Chiding Europe, US defense chief says NATO outlook dim, America could decide not worth money
BRUSSELS (AP) _ In a stern rebuke, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Friday that the future of the historic NATO military alliance is at risk because of European penny-pinching and distaste for front-line combat. The United States won't carry the alliance as a charity case, the outgoing Pentagon chief said.
Some NATO countries bristled, but Britain quickly and heartily agreed.
Gates' assessment that NATO could face "a dim if not dismal" future echoes long-standing concern of U.S. policymakers about European defense spending. But rarely, if ever, has it been stated so directly by such a powerful American figure, widely respected in the United States and internationally.
The remarks, at the close of Gates' final overseas trip, reflect a new reality of constrained American finances and a smaller global reach.
Earlier in the week Gates played "bad cop" to U.S. President Barack Obama's good, criticizing Germany's abstention from the air campaign in Libya two days after Obama lavished an award and fancy White House dinner on visiting Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Elite Syrian troops sweep through north; unrest kills 32 and refugees pour across border
YAYLADAGI, Turkey (AP) _ Elite Syrian forces moved swiftly through the country's restive north on Friday, raining tank shells on rebellious towns, torching farmland and shooting protesters who tried to tear down a poster of President Bashar Assad, activists and refugees said.
At least 32 people were killed, activists said, and undaunted protests extended to every major city.
The leader of neighboring Turkey, angered by violence that has sent more than 4,000 Syrians streaming across the border, accused the Assad regime of "savagery."
Backed by helicopters and tanks, the troops responsible for most of Friday's violence were believed to be from an elite division commanded by Assad's younger brother, Maher. The decision to mobilize his unit against the most serious threats to the 40-year Assad regime could be a sign of concern about the loyalty of regular conscripts.
Syrians who escaped from the town of Jisr al-Shughour into Turkey said the army came after police turned their guns on each other and soldiers refused orders to fire on protesters last week. Syrian state television has said 120 officers and security personnel were killed by gunmen. A man who remained behind said the few residents left were hoping barricades of burning tires could hold off the reinforcements surrounding them.
German investigators say local sprouts caused the deadly E. coli outbreak
BERLIN (AP) _ After a month of searching and testing thousands of vegetables, simple detective work trumped science in the hunt for the source of the world's deadliest E. coli outbreak. The culprit: German-grown sprouts.
Health officials announced Friday that sprouts from a farm in northern Germany caused the outbreak that has killed 31 people, sickened nearly 3,100 and prompted much of Europe to shun vegetables.
"It was like a crime thriller where you have to find the bad guy," said Helmut Tschiersky-Schoeneburg, head of Germany's consumer protection agency.
Health officials said they tracked the bacteria's path from hospital patients struggling with diarrhea and kidney failure, to the restaurants where they had dined, to specific meals and ingredients they ate, and finally back to a single farm.
There are more questions to answer, including what contaminated the sprouts in the first place: Was it tainted seeds or water, or nearby animals? The answer is still elusive.
Alaska releases emails from Palin's time as governor as she considers White House run
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ Alaska officials on Friday released thousands of pages of Sarah Palin's emails, giving a glimpse of her time as governor, her struggles in dealing with gossip about her family and her rise to national prominence as the GOP vice presidential nominee.
Reporters and photographers crowded into a small office to pick up the six boxes of emails _ 24,199 pages and weighing 250 pounds. Some carried the boxes down the stairs and others, wheeling them on dollies, scrambled to be the first ones to reach elevators.
Within minutes of the release, Palin tweeted a link to the website for "The Undefeated," a documentary about her time as governor and her entrance onto the national political stage.
Her supporters, meanwhile, encouraged everyone to read the messages.
"The thousands upon thousands of emails released today show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state," said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of her political action committee, Sarah PAC. "The emails detail a Governor hard at work."
Nearly 100,000 mass in Yemen capital demanding removal of wounded president
SANAA, Yemen (AP) _ Nearly 100,000 Yemenis protested Friday in a main square of the capital, demanding the president's ouster in the biggest rally since Ali Abdullah Saleh left for Saudi Arabia after he was wounded in an attack on his palace.
Saleh's evacuation for medical treatment has thrown Yemen into a dangerous political standoff, with opponents insisting he now be pushed completely out of power and his allies seeking to preserve his rule. Saleh was wounded in a blast that hit a mosque where he was praying in his presidential palace on June 3. Badly burned, Saleh was rushed to Saudi Arabia for treatment along with a number of top officials from his regime who also were wounded in the blast.
But the president's allies say he could return within days and have been resisting U.S. and Saudi pressure to start now on a handover of power. Saleh, who has ruled for nearly 33 years, has held out against a wave of daily protests since late January demanding his removal, throwing the country into turmoil. Before he was wounded, opposition tribesmen rose up and battled for two weeks with government forces in fighting that shook the capital.
The United States fears that the impoverished country's power vacuum will give even freer rein to al-Qaida's branch in Yemen, which Washington believes is the terror network's most active franchise. Already, Islamic militants _ some suspected of ties to al-Qaida _ have taken control of at least two areas in the restive south, a provincial capital Zinjibar and a nearby town Jaar.
