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Apr 08 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 EU prepares 80 billion euro bailout for Portugal

by Roddy Thomson, AFP

2 hrs 33 mins ago

GODOLLO, Hungary (AFP) – EU finance ministers on Friday thrashed out a multi-billion-dollar debt rescue for Portugal, demanding tough conditions as they try to draw a line under a destabilising debt crisis.

The third EU bailout to member states within a year will need to be around 80 billion euros ($115 billion) EU finance commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Loans to Lisbon, after Greece and Ireland last year, will be conditional on more public spending cuts, tax rises and far-reaching privatisations — negotiated with Portuguese politicians facing an angry, fearful electorate around June 5 polls.

AFP

2 NATO regrets air strike, Libya rebel town shelled

by Michel Moutot, AFP

35 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya (AFP) – Loyalist forces shelled the edge of the Libyan town of Ajdabiya Friday, forcing insurgents to retreat, as NATO said it regretted the deaths caused by an air strike on rebel tanks.

Reacting to the shelling, panicked rebels pulled back to the city centre, seven kilometres (4.5 miles) away.

The assault comes a day after many insurgents and civilians stampeded out of the eastern city on rumours that Moamer Kadhafi’s troops were at its gates.

3 NATO ‘regrets’ Libya deaths as Kadhafi bombs town

by Michel Moutot, AFP

Fri Apr 8, 10:14 am ET

AJDABIYA, Libya (AFP) – Loyalist forces shelled the edge of the Libyan town of Ajdabiya on Friday forcing insurgents there to retreat, as NATO expressed regret at the deaths caused by an alliance air strike on rebel tanks.

Reacting to the shelling, panicked rebels retreated to the city centre, seven kilometres (4.5 miles) away.

The assault comes a day after many insurgents and civilians stampeded out of the eastern city on rumours that Moamer Kadhafi’s troops were at its gates.

4 22 Syrian protesters killed: rights activist

AFP

32 mins ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) – At least 22 protesters were killed on Friday as anti-regime demonstrations and clashes with security forces raged around Syria, the head of the National Organisation for Human Rights said.

“We have the names of 17 demonstrators killed in Daraa, and we have been told of the deaths of two protesters in Homs and three in Harasta,” Qurabi told AFP by telephone from Cairo, where he lives in exile.

“We are aware that live bullets, tear gas and another gas that causes fainting were used,” he added.

5 Syrian security forces ‘shoot dead 13 protesters’

AFP

2 hrs 42 mins ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Syrian security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters on Friday in the flashpoint town of Daraa, a rights activist said, as thousands rallied for democracy around the country for a fourth week.

And in the city of Homs, north of the capital, an undetermined number of people were wounded in clashes between security forces and demonstrators, another activist said.

After an earlier toll of seven was given for the number of deaths in Daraa, the authorities said only two people were killed.

6 Fresh bodies found as Ivory Coast standoff persists

by Thomas Morfin, AFP

42 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – The United Nations said Friday it had found more than 100 bodies in western Ivory Coast, as internationally recognised president Alassane Ouattara enforced a blockade of his rival’s Abidjan residence.

Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after a November election, was holed up in his bunker in the west African nation’s main city, surrounded by forces loyal to Ouattara.

With bodies lying in the streets of Abidjan and shortages of food, water and medicine, aid organisations warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis and foreigners queued to flee what was once one of the region’s most stable and prosperous countries.

7 Fury in Washington as shutdown looms

by Stephen Collinson and Olivier Knox, AFP

28 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Ugly public posturing raged between Republicans and Democrats Friday, after a budget impasse left the US government within hours of effectively running out of money and being forced to shut down.

Through-the-night talks failed to unblock a deadlock on a bill funding the government through October 1, despite President Barack Obama’s demand for a deal as time fast ticked away to a midnight (0400 GMT Saturday) deadline.

Should those last-ditch efforts fail, around 800,000 federal employees would be temporarily laid off, paychecks for frontline combat soldiers would be delayed and even Blackberry smart phones of government officials would go dark.

8 Russia sees future in BP despite court delays

by Dmitry Zaks, AFP

2 hrs 15 mins ago

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia said Friday it could still complete its main oil company’s tie up with BP despite an arbitration panel’s ruling against both the share swap and Arctic exploration parts of the $16 billion deal.

