May 24 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now with 48 Top Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Greece speeds up asset sales to beat debt crisis

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Mon May 23, 2:13 pm ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Under pressure from EU peers and the markets, Greece on Monday pledged to speed up a halting privatisation drive to reduce its crushing debt load and head off a second eurozone crisis.

After a marathon cabinet meeting, the Socialist government of George Papandreou announced an extra 1.6 billion euros ($2.3 billion) in savings this year and an “immediate” sale of lucrative state assets.

These include OTE, the Balkans’ largest telecoms operator, and the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki which rank among the busiest in the Mediterranean in terms of tourism and trade.


2 Greece readies more reforms to beat debt crisis

by John Hadoulis, AFP

Mon May 23, 10:35 am ET

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece’s cabinet was locked in crisis talks on Monday to finalise a four-year reform blueprint as its sceptical European peers demanded tangible measures to ward off a second eurozone debt crisis.

With billion of euros in loans from the EU and the IMF at stake, officials were adding the finishing touches to a programme of new spending cuts and an aggressive privatisation drive worth 50 billion euros ($71 billion).

Measures to economise three billion euros this year have already been doubled to six billion euros, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said last week.

3 EU blacklists Syria’s Assad for first time

by Claire Rosemberg, AFP

1 hr 4 mins ago

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe tightened the noose on President Bashar al-Assad Monday, imposing its first sanctions on the Syrian leader in a move Damascus said added “a black page to their record of colonialism”.

Long reluctant to target the Syrian leader directly, the European Union decided to slap an assets freeze and travel ban on Assad, the latest in a string of measures against his regime as the US and Britain called for an end to the killing of anti-regime protesters.

Foreign ministers of the 27-member bloc also called for quick Middle East peace talks, strengthened sanctions on Iran and Libya, chided Yemen’s leader for failing to sign a transition deal, and urged Bahrain to stick to reform.

4 Iceland volcano still spewing ash, Europe threatened

by Agnes Valdimarsdottir, AFP

1 hr 9 mins ago

REYKJAVIK (AFP) – A plume of ash from an erupting Icelandic volcano is forecast to reach Britain Monday forcing a change in US President Barack Obama’s flight plans and bringing fears of wider travel disruptions.

The eruption of Grimsvoetn has raised concerns over a repeat of last year’s travel chaos sparked by the eruption of another Icelandic volcano which led to the biggest shutdown of European airspace since World War II.

“The low-level winds are … blowing strongly towards the UK,” said Peitur Arason of the Icelandic Meteorological Office, meanwhile British air traffic control operator NATS said volcanic ash was expected to reach Scottish airspace by 2300 GMT on Monday.

5 Lagarde in wings as candidates emerge for IMF job

by Veronica Smith, AFP

1 hr 1 min ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The race to succeed disgraced IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn officially got under way Monday, with French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde tipped as the favorite against at least three opponents.

As nominations opened for the International Monetary Fund’s next managing director, Lagarde told US television network CNBC that it was “premature” to talk of her taking the job.

But a steamroller of support for her candidacy for one of the most powerful jobs in global finance was building in Europe.

6 No link between tornadoes and climate change: US

by Kerry Sheridan, AFP

31 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States is experiencing the deadliest year for tornadoes in nearly six decades, but top US weather experts said Monday there is no link between the violent twisters and climate change.

Instead, the reasons for the spiking death tolls are more likely due to the rise in the population density, the number of mobile homes and the chance paths taken by a series of tornadoes that have happened to target populated areas.

“This year is an extraordinary outlier,” said Harold Brooks, research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.

Yeah.  Right.

7 Militants storm Pakistan naval air base, five dead

by Hasan Mansoor, AFP

Sun May 22, 7:51 pm ET

KARACHI (AFP) – Gunmen armed with rockets and explosives stormed a major Pakistani naval air base, triggering gunbattles that killed five military personnel, three weeks after the US killing of Osama bin Laden.

Around 10 people were wounded and towering flames rose over PNS Mehran in the centre of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, where the military and government confirmed that the base was under “terrorist attack”.

An AFP reporter saw swarms of soldiers and navy commando reinforcements pile into the base as smoke rose into the night sky. Over a period of several hours, an AFP photographer heard nine blasts and periodic bursts of gunfire.

