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Apr 10 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Portuguese president appeals for interim debt deal

AFP

2 hrs 21 mins ago

GODOLLO, Hungary (AFP) – Portugal’s president pleaded for mercy from the EU and IMF Saturday after they set tough conditions for an 80-billion-euro ($115 billion) bailout weeks ahead of snap general elections.

Anibal Cavaco Silva said that with new elections due on June 5 “what we need now is an interim programme so that the next government can take part in the final negotiations, because it is the next government that will implement” the deal that emerges.

“It’s understandable (and) we need, let’s say, a little imagination on the part of European institutions to come up with a suitable interim programme,” he added.

AFP

2 Tens of thousands against European austerity measures

by Eszter Balazs, AFP

Sat Apr 9, 11:54 am ET

BUDAPEST (AFP) – European and local trade unions held a massive demonstration in the Hungarian capital Budapest Saturday to protest austerity measures, on the margins of a meeting of European finance ministers.

“We want jobs, growth, our welfare state intact, and we are not going to pay for bankers’ mistakes,” European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) leader John Monks said in front of a crowd organisers estimated at 45,000.

The tens of thousands of marchers swarmed from everywhere from Spain to Romania into Budapest, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

3 Icelanders go to polls on Icesave repayment deal

by Agnes Valdimarsdottir, AFP

Sat Apr 9, 6:55 am ET

REYKJAVIK (AFP) – About 230,000 Icelandic voters went to the polls Saturday to approve or reject a renegotiated deal to compensate Britain and The Netherlands over the 2008 collapse of Icesave bank.

The latest opinion polls put the “no” vote on the 3.9 billion euro ($5.6 billion) deal slightly in the lead.

The Netherlands and Britain spent this amount to compensate some 340,000 of their citizens who lost money when Icesave, an online bank, went under at the height of the global financial crisis.

4 Libya rebels pushed back, more relief for Misrata

by Joseph Krauss, AFP

33 mins ago

NEAR AJDABIYA, Libya (AFP) – Heavy loyalist fire pushed Libyan rebels back almost to the town of Ajdabiya on Saturday, after the insurgents had pressed westward halfway to the oil refinery town of Brega, 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.

As diplomatic efforts gathered pace for a truce, the Red Cross brought much-needed relief to the besieged rebel-held port city of Misrata, the scene of fighting for more than 40 days.

A huge blast rocked Ajdabiya, said an AFP correspondent on its outskirts, with some residents suggesting it might have been a NATO air strike. In Brussels, a NATO official denied that there had been a strike.

5 Two protesters killed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square

by Samer al-Atrush, AFP

18 mins ago

CAIRO (AFP) – At least one person was killed Saturday when troops and police stormed Cairo’s Tahrir Square to break up a demonstration demanding the ouster of the country’s de facto military ruler.

The health ministry said one person died, a figure later echoed by the army, and 71 people were hurt — some from bullet wounds and others suffering breathing difficulties or having been struck during clashes.

Medics said two people were killed and 18 people wounded.

6 Pro-Gbagbo forces launch attack on rival’s HQ

by Thomas Morfin, AFP

30 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Forces loyal to Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo launched an attack Saturday on the headquarters of his rival, UN-recognised president Alassane Ouattara, in a major escalation of the battle for control of the country.

Witnesses told AFP the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where Ouattara has been holed up since disputed November elections, came under attack starting from about 5:00 pm local time (1700 GMT).

It was the first time since the start of the west African nation’s political crisis that the hotel had come under direct attack.

7 Gbagbo’s forces not finished yet, UN warns

AFP

Fri Apr 8, 6:46 pm ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – The UN on Friday warned that well-equipped fighters loyal to Laurent Gbagbo were gaining ground in Abidjan, and reported evidence of “utterly horrifying” violence elsewhere in Ivory Coast.

In New York, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy warned that troops loyal to Gbagbo, who has refused to cede power after a November election, still had tanks and other heavy weapons and had made advances in Abidjan.

Gbagbo forces were just one kilometre (0.6 miles) from the hotel headquarters of internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara, Le Roy told reporters after a UN Security Council briefing on the Ivory Coast crisis.

8 Ivory Coast fighting thwarts evacuation of diplomats

AFP

2 hrs 33 mins ago

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Clashes with Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo’s troops forced French troops to abort an evacuation of diplomatic personnel from Abidjan Saturday, as pleas mounted for humanitarian aid.

