Aug 04 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 BP begins crucial well ‘kill’ in Gulf of Mexico

by Matt Davis, AFP

25 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP began Tuesday its long-awaited “static kill” to plug the worst oil leak in history, pouring heavy drilling fluids to hold back the gushing crude in its runaway well.

Delayed by a week due to Tropical Storm Bonnie, and again on Monday when a leak was discovered in the cap that had been sealing the well since July 15, the operation finally got under way at 2000 GMT.

“The aim of these procedures is to assist with the strategy to kill and isolate the well, and will complement the upcoming relief well operation,” BP said in a short statement.

2 BP gears up for well ‘kill’

by Matt Davis, AFP

Mon Aug 2, 5:58 pm ET

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP geared up Monday for its long-awaited static kill, hoping to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil well and take a major step towards ending the region’s worst ever environmental disaster.

Heavy drilling fluids, known in the trade as “mud,” are to be pumped down into the well on Tuesday morning to plug the giant gusher that has threatened the Gulf’s oil, fishing and tourism industries with financial ruin.

Engineers were performing a dry-run of “injectivity tests” on Monday, but BP senior vice president Kent Wells said they were not anticipating any unforeseen problems that could derail the effort.

3 Crunch-time as BP readies well kill mission

by Matt Davis, AFP

1 hr 14 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP prepared Tuesday to plug the worst oil leak in history, although the Gulf of Mexico region will be counting the environmental and economic costs for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Already delayed by a week due to Tropical Storm Bonnie, the long-awaited “static kill” was put off again at the last-minute when a leak was discovered on Monday in the cap that has been sealing the runaway well since July 15.

US spill chief Thad Allen said the leak had been stopped overnight and that the operation to ram in heavy drilling fluids, known as mud, would commence as soon as “injectivity tests” had given the procedure the all-clear.

4 42 killed in Iraq attacks as Qaeda plants flag

by Ali al-Alaak, AFP

2 hrs 36 mins ago

KUT, Iraq (AFP) – Twin car bombs in south Iraq killed 33 people on Tuesday while Al-Qaeda fighters hoisted their flag having shot dead five police in Baghdad, a day after the US vowed no delays to a major troop pullout.

The attack in Kut, 160 kilometres (100 miles) south of the Iraqi capital, the first car bombing in the city since the US invasion in 2003, occurred amid concerns that the conflict-wracked nation’s security may be unravelling.

Overall, 42 people were killed in violence on Tuesday, officials said, just days after government ministries said more people died in unrest in July than in any month since May 2008.

5 Toyota, Honda’s US sales drop as Big Three post gains

by Mira Oberman, AFP

31 mins ago

CHICAGO (AFP) – Toyota and Honda saw their US sales drop in July as the Big Three US automakers posted modest gains Tuesday thanks to popular new vehicles.

“It comes down to product: Ford and GM have the product and now Chrysler is getting into the game,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with automotive website Edmunds.com.

“It’s an interesting change because it was always the Japanese that had faster cycle times of their products.”

6 RIM unleashes BlackBerry Torch to take on iPhone


9 mins ago

NEW YORK, USA (AFP) – Research In Motion (RIM) on Tuesday unveiled a BlackBerry Torch to take on the hot-selling iPhone, avoiding comment on a plan in the United Arab Emirates to snuff out data service there.

RIM’s first mobile phone with a slide-out keyboard and touch-control screen debuted at a press event in New York City.

RIM executives did not make themselves available after the gathering to field questions about discussions said to be taking place between countries such as the UAE regarding access to data sent using BlackBerry devices.

7 Census shines light on biodiversity of the seas

by Virginie Montet, AFP

Tue Aug 3, 3:17 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Crabs, lobsters and other crustaceans represent the most common species in the world’s seas, and the waters of Australia and Japan are the most diverse, according to a vast inventory of marine life published.

“We have made discoveries. We have learned new things,” Jesse Ausubel, co-founder of the Census of Marine Life project, which compiled the roll call of life in the sea, told AFP.

Australian and Japanese waters each feature almost 33,000 forms of life that have earned the status of “species.”

8 Fearful Americans save more as recovery slows

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

2 hrs 25 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans are saving more and spending less, putting a choker on the economic recovery, data showed Tuesday, as the US government warned sky-high unemployment may yet worsen.

