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Dec 04 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 WikiLeaks arrest looms as site fights to stay online

by Danny Kemp, AFP

1 hr 16 mins ago

LONDON (AFP) – WikiLeaks faced growing pressure Friday as its founder Julian Assange dealt with a new arrest warrant and death threats, while the website hopped around the globe trying to evade efforts to shut it down.

As the fallout grew from its release of secret US diplomatic cables, the whistleblower site found new domain names in a string of European countries after its original wikileaks.org address was shut down by an American provider.

The elusive Assange, who is believed to be in hiding in Britain, faced fresh trouble as Swedish prosecutors sent out a new international arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian over sex assault allegations.

2 WikiLeaks chief faces new arrest warrant

by Igor Gedilaghine, AFP

Thu Dec 2, 6:26 pm ET

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – Sweden said Thursday it would issue a fresh arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as new revelations from his website’s expose of US diplomatic cables saw Russia branded a “mafia state”.

While the elusive whistleblower laid low, his British lawyer insisted police knew his whereabouts and it emerged that an initial warrant was defective.

After the Supreme Court in Stockholm refused to hear an appeal by Assange against the initial warrant over allegations of rape and molestation, Swedish police said they would issue a new one as a result of a procedural error.

3 US unemployment surges to 9.8 percent

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US jobless rate surged to 9.8 percent in November, a hammer blow to the economic recovery and to President Barack Obama’s hopes for a quick end to high unemployment.

The world’s largest economy created many fewer jobs than expected and the unemployment rate rose from 9.6 percent to its highest level since April, the Labor Department reported.

A measly 39,000 jobs were created during the month, well short of the 130,000 predicted by economists and well beneath the levels needed to dent unemployment rates.

4 Fears grow over length of US jobs crisis

by Andrew Beatty, AFP

Thu Dec 2, 5:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will get his latest jobs report card Friday, with economists warning painfully high levels of US unemployment will not end any time soon.

Experts predict November’s report will show a jobless rate stuck at 9.6 percent for the fourth consecutive month, as millions of Americans struggled to get back to work.

With the employment market unable to untether itself from a long-ended recession, the jobless rate has stubbornly remained above nine percent for the last 18 months.

5 US firms post best job gains in three years

AFP

Wed Dec 1, 12:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US private sector employment saw strong gains in November, with payrolls expanding by 93,000 — the largest jump in three years, payrolls firm ADP said Wednesday.

“This month’s ADP national employment report shows an acceleration of employment and suggests the nation’s employment situation is brightening somewhat,” the firm said.

The 10th consecutive month of gains offered hope that the job sector, still convalescing after a brutal economic recession, was on the mend.

Oh, wait.  That was Wednesday.

6 Euro is ‘credible’, more rescue funds needed: Trichet

AFP

1 hr 19 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet rose to the defense of the euro Friday, describing it as a “credible” currency that was not in crisis while calling on EU leaders to increase rescue funds.

“I think that we have to see that we have a currency that is credible,” Trichet told RTL radio a day after the ECB backed an extension of special measures to tackle eurozone debt pressures.

“There is no crisis for the euro as a currency … We have problems of financial instability that are the result of budget crises in certain European countries,” he said.

7 Spain backs pension reform, asset sales to ease debt

AFP

Fri Dec 3, 12:31 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Spain’s government Friday set a date to raise the retirement age and backed multi-billion-euro sales of stakes in the lottery and airports in a bid to ward off debt pressures threatening the country.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pulled out of a Latin American summit in Argentina to attend a cabinet meeting Friday on the economic crisis, sending a powerful message about Spain’s determination to avoid a Greek-style debt debacle.

The Socialist government will approve on January 28 a plan, fiercely opposed by unions, to gradually raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

8 UN backs challenger in I.Coast presidential standoff

by Roland Lloyd Parry, AFP

54 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Backed by the United Nations, Ivory Coast’s opposition leader Alassane Ouattara declared himself president-elect Friday, defying incumbent Laurent Gbagbo as their tense and bloody stand-off escalated.

But even as the UN — and the European Union — endorsed Ouattara, Gbagbo’s camp remained defiant.

Fighting to cling to power amid allegations that he tried to rig the vote, Gbagbo was named winner by a supreme court run by his allies, amid fears of fresh unrest after at least 15 people were killed in vote-related fighting.

