AP News in Brief

AP News
Posted: Apr 27, 2011 6:07 AM
AP News in Brief

Violent weather rips through the South, killing at least 1 and leaving path of destruction

VILONIA, Ark. (AP) _ Violent weather ripped through the South for a second straight night, killing at least one person in Arkansas, damaging more than 100 homes in a rural East Texas community and overturning a trailer at an oil drilling site in Louisiana.

The latest round of severe weather Tuesday night and early Wednesday came a day after a series of powerful storms killed 10 people in Arkansas and one in Mississippi.

The National Weather Service issued a high-risk warning for severe weather in a stretch extending from northeast of Memphis to just northeast of Dallas and covering a large swath of Arkansas. It last issued such a warning on April 16, when dozens of tornadoes hit North Carolina and killed 21 people.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management confirmed early Wednesday that one person died in a storm in Sharp County. Officials said the person was in a home near Arkansas Highway 230 but didn't know exactly how the person died or whether a tornado had touched down in the area.

Dozens of tornado warnings had been issued in Arkansas throughout the night. Strong winds peeled part of the roof off of a medical building next to a hospital in West Memphis, near the Tennessee border, but no one was inside.


Afghan military pilot fires on NATO troops at Kabul airport after dispute, kills several

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A veteran Afghan military officer opened fire on foreign forces Wednesday after a dispute at the Kabul airport, killing several NATO troops, Afghan and coalition officials said.

It was the latest in a spate of deadly incidents that have occurred inside government or military installations, a favorite target of Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, but Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the gunman was an Afghan military pilot who "opened fire on foreigners after an argument."

The pilot was killed in the shooting, which occurred inside a facility used by the Afghan Air Force, Azimi said.

NATO did not disclose the number or nationalities of the casualties pending notification of their families. The airport is home to the NATO Air Training Command.


Fed weighs next move as economy strengthens; Bernanke prepares to meet the press

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The door at the notoriously secretive Federal Reserve is opening wider.

For the first time in the Fed's 98-year history, its chairman is to begin holding regular news conferences. For Ben Bernanke, Wednesday's meeting with the press gives him a chance to steer the debate about where hiring, economic growth and inflation are headed in the months ahead.

It also helps the chairman cast himself as open and accessible, eager to answer questions.

Investors will be looking mainly for clues about when the Fed will reverse course and begin boosting interest rates.

When their two-day meeting ends Wednesday, before the news conference begins, Bernanke and his colleagues are expected to signal that the Fed's $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program will end as scheduled in June.


Japan's royal couple visits tsunami-devastated coastal town to encourage evacuees

MINAMI-SANRIKU, Japan (AP) _ Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Japan's tsunami-battered northeastern coast on Wednesday, offering encouragement to residents who lost homes and loved ones in last month's disaster.

The deeply respected royal couple visited a school gymnasium where 200 people live in the town of Minami-Sanriku, 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo. Excited crowds began gathering almost two hours before their arrival.

"I'm thankful he has come so far. It makes me so happy," said Mitsuko Oikawa, 73, who has been living at the shelter since the tsunami. Her house was washed away by the powerful waves, she said, shaking her head.

"I saw it happen right before my eyes," she said. "It hurts just to think about it."

But the emperor's visit gives her strength, she said.


AP sources: Obama likely to reunite veteran diplomat Ryan Crocker with Petraeus in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seasoned diplomat Ryan Crocker has emerged as the top candidate to become the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, part of a far-reaching revamping of the nation's top leadership in the conflict there, now in its 10th year.

Crocker is the only person being considered currently to replace Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a former Army general whose two-year tenure has been marred by cool relationships with major players in the Afghanistan war, including the White House, U.S. military leaders and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, administration and other sources said. The sources emphasized that the White House has not made a final decision.

Sending Crocker to Afghanistan would reunite him with Gen. David Petraeus, re-creating the diplomatic and military "dream team" credited with rescuing the flagging American mission in Iraq.

In the coming months, President Barack Obama, who is preparing to begin bringing U.S. forces home from Afghanistan this summer, will have to name replacements for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, other senior military leaders and probably Petraeus himself.

All sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the nomination is not final and Eikenberry is still in his job. His departure has not been announced, and he may remain in Kabul for weeks or months while Crocker or another replacement gets the necessary Senate confirmation, sources said.


