Jan 27 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 61 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Uganda gay rights activist murdered

by Ben Simon, AFP

10 mins ago

KAMPALA (AFP) – A Ugandan gay rights activist whose name and picture were published in a homophobic tabloid has been murdered at his home, police and his lawyer told AFP Thursday, sparking international concern.

David Kato, 43, was killed on Wednesday with initial investigations showing that a man entered his home in the capital Kampala and struck him on the head before fleeing, his lawyer John Francis Onyango said.

Police chief Kale Kayihura said the killing had nothing to do with Kato’s gay rights activism.

2 Egypt activists keep up the heat, boosted by ElBaradei

by Mona Salem, AFP

1 hr 10 mins ago

CAIRO (AFP) – Protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak raged in Egypt for a third straight day on Thursday as leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei returned home, offering to step into the breach.

As the deadly unrest continued, US President Barack Obama warned that violence was not the answer, urging restraint on both sides, and also pressing Mubarak to adopt political reforms.

ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and former UN nuclear watchdog chief, arrived in Cairo from Vienna, and said he would join mass protests planned after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

3 Egypt activists vow more protests, boosted by ElBaradei

by Mona Salem, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 1:13 pm ET

CAIRO (AFP) – Protests raged in Egypt for a third straight day Thursday as pro-democracy activists, galvanised by the return of dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, vowed to step up efforts to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and former chief of the UN nuclear watchdog, arrived from Vienna Thursday evening in Cairo, where according to his brother he will join mass protests planned after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

“It is a critical time in the life of Egypt. I have come to participate with the Egyptian people,” said ElBaradei, a vocal critic of Mubarak, as he left Cairo airport.

4 Egypt activists vow more protests as 1,000 arrested

by Jailan Zayan, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 7:45 am ET

CAIRO (AFP) – Pro-democracy activists vowed Thursday to step up the largest anti-government protests in Egypt in three decades, despite mass arrests and mammoth security and as a leading dissident headed to join them.

The protests against the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak, inspired by the groundbreaking “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, have sent shockwaves across the region and prompted Washington to prod its long-time ally on democratic reforms.

Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party was holding talks on Thursday, according to party members, “to evaluate the situation.”

5 Tunisia unveils new cabinet in bid to end protests

by Kaouther Larbi and Hassan El Fekih, AFP

57 mins ago

TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisia on Thursday unveiled major changes to its interim government in a bid to put an end to daily protests against figures linked to ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who stayed on in key posts.

Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, who also served under Ben Ali, said on state television that he would remain but the crucial defence, foreign and interior ministry posts were replaced with new figures.

“This is a temporary government with a clear mission — to allow a transition to democracy. Its mission is to organise elections in which the people will be completely free to choose,” Ghannouchi said in his address.

6 Tunisian FM resigns as Islamist leader plans return

by Kaouther Larbi and Hassan El Fekih, AFP

2 hrs 2 mins ago

TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane resigned on Thursday amid tense negotiations over an overhaul of the cabinet, as a key Islamist leader prepared to return after more than 20 years in exile.

Morjane was one of eight ministers including Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi from the last government of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who stayed on in the new line-up, sparking massive public anger.

He said he was quitting “in support of the actions of the national unity government in leading the country to a stable future and so that the popular revolution can bear fruit,” the state news agency TAP reported.

7 Thousands of Yemenis urge president to quit

by Hammoud Mounassar, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 7:36 am ET

SANAA (AFP) – Thousands of Yemenis, apparently inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, staged a mass demonstration on Thursday calling on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to quit after being in power since 1978.

“Enough being in power for (over) 30 years,” chanted protesters in demonstrations staged by the Common Forum opposition in four different parts of the capital Sanaa.

In reference to the ouster of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the demonstrators said he was “gone in just (over) 20 years.”

8 Baghdad car bomb hits mourners, 53 dead in attacks

by Ammar Karim, AFP

1 hr 42 mins ago

BAGHDAD (AFP) – A massive car bomb ripped through a funeral ceremony in a Shiite district of Baghdad on Thursday, killing 48 people in Iraq’s bloodiest day in more than two months.

The blast was the deadliest in a series of bombings Thursday that claimed 53 lives across the city, and led to an angry crowd pelting security forces with stones when they arrived at the scene.

It was the latest in an apparent surge in violence in the past 10 days that has left more people dead than attacks throughout any of the past three months.

9 Japan’s credit rating downgraded on debt concerns

by David Watkins, AFP

2 hrs 14 mins ago

TOKYO (AFP) – Standard & Poor’s on Thursday cut Japan’s credit rating for the first time since 2002, accusing the government of lacking a “coherent strategy” to ease the highest debt of any industrialised nation.

