National titles: Who decides? Mostly, the schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Quick, name the college football team that has won the most national championships. Alabama? Notre Dame? Princeton?

If you gave any of those answers, and maybe a few others, you might be right. Because over the years there have been a lot of organizations using different methods to determine who they think is national champion.

No wonder "mythical" is the word that often precedes national title.

"There is no official standard because there is no official national champion," said Kent Stephens, historian at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend. "It all depends on the standard the school wishes to utilize. The national champion is in the eye of the beholder."

Sweaters knit by Myanmar's Suu Kyi sell for $123K

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Myanmar's cash-strapped opposition party is tapping into the prestige of its leader: Two sweaters hand-knit by Aung San Suu Kyi have been auctioned for $123,000.

A green-and-white sweater with a floral design sold at a Friday night auction to an anonymous bidder for 63 million kyat, or $74,120.

On Thursday, a Myanmar-based radio station won a bidding war for a multicolored V-neck that fetched $49,000.

Suu Kyi has not publicly reacted to the success of her party's two-day fundraiser, but aides said she was pleased with the results.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is satisfied with the auction and the donations received," close aide Ko Ni said Saturday. "She needs a lot of cash to carry out projects for the welfare of the people." Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.

Newtown, Conn., officials request halt to gifts

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Officials in Newtown, Conn., are asking people to stop sending gifts to the grief-stricken community following the deadly school shooting, saying they're deeply grateful but can't handle the donation deluge.

The town's first selectman, police chief and schools superintendent made the request Wednesday through an editor at The Newtown Bee newspaper.

They say since a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators Dec. 14, gifts from school supplies to artwork have arrived in such numbers they've overwhelmed the small community's ability to process them.

Air Bagan survivors tell of terrifying landing

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Survivors of a Christmas Day crash-landing of an airliner in Myanmar told terrifying tales of escape Wednesday as carrier Air Bagan apologized for what it called the worst accident since it started flying in 2004.

Details of the crash remain unclear but airline officials told a news conference Wednesday that they found the plane's two black boxes and were investigating what went wrong. So far, officials have blamed heavy fog for the aircraft's crash into a rice paddy field where it burst into flames. Two died and 11 were injured, including four foreigners.

The Fokker 100 jet was 21 years old but passed inspections at annual renewals of its air worthiness certificate, the officials said. On Tuesday, it was carrying 71 people, including 48 foreigners, from the city of Yangon via Mandalay to Heho airport, which is the gateway to the popular tourist destination Inle Lake.

8 dead in Christmas Day fires, riot in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Angry residents beat a man to death and threw rocks at firefighters after a shantytown fire left thousands of people homeless, and another Christmas Day blaze in the Philippine capital left seven people dead, officials said Wednesday.

A resident was beaten to death by his neighbors after shouting that he started Tuesday's shantytown fire in suburban San Juan city, Senior Fire Officer Domingo Cabog said.

The man was reportedly drunk and was not responsible for the fire. Cabog said the fire started in a house where children were playing with lighted candles.

A look at tough issues awaiting Obama's final term

As President Barack Obama approaches his second and final term, he will have to decide where to be ambitious, where to be cautious and where to buy time. A look at some of the big issues Obama will have to tackle when he returns to Washington after a Hawaiian vacation:



Nothing lends an issue a sense of urgency like a harrowing tragedy that leaves the nation feeling shell-shocked. Shortly after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Connecticut, Obama said gun control would be a central issue in his second term, and named an interagency task force to recommend anti-violence legislation, with Vice President Joe Biden taking the lead. Meanwhile, pro-gun Democrats and even a few Republicans have expressed a willingness to consider new gun regulations, a shift that many have described as a "tipping point" in the age-old efforts to impose more stringent restrictions on gun ownership.

No foreign news but a theatrical quarrel: Guardian archive, Christmas Day 1824

Even Christmas Day didn't stop the Manchester Guardian printing presses in 1824, though it was a slow news day for the foreign desk and the culture section was distracted by an intriguing theatrical disagreement

We briefly alluded, in our last, to the misunderstanding betwixt the Liverpool managers and Miss Cramer; and intended to have gone pretty fully into the subject this week; but, as it has now in a great degree lost its interest, from the submission of the young lady, and as we have no wish whatever to keep up a discussion which could not redound to her credit; we shall content ourselves with giving the termination of the business.

Senior Syrian official in US and co-operating with intelligence agencies

Guardian understands that US intelligence officials helped Jihad Makdissi to flee, though details of journey are unknown

The Syrian government's former spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, is co-operating with US intelligence officials who helped him flee to Washington almost one month ago, the Guardian understands.

Makdissi became one of the most prominent regime defectors in late November when he left Beirut after first crossing from Syria. The Guardian reported at the time that he had fled for the US, possibly in return for asylum. This has now been confirmed.

The latest development comes after almost a month of debriefings, which have helped intelligence officials build a picture of decision-making in the inner sanctum of the embattled regime.

Official: Navy SEAL died of apparent suicide

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. military officials are investigating the apparent suicide of a Navy SEAL commander in Afghanistan.

Navy SEAL Cdr. Job W. Price, 42, of Pottstown, Pa., died Saturday of a non-combat-related injury while supporting stability operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.

A U.S. military official said the death "appears to be the result of suicide." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the death is still being investigated.

Counterfeit medicine from Asia threatens lives in Africa

Malaria is one of the diseases affected by unscrupulous traders in fake and substandard drugs

International health experts are warning of a mounting health crisis in parts of Africa because of an influx of counterfeit medicine from Asia that is playing havoc with the treatment of diseases such as malaria. Porous borders in Africa coupled with indifferent oversight in China are combining to turn the continent and its pressing health problems into a free-for-all for maverick manufacturers, some of whom are producing pills with no active ingredients at all.

Precise data is hard to track down because of the informal nature of African health systems. But several recent studies warn that as many as one-third of malaria drugs in Uganda and Tanzania are fake or substandard, with most believed to originate in China or India.

Harbour search after boat capsizes

Two people rescued and search under way for third person believed to be missing in the water in Poole harbour

An air and sea search is under way for a person believed to be missing in the water after a boat capsized.

The coastguard said the alarm was raised after two people were found holding on to the side of an overturned boat in Poole harbour, Dorset on Sunday morning. The men were rescued by helicopter and taken to Poole hospital.

Lifeboats and coastguard helicopters are searching for a third person believed to have been on board.

Fury as Britain fights ruling on Kenya torture victims

Foreign Office accused of 'morally repugnant' move that could deny compensation in Mau Mau case

The British government has provoked outrage by contesting a high court ruling that gave three elderly Kenyans the right to claim damages for abuses suffered during the Mau Mau insurgency of 1952-1960.

Despite Foreign Office lawyers admitting all three were tortured by British colonial authorities, the government has decided to pursue a route that could deny compensation to torture victims.

Lawyers have accused the Foreign Office of a "morally repugnant" move that exposes the government to allegations of hypocrisy over its denouncing of regimes such as Syria and Zimbabwe that use torture. Dan Leader of Leigh Day & Co, which is representing the three Kenyans, said: "This gives succour to brutal dictators, the fact that one of the principal western democracies is not willing to give redress to acknowledged and admitted victims of British torture." Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written to David Cameron accusing him of failing to offer elderly torture victims who suffered beatings, castration and sexual assaults "the dignity they deserve".

California ban on gay 'reparative therapy' blocked by appeals court

Law was set to go into effect on January 1 but judges' decision delays implementation until it can be argued in federal court

A federal appeals court on Friday put the brakes on a first-of-its-kind California law that bans therapy aimed at turning gay minors straight.

A three-judge panel of the ninth US circuit court of appeals issued an emergency order putting the law on hold until the court can hear full arguments on the measure's constitutionality. The law was set to take effect January 1.

Licensed counselors who practice so-called "reparative therapy" and two families who say their teenage sons have benefited from it sought the injunction after a lower court judge refused the request.

A letter from a century ago

One hundred years ago, Tim Thorpe's great-great-grandfather wrote a letter to be handed down the generations. It provides a fascinating snapshot of his time

For as long as Tim Thorpe can remember, he has known about the "12.12.12" letter. When he was a boy in the 1970s, his family would talk about his great-great-grandfather's ambitious message to people "belonging to me" 100 years into the future and, eventually, Thorpe received his own photocopy of the handwritten letter. The power of Guy Wood's message from beyond the grave, written on 12 December 1912, continues to fascinate his descendants, and for some, such as Thorpe, it sparked an interest in history that has shaped their lives and careers.

"This is the time of Flying Machines and Motor Cars only in their infancy. I often try to picture to myself what things will be like in 12.12.2012," wrote Wood, who was 51 and nearing the end of his working life as "head attendant" of an asylum. "I am writing this today to put on one side so that some of my offspring may perhaps read it."

NRA chief breaks post-Newtown silence to call for armed guards at schools

Wayne LaPierre's statement – twice interrupted by protesters – dashes hopes of gun control advocates looking for debate

The National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the US, has called for armed security guards to be posted in every school in the country and insisted that the only solution to gun violence in the wake of the Newtown massacre was more guns.

A week almost to the hour after a gunman blasted his way into Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 first-grade children as well as six staff members, the NRA's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre finally broke his silence and delivered a defiant message to the nation.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Barack Obama, he declared: "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." That is a mantra that he has used after several previous mass shootings.

His statement dashed hopes of gun control advocates that the NRA would be willing to engage in debate about tighter restrictions on gun ownership, such as a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines of the type used by Adam Lanza in Newtown. On Tuesday, an NRA statement promised the organisation would make a "meaningful contribution" to prevent mass shootings.

Tom Mauser, who lost his son Daniel in the Columbine massacre, said that he was disappointed but not surprised by LaPierre's comments. "He conceded nothing and completely ignored the desire of a lot of Americans for change – for the NRA change means just more guns."

