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Feb 28 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 54 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Libyans ‘ready to die for me’, says Kadhafi

AFP

2 hrs 2 mins ago

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi said Monday his followers were ready to die for him as Western nations mulled military options to prevent massacres and protect thousands fleeing violence in his country.

World powers ramped up the pressure on his regime, as the United States urged the international community at a meeting in Geneva to work together on further steps to end a brutal crackdown that has cost more than 1,000 lives.

Faced with the threat of massacres or a wave of refugees on their Mediterranean flank, senior Western officials openly weighed military options.

AFP

2 World powers move towards further action on Libya

by Christophe Schmidt, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 1:16 pm ET

GENEVA (AFP) – World powers ramped up the pressure on Moamer Kadhafi’s regime on Monday, as the United States urged the international community to work together on further steps to end bloodshed in Libya.

“The people of Libya have made themselves clear: it is time for Kadhafi to go — now, without further violence or delay,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the UN Human Rights Council.

“We all need to work together on further steps to hold the Kadhafi government accountable, provide humanitarian assistance to those in need and support the Libyan people as they pursue a transition to democracy.”

3 Anti-regime forces take west Libyan towns

by Deborah Pasmantier, AFP

Sun Feb 27, 6:25 pm ET

NALUT, Libya (AFP) – Forces opposed to Moamer Kadhafi took control of several western Libyan towns, an official said on Sunday as the strongman played down rebel gains after world leaders called on him to quit.

Protest leaders established a transitional “national council” in several eastern and western cities seized from the Kadhafi regime and called on the army to help them take the capital Tripoli.

The United States said, meanwhile, it was prepared to offer “any kind of assistance” to Libyans seeking to overthrow Kadhafi as his opponents piece together a transitional body comprising representatives from the liberated cities.

4 Libya exodus ’emergency’ as Asian workers land in Malta

by Gildas Le Roux, AFP

Sun Feb 27, 5:12 pm ET

VALLETTA (AFP) – The UN refugee agency on Sunday said a “humanitarian emergency” was underway as thousands fled Libya in a mass exodus of foreigners from the strife-torn country by air, land and sea.

The UN refugee agency said almost 100,000 migrant workers, mostly from Egypt and Tunisia, have fled Libya in the past week and many remain stranded at the Libya-Tunisia border as Libyan customs officers deserted their posts on Sunday.

“We call upon the international community to respond quickly and generously to enable these governments to cope with this humanitarian emergency,” said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

5 Kadhafi lashes out from his Tripoli lair

by Selim Saheb Ettaba, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 1:44 pm ET

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Moamer Kadhafi’s forces hit back Monday, launching bombing raids in areas held by pro-democracy forces as Western nations mulled military intervention and the EU imposed sanctions on the Libyan leader.

Kadhafi showed his ability to lash out from his Tripoli lair when Libyan air force planes attacked ammunition depots in two separate locations south of opposition-held second city Benghazi on Monday.

Fighter jets bombed an ammunition stores in the eastern town of Adjabiya, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of the city, a witness told AFP by telephone. Two planes also attacked a munitions dump at Rajma, just south of the city, a military reservist said.

6 Libya’s embattled Kadhafi pushed further to the brink

by Deborah Pasmantier, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 8:23 am ET

NALUT, Libya (AFP) – Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was pushed further to the brink Monday as Western nations mulled military action in his violence-wracked country and his opponents closed in on his Tripoli lair.

As the UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva over a deadly crackdown by Kadhafi’s forces on anti-regime protests and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, the International Criminal Court said it would probe possible crimes against humanity committed in Libya.

The European Union said it was making contact with Libyans seeking to overthrow Kadhafi’s regime, a day after Washington said it was ready to assist the pro-democracy protesters who have overrun key cities and now control vast swathes of the oil-rich North African state.

7 Kadhafi, Mubarak slapped with travel bans

AFP

Mon Feb 28, 11:39 am ET

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Embattled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, under intense pressure to quit, was slapped with an EU visa ban on Monday while ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak too was hit by travel restrictions, as pro-democracy uprisings raged across the Arab world.

The European Union, moving quickly to avoid a descent into civil war and further bloodshed in Libya, said it had imposed an asset freeze and visa ban on Kadhafi and 25 others accused of brutalising civilians.

