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In brief: Two sentenced in Fast and Furious

PHOENIX – Two men were sentenced Monday for their roles in a gun smuggling ring that was part of the U.S. government’s botched Operation Fast and Furious, an investigation that unraveled after illegally purchased weapons turned up at the scene of a fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent.

Jacob Anthony Montelongo was sentenced in federal court in Phoenix to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and dealing guns without a license. Sean Christopher Steward received a nine-year sentence for conspiracy and making false statements to authorities.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Steward and Montelongo were among so-called straw buyers who illegally purchased weapons for traffickers and Mexican drug cartels in a wide-ranging Phoenix-based gun trafficking ring.

Steward’s attorney, Diego Rodriguez, said he plans to appeal his client’s sentence.

Israel’s Barak ends political career

TEL AVIV, Israel – In a development that could lead to a hardening of Israel’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced Monday that he was resigning from political life, a surprise move that removed a moderate voice from the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Despite his role as defense minister and the widespread belief that he was the architect of Israel’s Iran policy, Barak was seen as one of the least hawkish figures in Netanyahu’s Cabinet.

Barak’s decision to end his five-decade-long career in public service came in the midst of the Israeli election season, as the country prepares to vote for a new Parliament on Jan. 22.

The announcement came just hours before Netanyahu’s Likud Party was expected to learn the results of its primaries, amid predictions that hard-line members were likely to take control.

Despite maintaining a united public face, Barak and Netanyahu often clashed over Iran policy, and it was Barak who was sent to the White House and to Europe to present a more moderate face of Israel.

Ban called for on female circumcision

UNITED NATIONS – Campaigners against female circumcision have scored a major victory with the approval by a key U.N. committee of a resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation.

The resolution, adopted by consensus Monday by the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee, calls the practice harmful and a serious threat to the psychological, sexual and reproductive health of women and girls.

It calls on the U.N.’s 193 member states to condemn the widespread practice and launch education campaigns to eliminate it.

With 110 sponsors, the resolution is virtually certain to be approved by the full General Assembly in the second half of December.

U.N. vote could raise Palestinian status

UNITED NATIONS – The Palestinians said the U.N. General Assembly will vote Thursday afternoon on a resolution raising their status at the United Nations from an observer to a nonmember observer state, a move they believe is an important step toward a two-state solution with Israel.

Unlike the Security Council, there are no vetoes in the General Assembly and the resolution is virtually certain of approval. The world body is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, and the resolution only requires a majority vote for approval. To date, 132 countries – more than two-thirds of the U.N. member states – have recognized the state of Palestine.

A spokesman for the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations said Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will address the 193-member world body before the resolution is put to a vote.

TORONTO – The former executive director of a Salvation Army facility has been charged in the alleged massive theft of thousands of toys and donations from the charity’s Toronto warehouse.

Staff Inspector Tony Riviere said Monday that David Rennie, 51, is charged with theft, possession of stolen goods and breach of trust and will appear in court on Jan. 4.

The Salvation Army announced the theft last week, saying up to 100,000 items worth about $2 million were allegedly stolen from the facility in Toronto’s North End over nearly two years.

Salvation Army spokesman John Murray said Rennie had been fired.

Police found 146 wooden platforms stacked with toys, baby cribs, strollers and other items in a warehouse northwest of Toronto.

Judge orders mayor removed from office

TORONTO – The mayor of Canada’s largest city was ordered out of office Monday after a judge found he had flouted conflict of interest rules for refusing to repay funds he solicited for his high school football team using city letterhead when he was a councilman.

Mayor Rob Ford blamed “the left wing politics” for the ruling and said he would appeal. The development is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the colorful mayor who has repeatedly found himself in the news since he was elected in 2010.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland said Ford showed “willful blindness” to the law and said he cannot claim that it was an error in judgment made in good faith.

At issue was Ford’s participation in a City Council vote on repaying money he had solicited for his football program. Ford is a volunteer coach of a local high school team.


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Kim Jong Un will walk across border for summit with Moon

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon-Jae-in will plant a commemorative tree and inspect an honor guard together after Kim walks across the border Friday for their historic summit, Seoul officials said Thursday.