gun pointed at police cars.

The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man's gun.

"That guy was standing on the road afterwards and he was looking towards us," he said.

He said he quickly retreated into his home and remained there with his family. At one point a neighbor posted on social media that their kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.

Leblanc, who was in contact with friends on Facebook, said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.

Word that police had been killed shocked the city, Leblanc said.

"It's devastating. I don't know if he was on a hunt for them, or what," he said.

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc urged all residents to pay strict attention to the RCMP warnings.

"It is a terrible tragedy," he said. "We as a city must pull together as a family to support those who have suffered losses."

Such violence is rare in Canada, particularly on Canada's East Coast. Theriault said the city of Moncton didn't have a homicide last year or this year until Wednesday evening.

"We have been blessed until this point," he told The Associated Press.

He said other RCMP officers from around Atlantic Canada are in Moncton assisting with the search.

The shootings brought back memories of when four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were shot and killed in the western Canadian province of Alberta in 2005 in the deadliest attack on Canadian police officers in 120 years. They had been investigating a farm in Mayerthrope, a small hamlet in Alberta when a man shot them before he was killed.

Sean Gallacher, who lives near the area where police were concentrating their search, said he heard what he now believes were gunshots but initially thought his daughter had dropped some toys on the floor above him.

"I was downstairs and heard a few bangs," said Gallacher, 35.

Will Njoku told the CBC that he was emptying his dishwasher and putting his children to bed at around 8 p.m. local time when he heard popping sounds.

"Within 30 seconds I heard sirens," he said, before adding that he heard five more shots after the sirens. When news broke that there was a shooter, he said he went outside to warn his neighbors. 

"I felt pretty dumb. But there was people going down there," he said. "I just know my neighborhood. It's just kid city." 

Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney tweeted that he was "shocked by the tragedy" and that his thoughts and prayers were with frontline RCMP officers.

Click for more from CBC.ca.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Rabu, 4 Jun 2014

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Bowe Bergdahl prisoner release: Taliban publish footage of handover to US forces - Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 11:27 PM PDT

A video released through the Taliban's media arm appears to show the moment Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who spent five years in captivity, is released.

Sgt Bergdahl, 28, looking relaxed with a blanket draped over his shoulders, is filmed in the back of a vehicle waiting for the handover. He is then brought out as a Black Hawk helicopter lands in a clearing.

Special forces soldiers stay at the aircraft as three men, not wearing uniforms, come forward to receive the prisoner, hugging Sgt Bergdahl. As he boards the aircraft one of the men can be seen frisking Sgt Bergdahl.

The operation is all over in 10 carefully choreographed seconds and is carried out under the watch of militants, armed with rocket propelled grenades.

Mississippi GOP Senate primary race too close to call, Ernst wins in Iowa - Fox News

Posted: 04 Jun 2014 02:41 AM PDT

Six-term Mississippi GOP Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel were locked overnight in a too-close-to-call race for Cochran's Senate seat and appear headed for a runoff later this month. 

McDaniel had nudged ahead of Cochran early Wednesday, with 98 percent of the state's precincts reporting. McDaniel garnered 49.6 percent of the vote to Cochran's 48.8 percent.

One candidate would have needed 50 percent of the vote to win outright and avoid the June 24 runoff. The third GOP candidate, Thomas Carey, had 2 percent of the vote.

Mississippi was just one of six states Tuesday holding Senate primaries, with Iowa's GOP race considered the other closely-contested contest.

The other Senate primary races were in Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. 

Republicans need to win a net six Senate seats this year to take control of the upper chamber.

In Mississippi, the Tea Party-backed McDaniel gave supporters an upbeat speech shortly after midnight at his post-election party.

"Because of your hard work, we sit here tonight leading a 42-year incumbent," he said. "We will stand victorious. … We will win this fight."

The 76-year-old Cochran is facing the toughest challenge of his political career against McDaniel, who entered the race deadlocked with the veteran lawmaker.

"It's been a long night and it's not over," said a Cochran campaign staffer. "It looks like a runoff."

The winner will face former Rep. Travis Childers, who Tuesday night won the state Democratic nomination, and Reform Party candidate Shawn O'Hara in the November election.

In Iowa, state Sen. Joni Ernst won the GOP primary. The 43-year-old Ernst won the nomination over five candidates including challenger Mark Jacobs, who led the race early.

