Sunday, March 27, 2011

A winning ticket purchased in upstate New York had the right numbers in Friday night's Mega Millions lottery, in which last-minute ticket sales increased the jackpot from $312 million to $319 million, according to the New York Lottery.

The winning ticket was sold at Coulson's News Central in Albany, New York. Emanuel Biondi, public employees federation council leader for Housing Community Renewal, told CNN that the winning ticket was purchased by seven IT specialists from his department. He didn't disclose any other details.

If they chose the cash option when buying the ticket, they would receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $202.9 million. That amount reflects all the cash in the Mega Millions pool and is the sixth-largest jackpot in its history, according to New York Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman.

It's also the single largest sole jackpot-winning ticket ever for Mega Millions sold in New York, she said.

Friday night's winning numbers were 22, 24, 31, 52 and 54. The Mega Ball number was 4.

The owners of the winning ticket, who have yet to come forward, will be able to collect the prize money Monday morning in the Schenectady, New York, office, Hapeman said.

Mega Millions is played in 42 states and is the biggest jackpot game in the country, according to the lottery.



A look at the latest developments in political unrest across the Middle East on Sunday:

LIBYA

Rebels seize back the key oil complexes of Ras Lanouf and Brega and push west toward Tripoli, gaining momentum after international airstrikes that tipped the balance away from Moammar Gadhafi's military. The U.S. defense secretary says the air campaign could last months.

SYRIA

Syria's government says unknown gunmen firing from rooftops and prowling the streets of the Mediterranean city of Latakia are to blame for two days of violence that killed 12 people during protests over the weekend. The dead include security forces and residents of the city alike as well as two members of the shadowy "armed elements," the state news agency reports. The identity of the gunmen remains a mystery.

Syrian soldiers in army vehicles deploy in the city.

YEMEN

Islamic militants seize control of a weapons factory, a strategic mountain and a nearby town in the southern province of Abyan, say a witness and security officials. A stalemate between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the protest movement seeking his ouster is causing security to unravel around the fragile country.

Boatloads of illegal African migrants have resumed setting sail from Libya for Italy, authorities said, overwhelming tiny islands and towns in southern Italy already struggling to host thousands fleeing unrest in Tunisia.

Before dawn Sunday, Italian coast guard vessels escorted a boat crowded with 284 Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians to shore, the first boat to resume the long-established routes of smugglers' boats toward Italy from Libya's long coastline.

Those aboard included an Ethiopian woman who had given birth only a few hours earlier. She and the baby were flown by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Lampedusa, where doctors said mother and child were fine. Doctors said another woman on the boat, whose passengers included several babies or toddlers, suffered a miscarriage.

Since Lampedusa, a tiny island off Sicily, is already straining from sheltering the thousands of Tunisians, who have taken to sleeping on docks and fields after housing space ran out, the boat from Libya was diverted to Linosa, an even tinier island in the Pelagie archipelago south of Sicily.

Authorities said at least two other boats coming from Libya with hundreds of migrants aboard were spotted by fishing boats or coast guard air and sea patrolling the southern Mediterranean Sunday.


The nightly voyages of clandestine migrants had slackened off in the past year or so, after Rome signed a treaty with Tripoli providing generous aid to Libya in exchange for a crackdown on the smugglers. The smugglers' runs dropped off even further with the outbreak of fighting between forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime and insurgents and the subsequent U.S. and European nighttime air assaults on Libyan military targets. But they now appear to be restarting.

President Bashar al-Assad, facing the gravest crisis in his 11-year rule, deployed the army for the first time in nearly two weeks of protests after 12 people were killed in the northwest port of Latakia.

Assad, 45, who has been silent since protests started sweeping Syria, is expected to address the nation shortly, officials said, without giving further details.

Dozens have died in pro-democracy protests in the southern city of Deraa and nearby Sanamein, Latakia, Damascus and other towns over the last week. The government blames armed groups for setting off the bloodshed.

Soldiers took to the streets of Latakia on Saturday night to help secret police and security forces control the port, residents said. The army also beefed up checkpoints around Deraa, where Human Rights Watch says 61 people have died.

"There is a feeling in Latakia that the presence of disciplined troops is necessary to keep order," one resident told Reuters. "We do not want looting."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday the United States deplored the bloodshed in Syria but a Libya-style intervention should not be expected.

