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McConnell Postpones Iran Debate In U.S. Senate, After Democratic Objections
Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday postponed plans to debate and vote next week on a bill that would require President Barack Obama to submit any nuclear agreement with Iran for Congress' approval. Many Democrats - including co-sponsors of the bill - had objected to McConnell's plan to push forward with the legislation before international negotiators' late-March deadline for reaching a framework agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who introduced the measure last week with Republican Senator Bob Corker, was among several Democrats who had said they would not vote for it until after March 24. Obama, a Democrat, has said he will veto the bill if it passes, which would mean it would need the support of two-thirds of both the Senate and House of Representatives to become law. Reuters
VOA VIEW: McConnell is weak and must be replaced.

North Korea Calls Attack On U.S. Ambassador Lippert 'Punishment'
North Korean state media called the knifing of the American ambassador to South Korea "punishment" as the U.S. Embassy in Seoul beefed up security following the attack on Mark Lippert. Lippert underwent a three-hour surgery after suffering wounds to his face and arm. A four-inch-long gash down the right side of his face required 80 stitches, hospital officials said. The diplomat said he was "doing well and in great spirits" following the attack, writing in a Twitter post that he "will be back ASAP." MSNBC

Obama’s Move To Ban AR-15 Ammo Is Being Shot Down By House Lawmakers
A majority of House lawmakers now are on record opposing the Obama administration’s proposed ban on ammunition commonly used in AR-15 rifles. A total of 239 lawmakers, including seven Democrats, have signed a letter to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Todd Jones urging the agency to abandon the proposed ammo ban. “Under no circumstances should ATF adopt a standard that will ban ammunition that is overwhelmingly used by law-abiding Americans for legitimate purposes,” the lawmakers wrote Wednesday. Among them was Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican. Washington Times
VOA VIEW: Good move - Republicans now must stand by their position.

Former Pennsylvania Police Officer's Vending Machines Sell Ammo
You can buy snacks, condoms, fishing bait, marijuana and even gold from vending machines, so Sam Piccinini figured, “Why not bullets?” A 25-year police department veteran who now runs his own ammunition manufacturing and wholesale business, Piccinini, of Rochester, Pa., has two of his retrofitted vending machines at his local gun club. The machines, which sell nearly every caliber of bullet from .22 to .45, are doing a brisk business and, Piccinini said, other clubs want his machines. “I have clubs lining up at my door wanting them,” Piccinini told FoxNews.com. “I have five clubs chomping at the bit, wanting these machines.” Fox News


As Kerry Pushes Nuke Deal, Another U.S. Diplomat Questions Iran's Commitment To Resolving Concerns
As Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Switzerland Wednesday to push towards a comprehensive nuclear deal before a rapidly-approaching deadline, less than 500 miles away a U.S. diplomat was directly questioning Iran’s commitment to resolving concerns about its nuclear program.
The comments were made in Vienna by Laura Kennedy, Washington’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a submission to the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board of governors. A report before the board, by IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, outlines Iran’s failure to cooperate in several key areas, and expresses concern about possible Iranian “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” CNS News

Businesses Back Gay Marriage, Top U.S. Court Sets Argument Date
Big business rallied behind the gay marriage cause on Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for April 28 on the contentious social issue that promises to yield one of the justices' most important rulings of 2015. A total of 379 businesses and groups representing employers across various sectors, including Google Inc(GOOGL.O), American Airlines Group Inc(AAL.O), Goldman Sachs Group Inc(GS.N) and Johnson & Johnson(JNJ.N), have signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief in support of gay marriage due to be filed later on Thursday. The court must decide whether states have the right to ban gay marriage. The nine justices will hear an extended 2 1/2-hour argument in cases concerning same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Reuters

