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Apr 29 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 32 dead on Syria ‘rage day:’ activists, ministry

AFP

1 hr 36 mins ago

DAMASCUS (AFP) – At least 32 people were killed as tens of thousands of protesters rallied for a “day of rage” after Friday prayers, defying warnings of a harsh crackdown, Syrian activists and officials said.

Protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were held in most major towns, witnesses said, in a repeat of pro-democracy rallies which have become the norm after weekly Muslim prayers.

Security sources shot dead at least 16 people in the protest epicentre of Daraa, rights activists said.

AFP

2 Misrata battle rages, rebels hold Libya border post

by Marc Bastian, AFP

47 mins ago

MISRATA, Libya (AFP) – Government tanks launched an assault Friday on Misrata, rebels said, as NATO reported its warships had stopped Moamer Kadhafi’s forces from laying mines in the besieged city’s harbour.

Fierce fighting which had raged for days for control of Libya’s Dehiba border crossing into Tunisia, meanwhile, hit a lull on Friday, but armed rebels were on guard in expectation of a new offensive, witnesses said.

“Four tanks attacked the city and one has been destroyed so far,” said Ibrahim Ahmed Boushagha, a rebel fighter who accompanied a wounded man back from the front in Misrata.

3 Al-Qaeda suspected in Marrakesh bombing

by Virginie Grognou, AFP

1 hr 23 mins ago

MARRAKESH, Morocco (AFP) – A bomb in Marrakesh that killed 15 people was set off by a remote-control device, a minister said Friday, as it emerged that an Al-Qaeda group had warned there would be an attack in Morocco.

Interior Minister Taeb Cherkaoui also told a parliamentary committee that the country was on the alert for further attacks.

“Initial inquiries have shown an explosive product made up of nitrate and ammonium and two TATP explosives, and also with nails — and the explosion was set off from a distance,” Cherkaoui told deputies in the capital Rabat.

4 Spain unemployment, inflation rise

AFP

Fri Apr 29, 9:49 am ET

MADRID (AFP) – Spanish unemployment, officially the highest in the European Union, is at a 14-year peak latest data show, just as the government attacks illegal jobs which experts say cast doubt on the figures.

The statistics agency Ine said on Friday that the unemployment rate had risen to 21.29 percent, the highest level since the beginning of 1997.

But also on Friday the government was to approve a raft of measures to attack undeclared or so-called “black” unemployment.

Reuters

5 Syrian forces kill 15 in Deraa shooting: medic

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Suleiman al-Khalidi, Reuters

Fri Apr 29, 12:23 pm ET

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed 15 people when they fired on thousands of protesters trying to enter the southern city of Deraa, the heart of a six week uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, a medical source said on Friday.

The bloodshed occurred as demonstrations again erupted across the country, defying heavy military deployments, mass arrests and a ruthless crackdown on the biggest popular challenge to 48 years of authoritarian Baath Party rule.

The medical source in Tafas, 12 km (8 miles) north-west of Deraa, said the local hospital received 15 bullet-riddled bodies, and 38 wounded villagers after the clash near Deraa.

6 Buffett may not feel much love at his "Woodstock"

By Ben Berkowitz, Reuters

45 mins ago

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) – Warren Buffett could use a root beer float right about now — the investment guru is feeling the heat from 40,000 shareholders who may want to criticize him, question whether he has lost touch or even push him to retire.

Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are descending on Omaha for the conglomerate’s annual meeting, known as “The Woodstock for Capitalism.” News coverage of the event often focuses on Buffett being a regular guy in his hometown, eating at favored local spots like Piccolo’s, where he extols the virtue of the floats.

This year, however, there appears to be only one topic of conversation in town — Berkshire’s extraordinary claims about the behavior of one of its top executives.

7 Rajaratnam jury hunkers down, mirrors other trials

By Carlyn Kolker and Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

1 hr 16 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The jury in Raj Rajaratnam’s insider trading trial completed a fifth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict on Friday, mirroring the time jurors have spent in other high-profile, complex white-collar cases.

“This is probably a sign of a very good and thoughtful jury,” Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University said about the deliberations in the Galleon Group hedge fund founder’s trial. “Very good juries, in complicated cases, take time.”

