AP News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Dec 01, 2009 6:22 PM

Obama to tell nation he'll order 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, begin exit within 2 years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama is dispatching 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, accelerating a risky and expensive war buildup, even as he assures the nation that U.S. forces will begin coming home in July 2011. The first new Marines will join the fight by Christmas.

The escalation _ to be completed by next summer _ is designed to reverse significant Taliban advances since Obama took office 10 months ago and to fast-track the training of Afghan soldiers and police toward the goal of hastening an eventual U.S. pullout. The size and speed of the troop increase will put a heavy strain on the military, which still maintains a force of more than 100,000 in Iraq and already has 68,000 in Afghanistan.

Obama's Tuesday evening speech to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to be broadcast nationally, ends three months of exacting deliberations that won praise from supporters and criticism from opponents. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Obama was "dithering," too inexperienced to make a decision on the troop buildup requested in September by commanding Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Senior officials said Obama would underscore his commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan and scouring corruption out of the government of President Hamid Karzai. Obama has vowed to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for al-Qaida boss Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization.

Most of the new forces will be combat troops. Military officials said the Army brigades most likely to be sent will come from Fort Drum in New York and Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Marines, who will be the vanguard, will most likely come primarily from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.


Democrats decry 'scare tactics' as GOP senator says seniors will 'die sooner' under overhaul

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Republican senator contended Tuesday during rancorous floor debate that President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will shorten the lives of America's seniors by cutting Medicare.

"I have a message for you: You're going to die sooner," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., an obstetrician-turned-lawmaker.

A senior Democrat decried such comments by Republicans as scare tactics designed to kill legislation that he said would improve some benefits for the elderly. As the Senate pushed toward the first votes on the sweeping legislation, the debate recalled the raw charges and countercharges of the summer's town hall meetings.

Going to the floor after Coburn had spoken, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the cuts would make Medicare a smarter buyer and would improve prescription coverage.

"I hate to say it ... these are scare tactics," Baucus said. "Sometimes you've got to call a spade a spade." The Senate was debating an amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would strip from the bill more than $400 billion in Medicare cuts to home health providers, hospitals, hospices and others.


GM CEO 'Fritz' Henderson resigns after board determines company wasn't changing quickly enough

DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors Co. CEO Frederick "Fritz" Henderson stepped down Tuesday after the board determined that the company wasn't changing quickly enough. Chairman Ed Whitacre Jr. said at a hastily called news conference that he will serve as interim CEO, and an international search for a new CEO and president is planned.

Whitacre thanked Henderson for his work during a period of challenge and change, but said it is time to accelerate the pace of rebuilding the largest U.S. automaker.

The resignation comes just eight months after Henderson, 51, replaced former chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who was ousted March 29 by the Obama administration's government's auto task force.

Henderson has been with GM his entire career and was the government's choice to run the beleaguered company after Wagoner left. Whitacre, picked by the government in June to be chairman of the new GM, is considered an industry outsider, having run AT&T Inc. for 17 years.

Whitacre and the board have become increasingly active in the company's decisions, at times challenging some of Henderson's decisions. In November, the board voted to abandon plans to sell GM's European Opel unit. That reversed an earlier option favored by Henderson to sell it to a consortium led by Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc.


Lone Seattle policeman shoots, kills suspect in ambush of 4 officers at suburban coffee shop

SEATTLE (AP) _ The man suspected of gunning down four police officers in a suburban coffee shop was shot and killed by a lone patrolman investigating a stolen car early Tuesday. Four people were arrested for allegedly helping the suspect elude authorities during a massive two-day manhunt.

Maurice Clemmons was carrying a handgun he took from one of the dead officers when a Seattle policeman recognized him near a stolen car in a working-class south Seattle neighborhood about 2:45 a.m., Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel said.

The vehicle was running but unoccupied when the officer pulled up, radioed in the license plate number and realized the car was stolen, Pugel said.

The officer saw something moving, got out of his car, saw Clemmons and ordered him to show his hands and stop.

"He wouldn't stop," Pugel said. "The officer fired several rounds."


APNewsBreak: Gate crashers prompt some change in security policies for White House parties

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Secret Service will change some of its screening policies after an attention-hungry couple was able to crash the Obama administration's first state dinner.

