AP News in Brief

June 18, 2011 - 6:14 PM

Karzai confirms US, Afghan talks with Taliban even as Kabul attacked by suicide bombers

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — President Hamid Karzai acknowledged Saturday that the U.S. and Afghan governments have held talks with Taliban emissaries in a bid to end the nation's nearly 10-year war, even as suicide attackers launched a bold assault in the heart of the county's capital, killing nine people.

The attack, which occurred just blocks from Karzai's office, shows the parties have a long way to go to reach a political settlement as the Obama administration weighs a major withdrawal of its forces. The White House neither directly confirmed or denied Karzai's statement.

Three men wearing camouflage fatigues that are frequently worn by Afghan soldiers stormed a police station near the presidential palace, with one of them detonating an explosives vest just outside the gates as two others rushed inside and began firing, an Interior Ministry statement said.

The crackle of gunfire echoed through the usually bustling streets for about two hours before security forces killed the two remaining attackers. Insurgents killed three police officers, one intelligence agent and five civilians in the attack, according to the ministry statement.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to The Associated Press.

___

NATO says it mistakenly struck Libyan rebel convoy in airstrike near eastern oil town

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — NATO said Saturday it mistakenly struck a column of Libyan rebel vehicles in an airstrike near an eastern oil town two days earlier and expressed regret for any casualties that might have resulted.

The alliance has accidentally hit rebel forces before in its air campaign to protect civilians in the civil war between Moammar Gadhafi's military and the fighters trying to end his more than four decades in power. The rebels have also complained that NATO's strikes have not helped them gain decisive momentum against the Libyan leader's better trained and equipped military, which still has firm control over most of western Libya. The rebels control much of the east.

The alliance statement gave no figures on casualties from Thursday's airstrike, but said it regretted "any possible loss of life or injuries caused by this unfortunate incident."

NATO said its forces spotted a column of military vehicles near the frequent flashpoint town of Brega where forces loyal to Gadhafi had recently been operating and hit them because they believed they posed a threat to civilians.

"NATO can now confirm that the vehicles hit were part of an opposition patrol," the statement said.

___

United says it is recovering from weekend computer outage, but travelers puzzled at its impact

CHICAGO (AP) — A five-hour computer outage that virtually shut down United Airlines Friday night and early Saturday is a stark reminder of how dependent airlines have become on technology.

Passengers saw their flight information vanish from airport screens, and thousands were stranded as United canceled 31 flights and delayed 105 worldwide.

The airline still had no explanation Saturday afternoon for the outage. But things could have been much worse.

A blizzard in the Northeast wiped out more than 10,000 flights over three days in December, a mid-January storm led airlines to cancel nearly 9,000 flights.

Friday's shutdown occurred late enough in the day that many of the canceled flights were the last planes out for the day, said Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst with Forrester Research. On a Monday morning, the results could have been catastrophic.

___

AP sources: US officials watch as Pakistani militants flee 2 more bomb-building sites

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say Pakistan has apparently tipped off militants at two more bomb-building factories in its tribal areas, giving the terror suspects time to flee, after U.S. intelligence shared the locations with the Pakistani government.

Those officials believe Pakistan's insistence on seeking local tribal elders' permission before raiding the areas may have most directly contributed to the militants' flight. U.S. officials have pushed for Pakistan to keep the location of such targets secret prior to the operations, but the Pakistanis say their troops cannot enter the lawless regions without giving the locals notice.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

The latest incidents bring to a total of four bomb-making sites that the U.S. has shared with Pakistan only to have the terrorist suspects flee before the Pakistani military arrived much later. The report does not bode well for attempts by both sides to mend relations and rebuild trust after the U.S. raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a Pakistani army town only 35 miles from the capital Islamabad.

The Pakistanis believe the Americans violated their sovereignty by keeping them in the dark about the raid. American officials believe bin Laden's location proves some elements of the Pakistani army or intelligence service helped hide the al-Qaida mastermind, bolstering their argument that the raid had to be done solo.

___

Texas Gov. Perry crashing 2012 GOP field, drawing activists' interest but not yet in race

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A candidate in waiting, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is elbowing the Republicans already in the 2012 presidential race as he courts party activists, operatives and donors still shopping for someone to back against President Barack Obama.

His appearance Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference offered yet another tantalizing hint that he's ready to upend a crowded field of candidates who have worked months to amass name recognition, organization and campaign cash. The longest serving governor of his state drew much interest despite little effort so far to put together a traditional campaign.

"I stand before you today as a disciplined conservative Texan, a committed Republican and a proud American, united with you to restoring our nation and revive the American dream," Perry said during an address that repeatedly drew the crowd to its feet.

He sounded every bit a candidate.