Prosecutors have accused the Sri Lankan-born Rajaratnam, 53, of reaping as much as $63.8 million illegally by trading on inside tips about such companies as chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc and Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs Group Inc. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

8 Gasoline prices dent U.S. consumers’ buying power

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

36 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumers increased spending for a ninth straight month in March as they stretched to cover higher costs for food and gasoline, with inflation posting its biggest year-on-year gain in 10 months.

Despite the rising cost of living, Americans grew a bit more optimistic about the economy this month and even dialed down their expectations for inflation over the medium-to-long term, another report showed on Friday.

Consumers appear to be taking the high costs in stride, but could be put to the test if gasoline prices shoot above $4 a gallon. The national price for regular unleaded gasoline rose 3.5 cents to $3.88 in the week through Monday.

9 Court backs federal embryonic stem cells funds

By Jeremy Pelofsky, Reuters

44 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An appeals court ruled on Friday the Obama administration can continue using federal money to fund human embryonic stem cell research, a possible avenue toward new treatments for many medical conditions.

The appeals court overturned a ruling by a federal judge who found that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on such research violated the law because embryos were destroyed and it put other researchers working with adult stem cells at a disadvantage to win federal grants.

Opponents of human embryonic stem cell research, including many religious conservatives, argue that it is unacceptable because it destroys human embryos.

10 Nasdaq/ICE may go hostile for NYSE

By Jonathan Spicer, Paritosh Bansal and Luke Jeffs, Reuters

Fri Apr 29, 5:57 am ET

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Nasdaq OMX and IntercontinentalExchange are poised to go hostile in their bid for NYSE Euronext after shareholders ratcheted up pressure on the Big Board parent to get a better deal.

Nasdaq OMX Group Inc and IntercontinentalExchange Inc are expected to soon take their $11.1 billion bid directly to NYSE’s shareholders through a tender offer, two sources familiar with the situation said.

The move is seen as the next logical step for Nasdaq and ICE after being rebuffed twice by NYSE, which has refused to open talks on their offer. NYSE favors its existing $10.1 billion deal with Germany’s Deutsche Boerse AG.

11 U.N. human rights body condemns Syria

By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters

1 hr 40 mins ago

GENEVA (Reuters) – The top United Nations human rights body condemned Syria on Friday for using deadly force against peaceful protesters and launched an investigation into killings and other alleged crimes.

The 47-member forum, which held an emergency session at U.S. request, endorsed a U.S.-sponsored resolution by 26 votes to 9 with 7 abstentions.

“Member states came together to condemn the brutal tactics used by the Assad regime to silence peaceful dissent,” U.S. human rights ambassador Eileen Donahoe said in a statement.

12 Pope John Paul body exhumed ahead of beatification

By Philip Pullella and Catherine Hornby, Reuters

Fri Apr 29, 12:35 pm ET

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope John Paul’s coffin was exhumed on Friday ahead of his beatification as tens of thousands of people began arriving in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral in 2005.

The Vatican said the coffin was removed from the crypts below St Peter’s Basilica while top Vatican officials and some of the late pope’s closest aides looked on and prayed.

Those present at the ceremony included Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary and right-hand man for decades, and the Polish nuns who ran the papal household for 27 years.

13 China pushes back after U.S. criticism on rights

By Ben Blanchard, Reuters

Fri Apr 29, 1:40 am ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – China pushed back against U.S. criticism of its human rights situation on Friday following talks on the issue, saying that the Chinese people were “most qualified” to talk on the topic and defending the detention of artist Ai Weiwei.

The U.S. official leading the talks said on Thursday that he was “deeply concerned” about a crackdown on dissidents and rights lawyers in China, and that the friction could impede the two powers’ ties.

Yet China and the United States have many interests in common, from dealing with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to maintaining the global economic recovery, and the spat over rights seems unlikely to spin out of control.

14 Morocco says Marrakesh blast a "terrorist attack"

By Youssef Boudlal, Reuters

Thu Apr 28, 10:17 pm ET

MARRAKESH (Reuters) – Morocco said a bomb that killed at least 14 people, including 10 foreigners, in its busiest tourist destination was a terrorist act, the interior minister said.

The blast ripped through a cafe overlooking Marrakesh’s Jamaa el-Fnaa square, a spot often packed with foreign tourists.

