Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread
|From Yahoo News Top Stories|
1 Obama visits oil spill zone, ‘top kill’ results awaited
by Tangi Quemener, AFP
2 hrs 28 mins ago
|NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – US President Barack Obama arrived in Louisiana Friday to view the oil spill response amid suspense over the latest bid to cap the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
A day after he pledged to take responsibility for stopping and cleaning up the disastrous spill, Obama was in the region for his second visit to assess the situation.
Meanwhile, a US official cited progress in BP’s efforts to plug the leak, but the energy giant warned it would take two days to determine the measure’s success.
2 BP pushes on with ‘top kill’ as true slick size emerges
by Stephane Jourdain, AFP
Thu May 27, 9:31 pm ET
|VENICE, Louisiana (AFP) – BP pressed on with a risky bid to plug a ruptured oil well saying it was going to plan, with new data showing the huge Gulf of Mexico slick is now the worst spill in US history.
Amid the looming environmental catastrophe, there were growing fears for the health of clean-up workers, some of whom had to be helicoptered for treatment after falling sick while out at sea.
Even if BP’s “top kill” maneuver succeeds in capping the leak, millions of gallons of crude are sloshing about in the Gulf waters, and a visibly angered President Barack Obama moved to clamp down on the oil industry.
3 Around 80 dead as gunmen attack Pakistan mosques
by Arif Ali, AFP
2 hrs 54 mins ago
|LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) – Gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed two Pakistani mosques belonging to a minority sect in Lahore, bringing carnage to Friday prayers and killing around 80 people, officials said.
Squads of militants burst into prayer halls firing guns, throwing grenades and taking hostages in the deadliest attack on the city of eight million, which has been increasingly hit by Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence.
Both mosques belonged to the Ahmadi community, which Pakistan has declared non-Muslim. Although the estimated minority of two million has been attacked by Sunni extremists before, the magnitude of Friday’s assault was unprecedented.
4 80 killed as Maoists derail train in India
by Sailendra Sil, AFP
38 mins ago
|SARDIHA, India (AFP) – Maoist rebels derailed a high-speed train packed with sleeping passengers into the path of a freight train in eastern India Friday, killing at least 80 people, police said.
It was the deadliest Maoist attack in recent memory and is likely to ramp up pressure on the government to consider calls for deploying the military in its fight against the rebels.
Police warned the death toll could rise further with more bodies feared trapped in the mangled wreckage after 13 carriages of the Mumbai-bound express from Kolkata careened off the tracks in a remote area of West Bengal.
5 US first-quarter economic growth weaker than expected
by Veronica Smith, AFP
Thu May 27, 4:28 pm ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States’ fragile recovery from recession was weaker than estimated in the first quarter, official data showed Thursday, suggesting tough challenges ahead from the European debt crisis.
The Commerce Department said that gross domestic product in the first quarter increased at a 3.0 percent annual pace from the fourth quarter of 2009, lowering its original estimate of 3.2 percent.
The downward revision for the world’s largest economy surprised most analysts, who predicted GDP — a broad measure of the country’s goods and services output — expanded 3.3 percent.
6 Prudential re-examines Asian insurer buyout
Fri May 28, 11:31 am ET
|LONDON (AFP) – British insurer Prudential said Friday it was in talks with US rival AIG after reports Prudential wants to reduce the price of its 35.5-billion-dollar offer for AIG’s Asian arm AIA to win over investors.
The takeover would be the biggest-ever in the insurance sector, transforming Prudential into the world’s top non-Chinese insurer by market capitalisation, ahead of major competitors Allianz and AXA.
“We note the recent press speculation regarding talks between Prudential plc and American International Group, Inc,” the British group said in a statement.
7 Obama in Gulf as BP reports progress
By Patricia Zengerle, AFP
1 hr 55 mins ago
|PORT FOURCHON, Louisiana (Reuters) – BP reported progress on Friday in its struggle to shut off its gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well as President Barack Obama sought to show leadership in tackling the biggest spill in U.S. history.
