Thursday, March 29, 2012

Published:

Sunni leaders mostly shun Arab League summit, reflecting suspicions on Iraq, fractured region

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Sunni Muslim rulers largely shunned an Arab League summit hosted by Shiite-led Iraq on Thursday, illustrating how powerfully the sectarian split and the rivalry with Iran define Middle Eastern politics in the era of the Arab Spring.

The crisis in Syria is the epicenter of those divisions. The one-day summit closed with a joint call on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop his bloody crackdown on an uprising seeking his ouster. But the final statement barely papered over the differences among the Arab nations over how to deal with the longest-running regional revolt.

"What disturbs the breeze of our Arab Spring and fills our hearts with sadness is the scenes of slaughter and torture committed by the Syrian regime against our brothers and sisters in Syria," said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, leader of Libya's National Transitional Council.

In a snub to Iraq, only 10 heads of state from the Arab League's 22 members attended, with the rest sending lower-level officials. Especially notable were the absences of the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran.

The Gulf countries also see Iraq as too soft on Syria. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have talked of arming Syria's opposition, apparently eager to bring the fall of Assad and break the Sunni-majority country out of its alliance with Iran.

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Going negative: Romney team's primary ad strategy could offer a preview to general election

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rick Santorum doesn't care about the unemployment rate. Newt Gingrich has "more baggage than the airlines." Both are Washington insiders who have bent their principles for money and influence.

So say Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his allies.

That advertising playbook has helped make Romney his party's likely presidential nominee and could offer a preview of what awaits President Barack Obama in this summer's general election campaign.

Voters in early primary states have seen plenty of this ad strategy already: a torrent of attacks on Romney's opponents along with a few positive spots about the GOP front-runner's biography and business experience. The strategy, devised by Romney's campaign and an allied independent group, has been focused and unforgiving, all but eviscerating the former Massachusetts governor's rivals while portraying the candidate as an effective manager and devoted family man.

"The ads have been very effective," says Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, a conservative-leaning super political action committee. They've catapulted Romney "into a very strong position in the Republican primary without going so far that he's alienated swaths of independent voters."

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Auditor finds rampant overtime on Apple assembly lines in China; factory owner promises curbs

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chinese workers who often spend more than 60 hours per week assembling iPhones and iPads will have their overtime hours curbed and their pay increased after a labor auditor hired by Apple Inc. inspected their factories.

The Fair Labor Association says Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the Taiwanese company that runs the factories in China, is committing to a reduction of weekly work time to 49 hours, the legal Chinese maximum.

That limit is routinely ignored in factories throughout China. Auret van Heerden, the CEO of the FLA, said Hon Hai, also known as Foxconn, is the first company to commit to following the legal standard.

Apple's and FLA's own guidelines call for work weeks of 60 hours or less.

Foxconn's moves are likely to have an impact across the global technology industry. The company employs 1.2 million workers in China to assemble products not just for Apple, but for Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other pillars of U.S. technology.

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PHOTOS: Windows broken, fires set in streets as Spain's economic protest turns violent

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- Protesters smashed bank and storefront windows with hammers and rocks and set fire to a cafe Thursday as economic protests in Spain's second-largest city turned violent.

The riots in Barcelona broke out during a nationwide general strike that closed factories, slowed transportation systems and crippled hospitals. Tens of thousands of people marched in Madrid and other cities protesting an economic plan of spending cuts and tax hikes.

Demonstrators ran past burning trash bins on the street. Some kicked in store windows and hurled stones at riot police.

Authorities arrested 176 protesters across Spain and said 104 people were injured in clashes, including 58 police officers. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

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Spike Lee settles with couple for retweeting their address, believing it was Florida shooter's

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- An elderly couple has reached a settlement with Spike Lee after the pair said they had to leave their Florida home after the director help spread a Twitter posting listing their address as that of the man who shot an unarmed teen.

The couple's attorney, Matt Morgan, announced the settlement Thursday. Morgan says Lee called them to apologize for retweeting their address. Specifics of the settlement weren't disclosed.

Elaine and David McClain are in their 70s and say they have a son named William George Zimmerman, who lived in their Sanford area home in the mid-1990s. They say he is no relation to 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

The killing has touched off widespread protests around the country and expressions of outrage -- including from Lee and other celebrities -- because Zimmerman was not arrested. The neighborhood watch volunteer has said he acted in self-defense.

"At this point in time, we have come to an agreement with Spike Lee and his attorneys, and at this point, the matter is fully resolved," Morgan said. "Spike has agreed to compensate the McClains for their loss and for the disruption into their lives. He's taken full responsibility."

