Syrian security forces fire on crowds, killing 120 people over 2 days
BEIRUT (AP) _ Syrian security forces fired on funeral processions that drew tens of thousands Saturday, one day after the bloodiest crackdown so far in the uprising against President Bashar Assad. The shootings pushed the two-day death toll to more than 120 and two lawmakers and a religious leader resigned in disgust over the killings.
The resignations were a possible sign of cracks developing in the regime's base in a nation where nearly all opposition figures have been either jailed or exiled during the 40-year dynasty of the Assad family.
"I cannot tolerate the blood of our innocent sons and children being shed," Sheikh Rizq Abdul-Rahim Abazeid told The Associated Press after stepping down from his post as the mufti of the Daraa region in southern Syria.
The lawmakers, Nasser Hariri and Khalil Rifai, also are from Daraa, which has become the epicenter of the protest movement after a group of teenagers were arrested there for scrawling anti-regime graffiti on a wall in mid-March.
Since then, the relentless crackdown on demonstrations has only served to invigorate protesters whose rage over the bloodshed has all but eclipsed their earlier demands for modest reforms. Now, many are seeking Assad's downfall.
Embattled Yemeni president agrees to Gulf proposal to step down within 30 days
SANAA, Yemen (AP) _ Yemen's embattled president agreed Saturday to a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators to step down within 30 days and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a major about-face for the autocratic leader who has ruled for 32 years.
A coalition of seven opposition parties said they also accepted the deal but with reservations. Even if the differences are overcome, those parties do not speak for all of the hundreds of thousands of protesters seeking President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster, and signs were already emerging that a deal on those terms would not end confrontations in the streets.
A day earlier, protesters staged the largest of two months of demonstrations, filling a five-lane boulevard across the capital with a sea of hundreds of thousands of people. Day after day of protest have presented a stunning display of defiance in the face of a crackdown that has included sniper attacks and killed more than 130 people.
The uprising and a wave of defections by allies, including several top military commanders, have left Saleh clinging to power and now appear to be pushing him to compromise on his earlier refusal to leave office before his term ends in 2013.
For decades the former military officer has fended off numerous challenges, deftly maneuvering among the nation's powerful and fractious tribes and using security forces to put down opponents. Al-Qaida's most active franchise has attacked his forces, an armed rebellion has battered the north of the country and a secessionist movement has reappeared in the once-independent south.
Failure to hike debt limit could have dire consequences that ripple across US, global economy
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States has never defaulted on its debt and Democrats and Republicans say they don't want it to happen now. But with partisan acrimony running at fever pitch, and Democrats and Republicans so far apart on how to tame the deficit, the unthinkable is suddenly being pondered.
The government now borrows about 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Imagine that one day soon, the borrowing slams up against the current debt limit ceiling of $14.3 trillion and Congress fails to raise it. The damage would ripple across the entire economy, eventually affecting nearly every American, and rocking global markets in the process.
A default would come if the government actually failed to fulfill a financial obligation, including repaying a loan or interest on that loan. The government borrows mostly by selling bonds to individuals and governments, with a promise to pay back the amount of the bond in a certain time period and agreeing to pay regular interest on that bond in the meantime.
Among the first directly affected would likely be money-market funds holding government securities, banks that buy bonds directly from the Federal Reserve and resell them to consumers, including pension and mutual funds; and the foreign investor community, which holds nearly half of all Treasury securities.
If the U.S. starts missing interest or principal payments, borrowers would demand higher and higher rates on new bonds, as they did with Greece, Portugal and other heavily indebted nations. Who wants to keep loaning money to a deadbeat nation that can't pay its bills?
Fighting rages anew in western Libya city of Misrata, government troops pull back
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) _ Heavy fighting raged anew in Misrata and killed 24 people Saturday as Moammar Gadhafi's forces gave up more ground inside Libya's third-largest city. The U.S. said its first Predator drone attack in the country destroyed a government rocket launcher that had menaced civilians in the western city.
Hundreds of people have been killed in rebel-held Misrata in a two-month government siege backed by tanks, mortars and snipers. On Friday night, the regime said it was withdrawing its military forces and allowing armed tribesmen to take over the battle. But the opposition was skeptical about the claim, saying it doubted Gadhafi's troops would fully depart.
"Gadhafi forces are moving back," said Safi Eddin al-Montaser, a rebel spokesman in Misrata. But he added: "People are still nervous because we don't know the next step of Gadhafi's forces."
Jalal el-Gallal, a spokesman for the rebels' leadership council in their stronghold of Benghazi, said he doubted the regime will fully withdraw from Misrata. He claimed the rebels firmly control the city.
Misrata, the only major rebel stronghold in western Libya, has become the most dramatic battleground in the Libyan uprising, which began in February after similar revolts in Tunisia and Egypt ousted longtime leaders. Fighting elsewhere in the country is at a stalemate, even with NATO airstrikes that began last month.
Soaring price of gasoline just the latest problem to cloud Obama's re-election prospects
WASHINGTON (AP) _ With gas prices climbing and little relief in sight, President Barack Obama is scrambling to get ahead of the latest potential obstacle to his re-election bid, even as Republicans are making plans to exploit the issue.
No one seems more aware of the electoral peril than Obama himself.
"My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people," he told Democratic donors in Los Angeles this past week.
In fact, Obama raised the issue unsolicited in a series of town meetings in Virginia, California and Nevada that were ostensibly about his deficit-reduction plan. And he made the gas spike the subject of his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday.
"It's just another burden when things were already pretty tough," he said.