Obama visited the Louisiana coast, where sticky oil has permeated wetlands, closed down the lucrative fishing trade and angered locals whose communities are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said the so-called top kill procedure, in which heavy drilling “mud” is pumped into the seabed well shaft, was showing some signs of success in choking off the leak that has already spewed millions of gallons (liters) of oil into the Gulf.
8 BP CEO gives "top kill" 48 hours in Gulf spill
By Kristen Hays, Reuters
1 hr 16 mins ago
|HOUSTON (Reuters) – BP Plc’s critical “top kill” effort to smother a gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is making progress, but the company can’t call it a success or failure until Sunday, Chief Executive Tony Hayward said.
Hayward said on Friday in a series of television interviews that the procedure, which began Wednesday afternoon, was operating “according to plan” and it would be another 48 hours before BP had “a conclusive view.”
“We don’t know whether we will be able to overcome the well,” he told NBC’s “Today” show. He reiterated that the effort has a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of working.
9 Gunmen kill at least 70 in Pakistan mosque attacks
By Mubasher Bukhari, Reuters
Fri May 28, 11:46 am ET
|LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Gunmen attacked worshippers from a minority Muslim sect in two mosques of the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Friday, taking hostages and killing at least 70 people, officials said.
The gunmen opened fire shortly after Friday prayers and threw grenades at two Ahmadi mosques in residential neighborhoods in Pakistan’s cultural capital.
Sajjad Bhutta, deputy commissioner of Lahore, said at least 70 people had been killed in the twin attacks in Garhi Shahu and Model Town. A total of 78 were injured.
10 India police say Maoists sabotage train
By Bappa Majumdar and Krittivas Mukherjee, Reuters
Fri May 28, 8:16 am ET
|NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Maoist rebels sabotaged a high-speed train in eastern India on Friday that killed at least 71 people after it derailed and smashed into the path of a goods train, a top Indian police official said.
At least 200 people were injured and the death toll could rise as rescuers search mangled carriages for survivors.
“This has been done by the Maoists,” Bhupinder Singh, police chief of West Bengal state, where the incident occurred, told reporters. Singh said the Maoists had claimed responsibility.
11 White House admits pushing Sestak to drop Senate bid
48 mins ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House tried to get Representative Joe Sestak to drop his Senate primary bid in Pennsylvania in exchange for an unpaid administration job, according to an internal report released on Friday that concluded the offer was legal.
President Barack Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel enlisted former President Bill Clinton as a go-between with Sestak to discuss an unpaid job on a presidential advisory board so he could stay in the House of Representatives and avoid a divisive Democratic primary race for the Senate seat.
“I said no,” Sestak said in a statement after the White House released its report. “The former president said he knew I’d say that and the conversation moved on to other subjects.”
12 Nuclear treaty talks on brink of failure: diplomats
By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters
Fri May 28, 1:05 am ET
|UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Talks on shoring up the global anti-nuclear arms treaty were on the edge of failure on Friday as the United States and its allies clashed with Egypt over a push to pressure Israel to scrap any atom bombs it has.
For a month the 189 signatories of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have been meeting in New York in hopes of agreeing on a plan to shore up the troubled pact, which analysts say has been hit by Iran’s and North Korea’s atomic programs and failure by the nuclear powers to disarm.
The latest draft of a final declaration for the NPT review conference calls for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organize a meeting of all Middle Eastern states in 2012 on how to make the region free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as demanded by a 1995 NPT resolution.
13 House votes to repeal military gay ban
By Phil Stewart, Reuters
Fri May 28, 9:03 am ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Lawmakers in both chambers of the Congress took steps on Thursday toward repealing a ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the U.S. military, a goal championed by President Barack Obama.
The House of Representatives voted 234-194 to approve an amendment aimed at ending the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allows homosexuals to serve in secret but expels them if their sexual orientation becomes known.
Visitors cheered in the House galleries after the vote, which followed similar action by a Senate panel a few hours earlier. There are still several more legislative steps before the change can become law.
14 Jobless aid set to expire despite House approval
By Andy Sullivan and Kim Dixon, Reuters
36 mins ago
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives on Friday passed a scaled-back economic-stimulus package of tax breaks and safety net spending that would raise taxes on fund managers and multinational corporations.