NATO Uses Baltic States To Draw Red Line, Send Message To Putin In Russia
On a desolate plain where Soviet tanks once prepared for a possible invasion of Western Europe, American troops are training to deter Moscow from another invasion. Through a dense smokescreen, soldiers of the Second Cavalry Regiment advance amid intense gunfire on the imaginary positions of a NATO enemy. On their flanks are fellow NATO soldiers from Lithuania where the war game is being held — who just a quarter century ago would have been enemies, as Lithuania was one of the fifteen republics of the Soviet Union. The U.S. and NATO are ramping up their deterrence capabilities against any Russian threat to Europe's borders —and this joint exercise is aimed squarely at Russia. NATO is drawing a red line in the three Baltic states, all of them alliance members, with a message to Moscow: "Don't cause trouble here and don't try to invade!" MSNBC

Hillary Clinton Blatantly Violated Email Rules
Hillary Clinton blatantly violated written State Department rules banning the use of personal email for official government business, a stunning new report said Thursday. The rule was in place since 2005 to warn officials against routine use of personal e-mail accounts for government work, Politico reported. Clinton’s defenders, including spokesman Nick Merrill, have insisted the ex-Secretary of State complied with both the “letter and spirit of the rules” when she was in office from 2009 to 2013. But the policy, contained in a manual for agency employees, was described as a “clear cut” directive, the web site reported. NY Post
VOA VIEW: There is much more to Clinton's games.

Security Questioned In Probe Of Attack On US Envoy To Seoul
Police on Friday investigated the motive of the anti-U.S. activist they say slashed the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, as questions turned to whether security was neglected. The attack Thursday on Mark Lippert, which prompted rival North Korea to gloat about "knife slashes of justice," left deep gashes on his face and hand and damaged tendons and nerves. It also raised safety worries in a city with a reputation as a relatively low-risk diplomatic posting, despite regular threats of war from North Korea. While an extreme example, the attack is the latest act of political violence in a deeply divided country where some protesters portray their causes as matters of life and death. Tampa Tribune

Monkeys At Risk For Bioterror Bacteria Put Outdoors
More than 175 monkeys that were potentially exposed to a bioterror bacteria inside a major Louisiana research complex were returned to their outdoor cages before officials knew the deadly pathogen was on the loose from a lab accident. The new admission by the Tulane National Primate Research Center, in response to repeated questions from USA TODAY, raises further questions about contamination of the environment outside of the massive research campus north of New Orleans. The bacteria, which is not found in the United States and can cause severe disease in people and animals, can live and grow in soil and water. "Some animals were released from the vet clinic early on, but the key thing is that all the animals have been traced," said Tulane spokesman Michael Strecker. Testing of the animals is ongoing to determine if they have been exposed to the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei. USA Today


At VA Health Facilities, Whistleblowers Still Fear Retaliation
After five suicidal veterans walked out of the emergency room without getting help during a single week in January, Brandon Coleman brought his concerns to his supervisor at the VA Hospital in Phoenix. Coleman, a therapist and decorated veteran, urgently warned that there was a broader problem with how suicidal patients were being handled. Six days after he spoke with his boss, Coleman recalled, he was suspended from his job. He believes it was in retaliation. At a time when top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs are pledging to end the agency’s pervasive culture of punishing whistleblowers, Coleman’s experience is evidence of what reformers are up against. Washington Post

For Northeast, A Brutal Winter Redefines 'Enough Is Enough'
Forget the winter of our discontent. For Northeasterners enduring one of the coldest, snowiest seasons in decades, it’s the winter of our exasperation, full-on funk and enough-is-enough rage. From slush-covered Manhattan intersections to snow-choked Boston streets, moods are as low and tempers short as a record-breaking winter seems to have gone on all too long. Linda Edwards’ breaking point came 10 days ago, when pipes froze and cut off water to her home in Niagara Falls, New York. She’s been shuttling to relatives’ homes to fill gallon jugs ever since. ‘‘The snow is bad enough, the snow and the frigid temperatures. That’s enough to deal with, but this is so absolutely frustrating, it’s unbelievable,’’ Edwards said Thursday, when another winter storm dumped snow from Kentucky to the New York City area. Amid the driving snow, a plane skidded off a runway and crashed through a fence at LaGuardia Airport. Boston Globe

