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Sep 30 2011

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

Now wit 39 Stories.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Ancient river-like volcanoes formed Mercury’s plains

By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

3 hrs ago

The planet closest to the Sun had plenty of its own heat to release billions of years ago and erupted in vast river-like volcanoes that oozed around its northern pole, said a study out Thursday.

For more than three decades, scientists have thought volcanoes may have helped craft Mercury’s smooth northern plains but they have learned much more since a NASA spacecraft began orbiting Mercury for the first time this year.

A series of reports in the journal Science describe what NASA’s MESSENGER probe — which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging — has found since it began circling Mercury in mid-March.

2 China launches first module for space station

AFP

7 hrs ago

China took its first step towards building a space station on Thursday when it launched an experimental module ahead of National Day celebrations.

Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace”, took off on schedule shortly after 09:15pm (1315 GMT) from the Gobi desert in China’s northwest, propelled by a Long March 2F rocket, ahead of China’s National Day on October 1.

The unmanned 8.5-tonne module will test a number of space operations as a preliminary step towards building a space station by 2020.

3 SpaceX says ‘reusable rocket’ could help colonize Mars

By Kerry Sheridan, AFP

2 hrs 56 mins ago

The US company SpaceX is working on the first-ever reusable rocket to launch to space and back, with the goal of one day helping humans colonize Mars, founder Elon Musk said Thursday.

The vehicle would be a reusable version of the Falcon 9 rocket which SpaceX used to propel its Dragon space capsule to low Earth-orbit on a test mission last year. Its first cargo trip to the International Space Station is set for January.

Being able to reuse the rocket would save tens of millions of dollars and would bring the notion of making trips to visit or even live on other planets, namely Mars, closer to reality, Musk told reporters at the National Press Club.

4 Libya’s new rulers close in on Kadhafi clan

By Jay Deshmukh, AFP

1 hr 7 mins ago

Libya’s new rulers on Thursday stepped up the hunt for Moamer Kadhafi’s inner circle, seeking the arrest of one of his sons, Saadi, amid conflicting reports of the capture of his spokesman Mussa Ibrahim.

They also said another Kadhafi son, Mutassim, was in the deposed despot’s birthplace of Sirte, where old regime loyalists fought pitched battles with combatants loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council.

Meanwhile, interim prime minister Mahmud Jibril said he will not be a part of the new government, the formation of which has been postponed until the end of the country’s conflict.

5 Two killed in fierce Yemen firefights

By Hammoud Mounassar, AFP

3 hrs ago

Two tribesmen were killed in fierce clashes on Thursday in Yemen’s capital between troops loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and rival tribesmen and military forces that have defected.

In Geneva, meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council slammed violations in Yemen but did not say if they were committed by troops loyal to Saleh or rival tribesmen and renegade troops.

Thursday’s firefights erupted in northern Sanaa between the elite Republican Guard, led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, and soldiers of the First Armoured Division which is headed by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and provides protection for anti-Saleh protesters, witnesses said.

6 Syrians target US envoy as regime slams Washington

AFP

1 hr 19 mins ago

Angry supporters of President Bashar al-Assad tried Thursday to attack the US ambassador to Syria, in what Washington charged was a government campaign to intimidate American diplomats.

A mob of nearly 100 Syrians chanting hostile slogans tried to storm an office in Damascus where the ambassador, Robert Ford, had just arrived to meet opposition figure Hassan Abdelazim.

Abdelazim told AFP the mob “tried to break down the door of my office, but didn’t succeed” during a siege that lasted two hours.

7 Armed protestors demand Cameroon president go ahead of poll

AFP

24 mins ago

Armed men dressed as soldiers fired into the air and stopped traffic in south Cameroon on Thursday, demanding the departure of long-serving President Paul Biya ahead of elections, reports said.

The men fired their weapons at the main bridge in Douala, the economic capital of the west African nation that will hold a presidential election on October 9, according to media reports and law enforcement sources.

Cameroon Radio-Television (CRTV) described them as members of an unidentified armed group which held up traffic on Wouri Bridge for two hours. A local official and other sources however said just one man was responsible.

