TIME tennis

2013 Champ Nadal Out of U.S. Open With Wrist Injury

Rafael Nadal will not defend his title at the U.S. Open because of an injured right wrist.

Nadal and the tournament announced his withdrawal Monday, a week before the year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins.

The 27-year-old Spaniard was hurt July 29 while practicing on his home island of Mallorca ahead of the North American hard-court circuit. The next day, Nadal said he had been told by doctors to wear a cast on his wrist for two to three weeks, but he hoped to be able to return in time for the U.S. Open.

The second-ranked Nadal plays left-handed, but he uses a two-handed backhand.

It’s only the fourth time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that the reigning U.S. Open men’s champion is not in the field.

TIME Personal Finance

Dollar General Enters Bidding for Family Dollar

(GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn.) — There’s now a bidding war for Family Dollar, with Dollar General offering about $8.95 billion for the discounter in an effort to trump Dollar Tree’s bid.

Dollar General Corp. said Monday that it would pay $78.50 per share in cash, 3 percent higher than Family Dollar Stores Inc.’s Friday closing price of $76.06. Dollar General put the deal’s value at $9.7 billion.

Last month Dollar Tree Inc. made an $8.5 billion bid for Family Dollar. It offered to pay $59.60 in cash and the equivalent of $14.90 in shares of Dollar Tree for each share they own. The companies put the value of the transaction at $74.50 per share at the time. Including debt and other costs, the companies estimated the transaction to be worth approximately $9.2 billion.

Dollar General said that its offer would create a business with almost 20,000 stores in 46 states and sales of more than $28 billion. The Goodlettsville, Tennessee, company anticipates annual savings of $550 million to $600 million three years after the transaction closes.

Representatives for Dollar Tree and Family Dollar did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The jockeying to secure Family Dollar comes as discounters look to fend off competition from companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been stepping up its courtship of lower-income customers.

Dollar stores grew during the recession as people across income groups searched for cheaper options. To attract a broader array of customers, they also expanded their offerings to include more groceries and brand-name products, instead of just the party favors and other knickknacks people often associated with them.

More recently, however, sales at dollar stores have been suffering because the lower-income customers who go to them are facing persistent job instability and slow wage growth in the aftermath of the recession. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kroger Co. also have been opening smaller store formats to directly compete with dollar stores.

Dollar General and Family Dollar sell products are various prices. At Dollar Tree, everything at its stores costs just a buck.

Family Dollar has come into play because of its business struggles. The Charlotte, North Carolina company has been shuttering stores and cutting prices in hopes of boosting its financial performance. In June investor Carl Icahn urged the company to put itself up for sale.

Dollar General said that it believes it can quickly and effectively address any antitrust issues and is willing to divest up to 700 of its stores in order to get the necessary approvals for the transaction. Dollar Tree had agreed to divest 500 of its U.S. stores for its proposed deal.

If a deal goes through, Dollar General said that Chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling has agreed to postpone his retirement until May 2016 in order to help with the integration of the two companies. Dollar General had announced in June that Dreiling had planned to retire from the CEO post in May 2015, or when a successor was appointed. He had agreed to stay on as chairman during the transition process.

Dreiling has also agreed to remain as a director — and would be willing to serve as chairman — if asked by the board and elected by shareholders.

Dollar General said that Goldman Sachs and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. have agreed to provide committed financing, which would include the $305 million termination fee due to Dollar Tree if Family Dollar chooses a deal with Dollar General instead.

Dollar General’s board unanimously approved the Dollar Tree deal. Its stock rose $5.54, or 9.6 percent, to $63 in premarket trading.

Shares of Dollar Tree, which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia, fell 75 cents to $54.85 before the market open.

TIME South Korea

Pope Leaves South Korea After Urging Peace

Pope Francis
Pope Francis meets with religious leaders prior to the start of a Mass he celebrated in Seoul's Cathedral, South Korea, on Aug. 18, 2014 Gregorio Borgia—AP

Francis laid out these themes from the start of his visit, which was clouded by the firing of five rockets from Pyongyang into the sea

(SEOUL, South Korea) — Pope Francis wrapped up his first trip to Asia on Monday by challenging Koreans —from the North and the South — to reject the “mindset of suspicion and confrontation” that clouds their relations and find new ways to forge peace on the war-divided peninsula.