The US credit risk appraiser cut its rating on Japan’s long-term sovereign debt to “AA minus” from “AA”, saying that it expected the country’s groaning fiscal deficits to stay high in coming years.

It was the first downgrade of a G7 member since Italy in October 2006, and underlined mounting problems with national debts since the 2008 financial crisis. Four eurozone members including Spain suffered downgrades last year.

10 Sarkozy: ‘Merkel and I will never let the euro fail’

by Richard Carter, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 12:03 pm ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – European leaders Thursday rushed to defend the embattled euro, with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy declaring he would never let it fail and Europe’s top central banker denying there was a crisis.

Addressing political and business elites at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, President Sarkozy said both he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were firm in their commitment to the European single currency.

“Whether it be Chancellor Merkel or myself, never, never will we turn our backs on the euro. We will never abandon the euro, we will never drop the euro,” Sarkozy told participants.

11 Republicans rebuff Obama spending plan

by Stephen Collinson, AFP

Wed Jan 26, 6:35 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republicans set about undermining President Barack Obama’s bid for new spending on economic innovation Wednesday, as partisan combat flared up just hours after the State of the Union address.

Republican leaders said Obama’s call for a blizzard of economic innovation to make America fit to take on rising giants like China and India, would not deflect them from their drive for sweeping cuts in the government budget.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told CBS television that Obama gave a “great speech” but made plain that “the president and I are going to disagree on some things,” stressing that his party wants deeper spending cuts.

12 Contador blasts ‘unfair’ suspension


Thu Jan 27, 1:39 pm ET

PALMA DE MAJORCA, Spain (AFP) – Tour de France champion Alberto Contador feels he has been “unfairly punished” by the sport’s ruling body, which has suspended him for one year for a positive doping test, his spokesman said Thursday.

“He’s disappointed because he is innocent and feels he is being unfairly punished,” said Jacinto Vidarte.

Contador was on Thursday at his Saxo’s team hotel in Palma, on the Spanish Balearic island of Majorca, while the rest of his teammates continued training.

13 ‘Second minor’ at Berlusconi parties: report

by Francoise Kadri, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 9:36 am ET

ROME (AFP) – Italian prosecutors investigating Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over allegations he had sex with minors have linked him to a second under-aged girl, according to legal papers released on Thursday.

Documents submitted by prosecutors to a parliamentary committee Wednesday said Iris Berardi was under age when she visited at least two of Berlusconi’s residences in November and December 2009, ANSA news agency reported.

Berardi, born on December 29, 1991, and described by prosecutors as a “well-known prostitute”, had attended parties at his villas in Sardinia and near Milan, ANSA news agency reported.

14 Rosneft, Exxon ink Black Sea exploration deal

by Dave Clark, AFP

Thu Jan 27, 6:21 am ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – Russian energy giant Rosneft and US group Exxon Mobil struck a $1 billion deal Thursday to hunt for oil under the Black Sea, and promised more joint ventures to come.

Rosneft president Eduard Yurevitch Khudaynatov said he hopes to find a billion tonnes of oil and gas — mainly oil — in the 11,200-square-kilometre (4,320 square mile) Tuapse Trough, in waters off the Krasnodar region.

Using the US giant’s latest exploration technology, now shared with its Russian partner, the joint venture will survey the seabed this year and hopes the first offshore platform may be operational by the end of 2012, he said.

15 Bernanke: all but one major firm at risk in 2008

By Dave Clarke and Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters

22 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twelve of the 13 most important U.S. financial firms were at the brink of failure at the height of the credit crisis in 2008, according to previously undisclosed remarks made by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in November 2009 to an investigative panel.

The deeply divided Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released the notes from its private interview with Bernanke and others on Thursday as part of a final report on the origins of the 2007-2009 crisis.

The 10-member panel’s final report was endorsed only by its six Democratic members. It criticized the culture of deregulation championed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and said the government had ample power to avert the crisis but chose not to use it.

16 S&P cuts Japan sovereign rating

By Tetsushi Kajimoto, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 12:16 pm ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Standard & Poor’s cut Japan’s credit rating on Thursday for the first time since 2002, saying Tokyo had no plan to deal with its mounting debt, a warning that could rattle other heavily indebted rich countries.

The agency cut Japan’s long-term sovereign debt rating by a notch to AA-minus, its fourth highest rating. It said an aging population, persistent deflation and the government’s loss of its upper house majority compounded the fiscal challenge.