Interior Minister Taieb Cherkaoui said 14 people were killed and 23 wounded in the deadliest attack Morocco has seen since 12 suicide bombers killed 33 members of the public in coordinated strikes on the business hub Casablanca eight years ago.

15 Libya angers Tunisia as war briefly crosses border

By Lin Noueihed and Tarek Amara, Reuters

Thu Apr 28, 7:33 pm ET

TRIPOLI/TUNIS (Reuters) – Libya’s two-month civil war spilled over the border into Tunisia, provoking outrage in the western neighbor, while rebels in Misrata said only NATO could halt the bombardment of the besieged city.

The struggle between forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and rebels trying to end his more than four decades of rule drew in outsiders last month, as NATO began air strikes on government troops under a United Nations mandate.

But on Thursday the fighting spilled over Libya’s land frontier, when Gaddafi troops battled rebels on Tunisian territory for control of the Dehiba-Wazin frontier crossing.

16 Chrysler to fully repay U.S. and Canada loans

By Deepa Seetharaman, Reuters

Thu Apr 28, 9:37 pm ET

DETROIT (Reuters) – Chrysler Group LLC, which came to the brink of collapse before a federal bailout in 2009, plans to fully repay more than $7 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments by the end of June.

The company’s announcement on Thursday comes almost two years after Chrysler emerged from a U.S.-funded bankruptcy under the management of Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

Thursday’s announcement came the same day U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Detroit and met with Sergio Marchionne, the chief executive of Fiat and Chrysler.

17 Microsoft Windows sales slip, shares drift lower

By Bill Rigby, Reuters

Thu Apr 28, 6:46 pm ET

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp reported a dip in quarterly sales of its core Windows operating system, mirroring a recent downturn in personal computers and sending its shares down slightly.

The world’s largest software company met Wall Street profit estimates after strong sales of its Office suite of applications and Xbox game systems took up the slack.

But its stock has waned in past weeks, spooked by a dip in PC sales — which generate most of its revenue — and by fears the Apple Inc iPad and other mobile devices will eventually erode the PC business.

18 AIG seeks to recoup billions it says lost to fraud

By Tom Hals, Reuters

Thu Apr 28, 5:59 pm ET

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – American International Group Inc launched a fight to recoup billions of dollars the bailed-out insurer said it lost due to fraud, setting up a clash with Wall Street’s biggest banks.

The insurer, 92 percent-owned by the U.S. government, joined the swelling ranks of investors and insurers who are taking legal action over supposedly safe mortgage-related investments at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis.

The insurance giant sued two money managers in New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, but AIG will likely take aim at Bank of America Corp, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and others, according to a person familiar with AIG’s strategy.

AP

19 Syrian rights group says 42 killed nationwide

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press

1 hr 19 mins ago

BEIRUT – Security forces opened fire Friday on demonstrators trying to break an army blockade on the southern city of Daraa, while thousands of others across Syria defied a protest ban and denounced President Bashar Assad’s harsh crackdown on a six-week uprising. At least 42 people were killed, including 15 in the march on Daraa, according to witnesses and a human rights group.

The protesters in cities across Syria – including the capital of Damascus – called for Assad’s ouster, with some chanting “We are not afraid!”

Human rights activist Mustafa Osso said 42 people were killed, but the death toll could rise. His human rights group, based in Syria, compiles casualty tolls from the crackdown.

20 AP Exclusive: Syria’s referral to UNSC likely

By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 1:16 pm ET

VIENNA – The International Atomic Energy Agency is setting the stage for potential U.N. Security Council action against Syria as the organization prepares a report assessing that a Syrian target bombed by Israeli warplanes was likely a secretly built nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, diplomats say.

Such a conclusion would back intelligence produced by Israel and the United States. Syria says the nearly finished building had no nuclear uses. It has repeatedly turned down IAEA requests to revisit the site after allowing an initial 2008 inspection that found evidence of possible nuclear activities.

In interviews over the past week, three diplomats and a senior U.N. official said such an assessment – drawn up by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano – would be the basis of a Western-sponsored resolution at a meeting of the 35-nation IAEA board that condemns Syria’s refusal to cooperate with the agency and sends the issue to the U.N. Security Council. They said reporting Syria to the council would likely come as early as a June board meeting and no later than in November.

