AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2011 6:08 PM
AP News in Brief

Dozens of protesters killed in the bloodiest day of the Syrian uprising

BEIRUT (AP) _ Syrian security forces fired bullets and tear gas Friday at tens of thousands of protesters across the country, killing at least 75 people in the bloodiest day of the monthlong uprising and signaling that the authoritarian regime was prepared to turn more ruthless to put down the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Among the dead were a 70-year-old man and two boys ages 7 and 10, Amnesty International said. In the southern town of Izraa, a man ran carrying the body of a young boy, whose hair was matted with blood from a gaping wound on his head, as another child wept and shouted, "My brother!" Footage of the scene was posted on the protest movement's main Facebook pace.

In other towns, protesters scattered for cover from sniper bullets, then dragged corpses through the streets. Mobile phone images showed the bodies lined up on the floor inside buildings.

The rallies, most marching out from mosques after Friday's noon Muslim prayers, erupted in towns and cities stretching along the breadth of the country, including in at least two suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

The death toll was likely to rise, raising fears that there will be an explosion of violence Saturday as relatives bury their dead in funerals that in the past have turned into new protests. Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, said another 20 people were missing.

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Libyan army to pull out of Misrata, to be replaced by armed tribesmen, official says

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ A senior Libyan government official says the Libyan army will pull out of the besieged, rebel-held city of Misrata and be replaced by armed tribesmen.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim did not say when the military would withdraw and under what conditions.

Kaim told journalists late Friday that "we will leave it for the tribes around Misrata and the Misrata people to deal with the situation in Misrata."

Misrata is Libya's third-largest city and has been besieged by the Libyan army for nearly two months. Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between rebels and government forces. The international community has accused Libyan forces of firing indiscriminately at civilian areas.

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Pope does first question-and-answer TV show, reflects on suffering to mark Good Friday

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope Benedict XVI consoled a 7-year-old Japanese girl, reassured a mother about her ailing son's soul and advised a Muslim woman that dialogue was the way to peace in Ivory Coast.

In a push to engage the world online, the pontiff fielded their questions during an unusual Good Friday appearance on Italian TV. It was hardly a casual or spontaneous chat: Seven questions were selected from thousands that poured in via RAI television's website, and Benedict recorded his answers last week.

He seemed a bit stiff, sitting all alone in a big white chair behind his desk inside the Apostolic Palace as an unseen interviewer read out the letters to him.

But the teacher and pastor in the 84-year-old Benedict came through as he fielded the questions, which all dealt with suffering and Jesus' death, which Christians recall on Good Friday, and his resurrection, celebrated on Easter Sunday.

The first question came from young Elena, who asked the pope why she felt so afraid after Japan's earthquake shook her house and killed so many children.

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Persistent claims about Obama's birthplace force GOP candidates to make a touchy stand

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It's the conspiracy theory that won't go away. And it's forcing Republican officials and presidential contenders to pick sides: Do they think Barack Obama was born outside the United States and disqualified to be president?

As the Republican candidates tiptoe through the mine field, Democrats are watching. They hope the debate will fire up their liberal base and perhaps tie the eventual GOP nominee to fringe beliefs that swing voters will reject.

In recent days several prominent Republicans have distanced themselves, with varying degrees of emphasis, from the false claim that Obama was born in a foreign country. But with a new poll showing that two-thirds of adult Republicans either embrace the claim or are open to it, nearly all these GOP leaders are not calling for a broader effort to stamp out the allegations.

"It's a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president," contends Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. If it's not handled well, he said, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant.

Many Americans consider claims of Obama's foreign birth to be preposterous, unworthy of serious debate. Yet the "birther" issue threatens to overshadow the early stages of the GOP effort to choose a presidential nominee for 2012. Real estate mogul Donald Trump has stirred the pot lately, repeatedly saying Obama should provide his original birth certificate.

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GM likely to retake title of top automaker due to strong sales and Toyota's quake troubles

DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors is almost certain to claim the title of world's biggest automaker this year, retaking the top spot from Toyota, which has been hurt by production problems since the Japanese earthquake and still can't escape the shadow of major safety recalls.

The No. 1 title, a morale booster for the winner's employees and managers, would cap GM's remarkable comeback from bankruptcy.

GM's sales are up, mainly in China and the U.S, the world's top two markets. Cars are better than in the past, especially small ones.

But even though GM came within 30,000 sales of Toyota last year and began strong in 2011, any sales victory this year has more to do with Toyota's problems.

First, a series of big recalls has ballooned to 14 million vehicles worldwide and damaged Toyota's reputation for reliability. That has spurred loyal buyers to look at other brands.

