Egypt proposes temporary cease-fire in Mideast conflict

CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt presented a cease-fire plan Monday to end a week of heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that has left at least 185 people dead.

The proposal marked the most serious attempt yet by international mediators to end the conflict. A senior Hamas official said the group was open to the plan. Israel had no immediate reaction, but local media quoted officials as saying the government was considering it seriously.

Israel is demanding guarantees of an extended period of quiet, while Hamas seeks an easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israel launched the offensive last Tuesday, saying it was a response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Palestinian medical officials say 185 people, including dozens of civilians, have been killed. The Israelis have suffered no fatalities, thanks in large part to a new rocket-defense system that has intercepted dozens of incoming projectiles.

With the death toll mounting, both sides have come under increasing international pressure to halt the fighting.

Afghanistan back from brink, candidate says, contenders will work for unity

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- One of two contestants in Afghanistan’s deadlocked presidential election told The Associated Press on Monday that a U.S.-brokered deal for a full ballot audit pulled the country back from the brink and put government legitimacy back on track.

Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, speaking in his first interview since the agreement was reached Saturday with his rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, said the deal has laid the foundation for a national unity government.

Ahmadzai said he and Abdullah will meet face to face at his home Tuesday to talk and begin fleshing out the framework for that government with participation from both camps and all communities, and he will later be hosted in turn by Abdullah.

The former finance minister said his fears of a return to Afghanistan’s darkest days helped motivate the two politicians’ agreement. He said he is determined Afghanistan will not be torn apart as it was during the wars of the 1990s nor as Iraq is being torn apart today by the Sunni insurgency against the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Ahmadzai said comparisons between Afghanistan and Iraq are inappropriate.

Citigroup agrees to
$7 billion settlement over mortgages

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Citigroup agreed Monday to pay $7 billion to settle a federal investigation into its handling of risky subprime mortgages, admitting to a pattern of deception that Attorney General Eric Holder said "shattered lives" and contributed to the worst financial crisis in decades.

The settlement represents a moment of reckoning for one of the country’s biggest and most significant banks, which is now accountable for providing some financial support to Americans whose lives were dismantled by the largest economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

In addition to a $4 billion civil penalty being paid to the federal government, the bank will also pay $2.5 billion in consumer relief to help borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure and about $500 million to settle claims from state attorneys general and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The agreement does not preclude the possibility of criminal prosecutions for the bank or individual employees in the future, Holder said.

Bergdahl, who spent
5 years as Taliban captive, returned to duty in Texas

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Army has given Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a desk job, ending the formal phase of his transition from Taliban prisoner to not-quite-ordinary soldier, and setting the stage for Army investigators to question the Idaho native about his disappearance that led to five years in captivity.

In a brief statement Monday, the Army said Bergdahl has been assigned to U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

Bergdahl has been decompressing and recuperating from the effects of captivity since his arrival there from a military base in Germany. Since he was handed over to U.S. special forces in Afghanistan on May 31, he has been debriefed for any possible intelligence he might have gleaned in his time with the Taliban. Otherwise, he has been gently coaxed back into a normal routine and a normal life, both physically and psychologically.

Bergdahl’s case is one of the most extraordinary of recent times -- for the length of his captivity, for his apparent decision to abandon his unit during a combat deployment, and for the controversy triggered by the circumstances of his release May 31.

It’s not clear when Bergdahl will face investigators on the disappearance probe, whose findings will help determine whether the 28-year-old is prosecuted for desertion or faces any other disciplinary action. The probe is headed by Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, deputy commanding general of 1st Corps at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state.

U.S.companies look more to overseas combinations for tax relief back home

A growing number of U.S.companies are looking to trim their tax bills by combining operations with foreign businesses in a trend that may eventually cost the federal government billions of dollars in revenue.

Generic drugmaker Mylan Inc. said Monday it will become part of a new company organized in the Netherlands in a $5.3 billion deal to acquire some of Abbott Laboratories’ generic-drugs business. The deal is expected to lower Mylan’s tax rate to about 20 percent to 21 percent in the first full year and to the high teens after that.

The Canonsburg, Pennsylvania-company’s deal follows a path explored by several other U.S. drugmakers in recent months. AbbVie Inc. has entered talks with Shire Plc. over a roughly $53.68 billion deal that would lead to a lower tax rate and a company organized on the British island of Jersey.

But drugmakers aren’t the only companies looking overseas for better tax deals.