The unrest in Syria came to a head after police detained more than a dozen schoolchildren for scrawling graffiti inspired by pro-democracy protests across the Arab world. People marched, chanting: "The people want the downfall of the regime."

Such demonstrations would have been unthinkable a couple of months ago in this most tightly controlled of Arab countries.

An editor of a Somali radio station says the government has detained two journalists from his organization for allegedly reporting inaccuracies of fighting between government forces and Islamist insurgents.

Mohamed Bashir Hashi, the deputy editor of the independently owned Radio Shabelle, said Sunday that the stations editor Abdi Mohamed Ismael and director Abdirashid Omar Qase are being detained at the Central Investigations Department by intelligence officers.

Bashir said the two had been summoned by Somali intelligence to be questioned on a report aired by the station last week that heavy fighting between insurgents and government prevented Somalia's president from touring the front line to speaks to the soldiers. Somalia has been mired in war since 1991.



Neymar scored a goal in each half Sunday to halt Brazil's losing streak with a 2-0 exhibition win over Scotland in London.

The Santos striker rounded off a flowing move three minutes before halftime and struck his second from the spot in the 77th minute after winning a penalty in a tangle of legs with Scotland midfielder Charlie Adam.

Brazil lost its last two friendlies 1-0 but its under-strength lineup was mostly untroubled by Scotland at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium and could have won by more.

Neymar hit the bar at the start of the second half and goalkeeper Allan McGregor made a double save moments later. Substitute Jonas also blazed a shot over the bar when unmarked in injury time.

Brazil has now outscored Scotland 16-3 and remains undefeated in 10 meetings. Robinho, Ronaldinho, Kaka and Alexandre Pato were all left out of the team due to injury or poor form.

Although the Scots could not eke out any clear chances against a defense built on Lucio, Thiago Silva and Daniel Alves, the physicality of Scott Brown and guile of Adam unsettled Brazil's midfield for periods of the second half.

Jadson, playing in a withdrawn role on the right of Brazil's attack, hit a 20th-minute shot with the outside of his right shoe but the effort was saved low by McGregor. Neymar slipped as he chased the rebound and the chance passed.

It would make sense for Portugal to seek aid from the European Union bailout fund, although such a decision will be caught up in domestic politics, European Central Bank Governing Board member Ewald Nowotny said.

Portugal's Premier Jose Socrates submitted his resignation last week after parliament rejected austerity measures proposed by his minority Socialist government to try to avert a bailout.

"Today we see that unfortunately the domestic political situation in Portugal has clearly worsened," Nowotny told Austrian broadcaster ORF on Sunday.

"The head of the government has stepped down. Portugal certainly has a problem in terms of competitiveness," he said, noting Lisbon needs to refinance billions of euros of debt.

"From a purely economic point of view one could probably recommend it," he said, when asked if Portugal should seek an EU bailout. "But as you know economic policy is also politics and in Portugal it's very much about domestic politics."

Portugal is widely expected to be the next euro zone domino to fall after Ireland and Greece, but a decision on what it might do may take weeks, if not months, because of the upheaval.

ORF said Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker had estimated Portugal could need up to 75 billion euros in aid. Asked whether he agreed, Nowotny said he could not give an estimate but that this was "no completely unrealistic sum."

HEADING BACK TO "NORMAL"

On Greece, Nowotny said there were a range of risks to its recovery which were being reflected in the markets.

Self-insured businesses looking to cut out the middleman when it comes to health care might want to check out Open Health Market, an online system designed to connect them directly with medical providers eager to compete for more patients.

The website, created by a New Hampshire lawyer and several other partners, works something like a confidential matchmaking service: employers submit requests for proposals on various medical services and procedures. Health care providers then submit competing bids. The site's creators don't get involved in structuring any deals; they just get the two sides together.

Nearly 60 percent of insured workers in the United States are covered by employer-funded plans. Lawyer Don Crandlemire says those companies represent an enormous, untapped power to change a health care system that rewards volume over value.


Libyan rebels seized back two key oil complexes and pushed west toward Tripoli on Sunday, gaining momentum after international airstrikes that tipped the balance away from Moammar Gadhafi's military. The U.S. defense secretary said the air campaign could last months.

