AP News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2009 6:11 PM

Democrats seal 60-vote majority to advance health care bill; Landrieu, Lincoln to vote 'yes'

WASHINGTON (AP) _ In a show of unity, Senate Democrats sealed a 60-vote majority needed to advance health care legislation Saturday ahead of an evening showdown with Republicans eager to doom the bill and inflict a punishing defeat on President Barack Obama.

Two final holdouts, Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, announced in speeches a few hours apart on the Senate floor they would vote to clear the way for what is expected to be a bruising, full-scale health care debate after Thanksgiving.

At a 10-year cost approaching $1 trillion, the measure is designed to extend coverage to roughly 31 million who lack it, crack down on insurance company practices that deny benefits, and curtail the growth of spending on medical care nationally.

"It is clear to me that doing nothing is not an option," said Landrieu, who noted the legislation includes $100 million to help her state pay the costs of health care for the poor.

Lincoln, who faces a tough re-election next year, said the evening vote will "mark the beginning of consideration of this bill by the U.S. Senate, not the end."


Scientists get Big Bang machine working again, now plan to explore the depths of matter

GENEVA (AP) _ Scientists are preparing the world's largest atom smasher to explore the depths of matter after successfully restarting the $10 billion machine following more than a year of repairs.

When the machine is fully operational, its magnets will control the beams of protons and send them in opposite directions through two parallel tubes the size of fire hoses.

In rooms as large as cathedrals 300 feet (100 meters) under the Swiss-French border, the magnets will force them into huge detectors to record the reactions.

One goal is to unravel the mysteries of the Big Bang that many scientists theorize marked the creation of the universe billions of years ago.

The restart of the Large Hadron Collider late Friday was hailed as a significant leap forward in efforts to launch new experiments _ probably in January _ on the makeup of matter and the universe.


Pope assures archbishop Vatican is seeking closer relations with Anglicans

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ After offering a home in his church to disaffected Anglicans, Pope Benedict XVI assured the archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday that he is still committed to seeking closer relations between Catholics and Anglicans.

Archbishop Rowan Williams said he came away convinced there was no "dawn raid" on his church by Rome, telling Vatican Radio he wishes "every blessing" for those who want to become Catholics.

Williams and Benedict met privately for 20 minutes in what the Vatican called "cordial discussions," as part of what has clearly been a difficult visit by the Anglican leader.

The Vatican said in a brief statement that the two leaders "turned to the challenges facing all Christian communities" and the need "to promote forms of collaboration and shared witness in facing these challenges."

Referring to the recent overture for traditional Anglicans upset over the ordination of women and gay bishops to become Catholics, the Vatican said the talks reiterated "the shared will to continue and to consolidate the ecumenical relationship between Catholics and Anglicans."


Court martial finds ex-Air Force nurse not guilty of killing 3 terminally ill patients

SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ A military judge in Texas has found a former Air Force nurse accused of killing three terminally ill patients not guilty of murder.

Capt. Michael Fontana was accused of administering excessive dosages of painkillers to speed the patients' deaths.

Presiding over the court martial Saturday, Col. William Burd said Fontana was not guilty on all counts.

Speaking after the ruling, Fontana said he never regretted the treatment he gave and that he hopes he can return to nursing.

Fontana has been in the Air Force since 2006 and served a tour in Iraq in 2007. He worked as an intensive care nurse at Wilford Hall, which primarily serves military personnel and retirees but provides emergency and trauma care to some civilians.


More Americans expected to travel for Thanksgiving after last year's drop; most opt for car

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The number of Americans traveling away from home for Thanksgiving will be up only slightly this year from 2008, according to a report from the AAA auto club.

The group, which surveyed 1,350 households, said there will be about 33.2 million people traveling by car this year _ a 2.1 percent increase from last year.

But there will be a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of air travelers, totaling 2.3 million this year, continuing a decade-long decline of Thanksgiving air travel.

In the report released Wednesday, AAA officials said the expected increase reflects improved consumer confidence from a year ago, when Thanksgiving travel dropped 25 percent following the country's housing and economic problems. Americans may feel more financially secure and be more willing to travel, the report says.

"The economy is still very clearly weighing heavily on the minds of Thanksgiving travelers this year, and that's evidenced by the very small increase that we expect to see in total travel," said Geoff Sundstrom, a spokesman for AAA's national office in Heathrow, Fla.