9 I.Coast locked down as leaders reject vote results

by David Youant, AFP

Fri Dec 3, 5:27 am ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast was in lockdown Friday with all borders sealed and foreign broadcasts jammed as President Laurent Gbagbo’s allies rejected election results that showed him beaten by his rival.

World powers sharpened their warnings to Ivorian leaders to settle the dispute peacefully, but the chaos in the west African state deepened after days of bloodshed and fraud allegations that have disrupted the landmark vote.

On Thursday the electoral commission (CEI) announced that provisional results showed opposition leader Alassane Ouattara had beaten Gbagbo in the disputed polls by 54 percent to 46.

10 World Cup losers cry foul after Russia, Qatar triumph

by Rob Woollard, AFP

Fri Dec 3, 11:47 am ET

ZURICH (AFP) – FIFA faced calls for radical reform Friday after defeated challengers vented their anger over its decision to stage the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups in Russia and Qatar.

After a bitter bidding war tainted by corruption claims, questions were asked over how Russia would pay for the tournament and how teams would fare in Qatar’s searing summertime heat.

As even President Barack Obama joined the backlash after the United States missed out on the 2022 tournament, the head of the English bid for 2018 said the current decision-making process was unsustainable.

11 Russia, Qatar triumph as World Cup losers cry foul

by Rob Woollard, AFP

Fri Dec 3, 3:08 am ET

ZURICH (AFP) – Russia and the tiny Gulf state of Qatar have scored stunning victories in the battle for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, triggering anguished disappointment and cries of foul play from losing bidders.

The surprise results Thursday came after an acrimonious bidding war tainted by allegations of corruption.

In a historic conclusion to two years of frenzied lobbying, world football chief Sepp Blatter revealed the surprise winners following a secret ballot of 22 FIFA executive committee members in Zurich.

12 US space agency finds new form of life… on Earth

by Kerry Sheridan, AFP

Thu Dec 2, 6:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Bacteria that thrive on arsenic have been scooped from a California lake, a discovery that redefines the building blocks of life and offers new hope in the search for other organisms on Earth and beyond.

Not only do the bacteria survive, they grow by swapping phosphorus for arsenic in their DNA and cell membranes, said the study funded by the US space agency NASA and published Thursday in the journal Science.

The findings add a new dimension to what biologists consider the necessary elements for life, currently viewed as six elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur.

13 Obama on surprise Afghanistan visit, says US winning war

by Jim Watson, AFP

48 mins ago

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFP) – President Barack Obama paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan late Friday and assured cheering US troops they are winning the war against the Taliban, but warned of “difficult days ahead” as he takes a hard look at his war strategy.

The president landed in Kabul under cover of darkness, with aides announcing nothing of the trip beforehand due to security concerns.

Obama, who has tripled US troop numbers in Afghanistan, spent a mere four hours in the country, all at Bagram Air Base.

14 China vows to tighten monetary policy in 2011

by Fran Wang, AFP

Fri Dec 3, 5:35 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – China pledged Friday to tighten monetary policy next year — a sign that new interest rate hikes are imminent, analysts say, as the world’s second-largest economy steps up its battle against inflation.

The ruling Communist party’s politburo decided to shift its stance from “relatively loose” to “prudent” at a meeting chaired by President Hu Jintao, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The politburo said it should “implement an active fiscal policy and a prudent monetary policy, to increase the focus, flexibility and effectiveness of macro-economic adjustments,” the report said.

15 Australia off to a bad start in second Ashes Test

by Robert Smith, AFP

Fri Dec 3, 5:29 am ET

ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) – England backed up a sensational three-wicket start inspired by James Anderson to bowl out Australia for 245 on an extraordinary opening day of the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval on Friday.

Australia got off to their worst Test start in 60 years at two for three in the opening three overs and then lost their last five wickets for 38 to hand England the inside running on a crucial early victory in the series.

It was a horror performance by Australia, coming off the drawn first Gabba Test and needing to finish ahead of holders England to reclaim the Ashes.

16 WikiLeaks founder says guards against death threats

By Keith Weir and Adam Cox, Reuters

40 mins ago

LONDON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday he and colleagues were taking steps to protect themselves after death threats following the publication of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables on their website.

