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Feb 16 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 58 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Clashes erupt as Libya braces for ‘Day of Anger’

AFP

1 hr 28 mins ago

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Dozens of people were injured in clashes in Benghazi, a hospital in Libya’s second city said on Wednesday, on the eve of a nationwide “Day of Anger” called by cyber-activists in a bid to emulate revolts in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

The director of the eastern city’s Al-Jala hospital, Abdelkarim Gubeaili, told AFP that 38 people were treated for light injuries.

The Quryna newspaper said security forces and demonstrators clashed late on Tuesday in what it branded the work of “saboteurs” among a small group of protesters.

AFP

2 Iran regime calls for ‘hatred’ rally against opposition

AFP

2 hrs 34 mins ago

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s regime said it called a rally in Tehran for Friday to express “hatred” against the opposition movement, as its two key leaders launched fresh anti-government tirades despite demands they be hanged.

Wednesday’s call for the mass rally came as clashes erupted between regime backers and “apparent” supporters of the opposition at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests of Monday.

“The noble people of Tehran will take to Enghelab Square after Friday prayers with their solid and informed presence,” the Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, which organises regime-backed programmes, said Wednesday.

3 Iran says protest planners will fail as MPs rage

AFP

Tue Feb 15, 4:04 pm ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday those behind anti-government protests in Iran will fail, as furious lawmakers demanded the execution of opposition chiefs who had called for the rallies.

US President Barack Obama, in one of his most direct reactions to Monday’s events in Iran, offered encouragement to protesters, saying he hoped they would have the “courage” to keep expressing their “yearning for greater freedoms.”

In a live interview on state television, Ahmadinejad said: “It is evident and clear that the Iranian nation has enemies because it is a country which wants to shine and achieve its peak and wants to change relations (between countries) in the world.

4 Iran warns of action as opposition remains defiant

AFP

Wed Feb 16, 6:00 am ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said Wednesday it is planning to take action against opposition leaders after MPs demanded they be executed, as the two former regime pillars defiantly launched fresh anti-government tirades.

Clashes meanwhile erupted between regime backers and “apparent” supporters of the opposition at a funeral attended by thousands in Tehran of a student killed in anti-government protests of Monday, state television reported.

Iran’s prosecutor general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie warned that action would be taken against opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who reject the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and who had called for Monday’s demonstration which turned deadly.

5 Berlusconi plays it cool over sex crime trial

by Ella Ide, AFP

1 hr 23 mins ago

ROME (AFP) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi played it cool on Wednesday after an announcement that he must stand trial for sex with an underage prostitute, saying his government would stay on until 2013.

“All I can say is that I’m not at all worried,” Berlusconi said.

“We have never been more united and more decided to continue the parliament until its mandate runs out,” a smiling Berlusconi told reporters in his first public reaction to the news Tuesday that he must stand in the dock in April.

6 Merkel’s man picked for Bundesbank

by Richard Carter, AFP

1 hr 36 mins ago

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday chose a close aide to head Germany’s powerful central bank, a move analysts took to mean she has given up on having a German lead the European Central Bank.

The appointment of Jens Weidmann, 42, as the youngest ever Bundesbank chief followed last week’s surprise resignation of Axel Weber and also sparked concerns the Bundesbank’s jealously guarded independence might be undermined.

“Anyone who knows Jens Weidmann knows that has excellent professional skills, a brilliant intellect and that he has an independent mind,” Merkel told reporters, in an apparent bid to pre-empt such concerns.

7 US bookstore chain Borders files for bankruptcy

by Chris Lefkow, AFP

1 hr 41 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Borders, the second-largest US bookstore chain, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, the latest blow to an industry hard hit by competition from electronic readers and online booksellers.

Borders said it planned to close around 30 percent of its over 640 stores in the United States as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which protects the company from its creditors while it reorganizes.

“Borders Group does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor and which are essential for it to move forward with its business strategy,” Borders president Mike Edwards said in a statement.

8 Smartphones ‘new El Dorado for computer criminals’

by Richard Lein, AFP

Wed Feb 16, 10:41 am ET

BARCELONA (AFP) – Smartphones are the new El Dorado for computer criminals and many owners are unaware of the risk or what to do about it, security experts warn.

As sales of smartphones and tablets have started to outpace those of personal computers, criminals are increasingly targeting the devices, security companies say.

It is a menace for both consumers and businesses because many people use their smartphones or tablets to access corporate networks without authorisation.

