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Feb 17 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 55 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Earth dodges geomagnetic storm: scientist

by Jim Mannion, AFP

1 hr 39 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A wave of charged plasma particles from a huge solar eruption has glanced off the Earth’s northern pole, lighting up auroras and disrupting some radio communications, a NASA scientist said.

But the Earth appears to have escaped a widespread geomagnetic storm, with the effects confined to the northern latitudes, possibly reaching down into Norway and Canada.

“There can be sporadic outages based on particular small-scale events,” said Dean Persnell, project scientist at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center.

AFP

2 Huge solar flare jams radio, satellite signals: NASA

AFP

Thu Feb 17, 7:45 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A powerful solar eruption that triggered a huge geomagnetic storm has disturbed radio communications and could disrupt electrical power grids, radio and satellite communication in the next days, NASA said.

A strong wave of charged plasma particles emanating from the Jupiter-sized sun spot, the most powerful seen in four years, has already disrupted radio communication in southern China.

The Class X flash — the largest such category — erupted at 0156 GMT Tuesday, according to the US space agency.

3 Bahrain army clamps down after protests crushed

by Taieb Mahjoub, AFP

1 hr 33 mins ago

MANAMA (AFP) – Bahrain’s army deployed across Manama Thursday and vowed “strict measures” to restore order after a police raid on anti-regime protesters killed three, wounded nearly 200 and enraged the opposition.

Protesters gathered outside a hospital where the wounded are being treated to chant anti-regime slogans, while the largest Shiite opposition bloc said it was quitting parliament and called on the government to resign.

Concerned that events in Bahrain could destabilise the entire region, foreign ministers of the Gulf monarchies met in Manama later on Thursday.

4 Four killed in violent Bahrain crackdown: opposition

by Taieb Mahjoub, AFP

Thu Feb 17, 6:12 am ET

MANAMA (AFP) – Riot police stormed through a Manama square in the dark early Thursday firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a harsh crackdown on anti-regime protesters that left four dead, witnesses and opposition said.

Up to 95 protesters were wounded when police launched the operation in the iconic Pearl Square without warning at around 3.00 am (midnight GMT), sending protesters fleeing in panic, they said.

“They attacked the square, where hundreds of people were spending the night in tents,” said one witness, 37-year-old Fadel Ahmad.

5 Six die in Libya ‘Day of Anger’

AFP

2 hrs 25 mins ago

NICOSIA (AFP) – Six people were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Thursday, as Moamer Kadhafi’s regime sought to overshadow an opposition “Day of Anger” with its own rally in the capital Tripoli.

Meanwhile, clashes broke out in the city of Zentan, southwest of the capital, in which a number of government buildings were torched.

Violent clashes in the Mediterranean coastal city of Benghazi have so far left six dead on Thursday, the Al-Youm and Al-Manara sites reported on what was the third straight day of protests against the long-time Libyan leader.

6 Four killed in Libya ahead of anti-Kadhafi protest

AFP

Thu Feb 17, 6:13 am ET

NICOSIA (AFP) – At least four people were killed in clashes with Libyan security forces, opposition websites and NGOs said on Thursday, as the country faced a nationwide “Day of Anger” called by cyber-activists.

The websites monitored in Cyprus and a Libyan rights group based in London said the clashes with demonstrators opposed to the regime of Libya’s leader Moamer Kadhafi took place on Wednesday in the eastern town of Al-Baida.

“Internal security forces and militias of the Revolutionary Committees used live ammunition to disperse a peaceful demonstration by the youth of Al-Baida,” leaving “at least four dead and several injured,” according to Libya Watch.

7 Ben Ali ‘in coma’ in Saudi hospital: family friend

AFP

1 hr 23 mins ago

TUNIS (AFP) – Ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is “in a coma” in a Saudi hospital following a stroke, a family friend told AFP on Thursday.

The 74-year-old former leader slipped into a coma “two days ago” while being treated in a Jeddah hospital after suffering a stroke, according to the friend.

“He had a stroke, and his condition is serious,” he said.

8 Nestle 2010 profits soar on back of Alcon sale

by Agnes Pedrero, AFP

Thu Feb 17, 10:44 am ET

VEVEY, Switzerland (AFP) – The world’s biggest food company Nestle said on Thursday its 2010 net profits more than trebled to 34.2 billion francs ($35.7 billion, 26.3 billion euros) on the sale of eyecare group Alcon.

The sale of its Alcon stake to Swiss health giant Novartis contributed 24.5 billion francs to Nestle’s bottomline after the company reported 2009 earnings of 10.4 billion francs.