LaPierre's comments set the scene for what could become a defining battle of Obama's second term in office. The president has already indicated that he means to use all powers at his disposal to effect meaningful change in America's relationship with guns, and has appointed his vice president Joe Biden to lead a national taskforce on the issue.

Over the past 20 years the NRA has proven to be a formidable foe of advocates of greater gun controls. By mobilising its army of three to four million members, backed up by a fearsome lobbying operation on Capitol Hill, the organisation has succeeded in blocking or watering down most previous attempts at tightening the country's uniquely lapse gun laws.

The NRA chief's unbending response to Newtown was delivered at a packed press conference in Washington that was disrupted twice by hecklers carrying banners that said "NRA: Killing Our Kids" and "NRA: Blood On Its Hands". In the course of about half an hour, LaPierre laid blame for the Sandy Hook massacre on several other parties including the media, politicians in favour of gun-free zones, the country's mental health services, gamers and the film studios that make violent movies – but brooked no criticism of the NRA itself.

He warned that there were "dozens, maybe more than 100 … monsters" out there already planning the next attack on an unprotected school. The only way to stop another gun rampage was to put guns in schools.

He said: "If we truly cherish our kids, more than money, more than our celebrities, we must must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained – armed – good guy."

If Lanza – who also killed his mother last Friday before the attack on the school – had been confronted by a qualified armed security guard as he began his shooting spree, LaPierre ponderedI "isn't it at least possible that 26 little kids might have been spared that day?"

While other elements of the conservative movement in America have waxed and waned over the past two decades – with both the evangelical right and the Tea party suffering setbacks in recent times – the NRA has managed to sustain its impact on the national debate despite the on-going carnage of gun violence that claims about 12,000 lives every year.

Ugandan Children Perform to Raise Awareness for Orphans

The members of Uganda's Watoto Children's Choir have suffered more than any child should have to -- the loss of parents from war or disease, the horror of being taken as child soldiers in Uganda's devastating civil conflict, abject poverty and the ravages of HIV / AIDS. The group,on a world tour and performing now in the United States, brings a message of hope and resilence in the face of sadness and despair.

Their dances are joyful. Their voices raise awareness about the orphaned children in Uganda.

With vibrant African music, the Watoto Children’s Choir guides audiences through their life-transforming stories.

Gideon Kizito is the Choir’s team leader. "Most of them are orphans who have lost parents one or both parents to HIV / AIDS or war," Kizito explained. "You never get to realize how many more children are out there.

China anti-censorship hopes rise after state TV airs V for Vendetta

Eyebrows raised as CCTV shows famously anti-government, and possibly banned, film V for Vendetta

China's state television network has surprised viewers by airing V for Vendetta, the anti-authoritarian movie in which an anarchist rebel fights a totalitarian government to incite a popular uprising.

After the telecast, China's internet crackled with quotes of a famous catchline from the movie: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

The airing of the movie stunned viewers and raised hopes that China is loosening censorship.

V for Vendetta never appeared in Chinese theatres, but it is unclear whether it was ever banned. An article on the Communist party's People's Daily website said it was previously prohibited from broadcast but the spokesman for the agency that approves movies said he was not aware of any ban.

Some commentators and bloggers speculated the broadcast could be CCTV producers pushing the envelope of censorship, or another sign that the ruling Communist party's newly installed leader, Xi Jinping, is serious about reform.

Withey leads No. 9 Kansas past Richmond, 87-59

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Jeff Withey had at least six inches on just about everyone from Richmond.

Little surprise that every time the Spiders slashed into the lane, Withey sent their shots right back out. And every time ninth-ranked Kansas dumped the ball inside to the 7-footer, he had to simply turn around and stuff it through the basket.

Withey finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday night in the Jayhawks' 87-59 rout, and the smile on the senior's face showed that he enjoyed every minute of it.

Now, it's time for Withey to start picking on someone his own size.

The Jayhawks (9-1) have romped to eight straight victories since losing to Michigan State on a neutral floor early in the season, but finally get their first true road test Saturday, when they visit seventh-ranked Ohio State for a marquee non-conference showdown.

Panetta cites budget woes, Afghan war progress

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Congress Tuesday that the budget stalemate and lawmakers' spending choices are among the greatest threats to the U.S. military today, increasing the stress on the force and making it difficult to fund programs that best keep troops ready to fight.

Speaking as lawmakers try to wrap up negotiations on a defense bill, Panetta said defense officials have built a budget that tries to protect military readiness while also providing needed services to troops who have been involved in wars for more than 11 years.

"Nevertheless, there is pressure on the department to retain excess force structure and infrastructure instead of investing in the training and equipment that makes our force agile and flexible and ready," said Panetta, during a wide-ranging speech at the National Press Club. "Aircraft, ships, tanks, bases, even those that have outlived their usefulness have a natural political constituency. Readiness does not. What's more, readiness is too often sacrificed in favor of a larger and less effective force. I am determined to avoid that outcome."

Pentagon Prepares for Deep Budget Cuts

PENTAGON — The part of the U.S. government set to be hurt the most if U.S. lawmakers and the White House don't reach a budget deal is the Defense Department, which is set to take about half the budget cuts. Discussions have been going on at the Pentagon on where the U.S. military will have to make nearly 10 percent reductions totaling $500 billion in the next decade.

The cuts are set to be massive, $50 billion a year for 10 years, and so are the consequences. 

That's the warning from officials including the nation's top military officer, General Martin Dempsey.

"We can't yet say precisely how bad the damage would be, but it is clear that sequestration would risk hollowing out our force and reducing its military options available to the nation. We would go from being unquestionably powerful everywhere to being less visibly globally and presenting less of an overmatch to our adversaries, and that would translate into a different deterrent calculus and potentially, therefore, increase the likelihood of conflict," Dempsey said.

Leveson report: summit of party leaders set for Wednesday morning

Meeting between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband pencilled in as talks on implementing Leveson report drag

A three-way summit between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband was pencilled in for Wednesday morning as cross-party talks on how to implement the Leveson report drag, following a meeting between front benchers of all three main parties that made little progress on Tuesday afternoon.

Oliver Letwin, David Cameron's policy fixer, presented a half-finished version of his royal charter plan for press regulation at Tuesday's talks, disappointing politicians of other parties present who thought the cabinet officer minister would finally present a complete scheme on how the Conservatives intend to respond to Leveson.

Gaming consoles, vehicles stolen from WA warehouse

SEATAC, Wash. (AP) -- A King County sheriff's spokeswoman says thousands of Nintendo Wii gaming consoles were stolen from a SeaTac, Wash., distribution warehouse over the weekend.

Sgt. Cindi West says the thieves are believed to have driven two tractor cabs to the warehouse. They used forklifts to load two 53-foot-long trailers and a box van with at least 64 pallets of the consoles, then drove off with everything.

KOMO-TV reports the value of the theft is estimated at more than $2 million, including the stolen vehicles.

Hummus Battles Peanut Butter Over Farm Bill

There’s a battle of the sandwiches going on in Congress. At issue is the shape of the safety net program for America’s farmers.

On one side: peanut butter, the favorite sandwich spread of American childhood.

On the other side is the upstart, hummus, a Middle Eastern spread made with chick peas.

“It’s really one of the fastest-growing snack foods in the U.S.,” says Tim McGreevy, who runs the farm lobby group, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, adding that hummus is finding new places on the American menu. “[It] started out as a dip and now it’s moving into a spread. People put it on sandwiches and pitas.”

Protecting an abundant, affordable supply of sandwich fixings -along the rest of the food supply- has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy for decades.

Safety net

Northern Ireland police arrest children during riots

Four boys among several arrested during violent loyalist protests against restrictions on flying union flag at Belfast city hall

An 11-year-old boy is among several children arrested during overnight riots connected to the loyalist flag dispute in Northern Ireland.

The child was detained alongside four other boys, one of whom is 12, five youths and a 31-year-old man at two trouble spots in Lisburn.

The Belfast Telegraph journalist Adrian Rutherford was also beaten up and robbed by loyalist rioters in east Belfast, where 200 loyalists attacked police on the Newtonards Road. One police officer was injured after loyalists threw bottles, bricks, fireworks and paint bombs during the disturbances in the city.

Robin van Persie is Manchester United's Lionel Messi says Martin O'Neill

• Dutchman scored 15th United goal in win over Sunderland
• Martin O'Neill hails Van Persie's impact after 3-1 defeat

As the manager who harnessed Henrik Larsson in his pomp when in charge of Celtic, Martin O'Neill knows the potency of a talisman. Sunderland's manager looks at Manchester United's Robin van Persie and sees a force with an impact similar to that of Lionel Messi for Barcelona.

The Dutchman is flying in his debut United season, the go-to man who turns matches for Sir Alex Ferguson. "That's the nature of the game and you can boil it down to an awful lot of things," O'Neill said. "Would, for instance, Barcelona have the same effect if Lionel Messi didn't play? The number of goals he has scored is incredible [86 in 2012]. They are a very talented team, but without him, you don't know because Messi is their talisman."

Democratic senators want ban on assault weapons

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic lawmakers and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman said Sunday that military-style assault weapons should be banned and that a national commission should be established to examine mass shootings in the United States.

The proposals were among the first to come from Congress in the wake of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Gun rights activists remained largely quiet on the issue, all but one declining to appear on the Sunday talk shows. Meanwhile, Democrats vowed action and said it was time to hear from voters - not gun lobbyists - on how to prevent the next shooting.

The time for "saying that we can't talk about the policy implications of tragedies like this is over," said Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who won a Senate seat in the November elections.

Brian May angered by Sunday Times report about Sir Patrick Moore's house

Guitarist attacks newspaper's 'dustbin sniffing' after it says he bought house so astronomer had a secure home until death

The Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May has denounced the Sunday Times for "dustbin sniffing", after reports that he bought Sir Patrick Moore's house four years ago, above its market value, so the veteran astronomer could continue living in his own home until his death a week ago, aged 89.