8 US hits alleged Haqqani commander with sanctions

By Paul Handley and Andrew Beatty, AFP

42 mins ago

The United States hit a commander in the Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network with sanctions Thursday, as it weighed broader measures that could risk already brittle relations with Pakistan.

The Treasury Department announced an assets freeze and visa ban against Afghanistan’s Abdul Aziz Abbasin, accusing him of being a “key” commander in the Haqqani network, which is increasingly the focus of Washington’s anti-insurgency efforts.

The Treasury said Abbasin acted as a “Taliban shadow governor” in the southern Paktika border district of Afghanistan, commanded Taliban fighters and run a militant training camp.

9 Pakistan refuses US demands to do more on terror

By Nasir Jaffry, AFP

1 hr 0 mins ago

Pakistan on Thursday closed ranks against increasing US pressure for action against the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, refusing to be pressured into doing more in the war on terror.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani brought together opposition leaders, members of his fragile coalition and military commanders in a rare “all-party conference (APC)” to forge unity in the latest showdown with Washington.

“The Pakistani nation affirms its full solidarity and support for the armed forces of Pakistan in defeating any threat to national security,” a resolution adopted unanimously after a marathon session said.

10 Dengue fever infects over 12,000 in Pakistan

By Masroor Gilani, AFP

2 hrs 3 mins ago

Already cursed by floods and suicide bombings, Pakistan now faces a new menace from an unprecedented outbreak of the deadly tropical disease dengue fever.

In less than a month, 126 people have died and more than 12,000 have been diagnosed with the virus, which has spread rapidly among both rich and poor in Pakistan’s cultural capital Lahore.

Dengue affects between 50 and 100 million people in the tropics and subtropics each year, resulting in fever, muscle and joint ache.

11 Euro fund clears key German test, as Greece awaits audit

By Richard Carter, AFP

11 mins ago

Europe’s rescue fund cleared a major hurdle Thursday when German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to beef it up, boosting markets as attention turned to a key international audit of debt-mired Greece.

Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic greeted the news with relief as Chancellor Angela Merkel survived a vote that proved a hard-fought test of her political authority as the world looks to her to defuse the euro debt crisis.

Deputies voted by 523 to 85, with three abstentions, to expand the size and scope of the 440-billion-euro ($590 billion) European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), handing it new powers, for example to buy sovereign bonds.

12 EU-IMF resume Greek audit as protests grow

By John Hadoulis, AFP

1 hr 43 mins ago

EU and IMF officials resumed talks on Greece’s strained finances Thursday, seeking to avert a dangerous default as they ran a gauntlet of protests against the government’s austerity drive.

Civil servants demonstrating against cuts in pensions, salaries and staff numbers occupied most of the major ministry buildings to protest what their Adedy union called “new, barborous measures” demanded by Greece’s creditors.

The protests are planned to continue Friday, with groups springing up in opposition to new taxes, especially on property, which the government hopes will allow it finally to balance the strained public finances.

13 Austerity only way forward for eurozone: Latvian PM

By Jonathan Fowler, AFP

1 hr 49 mins ago

Greece and other debt-wracked eurozone nations have no alternative to austerity, according to Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who steered his country out of the world’s deepest recession.

“In the case of eurozone countries, this seems to be the only realistic way forward,” Dombrovskis told AFP Thursday in an interview in Warsaw ahead of a European Union summit in the Polish capital.

“We had this debate in Latvia, that it’s a bad idea to cut expenditure during a crisis, it’s a bad idea to raise taxes, so let’s wait until the economy stabilises, let’s use the budget deficit as a fiscal stimulus and deal with the debt afterwards,” the centre-right premier said.

14 Amanda Knox ‘crucified’ in Italy murder case: lawyer

By Dario Thuburn, AFP

3 hrs ago

Amanda Knox’s defence urged jurors to overturn her murder conviction on Thursday saying the American had been “crucified” by the media as her appeal in Italy moves towards a final verdict.

Lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said the result of the first trial, in which Knox was sentenced to 26 years in prison, had been a “mistake” and he told the court: “Don’t make a mistake. Not at the cost of keeping innocents in prison.”

He condemned the “fantastical reconstructions” of the grisly killing of Knox’s British housemate Meredith Kercher on November 1, 2007 in the house they shared in the university town of Perugia where the trial is taking place.

