Congress Closer To Debt Deal?

WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) — A key U.S. senator said Sunday Congress was close to finalizing a hard-fought deal that would raise the government’s debt ceiling and avert a potential default.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Republican leader of the Senate, told CNN the negotiations had made good progress the day before and the two parties were “very close” to reaching an agreement.

McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” he was “very, very close to being able … to recommend to my members that this is something that they ought to support.”

McConnell said the deal might not include any tax increases, something the majority Democrats had been insisting on as a means of chipping away at the budget deficit rather than relying solely on cuts to social programs.

The halls of Congress were busy Sunday morning as lawmakers debated a compromise bill that would avert a federal debt default Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the upper house would convene at noon and vote at 1 p.m. on a compromise bill hammered out Saturday, The Washington Post reported.

It would raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt limit by up to $2.4 trillion in two stages — $1 trillion now, matched by cuts, and the rest in 2012 unless two-thirds of both houses disapprove, the Post said.

Without steering legislation, the United States will be unable to meet most of its financial obligations after Tuesday, The New York Times said.

Reid told a news conference the latest bid to end partisan bickering came as a result of talks between McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden.

Bloody Mayhem Shakes Chinese City

KASHGAR, China, July 31 (UPI) — Rioting shook the Chinese city of Kashgar for a second day Sunday as police reported killing four men, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The violence began Saturday afternoon in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

in what police described as “a severely violent terrorism case,” the report said.

Uygurs are predominantly Muslim and there are factions seeking an autonomous state.

The city erupted into violence Saturday night when two men fatally stabbed a truck driver and then drove the vehicle into a crowd, CriEnglish reported.

When the truck came to a stop, the hijackers got out and began slashing at people with knives, the report said.

Six people in the crowd were killed and 28 others were hurt, police said.

Sunday afternoon, violence erupted on the streets again and 10 civilians and police officers were injured, Xinhua said. There were conflicting reports on whether a small bomb exploded or if the injured were slashed with knives.

Police shot and killed four suspects and were searching for four other men Sunday night, the report said.

Reward Offered For Stolen Military Rifles

LOS ANGELES, July 31 (UPI) — Federal authorities say they arrested several people in the theft of 26 AK-74 assault rifles taken from California’s Fort Irwin Army Post.

Also taken in the July 15 theft was a Russian-made Dragunov sniper rifle, CNN reported.

The AK-74 is an improved version of the Russian-built AK-47. It was introduced by the Soviet military in the 1970s.

Investigators said some arrests followed interviews with employees at the arms storehouse at Fort Irwin, but details weren’t immediately available. Officials said they were looking for additional suspects.

Authorities were trying to determine if some of the stolen weapons had turned up in Fresno, California.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves.

“We request the public’s assistance to help us arrest and prosecute those individuals responsible for this crime,” said special agent John A. Torres of the ATF’s Los Angeles office.

“Community participation is necessary to improve the likelihood that ATF and our law enforcement partners will track down the firearms as well as the criminals who have sought to destabilize our community through illegal activity,” Torres said.

Woman Calls Off Attacker’s Punishment

TEHRAN, July 31 (UPI) — A woman blinded and scarred in an acid attack by a would-be suitor has called off a court-ordered blinding for the man who attacked her, Iranian officials said.

Majid Movahedi escaped having a doctor drop acid into his eyes Sunday when his victim, Ameneh Bahrami, decided not to seek revenge in the attack seven years ago that left her blind and disfigured, CNN reported Sunday.

Following Movahedi’s conviction in 2008, Bahrami insisted her attacker suffer the same fate he had inflicted on her.

“However, in the last minute, Ameneh changed her mind and asked the proceeding to be halted,” Fars news agency reported.

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan starts this week. Pardons and commuted sentences regularly occur during Ramadan as a sign of compassion, the report said.

Movahedi’s sentence was to be carried out in May, but it was delayed after Amnesty International protested, calling it cruel.

