Daily Dispatches
Mojtaba Atarodi's family welcomes him back to Iran on April 27.
Associated Press/Photo by Vahid Salemi
Mojtaba Atarodi's family welcomes him back to Iran on April 27.

Midday Roundup: Possible U.S. prisoner release angers supporters of jailed pastor

Newsworthy

 Secret deal. An Israeli news site claims to have uncovered secret prisoner exchanges between Iran and the United States that may have ignored Pastor Saeed Abedni and other Americans held in Iran. The Times of Israel reports that in April the United States released an Iranian professor who was previously arrested in Los Angeles. Mojtaba Atarodi is believed to be involved in building Iran’s nuclear program. The news site said the release of Atarodi could be a precursor to Iran’s reciprocating by freeing one of three Americans believed to be held there: Abedini, FBI agent Robert Levinson, and Amir Hekmati, who is accused of being a spy. But Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice told Fox News that the United States’ unilateral release of an Iranian prisoner without demanding the release of an American was a betrayal of its citizens. The Obama administration said the claims about Atarodi were untrue, though it hasn't elaborated on which claims it specifically denies, according to The Times of Israel.

Way too fast. A commuter train that derailed over the weekend, killing four passengers, was barreling down the track at 82 mph as it entered a 30 mph curve, a federal investigator said Monday. Whether the wreck was the result of human error or mechanical trouble was unclear. Rail experts said the tragedy might have been prevented if Metro-North Railroad had installed automated crash-avoidance technology that safety authorities have been urging for decades. The locomotive’s speed was extracted from the train’s two data recorders after the Sunday morning accident, which happened in the Bronx along a bend so sharp that the speed limit drops from 70 mph to 30 mph. Officials would not disclose what the engineer operating the train told investigators. Results of drug and alcohol tests were not yet available. Investigators are also examining the engineer’s cellphone, apparently to determine whether he was distracted.

City in distress. Detroit may shed billions in debt in the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history, a judge said Tuesday in a long-awaited decision. Judge Steven Rhodes turned down objections from unions, pension funds, and retirees, which, like other creditors, could lose under any plan to eliminate $18 billion in debt. He ruled that Detroit met specific conditions under federal law to stay in bankruptcy court and work on a plan to restructure its debt. Before Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July, nearly 40 cents of every dollar collected by the city was used to pay debt, a figure that could rise to 65 cents without relief through bankruptcy, according to the city. The city has argued that it needs bankruptcy protection for the sake of beleaguered residents suffering from poor services such as slow to nonexistent police response, darkened streetlights, and erratic garbage pickup.

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Undetectable. Congress is racing to renew a 25-year-old prohibition against firearms that can evade metal detectors and X-ray machines, just days before the ban expires. The use of 3-D printers to produce homemade plastic weapons has added to the urgency of lawmakers to extend the ban. The Republican-led House was expected to approve a 10-year extension Tuesday. The ban was first enacted in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan, when todays computer and weapons technologies were in their early stages. The use of 3-D printers to make guns received heightened attention in May when a University of Texas law student posted blueprints online for using the printers to make a pistol. The student was ordered by the State Department to take down the instructions after two days because of allegedly violating arms export controls. In a letter to lawmakers last month, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, representing the nation’s gun-makers and retailers, said it backs the extension but opposes adding any additional restrictions on undetectable guns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lynde Langdon
Lynde Langdon

Lynde lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. She holds degrees from the University of Missouri in journalism, Russian, and business administration. She is in a long-term, committed relationship with the Lutheran church. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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