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Apr 13 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Search for tar balls, answers a year after BP oil spill

by Mira Oberman, AFP

2 hrs 5 mins ago

GRAND ISLE, Louisiana (AFP) – A year after the worst maritime oil spill in history sullied the US Gulf Coast, men armed with shovels and a big yellow excavator are still digging up the sandy beach of Grand Isle, Louisiana in search of sticky tar balls.

“We’d like to tell people it’s over, but the oil will still wash up every time it storms,” said Jay LaFont, Grand Isle’s deputy mayor.

People here are used to dealing with disasters. They’ve had to rebuild from four major hurricanes — Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav — in the past five years alone.

AFP

2 Ailing Mubarak, two sons detained for 15 days

by Mona Salem, AFP

1 hr 32 mins ago

CAIRO (AFP) – Ex-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s health deteriorated Wednesday, state media said, hours after he and his two sons were placed under 15-day detention in an inquiry into violence against protesters.

The official MENA news agency reported that the 82-year-old Mubarak, in police custody in a Red Sea resort hospital, was in “unstable” condition.

Mubarak’s “health condition is unstable, and he is under observation,” the agency quoted a hospital source as saying.

3 World offers cash, defence means to Kadhafi foes

by Ali Khalil, AFP

1 hr 20 mins ago

DOHA (AFP) – World powers offered cash to Libya’s rebels and the means “to defend themselves” as they issued fresh demands for strongman Moamer Kadhafi to relinquish power, at a meeting in Doha on Wednesday.

In a final statement at the end of the day-long meeting, the international contact group on Libya decided to set up a “temporary financial mechanism” to aid the rebels seeking to oust Kadhafi.

It “affirmed that Kadhafi’s regime has lost all legitimacy and he should leave and allow the Libyan people to decide their future.”

4 World powers rally behind Libya rebels

by Ali Khalil, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 10:58 am ET

DOHA (AFP) – World powers rallied behind Libyan rebels as they appeared on a global stage for the first time on Wednesday, with Italy and Qatar saying they need weapons to defend themselves and Britain pressing for urgent regional aid.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, warned at the Libya contact group meeting in Doha that as many as 3.6 million people, or more than half of Libya’s population, could need humanitarian assistance.

Ban also urged the international community to “speak with one voice” on Libya, as a rift appeared to be opening between EU partners, with Belgium expressing opposition to arming the rebels and Germany insisting there could be “no military solution.”

5 Libyan rebels take to the world stage

by Ali Khalil, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 5:01 am ET

DOHA (AFP) – Libyan rebels make their first appearance on a world stage on Wednesday, seeking international recognition and support for their stance that Moamer Kadhafi’s departure is the only way out of Libya’s crisis.

On the eve of the first meeting of an international contact group, a spokesman for the rebel Transitional National Council said it will accept nothing short of the removal of Kadhafi and his sons from the country.

Mahmud Shammam, whose council is seeking international approval, stressed: “We want to move from the de facto recognition of the council to an internationally-recognised legitimacy.”

6 Ivory Coast’s Ouattara restarts cocoa exports

by Thomas Morfin, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 11:23 am ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara began to assert his new authority on Wednesday by sending his captured rival Laurent Gbagbo to a secret location and restarting vital cocoa exports.

Seeking to heal a nation broken by a four-month crisis pitting him against his strongman predecessor Gbagbo, Ouattara also called on the International Criminal Court to probe massacres carried out in the west of the country.

“I will speak shortly with the ICC’s chief prosecutor so the court can begin investigations,” Ouattara told journalists during his first major press conference since being able to exercise executive power.

7 Gbagbo under house arrest in tense Ivory Coast

by Thomas Morfin, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 7:27 am ET

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara ordered ousted rival Laurent Gbagbo to be held under house arrest on Wednesday, while France said its gendarmes would patrol Abidjan’s lawless streets.

Rights group Amnesty International warned that Gbagbo’s supporters were at risk of violent reprisals following his arrest on Monday for having stubbornly refused to admit defeat to Ouattara in a November presidential election.

While both Ouattara and Gbagbo have called for fighters to lay down arms to help the formerly wealthy west African nation get back on its feet, Amnesty warned that supporters of the former regime faced deadly reprisals.