The coastal complexes at Ras Lanouf and Brega were responsible for a large chunk of Libya's 1.5 million barrels of daily exports, which have all but stopped since the uprising that began Feb. 15 and was inspired by the toppling of governments in Tunisia and Egypt. The top financial official for the Libyan rebels said Qatar had agreed to market oil for the opposition - but at this point, it's not clear how the deal would work or whether there's even any oil. The foreign workers with the expertise fled the country when fighting began.

On the eastern approach of Ras Lanouf, airstrikes apparently hit three empty tank transporters and left two buildings that appeared to be sleeping quarters pockmarked with shrapnel.

"There was no resistance. Gadhafi's forces just melted away," said Suleiman Ibrahim, a 31-year-old volunteer, sitting in the back of a pickup truck on the road between the two towns. "This couldn't have happened without NATO. They gave us big support."

The U.N. Security Council authorized the operation to protect Libyan civilians after Gadhafi launched attacks against anti-government protesters who demanded that he step down after 42 years in power. The airstrikes have crippled Gadhafi's forces, allowing rebels to advance less than two weeks after they had seemed at the brink of defeat.

Health and safety concerns about Japanese nuclear power plants after this month's earthquake and tsunami have Lindsey Schiller wondering what could happen across the street from her own house in her Philadelphia suburb.

Schiller, who is a registered nurse, has lived for nearly a decade with her husband and two children in the shadow of the Limerick Generating Station nuclear energy facility in Pottstown, about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Since long before the Japanese disaster, Schiller's unique neighborhood landmark has been the source of family jokes.

"We kid around when we get really big flowers ... we're under the power plant, and I kid around that I glow," laughed Schiller as she held her baby Adam in sight of the plant's giant twin cooling towers.

In all seriousness, she said, all the Schillers are happy and healthy. "We have nothing going on different" from anyone else despite their nuclear neighbors.

But Schiller did express concern when she learned that new scientific data show a slightly higher risk that the plant may be damaged during a powerful earthquake, according to a report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"Should something occur, they would warn us," Schiller said. "I kind of figure we're all in the same boat."

The military chiefs of Uganda and Burundi say that their countries are in the process of deploying 4,000 additional troops to the African Union's peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Burundi's Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare and Uganda's Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said in a statement released late Saturday that each country has committed to give 2,000 additional soldiers and Burundi has already deployed a battalion.

They say that the current force of 8,000 AU peacekeepers supporting Somalia's weak-U.N. backed government was making progress in reoccupying territories held by the Islamist insurgents and is in control of 60 percent of the capital, Mogadishu.

Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991 since warlord topple longtime dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other
The Taliban claimed Sunday that it kidnapped 50 Afghan policemen in northeastern Afghanistan - part of the insurgents' murder and intimidation campaign against anyone affiliated with the U.S.-backed government.

Also Sunday, a NATO service member was killed in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said. No details were released about the death, which raised to 94 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

Militants ambushed the policemen Saturday afternoon after being tipped off that they would be traveling in Kunar province, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement to reporters. The policemen from Nuristan province had just finished their training to join the Afghan National Police, he said.

Kunar provincial police chief Gen. Khalilullah Ziayi confirmed that militants stopped four vehicles in Chapa Dara district and captured several dozen men. He did not know the exact number and said it was unclear whether all were members of the Afghan National Police or prospective recruits.

In the past, the Taliban have apprehended other policemen in Nuristan and other parts of the country, but then released them if they promised not to work with the police or the Afghan government, Mujahid said. This time, top Taliban military commanders in eastern Afghanistan will decide the policemen's fate after assessing the situation on the ground, he said.

First, I wanted to find out if Lyndon Sanders was still alive. Second, I wanted to find out if he was feeling triumphant.

The answers: Yes, and yes.

"Every time I hear about a hotel that doesn't allow any smoking at all, my heart beats a little bit better," he said.

Sanders, 82, has moved to Fredericksburg, Texas, but 30 years ago, when he had his world-changing idea, he lived in Dallas. That was where he decided he would build and operate a new kind of hotel.

He planned to put it up right on the Carpenter Freeway, midway between the big DFW airport and the main Dallas business district. The name of the place said it all:

The Non-Smokers Inn.