The evacuation began at around 3:00 am (0300 GMT) but the head of the country’s mission decided to cancel the operation because “security conditions were insufficient,” Colonel Thierry Burkhard of the French forces in Ivory Coast told AFP.

French forces drew fire during the operation and French helicopters destroyed an armoured vehicle of pro-Gbagbo forces in Abidjan’s diplomatic quarter, Burkhard said.

9 Nigerians vote in large numbers despite violence, delays

by Aderogba Obisesan, AFP

27 mins ago

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigerians voted in large numbers Saturday in the first of a series of key elections in Africa’s most populous nation, shaking off fears of violence after a deadly bomb blast and other attacks.

Parliamentary polls finally went ahead Saturday after two earlier postponements and despite violence that included a bomb attack on an electoral office Friday night which officials said killed 13 people and wounded dozens more.

Another explosion occurred at a polling place in the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Saturday, but authorities had not officially confirmed any deaths. A police source said on condition of anonymity that three people were killed.

10 Pack chase McIlroy at Masters

by Allan Kelly, AFP

59 mins ago

AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) – The chase was on in the third round of the Masters on Saturday as a clutch of contenders sought to reel in 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.

The Ulsterman has led from the start at Augusta National and his 10 under par halfway total of 134 gave him a two strokes lead over Australia’s Jason Day with Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi tied for third a further stroke back.

Before they set off several players started to make their moves.

11 Ballabriggs keeps National in family for McCain

AFP

2 hrs 49 mins ago

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom (AFP) – Ballabriggs, trained by Donald McCain and ridden by Jason Maguire, won the Grand National here on Saturday, the 14-1 chance beating Oscar Time, partnered by amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen.

Don’t Push It, last year’s winner, put up a valiant defence of his crown in third under Tony McCoy with State Of Play coming from the clouds to grab fourth.

McCain was cementing his family’s links with the world’s most famous steeplechase, his father Ginger having sent out Red Rum to memorably win three Grand Nationals in the 1970s.

12 Wine traders expect strong demand for Bordeaux futures

by Suzanne Mustacich, AFP

Fri Apr 8, 12:25 pm ET

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.

13 Superb Vettel storms to Malaysian pole

by Gordon Howard, AFP

Sat Apr 9, 12:31 pm ET

SEPANG, Malaysia (AFP) – World champion Sebastien Vettel stormed to pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix in a thrilling qualifying session Saturday as Red Bull’s misfiring power-boost system finally came good.

The German ace narrowly beat McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by just over one-tenth of a second in the session’s dying moments, with Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber third and Jenson Button (McLaren) fourth.

Hamilton had set the best time with some audacious driving, before Vettel — who claimed last month’s season-opener from pole — snatched top spot with a red-hot 1min 34.870 sec.

Reuters

14 EU wants more Portugal austerity as EU unions protest

By Marton Dunai, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 9:40 am ET

GODOLLO, Hungary (Reuters) – EU finance ministers on Saturday urged Portugal to commit to reforms and defended the region’s austerity steps as tens of thousands of European workers protested in Budapest against spending cuts.

Finance ministers and central bankers from the 27-nation bloc held a second day of informal talks outside the Hungarian capital on their response to the euro zone debt crisis after Portugal on Wednesday became the third euro zone country to ask for EU and IMF financial aid.

EU ministers said that in return for an estimated 80 billion euros in emergency loans over three years, Lisbon would have to commit to further structural reforms to bring down its budget deficit and debt in a sustainable way.

15 EU wants pre-election bailout deal for Portugal

By Krisztina Than and Sakari Suoninen, Reuters

Fri Apr 8, 2:42 pm ET

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.

16 Army says ready to use force to clear Cairo square

By Patrick Werr and Marwa Awad, Reuters

45 mins ago

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s ruling generals said on Saturday they were ready to use force to end protests in Tahrir Square after troops cracked down on demonstrators overnight and sparked violence that medical sources said killed two people.

Soldiers and police had used tasers and batons to try to drive out protesters from the square, the epicenter of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak on February 11. Gunshots echoed across the square in the overnight operation.

Hundreds defied the army move and stayed. Thousands more joined them on Saturday demanding power be handed to civilians and calling for the resignation of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling council.