21 Tunisia rebukes Libya over cross-border incursions

By KARIN LAUB and BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press

4 mins ago

TRIPOLI, Libya – A battle between Libyan troops and rebels spilled over the western border into Tunisia Friday, drawing a sharp rebuke of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from the neighboring government.

Clashes along the Tunisian border have escalated since Thursday, posing a new challenge for Gadhafi within the western half of the country where he must consolidate his control to cling to power. Rebels captured most of the east early on in the uprising against Gadhafi that began in February.

On the other major front in western Libya, NATO foiled attempts by regime loyalists to close the only access route to the besieged rebel city of Misrata, intercepting boats that were laying anti-ship mines in the waters around the port. The port is the only lifeline for the city of 300,000, which has been under siege for two months.

22 Shuttle Endeavour’s last trip delayed; Obama vists

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

22 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The historic next-to-last space shuttle launch was scratched Friday because of mechanical problems, spoiling a visit from the president and dashing the hopes of the biggest crowd of spectators in years, including the mission commander’s wounded wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

NASA hopes to try again Monday to launch space shuttle Endeavour on its final voyage.

President Barack Obama and his family visited Kennedy Space Center anyway but it was unclear whether he would still meet with the Arizona congresswoman. Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, has been in Cape Canaveral since Wednesday to attend her husband’s launch.

23 2 dead: Riots erupt in Uganda after brutal arrest

By GODFREY OLUKYA, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 11:03 am ET

KAMPALA, Uganda – Army troops and police fired live bullets at rioting demonstrators Friday, and at least two people were killed and 120 wounded in the largest anti-government protest in sub-Saharan Africa this year.

Rioters burned tires in downtown streets as security forces fired tear gas and guns, and a Red Cross spokeswoman said 15 of the wounded and been hit by live bullets. Battles between protesters and police were also reported elsewhere around the country.

The protests are the first serious demonstrations in sub-Saharan Africa since a wave of anti-government protests swept leaders in Tunisia and Egypt out of power. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for a quarter-century, has vowed repeatedly that his government will not be taken down by protests.

24 Appeals court lifts stem cell research ban

By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 12:29 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Opponents of taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research lost a key round in a federal appeals court Friday.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. court of appeals in Washington overturned a judge’s order that would have blocked federal financing of stem cell research. The judges ruled that opponents are not likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop the government funding.

The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

25 NFL players return to work, fighting in court

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Sports Writer

1 hr 53 mins ago

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Welcome back, players. For now, at least.

The NFL opened its doors for some basic football operations Friday morning, four days after a federal judge declared its 45-day lockout was illegal. There were smiles, high-fives and clear signs of relief as dozens if not hundreds of players returned to team headquarters.

“From the players’ standpoint, I think everybody is pleased we’re not locked out anymore, especially the rookies,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on CNBC in his first public comments about the dispute since he became one of the 10 plaintiffs in the federal antitrust lawsuit still pending against the NFL.

26 Newton goes 1st in less-than-festive NFL draft

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer

Fri Apr 29, 5:53 am ET

NEW YORK – This draft was no party.

Between the boos raining down on Commissioner Roger Goodell and the uncertainty created by a bitter labor battle, the NFL draft opened Thursday night lacking much of its usually festive atmosphere.

What it wasn’t missing was intrigue and surprises – at least after the Carolina Panthers made Cam Newton the first pick.

27 FAA orders air traffic control management shake-up

By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press

14 mins ago

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday replaced three high-level managers in the nation’s air traffic control system following embarrassing incidents of controllers sleeping on the job and making potentially dangerous mistakes.

In a shake-up of the system, new managers were appointed to key positions that oversee the operation of airport towers and regional radar centers that handle planes flying at high altitudes as well as approaches and departures, the agency said in a statement. A new manager was also appointed to run a regional radar center near Cleveland. The previous managers are being reassigned.

The performance of mid-level managers is also being reassessed, the FAA said. And teams of experts are examining several of the agency’s more complex facilities, including the Cleveland center and one on Long Island in New York, to ensure agency policies are being followed and professional standards upheld.

