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Sep 17 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Pope kicks off British visit with abuse scandal regrets

by Gildas Le Roux, AFP

1 hr 19 mins ago

GLASGOW (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday the Catholic Church failed to act quickly enough on paedophile priests, as he launched a historic visit to Britain with some of his strongest words yet on the scandal.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Edinburgh and flocked to a mass in Glasgow to welcome the 83-year-old despite controversies over child abuse and a Vatican aide likening Britain to a “Third World Country.”

He also warned against “aggressive secularism” in Britain, where he is making the first ever papal state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, the titular head of the Church of England founded when King Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534.

2 Pope admits abuse failures on state visit to Britain

by Gildas Le Roux, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 12:49 pm ET

GLASGOW (AFP) – Pope Benedict XVI admitted Thursday the Catholic Church had failed to act quickly enough to stamp out the menace of paedophile priests, on the first day of an historic state visit to Britain.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Edinburgh and Glasgow to welcome the 83-year-old pontiff despite controversies over the abuse scandal and a Vatican aide likening mainly Anglican Britain to a “Third World country”.

Benedict is the first pope to make an official state visit at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II, the titular head of the Church of England which was formed in 1534 after King Henry VIII broke with Rome.

3 Sarkozy hits back as Roma row explodes at summit

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

1 hr 49 mins ago

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A row over France’s Roma expulsions exploded at an EU summit Thursday as President Nicolas Sarkozy rejected World War II parallels as “outrageous” and vowed to continue clearing “illegal camps”.

The Paris-Brussels dispute shattered the agenda of the European Union parley and hung heavy in the air, with Sarkozy lashing out at European justice chief Viviane Reding for her criticism of France.

Reding’s insinuation that the return of planeloads of Roma Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria smacked of World War II scenarios was “a historical shortcut that profoundly hurt the French,” Sarkozy said.

4 France will dismantle ‘all illegal’ camps: Sarkozy

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 1:08 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – President Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday France was “profoundly hurt” by World War II parallels with its expulsion of Roma Gypsies, and vowed to continue clearing “illegal camps.”

“These words were profoundly hurtful,” Sarkozy said, referring to a statement this week by European Commission justice chief Viviane Reding.

“My duty as head of state was to defend France.”

5 Roma controversy engulfs EU summit

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 9:06 am ET

BRUSSEL (AFP) – Controversy over France’s expulsion of Roma Gypsies on Thursday engulfed a European Union summit originally slated to boost the bloc’s profile on the world scene.

As talks kicked off, leaders of the 27-nation bloc announced a historic free trade deal with South Korea, described as the “most ambitious agreement ever”.

Help for flood-hit Pakistan and tighter cross-border sanctions for budget bingers were also high on the menu, along with ways for the EU to embrace global powerhouses such as China, Brazil and India.

6 UN scientists say ozone layer depletion has stopped

AFP

2 hrs 50 mins ago

GENEVA (AFP) – The protective ozone layer in the earth’s upper atmosphere has stopped thinning and should largely be restored by mid century thanks to a ban on harmful chemicals, UN scientists said on Thursday.

The “Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2010” report said a 1987 international treaty that phased out chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) — substances used in refrigerators, aerosol sprays and some packing foams — had been successful.

Ozone provides a natural protective filter against harmful ultra-violet rays from the sun, which can cause sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer as well as damage vegetation.

7 US toughens demand for China currency action

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

37 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday said it was “past time” for China to lift barriers to US exports, as he faced demands from angry lawmakers for sanctions against Beijing.

Geithner abandoned his previously restrained approach to bluntly warn China it must let the yuan rise in value against the dollar to end trade distortions.

Facing November elections shaped by voter anger at the sour economy, US lawmakers are weighing bills that would slap sanctions on Chinese goods, amid accusations that Beijing keeps its currency — and thereby its exports — artificially cheap.

8 ‘Plus-size’ models remain rare on the catwalks

by Marie-Pierre Ferey, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 11:43 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – So-called “plus-size” models are a growing presence on magazine covers, television and lingerie catalogues — but at the Fashion Weeks of New York and London they are still the exception.