8 Lukashenko threatens crackdown after Minsk bombing

by Valery Kalinovsky, AFP

1 hr 48 mins ago

MINSK (AFP) – President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday announced three suspects had confessed to the Minsk metro bombing that killed 12 as he threatened a new wave of repression against the Belarus opposition.

In strongly worded comments on state television, the Belarussian strongman said that the worst attack in the country’s history that also wounded 200 had been “solved” but admitted its motive remained unclear.

“The crime was solved at 5:00 am. KGB officers and police took one day to complete a superb operation and detain the perpetrators without noise and chatter,” he said. The security service is still called the KGB in Belarus.

9 Quit chasing votes and face bailout facts, EU tells Portugal

AFP

1 hr 20 mins ago

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Portuguese politicians need to quit electioneering and agree radical changes to the country’s economy in exchange for an international bailout, top EU figures said Wednesday.

With talks underway in Lisbon on the debt rescue, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said he hoped party leaders “will assume their responsibilities” to the public finances and their European Union partners.

Portugal goes to early polls on June 5 after the government fell last month when parliament rejected its latest austerity plan, forcing Lisbon to bow to market pressure and seek an EU-IMF bailout.

10 Berlin library returns books stolen by Nazis

by Deborah Cole, AFP

2 hrs 26 mins ago

BERLIN (AFP) – Berlin’s state library handed back 13 books stolen by the Nazis to the Jewish community Wednesday as the German government pledged to redouble its efforts to return plundered cultural treasures.

The emotional ceremony came about thanks to a new drive to research the provenance of state holdings with the aim of restitution, German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said.

“The 13 books being returned today preserve the memory of the Berlin Jewish community which was decimated and its members murdered or driven out,” Neumann said. “That is why such projects are so important now and in the future.”

11 Japan economy, Toyota feel effects of disaster

by Harumi Ozawa, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 8:32 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – The impact of Japan’s earthquake and nuclear crisis rippled through the economy Wednesday as the government downgraded its outlook and Toyota announced more temporary plant shutdowns overseas.

Another strong aftershock from the 9.0-magnitude quake that struck the northeast coast more than a month ago hit the disaster region, further fraying nerves amid tense stop-and-go containment efforts at a stricken atomic plant.

Emergency workers at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear site northeast of Tokyo started syphoning off tonnes of highly radioactive water and eyed long-term plans to encase dangerous spent fuel rods in steel caskets.

12 Japan downgrades view of economy after quake

AFP

Wed Apr 13, 6:38 am ET

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan cut its assessment of the economy for the first time in six months because of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the resulting nuclear crisis, it said Wednesday.

The move came after the Bank of Japan last week downgraded its view of an economy ravaged by the quake and the monster wave it unleashed, which destroyed entire towns and left more than 28,000 dead or missing.

“The economy was picking up, but it has shown weak signs recently due to the impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” the Cabinet Office said in its monthly report. “It remains in a severe condition.”

13 Zapatero rules out new moves to cut Spain deficit

by Ana Fernandez, AFP

Wed Apr 13, 5:13 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Wednesday ruled out new budget cuts to help reduce his country’s public deficit, after winning China’s renewed support for buying Spanish debt.

Spanish and Chinese firms signed deals worth about one billion euros ($1.4 billion) during Zapatero’s lightning visit to Beijing, aimed at securing fresh investment to shore up Madrid’s embattled economy.

“There are no new plans on the horizon to have to take any new (deficit reduction) measures. None,” Zapatero said.

Reuters

14 Banks face $3.6 trillion "wall" of maturing debt: IMF

By Emily Kaiser, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 11:02 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The world’s banks face a $3.6 trillion “wall of maturing debt” in the next two years and must compete with debt-laden governments to secure financing, the IMF warned on Wednesday.

Many European banks need bigger capital cushions to restore market confidence and assure they can borrow, and some weak players will need to be closed, the International Monetary Fund said in its Global Financial Stability Report.

The debt rollover requirements are most acute for Irish and German banks, with as much as half of their outstanding debt coming due over the next two years, the fund said.