"Putting smokers and nonsmokers together is like putting tomcats and bulldogs together," Sanders told me at the time. He said that at another hotel he owned, he had noticed something every time he'd had to steam-clean a room where smokers had stayed:

"The smoke stinks up everything. We have to take the draperies down, shampoo the carpet, strip the beds completely down -- even the plastic shower curtains. You should see the yellow nicotine stains on the cleaning rags. I'll tell you, it would gag a buzzard."

Sanders did indeed open the Non-Smokers Inn -- we'll return to that in a moment -- but the reason I was trying to find him last week was a bit of news that is being reported in 2011.

A venomous Egyptian cobra went missing from New York's Bronx Zoo, prompting the closure of the zoo's reptile house until further notice.

Staff was alerted Saturday that the adolescent Egyptian cobra was missing from an off-exhibit enclosure, according to a statement from the zoo. Staff members closed and secured the reptile house.

Zoo officials said they are confident the 20-inch-long snake is contained in a nonpublic, isolated area of the building.

"Based on our knowledge of the natural history and behavior of snakes, we know they seek closed-in spaces and are not comfortable in open areas," the zoo statement said.

The Egyptian cobra is most commonly found in North Africa. Its venom is so deadly that it can kill a full-grown elephant in three hours -- or a person in about 15 minutes, according to wildlife experts. The venom destroys nerve tissue and causes paralysis and death due to respiratory failure.

Islamic militants seized control of a weapons factory, a strategic mountain and a nearby town in the southern Yemen province of Abyan Sunday, said a witness and security officials, as a political stalemate in the capital causes security to unravel around the country.

The fragile nation has been rocked by weeks of mass protests against the long-serving president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who refuses to step down.

Saleh's fate is of deep concern to the U.S. as he is a key ally in the fight against al-Qaida, but with his attention on massive anti-government protests in the capital, security has declined in the provinces.

Residents of the southern Abyan province said police reduced their presence in towns weeks ago. Elsewhere, residents have pushed out police and soldiers and set up their own local militias for self defense.

In the areas they took over, the militants set up checkpoints around the small factory and in the town of al-Husn, patrolling the streets and searching cars, said resident Wahib Abdul-Qader.

They also seized control of a nearby Khanfar mountain that holds a radio station and a presidential guest house, said Ali Dahmash, an expert on Islamic militant groups who lives nearby.

Residents in the nearby town of Jaar, which was seized by the militants on Saturday, said they heard gunfire, but the scope of the battle wasn't immediately clear.

The area lies close to the southern port town of Aden.

In another province of Yemen, security officials say suspected al-Qaida gunmen killed seven soldiers and wounded seven others in an attack on a military post. The attack took place at Ubaida area in the central Marib province, another province where the militant group is active and only under nominal government control.

Scotland's Martin Laird holds a two-stroke lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, after carding a two-under-par third round 70.

The 28-year-old, who led by one stroke after 36 holes, lies on an 11-under-par total of 205, clear of Spencer Levin (71), with Steve Marino (71) and Bubba Watson (68) another two strokes adrift.

Laird let by four strokes at one stage, but come the 16th hole Levin had moved alongside his rival at the top of the leaderboard.

However, the American found water to bogey the hole while Laird made birdie to extend his advantage.

"I know tomorrow I will have to concentrate hard and hopefully I'll wind up on top," Laird, who is chasing only his second PGA Tour title, told the PGA Tour website.

Meanwhile, six-time Bay Hill winner Tiger Woods had a round to forget. The former world number one suffered a mixed bag of scores, including an eagle and a double bogey, on his way to a two-over-par 74.

Woods is now 10 shots off the pace, although he believes he still has a chance of being in the shake-up on Sunday with the right playing conditions.

Pakistan's president has canceled the remaining sentence of an Indian man imprisoned in Pakistan for the last 27 years.

President Asif Ali Zardari's decision Sunday came after India invited him and the Pakistani prime minister to watch a World Cup semifinal between their respective cricket teams being played in India.

Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani accepted the invitation Sunday.

Later, the government said Zardari had remitted Gopal Das' prison sentence on humanitarian grounds in response to an unusual appeal by the Indian Supreme Court.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Das was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1987 and was originally slated to be released by the end of this year. He declined to specify the crime, but Indian media reports said he was convicted of spying.