Ayatollah Tells Air Force: We Enriched Uranium 20%; Commanders: ‘Death To America, 'Death To England,' 'Death To Israel’
In a speech delivered last month to commanders and other personnel in the Iranian Air Force, whom he described as “officials who have very sensitive occupations,” Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—Iran’s Supreme Leader and commander in chief—boasted that Iran had enriched uranium to the 20-percent level. At the same time, the Supreme Leader noted that his government had agreed to shut down its production of 20-percent enriched uranium “for a while” in its effort to reach a deal with United States and other foreign powers that would include lifting the sanctions now imposed on his country. CNS News
VOA VIEW: Obama wants to make a deal with the enemy of the world.

Boehner, Top Democrats Demand Obama Arm Ukraine
House Speaker John A. Boehner and top Democrats and Republicans on all of the key security committees called on President Obama to provide lethal American arms to Ukraine, firing off a bipartisan letter Thursday saying Congress has already given him permission, and he needs to act soon to stop Russian aggression. In stark language, Mr. Boehner and 10 colleagues, including the ranking Democrats on the Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and intelligence committees, said the president needs to understand Ukraine is a major geopolitical test for the U.S. — and one it is in danger of losing. Washington Times

Exercise Is Not Enough To Protect Heart Against Stress
Teens who have trouble coping with stress may face an increased risk for future heart trouble that even exercise can't erase, a new study suggests. "It looks like the inability to cope well with stress contributes to the risk of heart disease," said lead researcher Scott Montgomery, a professor of epidemiology at Orebro University in Sweden. Montgomery said what he found "striking" was that physical fitness did not protect teens with poor stress-coping skills from developing heart disease later in life. "Exercise is important," Montgomery said. "But maybe we have to think about exercise and physical fitness in the context of coping with stress, particularly with people who have had a heart attack." CBS

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Law Enforcement Warning Sent About American Youth, ISIS
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent a joint warning to law enforcement across the country about the concern over a growing trend of girls and boys wanting to fight with ISIS in the wake of the detention of a 17-year-old Northern Virginia teen last week, according to a law enforcement official who has read the report. The source says law enforcement is tracking "lots of cases" like that around the country and they're growing increasingly concerned about the issue. The warning was sent out over the weekend. The warning lays out motivations for boys and girls. For boys: they tend to be older going over to fight and be a part of foreign fighters, or they want to attack in the U.S. (like the Brooklyn case). For girls: they tend to be younger and have a fanciful notion of what life is like in Syria. They often want to go over and be Islamic brides. CNN

Amid Brazen, Deadly Attacks, Gay Syrians Tell Of Fear Of ISIS Persecution
The photographs released by ISIS in its stronghold of Raqqa are dated March 2015. The first ones show a large crowd, mostly men, but also among them a handful of women and children, all looking up. Three men on top of a building, faces covered in black balaclavas, stand on either side of their victim, while a fourth seems to be taking a photo or video. Their victim is thrown off the building. In the last photograph, he is seen face down, surrounded by a small crowd of men, most carrying weapons, some with rocks in their hands. The caption reads "stoned to death." The victim brutally killed because he was accused of being gay. CNN

Ferguson Must Move Quickly To Rebuild Public Trust
The federal government's withering report on the Ferguson Police Department issued a stern mandate to city leaders: Reform your law-enforcement practices and rebuild relations with the black community. It won't be swift or simple, particularly if the same police chief is in charge and many of the same officers are on the beat. Some residents and civic leaders want to see wholesale changes in leadership or even complete dissolution of the department. At the very least, experts said Thursday, Ferguson must move quickly, and publicly, to prove it is serious about regaining public trust. Philadelphia Inquirer
VOA VIEW: The black led justice department turned vigilante against an entire police department - not smart or good for law enforcement, the community, or country.