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Supreme Court has a wide range of options in ruling on Obama's health care overhaul law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The arguments are done and the case has been submitted, as Chief Justice John Roberts says at the end of every Supreme Court argument. Now the justices will wrestle with what to do with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. They have a range of options, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law's constitutionality at all, although that prospect seems remote after this week's arguments.

Here is a look at six potential outcomes, from the simpler to the more complicated possible rulings:

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Q. What if the Supreme Court upholds the law and finds Congress was within its authority to require most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty?

A. A decision in favor of the law would end the legal fight and allow the administration to push forward with implementing its provisions over the next few years, including the insurance requirement, an expansion of Medicaid and a ban on private insurers' denying coverage to people with pre-existing health problems.

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911 caller arrested, Pasadena police say false report led to college student's shooting death

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Oscar Carrillo's 911 call was clear: Two young men just robbed him of his computer and backpack. At least one of them had a gun and it was pointed in Carrillo's face.

Moments later, police caught up with two teens they believed were the thieves in a Pasadena alleyway. When one of them, Kendrec McDade, made a move at his waistband, an officer opened fire, killing the 19-year-old college student, authorities said.

No weapons or the stolen items have been found.

Now, police are laying part of the blame for the fatal shooting on Carrillo, who they say admitted that he lied about the men being armed so officers would respond faster. "The actions of the 911 caller set the minds of the officers," police Chief Phillip Sanchez said.

As the nation focuses on the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, the police shooting in Pasadena raises more questions about the role and responsibility of those who report or witness crimes.

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3 govs tour Neb. beef plant to see how 'pink slime' is made, ease consumer concerns

SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (AP) -- Governors of three states got up close with "pink slime" Thursday, touching and examining treated beef at a plant and eating hamburgers made with it in a bid to persuade grossed-out consumers and grocery stores the product is safe to consume.

The three governors and two lieutenant governors spent about a half hour learning about the process of creating finely-textured lean beef in a tour of the main plant that makes the product, then blasted the media for scaring consumers with a moniker coined by critics.

"If you called it finely textured lean beef, would we be here?" asked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Several other leaders echoed his comments as they tried to smooth over consumer concerns about the product.

Beef Products, the main producer of the cheap lean beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts, has drawn scrutiny over concerns about the ammonium hydroxide it treats meat with to change the beef's acidity and kill bacteria. The company suspended operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa this week, affecting 650 jobs, but defends its product as safe.

The politicians who toured the plant -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Brownback, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Nebraska Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels-- all agree with the industry view that the beef has been unfairly maligned and mislabeled and issued a joint statement earlier saying the product is safe.

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Judge in Los Angeles ends Lindsay Lohan's supervised probation, gives back her freedom

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lindsay Lohan's days as a criminal defendant could be over -- if she can behave herself.

A judge on Thursday ended the long-running probation of the problem-prone actress in a 2007 drunken driving case after a string of violations, jail sentences and rehab stints.

The 25-year-old actress will remain on informal probation for taking a necklace without permission last year, but will no longer have a probation officer or face travel restrictions and weekly shifts cleaning up at the morgue.

Lohan, wearing a powder blue suit and black blouse, let out a sigh of relief as she left Judge Stephanie Sautner's courtroom, possibly for the last time.

"I just want to say thank you for being fair," Lohan told the judge. "It's really opened a lot of doors for me."

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Big programs tackling big issues meet at Final Four with national championship on the line

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Looking for those charming underdog stories? Go find the DVD from last year.

This year's Final Four brings together an ensemble of big-name schools, all saddled with their typically big-time issues -- a reminder that everything in college sports is not as pure as the NCAA and its "student-athletes" would like us to believe.

In the national semifinals Saturday, Kentucky plays Louisville and Ohio State meets Kansas. All the schools have made headlines for a variety of off-the-court reasons over the last several months, including the proliferation of one-and-done players, stories about coaches in courtrooms and a handful of financial misdeeds involving recruits, players, coaches and even ticket managers.

And so, while there are no little vs. big stories this year -- the way tiny Butler or overlooked VCU beat the odds last season to make it to basketball's pinnacle -- we're regaled with tall tales of redemption and resurrection: Teams and coaches that overcame their problems and got everyone thinking about basketball instead of the underside of a business driven by a $10.8 billion TV contract.

"There are a lot of good players out there who are performing right now," Kentucky coach John Calipari said.