No stranger to controversy, U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has come under fire for offering a push-up bikini top to young girls.

Its "Ashley" bikini -- described as "padded" and a "push-up" -- was posted on the Abercrombie Kids website earlier this week.

The company declined to comment Saturday but noted it has since updated the description of its bikini online.

The product is now being offered as a padded, "striped triangle." Bottoms are sold separately.

"How is this okay for a second-grader?" asked Rebecca Odes in a recent post on the Babble parenting blog.

If there's any place where tea partiers in Congress might hesitate to call for cuts in Social Security and Medicare to shrink the federal debt, Florida's retirement havens should top the list.

Even here, however, Republican lawmakers are racing toward a spending showdown with Democrats exhibiting little nervousness about deep cuts, including those that eventually would hit benefit programs long left alone by politicians.

In fact, many GOP freshmen seem bolder than ever. It's Democrats, especially in the Senate, who are trying to figure out how to handle the popular but costly retirement programs. Congress, meanwhile, is rapidly nearing critical decisions on the budget and the nation's debt ceiling.

In southeast Florida last week, first-term GOP Rep. Allen West, a tea party favorite, called for changes that some might consider radical: abolish the Internal Revenue Service and federal income tax; retain tax cuts for billionaires so they won't shut down their charities; stop extending unemployment benefits that "reward bad behavior" by discouraging people from seeking new jobs.

As for entitlements, West told a friendly town hall gathering in Coral Springs, if Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid "are left on autopilot, if we don't institute some type of reform, they'll subsume our entire GDP" by 2040 or 2050. GDP, or gross domestic product, measures the value of all goods and services produced in the United States.

Social Security, the largest federal program, mainly benefits retirees. Medicare provides health coverage for older people. Medicaid helps those with low incomes. Combined, the three consume about 40 percent of the budget. Their costs are growing rapidly. Social Security and Medicare benefits now exceed the payroll taxes that fund them.

West, who's likely to draw serious Democratic opposition next year, showed scant interest in edging toward the center on anything. He didn't take issue with the man who said congressional Democrats "have joined with the radical Islamists," or with the woman who said President Barack Obama "certainly doesn't support Israel."

In Greenville, S.C., a different Republican freshman with tea party ties, Rep. Trey Gowdy, also suggested during last week's congressional break a paring back of social programs.

According to a Greenville News account posted on his website, Gowdy "described a recent school classroom where most children indicated they think it's the government's job to provide health care, Social Security and education. 'We've got to do something about the sense of entitlement,' Gowdy said."

A pilot performing stunts in an east Florida air show died in a fiery crash Saturday when the Russian military plane he was flying broke from formation and plummeted to the ground, officials said.

No one else was injured, the spokesman said.

The incident occured at around 4:30 p.m. E.T. in Bunnell, Florida, at Flagler County Airport, according to Carl Laundrie, the county's communications director. Bunnell is about 25 miles north of Daytona Beach.

The pilot, William E. Walker, 58, of Cookeville, Tennessee,was performing at the 2nd Annual Wings over Flagler air show when the crash occurred, according to a media release from the Florida Highway Patrol. The release stated that the crash was not alcohol related.

"During the aerial demonstration, the pilot lost control of the aircraft by unknown reasons," the highway patrol release stated.

The pilot crashed about a half-mile from spectators attending the event, causing the 1983 Aerostar YAK-52 Russian military trainer aircraft he was flying to burst into flames, according to the highway patrol. The pilot was pronounced dead at the scene, the release stated.

The fire was quickly extinguished and the remainder of the Saturday air show was canceled, Laundrie said.

Event organizers plan to resume the show on Sunday, Laundrie said.

Specialists with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were headed to the crash site Saturday to open an investigation of the crash, according to the highway patrol.


Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is placing bodies of people his regime has killed at the sites of some missile strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, according to intelligence reports cited by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Gates said he was unaware of coalition attacks causing civilian casualties.

"The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for," Gates said in the interview conducted Saturday. "But we do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked."

Asked how often it has happened, Gates replied: "We have a number of reports of that."

An excerpt of the interview was posted on the CBS News website.