Before boarding a plane back to Rome, the pope held a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral, attended by South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as some North Korean defectors. It was the final event of a five-day trip that confirmed the importance of Asia for this papacy and for the Catholic Church as a whole, given the church is young and growing here whereas it is withering in traditionally Christian lands in Europe.

Francis’ plea for peace came as the United States and South Korea started a joint military drill that North Korea warned would result in a “merciless pre-emptive strike” against the allies.

In a poignant moment at the start of the Mass on Monday, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. One gave him a pin of a butterfly — a symbol of these “comfort women’s” plight — which he immediately pinned to his vestments and wore throughout the Mass.

Francis said in his homily that reconciliation can be brought about only by forgiveness, even if it seems “impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant.”

“Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,” he said.

During his trip the pope reached out to China, North Korea and a host of other countries that have no relations with the Holy See.

The pope will visit the Philippines in January, along with Sri Lanka. In Seoul on Monday, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, said Francis is offering “a friendly hand to the other countries, and assuring the countries we are not here for any worldly ambition, we are not here as conquerors, we are here as brothers and sisters.”

Francis laid out these themes from the start of his visit, which was clouded by the firing of five rockets from Pyongyang into the sea. North Korea later said the test firings had nothing to do with Francis’ arrival but rather commemorated the 69th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japanese occupation.

The U.S.-South Korean military exercises starting Monday and involving tens of thousands of troops are described by the allies as routine and defensive, but Pyongyang sees them as invasion preparation. A spokesman for the North Korean army’s general staff said in a statement Sunday carried by state media that a “most powerful and advanced merciless pre-emptive strike will start any time chosen by us.”

Such rhetoric is typical from the North and direct strikes by Pyongyang are rare, although attacks blamed on the North in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans.

Before the Mass, Seoul Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung dedicated a “crown of thorns” to the pope made from barbed wire taken from the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. “Ut unum sint” reads the inscription “That they may be one” — a phrase usually invoked when praying for unity among Catholics, Orthodox and other Christians but given an entirely new meaning in the Korean context.

In his homily, Francis said the Korean people knew well the pain of division and conflict and urged them to reflect on how they individually and as a people could work to reconcile.

He challenged them to “firmly reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.”

When he was a young Jesuit, the Argentine-born Francis had wanted to be a missionary in Asia but was kept home because of poor health. He used his trip to South Korea to rally young Asians in particular to take up the missionary call to spread the faith.

He also used the trip to console Koreans: He met on several occasions with relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry sinking, in which 300 people were killed in April. Throughout his trip, he wore a yellow pin on his cassock that was given to him by the families.

On Monday, he received the butterfly pin from Kim Bok-dong, one of the “comfort women” who attended his Mass. These elderly South Koreans, many of whom regularly appear at rallies and other high-profile events, are looking for greater global attention as they push Japan for a new apology and compensation.

In an interview with The Associated Press before the Mass, another one of the women, Lee Yong-soo, who often speaks to the media, said she hoped the meeting would provide some solace for the pain she and others still feel more than seven decades after they were violated.

TIME Israel

Israel Destroys Homes of Suspects in Teen Killings

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians
Palestinian protesters face Israeli soldiers following a demonstration to support people in Gaza and Palestinian negotiators during clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus on Aug. 15, 2014 Nasser Ishtayeh—AP

The three teens — Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel — were slain in June in the West Bank

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli troops have demolished the homes of two militants suspected in the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens whose deaths sparked the war in Gaza, and sealed up the home of a third.

The military says the West Bank homes were destroyed early Monday, according to procedure in dealing with militants suspected of major crimes.

The three teens — Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel — were slain in June in the West Bank.

Their deaths led to wide-ranging Israeli raids in the West Bank and precipitated a month of bitter fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The suspected mastermind, Hussam Kawasma, has been in Israeli custody since July. Two other suspects, identified by Israel as Marwan Kawasma and Amer Abu Aysha, remain at large.

