Nation & World Briefs 07-17-14 Chrysler says recall of Jeeps can be done faster than expected

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DETROIT -- Chrysler can fix recalled Jeep SUVs far faster than U.S. safety regulators have predicted, the automaker told the government Wednesday.

The development could end a spat between the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has accused Chrysler of moving too slowly to repair about 2.7 million SUVs in a recall announced more than a year ago.

The older Jeep Grand Cherokees and Libertys have gas tanks behind the rear axles that can rupture in rear collisions, leak fuel and cause fires. The remedy is to install a trailer hitch to protect the tanks in low-speed collisions.

Although NHTSA has pushed for the recall, Chrysler has maintained the vehicles aren't defective and said it agreed to the trailer hitches because the matter "has raised public concern."

Escalate sanctions on Russia: Struggling to defuse the persistent crisis in Ukraine, both the U.S. and European Union imposed new economic sanctions on Russia Wednesday, with President Barack Obama declaring that Russian leaders must see that their actions supporting rebels "have consequences." The penalties announced by the White House were broad in scope, targeting two major Russian energy firms, a pair of powerful financial institutions, eight arms firms and four individuals. Leaders in Europe, which has a far deeper economic relationship with Russia than the U.S., were more restrained, ordering investment and development banks on the continent to suspend financing agreements with Moscow.

Putin laments sanctions: President Vladimir Putin lamented the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, saying today that they are stalemating bilateral relations and hurting not only Russian but also American businesses. Russia's benchmark MICEX plummeted 2.6 percent at the opening today upon news of the sanctions while Russia's biggest oil company, Rosneft, was nearly 5 percent down.

Cites lost trust of vets in VA: The Department of Veterans Affairs has lost the trust of veterans and the American people as a result of widespread treatment delays for people seeking health care and falsified records to cover up those delays, the agency's top official said Wednesday. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the VA has created an environment where workers are afraid to raise concerns or offer suggestions for fear of retaliation and has failed to hold employees accountable for wrongdoing or negligence. The agency also has devoted too many resources to meeting performance metrics -- such as prompt scheduling of patient appointments -- that were subject to manipulation and may not accurately reflect quality of care, Gibson said.

Gets 18 years in prison: Texas actress Shannon Guess Richardson, who sent ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and the New York mayor then tried to blame the crime on her soon-to-be ex-husband, was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Wednesday in Texarkana. A federal judge gave Richardson, 36, the maximum sentence under her plea deal on a federal charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. Richardson was also ordered to pay restitution. She had pleaded guilty to the charge in December.

Studies reveal more side effects: New details from two studies reveal more side effects from niacin, a drug that hundreds of thousands of Americans take for cholesterol problems and general heart health. Some prominent doctors say the drug now seems too risky for routine use. Niacin is a type of B vitamin long sold over the counter and in higher prescription doses. Some people take it alone or with statin medicines such as Lipitor for cholesterol problems. Niacin users' main complaint has been flushing, so drug companies have been testing extended-release and combining other medicines with it to minimize that problem. Introduced in the 1950s, the drug hadn't been rigorously tested until recent years when makers of prescription versions were seeking market approval.

China joins drills: China has been boarding ships looking for mock pirates and contraband as it joins the world's largest maritime exercises for the first time. On Wednesday, Chinese sailors from the destroyer Haikou boarded the Coast Guard cutter Waesche for a drill checking cargo as part of Rim of the Pacific exercises the U.S. is hosting in Hawaii waters. The Americans played the role of a merchant ship carrying valuable paintings. Coast Guard Lt. Gregory Ostrov, exercise safety officer for the drill, said the Chinese sailors were eager to cooperate and demonstrate their proficiency as mariners.

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