9 NASA spacecraft unravels comet mystery

by Kerry Sheridan, AFP

Tue Feb 15, 6:08 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A NASA spacecraft’s flyby with a comet showed erosion on the Tempel 1’s surface since it skimmed by the Sun in 2005, and revealed Tuesday the first clear pictures of the crater made by a Deep Impact probe.

But the Valentine’s night encounter was not easy for the US space agency’s Stardust-NExT mission spacecraft, which had to fight an onslaught of debris from the comet in order to snap dozens of revealing pictures.

“Comets, unlike any other body in the solar system, are unique when they are in the inner part of the solar system where the Earth is,” said Don Brownlee, Stardust-NExT co-investigator.

10 Deutsche Boerse, NYSE Euronext merge

by Marine Laouchez, AFP

Tue Feb 15, 2:44 pm ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext announced a merger Tuesday that would span two continents to create the world’s biggest exchange by revenues and a powerhouse in derivatives trading.

The firms said the merger would strengthen their position amid greater competition for business in emerging economies, from 24-hour trading and from smaller, more innovative trading platforms.

At the same time, NYSE Euronext chief executive Duncan Niederauer — who will be the CEO of the yet-unnamed new company — rejected suggestions that the deal was actually a takeover of the iconic but technologically outpaced New York Stock Exchange by the Frankfurt firm.

11 Japan, India sign free trade pact

by Harumi Ozawa, AFP

Wed Feb 16, 5:51 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan and India signed a free trade pact Wednesday, under which the high-tech nation and the South Asian giant pledged to scrap tariffs on 94 percent of goods within a decade.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma signed the deal in Tokyo, hoping it will boost two-way trade which totalled 900 billion yen ($10.7 billion) in 2009 — less than one percent of Japan’s total foreign trade.

“We have no doubt in our minds that this will usher in a new era of economic engagement, which will bring development, innovation and also prosperity in both societies,” Sharma said.

12 Japan whalers suspend Antarctic hunt

by Frank Zeller, AFP

Wed Feb 16, 5:14 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japanese whalers have suspended their Antarctic hunt, citing harassment by environmentalists, and are considering ending their annual mission early, a fisheries agency official said on Wednesday.

Activists from the US-based militant environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have pursued the Japanese fleet for months to stop its harpoon ships from killing the giant sea mammals.

Japanese Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku said the factory ship “the Nisshin Maru, which has been chased by Sea Shepherd, has suspended operations since February 10 so as to ensure the safety” of the crew.

Reuters

13 Protesters’ deaths fuel anger in Bahrain streets

By Cynthia Johnston and Frederik Richter, Reuters

1 hr 46 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Protesters in Bahrain, emboldened by revolts that have toppled Arab rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, poured into the center of the capital on Wednesday to mourn a demonstrator killed in clashes with security forces.

A crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people joined a winding Shi’ite funeral procession for the man, shot dead on Tuesday when fighting broke out at the burial of another protester.

Around 2,000 others were camped out at a junction in the center of the Gulf island kingdom’s capital, hoping to emulate the rallies on Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They demanded a change of government in Bahrain, where a Sunni family rules over a Shi’ite majority.

14 Iran MPs want death penalty for opposition leaders

By Parisa Hafezi, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 9:45 pm ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian lawmakers urged judiciary on Tuesday to hand out death penalties to opposition leaders for fomenting unrest in the Islamic state after a rally in which one person was killed and dozens were wounded, state media said.

Clashes broke out between security forces and protesters when thousands of opposition supporters rallied in sympathy for popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia on Monday, reviving mass protests that shook Iran after a presidential vote in 2009.

“(Opposition leaders) Mehdi Karroubi and Mirhossein Mousavi are corrupts on earth and should be tried,” the official IRNA news agency quoted lawmakers as saying in a statement.

15 Obama slams Iran crackdown, urges Mideast reform

By Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 3:44 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned Iran’s crackdown on protesters inspired by Egypt’s popular uprising and urged friends and foes across the Middle East to take heed of their peoples’ aspirations for democracy.

As unrest spread in the oil-rich region, Obama drew a distinction between Iran’s harsh treatment of opposition demonstrators and the Egyptian army’s more restrained handling of protests that drove President Hosni Mubarak from power on Friday.

“I find it ironic that you’ve got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully,” Obama said at a White House news conference.

16 House ignores Obama spending veto threat

By Richard Cowan, Reuters

1 hr 39 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the Congress on Wednesday pressed ahead with legislation to immediately slice $61 billion from domestic programs, but so far showed little appetite for paring one of the biggest chunks of the budget — military spending.