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Sends National Guard to Ferguson

Governor Jay Nixon made the announcement in a statement issued early on Monday after another night of clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson

Updated: Aug. 18, 2014, 3:25 a.m. E.T.

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to Ferguson early Monday, hours after police used tear gas to clear protesters off the streets following a week of demonstrations against the fatal police shooting of a black Missouri teenager.

In a statement, Nixon said the National Guard would help “in restoring peace and order” to this the St. Louis suburb that has been filled almost nightly with angry, defiant crowds.

“These violent acts are a disservice to the family of Michael Brown and his memory and to the people of this community who yearn for justice to be served and to feel safe in their own homes,” Nixon said.

The latest confrontations came on the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer. A preliminary private autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

As night fell in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police pushed them back by repeatedly firing tear gas, and the streets were empty well before the curfew took effect at midnight.

Authorities said they were responding to reports of gunfire, looting, vandalism and protesters who hurled Molotov cocktails.

“Based on the conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of response,” said Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, who is command in Ferguson.

At least two people wounded in shootings, he said.

The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the Justice Department’s decision to conduct a third autopsy, agency spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

The examination was to take place as soon as possible, Fallon said.

The results of a state-performed autopsy would be taken into account along with the federal examination in the Justice Department investigation, Fallon said.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.

Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, and all the bullets were fired into his front, Baden said.

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9.

A federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. attorney’s office. The move is “not that unusual,” he added.

Federal authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Weinstein said.

Back in Ferguson, Sunday’s clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Officers in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.

Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the street near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and the crackle of gunfire could be heard from several blocks away.

Within two hours, most people had been cleared off West Florissant Avenue, one of the community’s main thoroughfares. The streets remained quiet as the curfew began. It was to remain in effect until 5 a.m.

Earlier in the day, Johnson said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.”

“When this is over,” he told the crowd, “I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.”

Johnson added: “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the state highway patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

The officer who shot Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him. Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, and the department has refused to say anything about his whereabouts. Associated Press reporters have been unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.

Also Sunday, about 150 people gathered in St. Louis to show support for Wilson. The crowd protested outside a TV station because it had broadcast from in front of the officer’s home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the station, KSDK, later apologized. Other in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts.

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Eric Tucker in Brewster, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

TIME Pakistan

Twin Protests Suspend Life in Pakistani Capital

Pakistan
Supporters of Pakistan's fiery anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri listen their leader at a rally in Islamabad on Aug. 17, 2014 Anjum Naveed—AP

The protests have taken a strain on the city of roughly 1.7 million inhabitants

(ISLAMABAD) — Twin protests demanding the Pakistani government step down have wreaked havoc in the capital, Islamabad, where commuters must circumvent shipping containers and barbed wire to get to work, protesters knock on people’s doors to use the bathroom, and garbage is piling up.

“People are talking of revolution but (they) don’t care about the difficulties we are facing due to this situation,” said Zafar Habib, a 56-year-old government employee in Islamabad.

Tens of thousands of people have descended on the capital in recent days, answering the call from cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to push for the government’s ouster. Both claim widespread fraud in the May 2013 vote and want new elections, something the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not likely to concede.

Both Khan and Qadri have vowed to remain in the streets with their supporters until Sharif leaves office, raising fears of political instability in the nuclear-armed nation, which only saw its first democratic transfer of power last year.

The protests have taken a strain on the city of roughly 1.7 million inhabitants, many of whom work for the government, embassies, or non-governmental organizations. The difficulties began last Wednesday, when the government started to beef up security, and show no signs of letting up in the next few days.

The most affected neighborhoods have been in the eastern part of the city where the protests have been centered, not too far from the so-called “Red Zone” and a diplomatic enclave that house government offices, embassies and other sensitive installations.

Residents say protesters — mostly women — knock on their doors early in the morning, hoping to use their bathrooms.

“This is frustrating! I and other residents were trying to accommodate the women but then today some men also knocked on my door,” said Sajid Khan, a real estate agent.

Male protesters have also been crowding the washrooms in local mosques or simply going into the nearby forests. Garbage is beginning to pile up as well.

“My main concern is the deteriorating hygienic condition. This will make us and our children ill,” said retired government servant Jahangir Zahid.