Ernst will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in November for the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

All the Republicans seeking the nomination described themselves as deeply conservative, but Ernst managed to stand out in part due to two television ads. One featured her on a farm, talking about her experience castrating hogs, and the other showed her firing a handgun.

Ernst also received endorsements from a variety of groups and individuals, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Rifle Association and Sarah Palin.

The Cochran-McDaniel contest drew top billing, featuring a pillar of the GOP establishment who has helped funnel millions of dollars to his state and a younger state lawmaker who drew backing from Tea Party groups and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The campaign took a turn toward the sensational when four men, all McDaniel supporters, were arrested and charged with surreptitiously taking photographs of the senator's 72-year-old wife, who suffers from dementia and has long lived in a nursing home.

Police said they wanted to use the photo to further allegations that Cochran was having an inappropriate friendship with a female staffer who accompanied him on numerous overseas trips.

In Montana, Democrat John Walsh won his party's nomination for Senate, and Steve Daines won the GOP primary.

In New Jersey, former Washington policy analyst Jeff Bell won a tight GOP primary, narrowly defeating computer consultant Richard Puzzollo.

The other two Republicans running in the low-budget primary were concrete contractor Brian Goldberg and business professor Murray Sabrin. Bell will in November face incumbent Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is considered a heavy favorite.

In New Mexico, former state GOP chairman Allan Weh won the party primary and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Udall in the fall.

In South Dakota, former Gov. Mike Rounds won the GOP primary and enters the November race as the favored to win the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson. He will face Democrat Rick Weiland, who ran unopposed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Selasa, 3 Jun 2014

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Wisconsin girl stabbed 19 times in woods recovering - Fox News

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 09:03 AM PDT

A court document says the 12-year-old girl stabbed 19 times in some woods in Waukesha narrowly escaped death.

Doctors at Waukesha Memorial Hospital told police the girl was "one millimeter away from certain death" because one of her stab wounds missed a major artery near her heart by a millimeter.

The document says a surgical team performing laparoscopic surgery on the girl found injuries to her liver, pancreas and stomach.

The hospital declined to update the girl's condition Tuesday. Police said Monday the girl's condition was stable.

Two of the victim's friends, both 12, are charged in adult court with first-degree attempted homicide. They are each being held on $500,000 cash.

According to a criminal complaint, the girls said they had been planning to kill their 12-year-old friend for months to please Slenderman, a fictional online character.

The complaint said they invited the girl to a sleepover Friday. They planned to tape her mouth shut, stab her in the neck and run away to Slenderman's mansion.

Instead, they attacked the girl in Waukesha on Saturday, handing the knife back and forth between them before one girl held the victim down and the other stabbed her 19 times.

One girl told detectives she regretted it. The other said she was sorry.

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

UPDATE 3-Obama offers military help to E.Europe allies worried by Russia - Reuters

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 09:36 AM PDT

* Obama under pressure for muscular response to Kremlin

* In Warsaw, he unveils support and training for NATO allies

* White House to review force presence in Europe

* Kremlin says no plan for Putin-Obama meeting this week (Updates with Walesa comment, NATO meeting)

By Roberta Rampton and Marcin Goettig

WARSAW, June 3 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama promised on Tuesday to beef up military support for eastern European members of the NATO alliance who fear they could be next in the firing line after the Kremlin's intervention in Ukraine.

Under attack from critics at home who say his leadership on the world stage has not been muscular enough, Obama unveiled plans to spend up to $1 billion in supporting and training the armed forces of NATO states on Russia's borders.

The White House also said it would review permanent troop deployments in Europe in the light of the Ukraine crisis -- though that fell short of a firm commitment to put troops on the ground that Poland and some of its neighbours had sought.

Stationing troops permanently in eastern Europe would be tricky: many NATO members in Western Europe would baulk at the cost, and a big increase in U.S. forces could prompt reciprocal steps by Moscow and spiral into an arms race.

Moments after landing at Warsaw's Okecie airport at the start of a four-day visit to Europe, Obama set the tone by striding into an aircraft hangar to inspect U.S. fighter jets in Poland for a joint programme with the Polish air force.

"We need to make sure that the collective defense ... is robust, it is ready, it is properly equipped," Obama later told a joint news conference with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in Warsaw at the start of a four-day visit to Europe.

