Monday, March 12, 2012

Published:

Taliban vow revenge for 16 Afghan civilians killed by US soldier

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban vowed revenge Monday after at least one American soldier shot to death 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan and burned their bodies, an attack that has fueled anger still simmering after U.S. troops burned Qurans last month.

U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have stepped up security following the shootings Sunday in Kandahar province out of concern about retaliatory attacks. The U.S. Embassy has also warned American citizens in Afghanistan about the possibility of reprisals.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for several attacks last month that the group said were retaliation for the Americans burning Qurans. Afghan forces also turned their guns on their supposed allies, killing six U.S. troops as violent protests wracked the country.

It's unclear whether there will be a similar response to Sunday's shootings. But the attack will likely spark even greater distrust between Washington and Kabul and fuel questions in both countries about why American troops are still fighting in Afghanistan after 10 years of conflict and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban said in a statement on their website that "sick-minded American savages" committed the "blood-soaked and inhumane crime" in two villages in Panjwai district, a rural region outside Kandahar that is the cradle of the Taliban and where coalition forces have fought for control for years.

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Analysis: Shooting spree in village complicates President Obama's Afghan strategy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The decade-long war in Afghanistan has spiraled into a series of U.S. missteps and violent outbreaks that have left few ardent political supporters.

After NATO detained a U.S. soldier Sunday for allegedly killing sleeping Afghan villagers, Republicans and Democrats alike pointed to the stress on troops after years of fighting and reiterated calls to leave by the end of 2014 as promised, if not sooner.

Afghanistan, once the must-fight war for America, is becoming a public relations headache for the nation's leaders, especially for President Barack Obama.

And there's recognition of that problem on both sides.

"It's just not a good situation," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "Our troops are under such tremendous pressure in Afghanistan. It's a war like no other war we've been involved in. ... We're moving out, as the president said. I think it's the right thing to do."

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Q&A: A look at the legal and policy issues in the NYPD's Muslim spying programs

NEW YORK (AP) -- A secret New York Police Department program to spy on Muslim businesses, infiltrate mosques and monitor Muslim students on college campuses has ignited a debate over how to strike a balance between civil liberties and national security. The NYPD has vigorously defended the tactics, calling them legal and necessary.

Here's a look, in question-and-answer format, of the key legal and policy issues at play.

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Q: What does it mean that police were "spying?"

A: Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A secret squad known as the Demographics Unit deployed plainclothes officers, typically of Arab descent, into Muslim neighborhoods to photograph mosques and catalog everywhere Muslims congregate, including restaurants, grocery stores, Internet cafes and travel agencies. The officers eavesdropped inside businesses and filed daily reports on the ethnicity of the owner and clientele and what they overheard. The program was not based on allegations of criminal activity and did not stop at the city line.

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From Route 66 to the Big Easy, recovery from natural disasters unites Joplin, New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- One is a low-lying river city built on a swamp basin, a multicultural melting pot known the world over for legendary excesses, from lung-searing food to French Quarter flashers.

The other lies square in the buckle of the Bible Belt, an old Tornado Alley railroad hub best known as a Route 66 stopover for everyone from RV campers to the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.

With vastly different cultures and landscapes, it might seem on the surface that New Orleans and Joplin, Mo., have little in common. But as cities devastated by recent natural disasters -- Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a historic Midwestern tornado 10 months ago -- the two are forging an unlikely partnership that could change the way other American cities prepare for and recover from the next unexpected blow by nature.

"We both had natural disasters we didn't ask for," said Jerrod Hogan, a Joplin landscape surveyor. "And we both have folks in our communities who need help to get back to where things were."

Hogan is among the founders of Rebuild Joplin, a nonprofit group formed after the May 22, 2011, twister that killed 161 people and destroyed 4,000 homes, many in the southwest Missouri city's low-income neighborhoods. The Joplin group recently returned from a 28-hour, 1,400-mile roundtrip bus ride to New Orleans, which endured a death toll nine times as large.

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AP Exclusive: Mexico police nearly nabbed El Chapo, fueling rumors that his capture is close

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Much like the late Osama bin Laden, the man the U.S. calls the world's most powerful drug lord apparently has been hiding in plain sight.

Mexican federal police nearly nabbed Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in a coastal mansion in Los Cabos three weeks ago, barely a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with dozens of other foreign ministers in the same southern Baja peninsula resort town.

Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas, Mexico's assistant attorney general in charge of organized crime investigations, confirmed on Sunday that there was a near miss in late February in the government's efforts to arrest the man who has become one of the world's top fugitives since he escaped prison in a laundry truck in 2001.

"We know he was there," Salinas told The Associated Press.

The incident fuels growing speculation that authorities are closing in on Guzman, and that the government of President Felipe Calderon is determined to grab him before his six-year term ends in December.

