AP News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Nov 08, 2009 6:13 PM

Democrat senators divided on government health insurance, so House's bill has nowhere to go

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The glow from a health care triumph faded quickly for President Barack Obama on Sunday as Democrats realized the bill they fought so hard to pass in the House has nowhere to go in the Senate.

Speaking from the Rose Garden about 14 hours after the late Saturday vote, Obama urged senators to be like runners on a relay team and "take the baton and bring this effort to the finish line on behalf of the American people."

The problem is that the Senate won't run with it. The government health insurance plan included in the House bill is unacceptable to a few Democratic moderates who hold the balance of power in the Senate.

If a government plan is part of the deal, "as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters.

"The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said dismissively.


Army chaplain: Pray for Fort Hood shooting suspect, but also pray for meaning in massacre

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) _ An Army chaplain asked mourners Sunday to pray for the accused Fort Hood shooter, calling on them to focus less on why the tragedy happened and more on helping each other through "the valley of the shadow of darkness."

"Lord, all those around us search for motive, search for meaning, search for something, someone to blame. That is so frustrating," Col. Frank Jackson told a group of about 120 people gathered at one of the post's chapel. "Today, we pause to hear from you. So Lord, as we pray together, we focus on things we know."

Worshippers at the 1st Cavalry Memorial Chapel hugged each other and raised their hands in prayer during the service, in which Jackson asked the congregation to pray for the 13 dead and 29 wounded that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is accused of shooting. The chaplain also urged the crowd to pray for Hasan and his family "as they find themselves in a position that no person ever desires to be _ to try and explain the unexplainable."

"Our prayer is that you will use us and this faith community to be a catalyst for healing and reconciliation," Jackson said. "Give us listening ears, open eyes and hearts, and confidence in the presence of your holy spirit as we journey together with all those around us through this valley of the shadow of darkness."

Meanwhile, a leading lawmaker said he plans to begin a congressional investigation to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack.


La. Gov. declares state of emergency as Hurricane Ida menaces Gulf Coast, could hit Tuesday

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Hurricane Ida, the first Atlantic hurricane to target the United States this year, plodded Sunday toward the Gulf Coast with 100 mph winds, bringing the threat of flooding and storm surges.

A hurricane watch extended over more than 200 miles of coastline across southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Louisiana's governor declared a state of emergency.

Authorities said Ida could make landfall as early as Tuesday morning, although it was forecast to weaken by then. Officials and residents kept a close eye on the Category 2 hurricane as it approached, though there were no immediate plans for evacuations.

At 1 p.m. EST, Ida was located 510 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and moving northwest near 10 mph. The latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows Ida brushing near Louisiana and Mississippi, then making landfall near Alabama before continuing across north Florida.

Yet many residents took the forecast in stride.


Iraqi parliament approves long-delayed election law, paving way for national vote

BAGHDAD (AP) _ Iraq's parliament ended weeks of debate Sunday and passed a long-delayed law paving the way for the planned January election to go forward, sidestepping a crisis that could have delayed the U.S. troop withdrawal.

The decision appeared to resolve a key sticking point _ who will be allowed to vote in the disputed, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The issue had threatened to delay Iraq's key parliamentary elections, which in turn would affect how quickly American combat forces could leave the country.

In a sign of how intensely Washington was following the debate, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill could be seen shuttling between various political factions before the law's passage. President Barack Obama, speaking at the White House, welcomed the new legislation.

"This is an important milestone as the Iraqi people continue to take responsibility for their future. I want to congratulate Iraq's leaders for reaching this agreement," Obama said. "The United States will continue to stand with Iraq as a strong partner and as a friend."

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in a statement posted on his Web site, hailed the election law's passage as a "historic victory of the will of the people," and described it as a strong response to the people who are trying to undermine the country's security.


President Karzai pledges corrupt officials will have no place in his new Afghan government

KABUL (AP) _ The embattled Afghan president pledged Sunday that there would be no place for corrupt officials in his new administration _ a demand made by Washington and its international partners as they ponder sending more troops to confront the Taliban and shore up his government.

Also Sunday, NATO reported three more coalition soldiers _ one American and two Britons _ died in combat with the Taliban in western and southern areas. The latest losses pushed Britain's combat death toll in the eight-year Afghan war to 201.

NATO forces said they were still searching for two American paratroopers who disappeared Wednesday while trying to recover airdropped supplies that had fallen into a river. Afghan police said the two Americans were swept away by the current and may have drowned.

With casualties mounting, corruption has become a frontburner issue in Afghanistan, with President Barack Obama and other world leaders under pressure from their own constituents to explain why they are sending young soldiers to fight and die in defense of a government riddled with graft, cronyism and fraud.

