AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 26, 2009 6:13 PM

Americans across globe _ and hovering over it _ celebrate Thanksgiving with feasts, parades

NEW YORK (AP) _ Giant balloons, floats, marching bands and clowns with confetti brought smiles to hundreds of thousands of revelers eager to catch a glimpse of a parade as steeped in Thanksgiving Day tradition as turkey and pumpkin pie.

Crowds six to seven people deep lined the streets of Manhattan on Thursday for the 83rd annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as merrymakers gathered nationwide for massive parades in cities such as Detroit and Philadelphia.

Soldiers in war zones received phone calls of appreciation from President Barack Obama, while astronauts hovering above the Earth's surface feasted on turkey smuggled aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

In New York City, Miss America Katie Stam waved to crowds from a Statue of Liberty float she shared with Meb Keflezighi, the first American in 11 years to win the New York City Marathon.

Shailesh Dighe and his family came to the fabled parade to snap pictures of celebrities including rapper Jay Sean and singer-actress Keke Palmer. Despite the crowds, Dighe said the parade is "totally worth it."

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Iranian authorities confiscate medal from 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iranian authorities have confiscated Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's medal, the human rights lawyer said Thursday, in a sign of the increasingly drastic steps Tehran is taking against any dissent.

In Norway, where the peace prize is awarded, the government said the confiscation of the gold medal was a shocking first in the history of the 108-year-old prize.

Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in promoting democracy. She has long faced harassment from Iranian authorities for her activities _ including threats against her relatives and a raid on her office last year in which files were confiscated.

The seizure of her prize is an expression of the Iranian government's harsh approach to anyone it considers an opponent _ particularly since the massive street protests triggered by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 re-election.

Acting on orders from Tehran's Revolutionary Court, authorities took the peace prize medal about three weeks ago from a safe-deposit box in Iran, Ebadi said in a phone interview from London. They also seized her Legion of Honor and a ring awarded to her by a German association of journalists, she said.

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Obama wants big carbon dioxide cuts, but daily life should be much the same with higher bills

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Americans' day-to-day lives won't change noticeably if President Barack Obama achieves his newly announced goal of slashing carbon dioxide pollution by one-sixth in the next decade, experts say.

Except for rising energy bills. And how much they'll go up depends on who's doing the calculating.

The White House will commit the U.S. to a goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 to about 17 percent below 2005 levels at a U.N.-sponsored climate change summit in Copenhagen early next month. That's about 12.5 percent below 2008 levels, according to the Department of Energy. He also set a goal of cutting emissions by 83 percent by 2050, which is what European nations want.

So the question is how big a burden would those double-digit cuts be for the average American.

Experts say it will mean higher energy bills, fewer deaths from air pollution, and maybe even a dividend check at the end of the year. But mostly, they say, it'll be small, slowly evolving changes that the public won't even notice.

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Dubai prospects as investment magnet get murkier as emirate requests 'standstill' on $60B debt

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Just a year after the global downturn derailed Dubai's explosive growth, the city is now so swamped in debt that it's asking for a six-month reprieve on paying its bills _ causing a drop on world markets Thursday and raising questions about Dubai's reputation as a magnet for international investment.

The fallout came swiftly and was felt globally after Wednesday statement that Dubai's main development engine, Dubai World, would ask creditors for a "standstill" on paying back its $60 billion debt until at least May. The company's real estate arm, Nakheel _ whose projects include the palm-shaped island in the Gulf _ shoulders the bulk of money due to banks, investment houses and outside development contractors.

In total, the state-backed networks nicknamed Dubai Inc. are $80 billion in the red and the emirate needed a bailout earlier this year from its oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Markets took the news badly _ with the Dubai woes and the continued fall of the U.S. dollar giving investors twin worries. Dubai's move raised concerns about debt across the Gulf Region. Prices to insure debt from Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain all rose by double-digit percentages Thursday, according to data from CMA DataVision.

In Europe, the FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the CAC-40 in France opened sharply lower. Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai index sank 119.19 points, or 3.6 percent, in the biggest one-day fall since Aug. 31. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.8 percent to 22,210.41.

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Philippine prosecutors say suspect in massacre who turned himself in will face murder charges

AMPATUAN, Philippines (AP) _ Under threat of military attack, the scion of the clan suspected in the slaughter of 57 people in the southern Philippines turned himself in Thursday, and prosecutors say he will face murder charges in the country's worst election violence.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., a town mayor, maintains he had nothing to do with the ambush of a convoy carrying his political rival's family, supporters and at least 22 journalists. Their bodies _ mowed down by point-blank shots and some hacked up _ were found in mass graves hastily dug by a backhoe. Some were buried with their vehicles.

The baby-faced 41-year-old is heir to the Ampatuan kingdom: impoverished, rural and lawless Maguindanao province, where they have ruled for years with a reputation for ruthlessness that led few to dare to challenge them. Hundreds of pro-government militiamen in their employ have been disarmed since the massacre.

Ismael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan township, did the unthinkable when he decided to file his candidacy for governorship in May 2010 elections. Having received death threats, he sent his wife, sisters and other female relatives to submit his papers, hoping that women would be spared the kind of violence that regularly reigns in the region.

