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WORLD BRIEFLY: Stocks fall after Fed says it might curb stimulus

Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 5:39 p.m. CDT; updated 6:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 20, 2013

Here are today's top national and world stories from The Associated Press.

Stocks, bonds extend slide as investors fear Fed stimulus pullback

NEW YORK — There was no let-up in the flight from stocks and bonds Thursday as the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 353 points and wiped out almost two months of gains.

A day after the Federal Reserve roiled U.S financial markets when it said it could step back from its aggressive economic stimulus program later this year, financial markets continued to slide. A slowdown in Chinese manufacturing added to Wall Street's worries.

The breadth of the sell-off was seen across global financial markets, from sharply lower stock markets in Asia to falling government bond prices in Europe and the U.S. Gold also plunged.

The Dow's drop — which knocked the average down 2.3 percent to 14,758.32 — was its biggest since November 2011. It comes just three weeks after the blue-chip index reached an all-time high of 15,409.

The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 40.74 points, or 2.5 percent, to 1,588.19. It also reached a record high last month, peaking at 1,669.

Obama to name former Justice Department official as FBI director

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday plans to nominate President George W. Bush's former No. 2 at the Justice Department, Jim Comey, to lead the FBI as the agency grapples with privacy debates over a host of recently exposed investigative tactics.

If confirmed by the Senate, Comey would serve a 10-year tenure and replace Robert Mueller, who has held the job since the week before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Mueller is set to resign Sept. 4 after overseeing the bureau's transformation into one the country's chief weapons against terrorism.

The White House said in a statement that Obama would announce his choice of Comey on Friday afternoon.

Comey was a federal prosecutor who severed for several years as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York before coming to Washington after the Sept. 11 attacks as deputy attorney general. In recent years he's been an executive at defense company Lockheed Martin, general counsel to a hedge fund, board member at HSBC Holdings and lecturer on national security law at Columbia Law School.

The White House may hope that Comey's Republican background and strong credentials will help him through Senate confirmation at a time when some of Obama's nominees have been facing tough battles. Republicans have said they see no major obstacles to his confirmation, although he is certain to face tough questions about his hedge fund work, his ties to Wall Street as well as how he would handle current, high-profile FBI investigations.

Taliban offer to free U.S. soldier if conditions met

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free a U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday to joining planned peace talks.

The idea of releasing these Taliban prisoners has been controversial. U.S. negotiators hope they would join the peace process but fear they might simply return to the battlefield, and Karzai once scuttled a similar deal partly because he felt the Americans were usurping his authority.

The proposal to trade U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for the Taliban detainees was made by senior Taliban spokesman Shaheen Suhail in response to a question during a phone interview with The Associated Press from the militants' newly opened political office in Doha, the capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.

The prisoner exchange is the first item on the Taliban's agenda before even starting peace talks with the U.S., said Suhail, a top Taliban figure who served as first secretary at the Afghan Embassy in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad before the Taliban government's ouster in 2001.

"First has to be the release of detainees," Suhail said Thursday when asked about Bergdahl. "Yes. It would be an exchange. Then step by step, we want to build bridges of confidence to go forward."

Report: NSA can keep U.S. phone records, emails indefinitely

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency can keep copies of intercepted communications from or about U.S. citizens if the material contains significant intelligence or evidence of crimes.

That's according to exemptions in NSA's top secret rules published Thursday in the latest leak of classified U.S. materials.

Top secret documents published by The Guardian describe how NSA must first build a case in order to target a foreigner for phone or Internet surveillance. The documents also describe how the agency is to make sure the person is outside the U.S. — and not an American.

But if the target is communicating with an American, the record of contact can be kept indefinitely. Administration officials have said material NSA inadvertently gathers on Americans is destroyed. NSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

All-women jury chosen for George Zimmerman's trial

SANFORD, Fla. — A jury of six women, five of them white, was picked Thursday to decide the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who says he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in self-defense.

Prosecutors have said Zimmerman, 29, racially profiled the 17-year-old Martin as he walked back from a convenience store on a rainy night in February 2012 wearing a dark hooded shirt.

The race and ethnicity of the sixth juror was not immediately available. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Two of the jurors recently moved to the area — one from Iowa and one from Chicago — and two are involved with rescuing animals as their hobbies.

One juror had a prior arrest, but she said it was disposed of and she thought she was treated fairly. Two jurors have guns in their homes. All of their names have been kept confidential and the panel will be sequestered for the trial.

WHO study: One-third of women suffer domestic violence

LONDON — In the first major global review of violence against women, a series of reports released Thursday found that about a third of women have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner.

The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, called it "a global health problem of epidemic proportions," and other experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care.

Among the findings: 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner, and being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.

Researchers used a broad definition of domestic violence, and in cases where country data was incomplete, estimates were used to fill in the gaps. WHO defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or attacked with a weapon. Sexual violence was defined as being physically forced to have sex, having sex for fear of what the partner might do and being compelled to do something sexual that was humiliating or degrading.

The report also examined rates of sexual violence against women by someone other than a partner and found about 7 percent of women worldwide had previously been a victim.


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