15 JPMorgan Q1 profit up 67 percent; can it be repeated?

By Clare Baldwin, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 11:21 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co drastically cut the amount of money set aside for bad loans, allowing it to boost first-quarter profit by two-thirds but prompting questions about whether the results can be repeated.

The bank’s book of consumer loans shrank by 10 percent in the quarter, and loans to corporate customers did not grow enough to make up for it. The No. 2 U.S. bank also took $1.75 billion of charges linked to collecting payments on bad mortgages and foreclosures, and said an upcoming settlement with regulators over mortgage servicing abuses could force it to hire as many 3,000 people.

The quarterly results were the first from a major Wall Street bank, and although they beat expectations, they raised investor concerns about lending profits. Bank shares broadly edged lower.

16 Retail sales up modestly; growth forecasts pared

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

43 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Retail sales posted their smallest gain in nine months in March, as auto sales plunged and consumers felt the sting of higher gas prices.

In another sign that economic growth slowed in the first quarter, the government on Wednesday separately reported a sharp slowdown in the accumulation of inventories by businesses in February.

Economists, who have steadily lowered growth forecasts as first quarter data has come in, swiftly cut them again. Still, they expect the recovery to regain momentum later this year.

17 High gas prices hurt confidence: Reuters/Ipsos poll

By John Whitesides, Reuters

2 hrs 51 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rising gasoline prices have damaged confidence in the country’s future and forced Americans to change their spending habits and lifestyles, a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday found.

The proportion of people who believe the United States is on the wrong track jumped 5 points to 69 percent from March, the poll found, the highest wrong-track figure in an Ipsos poll since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

More than six of every 10 Americans have cut back on other expenses and reduced their driving as a result of the rising gas prices caused by tumult in North Africa and the Middle East.

18 Western, Arab nations say Gaddafi must go

By Adrian Croft and Maria Golovnina, Reuters

16 mins ago

DOHA/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – A group of Western powers and Middle Eastern states called for the first time on Wednesday for Muammar Gaddafi to step aside, but NATO countries squabbled publicly over stepping up air strikes to help topple him.

In a victory for Britain and France, which are leading the air campaign in Libya and pushed for an unequivocal call for regime change, the “contact group” of some 16 European and Middle Eastern nations, plus the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union, said Gaddafi must go.

“Gaddafi and his regime has lost all legitimacy and he must leave power allowing the Libyan people to determine their future,” a final statement obtained by Reuters said.

19 TEPCO still working on plan to end Japan nuclear crisis

By Taiga Uranaka and Chisa Fujioka, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 8:44 am ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant said Wednesday it was still working on a detailed plan to end the country’s nuclear crisis a month after it began, as tests showed radiation levels in the sea near the complex had spiked.

Engineers moved a step closer to emptying highly radioactive water from one of the six crippled reactors, which would allow them to start repairing the cooling system crucial to regaining control of the reactors.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the latest tests showed radiation nearly doubled last week, to 23 times above legal limits, in the sea off Minamisoma city near the plant.

20 New Wal-Mart vendor? First, head down the street

By Jessica Wohl, Reuters

15 mins ago

BENTONVILLE, Arkansas (Reuters) – It all starts with Walmart 101.

Companies trying to sell goods to Wal-Mart Stores Inc often find it difficult to figure out the best ways to work with the world’s largest retailer, as each buyer has his or her own style and there are vast amounts of sales data to decipher.

Sales executives who sell their goods to Wal-Mart said that while the retailer willingly shares data, it is up to the vendors to crunch the numbers.

21 Special Report: Taking on the real Miami Vice: healthcare fraud

By Tom Brown, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 8:12 am ET

MIAMI (Reuters) – If Peter Budetti gets his way, the criminals who gorge on the U.S. healthcare system, bilking the government out of billions of dollars a year, will soon be on a much leaner diet.

As Washington’s point man on healthcare fraud, the 66-year-old Budetti knows there are no quick fixes to a mind-boggling mess that ranks as one of America’s top crime problems. But he has been working to develop new technological tools and a comprehensive, long-term strategy to rein in fraud since his appointment as director of Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last year.

Although fraudsters have had the run of the place for some two decades, life is about to get “an awful lot tougher” for them, Budetti told Reuters in a recent interview. He promised new measures to curb waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, the massive federal programs that provide healthcare for America’s elderly and poor, will soon pay big dividends.