A Stockholm panel decided to keep its injunction on the BP-Rosneft cross holding “until further notice” after issuing a similar ruling on the Arctic exploration part of the historic agreement two weeks earlier.

The twin blows for BP were softened only by news that the British giant could now discuss the possibility of extending the April 14 deadline by which its deal with the Russian state-held company would have to be closed.

9 Choi, Quiros share lead of Master golf

by Jim Slater, AFP

1 hr 29 mins ago

AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) – South Korean K.J. Choi birdied three of the first six holes Friday to seize a share of the lead with Spain’s Alvaro Quiros early in the second round of the 75th Masters.

Choi, who shared fourth in last year’s Masters, birdied the par-5 second and par-3 fourth and sixth holes to reach eight-under par, where he stood at the turn.

Quiros, who began with a bogey, birdied the par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth to move level with Choi.

10 Wine traders expect strong demand for Bordeaux futures

by Suzanne Mustacich, AFP

2 hrs 27 mins ago

BORDEAUX (AFP) – Wine merchants warned Friday demand could be high for another excellent Bordeaux vintage after buyers from around the world descended on southwest France for the annual market.

China and Hong Kong have become the biggest customers for the world renowned Bordeaux wines but some traders are warning against neglecting the more traditional markets in Europe and the United States.

Most expect sales and prices to match last year’s or to increase through the three month sales period, leading up to June’s annual Vinexpo sales fair.

11 Canberra blocks Australia-Singapore bourse merger

by Martin Parry, AFP

Thu Apr 7, 8:44 pm ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan officially blocked the proposed merger of the Australian and Singapore stock exchanges, branding it a takeover that would damage national interests.

“Let’s be clear here: this is not a merger. It’s a takeover that would see Australia’s financial sector become a subsidiary to a competitor in Asia,” he said on Friday.

“It was a no-brainer that this deal is not in Australia’s national interest.”

12 Webber dominates Malaysian F1 GP practice

by Gordon Howard, AFP

Fri Apr 8, 7:00 am ET

SEPANG, Malaysia (AFP) – Red Bull’s Mark Webber went quickest in both Malaysian Grand Prix practice sessions on Friday in a dominant display which raised hopes he can erase a disappointing start to the season.

Webber, fifth two weeks ago in Melbourne, bested McLaren’s Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, while his team-mate and 2010 champion Sebastien Vettel focused on testing Red Bull’s misfiring Kinetic Energy Regeneration System (KERS).

Britons Button and Hamilton were second and third quickest on the day, ahead of Vettel — who improved on 17th in the morning session — and his much-decorated German compatriot Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes.

Reuters

13 EU wants pre-election bailout deal for Portugal

By Krisztina Than and Sakari Suoninen, Reuters

34 mins ago

GODOLLA, Hungary (Reuters) – Euro zone ministers said Portugal must make deeper budget cuts and privatize state firms in return for an 80 billion euro bailout the bloc wants to finalize by mid-May, just weeks before an election and state funding crunch.

Portugal bowed to pressure from financial markets and its European partners this week and became the third euro zone country after Greece and Ireland to request financial help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Finance ministers from the 17-nation single currency area met at a palace north of Budapest on Friday to discuss the details and timeline of a rescue, which has been complicated by political turmoil in the Iberian nation of 10.5 million.

14 Prospects fade for military overthrow of Gaddafi

By Maria Golovnina, Reuters

1 hr 7 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libyan rebels said on Friday they had repulsed a government assault on the besieged western city of Misrata but prospects faded that Muammar Gaddafi would be ousted by the armed revolt.

NATO leaders acknowledged the limits of their air power, which has caused rather than broken a military stalemate, and analysts predicted a long-drawn out conflict that could end in the partition of the North African oil producer.

Alliance officials expressed frustration that Gaddafi’s tactics of sheltering his armor in civilian areas had reduced the impact of air supremacy and apologized for a “friendly fire” incident on Thursday that rebels said killed five fighters.

15 Pro-democracy protests sweep Syria, 19 killed

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters

51 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – Protests erupted across Syria against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad on Friday and sources said at least 19 people were killed in the southern city of Deraa, the cradle of unrest challenging his 11-year rule.

In the east, thousands of ethnic Kurds demonstrated for reform despite the president’s offer this week to ease rules which bar many Kurds from citizenship, activists said.