"The United States is proud to bear its share of the defense of the transatlantic alliance," he said after their talks in Warsaw. "It is the cornerstone of our security."

As they met, fighting raged in eastern Ukraine for a second straight day as Kiev's army pressed an offensive against pro-Russian separatists holding the city of Slaviansk and said it had inflicted losses on the rebels.

UKRAINE'S INTEGRITY

Obama was to meet Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko in Warsaw on Wednesday and will attend celebrations in France with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day landings.

The Kremlin said Putin would hold private meetings on the sidelines with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron, but the Russian leader had no plans to meet Obama.

The U.S. leader said he had no interest in threatening Russia, but that it must respect Ukraine's sovereignty, rein in separatist fighters there, and work together with Poroshenko. If Russia did not, Obama said, more sanctions have been prepared.

"Mr Putin has a choice to make," Obama said. "That's what I will tell him if I see him publicly. That's what I have told him privately."

Obama said he would offer Poroshenko U.S. support for the Ukrainian economy to help ensure it can get through the winter if Moscow turned off gas supplies in a row over payment.

"I want to hear from him (Poroshenko) what he thinks would be most helpful," Obama said. "We're going to spend a lot of time on the economics of Ukraine."

Washington recognised that Russia had a historic relationship with Ukraine and had legitimate interests in what happened along its border, he said.

"But we also believe that the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty have to be respected," he said. "We have prepared economic costs on Russia that can escalate if in fact we continue to see Russia actively destabilising one of its neighbours in the way that we've seen of late."

While Washington proposed enhancing its military presence on Russia's western border, on another flank it stepped back in the face of a resurgent Kremlin.

U.S. forces ceremonially handed over the Manas air base in former Soviet Kyrgyzstan to the local authorities after using it for years as a key staging post for Western military operations in Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz parliament, seeking to curry favour with Moscow, had ordered Washington to vacate the base.

HAWK SATISFIED

Poland, which spent much of its history under Russian domination and is now one of the most hawkish NATO members, has previously said it wanted a large U.S. force on its soil as soon as possible.

However, Komorowski said the U.S. pledge on military support was a good response to the security threats in the region since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula earlier this year.

"For us it is most important that ... there are no countries that are told by some outside countries, particularly Russia, whether U.S. forces can or cannot be stationed there," Komorowski said.

The military assistance for Europe proposed by the White House, called the European Reassurance Initiative, is to include greater U.S. participation in training and exercises, deploying U.S. military planners, and more persistent naval deployments in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, on Russia's doorstep.

The White House said in a statement it would help build the defence capacity of Ukraine and two other Western-leaning states on Russia's borders, Georgia and Moldova. Obama would be seeking the support of the U.S. Congress for the plan, it said.

"In addition to this initiative, we are reviewing our force presence in Europe in the light of the new security challenges on the continent," it said.

At a separate meeting in Brussels of NATO states, U.S Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged allies to raise their defence budgets in response to the Ukraine crisis, something several of them are reluctant to do.

Obama's visit to Poland coincides with the "Freedom Day" anniversary, marking the holding of the country's first partially-free elections 25 years ago, which led to the end of communist rule and the victory of the Solidarity trade union.

Lech Walesa, the man who led the Solidarity movement, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Price, accused Washington of failing to show leadership today, echoing some of Obama's critics at home in the Republican Party.

"The world does not have politically moral leadership at the moment," Walesa said in an interview with broadcaster CNN. "The world is a very dangerous place if there is no world leadership... They (the Americans) should finally start acting like a superpower again." (Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Jakub Iglewski in WARSAW and Adrian Croft in BRUSSELS; Writing by Jeff Mason and Christian Lowe; Editing by Paul Taylor and Anna Willard)

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Isnin, 2 Jun 2014

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EPA seeks 30% cut in power plant carbon emissions by 2030 - USA TODAY

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 08:50 AM PDT

Taking a historic step to fight climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency today proposed a plan that aims to slash carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30% by 2030 and could accelerate the nation's shift away from coal.

"By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, adding it will spur innovation and create jobs. She said the plan will give states flexibility to lower power plant emissions, setting goals tailored to their circumstances.

Yet the controversial proposal, a major part of President Obama's climate initiative, will set a national target of lowering these heat-trapping CO² emissions — from 2005 levels — of 30% by 2030. The EPA says that reduction amount is equal to the emissions from powering more than half of U.S. homes for one year.

