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Apr 06 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 57 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Berlusconi sex trial adjourned until May

by Mathieu Gorse, AFP

Wed Apr 6, 12:45 pm ET

MILAN (AFP) – Silvio Berlusconi’s trial on charges of sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power opened Wednesday as the storm over the 74-year-old Italian premier’s private life finally landed in court.

Berlusconi himself did not attend the hearing and the judges immediately adjourned the trial until May 31. The woman at the centre of the case, Karima El Mahroug — nicknamed “Ruby the Heart Stealer” — was not present either.

The hearing at Milan’s main court building lasted just under 10 minutes and a handful of protesters rallied outside both for and against Berlusconi.

AFP

2 Portugal asks EU for financial aid

AFP

42 mins ago

LISBON (AFP) – Portugal on Wednesday said it had decided to request financial assistance from the European Union to resolve its debt problems amid growing speculation that it needs a bailout.

Having resisted for months pressure from the markets as well as European partners, outgoing Prime Minister Jose Socrates in a televised address justified the request as needed after parliament rejected his new austerity programme which, he said, “aggravated in a dramatic way the country’s financial situation.”

“I am firmly convinced that that is going to be further aggravated if nothing is done,” added Socrates, who resigned on March 23 after parliament’s rejection, opening the way for new elections set for June 5.

3 Portugal will have to use EU mechanisms on debt: minister

AFP

2 hrs 39 mins ago

LISBON (AFP) – Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos recognised Wednesday that his country will have to use EU mechanisms to resolve its debt problems amid growing speculation it needs a bailout.

“I believe it is necessary to have recourse to the financing mechanisms which are available within the European context,” Teixeira dos Santos said in written replies to questions submitted by business daily Jornal de Negocios.

“The country has been pushed, in an irresponsible manner, into a difficult situation on the financial markets,” the minister said, referring to the fall of the government last month when parliament rejected its austerity programme.

4 Spain cuts growth forecast, keeps deficit targets

AFP

Wed Apr 6, 1:14 pm ET

MADRID (AFP) – Spain cut its growth forecast on Wednesday and revised upwards its estimates for unemployment but said it was still on track to bring its public deficit to within EU limits by 2013.

Finance Minister Elena Salgado said the economy would grow 2.3 percent in 2012 rather than 2.5 percent, and by 2.4 percent in 2013 instead of 2.7 percent due to higher prices for commodities like oil and an expected increase in eurozone interest rates.

For this year, the government kept its forecast for growth at 1.3 percent.

5 Greece rules out debt makeover amid budget review

AFP

Wed Apr 6, 12:30 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece on Wednesday again ruled out any restructuring of its soaring debt as EU, IMF and European Central Bank experts picked through a new three-year austerity budget coming this month.

The Socialist government, which has received mixed results from unpopular economic policies agreed with its international creditors, is now pledging to cut its runaway deficit by some nine percentage points by 2015.

“Under no condition are we going to restructure (the debt),” government spokesman George Petalotis told reporters.

6 Ouattara forces stop short of final assault on Gbagbo bunker

by Christophe Parayre, AFP

21 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Forces loyal to Ivory Coast’s internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara on Wednesday pulled back from a final assault on strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s bunker after fierce resistance from his army.

The draw back followed a day of heavy fighting at Gbagbo’s residence in Abidjan where he is holed, refusing to surrender and cede power to his rival.

“There has been a pause in the fighting,” between Gbagbo’s troops and Ouattara’s Republican Forces Army, a resident told AFP after “several hours of sustained heavy weapons fire.

7 Cornered Gbagbo refuses to accept defeat in exit deal

by Fran Blandy, AFP

Tue Apr 5, 4:43 pm ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, cornered by rival forces, hunkered down at his home Tuesday trying to negotiate an exit deal as France denied he had already surrendered.

As negotiations continued to end a four month post-election stand-off that has plunged the country into war, Gbagbo rejected the former colonial power’s demand that he recognise his rival Alassane Ouattara as president

“I do not recognise the victory of Ouattara….” Gbagbo said in an interview with France’s LCI news channel.

8 I.Coast’s Gbagbo under seige as exit talks fail

by Fran Blandy, AFP

Wed Apr 6, 7:20 am ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Weapons fire erupted Wednesday at Laurent Gbagbo’s residence as forces for Ivory Coast’s internationally recognised leader Alassane Ouattara said they were going to “fetch” him from his bunker.