Syrian army reinforcements pour into southern city as clashes continue

BEIRUT (AP) _ A human rights activist says gunfire and sporadic explosions are being heard in the southern city of Daraa after the Syrian army sent in more tanks and reinforcements.

Mustafa Osso is in Damascus, but he cited eyewitnesses on the ground in Daraa. He said the troops arrived early Wednesday from military bases in the area.

A relentless crackdown on a monthlong uprising since mid-March has killed more than 400 people across Syria, with 120 dead over the weekend.

On Monday, the army sent tanks into Daraa, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of Damascus, and there have been reports of shooting and raids there and in areas across the country ever since. Daraa is where the pro-democracy uprising began last month and later spread around the country.


Libyan government rockets fall on port lifeline for besieged rebel town of Misrata

ABOARD THE RED STAR 1 (AP) _ Libyan government forces bombarded the port of Misrata, in a virtually nonstop assault on the sole lifeline of a battered population that has been under siege for the past two months.

While forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi pulled out of the city over the weekend under pressure from NATO airstrikes, they have since unleashed a withering rocket and mortar barrage on Misrata that has killed dozens. The bombardment Tuesday was constant throughout the afternoon and into the evening, and loud explosions could be heard thundering across the city.

"It was horrific, like a scene from World War II," said resident Saddoun el-Misurati who was waiting to evacuate his mother from the port when the rockets began to fall. "I stopped counting after nine."

Hundreds of residents, including migrant African laborers, had been waiting at the port for the expected afternoon arrival of the Red Star 1, an Albanian ship chartered by the International Organization of Migration to evacuate people from the besieged city.

The crowd gathered on the docks scrambled for cover when the rockets began falling, hiding in cars and shipping crates or just fleeing the port area, said el-Misurati.


Report: 1 in 4 children in US raised by a single parent, higher than other developed nations

MIAMI (AP) _ One in four children in the United States is being raised by a single parent _ a percentage that has been on the rise and is higher than other developed countries, according to a report released Wednesday.

Of the 27 industrialized countries studied by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. had 25.8 percent of children being raised by a single parent, compared with an average of 14.9 percent across the other countries.

Ireland was second (24.3 percent), followed by New Zealand (23.7 percent). Greece, Spain, Italy and Luxemborg had among the lowest percentages of children in single-parent homes.

Experts point to a variety of factors to explain the high U.S. figure, including a cultural shift toward greater acceptance of single-parent child rearing. The U.S. also lacks policies to help support families, including childcare at work and national paid maternity leave, which are commonplace in other countries.

"When our parents married, there was a sense that you were marrying for life," said Edward Zigler, founder and director of Yale's Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. "That sense is not as prevalent."


Women pass men in advanced degrees for first time, gaining new access to jobs away from home

WASHINGTON (AP) _ For the first time, American women have passed men in gaining advanced college degrees as well as bachelor's degrees, part of a trend that is helping redefine who goes off to work and who stays home with the kids.

Census figures released Tuesday highlight the latest education milestone for women, who began to exceed men in college enrollment in the early 1980s. The findings come amid record shares of women in the workplace and a steady decline in stay-at-home mothers.

The educational gains for women are giving them greater access to a wider range of jobs, contributing to a shift of traditional gender roles at home and work. Based on one demographer's estimate, the number of stay-at-home dads who are the primary caregivers for their children reached nearly 2 million last year, or one in 15 fathers. The official census tally was 154,000, based on a narrower definition that excludes those working part-time or looking for jobs.

"The gaps we're seeing in bachelor's and advanced degrees mean that women will be better protected against the next recession," said Mark Perry, an economics professor at the University of Michigan-Flint who is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

"Men now might be the ones more likely to be staying home, doing the more traditional child rearing," he said.


NFL in limbo as both sides head back to court to argue over the lockout

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The NFL clearly isn't ready to get back to football and fans won't like the sound of this, either: Both sides are headed back to court.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who sided with the players and lifted the lockout this week, gave players a Wednesday morning deadline to tell her why she shouldn't grant the NFL's request to put her order on hold.

If Nelson denies the league's expedited motion for a stay, the owners will ask the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis for the same thing. They're also asking the appeals court, viewed as a more friendly venue to the league than the federal courts in Minnesota, to overturn Nelson's decision.

And while that all plays out, the $9 billion business is in limbo.

In one of the oddest days in NFL history, players showed up at their team headquarters Tuesday and most were told they were welcome to come inside as long as they didn't participate in "football activities."