Aug 16 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Obama swims in Gulf, says beaches open for business

By Ross Colvin, Reuters

Sun Aug 15, 6:57 am ET

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Florida (Reuters) – President Barack Obama went swimming off the coast of Florida on Saturday and declared the Gulf area’s beaches “open for business,” trying to show by example that a region hit by the BP oil spill was safe for tourists to enjoy.

Obama, on his fifth visit to the region since BP Plc’s deep-sea well in the Gulf of Mexico ruptured in April, pledged to restore the economy and the environment in the aftermath of the world’s worst offshore oil spill.

“Oil is no longer flowing into the Gulf, and it has not been flowing for a month. But I’m here to tell you that our job is not finished, and we are not going anywhere until it is,” he told reporters after holding talks with local business owners.

2 U.N. chief urges faster foreign aid for Pakistan

By Augustine Anthony, Reuters

Sun Aug 15, 11:58 am ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged foreign donors on Sunday to speed up aid to Pakistan and warned of more destruction after floods that have already disrupted lives of a tenth of its 170 million people.

Swollen by torrential monsoon rains, major rivers have flooded Pakistan’s mountain valleys and fertile plains, killing up to 1,600 people and leaving two million homeless.

Six million people still need food, shelter and water and medicine, the United Nations says. Pakistan’s government, already facing a Taliban insurgency, now faces the risk of social upheaval and long-term economic pain.

3 Republicans attack Obama over Muslim center comments


Sun Aug 15, 12:09 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans attacked President Barack Obama on Sunday for his comments on a controversial plan to build a Muslim cultural center in New York, saying he was “disconnected” from the nation in an election year.

Obama waded into the debate on Friday when he appeared to offer his backing for the center called Cordoba House to be built two blocks from the “Ground Zero” site of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York City.

On Saturday, seeking to clarify his position, Obama said he supported the right of Muslims to build the center but would not comment on the “wisdom” of deciding its location in Lower Manhattan.

4 Military deaths pass 2,000 as Afghan war review looms

By Sayed Salahuddin and Paul Tait, Reuters

Sun Aug 15, 1:02 pm ET

KABUL (Reuters) – Total foreign military deaths in Afghanistan have passed 2,000 since the war began in late 2001, unofficial tallies showed on Sunday, in the approach to U.S. and Afghan elections and a U.S. strategy review.

The U.S. military accounted for more than 60 percent of the deaths but the total still lags the list of Afghan civilian casualties, which a U.N. report last week showed had risen sharply despite a drop in the number blamed on foreign troops.

The deaths of at least one more U.S. service member, an Australian and a Briton announced in the past two days have pushed the total of foreign military deaths to 2,002 since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition.

5 Petraeus sees "areas of progress" in Afghan war

By John Whitesides, Reuters

Sun Aug 15, 11:48 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. commander in Afghanistan said he sees “areas of progress” in the war but it was still unclear if President Barack Obama’s goal of starting to pull out troops in July 2011 could be met.

Army General David Petraeus said in an interview aired on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the battle against the Taliban insurgency was an “up and down process” and it was too early to determine its success.

“What we have are areas of progress. We’ve got to link those together, extend them,” Petraeus said in an interview aimed at boosting flagging public confidence in the war effort.

6 UN chief pledges to speed up Pakistan aid

by Masroor Gilani, AFP

31 mins ago

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Sunday pledged to speed up international aid for as many as 20 million people hit by Pakistan’s floods, warning the “heart-wrenching” disaster was far from over.

The United Nations has appealed for 460 million dollars to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods, but has warned that billions will be needed in the long term as villages, businesses, crops and infrastructure have been wiped out.

Pakistan’s weak civilian government has appealed to the international community to help it deal with the challenges of a crisis compared by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the sub-continent’s 1947 partition.

7 Fires still threaten Russian nuclear site

by Anna Smolchenko, AFP

Sun Aug 15, 11:09 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Shifting winds brought the acrid smell of smog briefly back to Moscow on Sunday and fires burned near Russia’s main nuclear research centre as residents complained of ash in the air in central Russia.

Amid the worst heatwave in its history, Russia has for days battled to cut back hundreds of blazes across the country, including fires in a nature reserve near its top nuclear research centre in Sarov, a town still closed to foreigners as in Soviet times.

The secret nuclear research centre tucked into the woods in central Russia straddles two regions — the Nizhny Novgorod and Mordovia regions — and the emergency ministry said on Sunday the number of fires in both regions had been reduced.

8 Japan officials avoid war shrine on anniversary

by Harumi Ozawa, AFP

Sun Aug 15, 4:10 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan on Sunday commemorated the 65th anniversary of its surrender in World War II, without the ministerial visits to a controversial war shrine that regularly provoke outrage in parts of Asia.