8 Pakistan retakes naval base after militant attack

by Hasan Mansoor, AFP

Mon May 23, 12:17 pm ET

KARACHI (AFP) – Pakistan on Monday regained control of a naval base in the country’s biggest city, 17 hours after heavily armed Taliban gunmen attacked, destroying two US-made surveillance planes and killing 10 personnel.

It was the worst assault on a military base since the army headquarters was besieged in October 2009, piling further embarrassment on the armed forces three weeks after Osama bin Laden was found living under their noses.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said four to six militants used ladders to climb into the naval air base in the teeming port city of Karachi under the cover of night late Sunday, triggering gunbattles and a series of explosions.

9 UN demands Khartoum pullout from flashpoint Abyei

by Peter Martell, AFP

Sun May 22, 7:22 pm ET

JUBA, Sudan (AFP) – The United Nations demanded that Khartoum withdraw its troops from Sudan’s Abyei district after what the south branded an “invasion” by northern troops of the flashpoint border region.

A visiting delegation of the UN Security Council said on Sunday they were “very, very concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Abyei” and formally called on Khartoum to withdraw its troops.

“The members of the Security Council call upon the government of Sudan to halt its military operation and to withdraw immediately from Abyei town and its environs,” the French ambassador to the United Nations, Gerard Araud, told a joint news conference in Khartoum with his Russian and US counterparts.

10 Chile exhumes remains of late president Allende

by Roser Toll, AFP

2 hrs 31 mins ago

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Chile on Monday exhumed the remains of former president Salvador Allende, hoping to finally determine whether he committed suicide or was murdered during a 1973 coup.

Officials hope that a forensic analysis of Allende’s remains will resolve a decades-old controversy over his death in his presidential palace on September 11, 1973 in the midst of the coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power.

The official version was that Allende killed himself with an assault rifle — a gift from Cuban leader Fidel Castro — as the La Moneda presidential palace was being bombed by Air Force planes and besieged by tanks and soldiers.

11 Apple looks set to launch cloud-based music service

by Chris Lefkow, AFP

Mon May 23, 10:01 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Just weeks after Amazon and Google unveiled their music offerings, Apple appears set to raise the bar.

The Cupertino, California-based gadget-maker is expected to launch a new Web-hosted music service next month, according to multiple reports, after negotiating deals with at least three of the four major record labels.

The service is likely to be presented at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which opens in San Francisco on June 6 and which has been the venue for past launches of high-profile Apple products.


12 Gunbattle in Yemen as transition deal collapses

By Mohamed Sudam and Mohammed Ghobari, Reuters

Mon May 23, 2:33 pm ET

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemeni loyalist forces fought a gunbattle on Monday with opponents of entrenched President Ali Abdullah Saleh one day after he backed out of an accord for him to step down.

The clashes in Sanaa cast further dimmed prospects for a political solution to a three-month crisis in which youth-led demonstrators, inspired by protests that swept aside the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, are demanding an end to nearly 33 years of Saleh rule.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, both targets of foiled attacks by a strong wing of al Qaeda based in Yemen, are keen to end the Yemeni stalemate and avert a spread of anarchy that could give the global militant network more room to operate.

13 Pakistan retakes naval base after attack

By Faisal Aziz and Michael Georgy, Reuters

Mon May 23, 12:03 pm ET

KARACHI (Reuters) – Troops recaptured a Pakistani naval air force base on Monday after a 16-hour battle with as few as six Taliban gunmen who had launched their attack to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The assault casts fresh doubt on the military’s ability to protect its bases after a raid on the army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi in 2009 and is a further embarrassment following the surprise raid by U.S. special forces on the al Qaeda leader’s hideout north of Islamabad on May 2.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said just six militants were believed involved in the attack on the PNS Mehran base in Karachi late on Sunday, destroying two aircraft and laying siege to a main building in one of the most heavily guarded bases in the unstable, nuclear-armed country.

14 Emerging countries push back on picking IMF chief

By Isabel Versiani and Glenn Somerville, Reuters

2 hrs 29 mins ago

BRASILIA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Emerging market countries lined up on Monday in strong opposition to the possibility a European could automatically succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund.

After Britain over the weekend endorsed French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as an “outstanding candidate” for the job, officials of emerging economies pushed back fiercely while they maneuvered to select a candidate of their own.