Residents and people trying to get to work have also been stymied by both the protesters and the security measures the government has taken to deal with them. Early last week the government started putting up shipping containers to control access to and from the city. The hundreds of vehicles brought by protesters have also clogged the roads.

“I have to put in more hours and fuel to reach my office these days,” said software engineer Adeel Ahmed.

While the crowds have fallen well short of the million marchers that both Khan and Qadri promised, their presence and the heightened security measures have virtually shut down business in the capital. The rallies have nevertheless remained festive, with families picnicking and men and women dancing to drums and national songs.

Police estimate the crowds in both sit-ins have gradually dwindled since they arrived in the capital late Friday. Both rallies began as caravans of vehicles setting out from the eastern city of Lahore.

According to police, there are currently around 25,000 to 30,000 people in both demonstrations. The two rallies are centered along parallel streets, each with its own stage for speakers, but the crowds overlap and mingle at various times, especially when the leaders or key figures address the gatherings.

Business owners say many of their suppliers are not able to reach their shops. Shaukat Ali, who owns a meat shop, said Sunday that his supplier hasn’t been able to come so all he had was a crate of chickens to sell.

Bicycle store owner Adeel Zafar said his shop has been closed for a week because of the protests.

“Why we are being punished?” he said.

Protesters say they have little choice but to rely on local residents for help. Saeed Ahmed came from the city of Faisalabad, about 300 kilometers (185 miles) away, to support Qadri. Ahmed said they were ready to suffer what may come in support of Qadri’s revolution but complained that local residents weren’t too cooperative.

“At least let us use the restroom and share a little food with us,” he said. “This is what our religion teaches us.”

TIME Crime

Federal Autopsy Ordered in Missouri Teen’s Death

Police Shooting Missouri
Police in riot gear move in on protesters in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 17, 2014 Charlie Riedel—AP

As night fell on Sunday in Ferguson, Mo., another protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. The latest clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Governor Jay Nixon

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday ordered a federal medical examiner to perform another autopsy on a black Missouri teenager whose fatal shooting by a white police officer has spurred a week of rancorous and sometimes-violent protests in suburban St. Louis.

The “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and a request by Brown’s family members prompted the order, Department of Justice spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

The examination was to take as soon as possible, Fallon said, adding that the Justice Department still planned to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of its investigation.

As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a bullhorn that the protest was no longer peaceful.

A preliminary private autopsy found that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.

Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City chief medical examiner, told The New York Times that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown’s skull, suggesting that his head was bent forward when he suffered a fatal injury.

Brown was also shot four times in the right arm, and all the bullets were fired into his front, Baden said.

The Justice Department already had deepened its civil rights investigation into the shooting. A day earlier, officials said 40 FBI agents were going door-to-door gathering information in the Ferguson neighborhood where Brown, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9.

A federally conducted autopsy “more closely focused on entry point of projectiles, defensive wounds and bruises” might help that investigation, said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the criminal civil rights section of Miami’s U.S. attorney’s office. The move is “not that unusual,” he added.

Federal authorities also want to calm any public fears that no action will be taken on the case, Weinstein said.

Back in Ferguson, the latest clashes erupted three hours before the midnight curfew imposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. It was not clear why officers acted ahead of the deadline for people to be off the street.

Police in riot gear ordered all the protesters to disperse. Many of the marchers retreated, but a group of about 100 stood defiantly about two blocks away until getting hit by another volley of tear gas.

Protesters laid a line of cinder blocks across the pavement near the QuikTrip convenience store that was burned down last week. It was an apparent attempt to block police vehicles, but the vehicles easily plowed through. Someone set a nearby trash bin on fire, and gunshots rang out several blocks away.

Within two hours, most people had been cleared off West Florissant Avenue, one of the community’s main thoroughfares.

Earlier in the day, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who agency in now in charge of security in Ferguson, said he had met members of Brown’s family and the experience “brought tears to my eyes and shame to my heart.”

“When this is over,” he told the crowd, “I’m going to go in my son’s room. My black son, who wears his pants sagging, who wears his hat cocked to the side, got tattoos on his arms, but that’s my baby.”

