Israeli groups vie for time with Obama during visit

President Obama is coming to town, and it seems like everyone in Israel wants to be a part of the historic visit.

From West Bank settlers to peace activists, universities to municipalities, Israelis of all stripes are sending out invites to lure Obama their way in bids to bend his ear on the issues that could decide the fate of the region.

Obama’s visit, his first to Israel as president, comes during rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, years of deadlocked peace efforts and a tense relationship between the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Just beneath the surface is the feeling of many Israelis that up to now, Obama’s administration has been unsympathetic to Israel, frequently criticizing its policies toward the Palestinians. The U.S. considers its policies balanced, noting that it has opposed resolutions critical of Israel at the U.N.

Despite the differences, the U.S. remains Israel’s main world ally.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan

Relief from sanctions offered in Iran nuclear talks

World powers, fearful of scuttling negotiations beginning this week with Iran, are offering the Islamic republic some small new sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program. But officials warned Monday that it’s unlikely that any compromise will be reached soon.

Negotiators set low expectations for the latest round of high-level diplomatic talks to begin Tuesday in Kazakhstan’s largest city – the first since last June’s meeting in Moscow that threatened to derail delicate efforts to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium to a level close to that used for nuclear warheads.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: the Obama administration is pushing for diplomacy to solve the impasse but has not ruled out the possibility of military intervention in Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And Israel has threatened it will use all means to stop Iran from being able to building a bomb, potentially as soon as this summer, raising the specter of a possible Mideast war.


Facebook removes pages exploiting school tragedy

Facebook offered assurances Monday that the social media site is removing some posts and so-called tribute pages related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting over concerns they’re being used to exploit the tragedy.

Echoing complaints already brought by some Sandy Hook families and state officials, Connecticut’s two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty requested the removal of offending pages in a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg Monday morning.

The lawmakers said some pages purportedly set up to honor the victims of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown have been used to exploit or harass the victims’ families and could be used as vehicles for financial fraud. State Attorney General George Jepsen said his office raised similar concerns with Facebook.

Jodi Seth, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a statement that the company has been working closely since December with Jepsen’s office, the families and their representatives to respond quickly to concerns with dedicated staff handling complaints over Sandy Hook pages.


Weapon against invasive snakes: poisoned mice

Dead mice laced with painkillers are about to rain down on Guam’s jungle canopy. They are scientists’ prescription for a headache that has caused the tiny U.S. territory misery for more than 60 years: the brown tree snake.

Most of Guam’s native bird species are extinct because of the snake, which reached the island’s thick jungles by hitching rides from the South Pacific on U.S. military ships shortly after World War II. There may be 2 million of the reptiles on Guam now, decimating wildlife, biting residents and even knocking out electricity by slithering onto power lines.

“We are taking this to a new phase,” said Daniel Vice, assistant state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands. “There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam.”