In line with a UN resolution adopted Saturday, the 27-nation bloc banned the supply to Libya of arms, ammunition and related material.

8 Tunisia gets new premier after new violence

AFP

Sun Feb 27, 4:06 pm ET

TUNIS (AFP) – Tunisia’s prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi resigned Sunday and was replaced by Beji Caid Essebsi, a former minister, after anti-government protests left five people dead over the weekend.

Security forces again clashed with protesters in Tunis demanding the removal of some ministers of Ghannouchi’s interim government before the premier announced his resignation.

“The acts of violence and looting, the unrest and the fires on Habib Bourguiba avenue in Tunis on Saturday have left five people dead,” said a ministry statement quoted by TAP news agency.

9 Iran opposition leaders arrested: websites

AFP

Mon Feb 28, 1:29 pm ET

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been arrested along with their wives and jailed at Tehran’s Heshmatiyeh prison, their websites reported on Monday.

The two had been under house arrest after judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani said earlier this month they had committed “treason” and MPs demanded they be hanged.

“Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and their wives, have been arrested and were transferred to the Heshmatiyeh prison of Tehran,” Mousavi’s website Kaleme.com reported.

10 Ivory Coast fighters open fire on UN inspectors

AFP

26 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Forces loyal to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo opened fire Monday on UN experts investigating a suspected breach of an international arms embargo, a UN source said, amid rising violence in country’s political crisis.

The experts and an officer from the UN peacekeeping mission had gone to Yamoussoukro airport following reports that three attack helicopters from Belarus had been sent to Gbagbo’s forces in breach of a UN embargo decided in 2004, the source said.

The group “were forced to withdraw when fired upon,” the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

11 US consumers curbed spending in January

by Veronica Smith, AFP

1 hr 44 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US consumers shut their wallets in January after holiday shopping despite a surge in personal incomes, official data showed Monday, casting a cloud on the momentum of the economy’s recovery.

Consumer spending edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in January, the weakest pace since June, the US Commerce Department reported.

And adjusted for inflation, consumer spending — which accounts for about two-thirds of US economic output — actually fell for the first time in a year, by 0.1 percent from the previous year.

12 Roach hat-trick as Windies beat Holland in W. Cup

by John Weaver, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 12:38 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – West Indies hat-trick star Kemar Roach blew away the Netherlands’ batting on Monday, taking six wickets as the fallen Caribbean giants got their World Cup campaign on track in style.

In the day/night match in New Delhi, the Netherlands, who pushed England close in their opener, were handed a sobering reminder of their place in cricket’s pecking order, conceding 330-8 and then slumping to 115 all out.

Opener Chris Gayle top-scored for the West Indies with 80 and Kieron Pollard smashed four sixes in the third quickest 50 in World Cup history in a devastating cameo, ending up with 60 in just 27 balls.

13 Dior’s Galliano hit by fresh anti-Semitism charges

by Charles Onians, AFP

2 hrs 23 mins ago

PARIS (AFP) – Top fashion designer John Galliano, already suspended from Dior for alleged anti-Semitic insults, faced fresh trouble Monday after a video emerged of him saying he loved Adolf Hitler.

The video posted on a British newspaper’s website is the latest blow to the flamboyant Galliano, 50, who was briefly detained last week for an alleged anti-Semitic rant, leading another woman to accuse him of a similar incident last year.

In a video posted on The Sun’s website, the visibly inebriated British designer tells a woman at a Paris cafe “I love Hitler” and adds: “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f(expletive) gassed.”

14 Luxury dazzles, China beckons at the Geneva motor show

by Agnes Pedrero, AFP

Sun Feb 27, 6:29 pm ET

GENEVA (AFP) – Major car makers were set to dazzle visitors to the Geneva motor show over the coming week with a touch of luxury, but China and emerging markets will be firmly in mind at the European showcase.

The show in the wealthy Swiss city, which opens to an expected 700,000 paying visitors on March 3 to 13, is traditionally neutral ground for the industry, attracting 260 exhibitors from 31 countries.

When top executives preview the event from Tuesday, car makers are again set to whip up an appetite for the big, powerful and glitzy, even if the engine under the bonnet seeks greener or thriftier credentials.

15 EU seeks to bridge divisions over competitivity pact

by Yacine Le Forestier, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 2:18 pm ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European Union president Herman Van Rompuy sought Monday to bridge divisions over deepening economic coordination in the eurozone, scaling down a disputed Franco-German plan opposed by several states.