The mighty American consumer — whose thirst for new products has for decades been a mainstay of the global economy — has trimmed spending as salaries have stagnated and more cash is saved, according to the latest Commerce Department figures.

In June Americans saved 6.4 percent of their income on average, the highest savings levels in a year.

9 Parched Russia warns on harvest as wheat prices surge

by Stuart Williams, AFP

Tue Aug 3, 1:07 pm ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Leading wheat exporter Russia cut its grain harvest forecast by millions of tonnes on Tuesday owing to the worst drought for decades, adding to concerns pushing wheat prices to a two-year high.

Russia, currently the world’s number three wheat exporter, has seen 20 percent of its arable land (10 million hectares, 24.7 million acres) scorched by a heatwave which has also hit its ambitions to raise its share of global markets.

“I think we will have (a grain harvest of) 70-75 million tonnes,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexander Belyayev told reporters in the Siberian city of Novosibrisk, Russian news agencies reported.

10 BP begins "static kill" operation on blown-out well

By Kristen Hays, Reuters

41 mins ago

HOUSTON (Reuters) – BP began a “static kill” operation of its blown-out Gulf of Mexico well on Tuesday, the first step of a two-punch strategy to permanently plug the world’s worst accidental marine oil spill.

The operation, which will pump heavy drilling mud and later cement into the well shaft, is the next move to definitively subdue the unstable deepwater gusher that was provisionally capped in mid-July.

The “static kill” would take 33-61 hours to complete, officials said.

11 NY mosque near September 11 site wins approval

By Karina Ioffee, Reuters

2 hrs 7 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York city agency on Tuesday cleared the way for construction of a Muslim cultural center near the site of the September 11 attacks.

In a case that triggered national debate, the City Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status for an old building on the site of the planned center.

Opponents of the Muslim center, which would include a mosque, say it will be a betrayal of the memory of victims of the September 11 attacks, which were carried out by the militant Muslim group al Qaeda with hijacked passenger planes.

12 Harry Reid holds narrow edge in Nevada: Reuters-Ipsos poll

By Steve Holland, Reuters

1 hr 51 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, one of America’s most powerful politicians, holds a narrow edge among likely voters in his re-election bid in recession-lashed Nevada, a Reuters-Ipsos poll said on Tuesday.

The struggling U.S. economy is paramount in voters’ minds as they look ahead to the November 2 election in Nevada, with 74 percent citing the economy as their top concern, the poll of 600 Nevada voters done July 30-August 1 found.

And Nevada’s high jobless rate of 14.2 percent and rising home foreclosures and bankruptcies appear to be taking their toll on Reid in his attempt for a fifth six-year term. Seventy-one percent of registered voters said the state is on the wrong track.

13 RIM unveils new BlackBerry to counter Apple iPhone

By Sinead Carew and Matthew Lynley, Reuters

33 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Research In Motion unveiled a new BlackBerry aimed at wooing consumers away from Apple’s iPhone and other rivals, but analysts said the handset won’t blow away the competition.

Even though the main features of the BlackBerry Torch, including a touchscreen and slideout keyboard, were well-known within the industry, investors registered their disappointment, driving RIM’s Toronto-listed shares down 4 percent.

The Torch will go on sale in the United States on August 12 for $199.99 with a two-year contract — about the same price as an iPhone. The new BlackBerry uses a revamped operating system and has a faster and easier-to-use Web browser.

14 Pakistan’s Karachi shut after 45 killed in clashes

By Faisal Aziz and Sahar Ahmed, Reuters

Tue Aug 3, 8:37 am ET

KARACHI (Reuters) – Clashes that killed at least 45 people overnight in Karachi scared residents off its streets on Tuesday as Pakistan’s largest city was on alert for more violence after the shooting of a leader in a dominant political party.

Officials said more than 100 people were wounded and dozens of vehicles and shops torched by mobs who took to the streets after Raza Haider, a member of the provincial Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), was gunned down on Monday along with his bodyguard while attending a funeral.

The government blamed the Taliban and the banned militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) for the killing of the lawmaker.

15 Lawsuit claims Toyota ignored safety issues

By Steve Gorman, Reuters

Mon Aug 2, 8:06 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Co ignored evidence of acceleration problems in its vehicles for most of the past decade and failed to install a brake override system it knew could have prevented accidents, an amended federal lawsuit filed on Monday claims.