For the first time in at least a quarter of a century, no government minister went to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, a place dedicated to 2.5 million Japanese killed in conflicts, including 14 of Japan’s top WWII criminals.

The anniversary is the first since Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s centre-left Democratic Party ousted the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last year after its almost unbroken half century in power.

9 Mosque near ground zero becoming political football

By Michael Mathes, AFP

9 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republicans pounced Sunday on US President Barack Obama’s comments supporting the right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, painting him as out of touch less than three months before key mid-term elections.

Democrats and Republicans squared off on whether it was appropriate for Obama to wade into the fray over the Islamic center, which would include a mosque and would be built two city blocks away from the site of the former World Trade Center.

At a Friday Iftar dinner at the White House to mark Ramadan, Obama said Muslims “have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country,” including by building a mosque in lower Manhattan.

10 Germany revving up but Merkel continues to sputter

by Simon Sturdee, AFP

Sun Aug 15, 12:07 am ET

BERLIN (AFP) – The latest data for Germany has confirmed that Europe’s biggest economy, unlike the United States and elsewhere, is firing on all cylinders. But voters aren’t giving Chancellor Angela Merkel the credit.

Germany’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 2.2 percent in the second quarter, figures showed Friday, the strongest three-monthly gain in output since East and West Germany reunified in 1990.

This followed figures showing that exports, the backbone of the German economy, rocketed 28.5 percent year-on-year in June to reach 86.5 billion euros (111.7 billion dollars), close to pre-crisis levels.

11 Summer breather in Greece ahead of austerity push

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Sat Aug 14, 11:39 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – On the heels of a debt crisis that pushed their country close to bankruptcy this year, Greeks are savouring a badly-needed summer breather ahead of a new austerity drive expected next month.

Hundreds of thousands, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou included, have flocked to beaches for a holiday respite some say could be their last before living conditions are drastically changed by wage cuts and price hikes.

The exodus peaks this weekend ahead of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Virgin Mary feast on August 15, one of Greece’s foremost public holidays.

12 Gulf driller to light up cigar after job is done

By HARRY R. WEBER and TOM BREEN, Associated Press Writers

1 hr 9 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – The man with pinpoint accuracy who is drilling the relief well meant to plug BP’s runaway well is looking forward to finishing his mission and celebrating with a cigar, a dinner party with his crew and a trip somewhere quiet to unwind with his wife.

John Wright has never missed his target over the years, successfully drilling 40 relief wells that were used to plug leaks around the world. People along the Gulf Coast aren’t the only ones hoping he can make it 41-for-41.

“Anyone who has ever worked extremely hard on a long project wants to see it successfully finished, as long as it serves its intended purpose,” Wright, 56, who is leading the team drilling the primary relief well, said in a lengthy e-mail exchange with The Associated Press from the Development Driller III vessel.

13 With BP spill under control, US looks at drill ban

By CHRIS KAHN, DINA CAPPIELLO and HARRY R. WEBER, Associated Press Writers

Sun Aug 15, 8:30 am ET

NEW ORLEANS – Now that the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history has effectively been stopped, the White House is considering an early end to its moratorium on deepwater drilling.

But four months after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, regulators have only started to make good on promises to overhaul drilling. Tough measures are stalled in Congress. A $1 billion emergency response network proposed by the industry won’t be operational for another year.

And while doomsday scenarios from the BP spill, like oil washing up the East Coast, have not come to pass, there are no guarantees that drilling will be any safer once it does resume.

14 AP-GfK polls show Obama losing independents

By ALAN FRAM and TREVOR TOMPSON, Associated Press Writers

2 hrs 53 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Independents who embraced President Barack Obama’s call for change in 2008 are ready for a shift again, and that’s worrisome news for Democrats.

Only 32 percent of those citing no allegiance to either major party say they want Democrats to keep control of Congress in this November’s elections, according to combined results of recent Associated Press-GfK polls. That’s way down from the 52 percent of independents who backed Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain two years ago, and the 49 percent to 41 percent edge by which they preferred Democratic candidates for the House in that election, according to exit polls of voters.

Independents voice especially strong concerns about the economy, with 9 in 10 calling it a top problem and no other issue coming close, the analysis of the AP-GfK polls shows. While Democrats and Republicans rank the economy the No. 1 problem in similar numbers, they are nearly as worried about their No. 2 issues, health care for Democrats and terrorism for Republicans.

15 UN chief: Never seen anything like Pakistan floods

By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer

8 mins ago

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday he has never seen anything like the flood disaster in Pakistan after surveying the devastation and urged foreign donors to speed up assistance to the 20 million people affected.

Ban’s comments reflect the concern of the international community about the unfolding disaster in Pakistan, which is battling al-Qaida and Taliban militants, has a weak and unpopular government, and an anemic economy propped up by international assistance.

