AP source: Bank of America nears $16B-$17B settlement with US over sale of securities
WASHINGTON (AP) — Bank of America is nearing a $16 billion to $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, a person directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The deal with the bank, which must still be finalized, would be the largest Justice Department settlement by far arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. It would follow earlier multibillion-dollar agreements reached in the last year with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced, cautioned that some details still needed to be worked out and that it was possible the agreement could fall apart.
But the person said the two sides reached an agreement in principle following a conversation last week between Attorney General Eric Holder and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan.
The person said the tentative deal calls for the bank to pay roughly $9 billion in cash and for the remaining sum to go toward consumer relief.
Nigeria authorities rush to obtain isolation tents in anticipation of more Ebola infections
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian authorities rushed to obtain isolation tents Wednesday in anticipation of more Ebola infections as they disclosed five more cases of the virus and a death in Africa's most populous nation, where officials were racing to keep the gruesome disease confined to a small group of patients.
The five new Nigerian cases were all in Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people in a country already beset with poor health care infrastructure and widespread corruption, and all five were reported to have had direct contact with one infected man.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization began a meeting to decide whether the crisis, the worst recorded outbreak of its kind, amounts to an international public health emergency. At least 932 deaths in four countries have been blamed on the illness, with 1,711 reported cases.
In recent years, the WHO has declared an emergency only twice, for swine flu in 2009 and polio in May. The declaration would probably come with recommendations on travel and trade restrictions and wider Ebola screening. It also would be an acknowledgment that the situation is critical and could worsen without a fast global response.
The group did not immediately confirm the new cases reported in Nigeria. And Nigerian authorities did not release any details on the latest infections, except to say they all had come into direct contact with the sick man who arrived by plane in Lagos late last month.
Debate over who's first in line for experimental Ebola drug even though little is available
WASHINGTON (AP) — The use of an experimental drug to treat two Americans diagnosed with Ebola is raising ethical questions about who gets first access to unproven new therapies for the deadly disease. But some health experts fear debate over extremely limited doses will distract from tried-and-true measures to curb the growing outbreak — things like more rapidly identifying and isolating the sick.
The World Health Organization is convening a meeting of medical ethicists next week to examine what it calls "the responsible thing to do" about whatever supplies eventually may become available of a medicine that's never been tested in people.
At least one country involved in the outbreak is interested in the drug. Nigeria's health minister, Onyenbuchi Chukwu, said at a news conference that he had asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about access. CDC Director Tom Frieden "conveyed there are virtually no doses available" but that basic supportive care can work, a CDC spokesman said Wednesday.
President Barack Obama said Ebola is controllable and the U.S. and its allies are working to help overwhelmed public health systems in West Africa take the needed steps.
Asked about the experimental drug, Obama said all the information isn't in: "We've got to let the science guide us."
AP ANALYSIS: Hamas enters talks with Israel on Gaza from a point of military weakness
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas has entered Egyptian-brokered talks with Israel on a new border regime for blockaded Gaza from a point of military weakness: it lost hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its 10,000 rockets and all of its attack tunnels, worth $100 million, Israel says.
The Gaza war has boosted the Islamic militant group's popularity among Palestinians because it confronted Israel. But the mood can quickly turn if Hamas fails to deliver achievements for Gaza in the Cairo talks, most urgently the opening the territory's borders.
If the Cairo talks fail, Hamas will have only limited options, since resuming rocket fire would probably bring more ruination on an already-devastated territory. In the past month of Israel-Hamas fighting — the third major round of such hostilities in five years — nearly 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, more than 9,000 wounded and thousands of homes destroyed.
The massive destruction in Gaza City's neighborhood of Shijaiyah, close to the border with Israel, illustrated the extent of Hamas' military setbacks and the fickle public mood it faces.
Entire city blocks have been laid to waste in Shijaiyah in one of the fiercest battles of the war that pitted hundreds of Hamas gunmen against Israeli troops after the start of the Israeli ground operation July 17.
RIA Novosti quotes Russian official as saying Russia will block all US agricultural imports.
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday hit back hard against countries that have imposed sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, ordering trade cuts that an official said would include a ban on all imports of agricultural products from the United States.
The full list of products to be banned or limited for up to one year is to be published Thursday. But the state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Alexei Alexeenko of Russia's plant and veterinary oversight service as saying "from the USA, all products that are produced there and brought to Russia will be prohibited."
Alexeenko also was quoted as saying he thinks all fruits and vegetables from European Union countries will also be banned.