Van Rompuy was given a mandate by EU leaders at a February 4 summit to draft a competitivity pact that has been pushed by France and Germany in order to prevent any new debt crises from rocking the euro.

Several countries have criticised the plan as a German drive to impose its austere economic model on the rest of the eurozone nations.

16 Argentina’s ex-dictators in court over baby kidnappings

by Indalecio Alvarez, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 11:50 am ET

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Two former Argentine dictators appeared in court Monday for the first time to face charges over the kidnapping of some 500 babies decades ago, seized from their mothers in secret maternity units minutes after birth.

Some 80 people are expected to testify about how babies were taken from political opponents and others, in a systematic plan ordered by the highest levels of Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship from 1976-1983.

Former rulers Jorge Videla, who headed a military junta from 1976 to 1981, and the last dictator of the military regime, Reynaldo Bignone (1982-1983), will appear before the court alongside six other former military leaders for the first hearing in a trial expected to last until the end of the year.

17 India increases social spending in pro-poor budget

by Penny MacRae, AFP

Mon Feb 28, 7:49 am ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s left-leaning Congress government on Monday unveiled a budget focused on helping the poor and rural masses with pledges to hike social spending by 17 percent and fight food inflation.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, lifting the lid on government plans for the financial year from April 1, scaled up spending for farmers, fertiliser subsidies, food programmes, education and rural employment.

“The country has carried for long enough the burden of hunger and malnutrition,” Mukherjee told parliament, saying the money earmarked for social spending would amount to 36 percent of the total budget.

Reuters

18 World raises pressure on Libya, battles for key towns

By Maria Golovnina, Reuters

10 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – The United States and other foreign governments discussed military options for dealing with Libya on Monday as Muammar Gaddafi scoffed at the threat to his government from a spreading popular uprising.

With government forces massing to try to take back strategic coastal cities from rebels, the United States said it was moving U.S. naval and air forces closer to Libya.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Washington was in talks with its NATO partners and other allies about military options. British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government would work to prepare for a “no-fly” zone in Libya to protect the people from attacks by Gaddafi’s forces.

19 Libyan attacks could be crime vs humanity: ICC

By Svebor Kranjc, Reuters

Mon Feb 28, 10:19 am ET

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Military attacks against civilians in Libya could be a crime against humanity and warrant the launch of a full investigation within days by the International Criminal Court, its prosecutor said on Monday.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday imposed sanctions on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family, and referred Libya’s crackdown on anti-government demonstrators to the ICC.

“We have to decide whether to open an investigation … and I hope we can move very fast. Within a few days,” ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told reporters in his offices in The Hague.

20 Special Report: U.S. cables detail Saudi royal welfare program

By Simon Robinson, Reuters

Mon Feb 28, 5:44 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – When Saudi King Abdullah arrived home last week, he came bearing gifts: handouts worth $37 billion, apparently intended to placate Saudis of modest means and insulate the world’s biggest oil exporter from the wave of protest sweeping the Arab world.

But some of the biggest handouts over the past two decades have gone to his own extended family, according to unpublished American diplomatic cables dating back to 1996.

The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by Reuters, provide remarkable insight into how much the vast royal welfare program has cost the country — not just financially but in terms of undermining social cohesion.

21 Government shutdown unlikely, but budget battle remains

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters

46 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A deal to avert a U.S. government shutdown took shape in Congress on Monday, but the short-term spending measure would do nothing to resolve the bitter debate over federal spending.

As lawmakers returned from a weeklong break, budget-cutting Republicans pressured President Barack Obama’s Democrats to accept a proposal to trim $4 billion over the next two weeks by eliminating programs that Obama has also targeted.

“This week, Democrats will have an opportunity to show that they’ve gotten the message,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said. “They can show they agree the time has come to change the status quo.”

22 Scenarios: Messy U.S. budget, spending prospects

By Richard Cowan, Reuters

Mon Feb 28, 1:35 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The deeply divided U.S. Congress faces a Friday deadline for sending President Barack Obama legislation to keep the federal government funded and running.

The House of Representatives last weekend passed a bill to fund the government through September 30, the end of fiscal year 2011. But it includes spending cuts of about 14 percent, or $61.5 billion below current levels, and Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress said they were against it.

