Posted: Dec 28, 2013 4:00 PM
Updated: Dec 29, 2013 4:00 AM
13 killed by suicide bombing at railway station in southern Russia, scores wounded
MOSCOW (AP) At least 13 people were killed and scores were wounded Sunday by a suicide bomber at a railway station in southern Russia, officials said, heightening concern about terrorism ahead of February's Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the explosion at the central railway station in the city of Volgograd was set off by a suicide bomber.
Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the nation's top investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, said that at least 13 people died in the blast. Russia's Health Ministry said about 50 people were injured.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, but it came several months after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for new attacks against civilian targets in Russia, including the Sochi Games.
Suicide bombings and other attacks linked to Islamic rebels have rocked Russia for years.
5 years in, Obama's presidency marked by fits and starts, high expectations turned to failure
WASHINGTON (AP) It was a moment for Barack Obama to savor.
His second inaugural address over, Obama paused as he strode from the podium last January, turning back for one last glance across the expanse of the National Mall, where a supportive throng stood in the winter chill to witness the launch of his new term.
"I want to take a look, one more time," Obama said quietly. "I'm not going to see this again."
There was so much Obama could not or did not see then, as he opened his second term with a confident call to arms and an expansive liberal agenda.
He'd never heard of Edward Snowden, who would lay bare the government's massive surveillance program. Large-scale use of chemical weapons in Syria was only a threat. A government shutdown and second debt crisis seemed improbable. His health care law, the signature achievement of his presidency, seemed poised to make the leap from theory to reality.
AP IMPACT: As populations age and pension costs strain governments, a retirement crisis looms
WASHINGTON (AP) A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages.
Spawned years before the Great Recession and the financial meltdown in 2008, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.
Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 to 70 or even longer. Living standards will fall, and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people's rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.
The problems are emerging as the generation born after World War II moves into retirement.
"The first wave of under-prepared workers is going to try to go into retirement and will find they can't afford to do so," says Norman Dreger, a retirement specialist in Frankfurt, Germany, who works for Mercer, a global consulting firm.
The most vulnerable retirees struggle to survive even with government help
It isn't the retirement George Warren dreamed of.
Confined to a wheelchair and living on disability payments after losing his job, Warren, 63, figures he would be homeless in old age if not for a senior housing program offered by Catholic Charities of Maryland.
"I had plans, but life had other plans for me," he says.
Warren worked for decades, starting with a "sophisticated lemonade stand" he opened with friends at age 9. He paid into Social Security as he meandered through a half-dozen jobs in telecommunications and networking. But he lost his last job in what he calls an age-related layoff. And his income on disability isn't enough to cover his expenses.
So Catholic Charities gave him a place to live at Village Crossroads near Baltimore, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
How retirement systems vary among major nations, from the US to China to Germany
Retirement systems vary widely from country to country. In China, policymakers are just beginning to expand retirement benefits to everyone. In Australia, people have been compelled for years to save for their own retirements. Italy and Germany are raising retirement ages and cutting benefits.
Here's a look at retirement systems in key nations:
The United States is struggling to finance its promises to future retirees. Social Security is the core of its system. Social Security payments are financed by a tax on both workers and employers. The payments average $1,269 a month. Two-thirds of retirees rely on Social Security for most of their income. Americans can collect as early as age 62 but don't receive the full benefit unless they wait later to collect until age 66 for those born from 1943 through 1959 and age 67 for those born after. Many also rely on corporate pensions. But companies have been replacing them with 401(k)-style plans. These plans require employees to save and invest themselves. But many who are eligible for 401(k) or similar plans don't enroll in them, contribute too little or raid their accounts before retirement.
Israeli military returns fire after rocket attack from Lebanon, no injuries reported
JERUSALEM (AP) Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
Residents of the northern Israel town of Kiryat Shmona awoke to a pair of large explosions. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said no injuries or damage were caused from the rocket fire. Shortly after, the Israeli military said it responded with artillery fired toward the source of the launch.
Lebanon's state news agency said the border area was shelled after the rockets hit Israel. The agency said over 20 shells hit the mountainous region around the southern Lebanese border area of Rachaya.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the military for responding "quickly and forcefully" to the rocket attack. He accused the government of Lebanon of "not lifting a finger" to stop the "war crimes" committed in its territory by Hezbollah guerrillas.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel "would not tolerate" such attacks and held the government and army of Lebanon responsible for any fire emerging from its territory.
