AP News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 6:13 AM

Police say 5 Americans detained in Pakistan over suspected terror links likely to be deported

ISLAMABAD (AP) _ Five young American Muslims detained over alleged terrorist links in Pakistan are most likely to be deported, a local police chief said Friday.

The men have allegedly told investigators they tried to connect with Islamist militant groups in Pakistan and were intending to cross the border into Afghanistan and fight U.S. troops there.

They were reported missing by their families in the Washington D.C. area a week ago after one of them left behind a militaristic farewell video saying Muslims must be defended. Pakistani police detained them this week in the town of Sargodha in eastern Pakistan.

Regional police chief Javed Islam said the men had yet to be charged with any crime.

"They are American citizens. I think most probably they would be taken to America, that's what I feel," he told The Associated Press.


EU strains to come up with more climate financing for poor nations, faces strong resistance

COPENHAGEN (AP) _ Negotiators are working in Brussels and Copenhagen to come up with more climate change money for poor countries amid talks on a historic deal to control the world's greenhouse gases.

But by Friday morning, European Union leaders in Brussels had failed to muster pledges of euro6.6 billion ($9.7 billion) they sought as the EU contribution to a three-year $30 billion (euro20 billion) fund to help poor nations cope with climate change. Eastern EU nations were resisting donating more due to the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the climate conference in Copenhagen moves into a higher gear as top U.S. and Chinese negotiators arrive. More hectic bargaining is expected before the end of next week, when at least 110 heads of government will cap the two-year effort to reduce the emissions causing global warming.


Obama's brisk Nobel trip ends, the final push on health care awaits

OSLO (AP) _ With a Nobel Peace Prize in hand, President Barack Obama is returning to the grind of governing, refocusing on his top domestic priority as the Senate moves toward a pivotal moment on legislation to remake the nation's health care system.

Obama left Norway for Washington on Friday after becoming the first chief executive to collect the storied award so early in his tenure. He blitzed through his Nobel itinerary, then met privately with U.S. embassy staff at his hotel before returning to a huge agenda hanging in the balance, including health care and another European trip next week for a climate summit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is working privately to secure support among Senate Democrats for a tentative deal to expand the government' role in health care. The potential breakthrough in the long health care debate was reached last weekend, and Democrats are driving for a final vote before Christmas. The House already has passed its bill.

Obama's goal _ to expand coverage to those without it, improve it for those who do and rein in the crushing costs of health care _ remains at the core of his political efforts. Congress has spent months trying to get out a bill that satisfies its own blocs and Obama.

The focus on health care, however, will be brief. Obama will be returning to Europe next Friday _ to Copenhagen this time _ to join scores of leaders from across the globe in final negotiations on a pact to aimed at stemming emissions blamed for global warming.


Senate health care bill would allow insurers to limit coverage for seriously ill patients

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A loophole in the Senate health care bill would let insurers place annual dollar limits on medical care for people struggling with costly illnesses such as cancer, prompting a rebuke from patient advocates.

The legislation that originally passed the Senate health committee last summer would have banned such limits, but a tweak to that provision weakened it in the bill now moving toward a Senate vote.

As currently written, the Senate Democratic health care bill would permit insurance companies to place annual limits on the dollar value of medical care, as long as those limits are not "unreasonable." The bill does not define what level of limits would be allowable, delegating that task to administration officials.

The provision is included in far-reaching legislation that would carry out President Barack Obama's plan to revamp the health care system, expanding coverage to millions now uninsured and trying to slow budget-busting cost increases. A tentative deal among Senate Democrats to back away from creating a new government program to compete with private insurers appears to have overcome a major obstacle to the bill's passage.

Officials of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said they were taken by surprise when the earlier ban on annual coverage limits was undercut, adding that they have not been able to get a satisfactory explanation.


Bipartisan House coalition scales back reach of proposed Wall Street regulations

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Democrats head into the final stretch on a long-awaited Wall Street regulation bill with two crucial and contentious votes looming before they can declare victory on one of President Barack Obama's legislative priorities.

The sweeping regulatory overhaul aims to address the myriad conditions that led to last year's financial crisis.

Test votes during two days of debate indicate that Democratic support for the underlying legislation will hold in final passage. Prodded by moderates, however, nearly half the Democrats teamed up with Republicans late Thursday to loosen restrictions on derivatives and reject tougher regulations.

Before a final vote Friday, House members will have to decide whether to support an amendment to kill a proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, one of the central features of the legislation. The agency would consolidate consumer lending regulations and enforcement that is now split among several banking regulators.