Politicians and ratings agencies have warned for years that Japan must cut its public debt, which is double the size of its $5 trillion economy — by far the worst among rich nations.

17 GM drops U.S. loan application after turnaround

By David Lawder, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 11:47 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Motors Co has withdrawn its application for $14 billion in subsidized loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, saying it has the financial strength to fund investment in more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles on its own.

The move could provide a public-relations boost to GM, which has struggled to distance itself from the controversy of a $50 billion bailout and the stigma of having become “Government Motors” after being restructured in bankruptcy.

GM had initially seen the Department of Energy loan program as a potential source of financing that could stave off bankruptcy in 2008.

18 ElBaradei returns to Egypt for Friday protests

By Dina Zayed and Shaimaa Fayed, Reuters

3 mins ago

CAIRO (Reuters) – Police fought protesters in two Egyptian cities on Thursday and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei returned to the country on the eve of nationwide demonstrations seeking to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

Security forces shot dead a Bedouin protester in the north of Egypt’s Sinai region on Thursday, bringing the death toll to five on the third day of protests inspired by unrest which toppled Tunisia’s president earlier this month.

Demonstrators appeared determined to allow no let-up in mass rallies against Mubarak’s three-decade rule, with another wave of protests expected after Friday prayers.

19 ElBaradei says time for Egypt leader Mubarak to go

By Fredrik Dahl, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 10:44 am ET

VIENNA (Reuters) – Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog turned Egyptian reform campaigner, said he expected big demonstrations across Egypt on Friday, and that it was time for President Hosni Mubarak to go.

ElBaradei, 68, left Vienna, where he lives, for Cairo on Thursday to join a growing wave of protests against Mubarak inspired by Tunisia’s overthrow of their authoritarian president.[nLDE70Q009]

He told Reuters he would not lead the street rallies, but that his role was “to manage the change politically.”

20 Protests as Tunisia readies cabinet reshuffle

By Tarek Amara and Andrew Hammond, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 12:28 pm ET

TUNIS (Reuters) – Protesters stormed police barricades in the Tunisian capital on Thursday and the government prepared to dismiss key loyalists of ousted leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in the face of widespread public anger.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on January 14 when weeks of violent protests against poverty, repression and corruption toppled him after 23 years in power.

Since then, an interim government that includes many former ruling party officials has struggled to impose order as protesters demand that the makeshift coalition be purged of Ben Ali’s allies.

21 Thousands march in Yemen to demand change of government

By Khaled Abdullah and Mohammed Ghobari, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 8:26 am ET

SANAA (Reuters) – Thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sanaa Thursday to demand a change of government, inspired by the unrest that has ousted Tunisia’s leader and spread to Egypt this week.

Reuters witnesses estimated that around 16,000 Yemenis demonstrated in four parts of Sanaa in the largest rally since a wave of protests rocked Yemen last week, and protesters vowed to escalate the unrest unless their demands were met.

“The people want a change in president,” protesters shouted, holding signs that also demanded improvements to living conditions in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country.

22 Arab officials say reform only answer to unrest

By Amena Bakr, Reuters

Wed Jan 26, 12:18 pm ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Reforms are needed across the Arab world to address angry citizens’ demands for a better standard of living after protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Arab officials attending the Davos World Economic Forum said on Wednesday.

A Saudi royal family member said the recent ousting of Tunisia’s longtime ruler after weeks of violent protests has turned the spotlight onto neighboring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

“The Arab citizen is angry and we feel broken as citizens. Reform is the name of the game, and reform has to happen now all over the Arab world,” Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa a former Egyptian foreign minister, told Reuters.

23 Special Report: A Long Island tax cut backfires on the Tea Party

By Edith Honan and Kristina Cooke, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 11:30 am ET

MINEOLA, New York (Reuters) – At his January 2010 inauguration, Tea Party-backed Republican Edward Mangano marched up to the podium, pen in hand. Even before being officially declared Nassau County Executive, he signed a repeal of an unpopular home energy tax.

The move elicited chants of “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” from supporters assembled in the auditorium of Mangano’s alma mater, Bethpage High School, 30 miles east of New York City.

“This is very cool and quite an honor,” Mangano said as he gave his admirers a thumbs-up.

24 AT&T, losing iPhone grip, signals tough start to year

By Sinead Carew, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 1:57 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – With only days remaining until it loses its grip over U.S. iPhone sales, AT&T Inc warned of a “rocky” start to 2011.

AT&T’s shares fell nearly 3 percent in response to a disappointing profit outlook for the year, further unnerving investors about its growth prospects once market leader Verizon Wireless launches an Apple Inc. iPhone next month.

