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AP Top News at 6:30 p.m. EST

Obama: Sony made mistake in shelving film under pressure by North Korea hackers; vows response
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama declared Friday that Sony "made a mistake" in shelving a satirical film about a plot to assassinate North Korea's leader, and he pledged the U.S. would respond "in a place and manner and time that we choose" to the hacking attack on Sony that led to the withdrawal. The FBI blamed the hack on the communist government. Speaking of executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Obama said at a year-end news conference, "I wish they had spoken to me first. ... We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship."


Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro silent amid historic thaw in Cuba-US relations
HAVANA (AP) - Everyone in Cuba is talking about the startling turn in relations with the United States, with one notable exception: Fidel Castro. So far, the larger-than-life retired Cuban leader has made no public comment on the biggest news in years - that the U.S. and his island nation will restore diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of hostility.


Miami's anti-Castro groups forced to adapt to a new paradigm in US-Cuba relations
MIAMI (AP) - Hours before President Barack Obama announced an end to a half-century of U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba's communist government, the Cuban American National Foundation opened the doors to its inviting new headquarters, with a modern glass and concrete lobby in the heart of Miami's Cuban exile community. The symbolism is hard to ignore: The lobbying group was founded in 1981 by veterans of covert U.S.-supported missions to overthrow Fidel and Raul Castro, and for many years it worked to undermine the communist government from offices in an unmarked Miami building outside Little Havana. A guard kept out unwelcome visitors, and its leader Jorge Mas Canosa tended to leave little room for differing opinions.


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Parents of Colorado theater shooting suspect rekindle emotional debate with plea for his life
DENVER (AP) - The parents of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes begged Friday for his life to be spared through a plea bargain - a move that rekindled the long-running, emotional debate about whether the horrific details of the mass killing should be played out at his upcoming trial. The statement released by Robert and Arlene Holmes emphasized a key legal issue in the tortured history of the case - Holmes' mental state when he killed 12 people and injured 70 others, and whether he should die if convicted of the crime.


Obama cautions that pace of change in Cuba may be slow, suggests embargo will stay in place
WASHINGTON (AP) - Tempering his historic Cuba policy shift with a dose of realism, President Barack Obama said Friday that change may not come quickly to the communist island. He suggested Congress will keep the U.S. economic embargo in place until lawmakers can gauge the pace of progress in the "hermetically sealed society." Still, Obama's surprise announcement this week that the U.S. was ending its Cold War diplomatic freeze with Cuba appeared to have contributed to energizing the president as he closes a difficult sixth year in office.


Woman arrested for murder in killings of 8 children in Australian home
SYDNEY (AP) - An Australian woman was arrested for murder in the killings of eight children, seven of whom are believed to be her own, police said Saturday. The children were found dead inside the woman's home. The 37-year-old woman, who is recovering in a hospital from stab wounds, was under guard and speaking with police, Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said. She has not yet been charged.


Pakistan executes 2 militants after reinstating death penalty in wake of school massacre
ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in the country's first executions in years, while warplanes and ground forces pounded insurgent hideouts in a northwest region bordering Afghanistan - part of a stepped-up response to the Taliban slaughter of scores of schoolchildren. Unchastened by criticism from all corners of the globe, the Taliban threatened earlier Friday to kill more children if executions were carried out as promised.


Senior officials weren't told key details about brutal CIA interrogations; they didn't press
WASHINGTON (AP) - In July 2004, despite growing internal concerns about the CIA's brutal interrogation methods, senior members of George W. Bush's national security team gave the agency permission to employ the harsh tactics against an al-Qaida facilitator the agency suspected was linked to a plot to disrupt the upcoming presidential election. After weeks of torture that included being subjected to prolonged stress positions and sleep deprivation at a secret site in Romania, the prisoner, Janat Gul, begged to be killed. But he steadfastly denied knowledge of any plot, CIA records show -- leading interrogators to conclude he was not the hardened terrorist they thought he was, and that the informant who fingered him was a liar.


Mandy Rice-Davies, key figure in Cold War scandal that rocked British politics, dies at 70
LONDON (AP) - Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the "Profumo Affair," a sex-and-politics scandal that rocked Cold War Britain, has died at age 70. Her PR firm, Hackford Jones, said Friday that Rice-Davies died Thursday evening "after a short battle with cancer."


Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps pleads guilty to 2nd DUI; says he realizes problem
BALTIMORE (AP) - Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps avoided jail time on Friday when a judge placed him on probation for pleading guilty to a drunken driving charge for the second time in 10 years. The punishment came with a warning. "You don't need a lecture from the court," Baltimore District Judge Nathan Braverman told Phelps. "If you haven't gotten the message by now, or forget the message, the only option is jail."

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