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SF crash probe studies pilot cockpit interaction in flight that crash-landed

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Investigators are examining the cockpit interaction of two Asiana Airlines pilots who had taken on new roles before the crash of Flight 214 — one of whom had seldom flown a Boeing 777 and an instructor who was on his first training flight.

There were four pilots on board but the National Transportation Safety Board is focusing on the working relationship between Lee Gang-kuk, who was landing the big jet for his first time at San Francisco International Airport, and Lee Jeong-Min, who was training him.

While the two men had years of aviation experience, this mission involved unfamiliar duties, and it was the first time they had flown together.

The flight came to a tragic end when the airliner, which came in too low and too slow, crash-landed on Saturday, killing two passengers and injuring many others as it skittered and spun 100 feet.

The pilots were assigned to work together through a tightly regulated system developed after several deadly crashes in the 1980s were blamed in part on inexperience in the cockpit, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said Wednesday.

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AP Exclusive: Did secret CIA prison spawn top-secret vacuum cleaner from hands of a terrorist?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Confined to the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania about a decade ago, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, asked his jailers whether he could embark on an unusual project: Would the spy agency allow Mohammed, who had earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, to design a vacuum cleaner?

The agency officer in charge of the prison called CIA headquarters and a manager approved the request, a former senior CIA official told The Associated Press.

Mohammed had endured the most brutal of the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods and had confessed to a career of atrocities. But the agency had no long-term plan for him. Someday, he might prove useful. Perhaps, he’d even stand trial one day.

And for that, he’d need to be sane.

“We didn’t want them to go nuts,” the former senior CIA official said, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the now-shuttered CIA prisons or Mohammed’s interest in vacuums.

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Quebec train crash’s missing all presumed dead, police say; attention focuses on CEO

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — Everyone missing in the fiery crash of a runaway oil train in Quebec is presumed dead, police told grieving families, bringing the death toll to 50 in Canada’s worst railway catastrophe in almost 150 years.

Meanwhile, attention focused on the CEO of the railway’s parent company, who faced jeers from local residents and blamed the train’s engineer for improperly setting its brakes before the disaster.

Officials said Wednesday evening that 20 bodies had been found in this burned-out town, and 30 people were missing.

“We informed them of the potential loss of their loved ones,” said Quebec police inspector Michel Forget, who came to an afternoon news briefing from a meeting with families of the dead and missing. “You have to understand that it’s a very emotional moment.”

Edward Burkhardt, the head of the train’s U.S.-based parent company blamed the engineer for failing to set the brakes properly before the unmanned Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train hurtled down a seven-mile (11-kilometer) incline, derailed and ignited in the center of Lac-Megantic early Saturday. All but one of its 73 cars was carrying oil, and at least five exploded.

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House GOP goes piecemeal on immigration, rejects comprehensive approach, shrugs off Bush nudge

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are embracing a step-by-step approach to immigration, in contrast to the sweeping plan passed by the Senate and backed by the White House. But they’re offering neither specifics nor a timetable — nor any mention of possible citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country unlawfully.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other Republican leaders said in a statement the administration “cannot be trusted to deliver on its promises to secure the border and enforce laws as part of a single, massive bill like the one passed by the Senate.”

House GOP lawmakers streaming out of a two-hour meeting on immigration Wednesday also shrugged off a long-distance nudge from former President George W. Bush, who called on Congress to reach a “positive resolution” on the issue.

“America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time,” Bush said at a naturalization ceremony at his presidential library in Dallas.

“We care what people back home say, not what some former president says,” declared Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

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Egypt offered $12 billion in aid, but money seen as temporary solution to long-term problems

CAIRO (AP) — A promise of $12 billion in aid from wealthy Arab Gulf nations would give Egypt’s new military-backed leadership breathing room by paying for vital food and fuel imports. But the benefits would be only temporary, because Egypt’s broken economy remains unrepaired.

More than two years of political turmoil, violence and deterioration in security have frightened away tourists and foreign investors. Just as harmful, badly structured subsidies on food and fuel eat up almost a third of Egypt’s strained budget.

The most recent round of violence, when more than 50 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi died in clashes with the military on Monday, is likely to ripple through the economy, spreading doubts over the new leadership’s ability to provide stability.

A key demand among millions of people who demonstrated against Morsi was better living conditions. Little improved when he took office a year ago, after poverty, rampant corruption and crony capitalism propelled millions to join the youth-led uprising against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi inherited critical economic problems, and the economy deteriorated further under his one-year rule. The Egyptian currency lost more than 10 percent of its value against the dollar this year, unemployment rose to 13 percent and his government relied on handouts from sympathetic neighboring countries to survive.

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Fla. cities on guard for any potential post-Zimmerman verdict unrest, stressing non-violence

MIAMI (AP) — Police and city leaders in Florida say they have taken precautionary steps for the possibility of mass protests or even civil unrest if George Zimmerman is acquitted in the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, particularly in African-American neighborhoods where passions run strongest over the case.