Thwarted by Congress' inability to pass a bill to lower carbon emissions, Obama is pushing his own approach. Last June, he asked the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to limit power plant emissions, which account for the largest share — nearly 40% — of total U.S. emissions. Coal-fired facilities will be hardest hit, because they emit more carbon than other power plants.

The rule, expected to trigger legal challenges, will not take effect for at least two more years. Obama has asked the EPA to finalize it in June 2015, after which the states will have at least a year to craft their plans. If states balk at submitting them, the EPA could step in with its own version.

Opponents are already lining up against the proposal. Today, Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D- W.V., said he will work with his state's GOP colleague, Rep. David McKinley, to introduce legislation to stop both the new rule for existing power plants as well as one proposed last year for future plants.

"This new regulation threatens our economy and does so with an apparent disregard for the livelihoods of our coal miners and thousands of families throughout West Virginia," Rahall said.

Last week, the Chamber of Commerce released a report saying such regulation could raise consumer prices for electricity, kill jobs and slow economic growth. In the GOP Saturday radio address, Wyoming's Sen. Mike Enzi said the Obama administration has "set out to kill coal and its 800,000 jobs." If it succeeds, he warned, "we'll all be paying a lot more money for electricity — if we can get it."

McCarthy said critics have "time after time ... cried wolf to protect their own agenda." She said their dire predictions about the economic costs of reducing urban smog in the 1960s and acid rain in the 1990s have been proven wrong.

"We can innovate our way to a better future," McCarthy said. "From the light bulb to the locomotive; from photovoltaic cells to cellphones, America has always turned small steps into giant leaps."

Obama said Saturday that the proposal will reduce air pollution, improve health and spur a clean energy economy that can be "an engine of growth." He spoke from the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after visiting with kids being treated for asthma and other breathing problems that he said are aggravated by dirty air.

The administration says its proposal will save more than $90 billion in climate and health benefits and will avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks annually.

The EPA says it expects coal, which now provides 37% of the nation's electricity — down from 52% in 2000 — will still provide 30% of U.S. power by 2030. It says the increasing retirements of coal-fired plants, which now average 42 years, are because of economics such as the plunging price of natural gas — not its proposal.

Coal-fired power plants have already been closing. DOE data indicate the number has fallen from 633 in 2002 to 557 in 2012 and it expects 60 gigawatts of coal-fired power — one-fifth of total U.S. coal capacity in 2012 — will retire by 2020.

In contrast, natural gas has seen its share of U.S. electricity generation nearly double, from 16% in 2000 to 30% in 2012. McCarthy said U.S. wind energy has tripled and solar has grown ten-fold since 2009 — two sources that she says can help states meet carbon emissions cuts.

"This rule would accelerate that shift" away from coal, says Kyle Aarons, a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a non-profit group.

The carbon limits could lead to "draconian changes" in the U.S. energy mix, says Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

As coal use and total energy consumption has declined, so too have total U.S. carbon emissions, which have fallen about 10% since 2005. DOE forecasts a slight rise in the near future without new emission caps. In 2009, Obama pledged to lower U.S. emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.,

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, While plants are limited in how much arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution they can emit, they currently face no federal limits on carbon releases.

Some states that rely heavily on coal might struggle more than others to meet the EPA limits. Kentucky, Wyoming, West Virginia, Indiana and North Dakota have the highest carbon emission rates while Idaho, Vermont, Washington, Oregon and Maine have the lowest, according to a May report co-authored by Ceres, a non-profit group that promotes corporate sustainability.

Dan Bakal, Ceres' director of electric power, says coal-reliant states "have the most opportunities to reduce emissions, because there are many options they've not yet deployed." Given the state-specific goals in the EPA plan, he says the reductions are "achievable."

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Spain's King Juan Carlos I to abdicate - CNN

Posted: 02 Jun 2014 08:57 AM PDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It is "time to hand over to a new generation," the king said in a televised statement
  • Crown Prince Felipe will succeed the king
  • Juan Carlos' finest hour was his decisive stand against a coup
  • But his popularity has been dented in recent years by scandals

Read this story at CNN Espanol: Abdica el rey de EspaƱa.

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- After nearly 40 years on the throne, King Juan Carlos I of Spain said Monday that he will be stepping down.