Democrats say the bill will help bring down the 9.9 percent unemployment rate, but it comes too late for hundreds of thousands of Americans who will see their jobless benefits expire starting next week.
The bill would extend benefits through November, but the Senate left town for a week-long break without taking action.
15 Obama, in Gulf, pledges to push on stopping leak
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer
8 mins ago
|GRAND ISLE, La. – President Barack Obama says people in the Gulf are “watching their livelihoods wash up on the beach.”
Obama gave them his pledge that the federal government will keep helping until the disaster is ended.
During a visit Friday to Louisiana, he toured a beach where tar balls are washing ashore and attended a briefing at a Coast Guard station in Grand Isle, a small barrier island town south of New Orleans.
16 Obama arrives in Gulf as BP tries to stop oil leak
By BEN NUCKOLS and GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press Writers
1 hr 27 mins ago
|COVINGTON, La. – BP kept pumping heavy mud into its blown-out well beneath the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, but the company’s chief executive cautioned it will be two more days before anyone knows if the latest fix attempt will end the uncontrolled flow of crude that has already become the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
BP CEO Tony Hayward had projected a resolution to the so-called “top kill” as soon as Thursday afternoon, but an 18-hour delay in the injection of heavyweight mud scuttled those plans. Though engineers had stopped pumping hours earlier, BP and coast Guard officials assured the public Thursday morning that the process was going as planned.
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Friday that heavyweight mud was able to push down the oil and gas coming up at great force from underground, but it has not overwhelmed the gusher or stopped the flow.
17 Decision to halt offshore drilling stirs debate
By DENA POTTER, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 28, 9:52 am ET
|VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Sitting at the end of a pinewood bar at the back of his seafood shop, Dimitri Hionis stares out over the calm waters of Lynnhaven Inlet as he struggles with whether the Gulf oil spill should halt oil and gas exploration off Virginia’s coast.
Supplying more of the oil we need would be great, he says, but not at the expense of places like this – “paradise,” where he sits each morning watching the birds and fishermen go in search of the bay’s treasures.
“I really want to see an independence here, but I will never say yes till I make sure that this will never happen here,” said Hionis, sporting a red polo shirt with golden crabs on it.
18 22-mile oil plume under Gulf nears rich waters
By MATTHEW BROWN and JASON DEAREN, Associated Press Writers
Fri May 28, 10:31 am ET
|NEW ORLEANS – A thick, 22-mile plume of oil discovered by researchers off the BP spill site was nearing an underwater canyon, where it could poison the foodchain for sealife in the waters off Florida.
The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science’s Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume reported since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The plume is more than 6 miles wide and its presence was reported Thursday.
The cloud was nearing a large underwater canyon whose currents fuel the foodchain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals, another researcher said Friday.
19 3 million feet of boom in Gulf, but does it help?
By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 28, 8:22 am ET
|GRAND ISLE, La. – Globs of sticky brownish ooze soil miles of sensitive shoreline and marsh from Alabama to Louisiana. Pelican rookeries are awash in oil. Oyster beds and shrimp nurseries face certain death. All the while, long, slender barriers intended to protect the shoreline float twisted, tangled or sometimes just broken apart, unable to stop the creeping crude.
Since last month’s rig explosion and spill of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico – now the largest spill in U.S. history, surpassing the Exxon Valdez – more than 3 million feet of so-called boom has been deployed along the coast. But it’s not a fail-safe method of keeping the oil from washing ashore. It’s not always sturdy enough and high winds and waves can send the slime cascading over the barriers.
The key line of defense is sometimes defenseless itself against the elements.
20 Undertones of debt crisis at European song contest
By IAN MacDOUGALL, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 28, 12:20 pm ET
|OSLO, Norway – As debt-ridden Europe struggles with a financial crisis, the hosts of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest are sparing no expense as contestants gear up to vie for pop music dominance at Saturday’s final.
With elaborate light shows and glitzy outfits, 34 contestants, representing countries from Ireland to Turkey, competed in semifinals this week to whittle that number down to 20.
Among them are bookmakers’ favorites, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Also competing in the final are the five pre-qualified countries – last year’s winner, Norway, and the contest’s four perennials: Britain, Germany, France and Spain.