Prosecutors Criticize D.C. Crime Lab’s Handling Of Some DNA Evidence
D.C. prosecutors have stopped sending DNA evidence to the city’s new state-of-the-art crime lab after they said they discovered errors in the way analysts determined whether a sample can be linked to a suspect or a victim. Prosecutors have hired two outside DNA experts to review 116 cases, including rapes and homicides, and have been notifying defense attorneys. In one federal case, prosecutors said, the D.C. lab concluded that a defendant’s DNA could have been on the magazine of a gun seized as evidence. But an expert who reviewed the data said the lab should have interpreted the results to mean that the defendant was not the source of the DNA. Washington Post

Americans Spent $58B On Their Pets In 2014
We feed them, groom them, clothe them and otherwise shell out the big bucks to protect and pamper our pets. The American Pet Products Association's annual report on pet industry spending says Americans spent $58 billion in 2014 on their 397 million pets, which range from freshwater fish and reptiles to cats and dogs. The industry trade group released the survey Thursday at the Global Pet Expo, an annual trade show in Orlando, Florida. The data came from a variety of groups, market research studies and media reports. CBS

Recreational Marijuana: Prosecutors, County Sheriffs Challenge Amendment 64
County sheriffs and prosecutors from three states launched a court challenge today against Colorado’s legalized marijuana, claiming that huge amounts of weed crossing state lines is placing an “undue burden” on the resources of small departments. Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2012. Retail stores began selling weed January 1, 2014, but pot is still considered illegal by the federal government. "Amendment 64 is preempted by federal law and therefore violates the Supremacy Clause (Article VI) of the United States Constitution,” according to the lawsuit, filed today in federal court. ABC


Court Approves Bank Of America’s $8.5 Billion Mortgage Pact
A New York appeals court on Thursday approved Bank of America’s $8.5 billion pact with investors over bad mortgages, potentially putting to rest a legal dispute that dates to 2011. The Charlotte-based bank’s agreement covers 1.6 million loans that were packaged into securities from 2004 to 2008 by subprime lender Countrywide Financial and sold to big investors such as BlackRock. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008 and has since paid billions to cover lawsuits and penalties tied to the lender. Bank of America negotiated the 2011 pact after the Countrywide loans had begun to sour. The bank has already set aside money for the agreement, but final court approval has been slow in coming. Charlotte Observer

Drone Bill Gives Cops Broad Power
Eager to fight more crime from the sky, a law enforcement group has sponsored a bipartisan bill that would give police broad freedom to use drones in California, but privacy advocates say the legislation could open the door to mass government surveillance. The bill, SB 262, would authorize police to use drones as long as they comply “with protections against unreasonable searches” in the United States Constitution and the California Constitution and any other applicable state or federal law.
It is one of a half dozen bills that seeks to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles so far this session at the state Capitol. The measure is sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association and is being carried by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon. San Diego Union

White House Counsel Reportedly Kept In Dark On Clinton’s Personal Email Use
The White House counsel's office reportedly was kept in the dark about Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of personal email while secretary of state, in the latest detail raising questions over how and why she stayed off the government system despite administration guidance to the contrary. Clinton used non-official personal email, and also used a server traced to her New York home. An unnamed source told The Associated Press the White House counsel's office only found out about her heavy personal email use as part of the congressional investigation into the Benghazi attack. Fox News
VOA VIEW: Hard to believe WH Counsel was in the dark.

