August 18, 2014 in Nation/World

In brief: Head-on train collision leaves two dead

From Wire Reports
 

Two Union Pacific train crew members were killed and two others were injured when two freight trains collided head-on in northeast Arkansas early Sunday, Arkansas State Police said.

The collision happened about 3 a.m. in Hoxie, a small town about 90 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee. A resulting fire took about seven hours to extinguish, according to Union Pacific spokesman Brandon Morris.

Authorities asked about 500 people within 1 1/2 miles of the collision to leave their homes following the crash because of the fire, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office said. Most were allowed to return home by midmorning Sunday, according to county Emergency Management Director Buddy Williams.

“The fire involved diesel and also there was a tank car that ruptured and it contained an (unknown) alcoholic beverage,” Arkansas Department of Emergency Management spokesman Kendell Snyder said. He said there were no other leaks.

“We don’t know the cause of the accident. We have no idea why these trains were on the same line,” Williams said.

Palestinians divided as truce nears end

CAIRO – Palestinians appeared divided Sunday as the clock was winding down on the latest Gaza cease-fire, with officials saying Hamas was still opposed to a compromise Egyptian proposal that would ease the closure of the territory, while other factions, including delegates representing President Mahmoud Abbas, were inclined to accept.

Hamas officials said they were holding out in hopes of getting more concessions in the Egyptian-mediated talks. With a temporary truce set to expire tonight, a range of outcomes remained possible, including a return to fighting that has brought great devastation to Gaza, an unofficial understanding that falls short of a formal negotiated deal, or yet another extension in negotiations.

The negotiations are aimed at ending the latest war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza. Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed – mostly civilians – and more than 10,000 people have been wounded since the war began July 8, according to United Nations figures. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers.

The indirect talks have been going on, through Egyptian mediators, since early last week. As Palestinian and Israeli negotiators returned to Cairo on Sunday following a weekend of consultations across the Middle East, the gaps remained wide.

The current five-day cease-fire is due to end tonight at midnight.

Acid spill into rivers closes 88 schools

MEXICO CITY – Eighty-eight schools in a northern Mexico state will not open today along with the rest of the country because of the danger of water contaminated by the spill of 10 million gallons of acids from a copper mine into two rivers this month.

Sonora state civil protection director Carlos Arias said Sunday that the schools in the seven municipalities most affected by the Aug. 6 spill may be able to open in a week, once officials ensure safe drinking water for students.

Officials have distributed more than 1 million gallons of drinking water over the past week using tanker trucks, so far reaching 80 to 90 percent of people in the area.

Pope calls on Koreans to reject old ways

SEOUL, South Korea – Pope Francis wrapped up his first trip to Asia today by challenging Koreans – from the north and the south – to reject the “mindset of suspicion and confrontation” that clouds their relations and instead find new ways to forge peace on the war-divided peninsula.

Francis celebrated a Mass of reconciliation in Seoul’s main cathedral attended by South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as some North Korean defectors. It was the final event of a five-day trip that confirmed the importance of Asia for this papacy and for the Catholic Church as a whole, given the church is young and growing here whereas it is withering in traditionally Christian lands in Europe.

In a poignant moment at the start of the Mass, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who were used as sexual slaves by the Japanese military during World War II.

Capping a trip that saw him reach out to China, North Korea and a host of other countries that have no relations with the Holy See, Francis said in his homily that reconciliation can be brought about only by forgiveness, even if it seems “impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant.”

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