AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2011 6:07 PM
AP News in Brief

Pakistan denies army major arrested for feeding CIA information for bin Laden raid

ISLAMABAD (AP) _ The Pakistani army denied Wednesday that one of its majors was among a group of Pakistanis who Western officials say were arrested for feeding the CIA information before the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The New York Times, which first reported the arrests of five Pakistani informants Tuesday, said an army major was detained who copied license plates of cars visiting the al-Qaida chief's compound in Pakistan in the weeks before the raid.

A Western official in Pakistan confirmed that five Pakistanis who fed information to the CIA before the May 2 operation were arrested by Pakistan's top intelligence service.

But Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied an army major was arrested, saying the report was "false and totally baseless." Neither the army nor Pakistan's spy agency would confirm or deny the overall report about the detentions.

The group of detained Pakistanis included the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, an army town not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, a U.S. official said. The owner was detained along with a "handful" of other Pakistanis, said the official.

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Arizona Rep. Giffords released from Houston hospital, 5 months after being shot

HOUSTON (AP) _ Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was released from a Houston hospital on Wednesday, five months after being shot in the head during a Tucson political event.

Giffords will move to League City, a town 26 miles south of Houston, to a home owned by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. She will continue outpatient therapy at a facility that is part of the TIRR Memorial Hermann system, the Houston hospital where she has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation since late January.

Giffords, who was shot in the left side of her head and has been struggling to re-learn how to speak and walk, will be assisted by a 24-hour home health provider, according to a statement from the hospital.

"Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," her husband, Kelly, was quoted as saying. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her. She will still go to TIRR each day but from now on, when she finishes rehab, she will be with her family."

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White House: Obama has legal authority for Libya mission without congressional authorization

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pushing back against congressional criticism, the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In a detailed, 30-page report being sent to Congress, the administration argues that the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

The administration's defense of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for U.S. involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remained to be seen whether the administration's reasoning would be enough to quell congressional criticism. House and Senate leaders grew frustrated Wednesday when the White House briefed reporters on the report well before sending it to Congress.

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Financial disclosures show congressional leaders, new committee chairs a prosperous bunch

WASHINGTON (AP) _ New House Speaker John Boehner doesn't have as many millions as his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, but like many new committee chairmen and other leaders, he has holdings in companies that have major financial stakes in the actions of Congress.

For Boehner, that includes a portfolio of stocks in oil companies, financial firms, communication companies and pharmaceuticals. Holdings among other lawmakers include farmland, real estate and investments in high tech companies.

None of this is violates congressional ethics rules. The rules state that members can't use their official positions for personal gain and limits to $26,100 what they can earn as a director of a business or for actual work performed outside Congress. They, however, do not limit personal investments, a source of considerable wealth for many lawmakers.

Boehner, a Republican and son of an Ohio bar owner, derives much of his nest egg from his career as a small businessman before coming to Congress more than two decades ago, said his spokesman, Michael Steel, "Boehner's day-to-day investment decisions are made by a professional financial adviser. He is not consulted on individual transactions," Steel said.

Likewise, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said an account manager makes all the decisions for a portfolio of more than $1 million that he and his wife hold. He made 599 trades last year involving companies such as Apple Computer, Microsoft, Dreamworks Animation and Lockheed Martin.

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Cancer of the psyche: People must weigh news of risks from cellphones to coffee to Styrofoam

You're sitting in a freshly drywalled house, drinking coffee from a plastic foam cup and talking on a cellphone. Which of these is most likely to be a cancer risk?

It might be the sitting, especially if you do that a lot.

Despite all the recent news about possible cancer risks from cellphones, coffee, styrene, and formaldehyde in building materials, most of us probably face little if any danger from these things with ordinary use, health experts say. Inactivity and obesity may pose a greater cancer risk than chemicals for some people.

"We are being bombarded" with messages about the dangers posed by common things in our lives, yet most exposures "are not at a level that are going to cause cancer," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer.

Linda Birnbaum agrees. She is a toxicologist who heads the government agency that just declared styrene, an ingredient in fiberglass boats and Styrofoam, a likely cancer risk.

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To escape bank fees, more people are turning to prepaid cards, ignoring their downside

Rising fees have chased millions of people away from banks and into prepaid debit cards.

