TIME

Stock Market Closes at Record High

The Standard & Poor’s 500 is ending the week at a record high after a day of quiet trading.

Chip maker Avago Technologies jumped nearly 8 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts’ estimates.

The latest reports on the U.S. economy were mixed. Consumer sentiment improved in August, while spending fell and income growth slowed in July.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to finish at 2,003.37, an all-time high, Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,098. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580.

Bond prices barely budged. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 2.34 percent.

TIME

Stewart Says Ward’s Death Will Affect Him Forever

(HAMPTON, Ga.) — Speaking quietly and with a trembling voice, NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart said Friday that the death of Kevin Ward Jr. will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident — it remains under police investigation — and he left the news conference after reading a short statement. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 percent” Stewart’s decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward’s death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart’s only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services, aside from that, he has been very respectful of their time to grieve,” Frood said. “It is very important to Tony to spend time with the family … but is being respectful.”

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Povero said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.” NASCAR said it would have no further comment until President Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.

Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, is one of the biggest stars in the garage. His peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the crash, and it pained them that Stewart was grieving in private and had cut off communication with so many of them.

“Great to have Smoke back at the track,” tweeted Watkins Glen winner AJ Allmendinger.

“Glad to have my boss and my friend back at the track this weekend. #14 #SmokeWillRise,” said Tony Gibson, Danica Patrick’s crew chief at SHR.

NASCAR rules state a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, unless a waiver is granted. There was no immediate word if NASCAR would grant that waiver.

Since Ward’s death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle — unless it is on fire — until safety personnel arrive. Last week, Denny Hamlin crashed while leading at Bristol and stayed in his car until safety personnel arrived.

But Hamlin then exited his vehicle and angrily tossed a safety device at Kevin Harvick as he passed by moments later. He was not penalized.

TIME Military

U.S. Delivers Military Aid to Lebanese Army

(BEIRUT) — The United States has delivered an emergency shipment of weapons to Lebanon’s military, officials said Friday, part of a broader regional effort to combat the growing threat posed by Islamic extremists.

The Lebanese government requested the weapons after militants from Syria attacked the Lebanese border town of Arsal earlier this month, killing and kidnapping soldiers and police in the most serious spillover of violence into the tiny country from the neighboring civil war.

Photographs surfaced online Friday purporting to show the beheading of a Lebanese soldier who was seized during the Arsal incursion. The pictures were posted on a militant website and on Twitter by supporters of the Islamic State extremist group, but have not been confirmed by the Lebanese army.

The new weapons were displayed at a Beirut air base on Friday after arriving overnight. A sample of the weapons — mortars, M16-A4 assault rifles and anti-tank missiles — were placed on a white satin-covered table with camouflage netting.

“This is just the latest in a series of deliveries that have arrived in the last 36 hours,” U.S. ambassador David Hale said at the event. Hale said the U.S. had so far delivered 480 anti-tank guided missiles, over 1,500 M16-A4 rifles, and mortars. “More mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank weapons will be arriving,” he said.

After Hale spoke, a U.S. military aircraft that landed at the air base was opened to reveal wooden boxes full of weaponry. “This aircraft is full, chock-full!” said Antonio Banchs, defense attache to the U.S. embassy, as he surveyed the goods.

The weapons shipment is part of a region-wide response — which is still taking shape — to the rapid advances of the Islamic State extremist group, which has seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and threatens several U.S. allies.

The U.S. has said it would bolster Kurdish forces with new weapons as they try to fend off advances by the Islamic State militants into their largely-autonomous region of northern Iraq. The U.S. is also now conducting airstrikes to push back the extremists in northern and western Iraq, its first direct military involvement in the country since troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

The U.S. is also mulling airstrikes in Syria, after long refusing to intervene in the three-year-old conflict, which is now a complex civil war.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk warned Thursday that Arsal was still a “time-bomb ready to explode anytime.”

Before retreating earlier this month toward Syrian territory, the militants, including fighters of the Islamic State group, took with them some 28 captured Lebanese soldiers and police.

On Friday, they posted photos purporting to show one of them, Sergeant Ali Sayid, beheaded. The photos sparked a protest in northern Lebanon by families of the kidnapped soldiers.

Weeks earlier, a video of Sayid emerged in which he announced his defection from the Lebanese army to join the ranks of the Islamic State group. However, he appeared to have spoken under duress.

The Islamic State group has used violence, and images of violence, to strike fear into their rivals.

The Lebanese army had no comment, saying it was still investigating the photographs.

TIME Israel-Palestinian conflict

Palestinian Leader Says Hamas Caused Prolonged War

(RAMALLAH, West Bank) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Hamas of needlessly extending fighting in the Gaza Strip, causing a high death toll.

Abbas told Palestine TV in remarks broadcast Friday that “it was possible for us to avoid all of that, 2,000 martyrs, 10,000 injured, 50,000 houses (damaged or destroyed).”

Israel and Hamas militants fought for 50 days before reaching a truce on Tuesday.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Seventy one people on the Israeli side, including six civilians, were killed.