On Friday morning, warplanes hit militant positions north of Jaar, witnesses and security officials said. They said there were casualties but the number was not known. The night before, troops shelled other militant positions near the town with artillery, killing at least six militants, according to medical officials. The medical and security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
Gingrich defections, Palin e-mails cloud GOP presidential picture ahead of Monday's NH debate
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Newt Gingrich's campaign defections are just the latest tremor in a constantly shifting GOP presidential landscape that craves some steadiness as a big, early New Hampshire debate nears.
Rivals already were trying to poach Gingrich's donors and top supporters Friday, even as the former House speaker said he would keep campaigning despite the resignations of his top advisers and entire Iowa paid staff. Party insiders eyed the likely entry of Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and a possible bid by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Mitt Romney's decision to skip the Iowa straw poll in August, meanwhile, reinforced his image as a front-runner willing to pick his shots. And potential candidate Sarah Palin again lent a circus atmosphere to the entire GOP family _ this time indirectly _ when Alaska released thousands of pages of emails from her days as governor.
In short, it was a typical week in the GOP's free-wheeling nominating process. The field is anything but set, and there's no clear picture of who will emerge to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012.
Gingrich spoke publicly Friday for the first time after the mass resignation of his top aides. Several of them said they were frustrated because he was devoting insufficient time to the nitty-gritty work of meeting and galvanizing supporters in early voting states such as Iowa.
Blast in Somalia minister's home kills him and woman suspected to be the bomber, official says
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ An explosion Friday in the home of Somalia's interior minister killed him and a woman suspected of being a bomber as violent demonstrations swept the capital.
Security guards and soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing protesters angry at an agreement calling for the ouster of the country's popular prime minister, killing two people, an official and witnesses said.
Interior Minister Abdishakur Sheik Hassan, who also was minister for national security, died after shrapnel hit his legs and other parts of his body, said Ministry of Information spokesman Abdifatah Abdinur. He was earlier taken to a hospital in critical condition. Abdinur said a dead body of a female suspected to be the bomber was found in the home.
Mohamud Abdullahi Weheliye, a member of parliament and a relative of Hassan's, said the minister's niece carried out the attack and that she was "sent" by al-Shabab," an Islamist militia with ties to al-Qaida. The group has carried out suicide bombings in the past, including ones that targeted government officials. There was no immediate official confirmation of Weheliye's account.
Abdinur said officials were investigating to confirm it was a suicide attack in the two-story, gated building that is normally well protected. The explosion reportedly took place in the sitting room.
Conn. woman mauled by chimpanzee in 2009 gets full face transplant at Boston hospital
BOSTON (AP) _ A Connecticut woman mauled by a chimpanzee gone berserk has received a new face in the third such operation performed in the U.S. and is looking forward to going out in public again and eating hot dogs and pizza after months of pureed food.
Charla Nash, 57, underwent a full face and double hand transplant late last month, but the hands failed to thrive because of complications and were removed, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, leader of the 30-member surgical team at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said Friday. Overall, her prospects are excellent, he said.
"It will certainly help her tremendously to feel human again," Pohamac said.
In February 2009, she was attacked by a neighbor's 200-pound pet chimpanzee, named Travis, which went berserk after its owner asked Nash to help lure it back into her Stamford, Conn., house. The animal ripped off Nash's hands, nose, lips and eyelids before being shot and killed by police.
After the mauling, Nash's eyes were gone and she had only a small opening instead of a mouth to take in pureed food. She could talk but was barely understandable.
Comic Tracy Morgan apologizes for anti-gay rant during stand-up performance in Nashville
NEW YORK (AP) _ Tracy Morgan said Friday that he was sorry for telling an audience in Nashville, Tenn., that if his son were gay, he would "pull out a knife and stab" him.
The comedian and "30 Rock" actor apologized to his fans and the gay and lesbian community for what he called "my choice of words" during his June 3 appearance at the Ryman Auditorium.
A Facebook account posted by an audience member said Morgan's stand-up performance was full of homophobic references. The Ryman issued its own apology afterward for Morgan's behavior.
Morgan's outbursts triggered heated comment on Twitter, making him a "trending" topic Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called on Morgan to remove anti-gay remarks from his show "and send a strong message that anti-gay violence is not something to joke about."
Back in Miami, Heat hope to force Mavericks to a seventh game in the NBA finals
MIAMI (AP) _ LeBron James came to Miami last summer for the chance to be a champion.
He arrived back here Friday just hoping to be a survivor.
The Dallas Mavericks have a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals and can win their first championship Sunday night. Less than a year after the Heat's free agent victory celebration, the real party might belong to Dirk Nowitzki.
But the Heat, despite consecutive losses that have renewed criticism of their execution and James' ability in the clutch, insist they can still win the first of multiple titles James boasted of upon his arrival in South Florida.
"I guess they have momentum in the sense they came home and won two games. But each game is its own," Dwyane Wade said Thursday night. "We're going to come out _ every game has been pretty much a possession here, a possession there. Either team can come in and say they can be up different than what they are. We'll be coming to the game understanding it's a possession game in Game 6, doing whatever it takes to win the ballgame. So we're confident."