It is "time to hand over to a new generation -- younger, with a lot of energy -- that can, with determination, take on and carry out the changes that the current situation demands, and to face with intensity and determination the challenges of tomorrow," he said in a televised statement, according to a CNN translation.

"The long, deep economic crisis we are going through has left a lot of scars socially, but it has also pointed toward a future of hope," he said.

Crown Prince Felipe, 46, will succeed his father. The king said he decided it was "time to prepare and pave way so that he who is in better conditions can continue."

Felipe is "stable" and has "the maturity, the preparation, and the sense of responsibility necessary" to serve as king and "to lead to a new stage of hope using his experience and the drive of a new generation," Juan Carlos added.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy first announced the king's decision.

Spaniards generally hold Juan Carlos, 76, in high regard for his service to the nation and his defense of democracy after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

But the king's popularity took a hit in 2012 over a controversial elephant hunting trip to Africa while the nation was mired in a deep economic crisis.

The focus of his reign was to bring about reconciliation between Spaniards of different political persuasions, and from different regions.

Many consider the king's finest hour to be his decisive stand to halt a right-wing military coup in 1981, when he went on television to say that the monarchy would not tolerate attempts to interrupt democracy by force.

Oversaw democracy's return

Born in Rome in 1938, Juan Carlos didn't set foot in Spain until he was 10. In Franco's Spain, he carried out military training and became the first Spanish officer to hold the rank of lieutenant in all three branches of the military.

In 1969, he was invested as crown prince and the designated successor to Franco.

On November 22, 1975 -- two days after Franco's death -- Juan Carlos was crowned king of Spain, restoring the monarchy after a 44-year interregnum.

In 1977, he enacted political reforms that led to Spain's first democratic election since 1936.

During his reign, Spain grew into an economic powerhouse and a vacation playground for Europe.

The king and Queen Sofia had three children and numerous grandchildren, styling their monarchy as accessible and relatively austere.

Hunting trip dented image

The private trip to Botswana became public only after Juan Carlos fell, broke his hip and was rushed back to Madrid for surgery.

With millions of Spaniards unemployed, the expense of the African trip caused an outcry. That prompted the king to make a rare apology in which he said he had made a mistake that would not happen again.

The king had previously expressed his concern about the impact of the crisis on Spaniards and called on the nation to come together to get through the tough times.

Other recent scandals have also damaged the monarchy's image.

Princess Cristina, the king's youngest daughter, is caught up in a tax fraud and money laundering investigation. She and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, have denied any wrongdoing over his business dealings and the alleged diversion of public funds.

The scandal has created unprecedented problems for the royal family and kept the country riveted.

There have been open calls for the king to abdicate in favor of Felipe, who is seen as untouched by the scandals.

Juan Carlos: All you need to know

Belgium's King Albert II gives up throne to son

CNN's Al Goodman reported from Madrid; Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong.

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Chuck Hagel Says Health Concerns Justified Bergdahl Swap - Wall Street Journal

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 10:01 AM PDT

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan—U.S. officials had intelligence suggesting Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's "safety and health were in jeopardy," justifying a prisoner swap without the required congressional notification, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday.

Mr. Hagel, speaking on his plane while flying to Afghanistan to speak to troops and commanders, declined to provide details of Sgt. Bergdahl's condition, citing privacy...

Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner dies in plane crash - KFMB News 8

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 08:46 AM PDT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz was killed along with six other people in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts, his business partner said Sunday.

Harold H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest confirmed Katz's death to The Associated Press, saying he was informed by their lawyer, Richard Sprague. The crash came just days after Katz and Lenfest gained full control of The Inquirer by buying out their co-owners for $88 million in a deal that ended an ugly monthslong feud among the partners.

The Gulfstream IV crashed as it was leaving Hanscom Field at about 9:40 p.m. Saturday for Atlantic City, New Jersey. There were no survivors.

The identities of the other victims weren't immediately released. Nancy Phillips, Katz's longtime companion and city editor at the Inquirer, was not on board.

Officials gave no information on the cause of the crash. They said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

When bidding on the company, which also operates the Philadelphia Daily News and the news website Philly.com. Katz and Lenfest vowed to fund in-depth journalism to return the Inquirer to its former glory and to retain its editor, Bill Marimow.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work. We're not kidding ourselves. It's going to be an enormous undertaking," Katz said then, noting that advertising and circulation revenues had fallen for years. "Hopefully, (the Inquirer) will get fatter."