Several Egyptian mediated cease-fire attempts failed. Hamas eventually accepted almost the same truce offered at the beginning.

Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority runs the West Bank, formed a unity government backed by Hamas earlier this year. Abbas questioned the future of that arrangement in the interview.

TIME United Kingdom

Britain Raises Terror Threat Level

(LONDON) — Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May says the country has raised the terror threat level from substantial to severe, but says there is no specific threat.

The threat level means that a terrorist attack is considered “highly likely,” but May insisted Friday there is no information to suggest an attack is imminent. She says higher threat level is related to developments in Iraq and Syria.

Severe is the second-highest threat level.

May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government.

Britain has repeatedly expressed concern about British nationals traveling to the Middle East and returning to wage attacks in the U.K.

TIME Libya

Libyan Interim Government Submits Resignation

(TRIPOLI, Libya) — Libya’s interim government submitted its resignation to the newly elected parliament on Friday, raising the possibility that a more inclusive government will be formed, while militias in the capital accepted a U.N. call for a cease-fire.

The Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, said early Friday that it had submitted its resignation on Wednesday. It said in statement that it hopes the parliament chooses “a new government that represents all Libyan factions without exclusion.”

Al-Thinni’s government was at odds with militants who have taken over the capital, Tripoli. In stepping down, it has opened a door for a political solution to Libya’s violent divisions.

Militia Spokesman Ahmed Hadiya said in a statement to the media late Thursday that his group will “cooperate with the world.”

Hadiya’s coalition has sought to cement its control over the capital by reviving the outgoing, Islamist-led parliament, which disputes the legitimacy of the newly elected parliament.

Libya is witnessing the worst bout of violence since the toppling down of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

TIME Infectious Disease

Senegal Confirms Its 1st Case of Ebola

The infected person is a young man from Guinea

(DAKAR, Senegal) — Senegal has recorded its first case of Ebola in an outbreak that is ravaging its West African neighbors, the Ministry of Health said Friday.

The infected person is a young man from Guinea, Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck told reporters.

The outbreak that has killed more than 1,500 people began last year in Guinea, which shares a border with Senegal. Since then, the disease has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. At least 3,000 people have contracted the virus.

The arrival of the dreaded disease in Senegal, whose capital Dakar is a major transportation hub for the region, is likely to increase fears about the disease’s uncontrolled spread even further.

The World Health Organization has warned that the outbreak is worsening and offered new evidence of its acceleration Friday, saying the past week has seen the highest increase of cases since the outbreak began.

The U.N. health agency has warned that the disease could eventually infect 20,000 people, and unveiled a plan Thursday to stop transmission in the next six to nine months.

TIME Aviation

Malaysia Airlines to Cut 6,000 Staff in Overhaul

Malaysia Airlines announced the overhaul on Friday to revive its damaged brand, after double passenger-jet disasters

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia Airlines will cut 6,000 workers as part of an overhaul announced Friday to revive its damaged brand after being hit by double passenger jet disasters.

The staff reduction represents about 30 percent of its current workforce of 20,000. A search for a new CEO for the airline is underway.

Khazanah Nasional, the state investment company that owns 69 percent of the airline, said the overhaul includes the establishment of a new company that will take over the existing Malaysia Airlines business and its reduced staff.

The revamp and new investment in the carrier will cost about 6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($1.9 billion).

“The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived,” said Khazanah managing director Azman Mokhtar.

The airline will be taken completely under the wing of the government. Khazanah previously announced that it plans to take 100 percent ownership.

A substantial revamp has long been on the cards for Malaysia Airlines, which was struggling with chronic financial problems even before it was hit by the double disasters this year.

Investigators continue to scour the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which veered far of course while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board. In July, 298 people were killed when Flight 17 was blasted out of the sky as it flew over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The tragedies have scarred the airline’s brand, once associated with high-quality service. Travelers on recent long-haul flights have posted photos on social media of nearly empty cabins and departure lounges. The airline says passengers fell 11 percent in July from the year before.

In releasing its latest quarterly financial result, a loss, on Thursday, Malaysia Airlines said the worst impact from the disasters will come in the second half of this year.

Khazanah said at a press conference that it has begun a search for a new chief executive for the airline, which is likely to be completed by the end of this year.

Current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will continue to head Malaysia Airlines until its new incarnation is established in July next year.

The state investment fund said it aims to restore Malaysia Airlines to profitability by the end of 2017.

TIME Syria

U.N. Says Syria Refugees Top 3 Million Mark

Syrian refugees flee from Lebanon
Syrian refugees wait in the border town of Arsal, Lebanon, on Aug. 8, 2014. Bilal Jawich—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

One of every eight Syrians has fled across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011

(GENEVA) — The civil war in Syria has forced a record 3 million people out of the country as more than a million people fled in the past year, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The tragic milestone means that about one of every eight Syrians has fled across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, the Geneva-based agency said. More than half of all those uprooted are children, it said.

“The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

Syria had a prewar population of 23 million.

