AP News in Brief at 5:58 p.m. EST

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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 6:13 PM

Lawyer headed to meet Fort Hood shooting suspect, asks investigators not to question him

KILLEEN, Texas (AP) _ A lawyer for the Army psychiatrist accused in a deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood said Monday he asked investigators not to question his client and expressed doubt that the suspect would be able to get a fair trial, given the widespread attention to the case.

Retired Col. John P. Galligan said he was contacted Monday by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's family and was headed to an Army hospital in San Antonio to meet Hasan.

"Until I meet with him, it's best to say we're just going to protect all of his rights," Galligan said.

Hasan, 39, is accused of opening fire on the Army post on Thursday, killing 13 people and wounding 29 before civilian police shot him in the torso. He was taken into custody and eventually moved to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he was in stable condition Monday and able to talk, hospital spokesman Dewey Mitchell said.

Galligan said he didn't know if Hasan had been medically cleared to talk.

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Iranian prosecutor accuses 3 Americans detained on the border with Iraq of espionage

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran accused three detained Americans of spying Monday, signaling Tehran intends to put them on trial. It drew a sharp U.S. response that the charges are baseless because the hikers strayed across the border from Iraq.

The announcement comes as Washington and Tehran are deadlocked in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, raising concern that the three could be used as bargaining chips in the talks or to seek the return of Iranians they say are missing.

Relatives and the U.S government say the three were innocent tourists on an adventure hike in northern Iraq and accidentally crossed into Iran where they were arrested on July 31.

Commenting on the case, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the U.S. of jailing innocent Iranians and pointed to two of his countrymen _ a nuclear scientist and a top defense official _ who disappeared in recent years. Tehran accuses the U.S. of kidnapping them. The U.S. has refused comment on the two, and there has been speculation they defected to the West.

Ahmadinejad, asked about the spying accusations against the Americans, told reporters in Istanbul, Turkey, said he had no opinion about the case.

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Abortion coverage is latest hot button as Senate faces health care debate

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Abortion opponents in the Senate are seeking tough restrictions in the health care overhaul bill, a move that could roil a shaky Democratic effort to pass President Barack Obama's signature issue by year's end.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said Monday it's unlikely he could support a bill that doesn't clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to pay for abortions. His spokesman said Nelson is weighing options, including offering an amendment that's similar to the one passed by the House.

The House-passed restrictions were the price Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had to pay to get a health care bill passed, on a narrow 220-215 vote. But it's prompted an angry backlash from liberals, some of whom are now threatening to vote against a final bill if the curbs stay in.

Senate Democrats will need Nelson's vote _ and those of other abortion opponents in their caucus _ to prevail in what's likely to be a grueling debate against Republicans who are unified in their opposition.

"This is a very important issue to Sen. Nelson, and it is highly unlikely he would support a bill that doesn't clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion," said his spokesman, Jake Thompson.

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Radical imam praises alleged Fort Hood shooter, says Muslims in US military should follow him

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A radical American imam on Yemen's most wanted militant list who had contact with two 9/11 hijackers praised alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as a hero on his personal Web site Monday.

The posting on the Web site for Anwar al Awlaki, who was a spiritual leader at two mosques where three 9/11 hijackers worshipped, said American Muslims who condemned the attacks on the Texas military base last week are hypocrites who have committed treason against their religion.

Awlaki said the only way a Muslim can justify serving in the U.S. military is if he intends to "follow in the footsteps of men like Nidal."

"Nidal Hassan (sic) is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people," Awlaki wrote.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 and wounding 29 in a shooting spree Thursday. Hasan's family attended the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., where Awlaki was preaching in 2001.

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Ida weakens to a tropical storm as US Gulf Coast residents brace for high winds, flooding

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ Gulf Coast residents hunkered down at home and in shelters Monday as a rare late-season tropical storm headed their way, bringing with it the potential for high winds, flooding and up to 8 inches of rain in some places.

After a quiet Atlantic storm season, people took the year's first serious threat in stride.

"We can ride it out right here," said T.J. Covacevich, 50, who wore a "Hurricane Hunter" T-shirt as he tied down his powerboat in a Biloxi, Miss., harbor.

Earlier, heavy rain in Ida's wake triggered flooding and landslides in El Salvador that killed at least 130 people.

Ida had been the third hurricane of this year's Atlantic season, which ends Dec. 1, but weakened to a tropical storm Monday, with maximum sustained winds near 70 mph (110 kph).