The revised lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Southern California on behalf of nearly 40 consumers and businesses for claims of economic losses, including diminished vehicle values, stemming from complaints of Toyota cars racing out of control.

Plaintiff lawyers say they expect the litigation will encompass some 40 million U.S. consumers if class-action status is conferred on the lawsuit as intended.

16 Special Report: China bets future on inland cities

By Chris Buckley and Simon Rabinovitch, Reuters

Tue Aug 3, 7:34 am ET

GUSHI, China (Reuters) – China has put big money down on a momentous gamble: rush to build new cities in its poor interior, then wait for people to come and help drive the economy to a new stage of growth.

Here in this corner of the Chinese hinterland, the government has widened farm lanes into highways, turned wheat fields into an industrial park, spent a fortune on government offices, and set up a school for thousands of students in what was a dusty town a few years before.

Old, cracked gravestones have been bulldozed to make way for a housing estate featuring 60 apartment buildings, a winding creek and tennis courts, the latest such development in Gushi.

17 Crews begin effort to plug leaking Gulf oil well

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writer

8 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – Engineers began pumping heavy drilling mud into the blown-out Gulf of Mexico oil well Tuesday in what they think is their best chance yet to achieve the ultimate goal in a delicate process – snuffing one of the world’s largest spills for good.

BP crews began the long-awaited effort dubbed the “static kill” around 3 p.m. Central time, the British oil giant said. The effort involves pumping mud and eventually, crews hope, cement from ships to the well bore a mile below to seal off the source of the oil.

But the government and oil executives won’t declare victory until crews also shove mud and cement down an 18,000-foot relief well later this month to help choke the vast undersea reservoir that feeds the well. They say that’s the only way to make certain oil never escapes again.

18 9 killed in shooting at Conn. beer distributorship

By STEPHEN SINGER, Associated Press Writer

10 mins ago

MANCHESTER, Conn. – A warehouse driver about to lose his job after getting caught on video stealing beer from the distributorship where he worked went on a shooting rampage there Tuesday, killing eight people before committing suicide, authorities said.

At least two people were wounded, one critically, Manchester police said. They were expected to survive.

The gunman, a black man identified by a company executive as Omar Thornton, had complained of racial harassment and said he found a picture of a noose and a racial epithet written on a bathroom wall, the mother of his girlfriend said. Her daughter told her that Thornton’s supervisors told him they’d talk to his co-workers. But a union official said Thornton had not filed a complaint of racism to the union or any government agency.

19 Departing US troops pack millions of items in Iraq

REBECCA SANTANA, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 2:03 pm ET

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Everything from helicopters to printer cartridges is being wrapped and stamped and shipped out of Iraq. U.S. military bases that once resembled small towns have transformed into a cross between giant post offices and Office Depots.

Soldiers who battled through insurgents and roadside bombs are now doing inventory and accounting. Their task: reverse over the course of months a U.S. military presence that built up over seven years of war.

“We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades,” President Barack Obama said in a speech Monday hailing this month’s planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq.

20 K-9 PTSD? Some vets say dogs stressed by war, too

By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

51 mins ago

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

A military veterinarian diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder – a condition that some experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

21 Panel’s landmark denial frees NYC mosque site

By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 4 mins ago

NEW YORK – Ignoring jeers and cries of “Shame on you,” a city commission on Tuesday denied landmark status to a building near the World Trade Center site that can now be demolished to make way for an Islamic community center and mosque.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission said in voting 9-0 that the 152-year-old building isn’t distinctive enough to qualify as a landmark.

“This is not a building of special aesthetic character,” said Commissioner Diana Chapin, echoing the remarks of her colleagues.

22 Economic recovery falls to thrifty consumers


29 mins ago

WASHINGTON – American shoppers are being careful about how much they spend, and that’s making businesses cautious about hiring.

For the economic recovery to gain strength – and the unemployment rate to come down in any meaningful way – consumers will need to become less frugal. But a flurry of data released Tuesday suggests families are reluctant to increase their spending, even as they buy more stuff, including cars and consumer staples like razors and shampoo.

“Once the unemployment rate starts coming down in a significant way, consumers will feel more confident and start spending. But businesses are reluctant to step up hiring until they see stronger demand,” said Chris G. Christopher, senior economist at IHS Global Insight. “It’s a Catch-22 situation.”