In a statement to the Guardian, May said it was too soon to decide the future of the house, Farthings, a part Tudor thatched cottage in Selsey, West Sussex, crammed with Moore's scientific and personal possessions, which he had hoped could become a centre for young astronomers.

Australia in control in first Test against Sri Lanka despite Dilshan's ton

• Siddle takes 5-54 as Australia end day 141 runs ahead
• Dilshan scores 147 to stall hosts

Peter Siddle grabbed five wickets to help Australia to a 141-run lead at the end of the third day of the first Test on Sunday but only after a brilliant 147 from Sri Lanka's Tillakaratne Dilshan had stalled the hosts for much of the day.

Openers Ed Cowan (16) and David Warner (eight) added 27 without loss to Australia's first innings tally of 450 for five declared before the close of play, despite a rain disruption and some tight bowling from the Sri Lankans.

Dilshan earlier put on 161 in a record partnership with all rounder Angelo Mathews (75) to drive the tourists to 336 all out after they had resumed in a big hole at 87-4 in the morning.

Siddle finally separated them when he trapped Mathews lbw before tea after two sessions of frustration for Australia, which were compounded by an injury to seamer Ben Hilfenhaus.

Opener Dilshan followed soon afterwards - the victim of a superb yorker from left-armer Mitchell Starc - and Siddle then skittled the tail to finish with figures of 5-54.

The best photography of 2012: Sean O'Hagan's choice

From social revolution to Zambia's dash for the cosmos, the year in photography was sharply focused

Two big, ambitious shows stood out: William Klein + Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern and Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s at the Barbican. Everything Was Moving has to be my show of the year. The sheer strength of some of the individual series – Bruce Davidson's civil rights reportage, David Goldblatt and Ernest Cole's images from apartheid-era South Africa, Shomei Tomatsu's singular take on postwar Japan – makes it unmissable.

The much anticipated Klein + Moriyama double bill showed Klein's impact on Japanese photography and on Moriyama in particular, but also illustrated the power of the photobook as a medium – both Klein and Moriyama being masters of the form.

Egypt's ousted president slips, hits his head

CAIRO (AP) -- An Egyptian security official says ousted president Hosni Mubarak has slipped in the bathroom in the prison where is serving a life sentence, hitting his head.

The official says the ailing Mubarak, 84, was treated in Cairo's Tora prison Saturday for head injuries and a chest bruise. He says Mubarak slipped before two months ago but did not injure himself.

The report comes at a particularly tense moment in the transition that has followed Mubarak's 2011 overthrow, as millions of Egyptians vote in a highly contentious referendum on a draft constitution written by a mostly Islamist panel.

Crop insurance juicy target in 'fiscal cliff' deal

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rural lawmakers worried that $9 billion in annual federal crop insurance subsidies are an easy target for spending cuts in a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" are shopping around for a late compromise on a farm bill to protect them.

The chairmen of the House and Senate Agriculture committees already were poised to make a sizable contribution to deficit reduction through a new farm bill, with $2.3 billion in cuts to other farm programs and food stamps in a Senate-passed version and $3.5 billion in cuts in a measure awaiting House action.

But they hit an impasse this week while trying to merge the bills into a single package, just as President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner did on coming up with an alternative to the broad wave of automatic tax increases and spending cuts that begin to hit in the new year, potentially damaging the economy.

US to Send Patriot Missile Batteries to Turkey

NATO preparations to help shield Turkish territory from potential Syrian aerial attacks gained new backing Friday as the U.S. announced it is sending two batteries of defensive Patriot missiles to Turkey.

During a visit to a U.S. base in Turkey, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he is ordering the missiles and 400 military personnel be sent to Turkey. The Patriot missile units will be sent from Germany and the Netherlands. 

"We are deploying two Patriot batteries here to Turkey, along with the troops that are necessary to man those batteries, so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense it may very well need in dealing with threats that come out of Syria," Panetta told American troops at Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.

The German parliament approved the missiles' transfer by a wide majority on Friday, and NATO welcomed the U.S. announcement.

Pot proponents hopeful, wary after Obama comments

SEATTLE (AP) -- Backers of new laws that legalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado were cautiously optimistic after President Barack Obama said Uncle Sam wouldn't pursue pot users in those states.

Following the November votes in Washington and Colorado, the Justice Department reiterated that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but had been vague about what its specific response would be.

In a Barbara Walters interview airing Friday on ABC, President Barack Obama said: "It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view" to focus on drug use in states where it is now legal.

SKorea says Samsung chip plant caused cancer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A South Korean government agency said Friday that working at a Samsung Electronics factory caused the breast cancer of a worker who died earlier this year, only the second time it has recognized a link between cancer and Samsung's chip plants.

The Korea Workers' Compensation and Welfare Service, which is part of the labor ministry, ruled earlier this month that there was a "considerable causal relationship" between the woman's cancer and her five years of work at a semiconductor plant near Seoul. The ruling didn't become public until Friday when the agency announced compensation for the woman's family.

Samsung spokesman James Chung said it will not appeal the government's decision. The company is the world's largest maker of computer memory chips.

Bar code's co-inventor N. Joseph Woodland dies, 91

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Norman Joseph Woodland, the co-inventor of the bar code that labels nearly every product in stores and has boosted productivity in nearly every sector of commerce worldwide, has died. He was 91.

Woodland died Sunday in Edgewater, N.J., from the effects of Alzheimer's disease and complications of his advanced age, his daughter, Susan Woodland of New York, said Thursday.

Woodland and Bernard Silver were students at what is now called Drexel University in Philadelphia when Silver overheard a grocery-store executive asking an engineering school dean to channel students into research on how product information could be captured at checkout, Susan Woodland said.

Karzai says he'll meet with Obama in Washington

KABUL (AP) -- President Hamid Karzai said Thursday he will meet President Barack Obama in Washington next month to discuss a postwar U.S. role in his country, whose fragile security was highlighted hours earlier by a suicide bombing that killed one U.S. troop and two Afghan civilians.

At a news conference with visiting Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Karzai said he and Obama will discuss how many U.S. troops will remain after the Western combat mission ends in December 2014. He said he understands that immunity from Afghan laws for those remaining Americans is of "immense importance" to Washington, but he added that he has his own priorities in negotiating a postwar U.S. role.

"Give us a good army, a good air force and a capability to project Afghan interests in the region," Karzai said, and he would be ready to argue "with ease and with reason" that his country should grant immunity to U.S. troops.

Senate legislation targets cyberstalking software

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For around $50, a jealous wife or husband can download software that can continuously track the whereabouts of a spouse better than any private detective. It's frighteningly easy and effective in an age when nearly everyone carries a cellphone that can record every moment of a person's physical movements. But it soon might be illegal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected Thursday to approve legislation that would close a legal loophole that allows so-called cyberstalking apps to operate secretly on a cellphone and transmit the user's location information without a person's knowledge.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would update laws passed years before wireless technology revolutionized communications. Telephone companies currently are barred from disclosing to businesses the locations of people when they make a traditional phone call. But there's no such prohibition when communicating over the Internet. If a mobile device sends an email, links to a website or launches an app, the precise location of the phone can be passed to advertisers, marketers and others without the user's permission.

Peppermint pigs a smashing tradition in NY

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) -- A holiday tradition in this upstate New York resort town has a peppermint twist: Pig-shaped hard candies are sold with little metal hammers to smash them at Christmas.

The peppermint pigs, which can weigh up to a pound, are considered good luck charms by some. Family members will take turns whacking the piggy tokens of holiday cheer into little candy shards.

"We do find that some people are a little taken aback: `What's the whole idea of the pig and the hammer? What are you doing? And is someone insulting me by giving me a pig?'" said Mike Fitzgerald, owner of Saratoga Sweets, which makes the pigs that can be the size of a big bar of bath soap.

Fitzgerald has pigs on his brain this time of year. A small crew at his shop south of Saratoga Springs in Halfmoon makes the hard candy from dawn to dark in a shop distinguished by boiling red pots of candy and an overwhelming scent of peppermint. Fitzgerald is hurrying to fill thousands of pig orders around the country.

Fed projects high unemployment for next 3 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve projects the unemployment rate will stay elevated until late 2015, suggesting it will keep short-term interest rates low for the next three years.

The latest economic forecasts released Wednesday after the Fed's final meeting of the year were little changed from September. But they coincided with a new communication strategy announced by the Fed that links future interest rate hikes with unemployment below 6.5 percent.

The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in November.

The central bank said that it expects economic growth to improve next year but that it will be no stronger than 3 percent. Growth could increase to 3.5 percent in 2014 and 3.7 percent in 2015.

Unemployment will fall no lower than 7.4 percent next year and 6.8 percent by the end of 2014, the Fed projects. The earliest the Fed sees unemployment dropping below 6.5 percent is the end of 2015.

Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar dies at 92

NEW YORK (AP) -- The kids at first didn't seem to know how to respond as Ravi Shankar began his four-hour set on the final afternoon of the Monterey Pop Festival, in the fabled summer of 1967.

As captured in D.A. Pennebaker's documentary, some nodded along and smiled; Jimi Hendrix listened carefully. Others dozed, or chatted. A few hippies danced wildly, as if they couldn't tell - or didn't care about - the difference between Shankar's raga and a Jefferson Airplane jam. But as the performance accelerated from isolated strains to a pace that could exhaust the speediest rock star, eyes opened, minds expanded and Shankar and his fellow musicians left to a long standing ovation.

Labeled "the godfather of world music" by Beatle George Harrison, Shankar helped millions of Westerners - classical, jazz and rock lovers - discover the centuries-old traditions of Indian music. From Harrison to John Coltrane, from Yehudi Menuhin to Andre Previn, he bridged, sometimes unsteadily, the musical gap between East and West, between what Shankar noted as the classical East's emphasis on melody and rhythm and the classical West's foundation of "harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and other basics."