Chief Executive Randall Stephenson, even while forecasting “healthy” customer growth, acknowledged that the new iPhone would make life tougher, at least initially.

25 Special report: Can Samsung change with the tech times?

By Miyoung Kim, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 12:04 pm ET

SEOUL (Reuters) – Only a handful of reporters were at Samsung’s booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month when Jay Y. Lee dropped by.

They had been tipped that the sheltered heir to the Samsung business empire was about to make his first public appearance since his father named him one of the new presidents of the conglomerate’s flagship, Samsung Electronics, in December.

Most of the Korean media contingent eagerly awaiting his appearance at the show had been diverted to another news conference. They didn’t miss much. Jay Lee’s remarks were brief and bland. He mainly wanted to make it clear his ambition was to be a chip off the old (and equally aloof) block.

26 Obama touts investment plan on middle America trip

By Ross Colvin, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 2:01 pm ET

MANITOWOC, Wisc. (Reuters) – President Barack Obama pressed his case on Wednesday for investment to grow the U.S. economy out of its budget woes, a job made tougher by a forecast that the deficit will surge 40 percent this year.

The Congressional Budget Office forecast the U.S. deficit would hit $1.48 trillion this year and the Federal Reserve was downbeat on the prospects for job creation.

Those were sobering reminders the day after Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he struck a conciliatory tone toward newly empowered congressional Republicans and advocated investment in some areas and cuts in others to make the U.S. economy more competitive.

27 Macau casino tycoon sues family to recover lost billions

By Donny Kwok and Farah Master, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 7:52 am ET

MACAU/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho has sued family members in a bid to recover billions of dollars of assets in another bizarre U-turn to a feud over the ailing tycoon’s empire.

Ho, chairman of Macau’s biggest casino operator, SJM Holdings, hours earlier had gone on television to say he would not sue and that he wanted to resolve the matter privately with his family.

The latest move in the zig-zag tussle for the 89-year-old tycoon’s billions of dollars of assets suggests an escalating scramble between factions of Ho’s family, which includes four wives and at least 17 children.

28 Fed cautious on recovery, focused on joblessness

By Mark Felsenthal, Reuters

Thu Jan 27, 6:48 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve showed on Wednesday it was in no rush to cut short its rescue of the U.S. economy, saying high unemployment still justified its $600 billion bond-buying plan even though the economy has shown some signs of improvement.

In a statement that was a bit more upbeat than after its meeting in December, the Fed acknowledged for the first time a rise in commodity prices that has fueled global inflation, but signaled it would not throw the U.S. central bank off course.

The Fed noted that underlying U.S. inflation has been “trending downward,” a contrast in tone with other central banks around the world worried about price growth.

29 Starbucks sees higher 2011 coffee costs

By Lisa Baertlein, Reuters

Wed Jan 26, 9:08 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Starbucks Corp, the world’s largest coffee chain, expects rising coffee prices to hit profits more than it previously thought but stressed that it would not raise prices to cover the extra expense.

That news sent its shares down almost 3 percent, even as the company reported profits and U.S. sales that handily topped Wall Street’s targets.

Rising prices for ingredients ranging from coffee and milk to beef and bread are squeezing restaurant operators.

30 Lehman files new plan for repaying creditors

By Tom Hals, Reuters

Wed Jan 26, 12:00 pm ET

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – Bankrupt financial company Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc proposed a new plan for dividing up billions of dollars among its creditors and offered a bigger payment to bondholders, provided they sign on.

The plan, key to Lehman’s exit from the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, comes after an earlier version filed in April met strong opposition from hedge fund Paulson & Co, the California Public Employees Retirement System (Calpers) and other bondholders. It was filed late on Tuesday.

The plan proposed increasing payments to the holding company’s senior unsecured creditors, which includes the bondholders, to 21.4 percent of their claims from 14.7 percent. But there is a catch: they must vote to accept the plan.

31 Toyota recalls 1.7 million autos as quality woes mount

By Chris Gallagher, Reuters

Wed Jan 26, 11:24 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp said it would recall more than 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, bringing its total for recalls to nearly 16 million since late 2009 and dealing a blow to its efforts to restore its reputation for quality.

The recalls are for various issues, the biggest of which is to fix potentially faulty fuel pumps and connecting pipes in 1.34 million vehicles, Toyota said.

Although the situation is different from last year, when Toyota attracted intense scrutiny from U.S. safety regulators over unintended acceleration problems that were blamed for dozens of fatalities, the latest recall may make it harder for Toyota to convince investors it has put its quality problems behind it.

