WASHINGTON — The crisis in Syria, arms control and missile defense headline what are expected to be chilly talks between U.S. and Russian foreign and defense ministers, a sit-down tainted by the case of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, which led President Barack Obama to cancel his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s decision last week to grant temporary asylum to Snowden put a damper on U.S.-Russia relations, which were already on a slide. Then, on Wednesday, Obama canceled his summit with Putin, planned for early September in Moscow, because of what the White House called a lack of “significant progress” on a wide array of critical issues. By Deb Riechmann.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department warned Americans not to travel to Pakistan and ordered nonessential government personnel to leave the U.S. Consulate in Lahore because of a specific threat to that diplomatic mission. In a travel warning, the State Department said the presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups posed a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. By Matthew Lee.
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Two young men were arrested in the cyberbullying case of a 17-year-old Canadian girl who killed herself after a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted circulated online. They were charged with distributing child pornography almost two years after the alleged assault. Rehtaeh Parsons, who died after being removed from life support following a suicide attempt in April, led to an outcry across North America. Police initially concluded there were no grounds to charge anyone after a yearlong investigation.
FORT MEADE, Maryland — Prosecutors were nearing the end of their sentencing case in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, as just two witnesses remain on the government’s schedule for Friday’s session at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. Manning faces up to 90 years in prison for disclosing reams of classified information — more than 700,000 documents and some battlefield video — through the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. He claims he leaked the material to expose wrongdoing and provoke discussion about U.S. military and public affairs.
FORT HOOD SHOOTING
FORT HOOD, Texas — The U.S. soldier on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood was allowed to continue representing himself after the judge ordered his standby attorneys to stay on as advisers, despite their claims that the Army psychiatrist was trying to secure his own death sentence. The military lawyers ordered to help Maj. Nidal Hasan had asked the judge to either scale back their advisory duties or allow them to take over his defense. They believe Hasan is trying to convince jurors to convict him and sentence him to death for the attack that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Texas military base. By Nomaan Merchant and Paul J. Weber.
MEXICO CITY — A Mexican family says that a van bought at a U.S. government auction came with an unwanted extra: an undiscovered package of cocaine beneath the dashboard. By Adriana Gomez Licon. AP Photos. Moved. 465 words.
BOGOTA, Colombia — President Juan Manuel Santos says he is seeking clarification from Washington on whether its intelligence-gathering in Colombia has overstepped the countries’ joint operations against drug traffickers and illegal armed groups. By Vivian Sequera. AP Photos. Moved. 535 words.
BOGOTA, Colombia— Colombia reduced its area under coca cultivation by 25 percent last year, the United Nations said, meaning Peru has likely surpassed it as the world’s No. 1 cocaine-producing country. Bu Vivian Sequera and Frank Bajak. Moved. 425 words.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay’s former President Tabare Vazquez says he’s ready to run again.The 73-year-old oncologist invited leaders of the governing, left-leaning Broad Front coalition to his home to tell them what they had been hoping to hear — that he’s available as a candidate to succeed President Jose Mujica in next year’s election. By Pablo Fernandez. 400 words.
ST. LOUIS — Torrential rains lashed the U.S. midsection, causing flash flooding that killed a woman and a child, damaged homes and forced multiple water rescues. Up to 10 inches (254 millimeters) of rain pounded Missouri overnight. A woman died in the far southwestern corner of the state where creek water washed over a highway, sweeping away her car. By Jim Salter.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE
BEAUMONT, California — A rapidly spreading wildfire chewed through a rugged Southern California mountain range, destroying at least 10 homes, threatening more than 500 other residences and forcing some 1,500 people to flee. Five people were injured as more than 1,000 firefighters, 13 helicopters and six air tankers battled the flames as they pushed eastward along the San Jacinto Mountains, a desert range 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, Cal Fire Riverside Chief John R. Hawkins said.
UNITED NATIONS — Gay rights activists confronted Russia’s U.N. ambassador and tried to hand over a petition with more than 340,000 signatures urging world leaders to help eliminate anti-gay laws in Russia ahead of next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. By Edith M. Lederer.
Karen Black, the prolific actress who appeared in more than 100 movies and was featured in such counterculture favorites as “Easy Rider,” ”Five Easy Pieces” and “Nashville,” has died in Los Angeles. Black’s husband, Stephen Eckelberry, says the actress died Wednesday from complications from cancer. She was 74. By Hillel Italie.
MEXICO CITY — For a man who puzzled moviegoers with bizarre sequences of an ant-infested hand, a cow in a bed and elegant diners sitting on toilets, surrealist director Luis Bunuel lived a surprisingly genteel life in his simple and quiet home in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City. Thirty years after his death, the Spanish government has opened the refurbished home to the public as a meeting place for Spanish and Mexican moviemakers. By Adriana Gomez Licon. To move at 0700 GMT.
LOS ANGELES — A lawyer for plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota Motor Corp. told a jury on Thursday he will ask for $20 million in damages for the family of a woman who died when her Camry suddenly accelerated and crashed despite her efforts to stop. The case involving the 2009 death of Noriko Uno is the first involving the issue to go to trial in state court. By Linda Deutsch.
NEW YORK — The U.S. Justice Department is investigating JPMorgan Chase over mortgage-backed investments the bank sold in the run-up to the financial crisis. The New York-based bank said in a regulatory filing that it is responding to investigations by the civil and criminal divisions of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California. In May, the civil division informed JPMorgan that it had “preliminarily concluded” that the bank had violated federal securities laws in connection with certain mortgage-backed investments it sold from 2005 to 2007. By Christina Rexrode and Steve Rothwell.