One of Assange’s lawyers said he would also fight any attempt to extradite his client to face questions over alleged sexual misconduct, adding that he believed foreign powers were influencing Sweden in the matter.

Washington is furious about the leak of hundreds of confidential diplomatic cables that have given unvarnished and sometimes embarrassing insights into the foreign policy of the United States and its allies.

17 WikiLeaks diverts to European websites amid U.S. fury

By Georgina Prodhan, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 1:04 pm ET

PARIS (Reuters) – WikiLeaks directed readers to a web address in Switzerland on Friday after two U.S. Internet providers ditched it in the space of two days, and Paris tried to ban French servers from hosting its trove of leaked data.

The Internet publisher directed users to www.wikileaks.ch after the wikileaks.org site on which it had published classified U.S. government information vanished from view for about six hours.

A Dutch- and a German-based site, www.wikileaks.nl and www.wikileaks.de , were also giving readers access to the leaked documents.

18 Lawyer for WikiLeaks’s Assange denies warrant valid

By Stefano Ambrogi and Patrick Lannin

Thu Dec 2, 8:43 pm ET

LONDON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The lawyer acting for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied on Thursday that Sweden had issued a valid European arrest warrant for alleged sex crimes, despite Stockholm’s insistence that legal difficulties with the warrant were resolved.

Swedish police said earlier that technical problems hindering the arrest of the 39-year-old Australian had been ironed out, and a newspaper report said he was in Britain.

But in an interview with Reuters, his London lawyer, Mark Stephens, who would not divulge his whereabouts because of death threats against him, said no warrant valid under Swedish, European or international law had been issued.

19 Jobless rate jump casts cloud on recovery

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

54 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employment barely grew in November and the jobless rate unexpectedly hit a seven-month high, hardening views the Federal Reserve would stick to its $600 billion plan to shore up the anemic recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 39,000, with private hiring gaining only 50,000, just a third of what economists had expected, a Labor Department report showed on Friday. The unemployment rate jumped to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in October.

The weak report was a surprise given the relative strength of some other recent economic signals, including robust retail sales. Economists had expected 140,000 new jobs and a steady unemployment rate.

20 U.S. payrolls barely rise, jobless rate jumps

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 11:52 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Employment barely grew in November and the jobless rate unexpectedly hit a seven-month high, hardening views the Federal Reserve would stick to its $600 billion plan to shore up the fragile recovery.

Nonfarm payrolls rose 39,000, with private hiring gaining only 50,000, just a third of what economists had expected, a Labor Department report showed on Friday.

The unemployment rate in November jumped to 9.8 percent, a troubling sign for an economy many thought was strengthening. Economists had expected 140,000 new jobs last month with the jobless rate holding steady.

21 BP says spill flow lower than government estimate: panel

By Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters

2 hrs 24 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – BP Plc believes the actual flow rate of its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have been significantly less than the government’s final estimate, according to comments released by the White House oil spill commission on Friday.

The government has said BP’s ruptured undersea well released between 53,400 and 60,000 barrels per day, but commission staff said BP orally told them those estimates were 20 percent to 50 percent too high.

“They rely on incomplete or inaccurate information, rest in large part on assumptions that have not been validated, and are subject to far greater uncertainties than have been acknowledged,” BP said in written comments submitted to the commission in October.

22 Military chiefs urge against ending gay ban

By Phil Stewart, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 1:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Military chiefs told the Senate on Friday they opposed ending the armed forces’ ban on gays anytime soon, urging caution over President Barack Obama’s effort to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“This is a bad time, senator,” Marine Corps Commandant James Amos told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Based on what I know about the tough fight on the ground in Afghanistan … my recommendation is that we should not implement repeal at this time.”

23 Obama visits Afghanistan, says U.S. making progress

By Caren Bohan, Reuters

1 hr 18 mins ago

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (Reuters) – President Barack Obama, in a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Friday, praised troops for their sacrifice and “important progress” in a nine-year war that is increasingly unpopular at home.

He spent four hours at an airbase outside the Afghan capital and canceled a planned helicopter trip to Kabul to meet Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai because of bad weather. Instead the two leaders spoke briefly by telephone.

Obama’s second visit to Afghanistan as president came as the White House prepared to release a review of the war’s strategy in the week of December 13, and the day after leaked cables detailed concerns about Karzai’s abilities and widespread fraud.

