Nation/World Briefly: Airplane carrying 90 crashes in Mediterranean

BEIRUT — An Ethiopian Airlines plane with about 90 people on board crashed into the Mediterranean Sea early today shortly after takeoff from Beirut, aviation and security officials said.

The Boeing 737-800 took off around 2 a.m. local time for Addis Ababa, according to the officials.

Police officials ruled out terrorism as the cause of the crash and said it was likely weather-related. It had been raining heavily and lightning in Beirut since Sunday night.

Lebanese naval ships were scrambled to find the location of the crash.

About 50 of the passengers were Lebanese, the officials said.

Russia: Arms treaty with U.S. nearly finished, leader says

A new nuclear arms reduction treaty is “95 percent ready,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday in the clearest indication to date that an end to wrangling over the seminal agreement may be close. Medvedev said he is optimistic that a deal will be reached and that he was heartened by the pace of negotiations. Expert-level talks to iron out the final details of the treaty are due to take place next month in Geneva. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and retired Gen. Jim Jones, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, were in Moscow last week to discuss treaty negotiations. A new agreement would succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expired Dec. 5. The two countries had hoped to reach a deal before the end of the year.

D.C.: Obama address to focus on job creation

President Barack Obama’s chief political adviser says the president will focus on job-creating plans in his State of the Union address Wednesday night. Strategist David Axelrod said the White House takes only “cold comfort” from the fact that the president’s stimulus program saved about 2 million jobs — given the millions lost in the deepest economic downturn in decades.

No jury duty for Obama

If Cook County, Ill., had had its druthers, President Barack Obama would have shown up today for jury duty. But court officials were told weeks ago the prospect was a no-go, a White House official said Sunday. The summons showed up at the president’s home in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

N.Y.: Wal-Mart to slash Sam’s Club staff by about 11,200

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will cut about 11,200 jobs at Sam’s Club warehouses as it turns over the task of in-store product demonstrations to an outside marketing company in an effort to sales. The move comes on top of a decision to close 10 underperforming warehouse locations, which cost 1,500 jobs. The cuts represent about 10 percent of the warehouse club operator’s 110,000 staffers across its 600 stores.

California: Gas edges down

The average price of regular gasoline in the United States fell 1.42 cents over a two-week period to $2.72, according to the national Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday in Camarillo. Analyst Trilby Lundberg says the average price for a gallon of mid-grade was $2.85. Premium was at $2.96. Cheyenne, Wyo., had the lowest average price among cities surveyed at $2.45 a gallon for regular. Honolulu was the highest at $3.32.

Ohio: Three boys drown after falling into river

Authorities say three boys — ages 8 to 11 — have died after falling through ice on the Sandusky River in north-central Ohio. The boys were last seen playing Sunday afternoon outside a home in Rice Township a few blocks from the river. Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer says divers found the boys in the river and they were taken to local hospitals, where they were pronounced dead.

From Herald news services

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