For months, officials in Sanford and South Florida have been working with pastors, youth coaches, community activists and summer camp counselors to stress a non-violent approach if Zimmerman walks free. At the same time, police say they have quietly been making plans for dealing with any potential emotional flare-ups that could quickly turn into storefront-smashing, car-burning riots.

“It’s all right to be vocal, but we don’t want to be violent,” said the Rev. Walter T. Richardson, a longtime pastor and chairman of Miami-Dade County’s Community Relations Board, which has been holding town hall-style meetings about the case. “We’ve already lost one soul and we don’t want to lose any more.”

Martin, from the suburb of Miami Gardens, was 17 when he died. He was in Sanford visiting his father and father’s fiancee when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, fatally shot him during a physical confrontation in a gated community in February 2012.

Martin’s supporters portrayed the shooting as racially motivated, while Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, claimed self-defense. Charged with second-degree murder, Zimmerman is pleading not guilty at the trial unfolding in a Sanford courthouse.

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50 years on, Romania takes first steps toward punishing brutal Communist-era gulag guards

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Guards slammed doors on prisoners’ fingers, beat them on the soles of their feet and burned them with cigarettes. They served rotten meat and forced inmates to eat excrement as punishment. In extremes of heat and cold, they made their victims haul crushing loads until they collapsed.

After decades of denial, chilling details are emerging about the torment guards inflicted upon political prisoners in Romanian communist-era gulags, as part of a first small step toward holding them to account. The names of 35 guards — now in their 80s or 90s — are to be handed to authorities starting next week for possible prosecution by a government institution tasked with investigating communist-era crimes, The Associated Press has learned.

The perpetrators of communist-era crimes have long been shielded by Romania’s establishment, whose ranks are filled with members of the former Securitate secret police. But the movement to expose Romanian gulag guards has a powerful champion in the Liberal Party, which is now part of the governing coalition. Members of the party were targeted by the Communists in their crackdown on all perceived dissent after it came to power in 1946.

Of Romania’s 617,000 political prisoners, 120,000 died in the gulags. The inmates included politicians, priests, peasants, writers, diplomats and children as young as 11. Most survivors died before seeing any chance of justice.

Those still alive — about 2,800 in all — now see a glimmer of hope as the Institute for Investigating the Crimes of Communism and the Memory of the Romanian Exile begins probing allegations against the 35 guards on the list, as well as other communist-era crimes.

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Analysis shows shift in youth attitudes during Great Recession — but will it last?

CHICAGO (AP) — Drew Miller clearly remembers the day his father was laid off.

Miller, now 25, was a freshman at an Ohio college, full of hope and ready to take on the world. But here was this “red flag ... a big wake-up call,” he says. The prosperous years of childhood were over, and his future was likely to be bumpier than he’d expected.

Across the country, others of Miller’s generation heard that same wake-up call as the Great Recession set in. But would it change them? And would the impact last?

The full effect won’t be known for a while, of course. But a new analysis of a long-term survey of high school students provides an early glimpse at ways their attitudes shifted in the first years of this most recent economic downturn.

Among the findings: Young people showed signs of being more interested in conserving resources and a bit more concerned about their fellow human beings.

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Prays for Randy: Vocal support for country star Randy Travis after stroke, brain surgery

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country music stars and fans joined together to urge prayers for Randy Travis overnight as he recovered from brain surgery following a stroke at a Texas hospital.

Travis remained in critical condition after surgery Wednesday night to relieve pressure on his brain, publicist Kirt Webster said. The 54-year-old Grammy Award-winning singer had been improving while being treated for heart failure caused by a viral infection when he had the stroke.

Steady concern for Travis, a popular and pivotal figure in country music, turned to active support as stars like Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum and Martina McBride and the Grand Ole Opry used Twitter to join Webster’s call for prayers. Hundreds of users reached out using the hashtag PrayforRandy.

“We’re all pulling for you Randy,” Brad Paisley said via Twitter.

The setback occurred hours after doctors said Travis was showing signs of improvement since the start of treatment Sunday for congestive heart failure.

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Royal Rush: Question of baby’s name puts British souvenir manufacturers in a race against time

LONDON (AP) — It’s a royal bonanza — but for Britain’s souvenir makers, also a royal headache.

The upcoming birth of Prince William and his wife Kate’s first child is a golden opportunity that comes with a mystery: the name and gender of the baby.

It all means that, while merchants have known for months that the future heir to the throne is due in mid-July, they’ll be sent into a mad dash to create, or at least put finishing touches on, royal baby memorabilia.

Sophie Allport, a designer of fine bone china, is one manufacturer waiting for the future monarch’s name to send her commercial plans into motion. She has thousands of pre-orders for hand-crafted commemorative mugs but can’t fill them until the baby’s name can be etched on the rims.

She’s as ready as she can possibly be — having prepared both blue and pink designs depending on whether it’s a prince or princess.