Graham: Defense cuts would hurt Middle East operations

A key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned Tuesday that the United States will not be able to confront threats in the Middle East, including Iran’s nuclear program, if the Pentagon must cut an additional $500 billion from its budget over the next decade.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, noted that the Defense Department already is committed to slashing $487 billion in spending over the next 10 years.

“Now is not the time to go much more beyond $487 billion,” Mr. Graham said at an event hosted by the Weekly Standard and Concerned Veterans for America.

Many Congolese Still Need Emergency Aid

Humanitarian agencies are still trying to reach thousands of people in the eastern DRC who were displaced by the recent military offensive by M23 rebels. Many of the displaced fear they may have to flee violence yet again.

The situation in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province, is described as calm during the day, but marked by nighttime banditry. Goma is a hub of humanitarian activity. The Congolese army retook control after M23 rebels withdrew last week.

“We are obviously still looking at a really acute humanitarian situation here. We have about 130,000 people living in camps in and around Goma and those are just the camps here. We also know in Masisi territory to the west of Goma there’s a lot of fighting there between several different armed groups. We can’t access that area very easily at the moment; and we’re really concerned about the situation there as well,” said Oxfam spokesperson Christina Corbett, who is in Goma.

Karzai Plot Allegations Raise Tensions with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — Allegations by Afghanistan's president that the recent suicide attack on the country’s spy chief was planned in neighboring Pakistan have raised bilateral tensions before key talks between the presidents of the two countries Tuesday in Turkey.

The assassination attempt is seen as a setback to efforts to reconcile with the Taliban insurgency and negotiate an end to the decade-old Afghan war. Afghanistan Chief of National Directorate of Security Asadullah Khalid is under treatment at a U.S.-run military hospital near Kabul, after surviving Thursday’s assassination attempt in Kabul.

A suicide bomber posing as a peace messenger reportedly caused severe injuries to the Afghan spymaster.

Without directly pointing fingers at Pakistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday his country “knows for a fact” the assassination was planned on Pakistani soil.  Islamabad quickly rejected the claim and urged Kabul to share evidence with Pakistan before leveling any charges.

On Sunday, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai repeated Mr. Karzai's  allegations. But he too stopped short of blaming Pakistan

'Falling man' changes London neighborhood

LONDON (AP) -- The suburban stillness of the comfortable, two-story homes in west London's Mortlake neighborhood is broken only by the roar of jets thundering overhead on the final approach to Heathrow Airport. It's a pleasant place, with easy connections into central London, generally free of crime and congestion.

That changed early on a sunny Sunday morning in September when a man from Africa literally fell from the sky and landed with a loud thud onto the sidewalk of Portman Avenue, half a block from a convenience store, an upscale lingerie boutique, and a shop selling Chinese herbal remedies.

In the hours after the crumpled body was found, as early risers were getting up to walk their dogs, get the papers, or go to church, police thought the man was a murder victim. But it was soon determined that he had been a stowaway who fell from a passenger plane when it lowered its landing gear directly above Portman Avenue.

Chavez faces new cancer battle, another operation

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba on Monday for a third cancer operation after designating the vice president as his political heir.

State television showed images of Chavez hugging Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other aides before boarding the presidential jet.

Chavez raised a fist as he climbed the stairs alone. From the doorway of the plane, he waved and shouted "Long live our homeland!"

The president has said he will undergo cancer surgery in Havana in the coming days. Chavez, who had returned from Cuba early Friday, said on television Saturday that tests had found a return of "some malignant cells" in the same area where tumors were previously removed.

He also said for the first time that if he suffers complications, Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement.

Review: Mamet's 'Glengarry Glen Ross' crackles

NEW YORK (AP) -- David Mamet's return to Broadway has been upstaged - by David Mamet.

A crackling revival of his excellent "Glengarry Glen Ross" opened Saturday at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, a few steps from his latest play, "The Anarchist."

Within a block, you can see Mamet's past and present. And that may be unnerving for a man this brilliant. "The Anarchist" was roasted by critics and will limp off the stage after just 40 performances. It will be survived by a 30-year-old ghost, a play as lively as "The Anarchist" was arid.

"Glengarry Glen Ross," a foul-mouthed brilliantly created and insightful look at men in the modern work place, is drenched in testosterone and verbal trickery, whereas "The Anarchist," a long-winded conversation between an inmate and a warden, was unexciting and lifeless.

Tempers Flare as UN Climate Talks Near End

Two-weeks of United Nations-sponsored climate talks are coming to a contentious end in Doha, Qatar.

Protesters made their presence felt Friday, chanting in the lobby of the Qatar National Convention Center, angry over the apparent failure of rich nations and developing countries to reach consensus on cutting  emissions and reducing global warming.

It was a sentiment echoed by many, including Zambia's David Kaluba, representing African countries.

"And I would say that we are ready to go home empty-handed if we do not get the resources that that are required to help us meet our challenges. 60 billion U.S. dollars by 2015 is a conservative request, and yet very important to enable us to go on a path of low emission as well as resilient pathway," said Kaluba.

Boustany wins US House race in Louisiana, beating fellow Republican incumbent Landry

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany, a veteran Republican allied with House Speaker John Boehner, has trounced freshman GOP incumbent Jeff Landry in an attack-heavy runoff race.

The two incumbents were forced into the same district when Louisiana lost a congressional seat because of anemic population growth in the latest federal census. The state will have six U.S. House seats in the new term that begins in January.

A four-term congressman who had gone into Saturday's balloting favored by the new district design, Boustany will represent the 3rd District covering southwest Louisana and nearby Acadiana.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Boustany led Landry by about a 3-2 margin. About one-fifth of district voters cast ballots on Saturday.

Economists Plead for a Major US Debt Deal

CAPITOL HILL — Two of America’s top economists say a debt reduction deal that avoids massive automatic tax hikes and spending cuts would boost the U.S. economy, but only if the deal genuinely addresses the nation’s severe fiscal woes.  The analysts testified before the Joint Economic Committee, comprised of lawmakers from both houses of Congress.
Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi says the drama and uncertainty surrounding U.S. debt negotiations are harming a fragile economic recovery.  He had a simple message for lawmakers:

“You have got to nail this down [forge a debt deal].  Uncertainty is killing us,” Zandi said. He said a far-reaching debt deal would boost America’s economic engine. “If we nail this down, we will be off and running.  And we will create a lot of jobs and unemployment will be moving south in a very consistent way.”

Russian premier jokes about secret files on aliens

MOSCOW (AP) -- "Men in Black" agents K and J may be about to recruit a new Russian assistant: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Medvedev has spoken about top secret files on aliens that may have landed in Russia.

In footage recorded Friday after a television interview, the former president joked that each Russian leader gets two folders with information about extraterrestrials that visited our planet - and stayed here.

Person with knowledge of negotiations: McCarthy agrees to 2-year deal with Diamondbacks

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Right-hander Brandon McCarthy reached agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a $15.5 million, two-year contract, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Friday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because McCarthy's deal was pending a physical.

The physical will be especially important for McCarthy, who was Oakland's opening day starter last season.

McCarthy was hit in the right side of the head by a line drive off the bat of the Los Angeles Angels' Erick Aybar on Sept. 5. The 29-year-old pitcher sustained an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture, then underwent a two-hour surgery.

Gazprom starts building Europe-bound pipeline

ANAPA, Russia (AP) -- After years of delays and negotiations, Russian gas company Gazprom on Friday formally started construction of its (EURO)16 billion ($20.65 billion) Europe-bound South Stream pipeline, key to its strategy of strengthening its supply to its most important export market.

The South Stream pipeline will connect Russia's Black Sea coast with the Balkans, Austria and Italy, carrying up to 63 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Europe currently gets about two-fifths of its gas from Russia and the pipeline's route bypasses transit nation Ukraine to ensure safe shipping of its gas. Pricing and payment disputes between Russia and Ukraine have caused major disruptions in the past, cutting off gas for millions of customers in Europe.

The project, funded by Gazprom, Italy's Eni, France's EdF and Germany's Wintershall, is due to start operating in 2015. Gazprom holds 50 percent in the joint company and is the main investor in the project. However, investors and industry experts have criticized the (EURO)16 billion project as too costly.

Netflix gets SEC notice over CEO's Facebook post

NEW YORK (AP) -- Netflix Inc. is facing scrutiny from government regulators for a Facebook post by its CEO in July that may have boosted the online video company's stock price.

Neflix said Thursday that the Securities and Exchange Commission informed it that its staff is recommending civil action be brought against the company and CEO Reed Hastings. The reason: Hastings' July 3 post in which he said Netflix's online video viewing "exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June."

The SEC says posting on Facebook doesn't amount to fair public disclosure of information that is material to investors.

Shares in Netflix, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., rose more than 6 percent on the day of Hastings' Facebook post. On the first day of trading following the July 4 holiday, its shares rose another 13 percent.

Michigan governor teams up with GOP supermajority to end part of state's union tradition

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- For generations, Michigan was the ultimate labor stronghold - a state built by factory workers for whom a high school diploma and a union card were the ticket to a middle-class life.

Yet it took only hours for Republicans to tear down a key part of that tradition, the requirement that all employees in a union workplace pay dues.

The swift action was the result of a decisive governor who teamed up with a supermajority of GOP allies in the statehouse to win a prize long sought by conservatives. It also provided a window into how state governments might work in an era when they are increasingly run by a single party.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist and corporate executive before his successful run for governor in 2010, didn't bother with political niceties this week after dropping his previous objection to dealing with the right-to-work issue. He announced his support Thursday at a news conference.

Egypt's president offers nothing to defuse crisis

CAIRO (AP) -- An angry Mohammed Morsi refused Thursday to call off a referendum on a disputed constitution that has sparked Egypt's worst political crisis in two years, drawing chants of "topple the regime!" from protesters who waved their shoes in contempt.

The Egyptian president's uncompromising stand came a night after thousands of his supporters and opponents fought pitched battles outside his Cairo palace, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured.