22 CEO pay votes intensify debate over proxy advisers

By Dena Aubin, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 8:07 am ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A growing number of companies are objecting to the role of firms that advise shareholder votes at annual meetings, complaining about conflicts of interest, errors and lack of oversight.

With shareholder balloting season well underway, companies have been challenging proxy advisers’ opinions, demanding more disclosure about their work and asking regulators to rein in the firms.

Proxy firms such as ISS, part of investor services firm MSCI, and Glass Lewis & Co advise some of America’s biggest investors and have gained influence as shareholder voting rights increased.

23 Libyan rebels say oil exports vital

By Humeyra Pamuk and John Irish, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 11:00 am ET

DOHA (Reuters) – Rebels fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi said on Wednesday they had to keep exporting oil to preserve what little cash they had and secure critically needed supplies for the civilian population.

The Libyan National Council (LNC), with the help of OPEC member Qatar has been able to export a “minimal” amount of crude oil and needs international help to continue overseas shipments, said spokesman Mahmud Awad Shammama.

“We have a dreadful situation in the east. Lack of food, lack of fuel, there is no income except oil, financial reserves are depleting and we need to sort these issues out to ensure the people do not suffer,” said Aref Ali Nayed, who coordinates the LNC’s efforts to secure overseas supplies, in an interview.

24 Special Report: Inside the Egyptian revolution

By Marwa Awad and Hugo Dixon, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 4:32 am ET

CAIRO (Reuters) – In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.

The three men he approached — Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer by training, and Adel’s cousin Ahmed, a chemist — had all left Egypt for jobs in London.

Inspired by the way Serbian group Otpor had brought down Slobodan Milosevic through non-violent protests in 2000, the trio studied previous struggles. One of their favorite thinkers was Gene Sharp, a Boston-based academic who was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The group had set up a webpage in 2004 to propagate civil disobedience ideas in Arabic.

25 Egypt’s Mubarak detained over graft, protest probe

By Tom Pfeiffer and Sarah Mikhail, Reuters

Wed Apr 13, 3:58 am ET

CAIRO (Reuters) – Hosni Mubarak was ordered detained for 15 days on Wednesday, a move that may help quell protests and quash suspicions that Egypt’s ruling army generals had been shielding their former commander from investigation.

Mubarak, toppled on February 11 after mass demonstrations against his 30-year rule, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday suffering what state media called a “heart crisis.” There were conflicting reports about the seriousness of his illness.

The public prosecutor had summoned Mubarak for questioning on Sunday over the killing of protesters and embezzling of public funds. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were also summoned for questioning over graft and ordered detained, state TV said.

26 G20 to work on imbalances plan amid crowded agenda

By Glenn Somerville, David Lawder and Daniel Flynn, Reuters

Tue Apr 12, 8:16 pm ET

WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) – The world’s biggest economies hope to make progress this week on a plan to identify countries that put the global economy at risk, while China warned against any moves that would curb its red-hot growth.

The meeting of the Group of 20 rich and emerging-market nations comes at a time of conflicting economic signals.

Just as signs of a strengthening recovery in some rich countries have pushed their central banks to begin to pull back on economic supports, world markets have been rocked by fears that high oil prices will put the brakes on global growth.

27 U.S.: G20 to name countries with problem imbalances soon

By Glenn Somerville and David Lawder, Reuters

Tue Apr 12, 6:11 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The G20 hopes to make progress on developing guidelines to identify economic imbalances this week and will soon be able to list countries with the biggest problems, a senior U.S. Treasury official on Tuesday.

“I do expect a short list of countries to emerge from this process and those countries will be the focus of a second stage of analysis,” the official told reporters at a briefing ahead of a meeting of the Group of 20 rich and emerging-market nations on Thursday and Friday.

The G20 is aiming to develop “indicative guidelines” to detect imbalances such as excessive trade deficits or surpluses and then develop policy recommendations to address them. The official said this week’s meeting will focus on the first stage of the process — the language for identifying imbalances.