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FBI says person of interest in Colo. mall investigation is now a suspect

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ Authorities investigating a fire that led to the discovery of a pipe bomb and propane tanks in a Colorado mall released three new surveillance photos Friday of a man who officials say is now consider a suspect in the case.

The new photos of the man show him riding a public bus away from Southwest Plaza Mall on Tuesday evening, the night before the fire.

They provide the best view yet of the man, who has a grey mustache. He is wearing the same clothes he was wearing at the mall Wednesday.

The latest photos show a University of South Carolina logo on his baseball hat.

Authorities originally considered the man a person of interest in the case, but Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman Mark Techmeyer said Friday that information from the investigation led investigators to consider him a suspect. Techmeyer wouldn't elaborate.

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Senate committee says Nevada Sen. Ensign resignation was 'appropriate'

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ U.S. Sen. John Ensign's decision this week to resign marked a mysterious change of heart for the Nevada Republican, raising questions about what an ongoing Senate ethics probe has uncovered while also muddling the field of candidates for congressional seats now held by the GOP headed into a key election year.

Leaders of the Senate Ethics Committee noted tersely Friday that Ensign made the proper decision in turning in a letter of resignation amid their unrelenting, but as yet unfinished, two-year probe of his conduct.

Ensign, 53, cited "wear and tear" on himself and his family in his announcement Thursday, which came nearly two years after he acknowledged having had an extramarital affair with a former staffer. He was accused of helping the woman's husband _ a top former Ensign staffer _ obtain lobbying work.

Ensign's pending departure also casts a new sense of urgency over Nevada's closely watched Senate race to replace him. After he announced last month that he would not seek re-election, Democrats hoped to claim the seat to protect their fragile Senate majority.

In the meantime, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval will appoint a successor to serve the remainder of the term through 2012. Sandoval had endorsed Republican Rep. Dean Heller of northern Nevada in the race and is widely expected to name him the incumbent, affording Heller an advantage over Rep. Shelley Berkley, the Democrat's favored candidate.

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Army testing new uniforms for women, working to develop body armor that better fits female GIs

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Throughout history, military gear has been made with the male physique in mind. But for women in today's combat or close-to-combat jobs, that can mean body armor that fits so poorly it's tough to fire a weapon, combat uniforms with knee pads that hit around mid-shin and flight suits that make it nearly impossible to urinate while in a plane.

With women taking on new roles, the issue is getting fresh attention from the military.

Seven hundred female Army troops are testing a new combat uniform for women with shorter sleeves and with knee pads in the right place for their generally shorter legs. A committee on women's issues has recommended that flight suits be redesigned for both men and women so it's unnecessary to disrobe before urinating. And engineers have been looking at ways to design armor that better fits the contours of a woman's body.

Some military women are reluctant to embrace changes that would set them apart from their male colleagues, but several said in interviews that the changes beat the consequences of the current one-piece flight suits or being unable to engage in battle or defend themselves because of uncooperative gear.

Female troops are about 20 percent more likely than their male counterparts to report musculoskeletal disorders, and poorly fitting body armor could be a factor. For female aviators, dehydration can be a hazard if they opt not to drink water before flights, and those who wait too long to use the bathroom can experience urinary problems.

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LA judge reduces charge against Lindsay Lohan in stolen necklace case to misdemeanor

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A judge on Friday reduced Lindsay Lohan's grand theft case down to a misdemeanor after prosecutors laid out their case against the actress over a necklace reported stolen from a jewelry store.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner refused to dismiss the case against Lohan, but said she often sees more serious cases that get reduced to misdemeanors. The misdemeanor has a potential penalty of a year in jail.

"I see the intent here," Sautner said. "I see a level of brazenness with `Let me see what I can get away with here."

Sautner ruled that prosecutors had shown that Lohan violated her probation, but also said in reducing the charge that she was going to give the actress "an opportunity."

Lohan entered a not guilty plea Friday and will be back in court on May 11 for a pretrial hearing.

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Los Angeles Dodgers have seen dark days before but maybe none as dark as these

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The Dodgers haven't always made it easy for their fans to root for them.

They were left in tears when Bobby Thomson from the hated crosstown Giants ended the then-Brooklyn Dodgers' 1951 season with his home run, "the shot heard `round the world."

The team broke their hearts when it moved in 1958 to Los Angeles.

Then came this week.

The Dodgers, the storied franchise that integrated the sport with Jackie Robinson and pioneered baseball's move to the West, had become so ineptly run that Major League Baseball took over day-to-day control.