Speaking in a nationally televised address, Morsi accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his "legitimate" government.

Study could spur wider use of prenatal gene tests

A new study sets the stage for wider use of gene testing in early pregnancy. Scanning the genes of a fetus reveals far more about potential health risks than current prenatal testing does, say researchers who compared both methods in thousands of pregnancies nationwide.

A surprisingly high number - 6 percent - of certain fetuses declared normal by conventional testing were found to have genetic abnormalities by gene scans, the study found. The gene flaws can cause anything from minor defects such as a club foot to more serious ones such as mental retardation, heart problems and fatal diseases.

"This isn't done just so people can terminate pregnancies," because many choose to continue them even if a problem is found, said Dr. Ronald Wapner, reproductive genetics chief at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. "We're better able to give lots and lots of women more information about what's causing the problem and what the prognosis is and what special care their child might need."

Boilermakers sign new coach to 6-year deal with long-term vision of reaching Rose Bowl

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Morgan Burke wants Purdue back in the Rose Bowl, and he's willing to put his money on Darrell Hazell to get there.

After a whirlwind week of speculation, Burke ended the chatter by introducing the 48-year-old New Jersey native as the Boilermakers' head coach Wednesday.

The contract is for six years and comes with a succinct message from Burke: The Cradle of Quarterbacks is about to start rocking again.

"We did it because we want to get back to Pasadena," Burke said.

Hazell comes to West Lafayette with a perfect resume.

All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino and Boston Red Sox agree to $39 million, 3-year contract

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The fast-moving Boston Red Sox made their second splashy move of the winter meetings, agreeing Tuesday to a $39 million, three-year contract with free-agent outfielder Shane Victorino.

A day after giving Mike Napoli a $39 million, three-year deal, the Red Sox made Victorino their fourth free-agent addition of the offseason following agreements with outfielder Jonny Gomes and catcher David Ross.

Nicknamed The Flyin' Hawaiian, Victorino tweeted earlier Tuesday that he planned to spend the day in Maui on a snorkeling trip aboard the Alii Nui catamaran.

Class of 2012: Young Europeans trapped by language

MADRID (AP) -- Maria Menendez, a 25-year-old caught in Spain's job-destroying economic crisis, would love to work in Germany as a veterinarian. Germany, facing an acute shortage of skilled workers, would love to have her.

A perfect match, it seems, but something's holding her back: She doesn't speak German.

The European Union was built on a grand vision of free labor markets in which talent could be matched with demand in a seamless and efficient manner, much in the way workers in the U.S. hop across states in search of opportunity. But today only 3 percent of working age EU citizens live in a different EU country, research shows. As young people in crisis-hit southern Europe face unemployment rates hovering at 50 percent, many find themselves caught in a language trap, unable to communicate in the powerhouse economy that needs their skills the most: Germany.

"I think going abroad is my best option," said Menendez, "but for people like me who have never studied German, it would be like starting from zero."

Judge refuses to block Calif. gay therapy ban; ruling follows other jurist's competing ruling

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Two federal judges in California have arrived at opposite conclusions on whether the state's first-of-its-kind law prohibiting licensed psychotherapists from trying to change the sexual orientations of gay minors violates the Constitution. The measure remains clear to take effect on Jan.1.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller on Tuesday refused to block the law after concluding that opponents who have sued in her Sacramento court to overturn it were unlikely to prove the ban on "conversion" therapy unfairly tramples on their civil rights.

The opponents argued the law would make them liable for discipline if they merely recommended the therapy to patients or discuss it with them. Mueller said they didn't demonstrate that they were likely to win, so she wouldn't block the law.

Yahoo buys more mobile expertise in latest deal

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo has bought another Silicon Valley mobile startup as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to create more compelling products for smartphones and tablet computers.

Tuesday's acquisition of OnTheAir follows Yahoo's recent purchase of a mobile startup called Stamped. In both cases, Yahoo was drawn more by the engineering talent working at the startups than the services that they have been offering.

Yahoo Inc., which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., didn't disclose how much it paid for OnTheAir, which is based in San Francisco.

Obama wants Wasserman Schultz to stay on as chairwoman of Democratic National Committee

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama wants Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to stay on as his party's chairwoman.

Wasserman Schultz has overseen the Democratic National Committee since early 2011. Party officials credit her in part with helping the president carry her home state of Florida, as well as leading the party to an expanded majority in the Senate and more seats in the House.

"I've asked Debbie Wasserman Schultz to continue her excellent work as chair of the DNC," Obama wrote on Twitter Monday. "Thanks for all you do, Debbie."

The tweet was signed "bo", which the White House says is a signal that the president wrote it personally.

Elizabeth Price wins UK's Turner Prize for arts

LONDON (AP) -- Video artist Elizabeth Price, who uses collage and clutter to explore people's relationship to consumer culture, was named the winner of British art's much-coveted - and much-mocked - Turner Prize on Monday.

Price, a London-based musician and co-founder of 1980s indie-pop group Talulah Gosh, beat three other finalists to snag the 25,000 pound ($40,000) prize, which is awarded annually to a British artist under 50.

She was presented with the award by actor Jude Law at a ceremony at London's Tate Britain gallery.

The judges praised Price's "seductive and immersive" video installations, which combine moving images, text and music.

Bon Jovi talks charity, tour, daughter's struggle

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jon Bon Jovi has been with his band for more than 30 years, so he could be considered something of an expert when it comes to the durability of rock stars. Still, even Bon Jovi is mystified at how the senior set is dominating on the stage.

"I can't get over it," said Bon Jovi, who will perform next week with Paul McCartney, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and a host of other superstars at the 12-12-12 concert at Madison Square Garden to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy.

"I'm (expletive) dying already and I'm gonna go out there and play four songs. How do they do it?" he said, joking. "The Who and (Mick) Jagger and McCartney. ... I'm not going to be that journeyman. ... I'm not going to be that 75-year-old guy doing 150 shows a year."

GOP issues a new 'fiscal cliff' offer to Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans on Monday proposed a new 10-year, $2.2 trillion blueprint to President Barack Obama that calls for raising the eligibility age for Medicare and lowering cost-of-living hikes for Social Security benefits, a counteroffer to jump-start stalled talks with the "fiscal cliff" just weeks away.

The proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republicans comes in response to Obama's plan last week to raise taxes by $1.6 trillion over the coming decade but largely exempt Medicare and Social Security from budget cuts.

The GOP plan also proposes to raise $800 billion in higher tax revenue over the decade but it would keep the Bush-era tax cuts - including those for wealthier earners targeted by Obama - in place for now.

Gilda's Club name change insult to late comedian?

MIDDLETON, Wis. (AP) -- Remember Roseanne Roseannadana? Or Emily Litella? Or Baba Wawa?

Younger generations might not recognize the characters popularized by comedian Gilda Radner. Nor might they remember Radner herself, an original cast member of "Saturday Night Live" who died 23 years ago and for whom a national cancer support group is named.

That's troubling to the Madison-area chapter of Gilda's Club, which decided to change its name in part because of concern that many don't know who Radner was. But the move prompted outrage from some Radner fans - who saw it as a slight to a woman who confronted cancer with dignity and humor - and led other chapters across the nation to hastily reaffirm they have absolutely no intention of changing their names.

Anna Nicole Smith daughter a Guess model

The 6-year-old daughter of the late Anna Nicole Smith is walking in her mother's shoes, taking a starring role in the spring ad campaign for Guess Kids.

Guess? Inc.'s creative director Paul Marciano says in a statement that Dannielynn Birkhead has the "same playful spirit" that her mother would carry onto a set.

Carla Bruni backs gay marriage _ but not feminism

PARIS (AP) -- France's former first lady Carla Bruni says she disagrees with her conservative husband Nicolas Sarkozy and supports a plan to allow gay marriage and adoption.

In an interview with the French edition of Vogue for its December issue, the 44-year-old singer and supermodel said: "I'm rather in favor because I have a lot of friends - men and women - who are in this situation and I see nothing unstable or perverse in families with gay parents."

France's Socialists are pushing a bill that could see gay marriage legalized early next year. Though surveys have found that the majority of French people favor gay marriage, there has been a vocal backlash from religious leaders, voters in rural areas and ex-President Sarkozy's own UMP party.

Markets nervous as euro ministers meet on Greece

LONDON (AP) -- Concerns that European finance ministers will again fail to reach an agreement on handing over more bailout cash to Greece weighed on markets Monday.

Following last week's bout of optimism, which sent a number of stock indexes up to near 2012 highs and the euro back towards $1.30, some investors were expected to cash in on the gains.

Doubts that European ministers will fail again to agree on a deal for Greece encouraged investors to sell, as did election results in the Spanish region of Catalonia that saw separatists gain ground.

In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 stock index fell 0.6 percent to close at 5,786.72 while Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent to 7,292.03. The CAC-40 in France dropped 0.8 percent to 3,500.94.

New Congress: More women and many newcomers, but fewer moderates make getting deals harder

WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the next Congress cranks up in January, there will be more women, many new faces and 11 fewer tea party-backed House Republicans from the class of 2010 who sought a second term.

Overriding those changes, though, is a thinning of pragmatic, centrist veterans in both parties. Among those leaving are some of the Senate's most pragmatic lawmakers, nearly half the House's centrist Blue Dog Democrats and several moderate House Republicans.

That could leave the parties more polarized even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders talk up the cooperation needed to tackle complex, vexing problems such as curbing deficits, revamping tax laws and culling savings from Medicare and other costly, popular programs.

Rory McIlroy wins season-ending Dubai World Championship by 2 strokes over Justin Rose

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Rory McIlroy made five straight birdies down the stretch to overtake Justin Rose and win the Dubai World Championship on Sunday, ending a historic year in which the 23-year-old Northern Irishman won the PGA Championship and the European and PGA tour money titles.

