Monday, April 4, 2011

Obama's announcement, made through an email and video sent to supporters, set in motion a plan to tap donors and raise as much as $1 billion, which would shatter the $750 million campaign finance record he set in 2008.

Five months after his Democrats were routed by Republicans in November congressional elections, Obama looks in fairly good shape for re-election when paired against any of a group of potential Republican challengers.

It is early yet. The economic recovery has picked up pace in recent weeks but could be slowed by rising gasoline prices or any number of unpredictable events in the next 18 months, such as an unexpected expansion of the Libya conflict.

The stubbornly high jobless rate was the leading factor in Republican victories last November and Americans weigh the state of their pocketbooks far more than anything else when they vote. The jobless rate has dropped a full percentage point to 8.8 percent in the last five months.

"If the economy does chug along the way it is now a lot of people may be more comfortable going with Obama," said Peverill Squire, a political science professor at the University of Missouri.

Obama urged supporters in a phone call on Monday evening to work to preserve his administration's policy initiatives, and he promised to work on issues such as energy and immigration reform over the next year.

"We can't go backwards," he said. "We have to preserve the progress that we've made and take it to the next level, and that means that we're going to have to mobilize."

Obama became the first black U.S. president in 2009, and scored big legislative victories when Congress approved reforms of healthcare and financial regulation laws last year. But the economy has been slow to recover from recession despite a stimulus package of more than $800 billion.

Obama's path to re-election will depend greatly on how he fares with independent voters, who were crucial to his 2008 victory but who abandoned Democrats last November.

The president has adopted a more centrist tone in recent months in response to that midterm election loss, emphasizing his desire to work with both Democrats and Republicans.

While the president is publicly trying to distance himself from politicking, his every move now will be viewed through a re-election prism, such as two trips he is taking this week to states that he won in 2008 and will need in 2012: Pennsylvania and Indiana.

Obama said in an email to supporters that he was filing papers to start his re-election bid in a formal way.

"So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today," he said in the email.


He has been sounding the themes of his campaign in fund-raising speeches, telling Democratic loyalists, "the promise that we made to the American people has been kept. But we aren't finished. We've got more work to do."

Republicans acknowledge it will be a difficult task to defeat an incumbent Democratic president. Only two incumbents have been defeated in the last 30 years -- Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

"Obama's the favorite, but 18 months in advance, you'd be foolish to call anybody a lock," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia.

Several Republicans are willing to try, including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, both of whom are planning campaigns.

Reacting to Obama's announcement, Pawlenty released a 35-second video of his own highlighting high unemployment, weakness in the housing market and surging federal debt.

"How can America win the future, when we're losing the present?" Pawlenty asks in the video. "In order for America to take a new direction, it's going to take a new president."

The Republican field is off to a slow start as potential candidates work quietly to build networks of donors and supporters and visit early voting states. By holding off on campaign announcements, they are saving money that will be needed in the months ahead.

Early polls show Obama leading potential Republican rivals. The first scheduled debate of the Republican nominating race was postponed last week from May until September because of a lack of candidates.

Events taking place now in Washington may play a role in the campaign battle to come. Republicans elected on pledges to cut government spending are attempting significant reductions that Democrats oppose.

If the two parties cannot find common ground, it could force a government shutdown that the White House says could hurt the nascent economic recovery.
Many Afghans do not realize that US pastor Terry Jones, who held a Quran burning last month, heads a small church whose beliefs are not widely shared, thus fueling anti-foreigner sentiment that benefits the Taliban.

An Afghan protestor (r.) hits the burning effigy of the American pastor, Terry Jones during a demonstration in Shinwar, Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, April. 4. Protests erupted in Afghanistan again Monday against a Florida pastor's burning of the Quran, making four straight days of demonstrations some deadly against the destruction of Islam's holy book in a country struggling to beat back an insurgency led by Taliban religious extremists.
Rahmat Gul/AP

The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S. will be referred to the Defense Department for trial, three sources familiar with the case told Fox News on Monday.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2006, after being captured in Pakistan in 2003, and five alleged Sept. 11 co-conspirators will face prosecution by a military commission in Guantanamo, a Justice Department official said.

