AP News in Brief

AP News
|
Posted: Jun 25, 2011 9:00 PM
AP News in Brief

Wedding plans bloom amid celebrations of New York becoming 6th state to legalize gay marriage

NEW YORK (AP) _ As the news flashed around the globe that New York state had legalized gay marriage, New York fashion designer Malcolm Harris didn't waste any time. He dashed off a Twitter message to his boyfriend of nine years: "`Will you marry me?"

A city away, in Boston, Bernadette Smith decided to immediately relocate her business planning gay weddings to New York City.

In Brooklyn, pastors Ann Kansfield and Jennifer Aull received their first two requests to wed gay couples at their church in the borough's Greenpoint section. They scheduled one for Labor Day weekend.

Even as supporters of gay marriage celebrated victory in New York on Saturday, preparations were being made to make gay weddings a reality in the state.

Couples who had talked about going out-of-state to wed changed their plans. Reception venues got their first calls. Churches that accept gay unions said they were looking forward to hosting ceremonies.

___

Souris nears earlier, lower peak than expected at Minot, ND; city hopes worst damage is past

MINOT, N.D. (AP) _ The Souris River neared a lower-than-expected crest Saturday in Minot, where city officials hoped to ride out the high water without losing more than the thousands of homes already damaged by flooding.

The river had been expected to peak Saturday evening at some 8 1/2 feet above major flood stage, but it leveled off hours earlier and the National Weather Service dropped the projection by nearly 2 feet as upstream flows weakened.

It was a brief boost for a city that has already taken a heavy blow. Mayor Curt Zimbelman said more than 4,000 homes had been flooded in an evacuation zone of neighborhoods nearest the river. About 11,000 people were ordered out earlier this week.

Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds, a spokesman for North Dakota's National Guard, said the situation had "kind of stabilized" Saturday. The Souris' channel wasn't getting any wider.

"The fact that more homes aren't being engulfed or being touched by the water, that's the one silver lining if you can even say there is one," Dodds said.

___

Boston mobster made most of the right moves to avoid capture in his 16-year run from the law

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger did almost everything right in evading capture for 16 years.

The notorious mobster's run from the law was remarkable for its longevity, which was due mainly to the unremarkable new identity he built for himself while on the lam.

He adopted an unassuming lifestyle, paid for everything with cash, didn't drive a car, limited his social contact to small talk and adhered to the code of silence from the mob life he left behind. When federal agents tracked him to his lair this week, it was only after targeting the one part of his past that Bulger didn't leave behind _ his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig.

By all accounts, the two did little to ever arouse suspicion, posing as two retirees holed up in a bland white 1970s apartment complex in Santa Monica amid other buildings of the same era.

Although Bulger _ who fled Boston in 1995 after a retired FBI agent who had recruited him as an informant tipped him to a pending indictment _ was believed to have millions of dollars stashed in secret accounts, and investigators found $800,000 hidden in the apartment, the couple didn't live lavishly. They paid $1,145 cash several days in advance each month for a rent-controlled unit, while newer neighbors paid more than twice as much. Greig shopped at a 99-cent store.

___

AP-GfK Poll: Now what? Prospect of US debt default finds people in state of doomsday fatigue

WASHINGTON (AP) _ It might be time for another midnight ride by Paul Revere, this time warning "the creditors are coming."

Americans seem not to have awakened to the fast-looming debt crisis that could summon a new recession, imperil their stock market investments and shatter faith in the world's most powerful economy. Those are among the implications, both sudden and long-lasting, expected to unfold if the U.S. defaults on debt payments for the first time in history.

Facing an August deadline for raising the country's borrowing limit or setting loose the consequences, politicians and economists are plenty alarmed. The people? Apparently not so much.

They're divided on whether to raise the limit, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that found 41 percent opposed to the idea and 38 percent in favor.

People aren't exactly blase. A narrow majority in the poll expects an economic crisis to ensue if the U.S., maxed out on its borrowing capacity, starts missing interest payments to creditors. But even among that group, 37 percent say no dice to raising the limit.

___

Suicide car bomber strikes clinic in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 35 people

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A suicide car bomber blasted a small clinic Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, causing the building to collapse as mostly women and children lined up for vaccinations, maternity care and other services. At least 35 people were killed in one of the deadliest attacks against civilians this year.

Guards saw a sport utility vehicle charging toward the Akbarkhail Public Medical Center, a compound that provides health care for the mountainous area in the Azra district of Logar province. But before anyone could shoot the driver or blow out the tires, the SUV smashed through a wall and exploded, local officials said.

Wary of being blamed for civilian casualties, the Taliban denied it was behind the bombing. Violence has been on the rise since the Islamic movement launched its spring offensive and promised retaliation for the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

"This attack was not done by our fighters," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Survivors of the blast and others who heard the explosion frantically dug through the rubble with shovels and bare hands. At least 35 bodies were pulled from the debris and 53 other people were wounded, provincial public health director Dr. Mohammad Zaref Nayebkhail said.