The Swiss-based group also issued a positive outlook for 2011, saying that it was starting the year with “continued momentum, well placed to face uncertainties ahead, including volatile raw material prices.”

9 Thieves exploited riot to plunder Egypt treasures

by Riad Abu Awad, AFP

Wed Feb 16, 3:12 pm ET

CAIRO (AFP) – Skilled thieves slid down ropes from a skylight at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo while riots raged outside, targeting priceless ancient treasures, the minister for antiquities said Wednesday.

The world renowned collection was burgled last month during anti-government protests, and several artefacts are still missing, including famous statues depicting King Tutankhamen and Pharaoh Akhenaton.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities, praised protesters for helping the armed forces protect the bulk of the museum’s collection, and insisted Egypt is once more safe for foreign visitors.

10 Pakistan court adjourns US immunity case

by Waqar Hussain, AFP

Thu Feb 17, 10:48 am ET

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – A Pakistan court on Thursday put off ruling whether a US official accused of double murder has diplomatic immunity, threatening to prolong a crisis with Washington for another month.

The court adjourned until March 14, extending tensions between the United States and Pakistan, where an anti-American population of 167 million is ruled by a weak and unpopular government closely allied in the US war in Afghanistan.

Raymond Davis, whom Washington insists has diplomatic immunity, says he acted in self-defence when he shot dead two men in a busy street in the eastern city of Lahore on January 27.

11 Curtain up on cricket World Cup marathon

by John Weaver, AFP

Thu Feb 17, 9:55 am ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – The 10th cricket World Cup opened in a blaze of colour on Thursday, launching a gruelling 49-match, six-week sporting marathon that promises to be the most open for years.

The captains of the 14 competing teams paraded through Dhaka’s historic Bangabandhu Stadium in colourfully draped rickshaws as Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina looked on.

Ricky Ponting, skipper of defending champions Australia, led the sparkling three-wheeled procession at the start of the event, showcasing the culture of the three host nations — India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

12 Russian police raid office of richest woman

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

Thu Feb 17, 9:10 am ET

MOSCOW (AFP) – Crack forces raided the office of Russia’s richest woman on Thursday in a probe linked to emergency funds she received from a bank founded by the deposed mayor of Moscow — who is also her husband.

Yelena Baturina called the police sweep a political provocation that had nothing to do with the loan her Inteko construction company received in a complicated scheme from the Bank of Moscow.

“I know for certain that these searches have no relation to either our company or the Bank of Moscow,” Interfax quoted Baturina as saying.

Reuters

13 Three killed in Bahrain clashes as Mideast seethes

By Cynthia Johnston and Frederik Richter, Reuters

39 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Unrest spread across the Middle East and North Africa on Thursday as Bahrain launched a swift military crackdown on anti-government protesters and clashes were reported in Libya and Yemen.

Troops in armored vehicles took control of the Bahraini capital after police firing buckshot and teargas drove out protesters hoping to emulate those who toppled veteran leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.

It was the worst violence in the Gulf island kingdom in decades and a sign of the nervousness felt by Bahrain’s Saudi-allied Sunni al-Khalifa royal family, long aware of simmering discontent among the country’s majority Shi’ites.

14 Two dead as Bahrain police break up protest camp

By Frederik Richter and Cynthia Johnston, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 1:34 am ET

MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahraini police stormed a protest camp in a central Manama square early on Thursday, killing at least two people, and armored vehicles rumbled through the capital as the government tried to quell three days of protest.

“Police are coming, they are shooting teargas at us,” one demonstrator told Reuters by telephone as police tried to disperse demonstrators. Another said: “I am wounded, I am bleeding. They are killing us.”

Later, more than 50 armored vehicles rolled down a highway toward Pearl Square, a road junction that demonstrators sought to turn into the base of a long-running protest like that at Cairo’s Tahrir Square which led to the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

15 Yemen protesters, government loyalists clash

By Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 6:53 am ET

SANAA (Reuters) – More than a thousand protesters clashed with government loyalists in Yemen on Thursday on the seventh straight day of demonstrations demanding the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule.

Clashes broke out in the capital Sanaa after groups of government loyalists armed with daggers and batons confronted about 1,500 protesters, prompting the police to fire warning shots in the air, witnesses said.

“The people want the fall of the president, the people want the fall of the regime,” chanted the protesters. Dozens were wounded and carried away from the scene.

16 Consumer prices show inflation turning up

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

2 hrs 18 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. core consumer prices rose at the quickest pace in 15 months in January, suggesting a long period of slowing inflation had run its course.