Despite a veto threat from President Barack Obama and harsh criticism from Senate Democrats, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was on pace to pass a measure that would cut non-defense spending by 14 percent and approve about $1 trillion to keep federal agencies operating through September.

House Speaker John Boehner has characterized the cuts in a bill to fund the government from March 4 until September 30 as a downpayment on deficit-reduction that will go further next fiscal year.

17 Producer prices up, inflation still seen muted

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

2 hrs 23 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. core wholesale prices rose in January at their fastest rate in more than two years, raising some concerns about inflation, but economists said the recovery was too weak for a big spike in consumer prices.

The core producer price index, which excludes food and energy costs, increased 0.5 percent, the biggest advance since October 2008, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent gain.

Investors viewed the figures somewhat warily and bond prices slipped. Economists, however, said it was too soon to panic about inflation with stubbornly high unemployment keeping labor costs subdued.

18 Sanofi to buy Genzyme for more than $20 billion

By Nina Sovich and Noelle Mennella, Reuters

1 hr 31 mins ago

PARIS (Reuters) – French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis SA clinched its long-sought deal for Genzyme Corp with a sweetened $20.1 billion cash offer, plus payments tied to the success of the U.S. biotech group’s drugs.

The deal announced on Wednesday comes nine months after Sanofi Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher first put the idea to Genzyme’s Henri Termeer and gives Sanofi a new platform in rare diseases.

It is expected to boost Sanofi’s earnings from the first year after completion, offsetting revenue losses from drugs facing generic competitors for the first time.

19 BHP in $80 billion expansion spree, puts off big takeovers

By Sonali Paul, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 10:19 am ET

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – BHP Billiton plans to pour $80 billion into expansion over the next five years rather than chase ambitious takeovers, the world’s biggest miner said after booming demand for iron ore and copper helped nearly double its first-half profits.

Chief executive Marius Kloppers, yet to conclude a major deal for BHP, said the preference was to spend on expansion due to difficulties securing large acquisitions and as the commodity cycle had raised price expectations for potential assets.

“As one looks at a buy versus build equation, the clear opportunity for us is to continue to invest money in our organic portfolio,” Kloppers told analysts on Wednesday.

20 Madoff says banks had to know of Ponzi scheme: report

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 10:14 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A frail Bernard Madoff, facing the rest of his life in prison, said a variety of banks and hedge funds were complicit in and “had to know” about his epic Ponzi scheme before it was uncovered, The New York Times reported.

In his first interview for publication since his December 2008 arrest, Madoff said banks and hedge funds who dealt with his investment advisory firm demonstrated a “willful blindness” toward his activities, and failed to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information.

“They had to know,” Madoff, described as noticeably thinner and dressed in khaki prison clothing, said in a visiting room in the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.'”

21 Borders files for bankruptcy, to close 200 stores

By Phil Wahba and Tom Hals, Reuters

13 mins ago

NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – Borders Group Inc filed for bankruptcy protection and said it would close about one-third of its bookstores, after years of shriveling sales that made it impossible to manage its crushing debt load.

The long-expected Chapter 11 filing will give the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain a chance to try to fix its finances and overhaul its business in an attempt to survive the growing popularity of online bookbuying and digital formats.

But the chain still faces questions about its longer term survival, in the face of competition from larger rival Barnes & Noble Inc, discounters such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Costco Wholesale Corp, as well as web retailer Amazon.com and Apple Inc in electronic books.

22 Merkel picks aide for Bundesbank, opening up ECB race

By Andreas Rinke and Stephen Brown, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 9:09 am ET

BERLIN (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel named her top aide Jens Weidmann on Wednesday as German central bank chief to succeed Axel Weber, making it less likely she will insist on a German running the European Central Bank.

Weidmann, who at 42 will be the youngest president in the Bundesbank’s 54-year history, has spent five years as Merkel’s economic adviser, helping her lead Germany through the financial crisis, recession and euro zone debt crunch.

At a news conference at her chancellery in central Berlin, Merkel played down concerns expressed by some opposition parties that she was making an overtly political appointment by putting her close adviser at the top of the Bundesbank, the independent post-war guardian of stability in Germany.

23 Analysis: Bahrain unrest may have regional, financial impact

By Reed Stevenson, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 9:41 am ET

DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain may be tiny, and fairly insignificant as an oil producer, but nearly $10 billion parked in mutual funds in the kingdom mean plenty is at stake if protests inspired by Egypt and Tunisia spiral out of control.