Counting change and calories: Thanks to health law, vending machines to post nutritional info
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) Office workers in search of snacks will be counting calories along with their change under new labeling regulations for vending machines included in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
Requiring calorie information to be displayed on roughly 5 million vending machines nationwide will help consumers make healthier choices, says the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to release final rules early next year. It estimates the cost to the vending machine industry at $25.8 million initially and $24 million per year after that, but says if just .02 percent of obese adults ate 100 fewer calories a week, the savings to the health care system would be at least that great.
The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. An initial investment of $2,400 plus $2,200 in annual costs is a lot of money for a small company that only clears a few thousand dollars a year, said Eric Dell, the group's vice president for government affairs.
"The money that would be spent to comply with this there's no return on the investment," he said.
While the proposed rules would give companies a year to comply, the industry group has suggested a two-year deadline and is urging the government to allow as much flexibility as possible in implementing the rules. Some companies may use electronic displays to post calorie counts while others may opt for signs stuck to the machines.
FBI says man killed in Ariz. bank robbery believe linked to Mississippi police officer's death
PHOENIX (AP) A suspect killed by Phoenix police in a bank robbery attempt is believed to be the same man accused in the shooting death of a Mississippi police officer and the wounding of another, the FBI said Sunday.
The statement came hours after Phoenix police shot and killed a suspect after Saturday's bank robbery attempt.
"We believe that this suspect is the same individual who is responsible for the attempted bank robbery in Atlanta, the robbery of the BancorpSouth in Tupelo, (Miss.), the shooting of Officer Joseph Maher, and the murder of Officer Gale Stauffer," the Jackson, Miss., FBI bureau said in an email statement.
Both the Phoenix police and local FBI office declined to comment on Sunday's FBI report from Mississippi. The FBI said more information would be provided later in the day in Tupelo. The slain suspect's name has not been released.
The two officers were shot Monday afternoon, following the robbery of the Tupelo bank.
In unexpected move, Chinese President Xi drops in at Beijing bun shop for lunch
BEIJING (AP) Chinese President Xi Jinping dropped in unexpectedly at a traditional Beijing bun shop, where he queued up, ordered and paid for a simple lunch of buns stuffed with pork and onions, green vegetables, and stewed pig livers and intestines.
Such visits are extremely rare if not unheard of for top Chinese leaders, who are usually surrounded by heavy security and are not known for mingling with the public other than at scheduled events.
After spotting Xi on Saturday, fellow diners took photos of the president and shared them on China's social media. State media reposted the photos on their microblog accounts, and the official Xinhua News Agency reported about Xi's lunch on its Chinese-language news site.
"Had it not been for the photos, it would be incredulous to believe Xi, as a dignified president and party chief, should eat at a bun shop," author Wu Xiqi wrote in an editorial carried by the ruling Communist Party's official news site. "Xi's act has subverted the traditional image of Chinese officials, ushering a warm, people-first gust of wind that is very touching indeed."
On Sunday, the store welcomed long lines of Chinese, some posing for photos in the room where Xi was and others wanting to order what he had bought. A group from southern Guangdong province who were visiting Beijing had gone to have a look after hearing about Xi's visit online.
'Avatar' decision to shoot mostly in New Zealand underscores nomadic nature of modern movies
LOS ANGELES (AP) In the old days, filmmakers flocked to Hollywood for its abundant sunshine, beautiful people and sandy beaches. But today a new filmmaking diaspora is spreading across the globe to places like Vancouver, London and Wellington, New Zealand.
Fueled by politicians doling out generous tax breaks, filmmaking talent is migrating to where the money is. The result is an incentives arms race that pits California against governments around the world and allows powerful studios with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal to cherry-pick the best deals.
The most recent iteration of the phenomenon came earlier this month when James Cameron announced plans to shoot and produce the next three "Avatar" sequels largely in New Zealand. What Cameron gets out of the deal is a 25 percent rebate on production costs, as long as his company spends at least $413 million on the three films.
"There's no place in the world that we could make these sequels more cost effectively," says producer Jon Landau. It is neither the archipelago's volcanoes nor its glaciers that are attractive, because the "Avatar" movies will be shot indoors. Sure, Peter Jackson's award-winning special effects infrastructure is there, but the deciding factor was the money. "We looked at other places," says Landau. But in the end, "it was this rebate."
In exchange, the local economy will benefit hugely, Landau says, comparing the ripple effect to the boost that comes from new home construction. "We're doing lumber, we're catering for hundreds of people a day. We're housing people in hotels. We're going to a stationery store and tripling their business in a year."