World in Brief
T-Mobile accused of billing customers hundreds of millions
in bogus charges
WASHINGTON (AP) -- T-Mobile US knowingly made hundreds of millions of dollars off its customers in potentially bogus charges, federal regulators alleged Tuesday in the first lawsuit of its kind against a wireless provider.
The lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission, which fueled a separate federal investigation, demands that T-Mobile refund the money to consumers for subscriptions to premium text services such as $10-per-month horoscopes that were never authorized by the account holder. The FTC alleges that T-Mobile collected as much as 40 percent of the charges, even after being alerted by other customers that the subscriptions were scams.
The announcement was a blow to the popular mobile phone provider, which had been making gains in the market by offering consumers flexible phone plans.
"It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent," said FTC Chair Edith Ramirez in a statement. "The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges."
In a statement, T-Mobile called the allegations "unfounded and without merit."
In bone dry California, water fetching record prices as sellers cash in on drought
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Throughout California’s desperately dry Central Valley, those with water to spare are cashing in.
As a third parched summer forces farmers to fallow fields and lay off workers, two water districts and a pair of landowners in the heart of the state’s farmland are making millions of dollars by auctioning off their private caches.
Nearly 40 others also are seeking to sell their surplus water this year, according to state and federal records.
Economists say it’s been decades since the water market has been this hot. In the last five years alone, the price has grown tenfold to as much as $2,200 an acre-foot -- enough to cover a football field with a foot of water.
Unlike the previous drought in 2009, the state has been hands-off, letting the market set the price even though severe shortages prompted a statewide drought emergency declaration this year.
Pro-Russian rebels capture police HQ in eastern Ukraine after hours of fighting
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- The Interior Ministry headquarters in eastern Ukraine’s largest city fell to pro-Russia separatists Tuesday after a five-hour gunbattle that erupted hours after the Ukrainian president ended a cease-fire.
The shaky cease-fire had given European leaders 10 days to search for a peaceful settlement, and its end raised the prospect that fighting could flare with new intensity in a conflict that has already killed more than 400 people since April.
In Tuesday’s clashes, rebels fought for more ground, and badly trained and disorganized government troops seemed incapable of crushing the mutiny.
President Petro Poroshenko had called a unilateral cease-fire to try to persuade the rebels to lay down their weapons and hold peace talks. Some of the rebels signed onto the break in fighting as tentative negotiations began, but each side accused the other of repeated violations. When he ended the cease-fire, the president said the rebels were not serious about peace.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin argued that substantive talks with representatives in eastern Ukraine had failed to start in earnest and that the cease-fire announced by Poroshenko amounted to an ultimatum to the rebels to disarm.
Mother of young migrant found dead near Texas border says she begged him not to make journey
SAN JOSE LAS FLORES, Guatemala (AP) -- The mother of a Guatemalan boy whose body was found in the desert about a mile from Texas’ southern border said Tuesday she begged him not to make the dangerous journey from their modest cinder block- and sheet-metal home high in the northern Cuchumatanes mountains.
But Cipriana Juarez Diaz, ailing and bedridden, said her son Gilberto told her he wanted to earn money to help her.
"I told him not to go but he wanted to help me get rid of my illness," Juarez Diaz, who has epilepsy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
She said she draped him with a white rosary as he left.
"He was a good son," she said. "I just hope God gives me the strength to bear seeing his body when they bring him to me."
As Israel buries kidnapped teens, Netanyahu threatens tough action against Hamas
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel’s prime minister threatened Tuesday to take even tougher action against Hamas following an intense wave of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, as the country buried three Israeli teens it says were kidnapped and killed by the Islamic militant group.
In comments broadcast live on national television, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his first goal is to find the killers of the three teens. "We will not rest until we reach the last of them," he said.
But a broader mission is to act against Hamas in its Gaza stronghold, the Israeli leader said as he convened an emergency meeting of his Security Cabinet to discuss a response to the deadly abductions.
"Hamas continues to support, even at this time, the kidnappings of our citizens and is directly responsible for firing rockets and mortars at our territory, including in recent hours," Netanyahu said.
"If there is a need, we will broaden the campaign as much as needed."
Nearly 200 arrested for unlawful assembly after Hong Kong stages massive pro-democracy rally
HONG KONG (AP) -- Hong Kong police arrested nearly 200 people Wednesday after tens of thousands in the former British colony joined a massive march to push for democracy.
Anger at mainland China has never been greater after Beijing warned recently it holds the ultimate authority over the freewheeling capitalist enclave despite agreeing to a Basic Law that gave the city a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after British rule ended in 1997.
Police said 196 people were arrested for unlawful assembly and preventing police from carrying out their duties.
Police said 98,600 people joined Tuesday’s rally at its peak, while organizers said 510,000 turned out, the highest estimates in a decade. Hong Kong University researchers put the number at between 154,000 and 172,000.
The arrests came after the rally, when two student groups held a sit-in overnight to "occupy" a street in the city’s financial district, vowing to remain until 8 a.m. Police moved in early Wednesday to remove the protesters one by one, taking away 196 people. Others held a similar sit-in at government headquarters to await Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s arrival at work.
Extremist group leader urges Muslims to travel to Iraq and Syria to help build Islamic state
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The leader of the extremist group that has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria has called on Muslims around the world to flock to territories under his control to fight and build an Islamic state.
In a recording posted online Tuesday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared he wants to turn the enclave his fighters have carved out in the heart of the Middle East into a magnet for militants. He also presented himself as the leader of Islam worldwide, urging Muslims everywhere to rise up against oppression.
The audio message came two days after al-Baghdadi’s group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, unilaterally declared the establishment of an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the land it controls. It also proclaimed al-Baghdadi the caliph, and demanded that all Muslims around the world pledge allegiance to him.
His group’s forceful seizure of territory and its grand pronouncement of a caliphate have transformed the Iraqi-born al-Baghdadi into one of the leading figures of the global jihadi movement, perhaps even eclipsing al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri.
The blitz across Iraq has pushed the death toll there to levels unseen since the worst sectarian bloodletting in 2006 during the U.S. occupation. The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 2,400 Iraqis were killed last month. That tally would make June the deadliest month in Iraq since at least April 2005, when The Associated Press began tracking casualty figures there.
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