15 Libya’s NTC retakes airport in Gaddafi home town

By Joseph Logan, Reuters

6 hrs ago

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) – Libyan interim government forces recaptured the airport in Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s birthplace, on Thursday, amid mounting concern for civilians trapped inside the besieged city.

National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters took full control of Sirte airport, Reuters witnesses said. They had taken it two weeks ago, but then lost it again. Sirte’s pro-Gaddafi defenders have used sniper, rocket and artillery fire to fight off two full-scale NTC assaults on the city in the past week.

Each side has accused the other of endangering civilians.

16 Europeans soften U.N. Security Council Syria draft

By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters

1 hr 37 mins ago

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – European U.N. Security Council members softened a draft resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown on anti-government protests but Russia suggested on Thursday that it still might not support the new text.

The four European members of the council hope to put the draft resolution to a vote on Friday. The United States is expected to support it, envoys said, despite its disappointment about compromises made to win the support of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa — the five “BRICS” nations.

The latest attempt to bridge the wide differences between those five nations on the one hand and the United States and European members of the council on the other comes after months of resistance by the BRICS to any tough U.N. action on Syria.

17 Pakistan never backed Haqqani network-spy chief

By Qasim Nauman and Zeeshan Haider, Reuters

1 hr 56 mins ago

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s intelligence chief on Thursday denied U.S. accusations that the country supports the Haqqani network, an Afghan militant group blamed for an attack on the American embassy in Kabul.

“There are other intelligence networks supporting groups who operate inside Afghanistan. We have never paid a penny or provided even a single bullet to the Haqqani network,” Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha told Reuters after meeting political leaders over heavily strained U.S.-Pakistani ties.

Pasha, one of the most powerful men in the South Asian nation, told the all-party gathering that U.S. military action against insurgents in Pakistan would be unacceptable and the army would be capable of responding, local media said.

18 Europe again steps back from brink in debt crisis

By Stephen Brown and Madeline Chambers, Reuters

56 mins ago

BERLIN (Reuters) – Following a now-familiar script, Europe again averted disaster in its debt crisis when German lawmakers rallied behind Chancellor Angela Merkel to approve a stronger euro zone bailout fund on Thursday.

But bigger challenges loom for the euro zone now. Financial markets are already anticipating a likely Greek default and demanding more far-reaching measures to prevent the crisis that began in Athens from spreading far beyond Europe and its banks.

The Bundestag (lower house) overwhelmingly approved new powers for the 440-billion-euro EFSF fund to make precautionary loans, help recapitalize banks and buy distressed countries’ bonds in the secondary market.

19 Greece resumes talks with auditors amid fresh protests

By Lefteris Papadimas, Reuters

1 hr 35 mins ago

ATHENS (Reuters) – Civil servants blockaded several ministries on Thursday to protest against austerity measures as Greece resumed talks with EU and IMF inspectors on an 8 billion euro aid tranche it needs to avoid bankruptcy next month.

The Socialist government decided on unpopular pension cuts, lay-offs and taxes last week to lure back the so-called troika of European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials, who suspended talks earlier this month after disagreements on the steps needed to plug fiscal gaps.

Dozens of employees gathered in front of the finance ministry on Thursday in protest against the measures, shouting: “Take your bailout and leave.”

20 Trichet’s letter to Rome published, urged cuts

By Michel Rose, Reuters

1 hr 37 mins ago

MILAN (Reuters) – The European Central Bank demanded sweeping reforms and fiscal tightening measures from Italy in August before it stepped into the market to ease mounting pressure on Italian bonds, a letter published in the Corriere della Sera on Thursday showed.

The existence and outline of the letter from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and his designated successor, Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi, has been acknowledged but not so far been made public by the authorities.

The ECB declined to comment on the letter on Thursday.

21 Analysis: Stagnant U.S. jobs market bodes ill for world economy

By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics Correspondent, Reuters

8 hrs ago

LONDON (Reuters) – Record-high long-term unemployment is testing politicians and central bankers to the utmost as the impact of a shortfall in demand is amplified by an aging population, a mismatch of skills and inadequate efforts to get people back to work.