Bahrami said she partly forgave her attacker for her country, saying, “since all other countries were looking to see what we would do.”

Bahrami told CNN in 2009 she had undergone more than a dozen surgeries on her face, but still hoped she would have a wedding day.

“I always see myself as someone who can see and sometimes see myself in a beautiful wedding gown, and why not?” Bahrami said.

Security Issues Cloud Mubarak Trial

CAIRO, July 31 (UPI) — Security issues have forced the government to move the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Cairo’s Police Academy, officials said.

Wednesday’s trial was moved from Cairo’s International Convention Center to the Police Academy to provide additional security measures, Bikya Masr reported Sunday.

Mubarak, 83, was arrested in April and he is currently hospitalized for a variety of symptoms, including depression.

He is charged with corruption and murder in the deaths of protesters during 18 days of demonstrations that resulted in his removal. Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, charged with corruption, will be tried at the same time.

Habib al-Adly, Egypt’s former Interior Minister, will be tried with Mubark and his sons. He is also charged with the killing of protesters and he previously received a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.

A cage was built to hold the defendants, said appeals court president Abdel Aziz Omar. The auditorium where the relocated trial is to take place can hold about 600 people.

The trial will be shown live on large-screen television sets in Cairo and Giza. The only camera allowed in the trial will be wielded by the state-run MENA news agency.

Bomber Kills 10 Afghan Policemen And Child

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31 (UPI) — A suicide bomber killed 10 Afghan policemen and a child Sunday in the capital of Helmand province, security officials said.

Seven police officers and two civilians were also injured by the blast at a police compound in the city of Lashkar Gah, a spokesman for the southern province told The Washington Post.

Spokesman Daoud Ahmadi told The Los Angeles Times the blast was strong enough to collapse an entire wall of the police compound.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack, the reports said.

The city is one of seven regions NATO forces turned over to Afghan security forces earlier this month as the United States and other countries begin drawing down their military presence, the Times said.

There has been a spike in the number of terror attacks on government and security officials in the regions where NATO troops withdrew, the Post said.

Almost all foreign troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2014, 13 years after the military push began to roust the Taliban from power.

John Marburger, Bush Science Adviser, Dies

PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y., July 31 (UPI) — John H. “Jack” Marburger, who served as chief science adviser to President George W. Bush, has died at his home in Port Jefferson, N.Y., officials said.

Marburger died Thursday of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the Washington Post reported. He was 70.

Marburger served as Bush’s head science adviser for eight years and was roundly criticized by the scientific community, which said he sold out his scientific credentials to satisfy Bush’s political positions, the Post said.

Marburger — a prominent physicist — served as president of Stony Brook University in New York and as the head of a national laboratory before joining the Bush administration. He held the job of science adviser longer than anyone before him.

His early work for the Bush administration focused on ways to prevent and fight terrorist attacks.

After Bush took office in 2001, the administration pulled its support for the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to fight global warming. Bush also restricted the use of embryonic stem cells, saying they were derived from the destruction of human embryos.

As a result, more than 60 top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, published an open letter in February 2004 claiming the Bush administration “systematically” twisted or ignored key scientific findings. Four months later, 48 Nobel Prize winners sent a similar letter that singled out Marburger.

In that letter Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner called Marburger a prostitute.

“I actually feel very sorry for Marburger,” Gardner told National Public Radio, “because I think he probably is enough of a scientist to realize that he basically has become a prostitute.”

Marburger never flinched and never fought back, the Post said.

John Harmen Marburger III was born Feb. 8, 1941, in Staten Island, N.Y. He graduated from Princeton University in 1962, earned a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford University in 1967 and joined the faculty at the University of Southern California as a theoretical physicist.

Four Dead In Midair Collision In Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, July 31 (UPI) — Four people died in a midair collision between two small float planes over Alaska’s Amber Lake about 90 miles northeast of Anchorage, officials said.