Witnesses said gunfire rang out both near the presidential palace and Gbagbo’s residence in an apparent bid to bounce him into ending to his decade-long rule of the world’s number one cocoa producer.

“We are going to take Laurent Gbagbo out of his hole and hand him over to the president of the republic,” said Sidiki Konate, spokesman for Ouattara’s forces.

9 NATO ‘careful’ over air strikes, ‘rebel’ oil leaves Tobruk

by Joseph Krauss, AFP

1 hr 40 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya (AFP) – NATO, accused of mission failure by Libyan rebels, admitted Wednesday it has to be “particularly careful” with its air strikes as government troops are using civilians as human shields, but vowed to do everything to protect civilians in Misrata.

France pledged to open a sea corridor to the besieged Mediterranean port and a tanker left the port of Tobruk on Wednesday carrying the first consignment of oil since the rebel government won recognition from some countries.

The White House rebuffed a letter from Kadhafi.

10 Libya rebels slam NATO over besieged city’s plight

by Joseph Krauss, AFP

Tue Apr 5, 5:29 pm ET

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Libyan rebels hit out at the NATO-led air mission on Tuesday saying that it was failing in its UN mandate to protect civilians in the besieged third city of Misrata.

The accusation came as the rebels sustained their first significant loss of territory to Moamer Kadhafi’s forces in almost a week after they were sent fleeing from the edge of the oil refinery town of Brega in a major assault.

One boost was the docking in the port of Tobruk of a one-million-barrel supertanker in readiness to load the rebels’ first oil export shipment, potentially worth more than 100 million dollars (70.5 million euros).

11 Libya rebels set for oil exports as tanker docks

AFP

Tue Apr 5, 1:27 pm ET

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) – Libyan rebels were set Tuesday to begin exporting oil for the first time since mid-March after a tanker capable of holding $100 million worth of crude docked at an eastern port.

The Liberian-flagged tanker “has docked in Tobruk,” Michelle Bockmann, markets editor of shipping news and data provider Lloyd’s List, told AFP in London. “The boat is expected to be loaded on April 6.”

Earlier, Bockman said the ship was “a Suezmax tanker and it’s able to load one million barrels, or about 130,000 tonnes of oil. So it’s over 100 million dollars’ (70.5 million euros) worth of crude.”

12 Italy rescues refugees from Libya, scores missing at sea

by Ljubomir Milasin, AFP

Wed Apr 6, 6:55 am ET

ROME (AFP) – Italian coast guards plucked 48 refugees from the Mediterranean on Wednesday and spotted 15 bodies at sea after a boat laden with some 200 migrants from Libya capsized during the night.

“We have rescued 48 people alive from the sea while 15 bodies have been spotted by the crew of the helicopter,” coast guard spokesman Vittorio Alessandro, based on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, told AFP.

Around 130 people who were on the boat are believed to be missing.

13 Japan plugs leak from nuclear plant

by Harumi Ozawa, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

TOKYO (AFP) – Workers at Japan’s crippled atomic power plant on Wednesday plugged a hole spewing highly radioactive water into the ocean, boosting efforts to contain the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

But in an illustration of how fragile progress is at the Fukushima plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power said it was concerned a build-up of hydrogen gas at a different reactor could cause another explosion at the site.

The water leak was thought to be a source of spiking radiation levels in the sea, which prompted Japan to announce its first seafood radiation safety standards following the discovery of fish with high levels of contamination.

14 US atom smasher may have found new force of nature

by Kerry Sheridan, AFP

1 hr 12 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Data from a major US atom smasher lab may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature, one of the physicists involved in the discovery told AFP on Wednesday.

The physics world was abuzz with excitement over the findings, which could offer clues to the persistent riddle of mass and how objects obtain it — one of the most sought-after answers in all of physics.

But experts cautioned that more analysis was needed over the next several months to uncover the true nature of the discovery, which comes as part of an ongoing experiment with proton and antiproton collisions to understand the workings of the universe.

15 Troubles on the horizon for Haiti victor Martelly

by Clarens Renois, AFP

Tue Apr 5, 5:18 pm ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haiti’s next president Michel Martelly promised a “new era” for Haiti on Tuesday, but many troubles lie ahead and his landslide election win is looking like the easy part.

The 50-year-old former carnival entertainer and pop singer, known as “Sweet Micky” or Tet Kale (Bald Head), lit up the campaign, seizing the mantle of change and capturing the imagination of Haiti’s frustrated urban youth.

