Friday, April 6, 2012


US economy likely added 210K jobs in March, fourth straight month of strong hiring

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy probably generated more than 200,000 jobs in March, capping the best four months of hiring since before the recession.

Economists expect that U.S. employers added 210,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent for the third straight month, according to a survey by FactSet.

The Labor Department will release the March employment report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.

If the forecast proves correct, the economy would have added an average of 236,000 jobs per month since December. That's the most for a four-month period in almost six years. It would also mark the first time the economy has created at least 200,000 jobs in four straight months since early 2000.

"The labor market is steadily, if slowly, strengthening," says Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics.


Aiming for familiarity as Penn. primary nears, Santorum's support at home not what it once was

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Rick Santorum is as unpopular in Pennsylvania today as he was six years ago when home-state voters kicked him out of the Senate in a rout. That sour public perception may doom his fading chances of sticking around in the GOP presidential race, along with other hurdles that dot his path to a possible, and needed, victory in the April 24 primary.

He failed to heal a rift with fiscal conservatives who had lost confidence in him or reassure party leaders that he could temper his hard-line positions on social issues that repel the moderate and independent voters who are crucial to success in statewide elections in this diverse state. Even some who know Santorum say flat out he isn't the best candidate.

The former senator also faces a nearly insurmountable hurdle to stop Mitt Romney, who emerged as the nominee-in-waiting after his sweep of contests this week in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

None of that seems to be deterring Santorum.

"People in Pennsylvania know me," he said this week while campaigning at a Pittsburgh-area diner. "We've got a strong base of support here, and we're going to work very, very hard."


20 years after Bosnian war started, the country still doesn't know where to go

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Exactly 11,541 red chairs have been lined up in rows along Sarajevo's main street -- one for every man, woman and child killed in the siege that ended up being the longest in modern history.

Sarajevo on Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the Bosnian war. Exhibitions, concerts and performances are being held, but nothing can match the impact of hundreds of rows of red in the same square where it all started on April 6, 1992.

Hundreds of the chairs are small, representing the slain children.

"This city needs to stop for a moment and pay tribute to its killed citizens," said Haris Pasovic, organizer of the "Sarajevo Red Line."

The Serb siege of Sarajevo went on for 44 months -- 11,825 days -- longer than the World War II siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. Its 380,000 people were left without electricity, water or heat, hiding from the 330 shells a day that smashed into the city.


Syria broadens offensive in Damascus suburbs ahead of cease-fire

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian forces broadened an offensive against opposition fighters in three Damascus suburbs Friday in an apparent attempt to crush pockets of rebellion near the capital less than a week before an internationally sponsored cease-fire is to go into effect, activists said.

Troops conducted raids in the suburbs of Saqba and Douma following overnight clashes with army defectors in Saqba and the nearby suburb of Arbeen, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group said three members of the military were killed.

Plumes of smoke rose above Saqba, and activists said regime forces torched at least one house.

Tanks patrolled deserted streets in the sprawling Douma district, about 8 miles (12 kilometers) outside Damascus, said activist Mohammed Saeed. Snipers set up positions atop a 12-story medical building.

Troops had entered Douma on Thursday in what activists described as one of the most violent raids near the capital since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began more than a year ago.


Military panel: Marine who criticized Obama on Facebook should be dismissed

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) -- A military board has recommended dismissal for a Marine sergeant who criticized President Barack Obama on his Facebook page, including allegedly putting the president's face on a "Jackass" movie poster.

The Marine Corps administrative board said after a daylong hearing late Thursday at Camp Pendleton that Sgt. Gary Stein has committed misconduct and should be dismissed.

The board also recommended that Stein be given an other-then-honorable discharge. That would mean Stein would lose his benefits and would not be allowed on any military base.

The board's recommendations go to a general who will either accept or deny them. If the general disagrees with the board, the case could go to the secretary of the Navy.

Stein's lawyers argued that the 9-year Marine, whose service was to end in four months, was expressing his personal views and exercising his First Amendment rights.


Out go the crumbs: 'logistical mayhem' as Israeli chefs clean kitchens for Passover feast

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) -- The Jewish springtime holiday Passover is known as a festival of freedom, but its hallmark is a litany of dietary restrictions centered on not eating leavened bread for a week.

The rules are so elaborate that chefs who want to observe the ritual law must prepare weeks before, removing every last crumb, buying up new sets of kitchen utensils and planning menus without bread or wheat flour.