The dead were aboard a Cessna 180 that crashed and burned Saturday after colliding with a Cessna 206 above the lake, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The pilot of the second plane, Kevin Earp, 56, of Eagle River, its only occupant, was uninjured and decided to land his damaged aircraft at Anchorage to take advantage of its runway and safety equipment.

The single-engine planes collided about 2:15 p.m. and the Cessna 180 burst into flames upon impact with the ground. The victims’ bodies were recovered, but their identities weren’t immediately available.

“When our responders got on scene, the plane was fully engulfed in flames,” said Dennis Brodigan, emergency services director for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Responders extinguished the blaze with fire extinguishers.

National Transportation Safety Board officials said Earp reported the accident. NTSB investigator Larry Lewis said Earp’s aircraft had heavy damage to its pontoons.

Protesting Israelis Demand Social Justice

JERUSALEM, July 31 (UPI) — Israeli Finance Ministry Director Gen. Haim Shani resigned Sunday, amid nationwide protests demanding social justice and an end to rising costs.

Shani said he resigned over differences of opinion with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, The Jerusalem Post said.

The country’s doctors staged a protest outside the Knesset and leaders of the Israel Medical Association submitted a petition to the prime minister’s office calling to save public medicine in Israel, Haaretz said.

The doctors — who have been protesting for several months demanding improved working conditions and better pay — have yet to receive a response from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to their demands.

President Shimon Peres met with some of the doctors leading the struggle after expressing a desire to intervene on their behalf, Israel Radio said.

Yedioth Ahronoth said Peres also said he is willing to mediate between the protesters and the government in an effort to solve the crisis.

Taking to the streets Saturday night, some 150,000 protesters called to lower housing and food costs, equal standards of education for all including free education from birth, free university tuition, quality healthcare for all, higher salaries and improved work conditions.

The demonstrators challenged Netanyahu to act and amend the situation or step down, the Hebrew language daily said.

Saturday night’s protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Kiryat Shmona, and Beersheba were described by local media as the largest protests demanding social equality in the history of the State.

Activist Daphni Leef described the nationwide protests as “a revolution of awareness,” saying citizens realize they deserve more, said.

Israelis Keen To Do Business In Sth. Sudan

JERUSALEM, July 31 (UPI) — South Sudan, which recently gained independence, has become a popular venue for Israeli entrepreneurs and businessmen, officials said.

A report in Haaretz Sunday cited a number of Israelis keen to pursue business ventures in the African country.

Tamir Gal and his partner, Rafi Dayan, of Yarok 2000 are planning major agricultural projects for the new South Sudanese government, the newspaper said.

The projects scheduled to become operational at the beginning of 2012, include a fruit and vegetable farm, a poultry farm and a slaughterhouse.

The projects will help enable locals to become self-sufficient, the paper said.

Israelis are also assisting in establishing farming communities for former South Sudanese soldiers along the border with North Sudan, the paper said.

Israelis have also assisted the government in establishing its first Internet provider.

Never Walk Again? Sorry Doc, You’re Wrong

TORONTO, July 31 (UPI) — Anger and defiance are fuellng a brain-damaged Canadian man running a marathon a day across the country who was told he never would walk again.

David McGuire, 38, began his run April 1 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on “A Run to Remember,” named for his short-term memory loss from a massive stroke five years ago.

McGuire worked as a debt collector for a national bank when he collapsed at work and went into a coma. Doctors removed and later replaced a piece of his skull on the left side to alleviate swelling.

McGuire now keeps his hair cut short to show the C-shaped scar on his scalp as he runs on behalf of Braintrust Canada, a charity devoted to the prevention of brain injuries. The group’s Web site quotes McGuire as saying, “I’m just a guy with a brain injury, but I can run.”

His mission hasn’t gained much national media coverage in Canada, although McGuire is in his sixth of 10 provinces, just short of halfway across the country.

In a series of interviews with UPI, McGuire said this week he was still trying to adapt to the changes the stroke caused. He jokes frequently about not remembering where he was the day before and said when he sees videos of his wedding reception with wife Mandy, he recognizes everyone, but not the event.