Eliminating the consumer agency could cost the overall bill support from liberals.


Report: Blackwater guards took part in secret CIA raids against insurgents

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Private security guards working for Blackwater USA participated in clandestine CIA raids against suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Blackwater's role points to a much deeper connection between the company and the spy agency than has been previously disclosed and raises concerns over the legalities of involving contractors in the most sensitive operations conducted by the U.S. government.

The "snatch and grab" raids took place regularly between 2004 and 2006, the Times reported, when the insurgency in Iraq was escalating and security throughout the country was deteriorating.

A U.S. official confirmed to The Associated Press that Blackwater provided security and moved around with CIA teams on missions in war zones, but he denied they performed CIA missions. CIA Director Leon Panetta ordered a review several months ago of the company's contracts to be sure its guards only perform security-related work, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly.

CIA spokesman George Little said, "This agency, like many others, uses contractors in roles that complement and enhance the skills of our own work force, just as American law permits."


Financial compliance jobs expected to be among fastest-growing occupations in next decade

WASHINGTON (AP) _ People who knew how to make a quick buck held some of the fastest-growing jobs two years ago.

Now, the growth industry is in helping financial firms figure out how to follow the rules.

Financial examiners and compliance officers are expected to be two of the nation's 30 fastest-growing occupations over the next 10 years, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday.

Two years ago, financial analysts _ the people at investment firms who pore over stocks and bonds _ were on that list. But one financial crisis later, their occupation has fallen out of the top 30.

Robert Johnson, senior managing director at the CFA Institute, a membership group for money managers and financial analysts, said the report is good news for the financial markets.


Young Hispanics born in US less likely to drop out of school than young immigrants, study says

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Young Hispanics born in the U.S. are less likely to drop out of school and live in poverty than young Hispanic immigrants, but they have higher exposure to gangs and violence, an independent research group says.

The study being released Friday by the Pew Hispanic Center paints a mixed picture of assimilation for a fast-growing group of U.S. citizens starting to wield their political rights: more education and job advancement, but also social problems.

The survey and analysis of census data found the high school dropout rate among all Hispanic youths ages 16-24 was 17 percent, roughly three times higher than white youths and close to double the rate for black youths. But when broken down by second-generation Hispanics born in the U.S., the dropout rate falls to 8.5 percent, roughly the same for youths of all races.

U.S.-born Hispanics also had improvements in economic well-being. About 29 percent of young immigrant Hispanics lived below the poverty line, more than twice the rate for young whites in a similar age range (13 percent) and slightly worse than young blacks (28 percent). But among second-generation Hispanics, that figure living below the poverty line improves to 19 percent.

On the other hand, the American-born youths were twice as likely as their immigrant counterparts to have ties to a gang or to have gotten into a fight or carried a weapon in the past year. About 40 percent reported they were either a gang member or knew a friend or relative who was, compared to 17 percent for those who were foreign-born.


Beloved children's character returns to the live stage after some 27 years

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The star may be Pee-wee, but his new live stage show is absolutely huge.

"The Pee-wee Herman Show," opening next month in downtown Los Angeles at Club Nokia theater, cost millions to mount. It boasts 11 actors, 20 puppets and marks the show's first production since 1982.

So, why now?

"Well, you know, I really want to make a movie version of 'The Playhouse,' my Saturday morning kid show!" said actor Paul Reubens, in an interview earlier this week in which he stayed in his exuberant Pee-wee persona.

"This seemed like a great way to do it: reintroduce it, get back out there, introduce Pee-wee to the new generation that didn't know about it."


Not so Super: Cleveland Browns end 12-game losing streak to Pittsburgh Steelers with 13-6 win

CLEVELAND (AP) _ There's nothing Super about the Pittsburgh Steelers anymore.

The defending NFL champions lost their fifth straight and had their playoff hopes thrown for a loss by the lowly Cleveland Browns, who ended a 12-game skid against their bitter rival by beating the Steelers 13-6 on Thursday night in subzero wind chills.

Ben Roethlisberger was sacked eight times and lost for the first time in 11 career games against the Browns (2-11), who extended Pittsburgh's longest losing streak in six years and defeated the Steelers (6-7) at home for the first time since 2000.

Pittsburgh is going to need help to make the playoffs, a stunning free-fall for a team that hit the season's halfway point at 6-2.

Unexpected losses to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland _ three of the NFL's worst teams with a combined record of 9-28 _ have pushed the Steelers to the brink.