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Mortgage deal nears as holdout states join

(Reuters) - California and New York, two big holdout states in a $25 billion mortgage settlement, are expected to join the deal, smoothing the way for an announcement on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Florida, with its large distressed housing market, was also close to joining the settlement that resolves civil government lawsuits over faulty foreclosures and servicing misconduct by top U.S. banks, a separate person familiar with the deal said on W

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Hundreds bid Cuban cigar legend Robaina farewell

SAN LUIS, Cuba – Hundreds of friends and relatives bid farewell to the godfather of Cuban tobacco, who was buried Sunday in a casket adorned with a half-smoked cigar bearing his name and a yellow tobacco flower. Alejandro Robaina, a 91-year-old legend who was the only Cuban to have a cigar brand named after him, died Saturday from cancer after doctors discovered inoperable tumors on his lungs and kidney, his grandson Hirochi Robaina said. Wreaths of flowers filled his modest, ramshackle ho

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Mexico sets stimulus for quake-damaged Mexicali

MEXICO CITY – Mexico is offering a package of tax and mortgage extensions and loans for the border city of Mexicali, after a 7.2-magnitude quake April 4 killed two people, damaged buildings and flooded some land with saline water. President Felipe Calderon says businesses and taxpayers in Mexicali and the nearby city of San Luis Rio Colorado will get extensions on tax deadlines. He said Monday that homeowners will get a 4-month grace period for paying mortgages, and government development

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Chavez hosts Latin American allies for summit

CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez gathered his closest Latin American allies to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s independence movement — denouncing U.S. meddling while hurling harsh words at the leading presidential candidate in neighboring Colombia.  Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia and other leaders accompanies Chavez on Monday as he presided over a parade that included troops, Amazonian Indians carrying bows and arrows, flag-waving supporters

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Church pedophilia scandal grows in Latin America

CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez gathered his closest Latin American allies to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s independence movement — denouncing U.S. meddling while hurling harsh words at the leading presidential candidate in neighboring Colombia.  Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia and other leaders accompanies Chavez on Monday as he presided over a parade that included troops, Amazonian Indians carrying bows and arrows, flag-waving supporters

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Belarus says ousted Kyrgyz president in Minsk

MINSK, Belarus – The ousted president of Kyrgyzstan is in Belarus, the country’s president said Tuesday. Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled Kyrgyzstan after a bloody uprising on April 7, and last week took refuge in neighboring Kazakhstan. He left Kazakhstan on Monday for a destination not announced, after Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko said Sunday that Bakiyev would be welcome in his country. On Tuesday, Lukashenko said he had arranged for Bakiyev to come to the Belarusian c

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Some European flights take off; London still shut

PARIS – Applause, cheers and whoops of joy rang out at airports around the world Tuesday as airplanes gradually took to the skies after five days of being grounded by a volcanic ash cloud that has devastated European travel. But weary passengers might have to tamper their enthusiasm. Only limited flights were allowed to resume at some European airports and U.K. authorities said London airports — a major hub for thousands of daily flights worldwide — would remained closed for at least another

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