The recent surge in fighting appears to be worsening the already desperate situation for Syrian refugees, the agency said, as the extremist Islamic State group expands its control of broad areas straddling the Syria-Iraq border and terrorizes rivals and civilians in both countries.

According to the agency, many of the new arrivals in Jordan come from the northern province of Aleppo and the northeastern region of Raqqa, a stronghold of the group. An independent U.N. commission says the group is systematically carrying out widespread bombings, beheadings and mass killings that amount to crimes against humanity in both areas.

The commission investigating potential war crimes in Syria said on Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad likely used chlorine gas to attack civilians, who are bearing the brunt of a civil war that has killed more than 190,000 people and destabilized the region.

The massive numbers of Syrians fleeing the civil war has stretched the resources of neighboring countries and raised fears of violence spreading in the region.

The U.N. estimates there are nearly 35,000 people awaiting registration as refugees, and hundreds of thousands who are not registered.

International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said the Syrian refugee crisis represents “3 million indictments of government brutality, opposition violence and international failure.”

“This appalling milestone needs to generate action as well as anger,” he said, calling for more aid to Syria’s overburdened neighbors and for civilians still in the country.

The refugee agency and other aid groups say an increasing number of families are arriving in other countries in shockingly poor condition, exhausted and scared and with almost no financial savings left after having been on the run for a year or more. In eastern Jordan, for example, the agency says refugees crossing the desert are forced to pay smugglers $100 per person or more to be taken to safety.

Lebanon hosts 1.14 million Syrian refugees, the single highest concentration. Turkey has 815,000 and Jordan has 608,000.

TIME Immigration

Obama Sets No Timeline for Action on Immigration

Obama Immigration
Demonstrators are lined up as they are being arrested, during a protest on immigration reform, outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2014 Evan Vucci—AP

145 protesters were arrested midday on Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience

(WASHINGTON) — With a self-imposed deadline looming, President Barack Obama said Thursday he still intends to act on his own to change immigration policies but stopped short of reiterating his past vows to act by end of summer.

Obama raised the slim hope that Congress could take action on a broad immigration overhaul after the midterm elections in November. He said that if lawmakers did not pass an overhaul, “I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But for the first time since pledging to act by summer’s end, he signaled that such a target date could slip. He said that the administration had been working to reduce the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border and noted that the number of apprehensions at the border had fallen in August.

“Some of these things do affect time lines and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” he said in a news conference where he also addressed Russian aggression in Ukraine and action against Islamic State militants.

Two months ago, Obama angrily conceded that the House did not intend to take up immigrationlegislation this year and ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with actions the president could take on his own.

“I expect their recommendations before the end of summer and I intend to adopt those recommendations without further delay,” he said at the time.

Since then, the administration was forced to deal with the sharp rise of young migrants from Central America who were crossing the southwest border. Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with the flow, a request that Republican lawmakers rejected.

At the same time, some Democrats worried that if Obama took action on his own to reduce deportations it would mobilize Republican voters in hotly contested Senate races.

Frank Sharry of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice said there were no indications the White House planned to delay the announcement, and lots of evidence Obama is preparing for an announcement in September.

“If for whatever reasons they decide to delay, it’s going to be a huge problem for an immigration reform movement that has worked tirelessly for years and been promised action for years,” Sharry said. “I don’t think people are going to take a delay without a big response.”

Obama said Thursday that addressing the inflow of unaccompanied minors has not stopped the process of looking into “how do we get a smart immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.

“And it continues to be my belief that, if I can’t see the congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.”

The most sweeping, controversial step under consideration involves halting deportation for millions, a major expansion of a 2012 Obama program that deferred prosecutions for those brought here illegally as children.

Roughly half a million people have benefited from that program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

In a sign of how heated the demands on Obama to act have become, 145 protesters were arrested midday Thursday in front of the White House in an act of civil disobedience. Demanding a halt to deportations, protesters draped themselves in American flags and held signs saying “I am a witness for justice” as onlookers cheered them on. The U.S. Park Police said the protesters were charged with blocking the sidewalk.

Republicans are already hinting they’ll consider legal action to thwart what they’ve denounced as a violation of the separation of powers. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a conference call this month with GOP House members, accused Obama of “threatening to rewrite our immigration laws unilaterally.”

“If the president fails to faithfully execute the laws of our country, we will hold him accountable,” Boehner said, according to an individual who participated in the call.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., predicted Thursday that Congress would not tackle an immigration overhaul before the fall elections.

“There are too many members of the House that are scared of the tea party, and they are afraid to death that they won’t get the extremist support in the election,” Nelson told reporters in Orlando, Florida. “There is nothing being done on immigration until after the election, and probably not until we get a better sense of where we’re going into next year.”

The House has passed legislation to block Obama from expanding DACA and, through its power of the purse, could attempt to cut off the funds that would be needed to implement the expansion. House Republicans could also consider widening or amending their existing lawsuit against Obama over his health care law, a case both parties have suggested could be a prelude to impeachment proceedings.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman in Washington and Michael Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report

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