Although the two parties still have room to negotiate, the fight over spending could lead to a shutdown of government operations and prompt Congress to refuse to allow the United States to borrow more money.

23 Consumer spending makes slow start, factories roar

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

1 hr 26 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer spending barely edged up in January as households took advantage of tax cuts to rebuild their savings, suggesting spending would offer only a modest lift to the recovery in the first quarter.

Other data Monday painted a bullish picture of the manufacturing sector, with a gauge of factory activity in the country’s Midwest hitting a 22-1/2 year high this month, which should help the economy weather rising oil prices and maintain its steady growth momentum.

The Commerce Department said spending rose 0.2 percent, the smallest increase in seven straight months of gains, after an upwardly revised 0.5 percent increase in December.

24 Ireland parties talk coalition, seek bailout changes

By Padraic Halpin and Carmel Crimmins, Reuters

Mon Feb 28, 11:58 am ET

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Irish opposition parties started coalition talks on Monday after a resounding election win gave them the mandate to renegotiate an EU-IMF rescue deal they fear will bankrupt the former “Celtic Tiger” economy.

Though a new government looks likely to get its way on a reduced interest rate on its EU loans, with Brussels signaling this could be on the table, its demands for bondholders in Irish banks to shoulder more losses have little support in Europe.

“We have a common goal for Ireland to revive its growth dynamic and succeed in ensuring debt sustainability,” Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Monday.

AP

25 Pro-Gadhafi forces fight rebels in 2 cities

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

33 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – International pressure on Moammar Gadhafi to end a crackdown on opponents escalated Monday as his loyalists fought rebels holding the two cities closest to the capital and his warplanes bombed an ammunition depot in the east. The U.S. moved naval and air forces closer to Libya and said all options were open, including patrols of the North African nation’s skies to protect its citizens from their ruler.

France said it would fly aid to the opposition-controlled eastern half of the country. The European Union imposed an arms embargo and other sanctions, following the lead of the U.S. and the U.N. The EU was also considering the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya. And the U.S. and Europe were freezing billions in Libya’s foreign assets.

“Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to govern, and it is time for him to go without further violence or delay,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “No option is off the table. That of course includes a no-fly zone,” she added. British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers: “We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets” to deal with Gadhafi’s regime.

26 US, Europe intensify efforts to isolate Gadhafi

By MATTHEW LEE and BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

37 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stay loyal to him risk losing their wealth and being prosecuted for human rights abuses.

Europe, which buys most of Libya’s oil exports, outlined fresh sanctions to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. The European Union issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country.

Germany proposed a 60-day economic embargo to prevent Gadhafi from using oil and other revenues to repress his people.

27 Libya oil chief: Production down 50 percent

By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer

Mon Feb 28, 12:39 pm ET

CAIRO – Libya’s oil chief said Monday that production had been cut by around 50 percent, and argued it was “safe” for foreign oil workers to return after a mass exodus sparked by Moammar Gadhafi’s increasingly violent campaign to retain control of the country.

The assurances by Shukri Ghanem, the head of the state-run National Oil Co. and Libya’s de facto oil minister, came as uncertainty swirled about the state of the OPEC member’s production and who was actually in control of the brunt of the nation’s oil. Libya sits atop Africa’s largest proven reserves.

The country is the only member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries so far seriously affected by the protests roiling the Arab world, and unrest there has sent shudders through global oil markets.

28 High pump prices rattle drivers and businesses

By JONATHAN FAHEY and SANDY SHORE, AP Energy Writers

Mon Feb 28, 9:12 am ET

NEW YORK – High fuel prices are putting the squeeze on drivers’ wallets just as they are starting to feel better about the economy. They’re also forcing tough choices on small-business owners who are loathe to charge more for fear of losing cost-conscious customers.

Gasoline prices rose 4 percent last week to a national average of $3.29 per gallon. That’s the highest level ever for this time of year, when prices are typically low. And with unrest in the Middle East and North Africa lifting the price of oil to the $100-a-barrel range, analysts say pump prices are likely headed higher.

Bryon Gongaware, an owner of The Floral Trunk and Gifts in White Bear Lake, Minn., didn’t raise his $7 flower delivery charge when gas prices spiked in 2008, and he doesn’t plan to do so this time, either.