17 Libya rebels repel attack on Misrata, Gaddafi appears

By Maria Golovnina, Reuters

1 hr 24 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan rebels beat off a new assault by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces on the besieged western city of Misrata on Saturday, losing eight of their fighters in fierce street battles, the insurgents said.

As fighting raged on for the coastal town, where conditions are said to be desperate, a buoyant Muammar Gaddafi made his first television appearance for five days and his troops engaged rebels in more fighting on the eastern front of the civil war.

Rebel spokesman Mustafa Abdulrahman told Reuters by telephone that Saturday’s fighting centered on the Nakl al-Theqeel road to Misrata port, where a Red Cross vessel brought in badly needed medical supplies earlier in the day.

18 Syrian forces fire at mourners after mass funeral

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 12:39 pm ET

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian security forces opened fire on mourners near a mosque in the flashpoint city of Deraa after a mass funeral for pro-democracy protesters, two witnesses said on Saturday.

Security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse thousands of people who were chanting freedom slogans after assembling near the old Omari mosque in the old quarter of the city, near the border with Jordan, the witnesses said.

Dozens of people have been killed in a wave of protests across Syria against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

19 Gbagbo forces regain ground in Abidjan

By Ange Aboa, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 10:42 am ET

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, besieged in Ivory Coast’s main city, have retaken ground and are edging closer to where rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara is holed up, the United Nations said.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters on Friday that Gbagbo forces had used a lull in fighting for peace talks as a ruse to reinforce their positions.

“We understand that since that time, the forces of Mr. Gbagbo … have regained terrain and they have full control of the Plateau and Cocody area,” Le Roy said, referring to districts of the commercial capital Abidjan where his residence and diplomats’ homes are located.

20 Italy steps up call for EU help with migrant crisis

By James Mackenzie, Reuters

2 hrs 5 mins ago

ROME (Reuters) – Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped up calls Saturday for Europe to help deal with the “human tsunami” of refugees and illegal immigrants from North Africa arriving in southern Italian islands in recent weeks.

“Europe cannot get out of this,” he said during a visit to Lampedusa, the tiny island located midway between Sicily and Tunisia.

“Either Europe is something that’s real and concrete or it isn’t and in that case it’s better to go back to each going our own way and letting everyone follow their own policies and egotism.”

21 Japan’s reactor operator apologizes for radiation

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chisa Fujioka, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 10:46 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese power company executive apologized on Saturday for spreading radiation into the air and sea as regulators said the pumping of radioactive water into waters off Japan from a crippled nuclear plant would end one day later than planned.

The apology from Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) came a day after China and South Korea expressed concern at the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant smashed by last month’s earthquake, reflecting growing international unease over the month-long nuclear crisis.

“It is almost a month since the earthquake took place. I would like to apologize from my heart over the worries and troubles we are causing for society due to the release of radiological materials into the atmosphere and seawater,” Sakae Muto, a TEPCO vice president, told a news conference.

22 Nigerians vote amid tight security after violence

By Nick Tattersall, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 8:14 am ET

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigerians voted in a delayed parliamentary election on Saturday, voicing determination to hold a credible poll in Africa’s most populous nation despite chaotic organization and violence.

At least seven more people were killed in four separate incidents in the last few hours before polling. Those deaths followed the killing of at least 10 people by a bomb at an election office late on Friday.

Violence which has taken around 100 lives in the run-up to the election, as well as the logistical chaos which forced the postponement of the vote a week ago, have renewed doubts over whether democracy can work in Nigeria.

23 U.S.-Pakistan intelligence operations frozen since January

By Chris Allbritton, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 9:00 am ET

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Joint U.S.-Pakistan intelligence operations have been halted since late January, a senior Pakistani intelligence officer said, reflecting strain in a relationship seen as crucial to combating militants and the war in Afghanistan.

Uneasy U.S.-Pakistani ties have become even more tense after a string of diplomatic disputes so far this year, including a massive drone strike in March and the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis on January 27 in the eastern city of Lahore.

“Presently, joint operations are on hold,” a senior Pakistani intelligence officer told Reuters, adding that they were halted after Davis killed the two men. A Pakistani court has since acquitted Davis of murder and he has been released.

24 Iraqi cleric warns of violence if U.S. troops don’t go

By Muhanad Mohammed, Reuters

Sat Apr 9, 8:37 am ET

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s fiery anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will “escalate military resistance” and unleash his Mehdi Army militia if U.S. troops fail to leave Iraq as scheduled this year, his aides said on Saturday.