The core Consumer Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, increased 0.2 percent last month after a 0.1 percent rise in December, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the largest increase since October 2009.

Economists largely agreed inflation had bottomed but they said the turnaround in prices was unlikely to be so swift as to trouble policymakers at the Federal Reserve, who are still pumping money into the economy.

17 Dodd-Frank tensions headline Senate hearing

By Sarah N. Lynch and Christopher Doering, Reuters

1 hr 36 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans escalated their push to delay and defund the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms on Thursday as top regulators warned the Senate Banking Committee of a staff and funding crunch.

The chiefs of major agencies that are writing hundreds of rules mandated by Dodd-Frank told the panel at a hearing that they need more money to carry out the law, which was approved following the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

Regulators also gave some glimpses into their thinking on implementation of Dodd-Frank rules involving debit card fees and subjecting large financial firms to stricter oversight, as well as on dealing with the mortgage servicing scandal.

18 House to vote on debt idea, healthcare funding

Reuters

55 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative Republicans are pushing a congressional amendment to give the Treasury Department the ability to avoid a debt default if U.S. borrowing authority runs out, highlighting possible dire consequences of political gridlock over government spending.

The plan by first-term Republican Representative David Schweikert would require Treasury to keep making debt payments if Congress fails in the coming months to raise the limit of the amount the United States can borrow.

“In the event that we reach the debt ceiling, this bill would prohibit a default on our debt, which would rattle already shaky credit markets and spook investors,” Schweikert said.

19 Taxing offshore profit up for debate: aide

By Kim Dixon, Reuters

2 hrs 9 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The debate over overhauling the U.S. corporate tax system will have to include whether to cut taxes on profits earned abroad, a Treasury Department official said on Thursday.

Michael Mundaca, assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy, a White House point man on revamping the corporate tax code, also said that corporate tax reform could be done before individual tax reform.

His comments to corporate tax executives at a conference in Washington, D.C. are friendly to corporate America, which contends that it has been hobbled internationally by being saddled with the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world.

20 Pakistan court delays immunity ruling on U.S. prisoner

By Chris Allbritton and Mubashir Bokhari, Reuters

1 hr 29 mins ago

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani court on Thursday delayed until next month a hearing into the diplomatic immunity of an American who killed two local men, a case that has pushed ties between Islamabad and Washington toward a breaking point.

The postponement to March 14 will likely exasperate the Obama administration, which has urged Pakistan to free consular employee Raymond Davis and avoid setting a precedent for trials of U.S. officials abroad.

The High Court in the city of Lahore granted a government request to postpone the hearing on whether Davis, a former special forces soldier who shot and killed two men on January 27, is protected by diplomatic immunity.

21 BP workers could have prevented rig accident: commission

By Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters

2 hrs 22 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – BP had workers on the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig who could have prevented the missteps that led to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but they were not consulted, the White House oil spill commission said on Thursday.

In an expanded report on the causes of the BP drilling disaster that killed 11 workers and ravaged the U.S. Gulf coast last summer, the commission released new details about the events that preceded the BP accident.

The commission’s investigators said BP workers failed to ask a knowledgeable company engineer who was visiting the rig about unexpected results from a critical negative pressure test on the rig.

22 Special report: China flexed its muscles using U.S. Treasuries

By Emily Flitter, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 10:21 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. embassies in Beijing and Hong Kong lay bare China’s growing influence as America’s largest creditor.

As the U.S. Federal Reserve grappled with the aftershocks of financial crisis, the Chinese, like many others, suffered huge losses from their investments in American financial firms — from Lehman Brothers to the Primary Reserve Fund, the money market fund that broke the buck.

The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks, show that escalating Chinese pressure prompted a procession of soothing visits from the U.S.Treasury Department. In one striking instance, a top Chinese money manager directly asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for a favor.

23 By canoe and bike, Ivorian cocoa seeps into Ghana

By Hereward Holland, Reuters

2 hrs 46 mins ago

JEMA, Ghana (Reuters) – Canoes with dozens of bags of cocoa from Ivory Coast came floating upstream to the Ghanaian border town of Jema earlier this month for loading by smugglers onto trucks to supply the world’s markets.

Those smugglers were nabbed thanks to a tip-off, security officers involved in the February 7 seizure said. But Ghana fears its cocoa business could still get hit by a trade in contraband Ivorian output that has taken off since a disputed November 28 election plunged the world’s top grower into chaos.

“We have a limited number of officers and resources, I cannot say we are able to cover all these bush paths,” said customs officer David Yilinan Benyan of the task of monitoring a territory where farms and villages often straddle the border.