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Merkel and Gorbachev cross former border together on 20th anniversary of fall of Berlin Wall

BERLIN (AP) _ Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev crossed a former fortified border on Monday to cheers of "Gorby! Gorby!" as a throng of grateful Germans recalled the night 20 years ago that the Berlin Wall gave way to their desire for freedom and unity.

Within hours of a confused announcement on Nov. 9, 1989 that East Germany was lifting travel restrictions, hundreds of people streamed into the enclave that was West Berlin, marking a pivotal moment in the collapse of communism in Europe.

Merkel, who grew up in East Germany and was one of thousands to cross that night, recalled that "before the joy of freedom came, many people suffered."

She lauded Gorbachev, with whom she shared an umbrella amid a crush of hundreds, eager for a glimpse of the man many still consider a hero for his role in pushing reform in the Soviet Union.

"We always knew that something had to happen there so that more could change here," she said.

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Man accused of shooting George Tiller tells AP he killed the abortion provider, has no regrets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Defiant and unapologetic, a man accused of shooting a Kansas abortion provider confessed to the slaying Monday, telling The Associated Press that he killed the doctor to protect unborn children.

Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., spoke to the AP in a telephone call from jail, saying he plans to argue at his trial that he was justified in shooting Dr. George Tiller at the abortion provider's Wichita church in May.

"Because of the fact preborn children's lives were in imminent danger this was the action I chose. ... I want to make sure that the focus is, of course, obviously on the preborn children and the necessity to defend them," Roeder said.

"Defending innocent life _ that is what prompted me. It is pretty simple," he said.

Roeder is charged with one count of first-degree murder in Tiller's death and two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly threatening two ushers who tried to stop him during the May 31 melee in the foyer of the doctor's church. Roeder has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in January.

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Police identify 2 more women among bodies found at Cleveland man's home

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Police say they have identified two additional victims of a serial killer in Cleveland.

Police say the remains of 48-year-old Janice Webb and 44-year-old Kim Yvette Smith were identified Monday by the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County coroner's office.

Lt. Thomas Stacho (STAH'-koh) says that Webb's family reported her missing on Aug. 2 but that Smith was not reported missing until Nov. 2. That's after police began uncovering remains at the house of 50-year-old Anthony Sowell on Cleveland's east side.

Police say Webb was last seen June 3 and Smith on Jan. 1.

Authorities suspect Sowell lured at least 11 victims into his home and strangled them. He faces five aggravated murder charges.

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Stocks leap as G-20 countries agree to maintain economic stimulus; sliding dollar lifts market

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Dow Jones industrial average stormed to its highest level in more than a year Monday as a falling dollar boosted prices for gold, oil and other commodities. Stocks also jumped as investors grew more confident that governments around the world will keep interest rates low to help the global economy.

Energy and materials stocks led the market. The major indexes rose 2 percent and the Dow jumped 200 points for the second time in three days, reaching its highest level in 13 months.

News that the Group of 20 countries will keep economic stimulus measures in place signaled to investors that rates will remain low. With U.S. rates near zero, the G-20 news lessened demand for the dollar.

Even as investors are waiting for more signs that the economy is recovering, they've been focusing on the dollar when they make buy and sell decisions. Investors around the world see the dollar as weaker than other currencies, and so they're using it for what's known as "carry trade," to finance purchases of investments in other countries. That trend takes the dollar down further when those purchases are made.

But some analysts are questioning investors' stock moves given the still-weak economy, and warn that stocks and other investments could suffer big losses if the dollar were to turn higher.

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Chiefs run out of patience with troubled running back Larry Johnson and release him

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Given good blocking and a fresh start, Larry Johnson might still be the power-running Pro Bowler who had back-to-back 1,700-yard seasons for Kansas City. Are you listening, Seattle? What do you think, Indianapolis? Or he might be a declining malcontent who'll only cost money and cause trouble.

To that, every coach and general manager in the NFL is listening. The Chiefs released the controversy-plagued Johnson on Monday, the day he was due back from his second suspension in the past 12 months.

On his Twitter account two weeks ago, Johnson had questioned coach Todd Haley's competence, insulted followers and used a gay slur. He repeated the gay slur the next day to reporters and was suspended for two weeks.

In spite of Johnson's baggage and his age _ he turns 30 on Nov. 19 _ any team with a faltering running game might be tempted to take a chance. The Seahawks' running game ranks 30th and lead back Julius Jones has been sputtering. Just last week, they released backup Edgerrin James.

The Colts' running game has also stalled. But Indianapolis might be more interested in filling holes in the secondary, and the Colts have Donald Brown, a rookie running back they feel will be capable of big things.