A formal announcement is expected by Attorney General Eric Holder later in the day. The decision is a turn-around after Holder said in November 2009 that he had decided the conspirators -- Mohammed, Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi -- should be prosecuted in civilian court.

At the time, President Obama said he left the decision to Holder. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the decision to reverse himself remained with Holder, but he didn't want to get ahead of the announcement.

"The president's primary concern here is that the perpetrators ... of that terrible attack on the American people be brought to justice as swiftly as possible and as fairly as possible," he said.

Debra Burlingame, head of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, said the group is "relieved" Obama "abandoned his plan" to bring the conspirators to U.S. soil.

"We are grateful to the president for reversing his decision, conveyed to the families just last month, to go forward with civilian trials and seek repeal of congressional legislation that stripped funding for that effort," said Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was forced into the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

"We have great confidence in the military commissions legal framework which is fair, lawful, effective and consistent with our tradition and values as a nation," she said. 

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer gives his Keynote speech
at the Consumer Electronics Show, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 in Las Vegas.
Haven't upgraded to Windows 7 yet? Brace yourself: Work on Windows 8 is well under way.

A pre-release version of Microsoft's next operating system -- which isn't officially scheduled to launch until 2012 -- reportedly leaked onto the Internet over the weekend, leading to an explosion of speculation among Microsoft watchers about what new versions and features the company may be developing.

Chief among the features pinpointed is the widespread implementation of the Ribbon interface, a dynamic, icon-filled replacement for traditional menus unveiled with Microsoft Office 2007. Though controversial, the interface garnered rave reviews and became a love-it-or-leave-it reason to upgrade to the latest productivity suite.

The leaked Windows 8 screenshots suggest Microsoft intends to add the Ribbon interface to the basic operating system itself, wrote enthusiasts Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott.

"In Windows 8, Ribbon usage is accelerating again, and Microsoft’s next major OS will include this UI in the most visible of all possible places, Windows Explorer," the pair blogged on the site Within Windows. They called the new interface "only half-finished and, frankly, of dubious value," arguing that the inconsistent implementation of the new look and feel suggest it is controversial within Microsoft, as well.

Other notable features include a sync functionality built into the operating system and new logon and user switching functions, enthusiasts wrote. But the biggest change will be under the hood; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced in January that the next version of the operating system will support the chips that power cell phones and tablets, not just the traditional Intel and AMD chips that power computers.

"Whatever device you use, now or in the future, Windows will be there," Ballmer said.

Police arrested a second accused of ‘men eater’ here in Bhakkar on Monday.
The police has arrested four accused on a tip in Bhakkar, who were used to eat dead bodies. Police said that the investigation is underway.

On Sunday, Darya Khan Police had raided a house in Union Council Kahawar Kalan in Bhakkar and arrested a 3-member family including a woman while one of them succeed to flee from the site.
A leg-broken dead body of 19 years old girl and a big bowl having curry was also recovered from the house.

The arrested accused confessed that they are used to eat human dead bodies and dead dogs. Adding that they dig graves and bring out bodies who have buried in the graveyard.

Attorney General Eric Holder will announce Monday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other alleged 9/11 terrorists will be tried before military tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, according to two U.S. officials and a government source.

The decision is a sharp reversal for the Obama administration, which wanted the alleged terrorists to have federal civilian trials.

Holder is expected to hold a news conference discussing the decision at 2 p.m. ET.

Five suspects are charged before military commissions with participating in the 9/11 plot: Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. All five are currently at Guantanamo.

Holder has promised to seek the death penalty for each of the five men.

Initially, the attorney general was also a staunch advocate of civilian trials for the suspects. In November 2009, he said that "they will be brought to New York ... to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood."

