KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghanistan's president said Wednesday he will not pursue peace talks with the Taliban unless the United States steps out of the negotiations, while also insisting the militant group stop its violent attacks on the ground after it claimed responsibility for a rocket attack that killed four Americans. Hamid Karzai's strong response and the Taliban attack deflated hopes for long-stalled talks aimed at ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan, just a day after the United States and the Taliban said they would begin initial meetings in Qatar.
BERLIN (AP) - Trying to tamp down concerns about government over-reach, President Barack Obama on Wednesday defended U.S. Internet and phone surveillance programs as narrowly targeted efforts that have saved lives and thwarted at least 50 terror threats. "This is not a situation in which we are rifling through ordinary emails" of huge numbers of citizens in the United States or elsewhere, the president declared during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He called it as a "circumscribed, narrow" surveillance program.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Worry and speculation have consumed investors since Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to Congress last month about the Federal Reserve's drive to keep long-term interest rates at record lows. On Wednesday, many hope the Fed will settle the confusion.
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - Seven al-Qaida-linked gunmen detonated a pick-up truck rigged with explosives at the gate of the U.N. compound in Somalia's capital Wednesday, launching a bombs-and-gunfire assault that saw militants pour into the complex, killing at least nine people, including three foreigners, officials said. The seven al-Shabab militants were from what the militia called its martyrdom, or suicide, brigade. They all died in the assault, an official said, bringing the overall death toll to at least 16.
SAO PAULO (AP) - Street demonstrations popped up again around Brazil early Wednesday as protesters continued their collective cry against the low-quality public services they receive in exchange for high taxes and high prices. In one of several reported protests, about 200 people blocked the Anchieta Highway that links Sao Paulo and the port city of Santos. They left after two hours and headed to the industrial suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo, an industrial suburb on Sao Paulo's outskirts.
STOCKHOLM (AP) - A WikiLeaks spokesman who claims to represent Edward Snowden has reached out to government officials in Iceland about the potential of the NSA leaker applying for asylum in the Nordic country, officials there said Wednesday. Johannes Skulason, an Icelandic government official, told The Associated Press that WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson had held informal talks with assistants at the Interior Ministry and the prime minister's office.
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The excavation of a rural field in suburban Detroit has failed to turn up the remains of former Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, the FBI announced Wednesday, adding another unsuccessful chapter to a nearly 40-year-old mystery. Authorities stopped the dig after just a few hours on the third day.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Internal Revenue Service is about to pay $70 million in employee bonuses despite an Obama administration directive to cancel discretionary bonuses because of automatic spending cuts enacted this year, according to a GOP senator. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says his office has learned that the IRS is executing an agreement with the employees' union on Wednesday to pay the bonuses. Grassley says the bonuses should be canceled under an April directive from the White House budget office.
BERLIN (AP) - Appealing for a new citizen activism in the free world, President Barack Obama renewed his call Wednesday to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles and to confront climate change, a danger he called "the global threat of our time." In a wide-ranging speech that enumerated a litany of challenges facing the world, Obama said he wanted to reignite the spirit that Berlin displayed when it fought to reunite itself during the Cold War.
NEW YORK (AP) - Brad Pitt wanted to build a better blockbuster. During the years Hollywood shifted toward increasingly bigger spectacles and superhero tentpoles, one of the movies' biggest stars largely stayed on the sidelines, focusing instead on ambitious ensembles ("The Tree of Life," `'Inglourious Basterds") and unlikely dramas ("Moneyball").