In brief | Nation & World, 08-25-14


US says American held in Syria for nearly 2 years by al-Qaida-linked group has been freed

WASHINGTON — An American journalist kidnapped and held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria was released Sunday, less than a week after the horrific execution of American journalist James Foley by Islamic militants.

The freed American is 45-year-old Peter Theo Curtis of Massachusetts, who wrote under the byline Theo Padnos.

White House national security adviser Susan Rice said Curtis is now safe outside of Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry said Curtis was held by Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked militant group fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Curtis was not believed to be among the hostages held by the Islamic State group that executed Foley. Islamic State was formally disavowed by al-Qaida earlier this year after being deemed too brutal.

Palestinian president prepares new UN statehood appeal for after Gaza war

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Aides to the Palestinian president said Sunday that he will soon appeal to the international community to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war and make way for an independent Palestinian state.

President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to unveil his proposal as part of a “day after” plan following the current war in the Gaza Strip, likely at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership on Tuesday, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been made public.

In new fighting Sunday, the Israeli air force flattened a seven-floor office building and severely damaged a shopping center in southern Gaza, signaling a new escalation.

Palestinian officials said 13 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, bringing the death toll to more than 2,100 Palestinians since fighting erupted on July 8. Sixty-eight Israelis have also died, all but four of them soldiers.

At Mass for slain US journalist James Foley, a New Hampshire bishop says: He opened our eyes

ROCHESTER, N.H. — Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was living his faith by bringing images to the world of people suffering from war and oppressive regimes, a Roman Catholic bishop said Sunday at a Mass in his honor.

Bishop Peter Libasci said even after Foley was captured for the first time in Libya in 2011, he “went back again that we might open our eyes.”

The Mass was attended by Foley’s parents, John and Diane Foley, and hundreds of others in their hometown of Rochester, New Hampshire. Afterward, Libasci read aloud a letter from the Vatican extending the condolences of Pope Francis.

“Thank you for loving Jim,” Diane Foley told the crowd after the Mass.

The crowd filled every pew and people stood three deep at the back of the church and along both sides of it. Gov. Maggie Hassan, along with U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, attended the Mass.

Citrus in crisis: A state fights back against the bug that threatens its economy, identity

LAKE WALES, Fla. — The tourists stream to Florida in their cars, intent on a week at Disney or a sugar-sand seashore or a nonstop party on South Beach. Road weary and thirsty, they pull over at one of the state’s five official welcome centers. They walk inside, and then they look up.

“The best start under the sun,” reads a big sign. “FLORIDA ORANGE JUICE.”

Behind a counter, a woman sits with a stack of paper cups. “Welcome to Florida,” she says with a big smile. “Orange or grapefruit?”

The juice is cold and sweet. It tastes like the Sunshine State.

Once, emerald green trees bursting with citrus carpeted more than half of the state, from the northern reaches of Jacksonville and the parks of Orlando to the Miami coastline. Oranges, especially, have long been synonymous with the magic of Florida.

By wire sources