"Our shared conservative values, our belief in the individual is the great hope of our nation," he said.

___

Obama, Boehner put partisanship aside, team up for golf triumph; winner's share is $2 each

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner put partisanship aside, at least on the golf course, and teamed up to triumph on the final hole Saturday in their long-awaited links outing.

The match pitted the political rivals against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio's Republican Gov. John Kasich. The match was won on the 18th hole, with the winning partners each pocketing a $2 prize.

The question now is whether a partnership forged on the tees, fairways and greens of a military base course can yield success in the policy arena. Obama and Boehner find themselves on opposite sides of everything from deficit reduction to the military campaign in Libya.

Aides to both men played down the chances of deals being struck on the par-72 East Course at Joint Base Andrews, but acknowledged the outing could improve a relationship that is respectful, but hardly close.

Tee time for the foursome was 9:30 a.m. at Obama's home course at the base outside Washington.

___

Levees besieged, farmers flooded, rain on the way: A soggy summer awaits on the Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It isn't so much the amount of water churning its way down the Missouri River that has people along the nation's longest waterway on edge. It's how long all that water will stick around.

The annual "spring rise" on the Missouri will last deep into this soggy summer, as a torrent of early season rains and winter snowpack flows through wide-open gates of South Dakota's Gavins Point Dam upriver and toward the confluence with the Mississippi River. The Missouri might start to crest soon, but it won't start to fall until August or later.

That constant pressure on the network of levees that protect farmland, roads, small towns and big cities from a river running well outside its banks is what worries folks downriver most as the high water heads south toward Kansas City and east toward St. Louis.

"The length of the flood will test levees like they've never been tested before," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. "You're going to see levees which in essence may be tall enough, but not strong enough."

___

Muslim Brotherhood above-ground at last, but beset by rifts as Egypt seeks the democratic path

CAIRO (AP) — The night breeze blew foul wafts from a nearby canal black with garbage and pollution. The streets jammed with trucks and motorized rickshaws were so shattered that they hardly seemed paved at all.

It was to Cairo's slum of Munib on a recent evening that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamic group, brought its election campaign message: The country must turn to Islam to rebuild.

"Muslims around the world expect great things from you," Essam el-Erian, deputy head of the Brotherhood's new political party, told supporters crowded into a tent, with men across the aisle from women in headscarves or black veils. "We have to build a nation of freedom and equality, a nation of the true Islam."

The scene, like many in Egypt now, was inconceivable before President Hosni Mubarak's Feb. 11 ouster. Under Mubarak's autocratic regime, the Brotherhood was banned. Tens of thousands of its members were arrested, many tortured, and its gatherings were held largely behind closed doors.

Now, with Mubarak gone, the Brotherhood is storming into the open, appealing to religious voters and trying to win over Egypt's poor. It is likely to be part of Egypt's next government, with a hand not only in ruling but also in writing a new constitution. And its strength has fueled fears among many Egyptians that it will turn what began as a pro-democracy uprising in the Arab world's most populous nation into Islamic rule.

___

Defense expert: Autopsy performed on body of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was 'shoddy'

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A renowned forensic expert testified Saturday that the autopsy done on 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was "shoddy" and that the duct tape Florida prosecutors contend suffocated the child was not applied until after her body had decomposed.

Dr. Werner Spitz offered his opinion on the third day of the defense's case in the murder trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida mother charged with murder in Caylee's death. The state rested its case earlier in the week.

Spitz has been an expert witness in several high-profile cases, including that of O.J. Simpson and record executive Phil Spector. Spitz also testified it was a failure that Caylee's skull was not opened during the official autopsy. Spitz conducted a second autopsy later.

"The head is part of the body and when you do an examination, you examine the whole body," Spitz said. "... That to me is a signal of a shoddy autopsy."

Casey Anthony, 25, faces a possible death sentence if convicted in her daughter's summer 2008 death and has pleaded not guilty. The defense says the girl drowned in her grandparents' swimming pool.

___

McIlroy gets back to 13 under at beatable Congressional

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Rory McIlroy returned to 13-under par after nine holes in the third round of the U.S. Open on Saturday.

On a day made for scoring at Congressional, McIlroy played the front nine in 2 under to take an eight-shot lead over Lee Westwood and Jason Day.

On Friday, McIlroy became the first player to reach 13 under in the history of the U.S. Open but gave two shots back at the end of the day. After scrambling for pars to start the third round, he made birdies on No. 5 and No. 9 to get back to the record-setting number.

He wasn't the only one finding birdies all across the soft, vulnerable Blue Course.

Westwood made five birdies and an eagle in a round of 6-under 65, his lowest round in 53 major rounds.