“Haitian people, a new era has begun,” Martelly told a victory press conference in the capital Port-au-Prince, urging the young to “raise their eyes to the rainbow of promised change.”

16 Six new events approved for 2014 Sochi Games

AFP

Wed Apr 6, 12:23 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – Six new events, including women’s ski jumping, will make their debuts at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday.

The other events are the ski halfpipe for men and women, team figure skating, team luge and biathlon mixed relay, meaning an extra 150 athletes will participate in the Russian Black Sea resort city.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said the “inclusion of these events on the Olympic Winter Games programme is sure to be appreciated by athletes and sports fans alike.”

Reuters

17 Top M&A law firms at center of new insider case

By Jonathan Stempel and Andrew Longstreth, Reuters

2 mins ago

NEW YORK/NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) – A lawyer and a trader were accused by federal prosecutors of running a 17-year conspiracy to trade on corporate merger secrets stolen from three of the nation’s most powerful law firms, in one of the largest U.S. insider trading cases on record.

Prosecutors accused Matthew H. Kluger and Garrett D. Bauer of reaping more than $32.2 million from trades on tips about upcoming mergers and acquisitions that Kluger learned as a lawyer at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC, the pre-eminent firm representing Silicon Valley technology companies.

The complaint details a conspiracy that had its origins in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and ended with attempts by the defendants to cover their tracks, including a discussion about cleaning money in a washing machine to rid it of fingerprints.

18 In U-turn, Portugal requests EU financial aid

By Axel Bugge and Andrei Khalip, Reuters

1 hr 1 min ago

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s caretaker government said on Wednesday it had decided to seek financing from the European Union in an abrupt turnaround after resisting a bailout for months despite sharply deteriorating financial conditions.

The nation of 10.5 million became the third member of the euro zone to seek a rescue after Greece and Ireland after months of fending off market pressure to request assistance, as borrowing costs soared amid deepening political instability.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates said in a televised statement that parliament’s rejection of additional austerity measures last month had aggravated the financial situation, ultimately making the request for aid “inevitable.”

19 Attack on Gbagbo bunker in Ivory Coast repelled

By Tim Cocks and Ange Aboa, Reuters

1 hr 57 mins ago

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Forces loyal to Ivory Coast presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara launched a heavy attack on Wednesday on the bunker where Laurent Gbagbo is holed up but appeared to have been repelled, a Western military source said.

Fighting raged for a third consecutive day in the economic capital Abidjan as Ouattara’s forces tried to unseat Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after losing a November election to Ouattara, according to U.N.-certified results.

The source, who lives near Gbagbo’s heavily guarded residence in Abidjan, said fighting had died down in the afternoon and Ouattara’s forces had regrouped.

20 Gaddafi attacks Misrata, NATO tactics questioned

By Alexander Dziadosz, Reuters

18 mins ago

AL-ARBAEEN, Libya (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi’s forces unleashed mortar rounds, tank fire and artillery shells on the western city of Misrata on Wednesday as a French minister said NATO air strikes in Libya risked getting “bogged down.”

Misrata, Libya’s third city, rose up with other towns against Muammar Gaddafi’s rule in mid-February, and it is now under attack by government troops after a violent crackdown put an end to most protests elsewhere in the west of the country.

Rebels are angry at what they perceive to be a scaling back of operations since NATO took over an air campaign, following an early onslaught led by the United States, France and Britain that at one stage tilted the war in the rebels’ favor.

21 Challenger wins in Wisconsin proxy union fight

By Jeff Mayers, Reuters

49 mins ago

MADISON, Wis (Reuters) – The Democratic-backed candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court judge claimed victory on Wednesday in an election seen as a referendum on a law curbing union power with implications for cash-strapped U.S. states.

Challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg beat Republican-backed incumbent Judge David Prosser by slightly more than 200 votes out of 1.4 million cast on Tuesday, according to local media.

“We owe Justice Prosser our gratitude for his more than 30 years of public service,” Kloppenburg said. “Wisconsin voters have spoken … . I will be independent and impartial and I will decide cases based on the facts and the law.”

22 Dish expands its scope with Blockbuster win

By Tom Hals and Liana B. Baker, Reuters

35 mins ago

WILMINGTON, Del./NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dish Network Corp won Blockbuster Inc in a bankruptcy auction for $320 million, further broadening its business beyond satellite TV and setting up a possible showdown with Netflix.

Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV company after DirecTV, trumped at least three other bidders, including activist investor Carl Icahn, for the one-time leader in video rentals.

Dish said the deal, which includes more than 1,700 Blockbuster stores, gives it new ways to market its services.

23 Romney counts on massive warchest, circle of giving

By Ros Krasny, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 2:30 pm ET

BOSTON (Reuters) – Mitt Romney, a presidential also-ran in 2008, is powering up a fund-raising machine he hopes will obliterate competition for the 2012 Republican nomination.

The former Massachusetts governor has yet to formally get into the race, but Romney is on a cross-country blitz to meet wealthy, well-networked donors.

Now a seasoned campaigner, Romney is regarded as the early front-runner in a jumbled field of more than a dozen Republicans, most of whom have not formally announced. A massive war chest — likely as much as $50 million — could create an air of inevitability about his run and even keep some poorly-funded rivals out of the race entirely.

24 Japan focuses on hydrogen buildup after nuclear leak

By Chizu Nomiyama and Shinichi Saoshiro, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 12:33 pm ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan began pumping nitrogen gas into a crippled nuclear reactor, refocusing the fight against the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years on preventing an explosive buildup of hydrogen gas at Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Workers started injecting nitrogen into the containment vessel of reactor No. 1 on Wednesday night, following a morning breakthrough in stopping highly radioactive water leaking into the sea at another reactor in the six-reactor complex.

“It is necessary to inject nitrogen gas into the containment vessel and eliminate the potential for a hydrogen explosion,” an official of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) told a news briefing.

25 Berlusconi sex trial opens, immediately adjourned

By Antonella Ciancio, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 9:23 am ET

MILAN (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s trial on charges he paid an underage teenager for sex opened on Wednesday and was adjourned until May 31 after a hearing that lasted just 10 minutes.

Berlusconi, who has suffered relatively limited political damage from the “Rubygate” case, did not attend the session, preferring to chair a ministerial meeting in Rome.

Crowds of critics and supporters sparred verbally outside the court over whether the 74-year-old should go to prison over his connection with Moroccan-born teenager Karima El Mahroug, a nightclub dancer with the stage name of Ruby.

26 NYSE unswayed by Nasdaq bid

By Paritosh Bansal and Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 1:57 pm ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – NYSE Euronext believes that any kind of merger with Nasdaq OMX — whether the Big Board were the buyer or the seller — makes little strategic sense, and antitrust regulators would block it, according to a source close to the company.

Bringing the top two U.S. stock exchanges together would face “insurmountable antitrust problems,” the source said on Wednesday, suggesting NYSE’s board could look beyond the premium Nasdaq has offered and reject Nasdaq’s bid outright.

The focus on monopolies shows just how tricky it will be for the world’s top exchange operators to pull off a rash of planned tie-ups that would revamp capital markets in North America, Europe and Asia. Just this week, Australia moved to block a buyout of its bourse by Singapore Exchange.

27 Markets weigh two U.S. shutdowns: 1 bad, 1 awful

By Kevin Drawbaugh, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 1:20 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Investors are facing two possible U.S. government shutdown scenarios, one of limited impact on markets, and another so potentially devastating that analysts are struggling to fully assess it.

Neither is sure to occur, but the limited-impact version seemed distinctly possible on Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans argued over the federal budget. It would involve the expiration at midnight on Friday of a stop-gap spending measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR.

The nightmare shutdown scenario, still a few weeks away, would involve Congress failing to raise the national debt ceiling and possibly an unprecedented government debt default.

28 World Bank chief: citizens need voice in Arab world

By Lesley Wroughton, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 12:41 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Middle East governments moving away from dictatorship must deliver quick wins through job creation to meet immediate hopes of street protesters but longer-term reforms need to ensure a more inclusive society, the head of the World Bank said on Wednesday.

In a speech on the ongoing turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that a break from a past where societies were driven by autocrats to one that includes citizens in decision-making will be vital for the region’s transition.

“Our message to our clients, whatever their political system, is that you cannot have successful development without good governance and without the participation of your citizens,” Zoellick told a gathering at the Peterson Institute.

29 Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame

By Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 10:42 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s late entry into a budget battle that could shut the government marks an attempt both to play dealmaker and avoid blame if Republicans and Democrats fail to forge agreement in time.