In a reflection of the expanding market for women who defy the super-slender ideals of the catwalk, leading fashion magazine Elle offered its readers a special issue in March featuring larger than normal models and sales jumped.

British designer Mark Fast introduced shows last year in which the models were all above a British size 12 — an eight in American sizes — following criticism that his dresses were too skinny.

9 Japan PM pledges decisive forex steps amid criticism

by David Watkins, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 1:13 pm ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Thursday pledged further “decisive” steps in currency markets if needed, after Japan acted to tame the yen in a move that drew criticism from Europe and the United States.

“We are determined not to allow the drastic fluctuation of the yen,” Kan told a conference in Tokyo, a day after Japan’s first global currency market intervention since 2004 to help safeguard an export-driven recovery.

But that may provoke ire from Japan’s Group of Seven partners after its unilateral move Wednesday was rounded on in Washington and Brussels.

10 US toughens demands for China currency action

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 12:21 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday said it was “past time” for China to lift barriers to US exports, as he faced angry lawmakers’ demands for sanctions against Beijing.

Geithner abandoned his previously restrained approach to bluntly warn China it must let the yuan rise in value against the dollar to end trade distortions.

Facing November elections shaped by voter anger at the sour economy, US lawmakers are weighing bills that would slap sanctions on Chinese goods, amid accusations that Beijing keeps its currency — and thereby its exports — artificially cheap.

11 Taliban threaten to attack Afghanistan election

by Lynne O’Donnell, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 12:02 pm ET

KABUL (AFP) – The Taliban threatened Thursday to attack polling stations during Afghanistan’s parliamentary election as NATO and Afghan troops mounted a massive security operation to protect the vote.

Tens of thousands of Afghan and US-led NATO forces will provide security for Saturday’s vote, seen as a crucial step to building democracy after nine years of war but which many fear will be marred by fraud and violence.

“All the roads leading to polling centres will come under attack and election workers and security forces will be our primary targets,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.

12 Cambodia indicts four Khmer Rouge leaders

by Michelle Fitzpatrick, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 9:52 am ET

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Four top Khmer Rouge leaders will stand trial for crimes including genocide during the “Killing Fields” era, Cambodia’s UN-backed court said Thursday, just weeks after its landmark first conviction.

“Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 84, who served as deputy to Khmer Rouge founder Pol Pot, was formally indicted along with former foreign minister Ieng Sary, social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and head of state Khieu Samphan.

Judge You Bunleng hailed the decision as a success for the tribunal, listing a litany of charges against the four most senior surviving members of the blood-soaked regime, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and religious persecution.

13 India hikes interest rates for fifth time this year

by Salil Panchal, AFP

Thu Sep 16, 8:20 am ET

MUMBAI (AFP) – India’s central bank raised its main interest rates more than expected on Thursday, springing the fifth hike in six months as it tries to tame inflation in Asia’s third-biggest economy.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its main repo rate — the rate at which it lends to commercial banks — by 25 basis points to 6.0 percent, in line with analysts’ forecasts.

But it hiked the reverse repo rate — the rate it pays to banks for deposits — more aggressively than predicted, increasing it by 50 basis points to 5.0 percent.

14 Poverty rate hits 15-year high

By Donna Smith, Reuters

1 hr 38 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent in 2009 from 13.2 percent the year before, bringing the percentage of the population living in poverty to the highest level since 1994, as the economic downturn took its toll on jobs, the government said on Thursday.

The Census Bureau said 43.6 million people, or one in seven Americans, lived in poverty last year, up from 39.8 million in 2008. The data paints a picture of rising hardship and declining incomes for many living in the United States and hands more bad economic news to Democrats ahead of November 2 congressional elections.

“Our economy plunged into recession almost three years ago on the heels of a financial meltdown and a rapid decline in housing prices,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

15 Taliban urge Afghan vote boycott, warn of violence

By Jonathon Burch and Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 12:09 pm ET

KABUL (Reuters) – The Taliban renewed a warning on Thursday they would try to disrupt Afghanistan’s parliamentary poll and urged a boycott, while poll monitors said the electoral watchdog had not acted forcefully enough against fraud.

Fears of violence and fraud are hanging over Saturday’s vote, in which almost 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 seats in the wolesi jirga or lower house of parliament. Afghanistan’s own election watchdog has warned of a “disputatious” process.

