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Remittances fell 10 percent in 2013

MEXICO CITY - The amount of money sent home by Mexican migrants working abroad fell by almost 10 percent in the first six months of 2013.

Mexico's central bank said remittances fell 9.7 percent to $10.7 billion, compared with $11.9 billion in the same period of 2012.

The bank report released Thursday marks a full year of consecutive declines. Remittances peaked at about $27 billion in 2007, then declined by about 15.5 percent between 2008 and 2009 before beginning a slow recovery in 2010.

Experts attribute the decline to continued weakness in economic sectors that employ migrants in the United States, where most Mexican expats reside.


This time conviction sticks to Berlusconi

ROME - Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi says the Italian Supreme Court's decision to uphold his tax fraud conviction and jail sentence is "baseless" and robs him of his political rights.

Berlusconi delivered a nine-minute video statement Thursday, hours after he was definitively convicted for the first time in decades of criminal prosecutions. The three-time former premier and media mogul appeared shaken and somber, his voice breaking at times.

He said he was the victim of "an incredible series of accusations and trials that had nothing to do with reality."


Nation hit by worst heat wave in 140 yrs.

SHANGHAI - It's been so hot in China that people are grilling shrimp on manhole covers, eggs are hatching without incubators and a highway billboard mysteriously caught fire by itself.

The heat wave - the worst in at least 140 years in some parts - has left dozens of people dead and pushed thermometers above 104 degree in at least 40 cities and counties, mostly in the south and east.

Authorities for the first time have declared the heat a "Level 2" weather emergency - a label normally invoked for typhoons and flooding.


Attack on arms depot leaves dozens dead

HOMS - Opposition rebels attacked a weapons depot with rockets, setting off a potent series of explosions that killed at least 40 people in the city of Homs, according to opposition members.

Among the dead were government soldiers and civilians. An additional 120 were injured, many of them critically, after the rebels launched rockets into the Wadi Thahab neighborhood and two other districts inhabited mostly by Alawites, members of President Bashar Assad's minority sect, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group.

The Haqq Brigade, one of the largest rebel groups in Homs, claimed responsibility for the attack.


July death toll highest in 5 years, UN reports

BAGHDAD - More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq in July, the highest monthly death toll in five years, the U.N. said Thursday, a grim figure that shows rapidly deteriorating security as sectarian tensions soar nearly two years after U.S. troops withdrew from the country.

Violence has been on the rise all year, but the number of attacks against civilians and security forces has spiked during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began early last month. The increased bloodshed has intensified fears that Iraq is on a path back to the widespread chaos that nearly tore the country apart in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The U.N. Mission in Iraq said 1,057 Iraqis were killed and 2,326 wounded in July, the highest toll since June 2008, when 975 people were killed.

Wire reports