Katz, who grew up in Camden, New Jersey, made his fortune investing in the Kinney Parking empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He once owned the NBA's New Jersey Nets and the NHL's New Jersey Devils and was a major donor to Temple University, his alma mater.

The fight over the future of the city's two major newspapers was sparked last year by a decision to fire the Inquirer's Pulitzer Prize-winning editor. Katz and Lenfest wanted a judge to block the firing. Katz sued a fellow owner, powerful Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, saying his ownership rights had been trampled. The dispute culminated last week when Katz and Lenfest, a former cable magnate-turned-philanthropist, bought out their partners.

Lenfest said Sunday that the deal to buy out the company will be delayed but will proceed.

Three previous owners of the company, including Norcross, said in a joint statement that they were deeply saddened to hear of Katz's death.

"Lew's long-standing commitment to the community and record of strong philanthropy across the region, particularly Camden where he was born and raised, will ensure that his legacy will live on," they said.

When the crash occurred, nearby residents saw a fireball and felt the blast shake their homes.

Jeff Patterson told The Boston Globe he saw a fireball about 60 feet high and suspected the worst.

"I heard a big boom, and I thought at the time that someone was trying to break into my house because it shook it," said Patterson's son, 14-year-old Jared Patterson. "I thought someone was like banging on the door trying to get in."

The air field, which serves the public, was closed after the crash. Responders were still on the scene Sunday morning.

Hanscom Field is about 20 miles northwest of Boston. The regional airport serves mostly corporate aviation, private pilots and commuter air services.

___

Associated Press writer Rodrique Ngowi in Bedford, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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US Soldier Bowe Bergdahl Released by Taliban in Swap for Guantanamo ... - Wall Street Journal

Posted: 31 May 2014 12:34 PM PDT

  By Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes 

WASHINGTON--Taliban militants in Afghanistan on Saturday handed over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held as a prisoner of war for almost five years, to U.S. Special Operations Forces in exchange for the release of five Afghan Taliban prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The breakthrough was brokered by Qatar, which sent representatives to the U.S. military prison in Cuba to take custody of the five Afghan detainees. The five were being flown to the small Gulf state where they will be required to stay for at least a year to ensure they don't return to Afghanistan to join the war there, U.S. officials said.

The exchange marked the culmination of years of on-again, off-again talks aimed at securing the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, who was captured near his base in Afghanistan and was the only American prisoner of war. Broader U.S. attempts to broker reconciliation talks in Afghanistan have foundered.

The 28-year-old sergeant was released by the Taliban at 10:30 a.m. EDT to several dozen U.S. Special Operations Forces who arrived at a rendezvous point in eastern Afghanistan by helicopter. There, the Americans were met by roughly 18 members of the Taliban, who handed over Sgt. Bergdahl without incident.

Sgt. Bergdahl was then loaded onto a helicopter and flown to an American base for evaluation. On the helicopter, Sgt. Bergdahl wrote on a paper plate "SF?" A member of the U.S. Special Operations Forces team replied, "Yes, we have been looking for you for a long time."

Sgt. Bergdahl then broke down and cried, a U.S. official said.

His parents, who live in Hailey, Idaho, were in Washington, D.C., and were notified that their son had been released. President Barack Obama said in a written statement that he was honored to call Sgt. Bergdahl's parents "to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal."

U.S. officials said Mr. Bergdahl appeared to be in good condition and was able to walk.

Though Taliban leaders have so far balked at entering peace talks with the U.S., Obama administration officials said they hoped the prisoner exchange would lead to a broader dialogue as the U.S. withdraws its forces from Afghanistan.

"It is our hope Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery could potentially open the door for broader discussions among Afghans about the future of their country by building confidence that it is possible for all sides to find common ground," Mr. Obama said in his statement.

Some U.S. lawmakers had voiced concerns about releasing the Taliban detainees when the swap was first proposed. But a defense official said the transfer was done in compliance with current U.S. law that mandates notification of Congress before detainees are transferred. "We have a memorandum of understanding with the government of Qatar, we have the appropriate security assurances from them," the defense official said.