Johnson added: “We all need to thank the Browns for Michael. Because Michael’s going to make it better for our sons to be better black men.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton told the rally Brown’s death was a “defining moment for this country.”

Sharpton said he wants Congress to stop programs that provide military-style weaponry to police departments. He said he expects police to “smear” the slain teenager, his family and his attorneys. He also condemned the recent violence and looting in Ferguson.

The protests have been going on since Brown’s death heightened racial tensions between the predominantly black community and the mostly white Ferguson Police Department, leading to several run-ins between police and protesters and prompting Missouri’s governor to put the state highway patrol in charge of security.

Ferguson police waited six days to publicly reveal the name of the officer and documents alleging Brown robbed a convenience store shortly before he was killed. Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know Brown was a robbery suspect when he encountered him walking in the street with a friend.

Nixon said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he was not aware the police were going to release surveillance video from the store where Brown is alleged to have stolen a $49 box of cigars.

“It’s appeared to cast aspersions on a young man that was gunned down in the street. It made emotions raw,” Nixon said.

Police have said little about the encounter between Brown and the officer, except to say that it involved a scuffle in which the officer was injured and Brown was shot. Witnesses say the teenager had his hands in the air as the officer fired multiple rounds.

“When you’re exhausted, when you’re out of resources, when you’re out of ammunition, you surrender,” Brown’s uncle, pastor Charles Ewing, told worshippers during a Sunday sermon at Jennings Mason Temple inFerguson. “He surrendered and yet he died.”

The officer who shot Brown has been identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year police veteran who had no previous complaints against him. Wilson has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, and the department has refused to say anything about his whereabouts. Associated Press reporters have been unable to contact him at any addresses or phone numbers listed under that name in the St. Louis area.

Also Sunday, about 150 people gathered in St. Louis to show support for Wilson. The crowd protested outside a TV station because it had broadcast from in front of the officer’s home.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the station, KSDK, later apologized. Other in the group, composed mostly of police and relatives of officers, carried signs urging people to wait for all the facts.

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and Eric Tucker in Brewster, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.

TIME Missouri

Holder Asks For Federal Autopsy on Missouri Teen

He cited the "extraordinary circumstances involved in this case"

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has asked for the Justice Department to arrange an autopsy on the body of Michael Brown by a federal medical examiner.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a news release on Sunday that Holder asked for the additional autopsy because of the “extraordinary circumstances involved in this case” Holder Asks For Federal Autopsy on Missouri Teen and at the request of Brown’s family.

The 18-year-old Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on Aug. 9. Brown was black and unarmed. Officer Darren Wilson is white.

Fallon says the autopsy will take place as soon as possible.

He also said the Justice Department will still take the state’s autopsy into account during the investigation.

TIME Israel

Optimism Fades as Talks to Resume on Gaza War

Palestinian woman walks past the ruins of houses which witnesses said were destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Johr El-Deek village near the central Gaza Strip
A Palestinian woman walks past the ruins of houses which witnesses said were destroyed during the Israeli offensive in Johr El-Deek village near the central Gaza Strip Aug. 17, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa—Reuters

A current five-day cease-fire is due to end late Monday

CAIRO (AP) — A Palestinian negotiator said Sunday his side is “less optimistic” about indirect talks with Israel over the Gaza war as a deadline on a temporary cease-fire looms.

The Palestinian team reassembled in Cairo on Sunday after members returned from consultations in Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Israeli team also returned Sunday to resume the Egyptian-mediated talks. A current five-day cease-fire is due to end late Monday.

The negotiations have been going on between the sides since early last week. They are aimed at ending the latest war between Israel and Hamas-led Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip and improving conditions for the territory’s 1.8 million people. Israel wants guarantees to end rocket fire and attacks on its citizens.

Close to 2,000 Palestinians have been killed — most civilians — and more than 10,000 people have been wounded since the war began July 8, according to United Nations figures. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three soldiers.

A member of the Palestinian delegation told The Associated Press on Sunday that the gaps between the sides were still significant and that it was far from certain whether a deal could be reached before the cease-fire expires.

“We are less optimistic than we were earlier,” he said.