21 Attackers strike sect mosques in Pakistan; 80 dead
By BABAR DOGAR and NAHAL TOOSI, Associated Press Writers
2 hrs 10 mins ago
|LAHORE, Pakistan – Suspected Islamist militants attacked two mosques packed with hundreds of worshippers from a minority sect in eastern Pakistan on Friday, holding hostages and battling police, officials and witnesses said. Some 80 people died, and dozens were wounded in the worst attack ever against the Ahmadi sect.
The assaults in Lahore were carried out by at least seven men, including three suicide bombers, officials said. Two attackers were captured. At one point, a gunman fired bullets from atop a minaret.
It was one of the first times militants have deployed gun and suicide squads and taken hostages in a coordinated attack on a religious minority in Pakistan. Shiite Muslims have borne the brunt of individual suicide bombings and targeted killings for years, though Christians and Ahmadis also have faced violence.
22 Suspected sabotage derails train in India; 71 dead
By BIKAS DAS, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 32 mins ago
|SARDIHA, India – Rescuers scoured the wreckage of a passenger express train Friday that derailed and collided with a cargo train in eastern India, killing at least 71 people and injuring hundreds. The government accused Maoist rebels of sabotaging the tracks.
As night fell, railway workers and paramilitary soldiers were using two cranes to lift and pry apart train cars in search of survivors from the Jnaneswari Express, which was heading from Calcutta to suburban Mumbai when it derailed about 1:30 a.m. Friday.
Railway officials said they expected the death toll to rise because bodies were still trapped between the engines of the two trains, which collided along a rural stretch of track near the small town of Sardiha, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Calcutta in West Bengal state.
23 US toll reaches 1,000 deaths in Afghanistan war
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 10 mins ago
|KABUL, Afghanistan – More U.S. military deaths in the last 10 months of the Afghan war than in the first five years of the conflict. More boots on the ground than in Iraq.
As the U.S. military death toll in the Afghan conflict reached the 1,000 mark, a fight that has become “Obama’s war” now faces its greatest challenge – a high-risk campaign to win over a hostile population in the Taliban’s southern heartland.
More casualties are expected when the campaign kicks into high gear this summer. The results may determine the outcome of a nearly nine-year conflict that has become the focus of America’s fight against Islamist militancy.
24 House approves bill extending jobless benefits
ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 42 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – The House has adopted a measure renewing unemployment benefits for people who have been without a job for at least six months.
The jobless benefits are in a legislative grab bag blending numerous spending measures with a renewal of tax breaks as well as tax increases to help pay for it all.
Pressure from moderate Blue Dog Democrats unhappy over record budget deficits forced Democratic leaders to drop tens of billions of dollars of spending from the measure. It was adopted on a 215-204 vote.
25 WH had Clinton try to ease Sestak out of Pa. race
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 21 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – Forced to disclose backstage political bargaining, President Barack Obama’s embarrassed White House acknowledged on Friday that it enlisted Bill Clinton to try to ease Rep. Joe Sestak out of Pennsylvania’s Senate primary with a job offer.
The admission left many questions unanswered, however, and Republicans aren’t likely to let the issue rest. For Obama, the revelations called into question his repeated promises to run an open government that was above back room deals.
Seeking to quiet the clamor from Republicans and some Democrats over a possible political trade, the White House released a report describing the offer that was intended to clear a path for Sen. Arlen Specter to win the Democratic nomination.
26 Consumers more cautious about spending in April
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer
30 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – Consumers don’t appear confident enough in the economy to open their wallets more freely.
Their spending stalled in April. Without stronger job creation and higher pay, people are less likely to up their spending in the months ahead and invigorate the recovery.
The flat level for consumer spending was the weakest showing in seven months, according to the Commerce Department report. Personal incomes rose 0.4 percent, in line with expectations but not fast enough to help generate real growth.
27 NCAA: 8 violations in UConn men’s basketball
By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 27 mins ago
|STORRS, Conn. – The NCAA has accused the storied men’s basketball program at the University of Connecticut of eight major rules violations, saying coach Jim Calhoun didn’t do enough to monitor his assistants.
