AP Top News at 12:08 p.m. EST

Breakthrough: Scientists detect Einstein-predicted ripples
WASHINGTON (AP) - In an announcement that electrified the world of astronomy, scientists said Thursday that they have finally detected gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. Some scientists likened the breakthrough to the moment Galileo took up a telescope to look at the planets. The discovery of these waves, created by violent collisions of massive celestial objects, excites astronomers because it opens the door to a new way of observing the cosmos. For them, it's like turning a silent movie into a talkie because these waves are the soundtrack of the universe.

The Latest: German foreign min wants breakthrough on Syria
BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest developments on the war in Syria, the refugee crisis and security talks in Munich, Germany. (all times local): 6:30 p.m. Germany's foreign minister says diplomatic efforts to tame Syria's civil war are at a crossroads and talks need to produce some kind of breakthrough. Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday that "if we don't succeed in breaking the spiral of violence and counter-violence now, this terrible civil war will drag on even longer." He says "everyone who is needed" is at a meeting in Munich of major powers with an interest in the conflict. Steinmeier says he hopes to find a way to restart talks between the Syrian government and opposition soon.

US markets follow global shares lower
The U.S. stock market veered sharply lower in midday trading as concerns about global economic weakness intensified, even as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated her confidence in the U.S. economy. Financial stocks and energy companies were among the biggest decliners as investors worried that interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere would remain low and oil prices sank again. Yellen acknowledged concern about the global economic environment, but said it was too early to tell how big the effect would be on the U.S. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 319 points, or 1.8 percent, to 15,595 as of 11:55 a.m.

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Kerry and Lavrov open Syria talks as countries trade barbs
MUNICH (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov opened talks Thursday to try and reconcile deep differences over a proposed cease-fire for the Syrian civil war. They met as other U.S. and Russian officials traded allegations over bombing of civilian areas in the besieged city of Aleppo. Russia has proposed a March 1 cease-fire, but Washington believes that will only give Moscow and the Syrian government three weeks to crush moderate rebel groups. The U.S. has countered with a demand for an immediate truce. As the meeting began at a Munich hotel, Kerry declined to speculate on whether an agreement could be reached.

Pentagon chief predicting 'tangible gains' in Iraq, Syria
BRUSSELS (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter predicted on Thursday that recent U.S.-led efforts to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group would produce "tangible gains" in Iraq and Syria by March, even as he urged coalition partners to expand and deepen their military contributions. Carter expected that defense ministers from more than two dozen countries would endorse a new U.S. plan for taking on IS. The ministers planned a joint statement after their meeting at NATO headquarters. In public remarks at the start of the session, Carter cast the talks as an historic effort to hasten the demise of IS, which has proved resilient in Iraq and Syria and is spreading to Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere in the greater Middle East.

N. Korea orders military takeover of inter-Korean factories
PAJU, South Korea (AP) - North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." North Korea said it was responding to Seoul's shutdown order by immediately deporting the hundreds of South Koreans who work at the complex just across the world's most heavily armed border in the city of Kaesong, pulling out the tens of thousands of North Korean employees and freezing all South Korean assets. The North also said it was shutting down two crucial cross-border communication hotlines.

Analysis: Understanding tensions behind Koreas' factory park
TOKYO (AP) - North Korea reacted quickly and sternly Thursday to South Korea's announcement it will suspend operations at a jointly run factory complex just north of the Demilitarized Zone that is the last major cooperative project between the two countries. It's always difficult to gauge the true intentions of Pyongyang's secretive ruling regime, but here's a look at what it might mean. --- Q: What did North Korea say? A: It came out swinging. It condemned South Korean President Park Geun-hye as a "traitor for all times" and said the South's decision to suspend operations at the Kaesong Industrial Zone marks the "end to the last lifeline of the north-south relations." It said it will block cross-border transport to the zone from the South; put the area under military control; expel all South Koreans from the zone; freeze all assets of South Korean enterprises operating there; cut off two hotlines with the South; and remove all of its own workers from the zone.

Former Auschwitz guard, 94, goes on trial in Germany
DETMOLD, Germany (AP) - A 94-year-old former SS sergeant went on trial Thursday in western Germany on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder, based on accusations that he served as a guard in the Auschwitz death camp as hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews and others were gassed to death there. Reinhold Hanning seemed in good condition for his age, walking into the court in the city of Detmold without even the help of a cane and appearing to listen attentively as the indictment against him was read aloud. No pleas are entered in the German system. Hanning, who ran a local dairy after the war until he retired in 1984, declined to give an opening statement to the court.

52 dead in riot at northern Mexico prison
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) - A brutal fight between rival factions killed 52 inmates and injured 12 at a prison in northern Mexico on Thursday, the state governor said. Nuevo Leon Gov. Jaime Rodriguez said there were no reported escapes and the battle, which sent flames billowing into the pre-dawn sky, didn't involve guns. Mexico's deadliest prison riot in many years broke out just six days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit another Mexican prison, in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua state. Rodriguez said at a news conference the fight involved a faction led by a member of the infamous Zetas drug cartel, Juan Pedro Zaldivar Farias, also known as Z-27.

Occupiers at Oregon refuge say they'll turn themselves in
BURNS, Ore. (AP) - The last four armed occupiers of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon said they would turn themselves in Thursday after facing authorities who came to the property more than a month into the takeover. A roadblock leading to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was quiet except for a large group of media awaiting the holdouts, a departure from the confrontation late Wednesday that played out via a phone line streamed live over the Internet. At the refuge, the occupiers yelled at officers to back off and prayed with supporters over the open phone line streamed by an acquaintance of holdout David Fry.