AP News in Brief

June 19, 2011 - 5:14 PM

NATO acknowledges airstrike went astray in Tripoli; Libya says 9 civilians killed

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libya's government said NATO warplanes struck a residential neighborhood in the capital Sunday and killed nine civilians, including two children. Hours later, NATO confirmed one of its airstrikes went astray.

The incident gave supporters of Moammar Gadhafi's regime a new rallying point against the international intervention in Libya's civil war. The foreign minister called for a "global jihad" on the West in response.

Early Sunday morning, journalists based in the Libyan capital were rushed by government officials to the damaged building, which appeared to have been partly under construction. Reporters were later escorted back to the site, where children's toys, teacups and dust-covered mattresses could be seen amid the rubble.

In a statement issued late Sunday at Brussels headquarters, the trans-Atlantic alliance said airstrikes were launched against a military missile site in Tripoli, but "it appears that one weapon did not strike the intended target and that there may have been a weapons system failure which may have caused a number of civilian casualties."

"NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens," said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of the anti-Libya operation.

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Osama bin Laden's interest in kidnapping for ransom a sign of al-Qaida's financial squeeze

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pressured by increased scrutiny of terrorist money sources and strikes aimed at its financiers, al-Qaida's core organization in Pakistan has turned to kidnapping for ransom to offset dwindling cash reserves, according to U.S. officials and information in files retrieved from Osama bin Laden's compound.

Bin Laden's interest in kidnapping as a cash-raiser bolsters accounts that the financial squeeze has staggered al-Qaida, forcing it to search for alternative funding sources. Officials would not detail al-Qaida's role in specific crimes, but the group's affiliates have targeted diplomats, tourists and merchants.

His awareness of al-Qaida's growing use of kidnapping is evidence that even in isolation behind high walls in Abbottabad, Pakistan, bin Laden kept tabs on how his network moved its money. The al-Qaida founder was killed last month by U.S. Navy SEALs.

"There are clearly times for them when money is tight," said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "We've seen that their donors have been less dependable and we're seeing them turning more to kidnapping as a way of keeping the money coming in."

Experts from the CIA's National Counterterrorism Center, the Treasury Department and the FBI and military are trying to learn more from the recovered files about al-Qaida's money sources and the impact of bin Laden's death on the group's financial future. They hope to identify important al-Qaida donors, especially wealthy Persian Gulf figures who dealt with bin Laden dating to his work with Afghan fighters in the campaign against Soviet occupiers in the late 1980s.

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FBI: No explosives found aboard plane in DC after bomb threat made at Ohio ticket counter

WASHINGTON (AP) — No explosives were found aboard a plane that landed in Washington Sunday after someone made a bomb threat at an airport ticket counter in Ohio, an FBI spokesman said.

Andrew Ames said no hazards were found aboard the plane that landed about 1 p.m. at Reagan National Airport. Authorities swept the plane for explosives including the luggage and interviewed the 44 passengers. The person who made the threat at the Dayton airport was taken into custody.

The threat shut down the airport for about 20 minutes. US Airways Flight 2596 was moved away from the gate after landing, the FBI said.

Airport operations were back to normal afternoon, although some US Airways flights were delayed because the affected flight was taken to an area used by the airline, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman Courtney Mickalonis.

The plane was close to Reagan National at the time the threat was received, so officials allowed it to proceed to Washington, FBI spokesman Andrew Ames said.

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As states' tax revenue plunges, many look to online retailers as a way to address budget gaps

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State governments across the country are laying off teachers, closing public libraries and parks, and reducing health care services, but there is one place they could get $23 billion if they could only agree how to do it: Internet retailers such as Amazon.com.

That's enough to pay for the salaries of more than 46,000 teachers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In California, the amount of uncollected taxes from Amazon sales alone is roughly the same amount cut from child welfare services in the current state budget.

But collecting those taxes from major online retailers is difficult.

Internet retailers are required to collect sales tax only when they sell to customers living in a state where they have a physical presence, such as a store or office. When consumers order from out-of-state retailers, they are required under state law to pay the tax. But it's difficult to enforce and rarely happens.

That means under the current system the seller is absolved of responsibility, buyers save 3 percent to 9 percent because they rarely volunteer to pay the sales tax, and the state loses revenue.

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Extremely high winds challenge firefighters trying to protect homes in Arizona, New Mexico

PHOENIX (AP) — Crews battled a pair of wildfires Sunday in the face of extremely high winds that officials feared could drive flames toward small towns in Arizona and New Mexico as firefighters tried to protect threatened homes.

The massive Wallow Fire that has been burning in eastern Arizona for three weeks breached a containment line along Highway 180 on Saturday and the homes of about 200 Luna residents remained under an evacuation order, with forecasts of 40- to 50-mph wind gusts renewing fire threats for the community.

Despite the evacuation order, about half of Luna's residents remained in town. They have been told to stay off the roads so they don't get in the way of fire crews, Catron County Undersheriff Ian Fletcher said. Few people went to a Red Cross shelter set up in Reserve, N.M.

"If the fire comes back around or things change where they have to get out, we still have an egress point, so we will still escort them out of town," Fletcher said. "We're expected high winds this afternoon — we're preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."

The Wallow Fire burning up much of Apache Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona is the largest of several wildfires burning in spots across the southwestern United States.