28 Support may boost Ouattara chances in Ivory Coast

By Mark John and Ange Aboa, Reuters

Tue Apr 12, 7:48 pm ET

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara won the backing of his defeated rival’s army chiefs while the EU and the World Bank pledged financial support to help end the country’s prolonged divisions.

Army chiefs who fought for Laurent Gbagbo, including chief of staff General Philippe Mangou, swore loyalty to Ouattara on Tuesday, a day after his forces captured Gbagbo, who had refused to relinquish power after November elections.

In a boost to his legitimacy, the former military top brass were shown on Ouattara’s TCI television station meeting him.

29 Libyan rebels say repel government offensives in Misrata

By Mariam Karouny and Souhail Karam, Reuters

Tue Apr 12, 5:20 pm ET

BEIRUT/RABAT (Reuters) – Libyan government artillery bombarded the besieged city of Misrata on Tuesday but rebels said they had beaten back two separate offensives by troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

NATO aircraft destroyed five tanks close to Misrata — the last big rebel stronghold in the west of the country — which were “threatening the civilian population,” the alliance said.

“Our aircraft will continue to hit regime targets around Misrata,” the NATO operation commander, Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, said in a statement.

AP

30 Egypt’s Mubarak detained for investigation

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

Wed Apr 13, 12:14 pm ET

CAIRO – Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak was put under detention in his hospital room Wednesday for investigation on accusations of corruption, abuse of power and killings of protesters in a dramatic step Wednesday that brought celebrations from the movement that drove him from office.

Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were also detained for questioning and taken to Cairo’s Torah prison, where a string of former top regime figures – including the former prime minister, ruling party chief and Mubarak’s chief of staff – are already languishing, facing similar investigations on corruption.

The move was brought by enormous public pressure on the ruling military, which was handed power when Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11. Tens of thousands protested in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, the biggest rally in weeks, demanding Mubarak and his family be put on trial. Many in the crowd accused the military of protecting the former president.

31 Ivory Coast president: strongman will face charges

By MARCO CHOWN OVED, Associated Press

54 mins ago

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast’s president tried to establish order in the days after the country’s strongman was arrested, moving him to a secure location and assuring the public that looting and gunfire will cease, and life will soon return to normal.

President Alassane Ouattara said Laurent Gbagbo had been moved out of the Golf Hotel, where he was taken after his capture on Monday. He said Gbagbo will be kept in a villa and that his rights as a former head of state will be respected. A U.N. official said that its peacekeeping forces are providing personal security protection for Gbagbo.

“Gbagbo is in a residence under surveillance somewhere in Ivory Coast,” Ouattara told reporters at the Golf Hotel.

32 Libyan rebels urge stronger US military role

By ADAM SCHRECK, Associated Press

1 hr 18 mins ago

DOHA, Qatar – Libya’s rebels urged the U.S. military Wednesday to reassert a stronger role in the NATO-led air campaign and Qatar’s crown prince told international envoys it was time to help tip the scales against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.

The appeals reflected the urgent backdrop for meetings among the U.N. secretary-general and other top Western and Arab envoys gathered in Qatar’s capital to discuss ways to end the Libyan crisis.

While peace efforts remain the top objective, there also appeared to be a shift toward trying to boost the rebels’ ability to protect their territory. One proposal noted by Italy – Libya’s former colonial ruler – calls for allies to provide defensive weapons.

33 Somalia offensive gains ground, but at high cost

By KATHARINE HOURELD, Associated Press

1 hr 20 mins ago

MOGADISHU, Somalia – African Union peacekeepers who launched an offensive seven weeks ago have expanded their control of Mogadishu to around half the Somali capital. They’ve gotten so close to Islamic insurgents that the soldiers can hear them cock their rifles before counterattacks.

But the campaign has come at a dear cost. Officials tell The Associated Press that more than 50 peacekeepers have been killed, along with an unknown number of Somali dead.

The casualty rate is so high that the AU has not announced it, saying that is the responsibility of Uganda and Burundi, the two countries that currently contribute troops to the mission that is shoring up the weak U.N.-backed government.

34 Belarus: 3 suspects confess in Minsk subway attack

By YURAS KARMANAU, Associated Press

1 hr 44 mins ago

MINSK, Belarus – Three suspects have confessed to being involved in the Minsk subway bombing, police said Wednesday, and Belarusian authorities rounded up dissidents across the country after the president declared that they might know who “ordered the attack.”