States On Edge About The Future Of Health Insurance Markets
Mixed signals from the Supreme Court have states on edge about the future of health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. And a summer decision from the justices leaves little time for backup planning. Many governors, especially Republicans, want the federal government to craft a contingency plan and at least one governor — in Pennsylvania — is pursuing a state exchange, which would make sure his state was able to receive the subsidy. During oral arguments Wednesday, the justices appeared divided in the latest challenge to President Barack Obama's law. Opponents of the law argued that only residents in about a dozen states that set up their own insurance markets can get federal subsidies to help pay their premiums. The administration says the law provides for subsidies in all 50 states. ABC

The Price Of Oil Is Down, So Why Is Production Still Going Up?
Too much oil, too fast. That turns out to be the downside of the U.S. oil boom—at least if you’re an investor. Prices crashed, and America is pumping so much crude its running out of places to store it. One promising sign you may have heard about: The plunge in U.S. oil rigs. Every week since 1944, oilfield-services company Baker Hughes has released a survey of rigs out drilling for oil. But it wasn't until oil prices dropped by more than half that "rig counts" became part of everyday business vocabulary. Oil watchers are desperate for any sign of an end to the glut. Bloomberg

Ben & Jerry's Founders Considering Marijuana-Infused Ice Cream
Ben & Jerry's founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield indicated they would be open to supporting marijuana ice cream if it becomes legal. In an interview with HuffPost Live, Cohen and Greenfield didn't shut down the idea, although they said they didn't have much control of the company's day to day operations. "Makes sense to me," said Cohen. "Combine your pleasures." "Ben and I have had previous experiences with substances, and I think legalizing marijuana is a wonderful thing," Greenfield added. "It's not my decision. If it were my decision, I'd be doing it, but fortunately we have wiser heads at the company that figure those things out." UPI

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U.S. Stocks Fluctuate Amid Corporate Mergers, Draghi
U.S. stocks rose, after equities posted their biggest two-day slump in more than a month, amid corporate deals before Friday’s government jobs report. Pharmacyclics Inc. surged 10 percent after AbbVie Inc. agreed to buy the drugmaker in a $21 billion deal. Mallinckrodt Plc climbed 4.8 percent after buying closely-held Ikaria Inc. for about $2.3 billion. The Standard& Poor’s 500 Index added 0.1 percent to 2,101.09 at 4 p.m. in New York. “We didn’t really get anything definitive out of the ECB so people are just kind of flattening out in front of the employment report tomorrow,” Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co LLC in Newton, Massachusetts, said by phone. Bloomberg

Knife Attack At China Train Station Leaves 9 Injured
At least two assailants armed with knives attacked people at a train station in southern China on Friday, injuring nine, and police fatally shot one of the suspects, officials said. The second suspect was captured, police in the city of Guangzhou said in a statement. The incident was still under investigation and a motive has not been determined, police said. Photos and video posted on social media reportedly showed the attack took place in a square outside the station. One video showed a man hacking near a vendor stall with a cleaver while a security officer approached with a long baton. Several photos showed blood smeared in several places on the rain-soaked pavement. Miami Herald

Netanyahu's Iran Speech Gains Tacit Support In Saudi Arabia
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fiery speech this week before the U.S. Congress, in which he argued against an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, has received tacit support from an unlikely quarter -- Saudi Arabia. The oil-rich Sunni kingdom views Shiite Iran as a regional rival that is perhaps even more menacing than Israel. That was clear in a string of columns this week published in Saudi state-linked media, which is widely seen as reflecting official views and mainstream thought in the kingdom, and which voiced skepticism of President Barack Obama's efforts to broker a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran. SF Gate

Michael Brown’s Parents Announce Civil Lawsuit In Death
Lawyers for the parents of an unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson have announced plans to file a civil lawsuit in their son's death. Attorney Daryl Parks said the City of Ferguson and former Officer Darren Wilson will be named in the suit. The comments at the news conference Thursday in north St. Louis County came in response to the findings from a Justice Department investigation charged the Ferguson police department with unfairly targeting blacks but cleared former officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown's death. Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., attended the news conference at Greater St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church. Las Vegas Sun
VOA VIEW: AG Holder gave the Browns incentive to file the frivolous lawsuit.