A senior defense official told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. military has information gleaned from intelligence sources that Gadhafi has tasked his aides to search morgues and hospitals for dead bodies to be posed as civilian casualties.

NATO military planners are drafting rules of engagement for coalition forces to follow once the alliance takes over the Libyan mission. A key question is how robust the NATO-led forces will be in attacking Libyan ground forces to protect civilians.

Gadhafi has claimed that coalition missile attacks have killed civilians, and some NATO members and Arab nations responded with concern that the Libyan military mission might exceed the intent of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized it.

Officials say annual exercises involving thousands of U.S. and Filipino troops will be held next month as scheduled but may be scaled back because of U.S. military relief operations in Japan following its massive earthquake and tsunami.

Philippine military spokesman Maj. Enrico Ileto said Sunday that humanitarian missions such as school construction during the April 5-15 Balikatan exercises will proceed as planned but some field maneuvers may be affected by the U.S. military's relief activities in Japan.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Thompson said some "transportation assets" for the exercises can possibly be shifted to Japan. Details of other possible changes are to be announced later.

About 8,000 U.S. and Filipino troops are to join the exercises.



State media say a battery factory manager was arrested after 168 villagers living near the manufacturer in eastern China suffered lead poisoning.

The official Xinhua News Agency says Ying Jianguo, general manager of Taizhou Suqi Storage Battery Co. Ltd., was taken into custody Friday in the city of Taizhou in Zhejiang province.

Three government officials have been suspended for failing to properly supervise the region. One official was the deputy chief of the district environmental protection office.

Xinhua on Friday reported 139 cases of lead poisoning near the plant. More testing reported Sunday found at least 168 villagers, including 53 children, had high lead levels.

Lead poisoning can damage the nervous, muscular and reproductive systems. Children are particularly at risk.


Millions of retired and disabled people in the United States had better brace for another year with no increase in Social Security payments.

The government is projecting a slight cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year, the first increase since 2009. But for most beneficiaries, rising Medicare premiums threaten to wipe out any increase in payments, leaving them without a raise for a third straight year.

About 45 million people - one in seven in the country - receive both Medicare and Social Security. By law, beneficiaries have their Medicare Part B premiums, which cover doctor visits, deducted from their Social Security payments each month.

When Medicare premiums rise more than Social Security payments, millions of people living on fixed incomes don't get raises. On the other hand, most don't get pay cuts, either, because a hold-harmless provision prevents higher Part B premiums from reducing Social Security payments for most people.

David Certner of AARP estimates that as many as three-fourths of beneficiaries will have their entire Social Security increase swallowed by rising Medicare premiums next year.

It's a tough development for retirees who lost much of their savings when the stock market collapsed, who lost value in their homes when the housing market crashed and who can't find work because the job market is weak or they are in poor health.

"You just don't have the words to say how much this impacts a person," said Joyce Trebilcock, a retired legal secretary from Belle, Mo., a small town about 100 miles west of St. Louis.

When he was younger, the carpenter picked a spot just off the Shikaori River and built his house. Toshio Onodera chiseled the joints for the wooden roof beams and cemented the tiles onto the front porch. He mounted ivory-colored siding on the outside walls.

His parents moved in with him, and so did his mother's mother. He is the oldest son, and that is what tradition dictates here. He lived in the house for nearly 30 years. Then suddenly, on March 11, it was no more - destroyed by the tsunami, a three-story wall of black water that followed the course of the river and all but obliterated his neighborhood.

Now he sleeps on the floor of a crowded junior high school gymnasium, next to his 83-year-old mother and alongside hundreds of neighbors, nearly all of them long past retirement. It's a community living beneath basketball hoops, adrift on a sea of acrylic blankets.

At 57, Onodera is one of the gym's youngest residents. If he insists Kesennuma will emerge from the wreckage of the tsunami, he also knows it faces an immense demographic challenge.

"This is a town of old people," he says as he stands on the foundation of his house on a cold winter morning, the smashed remains of someone else's roof on the ground next to him. "Young people just don't want to live in Kesennuma anymore."

The beams he had chiseled were 75 feet (25 meters) away, tangled with wreckage from across the neighborhood. The air stank of mold and mud and fuel that had leaked from the nearby port. He pointed to the remnants of house after house where the residents are either dead or missing.