The move follows the latest round of sanctions against Russia imposed by the EU last week, which for the first time targeted entire sectors of the Russian economy.
President Barack Obama said in a news conference Wednesday that U.S. sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine are straining the Russian economy, which has "ground to a halt."
AP-GfK Poll: Most say the US is heading the wrong way, hope for new direction come November
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress has checked out, and the American people have noticed.
Three-quarters of Americans doubt the federal government will address the important problems facing the country this year, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
All told, only 28 percent of Americans think the nation is heading in the right direction, the lowest level in August of an election year since 2008. It's about on par with 2006, when Democrats took control of the U.S. House amid a backlash to the Iraq war.
This time around, it's not clear whether either party will benefit from the disaffection.
One-third say they hope the Republicans take control of Congress outright this fall — which the GOP can accomplish with a net gain of six seats in the U.S. Senate while holding the U.S. House. The same share want to see Democrats lead Congress — a far less likely possibility.
Science fiction becomes reality: Space probe swings alongside comet after 10-year chase
DARMSTADT, Germany (AP) — Turning what seemed like a science fiction tale into reality, an unmanned probe swung alongside a comet on Wednesday after a 4-billion mile (6.4-billion kilometer) chase through outer space over the course of a decade.
Europe's Rosetta probe will orbit and study the giant lump of dust and ice as it hurtles toward the sun and, if all goes according to plan, drop a lander onto the comet in the coming months.
Rosetta turned up as planned for its rendezvous with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
The incredible trip, launched on March 2, 2004, marks a milestone in mankind's effort to understand the mysterious 'shooting stars' that periodically flash past Earth, and which have often been viewed with fear and trepidation.
While the moon, Mars and even asteroids have been visited, no spacecraft has yet gotten so close to a comet. Having achieved this feat, Rosetta will go one step further and drop a lander on 67P's icy surface — a maneuver planned for November.
Closing major summit, Obama hails US partnership with rising Africa despite great challenges
WASHINGTON (AP) — Though noting persistent challenges, President Barack Obama heralded Africa as a continent on the rise and a growth market for U.S. businesses as he closed an unprecedented summit Wednesday aimed in part at fostering his own African legacy.
The summit also marked a rare return to Washington for former President George W. Bush, who launched a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative while in office and has made public health issues in Africa a priority since leaving the White House. Bush partnered with first lady Michelle Obama to host a daylong event for spouses of the African leaders.
"There's not many things that convince me to come back to Washington," said Bush, who now lives in Dallas and steers clear of politics. "The first lady's summit, of course, is one."
While Obama has continued Bush's signature AIDS program, he has also been seeking his own legacy-building Africa initiatives. This week's U.S.-Africa summit, which brought together leaders from more than 50 African nations, was seen as a cornerstone of that effort and Obama pledged to make the gathering a recurring event.
"Africa must know that they will always have a strong and reliable partner in the United States of America," Obama said at a news conference marking the end of the three-day summit.
Federal appellate judges weigh gay marriage cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee
CINCINNATI (AP) — Three federal judges weighing arguments in a landmark gay marriage hearing Wednesday peppered attorneys on both sides with tough questions, with one judge expressing deep skepticism about whether courts are the ideal setting for major social change and another saying the democratic process can be too slow.
The judges in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered arguments in six cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, setting the stage for historic rulings in each state that would put more pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all. Wednesday's hearing was the biggest so far on the issue.
The cases pit states' rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.
While questions and comments from two of the judges all but gave away how they'll rule, one in favor of gay marriage and one opposed, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton vigorously challenged some of each side's assertions.
Sutton repeatedly questioned attorneys for the same-sex couples whether the courts are the best place to legalize gay marriage, saying that the way to win Americans' hearts and minds is to wait until they're ready to vote for it.
Tiger Woods arrives at Valhalla, ready to tee it up in the PGA Championship
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Barely able to tie his shoes three days ago, Tiger Woods is ready to tee it up in the PGA Championship.
Woods caused the biggest sensation of the week Wednesday afternoon simply by driving his silver SUV into the parking lot at Valhalla. He has never arrived so late for a major championship and had so little time to prepare — just nine holes at Valhalla, which he had not seen since winning the PGA Championship in 2000.
But at least he's playing.
That much was in doubt Sunday when he withdrew from the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational because of back pain that made it a chore to switch out of his golf shoes. Woods said he suffered a pinched nerve, but that it was not at all related to back surgery he had March 31 that kept him out of golf for three months.
He said his trainer adjusted the area above the sacrum.