Senate Majority Leader Decides Not To Fast-Track Iran Bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided not to fast-track a bill that would allow Congress a chance to review and vote on any deal the U.S. inks with Iran over its nuclear program. McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said Thursday that the majority leader no longer will put the bill up for a test vote next week. The vote, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, would have allowed the legislation to be debated on the floor and voted on — before being marked up in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. McConnell blamed Democrats for the delay, saying that even though they back it, they vowed to vote against it on the floor next week. Democrats want time to move it through committee and bolster bipartisan support for the measure. Las Vegas Sun

As Supreme Court Weighs Health Law, G.O.P. Plans To Replace It
The legal campaign to destroy President Obama’s health care law may be nearing its conclusion, but as the Supreme Court deliberates over the law’s fate, the search for a replacement by Republican lawmakers is finally gaining momentum. Senior Republicans in Congress hope that by June, the Supreme Court will invalidate the subsidies that 7.5 million Americans in 34 states have been given to purchase health insurance through the federal Healthcare.gov website. But the prospects of legal victory have also raised practical and political fears that Republicans will take the blame for the health care crisis that would follow. A legislative scramble is underway. On Monday, Representatives Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Fred Upton of Michigan and John Kline of Minnesota, the chairmen of the powerful committees that control health policy, proposed what they called an “off ramp” from the Obama health act that would let states opt out of the law’s central requirements. NY Times

Iraq Says Islamic State Militants 'Bulldozed' Ancient Site
Islamic State militants "bulldozed" the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq on Thursday using heavy military vehicles, the government said. A statement from Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities didn't elaborate on the extent of the damage, saying only that the group continues to "defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity" with this latest act, which came after an attack on the Mosul museum just days earlier. The destruction of the site of one of ancient Mesopotamia's greatest cities recalled the Taliban's annihilation of large Buddha statues in Afghanistan more than a dozen years ago, experts said. Kansas City Star

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Iraq, Libya Nudge Brent Crude Prices Up
Brent crude oil prices moved higher early Thursday as deteriorating security situations in Iraq and Libya countered increasing U.S. inventories. The global benchmark briefly topped $61 per barrel for the April contract before moving to $60.87, 32 cents above closing price Wednesday. Libya's state-owned National Oil Corp. declared force majeure on 11 oilfields Wednesday, releasing it from production commitments due to the recent spate of attacks from militant groups including the Islamic State. This after a recent rise in production due to restarting operations at the Sarir field. UPI

PLO Leaders Recommend That Palestinian Authority Halt Security Coordination With Israel
PLO leaders who met in Ramallah over the past 48 hours decided Thursday night to suspend all forms of security coordination with Israel. It was not clear whether the PA leadership would implement the decision. The decision will be referred to another PLO body, the Executive Committee, to decide on the timing of its implementation. Palestinian sources noted that the US has warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas against taking dramatic decisions before the upcoming elections in Israel. Jerusalem Post

Al-Qaida's Syria Branch Confirms Death Of Field Commander
Al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate confirmed on Friday that its top field commander was killed in an airstrike that targeted a meeting of the group's senior leadership. Abu Anas al-Shami, the spokesman for the Nusra Front, was quoted on a prominent militant website as saying that Thursday's airstrike in the western Syrian province of Idlib killed Abu Hommam al-Shami, described as the group's "military commander." Abu Hommam's death was first reported a day earlier by Syria's SANA state news agency and by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said that other senior Nusra Front leaders were also killed in the attack. The two al-Shamis — Abu Hommam and Abu Anas — are not related. Their shared name in Arabic means "the Syrian." Houston Chronicle

German Parliament Approves Quota For Female Directors
Germany's Parliament on Friday approved a quota system that will require leading companies in Europe's biggest economy to have at least 30 percent women on their supervisory boards starting next year. The quota will apply to more than 100 listed companies. Another 3,500 firms will be required to set targets to raise the number of female directors and women in other leadership positions. A recent study released by the German Institute for Economic Research found that, last year, women accounted for 18.6 percent of the supervisory board members — the German equivalent of directors — at the country's biggest 100 companies. Atlanta Journal
VOA VIEW: Socialism!