"No one will come back here," he predicts of his old neighborhood, saying he will stay in town but move further inland.

Japan is starting to confront years of post-tsunami reconstruction along its northeastern coast, grappling with an estimated 18,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands left homeless, entire villages destroyed and a nuclear crisis 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of here that could still turn catastrophic. For the towns and farming villages - places like Kesennuma that have been battered for decades by economic decline, an exodus of young people and a rapidly aging population - the challenge could prove impossible.

"The prospects for the future are pretty grim for these communities, because of the high percentage of aged people," says Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Tokyo campus.

Elsewhere in Japan, people from this part of the country have long been known as "gaman zuyoi" - roughly, "tough people." The winters are brutally cold, especially along the coast. The soil is rocky and hard to farm. Famines were once commonplace. Such an environment bred resilience, tight-knit communities and a fierce attachment to traditional family life among the people who remained.

NATO's top decision-making body meets Sunday to expand its its enforcement of the no-fly zone to include air strikes against Libyan ground targets.

After nearly a week of deliberations, the North Atlantic Council agreed on Friday that the alliance should take on the no-fly zone in accordance with the U.N. Security Council's mandate. But the air strikes intended to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces were temporarily left to the U.S.-led international force.

Washington has been eager to hand off responsibility to NATO, which is expected to take command Sunday of the no-fly zone mission.

A Canadian three-star general, Charles Bouchard, will take charge. He reports to an American admiral, Samuel Locklear, commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
Authorities planned to close streets expecting a large turnout Sunday afternoon for the funeral of a slain Georgia police officer whose shooting death prompted a wide manhunt for a suspect who allegedly held hostages before surrendering.

Jamie Hood, 33, was being held without bond, charged with Tuesday's fatal shooting of Athens-Clarke County police officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian and the wounding of another officer, authorities said.

Hood was arrested late Friday after authorities say he allegedly held nine hostages.

As Hood was being taken into custody late Friday, he told WXIA-TV reporter Doug Richards in a brief videotaped interview, "I regret killing that officer." The NBC affiliate in Atlanta aired the interview Saturday night.

When Richards asked him what he meant, a handcuffed Hood said on tape, "That officer. That innocent officer. I regret that ..." Asked for more details, Hood said, "You know, they killed my brother. They were going to kill me."

Hood's brother was killed by an Athens police officer in 2001 while Hood was serving a prison sentence for armed robbery.

Athens, the community that's home to the University of Georgia, was convulsed by the shootings last Tuesday about three miles from that campus. Local news reports have said Sunday's funeral and procession to a cemetery burial could draw thousands.

Christian, 34, was an 8-year veteran of the Athens police department, married and with two young children.

Police announced special parking and street closing plans starting at 11 a.m., about two hours before the planned service.

Police had been searching for Hood since Tuesday, when Christian was shot and killed.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel opened his Formula One title defense by driving a flawless race, outpacing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to win the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Starting from the pole, Vettel maintained his lead after the first turn and had already opened a gap of more than 2 seconds over Hamilton following the first lap and the German's lead was never seriously threatened.

Vettel, who employed a two-stop strategy on the new Pirelli tires, made his first pit stop to change to softer rubber in the 14th lap, emerging in third place ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button. He regained the lead two laps later when Hamilton made a tire change and never looked back, winning by more than 22 seconds.

"Very cool," he radioed to his team after taking the checkered flag. "Excellent car. Excellent stops."

The 23-year-old Vettel became the youngest F1 champion last year, finishing third in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP to edge Fernando Alonso by four points.

"The car was quick but also reliable and that is the key," Vettel said. "It's the first time I have finished the Australian GP as well, so I am very, very happy."

"With Lewis dropping off later in the race, there was no pressure, so I was able to control it," Vettel added.

Renault's Vitaly Petrov was a surprise third, claiming his first-ever podium finish with a strong showing.

Eight million Germans are voting in a closely watched state election that could see Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party lose power in southern Baden-Wuerttemberg for the first time in almost six decades.

Recent polls suggest Merkel's Christian Democrats are poised to lose Sunday's ballot by a narrow margin, with the opposition Social Democrats and Greens scoring about 24 percent each and forming a coalition government in the state.

