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Aug 20 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Unchecked migration would see Singapore swell, Haiti halve

by Jordi Zamora and Karin Zeitvogel, AFP

20 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Singapore, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia would see their populations triple if everyone who wants to move there were allowed to, a poll released Friday by Gallup shows.

At the opposite end of the scale, the populations of Sierra Leone, Haiti and Zimbabwe would fall by more than half if migrants were allowed to leave at will, the poll found.

Gallup researchers interviewed nearly 350,000 adults in 148 countries between 2007 and 2010 to calculate each country’s potential net migration score — the number of adults who would like to leave a country minus the number who would like to move in — seen as a proportion of the total adult population.

2 UN agencies step up appeals for Pakistan aid

by Sami Zubeiri, AFP

Fri Aug 20, 1:18 pm ET

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – UN agencies on Friday stepped up calls for donors to deliver on their pledges for Pakistan to prevent what UN chief Ban Ki-moon called a “slow-motion tsunami” from wreaking further catastrophe.

Torrential monsoon rains unleashed the worst floods for 80 years, affecting 20 million people and an area the size of England in Pakistan’s worst natural disaster that has already created economic, political and humanitarian chaos.

The floods have left nearly 1,500 people dead in the nuclear-armed country of 167 million — a top US foreign policy priority on the frontline of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda and locked in battles with homegrown Taliban.

3 World urged to act on Pakistan or risk militant rise

by Sami Zubeiri, AFP

Fri Aug 20, 7:12 am ET

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Pakistan faces a “slow-motion tsunami” as the flood-ravaged nation stepped up pleas for massive global aid, warning that Islamist militants could exploit the crisis.

Ban told a UN emergency fundraising session in New York on Thursday that the world had a duty to act while millions are still without shelter and a fifth of the country — roughly the size of England — submerged by flood waters.

“It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity,” Ban told the General Assembly meeting, saying that Pakistan was facing a “slow-motion tsunami.”

4 Thai court grants extradition of ‘Merchant of Death’

by Thanaporn Promyamyai, AFP

1 hr 11 mins ago

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai court Friday ordered the extradition of an alleged Russian arms dealer dubbed the “Merchant of Death” to the United States on terrorism charges, prompting an angry response from Moscow.

Viktor Bout, said to have inspired the Hollywood film “Lord of War” starring Nicolas Cage, has been fighting extradition since his March 2008 arrest in a Bangkok sting operation by US agents posing as Colombian rebels.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted in the United States on charges including conspiracy to kill US nationals and to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organisation.

5 Celebrity architects take on blue-chip French wines

by Suzanne Mustacich

Fri Aug 20, 12:06 pm ET

BORDEAUX, France (AFP) – A metamorphosis is underway across France’s legendary Bordeaux vineyards.

The land that turns out grand cru wine is hardly the usual setting for giant construction cranes. Yet top world architects, from Christian de Portzampac to Jean Nouvel, are redesigning some of the world’s most hallowed cellars in the region.

At Chateau Cheval Blanc, Pritzker prize-winner de Portzampac has installed a pair of tall cranes to add seashell-like sculptures and “green” roofing and walling to the estate’s previously unexceptional 19th-century buildings.

6 Britain warns Libya not to mark Megrahi release, a year on

by Katherine Haddon, AFP

Fri Aug 20, 11:12 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – A year after the Lockerbie bomber was freed from a Scottish prison, Britain warned Libya not to celebrate the anniversary Friday, saying to do so would be “tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive”.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was thought to have only three months to live because of terminal prostate cancer when he was released on compassionate grounds and returned to his homeland Libya to a hero’s welcome.

But he has defied his prognosis, to the dismay of mainly American relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, four days before Christmas in 1988.

7 EU says ban on seal goods in place, with exceptions

AFP

Fri Aug 20, 8:14 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A European Union ban on importing seal products took effect as planned Friday but it will not affect hunters and fur traders who have filed a court challenge, the EU Commission said.

The European Union’s decision to ban such imports has angered Canada and prompted a legal challenge by Inuit groups from Canada and Greenland.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, was caught by surprise on Thursday when an Inuit organisation made public a decision by the European General Court to temporarily freeze the ban.