It is the Gulf Arab state seen as most vulnerable to unrest because of deep-rooted discontent among its majority Shi’ite population against the ruling Sunni dynasty, the al-Khalifas. The populace complains of economic hardships, lack of political freedoms and discrimination in jobs in favor of Sunnis.

This has always sat awkwardly with its status as a regional banking, trading and Islamic finance hub, but its advantages, as a diversified economy and relatively liberal society, have outweighed the risks — thus far.

24 D.Boerse unveils NYSE deal, now faces bumpy road

By Ed Taylor and Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 7:41 pm ET

FRANKFURT/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Deutsche Boerse faces a long, hard struggle to get approvals from a host of regulators for its $10.2-billion takeover of NYSE Euronext to form the world’s largest exchange operator.

It is expected to take until the end of the year before the politically-charged deal, which was agreed on Tuesday, can go ahead. “We have a bumpy road ahead of us,” said Deutsche Boerse Chief Executive Reto Francioni, who would become chairman of the combined entity.

In a sign of the difficulty of keeping lawmakers and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic happy, the companies parked key questions that could threaten the accord. Foremost among those was what the merged company would be called.

25 Berlusconi to face trial over prostitution scandal

By Manuela D’Alessandro, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 4:34 pm ET

MILAN (Reuters) – An Italian judge has ordered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial in April on charges of paying an underage girl for sex and abuse of office, although there seemed no immediate risk the scandal would force him out.

Following weeks of scandal that have shaken his struggling center-right government, trial was set on Tuesday to start in a criminal court in Milan on April 6, according to a statement from the office of the city’s chief judge.

Berlusconi is not obliged to appear in person before the panel of three judges on that day, nor is there any legal obstacle to his continuing to hold office throughout any trial proceedings, which could take years before any conviction.

26 Al Qaeda militant-turned-witness released: U.S. court

By Basil Katz, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 4:17 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. man who aided al Qaeda and helped train the lead London suicide bomber whose attacks killed 52 people has been free for two years, released in virtual secret after cooperating with U.S. prosecutors, court documents show.

A naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, Mohammed Junaid Babar, 35, once faced charges that could have led to a 70-year prison sentence, had he been convicted at trial.

But he walked free after less than five years in prison upon pleading guilty and becoming a star witness for British and American prosecutors.

27 Apple subscription service challenges publishers

By Paul Thomasch, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 3:54 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Apple Inc is launching a long-awaited subscription service for magazines, newspapers, videos and music — a move that could dent the fortunes of successful services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Apple’s service allows it to keep 30 percent of customer payments to any publisher with a presence in its App Store, including blue-chip brands such as The New York Times, Netflix Inc. or Rhapsody, the popular music service.

Publishers can set the price and length of a subscription. They can also offer subscriptions through their own existing websites, but would be required to offer those same terms to anyone signing up through Apple.

28 Obama calls for release of U.S. prisoner in Pakistan

By Chris Allbritton, Reuters

Tue Feb 15, 3:03 pm ET

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Tuesday Pakistan must respect the diplomatic immunity of a U.S. consular employee jailed for shooting dead two Pakistanis, in a case straining ties between the allies.

Obama said Washington was working with Islamabad to secure the release of Raymond Davis, a former member of U.S. special forces who said he acted in self defense in an armed robbery in the city of Lahore last month.

Washington says Davis has diplomatic immunity and should be released but the Pakistani government, fearful of a backlash from Pakistanis already wary of the United States and enraged by the shooting, says the matter should be decided in court.

AP

29 Egypt: Death toll put at 365 as strikes continue

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 1:26 pm ET

CAIRO – At least 365 people died in the 18 days of anti-government protests that pushed out longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, the Health Ministry said Wednesday in the first official accounting of the death toll.

Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said it was only a preliminary count of civilians killed and did not include police or prisoners. And while Mubarak is gone, frustration with the quality of life – from working conditions to environmental concerns – has kept demonstrators in the streets as the economy continues to falter.

Airport employees protested for better pay Wednesday, textile workers went on strike to demand a corruption probe and residents of a Suez Canal city pressed for the closing of a chemical factory they say is dumping toxic waste into a lake.

30 Egyptians defy military rulers with more protests

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

42 mins ago

CAIRO – Egyptians staged protests and strikes Wednesday over a host of grievances from paltry wages to toxic waste dumping, defying the second warning in three days from the nation’s military rulers to halt all labor unrest at a time when the economy is staggering.

The military-led caretaker government gave its first estimate of the death toll in the 18-day democracy uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said at least 365 civilians died according to a preliminary count that does not include police or prisoners.

