AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2011 8:27 PM
AP News in Brief

After 2-year ban, Obama allows new military terror trials at Guantanamo

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Barack Obama reversed course Monday and ordered a resumption of military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, making his once ironclad promise to close the isolated prison look even more distant.

Guantanamo has been a major political and national security headache for the president since he took office promising to close the prison within a year, a deadline that came and went without him ever setting a new one.

Obama made the change with clear reluctance, bowing to the reality that Congress' vehement opposition to trying detainees on U.S. soil leaves them nowhere else to go. The president emphasized his preference for trials in federal civilian courts, and his administration blamed congressional meddling for closing off that avenue.

"I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system _ including (federal) courts _ to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened," Obama said in a statement.

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Before the big sign changes at your gas station, oil and a host of other factors in play

When Jay Ricker, owner of the BP gas station off Interstate 70 in Plainfield, Ind., set the price of unleaded gasoline at $3.44 per gallon on Monday of last week, it was 4 cents higher than the Friday before.

That alone might have been irritating to drivers paying the highest gas prices in more than two years. It was even more so because it happened on a day when the price of crude oil, which is used to make gasoline, fell almost $1 a barrel.

"It's up 20 cents one day, down 10 cents the next day," says Oscar Elmore, a courier who was filling up his Ford Taurus at a RaceTrac service station in Dallas recently. "It sounds kinda fishy to me."

Gas prices rise when oil prices rise, and fall when oil prices fall _ except when they don't. What you pay at your gas station depends on an array of factors, from what happens on an exchange in New York to what the competition is charging.

This can rankle drivers, especially these days. Gas reached a national average of $3.51 a gallon on Monday. That's up 14 cents, or 4 percent, over the past week. The week before, the average rose 20 cents, the steepest increase since September 2008.

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Libya warplanes strike rebels, showing Gadhafi's air advantage; West considers no-fly zone

RAS LANOUF, Libya (AP) _ Repeated airstrikes by Libyan warplanes on Monday illustrated the edge Moammar Gadhafi holds in his fight against rebel forces marching toward the capital: He controls the air. After pleading from the uprising's leaders, Britain and France began drafting a U.N. resolution for a no-fly zone in Libya that could balance the scales.

President Barack Obama warned that the U.S. and its NATO allies are still considering military options to stop what he called "unacceptable" violence by Gadhafi's regime. NATO decided to boost flights of AWACs surveillance planes over Libya from 10 to 24 hours a day, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said.

"I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gadhafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place," Obama said during remarks in the Oval Office Monday.

Libyan warplanes launched multiple airstrikes Monday on opposition fighters regrouping at the oil port of Ras Lanouf on the Mediterranean coast a day after they were driven back by a heavy government counteroffensive aimed at stopping the rebel drive toward Tripoli, Gadhafi's stronghold.

One strike hit near a gas station in Ras Lanouf, blasting two large craters in the road and wounding at least two people in a pick up truck.

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Video shows soaring view from NYC police helicopter of burning WTC tower rooftop on 9/11

NEW YORK (AP) _ New video has surfaced from the Sept. 11 attacks from a police helicopter hovering near the burning World Trade Center towers in the hope of rescuing survivors from the rooftops, only to find no one there as the buildings topple and smolder.

"The whole tower, it's gone," one officer is heard yelling. "Holy crap, they knocked the whole fricking thing down."

An officer wonders, "How could it go down?"

The video is part of a cache of information from the attack handed over by city agencies to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency that investigated the collapse. The video surfaced on several websites Monday, but NIST did not know who posted it initially.

The 17 minutes of footage shot from a New York Police Department air and sea rescue chopper shows much of what has already been seen but still shocks and disturbs: a chilling aerial view of the burning twin towers and the apocalyptic shroud of smoke and dust that settled over the city.

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Wis. Gov. Scott Walker calls AWOL Democrats' request for meeting along state border ridiculous

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Wisconsin Democrats who fled the state nearly three weeks ago asked Monday for a meeting with Gov. Scott Walker to talk about changes to his plan to eliminate most public workers' union rights, a request the governor dismissed as "ridiculous."

Walker said he and his administration have been in communication with at least a couple of the AWOL Senate Democrats about a deal that could bring them back, but the lawmaker who asked for the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, "is firmly standing in the way."

That accusation led to a flurry of angry responses from Democrats who said Walker was misrepresenting the talks. The sometimes-angry exchange suggested that any resolution to the stalemate was farther away than ever.

"Right now, I'm so damn mad at his misrepresentation of the truth and the public should be as well," said Sen. Bob Jauch, one of two Democrats who had talked last week with the Senate Republican leader about possible compromises. "Trust is completely broken down now. I don't believe anything he says."

