Abbas questions pace of indirect talks
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has made a rare effort to reach out directly to the Israeli public, calling on Israel's leadership to step up peace efforts while suggesting that his people were growing weary waiting for a state. Over dinner in his Ramallah headquarters on Wednesday, Abbas told six correspondents from Israel's leading newspapers that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not moving quickly enough in the indirect negotiations being brokered by George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration's special representative to the Middle East. Specifically, Abbas said, the Palestinians wanted to see progress on the issues of borders and security before moving to direct negotiations.
Judge weighs health care challenge
For the first time since President Barack Obama signed the health care law, the federal government faced off in open court against one of the 21 states that are seeking to invalidate the law by challenging the requirement that most Americans obtain insurance. In a two-hour hearing before a federal district judge in Richmond, Justice Department lawyers argued the Commonwealth of Virginia did not have legal standing to challenge the law, and that it could not, in any event, win its argument that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority. Judge Henry E. Hudson, appointed by the first President George Bush, questioned both sides aggressively and said he would rule within 30 days.
21 dead in gang gun battle near U.S. border
Twenty-one people are dead following a massive gun battle between rival drug and migrant-trafficking gangs near the U.S. border. Prosecutors in northern Sonora state said the gun battle occurred in a sparsely populated area about 12 miles from the Arizona border. The state Attorney General's Office said in a statement that nine people were captured by police at the scene of the shootings, six of whom had been wounded in the confrontation. The area is a prime corridor for immigrant and drug smuggling.
Massey supervisors face criminal charges
Four supervisors with troubled Massey Energy have been charged with federal crimes related to a coal mine fire that killed two West Virginians in 2006. Donald Hagy, Jr., 47, of Gilbert; Terry Shadd, 37, of Chapmanville; Edward R. Ellis, Jr., 38, of Justice; and Michael A. Plumley, 38, of Delbarton are accused of failing to conduct mandatory safety drills at Massey's Aracoma Alma No. 1 mine in 2005 and 2006, said Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Panel clears climate scientist
In a report that may help dispel the so-called "climategate" scandal, a Penn State University panel fully cleared climatologist Michael Mann of professional misconduct allegations. The university launched an inquiry in November after hackers exposed more than 1,000 private e-mail messages sent between Mann and colleagues in England. Critics of climate scientists claimed that statements in the e-mails exposed climate change as a hoax and revealed a deliberate coverup. The stolen messages were touted in blogs and op-eds as reason to doubt the widely-held view that the global climate has warmed substantially over the last century and that human-generated greenhouses gases play a role.
President signs Iran sanctions bill
President Barack Obama signed into law a bill imposing tough new sanctions against Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program. The bill targets exports of gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran. It bans U.S. banks from doing business with foreign banks providing services to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.