In a statement Saturday, Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, welcomed Sgt. Bergdahl's release but called the Taliban detainees being transferred to Qatar "hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) praised "the diplomats, service members, and others who worked tirelessly to bring Sergeant Bergdahl home." President Obama, he added, "rightly recognized our solemn obligation to take every possible measure to protect and defend the men and women who serve our nation."

Then-Pfc. Bergdahl was captured on June 30, 2009, by militants after leaving his U.S. base in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The circumstances surrounding his decision to walk of the base have remained murky.

While a prisoner, he has received regular military promotions. However, the circumstances of his captivity have never been clear. U.S. officials have said he was believed to be held for most of the last five years in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group that is allied with but separate from the Taliban, and not directly by the Taliban.

But officials said Sgt. Bergdahl was handed over by Taliban, not Haqqani militants.

The U.S. held secret discussions with the Taliban starting in late 2011 and early 2012, but the Taliban broke those contacts off. The U.S. hasn't had any direct talks with the Taliban since then, except for messages relayed back-and-forth through intermediaries, most important the government of Qatar.

Last year, the Taliban opened an office in Qatar, a move backed by the U.S. as part of negotiations aimed at securing Sgt. Bergdahl's release. That effort soon bogged down in controversy and was abandoned.

Then last November, the Taliban signaled to the U.S. that it was prepared to restart indirect talks on the limited issue of a prisoner exchange. The Taliban leaders involved, however, made clear that they weren't prepared to discuss the broader issue of reconciliation, U.S. officials said.

The talks progressed relatively quickly. First, the Taliban provided the U.S. with a "proof of life"--a video released earlier this year that showed Sgt. Bergdahl alive. The Americans, in turn, agreed to release all five Afghan Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay at one time, instead of in stages.

"Several weeks ago an opportunity arose to resume talks on Bergdahl and we seized that opportunity," a senior defense official said.

The final prisoner swap negotiations were secretly conducted through Qatar, which acted as a mediator, passing messages back and forth.

Qatar sent representatives to the Guantanamo Bay prison to take custody of the five Afghan detainees, whom U.S. officials identified as Mohammed Fazl; Noorullah Noori; Abdul Haq Wasiq and Khairullah Khairkhwa; and Muhammad Nabi Omari.

U.S. officials said the five had departed Saturday from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar aboard a U.S. military aircraft.

Qatar has provided the U.S. with assurances that the five detainees, once they arrive in Qatar, won't pose a threat to the U.S. These assurances, according to U.S. officials, include at least a one-year travel ban, which bars them from leaving Qatari territory.

Sgt. Bergdahl is being evaluated at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. When doctors clear him, he will be moved to Bagram Air Base and then returned to the U.S.

Prisoner swaps have been rare, but not unprecedented, during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Qais and Laith Qazali, two brothers accused of killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq, were released by Iraqi officials in exchange for a British hostage and the bodies of four other U.K. nationals, although the U.S. publicly denied the brothers were freed as a prisoner exchange.

Write to Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com and Julian E. Barnes at julian.barnes@wsj.com

  

China Accuses US and Japan Of Incitement - New York Times

Posted: 31 May 2014 12:14 PM PDT

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Livemint

China Accuses US and Japan Of Incitement
New York Times
SINGAPORE — China struck back harshly at the United States and Japan on Saturday, as a senior Chinese military official accused Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan of acting in concert to sow controversy and division ...
China reacts sharply to Hagel's criticisms of its 'destabilizing' actions against ...Washington Post
US concerned by China's 'destabilising' actions in the South China Sea and ...ABC Online
Hagel Offers Litany of US Actions on Asia Rebalance SkepticismBloomberg
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Eric Shinseki steps down as VA chief amid wait list scandal - Los Angeles Times

Posted: 30 May 2014 02:03 PM PDT

After weeks of being bombarded by some veterans groups and lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, Eric K. Shinseki bowed to the inevitable Friday and stepped down as secretary of Veterans Affairs, saying he wanted to avoid being a distraction as the nation tries to fix the scandal in the delivery of healthcare to veterans.

The problems at the agency appeared even more acute in an audit released by the White House later Friday.

Waiting times for care at the majority of the 216 facilities examined appeared to be manipulated, the audit found. That audit followed another preliminary report, released earlier this week, that showed the agency's problems were widespread.

The issue has also been a factor in campaigns in the upcoming midterm elections.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell this November in Kentucky, noted in a statement that she was the first Democratic candidate to call on Shinseki to resign.