“A stench of colonialism is wafting around 19th and H streets in Northwest Washington, site of the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund,” said Moises Naim, a former World Bank board director for Venezuela who is currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

15 Lagarde leads IMF race, competition from Mexico

By Alexandria Sage and Cyntia Barrera Diaz, Reuters

Sun May 22, 6:27 pm ET

PARIS/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde’s candidacy for IMF chief gained momentum in Europe on Sunday while Mexico put forward its own candidate, ensuring competition for the top job.

The Mexican Finance Ministry said it would nominate central bank chief Agustin Carstens, placing a prominent emerging market name into the race to lead the global lender.

The International Monetary Fund has promised a merit-based process to replace former leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, who is under house arrest in New York on charges he attempted to rape a hotel maid.

16 Euro zone debtors under pressure over new risks

By Kirsten Donovan and George Georgiopoulos, Reuters

Mon May 23, 2:03 pm ET

LONDON/ATHENS (Reuters) – Financial markets piled pressure on heavily indebted euro zone countries on Monday as investors worried about heightened risks in Spain and Greece and ratings agencies stoked new concerns over Italy and Belgium.

Italy, which has the euro zone’s biggest debt pile in absolute terms, was hit by credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s decision on Saturday to cut its outlook to “negative” from “stable”.

In an explanatory statement, S&P said it did not expect Rome to seek financial help from the EU or IMF due to the “absence of significant imbalances”. The sheer size of its public debt effectively made it too big to bail out.

17 Greece steps up sell-offs, lenders pressure

By George Georgiopoulos and Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters

Mon May 23, 12:04 pm ET

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou discussed new emergency measures with his cabinet on Monday, vowing to step up privatizations to pay down debt and convince lenders a restructuring can be avoided.

Athens is feeling mounting pressure from policy makers in Brussels and the European Central Bank to redouble its efforts to cut deficits and push reforms to fix the economy’s woes after falling behind targets set in its 110 billion euro bailout plan.

During a marathon meeting, the cabinet considered a raft of new austerity measures, including deeper cuts in public sector wages, more consumer tax increases, and even the taboo issue of dismissing full-time civil servants.

18 Armed looters burn Sudan’s disputed Abyei: U.N.

By Ulf Laessing, Reuters

Mon May 23, 1:49 pm ET

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Armed looters set fire to parts of Sudan’s disputed Abyei border town on Monday, the United Nations said, days after north Sudanese troops seized it, pushing the north and south closer to conflict.

North Sudan’s army vowed to hold all the territory it took, defying demands from the U.N. Security Council and drawing sharp criticism from the United States and other world powers.

South Sudan accused Khartoum of trying to provoke war and prevent the oil-rich south from becoming an independent country after it voted to break away from the north in a January referendum agreed under a 2005 peace deal.

19 Euro zone, China PMIs ease as policy bites

By Jonathan Cable, Reuters

Mon May 23, 7:55 am ET

LONDON (Reuters) – Manufacturers in Europe and China tapped the brakes this month and price pressures eased as tighter policy measures to control inflation began to bite, purchasing managers’ indexes showed on Monday.

Preliminary purchasing managers’ surveys pointed to marginally slower economic growth in the euro zone and China in the second quarter while growth in the common currency bloc’s dominant service sector also slowed more sharply than expected.

But policymakers will take some cheer from the fact that prices did not rise so steeply this month.

20 Europe on alert for Icelandic volcano ash cloud

By Omar Valdimarsson and Ingolfur Juliusson, Reuters

Mon May 23, 10:47 am ET

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Britain said flights could be disrupted from parts of the country on Tuesday by an ash cloud billowing from an Icelandic volcano, but said it did not expect a repeat of last year’s travel chaos.

Britain’s Met Office is predicting the plume of ash from the Grimsvotn volcano would cover the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of northern Britain by 2 a.m. ET

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to fly into Britain on Tuesday from Ireland for a state visit.

21 Republicans suggest deal possible on healthcare

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters

Sun May 22, 4:40 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top congressional Republicans said on Sunday they would be open to a compromise on healthcare costs, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in a deal to get the United States’ debt under control.

Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, said he would “absolutely” be willing to negotiate with Democrats, who have hammered his plan to scale back government-run health plans for the poor and the elderly.

With Ryan’s plan headed for likely defeat in the Democratic-controlled Senate, that chamber’s top Republican said it was time for “an adult conversation” on ways to keep healthcare costs under control.