The poll is a test of stability ahead of President Barack Obama’s strategy review in December, which will likely examine the pace and scale of U.S. troop withdrawals.

16 Republicans take stock after Tea Party stunner

By John Whitesides, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 10:43 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Divided Republicans pointed fingers and vowed to regroup on Wednesday after a stunning Tea Party upset in Delaware dealt a blow to their hopes of recapturing control of the Senate in November.

Conservative upstart Christine O’Donnell’s defeat of nine-term U.S. Representative Michael Castle in a Senate primary ended the career of one of the last Republican moderates in Congress and set off a round of Democratic celebrations.

The loss by Castle, who had been expected to cruise to victory in the November 2 election, bolstered Democratic efforts to keep the Senate seat long held by Vice President Joe Biden and made it tougher for Republicans to pick up the 10 Democratic seats they need for a Senate majority.

17 Geithner vows to take China currency dispute to G20

By Doug Palmer and David Lawder, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 1:46 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner vowed on Thursday to rally other world powers to push China for trade and currency reforms as he was grilled by lawmakers demanding a crackdown on Beijing’s policies.

China warned that pressure from Washington could backfire.

Raising the stakes as part of a tougher line on China’s policies, Geithner said the United States would use a Group of 20 summit in Seoul in November to try to mobilize trading partners to get Beijing to let the yuan strengthen faster.

18 Pope in UK urges tolerance, warns against atheism

By Philip Pullella and Avril Ormsby, Reuters

2 hrs 6 mins ago

GLASGOW (Reuters) – Pope Benedict started a trip to Britain on Thursday with some of the clearest criticism yet of his Church’s handling of its sexual abuse crisis and urged the country to beware of “aggressive secularism.”

Some 125,000 people, including a small number of protesters, watched the 83-year-old pope as he was driven through the Scottish capital Edinburgh wearing a green plaid scarf.

Hours before landing, he told reporters aboard the plane taking him to Scotland for a four-day trip to Britain that he was shocked by what he called “a perversion” of the priesthood.

19 Senate panel OKs new arms treaty with Russia

By Susan Cornwell, Reuters

22 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Senate panel approved a new strategic nuclear arms control treaty with Russia on Thursday, advancing one of President Barack Obama’s key foreign policy goals to an uncertain future in the full Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 14-4, with three Republicans joining Obama’s Democrats to endorse the new START treaty.

The full Senate must ratify the pact before it can go into effect, but with Congress in the hottest part of the political season before November 2 congressional elections, it is unclear when the treaty will come up for a vote.

20 Japan PM says ready to step into forex markets again

By Leika Kihara and Izumi Nakagawa

Thu Sep 16, 5:41 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister signaled on Thursday that authorities would keep intervening to curb yen strength as sagging manufacturing confidence underscored the threat the currency poses to the fragile economic recovery.

A Reuters monthly poll that tracks the Bank of Japan tankan report showed manufacturing confidence dropped in September from August for the first time in nearly a year as firms struggled with the yen’s rise to a 15-year high against the dollar.

Responding to concerns about the yen’s rise, authorities intervened in markets on Wednesday for the first time in six years to knock the currency lower.

21 Senate passes long-stalled small business bill

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters

10 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate passed a long-stalled measure on Thursday that would boost lending to small businesses, giving President Barack Obama’s Democrats one of their last chances before November elections they are working to revive the sluggish economy.

The 61 to 38 vote sends the measure back to the House of Representatives, which has passed a similar bill and is expected to approve the Senate’s version as soon as next week.

With the unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent, voters cite jobs and the economy as their top concern and say Obama has not done enough on these issues.

22 U.S. lacks intel on North Korea, including succession

By Phil Stewart, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 1:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it lacked intelligence on North Korea and could only guess whether the reclusive state’s leader, Kim Jong-il, will be succeeded by his youngest son.

The blunt acknowledgment before a Senate panel by the top State Department official responsible for the region underscores the uncertainty complicating U.S. and South Korea policy toward a regime they say threatens regional stability.