23 Economic recovery falls to thrifty consumers


31 mins ago

WASHINGTON – American shoppers are being careful about how much they spend, and that’s making businesses cautious about hiring.

For the economic recovery to gain strength – and the unemployment rate to come down in any meaningful way – consumers will need to become less frugal. But a flurry of data released Tuesday suggests families are reluctant to increase their spending, even as they buy more stuff, including cars and consumer staples like razors and shampoo.

“Once the unemployment rate starts coming down in a significant way, consumers will feel more confident and start spending. But businesses are reluctant to step up hiring until they see stronger demand,” said Chris G. Christopher, senior economist at IHS Global Insight. “It’s a Catch-22 situation.”

24 Political killing stokes tensions in Pakistan city

By ASHRAF KHAN, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 1:09 pm ET

KARACHI, Pakistan – The ruling party in Pakistan’s largest city accused its main political rival of supporting Islamist militants suspected of assassinating a party leader, further stoking tensions Tuesday after 45 people died in a night of revenge attacks and arson.

The accusation appeared to reflect the complex and vicious political and ethnic faultlines that crisscross Karachi, also Pakistan’s commercial hub and home to the main port for supplies to U.S. and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan.

It has long been plagued by political violence between supporters of rival parties that draw votes from different ethnic groups that live in the city of 16 million people. Their supporters are accused of running protection rackets and illegally seizing land, muddying the picture as to the reasons for the bloodshed.

25 Democrats, GOP push dueling conclusions on Kagan

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer

16 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans presented dueling portraits Tuesday of Elena Kagan and the Supreme Court she’s seeking to join at the start of a politically charged debate over her fitness to be a justice, making what amounted to closing arguments before a near-certain confirmation vote by week’s end.

Democrats praised President Barack Obama’s nominee as a highly qualified legal scholar who would add a sorely needed note of fairness and common sense to a court they described as dominated by a conservative majority run amok.

“She’ll base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution, not on politics, not on an ideological agenda,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He said today’s Supreme Court is populated by “activist conservative members” who substitute their own judgment for lawmakers’.

26 Afghanistan’s ranks of civil servants under siege

By DEB RIECHMANN and AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writers

1 hr 30 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban have issued a new code of conduct ordering fighters to protect civilians – as long as they don’t side with the Afghan government or NATO coalition. If they do, the punishment is death.

The 69-page directive, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press in southern Afghanistan, follows an acceleration in Taliban attacks on Afghan officials – a campaign that threatens the NATO goal of bolstering local government to help turn back the insurgents.

“The Taliban must treat civilians according to Islamic norms and morality to win over the hearts and minds of the people,” says the code, which the insurgents began distributing about a week ago.

27 Iraq: Car bomb kills 15 south of Baghdad

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 2:07 pm ET

BAGHDAD – A car bomb ripped through an outdoor market Tuesday in a mainly Shiite city southeast of Baghdad in the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed at least 22 people nationwide, officials said.

The blast in Kut, 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, targeted a popular outdoor market that sells food and clothes at about 5.30 p.m., killing at least 15 people and wounding 60, according to police and health officials.

The attack came hours after suspected al-Qaida militants killed five Iraqi soldiers at a western Baghdad checkpoint, planting the terror group’s black banner before fleeing. It was the second time in less than a week that al-Qaida’s flag has appeared at the scene of an attack.

28 Obama salutes promised end of US combat in Iraq

By JULIE PACE and JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writers

Mon Aug 2, 11:36 pm ET

ATLANTA – Nearing a milestone in the long and divisive Iraq war, President Barack Obama on Monday hailed this month’s planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops – “as promised and on schedule” – as a major success despite deep doubts about the Iraqis’ ability to police and govern their country.

Portraying the end of America’s combat role in the 7-year war as a personal promise kept, Obama said Iraq will have 90,000 fewer U.S. troops by September than when he took office – a steady homeward flow he called “a season of homecomings.” But there could still be more fighting involving U.S. forces.

“The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” the president said in a speech to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing – from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”

29 Democrats declare swamp of corruption drained

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 3:07 am ET

WASHINGTON – Democratic leaders say they’ve emptied the swamp of congressional corruption. Never mind the ethics trials to come for two longtime party members.

“Drain the swamp we did, because this was a terrible place,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week of the Republican rule in the House that ended in January 2007.

