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Jul 08 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Atlantis blasts off on end-of-era spaceflight

By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

37 mins ago

Atlantis blazed a path into history Friday as it rocketed off the launch pad for a final time, marking the last-ever liftoff of the 30-year-old American space shuttle program.

The storied spacecraft is carrying a crew of four US astronauts toward the International Space Station on a 12-day mission to re-stock the orbiting lab, where it is due to dock on Sunday.

The mission marks the end of an era in human spaceflight. The United States will soon have no spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to orbit, leaving Russia’s three-seat Soyuz capsule as the sole taxi to the ISS.

2 Space shuttle leaves Earth on final flight

By Irene Klotz, Reuters

2 hrs 53 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – Space shuttle Atlantis rocketed off its seaside launch pad on Friday, rising atop a tower of smoke and flames as it left Earth on the shuttle program’s final flight.

About 1 million sightseers witnessed the smooth liftoff from Kennedy Space Center. They lined causeways and beaches around the central Florida site, angling for a last glimpse of the pioneering ship that has defined the U.S. space program for the past 30 years.

“Good luck to you and your crew on this final flight of this true American icon,” shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach radioed to the crew minutes before takeoff.

3 Shuttle lifts off for last time; ‘Light this fire’

By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

14 mins ago

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – With a cry from its commander of “Let’s light this fire one more time,” the last shuttle thundered into orbit Friday on a cargo run that will close out three decades of both triumph and tragedy for NASA and usher in a period of uncertainty for America’s space program.

After some last-minute suspense over the weather and a piece of launch-pad equipment, Atlantis and its four astronauts blasted off practically on schedule at 11:29 a.m., pierced a shroud of clouds and settled flawlessly into orbit in front of a crowd estimated at close to 1 million, the size of the throng that watched Apollo 11 shoot the moon in 1969.

It was the 135th shuttle flight since the inaugural mission in 1981.

4 US jobless rate up as economic growth stalls

By Paul Handley, AFP

3 hrs ago

US unemployment climbed to 9.2 percent as job creation stalled in June, official figures showed Friday, posing new challenges to the Obama administration’s efforts to rev up economic growth.

Job creation was near-stagnant for the second month in a row, Labor Department data showed, leaving 14.1 million Americans still jobless two years after the 2008-2009 recession ended.

The data was uniformly seen as bad news for the government of President Barack Obama as Republican opponents challenge his economic record heading into the national elections next year.

5 More Syria deaths as half a million flood Hama

AFP

5 hrs ago

Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-regime protests on Friday, killing at least eight people, activists said, while nearly half a million people demonstrated in the protest hub of Hama.

The continuing crackdown on opponents of Bashar al-Assad came as the president’s regime accused US Ambassador Robert Ford, who had visited the city, of inciting violence.

The casualties included two protesters killed in a central commercial neighbourhood of Damascus, Abdel Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian League for Human Rights, told AFP.

6 British sprinter Cavendish wins Tour’s 7th stage

By Justin Davis, AFP

2 hrs 27 mins ago

British sprint king Mark Cavendish took his victory tally on the Tour de France to 17 when he powered to victory in the seventh stage ahead of Italian veteran Alessandro Petacchi Friday.

Norway’s Thor Hushovd, seventh on the stage, retained the leader’s yellow jersey after the 218km ride over mainly flat terrain from Le Mans to Chateauroux.

Cavendish, who claimed his first victory of the 98th edition on Wednesday, opened his Tour de France account at Chateauroux in 2008 when he beat Spanish ace Oscar Freire and German legend Erik Zabel to the line.

7 Massa quickest in Formula One practice run

By Josh Collings, AFP

3 hrs ago

Felipe Massa topped the times for Ferrari during Friday’s rain-soaked second practice for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Heavy rain drenched the Silverstone circuit during the early part of the session and prevented drivers from setting times.

However, the 30-year-old Brazilian, fifth fastest in the morning, clocked a time of one minute 49.967 seconds on his final lap of the session as the track began to dry.

8 Jobs growth stalls, setting back recovery hopes

By Lucia Mutikani, Reuters

1 hr 4 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. jobs growth ground to a near halt in June as employers hired the fewest workers in nine months, frustrating hopes the economy would bounce back quickly from a slowdown in the first half of the year.