22 Pakistani troops retake naval base from militants


2 hrs 55 mins ago

KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistani commandos recaptured a major naval base from Taliban attackers Monday after a bloody and humiliating 18-hour standoff that raised questions about militant infiltration in the security services and the safety of the volatile country’s nuclear warheads.

The unusually brazen assault, which the Taliban said was to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden, was a reminder that the Pakistanis are catching blame from both sides in the aftermath of the May 2 raid by U.S. commandos.

While Americans have accused elements in the Pakistani security services of having sheltered bin Laden in the military town of Abbottabad, the Taliban and al-Qaida fault the army for its level of cooperation with the Americans. It was the third purported revenge strike in Pakistan since bin Laden’s death.

23 Volcanic cloud heads to Scotland, flights canceled


1 hr 22 mins ago

LONDON – A dense ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano blew toward Scotland on Monday, causing airlines to cancel flights, forcing President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland, and raising fears of a repeat of last year’s huge travel disruptions in Europe that stranded millions of passengers.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said it appears that ash from the Grimsvotn (GREEMSH-votn) volcano could reach Scottish airspace as early as Tuesday and affect other parts of the U.K. and Ireland later in the week.

British Airways suspended all its flights for Tuesday morning between London and Scotland, while Dutch carrier KLM and Easyjet canceled flights to and from Scotland and northern England at the same time. Two domestic airlines also announced flight disruptions.

24 Volcanic cloud heads to Scotland, flights canceled


1 hr 24 mins ago

LONDON – A dense ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano blew toward Scotland on Monday, causing airlines to cancel flights, forcing President Barack Obama to shorten a visit to Ireland, and raising fears of a repeat of last year’s huge travel disruptions in Europe that stranded millions of passengers.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said it appears that ash from the Grimsvotn (GREEMSH-votn) volcano could reach Scottish airspace as early as Tuesday and affect other parts of the U.K. and Ireland later in the week.

British Airways suspended all its flights for Tuesday morning between London and Scotland, while Dutch carrier KLM and Easyjet canceled flights to and from Scotland and northern England at the same time. Two domestic airlines also announced flight disruptions.

25 Bulgaria’s black market in blood is flourishing

By VESELIN TOSHKOV, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 3:30 pm ET

SOFIA, Bulgaria – Her 85-year-old husband needed immediate surgery but doctors told her to find blood for the operation herself. So Slavka Petrova swallowed her anguish and went to haggle on the black market outside the national blood clinic.

It’s a grim reality for patients and families in Bulgaria, a struggling EU nation where donors are troublingly scarce, hospitals are strapped for funds and blood traders – mainly Gypsy, or Roma, men – are thriving.

Trading in blood and blood products is illegal in Bulgaria, punishable by a fine of up to euro5,000 ($7,100). But lawyers say it’s difficult to prove an illegal blood transaction because that requires an official complaint lodged by the person who pays the donor – and families are so desperate they consider the black market blood donors lifesavers.

26 High court to Calif: Cut prison inmates by 30,000

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

24 mins ago

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that California must drastically reduce its prison population to relieve severe overcrowding that has exposed inmates to increased violence, disease and death.

The decision, however, doesn’t mean the prison gates will swing open in an uncontrolled release.

The high court’s 5-4 decision calls on the state to cut the population to no more than 110,000 inmates. To get there, state officials have two years to either transfer some 33,000 inmates to other jails or release them.

27 Analysis: Romney is the guy to catch in GOP field

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press

28 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney is emerging as the man to catch in the narrowing Republican presidential field, grabbing a clear head start in fundraising, organization and experience despite vulnerabilities that still might undo him.

With Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels becoming the latest respected Republican to forgo a candidacy, many party insiders say the field is largely set. And Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Olympic Games organizer, is in front.

“It’s Romney’s to lose,” said Scott Reed, a GOP consultant who managed Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. He said Romney’s biggest advantages are his personal wealth, fundraising know-how and experience as a 2008 contender, when John McCain won the nomination.

28 GOP frosh take care of districts in defense bill

By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 11:20 am ET

WASHINGTON – Hard-charging Republicans who rallied voters last year with cries of “Stop the spending, ban the earmarks” are quietly offering a more familiar Washington refrain now that they’re in Congress – not in my backyard.