The top-ranked McIlroy recovered from early putting woes to finish at 6-under 66 for a total 23-under 265 at the season-ending tournament. Rose, who was tied for seventh after three rounds, surged down the stretch into contention after shooting a course-record 62 that included an eagle and eight birdies.

"I just wanted to finish the season the way I thought I deserved to finish the season," McIlroy said after holing a birdie on 18 and raising his arms in the air in celebration. "You know, I played so well throughout the year and I didn't want to just let it tail off sort of timidly. I wanted to come here and finish in style."

Thai anti-government protesters clash with police

BANGKOK (AP) -- Protesters calling for Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down rallied in the heart of Bangkok on Saturday, clashing with police in the first major demonstration against the government since it came to power last year.

Organizers had spoken of mobilizing hundreds of thousands of supporters. But only around 10,000 turned up, and by dusk the leaders called the rally off.

Nevertheless, the tense gathering served as a reminder that the simmering political divisions unleashed after the nation's 2006 army coup have not gone away. The coup toppled Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, triggering years of instability and mass-protests that have shaken Bangkok.

INFLUENCE GAME: With election campaign over, new fight rages over effort to avoid fiscal cliff

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The election may be over, but a new campaign is being waged in the nation's capital as lobbyists, advocates and trade groups fight to shape the government's response to the looming fiscal cliff.

It's a twist on the usual lobbying effort: Instead of digging for more tax dollars, they're trying to protect what they've got.

The tactics are familiar to voters who were swamped with TV commercials, newspaper ads and mailers in the frenzied months before Election Day. But this time, the effort is directed at politicians, not so much the public.

What do these groups want?

US says 'harsh' Turkish rhetoric about Israel doesn't help efforts to end Gaza conflict

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is criticizing its NATO ally Turkey for "extremely harsh" rhetoric in accusing Israel of terrorism in its current military operations in Gaza.

The State Department said Tuesday that such language is "not helpful" to efforts to end the conflict there. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that message had been delivered to Turkish officials within the past 24 hours.

AP Interview: No. 2 in Hamas says group will not stop Gaza weapons production, smuggling

CAIRO (AP) -- Gaza's ruling Hamas will not stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbors on a new border deal.

Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt lift all restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Palestinian territory, which has been buckling under a border blockade since the Islamists seized the territory in 2007. The restrictions have been eased somewhat in recent years, but not enough to allow Gaza's battered economy to develop.

Ford plans to bring smaller engine from Europe to the US next year in the Fiesta

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford is bringing its smallest engine to the U.S. in the race to meet stricter government fuel economy rules.

The company says the 2014 Fiesta will be the first North American vehicle to get Ford's new 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine when it goes on sale next year. The 1-liter has been sold in the European version of the Focus sedan since March.

Ford isn't releasing fuel economy numbers yet, but says the 1-liter Fiesta will be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid available in the U.S. It should get well over 40 miles per gallon.

"This is truly a dynamo of an engine," says Bob Fascetti, Ford's director of global engine engineering.

FBI's pursuit of cyberstalking case that ended CIA chief's career set off by security concerns

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The way the FBI responded to Jill Kelley's complaint about receiving harassing emails, which ultimately unraveled or scarred the careers of ex-CIA Director David Petraeus and Marine Gen. John Allen, is the exception, not the rule.

The FBI commonly declines to pursue cyberstalking cases without compelling evidence of serious or imminent harm to an individual, victims of online harassment, advocacy groups and computer crime experts told The Associated Press.

But in the sensational episode that uncovered the spy chief's adulterous affair, the FBI's cyberdivision devoted months of tedious investigative work to uncover who had sent insulting and anonymous messages about Kelley, the Florida socialite who was friendly with Petraeus and Allen - and friends with a veteran FBI counterterrorism agent in Tampa.

Trip to Asia allows Obama to refocus attention on effort to secure US influence in region

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In his first trip abroad since the summer heat of the re-election campaign, President Barack Obama will seek to reinforce American influence in Southeast Asia in spite of the large shadow cast by China. He will become the first U.S. president to visit Myanmar, an appreciation for its steps toward democratization, as well as Cambodia.

The four-day trip beginning Saturday will be the president's fourth to Asia. It comes amid unusual challenges at home, including opening discussions with lawmakers about dealing with the nation's fiscal health and a sex scandal that's roiling his national security team.

Dell shares hit 3 1/2-year low on weak 3Q, outlook

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dell shares hit their lowest point in more than three and a half years Friday on concerns about its ability to quickly transition away from the declining PC market.

THE SPARK: Dell reported third-quarter earnings and revenue that were worse than expectations, even for investors who were braced for a dismal quarter.

Revenue dropped 11 percent to $13.72 billion, below the $13.89 billion expected by analysts polled by FactSet. Net income fell 47 percent to $475 million, or 27 cents per share. Excluding certain expenses and accounting charges, adjusted earnings came to 39 cents per share, a penny below estimates.

S. African workers return to Anglo American mine

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Miners at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. operations in South Africa returned to work Thursday, ending a more than eight-week strike that crippled the world's largest platinum producer.

The arrival of workers at Anglo American Platinum's operations in Rustenburg, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, marked a waning of the crisis that has struck South Africa's mining industry in recent months.

But at the same time farm workers angered over their minimum daily wages launched a second day of violent protests in the nation's Western Cape, setting fires and marching through the countryside.

FBI agent in Petraeus scandal had helped stop a plot to bomb Los Angeles airport in 1999

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- FBI Special Agent Frederick Humphries II played a key role in investigating a terrorist attack aimed at blowing up Los Angeles International Airport just as the year 2000 dawned.

Today, the agent, who also fatally shot a knife-wielding man in 2010, finds himself in the middle of the scandal that has resulted in CIA Director David Petraeus' resignation.

Humphries, 47, was the agent who initially saw the emails the FBI said Petraeus' biographer and mistress, Paula Broadwell, sent to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, a woman she apparently saw as a rival for Petraeus' affections. She also allegedly sent emails to Gen. John Allen, Kelley's friend and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

'Star Wars' figures, dominoes in Toy Hall of Fame

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia outmuscled little green army men for a spot in the National Toy Hall of Fame. "Star Wars" action figures join centuries-old dominoes in the class of 2012, which was announced by the Rochester hall Thursday.

A national selection committee chose them from among 12 finalists, plucking the most ancient and most modern toys from the list.

"Star Wars" action figures went on the market in 1978, following the 1977 release of the 20th Century Fox movie. The 3 3/4-inch figures of Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and company were sold until 1985 and again from the mid-1990s to today.

AP source: First anonymous email from Petraeus' mistress was sent to Gen. Allen in May

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal law enforcement official says that the ex-CIA director's biographer and lover sent emails to other senior military officials besides the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The official characterizes the emails as an attempt to undermine the reputation of a Tampa socialite who was friendly with David Petraeus and Gen. John Allen.

The official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The emails were traced to Paula Broadwell, the former CIA director's mistress.


Doctors, others demand clearer Irish abortion law

DUBLIN (AP) -- Pressure mounted Thursday for the Irish government to draft a law spelling out when life-saving abortions can be performed - a demand that came after a pregnant woman who was denied an abortion died.

Activists protested Thursday night in Belfast a day after thousands rallied in London, Dublin, Cork and Galway in memory of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who died a week after doctors said she was starting to miscarry her 17-week-old fetus.

Despite her rising pain, doctors refused her request for an abortion for three days because the fetus had a heartbeat. She died in the hospital from blood poisoning three days after the fetus died and was surgically removed.

Obama heads back to White House in triumph _ to confront divided government and 'fiscal cliff'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One day after a bruising, mixed-verdict election, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner both pledged Wednesday to seek a compromise to avert looming spending cuts and tax increases that threaten to plunge the economy back into recession.

Added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "Of course" an agreement is possible.

While all three men spoke in general terms, Boehner stressed that Republicans would be willing to accept higher tax revenue under the right conditions as part of a more sweeping attempt to reduce deficits and restore the economy to full health.

While the impending "fiscal cliff" dominates the postelection agenda, the president and Republicans have other concerns, too.

5 things to watch for as the presidential race between Obama, Romney reaches Election Day

Five things to watch as voters have their say in the presidential race between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney:

1. WHO TURNS OUT? Not all votes are created equal. The presidential candidates have competed furiously for votes in well-established battlegrounds and among constituencies each finds the most favorable. A robust turnout among minorities would favor Obama's re-election; Romney needs to drive up his numbers among working-class white men, a group that has tilted his way in polls.

2. LATE RALLIES? Obama starts and ends his day in his hometown of Chicago. Romney is in Boston to vote in the morning and take in returns at night, but making a trip in between to Ohio and Pennsylvania. Will the late rush sway votes? Will Obama follow suit?

Measure of US home prices rises most in 6 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A measure of U.S. home prices jumped 5 percent in September compared with a year ago, the largest year-over-year increase since July 2006. The gain reported by CoreLogic offered more evidence of a sustainable housing recovery.

The real estate data provider also said Tuesday that prices declined 0.3 percent in September from August, the first drop after six straight increases. The monthly figures are not seasonally adjusted. CoreLogic says the monthly decline reflects the end of the summer home-buying season and not a softening in the housing recovery.

Steady price increases should give the housing market more momentum when home sales pick up in the spring. Rising prices encourage more homeowners to sell their homes and entice would-be buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.

China helps BMW offset European weakness in Q3

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Strong sales of its luxury cars in China helped Germany's BMW AG overcome weak markets in crisis-ridden Europe.

Net profit rose 16 percent in the third quarter to (EURO)1.29 billion ($1.65 billion) on a 13.7 percent jump in sales to a record (EURO)18.82 billion.

The Munich-based carmaker said Tuesday it was sticking to its forecasts for 2012 sales and earnings to be up on the previous year despite "an increasingly uncertain market environment."

CEO Norbert Reithofer called it a "good third quarter" but added that in the fourth quarter the company and the auto sector as a whole "are likely to be confronted with adverse business conditions."