24 Senate to take symbolic votes on taxes Saturday

By Kim Dixon and Thomas Ferraro, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 1:27 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate will vote on two Democratic options to extend some Bush-era tax cuts on Saturday, its Democratic leader said, measures likely to fail but highlight deep ideological divisions between the parties.

Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid had been set to schedule four votes on Friday on competing Republican and Democratic tax plans to renew some or all of the lower tax rates enacted under former President George W. Bush.

But the deal fell apart after at least one Republican objected, denying needed unanimous Senate consent, Reid said.

25 Special Report: What did you do in the ETF war, daddy?

By Aaron Pressman, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 8:18 am ET

BOSTON (Reuters) – Gus Sauter, Vanguard Group’s chief investment officer, vividly recalls the first time he proposed exchange-traded funds to his boss.

“That’s the dumbest idea you’ve ever had,” then-CEO Jack Brennan told him after a five minute discussion back in 1998.

Sauter persisted. Eventually he convinced Brennan that these newfangled ETFs — index-tracking funds that trade in real time at ever-changing prices on a stock exchange — were a natural fit for Vanguard, the largest manager of traditional mutual funds that mirror various indices.

26 Special Report: Making forests pay in a warming world

By David Fogarty, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 10:31 am ET

SEMPIT, Indonesia (Reuters) – Deep in the flooded jungles of southern Borneo, muddy peat oozes underfoot like jello, threatening to consume anyone who tries to walk even a few yards into the thick, steaming forest.

Hard to imagine this brown, gooey stuff could become a new global currency worth billions a year, much less an important tool in the fight against climate change.

Yet this is a new frontier for business, says Bali-based consultant Rezal Kusumaatmadja, and a new way to pay for conservation efforts in a world facing ever more pressure on the land to grow food and extract timber, coal and other resources.

27 India expects to break logjam in climate talks

By Timothy Gardner and Alister Doyle, Reuters

Fri Dec 3, 4:26 am ET

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) – An Indian proposal could break a deadlock between rich and poor countries over how to share the burdens of tackling global warming, India’s environment minister said on Thursday before heading to U.N. climate talks in Mexico.

India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh said a proposal that would require countries to report what actions they are taking to fight global warming could win critical support from the United States and increase chances that representatives at the U.N. climate talks could reach a broader agreement.

“It is basically meant to break the logjam and it is basically meant to bring the U.S. in because without some progress in (transparency) the U.S. is not going to come on board,” Ramesh said before traveling to the summit.

28 Deficit-cutting plan stumbles in uphill climb

By Donna Smith and Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters

Thu Dec 2, 8:55 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bold plan to slash the U.S. budget deficit appeared on Thursday to be falling short of the support needed from members of a presidential commission to trigger congressional action.

But the plan had won more backing, from Democrats and Republicans, than many expected in February when President Barack Obama set up the commission with the task of finding ways to cut the $1.3 trillion deficit and $13.8 trillion debt.

Although the plan drafted by panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson was unlikely to go to Congress, it will likely provide an abundance of ideas that could frame the politically explosive deficit debate in 2011 and 2012.

29 ECB reported buying bonds in euro zone debt crisis

By Sakari Suoninen and Marc Jones, Reuters

Thu Dec 2, 6:41 pm ET

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank resisted pressure on Thursday to commit to a major bond-buying program to contain the euro zone debt crisis, but traders said the ECB had been quietly buying bonds anyway.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said the bank had decided at its monthly policy meeting to keep interest rates on hold and it extended its liquidity safety net to support vulnerable euro zone banks.

He made no mention of increasing the ECB’s government bond buying program, despite calls to do so after an 85 billion euro ($110.7 billion) EU-IMF rescue of Ireland failed to dispel fears that Portugal or Spain may need a bailout.

30 WikiLeaks fights to stay online amid attacks

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER and PETER SVENSSON, Associated Press

2 mins ago

LONDON – WikiLeaks became an Internet vagabond Friday, moving from one website to another as governments and hackers hounded the organization, trying to deprive it of a direct line to the public.

The organization that has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a cache of secret – and brutally frank – U.S. diplomatic cables found a new home after an American company stopped directing traffic to wikileaks.org. Then French officials moved to oust it from its new site.

By late Friday, WikiLeaks was up in at least three new places.