McGuire’s agenda involves a 25-mile marathon a day, although he stops almost daily to speak to schoolchildren, sports and civic groups about the importance of preventing brain injuries, specifically concussions.

The long-term effects of concussions are increasingly being reported as athletes from the National Football League, the National Hockey League and Canadian Football League come forward with brain injury-related degenerative conditions.

McGuire said he’s happy to see publicity by celebrity sports figures. However, he said, brain injuries are life-changing for non-celebrities.

For him, not in a good way.

“I went through a year of deep clinical depression,” he said. “But it was seeing the other people who were worse off than me that sort of shook me into doing this [run].”

Braintrust Canada’s director of communications, Magda Kapp, told UPI fundraising was below target, but there was hope it would progress the further McGuire goes.

“The operational cost of the run is $150,000 and we’re nowhere near that,” she said. “However, there’s cost and then there’s value.

“How can you put a value on what David’s done so far? How many brain injuries have been avoided? How many kids looked at his scar and learned a lesson for life?”

Ironically, the first company to take up the run’s corporate donation challenge was outside Canada.

Communicare Michigan, which operates residential care and treatment facilities for patients with brain injuries and developmental disabilities, came forward with a pledge of $7,230, a dollar for each kilometer McGuire runs.

That equates to 4,492 miles.

In the meantime, McGuire is running north and west with a goal of reaching Victoria, British Columbia, in late November. He told UPI he’s turning his frustration into energy to put one foot in front of the other in his cross-country run.

“I don’t know if my brain injury could’ve been prevented, but so many other people could avoid this if they’d just think.”

Under The U.S. Supreme Court: Can Obama Raise The Debt Limit By Himself?

WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) — The dance of raising the U.S. debt limit has gone on for weeks, with President Obama and Republicans circling each other like Sharks and Jets. But can the president use the Constitution to raise the debt limit by himself to avoid economic disaster?

Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on to whom you listen.

More on that later.

Another debate developing rather late in the game is whether failing to raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 would really be the catastrophe U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says it would be. Actually, in 1979, Congress briefly failed to raise the debt limit and the government briefly defaulted on a small portion of its bills.

Professor Peter Morici of the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland was on SiriusXM radio last Monday and said failing to lift the debt ceiling only would be comparable to a government shutdown.

“There is absolutely no possibility that we have to default on our debt,” he insisted. “We will only default if Secretary Geithner chooses to default to give the president political advantage.”

Morici said the U.S. government takes in $180 billion a month, while interest payments on the national debt are less than $30 billion a month. “The U.S. would not be insolvent but rather in a political crisis.”

Besides debt interest, he did not say how the government would pay other bills, including those generated by entitlement programs.

Another hard-shell conservative, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said earlier this month on “Fox News Sunday” Geithner was irresponsibly exaggerating.

“There certainly will be disruption, but this is not a deadline we should rush and make a bad deal,” DeMint said.

In contrast, the administration points to international companies that threaten to lower the country’s gold-plated triple-A bond rating if the debt limit isn’t raised, or even if it isn’t raised for a long period of time. Lowering the bond rating means higher interest rates for borrowing — not just for the government but for personal credit cards and loans — and gutting the value of the dollar, making the national debt that much harder to reduce.

One independent voice, George Pennacchi, a University of Illinois finance professor who studies financial institutions and the bond markets, says the effect of a default could be serious.

“If the [debt] ceiling is not raised by about Aug. 2, spending will have to be cut by almost 44 percent, down to the level of revenues, which are mostly tax receipts,” Pennachi said in an interview with the university’s New Bureau last week. “Then, the U.S. Treasury will be forced to prioritize which spending commitments get paid.

“I would speculate that the Treasury would continue to pay interest on Treasury securities to avoid defaulting on its existing debt,” he said. “Also, it would have enough revenues to pay Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment benefits, as well as active military duty pay. Those would soak up about 83 percent of revenues.”