Atlantis astronaut finishes 1st spacewalk, still waiting for birth of daughter back on earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ A spacewalking astronaut put aside the impending birth of his daughter and blazed through his first-ever venture outside the International Space Station on Saturday.

Expectant father Randolph Bresnik and Michael Foreman were so far ahead despite their late start and interrupted sleep the night before _ false fire and decompression alarms jolted them awake _ that their commander handed them extra work.

"Way to kick butt," said commander Charles Hobaugh, a Marine.

The spacewalkers installed new antennas, relocated a monitor for electrical hazards, set up an attachment for a spectrometer due to arrive next year, and hooked up a wireless video system for spacewalkers' helmet cameras. Then they released another payload platform.

Baby Bresnik had yet to make an appearance by the time the six-hour spacewalk ended Saturday afternoon. Bresnik's wife, Rebecca, had been expected to give birth to their second child Friday, back home in Houston. They have a 3-year-old son, adopted from Ukraine.


Hackers leak climate change e-mails from key research unit, stoke debate on global warming

LONDON (AP) _ Computer hackers have broken into a server at a well-respected climate change research center in Britain and posted hundreds of private e-mails and documents online _ stoking debate over whether some scientists have overstated the case for man-made climate change.

The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, said in a statement Saturday that the hackers had entered the server and stolen data at its Climatic Research Unit, a leading global research center on climate change. The university said police are investigating the theft of the information, but could not confirm if all the materials posted online are genuine.

More than a decade of correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists is included in about 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents posted on Web sites following the security breach last week.

Some climate change skeptics and bloggers claim the information shows scientists have overstated the case for global warming, and allege the documents contain proof that some researchers have attempted to manipulate data.

The furor over the leaked data comes weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, when 192 nations will seek to reach a binding treaty to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide. Many officials _ including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon _ regard the prospects of a pact being sealed at the meeting as bleak.


President Obama says his trip to Asia helped build steps toward US economy's recovery

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama's eight-day trip to Asia produced no tangible wins for the United States, though he is citing talks with Asian allies that he says could help create thousands of job and open new markets for American goods in the future.

Citing progress on a trip that took him from Tokyo to Seoul, Obama noted that "Asia is a region where we now buy more goods and do more trade with than any other place in the world _ commerce that supports millions of jobs back home."

"I spoke with leaders in every nation I visited about what we can do to sustain this economic recovery and bring back jobs and prosperity for our people _ a task I will continue to focus on relentlessly in the weeks and months ahead," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address taped while he was in Seoul, the South Korean capital, and released Saturday.

The president pitched his trip as a way to reintroduce the U.S. to those trading partners, including China.

The Chinese government is the United States' biggest foreign creditor with $800 billion of federal U.S. debt, which gives it extraordinary power in the relationship. And Beijing feels the global recession, sparked by U.S. financial industry excesses, vindicates its authoritarian leadership.


Iconic glove Michael Jackson wore when he unveiled moonwalk dance to be sold at NYC auction

NEW YORK (AP) _ A collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including the rhinestone-studded glove he wore when he unveiled the moonwalk in 1983, is being sold at auction.

The glove and other Jackson items are part of a music memorabilia auction being held by Julien's Auctions at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York's Times Square on Saturday.

Jackson wore the left-handed glove and a fedora, when he performed what was to become his trademark dance on Motown's 25th-anniversary TV special. It's a modified, store-bought glove covered with a mesh of rhinestones.

The glove's pre-auction estimate is between $40,000 and $60,000.

The pop icon, who died June 25 at age 50, gave the glove to Walter "Clyde" Orange, of the singing group the Commodores, after the 1983 performance.


Tim Tebow's 3 TDs help No. 1 Florida rout FIU 62-3 for 21st consecutive victory

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Top-ranked Florida moved another step closer to perfection with a 62-3 rout of Florida International.

Tim Tebow accounted for three touchdowns and Brandon Spikes returned an interception for a score to extend the nation's longest winning streak to 21 games Saturday.

Florida improved to 11-0 for just the second time in school history and needs two more wins _ against Florida State and Alabama _ to earn a shot at repeating as national champion.

After surviving some struggles during Southeastern Conference play, the Gators probably needed an easy week. The Golden Panthers (3-8) played the part to perfection.

Florida scored touchdowns on eight of 10 offensive possessions. The only scoreless drives came when Caleb Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and when Florida ran out the clock in the final seconds.