During a rare meeting with party leaders on Tuesday, Obama aimed to break a logjam over how to cut spending by $33 billion in this year’s budget.

The meeting did not produce a breakthrough but in a surprise appearance before reporters afterwards Obama pledged to convene further meetings and negotiate “for as long as possible to get this resolved.”

30 Japan may order Tokyo-area industry to conserve power

By Chikako Mogi and Osamu Tsukimori, Reuters

Wed Apr 6, 5:59 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s trade ministry may order big manufacturers in the country’s economic heartland around Tokyo to cut their peak summer power use by 25 percent, a ministry official said, as it considers dramatic steps to avert crippling blackouts.

The ministry is also likely to set power-saving targets for households and small businesses, the official said, in what would be the first government curbs on power use since the oil crisis of 1974.

Tokyo Electric Power is scrambling to secure enough power for the capital area’s factories and air-conditioners this summer after a devastating earthquake and tsunami took out 23 percent of its generating capacity, including the Fukushima nuclear complex.

31 Japan plans 3 trillion yen extra budget, no debt issue: media

By Leika Kihara, Reuters

Tue Apr 5, 9:13 pm ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will not issue new debt to fund an initial extra budget of more than $35 billion for disaster relief, the Asahi newspaper said, in a sign the government is wary of alarming bond investors by adding too much to Japan’s already huge debt pile.

But after the first extra budget, which will focus on funding immediate cleanup and repair work from last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, the government will likely spend far more in subsequent emergency budgets and may need to issue new bonds to cover the costs, analysts say.

The more than 3 trillion yen ($35 billion) in the supplemental budget will pay for repairing roads, ports and schools, as well as helping those in quake-hit regions in Japan’s northeast find new jobs, the Asahi reported on Wednesday.

AP

32 Shutdown meeting at White House as time dwindles

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

35 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Time growing short, Congress’ leaders reported progress Wednesday in talks to cut spending and avert a partial government shutdown that the White House warned would hit U.S. combat troops abroad and taxpayer refunds from the IRS at home.

President Barack Obama checked in separately by phone with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then asked the two men to join him at the White House for an evening meeting. He acted after deciding “not enough progress had been made,” said spokesman Jay Carney.

Determined to avoid political blame if a shutdown occurs, Boehner said the House would vote Thursday on a one-week stopgap bill to keep the government open while cutting $12 billion in spending and providing the Pentagon with enough money to stay open until the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.

33 White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops

By RICHARD LARDNER and JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.

The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days.

President Barack Obama telephoned House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, and Boehner’s office said the speaker told Obama he was hopeful a deal could be reached.

34 Gadhafi, in letter, asks Obama to end air strikes

MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press

39 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appealed directly to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to end what Gadhafi called “an unjust war.” He also wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year.

“You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action,” Gadhafi wrote in a rambling, three-page letter to Obama obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that.”

The White House confirmed the letter, but top officials shrugged it off.

35 Gbagbo’s home in Ivory Coast comes under attack

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI and MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

34 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Even after airstrikes pounded holes in his garden, even after fighters encircled his home and stormed the gates, Laurent Gbagbo did not budge Wednesday from the bunker where he remains holed up.

The finale of Gbagbo’s 10-year claim on Ivory Coast is playing out much like the beginning. The 65-year-old strongman, who made an art of staying in power years past the end of his legal mandate, is now pushing the envelope, fighting for each day, even each hour.

“He will not surrender,” said Meite Sindou, a defense spokesman for Alassane Ouattara, the man recognized worldwide as the democratically elected president of Ivory Coast. “We will have to take him.”

36 Gates tries to soothe Saudis rattled by unrest

By ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press

43 mins ago

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to smooth the worst rift in years with Arab ally and oil producer Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, reassuring the Saudi king that the U.S. remains a steady friend despite support for pro-democracy revolutions in the Middle East.

The Saudi king, looking thin after months of medical treatment in the United States and elsewhere, welcomed Gates for what the Pentagon chief later said was a cordial and warm visit.

The hospitality masked deep unease among Saudi Arabia’s aged leadership about what the political upheaval in the Middle East means for its hold on power, its role as the chief counterweight to a rising Iran, and its changed relationship with the United States.

37 Like GOP, Obama taking aim at Iowa, NH, Nevada

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

44 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Even without a Democratic challenger, President Barack Obama is planning an aggressive role in early primary states. His operatives are already moving in, organizing volunteers and raising money to answer Republican attacks and do what they can to weaken the GOP’s strongest challengers.