32 Senate leaders reach agreement on filibusters

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press

30 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Senate stood ready Thursday to reject an effort to restrict filibusters, those familiar blockades that sew gridlock and discord. Instead, the Senate’s leaders announced a gentleman’s agreement for minority Republicans to block fewer bills and nominations in exchange for a guarantee of more chances to amend legislation.

The agreement described by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell was part of a package of measures aimed at making the Senate a more workable and less contentious place. It also included support of a resolution, to be voted on later in the day, to end the practice of one senator being able to secretly block votes and a rules change that would slash by a third the number of presidential appointments that need Senate approval.

The full Senate, meanwhile, prepared to vote against proposals by several Democrats that would put more formal restrictions on the right of the minority to hold up or block bills and nominations through filibusters.

33 Former Time journalist to be Obama press secretary

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

43 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has chosen Jay Carney, the communications chief to Vice President Joe Biden and a former Time magazine journalist, to be the next White House press secretary.

Carney, 45, will provide one of the most public faces of the White House as Obama’s presidency pivots toward re-election. He replaces Robert Gibbs, who has also held an outsized presence as a counselor to Obama for the last several years.

In choosing Carney, Obama went with someone who is inside his circle yet also seen to understand the needs of the White House press corps as a former member of its ranks. Carney built his career as a reporter, covering the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for Time and rising to the position of the magazine’s Washington bureau chief.

34 Harry Reid is unbowed in taking on GOP, Obama

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

32 mins ago

WASHINGTON – If anyone thought Sen. Harry Reid’s near-death political experience last fall would chasten the Senate majority leader, think again. The Nevada Democrat is back in his familiar perch, directing the Senate’s actions and firing shoot-from-the-lip zingers at powerful politicians, including President Barack Obama.

Shortly before Obama used his State of the Union speech to say he would veto any bill with lawmaker-targeted spending projects, known as “earmarks,” Reid struck pre-emptively.

The president “has enough power already,” he told reporters, and Obama’s effort was just a “lot of pretty talk.”

35 Gates faults Congress for ‘crisis on my doorstep’

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

1 hr 37 mins ago

OTTAWA, Ontario – Defense Secretary Robert Gates is accusing Congress of dumping a “crisis on my doorstep” by holding the Pentagon to last year’s spending levels and creating a potential $23 billion gap that could weaken a wartime military.

“That’s how you hollow out a military,” Gates said Thursday.

Gates said it looks increasingly likely that Congress will not act on the Pentagon’s 2011 budget request even as lawmakers argue over Gates’ proposal to slow the rate of increase in defense spending next year and freeze it by 2015.

36 Violent protests escalate outside Egypt’s capital


40 mins ago

CAIRO – Violence escalated in two cites outside the capital Cairo Thursday where anti-government protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police. Egypt’s top democracy advocate returned to the country and declared he was ready to lead the campaign to oust longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

In the flashpoint city of Suez, east of Cairo, witnesses said rioters – some wearing surgical masks to ward off tear gas – firebombed the main fire station and firefighters jumped out windows to escape the flames, as heavy black smoke billowed from the building. In the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, several hundred Bedouins and police exchanged live gunfire, killing a 17-year-old man. About 300 protesters surrounded a police station from rooftops of nearby buildings and fired two RPGs at it, damaging the walls.

Social networking sites were abuzz with talk that Friday’s rallies could be some of the biggest so far calling for the ouster of Mubarak after 30 years in power. Millions gather at mosques across the city for Friday prayers, providing organizers with a huge number of people already out on the streets to tap into.

37 Panel cites roots of meltdown, but does it matter?


40 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A government panel’s failure to reach a firm conclusion about what caused the financial crisis shows how complex Wall Street has become and how partisan Washington has grown.

The blurriness of its report comes months after a new law already has begun tightening financial rules to prevent another crisis.

All of which raises a question: Do the findings of the 633-page report matter?

38 Humans may have left Africa earlier than thought

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

1 hr 47 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Modern humans may have left Africa thousands of years earlier than previously thought, turning right and heading across the Red Sea into Arabia rather than following the Nile to a northern exit, an international team of researchers says.

Stone tools discovered in the United Arab Emirates indicate the presence of modern humans between 100,000 and 125,000 years ago, the researchers report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

While science has generally accepted an African origin for humans, anthropologists have long sought to understand the route taken as these populations spread into Asia, the Far East and Europe. Previously, most evidence has suggested humans spread along the Nile River valley and into the Middle East about 60,000 years ago.

39 Bomb strikes funeral, killing 48 in Baghdad

By KIM GAMEL, Associated Press

2 hrs 18 mins ago

BAGHDAD – A car bomb exploded outside a funeral tent Thursday in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad, killing at least 48 people – the latest in a wave of attacks that has triggered fury over the government’s inability to stop the bloodshed.