"I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years," he insisted at the time.

Holder's plan was sharply criticized by both Republican leaders and key members of the New York congressional delegation. Among other things, critics cited cost and security concerns tied to a trial in Manhattan. They also argued that the suspects -- who are not American citizens -- should not receive the rights and protections provided to defendants in civilian courts.

A number of Democrats and civil liberties activists have expressed dismay at the idea of holding military tribunals, warning that such a move represents a dangerous breakdown in the U.S. judicial system.

President Barack Obama's primary concern is that the accused perpetrators "be brought to justice as swiftly as possible," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

In a nuclear crisis that is becoming increasingly serious, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Agency confirmed that radioactive iodine-131 in seawater samples taken near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex that was seriously damaged by the recent tsunami off the coast of Japan is 4,385 times the level permitted by law.

Airborne radiation near the plant has been measured at 4-times government limits.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, the company that operates the crippled plant, has begun releasing more than 11,000 tons of radioactive water that was used to cool the fuel rods into the ocean while it attempts to find the source of radioactive leaks. The water being released is about 100 times more radioactive than legal limits.

Meanwhile, water that is vastly more radioactive continues to gush into the ocean through a large crack in a six-foot deep pit at the nuclear plant. Over the weekend, workers at the plant used sawdust, shredded newspaper and diaper chemicals in a desperate attempt to plug the area, which failed. Water leaking from the pit is about 10,000 times more radioactive than water normally found at a nuclear plant

Thus, radiation from a meltdown in the reactor core of reactor No. 2 is leaking out into the water and soil, with other reactors continuing to experience problems.

Groundwater near the nuclear plant contains radioactive iodine 10,000 times the legal threshold.

Yet scientists and activists question these government and nuclear industry “safe” limits of radiation exposure.

“The U.S. Department of Energy has testified that there is no level of radiation that is so low that it is without health risks,” Jacqueline Cabasso, the Executive Director of the Western States Legal Foundation, told Al Jazeera.

Her foundation monitors and analyzes U.S. nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy, with a focus on the national nuclear weapons laboratories.

Britney Spears has spoken about working with Will.I.Am on Femme Fatale album track, Big Fat Bass, stating that the rapper is "brilliant."

Speaking to our US Team as part of the MTV special, Britney Spears: I Am The Femme Fatale, the Hold It Against Me singer seemed to having nothing but praise for the Black Eyed Peas frontman.

The pop princess claimed: "I love his work. He's all over the place. He's brilliant. When he does talk, he blows you away."

The MTV special also goes behind the scenes of making her seventh studio LP, Femme Fatale, and the video shoot for her next single, Till The World Ends.

When asked about the promo, which is shot in a "grimy and gross" warehouse, the 29-year old revealed: "I feel like I've done so many videos, I'm at the point I want to enjoy myself."

In the documentary, Spears also sheds some light on her home-life, confessing: "I'm usually pretty busy when I'm not working."

"I have two children, so I usually get them up in the morning, and I'm usually at the gym, and I help cook dinner sometimes ... a lot of the stuff that I do I do early in the morning when my boys are at school."

The star also talks about her comeback show in Las Vegas, where she surprised her fans at the Palms Hotel and Casino, stating: "It was very exciting. The fans were amazing."

Britney added: "It was good energy, especially when they're screaming. They hype you up and make you feel larger than life."

New screenshots of Windows 8 have leaked showing the return of the Ribbon UI Microsoft has been using in Office programs like Word and Excel since 2007. All Windows 8 Explorer windows may come loaded with it, for better or worse.

One of the many things we like about Windows 7 is how simple clean the Windows Explorer is compared to previous versions of the the operating system. Well, simplicity may be a thing of the past. Two days ago, Within Windows ran a feature by Rafael Rivera and Windows expert Paul Thurrott with screenshots showing a major return of the Ribbon UI, a File menu replacement that first popped up in Microsoft Office 2007.