Mubarak’s departure set off a chain reaction of revolt around the Middle East with anti-government demonstrations in Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq on Wednesday.

31 Police kill 2 in clashes with Yemen protesters

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press

14 mins ago

SANAA, Yemen – Police opened fire on protesters during clashes in a southern Yemeni port Wednesday, killing two people, in the first known deaths in six days of Egypt-style demonstrations across the country’s biggest cities, demanding the ouster of the president, a key U.S. ally in battling al-Qaida.

Around 2,000 police flooded the streets of the capital, Sanaa, trying to halt protests. Firing in the air, police locked the gates of Sanaa University with chains to prevent thousands of protesting students inside from marching out join crowds demonstrating elsewhere in the city, witnesses said.

A call spread via Facebook and Twitter urging Yemenis to join a series of “One Million People” rallies on a so-called “Friday of Rage” in all Yemeni cities, demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power for 32 years.

32 Protest wave grows: Bahrain, Yemen and now Libya

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press

3 mins ago

MANAMA, Bahrain – The swelling protests against Bahrain’s rulers gained momentum Wednesday with huge crowds calling for a sweeping political overhaul and the kingdom’s stunned leaders appearing to shift tactics after attempts to crush the uprising stoked rage on the streets and sharp criticism from Western allies.

The widening challenges to the Arab world’s political order – emboldened by the downfall of old-guard regimes in Tunisia and Egypt – also flared in Libya for the first time, with riot police battling protesters marching against the 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi.

In Yemen, the embattled president flooded the ancient capital of Sanaa with security forces to try to stamp out demonstrations that began nearly a week ago. They turned deadly Wednesday in the southern port of Aden, with two people killed in clashes with police.

33 US military HQ in Mideast watching Gulf unrest

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

Wed Feb 16, 10:43 am ET

WASHINGTON – Unrest surging through the Arab world has so far taken no toll on the American military. But that could change if revolt washes over the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain – longtime home to the U.S. Navy’s mighty 5th Fleet and arguably the Middle East anchor of U.S. defense strategy.

The discontent that has spilled into the streets of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, this week features no anti-American sentiment, but the U.S. has a lot at stake in preserving its dominant naval presence in the Gulf.

On Wednesday, protesters held their ground in an Egypt-style occupation of the capital’s landmark square, staging a third day of demonstrations that have brought unprecedented pressure on Bahrain’s rulers. Security forces pulled back, apparently on orders to ease tensions. Police helicopters, however, flew low over a major funeral procession for one of two protesters killed in earlier demonstrations.

34 Obama on Mideast: Power by coercion won’t last

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

Tue Feb 15, 11:04 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Warily watching protests ripple across the Middle East, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that governments in the vital, volatile region are figuring out that they “can’t maintain power through coercion.” He slammed Iran as an exception, accusing the U.S. foe of beating and shooting protesters.

The public uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia have ignited protests and violent clashes in Bahrain, Yemen and Iran. With strategic U.S. interests in each of those countries, Obama conceded he is concerned about the region’s stability. And he prodded governments to get out ahead of the change.

In his most expansive comments yet about the unrest spilling across the Middle East and north Africa, Obama signaled that he would stick with his Egyptian model: Prod governments to allow peaceful protests and to respond to grievances, but stay silent about who should run the countries or what change should look like.

35 Obama, GOP budget hawks win on jet engine

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

37 mins ago

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama won a showdown vote Wednesday in the GOP-controlled House to kill a costly alternative engine for the Pentagon’s next-generation fighter jet.

The win by Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates was a switch from where the House stood last year under Democratic control. It reflected a sustained administration push to win over the votes of scores of Republican freshmen elected last fall on campaign promises to cut the budget.

Many taxpayer watchdog groups also weighed in against the engine program, slated to cost $3 billion over the next few years and $450 million this year alone.

36 Italy’s indicted Berlusconi says he’s not worried

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 1:07 pm ET

ROME – Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi showed aplomb in the face of charges that could end his political career, saying Wednesday he isn’t worried about his impending prostitution trial or calls for his resignation.

It was the first public comment by the 74-year-old leader since he was indicted Tuesday on charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl and then used his influence to cover it up.

He spoke shortly before holding talks and a working dinner with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, his first international meeting since the indictment.

37 Borders files for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection

By MAE ANDERSON, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 12:05 pm ET

NEW YORK – Bookseller Borders, which helped pioneer superstores that put countless mom-and-pop bookshops out of business, filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, sunk by crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry.