Nonfarm payrolls rose only 18,000, the Labor Department said on Friday. It was the weakest reading since September and below even the most pessimistic forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

The dismal report, which showed the unemployment rate climbing to a six-month high of 9.2 percent, stood in stark contrast with recent data on manufacturing and retail sales that had shown activity starting to perk up.

9 Dismal jobs picture complicates debt talks

By Andy Sullivan and Richard Cowan, Reuters

55 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Dismal unemployment figures on Friday complicated efforts to avert a looming U.S. debt default, and a top Republican said negotiators were not close to a deal that would ensure continued borrowing.

Tamping down expectations that Democrats and Republicans could reach agreement over the weekend, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said the two sides must overcome serious disagreements on taxes and spending cuts.

“It’s not like there’s some imminent deal about to happen,” Boehner told a news conference. “This is a Rubik’s Cube that we haven’t quite worked out yet.”

10 Analysis: Can Romney capitalize on weak jobs numbers?

By Patricia Zengerle, Reuters

1 hr 53 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Friday’s bleak unemployment report boosts Republicans hoping to oust President Barack Obama from the White House next year, but translating a difficult economy into election results will not be easy.

U.S. jobs growth ground to a near halt in June, frustrating hopes the economy would bounce back quickly from a slowdown and underscoring how difficult the issue will be for Obama in his bid for a second term next year.

“This is Obama’s greatest vulnerability. It’s his losing war, the economy and unemployment,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University.

11 Analysis: Dismal job numbers give off recession whiff

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, Reuters

5 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. job growth in June essentially ground to a halt for a second month running, suggesting a sharp first half slowdown is not merely a blip, as Wall Street economists and Federal Reserve officials had hoped.

The U.S. economy generated just 43,000 jobs in the last two months, perhaps taking the world’s largest economy skating closer to recession territory.

It was difficult to find a bright spot in the U.S. Labor Department report. Many key labor market signals deteriorated, and the jobless rate rose unexpectedly to 9.2 percent even though the work force actually shrank.

12 As ex-aide arrested, pressured Cameron vows media

By Jodie Ginsberg and Georgina Prodhan, Reuters

37 mins ago

LONDON (Reuters) – Police arrested David Cameron’s former spokesman on Friday over the scandal that has shut down Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, forcing the prime minister to defend his judgment while promising new controls on the British press.

As Cameron fielded hostile questions over why he had hired the paper’s former editor Andy Coulson in 2007, despite knowing that one of his journalists had been jailed for hacking into voicemails in search of scoops, Coulson was being arrested by police on suspicion of conspiring in the illegal practice.

Cameron said he took “full responsibility” for his decision to appoint Coulson, who quit Downing Street in January when police relaunched inquiries. But the premier rebuffed criticism and strove to spread the blame for an affair that has generated public outrage against the press, politicians and police.

13 Wall Street uses Wal-Mart bias ruling in MBS defense

By Tom Hals, Reuters

21 mins ago

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s dismissal of a massive sex-bias case against Wal-Mart Stores Inc may have handed Wall Street a new weapon in its battle against angry investors who lost billions on securitized home loans.

At first glance, last month’s ruling in the Wal-Mart case may seem far removed from lawsuits over complex mortgage investments blamed for helping to trigger the global financial crisis in 2008.

But attorneys are seizing on the Supreme Court decision as they fight to prevent pension fund investors from banding together as a class to pursue claims they were misled about bonds built from flimsy mortgages.

14 Indonesia torture case vs ExxonMobil revived

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

3 hrs ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court revived on Friday a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp by Indonesian villagers who accused the oil giant’s security forces of committing murder, torture and other wrongdoing.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, said companies are not immune from liability under a 1789 U.S. law known as the Alien Tort Statute for “heinous conduct” allegedly committed by its agents in violation of human rights norms.

Exxon Mobil said it is reviewing the decision.

15 WikiLeaks partner loses Visa, MasterCard loophole

By Maria Aspan, Reuters

42 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A WikiLeaks partner found a new bank to accept Visa and MasterCard donations this week, but the respite from the card networks’ months-long embargo was only temporary, because the bank shut down the payments within hours, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Visa and MasterCard, the world’s two largest card networks, blocked donations to WikiLeaks in December. But on Thursday, WikiLeaks payments provider DataCell said it could start processing donations to Julian Assange’s group again.