The screenshot above (courtesy of Within Windows) shows the Ribbon user interface in an early build of Windows 8. The icons are temporary and would eventually be replaced by something prettier and more useful, but you get the idea. Basically, the Ribbon UI takes all of the multilayered selectable File menus of old and lays them out in an organized fashion in a row of buttons and selections. You can change what icons show in the Ribbon by selecting a different tab. In the picture above there are menus for Home, Share, and View.

Rivera and Thurrott note that this feature appears to be controversial inside Microsoft, as much of the Ribbon’s functionality is also found elsewhere. The Ribbon UI is useful in Office programs because of the complex nature of their feature sets, but here, it appears to be wasting space and over-complicating the explorer window. At a time when interfaces are getting simpler and more natural, we’re not so sure the Ribbon UI is a great fit for Windows 8–at least not here. Despite the fact that the Ribbon is supposed to eliminate File menus, a file menu still exists and it is “quite expansive.”

As Windows 8 nears its first beta, new features will continue to leak. Though Microsoft does seem to be taking security a lot more serious this go round. Hopefully that’s because, unlike this Ribbon UI, there are some killer ideas in the pipeline.

McDonald's Corp. will hold its first national hiring day April 19 to fill 50,000 openings at its restaurants nationwide.

The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., says it is making a concerted effort to add staff as its business improves and as more of its restaurants stay open 24 hours a day.

McDonald's is hiring restaurant crew and management for full-time and part-time positions. The company's hiring goal translates to between three and four new hires per restaurant.

Turnover slowed in the past few years because of the weak economy, the company says. McDonald's sees this event an opportunity to attract employees in a tough job market.

It is also trying to shed the negative connotation of employment at the fast-food chain, once dubbed "McJobs." About half of its franchisees and more than 75 percent of its managers started as store workers.

"A McJob is one with career growth and endless possibilities," the company said in a statement.

McDonald's held a similar event in its Western region last year. More than 60,000 people applied for the 13,000 positions.

Those who are interested can apply in stores or online. Some restaurants will hold events and interviews that day.
Phil Mickelson feels pretty confident about his game heading into the Masters.

The defending champion at Augusta outduelled Scott Verplank on Sunday to win the Houston Open by three shots, his first victory since earning his third green jacket last April.

And it comes with a notable distinction.

The win moved Mickelson's world ranking to No. 3, while Tiger Woods dropped to No. 7. It's the first time Mickelson has been ahead of Woods in the ranking since the week before Woods won the 1997 Masters for his first major championship.

"It feels really good for me to have played well and gained some momentum heading into next week," Mickelson said. "I needed to have a week where I kind of put it together."

The 40-year-old Mickelson shot a 7-under 65, the lowest closing score by a winner this year, to finish at 20 under.

He was 16 under over his final 36 holes, after tying the course record with a 63 on Saturday, his lowest round in two years. He won for the fifth straight time when he's shot 64 or better in at least one of the rounds.

"I've been saying all year, 'I'm playing well, but I'm not getting the scores out of it, and I'm just kind of having a lapse of focus,"' he said. "It was a great week in that regard, and great for getting momentum heading in next week."

Tour rookie and second-round leader Chris Kirk (67) tied Verplank (68) at 17 under.

David Hearn (71) of Brantford, Ont., tied with Australian Robert Allenby (69) for sixth at 12 under. Hearn's previous best on the PGA was a tie for 13th at the 2005 B.C. Open.

Lefty is hoping he can repeat some history at Augusta this week. The 39-time tour winner is the last player to win the week prior to a Masters victory, capturing the BellSouth Classic in 2006 before earning his second green jacket. The Houston Open became the run-up event to Augusta in 2007.

While many top players, including Woods and world No. 1 Martin Kaymer sat out this week, Mickelson saw no disadvantage in coming here and trying to win. Anthony Kim won last year and finished third at the Masters.