Last month, U.S. medical device maker Medtronic Inc. said that it had agreed to buy Ireland-based competitor Covidien for $42.9 billion in cash and stock. The combined company would have executive offices in Ireland, which has a 12.5 percent corporate income tax rate. And drugstore chain Walgreen Co. -- which bills itself as "America’s premier pharmacy" -- also is considering a similar move with Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots.

Kerry, Zarif struggle for progress on nuclear talks amid newly complex U.S.-Iranian relations

VIENNA (AP) -- The top U.S. and Iranian diplomats searched Monday for a breakthrough in nuclear talks, their efforts complicated by crises across the Middle East and beyond that have Washington and Tehran aligned in some places but often opposed.

The state of U.S.-Iranian relations was adding a new wrinkle to the long negotiation aimed at curbing the Islamic republic’s uranium and plutonium programs.

While the two sides are arguably fighting proxy wars in Israel, Gaza and Syria, they’re talking cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, perhaps in a first, the nuclear matter is battling for full attention.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif spoke for about two hours around midday Monday, the second day of talks in Vienna. They gathered again in the afternoon, hoping to make progress before Sunday’s initial deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement. An extension of the deadline is possible, though there are opponents of that idea on both sides.

"We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran’s program," Kerry told U.S. Embassy staff in Vienna during a break in the conversations. "It is a really tough negotiation."

Got a rash? iPad, other electronic devices containing nickel might be the source, report says

CHICAGO (AP) -- Unexplained rash? Check your iPad. It turns out the popular tablet computer may contain nickel, one of the most common allergy-inducing metals.

Recent reports in medical journals detail nickel allergies from a variety of personal electronic devices, including laptops and cellphones. But it was an Apple iPad that caused an itchy body rash in an 11-year-old boy recently treated at a San Diego hospital, according to a report in Monday’s Pediatrics.

Nickel rashes aren’t life-threatening but they can be very uncomfortable, and they may require treatment with steroids and antibiotics if the skin eruptions become infected, said Dr. Sharon Jacob, a dermatologist at Rady Children’s Hospital, where the boy was treated. Jacob, who co-wrote the report, said the young patient had to miss school because of the rash.

The boy discussed in the Pediatrics report had a common skin condition that causes scaly patches, but he developed a different rash all over his body that didn’t respond to usual treatment. Skin testing showed he had a nickel allergy, and doctors traced it to an iPad his family had bought in 2010.

Doctors tested the device and detected a chemical found in nickel in the iPad’s outside coating.

Answers to key questions on link between drilling industry’s injection wells and earthquakes

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- States where hydraulic fracturing is taking place have seen a surge in earthquake activity, raising suspicions that the unconventional drilling method could be to blame, especially the wells where the industry disposes of its wastewater.

Fracking generates vast amounts of wastewater, far more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells, which send the waste thousands of feet underground. No one knows for certain exactly what happens to the liquids after that. Scientists wonder whether they could trigger quakes by increasing underground pressures and lubricating faults.

Oklahoma has recorded nearly 250 small-to-medium earthquakes since January, according to statistics kept by the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s close to half of all the magnitude 3 or higher earthquakes recorded this year in the continental United States.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Science suggests that just four wells injecting massive amounts of drilling wastewater into the ground are probably shaking up much of the state, accounting for one out of every five quakes from the eastern border of Colorado to the Atlantic coast.

Another concern is whether injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures.

Archie Andrews to be shot saving gay friend Kevin Keller in ‘Life with Archie’ comic book

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Archie Andrews will die taking a bullet for his gay best friend.

The famous freckle-faced comic book icon is meeting his demise in Wednesday’s installment of "Life with Archie" when he intervenes in an assassination attempt on Kevin Keller, Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. Andrews’ death, which was first announced in April, will mark the conclusion of the series that focuses on grown-up renditions of Andrews and his Riverdale pals.

"The way in which Archie dies is everything that you would expect of Archie," said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics publisher and co-CEO. "He dies heroically. He dies selflessly. He dies in the manner that epitomizes not only the best of Riverdale but the best of all of us. It’s what Archie has come to represent over the past almost 75 years."

Keller’s character first joined Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones and Reggie Mantle in the Archie Comics spin-off "Veronica" in 2010. He later appeared in his own solo title. In "Life with Archie," Keller is a married military veteran and newly elected senator who’s pushing for more gun control in Riverdale after his husband was involved in a shooting.

"We wanted to do something that was impactful that would really resonate with the world and bring home just how important Archie is to everyone," said Goldwater. "That’s how we came up with the storyline of saving Kevin. He could have saved Betty. He could have saved Veronica. We get that, but metaphorically, by saving Kevin, a new Riverdale is born."