"As a senator, I will demand that we hold government officials accountable for the operations of their departments," she said.

Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, who noted he had called for Shinseki to resign earlier this week, called on the president and Gibson to "take immediate steps to restore veterans' faith in the VA." Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), whose likely opponent, Scott Brown, served for 35 years in the Army National Guard, said she planned to introduce new legislation that would address some of the issues highlighted by the interim inspector general's report.

Speaking to a conference on homeless veterans earlier Friday morning, Shinseki acknowledged that the problems in his agency were systemic and said he accepted responsibility for them. He said he had earlier thought the difficulties were an isolated problem at the Phoenix VA hospital, but that he now realized they were broader "I was too trusting of some," Shinseki said. "I can't explain the lack of integrity among some of the leaders of our healthcare facilities. This is something I rarely encountered during 38 years in uniform.''

"I will not defend it because it is indefensible. But I can take responsibility for it, and I do," he said. "Given the facts I now know, I apologize as the senior leader of the Department of Veterans Affairs.''

Sources: Donald Sterling found to be mentally incapacitated - CNN

Posted: 30 May 2014 01:48 PM PDT

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Sources say neurologists found Sterling to be mentally incapacitated
  • Statement from his wife, Shelly Sterling, confirms deal for NBA team to be sold
  • Ex-Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer will pay $2 billion for the Clippers
  • Deal would be the largest sum paid for an NBA franchise

(CNN) -- Two neurologists have deemed Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Donald Sterling to be mentally incapacitated, two sources with detailed knowledge of the situation told CNN on Friday.

Sterling's lawyer, Maxwell Blecher, called the declaration a "vast overstatement," and said the 80-year-old's diagnosis was of a "modest mental impairment" or a "slowing down."

Sterling, who was banned from the NBA in April over racist comments he made in a private conversation that was taped, is "far from being incapacitated," Blecher told CNN.

The designation of "mentally incompetent" could factor in the sale of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers.

Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, appears set to buy the L.A. Clippers. Ballmer, seen here at a NBA playoff game on April 29, is not one to hide his emotions. Rather, he is known for his exuberant persona at tech events. Here's a look at some of his many mugs:Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft, appears set to buy the L.A. Clippers. Ballmer, seen here at a NBA playoff game on April 29, is not one to hide his emotions. Rather, he is known for his exuberant persona at tech events. Here's a look at some of his many mugs:
The many faces of Steve Ballmer
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According to one of the sources, there is a provision in the Sterling family trust that says if either Donald Sterling or his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, become mentally incapacitated, then the other becomes the sole trustee.

According to the source, this is why the deal reached to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was negotiated by Shelly Sterling.

Donald Sterling's view on the impending sale of his team, Blecher said, is to look at the "whole situation."

"He doesn't want to fight with Shelly. That's the bottom line," he said.

Earlier Friday, Shelly Sterling confirmed that a deal has been reached for the sale of the Clippers.

She signed a binding contract to sell the basketball franchise to Ballmer for $2 billion.

Earlier, CNN had reported on the planned sale, citing sources familiar with the negotiations.

In April, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Donald Sterling over the racist comments and fined him $2.5 million. The move prompted the league's other 29 owners to begin proceedings to strip the longtime owner and his wife of the team.

The sale will have to be approved at a NBA Board of Governors meeting. And the sale still may have to be approved by Donald Sterling, according to earlier comments by his attorney.

In a statement, the NBA said the commissioner's preferred outcome from the beginning has been a voluntary sale. The NBA has been notified of the agreement, and is awaiting paperwork from Shelly Sterling.

Shelly Sterling praised Ballmer's purchase.

"We have worked for 33 years to build the Clippers into a premiere NBA franchise," she said in a statement. "I am confident that Steve will take the team to new levels of success."

If the deal goes through, it would be the largest sum paid for an NBA franchise. Last month, the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with a losing record in a small television market, sold for $550 million.

Ballmer is worth $20 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

"I love basketball. And I intend to do everything in my power to ensure that the Clippers continue to win -- and win big -- in Los Angeles," Balmer said Friday.

Donald Sterling has been the controlling owner of the Clippers since buying the team in 1981 for $12 million.

How Ballmer's $2 billion Clippers deal could pay off

CNN's Poppy Harlow and Kevin Wang contributed to this report.

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