24 A strong ECB president can make a difference

By Marc Jones, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 6:03 am ET

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – When arch-hawk Axel Weber withdrew last week from the contest to head the European Central Bank, the euro and bond yields dipped — a sign of how crucial markets think the ECB’s president may be in shaping its policy.

The fevered speculation over who will succeed Jean-Claude Trichet as ECB president when his eight-year term ends in October seems excessive to some central bank watchers. After all, the ECB’s decision-making process is designed to stress consensus and limit the power of any one individual.

ECB decisions are made by the bank’s Governing Council, which consist of 23 policymakers: the six-member Executive Board plus the chiefs of the euro zone’s 17 national central banks. They meet under the principle of one person, one vote.

25 Amid crisis, state workers say: "Don’t blame us"

By Daniel Trotta and Edith Honan, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 1:05 am ET

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) – When a New Jersey family with an autistic child walks into the state office seeking help, Norlande Perpignan is often the first person they see.

A clerk making $41,082 a year at the Division of Developmental Disabilities, Perpignan, 40, is also on the front lines of a national debate about public spending, taxes and a fiscal crisis facing local governments.

With the sluggish economy constricting tax revenue, many states, counties and local governments are fiscally distressed, adding unprecedented volatility to the traditionally safe, $2.8 trillion municipal bond market.

26 After Egypt, top U.S. spies promise to do better

By Mark Hosenball, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 11:17 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. intelligence officials, facing criticism in Congress, on Wednesday defended their agencies’ reporting on the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt but pledged to do better in the future.

“Specific triggers for how and when instability would lead to the collapse of various regimes cannot always be known or predicted,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

“What intelligence can do in such cases is reduce, but certainly not completely eliminate, uncertainty for decision-makers. But we are not clairvoyant.”

27 Special Report: Al Jazeera’s news revolution

By Regan E. Doherty, Reuters

Thu Feb 17, 12:18 am ET

DOHA (Reuters) – A journalist throws open the wide front door of Al Jazeera’s Doha headquarters, cell phone pressed against his ear. “They were arrested last night,” he bellows into his phone. “We can’t get through to the producers. All the material was confiscated, and some of the equipment was destroyed.”

Inside the newsroom, the atmosphere is alive with energy. Journalists sit transfixed to their monitors, which show live feeds from central Cairo — where hundreds of thousands of protesters are on the brink of pushing another strongman from power and where Al Jazeera crews have faced repeated police harassment and detentions. Tapes are piled high in a corner, labeled in scrawling Arabic.

“This is our story,” says one Al Jazeera English journalist, who asks not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media. “This is the story that proves to the naysayers of the world what we can do. We took the lead and everyone followed: CNN, Christiane Amanpour — in spite of harassment, having our tapes stolen, people being beaten up. If you want to know about Egypt in the U.S., you’re watching Al Jazeera.”

28 U.S. close to punishing banks over foreclosures

Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 11:40 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. bank regulators are finalizing punishments against mortgage servicers after a probe found “critical deficiencies” with the industry’s foreclosure processes.

John Walsh, the acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said a national probe of foreclosure paperwork and procedures found that mortgage servicers broke laws, and that a small number of homeowners were wrongly evicted.

“These deficiencies have resulted in violations of state and local foreclosure laws, regulations, or rules and have had an adverse affect on the functioning of the mortgage markets and the U.S. economy as a whole,” Walsh said in congressional testimony obtained on Wednesday by Reuters.

29 Guantanamo convict "made terrorists": prosecutor

By Jane Sutton, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 6:50 pm ET

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) – Guantanamo’s newest war criminal helped train a wave of al Qaeda operatives now doing time at America’s maximum-security prison in Colorado, a military prosecutor told a U.S. tribunal on Wednesday.

Sudanese prisoner Noor Uthman Mohammed pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism on Tuesday at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base.

A jury of nine U.S. military officers was chosen on Wednesday to deliberate his sentence. One of the prosecutors, Navy Lieutenant Commander Arthur L. Gaston III, said Noor deserved a lengthy one for his role as an arms instructor and logistics manager of the Khaldan paramilitary camp in Afghanistan.

30 Rising seas threaten 180 U.S. cities by 2100: study

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent, Reuters

Wed Feb 16, 5:29 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rising seas spurred by climate change could threaten 180 U.S. coastal cities by 2100, a new study says, with Miami, New Orleans and Virginia Beach among those most severely affected.

Previous studies have looked at where rising waters might go by the end of this century, assuming various levels of sea level rise, but this latest research focused on municipalities in the contiguous 48 states with population of 50,000 or more.