Pelosi’s statement might seem odd, but it’s an emerging strategy: Separate Democratic-initiated ethics reforms from the cases of Reps. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

30 Poll: Identity, blending in important to Hispanics

By JULIANA BARBASSA and JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writers

Tue Aug 3, 12:11 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Tomasa Bulux speaks Spanish to her children, maintains an altar at home representing her Mayan culture’s view of the world and meets once a week with Mayan immigrants who speak her indigenous Quiche tongue.

At the same time, she’s becoming a part of the diverse, cosmopolitan city she lives in. Her Guatemalan dishes share space on the table with experiments in cooking Thai or Arabic food. She’s fluent in English and socializes with her European-American husband’s English-speaking family as much as with other Hispanics.

Bulux (BOO-loox), 42, an immigrant from Guatemala, is hardly alone.

31 AP IMPACT: New ID theft targets kids’ SS numbers

By BILL DRAPER, Associated Press Writer

Mon Aug 2, 10:35 pm ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The latest form of identity theft doesn’t depend on stealing your Social Security number. Now thieves are targeting your kid’s number long before the little one even has a bank account.

Hundreds of online businesses are using computers to find dormant Social Security numbers – usually those assigned to children who don’t use them – then selling those numbers under another name to help people establish phony credit and run up huge debts they will never pay off.

Authorities say the scheme could pose a new threat to the nation’s credit system. Because the numbers exist in a legal gray area, federal investigators have not figured out a way to prosecute the people involved.

32 Breitbart: Enemy of the left with a laptop

By MICHAEL R. BLOOD, AP Political Writer

1 hr 50 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Andrew Breitbart strips off his blazer, windmills it over his head and lets it fly to the stage with a matador’s flourish. He booms into a microphone, sneering, taunting. Breath sprints to keep up with words.

A Breitbart boil is under way, before a cheering throng of tea partiers on a moonlike strip of Nevada desert back in March.

A finger stabs overhead as the conservative online publisher declares Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., a racist. An arm lances outward as he decries Republican leaders as apologists. Voice rising, Breitbart pledges $10,000, then $20,000, then $100,000 for the United Negro College Fund if proof is found to corroborate claims of racial name-calling during tea party protests on Capitol Hill.

33 States slash pre-K programs as budgets bleed

By DORIE TURNER, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 16 mins ago

ATLANTA – States are cutting hundreds of millions from their prekindergarten budgets, undermining years of working to help young children – particularly poor kids – get ready for school.

States are slashing nearly $350 million from their pre-K programs by next year and more cuts are likely on the horizon once federal stimulus money dries up, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. The reductions mean fewer slots for children, teacher layoffs and even fewer services for needy families who can’t afford high-quality private preschool programs.

One state – Arizona – has proposed eliminating its 5,500-child program entirely. Illinois cut $32 million from last fiscal year’s pre-k budget and plans to slash another $48 million this year.

34 Lawsuit settled over Ill. deputy’s use of stun gun

By JIM SUHR, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 12:52 pm ET

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A federal lawsuit that accused a southern Illinois sheriff’s deputy of zapping three children with a stun gun at an emergency youth shelter and threatening to sodomize one of them has been settled for $750,000, according to court documents.

David Bowers and a fellow Jefferson County deputy who the lawsuit alleged watched Bowers’ misconduct at the center near Mount Vernon acknowledged no wrongdoing as part of the deal. One-third of the settlement’s payout – covered by the sheriff’s department’s insurer – will go toward attorneys’ fees.

Bowers and fellow deputy Lonnie Lawler still work for the department, where their boss – Sheriff Roger Mulch – has defended their actions, insisting the law enforcers followed protocol and did “nothing out of the ordinary.” Mulch also has noted that separate investigations by his department and Illinois State Police determined the deputies did nothing wrong.

35 CAPITAL CULTURE: Justices are chummy even in death

By JESSICA GRESKO, Associated Press Writer

Tue Aug 3, 12:01 am ET

ARLINGTON, Va. – Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has heard it over and over in recent weeks: A Supreme Court appointment is for life. What she may not know is that recent high court justices have stuck together – even in death.

At Arlington National Cemetery, just over the Potomac River from Washington, eight justices rest together in one section – one justice short of a full court. In all, 12 justices are buried at Arlington, and another 18 lie at other nearby cemeteries.

“The court always had a sense of collegial togetherness,” said David N. Atkinson, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who has studied and written about the justices’ last days.

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