"I think it's nothing but a plus to be able to gain some momentum," Mickelson said. "especially given that I haven't had the results and the scores that I wanted earlier in the year. It gives me a little bit of momentum."

Verplank, meanwhile, needed a victory just to get to Augusta. The 46-year-old Verplank, with his sore left wrist wrapped in black tape, would've become the fifth-oldest champion in the last five years.

Surprise performers at the 46th Academy of Country Music awards in Las Vegas on Sunday night included Steven Tyler and Rihanna, but the night belonged to Taylor Swift and rising star Miranda Lambert. Taking the stage to collect the award for entertainer of the year, the 21-year old Swift said: "This is the first time that I've ever won this and I'm just losing my mind."

Aerosmith singer and American Idol judge Tyler duetted with Carrie Underwood – winner of the TV talent show in 2005 – on a high-energy version of Walk This Way, while the importance of the CMAs to all sectors of the US music industry was demonstrated when Rihanna joined country singer Jennifer Nettles for a Nashville-influenced version of the R&B star's latest single California King Bed.

The 27-year-old Lambert was the biggest winnner of the night, picking up awards such as female vocalist of the year as well the song, video and single of the year trophies for The House That Built Me.

The new artist award went to Mississippi group the Band Perry, who also picked up single of the year for If I Die Young. Nashville band Lady Antebellum won album of the year and Brad Paisley was named top male vocalist for the fifth year running.

Previous winners of the prestigious entertainer of the year award include Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks.

Randall Stephenson was known as a finance whiz before 2007, when he became CEO of AT&T. But the telecommunications giant needs its Oklahoma City-born chief to display some country charm as he leads the most important sales campaign of his career.

Stephenson, 50, must persuade federal regulators — and the public they represent — to approve AT&T’s $39 billion agreement to buy T-Mobile.

That could be a tough sell.

Lots of consumers have soured on AT&T, particularly iPhone users who reported that they frequently couldn’t make or complete calls. AT&T placed last in Consumer Reports’ most recent survey measuring customer satisfaction with the big four wireless services, which also include Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.

The deal with T-Mobile also asks the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission to let AT&T control 39% of all mobile customers — and allow just two companies, AT&T and Verizon, to capture about 70% of the market.

Sprint, with about 12% of wireless customers, warns the deal would create a “Ma Bell duopoly.”

To Stephenson, the naysayers don’t appreciate how many choices consumers have. What’s more, he says, AT&T needs T-Mobile’s spectrum so it can provide the speedy wireless connections that tomorrow’s smartphone and tablet computer owners will demand.

He seems confident in his power to persuade: AT&T has agreed to pay T-Mobile’s parent, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, $3 billion if officials reject the deal.

Stephenson spoke with USA TODAY’s David Lieberman about how this deal will affect consumers, and the wireless future. Edited excerpts of that conversation follow.

Undersea robots have located bodies, motors and a “large part” of an Air France jet that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, but haven't yet found its black box flight recorders, French officials said Monday.

Victims' families cautiously welcomed the surprise announcement that search teams have located pieces of the plane, after nearly two years of fruitless efforts to determine what caused it to crash. Investigators have said without the recorders, the cause may never be determined.

All 228 people aboard the plane were killed when the flight, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, slammed into the ocean June 1, 2009, after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA said Sunday night that a team aboard the expedition ship Alucia using underwater robots “has located pieces of an aircraft ... in the past 24 hours.”

French Transport Minister Thierry Mariani said Monday that “bodies have been located.” Speaking on France-Info radio, he wouldn't elaborate, saying further information would be released to the families alone.

Fifty bodies were found during the first phase of the search, along with more than 600 pieces of the plane scattered on the sea. No bodies or debris have been found since.

“This fourth search campaign allowed us to locate motors, landing gear, wing parts, which is a very positive sign because at last we will be able, perhaps, to find out the truth,” Mr. Mariani said.

