AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 6:12 AM
AP News in Brief

Syrian forces storm sit-in, firing tear gas and live ammunition, activists say

BEIRUT (AP) _ Syrian security forces opened fire before dawn on hundreds of anti-government protesters staging a sit-in, shooting live ammunition and tear gas before chasing them through the streets for hours, witnesses said Tuesday.

There were casualties but the exact number was not immediately clear.

"They shot at everything, there was smoke everywhere," an activist in the central city of Homs told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used because he feared for his personal safety. "I saw people on the ground, some shot in their feet, some in the stomach."

The streets were largely deserted by early afternoon, with people staying inside their homes.

Hundreds of people had gathered Monday at Clock Square in the center of Homs, bringing mattresses, food and water to the site for an Egypt-style standoff. They vowed to stay until President Bashar Assad is ousted _ a brazen escalation of the monthlong uprising against the country's authoritarian regime.

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Full extent of NC storm damage is unknown; state faces huge price tag, lingering hurt

BONNETSVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ Shards of glass from old bottles and furniture smashed by a tornado that tore through town littered the concrete floor of Rhonda Carter's antique store, shattering her plans to open an auction house in nearby Salemburg. A storage area in the back was flattened.

"I just had a feeling something bad was going to happen, and it did," Carter said of Saturday, when storms raged through Bonnetsville and other parts of North Carolina, killing at least 21 and damaging or destroying more than 800 homes. "Now I'm starting over."

From remote rural communities to the state's second-largest city, thousands of residents hit by the worst tornado outbreak in nearly 30 years were clearing away rubble and debris, repairing power lines and facing a recovery that will cost tens of millions of dollars.

The storms that chugged across the South last week killed at least 44 people in six states, but the worst devastation came over about four hours Saturday in North Carolina.

"In the blink of an eye, so many people have been plunged into grief and crisis," said Preston Parrish, executive vice president of ministry at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which dispatched its disaster-response teams to four areas of the state.

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Nuke plant begins pumping out highly radioactive water to clear access damaged reactors

TOKYO (AP) _ The operator of Japan's crippled nuclear plant has begun pumping highly radioactive water from the basement of one reactor's turbine building to a makeshift storage area _ a key step in stabilizing the complex.

Removing the 25,000 tons of contaminated water that has collected in the basement of Fukushima Dai-ichi's Unit 2 will allow access for workers trying to restore vital cooling systems that were knocked out during the March 11 tsunami that left more than 27,000 people dead or missing.

The step Tuesday was one of many in a lengthy process to resolve the crisis. Tokyo Electric Power Co. projected in a road map released over the weekend that would take up to nine months to reach a cold shutdown of the plant.

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Poll: As preparation for life, students give colleges good grades but high schools fall short

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Young people give mediocre marks to America's high schools but put great faith in its colleges.

A new Associated Press-Viacom poll suggests most high schools are failing to give students a solid footing for the working world or strong guidance toward college, at a time when many students fear graduation means tumbling into an economic black hole.

Most of the 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed gave high schools low grades for things that would ease the way to college: A majority say their school wasn't good at helping them choose a field of study, aiding them in finding the right college or vocational school or assisting them in coming up with ways to pay for more schooling.

If schools did these things better, it could make a significant difference, because young people already are enthusiastic about higher education. Two-thirds say students should aim for college, even if they aren't sure yet what career they want to pursue. Almost as many say they want to get at least a four-year degree themselves.

The majority of high school students probably won't end up with a college degree, however. Among those a few years ahead of them _ today's 25- to 34-year-olds _ only about a third hold a bachelor's or higher degree, according to the Census Bureau. Less than 10 percent get an associate's degree.

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New guidelines define Alzheimer's disease, pre-dementia; hopes for earlier diagnosis and care

By The Associated Press

The first new guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in nearly 30 years establish earlier stages of the mind-robbing disease, paving the way for spotting and possibly treating these conditions much sooner than they are now.

The change reflects a modern view that Alzheimer's is a spectrum of mental decline, with damage that can start many years before symptoms appear. The new guidance describes three phases: early brain changes, mild cognitive impairment and full-blown Alzheimer's.

Yet the guidelines do not advise doctors to change how they evaluate and treat patients now. Despite the hoopla about new brain scans and blood and spinal fluid tests that claim to show early signs of Alzheimer's, they are not ready for prime time and should remain just tools for research, the guidelines say.

"It's too soon right now" to say these experimental biomarker tests will prove valid enough to be used in ordinary patient care, said Creighton Phelps, Alzheimer's program chief at the National Institute on Aging.