Protests swept the country of 20 million people, from the Mediterranean port of Latakia to Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, as demonstrations entered a fourth week in defiance of Assad’s security crackdown and growing list of reform pledges.

16 U.N. finds 118 bodies in western Ivory Coast

By Silvia Aloisi and Andrew Callus, Reuters

50 mins ago

DAKAR/GENEVA (Reuters) – United Nations staff in western Ivory Coast have found more than 100 bodies in the past 24 hours, some burned alive and others thrown down a well, the latest evidence of ethnic bloodshed gripping the country.

The discovery came a week after the International Committee of the Red Cross said at least 800 bodies had been found in the town of Duekoue after an explosion violence between communities.

United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday that U.N. workers had found 15 more bodies in Duekoue, where the burnings took place, and had discovered more than 63 in Guiglo and 40 in Blolequin — all on Thursday.

17 Witness: In an Ivory Coast hotel, "bunker down and hope"

By Tim Cocks, Reuters

Fri Apr 8, 10:48 am ET

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – The first time Laurent Gbagbo’s gunmen stormed our Abidjan hotel in a hail of bullets, I didn’t quite believe it was happening.

I’d spent hours nervously convincing myself that a big international hotel with 10 floors, hundreds of rooms, steel fencing and a locked gate was an unlikely target.

They’re fighting a war. They’re not interested in us.

18 Japan to stop pumping radioactive water into sea

By Yoko Kubota and Chisa Fujioka, Reuters

2 hrs 42 mins ago

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan expects to stop pumping radioactive water into the sea from a crippled nuclear plant on Saturday, a day after China expressed concern at the action, reflecting growing international unease at the month-long nuclear crisis.

“The emptying out of the relatively low radiation water is expected to finish tomorrow (Saturday),” a Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) official said late on Friday.

TEPCO is struggling to contain the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl, with its engineers pumping low-level radioactive seawater, used to cool overheated fuel rods, back into the sea for the past five days due to a lack of storage capacity.

19 With no budget deal, government shutdown looms

By Andy Sullivan and Thomas Ferraro, Reuters

1 hr 10 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With a midnight deadline looming, the White House and Congress scrambled on Friday to break a budget impasse that threatens to shut down the U.S. government and idle hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders blamed each other for the stalemate over government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, and could not even agree on what issues were the final stumbling blocks to a deal.

Democrats said the two sides were at odds over federal funding for birth control. Republicans said spending cuts were the issue.

20 Shutdown would lay off astronauts, close parks

By Alistair Bell, Reuters

3 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Garbage will pile up in the streets of the capital, the Statue of Liberty will close and astronauts will stay home if the Congress fails to reach a budget deal and the government shuts down.

Government services that are deemed as nonessential run out of funding at midnight on Friday without an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on spending for the rest of the fiscal year.

If lawmakers cannot break the logjam, some 800,000 employees will be sent home without pay when federal agencies close indefinitely.

21 Veteran of 1995 shutdown says don’t repeat

By Tim Reid, Reuters

1 hr 18 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The official who carried out the last government shutdown has a warning for squabbling lawmakers — another one now could be disastrous for the economy.

John Koskinen, who organized federal operations during two government shutdowns in 1995, said failure by Republican and Democratic lawmakers to reach a budget deal could plunge the United States back into recession.

“Things are very different today than they were in 1995,” Koskinen, a former deputy director at the White House Office of Management and Budget, told Reuters.

22 Japan automakers eye restart at half of output plans

By Chang-Ran Kim, Reuters

Fri Apr 8, 11:16 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s top automakers plan to resume production at all domestic factories in stages starting on Monday, but output levels will be at half of original plans and at the mercy of parts availability, while fresh power outages further clouded the outlook.

A historic 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11 off Japan’s northeastern coast damaged equipment, cut off electricity and disrupted automakers’ complex supply chain over the past month, forcing them to suspend work at most factories.

On Thursday night, another big tremor shook the devastated coast of northeast Japan, cutting off power to tens of thousands of households and causing a key supplier to the auto industry, Renesas Electronics, to shut four factories.

AP

23 Up to the job? NATO criticized over Libya campaign

By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press

1 hr 31 mins ago

BRUSSELS – NATO is showing some strains after nine days in charge of the allied military operation in Libya.