“This has been a heart-wrenching day for me,” Ban said after flying over the hard-hit areas with President Asif Ali Zardari. “I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. In the past I have witnessed many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

16 Advocates see trouble for misdiagnosed soldiers

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 15, 2:22 pm ET

WASHINGTON – At the height of the Iraq war, the Army routinely dismissed hundreds of soldiers for having a personality disorder when they were more likely suffering from the traumatic stresses of war, discharge data suggests.

Under pressure from Congress and the public, the Army later acknowledged the problem and drastically cut the number of soldiers given the designation. But advocates for veterans say an unknown number of troops still unfairly bear the stigma of a personality disorder, making them ineligible for military health care and other benefits.

“We really have an obligation to go back and make sure troops weren’t misdiagnosed,” said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, a clinical psychologist whose nonprofit “Give an Hour” connects troops with volunteer mental health professionals.

17 Threats of int’l BlackBerry bans echo US debate

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer

1 hr 32 mins ago

NEW YORK – Threats by the governments of India, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to shut down BlackBerry’s corporate e-mail services reflect unease about a technology that the U.S. government also took a while to accept.

The foreign governments are essentially a decade behind in coming to terms with encryption, a technology that’s fundamental to the Internet as a medium of commerce.

Encrypted communications are scrambled in a complex process to ensure that only the intended recipient can read them, using the proper digital key. This often takes place behind the scenes, without the user needing to do anything. When you submit your credit card number on a shopping site, the communication is encrypted. When you log in to your bank’s site, that connection is encrypted as well.

18 Lockerbie families raise new questions over bomber

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 34 mins ago

LONDON – The regrets of a cancer expert who assessed the only man ever convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie jetliner bombing have intensified the anger felt by victims’ relatives over Scotland’s decision to release the Libyan on compassionate grounds.

Professor Karol Sikora and other experts had said Abdel Baset al-Megrahi probably had only three months to live when he was freed from a Scottish jail last August and allowed to return home to Libya. But one year later, Al-Megrahi, who is being treated for prostate cancer, is still alive.

Sikora, one of three experts who assessed al-Megrahi’s health for Libyan authorities, was quoted by Britain’s Observer newspaper Sunday as saying he should have been more cautious about the chances of survival.

19 Teen sex not always bad for school performance

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer

Sun Aug 15, 2:09 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – There’s good news for parents who worry that their teenagers’ sex lives are affecting their school performance: A provocative new study has found that teens in committed relationships do no better or worse in school than those who don’t have sex.

The same isn’t true for teens who “hook up.” Researchers found that those who have casual flings get lower grades and have more school-related problems compared with those who abstain.

The findings, presented Sunday at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta, challenge to some extent assumptions that sexually active teens tend to do poorer in school.

20 Petraeus: Progress in Afghanistan will take time

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 15, 2:35 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Progress in Afghanistan only began this spring and needs time to take root, Army Gen. David Petraeus said in comments broadcast Sunday that were aimed at shoring up American support for the war.

Petraeus, who’s been credited with a successful war strategy in Iraq and who took charge of U.S. and NATO military operations in Afghanistan in July, described an “up and down process” of seizing Taliban-controlled territory and creating “small pockets of progress” that he hoped will expand.

The goal, he told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is to keep al-Qaida and other extremist groups at bay while the Afghan government has a chance to take control and earn the trust of the local population.

21 APNewsBreak: Jean seeks dual citizenship for Haiti

By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 15, 7:15 am ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Hip hop artist and presidential hopeful Wyclef Jean said Saturday that as leader he would work to change Haiti’s constitution to allow dual citizenship and give many Haitians living abroad the right to vote in their homeland.

The issue is central in Haiti where hundreds of thousands have emigrated to flee poverty and the money they send to relatives back home is a vital source of income in the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation.

Currently, Haitians who emigrate must renounce their Haitian citizenship if they become citizens of another country, making them unable to vote or run for office in their homeland. Jean himself left Haiti for New York City when he was nine, but never sought U.S. citizenship.

22 AP Exclusive: Afghan attack survivor tells story

By DEB RIECHMANN and AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writers

Sun Aug 15, 7:15 am ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – One of the gunmen who killed 10 charitable health workers in northern Afghanistan hitched a ride with the medical team shortly before the murders, the sole survivor of the attack told The Associated Press on Saturday.

“God was good to me,” the team’s surviving driver, Safiullah, said in an interview punctuated by long pauses and tears for his slain colleagues.

On Aug. 5, the day of the attack, the medical team stopped to give three men a lift – a common courtesy in the rugged, remote area. Soon after, 10 members of the International Assistance Mission – six Americans, three Afghans, one German and a Briton – lay dead.

23 Obama supports ‘the right’ for ground zero mosque

By PAULINE JELINEK and JULIE PACE, Associated Press Writers

Sat Aug 14, 9:16 pm ET

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – Weighing his words carefully on a fiery political issue, President Barack Obama said Saturday that Muslims have the right to build a mosque near New York’s ground zero, but he did not say whether he believes it is a good idea to do so.