The massive, $553 billion bill providing a budget for the Pentagon boasts millions of dollars that President Barack Obama didn’t request for weapons programs, installations and other projects in districts from Illinois to Mississippi represented by House GOP freshmen. The additions look suspiciously like the pet projects that Republicans prohibited when they took over the House and that the new class of lawmakers, many with tea party backing, swore off in a promise to change Washington’s spending habits.

Heated campaign talk of reining in spending and barring earmarks often cools once candidates get to Congress and face the needs and demands of their districts, especially in times of wobbly economic recovery and a widespread shortage of jobs.

29 Pawlenty launches bid, delivers tough talk in Iowa

By THOMAS BEAUMONT, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 3:22 pm ET

DES MOINES, Iowa – Tim Pawlenty on Monday cast himself as the Republican candidate willing to tell the country hard truths as he seeks the presidency, bluntly announcing in corn-dependent Iowa that its prized federal subsidies for ethanol should be phased out.

“The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out,” Pawlenty told about 200 Republican activists and supporters in Des Moines in his first public appearance since officially kicking off his White House bid Sunday. “We simply can’t afford them anymore.”

The former Minnesota governor is using his first week of campaigning as an announced candidate to try to cast himself as a straight-talking Midwesterner, unafraid to consider drastic changes to sensitive spending programs in order to solve the nation’s fiscal problems. He faces several obstacles in pursuing the GOP nomination; he isn’t well-known nationally, ranks low in popularity polling and has been tagged by comedians and the chattering class as boring.

30 AP-GfK Poll: Medicare doesn’t have to be cut


15 mins ago

WASHINGTON – They’re not buying it. Most Americans say they don’t believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.

The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year’s elections for president and Congress.

Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their basic financial security as they age. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Barack Obama’s Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year’s elections.

31 UCI denies covering up Lance Armstrong doping test

By GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer

Mon May 23, 3:29 pm ET

GENEVA – The International Cycling Union “categorically rejects” Tyler Hamilton’s allegations that it helped cover up a positive drug test by Lance Armstrong at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

The UCI insisted Monday that it had “never altered or hidden the results of a positive test,” and that seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong had never been notified of a positive finding.

“The UCI is deeply shocked by the seriousness of the allegations made on the `60 Minutes’ program aired by U.S. television network CBS,” the body said in a statement. “The allegations of Mr. Tyler Hamilton are completely unfounded.”

32 ’60 Minutes’ report: Armstrong encouraged doping

By EDDIE PELLS, AP National Writer

Mon May 23, 6:27 am ET

Tyler Hamilton used to pull Lance Armstrong up mountains, chasing down breakaway threats by other riders and making sure Armstrong was kept out of harm’s way.

That was years ago.

Hamilton is finally coming clean about doping in the cycling world, and his version of the truth is anything but helpful to the planet’s most famous cyclist. Once one of Armstrong’s key teammates, Hamilton is casting more doubts on an unparalleled career that some people believe was tainted by drugs.

33 EU imposes sanctions on Syrian leader Assad

By DON MELVIN, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 10:33 am ET

BRUSSELS – The European Union imposed sanctions Monday on Syrian President Bashar Assad because of his government’s continuing crackdown on anti-government protesters, in which more than 900 people have reportedly been killed.

The 27-nation bloc instituted an assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine other members of his regime.

Earlier this month, the EU sanctioned 13 people with links to the Syrian regime, but Assad was not among them. A European official said at the time that the omission was part of a deliberately gradual approach.

34 Yemen gunbattles erupt after Saleh refuses exit

By AHMED AL-HAJ, Associated Press

2 hrs 56 mins ago

SANAA, Yemen – Security forces and opposition tribal fighters battled with automatic weapons, mortars and tanks in the Yemeni capital on Monday, blasting buildings and setting government offices on fire in violence that hiked fears of an armed confrontation after the collapse of efforts to negotiate a peaceful exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The street fighting, in which six people were killed and nearly 40 wounded, was the heaviest clash between the pro- and anti-Saleh camps since hundreds of thousands of Yemenis began taking to the streets three months ago in protests demanding the ouster of the president after 32 years in power.

It erupted amid increased tensions after Saleh refused at the last minute on Sunday to sign a U.S.-backed agreement, mediated by Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbors, under which he would step down in 30 days. Saleh had promised to sign the deal, but instead, his regime sent mobs of armed supporters into the street Sunday, protesting at embassies, in an orchestrated campaign to demand he stay in power.