That’s a summary not of Europe, typically associated with rigid hiring and firing laws and excessive non-wage costs, but of the United States, long renowned for a labor market as dynamic as its entrepreneurs.

America’s jobs machine is now spluttering badly, an ominous development for businesses worldwide hoping for a revival in the world’s largest economy to relieve the gloom cast by the euro zone debt crisis.

22 Exclusive: Justice Department probing Chinese accounting

By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Sarah N. Lynch, Reuters

1 hr 22 mins ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department is investigating accounting irregularities at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges, said an official with the Securities and Exchange Commission, suggesting criminal charges may be brought in addition to civil proceedings.

“There are parts of the Justice Department that are actively engaged in this area,” Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He told Reuters that a number of federal prosecutors around the United States were taking part in the investigation, but he declined to name them.

23 SEC concedes challenges in credit-rating probes

By Sarah N. Lynch, David Henry and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters

3 hrs ago

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Securities and Exchange Commission faces hurdles proving wrongdoing at credit-rating agencies, the agency’s enforcement chief said, pointing to the complexity of the cases and the industry’s strong legal defenses.

SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami’s comments to Reuters came a day after McGraw-Hill Cos Inc disclosed on Monday that the agency may sue its Standard & Poor’s unit for breaking securities laws.

Khuzami declined to comment specifically on S&P, but his remarks show how a case against S&P or other credit raters would be far from easy to win.

24 Bank of America to charge debit card use fee

By Joe Rauch, Reuters

1 hr 43 mins ago

(Reuters) – Bank of America Corp plans to charge customers who use their debit cards to make purchases a $5 monthly fee beginning early next year, joining other banks scrambling for new sources of revenue.

U.S. banks have been looking for ways to increase revenue as regulations introduced since the financial crisis limited the use of overdraft and other fees.

The Dodd-Frank Act’s Durbin amendment, due to go into effect on October 1, caps fees banks can charge merchants for processing debit card transactions at 21 cents per transaction from an average of 44 cents, potentially costing banks billions of dollars.

25 Republican Gingrich proposes updated Contract with America

By Kay Henderson, Reuters

1 hr 49 mins ago

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, looking to energize his 2012 campaign, produced a new version of the “Contract with America,” the 1994 plan that gave Republicans congressional election wins.

Gingrich laid out the “21st Century Contract with America” on Thursday. It is a broad economic plan that would offer Americans choices in how they buy healthcare and pay taxes.

His original contract helped Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives and catapulted him into the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives.

26 Groups sue to block North Carolina abortion law

By Ned Barnett, Reuters

1 hr 34 mins ago

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court on Thursday challenging a new North Carolina law that requires women to be shown an ultrasound image of the fetus before getting an abortion.

The “Woman’s Right to Know Act” also imposes a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and requires abortion providers to describe the fetus to women and offer to let them hear the fetal heartbeat prior to the procedure.

The law is set to take effect on October 26.

27 League and players feel urgency in labor talks

By Simon Evans, Reuters

1 hr 44 mins ago

(Reuters) – Talks aimed at ending the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) lockout resume Friday with both sides warning that time for a deal is running out amid concerns over the economic impact of the labor dispute.

The regular season is slated to begin November 1 but with no deal in place for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the league risks postponing or cancelling regular season games for only the second time in its history.

“There are enormous consequences at play here on the basis of the weekend,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

28 Colds and stomach bugs not tied to cerebral palsy

By Linda Thrasybule, Reuters

2 hrs 6 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Despite concerns that a mother’s infections during pregnancy may raise her baby’s risk of cerebral palsy, common colds and stomach flu were not tied to the birth defect in a new study.

Other more serious infections, and factors like a woman’s history of miscarriage or family history of cerebral palsy, were associated with increased risk to babies, Dr. Michael E. O’Callaghan of the University of Adelaide, Australia, one of the study authors told Reuters Health. “There’s an increased chance but it’s still low.”

In particular, severe maternal infections in the second half of pregnancy were linked to higher risk for babies. So were preterm birth, growth restrictions inside the uterus and being a twin or part of a larger set of multiples.