28 Judge gives corps OK to break levee; Mo. appeals

By JIM SUHR, Associated Press

2 hrs 28 mins ago

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – A federal judge on Friday gave the Army Corps of Engineers the go-ahead to break a Mississippi River levee and flood Missouri farmland if the agency deems it necessary to spare a flood-threatened Illinois town upstream.

A day after hearing five hours of testimony over Missouri’s bid to block any intentional levee break, U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. found the corps’ plan to breach the Birds Point levee appropriate to ensure navigation and flood-control along the still-rising Mississippi.

“This court finds that the corps is committed to implementing the (floodway) plan `only as absolutely essential to provide the authorized protection to all citizens,'” Limbaugh said in his ruling. “Furthermore, this court finds that no aspect of the corps’ response to these historic floods suggests arbitrary or capricious decision-making is occurring.”

29 CIA’s new boss once a customer of its spy efforts

KIMBERLY DOZIER and ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 3:41 am ET

WASHINGTON – When he leaves the Afghan battlefield for the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Va., Gen. David Petraeus will have an opportunity to put his imprint on the spy agency, possibly shaking up the way it does business.

Petraeus already has a deep understanding of what he perceives to be the agency’s weaknesses and strengths, as a commander who has drawn on CIA information to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a military man who values discipline and honesty, he has a reputation of holding people accountable who serve under his command.

“He doesn’t suffer fools,” said Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to Petraeus in Iraq.

30 Santorum to NRA: Obama doesn’t understand America

By JOE MANDAK, Associated Press

12 mins ago

PITTSBURGH – Republican presidential aspirant Rick Santorum told National Rifle Association members at their annual convention Friday that President Barack Obama doesn’t “understand America,” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told them the administration is “consistently anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment.”

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, criticized remarks the president made about two weeks ago when he said America not only was a better country because of social programs like Medicare and Medicaid but said, “I’ll go further – we would not be a great country without these commitments.”

“Mr. President,” Santorum said, “You don’t understand America if you believe that,” because it implies the United States wasn’t great for most of the first 200 years of its history.

31 Maine official forced out for race, other remarks

By CLARKE CANFIELD, Associated Press

1 hr 21 mins ago

PORTLAND, Maine – A Maine cabinet member who managed to offend rural residents, African-Americans and Native Americans all in one day took one more swipe at critics after being forced out of his position, suggesting they lacked the intellect to understand his comments.

Two days after abruptly resigning as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, Philip Congdon was criticized by the NAACP and a Maine Indian tribe for remarks he made earlier this month in northern Maine.

His comments were even too much for the state’s blunt-speaking governor, Paul LePage, who has been criticized himself for his choice of words.

32 Brewer OKs Ariz. bill for tea party license plate

By PAUL DAVENPORT, Associated Press

1 hr 38 mins ago

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed bills approving 11 new special license plates, including one that would feature a “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan to commemorate the tea party and send donations toward the movement.

Brewer, a Republican, acted on the license plate bills late Thursday, approving them despite previously expressing concern about Arizona’s growing number of special plates that now number 46.

The tea party plate would feature the “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan, rattlesnake emblem and yellow background of the historic Gadsden Flag that is a symbol of the movement that espouses small government.

33 Casinos sense opening in online poker indictments

By OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press

2 hrs 21 mins ago

LAS VEGAS – The indictments that led to three major online poker companies shuttering U.S. operations have provided an opening for American casinos to cash in on an industry worth an untold billions of dollars.

Casinos want to fill the void created by the crackdown to create their own online poker sites should the game become legal in the U.S., giving them tens of thousands of potential consumers who have seen their pastimes and livelihoods eliminated by the prosecutions.

Their argument: Americans are playing poker online despite attempts to stop them, so why not allow legitimate casinos to offer the game? They also argue that governments could clearly use tax revenue from poker games.

34 Report touts progress in Afghanistan war

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 12:39 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The U.S. and its allies have made “tangible progress” in the Afghanistan war, providing the needed momentum to transfer control of seven regions to Afghan forces this summer, according to a new Pentagon report that gives the first assessment since the infusion of 30,000 more American troops to the battlefield late last fall.

Sounding a more optimistic tone than previous reviews, the semi-annual report to Congress also describes difficult challenges ahead, including the significant lack of military trainers and border patrols, and the slow political and governance development that could threaten the progress made in the last six months.