35 Baby boomers fueling boom in knee, hip surgeries


Mon May 23, 9:56 am ET

SAN DIEGO – We’re becoming a nation of bum knees, worn-out hips and sore shoulders, and it’s not just the Medicare set. Baby boomer bones and joints also are taking a pounding, spawning a boom in operations to fix them.

Knee replacement surgeries have doubled over the last decade and more than tripled in the 45-to-64 age group, new research shows. Hips are trending that way, too.

And here’s a surprise: It’s not all due to obesity. Ironically, trying to stay fit and avoid extra pounds is taking a toll on a generation that expects bad joints can be swapped out like old tires on a car.

36 AP Essay: Apocalypse not now – and how we saw it

By TED ANTHONY, AP National Writer

Sun May 22, 6:05 pm ET

NEW YORK – Where were you on the day the world didn’t end?

Did you, like many thousands of others, turn to a social network and confess to the world something you had kept hidden? Did you laugh it off and make jokes about not having to go to work Monday? Did you pick your favorite end-times pop song and blast it on the car stereo?

Did you maybe scoff a little while wondering – just a teensy bit, in a tiny place in the very back of your head – what you might do if Saturday were indeed your final day on the planet?

37 Radio host who predicted End of Days to speak

By GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press

16 mins ago

ALAMEDA, Calif. – So long as people could see the ominous sign atop his car warning that the End of the World was nigh, Jeff Hopkins figured the gas money he spent driving back and forth from Long Island to New York City would be worth it.

As the appointed day drew nearer, Hopkins started making the 100-mile round trip twice a day to warn people about the apocalypse coming on May 21, spending at least $15 in retirement savings on gas each way.

When the Rapture didn’t arrive Saturday, Hopkins and countless other crestfallen followers began turning their attention to more earthly concerns. On Monday, they anxiously awaited California radio preacher Harold Camping’s first public statement about why his doomsday prediction did not come true.

38 Anti-terror law clears hurdle, faces objections

By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press

9 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A tight deadline looming, the Senate on Monday advanced a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, the controversial law that governs the search for terrorists on American soil.

Lawmakers voted 74-8 to debate and vote the legislation this week, before key provisions expire on Friday. President Barack Obama was in Europe, so any extension must pass the House and Senate, then be flown overseas and signed into law before the three provisions expire.

That would require uncommon speed for the deliberative Senate, where one member can delay or block legislation. And there were opponents: Senators of both parties said the law, designed after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, would give the government too much power.

39 Tax cheats among recipients of stimulus money

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press

1 hr 37 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Thousands of companies that cashed in on President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package owed the government millions in unpaid taxes, congressional investigators have found.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report being released Tuesday, said at least 3,700 government contractors and nonprofit organizations that received more than $24 billion from the stimulus effort owed $757 million in back taxes as of Sept. 30, 2009, the end of the budget year.

The report said the tax delinquents accounted for nearly 6 percent of the 63,000 contractors and grantees examined and cautioned that the real number might be higher because the known tax debt does not measure such factors as income underreporting.

40 Fight over Canadian oil pipeline moves to Congress

By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

2 hrs 3 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A dispute over a plan to send oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast moved to Capitol Hill on Monday, where a House panel debated whether to speed a decision by the Obama administration.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are backing a bill that would set a Nov. 1 deadline for the State Department to decide on the $7 billion project. A Canadian company wants to build a 1,900-mile pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the energy panel, said it makes sense to pursue reliable and affordable energy in North America. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would create thousands of jobs and help cut $4-a-gallon prices at the pump, Upton said.

41 Trump no more: Marina becomes Golden Nugget AC

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press

2 hrs 43 mins ago

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In Atlantic City, all that’s golden is not Trump.

New Jersey casino regulators approved the sale of Trump Marina Hotel Casino on Monday to the owners of the Golden Nugget casinos in Nevada for $38 million – about a tenth of what the property was expected to fetch just three years ago.

Landry’s Inc. has rebranded the casino as the Golden Nugget Atlantic City, a name change that became official with Monday’s vote by the Casino Control Commission.

42 Headley: Pakistani militant group, ISI coordinated

By SOPHIA TAREEN, Associated Press

2 hrs 51 mins ago

CHICAGO – The federal government’s key witness in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the 2008 Mumbai attacks testified Monday that he first started training more than a decade ago with a Pakistani militant group that received assistance from the country’s main intelligence agency.