Obama commented during a trip to Florida, where he expanded on a Friday night White House speech asserting that Muslims have the same right to freedom of religion as everyone else in America.

The president’s statements thrust him squarely into a debate that he had skirted for weeks and could put Democrats on the spot three months before midterm elections where they already were nervous about holding control of the House and maybe even the Senate. Until Friday, the White House had asserted that it did not want to get involved in local decision-making.

24 Fall from bike spins LA mayor into cycle advocate

By DAISY NGUYEN, Associated Press Writer

19 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the new champion of cyclists’ rights in the nation’s second-largest city, a conversion that came after a bone-breaking fall from his own bicycle.

The mayor, who said little on the topic during five years in office, is campaigning to make streets safer for cyclists after a parked cab abruptly pulled out across a bike lane, causing him to shatter an elbow. The ill-fated ride was his first on city streets since taking office.

Since the July 17 accident, Villaraigosa has utilized the Huffington Post and YouTube to say that it’s time to recognize that bicycles also belong on LA’s streets, which were largely designed for autos. In the YouTube video, he announced plans to convene a bicycle safety summit.

25 Forget high tech, jurors and judge stick to notes

By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 40 mins ago

CHICAGO – In an age when palm-sized computers can fire off electronic messages and cell-phone cameras instantly transmit images, judges communicate with deliberating jurors as teenagers used to do in homeroom when the teacher wasn’t looking: They pass paper notes to each other.

Except sometimes they appear not to be using the same language. With judges using stilted legalese and jurors writing in awkwardly formal English, miscommunication can be common.

Jurors in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption case return to court Monday for their 13th day of deliberations after their attempts to communicate with Judge James B. Zagel left the judge, attorneys and others scratching their heads.

26 DNA test may cast doubt on executed Texan’s guilt

By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 15, 2:17 pm ET

POINT BLANK, Texas – Claude Jones may have been wrongly executed for the 1989 slaying of a liquor store owner in this aptly named Texas town, but no one says he’s an angel.

He was a lifelong criminal, with a rap sheet that included a murder conviction for setting fire to a fellow inmate in a Kansas prison. Two eyewitnesses and his accomplices placed him at the liquor store. And even one of Jones’ attorneys says the defense had “a devil of a time finding a good character witness.”

But there are new questions 10 years after Jones was executed about whether he actually killed 44-year-old Allen Hilzendager while robbing the store, and whether the testimony used to convict him was enough. A judge has ordered DNA testing on a strand of hair that prosecutors used to link Jones to the murder.

27 Vows for justice in NJ child rape falling short

By BETH DEFALCO, Associated Press Writers

Sun Aug 15, 12:52 pm ET

TRENTON, N.J. – The allegations were unthinkable, the outrage immediate, justice promised: A 7-year-old girl had been handed over to a group of men and boys by her older 15-year-old stepsister and gang-raped.

“What happened to this 7-year-old angel … by a group of depraved, animal pedophiles ranks in a place where I could never imagine. This is not the Congo,” said then-Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer three days after the March 28 party in a vacant apartment in one of Trenton’s toughest neighborhoods.

Police said they were taking the case personally. Palmer vowed everyone in the apartment would “suffer the full weight of the legal system.” Activists promised to patrol the neighborhood to protect the troubled public housing complex. The stepsister was immediately arrested and, within days, so were five males – three of them juveniles.

28 Sperm-donors’ kids seek more rights and respect

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer

Sun Aug 15, 12:15 pm ET

NEW YORK – Katrina Clark and Lindsay Greenawalt have much in common. Bright women in their 20s, raised by single mothers, keenly curious about the men whose donated sperm helped give them life.

Clark’s search for her father succeeded after only a month, though with a bittersweet aftermath. Greenawalt is still searching, seven years after she started – persisting despite doubts and frustrations.

“I’ve dreamt of you since I was a little girl,” Greenawalt wrote to her unknown dad in a Father’s Day blog posting in June. “There are so many things I want to know about you.”

29 Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer

Sun Aug 15, 12:00 am ET

As the United States dropped its atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, 1.6 million Soviet troops launched a surprise attack on the Japanese army occupying eastern Asia. Within days, Emperor Hirohito’s million-man army in the region had collapsed.

It was a momentous turn on the Pacific battleground of World War II, yet one that would be largely eclipsed in the history books by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the same week 65 years ago. But in recent years some historians have argued that the Soviet action served as effectively as – or possibly more than – the A-bombs in ending the war.

Now a new history by a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara seeks to reinforce that view, arguing that fear of Soviet invasion persuaded the Japanese to opt for surrender to the Americans, who they believed would treat them more generously than the Soviets.

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