“In fundamental ways, North Korea is still a black box. We have some glimpses and some intelligence and the like, but the truth is often times in retrospect some of that intelligence has proven to be wrong,” said Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State, East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

23 Banks take over record number of homes in August

By Lynn Adler, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 4:30 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A record number of homeowners lost houses to their banks in August as lenders worked through the backlog of distressed mortgages, real estate data company RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

New default notices decreased at the same time, suggesting that lenders managed the flow of troubled loans and foreclosed properties hitting the market to limit price declines, the company said.

Root problems of high unemployment, wage cuts, negative home equity and restrictive lending practices persist, however, pointing to lingering housing market pain.

24 U.S. approves Friday restart of key pipeline: Enbridge

By Joshua Schneyer, Reuters

Thu Sep 16, 1:01 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. regulators have agreed to a Friday restart of Enbridge’s biggest pipeline carrying Canadian crude to refiners in the Midwest, the company said late on Wednesday, easing concern about a protracted disruption that drove oil prices to one-month highs this week.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which oversees U.S. pipelines, had yet to confirm the approval after Enbridge Inc completed repairs on Line 6A, following a leak in Romeoville, Illinois that forced the duct’s closure nearly a week ago.

Line 6A is the main artery of Enbridge’s Lakehead Pipeline System, the backbone of U.S. oil imports from top supplier Canada. The line supplies refineries with a combined capacity of more than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in the Chicago area and connects with a spur that reaches a key storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma.

25 Obama to name critic Warren to consumer job

By Caren Bohan and Ross Colvin

Wed Sep 15, 8:47 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama plans to name Wall Street critic Elizabeth Warren to a special advisory role helping to set up the new U.S. consumer financial watchdog, Democratic sources said on Wednesday.

Warren, a 61-year-old Harvard law professor, would report to Obama and the Treasury Department in a position that would bypass the Senate confirmation process.

An announcement was likely to come on Friday.

26 Pope on UK visit admits failures in abuse scandal

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer

3 mins ago

EDINBURGH, Scotland – Pope Benedict XVI braved a chilly atmosphere Thursday in mostly secular Britain to issue his strongest comments yet on the sex abuse crisis, admitting that the Catholic Church had not acted decisively or quickly enough to remove priests who molested children.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him from Rome, Benedict said the church’s top priority now was to help abuse victims heal – yet the comments failed to satisfy victims’ groups.

Benedict’s historic four-day visit has been overshadowed by disgust over the abuse scandal and indifference in Britain, where Catholics are a minority at 10 percent and endured centuries of bloody persecution and discrimination until the early 1800s.

27 Expiring tax cuts hit taxpayers at every level

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press Writer

4 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Here’s some pressure for lawmakers: If they don’t reach agreement on extending soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts, nearly all their constituents back home will get big tax increases.

A typical family of four with a household income of $50,000 a year would have to pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011, according to a new analysis by Deloitte Tax LLP, a tax consulting firm. The same family making $100,000 a year would see its taxes rise by $4,500.

Wealthier families face even bigger tax hikes. A family of four making $500,000 a year would pay $10,800 more in taxes. The same family making $1 million a year would get a tax increase of $52,300.

28 GOP tries to bring tea party enthusiasm into fold

By LIZ “Sprinkles” SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer

5 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Can this political marriage survive?

More than a half dozen tea party-backed candidates have captured Republican Senate nominations, and now the GOP is trying to bring their rebel supporters’ enthusiasm into the fold for November.

Republicans have little choice but to at least put on a show of unity: Alienating the antiestablishment tea party could undercut GOP efforts to post big Senate gains, perhaps even win control outright.

29 AP-GfK Poll: Climate for GOP keeps getting better

By LIZ “Sprinkles” SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti, Ap National Political Writer   – Thu Sep 16, 1:22 am ET

WASHINGTON – Tilted toward the GOP from the start of the year, the political environment has grown even more favorable for Republicans and rockier for President Barack Obama and his Democrats over the long primary season that just ended with a bang.

With November’s matchups set and the general election campaign beginning in earnest Wednesday, an Associated Press-GfK poll found that more Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction than did before the nomination contests got under way in February. Also, more now disapprove of the job Obama is doing. And more now want to see Republicans in control of Congress rather than the Democrats who now run the House and Senate.