The remainder of the revenue would have to be spread very thinly, and would pay “only about 18 percent of all other federal spending, including defense contractor payments, federal employee salaries and benefits, IRS refunds, and all other veterans, education, agricultural, commerce and housing programs.”

Pennacchi said the worst-case scenario “would be if the Treasury decided to stop paying interest on Treasury securities — that is, to default on its Treasury bonds, notes and bills. Potentially, such a default could lead to a financial market panic if investors decide to withdraw their savings from financial institutions that hold Treasury securities, such as money market mutual funds.”

Pennacchi said other effects could include “a chain-reaction of financial institution failures,” a freeze of financial markets, a substantial decline in the U.S. dollar, an increase in private sector layoffs, a decrease in profits and damage to financial markets, depending on how long the default lasts.

Democrats and Republicans also can’t agree on how high to raise the debt limit — whether the action should just cover the next six months or whether it should extend past the 2012 election cycle.

President Obama has proposed a large debt reduction package of $3 trillion in 10 years, including spending cuts and ending tax breaks for the wealthy and oil companies, and has said he would veto any proposal that does not push the next raising of the debt limit to 2012 or 2013.

Congressional Republicans call for fewer spending cuts, no elimination of tax breaks and and only a six-month extension of the debt limit — a time span that allows the Republican majority in the House to use debt-limit political leverage more often.

Back in 1979, The Washington Post pointed out July 10: “Congress had been playing a game of chicken with the debt limit, raising it to $830 billion — compared with today’s $14.3 trillion — only after Treasury Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal warned that the country was hours away from the first default in its history.”

The last-minute approval, a flood of investor demand for Treasury bills and technical glitches in processing a paperwork backlog caused late payments to thousands of holders of Treasury bills maturing that April and May, the Post said, adding that it was only “a minor blip.”

But, the article added, a study by Terry Zivney, a finance professor at Ball State University, and his partner Dick Marcus found “that the series of defaults resulted in a permanent increase in interest rates” of more than 0.5 percent. Over time, that meant billions of dollars in increased interest payments on the nation’s debt, a cost eventually paid by taxpayers.

A Congressional Budget Office report in February said raising interest rates only a third of a percentage point now would mean paying $1.1 trillion more on national debt interest in 10 years.

After that brief partial default in 1979, Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., proposed the “Gephardt rule.” The rule, which is still technically in effect, raises the debt limit automatically to the level projected by budget legislation.

But House Republicans set aside the rule in 1995, without actually killing it, to force President Bill Clinton to accept spending cuts. The showdown caused two government shutdowns but Clinton refused to give way and the GOP legislators eventually had to throw in the towel.

It was Clinton who focused attention this month on the prospect of Obama raising the debt limit on his own hook, if the political knife fight pushed a deal beyond Aug. 2. Others had broached the subject in political discussions but Clinton lit a fire beneath it.

In an exclusive interview with long-time supporter Joe Conason for his daily newsletter, The National Memo, Clinton said if he were in Obama’s place he would damn Congress and use the U.S. Constitution to raise the debt limit by himself “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.”

“I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said.

The former president was referring to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which says in part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Some legal scholars say that provision gives the president the power to raise the debt limit ceiling on his own if Congress refuses to do so. Other legal scholars point to Article I Section 8 of the Constitution, which lists the powers given to Congress. Among them, “To borrow money on the credit of the United States.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested in a taped conference call with reporters the debt ceiling itself may be unconstitutional because of the 14th Amendment, the Huffington Post reported.

He personally supported a debt ceiling because it imposes discipline, Grassley said.

“I think it’s a discipline that Congress uses effectively from time to time, maybe not to cut down on the amount of spending but to have a refresher course,” the Iowa Republican said. “It’s a good discipline, so it bothers me if the Constitution provision would trump it, but that would be up to the courts to say. But who’s going to argue against the Constitution? It’s the basis of our government; it’s the law of our land, and everybody has to abide by it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has rarely touched on the national debt, which is a political rather than a legal matter. But in 1935, in a unanimous ruling on defunct gold-backed bonds, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes cited precedent: “By virtue of the power to borrow money ‘on the credit of the United States,’ Congress is authorized to pledge that credit as assurance of payment as stipulated — as the highest assurance the government can give — its plighted faith. To say that Congress may withdraw or ignore that pledge is to assume that the Constitution contemplates a vain promise, a pledge having no other sanction than the pleasure and convenience of the pledgor.”