Cities along the southern Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico will likely be hardest hit if global sea levels rise, as projected, by about 3 feet (1 meter) by 2100, researchers reported in the journal Climate Change Letters.

AP

31 Bahrain official: Crackdown was ‘regrettable’

By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 1:51 pm ET

MANAMA, Bahrain – Troops and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault Thursday that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.

Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced a ban on gatherings, saying on state TV that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control.

Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa justified the crackdown as necessary because the demonstrators were “polarizing the country and” pushing it to the “brink of the sectarian abyss.”

32 Kurdish guards fire on protest in Iraq, killing 2

By YAHYA BARZANJI, Associated Press

2 hrs 56 mins ago

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – Kurdish security guards opened fire Thursday on a crowd of protesters calling for political reforms in northern Iraq, killing at least two people, officials said, showing even war-weary Iraq cannot escape the unrest roiling the Middle East.

Separately, a car bomb killed eight people and wounded 30 others in Muqdadiyah, 60 miles (90 kilometers) north of Baghdad, an official said. The area was once one of the strongholds of al-Qaida, and insurgents there stage frequent attacks despite improved security in much of the country.

The demonstration in Sulaimaniyah was the most violent in a wave of protests that extended to the southern cities of Kut, Nasir and Basra. Iraq has seen small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centered in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.

33 http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110216/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 5:37 pm ET

CAIRO – Egypt’s new military rulers came under criticism Wednesday from a leading democracy advocate as well as from youth and women’s groups for what they say is a failure to make decisions openly and include a larger segment of society.

Five days after ousting Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising, Egyptians continued protests and strikes over a host of grievances from paltry wages to toxic waste dumping. They defied the second warning in three days from the ruling Armed Forces Supreme Council to halt all labor unrest at a time when the economy is staggering.

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

34 Wis. lawmakers flee state to block anti-union bill

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

3 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – A group of Democratic Wisconsin lawmakers blocked passage of a sweeping anti-union bill Thursday, refusing to show up for a vote and then abruptly leaving the state in an effort to force Republicans to the negotiating table.

As ever-growing throngs of protesters filled the Capitol for a third day, the 14 Democrats disappeared around midday, just as the Senate was about to begin debating the measure, which would eliminate collective bargaining for most public employees.

They were not in their offices, and aides said they did not know where any of them had gone. Hours later, one member of the group told The Associated Press that they had all left Wisconsin.

35 Consumers paid more for most goods in January

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer

2 hrs 59 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Consumers paid more in January for everything from food and gas to airline tickets and clothing. The price increases reflect creeping but still-modest inflation.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent last month, matching December’s increase, the Labor Department said Thursday. Over the past year, the index has risen 1.6 percent.

Core prices, which exclude volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.2 percent. That’s the largest monthly increase in more than a year. Over the past 12 months, core prices have increased 1 percent. This is more than December’s 0.8 percent annual pace, but it remains well below the Federal Reserve’s comfort zone for inflation of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent.

36 AP finds few states follow mental health gun law

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 2:04 pm ET

ATLANTA – More than half the states are not complying with a post-Virginia Tech law that requires them to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns, an Associated Press review has found.

The deadline for complying with the three-year-old law was last month. But nine states haven’t supplied any names to the database. Seventeen others have sent in fewer than 25, meaning gun dealers around the U.S. could be running names of would-be buyers against a woefully incomplete list.

Officials blame privacy laws, antiquated record-keeping and a severe lack of funding for the gap the AP found through public records requests.

37 AP finds few states follow mental health gun law

By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 2:04 pm ET

ATLANTA – More than half the states are not complying with a post-Virginia Tech law that requires them to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns, an Associated Press review has found.

The deadline for complying with the three-year-old law was last month. But nine states haven’t supplied any names to the database. Seventeen others have sent in fewer than 25, meaning gun dealers around the U.S. could be running names of would-be buyers against a woefully incomplete list.

Officials blame privacy laws, antiquated record-keeping and a severe lack of funding for the gap the AP found through public records requests.

38 Government shutdown? GOP, Democrats swap charges

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

30 mins ago

WASHINGTON – In a deepening struggle over spending, Republicans and Democrats swapped charges Thursday over a possible government shutdown when funding expires March 4 for most federal agencies.

“Read my lips: We’re going to cut spending,” declared House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who pledged that the GOP-controlled House would refuse to approve even a short-term measure at current funding levels to keep the government operating.