BEA spokeswoman Martine Del Bono said Monday that the black boxes have not been located. “I hope to be able to announce that (discovery) in the coming weeks,” she told The Associated Press.

The debris was found at remarkable depths, of between 3,800 and 4,000 metres, Ms. Del Bono said. It is far from clear whether the flight recorders, even if they are found, would still be intact after nearly two years under such conditions.

Space shuttle Endeavour crew members, first row left to right, pilot Greg H. Johnson, commander
Mark Kelly, second row left to right, mission specialists Roberto Vittori of Italy, Mike Fincke,
third row left to right, mission specialists Greg Chamitoff, and Drew Feustel depart the Operations and
Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.on Friday, April 1, 2011.
The STS-134 crew is at Kennedy Space Center for a practice countdown.
 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—NASA is delaying its next space shuttle flight -- the last voyage of Endeavour with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' astronaut husband in charge.

The flight was postponed because the original April 19 date conflicts with Russia's plans to send a cargo ship to the International Space Station.

Endeavour is now scheduled to blast off April 29 with Mark Kelly at the helm. It will be the next-to-last shuttle mission. Shuttle Atlantis will close out the 30-year shuttle program this summer.

NASA announced the postponement Monday, after conferring over the weekend with the Russian Space Agency and other space station partners.

An unmanned Russian cargo ship is set to blast off at the end of April. NASA did not want the craft docking at the space station while Endeavour was still there. Now, the cargo ship will arrive first.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said the Russians were reluctant to postpone the supply run because of a time-sensitive biological experiment aboard the craft.

Kelly and five crewmates will deliver a $2 billion physics experiment to the space station, as well as critical spare parts to keep the orbiting outpost running for another decade.

The two-week mission will be the last for Endeavour, the baby of NASA's shuttle fleet. It was built to replace Challenger, which was destroyed during liftoff in 1986.

In this July 16, 2006 file photo, Katie Couric, CBS News anchor and correspondent,
answers questions about her upcoming season anchoring 'CBS Evening News with
Katie Couric' during a news conference in Pasadena, Calif.
NEW YORK — Katie Couric is leaving her anchor post at "CBS Evening News" less than five years after becoming the first woman to solely helm a network TV evening newscast.

A network executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Couric has not officially announced her plans, reported the move to The Associated Press on Sunday night. The 54-year-old anchor is expected to launch a syndicated talk show in 2012 and several companies are vying for her services.

Couric's move from NBC's "Today" show was big news in 2006, and she began in the anchor chair with a flourish that September. She tried to incorporate her strengths as an interviewer into a standard evening news format and millions of people who normally didn't watch the news at night checked it out. But they drifted away and the evening newscast reverted to a more traditional broadcast.

After those first few weeks, the "CBS Evening News" settled into third place in the ratings and is well behind leader Brian Williams at NBC's "Nightly News" and second-place Diane Sawyer at ABC's "World News."

No departure date has been set for Couric. Her CBS News contract expires on June 4.

"We're having ongoing discussions with Katie Couric," said CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair on Sunday. "We have no announcements to make at this time. Until we do, we will continue to decline comment on rumor or speculation."

Said Matthew Hiltzik, Couric's spokesman: "Ditto."

Workers used a milky white dye Monday as they frantically tried to trace the path of highly radioactive water gushing near Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant and seeping into the ocean.

A crack in a maintenance pit found over the weekend was the latest confirmation that radioactivity continues to spill into the environment. The leak is a symptom of the primary difficulty at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex: Radioactive water is pooling around the plant and preventing workers from powering up cooling systems needed to stabilize dangerously vulnerable fuel rods.

Engineers have turned to a host of improvised and sometimes bizarre methods to tame the nuclear plant after it was crippled in Japan's magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami on March 11. Efforts over the weekend to clog the leak with a special polymer, sawdust and even shredded newspapers failed to halt the flow at a cracked concrete maintenance pit near the shoreline.