First, the military alliance holds its fire as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces advance a full 100 miles (160 kilometers) into rebel-held territory. Then NATO accidentally opens fire on Libyan rebels in tanks – a top general says NATO didn’t know the rebels had any – even though footage of rebels with tanks had been on YouTube for weeks.

NATO’s leadership of the air attack campaign is coming under increasing criticism for mistakes and ineffectiveness – particularly in comparison with the previous American-led effort.

24 Japan aftershock raises anxiety, knocks out power

By JAY ALABASTER and TOMOKO A. HOSAKA, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 11:27 am ET

ICHINOSEKI, Japan – Shoppers emptied store shelves, traffic snarled after stoplights lost power and drivers waited in long lines to buy gasoline in a new wave of anxiety Friday after a magnitude-7.1 aftershock struck disaster-weary northeastern Japan.

Nearly a half-million homes were without electricity after the latest tremor, which dealt another setback for those struggling to recover from the earthquake-spawned tsunami that wiped out hundreds of miles of the northeastern coast last month and killed as many as 25,000 people.

“I feel helpless. I am back to square one,” said Ryoichi Kubo, 52, who had just finally reopened his gas station in hard-hit Iwate prefecture (state) after the power outage and prolonged fuel shortage that followed the March 11 tsunami. Friday, he was again without electricity, his four gas pumps shut down.

25 Time’s about up: Shutdown looms without agreement

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

8 mins ago

WASHINGTON – On the brink of a painful government shutdown, the Obama administration readied furlough notices for hundreds of thousands of workers Friday as Republican and Democratic leaders accused each other of refusing to give ground on a deal to keep operations running.

By midday Friday, most employees of the federal workforce had been told whether they had been deemed essential or would be temporarily laid off from work if lawmakers failed to reach an agreement by midnight. In the event of a shutdown, official furlough notices would begin going out by email, by written letter or in person.

Many workers would be allowed into their offices for up to four hours on Monday to finish tasks, but that would be it.

26 French embassy home in Ivory Coast hit by mortars

By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI and MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

36 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – France’s embassy to Ivory Coast said Friday that their ambassador’s residence was hit by artillery fired from positions held by forces supporting the country’s strongman, who refuses to emerge from a bunker at his residence next door to the French compound.

Friday’s statement said two mortars and a rocket hit the residence Friday afternoon and it is the second such attack in 48 hours. The statement did not say if there were any injuries or casualties.

The statement also noted that a U.N. Security Council resolution would permit them to destroy the weapons used to target the French compound.

27 EU says Portugal needs about $114 billion in aid

By GABRIELE STEINHAUSER and PABLO GORONDI, Associated Press

2 hrs 5 mins ago

GODOLLO, Hungary – Europe’s top financial officials said Friday that Portugal will need around euro80 billion ($114 billion) in rescue loans, but a tense election campaign in the debt-ridden country is set to complicate reaching a deal with opposing political parties.

A full-fledged adjustment program should be in place by mid-May, allowing the debt-ridden country to meet huge bond repayments in June, the EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Rehn said that the program would have to be agreed by all major political parties, to ensure that it will be implemented after elections in early June, which will likely heave the opposition into power.

28 AP Exclusive: Terror suspects held weeks in secret

By KIMBERLY DOZIER, AP Intelligence Writer

Fri Apr 8, 12:43 pm ET

KABUL, Afghanistan – The CIA’s infamous secret network of “black site” interrogation centers is gone. But suspected terrorists in Afghanistan are being held and interrogated for weeks at temporary sites, including one run by the elite special operations forces at Bagram Air Base, according to U.S. officials who revealed details of the detention network to The Associated Press.

The Pentagon has previously denied operating secret jails in Afghanistan, although human rights groups and former detainees have described the facilities. U.S. military and other government officials confirmed that the detention centers exist but described them as temporary holding pens whose primary purpose is to gather intelligence.

The Pentagon also has said that detainees only stay in temporary detention sites for 14 days, unless they are extended under extraordinary circumstances. But U.S. officials told the AP that detainees can be held at the temporary jails for up to nine weeks, depending on the value of information they produce. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified.

29 Govt announces plan to reduce health disparities

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

Fri Apr 8, 7:29 am ET

WASHINGTON – From cradle to grave, minority populations tend to suffer poorer health and get poorer health care than white Americans. In a first-of-its-kind report, the government is recommending steps to reduce those disparities.