The trial of businessman Tahawwur Rana is being closely watched worldwide for what testimony might reveal about suspected links between the Pakistani militant group blamed in the rampage on India’s largest city and Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, which has come under increased scrutiny since Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces on May 2 outside Islamabad.

Of particular interest is the government’s first and main witness, David Coleman Headley, who is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to taking photos and videos of targets in Mumbai before the rampage that killed 160 people including six Americans over three days. Rana is accused of providing cover for Headley, his long-time friend from boarding school, by allowing him to use his Chicago-based immigration services business as a cover when he traveled to Mumbai to scout sites.

43 Tough diplomacy: US forces Syrian retreat at UN

By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 3:25 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration claimed a quiet diplomatic victory after a frantic but largely invisible campaign to keep Syria from winning a seat on the United Nations body charged with policing international human rights.

Failure would have meant a major embarrassment to the administration. It has taken a leading role in the Human Rights Council after years in which the U.S. dismissed it as an anti-Israel peanut gallery, and a Syrian victory might have meant the end of that effort.

Syria was poised earlier this month to gain membership at the same time its regime was pressing a brutal crackdown that had killed more than 900 people and the U.S. was readying sanctions on President Bashar Assad. Not a single Arab or Asian country was willing to run against the Syrians. The administration was dealing with a hostile Congress that wanted no part of the human rights body, long held up as Exhibit A for American critics of the U.N.

44 AP Enterprise: States’ immigration efforts fizzle

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ, AP Hispanic Affairs Writer

Mon May 23, 1:54 pm ET

MIAMI – Nearly every state in the union tried to tackle immigration on its own this year in the absence of any congressional movement on the matter, and more than half considered Arizona-style enforcement measures, up from just six in 2010.

But an Associated Press review found that in legislature after legislature, nearly all the most punitive measures failed.

What had passed as of Monday mostly reinforced current federal law, though a small number of states actually passed legislation that was helpful to illegal immigrants.

45 AP Exclusive: Former Palin aide pens tell-all

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 12:37 pm ET

JUNEAU, Alaska – A former member of Sarah Palin’s inner circle has written a scathing tell-all, saying Palin was ready to quit as governor months before she actually resigned and was eager to leave office when more lucrative opportunities came around.

“In 2009 I had the sense if she made it to the White House and I had stayed silent, I could never forgive myself,” Frank Bailey told The Associated Press.

Palin’s attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

46 New England seal turning 40 with grace

By JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 6:00 am ET

BOSTON – Turning 40 seems like a breeze for Smoke the seal.

She’s not sulking about her glaucoma, or the cataracts that have turned her eyes a cloudy blue-white and forced her to navigate her tank essentially from memory.

She’ll pull out a wiggle dance if you want it (still smooth). She waves, practices a newly learned rolling maneuver and even plants a grandmotherly peck on a visitor’s cheek.

47 Stench from waste facility overwhelms Calif. town

By GILLIAN FLACCUS, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 5:02 am ET

MECCA, Calif. – Students at Saul Martinez Elementary School had just piled in from recess when the principal began to field alarming calls: a powerful, propane-like stench had swept over the school grounds and was bringing children and teachers alike to their knees.

By the time it was over, as many as 40 people had been treated by paramedics for headaches, nausea, dizziness and asthma attacks.

During the coming months, state air quality regulators would field more than 200 additional complaints about the “rotten egg” fumes overtaking this dusty agricultural community at the northern tip of the Salton Sea and tracked the smell to a soil recycling facility that leases tribal land less than two miles from the school.

48 Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections

By STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press

Mon May 23, 3:43 am ET

MINNEAPOLIS – Ranchers in Western states said they’re hopeful the removal of gray wolves from the federal endangered species list will make it easier to hunt the predators and stem losses of cattle and sheep.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month formally lifted federal protections for more than 1,300 wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah. That will allow hunting of the carnivores that ranchers say have taken a steady toll on their livestock over the past two decades.

Tex Marchessault, a cattle rancher near Dillon, Mont., said he’s lost several young cattle over the years, and other livestock have been injured in attacks. Government trappers killed a six-wolf pack on his land a few years ago, but another pack soon took its place, he said.

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