AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: May 07, 2011 6:12 PM
AP News in Brief

Candid videos released by US portray bin Laden as a weary terrorist watching himself on TV

WASHINGTON (AP) _ From a shabby, makeshift office, he ran a global terrorist empire. The world's most wanted man watched newscasts of himself from a tiny television perched atop a rickety old desk cluttered with wires.

For years, the world only saw Osama bin Laden in the rare propaganda videos that trickled out, the ones portraying him as a charismatic religious figure unfazed by being the target of worldwide manhunt.

On Saturday, the U.S. released a handful of videos, selected to show bin Laden in a much more candid, unflattering light. In the short clips, bin Laden appears hunched and tired, seated on the floor, watching television wrapped in a wool blanket and wearing a knit cap. Outtakes of his propaganda tapes show that they were heavily scripted affairs. He dyed and trimmed his beard for the cameras, then shot and reshot his remarks until the timing and lighting were just right.

The videos were among the evidence seized by Navy SEALs after a pre-dawn raid Monday that killed bin Laden in his walled Pakistani compound. The movies, along with computer disks, thumb drives and handwritten notes, reveal that bin Laden was still actively involved in planning and directing al-Qaida's plots against the U.S., according to a senior U.S. intelligence official who briefed reporters Saturday and insisted his name not be used.

"The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after Bin Laden," said CIA director Leon Panetta in a statement Saturday. "Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."

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After 44 days of surging gas prices, analysts expect drop of 50 cents by summer driving season

NEW YORK (AP) _ Some relief from suffocating gas prices will likely arrive just in time for summer vacation. Expect a drop of nearly 50 cents as early as June, analysts say.

After rocketing up 91 cents since January, including 44 straight days of increases, the national average this past week stopped just shy of $4 a gallon and has retreated to under $3.98. A steady decline is expected to follow.

It might not be enough to evoke cheers from people who recall gas stations charging less than $3 a gallon last year. But it would still ease the burden on drivers. And it might help lift consumer spending, which powers about 70 percent of the economy. A 50-cent drop in prices would save U.S. drivers about $189 million a day.

Typically, gas prices peak each spring, then fall into a summertime swoon that can last several weeks. This year's decline should be gradual but steady, said Fred Rozell, the retail pricing director at the Oil Price Information Service.

Some drivers might not notice much of a price drop at first, Rozell cautioned. When average gas prices fluctuate nationally, some areas are affected more than others. In cities with many service stations, for instance, prices can be slower to fall. It's even possible prices will rise at some stations in coming days even if they decline nationally.

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AP IMPACT: China's all-out info-collection puts US technology, secrets in the wrong hands

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ The young man stood before the judge, his usually neatly trimmed hair now long enough to brush the collar of his prison jumpsuit. Glenn Duffie Shriver had confessed his transgressions and was here, in a federal courtroom with his mother watching, to receive his sentence and to try, somehow, to explain it all.

When the time came for him to address the court, he spoke of the many dreams he'd had to work on behalf of his country.

"Mine was to be a life of service," he said. "I could have been very valuable. That was originally my plan."

He had been a seemingly all-American, clean-cut guy: No criminal record. A job teaching English overseas. In letters to the judge, loved ones described the 29-year-old Midwesterner as honest and caring _ a good citizen. His fiancee called him "Mr. Patriot."

Such descriptions make the one that culminated in the courtroom all the more baffling: Glenn Shriver was also a spy recruit for China. He took $70,000 from individuals he knew to be Chinese intelligence officers to try to land a job with a U.S. government agency _ first the State Department and later the CIA.

And Shriver is just one of at least 57 defendants in federal prosecutions since 2008 charging espionage conspiracies with China or efforts to pass classified information, sensitive technology or trade secrets to intelligence operatives, state-sponsored entities, private individuals or businesses in China, according to an Associated Press review of U.S. Justice Department cases. Of those, nine are awaiting trial, and two are considered fugitives. The other defendants have been convicted, though some are yet to be sentenced.

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Huntsman directly addresses Obama administration role as he inches toward GOP presidential bid

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Republican Jon Huntsman, weighing a White House bid, used his first formal event after stepping down as President Barack Obama's ambassador to China to confront the line on his resume that conservatives were most likely to declare a deal-breaker.

In a high-profile speech to the University of South Carolina, the former Utah governor said patriotism should trump partisanship and defended his two years in Beijing as the Democratic administration's top diplomat.

"Work to keep America great. Serve her if asked. I was _ by a president of a different political party," Huntsman said, directly addressing the job that his rivals and critics hope to make disqualifier among the conservatives who hold great sway in the nominating process.

"But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all part of one nation _ a nation that needs your generational gift, energy and confidence," he told graduates, pitching himself as an above-politics figure and appealing to voters who have grown weary of political bickering.

Obama named Huntsman, a Mandarin speaker and former Mormon missionary to Taiwan, his representative in Beijing two years ago. Many believed Obama was sending a rising star in Republican politics _ and a potential challenger in 2012 _ to China to neutralize the threat.

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Alabama churches offer aid to other congregations following deadly tornadoes in state

PLEASANT GROVE, Ala. (AP) _ It's difficult these days to discern what biblical image once decorated the blown-out stained glass windows at the First Assembly of God church. The building lies in crumpled heaps of bricks, twisted steel and wooden planks, obliterated by the tornadoes that roared across Alabama last week.

Directly across the street stands the damaged but still-intact First Baptist Church, From the comfort of his office Thursday, senior pastor Daven Watkins offered help to his Assembly of God counterpart.