8 Haiti and Wyclef Jean await election candidates list

By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters

2 hrs 37 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean’s bid to run for Haiti’s presidency hung in the balance on Friday as the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean country waited for its electoral authority to publish the final list of approved candidates.

U.N. and Haitian police guarded the provisional electoral council headquarters in Port-au-Prince to prevent any trouble as feverish expectations mounted over which of the 34 original contenders would be on the confirmed list for the November 28 presidential election.

Late on Thursday, a council member, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that locally popular 40-year-old singer-songwriter and international celebrity Jean was not on the list because he failed to satisfy several legal requirements.

9 BHP sets Potash bid but may need to pay much more

By Michael Smith and Euan Rocha, Reuters

9 mins ago

SYDNEY/TORONTO (Reuters) – BHP Billiton formally launched its hostile takeover bid for Potash Corp on Friday but a poll of investors suggested the world’s biggest miner would need to significantly raise its $39 billion offer to capture the top fertilizer maker.

Potash is already soliciting bidders willing to pay more than BHP’s offer of $130 a share, a source close to the matter said, prompting speculation that China, one of the world’s biggest potash importers, may join the fray.

The source said Potash Corp was confident that it could attract a competing bid, given the expectation for rising demand for potash, an important crop nutrient.

10 Pakistan to clamp down on Islamist militant charities

By Zeeshan Haider, Reuters

Fri Aug 20, 10:54 am ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan said on Friday it will clamp down on charities linked to Islamist militants amid fears their involvement in flood relief could exploit anger against the government and undermine the fight against groups like the Taliban.

Islamist charities have moved swiftly to fill the vacuum left by a government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster and struggling to reach millions of people in dire need of shelter, food and drinking water.

It would not be the first time the government has announced restrictions against charities tied to militant groups, but critics say banned organizations often re-emerge with new names and authorities are not serious about stopping them.

11 Americans still associate Islam with violence

By Daniel Trotta, Reuters

2 hrs 16 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The furor over plans to build a Muslim cultural center near the World Trade Center site shows nine years of efforts to separate Islam from association with terrorism have largely failed, experts say.

“I’d take it one step further. I’d say that it’s far, far worse today than it was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11,” said Reza Aslan, a writer and scholar on religion, using the shorthand for the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Public opinion polls show more than 60 percent of Americans oppose building the proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from the site known as “Ground Zero.”

12 Biden says voters won’t like Republican alternative

By John Whitesides, Reuters

2 hrs 49 mins ago

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Vice President Joseph Biden assured Democratic Party leaders on Friday they would retain control of Congress in November elections with the unwitting help of Republicans, who he said had lost touch with Americans.

At a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, Biden said voters would begin to focus on the election in the next few weeks and would not like the rehash of failed Bush administration policies pushed by Republicans.

“They are going to look at what the Republican Party is really offering — more of the past, but on steroids,” Biden said, adding Republicans had been shoved to the right by conservative “Tea Party” candidates.

13 Thailand to extradite suspected Russian arms dealer

By Ambika Ahuja, Reuters

Fri Aug 20, 1:30 pm ET

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Thai appeals court ruled on Friday that suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout can be extradited to the United States to face terrorism charges following two years of diplomatic pressure from Washington.

Nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” and the inspiration for Hollywood movie “Lord of War” starring Nicholas Cage, the 43-year-old Bout faces U.S. accusations of trafficking arms since the 1990s to dictators and conflict zones in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

The verdict was a victory for the Obama administration which summoned the Thai ambassador in Washington this week to express concern Bout could be freed.

14 Australia confronts prospect of minority government

By James Grubel and Mark Bendeich, Reuters

Fri Aug 20, 9:06 am ET

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia could have its first minority government in 70 years, a worst-case scenario for investors, with an election-eve poll showing the ruling Labor party drawing level with the conservative opposition.

The vote looks so close, the result may have nothing to do with policy but simply come down to which leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard or the opposition’s Tony Abbott, voters like best.

The uncertainty helped pressure the Australian dollar on Friday. The Aussie was quoted at $0.8910 by late afternoon, down 0.85 percent from late on Thursday, while the benchmark stock index fell 1 percent.