Suspecting they might be targeting the wrong channel to the pit, workers tried to see if they confirm the leak's pathway by dumping into the system several pounds (kilograms) of salts used to give bathwater a milky hue, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday.

"There could be other possible passages that the water may be traveling. We must watch carefully and contain it as quickly as possible," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear Safety and Industrial Agency.

Radioactive water has pooled up throughout the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant because the operator has been forced to rely on makeshift ways of pumping water into plant — and allowing it to gush out wherever it can — to bring down temperatures and pressure in the reactor cores.

Government officials conceded Sunday that it will likely be several months before the cooling systems are completely restored. And even after that happens, there will be years of work ahead to clean up the area around the complex and figure out what to do with it.

The makeshift system makes it difficult to contain the radiation leaks, but it is aimed a preventing fuel rods from going into a full meltdown that would release even more radiactivity into the environment.

"We must keep putting water into the reactors to cool to prevent further fuel damage, even though we know that there is a side effect, which is the leakage," Nishiyama said. "We want to get rid of the stagnant water and decontaminate the place so that we can return to our primary task to restore the sustainable cooling capacity as quickly as possible."

To that end, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said Monday it planned to jettison into the sea about 10,000 tons of water with radiation levels above the legal limit. The move will clear space in a waste storage building to put even more highly contaminated water, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said.

The government decided to allow the step as "an unavoidable emergency measure," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

An additional 1,500 tons will be dumped from a trench under the plant's units 5 and 6. That water is threatening to interfere with the workings at those units, whose reactors are under control.

Radioactivity is quickly diluted in the ocean, and Edano said the dump should not affect the safety of seafood in the area.

The crisis has unfolded as Japan deals with the aftermath of twin natural disasters that decimated large swaths of its northeastern coast. Up to 25,000 people are believed to have died in the disaster, and tens of thousands lost their homes. Thousands more were forced to flee a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius around the plant because of the radiation.

Southwest Airlines is expecting to cancel about 100 flights nationwide Monday as it continues to inspect its air fleet over safety concerns, company officials said.
On Friday, Flight 812 was about 18 minutes into its flight out of Phoenix when a 5-by-1-foot section of the fuselage skin burst open, terrifying the 118 passengers, who had to scramble for oxygen masks after the cabin lost pressure.

The plane landed safely at a military base in Yuma, Ariz.

Southwest canceled about 600 flights over the weekend to conduct inspections. It found three other planes with small cracks that were being evaluated, the safety board said.

Investigators revealed Sunday that tiny cracks had been found on the Flight 812 aircraft, around rivet holes along a joint where two areas of the fuselage skin overlap. They were trying to determine how long the cracks had been there.

An inspection found "persistent fatigue along the entire fracture surface," said safety board member Robert Sumwalt.

The cracks would not be immediately apparent from a visual inspection, a fact that prompted air safety officials to question whether new inspection criteria may be needed for the 737s and other aircraft.

Republicans are taking aim at President Obama's formal entry into the 2012 presidential election, with particular focus on the Democrat's record on creating jobs.

In a new website, ad and fundraising campaign launched today, the Republican National Committee says "hope isn't hiring." The RNC ad features a clip of Velma Hart, the Obama supporter who told the president at a town hall meeting in September that she was "exhausted" defending him and his policies.

The RNC is asking supporters to donate toward a goal of raising $270,000 in the next 72 hours -- or $1,000 for every electoral vote needed to win the White House. Obama filed the paperwork today to run for a second term, signalling that he will begin fundraising in earnest for the next campaign, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion.

Here's some of what RNC Chairman Reince Priebus had to say:

President Obama's reelection campaign is off and running, meaning once again the president is putting politics ahead of the work of the people. ...As the debt and reckless spending championed by this administration threatens to snuff out the recovery and future job growth, the President's conscious decision to take a back seat on leadership is downright irresponsible. Simply put, America can't afford four more years of Barack Obama.
GOP presidential hopefuls are also targeting Obama and his campaign announcement. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said on Twitter: "I look forward to hearing details on your jobs plan, as are 14m unemployed Americans."

