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Briefs

UN denies talks set on Syria

– Reflecting confusion in efforts to convene an international conference to end Syria’s civil war, the Arab League chief announced on Sunday that talks will take place next month in Geneva, only to have the U.N. envoy flatly deny a date has been set.

The bizarre diplomatic two-step between Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and the U.N. envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, at a joint news conference added to the uncertainty surrounding the proposed peace talks. A decision over whether the long-delayed negotiations will happen at all could come at a meeting of the Syrian opposition early next month that will focus on whether to sit down with President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The United States and Russia, who support opposing sides in the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people, have been trying for months to bring the Damascus government and Syria’s divided opposition to the table for a peace conference.

Warning issued for Hurricane Raymond

Newly formed Hurricane Raymond swirled on Sunday toward Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, an area already devastated by rains and mudslides from Tropical Storm Manuel last month.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted Raymond would take a sharp westward turn and head out to sea before reaching land, but warned that the Category 1 storm still might get as close as 50 miles (80 kilometers), bringing the threat of heavy and possibly dangerous rains.

In a region where 10,000 people are still living away from their homes one month after Manuel caused widespread flooding and left landslide risks, officials hurried to get emergency teams in place and weighed possible further evacuations.

Cyanide ruled fatal for Bulger witness

The Massachusetts medical examiner’s office determined that cyanide poisoning killed an alleged extortion victim of Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger who had hoped to testify at Bulger’s trial, prosecutors said Sunday.

The medical examiner’s office concluded that Stephen Rakes, 59, of Quincy, died of acute cyanide toxicity in July and ruled his death a homicide, according to MaryBeth Long, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

Authorities said Rakes’ death wasn’t related to the Bulger case.

Rakes’ business associate, William Camuti, 69, of Sudbury, is charged with attempted murder and other crimes for allegedly poisoning Rakes’ iced coffee. Camuti has pleaded not guilty.

Pennsylvania crash victims IDd

A local coroner on Sunday identified five Pennsylvania residents as the victims of a horrific crash involving two motorcycles and an SUV near the Maryland state line.

All four people traveling on the motorcycles died, as did Marjorie Smith, 68, of Johnstown, who was a passenger in the SUV, according to Franklin County coroner Jeffrey Conner.

The motorcyclists were Douglas Hoffer Jr., 32, of Quarryville; Colleen Nesbitt, 27, of Gap; and David Russell, 67, and Michelle Russell, 53, both of Mount Joy.

According to Conner, the SUV crossed the center line on an access Road and hit the motorcycle driven by Hoffer. The SUV then spun around and was broadsided by the Russells’ bike, he said in a statement.

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