The head of the KGB, Belarus’ security service, said a man in his mid-20s was arrested and confessed to carrying out the bombing that killed 12 people and wounded over 200 Monday at the main subway station in Minsk, the capital.

KGB chief Vadim Zaitsev did not identify the man and refused to discuss his motives but said he was “not only unhealthy in his psychological state but unhealthy in his ambitions.”

35 Japan nuclear plant evacuees demand compensation

By YURI KAGEYAMA, Associated Press

Wed Apr 13, 10:25 am ET

TOKYO – Small business owners and laborers forced to leave their homes and jobs because of radiation leaking from Japan’s tsunami-flooded nuclear plant rode a bus all the way to Tokyo on Wednesday to demand compensation from the plant’s operator.

People are increasingly growing frustrated with Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s handling of the nuclear crisis, which has progressed fitfully since the March 11 tsunami swamped the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, knocking out important cooling systems. Restoring them will take months.

“I am not asking for anything more than I am entitled to,” said Ichijiro Ishikawa, 69, who dug roads and tunnels and is now living in a shelter because his home is in a 12-mile (20-kilometer) evacuation zone around the plant. “I just want my due.”

36 Who fired first Civil War shot? A dispute in Fla.

By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press

Wed Apr 13, 10:20 am ET

GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. – A raid 150 years ago by Confederate sympathizers on a Union fort at what is now Pensacola Naval Air Station was likely little more than an ill-planned and drunken misadventure, perhaps ended by one soldier’s warning shot – and a blank one, at that.

But don’t tell Pensacola residents that the Jan. 8, 1861, skirmish meant nothing – the event is the stuff of legend in this military town. Some even claim the clash was the Civil War’s first, three months before the battle on April 12, 1861, at South Carolina’s Fort Sumter, which is widely recognized as the start of the war.

Dale Cox, the unofficial historian for the Florida Panhandle chapter of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, wrote on his blog that he considers the Pensacola shot the first of the Civil War, saying in an interview that it marked the first time federal troops fired toward Confederate agitators.

37 Syria uprising broadens as women, students protest

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press

37 mins ago

BEIRUT – Women, children and students took to the streets in Syria on Wednesday, lending their voices to a monthlong uprising that President Bashar Assad insists is the work of a foreign conspiracy.

The protest movement is posing an increasing threat to Assad’s iron rule as it attracts an ever-wider following, with tens of thousands of people demanding political freedoms and an end to the decades-old emergency laws that extend state authority into nearly all aspects of Syrians’ lives.

“We will not be humiliated!” shouted some 2,000 women and children who blocked a main coastal road in northeastern Syria, where security forces and pro-government gunmen have cracked down on dissent in recent days. The protesters were demanding the release of hundreds of men who have been rounded up in the villages of Bayda and Beit Jnad.

38 New US missile attacks anger Pakistan govt

By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD, Associated Press

2 hrs 48 mins ago

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – Two U.S. missile strikes killed six alleged Afghan Taliban fighters in a Pakistani tribal region Wednesday, drawing sharp condemnation from Pakistan just days after it asked for greater limits on such attacks.

The strikes were the first since a mid-March attack took out what the Pakistanis said were dozens of peaceful tribesmen. A U.S. official at the time denied innocent people had been targeted.

The U.S. relies heavily on the covert, CIA-run missile program to kill al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest, and with a few exceptions keeps up a steady pace of strikes even when relations with Pakistan are tense.

39 BP, government win 1st Amendment Muzzle awards

By ZINIE CHEN SAMPSON, Associated Press

59 mins ago

RICHMOND, Va. – Oil giant BP and the Obama administration were among the winners of the Jefferson Muzzle awards, given Wednesday by a free-speech group to those it considered the worst First Amendment violators in 2010.

BP and the government appeared on the list, compiled by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, for their roles in restricting news media access to the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Other recipients included the Transportation Security Administration, which arrested a passenger who stripped to his shorts to protest security measures; a Mississippi judge who jailed a lawyer for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Virginia prisons agency for banning a “Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook.”