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Apple's power, ambitions to dominate 'post-PC' era may attract more antitrust attention

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- In everything it does, from product design to business deals, Apple strives for as much control as possible.

But as the world's most valuable company sets out to define and dominate the rapidly evolving markets it created with the iPhone and iPad, Apple is likely to face antitrust regulators who want to curb its power.

Apple's clout is coming under scrutiny as the U.S. Justice Department considers filing a lawsuit against the company and five U.S. publishers for an alleged scheme that has driven up the prices of electronic books since the 2010 release of the iPad.

The involved parties are trying to avoid a high-profile court battle by negotiating a settlement, according to The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper broke the news last week about the U.S. Justice Department's plans to allege that Apple Inc. and the publishers orchestrated the price-fixing scheme to thwart the e-book discounts offered by Amazon.com Inc.

"I think this might be a bit of a wake-up call for Apple," says Ted Henneberry, an antitrust attorney for the Orrick law firm in Washington.

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Israeli airstrikes kill 2 militants, 1 boy in Gaza as rockets hit Israel in latest escalation

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israeli airstrikes killed two Palestinian militants and a schoolboy in the Gaza Strip on Monday as Palestinian rocket squads barraged southern Israel in escalating fighting that has defied international truce efforts.

The cross-border violence, touched off by Israel's killing of a top militant leader on Friday, has been the worst exchange of fire between Israel and the Hamas-ruled territory in months.

The fighting so far has killed 21 Gazans, including 18 militants, seriously wounded two Israelis, and disrupted the lives of 1 million Israelis living within the range of Gaza rockets.

The Israeli military said it carried out nine air attacks against rocket-launching sites and a weapons storage facility early Monday. Islamic Jihad said two of its militants were killed in two separate raids, one while he was riding a motorcycle. A 16-year-old boy wearing a school uniform was killed when a group of five civilians was struck in another attack, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said.

Two dozen Palestinians, including several children, were wounded in a separate pre-dawn strike Monday in Gaza City, Abu Salmia said. Chief Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio that this raid had targeted munitions that were stored in a residential building.

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Sandusky hearing set Monday to address disputes over release of information by Pa. prosecutors

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania state prosecutors and Jerry Sandusky's lawyers will appear in a central Pennsylvania courtroom Monday morning to argue before a judge about how much information the former Penn State coach should get in advance of his trial on child sexual abuse charges.

The topic of the hearing in the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte is the "bill of particulars" about the 10 purported victims that Sandusky was given by the attorney general's office two weeks ago.

Defense attorney Joe Amendola has asked for more specific information about where and when alleged crimes occurred and the names of people who were present or nearby, saying they may help him develop defenses based on alibi, the statute of limitations, double jeopardy or some other grounds.

Sandusky, 68, does not plan to attend the hearing, Amendola said Friday.

Sandusky remains on home confinement in State College awaiting trial in mid-May on 52 criminal counts. He has denied the allegations.

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Whitney Houston's daughter talks to Oprah Winfrey about her mother, calls her 'a best friend'

NEW YORK (AP) -- In her first interview since Whitney Houston's death, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown said she's "doing as good as I possibly can" and recalled the tender last moments she shared with her superstar mother before her sudden death last month.

"She's always with me," said the 19-year-old, Houston's only child and sole heir. "Her spirit is strong, it's a strong spirit. I feel her pass through me all the time."

Brown made the comments in a Sunday interview with Oprah Winfrey on Winfrey's network, OWN, that also featured Pat Houston, the singer's manager and sister-in-law, and Gary Houston, the brother of Whitney Houston.

Brown credited her family and God for helping her cope since her mother's death on Feb. 11 at the age of 48.

"It comes in waves. One moment I can be happy and laughing, but then it comes over me. It's my mom," she said.

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A minor bump or more? March Madness will tell the story for Kentucky, 'Cuse and North Carolina

Were they minor hiccups or something much bigger? Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina will sort that out over the next three weeks.

For now, though, they have "No. 1" by their names -- top seeds and beneficiaries of a selection committee that all but ignored their weekend losses and put them in prime position for the NCAA tournament.

"The win streak? That's done now," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after his team lost only its second game of the season, a setback to Vanderbilt in the SEC tournament Sunday that ended a 24-game winning streak. "The fact that we were invincible? That's done now. We're going to be in a dog fight. That's how you have to approach this. Play each game like it's your last."

It's what the NCAA tournament is all about -- a three-week free-for-all that gives little guys such as VCU, a Final Four team last year, and Iona, one of the last teams to squeak into the tournament this year, a chance against Kentucky, Carolina and the rest of the so-called power teams.

Michigan State earned the fourth and final No. 1 seed and was the only top-billed team to win its conference tournament. The Spartans defeated Ohio State 68-64 in the Big Ten title game Sunday and earned top seeding for the first time since 2001. Michigan State is seeking its first national title since 2000.