The Christian Democrats are forecast to secure about 38 percent of the vote, with their current coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, just 5 percent.

Merkel's party has held power in the region around Stuttgart - one of Germany's industrial powerhouses that is home to companies such as Daimler AG - since 1953.
Japanese officials reported a huge jump in radioactivity - levels 10 million times the norm - in water in one reactor unit at a tsunami-damaged nuclear plant Sunday, forcing workers to evacuate and again delaying efforts to control the leaking complex.

Radiation in the air, meanwhile, measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour - four times the limit deemed safe by the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita said.

Word of the startling jump in radioactivity in Unit 2 came as TEPCO struggled to pump contaminated water from four troubled reactor units at the overheated Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo. The reading was so high that the worker measuring the levels fled before taking a second reading, officials said.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had warned Saturday that radioactivity inside the units was rising quickly and that extracting the radioactive water was a priority.

The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water in several units at the six-unit complex has been a major setback in the urgent mission to get the plant's crucial cooling system back up and operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano acknowledged emergency workers still needed to figure out the source of the radioactive water, but insisted the situation had stabilized - at least partially.

"We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse," Edano told reporters Sunday evening. "But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we've expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we'll continue to repair the damage."

The magnitude-9 quake off Japan's northeast coast on March 11 triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant, complicating a humanitarian disaster that has killed well over 10,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Israeli aircraft struck a Palestinian rocket squad in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing two militants as the military prepared to activate a new defense system to shoot down incoming rockets.

Islamic Jihad, a militant group that frequently attacks Israel, confirmed two members were killed in the airstrike, while a third was critically wounded. The group did not specify whether they were in the process of launching rockets.

Gaza militants, including Islamic Jihad and the territory's Hamas rulers, had said over the weekend that they would halt their fire if Israel did. It was not clear whether they were reneging on that pledge or whether the air strike hit a rogue group of militants ignoring the cease-fire overture.

A spokesman for Gaza's Hamas-run interior ministry, Ihab Ghussein, accused Israel of seeking to perpetuate the violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had "no interest" in escalating things.

"But we won't hesitate to employ the might of the military against those who would attack our citizens," Netanyahu added in remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Weeks of stepped-up rocket and mortar attacks have drawn fears of renewed war and led to new calls in Israel for the military to deploy the $200 million Iron Dome anti-rocket system.

The Israeli military said the system should begin operating on Sunday near Beersheba, southern Israel's largest city. A second anti-missile battery will be deployed in another large southern city, Ashdod, the military added, without specifying an exact date.

More than 10,000 Indonesians have rallied peacefully to support pro-democracy movements in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.

The crowd, organized by an Islamic political party, expressed opposition to the international air strikes that have checked Libya's military and helped rebels gain control of key towns. But they also called for the immediate resignation of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and the protection of civilians.

Justice and Prosperity Party leader Hidayat Nur Wahid told the crowd Sunday the Gadhafi dictatorship must be ousted to stop a humanitarian tragedy.

Indonesia's own "people power" revolt toppled long-ruling dictator and Washington ally Gen. Suharto in 1998.
Technicians worked to resolve a computer problem that prompted Alaska Airlines and its Horizon Air affiliate to cancel 152 flights, affecting at least 12,000 customers, officials said.

The presidents of both airlines said in a joint video statement on YouTube that Saturday's problem was caused by the failure of a system used for flight planning.

"A transformer blew and that took down the central computer system for both Alaska and Horizon," Alaska President Brad Tilden said during the two-minute statement released late in the afternoon.

A total of 152 flight were canceled, representing about 18 percent of the airlines' combined schedule, company spokesman Paul McElroy said late Saturday night. He said at least 12,000 customers were affected.

Other flights were delayed, and customers had trouble getting flight-status updates on the airlines' website because of the outage, McElroy said.

Both Tilden and Horizon President Glen Johnson apologized for the disruption. Johnson said stranded passengers would be rebooked on later planes or put on other airlines. The company said will not be charged a flight-change fee.

McElroy said the airlines worked on the problem throughout the day. Crews partially restored the system, but held off on the work needed for a full restoration until later in the evening when the flight load was lower, McElroy said.

"At this point, we hope that our operations will be normal" Sunday morning, he told the Associated Press.