And, Hughes said, “Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, declaring that ‘the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned,’ is confirmatory of a fundamental principle … and the expression ‘validity of the public debt’ embraces whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations.”

Some Republicans warn Obama would face impeachment if he uses the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit on his own.

Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said earlier this month it would be “an impeachable offense” for Obama use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval, Politico reported.

On the other hand, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Monday Obama “would be impeached” if the United States defaults on bond payments, even without a debt limit deal, to pay other government obligations, presumably Social Security and Medicare.

Impeaching the president might be easy but politically costly in the House, where Republicans hold a 257-158 majority. Impeachment, roughly equivalent to an indictment, requires only a simple majority in the House. But conviction in a trial in the Democrat-controlled Senate, 53-47, requires a two-thirds vote and would be extremely unlikely.

For his part, Obama has reacted negatively to the few public suggestions that he use the 14th Amendment and raise the debt limit on his own — though he has appeared intrigued.

At a “town hall” in Maryland earlier this month, the president said of the theory: “I have talked to my lawyers. They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”

Last Monday, Obama suggested to a gathering of Latino activists there have been times during the debt ceiling debate that he’s thought about raising the limit by himself because Congress has made the process too difficult.

But he quickly nixed the idea, Politico reported.

“Believe me, right now, dealing with Congress — the idea –” he said, stopping and smiling as the crowd began chanting. “Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. … Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions.”

D.C. Reports More Graffiti

WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) — The Department of Public Works has reported a significant increase in graffiti in Washington this year, but officials are not sure of the cause.

Since the beginning of 2011, the DPW has removed 3,946 instances of graffiti, more than double the 1,780 tags removed in 2010, The Washington Post reported Friday.

While other big cities are reporting decreases in instances of graffiti, D.C. officials say the city will likely spend $450,000 on graffiti removal this year, compared with $200,000 in 2010.

Graffiti is on the rise throughout the city, DPW director William O. Howland Jr. says. The majority of the tags don’t seem to be gang-related.

“We know there’s a cycle: that when there’s warm weather, there’s more activity,” said DPW spokeswoman Nancee Lyons. “But [for] people who do this sort of thing, it’s an act of impulse, so there’s not necessarily any rhyme or reason.”

The city-sponsored program MuralsDC has deterred graffiti by giving taggers and others a place to be creative in popular tagging spots.

“MuralsDC is a great first step,” said Mazi Mutafa, director of the non-profit Words Beats & Life. “Before this program, there was no choice for taggers. It was illegal. Now they have options. Now they have a place to create.”

24 Killed In Ukraine Mine Explosion

KIEV, Ukraine, July 30 (UPI) — At least 24 people were killed in an explosion at a mine in Ukraine, emergency officials said Saturday.

The Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry said two people were missing from the Friday blast at the Sukhodilska-Vostochnaya Mine in the southeastern part of the country, RIA Novosti reported. Two of the 28 people in the mine early Friday morning escaped with burn injuries.

The collapse of a large excavating machine crane at another mine killed at least two people Friday, one of them a woman. Three people were still missing at the Bazhanov Mine in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

The Sukhodilska-Vostochnaya Mine is operated by Metinvest International, RIA Novosti said. The Swiss-based steel trading company operates three factories in Ukraine.

A miner was killed Tuesday in a roof collapse at another mine in the Donetsk region. Three others were still missing.

Deadly Boat Collision In Central Moscow

MOSCOW, July 30 (UPI) — A night out on the Moskva River in central Moscow turned deadly when a private pleasure boat collided with a barge, police said.

