In Brief | Nation & World, January 5, 2014


Al-Qaida linked group claims responsibility for suicide car bombing

BEIRUT — An al-Qaida linked group claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide car bombing last week in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon, as its fighters fought other rebels in neighboring Syria in the most serious infighting since the uprising began.

It was the first time at the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for an attack in Lebanon, underscoring how the ever more complex Syrian war is increasingly spilling over into its smaller neighbor.

The group may have rushed to claim responsibility to try to divert attention from the infighting in Syria, said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on the country’s militant groups.

Building under construction collapses in southern India; 7 dead

PANAJI, India — A five-story building under construction in the southern Indian state of Goa collapsed on Saturday, killing at least seven workers and leaving dozens more feared trapped under the rubble, police said.

Authorities were trying to determine how many people were at the construction site when the structure crumpled in Canacona, a city about 44 miles from the state capital of Panaji, Police Superintendent Shekhar Prabhudessai said.

Witnesses said about 40 workers were at the site.

Police and residents pulled seven bodies from the wreckage, while firefighters and rescue workers were sifting through the debris for survivors.

New law easing car sales takes effect in Cuba with skyrocketing pricetags

Cubans are eagerly flocking to Havana car dealerships as a new law takes effect eliminating a special permit requirement that has greatly restricted vehicle ownership in the country. To their dismay on Friday, the first day the law was in force, they found sharply hiked prices, some of them light-years beyond all but the most well-heeled islanders.

A new Kia Rio hatchback that starts at $13,600 in the United States sells for $42,000 here, while a fresh-off-the-lot Peugeot 508 family car, the most luxurious of which lists for the equivalent of about $53,000 in the U.K., will set you back a cool $262,000.

Cuba’s Communist-run government traditionally has placed huge markups on retail goods and services paid for with hard currency, a policy that amounts to a tax on people who can afford such goods. The practice applies to everything from dried pasta, to household appliances, to Internet access.

Distances, technology, tradition complicate rural health care sign-ups

FREEPORT, Fla.— In this rural part of the Panhandle, Christopher Mitchell finds few takers when he delivers his message about the importance of exploring insurance options under the federal health overhaul.

People in the conservative-leaning area tend to have a bad impression of President Obama’s signature law because of negative messages they hear on talk radio or from friends, said Mitchell, marketing director for a network of nonprofit health clinics. Even for those with insurance, a doctor’s visit may require a long drive because there are few providers in the area — and some are selective about the coverage they accept.

Around the country, advocates spreading the word about the Affordable Care Act in rural areas face similar difficulties. Coupled with the well-publicized glitches for the online insurance marketplaces, their stories illustrate the broader challenges in meeting President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing the number of uninsured in places with some of the highest percentages of uninsured residents.

“I tell people that I am not here to advocate for the law, I am here to support the law and empower people to be able to use and understand the law,” said Mitchell, whose employer, PanCare of Florida, received a federal grant for outreach efforts. “But when people are hearing over and over and over that is bankrupting America, it is hard to break through.”

By wire sources