St. Louis official: Lack of major injuries a 'blessing' amid massive destruction from tornado
ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Debris from splintered homes covered the ground in neighborhoods around St. Louis, while topped trees and overturned cars littered lawns and driveways. From the air, one home looked like a dollhouse that had had its roof lifted off. Looking down, the dining room table and other contents could be seen, damp in lingering rain.
Amid such devastation, officials appeared awed that a tornado that roared through the area Friday night, striking the airport and several nearby suburbs, hadn't seriously injured anyone.
"It was horrific. For that much damage to be done and no one lost their life, it is simply a blessing," said Charlie Dooley, St. Louis County's executive.
Cleanup swung into full gear Saturday. With the din of chain saws and pounding hammers in the background, homeowners sifted through wreckage while crews scrambled to restore power to the 31,700 customers still without it.
At Lambert, workers boarded up windows and swept up glass in the main terminal, where the twister had torn off part of the roof and blown out half of the large, plate-glass windows. The domed design of the main terminal, dating to the mid-1950s, was the handiwork of Minoru Yamasaki, the Modernist architect of New York City's World Trade Center twin towers toppled in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Where you go, what you do _ your phone knows. Who else? Tracking exposes privacy trade-off
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ If you're worried about privacy, you can turn off the function on your smartphone that tracks where you go. But that means giving up the services that probably made you want a smartphone in the first place. After all, how smart is an iPhone or an Android if you can't use it to map your car trip or scan reviews of nearby restaurants?
The debate over digital privacy flamed higher this week with news that Apple Inc.'s popular iPhones and iPads store users' GPS coordinates for a year or more. Phones that run Google Inc.'s Android software also store users' location data. And not only is the data stored _ allowing anyone who can get their hands on the device to piece together a chillingly accurate profile of where you've been _ but it's also transmitted back to the companies to use for their own research.
Now, cellphone service providers have had customers' location data for almost as long as there have been cellphones. That's how they make sure to route calls and Internet traffic to the right place. Law enforcement analyzes location data on iPhones for criminal evidence _ a practice that Alex Levinson, technical lead for firm Katana Forensics, said has helped lead to convictions. And both Apple and Google have said that the location data that they collect from the phones is anonymous and not able to be tied back to specific users.
But lawmakers and many users say storing the data creates an opportunity for one's private information to be misused. Levinson, who raised the iPhone tracking issue last year, agrees that people should start thinking about location data as just as valuable and worth protecting as a wallet or bank account number.
"We don't know what they're going to do with that information," said Dawn Anderson, a creative director and Web developer in Glen Mills, Pa., who turned off the GPS feature on her Android-based phone even before the latest debate about location data. She said she doesn't miss any of the location-based services in the phone. She uses the GPS unit in her car instead.
NYC officials: Trump skipped voting in primaries over 21 years since 1989 NYC mayor's race
NEW YORK (AP) _ Donald Trump says he's considering running in the primary for the Republican presidential nomination, but the real estate mogul didn't vote in primary elections for more than two decades, according to the New York City Board of Elections.
The possible GOP candidate voted in a primary election in the 1989 New York City mayor's race _ when Rudy Giuliani beat businessman Ronald Lauder _ then didn't vote in a primary for 21 years, board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said Saturday. The report on Trump's voting record initially appeared on TV station NY1 a day earlier.
Records also show Trump skipped the 2002 general election, when Republican incumbent Gov. George Pataki defeated Democrat H. Carl McCall, Vazquez said. But Trump told the station he's voted in every general election.
"You're going to pay a big price because you're wrong," he told the station. "I have records that I voted and so does the Board of Elections ... I signed in at every election."
His lawyer, Michael Cohen, defended Trump's voting practices Saturday.
Beckham, Elton John, Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson to attend royal wedding with Bahrain prince
LONDON (AP) _ David Beckham, Elton John and Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson will mingle with dozens of royal guests at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding, according to an official guest list released Saturday that includes one uncomfortable presence _ the Bahraini crown prince accused of a brutal crackdown on protesters.
St. James's Palace also released the seating plan at Westminster Abbey, which showed that relatives of William's mother Princess Diana are sitting across the aisle from the royal family, joining the Middletons in an exception to the traditional division of a church into a bride's side and groom's side.
There was no explanation of the seating arrangement, but the Spencers have not had a good relationship with the royal family, especially after Diana's brother Charles Spencer attacked the royals during a speech at her 1997 funeral.
More than 46 foreign royals are seated behind the British royals. They include Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, an invitation that could prove awkward in light of his government's rough treatment of mainly Shiite pro-democracy protesters.
Some human rights campaigners have started to petition Foreign Secretary William Hague to revoke the invitation, saying the prince should not be allowed to attend the occasion. At least 30 people have died in Bahrain since mid-February, including four who died while in official custody, and many well-known activists and lawyers have been imprisoned.
Granger scores 24, Pacers beat Bulls 89-84 in Game 4 to avoid elimination
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Chicago's fans traveled to Indiana by the thousands, planning to celebrate a first-round playoff victory at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Pacers sent them home disappointed, holding off a furious rally to beat the Bulls 89-84 on Saturday afternoon for their first playoff win since 2006. Chicago's Carlos Boozer missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with a second remaining.
The Bulls still lead the series 3-1 and will have a chance to close it out at home Tuesday.
Danny Granger scored 24 points for Indiana, which never trailed and finally broke through after losing the first three games by a combined 15 points.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who averaged 32.7 points in the first three games, finished with 15 points and 10 assists. He sprained his left ankle late in the first quarter and scored eight points on 3-for-16 shooting the rest of the way.