The boat was trapped under the barge after the accident, which occurred shortly after midnight Sunday, RIA Novosti reported. Two bodies had been recovered and at least six of the passengers on the boat were missing.

Authorities said it was believed 15 people were on board the pleasure boat. One was able to get ashore on his own, and six were rescued by emergency workers, police said.

Two of the survivors were Turkish nationals.

A floating crane was being brought to the scene to get the boat to the surface.

The Moskva River, which runs through the Russian capital, is a tributary of the Oka and part of the Volga watershed.

Wrong Dog Euthanized

KENDALL, Ill., July 30 (UPI) — Chicago-area animal control facility officials acknowledge they euthanized the wrong dog, and then adopted out the dangerous dog that has bitten three people.

An animal control facility official has been put on administrative leave after admitting Friday she knew about the matter weeks ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday.

The troublesome dog, a bull Mastiff, was brought to the Kendall County Animal Control shelter after biting a postal worker in May, and then bit a young boy while in the shelter July 3, the newspaper said.

The dog was scheduled to be euthanized shortly after the July 3 incident. Animal control and Kendall County officials had been telling the public that the dangerous dog had been put down.

The mix-up came to light at a meeting of members of the Kendall County Board’s Animal Control Committee on Friday morning. There, Erik Devick, a Plano, Ill., resident and animal rescue group participant, insisted that the dog was still alive and was adopted out to a family in Holiday Lake, Ill.

In reply to the accusation, Christine Johnson, administrator of Kendall County’s Animal Control facility, admitted workers put down a different bull Mastiff that “had issues.”

“He’s alive,” Johnson said. “I made a mistake. The dog I put down, I thought was the one.”

When asked how long she had known about the mistake, Johnson answered that she found out about a week after the wrong dog was euthanized, the newspaper said.

Johnson was put on administrative leave Friday after the meeting.

Wright Brothers Replica Crashes, 2 Dead

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio, July 30 (UPI) — Two men described as experienced pilots were killed Saturday when a replica of an airplane built by the Wright brothers crashed in Ohio, police said.

Don Gum, 73, of Beaver Creek, Ohio, and Mitchell Cary, 65, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, were both board members of Wright “B” Flyer Inc. of Dayton, CNN reported. The non-profit group designed the plane, a replica of the 1910 Wright Model B produced by Wilbur and Orville Wright seven years after their first successful flight in an airplane.

The State Highway Patrol said Gum and Cary took off from Springfield Beckley Municipal Airport. The crash was reported at about 11 a.m.

The highway patrol and the Federal Aviation Administration were investigating the crash.

In a news release, Wright “B” Flyer said the replica was designed to look like the original plane but had modern controls and other equipment. The group said the plane was designed so it could be disassembled for shipping to international air shows.

“Mitch and Don were highly competent pilots with extensive experience flying Wright ‘B’ Flyer airplanes and other experimental aircraft,” Phil Beaudoin, the group’s president, told WHIO-TV, Dayton, a CNN affiliate.

Woman Dies After Detox Treatment

DURHAM, Quebec, July 30 (UPI) — A Quebec woman rushed to a hospital after participating in an intense sweating detoxification program has died, officials say.

The woman, 35, died Friday afternoon in the hospital where she and another woman were taken after being found unconscious at a detoxification spa, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The other woman regained consciousness in the ambulance and was listed in stable condition.

“The treatments consisted of a process of sweating by being all wrapped in plastic with mud, and also with blankets,” Sgt. Eloise Cossette said.

The women were also enclosed in cardboard boxes.

The detoxification program, which takes place in a rented farmhouse in Durham, lasts for several hours without drinking any water. At least 10 people were taking part in the treatment at the time.

Police are investigating the farmhouse. The woman renting it offers an introduction to the practice of Reiki, developed by a Japanese Buddhist in the 1920s.

Neighbors have previously filed complaints against the farmhouse, saying they heard loud screaming on the property.

Experts: Amanda Knox Evidence Unreliable

PERUGIA, Italy, July 30 (UPI) — Independent experts testified Saturday that DNA evidence used in the Italian murder trial of U.S. college student Amanda Knox is unreliable.

