In brief | Nation & world | 4-2-14


US considering freeing spy Jonathan Pollard to keep Mideast peace talks alive

WASHINGTON — Every president since Ronald Reagan has refused to release Jonathan Pollard from prison. A CIA director once threatened to resign when Bill Clinton briefly considered freeing the convicted spy as part of Mideast peace talks. But now, in a gamble to extend negotiations that appear on the brink of collapse, the Obama administration is bringing the U.S. closer than it has been in years to granting Pollard an early release.

If Pollard’s freedom leads eventually to a final peace settlement, it could mark a major victory for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has toiled to achieve an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians after decades of distrust and violence. But if Pollard is freed and the talks fail, it could be a costly embarrassment.

Releasing Pollard now, just to keep Israeli-Palestinian negotiations going, “portrays a weakness on our part and a certain amount of desperation,” said Aaron Miller, who was part of the U.S. negotiating team at two rounds of peace talks during the Clinton administration. “It guarantees almost nothing.”

The White House insisted Tuesday that President Barack Obama has not decided on whether to release Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who was sentenced to life in prison nearly 30 years ago for selling classified military documents to the Israeli government.

13 GM deaths tied to 57-cent part; CEO assures Congress the company has changed

WASHINGTON — The fix for a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 traffic deaths would have cost just 57 cents, members of Congress said Tuesday as they demanded answers from General Motors’ new CEO on why the automaker took 10 years to recall cars with the defect.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill before a House subcommittee, GM’s Mary Barra acknowledged under often testy questioning that the company took too long to act. She promised changes at GM that would prevent such a lapse from happening again.

But as relatives of the crash victims looked on intently, she admitted that she didn’t know why it took years for the dangerous defect to be announced. And she deflected many questions about what went wrong, saying an internal investigation is underway.

Atlanta archbishop apologizes for $2.2M mansion

ATLANTA — Archbishop Wilton Gregory seems to have gotten the pope’s message about modest living.

Days after Pope Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a new residence, the Atlanta archbishop apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion as his residence. He bowed to criticism from local parishioners and said he’d consider selling the new home in Buckhead, Atlanta’s toniest neighborhood.

In letters, emails and a meeting, local Catholics told Gregory the price tag was outlandish, especially in light of Francis’ frugality.

Sole winner of $425M Powerball jackpot comes forward in Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO — The sole winner of February’s $425 million Powerball jackpot came forward to claim his prize Tuesday.

California Lottery officials said B. Raymond Buxton, a Northern California man, claimed the prize at the California Lottery headquarters in Sacramento.

After the winning numbers were announced, Buxton said, he sat in front of his computer in disbelief, checking and rechecking his ticket — and telling no one else that he had won. “Sitting on a ticket of this value was very scary,” he said.

When he claimed his prize Tuesday, Buxton was wearing a shirt that featured a picture of the Star Wars character Yoda that read, “Luck of the Jedi I have.”

By wire sources