The 40-year-old company plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks. All of the stores closed will be superstores, Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis said. The company also operates smaller Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores.

Clearance sales could begin as early as this weekend, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Borders said it is losing about $2 million a day at the stores it plans to close.

38 Armstrong officially off bike – ‘Retirement 2.0’

By JIM LITKE, AP Sports Writer

Wed Feb 16, 10:43 am ET

Lance Armstrong is calling this one “Retirement 2.0.”

Almost a month after finishing 65th in his last competitive race in Australia, and nearly six years removed from the last of an unprecedented seven straight Tour de France titles, the 39-year-old cyclist made clear there is no reset button this time.

This time, he’s leaving professional racing behind for good.

39 Why is NYSE selling? It’s a matter of pennies

By BERNARD CONDON, AP Business Writer

51 mins ago

NEW YORK – While executives were finishing a deal to sell the New York Stock Exchange to a German rival, the NYSE was locked in a separate, smaller battle with three dozen competitors. The prize was the right to deliver shares of Coca-Cola stock to an investor who wanted 400 of them.

About 8 billion shares trade every day in the United States, so this sale seems hardly worth mentioning, save for the telling outcome: The NYSE lost.

The New York exchange is losing a lot these days. The icon of American capitalism hopes that combining with another exchange will give it heft to reverse its fallen fortunes. But it won’t be easy.

40 Scientists connect global warming to extreme rain

By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

1 hr 25 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Extreme rainstorms and snowfalls have grown substantially stronger, two studies suggest, with scientists for the first time finding the telltale fingerprints of man-made global warming on downpours that often cause deadly flooding.

Two studies in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Nature link heavy rains to increases in greenhouse gases more than ever before.

One group of researchers looked at the strongest rain and snow events of each year from 1951 to 1999 in the Northern Hemisphere and found that the more recent storms were 7 percent wetter. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to be a substantial increase, said the report from a team of researchers from Canada and Scotland.

41 Scottish deerhound is best in show at Westminster

By BEN WALKER, AP Sports Writer

Wed Feb 16, 6:31 am ET

NEW YORK – Hickory just might like the big-city life.

A Scottish deerhound that loves to chase deer and rabbits on a 50-acre farm in Virginia did more than fine at Madison Square Garden this week, winning best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night and the title of America’s top dog.

“She’s not used to lights, camera and noise,” handler Angela Lloyd said.

42 Hispanics now outnumber Native Americans in Okla.

By TIM TALLEY, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 11:22 pm ET

OKLAHOMA CITY – A state that has been considered the heart of the nation’s Indian Country since the Trail of Tears nearly two centuries ago now has more residents who identify themselves as Hispanic than Native American, according to figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While Oklahoma is likely to maintain the nation’s largest per capita population of Native Americans, their numbers are not growing nearly as rapidly as the booming Hispanic population.

Over the past decade, the number of Hispanics has nearly doubled from 179,304 in 2000 to 332,007 in 2010. Hispanics now account for 9 percent of the state’s 3.75 million residents, compared to 8.5 percent for Native Americans.

43 APNewsBreak: Veterans say rape cases mishandled

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 6:26 pm ET

WASHINGTON – More than a dozen U.S. veterans who say they were raped or assaulted by comrades filed a class-action suit in federal court Tuesday attempting to force the Pentagon to change how it handles such cases.

The current and former service members – 15 women and two men – describe circumstances in which servicemen allegedly got away with rape and other sexual abuse while their victims were ordered to continue to serve with them.

The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld. The plaintiffs say individual commanders have too much say in how allegations are handled and that they want reforms in the system.

44 Commander: Army investigating assault complaints

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press

13 mins ago

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – The Army is aggressively investigating sexual assault complaints, the commanding general at Fort Leonard Wood said Wednesday – a day after more than a dozen U.S. veterans filed a lawsuit accusing the Pentagon of failing to take their complaints of sexual abuse by older soldiers seriously.

Seventeen current and former service members who say they were raped or assaulted by fellow soldiers said they filed the federal class-action lawsuit to force the Pentagon to change how it handles such cases. One of the plaintiffs was a former Army sergeant who claimed that when she approached a chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood to discuss stress related to running into a service member who had allegedly raped her in the past, the chaplain told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and suggested she attend church more often.

Maj. Gen. David Quantock, the commanding general of the Missouri Army post, did not specifically discuss the lawsuit, but told reporters that reports of sexual assaults at Fort Leonard Wood had declined from 57 incidents in 2009 to 28 in 2010. A Fort Leonard Wood spokesman declined to comment on the allegations against the chaplain, who was not named in the suit.