Anti-government protesters hold up a poster showing a demonstrator who was wounded in clashes
with Yemeni forces and died Sunday. Protesters are rallying to demand the resignation of President
Ali Abdullah Saleh, in Sanaa, Yemen.
SANAA, Yemen — Security forces and plainclothes gunmen opened fire on crowds of Yemenis marching through a southern city Monday, killing at least 15 and wounding dozens, in an intensifying crackdown against the uprising against the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Witnesses described troops and gunmen, some on nearby rooftops, firing wildly on thousands of protesters who marched past the governor's headquarters in Taiz in the second straight day of violence in the southern city. Some — including elderly people — were trampled and injured as the crowds tried to flee, witnesses said.

Violence has swelled in recent days amid frustration over behind-the-scenes efforts to convince Saleh to step down in the face of a nearly two-month-old uprising. The United States and European countries have been contacting Saleh and his opponents, trying to find a formula for the president to leave his post with a stable transfer of power, an opposition spokesman said.

The New York Times on Monday said Washington had "quietly shifted positions" and "concluded that [Saleh] is unlikely to bring about the required reforms and must be eased out of office."

Saleh has been a key ally of the United States, which has given him millions in counterterrorism aid to fight al-Qaida's branch in the country, which has plotted attacks on American soil. So far, Washington has not publicly demanded that he step down, but the diplomatic effort was a clear sign that the Americans have decided the danger of turmoil and instability outweighs the risks if Saleh leaves.

Mustafa al-Sabri, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, said U.S. and European diplomats who had been in contacts with Saleh had asked the opposition for their "vision" for a transition. In response, the opposition over the weekend gave the Americans a proposal that Saleh step down and hand his powers to his vice president, who would then organize a process for rewriting the constitution and holding new elections, al-Sabri said.

On Sunday, Saleh took a tough line, saying no negotiations could be held without a "halt to all protests and the mutiny by some units in the military."

"We are prepared to explore the peaceful transfer of authority in the framework of the constitution. But arm-twisting will absolutely not work," he said.

Harsh crackdown
The U.S. Embassy has not commented on its efforts, saying only in a statement over the weekend that "Saleh has publicly expressed his willingness to engage in a peaceful transition of power; the timing and form of this transition should be identified through dialogue and negotiation."

Check back weekday mornings for a quick tally of the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa.


The weekend was a busy one on the diplomatic front for both sides in the Libyan conflict. The government's Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Laabidi (the elected foreign minister Moussa Koussa defected last week) traveled to Greece this weekend to meet with the Greek prime minister as an envoy for Qaddafi's government. His trip sparked speculation that he too was defecting, but representatives insist he is not.

Mr. Obeidi (whose name is also spelled Abdel Ati al Obeidi) is today headed to Turkey, which aims to lead efforts to broker a cease-fire.

Meanwhile, Italy became the third country (after France and Qatar) to recognize the opposition's interim government as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. The Italian foreign minister said the only acceptable result of the conflict is Muammar Qaddafi's departure.

Qaddafi and rebel forces appear locked in a stalemate east of Brega, where forces have been gathered since March 31. Brega is the last town to the west of Ajdabiya, which itself is the last city before the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.


The death toll in Yemen's unrest rolled over 100 this weekend, and today's protests also turned violent. Agence France-Press reports that 17 people have so far been killed Monday alone in Taez, about 125 miles from the capital of Sanaa, which was also the site of protests Monday.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the US is backing away from its staunch support of Saleh, no longer convinced that he has a "tenable" hold on power.


The Bahrain News Agency reported that the Gulf's regional and economic bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, condemned Iran for sowing instability in region, particularly Bahrain. The Bahraini government believes that the country's uprising is an Iranian conspiracy meant to shake the Sunni monarchy from power.