As ambulances raced to the scene and Iraqi helicopters buzzed overhead, young men enraged over the security lapse pelted Iraqi forces with sticks and stones, prompting skirmishes.

The violence over the past week and a half has mainly targeted the majority Shiite community and Iraqi security forces, posing a major challenge for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his fragile coalition government that was seated last month.

40 Challenger: 25 years later, a still painful wound

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

2 hrs 27 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – For many, no single word evokes as much pain. Challenger. A quarter-century later, images of the exploding space shuttle still signify all that can go wrong with technology and the sharpest minds. The accident on Jan. 28, 1986 – a scant 73 seconds into flight, nine miles above the Atlantic for all to see – remains NASA’s most visible failure.

It was the world’s first high-tech catastrophe to unfold on live TV. Adding to the anguish was the young audience: School children everywhere tuned in that morning to watch the launch of the first schoolteacher and ordinary citizen bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.

She never made it.

41 Social Security posting $600B deficit over 10 years


Thu Jan 27, 2:58 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Social Security will post nearly $600 billion in deficits over the next decade as the economy struggles to recover and millions of baby boomers stand at the brink of retirement, according to new congressional projections.

This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.

Last year, Social Security posted its first deficit since the program was last overhauled in the 1980s. The CBO said at the time that Social Security would post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into deficits in 2016.


42 Social Security fund now seen to be empty by 2037


Thu Jan 27, 1:54 am ET

WASHINGTON – Sick and getting sicker, Social Security will run at a deficit this year and keep on running in the red until its trust funds are drained by about 2037, congressional budget experts said Wednesday in bleaker-than-previous estimates.

The massive retirement program has been suffering from the effects of the struggling economy for several years. It first went into deficit last year but had been projected to post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into the red in 2016

This year alone, Social Security will pay out $45 billion more in retirement, disability and survivors’ benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said. That figure nearly triples – to $130 billion – when the new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included.

More lies from the same source.

43 Foreclosure activity up across most US metro areas

By ALEX VEIGA, AP Real Estate Writer

Thu Jan 27, 5:51 am ET

LOS ANGELES – The foreclosure crisis is getting worse as high unemployment and lackluster job prospects force homeowners in an increasing number of U.S. metropolitan areas into dire financial straits.

In Seattle, Houston and Chicago, cities that were relatively insulated from foreclosures early on in the housing bust, a growing number of homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments and finding themselves on the receiving end of foreclosure warnings. Others have already seen their homes repossessed by lenders.

All told, foreclosure activity jumped in 149 of the country’s 206 largest metropolitan areas last year, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

44 Many Chicago voters want say on Emanuel


Thu Jan 27, 11:09 am ET

CHICAGO – Chicagoans are having no trouble summing up their thoughts about the drama now before the Illinois Supreme Court over Rahm Emanuel’s name appearing on next month’s mayoral ballot. Some call it ridiculous and confusing. Others, just plain baloney.

But whether or not they had planned to support Emanuel, voters expressed two prevailing sentiments: Let the former White House chief of staff run so the voters can decide and, no matter how embarrassing or maddening the latest election spectacle has become, it’s vintage Chicago politics.

“If we’re not going to allow choice to happen, then we’re really not a democratic society,” said Dan Murphy, a coffee shop owner in Chicago’s East Village who signed a petition to get one of Emanuel’s rivals on the ballot but hasn’t decided how he’ll vote. “What can choice hurt?”

45 Obama seeks new path to environmental goals

By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press

2 hrs 56 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Facing a Congress that is more hostile to environmental regulation, President Barack Obama is moderating his environmental goals: a clean energy standard that mixes nuclear, natural gas and “clean coal” with renewable sources such as wind and solar.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama called for 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035. That goal represents a new strategy to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for global warming, following the death of cap-and-trade legislation that Obama pushed in Congress for the last two years. The president didn’t mention global warming in his speech, but a clean energy standard is another way to combat rising temperatures.

The new target would double the percentage of electricity that comes from clean energy sources, according to a White House fact sheet. Clean coal, which would be produced by an experimental technology not yet available commercially, and “efficient natural gas” would be given only partial credits toward the goal.

46 Pa. ex-cops accused of cover-up get split verdict

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press

8 mins ago

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – One of three former municipal police officers accused of obstructing an FBI investigation into the beating death of an illegal Mexican immigrant was convicted Thursday of the most serious charge against him.