Asked by reporters if he was involved in the killings, Ampatuan, who tried to hide his face with a scarf as he was ferried from his home province, replied: "There is no truth to that. The reason I came out is to prove that I am not hiding and that I am not guilty."

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IAEA chief: Iran nuclear investigation at 'dead end'; let down by Tehran on enrichment deal

VIENNA (AP) _ The outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday his probe of Iran's nuclear program is at "a dead end" and that trust in Tehran's credibility is shrinking after its belated revelation that it was secretly building a nuclear facility.

Mohamed ElBaradei's blunt criticism of the Islamic Republic _ four days before he leaves office _ was notable in representing a broad convergence with Washington's opinion, which for years was critical of the IAEA chief for what it perceived as his softness on Iran.

Iran also came in for censure from another quarter at the opening session of the IAEA's 35-nation board, with the introduction of a resolution taking Tehran to task on a broad range of issues linked to international concerns that it may be seeking to make nuclear weapons. Significantly, diplomats at the meeting said the resolution was endorsed not only by Western powers _ the U.S., Britain, France and Germany _ but also by Russia and China.

For strategic and economic reasons, Moscow and Beijing have sided with Tehran in the past. They have prevented several Western attempts to slap new U.N. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear defiance or succeeded in watering down their severity.

They did not formally endorse the last IAEA resolution critical of Iran in 2006. Their backing for the document at the Vienna meeting Thursday thus reflected broad international disenchantment with Tehran.

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On Thanksgiving Day, Obama and GOP offer different recipes for jobs and a better economy

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama and a top House Republican acknowledged in holiday messages Thursday the economic struggles facing Americans this Thanksgiving but offered starkly different recipes for relief.

Obama and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., singled out U.S. service members at home and abroad for special thanks before saying what they think should be done to fix the economy.

"As much as we all have to be thankful for, we also know that this year millions of Americans are facing very difficult economic times," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Many have lost jobs in this recession _ the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement. Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle-class life _ that American dream _ is slipping away."

Obama said his administration has acted by cutting taxes for nearly all working men and women and for small businesses and by extending unemployment benefits and health coverage for millions out of work. He trumpeted other administration initiatives, including the health care overhaul, before saying more needs to be done, particularly for those without jobs.

Obama said he will meet next week with business owners, labor leaders and nonprofit officials to talk about additional efforts to spur job creation.

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Experts: Catholic bishops covered up Dublin priests' abuse, shunned law for decades

DUBLIN (AP) _ Roman Catholic Church leaders in Dublin spent decades sheltering child-abusing priests from the law and most fellow clerics turned a blind eye, an investigation ordered by Ireland's government concluded Thursday.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who handed over more than 60,000 previously secret church files to the three-year investigation, said he felt deep shame and sorrow for how previous archbishops presided over endemic child abuse _ yet claimed afterward not to understand the gravity of their sins.

Martin said his four predecessors in Ireland's capital, including retired Cardinal Desmond Connell, must have understood that priests' molestation and rape of boys and girls "was a crime in both civil and canon law. For some reason or another they felt they could deal with all this in little worlds of their own.

"They were wrong, and children were left to suffer."

There was a similarly shocking investigation into decades of unchecked child abuse in Irish schools, workhouses and orphanages run nationwide by 19 Catholic orders of nuns, priests and brothers.

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Tiny company, huge hit: Robotic hamsters dance out of stores before they even hit shelves

NEW YORK (AP) _ When Lori Fowlkes first saw robotic Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamsters in September, she remembers her kids started jumping up and down and saying "Please! Please! Can we buy them?"

Seeing a fully stocked shelf, she decided to hold off until Christmas.

That was "before I knew that the hamsters would soon be off the shelves and more scarce than an H1N1 vaccine," said Fowlkes, 32.

Now she can't find them anywhere.

Zhu Zhu Pets, which retail for about $10, are this year's bona fide must-have toy, following in the footsteps of past crazes for Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids. On resale Web sites like eBay and Craigslist, they fetch $40 or more. Vital accessories as the hamster car and funhouse are sold separately.

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Lions continue tradition, falling 34-12 to Packers for sixth straight Thanksgiving loss

DETROIT (AP) _ Aaron Rodgers matched a career high with three touchdown passes and Green Bay beat the Detroit Lions 34-12 on Thursday, giving the Packers three straight wins and improving their playoff prospects.

The Lions lost their sixth straight game on Thanksgiving, setting a franchise record, and had an emotional setback after their biggest comeback win since 1957.

Matthew Stafford, playing with a sore non-throwing shoulder, threw one touchdown pass and four interceptions in a rookie-like performance, after passing for five scores in Sunday's win over Cleveland. Detroit trailed the Browns by 21 before coming all the way back.

The Lions (2-9) looked like they were building off that momentum by recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff and with Stafford's TD pass to Calvin Johnson. But the Packers (7-4) scored 27 unanswered points in the second and third quarter to turn the game into a familiar rout.

Detroit lost its previous five games on Thanksgiving by an average of 23.4 points, and eight of nine in the showcase game. The Lions are 33-35-2 on the holiday since 1934.