Blind Chinese activist leaves Beijing hospital, prepares to depart for the United States
BEIJING (AP) — A blind Chinese activist whose escape from a rural village set off a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington was hurriedly taken from a hospital to the airport Saturday to board a plane for the United States.
Chen Guangcheng told The Associated Press that he had left the hospital where he'd been staying and was at Beijing's international airport. He said he expected to leave on a flight late Saturday afternoon for Newark, New Jersey, outside New York City.
"Thousands of thoughts are surging to my mind," Chen said by phone from the airport, sounding hurried but calm. To his supporters and others in the activist community, Chen expressed gratitude and indicated that he hoped to return.
"I am requesting a leave of absence, and I hope that they will understand," he said.
The departure of Chen and his family to the United States would mark the conclusion of nearly a month of uncertainty and years of mistreatment by local authorities for the self-taught legal activist who made a daring escape from abusive house arrest in his village last month.
SpaceX rocket launch aborted in last second before liftoff due to engine problem
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A new private rocket bound for the International Space Station roared to life for a history-making liftoff Saturday, but remained stuck on the ground following a last-second abort.
The countdown reached all the way to practically zero Saturday morning for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The engine ignition sequence started up, but there was an automatic shutdown by on-board computers. So instead of blasting off on a delivery mission to the space station, the rocket stayed on its launch pad amid a cloud of engine exhaust.
EvenNASA'smost seasoned launch commentator was taken off guard.
"... 3-2-1, zero, and liftoff," announced commentator George Diller, his voice trailing as the rocket failed to budge. "We've had a cutoff. Liftoff did not occur."
Billionaire rocket designer Elon Musk attributed the problem to slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine No. 5. "Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days," he wrote via Twitter.
CAMP DAVID, Md. (AP) — Drawn together in this serene mountain outpost, leaders of the major industrialized nations are prodding Germany to balance its push for European fiscal austerity with doses of stimulus spending to avoid an economic calamity that could reverberate worldwide.
With three new members in their midst, the Group of Eight leaders will take measure of themselves as they turn their attention Saturday to reconciling the need to quell European debt crises with the desire to increase demand for goods and spur job growth.
Facing economic and political pressures at home, President Barack Obama and leaders of Germany, France, Canada, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, and Japan were huddling in the casual setting of Camp David's Laurel Lodge looking to build consensus even though a decisive plan of action seemed out of reach at this point.
The G-8 session here in this secure presidential compound nestled in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains sets the stage for a far more consequential European summit next week where eurozone members hope to come together on specific steps to fight rising debt while spurring a recovery.
Obama established the tone for the G-8 Friday after meeting with just-elected French President Francois Hollande, declaring that the aim of the summit is to promote both fiscal consolidation and a "strong growth agenda."
Facebook debut as a public company fails to pop as stock closes nearly flat
NEW YORK (AP) — In the hours before Facebook's stock began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market for the first time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg reminded the company's 3,500 employees not to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding its long-awaited initial public offering.
"Right now this all seems like a big deal," Zuckerberg said before he pushed a button that rang Nasdaq's opening bell from company headquarters at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, Calif. "Going public is an important milestone in our history. But here's the thing, our mission isn't to be a public company. Our mission is to make the world more open and connected."
Facebook's IPO, it turns out, wasn't as big a deal as expected.
One of the most anticipated IPOs in Wall Street history ended on a flat note Friday, with Facebook's stock closing at $38.23, up 23 cents from Thursday night's pricing.
That means the company founded in 2004 in a Harvard dorm room has a market value of about $105 billion, more than Amazon.com, McDonald's and Silicon Valley iconsHewlett-Packardand Cisco.
3 Chicago NATO protesters charged with terrorism conspiracy in alleged Molotov cocktail plot
CHICAGO (AP) — Police say three protesters at the NATO summit in Chicago have been charged with terrorism conspiracy stemming from allegations that they planned to make Molotov cocktails.
Chicago police Lt. Kenneth Stoppa told The Associated Press early Saturday that the three were being held on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an explosive or incendiary device and providing material support. He says they face a bond hearing later Saturday morning.
Stoppa identified the men charged as 20-year-old Brian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; 24-year-old Jared Chase of Keene, N.H.; and 24-year-old Brent Vincent Betterly of Oakland Park, Mass.
Their attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, tells AP the men are "absolutely in shock and have no idea where these charges are coming from."
Six others initially arrested have been released.
1 killed, 7 students wounded by blast outside Italian school named after anti-Mafia prosecutor
ROME (AP) — An explosive device went off outside a high school in southern Italy named after a slain anti-Mafia prosecutor as students arrived for class Saturday, killing one of them and wounding seven others, officials said.