Former Shenandoah police chief Matthew Nestor and subordinates William Moyer and Jason Hayes were accused of helping a group of white high school football players cover up their roles in the July 2008 attack on 25-year-old Luis Ramirez in the small, ethnically charged town.

A federal jury deliberated 14 hours over two days before reaching a split verdict in the case. The jury acquitted the defendants of conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation. Nestor was found guilty of falsifying his police report, a charge that carries up to 20 years in prison. Moyer, who had faced five counts, was found guilty of lying to the FBI and acquitted of the others. Hayes was acquitted of both charges against him.

47 Obama: Even program that work face budget cuts

By JULIE PACE, Associated Press

1 hr 43 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Thursday that even government programs that work will face cuts as he looks for ways to bring down the nation’s mounting deficits.

During an hour-long live interview on YouTube, Obama did not detail reductions in the spending plan he will roll out next month for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. But he did cite community action grants that support economic and development initiatives in cities as examples of good programs that probably will lose money.

Sticking to a theme in his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama pledged to make responsible cuts and avoid moves that would hurt the economic recovery.

48 APNewsBreak: Sedative maker deplores execution use

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Legal Affairs Writer

Thu Jan 27, 1:56 am ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The sole U.S. manufacturer of a sedative that Ohio plans to use to execute death row inmates – and that Oklahoma already uses to do so – said Wednesday it opposes the practice and has asked both states to stop using the drug.

Pentobarbital maker Lundbeck Inc. says it never intended for the drug to be used to put inmates to death.

“This goes against everything we’re in business to do,” Sally Benjamin Young, spokeswoman for the Denmark-based company’s U.S. headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., told The Associated Press.

49 Mosque to be built in CA city after appeal denied

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 7:13 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Opponents of a proposed mosque in the Southern California city of Temecula collected hundreds of signatures, bombarded city planners with angry letters and e-mails, and even staged protests with bullhorns and dogs.

None of it worked.

The City Council approved plans early Wednesday for the 25,000-square-foot, two-story mosque after a nine-hour meeting that included rants against Islam as well as technical debates about traffic concerns and flood plains.

50 Study: No higher mental health risk after abortion

By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer

Wed Jan 26, 6:54 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – Having an abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems, but having a baby does, one of the largest studies to compare the aftermath of both decisions suggests.

The research by Danish scientists further debunks the notion that terminating a pregnancy can trigger mental illness and shows postpartum depression to be much more of a factor.

Abortion in Denmark has been legal since 1973 – the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, which established a right to abortion.

51 Pentagon officials defend proposed military cuts

By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 6:33 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Top Pentagon officials on Wednesday defended Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed multibillion-dollar cuts in military spending in the face of tough questions from Republicans about slashing too deep and jeopardizing U.S. forces.

At the start of the arduous budget process, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told the new GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee that Gates’ call for cuts of $78 billion “strikes the right balance for these difficult times.”

The military budget would still be $553 billion in the next fiscal year, close to double the 2001 total, and that amount does not include funds for the war in Afghanistan and reduced operations in Iraq. The formal proposal will be submitted to Congress the week of Feb. 14 when President Barack Obama offers his budget.

52 Bachmann speech raises her conservative profile

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 6:20 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann took another leap in her remarkable climb to national attention and tea party prominence with her freelance response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech.

The tea party champion insists she is not positioning herself as a rival to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. But colleagues marveled Wednesday at her knack for firing up conservatives and her ability to fill a media vacuum from the right, much like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does.

Scores of lawmakers stood before cameras Tuesday night to tell viewers back home what they thought of Obama’s State of the Union address. But Bachmann was the only non-party-leader to have her entire speech go nationwide.

53 House Republicans attack regulations; Dems defend

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 6:07 pm ET

WASHINGTON – House Republicans launched a tirade Wednesday at Obama administration regulations, reversing what had been an unusual display of unity hours earlier at the president’s State of the Union speech.

In one of the first hearings of the Republican-run Congress, GOP lawmakers accused unelected administration bureaucrats of issuing rules that cost American jobs. Democrats insisted those same regulations protected public health and the environment, saved the U.S. auto industry and lessened dependence on foreign oil.

The sole witness before the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, administration regulation chief Cass Sunstein, reminded Republicans that “job creation is in the first sentence” of President Barack Obama’s recent executive order to review all government regulations.

54 Pentagon to outline training for gay ban repeal


Wed Jan 26, 5:51 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Pentagon leaders will roll out a plan Friday that is expected to give the military services about three months to train their forces on the new law allowing gays to serve openly, officials said Wednesday.