He prefaced his remarks by accusing Democrats of risking a shutdown “rather than to cut spending and to follow the will of the American people.” But moments later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., retorted that Boehner was resorting “to threats of a shutdown without any negotiation.”

39 Iowa wrestling standout refuses to face girl

By LUKE MEREDITH, Associated Press

4 mins ago

DES MOINES, Iowa – A standout Iowa high school wrestler refused to compete against a girl at the state tournament on Thursday, relinquishing any chance of becoming a champion because he says wrestling a girl would conflict with his religious beliefs.

Joel Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore who was 35-4 wrestling for Linn-Mar High School this season, praised his first-round opponent, Cedar Falls freshman Cassy Herkelman, and Ottumwa sophomore Megan Black, who became the first two girls to make the state wrestling tournament in its 85-year history.

But in a brief statement issued through his school, Northrup said he defaulted on his match with Herkelman because he doesn’t think boys and girls should compete in the sport.

40 Hawaii eyes gay ceremonies after civil unions pass

By MARK NIESSE, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 6:47 am ET

HONOLULU – For years, the Rev. Fay Hovey has held romantic ceremonies on the sand for gay partners who want to pledge their love in Hawaii. The couples take photos and memories with them, but they lack a legal and binding recognition of their relationship.

That will change when same-sex civil unions soon become law in the Rainbow State.

“They have that fantasy just like any other couple, to come and have a wedding and a honeymoon,” said Hovey, of Aloha Maui Gay Weddings, who hopes for an increase in commitment ceremonies. “When they come to Hawaii, everybody can relax in their spirits and feel included.”

41 Democrats turn ‘Where are the jobs?’ chant on GOP

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 12:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Republicans won sweeping victories last November by taunting Democrats with “Where are the jobs?” Democrats are now throwing those taunts back, saying it’s Republicans who will knock thousands of Americans out of work with their demands for deep cuts in federal spending.

The attacks have caught Republicans at an awkward moment, as they shift their chief emphasis from creating jobs to reducing the size of the government and its deficits. They are finding it hard to claim they can do both at the same time.

Republicans say a smaller government eventually will spur private-sector job growth. Many economists challenge that claim, noting that the government helps pays for research, infrastructure, education and other programs that promote both public- and private-sector jobs. GOP leaders already acknowledge that thousands of government workers would lose their jobs in the short run under the $61 billion cost-cutting bill House Republicans are pushing this week.

42 Machines beat us at our own game: What can we do?

By SETH BORENSTEIN and JORDAN ROBERTSON, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 6:52 am ET

Machines first out-calculated us in simple math. Then they replaced us on the assembly lines, explored places we couldn’t get to, even beat our champions at chess. Now a computer called Watson has bested our best at “Jeopardy!”

A gigantic computer created by IBM specifically to excel at answers-and-questions left two champs of the TV game show in its silicon dust after a three-day tournament, a feat that experts call a technological breakthrough.

Watson earned $77,147, versus $24,000 for Ken Jennings and $21,600 for Brad Rutter. Jennings took it in stride writing “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” alongside his correct Final Jeopardy answer.

43 Father of Utah music group charged with abuse

By JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 8:02 pm ET

SALT LAKE CITY – The patriarch of a prominent family musical group has been charged with sexually abusing his three daughters in a stunning revelation that was followed four days later by the father careening his Porsche off a 300-foot enbankment into an icy stream.

Keith Brown, whose daughters are part of The 5 Browns, survived the crash and faces one first-degree felony count of sodomy on a child and two second-degree felony counts of sexual abuse of a child, according to Fourth District Court records obtained Wednesday.

The 5 Browns are a classical piano group from Utah that features the three sisters and their two brothers. The Juilliard-trained siblings have achieved critical and popular acclaim while appearing on “Oprah,” “The View” and other shows, and being profiled by “60 Minutes.”

44 CIA: If caught, bin Laden would be sent to Gitmo

By EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 7:58 pm ET

WASHINGTON – What would the government do if Osama bin Laden, an FBI most-wanted terrorist for more than a decade, were captured?

Washington is abuzz about questions whether bin Laden would ever see the inside of an American courtroom or where he might be imprisoned if he doesn’t stand trial. The discussion, which on Wednesday bounced from Capitol Hill to the White House, is still mostly an academic exercise because there is no suggestion that the government is any closer to finding or capturing bin Laden, believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

For years, President Barack Obama’s administration has maintained that criminal courts were more than equipped to handle even the most serious terror cases, but when faced with that question Wednesday during a Senate hearing, CIA Director Leon Panetta said the administration probably would just send bin Laden to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

45 Palin rejects new gun laws, vague on 2012 plans

By BETH FOUHY and FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press

15 mins ago

WOODBURY, N.Y. – Sarah Palin stuck to her guns on “death panels” Thursday, and on guns for that matter, in a rare public appearance in which reporters were allowed. She continued tweaking the first lady’s efforts to fight childhood obesity, but chided some of her own supporters for sustaining the “annoying” claims that President Barack Obama is foreign-born and Muslim.