45 Teachers getting soft sell on pay changes

By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press

1 hr 20 mins ago

DENVER – Over skits and snacks, hundreds of teachers from around the country on Wednesday got a soft sell from the U.S. Department of Education to become more open-minded about new pay and evaluation systems.

At the second and final day of the first national summit among teachers’ unions, school administrators and board members representing some 150 districts from 40 states heard glowing reports from districts that have already shifted how they evaluate and train teachers.

The summit was billed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a groundbreaking effort to build trust between unions and the leaders who sometimes are their adversaries. Participants spent most of the short summit hearing how great things are in the dozen school districts presenting how they achieved pay-for-performance teacher compensation and other changes that align with what federal education officials say are needed reforms.

46 GOP holds up NJ governor’s record as a model

By LIZ “Sprinkles” SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer

1 hr 50 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Forget Springsteen, the Sopranos and Snooki. The hottest thing outta New Jersey is Gov. Chris Christie – at least politically.

He’s been in office just a year but fellow Republicans everywhere are highlighting the former federal prosecutor’s get-tough approach to fighting runaway spending and taking on Democratic-friendly unions. Fans argue it’s the right prescription for addressing fiscal emergencies at all levels of government and rehabilitating a party image damaged during bloated George W. Bush years.

“It’s time to do the big things – the really big things,” Christie said Wednesday, urging Republicans and Democrats alike to follow his lead in restoring fiscal responsibility to the budgetary process, addressing pension and health benefits and reforming education systems. He said state and federal governments are facing the same core issues – a decade or more of out-of-control spending and mounting debt.

47 Are companies excluding jobless from applying?

By SAM HANANEL, Associated Press

2 hrs 9 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Are some companies weeding out job applicants just because they are unemployed?

After news accounts about the practice and requests from concerned lawmakers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has jumped in, trying to figure out whether it’s a widespread tactic that could violate federal job discrimination laws.

Commissioners at an EEOC hearing Wednesday said they are investigating whether excluding the unemployed may have a greater effect on blacks, Latinos and other ethnic minorities that tend to have higher jobless rates. There are no specific legal protections for the unemployed.

48 Political fight over Guantanamo won’t die

By PETE YOST, Associated Press

2 hrs 46 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The latest round in the political fight that has blocked the Obama administration from bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States is playing out in the new federal budget.

The Justice Department is requesting $66.9 million to house regular federal inmates at a shuttered Illinois prison that it originally intended to be part of the plan to close Gitmo.

Suspicions in Congress that the administration really still wants to move detainees to the Illinois facility could put the new request under a shadow despite top-level assurances that the money is for renovations to accommodate traditional federal inmates.

49 ‘Voluntary’ immigration program not so voluntary

By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 1:35 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A voluntary program to run all criminal suspects’ fingerprints through an immigration database was only voluntary until cities refused to participate, recently released documents show. The Obama administration then tightened the rules so that cities had no choice but to have the fingerprints checked.

Thousands of documents made public by the Homeland Security Department provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the administration scrambled to quiet the criticism and negative publicity surrounding the immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities.

The administration rewrote the program’s participation rules, the documents show, considered withholding federal funding and FBI information from resisters and eventually dug up case law to justify requiring cooperation.

50 Nissan debuts new Quest

By ANN M. JOB, For The Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 1:05 pm ET

Just when you think you’ve seen every version of minivan possible, Nissan debuts its fourth-generation Quest with a few new ideas.

The Quest’s third-row seats are not removable, so don’t worry about straining a back muscle lugging them out. And no matter how many seats are occupied or how much cargo is packed inside, the Quest has an extra, large, hidden storage area under the floor just before the rear bumper for sizable last-minute items.

And it’s not an earthshattering innovation, but there are 16 cupholders, more than what you’ll find in the Honda Odyssey.

51 Northeast lawmakers assail Obama’s heat aid cuts

By ANDREW MIGA, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 3:08 am ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s proposal to cut nearly in half a $5.1 billion home heating aid program for the poor has drawn howls from some of his staunchest allies – Northeastern Democrats.

The region is suffering through one of its harshest winters in years, and the lawmakers say the cuts could imperil more than 3 million families nationwide who need the money to stay warm. With no help from the White House, Northeast lawmakers expect an uphill fight as Congress takes a hard line on spending aimed at reducing the budget deficit.

Democrats from the Northeast are accustomed to having the program targeted for cuts, but the push usually comes from Sunbelt Republicans, not a Chicago Democrat.