With the election 19 months away, Obama’s campaign could keep a low profile while Republicans pummel each other. But he won’t be content to watch passively as his potential rivals duke it out.

Three of the earliest-voting states – Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – will also be strongly contested in the fall of 2012. Likely Republican candidates already are assailing Obama there, and his aides say they can’t wait months to respond.

38 Glenn Beck’s Fox show ending

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

35 mins ago

NEW YORK – Glenn Beck later this year will end his Fox News Channel talk show, which has sunk in the ratings and has suffered from an advertiser boycott.

Fox and Beck’s company, Mercury Radio Arts, said Wednesday they will stay in business creating other projects for Fox television and digital, starting with some documentaries Beck is preparing.

Beck was a quick burn on Fox News Channel. Almost immediately after joining the network in January 2009, he doubled the ratings at his afternoon time slot. Fans found his conservative populism entertaining, while Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert described Beck’s “crank up the crazy and rip off the knob” moments.

39 Foundation: Bristol Palin worth $332K compensation

By RACHEL D’ORO, Associated Press

55 mins ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Bristol Palin was well worth the $332,500 she was paid to be an ambassador for a foundation aiming to prevent teen pregnancy, the organization’s founder said Wednesday.

In her 2009 debut with The Candies Foundation, the unwed mother and daughter of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was paid $262,500 for 15 to 20 days of work, and another $70,000 for a less amount of work last year.

The money spent has been “an amazing investment,” according to foundation founder Neil Cole.

40 Barry Bonds rests with no defense witnesses

By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer

Wed Apr 6, 3:25 pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO – Barry Bonds’ confident defense team rested its case Wednesday without calling a single witness, just minutes after a federal judge accepted the government’s request to dismiss one of the five counts against the home run king.

Prosecutors called 25 witnesses to the stand over 2 1/2 weeks, but the defense needed just one minute to present its side. The jury of eight women and four men barely had time to get settled in the courtroom before being told to return Thursday morning for closing arguments.

“We are expecting that you will get this case for decision tomorrow,” U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said to them. “Tomorrow will be the last day.”

41 Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors

By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 2:47 pm ET

MIYAKO, Japan – Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.

“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.

42 Parties split as House panel debates GOP budget

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

1 hr 46 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Partisan divisions hardened Wednesday as Republicans began pushing a $3.5 trillion federal budget for 2012 through a House committee, with backers calling it a sobering correction for the nation’s spending binge and critics labeling it an assault on health programs for retirees and the poor.

The sweeping fiscal plan by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., lays the groundwork for a decade of cuts in spending, taxes and deficits. It would be tempered by a cost shift to future retirees and features a reshaping of the government’s two chief health care programs for the elderly and poor, Medicare and Medicaid.

Though the blueprint covers the entire reach of government, much of Wednesday’s House Budget Committee debate focused on health and other social programs, from which Republicans were proposing to wring hundreds of billions in savings over the next 10 years. Ryan said that with sky-high deficits, the government needs to limit its mission to programs that are truly needed.

43 To fix damage from old canals, corps plans new one

By CAIN BURDEAU, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 3:39 pm ET

MERAUX, La. – On a wedge of land where criss-crossing canals have killed off native plants and sped erosion, the Army Corps of Engineers has a controversial proposal for undoing environmental damage: They want to dig another canal.

The trench is a key part of a $3 billion plan to fix damage left by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, a 78-mile shipping channel dug in the 1960s. The corps says the work will help protect New Orleans from hurricanes by restoring wetlands, the natural buffer Louisiana is losing along this low-lying coast.

Locals, however, are worried.

44 IOC approves women’s ski jumping for 2014 Games

By STEPHEN WILSON, AP Sports Writer

Wed Apr 6, 2:56 pm ET

LONDON – After an unsuccessful legal battle for inclusion at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, women’s ski jumping won its place Wednesday on the program for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee executive board also approved the addition of men’s and women’s ski halfpipe, mixed relay in biathlon and team events in luge and figure skating.

“The inclusion of these events … is sure to be appreciated by athletes and sports fans alike,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said. “These are exciting, entertaining events that perfectly complement the existing events on the sports program, bring added appeal and increase the number of women participating at the games.”