As for the big question – whether she’s running for president in 2012 – the former vice presidential Republican nominee said she’s thinking about it.

“No one is more qualified, really to multitasking and the things you need to do as president than a woman, a mom,” said the former Alaska governor, who has five children.

46 Navy admits it was wrong in case of dog handler

By KIMBERLY DOZIER, AP Intelligence Writer

25 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Navy is admitting it was wrong when it accused dog handler Michael Toussaint of vicious hazing that singled out a gay sailor under his command at kennels in Bahrain. Still, the chief petty officer is being forced into retirement for other infractions.

Navy officials ruled last year that the investigation into the charges against Toussaint was of “poor quality” and “flawed,” with many of the claims unsubstantiated, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. On Thursday, the Navy’s top command officially accepted those findings.

Toussaint will still be forced to retire from the Navy for allowing what officials considered “minor” hazing directed at former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha and all other trainees, according to two Naval officers. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal personnel matter.

47 Kan. parents seek permission to raise school taxes

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH, Associated Press

44 mins ago

MISSION, Kan. – Parents in a suburban Kansas City school district where some homes cost $1 million or more have done as much as they can to raise money for their children’s schools, including holding country club fundraisers to pay for elementary Spanish programs, counselors and nurses.

But with limits on what private money can be used for and state funding cuts forcing the closure of schools and increases in class size, the parents want a judge to toss out state property tax caps so they can pay more for their schools. Seventeen parents have filed a federal lawsuit that’s believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. A hearing in the case is set for Friday.

School funding lawsuits have been filed in 45 states, but most of those ask the states to provide more money for education, said Molly Hunter, director of education justice at the Education Law Center in New Jersey. Kansas provides basic funding and extra money for such things as serving poor, rural and non-native English speaking students under a formula developed in response to a lawsuit filed about 20 years ago.

48 Fed may reconsider plan to limit debit card fees

By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

49 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Federal Reserve told Congress on Thursday that it may reconsider its proposal to limit the fee that banks charge merchants for debit card transactions to 12 cents per swipe, the latest twist in a battle over billions of dollars.

Fed Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin made the remark at a House hearing at which lawmakers of both parties attacked the Fed’s plan and asked her to reconsider, saying it would batter banks still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis.

At a separate hearing, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank may drop an exemption its proposal would allow for smaller banks because it might leave them charging higher fees, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

49 Boston cardinal weighing sale of closed churches

By JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press Writer

2 hrs 33 mins ago

BOSTON – Cardinal Sean O’Malley is seeking opinions from Catholics who attended seven closed parishes as he decides whether to sell their former churches, some of which have been occupied in protest for six years.

O’Malley said he’s considering starting a process to convert the churches from holy to secular use, he wrote in a letter Thursday.

The “relegation to profane use,” if approved by the Vatican, would allow the archdiocese to sell the buildings. If O’Malley decides not to pursue that process at a church, it would remain open as a Catholic building where worship services could conceivably be held.

50 Tea party out to defeat 3 longtime GOP senators

By HENRY C. JACKSON and KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 12:03 pm ET

WASHINGTON – What does a longtime Republican senator with a national reputation for working well with Democrats do in the face of a potentially career-ending tea party challenge? If you’re Richard Lugar of Indiana, you tell them to “get real.”

If you’re Olympia Snowe of Maine, you fight off the “Snowe Removal” effort by making key alliances with tea party activists and highlighting your record of fiscal conservatism.

And if you’re Orrin Hatch of Utah, you woo them.

51 Scandal-ridden CA city’s leaders ordered to trial

By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 4:38 am ET

LOS ANGELES – For nearly two weeks the judge listened patiently as lawyers for the mayor, vice mayor and others accused of looting a modest, blue-collar city of millions of dollars painted a picture of their clients as tireless community servants who did any number of good deeds for the poor, elderly and others.

But in the end, Superior Court Judge Henry Hall ruled Wednesday that none of that counted. What mattered, the judge said, was that the six had illegally raised their salaries to 20 times above what state law allows and would have to stand trial on nearly two dozen felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. He ordered them to return to court March 2 for arraignment.