The plan being released Friday runs the gamut from improving dental care for poor children to tapping “promotoras,” savvy community health workers who can help guide their Spanish-speaking neighbors in seeking treatment.

But it acknowledges that giving everyone an equal shot at living a healthy life depends on far more than what happens inside a doctor’s office – or steps that federal health officials can take.

30 Poll: Few confident US ready for nuclear emergency

MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 7:30 am ET

WASHINGTON – Most Americans doubt the U.S. government is prepared to respond to a nuclear emergency like the one in Japan, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. But it also shows few Americans believe such an emergency would occur.

Nevertheless, the disaster has turned more Americans against new nuclear power plants. The poll found that 60 percent of Americans oppose building more nuclear power plants. That’s up from 48 percent who opposed it in an AP-Stanford University Poll in November 2009.

The Associated Press-GfK poll comes as Japan continues to struggle with a nuclear crisis caused by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has leaked radiation into the environment and radioactive water gushed into the Pacific Ocean. Japan was rattled by a strong aftershock and tsunami warning Thursday, but officials reported no immediate sign of new problems.

31 Workers brace for effect of government shutdown

By ERIC TUCKER and SARAH EDDINGTON, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 11:01 am ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A weather forecaster says he may have to live off the money he’s been setting aside for a Caribbean vacation. A worker in Washington hopes to polish his resume so he can retire from public service and work in the private sector. An accountant wonders if she can put off her mortgage for a month.

Federal workers like them across the U.S. will be out of work and without a paycheck if the looming government shutdown isn’t averted. Some say they will make the best of it, using the spare time to get a few things done. Others are far more fearful of how they’ll provide for their families.

The partial shutdown, which could start at midnight Friday, leaves workers with many questions – some serious, others more mundane: How long, if at all, will they be away from their jobs? Who will be deemed “essential” and be told to come to work? Should I cancel the kids’ daycare? Will I still be able to afford that pre-planned vacation?

32 Toyota to resume Japan car output at half capacity

By SHINO YUASA, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 11:30 am ET

TOKYO – Toyota Motor Corp. said Friday it will resume car production at all its plants in Japan at half capacity from April 18 to 27.

The move follows the March earthquake and tsunami that forced it to halt manufacturing due to shortages of parts and power.

Toyota, the world’s No. 1 automaker, said production at its 18 plants will then halt from April 28 to May 9, a period that includes Golden Week holidays when factories would normally close.

33 Wis. court challenger raising recount dollars

By SCOTT BAUER and CARRIE ANTLFINGER, Associated Press

2 hrs 23 mins ago

WAUKESHA, Wis. – A stunning discovery of votes in Wisconsin could give the state’s hotly contested Supreme Court race to the conservative incumbent in an election largely seen as a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive union rights law.

Adding another twist, the county clerk who said she incorrectly entered vote totals in the race has faced criticism before for her handling of elections and previously worked for a state GOP caucus when it was controlled by the candidate who stands to benefit from Thursday’s revelation.

The corrected totals gave Justice David Prosser a 7,500-vote lead over little-known liberal assistant state attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg, according to unofficial tallies. Before the announcement, it was assumed the race was headed for a recount. The difference between the two had fluctuated throughout the day Thursday as counties began verifying votes, but at one point was as close as 11.

34 Social Security stopping mailed earning statements

By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER, Associated Press

Thu Apr 7, 11:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Those yearly statements that Social Security mails out – here’s what you’d get if you retired at 62, at 66, at 70 – will soon stop arriving in workers’ mailboxes. It’s an effort to save money and steer more people to the agency’s website.

The government is working to provide the statements online by the end of the year, if it can resolve security issues, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said. If that fails, the agency will resume the paper statements, which cost $70 million a year to mail, he said.

“We’ll provide it, we expect, one way or another, before the end of the calendar year,” Astrue told The Associated Press. “We’re just right now trying to figure out the most cost-effective and convenient way to provide that to the American public.”

35 Hispanic growth key to suburban Chicago changes

By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

10 mins ago

AURORA, Ill. – When Fernando Molina left central Mexico to move to Illinois, he was searching for affordable housing, job opportunities and established Hispanic neighborhoods with grocery stores, bakeries and clothing shops.

He didn’t head for Chicago, a well-known magnet for Mexicans pondering the journey north. Instead, he settled in Aurora, about 40 miles to the west.