"If you all need a place to worship or if you want to join us for worship, by all means we can accommodate that," Watkins said in a voicemail message left for Lamar Jacks, the senior pastor of Assembly of God.

If you need anything at all, Watkins added before hanging up, "Please, please call me."

Churches commonly open their doors for donations and hot meals after natural disasters, and the relief effort in Alabama has been no different. Some churches in this deeply religious state have gone even further, offering up worship space for congregations that lost theirs in the storm, collecting food donations for churches in hard-hit areas to give to their communities and forging relationships that in some cases span denominations and styles of worship.

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Taliban gunmen attack government buildings in key southern city in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ The Taliban unleashed a major assault Saturday on government buildings throughout Afghanistan's main southern city, an attack that cast doubt on how successful the U.S.-led coalition has been in its nearly yearlong military campaign to establish security and stability in the former Taliban stronghold.

The Taliban said their goal was to take control of Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban and President Hamid Karzai's home province, making it the most ambitious of a series of recent high-profile attacks on government installations. The attack came a day after the Islamic movement said Osama bin Laden's death would only serve to boost morale, but a Taliban spokesman insisted it had been in the works for months before the al-Qaida leader was killed by American commandos on Monday.

Shooting started shortly after midday and lasted more than seven hours, while government forces were backed by military helicopters firing from overhead.

At least eight locations were attacked: the governor's compound, the mayor's office, the intelligence agency headquarters, three police stations and two high schools, according to government officials.

The assailants included at least five suicide attackers in bomb-rigged cars, three of whom were stopped by police before their explosives could go off, NATO forces said in a statement. In the end, none of the assaulted compounds was breached by the militants, NATO said.

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Utah woman awaits belated Mother's Day after 17 years in prison; murder conviction overturned

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ In her dream, Debra Brown pedals out of a Utah prison on a powder blue bicycle, riding past razor wire that for the last 17 years has kept her from proms and graduations and the birth of seven grandchildren.

On Monday that dream figures to become a reality _ even though the bike will be awaiting the 53-year-old outside the walls of Utah State Prison, where family members plan a parking lot reunion.

"We're going to celebrate a late Mother's Day, but it will be the best Mother's Day present we could ask for," said daughter Alana Williams, who was 11 when Debra Brown was arrested in Logan, about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City, 10 months after the November 1993 shooting death of her longtime friend and employer, Lael Brown. The two were not related.

"It definitely takes you back to your childhood. I'm sure it will be a homecoming like none other," Williams said.

Last week, Brown became the first inmate exonerated under a 2008 Utah law that allows convictions to be reconsidered based on new factual _ not scientific _ evidence. More than 250 people since 1989 have been exonerated nationwide thanks to DNA testing.

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Ky. residents optimistic they've seen worst of Mississippi River flooding; Memphis braces

HICKMAN, Ky. (AP) _ As Memphis readied for the mighty Mississippi to bring its furor to town, some Kentucky residents upstream returned to their homes Saturday, optimistic the levees would hold and that they had seen the worst of the flooding.

In the small town of Hickman, Ky., officials and volunteers spent nearly two weeks piling sandbags on top of each other to shore up the 17-mile levee, preparing for a disaster of historic proportion. About 75 residents were told to flee town and waited anxiously for days to see just how bad the flooding would be.

By Saturday, the levee had held, and officials boasted that only a few houses appeared to be damaged. More importantly, no one was injured or killed.

"We have held back the Mississippi River and that's a feat," Fulton County's emergency management director Hugh Caldwell said. "We didn't beat it, but it didn't beat us. We'll call it a draw."

Downstream, though, there was danger, in places like Memphis, the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana. In Arkansas, authorities recovered the body of a man who drove around barricades earlier in the week and was swept away by floodwaters when he tried to walk out.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton warned residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

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Justin Bieber to record cyberbullying PSA to resolve record label of charges in NY mall frenzy

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) _ Justin Bieber has agreed to record a public service announcement on cyberbullying in order to resolve criminal charges filed against his manager and a record executive after a frenzy at a New York mall.

The case stemmed from an incident in 2009, when thousands of unruly girls turned up at a Long Island clothing store to see the teen pop star sign autographs. Police hadn't been expecting the crowd, and ordered the event cancelled.

Def Jam Records executive James Roppo was arrested after police said he refused to help disperse the crowd. Months later, police also pressed child endangerment charges against Bieber's manager, Scott Braun.

Braun hadn't been at the mall, but police said that when reached by phone he initially refused an order to send out a Twitter message to Bieber's fans telling them the singer wouldn't appear.

Prosecutors told a judge Friday that they are dropping charges against both men. The record company and a management company pleaded guilty to fire code violations.

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Spanish golf great Seve Ballesteros dies at 54 from complications of cancerous brain tumor

MADRID (AP) _ Seve Ballesteros was a genius with a golf club in his hands, an inspiration to everyone who saw him create shots that didn't seem possible. The Spaniard's passion and pride revived European golf and made the Ryder Cup one of the game's most compelling events.

His career was defined not only by what he won, but how he won.

"He was the greatest show on earth," Nick Faldo said.

Ballesteros, a five-time major champion whose incomparable imagination and fiery personality made him one of the most significant figures in modern golf, died Saturday from complications of a cancerous brain tumor. He was 54.

"Seve was one of the most talented and excited golfers to ever play the game," Tiger Woods said on Twitter. "His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon."

A statement on Ballesteros' website early Saturday said he died peacefully at 2:10 a.m. local time, surrounded by his family at his home in Pedrena. It was in this small Spanish town where Ballesteros first wrapped his hands around a crude 3-iron and began inventing shots that he would display on some of golf's grandest stages.