15 Libya keeps quiet a year after Lockerbie release

By Ali Shuaib, Reuters

Fri Aug 20, 1:18 pm ET

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya kept a low profile on Friday after Britain warned against any repeat of the celebrations a year ago that greeted the release of a Libyan intelligence agent convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Libya feted the return home of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, touting it as a victory for Libyan negotiating skills although the official reason for his release was compassionate grounds — prostate cancer, believed at the time to be terminal.

But Megrahi remains alive today, prompting U.S. questions about the medical advice that led to his release, and calls from Britain on Libya to eschew any festivities on the first anniversary of the release that would be regarded as offensive to the families of Lockerbie victims, who were mainly American.

16 New guidelines could rule out many oil claims

By CURT ANDERSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer

7 mins ago

MIAMI – A flower shop in Florida that saw a drop-off in weddings this summer is probably out of luck. So is a restaurant in Idaho that had to switch seafood suppliers. A hardware store on the Mississippi coast may be left out, too.

The latest guidelines for BP’s $20 billion victims compensation fund say the nearer you are geographically to the oil spill and the more closely you depend on the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources, the better chance you have of getting a share of the money.

Also, a second set of rules expected this fall will require that businesses and individuals seeking compensation for long-term losses give up their right to sue BP and other spill-related companies – something that could save the oil giant billions.

17 Major study charts long-lasting oil plume in Gulf

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

Fri Aug 20, 2:18 am ET

WASHINGTON – A 22-mile-long invisible mist of oil is meandering far below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, where it will probably loiter for months or more, scientists reported Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume from the BP spill.

The most worrisome part is the slow pace at which the oil is breaking down in the cold, 40-degree water, making it a long-lasting but unseen threat to vulnerable marine life, experts said.

Earlier this month, top federal officials declared the oil in the spill was mostly “gone,” and it is gone in the sense you can’t see it. But the chemical ingredients of the oil persist more than a half-mile beneath the surface, researchers found.

18 La. scientist’s oysters safe from oil, but pricey

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 9:13 am ET

GRAND ISLE, La. – Biologist John Supan thinks he has developed what may be the holy grail for oyster lovers: a hardy breed of the delectable shellfish that stays fat enough for consumers to eat throughout the year.

And unlike many oysters across the Gulf Coast, ruined by BP’s massive oil spill and the fresh water poured in to fight it, Supan’s oysters are all alive.

Now, nearly four months after the spill, Supan’s oysters may offer the Gulf oyster industry a chance for a better long-term recovery. But his special breed of modified oysters, which some say are prohibitively expensive, could be a hard sell to an industry reeling from the BP disaster.

19 Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 oppose war in Afghanistan

By GLEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 12:23 pm ET

LAWRENCE, Mass. – A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan – a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.

The numbers could be ominous for the president and his Democratic Party, already feeling the heat for high unemployment, a slow economic recovery and a $1.3 trillion federal deficit. Strong dissent – 58 percent oppose the war – could depress Democratic turnout when the party desperately needs to energize its supporters for midterm congressional elections.

20 Ohio bear owner: I’m only witness to fatal attack

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer

2 mins ago

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio – The owner of a bear that fatally mauled a caretaker in Ohio has spoken to reporters outside his animal compound and says he was the only person who witnessed the attack.

But Sam Mazzola declined to describe what happened Thursday night as he spoke Friday afternoon outside the compound in Columbia Station, southwest of Cleveland.

Mazzola says the bear and the victim, 24-year-old Brent Kandra, played together and loved each other, and that the bear was Kandra’s favorite.

21 Stocks slide as investors’ malaise continues

By STEPHEN BERNARD, AP Business Writer

15 mins ago

NEW YORK – Stocks closed moderately lower Friday as investors’ pessimistic view of the economy deepened.

There was little reason for investors to buy. There were no reports to offset Thursday’s disappointing news that growth in the domestic economy continues to slow. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 57 points a day after falling 144. The other major indexes also fell moderately.

“We’re not seeing any significant growth prospects,” said Peter Costa, president of Empire Executions. “Why be in the market if there’s no (near-term) prospects for growth?”