The school released its notice of allegation letter Friday following a 15-month investigation into the recruiting of former player Nate Miles. The alleged violations include improper phone calls and text messages to recruits, giving recruits improper benefits and improperly distributing free tickets to high school coaches and others. Calhoun was cited for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
“It’s not exactly, certainly anywhere near the high point of my career, as a matter of fact it’s certainly one of the lowest points at any time that you are accused of doing something,” said Calhoun, who has led the Huskies since 1986 and twice guided them to national championships. “It’s a very serious matter.”
28 Congress moves toward ending military’s gay ban
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 22 mins ago
|WASHINGTON – The House was voting Friday on a defense bill that would end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military â€” a change supporters compared to the integration of the armed services in the 1940s.
The debate then shifts to the Senate, where some Republicans are threatening to block the bill.
In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved amendments to the defense bill to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation.
29 Look out establishment: It’s not just tea partiers
By RON FOURNIER and ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writers
Fri May 28, 11:59 am ET
|LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heads up, tea partiers. You’re not the only angry outsiders making waves.
In state after state, voters are taking out their frustrations on the political establishment – and no place reflects the depth and diversity of their ire better than Arkansas. Unions, corporate interests and insurgent candidates all are hoping to ride high here on the mad-as-heck tide.
In the home state of former President Bill Clinton, as elsewhere, party leaders and structures are being bypassed – undermined, in some cases – by free-agent candidates who declare their independence from the establishment, even as they align themselves with special interests.
30 For vacationers, it’s another scaled-back summer
By HARRY R. WEBER, AP Business Writer
1 hr 15 mins ago
|ATLANTA – Last Memorial Day, Ronald Dolly spent the long weekend in Miami Beach with two friends. This year, the destination is the same, but the quarters are closer: 11 people, two cars, one hotel room.
“There are a lot of us, so it will be a lot cheaper,” Dolly, a student from the Atlanta area who studies health care management, said Friday. He figured the trip would work out to an average of less than $40 per person.
Welcome to another scaled-back summer of travel. More people will hit the road than did last year, but their budgets will be even tighter than in 2009, thanks to persistently high unemployment, stock markets in retreat and the fragile economy.
31 Violent video games touted as learning tool
By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 28, 6:29 am ET
|NEW YORK – You’re at the front lines shooting Nazis before they shoot you. Or you’re a futuristic gladiator in a death match with robots.
Either way, you’re playing a video game – and you may be improving your vision and other brain functions, according to research presented Thursday at a New York University conference on games as a learning tool.
“People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention and better cognition,” said Daphne Bavelier, an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester.
32 NY grants aim to save rare bog turtles, habitat
By MARY ESCH, Associated Press Writer
4 mins ago
|MILLBROOK, N.Y. – The federal government is giving private landowners money to protect one of the world’s smallest and rarest turtles, a species that is losing habitat throughout its range from Georgia to southern New England.
The bog turtle, a secretive reptile the size of a hockey puck, has a chestnut-colored shell and a smear of yellow or orange down the sides of its neck. It’s finicky about its habitat, favoring sunny, acidic, spring-fed bogs and fens with short vegetation, sedge tussocks rising from shallow water for basking and egg-laying, and pudding-like mud for easy burrowing.
Because of their rarity, small size, and overall cuteness, the turtles can fetch $1,000 apiece on the black market, making poaching a major threat. The other major threats are invasive plants, habitat loss, and fragmentation of habitat by roads and development.
33 UN votes to withdraw up to 2,000 troops from Congo
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
1 hr 52 mins ago
|UNITED NATIONS – Bowing to pressure from Congo’s President Joseph Kabila, the United Nations will withdraw up to 2,000 peacekeeping troops and redefine the remaining force as a “stabilization” mission in his nation to coincide with its 50th anniversary of independence.
The operational and cosmetic changes agreed to by the U.N. Security Council in a unanimous vote Friday result from Kabila’s push to assert himself ahead of elections next year and his government’s argument that the U.N. mission has failed to protect civilians.
As such, the U.N.’s biggest peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, is set to shed up to 2,000 peacekeepers before Congo celebrates its independence on June 30.