29 US presses Europe on Libya, Germany gets tough

By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 7:54 am ET

GENEVA – The United States pressed its European allies on Monday to set tough sanctions on the Libyan government, and Germany responded with a far-reaching proposal to cut off all oil and other payments to the country for 60 days so that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime cannot use the money to repress his people.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle’s call essentially amounted to an economic embargo and ranks among the toughest proposal yet aimed at forcing Gadhafi to stem attacks on his opponents and leave power after 42 years in control of his country. He spoke as doubts emerged about the feasibility of another central idea to punish Gadhafi, a no-fly zone that would prevent him from launching aerial attacks.

“We must do everything so this murder ends,” Westerwelle told reporters. “We must do everything to ensure that no money is going into the hands of the Libyan dictator’s family, that they don’t have any opportunity to hire new foreign soldiers to repress their people with.”

30 Egypt seizes Mubarak family funds

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press

2 hrs 56 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s top prosecutor seized all the funds of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and his family on Monday and banned them from travel abroad, the latest humiliation for the once-powerful family. It comes a day after authorities prevented Mubarak’s wife and son from flying out of the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

During the 18-day pro-democracy uprising, unconfirmed reports that Mubarak and his family might have amassed billions, or even tens of billions of dollars over their three decades in power, fueled protesters already enraged over massive corruption and poverty in Egypt. Mubarak, the top ruling party leaders and other cronies, as well as the powerful military have all profited richly from the corrupt system.

Mubarak was forced out of the president’s office on Feb. 11 by military leaders, who have promised to meet many of the protesters’ demands. He is now believed to be living in seclusion with his family in Sharm el-Sheikh. The attorney general had already frozen the assets of the ousted president, his wife, two sons and their wives on Feb. 20.

31 Obama: Flexibility OK, but health care law remains

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

1 hr 15 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Anxious to ease deepening political tensions with the states, President Barack Obama on Monday told governors he wants to speed up their ability to enforce his signature health care law on their own terms. But his concession goes only so far: He warned he won’t allow states to weaken the law.

He also told them not to vilify their own states’ public workers while struggling with spending cuts.

Hosting governors of both parties on his own turf, Obama offered them what they often request: more flexibility as they cope with painful budget dilemmas. Declaring that he would “go to bat for whatever works,” Obama supported letting states propose their own health care plans by 2014 – three years faster than the current law allows.

32 Gene therapy raises hope for a future AIDS cure

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer

1 hr 14 mins ago

In a bold new approach ultimately aimed at trying to cure AIDS, scientists used genetic engineering in six patients to develop blood cells that are resistant to HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

It’s far too early to know if this scientific first will prove to be a cure, or even a new treatment. The research was only meant to show that, so far, it seems feasible and safe.

The concept was based on the astonishing case of an AIDS patient who seems to be cured after getting blood cells from a donor with natural immunity to HIV nearly four years ago in Berlin. Researchers are seeking a more practical way to achieve similar immunity using patients’ own blood cells.

33 Tiny spy planes could mimic birds, insects

By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

1 hr 13 mins ago

SAN DIEGO – You’ll never look at hummingbirds the same again.

The Pentagon has poured millions of dollars into the development of tiny drones inspired by biology, each equipped with video and audio equipment that can record sights and sounds.

They could be used to spy, but also to locate people inside earthquake-crumpled buildings and detect hazardous chemical leaks.

34 GOP hopefuls cheer for a spending showdown

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press

26 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Easy for them to say: Cut spending, no matter what. Don’t let the government borrow any more. Shut it down if you have to. While the cast of potential White House contenders tells Congress to get tough, drawing lines in the sand is risky for lawmakers who have to live with the consequences.

Many remember what happened more than two years ago when House conservatives bolted from their Republican president and leadership to defeat a $700 billion rescue bill for the nation’s financial system. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 777 points, the most ever for a single day. Lawmakers had second thoughts, and four days later 58 of them, including 25 Republicans, switched sides to pass it.

Many Republicans paid a huge political price, losing re-election last year as furious tea partyers made how lawmakers voted on the bank bailout the single biggest litmus test of their conservatism.

35 Wis. gov. to outline ultimate intentions in budget

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

19 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive proposal to take nearly all collective bargaining rights away from most public workers represents just one piece of his vision for the state’s future. Now he’s ready to reveal the rest.

