Senate Dems: Immigration reform must include path to citizenship

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Democratic Senate leaders said that they will not accept anything less than a comprehensive immigration reform plan that allows for the legalization and eventual attainment of citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

At a roundtable with Spanish-language media, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other senators involved in the negotiations for immigration reform said that they will avoid the mistakes of 2006 when an earlier reform attempt failed.

"This notion that we can have a comprehensive bill and not include a path to citizenship is unacceptable," said Sen. Dick Durbin, one of the "Gang of Eight" pushing a bipartisan reform plan.

He responded to comments from Republicans suggesting immigration reform be undertaken in stages and that the issue of citizenship be left for last.

Under the Gang of Eight proposal, Durbin said, the process of legalization, from the probationary period in which temporary work permits would be issued to immigrants up until the receipt of a Green Card, could take 10 years.

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Mexico president vows every effort to solve tourist rape case

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said that "every institutional support" will be provided to the effort to track down those responsible for the rapes of six Spanish tourists this week in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

The crime "should concern all authorities of the three levels of government," the president said in his first public comment on the case.

Peña Nieto said that on learning of the events in Acapulco, he ordered the Government Secretariat and the federal Attorney General's Office to render "every institutional support that aids the investigations."

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Solomon Islands rocked by aftershocks from major quake

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The Solomon Islands were rattled by aftershocks of the magnitude-8.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that killed nine people in the South Pacific archipelago,

The most violent aftershock, measuring magnitude-7.0, occurred in the southeastern part of the archipelago in Santa Cruz province near the site of Wednesday's major temblor.

Emergency and medical teams are evaluating the damage and attending to the injured in three villages destroyed by the tsunami near Lata, the provincial capital.

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Gunmen kill 9 police officers in southern Mexico

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Gunmen killed nine state police officers and wounded a tenth law enforcement agent in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, prosecutors said.

The officers were ambushed in the city of Apaxtla, the Guerrero state Attorney General's Office said.

The state police officers were on a routine patrol when the gunmen opened fire on them on the road that leads to the town of Tepoxtepec, the AG's office said in a statement.

Federal, state and municipal police responded to the shooting, sealed off the area and removed the bodies from the crime scene, the AG's office said.

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Small street troupes slam efforts to "privatize" Rio carnival

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A group of Rio de Janeiro street troupes are crying foul over the numerous multi-million-dollar contracts with carnival sponsors and municipal authorities' growing control over the festivities.

This movement wants the "blocos," as the street samba parades are known locally, to have total freedom to enjoy carnival without submitting to scheduling, route and sponsor restrictions that the Rio government imposed in 2009.

"They want to privatize and sell the right to enjoy ourselves to third parties," Thay Chavez, a member of the Cordão do Boi Tolo, one of the 16 blocos that have joined the movement, told Efe.

Rio Deputy Tourism Secretary Pedro Guimarães, however, told Efe that the city government's goal is to turn the street carnival into "a tourist product" that does not disrupt traffic and is equipped with adequate public health and safety infrastructure.

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Spanish police thwart bombing at cathedral

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Sappers successfully dismantled a bomb discovered next to a confessional inside Madrid's La Almudena Cathedral, Spanish police said.

The device contained 200 grams of gunpowder, a small cylinder of butane, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of metal screws and a alarm-equipped watch, they said.

A priest found the bomb inside a bag that he noticed while exiting the confessional. He quickly cleared the cathedral of worshippers and tourists and contacted authorities, police sources told Efe.

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Khamenei: Iran will not speak to U.S. under pressure

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top leader, rejected any type of direct talks with the United States under pressure one day after Washington announced new sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

"American policy in the Middle East has been destroyed and Americans now need to play a new card. That card is dragging Iran into negotiations," Khamenei said in a speech before officials and military officers.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said last week that Washington is open to direct, bilateral talks with Tehran on the issue of Iran's nuclear program.

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Putin fires Russian Olympics official over construction delays in Sochi

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President Vladimir Putin fired Russian Olympic Committee vice president Akmet Bilalov over the construction delays plaguing the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, officials said.

"People who do not fulfill their obligations on such a grand scale cannot run the Olympic movement in our country," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is overseeing Olympics preparations, told Russian media.

Putin criticized the construction delays at Sochi, especially the problems in finishing the Russkie Gorky ski jump complex, which was supposed to have been completed in June 2011, during a visit to the resort city on Wednesday.

"So an ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) vice president is blocking the work. Bravo. What a good job you are doing!" Putin said sarcastically.

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Spanish AG sees ground for probe of governing-party finances

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Spain's attorney general said there are grounds for further investigating allegations of under-the table payments to high-ranking members of the ruling conservative Popular Party.

Following its initial probe, the office of the anti-corruption prosecutor will now work quickly to design a strategy for getting to the bottom of the matter, Eduardo Torres-Dulce told reporters in the northern city of Logroño.

Former PP treasurer Alvaro Lapuerta - predecessor of Luis Barcenas, who is at the center of the scandal - told prosecutors Thursday that the party never operated a slush fund.

Lapuerta, who managed the PP's finances from 1993 to 2008, also denied ever having seen the handwritten ledger attributed to Barcenas that appears to show the payment of extra wages to senior party leaders.

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EFE