AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 22, 2009 6:16 PM

Lawyer says 9/11 defendants will plead not guilty so they can express their political views

NEW YORK (AP) _ The five men facing trial in the Sept. 11 attacks will plead not guilty so that they can air their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, the lawyer for one of the defendants said Sunday.

Scott Fenstermaker, the lawyer for accused terrorist Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said the men would not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but "would explain what happened and why they did it."

The U.S. Justice Department announced earlier this month that Ali and four other men accused of murdering nearly 3,000 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. will face a civilian federal trial just blocks from the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.

Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, is a nephew of professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Mohammed, Ali and the others will explain "their assessment of American foreign policy," Fenstermaker said.

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Fresh from victory in vote to debate a health care bill, Democrats at odds over the details

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Moderate Senate Democrats threatened Sunday to scuttle health-care legislation if their demands aren't met, while more liberal members warned their party leaders not to bend.

The dispute among Democrats foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month on legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million Americans. Republicans have already made clear they aren't supporting the bill.

Final passage is in jeopardy, even after the chamber's historic 60-39 vote Saturday night to begin debate.

"I don't want a big-government, Washington-run operation that would undermine the ... private insurance that 200 million Americans now have," said Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Nebraska Democrat.

Nelson and three other moderates _ Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman _ agreed to open debate despite expressing reservations on the measure. Each of them has warned that they might not support the final bill.

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Report: Iran begins large-scale air defense war games to protect nuclear facilities

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran on Sunday began large-scale air defense war games aimed at protecting its nuclear facilities from attack, state TV reported, as an air force commander boasted the country could deter any military strike by Israel.

It said the five-day drill will cover an area a third of the size of Iran and spread across the central, western and southern parts of the country.

Gen. Ahmad Mighani, head of an air force unit in charge of responding to threats to Iran's air space, said Saturday the war games would cover regions where Iran's nuclear facilities are located.

The drill involves Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, the paramilitary Basij forces affiliated with the Guard as well as army units.

The United States and its European allies accuse Iran of embarking on a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies the charge and insists the program is only for peaceful purposes.

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Catholic bishop says he asked RI Rep. Patrick Kennedy to stop receiving Communion in 2007

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ The Roman Catholic bishop of Rhode Island says he asked Rep. Patrick Kennedy to stop receiving Holy Communion in 2007 because of the lawmaker's support for abortion rights.

That revelation Sunday proved an ugly climax to a simmering feud between Kennedy and his staunch critic, Bishop Thomas Tobin.

Kennedy told The Providence Journal in a story published Sunday that Tobin "instructed" him not to receive Communion because of his abortion rights stance. Kennedy said Tobin told diocesan priests not to give him Communion.

Tobin says he asked Kennedy to stop receiving communion, but he never instructed his priests not to give the sacrament to Kennedy.

The two men have clashed over abortion restrictions in a proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system.

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How global warming accelerated since '97 Kyoto pact: 'We are in more trouble than we thought'

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated _ beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then.

As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the once frozen summer sea ice of the Arctic. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.

And it's not just the frozen parts of the world that have felt the heat in the dozen years leading up to next month's climate summit in Copenhagen:

_The world's oceans have risen by about an inch and a half.

_Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide, from the U.S. West to Australia to the Sahel desert of North Africa.

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Dozens of demonstrators at University of California, Santa Cruz end protest

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) _ Officials at the University of California, Santa Cruz say dozens of protesters who were occupying the university's main administrative building have ended their protest.

Campus spokesman Jim Burns says the nearly 70 or so protesters who had occupied the university's Kerr Hall since Thursday in a demonstration over fee hikes walked out of the building around 8 a.m. Sunday.

No arrests were made, but Burns says the students who took part in the protest are facing criminal charges or student judicial sanctions.

During the demonstration, protesters knocked over furniture, scattered refuse about and damaged some electronic conferencing equipment.

Burns could not provide an estimate on the amount of damage, but says it would take at least a day to clear most of the damage.

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Little thanks expected this holiday at NYC airports, nation's worst air travel bottleneck

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fewer people are expected to fly this holiday season, but travelers shouldn't expect a full reprieve from the horrid flight delays of Thanksgivings past, especially if they need to land anywhere near New York City.

Despite some recent improvements, the Big Apple's three major airports continue to be the country's worst air travel bottleneck.

Through the first nine months of the year, they ranked first, second and third worst in on-time arrivals among the 31 major U.S. air hubs, according to federal statistics.

The problem doesn't affect just New Yorkers. Because such a large percentage of the nation's flights pass through the city sometime during any given day, delays here have a tendency to ripple elsewhere.

In 2007, nearly three-quarters of all delays in the U.S. could be traced to a problem in New York, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The logjam has received a lot of attention over the past two years, with mixed results.

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'New Moon' wolfs down $140.7 million domestically, $258.8 million worldwide

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The vampire romance "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" sucked up $140.7 million in its first three days and pulled in a total of $258.8 million worldwide, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The No. 1 domestic debut for Summit Entertainment's "New Moon" was more than twice the $69.6 million haul over the same weekend last year for "Twilight," the first in the franchise based on Stephenie Meyer's novels.

"Obviously, with the success of `Twilight' itself, sequels being what they are will generate X-number of dollars more, particularly if it's a satisfying sequel," said Richie Fay, head of distribution for Summit.

"New Moon" placed third on the all-time domestic chart behind last year's $158.4 million opening weekend for the Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" and 2007's $151.1 million haul for "Spider-Man 3."

Among the top-10 all-time openings, "New Moon" is the only one that came outside of Hollywood's busiest time, the summer season. The movie adaptation of Meyer's next "Twilight" chapter, "Eclipse," arrives in the heart of summer, next June 30.

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Canadian woman fights insurance giant after benefits cut over Facebook photos

BROMONT, Quebec (AP) _ A Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for depression says she lost her benefits because her insurance agent found photos of her on Facebook in which she appeared to be having fun.

Nathalie Blanchard has been on leave from her job at IBM in Bromont, Quebec, for the last year.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Saturday she was diagnosed with major depression and was receiving monthly sick-leave benefits from insurance giant Manulife.

But the payments dried up this fall and when Blanchard called Manulife, she says she was told she was available to work because of Facebook.

She said her insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on Facebook, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show, at her birthday party and on a sun holiday.

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Brees throws for 3 touchdowns, Saints move to 10-0 with 38-7 rout of Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints keep on rolling.

Brees threw for three touchdowns and the Saints shrugged off a slow start defensively to remain unbeaten Sunday with a 38-7 rout of the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers and young quarterback Josh Freeman.

Robert Meacham caught touchdown passes of 4 and 6 yards in the first half. Third-string running back Mike Bell scored on runs of 3 and 1 yards in the second half, when New Orleans gained 147 of its 183 yards rushing. The Saints (10-0) have their first 10-game winning streak in franchise history.

A spate of turnovers made the Saints seem more vulnerable over the past month, but Brees didn't throw an interception for the first time in five games. The Saints also didn't allow a sack for the first time since Oct. 18 against the Giants.

Tampa Bay (1-9) drove 95 yards for a touchdown on its first possession. But Freeman had little success after his 18-yard scoring pass to Michael Clayton gave the Bucs a short-lived 7-0 lead.