Netflix moves to block a hostile takeover

NEW YORK (AP) -- Netflix is moving to protect itself against hostile takeovers, less than a week after activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed a stake of nearly 10 percent in the online video company.

Netflix Inc. said Monday that it has adopted a shareholder rights plan, also known as a poison pill. Such a plan is designed to make it difficult or even impossible for someone to take over the company without an agreement from the board. When the provision is triggered, additional shares flood the market and make it prohibitively expensive for a takeover.

Netflix said the provision is triggered if a person or group acquires 10 percent of Netflix, or 20 percent in the case of institutional investors, in a deal not approved by the board. The Los Gatos, Calif.-company said that its plan isn't intended to interfere with a board-approved transaction.

Lithuanians sway toward opposition parties

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- Lithuanians exasperated with economic hardship handed a stunning victory to a populist party led by a disgraced Russia-born millionaire, nearly complete results of Sunday's election show, while voicing resounding disapproval of plans to build a costly new nuclear power plant.

The opposition Labor Party, led by Viktor Uspaskich, once dubbed as the "pickle king" for having made his fortune selling jarred pickles, was leading with 23.4 percent of the vote after nearly three-fourths of precincts was counted.

2012 campaign offers Bill Clinton chance to help Democrats, polish his legacy as statesman

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bill Clinton is back in the game big time, serving as President Barack Obama's surrogate in chief and relying on his oratorical skill and folksy style to help Democratic candidates.

His high-profile role also gives him the chance to enhance his legacy as Democratic elder statesman and global humanitarian. He can build up political IOUs should his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, decide to run again for president down the road.

Out of office since 2001, Clinton is proving that he retains a strong appeal with voters, especially in conservative states where Democratic candidates aren't eager to appear with Obama. The ex-president is a leading expert in the art of the political comeback - a skill the struggling Obama could use now.

UAE to send air ambulance for girl shot by the Taliban in case doctors send her abroad

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The United Arab Emirates plans to send a specialized aircraft to serve as an ambulance for a 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban in case doctors decide to send her abroad for treatment, a Pakistani official said Sunday.

The shooting of Malala Yousufzai along with two classmates while they were on their way home from school on Oct. 9 horrified people in Pakistan and internationally. She was shot for promoting girl's education and criticizing the Taliban.

The attack left Yousufzai seriously wounded and sparked calls for the Pakistani government to step up its fight against the militant group.

As EU basks in peace prize glory, separatists from Belgium to Spain are on the march

ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) -- Historic world port and fashionista capital, Antwerp has always lived on the crest of the wave. Now, a separatist party heading into municipal elections Sunday wants to use the city as a base for breaking away from Belgium - putting it at the forefront of a European breakaway trend just as the EU celebrates winning the Nobel Peace Prize for fostering continental unity.

Moves toward separatism have been getting a bigger these past months as the economic crisis pushes people faster toward stark choices on nationhood and their future. It is no different in Spain's Catalonia, another wealthy region grousing that it has to pay for others in its crisis-hit country.

Feds: Airline passenger with weapons cache had computer manuals on ways to hunt, kill people

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A teacher arrested at Los Angeles International Airport wearing a bulletproof vest and with checked bags containing knives, body bags, a smoke grenade and other weapons also had files on his computer detailing how to kidnap and kill people, federal authorities disclosed Friday.

In addition, Yongda Huang Harris had items on his computer revealing he has a "strong interest" in sexual violence against girls, including a video titled "Schoolgirls in Cement," Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills said.

One publication was entitled "Man Trapping" and showed how to hunt and trap humans, she said. He also had a document with schedules for schools in Japan showing when students arrived and left.

The prosecutor detailed the discoveries during a court appearance by Harris, 28, a Boston University graduate who had been working in Japan as a junior high school teacher.

Dems in coal states diverge on Obama policies

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- Friends of coal are certain they know the enemy.

They fault President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency for new clean air rules they deride as a devastating blow to a multibillion-dollar industry that has been the lifeblood of Appalachia for generations. The agency standards imposed earlier this year tightened limits on existing coal powered-plant emissions while guidelines on restricting greenhouse gases could affect new plants as early as 2013.

Along the rolling hills of this tiny Ohio town - population just over 5,100 - campaign signs for judges, state legislators and county officials crowd the neat lawns. As the road curves toward the interstate, one banner overshadows them all: "End the war on coal. Fire Obama."

FDA regulation of pharmacies has knotty history

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The deadly meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated pain injections has prompted calls for tighter federal regulation of compounding pharmacies, which have periodically been blamed for crippling and sometimes fatal injuries. But this isn't the first time Congress has pushed for more authority over the industry.

Such efforts stretch back to the 1990s, and after vigorous pushback by compounding pharmacists, they have left a patchwork of incomplete, overlapping laws, contradictory court rulings and overall uncertainty about how much power the Food and Drug Administration has to regulate compounders.

And with a gridlocked Congress at its most unproductive in decades, experts don't expect to see new laws passed anytime soon.

Letters show Ryan asking for federal programs as he pushed for smaller government with Romney

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a fiscal conservative, champion of small government and critic of federal handouts. But as a congressman in Wisconsin, Ryan lobbied for tens of millions of dollars on behalf of his constituents for the kinds of largess he's now campaigning against, according to an Associated Press review of 8,900 pages of correspondence between Ryan's office and more than 70 executive branch agencies.

For 12 years in the House, Ryan wrote to federal agencies supporting expansion of food stamps in his Wisconsin district. He supported city officials and everyday constituents who sought stimulus grants, federally guaranteed business loans, grants to invest in green technology and money under the health care law he opposes.

Taliban sent hit squad after teenage activist

KHAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A spokesman for the Taliban's Swat Valley chapter says its leadership decided already two months ago to kill a 14-year-old activist, who was shot and seriously wounded this week - and then sent out a hit squad to carry out the job.

A spokesman, Sirajuddin Ahmad, says Malala Yousufzai was warned three times to stop her activities promoting "Western thinking," but she did not.

He said the last warning was conveyed a week ago.

Cash-strapped Postal Service, awaiting financial help from Congress, raises mailing rates

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It'll cost another penny to mail a letter next year.

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service said Thursday that it will raise postage rates on Jan. 27, including a 1-cent increase in the cost of first-class mail to 46 cents.

It also will introduce a new global "forever" stamp, allowing customers to mail first-class letters anywhere in the world for one set price of $1.10. Currently, the prices vary depending on the international destination, with letters to Canada and Mexico costing 85 cents.

Under the law, the post office cannot raise stamp prices more than the rate of inflation, or 2.6 percent, unless it gets special permission. The post office, which expects to lose a record $15 billion this year, has asked Congress to give it new authority to raise prices by 5 cents, but lawmakers have failed to act.

With mocking smile and wagging finger, Biden walks line between aggressive and domineering

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden mockingly smiled, wagged his finger and couldn't seem to stop interrupting Republican running mate Paul Ryan.

"With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey," Biden said at one point, during an exchange on foreign policy.

Democrats cheered his sharp tone in the only vice presidential debate. Republicans panned the vice president as disrespectful to his younger opponent.

Biden's aggressive approach stood in stark contrast to President Barack Obama's listless - and widely panned - turn on the debate stage last week. Obama, to the dismay of his supporters, clenched his jaw, looked down at his notes and held back his criticism of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Shuttle crossing provides a unique teaching moment

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When the space shuttle Endeavour weaves through working-class communities on its way to its retirement home, Hildreth "Hal" Walker Jr. wants the children he tutors to remember a few names: Ronald McNair. Mae Jemison. Charles Bolden.

A retired laser scientist who had a role in the Apollo 11 mission, Walker took the opportunity with the upcoming two-day terrestrial crawl through predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles County to highlight the role that minorities played in the shuttle program.

"We really have a job to do to show them the accomplishments of the people whose shoulders they're standing on," Walker said.

Indicted Megaupload founder plans site reboot

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- In a move bound to provoke U.S. prosecutors and entertainment executives, indicted Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom is planning to launch a replacement of his shuttered website and a new online music service by year's end.

The file-sharing site that Dotcom started in 2005 was one of the most popular online sites before U.S. prosecutors shut it down and filed racketeering charges against Dotcom and six other Megaupload principals in January.

U.S. authorities are now trying to extradite Dotcom from New Zealand, where he's a resident, claiming he facilitated massive copyright piracy through his site. Prosecutors say Dotcom pocketed tens of millions of dollars while movie makers and songwriters lost some $500 million in copyright revenue.

IMF offers bleak assessment of stalled recovery

TOKYO (AP) -- Plagued by uncertainty and fresh setbacks, the world economy has weakened further and will grow more slowly over the next year, the International Monetary Fund says in its latest forecast.

Advanced economies are risking recession, the international lending organization said in a quarterly update of its World Economic Outlook, and the malaise is spreading to more dynamic emerging economies such as China.

The IMF forecasts that the world economy will expand 3.3 percent this year, down from the estimate of 3.5 percent growth it issued in July. Its forecast for growth in 2013 is 3.6 percent, down from 3.9 percent three months ago and 4.1 percent in April.

NH's small size belies its political power as independents play key role in the swing state

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's nickname is "the Granite State" but there's nothing solid about its political landscape.

Independent voters have been the reason in recent presidential elections.

Close to 40 percent of registered voters don't align themselves with the Democrats or the Republicans and, every four years, these fickle Americans cause the state to swing from the left to the right and back again when choosing a presidential candidate. This tiny Northeastern state - populated by Boston suburbanites in the south to rural residents in the far North Country - offers just four Electoral College votes of the 270 needed for victory. But in an era of close races in which every vote counts, presidential nominees of both parties have had the state on their target lists for two decades.

Alaska Airlines: Operations returning to normal

SEATTLE (AP) -- Alaska Airlines said flights were running close to normal late Monday after a fiber-optic outage shut down its ticketing system for more than four hours, causing the airline and its regional carrier to cancel 78 flights, affecting nearly 7,000 customers.