29 Kids given plasma despite no clear benefit: study

By Genevra Pittman, Reuters

2 hrs 6 mins ago

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Many kids get plasma transfusions when there’s little evidence they do much good, according to a new study.

Transfusions of so-called fresh frozen plasma are sometimes given to both kids and adults whose blood has problems clotting, or if they have lost a lot of blood from surgery or an accident.

But only a couple of studies in kids have shown that plasma transfusions are a good option for one specific heart surgery procedure. The rest of the time, researchers have found they don’t work, or that their benefit is uncertain.

30 Syrian regime supporters pelt US envoy with eggs

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press

3 hrs ago

BEIRUT (AP) – Angry supporters of President Bashar Assad’s regime hurled tomatoes and eggs at the U.S. ambassador to Syria on Thursday as he entered the office of a leading opposition figure and then tried to break into the building, trapping him inside for three hours.

The Obama administration blamed the Syrian government for the attack in Damascus, saying it was part of an ongoing, orchestrated campaign to intimidate American diplomats in the country. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attack as “wholly unjustified.”

Ambassador Robert Ford, an outspoken critic of Assad’s crackdown on the 6-month-old revolt against the regime, has angered Syrian authorities before by showing support for the uprising. The latest incident promises to raise tensions even further.

31 Saudis hold their last all-male election

By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI and HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press

3 hrs ago

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Saudi Arabia held its second nationwide vote ever on Thursday, a male-only election for powerless municipal councils. The balloting comes just days after the king decreed that women will be able to participate for the first time in the next local elections in 2015, a measure likely aimed at heading off Arab Spring-style dissent in the kingdom.

The election and Sunday’s decree to give women the vote are two examples of the baby steps King Abdullah has been taking to reform and modernize his oil-rich nation since he ascended the throne in 2005. Though small, they are significant by the standards of his ultraconservative country – home to Islam’s holiest shrines and vastly influenced by the clerical establishment.

Still the reforms signal the ruling family is not ready for deep change, even as popular uprisings are transforming the face of an Arab world long accustomed to absolute monarchs – like the Saudi king – dictators and fraudulently elected leaders.

32 Gingrich calls for changes in taxes, health care

By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press

2 hrs 12 mins ago

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Hoping to revive his flagging bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for an overhaul of the way Americans pay taxes, buy health care and contribute to the Social Security system.

Gingrich mapped out the 10-point plan, which he’s calling The 21st Century Contract with America, in a speech at a Des Moines insurance company Thursday. Key elements include repealing President Barack Obama’s health care plan, giving taxpayers the option of paying a flat tax and allowing young people to opt out of Social Security.

Gingrich is putting the new Contract with America at the core of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, betting it will set the tone for the campaign discussion going forward.

33 More bad news for bank customers: Debit card fees

By CANDICE CHOI, AP Personal Finance Writer

38 mins ago

NEW YORK (AP) – Bank of America will start charging debit-card users $5 a month to pay for purchases. The move comes as the cards increasingly replace cash and as banks look for ways to offset the loss of revenue from a new rule that will limit how much they can collect from merchants.

Paying to use a debit card was unheard of before this year and is still a novel concept for many consumers. But several banks have recently introduced or started testing debit card fees. That’s in addition to the spate of other unwelcome changes checking account customers have seen in the past year. Bank of America will begin charging the fee early next year.

Bank of America’s announcement carries added weight because it is the largest U.S. bank by deposits.

34 Small Neb. town braces for big pipeline hearing

By GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press

1 hr 36 mins ago

ATKINSON, Neb. (AP) – Bruce Boettcher strolls over a hilltop in desolate Nebraska ranching country, stares down at the tightly packed sand around his boot, clenches his jaw and kicks a fistful into the breeze.

Four generations have worked the land where 55-year-old rancher tends cattle. His rolling, sunburnt 480 acres sit atop the Ogallala aquifer, an underground water supply that has become ground zero in a national fight over the Obama administration’s environmental priorities.

The latest showdown is taking place in the north-central Nebraska town of Atkinson, a farming and ranching community near the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed route. The pipeline operated by Calgary-based TransCanada would carry tar sands oil over the Canadian border and through six states on its way to Texas refineries. U.S. State Department officials are holding hearings this week in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas before they decide whether to grant a federal permit.