45 AP Exclusive: Voices behind China’s protest calls

By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 1:41 pm ET

SEOUL, South Korea – Strolling past hip cafes, the young Chinese man in a white sports jacket and faded jeans looks like any other university student in the South Korean capital. But the laptop in his black backpack is a tool in a would-be revolution in China.

The 22-year-old computer science student is part of a group behind appeals that started popping up anonymously on the Internet seven weeks ago, calling on Chinese to stage peaceful protests to get the ruling Communist Party to move toward democracy.

Those calls have spooked the government into launching one of its broadest campaigns of repression in years to keep the protests from catching on, as they have in the Middle East and North Africa.

46 Preventing blasts a focus at Japan nuclear plant

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 3:42 pm ET

TOKYO – After notching a rare victory by stopping highly radioactive water from flowing into the Pacific on Wednesday, workers at Japan’s flooded nuclear power complex turned to their next task: injecting nitrogen to prevent more hydrogen explosions.

Nuclear officials said there was no immediate threat of explosions like the three that rocked the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant not long after a massive tsunami hit on March 11, but their plans are a reminder of how much work remains to stabilize the complex.

Workers are racing to cool down the plant’s reactors, which have been overheating since power was knocked out by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that killed as many as 25,000 people and destroyed hundreds of miles of coastline.

47 Mo. senators offer to allow vote on jobless bill

By DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press

49 mins ago

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Several Missouri state senators who have been blocking a vote on extending federally-funded jobless benefits said Wednesday that they will only relent if Gov. Jay Nixon agrees to the elimination of $300 million in federal stimulus spending.

The conditional deal highlighted the political stakes involved in a showdown over federal spending that already has caused the loss of benefits for about 10,000 Missouri residents who have been without work for a year and a half.

Earlier Wednesday, one of the Republican senators leading the filibuster said he would allow a vote on the unemployment bill and instead try to block up to $400 million of stimulus spending. But the senators later said at a news conference that they want the Democratic governor to share responsibility for rejecting federal money – even though they could do so on their own by cutting the stimulus money out of a state budget bill.

48 Protesters in Yemen defy govt, return to streets

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 12:43 pm ET

SANAA, Yemen – Defying a deadly government crackdown, tens of thousands of protesters on Wednesday poured into the streets of Yemen’s second largest city in the latest demonstrations against the long serving president.

Two groups of protesters met up in the city center where a general strike had closed shops and banks in what activists were calling the “Tsunami of Taiz” and the largest demonstration in this troubled southern city to date.

More than 120 people have been killed since Yemen’s protests calling for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh began on Feb. 11, inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

49 Wis. voters send governor strong, angry message

By TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

27 mins ago

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin voters sent Republican Gov. Scott Walker a clear message about their unhappiness with his muscling through a law restricting union rights by sending a once runaway state Supreme Court race toward a near-certain recount and filling the governor’s former post with a Democrat.

While Walker downplayed the significance of Tuesday’s elections on Wednesday, saying they were skewed by exceptional turnout in the liberal cities of Madison and Milwaukee, Democrats warned they were only a sign of what’s to come. Recall efforts have been launched against 16 state senators from both parties for their support or opposition to the bill eliminating most public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

“This continues to add fuel to the tremendous fire of enthusiasm and passion to recall the Republican senators that support Scott Walker’s backwards priorities for the state,” Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said of the election results.

50 Planned wireless Internet network threatens GPS

By JOELLE TESSLER, AP Technology Writer

Wed Apr 6, 3:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A new, ultra-fast wireless Internet network is threatening to overpower GPS signals across the U.S. and interfere with everything from airplanes to police cars to consumer navigation devices.

The problem stems from a recent government decision to let a Virginia company called LightSquared build a nationwide broadband network using airwaves next to those used for GPS. Manufacturers of GPS equipment warn that strong signals from the planned network could jam existing navigation systems.

A technical fix could be expensive – billions of dollars by one estimate – and there’s no agreement on who should pay. Government officials pledge to block LightSquared from turning on its network as scheduled this year unless they receive assurances that GPS systems will still work.

51 Judge: Lockout ruling to take ‘couple of weeks’

By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer

3 mins ago

ST. PAUL, Minn. – As she wrapped up the five-hour hearing on the legality of the NFL lockout, the federal judge overseeing the case said she’d take “a couple of weeks” to rule on the players’ request to return to work.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, however, urged the two sides not to wait that long.