22 Karzai: Anti-corruption units can be independent

By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 54 mins ago

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan’s president pledged Friday to let Western-backed anti-corruption teams pursue investigations free from political interference following two rounds of candid talks with U.S. Sen. John Kerry that the lawmaker said were marked by “sometimes tough” conversation.

Kerry urged President Hamid Karzai to move quickly to combat corruption or risk losing support in the U.S. Congress at a critical phase in the war. U.S. lawmakers have expressed doubt the military effort can succeed without a serious campaign against bribery and graft that have eroded the Afghan people’s trust in the Karzai government.

Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met twice with Karzai on Tuesday and then returned for a second, unscheduled round of talks Friday after traveling to Pakistan to see areas devastated by massive floods. After the meeting, the two appeared before cameras and Karzai made his first public remarks about two investigative units instrumental in the recent arrest of one of Karzai’s top advisers.

23 Clemens vows to fight perjury charges

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 7:08 am ET

WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury’s indictment of pitching great Roger Clemens for allegedly lying to Congress about his use of steroids deals a further blow to baseball, reinforcing the game’s image as a sport where the use of performance enhancing drugs was widespread.

The six-count indictment alleges that one of the most dominant pitchers of his era obstructed a congressional inquiry with 15 different statements made under oath, including denials that he had ever used steroids or human growth hormone. As he did when he testified to a House committee in 2008, the seven-time Cy Young winner denied using the substances again Thursday and said he will fight to clear his name.

“I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress,” Clemens said on Twitter. “I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court.”

24 Biden lashes out at ‘Republican tea party’

By LIZ “Sprinkles” SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer

Fri Aug 20, 1:35 pm ET

ST. LOUIS – Vice President Joe Biden boldly predicted Friday that voters would reject a “Republican tea party” of extreme candidates and Democrats would retain control of Congress this November.

In a pep talk for the party’s rank and file, the vice president challenged the widespread notion that significant losses in House races, and perhaps the Senate, could cost the party its comfortable majorities – a possibility White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suggested last month before saying Democrats will hang onto the House.

“On Nov. 3 … there will be in Washington, D.C., a Democratic majority in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate. That will be the case,” Biden said in a speech to the Democratic National Committee. And, he said, Democrats will do better than expected in gubernatorial races, too.

25 Pakistan: Lack of terror convictions hurts fight

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 6:30 am ET

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani courts have yet to convict a single person in any of the country’s biggest terrorist attacks of the past three years, a symptom of a dysfunctional legal system that’s hurting the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida at a critical time.

Police without basic investigative skills such as the ability to lift fingerprints, and prosecutors who lack training to try terror cases, are some of the main reasons cited. Another daunting challenge: Judges and witnesses often are subject to intimidation that affects the ability to convict.

The legal system’s failure to attack terrorism is critical because it robs Pakistan of a chance to enforce a sense of law and order, which militants have set out to destroy.

26 UK warns Libya over Lockerbie bomber anniversary

By BEN McCONVILLE, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 1:52 pm ET

EDINBURGH, Scotland – Britain’s government says it has warned Libya that any celebration of Friday’s anniversary of the release from jail of the Lockerbie bomber would be deeply offensive to the families of the mainly U.S. victims of the attack.

Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, Scotland, was ordered in 2001 to serve 27 years in jail, but freed on Aug. 20 of last year on compassionate grounds, as he is suffering from prostate cancer.

In a statement urging Libya to show restraint, Britain’s Foreign Office in Friday described the bombing, which killed 259 people onboard – mostly Americans – and 11 on the ground, as the “worst act of terrorism in British history.”

27 On somber day, joyous event for Lockerbie families

By BETH DeFALCO, Associated Press Writer

3 mins ago

TRENTON, N.J. – On the one-year anniversary of the release of the Pan Am bomber, Sonia Stratis and Chris Tedeschi weren’t focused on the man who took so much from their families, but on the love they found.

The couple met at a memorial for the victims and say they instantly fell in love. They planned to spend Friday night with family, friends and nearly two dozen victims’ relatives at a rehearsal dinner for their weekend wedding in New Jersey.