35 Census: Hispanics fuel US white population growth

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press

2 hrs 34 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AP) – In a twist to notions of race identity, new 2010 census figures show an unexpected reason behind a renewed growth in the U.S. white population: more Hispanics listing themselves as white in the once-a-decade government count.

The shift is due to recent census changes that emphasize “Hispanic” as an ethnicity, not a race. While the U.S. government first made this distinction in 1980, many Latinos continued to use the “some other race” box to establish a Hispanic identity. In a switch, the 2010 census forms specifically instructed Latinos that Hispanic origins are not races and to select a recognized category such as white or black.

The result: a 6 percent increase in white Americans as tallied by the census, even though there was little change among non-Hispanic whites. In all, the number of people in the “white alone” category jumped by 12.1 million over the last decade to 223.6 million. Based on that definition, whites now represent 72 percent of the U.S. population and account for nearly half of the total population increase since 2000.

36 With eye on clock, NBA owners, players seek deal

By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer

3 hrs ago

NEW YORK (AP) – They don’t have a deal yet, and they are just about out of time.

After some two years of on-and-off negotiations, that’s about all NBA players and owners agree on. The gaps in their financial proposals have been so great that they sometimes decide it’s best to just talk about something else.

Now they have to figure it out quickly. Without at least getting very close to the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement this weekend, hopes of the 2011-12 season starting on time would be all but lost.

37 Engineer relishes work atop Washington Monument

By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press

3 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) – Emma Cardini never envisioned herself rappelling down the sides of buildings. She’s a civil engineer, not a thrill-seeker.

But for a second straight day on Thursday, she was a high-wire celebrity and object of fascination for gawking tourists as she made her way up and down the east face of the Washington Monument to document earthquake damage.

Cardini, 32, is part of the four-person “difficult access team” using harnesses and ropes to traverse the exterior of the monument and test each individual stone. The 555-foot obelisk shook violently during a 5.8-magnitude earthquake Aug. 23.

38 Review: Software for recording now, playing later

By RACHEL METZ, AP Technology Writer

27 mins ago

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – If the idea of being stuck on a plane for hours without access to the movies in your Netflix queue fills you with dread, software that lets you record streaming videos from the Web and watch them later on your laptop may be an appealing solution.

That’s the idea behind PlayLater, which bills itself as “the DVR for online videos.” It can record content from a number of different online sources – including Hulu, YouTube and Netflix – and save it to your computer. It costs $5 per month, or $50 per year. New users can try it free for two weeks before paying.

If you buy or rent more than a couple of digital videos from Amazon.com Inc. or Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store every month, PlayLater could sound like a money-saver. And while it’s a potentially useful product, it needs a lot of improvement before I’d be willing to shell out for it.

39 Defense: Amanda Knox ‘crucified’ in Italy’s media

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO, Associated Press

5 hrs ago

PERUGIA, Italy (AP) – An Italian defense lawyer argued Thursday that Amanda Knox is an innocent girl “crucified” in the media and wrongly convicted of killing her roommate, urging an appeals court not to be afraid to correct a mistake.

Carlo Dalla Vedova told the court in his closing arguments that Knox has been the victim of a “tragic judicial case” and has spent more than 1,000 days behind bars as a result. The highly anticipated verdict in the appeals case is expected Monday.

Knox was convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher, a British student in Perugia, and sentenced to 26 years in prison, while co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years. They deny wrongdoing and have appealed.

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    Ophelia strengthens into hurricane in Atlantic

    (CNN) — Ophelia is now a hurricane as it continues to gain strength in the Atlantic Ocean, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday afternoon.

    The system had appeared to be weakening several days ago, only to emerge from tropical storm status in the Miami-based center’s 5 p.m. update.

    Ophelia is forecast to strengthen even more over the next two days.

    Moving north-northwest at 9 mph, its center is about 770 miles south-southeast of Bermuda.

    Starting late Saturday, Ophelia could affect that mid-Atlantic island, where a tropical storm watch is now in effect. But the hurricane, which is likely to gradually turn north and speed up Thursday night and Friday, is not expected to significantly impact the U.S. coast.

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