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Associated Press

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 6:01 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 25 at 8:00 AM

EU finance ministers approve Cyprus bailout; top bank depositors face losses to make it work

BRUSSELS (AP) — Cyprus avoided bankruptcy, and potential turmoil across the eurozone was averted, by the country securing a last-minute 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout with promises to sharply cut back its oversized banking sector and make large bank account holders take losses to help pay much of the bill.

Negotiations into early Monday ended with approval of the deal by the 17-nation eurozone's finance ministers. The European Central Bank had threatened to cut off crucial emergency assistance to the country's banks by Tuesday if no agreement was reached.

Without a bailout deal by Monday night, the tiny Mediterranean nation would have faced the prospect of bankruptcy, which could have forced it to become the first country to abandon the euro currency. That would have sent the region's markets spinning.

"It's not that we won a battle, but we really have avoided a disastrous exit from the eurozone," said Cyprus Finance Minister Michalis Sarris.

The eurozone finance ministers accepted the plan after hours of negotiations in Brussels between Cypriot officials and the so-called troika of creditors — the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the ECB.

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A glance at the agreement for the Cyprus bailout

BRUSSELS (AP) — Authorities from Cyprus and the so-called troika of international lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — reached agreement on a bailout loan for the country of up to 10 billion euros. A look at key parts of the deal:

—Cyprus had to come up with 5.8 billion euros somehow to secure the bailout.

—Depositors in the country's second-largest bank, Laiki, with accounts of more than 100,000 euros will lose an unspecified amount of their money. The move is expected to yield 4.2 billion euros overall — or most of the needed amount.

—The remainder of the money will come from tax increases and privatizations.

—Cyprus had to agree to restructure its banking sector, which is unusually large for the size of its economy.

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Syrian activists say senior rebel leader wounded in bomb attack on his car

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say a top rebel military leader has been wounded and possibly killed by a bomb stuck to his car.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday the blast targeted Col. Riad al-Asaad during a visit to the town of Mayadeen in eastern Syria.

Col. Riad al-Asaad is a prominent army defector who became head of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group that tried to gather rebel fighters under a unified command.

But al-Asaad became little more than a figurehead and his group has been superseded by the Office of the Chiefs of Staff, associated with the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

The Observatory reported conflicting reports on al-Asaad's fate, with some saying he had been killed and others saying he lost a leg.

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AP interview: California couple reflects on gay marriage fight ahead of Supreme Court hearing

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Big change is coming to the lives of the lesbian couple at the center of the fight for same-sex marriage in California no matter how the Supreme Court decides their case.

After 13 years of raising four boys together, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier are about to be empty nesters. Their youngest two children, 18-year-old twins, will graduate from high school in June and head off to college a couple of months later.

"We'll see all the movies, get theater season tickets because you can actually go," Stier said in the living room of their bungalow in Berkeley. Life will not revolve quite so much around food, and the challenge of putting enough of it on the table to feed teenagers.

They might also get married, if the high court case goes their way.

Perry, 48, and Stier, 50, set aside their lunch hour on a recent busy Friday to talk to The Associated Press about their Supreme Court case, the evolution of their activism for gay rights and family life.

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PROMISES, PROMISES: Hopes on climate change action may fall short again in Obama's new term

The issue:

Slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases responsible for warming the planet is one of the biggest challenges the United States and President Barack Obama face. The effects of rising global temperatures are widespread and costly: more severe storms, rising seas, species extinctions, and changes in weather patterns that will alter food production and the spread of disease.

Politically, the stakes are huge.

Any policy to reduce heat-trapping pollution will inevitably target the main sources of Americans' energy: the coal burned by power plants for electricity and the oil that is refined to run automobiles.

Those industries have powerful protectors in both parties in Congress who will fight any additional regulations handed down by the administration that could contribute to Americans paying more for electricity and gas at the pump. There's also the lingering question of how much the U.S. can do to solve the problem alone, without other countries taking aggressive steps to curb their own pollution.

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New York's Bloomberg, NRA chief spar on gun control, say it's up to public now to press Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it's up to voters now to make their position known to Congress.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and National Rifle Associate Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claim their opposing views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans. They are looking at the next two weeks as critical to the debate, when lawmakers head home to hear from constituents ahead of next month's anticipated Senate vote on gun control.

Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent, has just sunk $12 million for Mayors Against Illegal Guns to run television ads and phone banks in 13 states urging voters to tell their senators to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for gun buyers.

"We demanded a plan and then we demanded a vote. We've got the plan, we're going to get the vote. And now it's incumbent on us to make our voices heard," said Bloomberg.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that legislation would likely be debated in his chamber next month that will include expanded federal background checks, tougher laws and stiffer sentences for gun trafficking and increased school safety grants. A ban on assault-style weapons was dropped from the bill, fearing it would sink the broader bill. But Reid has said that he would allow the ban to be voted on separately as an amendment. President Barack Obama called for a vote on the assault weapons ban in his radio and Internet address Saturday.

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1 winning ticket for $338M Powerball jackpot sold in NJ; news conference scheduled

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The lottery fantasies of mansions, luxury boats and unlimited travel are over for most people. But for the owner — or owners — of the lone winning ticket sold in New Jersey for Powerball's $338.3 million drawing they're just beginning.

New Jersey Lottery officials will release information on the ticket at a news conference Monday morning at the lottery's headquarters in Lawrenceville.

Details on where and when Saturday's winning ticket was purchased and other related information were not disclosed Sunday by officials, who also would not say if anyone claiming to hold the ticket had contacted them.

Lottery officials say it was the fourth-largest jackpot in Powerball history. The numbers drawn were 17, 29, 31, 52, 53 and Powerball 31. A lump sum payout would be $221 million.

Retailers in New Jersey said the growing jackpot had spurred a big boost in ticket sales in recent days, and many people were willing to stand in long lines to get their tickets.

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Rebels overthrow Central African Republic president, he flees capital as fighters seize palace

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Rebels overthrew Central African Republic's president of a decade on Sunday, seizing the presidential palace and declaring that the desperately poor country has "opened a new page in its history." The country's president fled the capital, while extra French troops moved to secure the airport, officials said.

The rebels' invasion of the capital came just two months after they had signed a peace agreement that would have let President Francois Bozize serve until 2016. That deal unraveled in recent days, prompting the insurgents' advance into Bangui and Bozize's departure to a still unpublicized location.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the unconstitutional seizure of power and called for the swift restoration of constitutional order, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The U.N. chief appealed for calm and reiterated that the January peace agreements "remain the most viable framework to ensure durable peace and stability in the country," Nesirky said. Ban also expressed deep concern at reports of serious human rights violations.

Witnesses and an adviser to Bozize said rebel trucks were traveling throughout the town on Sunday hours after the palace was seized. Former colonial power France confirmed the developments, issuing a statement that said French President Francois Hollande "has taken note of the departure of President Francois Bozize."

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More hearts can be fixed without surgery; new treatments for valves, rhythm problems emerge

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Have a heart problem? If it's fixable, there's a good chance it can be done without surgery, using tiny tools and devices that are pushed through tubes into blood vessels.

Heart care is in the midst of a transformation. Many problems that once required sawing through the breastbone and opening up the chest for open heart surgery now can be treated with a nip, twist or patch through a tube.

These minimal procedures used to be done just to unclog arteries and correct less common heart rhythm problems. Now some patients are getting such repairs for valves, irregular heartbeats, holes in the heart and other defects — without major surgery. Doctors even are testing ways to treat high blood pressure with some of these new approaches.

All rely on catheters — hollow tubes that let doctors burn away and reshape heart tissue or correct defects through small holes in blood vessels.

"This is the replacement for the surgeon's knife. Instead of opening the chest, we're able to put catheters in through the leg, sometimes through the arm," said Dr. Spencer King of St. Joseph's Heart and Vascular Institute in Atlanta. He is former president of the American College of Cardiology. Its conference earlier this month featured research on these novel devices.

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BracketRacket: Sweet 16 set, Florida Gulf Coast (Dunk City), Craft's shot, NASCAR's Sadler

Welcome back to BracketRacket, the one-stop shop for all your NCAA tournament needs.

Today, we see what happens when Ohio State hits a buzzer beater, ride shotgun with NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler and see why the cool kids are referring to Fort Myers, Fla., as "Dunk City."

But first, let's acquaint ourselves with the Sweet 16, shall we?

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REGIONAL SEMIS SET

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