With the union rights proposal stuck in a legislative stalemate thanks to runaway Senate Democrats, the Republican governor planned to forge ahead with the Tuesday release of his two-year spending plan that will include major cuts to schools and local governments to help close a projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

Walker says his collective bargaining measure would free local governments from having to bargain with public employee unions as they deal with the cuts he’ll outline Tuesday. Schools last week started putting teachers on notice that their contracts may not be renewed for next year given the budget uncertainty.

36 Argentine dictators go on trial for baby thefts

By MICHAEL WARREN, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 3:50 pm ET

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – A long-awaited trial began Monday for two former Argentine dictators who allegedly oversaw a systematic plan to steal babies born to political prisoners three decades ago.

Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone are accused in 34 cases of infants who were taken from mothers held in Argentina’s largest clandestine torture and detention centers, the Navy Mechanics School in Buenos Aires and the Campo de Mayo army base northwest of the city.

Also on trial are five military figures and a doctor who attended to the detainees.

37 Oscars go young and hip, with traditional results

By CHRISTY LEMIRE, AP Movie Critic

Mon Feb 28, 10:35 am ET

LOS ANGELES – These were supposed to be the younger, hipper Academy Awards, the ones that shook up the ceremony’s conventions with popular, great-looking emcees in actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who were unlike the middle-aged comedians and TV talk-show hosts of years past.

But the results couldn’t have been more traditional, with “The King’s Speech” – a prestigious, impeccably made historical film that cries out “Oscar” with every fiber in its being – winning best picture and three other prizes over more daring, contemporary contenders like “The Social Network” and “Black Swan.”

They also couldn’t have been more predictable. Front-runners in other major categories throughout this long and repetitive awards season also took home trophies from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre Sunday night: best-actor Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech,” best-actress Natalie Portman for “Black Swan,” and supporting actors Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both for “The Fighter.” “King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper, who’d already won the Directors Guild Award – an excellent predictor of Oscar success.

38 Tax cut has little impact on economy in January

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER and DAVID PITT, AP Business Writers

Mon Feb 28, 4:38 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A Social Security tax cut that economists say should help the economy this year is off to a slow start. Consumers increased their spending last month at the weakest pace since June, even with the extra money in their paychecks.

Some people may be using the additional money to pay down holiday credit card bills or higher gas prices, analysts said. And harsh weather may have deterred some people from shopping in January.

Personal finance experts say the real test of the tax cuts impact will come this spring, when the Easter holiday sales begin.

39 Female journalists face threat of sexual violence

By AMY TEIBEL, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 8:06 am ET

JERUSALEM – The sexual assault on CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Egypt has trained a spotlight on the danger – ever-present but little-discussed – facing female journalists in zones of upheaval.

Complicating matters, some say, is a fear that employers will shut them out of choice assignments if they draw attention to the problem.

Female journalists say the threat of sexual violence is commonplace in the world’s trouble spots, where the combination of conflict and conservative cultural norms often creates a tense and unpleasant working environment. Trouble can begin with an opportune grope and deteriorate into physical assault or worse.

40 Congress takes up major change in patent law

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 7:35 am ET

WASHINGTON – The patent system hasn’t changed much since 1952 when Sony was coming out with its first pocket-size transistor radio, and bar codes and Mr. Potato Head were among the inventions patented. Now, after years of trying, Congress may be about to do something about that.

The Senate is taking up the Patent Reform Act, which would significantly overhaul a 1952 law and, supporters say, bring the patent system in line with 21st century technology of biogenetics and artificial intelligence. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hails it as “an important step toward maintaining our global competitive edge.”

Congress has been trying for well over a decade to rewrite patent law, only to be thwarted by the many interested parties – multinational corporations and small-scale inventors, pharmaceuticals and Silicon Valley companies – pulling in different directions. Prospects for passing a bill now, however, are promising.

41 US repositions troops in eastern Afghanistan

By PATRICK QUINN, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 7:13 am ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – The U.S. military will start carrying out more counterterrorism missions against insurgents in eastern Afghanistan and work more closely with Pakistani forces in operations against insurgents along the porous and rugged frontier, the U.S. general commanding the region said.

Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of NATO coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, said he has been repositioning some of his troops since last August to make them more effective in the region that borders Pakistan. The area has seen an upsurge in violence and is a main route for insurgents infiltrating into Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions.