In a lengthy, strongly worded statement from the bench that several defense attorneys said caught them by surprise, Hall suggested the six could have been charged with even more crimes. He also ordered that they stay 100 yards away from City Hall and not engage in any government activity involving Bell.

52 No charges for Seattle officer who shot woodcarver

Associated Press

Thu Feb 17, 1:05 am ET

SEATTLE – Prosecutors said Wednesday they won’t criminally charge a Seattle police officer who shot and killed a knife-wielding, homeless woodcarver during a brief encounter on a street corner in a case that has prompted angry protests and calls for increased scrutiny of police tactics.

Officer Ian Birk, who had been on paid leave since the Aug. 30 shooting, resigned hours after King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg’s announcement.

Relatives and other supporters of John T. Williams had asked Satterberg to charge Birk, 27, with manslaughter, saying Williams didn’t pose a threat to the officer. The officer said he fired only after Williams failed to drop the three-inch knife despite being repeatedly ordered to do so.

53 Industry testifies on plan to cut Alaska oil taxes

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 11:55 pm ET

JUNEAU, Alaska – Oil industry leaders delivered a stinging rebuke of the production tax that became a hallmark of Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration, telling a legislative committee Wednesday that it has discouraged investment and made Alaska a less attractive place to do business.

Representatives of BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Pioneer Natural Resources said the tax cut and expanded tax credits proposed by Palin’s successor, Gov. Sean Parnell, is a positive step toward encouraging greater activity and boosting oil production.

BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil are the major players on Alaska’s North Slope.

54 Obama: Talks on entitlements ‘have already begun’

By ERICA WERNER and DAVID ESPO, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 11:44 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Wednesday that difficult debates on how to address the costs of Social Security and Medicare are “starting now,” even though his 2012 budget blueprint lacked any major changes to the large benefit programs.

Illustrating the challenges ahead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stressed that any cost-cutting of major government benefit programs is possible “as long as you eliminate Social Security” from the discussion.

In an interview with a Cincinnati television station, Obama did not offer any specific modifications but did not take Social Security off the table, as Reid insisted. Obama has been having a number of budget discussions with congressional officials, meeting with Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday and with House Republican leaders last week. He is scheduled to talk to House Democratic leaders on Thursday.

55 AP sources: Obama, Kaine discuss Va. Senate race

By BEN EVANS, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 11:35 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine is reconsidering his initial reluctance to run for a Virginia Senate seat in 2012, officials said Wednesday as Kaine spoke by phone with President Barack Obama about the race.

The conversation with the president came as Democrats urged the former Virginia governor to launch a campaign to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb. It was confirmed by a White House official and a Democratic Party official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

In a White House interview with WWBT-TV of Richmond, Va., Obama said the decision will be Kaine’s, according to the station’s political news blog.

56 APNewsBreak: Mont. won’t wait to kill wolves

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

Wed Feb 16, 8:57 pm ET

BILLINGS, Mont. – Defying federal authority over gray wolves, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday encouraged ranchers to kill wolves that prey on their livestock – even in areas where that is not currently allowed – and said the state will start shooting packs that hurt elk herds.

Schweitzer told The Associated Press he no longer would wait for federal officials to resolve the tangle of lawsuits over wolves, which has kept the animals on the endangered species list for a decade since recovery goals were first met.

“We will take action in Montana on our own,” he said. “We’ve had it with Washington, D.C., with Congress just yipping about it, with (the Department of) Interior just vacillating about it.”

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  1. ek hornbeck
  2. TMC

    From The Guardian;

    Bahrain grand prix faces cancellation if political violence continues

  3. Bernie Ecclestone sets Wednesday deadline for decision
  4. Virgin team boss says Gulf bloodshed ‘very disturbing’
  5. The season-opening Bahrain grand prix may be cancelled following escalating bloodshed in the Gulf state, Formula One’s commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, has admitted.

    The deteriorating political situation has forced the abandonment of this weekend’s GP2 Asia series meeting and there is serious doubt over whether the final Formula One test of the season on 3 March and the main race on 13 March will go ahead.

    snip

    The Formula One teams are in Barcelona for a three-day test that is due to start on Friday morning and there is some nervousness among the team bosses about going to Bahrain. “It’s obviously very disturbing and there is concern – that ramped up with the latest disturbance,” the Virgin team principal, John Booth, told the BBC, referring to Wednesday night’s violence in which four people are reported to have been killed and more then 300 injured as riot police stormed a demonstrators’ camp.

    Booth said he would be led by Ecclestone’s FOM company, the FIA and the Bahraini authorities on whether his team should travel to the race.

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