It comes on the same day that senior NATO officers revealed that they have picked up intelligence suggesting that Afghan insurgents are planning a spate of violent attacks across the nation in the next several days. They said the militants want to demonstrate they remain a powerful force despite setbacks they suffered under heavy pressure from tens of thousands of Afghan and NATO troops during the past year.

Yup, $400 Billion and 2440 dead troops later we sure are winning.

Two days ago-

6 Nine Americans dead after row with Afghan airman

by Usman Sharifi, AFP

46 mins ago

KABUL (AFP) – An Afghan ex-pilot opened fire after a row at a Kabul training centre Wednesday, leaving eight US troops and an American contractor dead in the worst attack of its kind in almost a decade of war.

Although the killings appear to have stemmed from a disagreement rather than a rebel attack, they highlighted the prevailing insecurity in Afghanistan, 10 years after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power.

The deaths also raise fresh questions over the massive NATO-led effort to expand and train Afghanistan’s military and police so they can take control of security when foreign combat operations end in 2014.

35 Calif. budget problems affect farmland protection

By GOSIA WOZNIACKA, Associated Press

Fri Apr 29, 3:35 am ET

FRESNO, Calif. – Where grape vines and fruit trees once unfolded to the horizon on the southeast edge of Fresno, some fields have now been paved over and replaced by hundreds of houses with scrawny lawns and small, immature trees.

Farmers, environmentalists and local government officials say more swaths of California’s best agricultural land could be lost to housing tracts and strip malls if the state doesn’t restore funding for its flagship farmland conservation program.

The state had been spending nearly $38 million a year to protect about 16 million acres, but it mostly eliminated that funding starting two years ago because of budget problems. While other states have farmland preservation programs, the issue is more pressing in California because it’s the nation’s largest food producer and agricultural land is being lost an a staggering rate – an average of 50,000 acres a year.

36 WikiLeaks suspect to be housed with other inmates

By JOHN MILBURN, Associated Press

Thu Apr 28, 11:35 pm ET

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. – The Army private accused of passing classified documents to WikiLeaks was cleared Thursday to live alongside other inmates at a Kansas military prison, a dramatic change from his previous quarters in a Virginia Marine Corps brig where he spent 23 hours a day alone in his cell.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning passed the lengthy physical and psychiatric evaluation given to new inmates at the Fort Leavenworth prison and received final clearance just before a mid-day media tour of the facility, its commander Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton said.

Manning was transferred there last week from the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., where he had been held for the eight months since his arrest.

37 Texas comptroller apologizes for records release

By WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

Thu Apr 28, 8:34 pm ET

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The release of personal information of 3.5 million Texans – including addresses and Social Security numbers – was a result of “human error” and was not done maliciously, State Comptroller Susan Combs said Thursday, while also adding that authorities are still going to investigate.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Combs also said there’s no indication the information, which in some cases included birthdates and driver’s license numbers, has been misused. Still, she’s ready to provide additional help to anyone who may become a victim of wrongdoing.

“We believe it’s inadvertent, but that’s why we also called in the (attorney general’s) office, and we are, of course, working closely with them,” said Combs, who spoke to several media outlets for the first time since her office announced on April 11 that the information was posted on public servers controlled by her office and remained there in some cases for more than a year.

38 At top colleges, diversity not just black-white

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press

Thu Apr 28, 4:29 pm ET

ST. LOUIS – An annual price tag that tops $52,000 aside, Washington University’s commitment to luring more low-income students is hard to question.

Its financial aid director makes a personal enrollment pitch to each Pell Grant-eligible student who gains admission. The highly selective private school gave out nearly $70 million in scholarships to nearly 60 percent of its undergraduates last year. And the school regularly welcomes academically talented high schoolers with disadvantaged backgrounds, from Chicago public school students in the Target Hope pre-college academy to the 500 minority students in the high school Class of 2011 who enjoyed an all-expenses paid glimpse at campus life one recent weekend.

But the 158-year-old school ranks dead-last among the nation’s 50 wealthiest schools when it comes to enrolling low-income students. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education review of federal data found that fewer than 6 percent of the school’s roughly 8,500 undergraduates received Pell Grants, which are generally limited to students whose family income is below $40,000. Over the past several years, despite its best efforts, those percentages have actually declined slightly.

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