The plan, they said, will outline the personnel, recruiting and other regulations that must be changed. It will describe three levels of training for the troops, their commanders and the key administrators, recruiters and other leaders who will have to help implement the changes.

Under that training schedule, full implementation of the law could begin later this summer. Once the training is complete, the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt troops’ ability to fight. Sixty days after certification, the law would take effect.

55 Ex-Hill aide goes on trial for World Series trip

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 4:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A jury impaneled for the last trial in a lobbying scandal heard an unflattering portrait Wednesday of government business conducted on a booze-fueled junket, longtime friends turning on one another, and a congressional aide’s transformation from potential witness to defendant.

Fraser Verrusio, a former policy director to Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska on the House Transportation Committee, is accused of illegally accepting an expenses-paid trip to the first game of the 2003 World Series and lying about it on a financial disclosure form.

Verrusio maintains he did nothing illegal and that Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers commonly accepted travel provided by corporate sponsors with business before Congress.

56 House votes to end subsidies for candidates

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Wed Jan 26, 4:17 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Eager to cut spending, the Republican-controlled House voted to end multimillion-dollar federal subsidies for presidential candidates and national political conventions on Wednesday, the first of what party leaders promised will be weekly, bite-sized bills to attack record deficits.

The 239-160 vote sent the measure – and the fate of the familiar $3 check-off box on income tax returns – to the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats.

“Eliminating this program would save taxpayers $617 million over ten years, and would require candidates and political parties to rely on private contributions rather than tax dollars,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., “In times when government has no choice but to do more with less, voting to end the Presidential Election Campaign Fund should be a no brainer.”

57 GOP invokes 1700s doctrine in health care fight

By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 2:56 pm ET

BOISE, Idaho – Republican lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are reaching into the dusty annals of American history to fight President Obama’s health care overhaul.

They are introducing measures that hinge on “nullification,” Thomas Jefferson’s late 18th-century doctrine that purported to give states the ultimate say in constitutional matters.

GOP lawmakers introduced such a measure Wednesday in the Idaho House, and Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming are also talking about the idea.

58 Chrysler 200 replaces Sebring sedan

By ANN M. JOB, For The Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 1:56 pm ET

Chrysler’s long-running Chrysler Sebring mid-size sedan is gone, sort of.

The four-door, five-passenger, mid-size sedan is revamped for 2011 and given a new name – Chrysler 200.

New exterior styling gives the 200 the pleasing looks of other modern family cars. The interior is nicely upgraded, too, with better-looking plastics and other materials.

59 Republicans back at work cutting spending

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

Wed Jan 26, 1:34 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Moving quickly on their own priorities, House Republicans pushed legislation to abolish partial public financing of presidential campaigns on Wednesday, one day after a State of the Union address in which President Barack Obama pronounced the country “poised for progress” and beckoned lawmakers of both parties to make job creation their common goal.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the program was a prime example of wasteful spending the nation cannot afford in an era of record federal deficits and mounting debt. “Eliminating this program would save taxpayers $617 million over 10 years, and would require candidates and political parties to rely on private contributions rather than tax dollars,” he said.

But Democrats said its elimination would enhance the power of special interests, which are permitted to donate to candidates and the political parties.

60 Waves’ siren song lures riders to Calif. surf spot

By JASON DEAREN, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 12:57 pm ET

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. – The cold water and stories-high waves at the treacherous surf break called Mavericks in Northern California have made it a Mt. Everest-like conquest for some surfers.

And like Everest, Mavericks has impacted its share of lives: whether it be the death of legendary big wave waterman or serious injury to less experienced surfers seeking to make a name for themselves. Yet more wave riders keep coming.

Mavericks almost claimed another life Saturday, when a surfer nearly drowned after being pummeled and washed through rocks by a big wave. That surfer, 30-year-old Jacob Trette, was in fair condition three days after he nearly drowned.

61 Buzz surrounds creator of beehive hairdo

By CARYN ROUSSEAU, Associated Press

Wed Jan 26, 12:17 pm ET

ELMHURST, Ill. – Before Marge Simpson, Amy Winehouse or Audrey Hepburn wore their hair in the famous beehive, there was Margaret Vinci Heldt and her salon on Chicago’s ritzy Michigan Avenue.

As the 92-year-old retired hairstylist tells it, Modern Beauty Shop magazine (now Modern Salon) was looking for a new design, something different to feature in its February 1960 issue. She came up with the beehive.

“I went home and I thought, What am I going to do that hasn’t done before?” Heldt says in an interview at her apartment in a suburban Chicago retirement community, scrapbooks filled with pictures of her hair designs stacked near the couch.

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