The country’s pessimism benefits the out-of-power GOP, which clearly has enthusiasm on its side. Far more people voted this year in Republicans primaries than in Democratic contests, and the antiestablishment tea party coalition has energized the GOP even as it has sprung a series of primary surprises.

30 Census: 1 in 7 Americans lives in poverty

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer

16 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s as the recession threw millions of people out of work last year, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty.

The overall poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million people, the Census Bureau said Thursday in its annual report on the economic well-being of U.S. households. The report covers 2009, President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

The poverty rate increased from 13.2 percent, or 39.8 million people, in 2008.

31 Senate candidate says Obama short of expectations

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer

55 mins ago

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – Senate Republican candidate Linda McMahon on Thursday described President Barack Obama as falling “far short” of the high expectations that attended his election, criticizing the chief executive as he lent Democratic rival Richard Blumenthal some campaign help.

Obama won this reliably Democratic state in 2008 with 61 percent of the vote. Now, 51 percent of voters disapprove of his job performance as president, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Mindful of the state’s electoral history, McMahon offered a tempered view of the president in an interview with The Associated Press.

“I think President Obama, in my view, has fallen far short of what the expectation was when he became president. We are further in debt, our deficit has grown, unemployment has grown,” she said in her West Hartford campaign headquarters. “From a leadership perspective, I think he has fallen short.”

32 A week without Facebook? Pa. college tries it out

By KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press Writer

55 mins ago

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A central Pennsylvania technological college with fewer students than many Facebook users have friends is blacking out social media for a week.

The bold experiment at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology – which has drawn praise, criticism and even a jab on late-night TV – means students and staff can’t access Facebook, Twitter or a host of other ubiquitous social networks while on campus.

Provost Eric Darr said the exercise that began Monday is not a punishment for the school’s 800 students, nor a precursor to a ban, but a way for people to think critically about the prevalence of social media.

33 AP-GfK Poll: Deep divisions over tax hikes

By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer

1 hr 38 mins ago

WASHINGTON – More than half the country backs raising taxes on the richest Americans, according to a new poll that also shows deep political divisions over the issue as Democrats struggle with President Barack Obama’s call to boost levies on the wealthy.

Less than 50 days from elections that Republicans hope will hand them control of Congress, The Associated Press-GfK Poll is stuffed with encouraging signs for the GOP. Huge majorities call the economy sickly and say Congress is doing its job badly.

By a 46 percent to 41 percent margin, people want Republicans steering the economy – the first GOP edge on that runaway No. 1 concern of voters in the AP-GfK poll.

34 Senate passes small business credit measure

Associated Press

Thu Sep 16, 1:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Senate has passed a bill to create a $30 billion government fund to help open lending for credit-starved small businesses, cut their taxes and boost federal loan programs for them.

The 61-38 tally rewards President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies of Capitol Hill with a long-sought victory and sets the stage for a final vote in the House, which is likely to approve it for Obama’s signature.

The new fund would help community banks increase lending to small businesses hurt by the recession and the 2008 Wall Street crisis. The bill would also provide about $12 billion in tax breaks over a decade to both large and small businesses and also boost the Small Business Administration’s lending programs.

35 FedEx delivers int’l profits but cuts US jobs

By SAMANTHA BOMKAMP, AP Transportation Writer

1 hr 46 mins ago

NEW YORK – FedEx Corp. indicated Thursday that the global economic recovery remains uneven. While strength in international shipments is boosting net income, FedEx is cutting 1,700 jobs in its U.S. freight business to offset losses there.

The world’s second-largest package delivery company did raise its financial outlook after as it said first-quarter net income doubled. But projections for the second quarter and full year fell shy of Wall Street expectations. FedEx shares dropped more than 4 percent in afternoon trading.

International air shipments have driven FedEx’s results for more than a year; international revenue rose 24 percent in the quarter ended Aug. 31. But while FedEx earned $380 million in the first quarter, the FedEx Freight segment lost $16 million and has been unprofitable for four straight quarters.

36 Heisman Trust: No 2005 winner

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

Thu Sep 16, 7:17 am ET

NEW YORK – And the Heisman Trophy winner for 2005 is – no one.