More than 130 other flights departed during the disruption, but some were delayed for as long as four hours, the airline said.

"Flights are running real close to schedule right now in all major cities. We expect tomorrow to be back on track completely," airline spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey said Monday evening.

The problems started shortly before 8 a.m. when computers the airline uses to check in passengers went down, forcing employees to board travelers manually - in some instances sticking handwritten flight numbers to computer monitors.

Soda industry: Vending machines will show calories

NEW YORK (AP) -- As criticism of sugary sodas intensifies, Coke, Pepsi and Dr Pepper are rolling out new vending machines that will put calorie counts right at your fingertips.

The move comes ahead of a regulation that would require restaurant chains and vending machines to post the information as early as next year, although the specifics for complying with the requirement are still being worked out.

"They're seeing the writing on the wall and want to say that it's corporate responsibility," said Mike Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which advocates for food safety and nutrition.

Decade after Bali, Indonesian terror aims at gov't

BALI, Indonesia (AP) -- Ten years after terrorist attacks at two Bali nightclubs killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, Indonesia has won international praise for its counterterrorism efforts. Militant organizations have been fractured and many of their charismatic leaders have been killed or jailed.

But an Associated Press analysis shows the number of strikes within the country has actually gone up, especially since 2010, when radical imams called on their followers to focus on domestic targets rather than Westerners. The more recent attacks have been conducted with less expertise, and the vast majority of victims have been Indonesians.

US panel: China tech giants pose security threat

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American companies should avoid doing business with China's two leading technology firms because they pose a national security threat to the United States, the House Intelligence Committee is warning in a report to be issued Monday.

The panel says U.S. regulators should block mergers and acquisitions in this country by Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp, among the world's leading suppliers of telecommunications gear and mobile phones.

Reflecting U.S. concern over cyber-attacks traced to China, the report also recommends that U.S. government computer systems not include any components from the two firms because that could pose an espionage risk.

NKorean soldier defects to SKorea across border

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A North Korean soldier killed two of his superiors Saturday and defected to South Korea across the countries' heavily armed border in a rare crossing that prompted South Korean troops to immediately beef up their border patrol, officials said.

The soldier shot his platoon and squad leaders before crossing the western side of the Demilitarized Zone at around noon, a Defense Ministry official said, citing the soldier's statement after he was taken into custody by South Korean border guards.

The official, who declined to be named because questioning by authorities was ongoing, had earlier said one of the killed North Korean troops was a company commander but later corrected it, saying the information was mishandled in the first couple of hours of the development.

FBI agent: Workers at Texas firm coached to hide scheme to sell military electronics to Russia

HOUSTON (AP) -- An FBI agent testified Friday that employees at a Houston company were coached to hide information about the cutting-edge microelectronics the firm was buying from U.S. manufacturers and later illegally reselling to Russian military and intelligence agencies.

U.S. authorities have arrested Alexander Fishenko, owner of Arc Electronics Inc., and seven of his employees, including Alexander Posobilov, who was the company's director of procurement. They are accused of being involved in a scheme to illicitly sell military technology to Russia, starting in 2008.

U.S. Magistrate Judge George Hanks Jr. denied bail for Posobilov, 58, following a detention hearing Friday. Hanks agreed with prosecutors that Posobilov, a Russian immigrant who later became a U.S. citizen, was a flight risk.

Pope's butler awaits verdict in papal leaks trial

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A verdict in the case of the pope's butler accused of leaking papal documents may help close one of the most damaging scandals of Pope Benedict XVI's papacy. But even after Paolo Gabriele's fate is decided by a Vatican tribunal Saturday, a core question will remain: Did he really act alone in exposing one of the most secretive institutions in the world?

Gabriele faces up to four years in prison if he's convicted of aggravated theft, accused of stealing the pope's private correspondence and passing it onto journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, whose book revealed the intrigue, petty infighting and allegations of corruption and homosexual liaisons that plague the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. It has been the gravest security breach of the papal entourage in recent memory.

Analysis: Lower jobless number give Obama a positive trend line; is public feeling it?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- September's lower unemployment rate breaks the 8 percent psychological and political barrier that has stubbornly dogged Barack Obama through his presidency, halting the kind of stagnant high joblessness that has weighed down past presidents seeking re-election in economically troubled times.

For Obama, the trend line now looks more like Ronald Reagan's in his successful re-election in 1984 than Jimmy Carter's in his losing effort in 1980.

The 0.3 percentage point drop to 7.8 percent unemployment last month comes at a welcome time for Obama, one month before Election Day and less than 36 hours after he delivered a lackluster debate performance that reinvigorated the campaign of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

Mexico: Mayan ball court was celestial 'marker'

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexican archaeologists say they have determined that the ancient Mayas built watchtower-style structures atop the ceremonial ball court at the temples of Chichen Itza to observe the equinoxes and solstices, and they said Friday that the discovery adds to understanding of the many layers of ritual significance that the ball game had for the culture.

The structures sit atop the low walls of the court, where the Mayas played a game that consisted, as far as experts can tell, of knocking a heavy, latex ball with their elbows, knees or hips, through a stone ring set in the walls.

Israeli police: American kills chef at hotel

JERUSALEM (AP) -- An American man who lost his job at a Red Sea hotel in Israel shot dead a chef at the resort on Friday, then was killed himself in a shootout with Israeli commandos, police said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld identified the suspect as William Hershkovitz, 23, of Poughkeepsie, New York, and said his family in the United States had been notified.

The motive for the attack in the resort city of Eilat was still under investigation, police said. But the head of the Oranim work and study program said it occurred days after Hershkovitz lost his job at the Leonardo Club Hotel.

The attacker entered the hotel on Friday, snatched a gun from a hotel security guard and fired several shots, killing the chef, Rosenfeld said.

France looks to upend school year traditions

PARIS (AP) -- French children go to school four days a week. They have about two hours each day for lunch. And they have more vacation than their counterparts almost anywhere in the West.

It may sound a bit like the famously leisurely work pace enjoyed by their parents, most of whom work 35 hours per week as dictated by law.

But the nation's new government says elementary school kids risk classroom burnout, and is moving to help them cope. The issue: French school days may be relatively few, but they are at least as long as a day of work for adults. Even 6-year-olds are in class until late into the afternoon, when skies are dark, attention flags and stomachs rumble.

A phone home: NY teens pay valets to store devices

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thousands of teenagers who can't take their cellphones to school have another option, courtesy of a burgeoning industry of sorts in always-enterprising New York City: paying a dollar a day to leave it in a truck that's parked nearby.

Students might resent an expense that adds up to as much as $180 a year, but even so, leaving a phone at one of the trucks in the morning and then picking it up at the end of the day has become as routine for city teenagers as getting dressed and riding the morning-rush subway.

"Sometimes it's a hassle because not everyone can afford it," said Kelice Charles, a freshman at Gramercy Arts High School in Manhattan. "But then again, it's a living."

Romney cites Massachusetts health care law as evidence he has empathy for ordinary Americans

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is pointing to his Massachusetts health care law as evidence that he has empathy for ordinary Americans.

Romney usually avoids talking about the health care law he championed as Massachusetts governor because President Barack Obama cites it as the basis of his own federal health care law. Republicans reject what they call "Obamacare" as a costly government takeover.

Campaigning in Ohio on Wednesday, Romney told NBC News that he understands Americans' lives and the challenges they face. In citing the Massachusetts health care law, he said, "Don't forget, I got everybody in my state insured."

Google Brazil chief detained in YouTube case; 2nd court orders site to remove anti-Islam film

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Google Inc.'s head of operations in Brazil was detained by the country's federal police Wednesday after the company failed to heed a judge's order to take down YouTube videos that the court ruled violate Brazilian electoral law.

The detention came as another court ordered YouTube to remove clips of an anti-Islam film that has been blamed for deadly protests by Muslims around the globe, both joining a spate of court-ordered content-removal cases against Google's video-sharing website in Brazil.

The arrest of Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was announced in Sao Paulo. A press release issued by the federal police said he was not expected to remain in jail and should be released later in the day after signing a document promising to appear in court.

Akin rebuilding Republican base in Mo. Senate race; McCaskill attempts to peel off GOP support

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- His spot on the ballot now guaranteed, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin began rebuilding support Wednesday among fellow Republicans who shunned him after a remark about "legitimate rape" while Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill honed an election strategy that will use Akin's own words to portray him as an extremist.

Akin won a pair of high-profile Republican endorsements Wednesday from former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint. Perhaps just as importantly, the National Republican Senatorial Committee - which had pulled millions of dollars of planned advertising after Akin's remark - said Wednesday that it hopes Akin wins and cracked open the possibility of again getting involved in the Missouri campaign.

Greek riots, Spanish marches shatter market calm

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Europe's fragile financial calm was shattered Wednesday as investors worried that violent anti-austerity protests in Greece and Spain's debt troubles showed that the continent still cannot contain its financial crisis.

Police fired tear gas Wednesday at rioters hurling gasoline bombs and chunks of marble during Greece's largest anti-austerity demonstration in six months. The protests were part of a 24-hour general strike, the latest test for Greece's nearly four-month-old coalition government and the new spending cuts it plans to push through.

The brief but intense clashes by several hundred rioters among the 60,000 people protesting in Athens came a day after anti-austerity protests rocked the Spanish capital.

Pittsburgh police to receive training in social media for hostage situations, other crimes

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pittsburgh police plan to train their officers to be fluent in social media, joining other departments nationwide, days after a man armed with a hammer and kitchen knife used a hostage's computer to post Facebook messages lamenting his troubles.

The case of Klein Michael Thaxton, who is accused of picking a hostage at random in a downtown office tower and then kept authorities at bay for hours before surrendering and releasing the hostage, was a first for the Pittsburgh department.

There is some reflection about whether officials did the right thing by not immediately shutting down the suspect's Facebook page. Police say they want to make sure officers are prepared for such judgment calls down the road.