Stratis, 28, and Tedeschi, 33, both grew up in New Jersey but didn’t meet until December 2008 at a memorial dinner to remember the 20th anniversary of the bombing that killed all 259 people aboard Flight 103 – mostly Americans – and 11 on the ground in 1988 in Lockerbie, Scotland.

28 Mosque near ground zero divides Sept. 11 relatives

By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 10:19 am ET

NEW YORK – Talat Hamdani traveled to Mecca to pray that her missing son, an EMT, was safe in the days after 9/11. She held out hope that his Muslim background had led to his detention as a suspect, considering it better than the alternative.

When part of his body was returned to her – his lower half shattered into 34 pieces – it was final proof he had indeed been killed when Islamic extremists brought down the World Trade Center. As Americans take sides over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque blocks away, Hamdani says it feels personal.

“Why are we paying the price? Why are we being ostracized? Our loved ones died,” she said at her Lake Grove, N.Y., home. “America was founded on the grounds of religious freedom,” and opposition to the cultural center “is un-American. It’s unethical. And it is wrong.”

29 NYC imam’s goodwill tour comes amid mosque furor

By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer

45 mins ago

NEW YORK – The furor over the planned mosque and Islamic center near ground zero has put Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf in a curious position: At the same time he is being vilified in the U.S. for spearheading the project, he is traveling the Mideast on a State Department mission as a symbol of American religious freedom.

Some the imam’s American critics said they fear he is using the taxpayer-funded trip to raise money and rally support in the Muslim world for the mosque.

“I think there is no place for this,” said the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is the son of evangelist Billy Graham and opposes the Islamic center and mosque. “Can you imagine if the State Department paid to send me on a trip anywhere? The separation of church and state – the critics would have been howling.”

30 Giuliani supports move of mosque near WTC site

By MICHAEL GORMLEY and VERENA DOBNIK, Associated Press Writers

Thu Aug 19, 11:01 pm ET

NEW YORK – Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday joined a growing number of politicians supporting a move of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site.

Giuliani, who led New Yorkers through Sept. 11 and its aftermath and whose opinion on the mosque could carry considerable clout, made his comments as the imam leading plans for the community center toured the Middle East promoting religious tolerance.

“If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project,” Giuliani said on NBC’s “Today” show, referring to the center’s leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. “If you are a warrior, you do.”

31 Thais rule to extradite Russian arms suspect to US

By KINAN SUCHAOVANICH, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 8:18 am ET

BANGKOK – A Thai appeals court on Friday ordered the extradition of suspected Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout to the United States, angering Moscow but paving the way to put the man dubbed the “Merchant of Death” on trial.

Shackled in leg irons, Bout vowed to prove his innocence in an American courtroom.

“We will face the trial in the United States and win it,” Bout told reporters in Russian after the verdict, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

32 What does Blagojevich case mean for Fitzgerald?

By KAREN HAWKINS and MICHAEL TARM, Associated Press Writers

24 mins ago

CHICAGO – With a string of high-profile prosecutions under his belt, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald exuded confidence when he first presented corruption charges against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in late 2008.

The prosecutor, once described as “Eliot Ness with a Harvard law degree and a sense of humor,” raised eyebrows when he appeared to go beyond the normally dry recitation of facts by accusing Blagojevich of a “political corruption crime spree” that would make “Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

But this week in the courtroom, the man often mentioned as a candidate to be the next FBI director suffered a setback: Jurors deadlocked on all but one charge. The failure to win a bigger conviction has now raised questions about possible missteps by prosecutors – and about Fitzgerald’s future.

33 Name changing for gay couples not a straight line

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 26 mins ago

In October 2008, racing against California’s gay marriage ban, Chloe and Frankie Frankeny wed legally in San Francisco with one chore already done: Chloe had taken her wife’s name two years before.

“It was the only way we had to fit into a mainstream role that was understandable to anybody,” said Chloe, managing editor of a fashion website. “When I told my father I was taking Frankie’s name he was sort of blown away because I definitely consider myself a feminist.”

