AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2011 8:32 PM
AP News in Brief

Airstrikes force Gadhafi retreat; rebels clinch hold on east with fall of Ajdabiya

AJDABIYA, Libya (AP) _ Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi's forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled.

Ajdabiya's initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi's military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war.

In Ajdabiya, drivers honked in celebration and flew the tricolor rebel flag. Others in the city fired guns into the air and danced on burned-out tanks that littered the road.

Their hold on the east secure again, the rebels promised to resume their march westward that had been reversed by Gadhafi's overwhelming firepower. Rebel fighters already had pushed forward to the outskirts of the oil port of Brega and were hoping to retake the city on Sunday, opposition spokeswoman Iman Bughaigis said, citing rebel military commanders.

"Without the planes we couldn't have done this. Gadhafi's weapons are at a different level than ours," said Ahmed Faraj, 38, a rebel fighter from Ajdabiya. "With the help of the planes we are going to push onward to Tripoli, God willing."

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Geraldine Ferraro, first female major party candidate for national office, dies at 75

BOSTON (AP) _ Geraldine Ferraro was a relatively obscure congresswoman from the New York City borough of Queens in 1984 when she was tapped by Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale to join his ticket.

Her vice presidential bid, the first for a woman on a major party ticket, emboldened women across the country to seek public office and helped lay the groundwork for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential candidacy in 2008 and John McCain's choice of his running mate, Sarah Palin, that year.

Ferraro died Saturday in Boston, where the 75-year-old was being treated for complications of blood cancer. She died just before 10 a.m., said Amanda Fuchs Miller, a family friend who worked for Ferraro in her 1998 Senate bid and was acting as a spokeswoman for the family.

Mondale's campaign had struggled to gain traction and his selection of Ferraro, at least momentarily, revived his momentum and energized millions of women who were thrilled to see one of their own on a national ticket.

The blunt, feisty Ferraro charmed audiences initially, and for a time polls showed the Democratic ticket gaining ground on President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush. But her candidacy ultimately proved rocky as she fought ethics charges and traded barbs with Bush over accusations of sexism and class warfare.

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Japan's government says nuke plant operator made series of mistakes; radioactivity rising

SENDAI, Japan (AP) _ Japan's government revealed a series of missteps by the operator of a radiation-leaking nuclear plant on Saturday, including sending workers in without protective footwear in its faltering efforts to control a monumental crisis. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, rushed to deliver fresh water to replace corrosive salt water now being used in a desperate bid to cool the plant's overheated reactors.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano urged Tokyo Electric Power Co. to be more transparent, two days after two workers at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered skin burns when they stepped in water that was 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found near the reactors.

"We strongly urge TEPCO to provide information to the government more promptly," Edano said.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, said TEPCO was aware there was high radiation in the air at one of the plant's six units several days before the accident. And the two workers injured were wearing boots that only came up to their ankles _ hardly high enough to protect their legs, agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

"Regardless of whether there was an awareness of high radioactivity in the stagnant water, there were problems in the way work was conducted," Nishiyama said.

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Scenic Syrian seaside city rocked by unrest; government blames Sunni cleric for tensions

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) _ A scenic seaside city echoed with gunfire Saturday as protesters defied government forces in Syria's second day of nationwide unrest, burning tires, attacking businesses and setting the offices of the ruling party aflame.

At least two people were killed by rooftop snipers in the religiously mixed Mediterranean city of Latakia, officials said, and President Bashar Assad's government of minority Alawite Muslims blamed a major Sunni cleric in Qatar for inciting the unrest.

The government also said demonstrators had also attacked a police station and offices of the Baath party in the town of Tafas, six miles (10 kilometers) north of the southern border city of Daraa, epicenter of more than a week of anti-government protests.

Sectarian divisions are a deeply sensitive topic in Syria, where Assad has used increased economic freedom and prosperity to win the allegiance of the prosperous Sunni Muslim merchant classes, while punishing dissenters with arrest, imprisonment and physical abuse.

Assad has placed his fellow Alawites, adherents of a mystical offshoot of Shiite Islam, into most positions of power in Syria. He has built a close relationship with Iran, allowing the Shiite powerhouse to extend its influence into Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, where it provides money and weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah militants.

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Hundreds of thousands crowd central London to protest UK budget cuts;

LONDON (AP) _ A quarter-million mostly peaceful demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday against the toughest cuts to public spending since World War II, with some small breakaway groups smashing windows at banks and shops and spray painting logos on the walls.

Another group of black-clad protesters hurled paint bombs and ammonia-filled light bulbs at police.

Organizers of the March for the Alternative said people from across the country were peacefully joining in the demonstration, the biggest protest in London since a series of rallies against the Iraq war in 2003.

Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police confirmed that more than 250,000 people had marched peacefully, but said around 500 had caused trouble in London's main shopping streets.

He said nine people had been arrested, for public disorder and criminal damage. Police said 28 people had been injured during the demonstration, and seven were admitted to hospitals for a range of problems, including shortness of breath and a suspected hip fracture. Five police officers were also injured and one of those had to be treated in hospital for a groin injury.

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From doctor to sales clerk: Barriers block many skilled immigrants from working in US

NEW YORK (AP) _ After finishing medical school in Bogota, Colombia, Maria Anjelica Montenegro did it all _ obstetrics, pediatrics, emergency medicine, even surgery. By her estimate, she worked with thousands of patients.

None of that prepared her for the jobs she's had since she moved to the United States: Sales clerk. Babysitter. Medical assistant.

That last one definitely rubbed raw at times.

"I know I was working in my field," the 34-year-old New York resident said. "But that is medical assistant. I'm a doctor."

Montenegro is hardly unique, given the high U.S. unemployment rate these days. Her situation reflects a trend that some researchers call "brain waste" _ a term applied to immigrants who were skilled professionals in their home countries, yet are stymied in their efforts to find work in the U.S. that makes full use of their education or training.

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Republican presidential hopefuls in Iowa look to health care fight to help them win in 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Four high-profile potential Republican presidential candidates told hundreds of conservative activists Saturday that most Americans agree with their values, and several insisted that opposition to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could help the GOP make historic gains in 2012.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann got the noisiest reception when she told about 500 people gathered for the event in Des Moines that voters are both ready to overturn the health care law and oust Obama during next year's election.

"The ultimate arrogance, in my opinion, is Obama-care," the congresswoman said. "That's why I am so absolutely confident in 2012. Americans have made the decision that we're going to take out country back."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain also spoke at the event organized by Rep. Steve King of Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses.

The congressman, whose district is in western Iowa, said the gathering would help conservatives shape the debate as Republicans begin looking for a candidate to run against Obama.

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Snoop Dogg, Warren G, The Game join fans, family to remember Nate Dogg

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Rappers Snoop Dogg, Warren G and The Game joined family, friends and about 1,000 fans of Nate Dogg to remember the hip-hop singer, who died this month of complications from multiple strokes.

The family of Nate Dogg _ whose real name was Nathaniel Dwayne Hale _ decided that the ceremony at the Queen Mary Dome would not be open to the public as they previously wanted, but they made 1,000 tickets and shuttles available to fans.

The dome in Hale's hometown of Long Beach is adjacent to the historic ship the Queen Mary and was the former home of Howard Hughes' airplane folly, the Spruce Goose.

Organizers had sought a more central location for the funeral, but none proved large enough for the numbers of expected mourners. A private dinner was planned after the service.

Hale started out singing in church choirs, then formed a group with Snoop Dogg and Warren G while the trio was in high school in Long Beach.

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Brittany Mallory scores 20, Notre Dame reaches regional final with 78-53 win over Oklahoma

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) _ No overtime this time. Notre Dame's defense needed less than a half to end the drama.

Brittany Mallory scored season-high 20 points Saturday, and Notre Dame's defensive pressure took its toll in a 78-53 win over Oklahoma that sent the second-seeded Fighting Irish to the regional final.

Notre Dame (29-7) will play top-seeded Tennessee on Monday. The Lady Vols (34-2) pulled away from Ohio State in the second half for an 85-75 win _ their 25th straight _ in the other semifinal.

Nicole Griffin scored 18 points for Oklahoma (23-12), which reached the Final Four each of the last two years. Notre Dame's go-for-the-ball pressure crumpled the Sooners' guard-driven offense, which had only eight field goals and 14 turnovers in the decisive first half.

It was the third time in the last four years that the Sooners and Fighting Irish met in the NCAA tournament. The first two games dripped with drama and went to overtime. Notre Dame won the first time, 79-75 in the second round in 2008. Oklahoma got the rematch, 77-72 last year in a regional semifinal in Kansas City.

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Mega jackpot: Winning Mega Millions ticket worth $319M sold in Albany, NY

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Just down the hill from where New York's leaders are wrestling with a $10 billion deficit, a tiny variety store in downtown Albany was abuzz Saturday with talk of a financial windfall.

The winning ticket for Friday night's $319 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot was sold at Coulson's News Center, just blocks from the New York Capitol building, a lottery official announced.

The phone rang non-stop Saturday morning, and a steady stream of customers passed through the newsstand and magazine shop to get coffee, the daily paper and, of course, lottery tickets, as word spread that the store sold the fifth-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history.

Store manager Steve Gallucci said lottery sales were up this week with the skyrocketing jackpot, but he didn't know yet who won. He expects to find out Monday from gaming officials.

"A lot of office people come in," he said. "A lot of regulars."