The realignment of troops will allow more force to be used against insurgents and shore up security along a key trade route from Pakistan to the Afghan capital.

42 Va. hobbyist’s venomous snakes may lead to jail

By BILL POOVEY, Associated Press

21 mins ago

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Chuck Hurd says he has been “hooked on venom” for years, a love for snakes that began as a boy when he collected them on his family farm and evolved into a profitable hobby. It never led him to trouble with the law until an acquaintance died from a copperhead bite.

The 38-year-old collector, dealer and lecturer – whose displays and presentations on venomous snakes have led him to exotic animal shows and even scout meetings – has not been charged in the man’s death.

However, Tennessee wildlife authorities found him traveling with a collection of serpents and filed 48 misdemeanor charges that could send him to jail.

43 Minn. deficit shrinks; Dayton drops income surtax

By MARTIGA LOHN, Associated Press

39 mins ago

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota’s projected budget deficit shrank by a fifth to $5 billion on Monday, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to withdraw his proposal for a 3 percent temporary surtax on top earners that would have given the state the nation’s highest income tax rate.

The forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget officials showed the shortfall for the coming two-year budget was down from an earlier projection of $6.2 billion. State economist Tom Stinson attributed the improvement to federal action that helped the economy, including a payroll tax cut and delay in a capital gains tax hike.

Dayton immediately dropped his call for a 3-year surtax on incomes starting at $500,000, which would have raised $918 million in the upcoming budget period. The Democratic governor said he was fulfilling a promise to avoid imposing the nation’s highest tax rate. Still in play, though, is his call for a new permanent top income tax bracket of 10.95 percent, just a hair under Hawaii’s top-in-the-nation rate of 11 percent.

44 Trial begins for man who thwarted oil-gas auction

By JENNIFER DOBNER, Associated Press

1 hr 36 mins ago

SALT LAKE CITY – Hundreds of activists marched to the federal courthouse Monday to support a man who became an environmental folk hero by faking the purchase of $1.7 million of federal oil-and-gas drilling leases in an act of civil disobedience.

Tim DeChristopher, 29, has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to felony counts of interfering with and making false representations at a government auction.

Lawyers questioned a pool of more than 50 potential jurors Monday afternoon in preparation for opening statements scheduled the next day.

45 APNewsBreak: NY Dems rebel against Cuomo, cuts

By MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press

1 hr 52 mins ago

ALBANY, N.Y. – More than 40 elected Democrats made a rare attack on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his proposed cuts to the party’s priorities of education and health care as the state tries to trim a $10 billion budget deficit, according to a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

In a letter to the state Democratic Party and the governor, the Democrats railed against Cuomo’s budget policies, calling them “neither balanced nor well-conceived” and warning that they would hurt children and the elderly.

The group said Cuomo was not exemplifying what a “new Democrat” should be. The governor started using the term at last year’s Democratic convention to describe a pragmatic official in hard fiscal times.

46 Holocaust survivors to protest on unpaid insurance

By CURT ANDERSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer

Mon Feb 28, 4:37 pm ET

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Aging survivors of the Nazi Holocaust plan to protest outside a political fundraiser featuring President Barack Obama this week to publicize their struggle to collect what they say is $20 billion in Jewish insurance policies never paid by European companies.

Members of the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation USA want Obama and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to push legislation that would force companies such as Germany’s Allianz SE and Italy’s Assicurazioni Generali to disclose lists of pre-World War II policies. The bill would also give survivors the right to sue the insurers in U.S. courts to satisfy their claims.

“We were stripped of everything our families owned, and only a fraction has been restored,” said 84-year-old Joe Sachs, a native of Poland who survived several concentration camps.

47 GOP Iowa Gov. Branstad vows to keep caucuses first

By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 4:34 pm ET

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa officials pledged Monday to move up the state’s 2012 presidential caucuses as early as needed to ensure the event remains the nation’s first contest of White House hopefuls if Florida stands by plans for an early primary date.

National leaders have pledged to avoid a repeat of the 2008 competition that prompted Iowa to hold caucuses on Jan. 3 amid drawn-out disputes with Florida and Michigan. But a spokesman for Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and others said Iowa will move up its Feb. 6 caucuses if Florida sticks with a Jan. 31 primary.