With a battle over the state’s ban on gay marriage possibly headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s likely more same-sex couples will do the same. For the Frankenys, the name switch couldn’t magically grant all the marriage benefits denied same-sex couples when compared to one man, one wife, but it was one more way to express their union. It’s a symbol rendered even stronger now that legal gay marriages are on hold in California, and for partners who’ve never had the option.

34 Colleges award prizes, tuition for summer reading

By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 54 mins ago

PHILADELPHIA – Attention incoming college freshmen: Have you been procrastinating on that summer reading assignment? Don’t blow it off any longer.

Some universities now offer essay contests in the fall that carry prizes from campus bookstore gift certificates to dinner with best-selling authors to a semester of free tuition.

The rite of summer reading, meant to give first-year students something in common and jump-start discussion, is often seen as a chore. Educators say competition and rewards are new ways to give the assignments a higher profile and stress their importance, though contest participation lags.

35 Aid money tests GOP governors eyeing 2012

By BRIAN BAKST, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 50 mins ago

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Another helping of federal aid to shore up battered state budgets might be tough to swallow for Republican governors who may challenge President Barack Obama in two years. They can take the money or make a stand.

The aid package enacted last week requires governors to sign off before their states can receive a share of the $16 billion in federal medical assistance money. The bill contained another $10 billion that school districts will get no matter what.

The situation is most taxing on GOP governors who are possible 2012 presidential candidates, such as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour. They have railed against Washington spending. Taking the money opens them up to charges of hypocrisy, but rejecting it deprives their states of tens of millions of dollars.

36 Scientists simulate terror attack on Boston subway

By RODRIQUE NGOWI, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 9:46 am ET

BOSTON – Scientists are releasing gases and fluorescent particles into Boston’s subway tunnels on Friday to study how toxic chemicals and lethal biological agents could spread through the nation’s oldest subway system in a terrorist attack.

It’s part of a weeklong study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to figure out ways to quickly minimize the impact of an airborne assault on the nation’s 15 subway systems and protect the nation’s infrastructure. U.S. subway systems include 810 miles of track in tunnels and accounted for about 3.45 billion trips taken last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

The scientists are monitoring concentration of the gases – which are invisible to the naked eye and nontoxic – and particles as they move throughout the system and then up into the streets above, pushed by turbulence created by trains thundering through the tunnels. Researchers use electronic devices to take air samples at more than 20 Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority stations and in subway cars.

37 Antiwar activists rally around suspected leaker

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press Writer

Fri Aug 20, 3:15 am ET

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – The Army private suspected in one of the largest unauthorized disclosures of classified information in U.S. history has become a hero to many anti-war activists who have joined an international effort to free him.

At demonstrations this month in New York, Oklahoma City and Quantico, Va., where Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held, dozens of supporters have shouted that “Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.”

The same slogan appears beside Manning’s smiling face on buttons and posters offered by Courage to Resist, an Oakland, Calif.-based support group for U.S. troops who refuse to fight. The group has raised about $45,000 from nearly 750 people in 18 countries to help pay for a civilian defense lawyer for Manning, project director Jeff Paterson said.

38 UN seen meeting aid goal for flood-hit Pakistan

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer

Thu Aug 19, 11:02 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations appeared to have met its target of $460 million in immediate aid for flood-stricken Pakistan on Thursday after the U.S. and other nations significantly upped their pledges.

The rush of promised help came after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing a hastily called meeting of the General Assembly, urged governments and people to be even more generous than they were in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and this year’s Haiti earthquake, because the floods were a bigger “global disaster” with the Pakistan government now saying more than 20 million people need shelter, food and clean water.

“This disaster is like few the world has ever seen,” Ban told the meeting. “It requires a response to match. Pakistan needs a flood of support.”

39 Obama a Muslim? Rumors gain steam, defying facts

By HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer

Thu Aug 19, 10:00 pm ET

NEW YORK – “President Obama is a Muslim.” “He’s not an American citizen.” “He wasn’t even born here.”

None of this is true. But to surprising levels, it is believed.

Blame it on the media, or on human nature. All presidents deal with image problems – that they’re too weak or too belligerent, too far left or far right. But Obama also faces questions over documented facts, in part because some people identify more with the rumormongers than the debunkers.

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