Obama is considering a request from the top U.S. and NATO commander to send tens of thousands more U.S. troops to curb the growing Taliban insurgency.


AP IMPACT: PC owners caught with child porn loaded on their computers _ by a computer virus

Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography.

Heinous pictures and videos can be deposited on computers by viruses _ the malicious programs better known for swiping your credit card numbers. In this twist, it's your reputation that's stolen.

Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they'll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.

Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer _ and might not realize it until police knock at your door.

An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.


Ill. prosecutors seek grades, e-mails of journalism students investigating murder conviction

CHICAGO (AP) _ A Northwestern University professor and journalism students who spent three years investigating the case of a man convicted in the 1978 killing of a security guard believe they have evidence that shows prosecutors put the wrong man behind bars. But in the quest to prove his innocence, they may have to defend themselves, too.

Cook County prosecutors have outraged the university and the journalism community by issuing subpoenas to professor David Protess seeking his students' grades, his syllabus and their private e-mails. Prosecutors claim since the team was made up of students, they may have been under pressure to prove the case to get a good grade.

It's a first for Protess and his investigative reporting students, who have helped free 11 innocent men from prison, including death row, since 1996. Their work also is credited with prompting then-Gov. George Ryan to empty the state's death row in 2003, re-igniting a national debate on the death penalty.

"Why are we talking about our grades when we should be talking about whether there's an innocent man in prison?" said Evan Benn, a former Protess student mentioned in the state's subpoena. None of the students has been individually subpoenaed.

The prosecutor's office _ led by Anita Alvarez, who last year was elected Cook County state's attorney on a reputation for toughness _ said it's just being thorough, and wants to determine if students may have skewed their findings to get a good grade.


Volatile stock market index seems to defy thrust of recent positive economic news

Stock market volatility is back, a signal to some experts that the powerful rally that started in early March may be coming to an end.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose or fell more than 100 points in seven of the past 12 trading days, capped by a 205-point advance on Thursday that left the index almost 53 percent higher than its closing level on March 9.

The Dow's muted 17-point gain on Friday masked the fact that it swung nearly 108 points throughout the day after the government reported the unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in October.

The latest volatility surge comes after a calm stretch. Over the preceding two months, there were just eight days where the daily Dow change exceeded 100 points.

While the volatility brings back memories of last fall's financial crisis, few analysts are predicting a huge downdraft is coming. Instead, they say it's not uncommon to see choppy trading patterns when investors begin to fret that a bull market is running out of steam.


Carrey's 'Christmas Carol' wraps up $31M weekend; 'Precious' opens big in limited release

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jim Carrey's Scrooge collected holiday donations from movie fans with his new take on "A Christmas Carol," which took in $31 million to open as the weekend's top movie.

The Disney animated version of the Charles Dickens classic knocked the King of Pop out of the No. 1 spot as "Michael Jackson's This Is It" slipped to second place with $14 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Sony's "This Is It," presenting rehearsal performances Jackson shot before his death last June, raised its domestic total to $57.9 million. Worldwide, "This Is It" has taken in $186.5 million.

Featuring Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge and also as the three holiday ghosts that show Scrooge the error of his miserly ways, "A Christmas Carol" came in on the low end of Disney's expectations for opening weekend.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lionsgate's acclaimed drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" had a spectacular start, pulling in $1.8 million in just 18 theaters, averaging $100,000 a cinema. That compares with an $8,418 average for "A Christmas Carol" in 3,683 theaters.


Tom Brady, Randy Moss overcome wildcat Dolphin offense as New England beats Miami 27-17

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) _ Tom Brady and Randy Moss connected on two highlight-reel plays and the New England Patriots overcame the Miami Dolphins' revived wildcat offense for a 27-17 win Sunday.

Moss set up the Patriots' first touchdown with a one-handed, 36-yard grab at the Dolphins 1-yard line, then scored on a 71-yard play after catching the ball about 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Miami's two touchdowns came on possessions on which it used the wildcat most extensively _ after gaining just 36 yards on 21 wildcat plays in its previous two games _ but New England's quick-strike ability took back the momentum.

The Patriots (6-2) lead the idle New York Jets (4-4) and Miami and Buffalo (both 3-5) in the AFC East. The win was especially important since Miami had been 3-0 in division games and New England only 1-1. Last season, both finished at 11-5 and had the same record in AFC East games, but the Dolphins made the playoffs with a better conference record, and the Patriots missed them.

Brady missed all but the first quarter of last season with a knee injury one year after he and Moss hooked up for 23 touchdowns.