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US top court rules 'straw' gun purchases are illegal

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday it was illegal to buy a gun on behalf of someone else who did not go through the background check. The ruling comes on the heels of a spate of US shootings that have again sparked debate over gun control, with President Barack Obama calling for national "soul searching" over gun violence. The top court ruled five to four against a former Virginia policeman, Bruce Abramski, who made a so-called "straw purchase" of a handgun for his uncle, who was in Pennsylvania. Although both men were legal gun owners, Abramski had indicated on a federal form that he was the gun's actual buyer.

Test for Hollande as French rail strike drags on

France's longest rail strike in years was set to go into a seventh day Tuesday after unions said a first meeting with management failed to address their demands. The strike has crippled France's rail network as the tourist season enters its peak and has set a crucial test for President Francois Hollande's embattled Socialist government. The secretary general of the hardline CGT union, Gilbert Garrel, dismissed a meeting with management on Monday -- the first since the strike began last Wednesday -- as a "provocation". Garrel said the head of the SNCF rail operator, Guillaume Pepy, had "closed the door" on the strikers "by saying that our demands were off the agenda".

Supreme Court rules on 'straw purchaser' law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A divided Supreme Court sided with gun control groups and the Obama administration Monday, ruling that the federal government can strictly enforce laws that ban a "straw" purchaser from buying a gun for someone else.

Supreme Court rules against 'straw buyer' in gun case

By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court handed a victory to gun control advocates on Monday by upholding the conviction of a former police officer from Virginia who lied when he stated he was buying a handgun for himself when it actually was for a relative. In a 5-4 ruling focused on the role of what is known as a "straw buyer" for a gun, the court upheld Bruce Abramski's conviction for making a false statement when he bought the gun. He had filled out a form, required under federal law, saying he was the prospective owner, when the gun was intended for his uncle. The court was split along ideological lines, with the liberal wing in the majority with swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Greece aid 'peanuts' compared to what Ukraine needs: Oettinger

Greece's bailout during the financial crisis would be small change compared to what Ukraine needs to bolster its ailing economy, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Monday. "If we want to help Ukraine -- a country with 45 million people -- then Greece was peanuts compared to that," Oettinger said during a visit to Bratislava, Slovakia, which neighbours Ukraine. It will take ten or fifteen years and will require a multi-billion-worth aid and participation of our taxpayers, voters, European Commission, USA, Canada, International Monetary Fund and others," Oettinger said. Russia cut the flow of gas to Ukraine on Monday after last-ditch talks failed to end a dispute over debts that threatens to disrupt supplies to Europe for the third time in a decade.

Kuwait attorney asked to probe coup claim, graft scandals

Kuwait's premier and a senior royal filed two separate lawsuits to the attorney general on Monday demanding an investigation into allegations of a coup plot and a huge corruption case. The country was shaken two months ago after news surfaced about videotapes allegedly showing former senior officials plotting a coup against the government. Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah sent a letter to the attorney general to investigate "allegations of money laundering, abuse of public funds and dealing with Israel," made during a television interview, acting Justice Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Sabah told state news agency KUNA. The accusations were made by Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al-Sabah, a senior member of the ruling family, on Saturday.

UN rights chief denounces 'cold-blooded' Iraq executions

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday condemned a series of "cold-blooded" killings of Iraqi soldiers and religious leaders by Sunni militants, saying it amounted to war crimes. "Based on corroborated reports from a number sources, it appears that hundreds of non-combatant men were summarily executed over the past five days, including surrendered and captured soldiers, military conscripts, police and others associated with the (Baghdad) government," Pillay said in a statement. Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group have seized the north Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit and have vowed to move on Baghdad to topple the Shiite-dominated government.

US urges Russia to resume Ukraine gas negotiations

Washington (AFP) - The United States on Monday urged Russia to resume talks with its neighbor and rival Ukraine on resolving issues over unpaid gas bills and restoring energy supplies.

US condemns 'heinous' Shebab attack in Kenya

Washington (AFP) - The United States on Monday condemned "in the strongest terms" an attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants on a coastal town in Kenya that left at least 49 people dead.

US urges Iran to play 'non-sectarian' role in Iraq

The United States on Monday urged Washington's traditional foe Iran to act "in a non-sectarian way" as it engages in the security crisis in neighboring Iraq. In recent years, Washington has usually demanded that Iran not meddle in the situation in Iraq, but last week's shock gains by Sunni rebels have left Baghdad appealing for outside help. "We would push Iran to address problems in a non-sectarian way," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Shaky stats fuel power plant debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's new pollution limits for power plants have set off an avalanche of information about what the rules will cost, how they will affect your health and how far they will go toward curbing climate change.

Biden in Brazil to see World Cup, heal strained ties

By Anthony Boadle and Brian Winter BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden heads to Brazil on Monday, hoping to do more than just watch Team USA play Ghana in the World Cup. Biden will also try to turn the page on chilly U.S. relations with President Dilma Rousseff, who was outraged by revelations last year that the National Security Agency spied on her and other Brazilian officials. Brazil's left-leaning leader told reporters she was eager to reschedule her Washington trip - but only if she gets a "strong signal that (spying) won't be repeated." That comment sent officials in Washington scrambling to figure out precisely what she's looking for. In response to the uproar over NSA spying in Brazil, Germany and elsewhere, President Barack Obama said in January that the United States would no longer spy on heads of state of allied countries.

GPS tracking case has left unsettled questions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Judges around the country are grappling with the ripple effects of a 2-year-old Supreme Court ruling on GPS tracking, reaching conflicting conclusions on the case's meaning and tackling unresolved questions that flare in a world where privacy and technology increasingly collide.

Media watchdog urges Jordan king to reform anti-terror law

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday urged Jordan's King Abdullah II to reform the country's "repressive" anti-terrorism law, saying recent amendments to the legislation are "disturbing." The amendments, approved in April, criminalise "the use of information technology, the Internet or any means of publication or media, or the creation of a website, to facilitate terrorist acts or back groups that promote, support or fund terrorism." RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in his letter to the king on Monday that the changes were phrased in a "general manner that leaves the judicial authorities a great deal of discretionary power, with a resulting danger of arbitrary decisions".

Obama to sign order barring federal discrimination against gays

By Jeff Mason RANCHO MIRAGE Calif. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a White House official said on Monday, handing another victory to gay rights activists. The White House has been pressing Congress to pass legislation to ban employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and has resisted issuing an executive order in favor of pursuing a broader, legislative solution. But Obama has spent the year taking executive action on other domestic priorities where Congress has failed to make legislative headway, and activists have pressed him to do the same on gay rights.

UN appeals for aid for Syria's Palestinians

The United Nations appealed on Monday for $27 million (20 million euros) to help hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in Syria buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "As we come up to Ramadan, we can foresee a prospect of thousands of Palestinian refugees going hungry because very simply they do not have enough money to buy food," Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told reporters in Amman. Krahenbuhl said there were approximately 500,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria at the outset of the conflict. UNRWA has nine registered camps for Palestinian refugees in Syria, housing those who fled or were forced from their homes when the state of Israel was created in 1948, and their descendants.

Feds aren't inspecting 4 in 10 higher-risk wells

NEW CASTLE, Colo. (AP) — Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America's drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.