A government official familiar with the plans says from now on, a staff member from the White House social office will work with the Secret Service at the gates where people check in to attend official events at the president's residence.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because there is an ongoing investigation into the Nov. 24 incident.

The couple who got into the White House state dinner for the visiting Indian prime minister without invitations insists they were invited to the dinner.

The White House says the president and first lady were angered by the incident.


Florida Highway Patrol will cite Tiger Woods in crash outside his home; he faces $164 fine

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Tiger Woods will be cited for careless driving in a car crash outside his Orlando-area mansion, but will not face criminal charges, the Florida Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

Woods faces a $164 fine and four points against his driver's license, not close to enough to have it suspended. The citation closes the investigation of last week's crash.

The patrol "is not pursuing criminal charges in this matter nor is there any testimony or other evidence to support any additional charges of any kind other than the charge of careless driving," Sgt. Kim Montes said.

According to an accident report, Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and a tree at 2:25 a.m. Friday. The airbags did not deploy and Woods' wife told Windermere police she used a golf club to smash the back windows to help him out.

Woods withdrew Monday from his own golf tournament, citing injuries from the crash.


AP Exclusive: Obama aunt hurt by self-imposed exile from 1st family due to immigration status

BOSTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama's aunt buried her face in her hands and sobbed as she described her anguish over no longer having contact with him and his family after the revelation she had been living illegally for years in the United States in public housing.

Zeituni Onyango (zay-TUH'-nee awn-YAHN'-goh) told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that she is troubled that her immigration woes have made her a political liability to her nephew.

Onyango, the half sister of Obama's late father, said she has exiled herself from the family after attending Obama's inauguration because she didn't want to become fodder for his foes. Obama and his family have not reached out to her either, she said.

"Before, we were family. But right now, there is a lot of politics, and me, I am not interested in any politics at all," said Onyango, whose appeal for asylum from her native Kenya is before an immigration judge in Boston.

The Obamas are her only family in the United States, she said.


UK climate research center says scientist at center of e-mail scandal to temporarily step down

LONDON (AP) _ The chief of a prestigious British research center caught in a storm of controversy over claims that he and others suppressed data about climate change has stepped down pending an investigation, the University of East Anglia said Tuesday.

The university said in a statement that Phil Jones, whose e-mails were among the thousands of pieces of correspondence leaked to the Internet late last month, would relinquish his position as director of Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent review.

The university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Trevor Davies said the investigation would cover data security, whether the university responded properly to Freedom of Information requests, "and any other relevant issues." The statement said the specific terms of the review will be announced later in the week.

Jones has been accused by skeptics of man-made climate change of manipulating data to support his research. In particular, many have pointed to a leaked e-mail in which Jones writes that he had used a "trick" to "hide the decline" in a chart detailing recent global temperatures. Jones has denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been misunderstood, explaining that he'd used the word trick "as in a clever thing to do."

Davies said there was nothing in the stolen material to suggest the peer-reviewed publications by the unit "are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation."


Fla. man lies about being robbed so he wouldn't have to tell his wife he spent $100, police say

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A Panama City Beach man reportedly admitted to deputies that he lied about being robbed so he wouldn't have to tell his wife that he spent the money. The Bay County Sheriff's Office reported that a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged Friday with making a false report.

According to a report, the man called 911 from a Panama City Beach store and claimed that he was getting into his car when a man dressed in black hit him and took $100 in cash. But the store's surveillance video showed the man walk out of the store, sit in his car for a short time and then go back inside to use the phone.

After deputies showed the man the video, he acknowledged that he hadn't actually been robbed.

The man was released from jail Saturday on $750 bail.


Bobby Bowden to retire as Florida State's coach after bowl game

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Bobby Bowden says he hasn't done as well as he wanted these past few seasons at Florida State, "but I've had wonderful years, no regrets ... nothing lasts forever, does it?"

Bowden will end his 44-year coaching career after the Seminoles play in a bowl game, bringing a close to one of the greatest runs in major-college football.

A relaxed-looking Bowden was interviewed by school officials and a video was made available Tuesday.

"You know something like this is going to happen," he said. "If it didn't happen now it would be happening this time next year ... As long as my family is happy, that's the main thing. So I'll go out and make a lot of talks now and tell everybody how good I was."

The 80-year Bowden was pretty "dadgum" good.