___

Story of a raid: Afghan anger grows as US troops storm homes at night in hunt for militants

PUL-I-ALAM, Afghanistan (AP) _ The American soldiers stormed into the Afghan family's compound in the middle of the night, kicking in doors and shouting. They ordered everyone into the yard, bound their hands, covered their heads and interrogated them for hours before taking away three men who had done nothing wrong.

At least that's the way the Afghans tell it.

NATO has a different account of the raid: A force led by Afghans was searching for a Taliban leader and got a tip from residents that three insurgents were living in the compound. The force struck at night when the suspects were likely to be home and took all three away for further questioning. The troops were as respectful as they could be, given that they had to make sure no one started shooting at them.

This happens in Afghanistan nearly every night. Sometimes the men turn out to be bombmakers or fighters, sometimes ordinary civilians. But in every case there are angry family members who feel violated or mistreated.

The U.S. will likely rely more and more on night raids as it shifts to a strategy of using special operators and drones to track down and kill Taliban leaders following President Barack Obama's announcement Wednesday that 30,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by next summer.

___

Militants kill 10 police officers in attack on station in northwest Pakistan, officials say

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) _ Two militants attacked a police station in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, fighting gunbattles before blowing themselves up during a five-hour standoff that killed at least 10 officers, authorities said.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack that involved a female suicide bomber, saying it was partly in revenge for the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Similar recent attacks have underscored the vulnerability of Pakistan's security establishment, which is reeling from humiliation following the unilateral U.S. raid.

After the militants entered the police station in Kolachi, TV footage showed black-clad security squads armed with rifles scrambling into positions around the facility. Three explosions rocked the scene in quick succession, setting off plumes of smoke into the sky.

At least 10 police officers died, while five others were wounded during the siege, regional police chief Imtiaz Shah said.

___

Sportsmen monitor water in Marcellus Shale, hope gas drilling doesn't impact fish, wildlife

WHITELEY, Pa. (AP) _ Fishermen are gearing up and hunters are taking aim _ for Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

A new coalition of outdoors groups is emerging as a potent force in the debate over natural gas drilling. The Sportsmen Alliance for Marcellus Conservation isn't against the process of fracking for gas, but its members want to make sure the rush to cash in on the valuable resource doesn't damage streams, forests, and the various creatures that call those places home.

The movement grew out of grass-roots anger as passionate outdoorsmen found their questions about drilling and wildlife brought few answers from local or state officials.

"Either we didn't get a response or the answer we got didn't seem feasible or acceptable. It didn't seem like the people who were in charge had their pulse on what was actually happening," said Ken Dufalla of Clarksville, Pa.

Energy companies have identified major reserves of natural gas throughout the Marcellus Shale, which underlies much of New York and Pennsylvania, and parts of Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia.

___

AP Enterprise: Rising painkiller addiction, ruthless dealers drive US pharmacy robberies

NEW YORK (AP) _ A wave of pharmacy robberies is sweeping the United States as desperate addicts and ruthless dealers turn to violence to feed the nation's growing hunger for narcotic painkillers.

From Redmond, Wash., to St. Augustine, Fla., criminals are holding pharmacists at gunpoint and escaping with thousands of powerfully addictive pills that can sell for as much as $80 apiece on the street.

In one of the most shocking crimes yet, a robber walked into a neighborhood drugstore Sunday on New York's Long Island and gunned down the pharmacist, a teenage store clerk and two customers before leaving with a backpack full of pills containing hydrocodone.

"It's an epidemic," said Michael Fox, a pharmacist on New York's Staten Island who has been stuck up twice in the last year. "These people are depraved. They'll kill you."

Armed robberies at pharmacies rose 81 percent between 2006 and 2010, from 380 to 686, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says. The number of pills stolen went from 706,000 to 1.3 million. Thieves are overwhelmingly taking oxycodone painkillers like OxyContin or Roxicodone, or hydrocodone-based painkillers like Vicodin and Norco. Both narcotics are highly addictive.

___

'I wouldn't bet against me': Serena Williams looking like Serena Williams at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Serena Williams has been known to say she isn't satisfied with this or that aspect of her game, even after easily winning a match, say, 6-3, 6-2.

So it was somehow refreshing to hear Williams actually praise herself after a victory by that very score over 26th-seeded Maria Kirilenko at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Yes, only five matches since returning to the tour after nearly a full year off because of a series of health scares, Williams produced a performance worthy of the 13-time Grand Slam champion that she is. And then Williams talked the talk of someone finally ready to concede that British bookmakers might very well have been right to make her the pre-tournament favorite.

Asked whether she was surprised by the odds, the seventh-seeded American smiled widely and said: "I wouldn't bet against me."

After hitting 10 aces and compiling a 32-9 edge in winners against Kirilenko, Williams termed the showing her "best I've played since I came back."