On the 8th anniversary of the day U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad, senior Sadr aide Hazem al-Araji told tens of thousands of followers: “We say to the Black House (White House), ‘we are all time bombs and the detonators are at the hands of Moqtada al-Sadr.’ American troops must definitely leave our lands.”

Men, women and children — many waving Iraq’s black, white and red flag or singing songs — gathered in Baghdad’s Mustansiriya square to mark the occasion. The mood was festive, and vendors milled around, selling ice cream, water and juice.

25 Budget deal avoids shutdown

By Patricia Zengerle and Jeff Mason, Reuters

2 hrs 27 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The last-minute budget deal President Barack Obama and congressional leaders struck to avert a government shutdown paves the way for what Republicans promised on Saturday will be more spending fights to come.

With just over an hour to spare before a midnight deadline, Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans agreed on Friday to a compromise that will cut about $38 billion in spending for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends on Sept 30.

Congress then approved a stopgap funding measure to keep the federal government running until the deal can be formally approved in the next several days. Obama signed it on Saturday.

AP

26 Analysis: So much for change coming to Washington

By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent

Sat Apr 9, 12:16 pm ET

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama promised to change Washington’s ways. Yet he’s as caught up in them as ever.

As the week began, Obama kicked off his re-election bid with a sunny video of people talking about their hopes and needs, the very image of life outside Washington politics.

By week’s end, Obama was mired in budget negotiations, canceling trips and scrambling to stave off a government shutdown that could only undermine the public’s faith in his leadership.

27 Obama, Boehner each earn wins in budget pact

By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

11 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Rivals in a divided government, President Barack Obama and the most powerful Republican in Congress split their differences to stave off a federal shutdown that neither combatant was willing to risk.

Their compromise is the result of a battle pitting the enduring power of the presidential veto and the White House soapbox – despite a “shellacking” in the last election – against a strong-willed GOP House speaker vaulted into office by a voter revolt against Washington’s free-spending ways.

The resulting measure will bleed about $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies over just the next six months, the biggest rollback of such government programs in history. It allows Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to claim his GOP shock troops had put Cabinet department operating budgets on track toward levels in place before Obama took office. In the end, the White House had to meet Boehner more than halfway on spending.

Complete and utter bullshit.

28 Analysis: GOP won first round of budget battle

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

2 hrs 53 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Republican conservatives were the chief winners in the budget deal that forced Democrats to accept historic spending cuts they strongly opposed.

Emboldened by last fall’s election victories, fiscal conservatives have changed the debate in Washington. The question no longer is whether to cut spending, but how deeply. Rarely mentioned is the idea of higher taxes to lower the deficit.

Their success is all the more notable because Democrats control the Senate and White House.

29 Long meetings, dashed hopes – but finally a deal

By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

52 mins ago

WASHINGTON – There was barely an hour left before the midnight padlocking of government doors. In a Capitol basement meeting room, House Speaker John Boehner was telling exhausted fellow Republicans that a deal to avert a shutdown was nearly finished when an aide alerted him that staff had completed the final details and the agreement was complete.

“He said we don’t have the Senate and we don’t have the White House, and it’s a good day’s work,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who was in the closed-door session and later described the scene.

And with that, Republicans clapped: “Not euphoria,” Kingston said, reflecting fatigue and the realization of a long year of intense budget battling lay ahead. But for now, a week of top-level White House meetings, round-the-clock bargaining by staff and lots of emotional hills and valleys had produced a bipartisan accord to trim $38.5 billion in spending over this fiscal year’s remaining six months and head off a federal shutdown that both parties feared could hurt their standing with voters.

30 Last-minute budget deal brings relief, disgust

By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press

1 hr 33 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A collective sense of relief resonated across the nation Saturday, now that a federal government shutdown is merely a thought of what could have been.

Thousands of tourists poured into the Smithsonian museums in Washington – which would have been shuttered without Friday’s late-night budget deal – to see artifacts like the original “Star-Spangled Banner” flag. And military families won’t have to stock their freezers, not knowing when they might have another paycheck to put food on the table.

The only thing that rivals their comfort? Widespread disgust, knowing that political bickering made them cringe in the first place.