Iraq Says Iran Nuclear Talks Will Lead To Peaceful Solution
Iraq believes that international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program will lead to a peaceful outcome, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said on Thursday.
Jaafari told a United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that developing countries had an inalienable right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "We believe these (talks) will lead to a peaceful solution and will resolve controversial points," Jaafari told the forum. Jerusalem Post

US Tries To Reassure Gulf Over Nuclear Talks With Iran
The US will continue to keep an eye on "destabilising" acts by Iran, despite moves towards a nuclear deal, Secretary of State John Kerry has said. Mr Kerry made the comments on a visit to the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he sought to ease concerns among Gulf nations about the talks. Gulf states are worried about Iran's influence in the region, and fear a deal would ease pressure on Tehran. A framework agreement with Iran is meant to be in place by 31 March. Like Israel, some Gulf states fear Iran is using its nuclear programme to develop weapons. Iran's backing of Shia militias in Yemen, Syria and Iraq also causes concern. BBC

Syria Al-Nusra Front Chief 'Killed In Strike'
The military chief of Syria's al-Nusra Front militant group has been killed in an air strike, the group has said. The jihadist group said on social media that three other leaders were killed along with Abu Homam al-Shami. Syria's state-run news agency said the army had targeted Nusra leaders as they met in northern Idlib province, the Associated Press reported. The Nusra Front is one of the most powerful groups fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was behind a major attack on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Aleppo on Wednesday. BBC

Subprime Car Loans May Not Be As Risky As Home Loans But Abuses Need Tackling
Just as the exhaust fumes of the last subprime loan crisis are dispersing, chatter is building that there’s a bubble building this time in cars. The subprime car loans market has some characteristics in common with the last but in many ways it’s much worse, and much better. The subprime car loans market hit the news this week when Wells Fargo – one of the biggest funders of those loans – announced it would cap its exposure to subprime loans at 10% of its total auto loans. The bank presented the initiative – really, a formalization of its existing limits – as sensible risk management, and indeed it is. Wells, which dodged the worst of the fury of the 2008 financial crisis, isn’t going to risk getting a black eye from losses on car loans made to borrowers with limited or spotty credit ratings in the so-called subprime market. Guardian

Eye For An Eye: Iran Blinds Acid Attacker
In a literal application of the sharia law of an eye for an eye, an Iranian man convicted of blinding another man in an acid attack has been blinded in one eye, marking the first time Iran has carried out such a punishment. The convicted acid attacker, who has not been identified, was rendered unconscious in Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj on Tuesday as medics gouged out his left eye, according to the state-owned Hamshahri newspaper. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, from Iran Human Rights (IHR), an independent NGO based in Norway, condemned the blinding as barbaric. “Medical staff who cooperate with the Iranian authorities in this act have broken the Hippocratic oath and cannot call themselves doctors,” he said. Guardian

UN Health Agency Announces Start Of Ebola Vaccine Testing In Worst-Affected Areas Of Guinea
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that it will begin conducting Ebola vaccination trials in Guinea this week, which if found effective, could be the “game-changer to finally end the epidemic” that has affected nearly 24,000 people, mostly in West Africa. “We have worked hard to reach this point,” WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, said in Geneva. “There has been massive mobilization on the part of the affected countries and all partners to accelerate the development and availability of proven interventions,” she continued. “If a vaccine is found effective, it will be the first preventive tool against Ebola in history.” UN News

Fuelled By ‘Strong’ Cereal Stocks, World Food Prices Dip To Lowest Level Since July 2010
Food prices dipped to a 55-month low in February, dropping a steady per cent from the previous month and 14 per cent below its level compared to a year earlier, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today. The continuing decline – lowest level since July 2010 - reflects a robust supply environment and ongoing weakness in many currencies versus the United States dollar, Michael Griffin, FAO's dairy and livestock market expert, confirmed in a statement today.
“The first thing to flag is the favourable outlook for production of a number of crops in 2015,” he said, adding that “stocks are also very strong” for most cereals. UN News

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