31 Controller sickout causes Spain travel chaos

By HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press

15 mins ago

MADRID – The Spanish government said late Friday it would allow its military to take over control of airspace if air traffic controllers did not return to work from a massive sickout that left hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded.

The government called on controllers to resume work “immediately” or “defense will assume control of airspace,” it said in a statement.

The sickout on Friday, on the eve of a long national holiday weekend, caused travel chaos throughout the nation, forcing Spanish authorities to close eight airports, including the major European hub in Madrid and airspace above it.

32 Boehner says GOP to lead on extending tax cuts

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press

16 mins ago

WASHINGTON – With unemployment rising, incoming House Speaker John Boehner vowed Friday that Republicans will show the way toward extending tax cuts in 2011 if the outgoing Democrats fail to do it sooner.

Boehner, R-Ohio, made his comment as partisan wrangling in the Senate slowed attempts to pass legislation ensuring that tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 don’t expire.

The White House has signaled that President Barack Obama is prepared to sign a bill extending tax cuts at all levels, as Republicans want. At the same time, Democrats want the bill to include an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, renewal of tax provisions benefiting college students, companies that hire the jobless and lower- and middle-income workers, even if they don’t make enough to pay federal taxes.

33 Obama, troops cheer each other in Afghan visit

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

17 mins ago

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – President Barack Obama told U.S. troops in a surprise holiday-season visit Friday that they are making important progress in Afghanistan, and he pledged the country would never again be a “safe haven for terrorists.” But a war-strategy meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai was scrapped at the last minute.

“You will succeed in your mission,” Obama told more than 3,500 cheering troops in a huge hangar. “We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum. That’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense.”

Obama had traveled to Afghanistan to thank the troops and to deal with frayed relations with Karzai. But after he flew 14 hours for the visit, the White House said Obama couldn’t make the short additional trip to meet with Karzai in Kabul because the weather was too bad for helicopter travel.

34 Top generals buck White House on military gay ban

By ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer

18 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Bucking the Pentagon’s top leaders, the chiefs of the Army and Marines urged Congress on Friday not to allow openly gay people to serve in the military, at least not while troops are at war in Afghanistan.

The generals publicly rebutted their own bosses and the White House, arguing that it is too risky to change the policy now. That gave political ammunition to congressional Republicans trying to retain the ban known as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“It’s important that we’re clear about the military risks,” said Gen. George Casey, the Army’s top officer. “Repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war.”

35 Deficit-cutting plan fails to advance to Capitol

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

19 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s budget deficit commission failed to garner enough support Friday to prompt quick congressional action on its austere spending blueprint. But the support of a bipartisan majority of the panel should give it momentum.

Commission members said that by winning over 11 of the 18 panelists, they had defied expectations. They said it showed that Washington is capable of having an “adult conversation” on a bipartisan basis about the painful choices required to avert a European-style debt crisis.

Devout Senate conservatives Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., joined with close Obama allies Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D., in support of the plan. Panel members said the commission’s work has fundamentally changed the national debate on the deficit

36 Hold the brownies! Bill could limit bake sales

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press

20 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Don’t touch my brownies! A child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama – and championed by the first lady – gives the government power to limit school bake sales and other fundraisers that health advocates say sometimes replace wholesome meals in the lunchroom.

Republicans, notably Sarah Palin, and public school organizations decry the bill as an unnecessary intrusion on a common practice often used to raise money.

“This could be a real train wreck for school districts,” Lucy Gettman of the National School Boards Association said Friday, a day after the House cleared the bill. “The federal government should not be in the business of regulating this kind of activity at the local level.”

37 Job growth weak for Nov. in setback for economy

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer

19 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The nation added only a trickle of jobs in November, far fewer than experts had expected and a reminder that the economy is still recovering only fitfully.

The job market was weak all around: Stores, factories, construction companies and financial firms all cut positions. The unemployment rate nudged closer to double digits again – 9.8 percent, after three straight months at 9.6 percent.

Employers added 39,000 jobs for the month, the Labor Department said Friday. They added 172,000 in October – enough to qualify as a hiring spurt in this anemic post-recession economy.

38 Mets’ K-Rod pleads guilty to attempted assault

By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 11:35 am ET

NEW YORK – Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez pleaded guilty Friday to attempted assault to settle charges he attacked his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field last season in a deal that spares him jail time but sends him to additional anger management classes.