31 Sienna Miller: still suing over tabloid phone hack

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

59 mins ago

LONDON – Prominent Britons who accuse a tabloid newspaper of hacking into their phone messages said Saturday they were not satisfied with the paper’s apology and offer of compensation.

The News of the World has acknowledged eavesdropping on the voicemails of public figures and says it will pay compensation for an unspecified number of “justifiable claims.”

But the admission has done little to end a scandal that has rattled Britain’s political establishment and Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

32 Libyan rebels face military surge on key outpost

By SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press

1 hr 19 mins ago

AJDABIYA, Libya – Government soldiers and rebel gunmen battled in the streets of a key front-line city Saturday after the Libyan military used shelling and guerrilla-style tactics to open its most serious push into opposition territory since international airstrikes began. NATO airstrikes, meanwhile, hammered at Gadhafi’s ammunition stockpiles and armored forces, destroying 17 tanks.

At least eight people were killed in the fighting over Ajdabiya, a hospital official said.

Recapturing the city would give the Libyan military a staging ground to attack the rebels’ main stronghold, Benghazi, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) farther east along the coastal highway. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces were approaching Benghazi when they were driven back by the international air campaign launched last month to protect civilians and ground Gadhafi’s aircraft.

33 Syrian rights group says funeral comes under fire

By ZEINA KARAM and ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press

47 mins ago

BEIRUT – Syrian security forces fired on mourners at a funeral for slain protesters Saturday as authorities vowed to crush any new unrest from a three-week uprising that showed no sign of letting up even as the death toll topped 170.

Activists vowed to accelerate their movement with daily protests nationwide, bringing new pressure on President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime. Assad has answered the tens of thousands of protesters with both force and limited concessions that have failed to appease an emboldened movement inspired by the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

“Old-style crackdowns and techniques simply do not work anymore,” said Aktham Nuaisse, a prominent Syrian pro-democracy activist. “The first thing authorities must do is stop this violence and enact serious reforms. Failing that, I fear everyone is going to lose control of the situation.”

34 Anger flares at Egypt army for brutal protest raid

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press

1 hr 34 mins ago

CAIRO – Thousands of demonstrators barricaded themselves in Cairo’s central square with burned-out troop carriers and barbed wire Saturday and demanded the removal of the military council ruling Egypt, infuriated after soldiers stormed their protest camp overnight, killing at least one person and injuring 71 others.

In a sign the confrontation could escalate, the military warned Saturday evening that it will clear Tahrir Square of protesters “with all force and decisiveness” for life to get back to normal.

The warning could presage a repeat of the scene before dawn, when hundreds of soldiers, including a highly trained parachute unit, swarmed into Tahrir Square, firing in the air and beating protesters with clubs and shocking some with electrical batons. Troops dragged away protesters, while others staggered away bleeding from beatings and gunshot wounds. Witnesses reported two killed, though the Health Ministry insisted there was only one death.

35 Iraqi cleric threatens action if US forces remain

By BUSHRA JUHI, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 12:30 pm ET

BAGHDAD – A powerful anti-American Shiite cleric threatened Saturday to reactivate his feared militia if American soldiers remain in Iraq beyond this year, after a U.S. offer to keep troops on if they are needed.

Muqtada al-Sadr issued a statement to his followers on the eight anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s ouster that stopped just short of calling for violent action against U.S. forces. He accused “the occupation” of inciting panic, corruption and unrest among Iraqis.

His statement was read aloud at a huge protest of tens of thousands in Baghdad’s Mawal Square, near al-Sadr’s stronghold in an eastern Baghdad slum. The cleric is in Iran, where he has been studying religion for the last several years.

36 French helicopters attacked in Ivory Coast

By MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 1:40 pm ET

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – French helicopters on an evacuation mission were fired upon by forces supporting the country’s strongman as they tried to retain power in Ivory Coast’s largest city, a military spokesman said Saturday.

No French soldiers were injured in the attack late Friday, but French forces fired back destroying one armored vehicle, Cmdr. Frederic Daguillon said. The mission to evacuate diplomats from an embassy was aborted, he said.

The attack came the same night that France’s embassy was hit by two mortars and a rocket fired by forces for Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power or emerge from a bunker at his residence.