The device went off just before 8 a.m. in the Adriatic port town of Brindisi just as students milled outside, chatting and getting ready for class at the vocational institute named after the slain anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone and his wife.
Falcone and his wife were killed by a Mafia blast in Sicily exactly 20 years ago this weekend, but it was unclear if there was an organized crime link to Saturday's explosion.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
Just three days ago, government officials announced security was being stepped up throughout the country, following a shooting which wounded a nuclear energy official and several threats or explosions of devices at offices of a tax collection agency.
Legislative battle over same-sex couples could affect presidential race in Colorado
DENVER (AP) — Minutes after President Barack Obama announced he supported gay marriage, the Democratic governor of Colorado choked back tears in Denver as he ordered state lawmakers to reconsider a civil-unions measure that Republicans had defeated the day before.
In the week that followed, the debate over equal rights for same-sex couples consumed the state Capitol. And while Republicans ultimately succeeded in killing the measure, Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge that the emotional standoff over the issue could help shape the White House campaign in this presidential battleground state this fall.
"Go back to your communities, go back to your neighborhoods, go back to your churches and let them know that the fight continues," Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty implored gay-marriage opponents gathered outside the Capitol last Tuesday. He was looking to rally the state's huge number of religious conservatives who long have been the foot-soldiers in efforts to both oppose civil unions and elect Republicans.
Democrats, in turn, predicted that their loyalists, as well as independents, will rally behind Obama in Colorado given his support of same-sex marriage. Obama planned to visit the state next Wednesday to deliver a commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, before attending fundraisers in Denver.
"That will have a positive impact on the chances of the president being re-elected and winning Colorado in November," said Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a gay lawmaker who co-sponsored the civil unions legislation and said that its supporters would be "very active" in the fall on the issue.
Amid apparent family rift, Mary Kennedy's kin prepare for a funeral Saturday
BEDFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Mary Richardson Kennedy had been close to the Kennedys for much of her life, as a teenage friendship led to a marriage into one of America's most famous families.
But her death stirred tension between her relatives and the Kennedys, as they faced off in court over custody of her body and as they arranged separate memorial services for the 52-year-old architect, environmentalist and estranged wife ofRobert F. KennedyJr. The court dispute came hours before a wake at the suburban New York estate where she hanged herself Wednesday.
The Kennedys planned a funeral Saturday morning at a Roman Catholic church in her suburban New York hometown, followed by burial later in the day near the family's seaside compound in Hyannisport, Mass. Meanwhile, her siblings announced that they were planning a memorial service in Manhattan, though they didn't say when.
But as mourners gathered at the brick mansion in Bedford for her wake Friday evening, one of her brothers-in-law sounded a note of unity.
"She loved everyone and she doesn't want fighting," Douglas Kennedy said. "... She loved for everyone to be together, which is what we're trying to do."
First nationwide electric car network gets its first roll-out in Israel
ROSH HAAYIN, Israel (AP) — Israeli entrepreneur Shai Agassi has begun rolling out the world's first nationwide electric car network. Now, will the drivers come?
After more than $400 million in outlays and more than a year behind schedule, dozens of electric cars have hit the road in Israel, the test site Agassi chose for his Better Place venture. Four stations where the cars can get a new dose of juice when their batteries run out are operating, and the plan is to ramp that number up within months.
The concept: to wean the world from oil and eliminate the biggest hurdles to environmentally friendly electric cars — high cost and limited range.
To do this, Better Place has jettisoned the fixed battery. Instead, drivers can swap their depleted batteries for fully charged ones at a network of stations, receiving a full, 160-kilometer (100-mile) range in five minutes. Better Place owns the batteries, bringing down the purchase price of the cars using the network.
People driving shorter distances, the vast majority of customers, can plug in their batteries each day to chargers installed at their homes, offices and public locations, which will fully recharge in six to eight hours.
Bodemeister finished second in the Derby and has been installed the favorite in Saturday's second jewel of the Triple Crown.
"I've had some horses, they run (and then) they don't eat for a few days and they sulk in the stall or whatever," Bodemeister trainer Bob Baffert said. "But he's a pretty tough horse. He just bounced out of it really well. If you watch their weight over their rumps, that's where they usually lose it if they can't handle what you're giving them. He filled out nice and his hair looks good. He looks good."
So, Baffert's got nothing to worry about, right?
Uh, not exactly. Because not even a Hall of Fame trainer can predict how a horse will react when thrust into a big race for the second time in 15 days.