“It’s like Mexico inside the United States,” said Molina, 37, a social worker who has lived in the U.S. for more than a decade and now assists other immigrant families. “You can find everything in the stores.”

36 Congress doesn’t shut down during a shutdown

LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press

49 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Senators would have to push their own elevator buttons. House members would go without their free gym. Food on Capitol Hill would be sparse. And the lawmakers’ restrooms? Perhaps not as fresh.

Congress would feel the pinch of a government shutdown, but nowhere near the pain that would be inflicted on the massive federal work force it is supposed to govern.

Unlike the roughly 800,000 federal workers who would be affected, lawmakers get wide latitude deciding who is essential and who’s not in the fiefdoms of their own offices and committees. They also get to choose whether to give up their own pay during a shutdown – an option not afforded the furloughed.

37 US warns of gov’ts trying to control the Internet

By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

2 hrs 3 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration warned Friday that governments around the world are extending their repression to the Internet, seeking to cut off their citizens’ access to websites and other means of communication to stave off the types of revolutions that have wracked the Middle East.

The State Department’s annual human rights report paints a worrying picture of countries “spending more time, money and attention in efforts to curtail access to these new communications outlets.” More than 40 governments are now blocking their citizens’ access to the Internet, and the firewalls, regulatory restrictions and technologies are all “designed to repress speech and infringe on the personal privacy of those who use these rapidly evolving technologies.”

Presenting the mammoth, 7,000-page report, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said curtailing Internet freedom meant violating the fundamental rights of expression, assembly and association.

38 NYC school chief quits, a defeat to mayor’s vision

By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 3:17 am ET

NEW YORK – Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Cathie Black was the perfect choice to head the city’s 1.1 million-student school system because she was “a superstar manager.”

But her resignation Thursday after three contentious months on the job was the latest in a series of third-term setbacks for Bloomberg and a defeat of his bid to hire a business-minded outsider like himself for a top job.

“I will take full responsibility for the fact that this has not worked out as either of us had hoped or expected,” Bloomberg said at a hastily called City Hall news conference to announce Black’s resignation. She did not attend.

39 Gates: Little impact on military from gay policy

By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

Thu Apr 7, 11:59 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday reassured U.S. warfighters in Iraq that allowing gays to serve openly in the military will have little impact on the armed forces, an argument largely echoed by the top leaders of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.

Visiting troops at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, Gates was asked when repeal of the 17-year-old policy commonly known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” would occur and what its effect would be.

“My guess is you won’t see much change at all because the whole thrust of the training is you’re supposed to go on treating everybody like you’re supposed to be treating everybody now, with dignity, respect and discipline,” Gates told the troops. “And the same kind of military discipline that applies to – and regulations that apply to heterosexual relationships – will apply in terms of homosexual relationships.”

40 Judge: Gay rights group can canvass outside Target

By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 12:30 am ET

SAN DIEGO – A judge ruled Thursday that a San Diego pro-gay marriage group can continue canvassing outside of Target stores in California, but the group’s volunteers must stay 30 feet away from store entrances and canvass at just one entrance at a time.

The Minnesota-based retail giant had sought an injunction barring the activists from every outlet in the state, alleging they harass customers by cornering them near store entrances to discuss gay marriage, solicit donations and collect signatures on petitions.

Rights advocates have warned that the legal battle between Target and Canvass For A Cause could further damage the retailer’s already strained relations with the gay and lesbian community.

41 Judge denies request to put ex-House aide in jail

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

Thu Apr 7, 9:44 pm ET

WASHINGTON – A judge on Thursday spared from prison time a former congressional aide involved in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and questioned why lawmakers were able to avoid prosecution while their staffers are paying the price for influence-peddling schemes.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle rejected prosecutors’ recommendation that the top aide to former Oklahoma Republican Rep. Ernest Istook spend more than two years behind bars. Istook’s former chief of staff John Albaugh admitted helping steer funding to Abramoff’s clients after his firm helped raise campaign donations for Istook.

Instead, Huvelle sentenced Albaugh to five years’ probation and four months in a halfway house in his adopted hometown of Colorado Springs, Colo., where he works for a nonprofit called Morning Star Development. She said a fine and community service weren’t necessary after Albaugh, a father of three who once made six figures on Capitol Hill, told Huvelle he made $24,000 last year helping the group that provides aide in Afghanistan with fundraising and communications.

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