“It seems to me both sides are at risk, and now is a good time to come back to the table,” Nelson said, noting her willingness to facilitate the resumption of talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement that would put pro football back on track.

52 Texas A&M beats Notre Dame 76-70 for NCAA title

By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer

Wed Apr 6, 9:42 am ET

INDIANAPOLIS – This NCAA tournament had plenty of twists, turns and upsets even before the championship game. Coach Gary Blair and Texas A&M delivered a thrilling ending.

This was the supposed to be the year Maya Moore’s Connecticut juggernaut won its third straight title or Stanford broke through or Tennessee got back to the top.

Instead, the Aggies rewrote the script in their first Final Four appearance. They made the 65-year-old Blair the oldest coach to win a national championship just one night after UConn’s 68-year-old Jim Calhoun did the same thing on the men’s side.

53 Gov’t shutdown poses big risks to both parties

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press

Wed Apr 6, 2:03 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans say the last thing they want to do is to shut down the government. But with budget talks showing little signs of a breakthrough, there are growing worries that a stalemate could hurt the economy’s fragile recovery.

Many economists and budget analysts suggest that a government shutdown, if it’s lengthy, or even a deal that calls for deep short-term spending cuts could stifle economic growth and lead the country back into recession. Private forecasters already have lowered their growth projections for this year based on surging fuel, food and raw material costs, and tensions in the Middle East and North Africa.

“I think the economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, who has been an economic adviser to both GOP and Democratic lawmakers. “And the longer it dragged on, the bigger the hit to business, consumer and investor confidence, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.” He puts the danger zone at two weeks or longer.

54 New DC Mayor Gray off to rough start

By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press

47 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Washington’s new mayor hasn’t had much of a honeymoon.

Three months after he succeeded Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray has been besieged by controversies and minor scandals.

The most serious allegations involve whether the Gray campaign funneled cash and promised a six-figure job to a minor candidate who was attacking Fenty during last year’s mayoral contest. The Justice Department has said it is reviewing the allegations to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted.

This is the kind of corruption Beltway Bozos consider normal.  No wonder they hate their jobs and themselves as well as all of us who are stupid enough to vote for them.

55 Haiti’s leader criticizes UN military focus

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press

59 mins ago

UNITED NATIONS – Haiti’s outgoing president criticized the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday for being too slow to switch its peacekeeping mission in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country from military operations to development and peacebuilding.

In his last address to the council, Rene Preval urged the U.N.’s most powerful body to consider the effectiveness of its interventions “that have practically led to 11 years of military presence in a country that has no war.”

Speaking at the council meeting attended by Colombia’s president, former U.S. president Bill Clinton and nine foreign ministers from Latin America and Spain, Preval said it was “sad to note” that in a quarter of a century he is the only president to finish two constitutional terms and “unfortunately, I am the only one … who was never jailed or exiled.”

56 NY judge queries sides in Gitmo psychologist case

By JENNIFER PELTZ, Associated Press

2 hrs 21 mins ago

NEW YORK – A push to shed light on psychologists’ role in terror suspect interrogations got a rare court airing Wednesday, as a judge told human rights advocates she shared their “sensibility” but wasn’t sure they had legal grounds to force a state investigation.

Rights groups and some psychologists have pressed regulators in several states to explore whether psychologists violated professional rules by designing or observing abusive interrogations, but Wednesday’s court hearing was the first on the issue, advocates said.

The hearing swept questions about national security and overseas detention sites into a New York City court, where the New York Civil Liberties Union and the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability are seeking to force state regulators to decide whether Army psychologist John F. Leso should be stripped of his New York license. They say he developed “psychologically and physically abusive” interrogation techniques for use on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

57 Tax caps creating new hurdles for towns, schools

By DAVID A. LIEB and HASAN DUDAR, Associated Press

2 hrs 44 mins ago

MUNCIE, Ind. – First, the state of Indiana put a limit on how much money Mark Burkhart and his colleagues in the state’s school districts could raise with local taxes. Then the state informed them all they’d be getting a smaller check from the state.

Now the chief financial officer for the Muncie schools, with more than a dozen buildings and 8,000 students, has less money to spend and a limited ability to raise more. The consequence?

“We’re not going to fix parts of our buildings that need repair unless it’s a life-safety issue,” Burkhart said. “Probably there’ll be some drippy faucets, there’ll be some leaking roofs, there’ll be some broken window panes we may put tape over.”

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