Rather than replace Reggie Bush, who returned his trophy after a scandal erupted, the officials who administer the award decided it would remain vacant for that year.

There was some initial talk that the trophy might go to former Texas quarterback Vince Young, who finished a distant second to Bush in the voting.

37 US homes lost to foreclosure up 25 pct on year

By ALEX VEIGA, AP Real Estate Writer

Thu Sep 16, 9:17 am ET

LOS ANGELES – Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said.

38 NC teen: Nose ring more than fashion, it’s faith

By TOM BREEN, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 7:13 am ET

RALEIGH, N.C. – A soft-spoken 14-year-old’s nose piercing has landed her a suspension from school and forced her into the middle of a fight over her First Amendment right to exercise her religion.

Ariana Iacono says she just wants to be a normal teenager at Clayton High School, about 15 miles southeast of Raleigh. She has been suspended since last week because her nose ring violates the Johnston County school system’s dress code.

“I think it’s kind of stupid for them to kick me out of school for a nose piercing,” she said. “It’s in the First Amendment for me to have freedom of religion.”

39 Miss. judge frees 2 men wrongly jailed 30 years

By SHELIA BYRD, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 2:28 pm ET

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – A judge on Thursday freed two men who spent three decades in prison before DNA evidence showed they didn’t rape a woman and cut her throat in a grisly 1979 attack.

A crowded courtroom erupted in applause after Forrest County Circuit Judge Robert Helfrich’s ruled to set aside the men’s guilty pleas, ending what some described as a 30-year ordeal for the imprisoned men.

Helfrich said the case was marked by a series of tragic events – from the violent attack on the woman to the years the men spent in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

40 Wis. prosecutor tried to keep ‘sexting’ case quiet

By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 1:57 pm ET

CHILTON, Wis. – A Wisconsin prosecutor who sent sexually suggestive text messages to a domestic abuse victim downplayed the seriousness of their content and urged state officials to keep them from the public, his peers and state regulators, e-mails show.

The texts sent by Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz could have jeopardized the prosecution of the victim’s ex-boyfriend on charges he nearly choked her to death, a state Department of Justice official told Kratz last year.

Kratz, 50, on Wednesday acknowledged sending 30 text messages, which had been obtained by The Associated Press, to the 26-year-old woman while he was the prosecutor on her case last October. He asked in one whether she’s “the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA.” In others he called her “a hot, young nymph” and tried to spark a relationship.

41 Pic of SC leader, black re-enactors spurs flap

By BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 1:47 pm ET

CHARLESTON, S.C. – NAACP leaders said Thursday a photo of a South Carolina Senate leader in a Confederate uniform posing with blacks in costumes reminiscent of slavery is another blow against the state.

“This is just another blight,” said Dot Scott, the president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

“The big picture is how little progress we have made in being human beings in this state,” said Lonnie Randolph, the president of the civil rights organization in the state.

42 Gluten-free has gone big time, but why so popular?

By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 12:49 pm ET

Gwyneth Paltrow gushes over gluten-free. Chelsea Clinton’s wedding cake was baked without it. The new Old Spice guy avoids the ubiquitous protein to help stay buff. In fact, odds are good you too have tried – or at least encountered – a product with the gluten removed.

Because gluten-free is what low-carb was a decade ago: The “it” diet discussed on daytime talk shows, promoted by hyper-slim actresses and adopted by masses. Grocery aisles are stocked with the likes of gluten-free pasta, crackers, cereal and beer.

Americans are enthusiastically exiling a dietary staple that wasn’t even in most people’s vocabulary a decade ago.

43 NYC to try banning smoking in parks and at beaches

By SARA KUGLER FRAZIER, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 9:18 am ET

NEW YORK – New York City is pursuing a tough new policy that would shoo smokers out of public parks, beaches and even the heart of Times Square – one of the most ambitious outdoor anti-tobacco efforts in the nation.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration and city lawmakers announced Wednesday that they will pursue a broad extension of the city’s smoking ban to 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches, plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas.

That would mean no smoking in Central Park, no lighting up on the Coney Island boardwalk and putting the cigarettes away if you’re lounging on the traffic-free pedestrian plazas in Times Square and Herald Square.