40 Second generation BMW X3 arrives

By ANN M. JOB, For The Associated Press

1 hr 59 mins ago

I didn’t build my own 2011 BMW X3 via the automaker’s new custom order process, and television cameras didn’t herald its arrival as they did when home maven Martha Stewart received her new X3.

But the second-generation of BMW’s smallish X3 crossover sport utility vehicle impressed just the same with its strong turbo power, standout road composure and quiet and upscale interior.

I even managed to best the federal government’s combined city/highway fuel mileage rating during an X3 test drive, managing 22.1 miles per gallon during comfortable driving in the city, on mountainous roads and on multi-lane highways. I just wish the required fuel for the turbocharged X3 xDrive35i test vehicle hadn’t been premium gasoline. At $4.32 a gallon, this gasoline cost me nearly $50 for just over 10 gallons.

41 2 New Orleans police convicted in handyman death

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, Associated Press

2 hrs 20 mins ago

NEW ORLEANS – A New Orleans police officer was convicted Wednesday of beating a 48-year-old handyman to death, while a fellow officer was found guilty of trying to help his partner cover up the deadly encounter nearly six years ago.

A federal jury convicted Officer Melvin Williams of violating Raymond Robair’s constitutional rights by kicking and beating him with a baton while he and Officer Matthew Dean Moore patrolled the Treme neighborhood on July 30, 2005. The jury of seven men and five women also convicted Williams and Moore of submitting a false report on the incident and found Moore guilty of lying to the FBI.

The case is one of several probes of alleged misconduct by New Orleans police officers opened by the Justice Department. The investigations have resulted in charges against 20 current or former officers.

42 Family relieved after tsunami victim’s body found

By JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press

Wed Apr 13, 3:30 am ET

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Jon Weber wants to remember his son peacefully soaking in a hot spring high in the Cascade Range, watching eagles soar overhead, not the fear the young man may have felt when he was violently swept out to sea by the tsunami from Japan that hit the Northern California coast.

Now that authorities have identified a body that washed up on an Oregon beach as his son, Dustin Weber, Jon Weber is thinking he will scatter some of his ashes along a trail leading to the hot springs where they used to go together.

“The last time, it was just him and I and the bald eagles and the golden eagles, and we sat there and enjoyed life a few moments,” he said Tuesday as he described the site on the shores of Paulina Lake south of Bend.

43 Vatican served with court docs in Wis. abuse case

By CARRIE ANTLFINGER, Associated Press

Tue Apr 12, 8:48 pm ET

MILWAUKEE – The Vatican has been served with court papers stemming from decades-old allegations of sexual abuse against a now-deceased priest at a Wisconsin school for the deaf, attorneys for the accuser and the Vatican said Tuesday.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the man making the allegations, said he had been notified the papers were successfully filed through official diplomatic channels.

“Every time we make a step forward, as long as that takes, we are going in the right direction,” Anderson said. “And the direction we’re headed is a measure of accountability. We really believe that we need to put some heat on the Vatican to bring some light.”

44 Fort Sumter: Somber 150th anniversary of Civil War

By BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press

Tue Apr 12, 7:16 pm ET

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Booming cannons, plaintive period music and hushed crowds ushered in the 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest war on Tuesday, a commemoration that continues to underscore a racial divide that had plagued the nation since before the Civil War.

The events marked the 150th anniversary of the Confederate bombardment of Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, an engagement that plunged the nation into four years of war at a cost of more than 600,000 lives.

Several hundred people gathered on Charleston’s Battery in the pre-dawn darkness, much as Charleston residents gathered 150 years ago to view the bombardment of April 12, 1861.

45 Wolf protections expected to be lifted by Congress

By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press

Tue Apr 12, 7:01 pm ET

BILLINGS, Mont. – An attachment to the federal budget bill needed to avert a government shutdown would take gray wolves off the endangered species list across most of the Northern Rockies.

Wildlife advocates conceded Tuesday the wolf provision was all but certain to remain in the spending bill after efforts to remove it failed. Congress faces a tight deadline on a budget plan already months overdue, and the rider has bipartisan support.

It orders the Interior Department to lift protections for wolves within 60 days in five Western states. A federal judge in Montana has turned back three prior attempts by Interior officials to declare wolves recovered, under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

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