The standoff has drawn national attention and placed Wisconsin at the center a vigorous debate over the future of union rights. Walker's proposal to balance the state budget remains in limbo because, without the 14 Democrats, the state Senate does not have enough members present for a quorum.

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Prosecutor: Suspect in East Coast rapes asked police, 'Why haven't you picked me up sooner?'

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A man who lived a Jekyll-and-Hyde lifestyle as he sexually assaulted women from Virginia to Rhode Island over 12 years asked, "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" when he was arrested last week, a prosecutor said Monday in court.

Aaron Thomas, 39, wore sunglasses and a baseball cap as he appeared in New Haven Superior Court in Connecticut on a charge of raping a woman in 2007 in her New Haven home in front of her baby. He kept his head cast down throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor David Strollo said the unemployed truck driver described himself as having "a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality regarding women.

Over the weekend, investigators searched a yellow Colonial with blue shutters where neighbors said he lived with his girlfriend and 5-year-old son.

Strollo said Thomas made incriminating statements about his involvement in numerous rapes to a marshal. In addition to asking "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" Thomas told investigators, "What took you so long to get me?" Strollo said.

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A winter weather walloping: More than 2 feet of snow, flooding deluge New England, NY

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ A fierce winter storm was blanketing northern New England and upstate New York with up to 30 inches of snow Monday, while western Connecticut was deluged with so much rain that parts of homes and cars floated down a swollen river.

As of 1 p.m., 23.3 inches of snow had fallen at Burlington International Airport _ the biggest March snowfall there on record_ and it wasn't finished yet.

At Aubuchon Hardware in downtown Montpelier, the most popular types of snow shovels were sold out, the grass seed was on display and store were readying shelves for more springtime wares.

"Smile, folks _ it's coming," Tom Walbridge said of the spring season scheduled to start in just two weeks. Outside told a different story.

The storm helped push the winter of 2010-11 up the record list. Even before the snow stopped, it became the fourth-snowiest winter on record in Burlington, at 121.4 inches, and the storm appeared potent enough to challenge the famous Valentine's Day blitz in 2007 that dumped 25.7 inches on Burlington, Taber said.

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Did a NASA scientist find signs of alien bacteria in meteorite? Colleagues highly doubt it

WASHINGTON (AP) _ NASA and its top scientists are distancing themselves from a space agency researcher who concludes that he found alien bacterial life in meteorites that were collected many decades ago.

Richard Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., claims that he found fossils that look like the remnants of bacteria in at least two meteorites. His research paper, published online Friday in the Journal of Cosmology, concludes these must have come from outer space.

But his claim has been roundly disputed by other scientists.

"There has been no one in the scientific community, certainly no one in the meteorite analysis community, that has supported these conclusions," NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl Pilcher told The Associated Press Monday. "The simplest explanation for Mr. Hoover's measurements is that he's measuring microbes from Earth. They're contamination."

In the paper, Hoover states that chemical analysis makes it unlikely to be contamination. Instead, he wrote they are "indigenous fossils" from outer space rather than something found on Earth.

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Warner: Charlie Sheen fired from `Two and a Half Men,' future of show unclear

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Charlie Sheen was fired Monday from "Two and a Half Men" by Warner Bros. Television following repeated misbehavior and weeks of the actor's angry, often-manic media campaign against his studio bosses.

The action was taken after "careful consideration" and is effective immediately, the studio said in a statement. No decision has been made on the show's future without its star, said Paul McGuire, a Warner spokesman.

The actor, who has used TV, radio and social media to create a big megaphone for himself, was not silent for long.

In a text to The Associated Press, Sheen responded, with the F-word and "They lose," followed by the word "Trolls." Asked if he planned to sue, Sheen texted back, "Big." As for his next move, Sheen texted, "A big one."

A call to his attorney, Marty Singer, for comment was not immediately returned.

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NFL, players' union resume talks before mediator Monday; new labor deal deadline is Friday

WASHINGTON (AP) _ With five days left until their latest deadline for a new labor deal, the NFL and the players' union resumed negotiations before a federal mediator on Monday.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, and other representatives of both sides arrived at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on Monday afternoon, after taking a break in talks over the weekend.

The current collective bargaining agreement originally was slated to run out last Thursday. But the contract now expires at the end of Friday, thanks to two extensions: first for 24 hours, then for a full week. That doesn't necessarily mean a done deal is on the immediate horizon, though.

The NFL has not lost games to a work stoppage since 1987.

The current CBA was agreed to in 2006. Owners exercised an opt-out clause in 2008.