“If Florida continues to stay where they are, we’ll move up just as we have in the past,” said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht. “Iowa will move up and we will work with New Hampshire.”

48 Judge: Mexican man can file clergy suit in US

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press Writer

Mon Feb 28, 4:26 pm ET

LOS ANGELES – A Mexico City man can proceed with a clergy abuse lawsuit filed in U.S. court against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, even though the alleged abuse occurred in Mexico and the priest and plaintiff are Mexican citizens, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton Tucker on Friday denied a motion from church attorneys who had sought dismissal of the case by arguing U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction.

Michael Hennigan, an attorney for the archdiocese, said the case has no merit and would ultimately be dismissed.

49 Whale tracked to North America has visited before

By DAN JOLING, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 3:31 pm ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Marine researchers say a rare whale tracked across the Pacific Ocean into North American waters this year had been there before.

Photo analysis has confirmed that the highly endangered western Pacific gray whale dubbed Flex – one of only 130 remaining – was photographed in 2008 off Canada’s Vancouver Island and was assumed to be part of the eastern gray whale population.

U.S and Russian researchers started tracking the male whale Oct. 4 when they tagged him with a satellite tracker off Sakhalin Island, Russia, as part of research into where the animals spend winters.

50 Parents on hard high school homework: Carpe diem!

By LEANNE ITALIE, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 3:16 pm ET

NEW YORK – Parents who help with homework think they have it bad with wacky new math in the lower grades. Try the ablative case in the second declension for high school Latin.

Susan Wheeler Fisk is ready with a resounding carpe diem! She enrolled in Latin I online with her 18-year-old senior to get him over the hump.

“This is a brand new subject for me,” said the former preschool teacher in Estes Park, Colo. “It’s online, so there’s no teacher. He said he didn’t want a tutor, but he just needed to get his arms around the subject in a way that seemed like a tutor wouldn’t offer anyway.”

51 Speedboarding surge sparks spat in hillside city

By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 2:43 pm ET

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. – When teens on skateboards hurtle down the winding streets that overlook the Pacific Ocean cliffs in this hillside city, they feel the rush of the wind on their face and adrenaline pumping through their veins.

They apparently don’t feel the terror that residents of upscale Laguna Beach describe upon pulling out of their driveways and nearly ramming into them.

The surge in high-speed downhill skateboarding in this free-spirited seaside enclave has sparked a fierce debate over what place the exhilarating but perilous sport has on fantastically steep inclines that take residents to their hilltop homes.

52 US citizen recalls ‘humiliating’ post-9/11 arrest

By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 10:11 am ET

LOS ANGELES – Handcuffed and marched through Washington’s Dulles International Airport in his Muslim clothing, the man with the long, dark beard could only imagine what people were thinking.

That scene unfolded in March 2003, a year and a half after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. One of the four planes hijacked in 2001 took off from Dulles. “I could only assume that they thought I was a terrorist,” Abdullah al-Kidd recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.

Al-Kidd called his airport arrest “one of the most, if not the most, humiliating experiences of my life.”

53 US farmers hire movie stars to sell nuts in Asia

By GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 4:36 am ET

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Chinese movie star Gao Yuan Yuan ambled in front of blooming almond trees, smelled the flowers, learned about pollination and even got stung by a bee – all while two Chinese television crews filmed her for a documentary and television series focused on California’s almond country.

The almond industry has hired Gao as its ambassador in China, and its effort is just one of many California nut growers are making to capture new markets in developing countries. U.S. farm exports reached an all-time high of $115.8 billion last year, and experts say developing nations such as China and India have huge potential for future growth.

China surpassed Canada to emerge as the top market for U.S. agricultural exports last year with $17.5 billion in sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

54 SPIN METER: Industry jobs studies are imprecise

By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press

Mon Feb 28, 3:24 am ET

WASHINGTON – Industry officials say with confidence that 7.3 million jobs will disappear if the Obama administration goes through with tighter rules to reduce smog. The industry-sponsored researcher who came up with that number isn’t so sure.

“There’s uncertainty around that,” economist Don Norman said of the “shockingly high” job loss number he extrapolated using a study sponsored by the oil and natural gas industry’s American Petroleum Institute and covering just 11 states.

“Even if the numbers are half of that, the number is huge,” he said.

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