The 28-year-old reliever had been charged with assault after he was accused of grabbing Carlos Pena, hauling him into a tunnel near the family lounge beneath the team’s ballpark and punching him in the face after an Aug. 11 game.

He tore a ligament in the thumb of his pitching hand and underwent season-ending surgery after the altercation.

39 German hackers allegedly steal pop music

By MARY LANE, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 11:56 am ET

BERLIN – Two young German computer hackers allegedly stole pop songs from Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha and Kelly Clarkson, selling them online and forcing the advanced release of several singles, officials said Friday.

An 18-year-old high school student from Duisburg, and his alleged accomplice, a 23-year-old unemployed man from Wesel, are under investigation for using a Trojan Horse to hack into the artists’ computers for about 12 months before being discovered, Duisburg chief prosecutor Rolf Haferkamp told The Associated Press.

During that time, they earned more than euro10,000 ($13,240) in illegal sales of tracks acquired from the stars’ computers. Haferkamp would not comment on specific songs that were stolen.

40 Texas will see dramatic gain in US House seats

By JAY ROOT, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 7:10 am ET

AUSTIN, Texas – Fast-growing Texas is poised to be the biggest winner of all when it comes to picking up influence in Congress in the next few years, and Republicans are salivating at the prospect of fattening the largest GOP delegation in Washington.

Texas will gain at least three and possibly four seats in Congress, as population trends continue to push people out of the rust and snow belts and into the sunbelt, demographers say. With strong GOP majorities in the Texas capitol and all statewide offices in their fold, Republicans are sure to use their new clout to cement their hold on power through the redistricting process and possibly increase their majority in the House.

Republican state Rep. Tommy Merritt, an outgoing member of the Legislature who sits on the House redistricting committee, predicted the Republicans would “go for the gusto.”

41 APNewsBreak: Feds propose listing for seals

By DAN JOLING, Associated Press

24 mins ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The federal government on Friday proposed listing two seals that depend on sea ice as threatened species because of the projected loss of ice from climate warming.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will seek to list ringed seals found in the Arctic Basin and the North Atlantic and two populations of bearded seals in the Pacific Ocean as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Ringed seals are the main prey of polar bears, which were listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008. For ringed seals, the proposed listing also cites the threat of reduced snow cover.

42 AP Enterprise: Calif. lawmakers keep vehicle perk

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

31 mins ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California lawmakers enjoy a perk that seems like a luxurious amenity in a state that has been slashing billions of dollars from its budget: taxpayer-provided cars.

The state purchases cars for lawmakers to drive around their districts and the capital under a decades-old program, spending more than $5 million for the latest suite of vehicles that includes a $55,000 Cadillac sedan and a $52,000 Lexus hybrid.

Lawmakers are enjoying the benefit at a time when the state is in a financial mess and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called legislators into a special session next week to address a $6 billion deficit. Lawmakers already have cut programs such as adult dental care and health care programs for children from low-income families, and more cuts are likely on the way.

43 NY drivers livid that snow snarled Buffalo highway

By CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press

46 mins ago

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Emergency procedures will be reviewed after a lake-effect snowstorm and a flawed response left hundreds of motorists stranded for hours on a highway near – of all places – Buffalo.

New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Michael Fleischer said Friday the agency should have closed nearly two dozen non-toll entrance ramps to Interstate 90 much sooner after jackknifed tractor-trailers blocked traffic just east of Buffalo, a city that prides itself on soldiering on during snowstorms that would cripple other towns.

He also said officials should have done a better job alerting drivers that delays loomed ahead and shouldn’t have waited so long to get help to the stranded motorists, some stuck for 20 hours or more.

44 n tax showdown, myths spread. A debunker’s guide

By BERNARD CONDON, AP Business Writer

2 hrs 8 mins ago

NEW YORK – As debate rages on extending tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, politicians are making misleading statements about who might be hurt or helped.

Before the midterm elections, President Barack Obama insisted that lower income-tax rates should be permanently extended only to those he called the “middle class.” People in the top two tax brackets would face higher rates. Now, with Republicans triumphant, the White House is trying to hash out a compromise so rates don’t automatically revert to their higher, pre-2001 levels for everyone in the new year.