37 End to Japan nuke crisis is years, a fortune away

By CHARLES HUTZLER and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 10:24 am ET

TOKYO – Once Japan’s leaky nuclear complex stops spewing radiation and its reactors cool down, making the site safe and removing the ruined equipment is going to be a messy ordeal that could take decades and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Radiation has covered the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and blanketed parts of the complex, making the job of “decommissioning” the plant – rendering it safe so it doesn’t threaten public health and the environment – a bigger task than usual.

Toshiba Corp., which supplied four of Fukushima’s six reactors, including two on which General Electric Co. collaborated, submitted a roadmap this past week to the plant’s operator for decommissioning the crippled reactors. The study, done with three other companies, projects that it would take about 10 years to remove the fuel rods and the reactors and contain other radioactivity at the site, said Keisuke Omori of Toshiba.

38 Japan bans planting rice in radioactive soil

By RYAN NAKASHIMA, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 9:54 am ET

TOKYO – Fears of radiation spread to rice as the planting season began in Japan, prompting the government to ban its cultivation in contaminated soil as fallout leaking from a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant dealt another blow to the national diet.

Vegetables and milk were the first foods that sparked concerns about the safety of Japanese agriculture after the March 11 tsunami flooded the nuclear plant and its reactors began to overheat and spew radiation. But those worries intensified when highly radioactive water was spotted gushing from the complex into the Pacific and contaminated fish showed up in catches.

Those concerns have abated somewhat after the leak was plugged and bans on produce from some areas were lifted.

39 Ramirez avoids drug ban, at ease with retirement

By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer

1 hr 53 mins ago

NEW YORK – Unwilling to face another drug ban, Manny Ramirez is leaving baseball and is at peace with his decision while the sport confronts the specter of steroids again.

“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com by phone from his home in Miami. “God knows what’s best (for me). I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”

One of the game’s great sluggers, Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and wasted little time in saying he was done with the game.

40 After tear in a 737, asking what’s old for a plane

By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer

Sat Apr 9, 7:45 am ET

How old is too old for an airplane?

Most travelers don’t think twice about it – although there’s something unsettling about easing into your seat and finding the armrest still has an ashtray built in.

But fliers may be more worried than usual after a 5-foot hole opened in the roof of a 15-year-old Southwest jet earlier this month. Southwest quickly grounded 79 of its older Boeing 737s for inspections.

41 Boeing 737s around the world face new scrutiny

By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 5:25 am ET

PHOENIX – A terrifying flight emergency caused by a fuselage hole 34,000 feet over the Arizona desert is focusing attention on the hundreds of older-model 737s around the world that could be similarly vulnerable.

A 5-foot section of the passenger cabin roof of a 15-year-old Boeing 737-300 tore off April 1, forcing the Southwest Airlines flight to make an emergency landing.

None of the 118 people aboard was seriously injured, but light-headed passengers were banged around the cabin and had to quickly put on overhead oxygen masks as pilots made a rapid descent.

42 Cold War neutrals now taking sides, timidly

By KARL RITTER, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 7:12 am ET

STOCKHOLM – Swedish fighter jets are roaring into action over Libya under NATO command. Ireland is offering itself as a transit hub for U.S. military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even famously independent Switzerland has peacekeepers in Kosovo.

For Europe’s once-staunchly neutral countries, much has changed in the two decades since the Cold War ended. With no East-West conflict as a reference point, the concept of neutrality has been redefined to the point that some would say it’s lost its meaning.

“There’s total confusion. People have forgotten the concept of neutrality, which means don’t take sides in a military conflict,” said Swiss peace researcher Daniele Ganser.

43 San Francisco hopes tech success isn’t Bubble 2.0

By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 10:44 am ET

SAN FRANCISCO – A certain feeling is back in San Francisco. Murmurings of stock market riches. Twenty-something entrepreneurs as celebrities. Lamborghinis parked next to taco trucks.

Driven by social media and mobile startups, the money is flowing in the city’s tech industry again, a decade after the dot-com boom minted overnight millionaires and its crash fueled a local recession worse than anything San Francisco has seen in the latest downturn.

A recent tax break for Twitter and other proposals show city officials are hopeful that this latest tech industry prosperity does not portend another bubble and another bust.

44 World stumbles toward climate summit

By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 3:54 am ET

BANGKOK – Nineteen years after the world started to take climate change seriously, delegates from around the globe spent five days talking about what they will talk about at a year-end conference in South Africa. They agreed to talk about their opposing viewpoints.