Carla Vecchiotti and Stefano Conti, both from La Sapienza University in Rome, were appointed by the court hearing Knox’s appeal, The Daily Telegraph reported. In a 145-page report, they criticized police handling of evidence collected at the Perugia house Knox shared with the victim, British student Meredith Kercher.

Vecchiotti told the court Saturday little DNA was found on a kitchen knife believed to have been used to kill Kercher.

“There is a complete genetic profile, but it’s not reliable,” Vecchiotti said. “We don’t know if Meredith’s DNA was on it or not.”

When she was arrested in 2007, Knox was a University of Washington student spending a year in Perugia. Prosecutors said Kercher, a student at the University of Leeds, was killed during a drug-fueled sex game by Knox, her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito and Rudy Guede, an immigrant from Ivory Coast.

Piero Angeloni, head of the police forensic service, in a letter read to the court, defended evidence collection in the case.

Gadhafi Allegedly Threatened Berlusconi

ROME, July 30 (UPI) — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he has learned of a plan by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to have him assassinated.

“Because that’s what he decided, he swore to this himself,” Berlusconi told Corriere della Serra.

Berlusconi did not go into detail about where the information came from but said it was from “reliable sources.”

Italy has been involved in the NATO military operation in support of the Libyan rebels. Gadhafi in speeches to the Libyan people has threatened terrorist actions in Europe in reprisal.

DNA Confirms Burned Body Is Missing Girl

DETROIT, July 30 (UPI) — Police say DNA testing has confirmed a burned body found in Detroit was that of a missing 5-year-old girl.

The charred remains of Mariha Smith, 5, were found July 24 in an abandoned house, not long after she had last been seen, the Detroit Free Press reported. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the girl died of asphyxiation before she was set on fire.

Konesha Smith, Mariha’s mother, told police she had passed out after drinking with friends at her home. When she woke up, Mariha was missing.

Family and friends had been searching for the girl all week until police confirmed Friday the burned body was in fact Mariha’s.

“It hurt. We didn’t want to believe it.” said Desiree Dixon, who was in foster care with Mariha’s mother.

Police said they had made no arrests. They were looking for a man who bought 41 cents worth of gasoline at a nearby filling station 10 minutes before Mariha’s body was found.

Report: Iraq Danger Grows

BAGHDAD, July 30 (UPI) — Iraq has become more dangerous in the past year, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said in a report Saturday.

Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said in his quarterly report that June was the deadliest month for the U.S. military in more than two years, with 14 soldiers killed, The Washington Post said. Most of the deaths were the work of Shiite militias, he added.

“Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,” Bowen wrote. “It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago.”

About 46,000 members of the U.S. military are deployed in Iraq. Most are scheduled to leave in the fall, and U.S. officials are waiting for a decision from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi government on extending a training agreement.

Both Shiite militias and al-Qaida are contributing to the violence, Bowen said. Attacks, including several suicide bombings intended to inflict mass casualties, have killed at least 193 Iraqi police and soldiers and 248 civilians.

Banks Prepare For Federal Cash Crunch

WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) — U.S. banks are preparing for the possibility that millions of federal checks will be delayed if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling, officials say.

“Every bank is doing things their own way to take care of their customers,” Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association, told The Washington Post. “Obviously, they hope this deal is done quickly.”

If the government is unable to borrow to cover expenses, it would depend on cash on hand to cover everything from Social Security checks to paychecks for military personnel and federal employees. The Treasury Department has said the cash crunch could come as soon as Wednesday if Congress fails to act by Tuesday.

Navy Federal Credit Union’s plans include advancing pay to direct-deposit customers on active military service and Defense Department civilian employees. Officials say the credit union, the biggest in the United States, will speed approval for overdraft protection and higher credit card limits.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency plans to issue guidelines for the nationally chartered banks it regulates that would protect customers from high fees for bounced checks or overdrafts.