World and Nation

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Al-Qaida leader in Syria seeks to halt rebel infighting

BEIRUT — The leader of the Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida in Syria, on Tuesday proposed an initiative aimed at halting the worst infighting yet between the armed opponents of President Bashar Assad since the start of the conflict nearly three years ago.

Deadly battles have raged in recent days across northern Syria between rebel forces and another al-Qaida affiliate, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, that also wants to end Assad’s government, but aims to replace it with a monolithic Sunni extremist government that rules both countries.

Angered by what they call ISIL’s tendency to take over resources, impose strict social codes and kidnap and kill opponents, rebel groups have been attacking ISIL bases and trying to drive out the group’s fighters from towns and villages where they once held sway.

More than 270 people have been killed in four days of fighting as of Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in Britain with a network of contacts in Syria. The dead include 46 civilians, 129 rebel fighters and 99 ISIL fighters. Both sides have also executed prisoners, the Observatory said.

—Ben Hubbard and Anne Barnard, The New York Times

House Financial Services Chairman to seek change to Volcker Rule

When Zions Bank announced last month that it expected to take a big loss because of the Volcker Rule, it set off alarms all over Washington. Regulators scrambled to say they were considering changing the rule, but that was evidently not enough for some legislators.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is expected to propose a bill that could open up a huge loophole in the rule. The proposed change could allow banks to create and own securities with many types of investments that are barred under the Volcker Rule, which is intended to prohibit speculative trading by banks while letting them both make markets for customers and hedge other investments.

The proposed legislation, notable for its brevity, provides that nothing in the Volcker Rule “shall be construed to require the divestiture of any collateralized-debt obligations backed by trust-preferred securities issued before December 10, 2013.”

The wording appears to indicate that new collateralized-debt obligations could be created that banks could hold and trade, as long as they contained at least one TruPS security issued before Dec. 10. The vast bulk of the assets in the collateralized-debt obligation could be other securities.

—Floyd Norris, The New York Times

Boston Globe hires journalist to focus on Roman Catholicism

The Boston Globe announced Tuesday that it would hire John L. Allen Jr., a journalist for the National Catholic Reporter, and explore starting a freestanding publication dedicated to Roman Catholicism.

“There is a resurgence of global interest in the Catholic Church, inspired by the words and deeds of the newly installed leader, Pope Francis,” Brian McGrory, the editor of The Globe, said in a statement.

Allen, 48, who has reported on the Vatican from Rome, has written nine books and is a senior Vatican analyst for CNN, “is basically the reporter that bishops and cardinals call to find out what’s going on within the confines of the Vatican,” McGrory said.

—Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times