Delegates from 173 nations did agree that delays in averting global warming merely fast-forward the risk of plunging the world into “catastrophe.” The delegate from Bolivia noted that the international effort, which began with a 1992 U.N. convention, has so far amounted to “throwing water on a forest fire.”

But the U.N. meeting in Bangkok, which concluded late Friday after delegates cobbled together a broad agenda for the December summit, failed to narrow the deep divisions between the developing world and the camp of industrialized nations led by the United States. These may come to plague the summit in Durban.

45 Oregon cowboy town promotes solar energy

By SHANNON DININNY, Associated Press

41 mins ago

PENDLETON, Ore. – A cowboy grasping the reins of a bucking bronco has long been the image of this farm and ranch town. It’s the emblem of the annual Pendleton Roundup, a celebration of the city’s colorful past, when pioneers on the Oregon Trail settled the prairie.

Today, solar panels might just outnumber cowboys.

Rural Pendleton is blazing an unlikely renewable energy trail, offering no-interest loans to spark interest in solar power and a group-buy philosophy to get better prices. More than 50 residents installed systems last year, and the program was expanded to more residents and to include businesses this year.

46 Wis. Rep.’s Medicare plan worries local voters

By DINESH RAMDE, Associated Press

2 hrs 12 mins ago

JANESVILLE, Wis. – Brian Krutsch has been long one of many automatic votes here for Rep. Paul Ryan. The unemployed warehouse manager, along with a solid majority of other Janesville voters, has helped elect Ryan seven times and watched with pride as he became one of Congress’ leading authorities on the federal budget. But this week, admiration has been tinged with apprehension as one of Ryan’s signature ideas – ending Medicare’s status as a full, guaranteed benefit for senior citizens – suddenly took a step toward reality.

“I think that’s one of the things they should probably leave alone – you know – unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Krutsch said as he took a break from reviewing job openings at the Rock County Job Center. “Old people need help with medical bills. There’s too many people under-insured right now – especially people like myself right now who don’t have insurance.”

Changing Medicare has become a hot topic around town, and the qualms underscore why many officeholders are wary of talking about it.

47 Civil War 150th a lifetime event for re-enactors

BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 10:53 am ET

FORT SUMTER NATIONAL MONUMENT, S.C. – For thousands of Civil War re-enactors, the next four years are a chance to capitalize on the public’s curiosity about a century-old hobby that demands such attention to detail that the fights seem almost real.

The die-hards converging soon at the site where the War Between the States began 150 years ago with a Confederate artillery barrage on Union-held Fort Sumter can’t wait to help others understand why they spend weekends tramping through the rain, sleeping in tents in snow-covered fields, cooking on open campfires and enduring mock battles in wool coats under the hot Southern sun.

They’re expecting a surge of interest in a pastime that has roots at the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, when Confederate veterans retraced Pickett’s Charge. Re-enacting took hold for good five decades ago during the Civil War’s centennial.

48 Planned Parenthood, abortion and the budget fight

By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

Sat Apr 9, 12:03 am ET

WASHINGTON – Republicans portray Planned Parenthood as primarily focused on performing abortions and – intentionally or not – using American taxpayer dollars to do it.

Not so, say Democrats who counter that the group’s 800-plus health centers nationwide provide an array of services, from screenings for cancer to testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Abortion is just one of many procedures, and the law bars Planned Parenthood from using tax money for it.

In the budget maelstrom Friday stood Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a 90-year-old organization now part of a decades-long congressional battle over abortion. Republicans wanted any legislation keeping the government operating to bar federal dollars for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions. They wanted to distribute the money to the states.

49 House votes to repeal regs on Internet access

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press

Fri Apr 8, 9:38 pm ET

WASHINGTON – House Republicans adamant that the government keep its hands off the Internet passed a bill Friday to repeal federal rules barring Internet service providers from blocking or interfering with traffic on their networks.

Republicans, in voting to repeal rules on “network neutrality” set down by the Federal Communications Commission, said the FCC lacked the authority to promulgate the rules. They disputed the need to intervene in an already open Internet and warned that the rules would stifle investment in broadband systems.

“The FCC power grab would allow it to regulate any interstate communication service on barely more than a whim and without any additional input from Congress,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., sponsor of the legislation. The Internet, he added, “is open and innovative thanks to the government’s hands-off approach.”

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