52 In a reversal, more blacks moving back to South

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 3:06 am ET

WASHINGTON – The Great Migration, the 60-year escape from segregation and racism that brought American blacks to the North, has reversed course. Better jobs and quality of life in the South are beckoning, as is the lure of something more intangible – a sense of home.

“It’s no coincidence that the shift is happening as we encounter economic turmoil that is being felt disproportionately among blacks, such as mortgage foreclosures, loss of jobs and economic devastation in major Northern hubs,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. “With major changes and less racial devastation in the South, people are finding their way back.”

The nation’s black population grew by roughly 1.7 million over the last decade. About 75 percent of that growth occurred in the South – primarily metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Charlotte, N.C. That’s up from 65 percent in the 1990s, according to the latest census estimates. The gains came primarily at the expense of Northern metro areas such as New York and Chicago, which posted their first declines in black population since at least 1980.

53 Obama raises stakes in Pakistani standoff

By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 12:23 am ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama raised the stakes Tuesday in a tense standoff with Pakistan, insisting that a detained American embassy employee who killed two Pakistanis must be freed and dispatching a high-profile envoy to make the case that Pakistan has much to lose if the case drags on.

Obama insisted the “simple principle” of diplomatic immunity meant that Pakistan must release the 36-year-old U.S. official, Raymond Allen Davis. Davis has been held since the shootings almost three weeks ago.

“If it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places where we may have differences with those governments … that’s untenable,” Obama said at a news conference, his first public remarks on the case. “It means they can’t do their job. And that’s why we respect these conventions and every country should as well.”

54 3 Mass. churches should reopen, Vatican rules

By DENISE LAVOIE and JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 10:41 pm ET

CHICOPEE, Mass. – The Vatican has ruled that three western Massachusetts churches closed by the Springfield Diocese should reopen, including one that’s been occupied in protest for two years, parishioners learned Tuesday.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy ruled that Bishop Timothy McDonnell didn’t justify closing St. Stanislaus Kostka church in Adams or two Chicopee churches, St. Patrick and St. George. That means the churches will reopen for worship, though it’s not clear to what extent they can be used.

Laurie Haas, a leader of the vigil at St. Stanislaus Kostka, called the decision “monumental.”

55 Toxic Nevada mine lawsuit seeks $5M from BP, ARCO

By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 9:45 pm ET

RENO, Nev. – Neighbors of a toxic mine in northern Nevada have filed a class-action lawsuit against BP America and Atlantic Richfield Co. accusing them of intentionally and negligently concealing the extent of the contamination leaking off the abandoned site for decades.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Monday seeks a minimum of $5 million on behalf of at least 100 residents in the rural town of Yerington where the old Anaconda copper mine opened in 1941.

The plaintiffs say the wells they once used for drinking water are polluted with uranium, arsenic and other metals in a plume of groundwater that slowly has migrated off of the site that covers 6-square miles – an area equal to the size of about 3,000 football fields – about 65 miles southeast of Reno.

56 Marine faces return to brig in Iraq war crime case

By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 8:53 pm ET

SAN DIEGO – A Marine will be sent back to prison after the military’s highest court reinstated his murder conviction in one of the most significant cases involving a civilian death in the Iraq war.

Camp Pendleton Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III will serve the remaining five years of his 11-year sentence, his defense lawyer, Babu Kaza, said Tuesday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces denied his appeal to reconsider its decision.

Marine Corps officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the case.

57 Montana gov. blocks Yellowstone bison slaughter

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 8:17 pm ET

BILLINGS, Mont. – Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer blocked the impending slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison on Tuesday, in a surprise move intended to spark an overhaul of how the federal government deals with the iconic but disease-plagued animals.

Schweitzer signed an executive order to prohibit the importation of park bison into Montana for 90 days. That effectively blocks all potential routes out of the park to slaughter plants in Montana and neighboring states.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C. to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

58 Pa. governor fires workers after abortion scandal

By MARK SCOLFORO and MARC LEVY, Associated Press

Tue Feb 15, 8:00 pm ET

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Some state employees have been fired and two agencies have overhauled their regulations in the wake of allegations that a doctor performed illegal abortions that killed a patient and viable infants, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Tuesday.

“It happened because people weren’t doing their jobs, plain and simple,” Corbett said.

Corbett said that four attorneys and two supervisors at the departments of Health and State were either fired or resigned on Friday and that eight other employees involved in the internal investigation remain on the state payroll. Others had previously resigned, he said.

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