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Japan balls on beach linked to 2011 tsunami

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A soccer ball and volleyball from Japan may be the first positively identified items from the Japan tsunami of March 2011 to reach Alaskan shores.

According to an online notice Thursday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Response and Restoration, the balls were found on the beach of Middleton Island by David Baxter, a technician at the radar site on the remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

Baxter noticed Japanese writing stenciled on the balls. His wife translated the writing on the soccer ball and traced it to the name of a school. NOAA confirmed that the school was in the tsunami zone, though located uphill and not seriously damaged by the disaster.

NOAA believes this could be one of the first times anything washed away during the tsunami has been sufficiently identified to make it possible to return it to its owner.

-- McClatchy Newspapers


Mexico Walmart tied to bribery in report

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Walmart hushed up a vast bribery campaign that top executives of its Mexican subsidiary carried out to build stores across that country, according to a published report.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the Bentonville-based company failed to notify law enforcement officials even after its own investigators found evidence of millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican officials. The newspaper said Walmart shut down its probe despite a report by its lead investigator that Mexican and U.S. laws likely were violated.

The bribery reportedly came to the attention of senior executives at Walmart in 2005, when a former executive of its Mexican subsidiary provided extensive details of a bribery campaign it had orchestrated to win market dominance.

The newspaper said that only after learning of its investigation did Walmart inform the U.S. Justice Department in December 2011 that it had begun an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


Obama seeks extension of college loan rate cut

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eager to energize young voters, President Obama is depicting Republicans as obstacles to an affordable college education as he previews an argument he will make on university campuses this week in states crucial to his re-election.

"This is a question of values," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. "We cannot let America become a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of people struggle to get by."

Obama wants Congress to extend a law that cut interest rates on a popular federal loan program for low- and middle-income undergraduates. If the law expires, the rates will double on July 1, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Obama blames Republicans for voting against new ways to make college more affordable for middle-class families.

Meanwhile, in the Republicans' weekend address, Sen. Roy Blunt chided Obama and Senate Democrats for pushing unsuccessfully for a tax increase on millionaires instead of focusing on high gas prices. He pressed Obama to drop his opposition to the Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.