His institute and the Alzheimer's Association convened several expert panels to write the guidelines, the first since 1984. They are being published Tuesday in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

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More diggers, drills coming to northern Idaho, where miner is missing after mile-deep collapse

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ Rescuers are expanding their arsenal of digging machines in the effort to locate a silver miner who has been missing since a tunnel more than a mile underground collapsed four days ago.

The newest effort to determine if Larry Marek is still alive will use a diamond drill to bore a 2-inch hole from another tunnel. Officials at the Lucky Friday mine, tucked into the forested mountains of the Idaho Panhandle's Silver Valley, hope it finds an open area that could have provided Marek refuge behind the cave-in.

It may take as long as two days for the drill to get through about 185 feet of solid earth, said Melanie Hennessey, a spokeswoman for Hecla Mining Co., where Marek has worked for 12 years.

Officials did not know Marek's condition, and they have not had contact with him since Friday's collapse.

Rescuers faced mounting obstacles Monday as they tried to clear debris and dislodge boulders that stand in the way of finding the 53-year-old.

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GOP activists welcome Donald Trump's candidacy, even if Democrats see him on the fringe

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Out with Sarah. In with The Donald.

President Barack Obama has launched his re-election bid in a low-key manner, but the Republican Party's search for a challenger seems stranger by the day.

GOP celebrities like Sarah Palin aren't getting much buzz. Mainstream candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty aren't getting much traction. It's people once considered highly unlikely to compete seriously for the party's nomination who are creating big stirs in early voting states, a reflection of an unformed and uncertain GOP presidential field.

GOP activists in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina appear deeply intrigued by, and open to, a run by Donald Trump, the publicity-loving business tycoon and host of NBC's "The Apprentice," even as he perpetuates falsehoods about Obama's citizenship and questions the legitimacy of his presidency.

"I hear more and more people talking about Donald Trump," said Glenn McCall, Republican Party chairman in South Carolina's York County. "He's got people fired up."

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AP IMPACT: Porn company snapping up a huge share of nation's 1-800 numbers for phone sex

NEW YORK (AP) _ For years, teenagers across the U.S. could call a toll-free hotline if they had embarrassing questions about AIDS and safe sex. Dial the same number now and you get a recording of giggling women offering to talk dirty to you.

"We both have big appetites for sex," they purr. "Pinch us and poke us. Spank us and tease us. We love it all. ... Enter your credit card number now."

Those naughty misdials, and countless others like them, appear to be no accident.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that over the past 13 years, a little-known Philadelphia company called PrimeTel Communications has quietly gained control over nearly a quarter of all the 1-800 numbers in the U.S. and Canada, often by grabbing them the moment they are relinquished by previous users. As of March, it administered more 800 numbers that any other company, including Verizon and AT&T.

And many, if not most, of those 1.7 million numbers appear to be used for one thing: redirecting callers to a phone-sex service.

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California woman to show off new hand transplanted in rare procedure at UCLA Medical Center

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A 26-year-old mother who lost her right hand in a traffic accident several years ago is reuniting with her doctors to show off her new donated hand.

The Northern California woman received the donor limb in a marathon surgery last month at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Doctors who will introduce the woman at a news conference Tuesday said she was living with a prosthetic and wanted a hand transplant to better care for her daughter.

During the 14 1/2-hour operation, a team of nearly 20 surgeons, nurses and support staff grafted a hand from a deceased donor onto the patient and intricately connected bones, blood vessels, nerves and tendons.

The transplant was the 13th such case in the United States and the first for the hospital.

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Derrick Rose scores 36 points as Bulls pull out 96-90 win over Pacers for 2-0 series lead

CHICAGO (AP) _ Two playoff games, two dramatic victories for the favored Chicago Bulls, and all is right in Carlos Boozer's eyes.

Derrick Rose scored 36 points, Boozer added 17 points and 16 rebounds, and top-seeded Chicago escaped with another comeback victory over Indiana, beating the Pacers 96-90 on Monday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.

"Every game will be tough," Boozer said. "There's not going to be any easy games in this playoffs in any series. So we look forward to some more tough games. We're built for that. We've had close games all season, and we don't expect any easy games."

Rose went wild again, scoring eight points over the final 4 minutes. Kyle Korver, who made a tiebreaking 3-pointer in Chicago's opening 104-99 victory Saturday, connected from long range to make it 90-85 with just over a minute left.

The Pacers still wouldn't go away.