European ministers are poised to approve Greek rescue
BRUSSELS — After months of tense negotiations, eurozone finance ministers worked deep into the night Monday to try to agree on a second giant bailout to bring Greece back from the brink of default, subject to strict conditions and in exchange for yet more severe austerity measures.
Under the bailout terms, Greece is supposed to reduce its debt to 120 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, from about 160 percent now. But the steady deterioration of the public finances in Athens have left the country’s creditors with problems in making the figures for Monday’s bailout add up, and the latest estimates suggest that figure would be closer to 129 percent. The talks in Brussels are trying to address how that financial gap will be addressed, to satisfy demands by the eurozone, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Representatives of private-sector banks that hold Greek bonds were resisting pressure to accept further losses. Other ways of making the numbers add up would be considered only when the negotiations with the private sector were close to completion, said one eurozone official not authorized to speak publicly.
—Stephen Castle, The New York Times
New guidelines planned on snacks in school vending machines
WASHINGTON — The government’s attempt to reduce childhood obesity is moving from the school cafeteria to the vending machines.
The Obama administration is working on setting nutritional standards for foods that children can buy outside the cafeteria. With students eating 19 percent to 50 percent of their daily food at school, the administration says it wants to ensure that what they eat contributes to good health and smaller waistlines.
The proposed rules are expected within the next few weeks.
Representatives of the food and beverage industries argue that many of their products contribute to good nutrition and should not be banned.
Schools say that overly restrictive rules, which could include banning the candy sold for school fundraisers, risk the loss of substantial revenue that helps pay for sports, music and arts programs. A study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that about $2.3 billion worth of snack foods and beverages are sold annually in schools nationwide.
Nutritionists say that school vending machines stocked with potato chips, cookies and sugary soft drinks contribute to childhood obesity, which has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one in every five children are obese.
—Ron Nixon, The New York Times
URS agrees to acquire Flint Energy of Canada
URS, a construction and engineering firm, said Monday that it would acquire Flint Energy Services for $1.25 billion, in a bid to bolster its presence in North America’s oil and gas industry.
URS, a diversified business built largely through acquisitions, is paying a significant premium for Flint, a Canadian provider of construction services. URS will pay Flint’s shareholders 25 Canadian dollars ($25) a share, nearly a 68 percent premium to its closing price Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. URS will also assume about $225 million in Flint’s debt.
With Flint, the San Francisco-based URS will greatly expand its presence in Western Canada’s bustling energy industry. Flint, based in Calgary, Alberta, offers a broad range of construction services used during various stages of the exploration and development of natural gas and oil resources. Flint also derives about 20 percent of its revenue from the United States, with operations in the Southwest, Appalachian and Rocky Mountain regions.
The North American oil and natural gas market has had a flurry of deals in the past 12 months, as energy companies buy businesses that own large shale formations — rock that stores natural gas and oil, which can be extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
—Evelyn M. Rusli, The New York Times
Israeli court speeds hearing for Palestinian hunger striker
JERUSALEM — Israel’s High Court is slated to hear an urgent petition Tuesday in the case of a Palestinian detained without charge who has been on a hunger strike for two months.
The hearing had first been scheduled for Thursday, but his lawyers and human rights groups representing the hospitalized 33-year-old detainee, Khader Adnan, were worried that he would not survive that long.
Adnan’s case challenges a decades-old Israeli practice employed almost exclusively against Palestinians, thousands of whom have been detained by military court orders under similar circumstances for months and even years.
Adnan is not the first Palestinian to have gone on a hunger strike, but his — 66 days long as of Monday — has proven the most enduring. A medical report prepared last week by an Israeli-accredited doctor on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and filed along with the petition to speed his hearing at the High Court, stated that Adnan was “in immediate danger of death” and that “a fast in excess of 70 days does not permit survival.”
Whether Adnan’s case ends in legal victory or death, it is likely to have far-reaching consequences.
Adnan began his hunger strike Dec. 18, a day after he was taken from his village, Arraba, in the northern West Bank, according to Addameer, a Palestinian organization that supports prisoners and is providing legal aid in the case.
He has worked as a baker but has been identified by Palestinians as a leader of Islamic Jihad, an extremist organization.
Adnan was issued a four-month detention order Jan. 8 and it was confirmed by a military judge a month later. A first appeal was rejected Feb. 13.
—Isabel Kershner, The New York Times