44 Schwarzenegger tours Calif. gas line blast site

By TREVOR HUNNICUTT, Associated Press Writer

Thu Sep 16, 12:19 am ET

SAN BRUNO, Calif. – Fresh off a weeklong trade mission to Asia, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday made his first official stop at the site of a massive gas line explosion in a San Francisco suburb.

Nearly 40 homes were destroyed and at least four people were killed last week in the San Bruno neighborhood.

Three people are still listed as missing, authorities said. They all lived at the same address, just yards from the source of the blast.

45 Dallas police charge 3 officers in alleged beating

By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 10:24 pm ET

DALLAS – Three Dallas police officers, including one who was fired, will face criminal charges for their alleged roles in the beating of a suspect, which was caught on video by dashboard cameras, the police chief said Wednesday.

Andrew Collins, 28, suffered bruising and blood clots earlier this month after being struck by officers, who hit him about seven times with their fists and batons. The alleged beating lasted about 14 seconds following a chase.

The video, which the department distributed to reporters, shows one of the officers moving the dashboard camera so that it does not film the incident.

46 Poor berry crop pushes hungry bears near humans

By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 7:35 pm ET

BOISE, Idaho – Without their usual diet of berries and nuts as hibernation approaches, mama, papa and baby bears in the West are turning to cars and cabins and finding the leftovers are juuuust right.

Huckleberries, nuts and pine cones are in short supply this year because of poor growing conditions, so bears have taken to breaking into cars, nosing around backyards and raiding orchards.

And as happens when bears roam into towns, they end up trapped or dead. In New Mexico, 83 bears have been killed so far this year, more than three times as many as last year.

47 Suit settled over shock therapy at Mass. school

By BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 7:28 pm ET

BOSTON – The family of a former student who received electric shocks at a special needs school has agreed to receive $65,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming the treatment was inhumane and violated the student’s civil rights.

The privately operated Judge Rotenberg Center in suburban Canton uses the controversial treatment, known as aversive therapy, to control aggressive behavior and prevent severely autistic students from injuring themselves or others. A device administers the shocks in two-second intervals.

The lawsuit was filed in 2006 on behalf of Antwone Nicholson, then 17, of Freeport, N.Y., who attended the school for about four years. Nicholson’s mother, Evelyn, said Wednesday she agreed to the settlement because it was “time to move on,” and she felt her legal battle had already helped change when and how the shocks are given.

48 Appeals court oveturns Wash. ecoterror conviction

By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 7:20 pm ET

SEATTLE – An appeals court overturned the conviction of a woman found guilty of helping with a notorious 2001 ecoterror attack that destroyed a university research center, concluding the judge made mistakes that cast doubt on the fairness of her trial.

Briana Waters, 34, was convicted of serving as a lookout during the Earth Liberation Front attack on the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle and was sentenced to six years in prison plus $6 million in restitution.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the late U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess made several errors that raised questions about the fairness of her trial.

49 O’Donnell in spotlight after Del. primary victory

By RANDALL CHASE, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 7:15 pm ET

DOVER, Del. – She has used campaign contributions to help pay the rent, taken more than 20 years to get her bachelor’s degree and equated masturbation with adultery. And she just stunned the GOP establishment by beating a nine-term congressman and two-term governor in Delaware’s U.S. Senate primary election.

Now Republicans across the country and even many Delaware residents want to know: Who is Christine O’Donnell?

“I’m an average, hardworking citizen,” the 41-year-old said Wednesday.

50 2 ex-Blackwater contractors on trial in slayings

By DENA POTTER, Associated Press Writer

Wed Sep 15, 7:06 pm ET

NORFOLK, Va. – Two former defense contractors were fueled by alcohol and rage the night they killed two Afghan nationals and injured another on the streets of Kabul, prosecutors claimed during opening statements of the their trial on Wednesday.

Their attorneys countered that Justin H. Cannon, 28, and Christopher Drotleff, 30, believed they were under attack on a dark, dangerous highway when they opened fire the night of May 5, 2009.

Cannon, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, face murder, assault and weapons charges that could send them to prison for life. Their trial began Wednesday in U.S. District Court and is expected to last two to three weeks.

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