At Liliyot, one of Tel Aviv's most prestigious kosher restaurants, chef Noam Dekkers oversaw his staff on Wednesday, their last regular day in the kitchen before the annual Passover scrubdown -- a process he calls "logistical mayhem." The holiday begins Friday at sundown.

At the end of the day, Dekkers' cooks threw away leftovers like chopped vegetables and fish. Then, they stored plastic cutting boards and boxes, locked grains away and scrubbed all steel cooking ware.

The following morning, city rabbis oversaw the final sterilization, when the restaurant staff blowtorched grease off the grills and dunked all the metal and glass cooking utensils into cauldrons of boiling water. As of Thursday night, Liliyot was kosher for Passover.


Coast Guard cannons sink Japanese ghost ship drifting since last year's tsunami

OVER THE GULF OF ALASKA (AP) -- A U.S. Coast Guard cutter poured cannon fire into a Japanese ghost ship that had been drifting since the last year's tsunami, sinking the vessel in the Gulf of Alaska and eliminating the hazard it posed to shipping and the coastline.

The cutter's guns tore holes in the 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending its long, lonely journey across the Pacific that began when the deadly tsunami set it floating more than a year ago.

The crew pummeled the ghost ship with high explosive ammunition, and the derelict Ryou-Un Maru soon burst into flames, and began taking on water, officials said.

A huge column of smoke could be seen over the gulf as a Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane, sent to observe the sinking, dropped a buoy to monitor for any possible pollution.

The Coast Guard warned mariners to stay away, and aviation authorities did the same for pilots.


Google aims to meld human and goggle with futuristic Project Glass -- just don't trip

NEW YORK (AP) -- If you think texting while walking is dangerous, just wait until everyone starts wearing Google's futuristic, Internet-connected glasses.

While wearing a pair, you can see directions to your destination appear literally before your eyes. You can talk to friends over video chat, take a photo or even buy a few things online as you walk around.

These glasses can do anything you now need a smartphone or tablet computer to do --and then some.

Google gave a glimpse of "Project Glass" in a video and blog post this week. Still in an early prototype stage, the glasses open up endless possibilities -- as well as challenges to safety, privacy and fashion sensibility.

The prototypes Google displayed have a sleek wrap-around look and appear nothing like clunky 3-D glasses. But if Google isn't careful, they could be dismissed as a kind of Bluetooth earpiece of the future, a fashion faux-pas where bulky looks outweigh marginal utility.


Another finalist sliced from 'American Idol,' leaving 7 singers in the competition

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "American Idol" viewers apparently didn't like Deandre Brackensick.

The falsetto-powered 17-year-old student from San Jose, Calif., impressed the "Idol" judges with DeBarge's "I Like It" on Wednesday's 1980s-themed installment, but he wasn't rescued by the panel Thursday after receiving the fewest viewer votes.

Jennifer Lopez told Brackensick that she was outvoted by Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson to use the judges' one-time-only ability to save him from dismissal.

"I only get one vote," said Lopez. "I'm sorry. We're not saving you tonight."

Before his last-chance performance of Stevie Wonder's "Master Blaster," Brackensick was joined in the show's bottom three by rockin' 28-year-old teacher Elise Testone, of Charleston, S.C., and booming 18-year-old vocalist Hollie Cavanagh of McKinney, Texas. Testone and Cavanagh seemed more likely to be eliminated after receiving the judges' harshest criticism on Wednesday.


Westwood takes a step toward a major as Woods, McIlroy struggle to get by

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- At times, it felt more like the last day of the Masters than the first -- with errant tee shots and thoughts of bad swings turning Augusta National into a fragile free-for-all for Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and lots of other would-be leaders.

Lee Westwood never got caught up in the pressure cooker.

One of the best players to never win a major took the lead after the first round for the first time in his career, shooting a stress-free 5-under 67 on a day when Woods couldn't control his driver, Mickelson spent time tromping through the scrub and the man who led for most of the day, Henrik Stenson, closed out his day with a quadruple-bogey meltdown that sent him tumbling down the standings.

"Just trying to cruise my way into the tournament today and get in a good position and then hopefully stay there," Westwood said.

He finished with a one-shot lead over Peter Hanson and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, and another shot in front of a group of six that included Bubba Watson and Ben Crane.