An Icelandic bank called Valitor had agreed to accept payments processed by DataCell, but DataCell did not tell Valitor that those payments would include donations to WikiLeaks, one person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

16 Grim jobs report casts shadow over debt talks

By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press

25 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AP) – Beset by a weak jobs report, President Barack Obama on Friday called for swift action by Congress to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, saying the uncertainty over the debt ceiling has hindered hiring in the private sector.

In remarks in the White House Rose Garden, the president linked two of the most high profile issues facing his presidency – the weak economy and a massive budget deal to meet an Aug. 2 deadline to increase the debt limit.

“The sooner we get this done, the sooner that the markets know that the debt limit ceiling will have been raised and that we have a serious plan to deal with our debt and deficit, the sooner that we give our businesses the certainty that will need in order to make additional investments to grow and hire,” Obama said.

17 Ex-Cameron aide arrested in UK hacking scandal

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

1 hr 13 mins ago

LONDON (AP) – Prime Minister David Cameron’s former communications chief and an ex-royal reporter were arrested Friday in a phone hacking and police corruption scandal that has already toppled a major tabloid and rattled the cozy relationship between British politicians and the powerful Murdoch media empire.

The 168-year-old muckraking tabloid News of the World was shut down Thursday after being engulfed by allegations its journalists paid police for information and hacked into the phone messages of celebrities, young murder victims and even the grieving families of dead soldiers. Its last publication day is Sunday.

The hacking revelations horrified both ordinary Britons and advertisers, who pulled their ads en masse. News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., killed the paper in hopes of saving its 12 billion pound ($19 billion) deal to take over satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting. But the British government on Friday signaled the deal would be delayed as a result of the crisis.

18 House passes $649B defense spending bill

By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

2 hrs 59 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AP) – The House on Friday overwhelmingly passed a $649 billion defense spending bill that boosts the Pentagon budget by $17 billion and covers the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The strong bipartisan vote was 336-87 and reflected lawmakers’ intent to ensure national security, preserve defense jobs across the nation and avoid deep cuts while the country is at war.

While House Republican leaders slashed billions from all other government agencies, the Defense Department is the only one that will see a double-digit increase in its budget beginning Oct. 1.

19 Groups sue to block Ala. illegal immigration law

By BOB JOHNSON, Associated Press

1 hr 12 mins ago

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Civil rights groups sued Friday in federal court to block Alabama’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration, which supporters and opponents have called the strictest measure of its kind in the nation.

The lawsuit claims the new law will make criminals out of church workers who provide shelter to immigrants and even citizens who give their neighbors a ride to the store or to the doctor’s office.

“This law interferes with the free exercise of religion. It criminalizes acts of love and hospitality,” said Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries.

20 South Sudan set to become world’s newest nation

By MAGGIE FICK, Associated Press

22 mins ago

JUBA, Sudan (AP) – South Sudan becomes the world’s newest nation Saturday after a half-century struggle, and the streets of the capital began to pulse with excitement as the clock ticked down toward history.

Many in Juba waited for the big midnight moment with family and friends. Sirens blared from the convoys of international dignitaries arriving for Saturday’s formal celebration. One group danced to the soon-to-be-nation’s new national anthem.

But others were reflective – like John Kuach, who sat at a restaurant with his family Friday evening with the green, red, blue and black flag of South Sudan wrapped around his shoulders.

21 Calif. oddity’s creator ordered jailed by judge

By CHRISTINA HOAG, Associated Press

1 hr 55 mins ago

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) – The eccentric California creator of a Mojave Desert compound of whimsical buildings known as Phonehenge West was jailed Friday for failing to obey an order to tear down the illegal structures.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daviann Mitchell put off Kim Fahey’s sentencing for code violations, but ordered him held in lieu of $75,000 bail. Mitchell said the “blatant refusal” to demolish the structures and disconnect electricity put his family, the community and first-responders at risk.

Fahey, 59, told the court he has not had enough time to tear down the buildings and he doesn’t have a crane to do it safely but that he has removed about 70 doors and windows. He also said he’s not an electrician and doesn’t know how to disconnect the power.

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