The negotiator said that a key sticking point remains Hamas’s insistence that Israel pledge to end its Gaza blockade before the talks conclude. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue with journalists.

Under the terms of an Egyptian proposal, Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority would negotiate the end to the blockade at some point in the future. The blockade has restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports, as well as limited Palestinians’ movement in and out of the territory.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel, meanwhile, is demanding that Hamas be disarmed, or at the very least, be prevented from re-arming, something the militant group has rejected.

Speaking before Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas had suffered a huge setback in the four-week war and that would be reflected at the Cairo talks.

“If Hamas thinks its defeat on the battlefield will be papered over by a victory at the negotiating table it is mistaken,” he said.

Hamas has recovered from previous rounds of violence with Israel, including a major three-week air and ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It still has an arsenal of several thousand rockets, some with long ranges and relatively heavy payloads.

The current round of fighting began after Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel following the arrests of suspected Hamas-affiliated militants in the West Bank. Israel said the arrests came as part of the investigation into the killing of three Israeli teens in June.

TIME South Korea

Pope Urges “Fraternal” Dialogue With China, Others

SKOREA-VATICAN-POPE-RELIGION
Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives to take part in a mass concluding the 6th Asian Youth Day in Haemi, some 150 kilometres south of Seoul, on Aug. 17, 2014. Kim Hong-Jil—AFP/Getty Images

"I'm not talking here only about a political dialogue, but about a fraternal dialogue"

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis made a new gesture of outreach to China and North Korea on Sunday, saying he “earnestly” hopes to improve relations and insisting that the Catholic Church isn’t coming in as a “conquerer” trying to take away the identity of others.

Francis outlined his priorities for the Catholic Church in Asia during a meeting of the region’s bishops Sunday, urging them to listen to people of different cultures but still remain true to their own Catholic identity.

“In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all,” he said.

Then deviating from his text, he added: “I’m not talking here only about a political dialogue, but about a fraternal dialogue,” he said. “These Christians aren’t coming as conquerors, they aren’t trying to take away our identity.” He said the important thing was to “walk together.”

The comments appeared to be a clear reference to China, which severed diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1951. But they could also apply to North Korea, where the church is under tight government control and is not recognized by the Vatican. There are similarly no diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and the Vatican.

Francis has already broken ground with Beijing on his first Asian trip by sending greetings to President Xi Jinping when he flew through Chinese airspace. He also sent Xi a letter after the two of them were elected within hours of one another in March 2013, and received a reply.

China cut relations with the Vatican after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope’s authority. China persecuted the church for years until restoring a degree of religious freedom and freeing imprisoned priests in the late 1970s. The Vatican under then-Pope Benedict XVI sought to improve ties by seeking to unify the state-sanctioned church with the underground church still loyal to Rome.

For the Vatican, the main stumbling block remains the insistence of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association on naming bishops without papal consent. For China, the naming of bishops is a matter of its national sovereignty, while it also objects that the Holy See has diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Upon his arrival in Seoul on Thursday, Francis called for peace and unity on the Korean peninsula, urging diplomacy so that listening and dialogue replace “mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force.”

A day later he stressed that Koreans are one people, “a family,” and that those in the South should pray for their brothers and sisters in the North.

Francis’ diplomatic outreach Sunday followed another gesture of solidarity earlier in the morning: He baptized the father of one of the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking, in which more than 300 people, most of them high school students, lost their lives.

Lee Ho Jin, whose son was killed, took the Christian name “Francis” during the rite, which the pope administered in the Vatican’s embassy in Seoul, according to the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Lee had been one of a dozen relatives of victims and survivors of the April ferry sinking who met privately with the pope Friday. He asked to be baptized and Francis agreed.

Francis has gone out of his way to show support for the Sewol ferry families, who are demanding an independent inquiry into the sinking. Aside from meeting publicly and privately with them, he has worn a symbolic yellow ribbon on his cassock in solidarity.

Lombardi has said Francis isn’t getting involved in their demands for a parliamentary inquiry, but is merely offering them support and prayers. He said Francis was particularly pleased to have been asked to perform a baptism since Korea’s Catholic Church has been growing steadily thanks in large part to an unusually high number of adult baptisms each year.

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