One possible deal: extending all the lower rates for a yet-undetermined period of time, perhaps two or three years.

45 Disney town sees death for 2nd time in a week

By TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

2 hrs 23 mins ago

CELEBRATION, Fla. – The owner of a failed security business barricaded himself in his soon-to-be foreclosed home, shot at deputies and then killed himself in this well-groomed Central Florida town built by Disney.

The 14-hour standoff came just days after the town’s first-ever homicide, unsettling residents who moved to the community for its safety and small-town values. Authorities said the two deaths were not connected.

Craig Foushee, 52, barricaded himself in his home Thursday for more than 14 hours, according to an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office report. He shot at deputies several times, but they never returned fire because they couldn’t get a clear shot. No deputies were injured.

46 Judge orders removal of sugar beet seed plants

By MICHAEL J. CRUMB, Associated Press

Fri Dec 3, 10:07 am ET

DES MOINES, Iowa – A federal judge in California has ordered the removal from the ground of plants grown to produce seeds for genetically modified sugar beets, citing the potential for environmental harm.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has again raised questions about the use of genetically modified crops and what will happen if growers aren’t allowed to plant GMO seeds.

About 95 percent of the sugar beet crop has been genetically modified to resist the weed killer Roundup. The crop provides roughly half of the nation’s sugar supply.

47 Scavengers leave dumps to speak out on UN stage

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent

Fri Dec 3, 5:30 am ET

CANCUN, Mexico – Clambering over garbage heaps, rummaging through trash cans, 13-year-old Supriya Bhadakwad didn’t set out to save the planet, just her family. But two decades later, in the global arena of climate negotiations, the little sari-clad Indian and other scavengers are making their voices heard, tilting with big corporate players in a tug-of-war over the world’s dumpsites.

The Goliaths they’re taking on are companies building incinerators worldwide to burn waste from landfills, material generations of “waste pickers” have survived on. Many of the projects are supported by private funds raised under the U.N. climate treaty.

Bhadakwad had come 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to the annual U.N. climate conference in Cancun on behalf of 6,000 organized landfill recyclers in her native Pune, India, to demand access to the waste now trucked instead to a new incinerator. Without their dump, they’re trying to survive by going door to door for trash in a community 12 miles (20 kilometers) away.

48 Judge: Chicago locks can stay open over Asian carp

By JOHN FLESHER and SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

Thu Dec 2, 8:12 pm ET

CHICAGO – A federal judge Thursday turned down a plea from five states to order the immediate closure of shipping locks on Chicago-area waterways to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, where scientists fear they could disrupt the food chain and starve out other fish.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dow said the states had failed to show that closing the locks immediately was essential to block the huge, voracious carp’s path to Lake Michigan. He sided with opponents who argued that the locks are essential to commerce and flood control.

The decision does not end a lawsuit filed by Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that seeks lock closure and other measures to keep the unwanted invaders out of the lakes. But Dow’s refusal to issue a preliminary injunction appears to settle the lock issue for the foreseeable future.

49 Witness: Slain AIM activist feared for her life

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

Thu Dec 2, 8:03 pm ET

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Before she died, an American Indian Movement activist said she was afraid she’d be killed because others in the group suspected she was an informant, a witness testified Thursday during the trial of a man accused of shooting her 35 years ago.

Prosecutors allege John Graham, 55, shot Annie Mae Aquash and left her to die on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation in 1975, in an incident that has become synonymous with AIM and its 1970s-era battles with federal agents. Graham is charged with first- and second-degree murder and could go to prison for life if convicted.

Prosecutors said Aquash was kidnapped from Denver by three AIM supporters and eventually taken to Pine Ridge because the group’s leaders thought she was a government spy.

50 FLDS leader Jeffs faces unbeaten Texas prosecutors

By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press

Thu Dec 2, 6:36 pm ET

BIG LAKE, Texas – Extradited to Texas two years after being indicted, polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs will be facing Texas prosecutors who haven’t lost a criminal case against his followers since the 2008 raid of his Yearning for Zion ranch.

In the rural courts near the YFZ ranch where Jeffs is considered a prophet, his followers have been reliably convicted by juries that barely deliberate two hours.

Jeffs, the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was quietly extradited to Texas this week from Utah. He remained jailed Thursday, charged with felony bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault.

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