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Some Methodist pastors flout ban on performing same-sex marriage despite threat of discipline

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A growing number of pastors in the United Methodist Church say they're no longer willing to obey a church rule that prohibits them from officiating at same-sex marriages, despite the potential threat of being disciplined or dismissed from the church.

In some parts of the U.S., Methodist pastors have been marrying same-sex couples or conducting blessing ceremonies for same-sex unions for years with little fanfare and no backlash from the denomination. Calls to overturn the rule have become increasingly vocal in recent weeks, ratcheting up the pressure for the Methodist church to join other mainline Protestant denominations that have become more accepting of openly gay leaders.

While trials of pastors who conduct same-gender ceremonies have only occurred once every several years, the threat is indeed real. The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola in western Wisconsin faces a three-day trial starting Tuesday in Kaukauna on two charges: violating a church prohibition on the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" and marrying a lesbian couple.

The jury for the church trial will be selected from a pool of Wisconsin United Methodist clergy. A total of 13 clergy will be chosen to serve during the trial and penalty phase.

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JC Penney reinvented? Apple exec expected to transform department store experience

NEW YORK (AP) — Imagine the possibilities of J.C. Penney in the future: An iPad enables one shopper to mix and match shirts and slacks without having to undress. A teen sends a mobile photo of a skirt to her father, who pays for it without leaving home by using his smartphone.

Ron Johnson, the man who helped make Apple stores hip, will take over the CEO helm at J.C. Penney from Myron Ullman III in November. Johnson has declined to discuss his plans for the retailer other than to say he wants to "reimagine" the store. But industry watchers say they expect him to borrow from Apple's playbook to completely transform the retailer, increasing Penney's mobile and Web efforts and changing everything from the way customers pay for clothes to how employees are trained.

"Johnson's skill set matches Penney's need set: customer experience, branding and innovation," says Craig R. Johnson, president of retail consultant Customer Growth Partners. "If you can introduce one quarter of Apple's coolness, that will do a lot to make them a mall destination, instead of a mall sidebar."

With Johnson as Penney's CEO, the retailer is in an enviable position as other merchants have struggled to replicate Apple's excitement in its stores. During Johnson's 11 years at Apple as senior vice president of retail, Apple has grown to more than 300 stores in the U.S. and abroad and has become the gold standard among retailers looking to make their stores hip and exciting.

Sales associates are trained to not just hawk products, but to be problem solvers and cheerleaders. For instance, Johnson has been credited for creating the popular Genius Bar, where customers can get hands-on technical support. And when shoppers walk out of the store with a newly-launched product, sales representatives applaud.

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'Big Man' Clarence Clemons remembered in Asbury Park, NJ, shore town where he and Bruce ruled

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (AP) — Scores of fans gathered Sunday at a legendary rock club to mourn the death and celebrate the life and music of saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

The Stone Pony in Asbury Park was the place where Clemons, Bruce Springsteen and other E Street band mates got their musical starts. It opened its doors to a crowd of about 150 people, many adorned in Springsteen T-shirts.

A makeshift vigil was created at the club late Saturday as word spread of Clemons' death from complications of a stroke he had suffered about a week earlier at his home in Singer Island, Fla. By Sunday afternoon, the stage was adorned with Clemons photos.

Fans were lining up to snap pictures and leave flowers to honor Clemons. He was known as the Big Man, a nod to his physical size, stage presence and booming sax notes.

Within hours of Clemons' death on Saturday night, fans slowly began stopping by the club, which was hosting an unrelated act catering to a younger crowd. Flowers, a candle and a handwritten sign saying "RIP Big Man" soon sprouted outside the building, and more items were added throughout the night and on Sunday.

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Amy Winehouse cancels part of European tour after being booed for erratic behavior in Serbia

LONDON (AP) — Amy Winehouse canceled part of her European tour on Sunday, a day after the British singer was heavily booed for being late and displaying erratic behavior on stage during a concert in Serbia.

The concert late Saturday in the Serbian capital of Belgrade kicked off what was to be a 12-date tour of Europe. But Winehouse decided to cancel appearances in Istanbul on Monday and in Athens on Wednesday, according to a statement from publicity company Outside Organization.

Her representatives said it would be "worked out as soon as possible" whether she would attend the rest of her European tour. The next scheduled concert date after Athens is July 8 in Bilbao, Spain. The tour was to end in Bucharest, Romania, on Aug. 15.

Winehouse would like to say sorry to fans expecting to see her in Turkey and Greece, but "feels that this is the right thing to do," the statement said.

"Despite feeling sure that she wanted to fulfill these commitments, she has agreed with management that she cannot perform to the best of her ability and will return home," it added.

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A major title within clear reach, McIlroy leads by 8 at US Open

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Rory McIlroy shot 2-under 34 on the front nine at the U.S. Open on Sunday, making the turn with an eight-stroke lead over Y.E. Yang.

In search of his first major title, McIlroy showed no signs of weakening. He made two birdies and no bogeys to move to 16-under par and maintain the eight-shot lead he held at the start of the day. McIlroy led by as much as 10, but Yang made birdie on the par-5 sixth and ninth holes to pick up two strokes.

Fredrik Jacobson, Lee Westwood and Jason Day were two more shots back at 6 under.

McIlroy blew a four-shot lead on the last day at the Masters in April, but he is rewriting the record book at the U.S. Open and showing no signs of stopping. He is in the running to join Tiger Woods and Willie Smith as double-digit U.S. Open winners. Woods won the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach by 15; Smith won by 11 in 1899.