In just a handful of years, prepaid cards have become the fastest growing payment method in the U.S. Just this week, American Express became the first mainstream financial company to offer a prepaid card.

But the cards have problems of their own. Complex fee schedules. Few of the consumer protections afforded to bank and credit card customers. No ability to build credit history.

Consumer advocates are raising concerns and demanding more oversight and at least one state is investigating prepaid card issuers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is expected to step up oversight of the industry when it launches in July.

"People are using prepaid cards as checking accounts and the government ought to regulate it similarly," says Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney for Consumers Union, a nonprofit advocacy group that is concerned about unfair prepaid card fees.

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Half of fathers have kids out of wedlock as American dads' roles diverge this Father's Day

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nearly half of American dads under 45 this Father's Day say they have at least one kid who was born out of wedlock. And the share of fathers living apart from children is more than double what it was not so long ago.

In encouraging news, though, among married fathers, children are said to be getting more attention from both parents at home than ever before.

A Pew Research Center report highlights the changing roles of parents as U.S. marriage rates and traditional family households fall to historic lows.

For example, college-educated men who tend to marry and get better jobs are more involved with their children than lesser-skilled men struggling to get by.

"When a father can't provide monetarily for his offspring, he often becomes estranged," said Beth Latshaw, an assistant sociology professor at Appalachian State University, who researches changing paternal roles. She pointed to an economic advantage for college graduates hired at companies with better benefits and family-friendly policies, contrasted with the situation for the larger ranks of low-wage workers.

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In the walls and in the water: Idaho couple flees dream home infested with garter snakes

REXBURG, Idaho (AP) _ They slithered behind the walls at night and released foul-smelling musk into the drinking water. And they were so numerous that Ben Sessions once killed 42 in a single day.

Shortly after buying their dream home, Sessions and his wife discovered it was infested with thousands of garter snakes. For the next three months, their growing family lived as if in a horror movie. More than a year after they abandoned the property, the home briefly went back on the market, and they fear it could someday attract another unsuspecting buyer.

The five-bedroom house stands on nearly two pastoral acres in rural Idaho, about 125 miles southwest of Yellowstone National Park. Priced at less than $180,000, it seemed like a steal.

But the young couple soon learned they would be sharing the home with reptiles at least two feet long that had crawled into seemingly every crevice.

While setting up a chicken coop, Sessions lifted a piece of sheet metal and was startled to see a pair of snakes slither away. A few days later, he found more and soon started to collect dozens in buckets. At times, there were so many in the yard that the grass seemed to move.

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Volcanic ash grounds Australians, but treats Asians and Africans to a blood-red lunar eclipse

SYDNEY (AP) _ Asian and African night owls were treated to a lunar eclipse, and ash in the atmosphere from a Chilean volcano turned it blood red for some viewers.

The Sydney Observatory said the eclipse was to begin at 3:25 a.m. Thursday (1:25 p.m. EDT, 5:25 p.m. GMT Wednesday) and last until after 5 a.m.

Scientists said the specific phenomenon happening Thursday _ known as a "deep lunar eclipse" _ often exudes a coppery color. But the intensity of the color depends on the amount of ash and dust in the atmosphere.

Luckily for moon-gazers, there was plenty of ash in the air so the moon appeared orange or red, especially in Asia. Air travelers haven't been so lucky: The ash has grounded hundreds of flights around the region.

Scientists said the eclipse could be safely observed with the naked eye.

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British police charge 2 men on suspicion of plot against singer Joss Stone

LONDON (AP) _ Two men have been arrested near Joss Stone's home on suspicion of conspiracy to rob and murder, after reportedly being found in a car with swords, rope, a body bag and plans of the soul singer's secluded house.

Stone said in a statement that she was "absolutely fine and getting on with life as normal" as police charged the men with conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.

Devon and Cornwall Police said Junior Bradshaw, 30, and Kevin Liverpool, 33, both from the Manchester area of northwest England, were arrested Monday morning near Stone's house in Cullompton, 175 miles (280 kilometers) southwest of London, after residents reported a suspicious-looking vehicle.

Detective Inspector Steve Parker said the men "had in their possession information relating to an individual in the Cullompton area and items which lead us to suspect that they may have intended to commit a criminal offense."

The force would not confirm a report in The Sun newspaper that the men had swords, rope and a body bag, as well as maps and aerial photos of Stone's property.