Tag Archive: The Associated Press


Alleged extortion plot stuns Branson musician

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20120210/NEWS01/302100034/Duggar-extortion-james-garrett?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CEntertainment%7Cs

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Deen Castronovo

Hey all you Journey fans check out this site!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/rock-band-journey-drummer-deen-castronovo-charged-in-oregon-domestic-violence-case/2012/02/01/gIQARexZhQ_story.html

Journey reunion unlikely, Steve Perry says

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20127812-10391698/journey-reunion-unlikely-steve-perry-says/

CBS/AP) While the resurgence of Journey’s hit song “Don’t Stop Believin'”
provided some reunion hope to longtime Journey fans, former lead singer Steve
Perry says a it’s not likely.

 

 

“It’s like any emotional, committed relationship,” he said to the Associated
Press. “At some point, they seem to all have a shelf life and bands are no
exception.

 

“Life has moved us all on in different places in our lives. They’re doing
what they’re doing – they have been since ’98. And I’ve been doing what I’m
doing, which is living my life and having a personal life.”

 

 

Perry’s interview came ahead of Tuesday’s release of Journey’s “Greatest Hits
Vol. 2” and the remastered version of Perry’s 1984 solo album, “Street Talk,”
which included the No. 1 hit “Oh Sherrie” and the ballad “Foolish Heart.”

 

Perry’s former band mates have continued on since his departure 13 years ago,
performing as Journey with a new lead singer, Arnel Pineda. Even though Perry
says they have all moved on, he said he still delights in the songs he did with
Journey that keep getting airplay.

 

Thirty years after its release, Journey’s most memorable hit, “Don’t Stop
Believin,'” is still heard in movies and on TV. Most recently, the song appears
in Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball.”

 

The song has managed to reach an even younger audience through the hit TV
show “Glee,” which has also featured other Journey hits “Faithfully” and the
medley version of “Any Way You Want It/Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin.'”

 

“It’s very shocking because now I’m getting it for 7-, 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds
coming up to me, and they love that song and they’ve made it their song,” said
Perry, 62. “It’s just amazing to me.”

For Amanda Knox, freedom comes at hefty cost

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/10/05/earlyshow/main20115856.shtml

(CBS/AP)

Amanda Knox left Seattle as an anonymous junior attending Washington’s
flagship public university, and on Tuesday she returned as someone whose release
from an Italian jail made her internationally recognizable.

 

But her freedom came with a price, CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman
reports.

 

The 24-year-old’s life turned around dramatically Monday when an Italian
appeals court threw out her conviction in the sexual assault and fatal stabbing
of her British roommate. On Tuesday, photos of Amanda Knox crying in the
courtroom after the verdict was read appeared on the front pages of newspapers
in Italy, the U.S., Britain and around the world.

 

 

Special Section:
The Appeal Trial of Amanda Knox

Amanda
Knox: I’m overwhelmed right now

Amanda
Knox’s alleged accomplice wants retrial

 

 

Knox’s first challenge will be repaying the more than $1 million in legal
debts her family piled up in the past two years.

Her parents each took out second mortgages and drained retirement accounts to
pay for her lawyers. Elizabeth Huff, Knox’s grandmother, took out a $250,000
loan to help pay bills, a burden she welcomed.

 

“We are happy; we are elated,” Huff said. “I can’t tell you how happy we
are.”

 

With the international media frenzy that surrounded Knox’s trial continuing
on the journey home — from her flight out of Rome to her landing in Seattle —
there’s no sign the interest in Knox or her story will let up soon. That could
open up an avenue for the family to pay off those debts.

Sources close to Knox tell CBS News that she began to write a memoir while in
prison. That could be worth millions to publishers eager to profit on one of the
most sensational international legal cases in memory.

On CBS’ “The Early Show” Wednesday, Knox’s U.S. attorney, Theodore Simon, said
her writings weren’t discussed during her reunion with family and friends
Tuesday night.

 

 

 

(Watch at left)

 

 

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more to come, but I can tell you very
candidly none of those things were discussed last night in any way,” Simon told
“Early Show” co-anchor Erica Hill. “In fact, Amanda is much more about asking
people how they are as opposed to explaining herself, and it was only after much
time and some curiosity where others started asking some questions about her
prison experience, and when everyone hears about all of those I think they are
really going to be really amazed.”

 

As for Knox’s future, her father, Curt Knox, said she would like to return to
the University of Washington at some point to finish her degree.

 

For now, he’s apprehensive about what four years in prison may have done to
his daughter, though there are no immediate plans for her to get counseling.
“What’s the trauma … and when will it show up, if it even shows up?” he told
The Associated Press. “She’s a very strong girl, but it’s been a tough time for
her.”

For now, Knox has just one priority.

 

“My family’s the most important thing to me right now, and I just want to go
be with them,” Knox told reporters Tuesday night. “Thank you for being there for
me.”

 

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Party+crasher+Michaele+Salahi+kidnapped+runs+with+Journey+guitarist/5408409/story.html

LOS ANGELES – Few people roll like Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq,  late of “The Real Housewives of D.C.” and originally infamous for allegedly  crashing a state dinner at the White House.

 

Depending on when a person checked in on the Salahi drama Wednesday, Michaele  was either kidnapped, according to Tareq, or just fine, according to police.  Then there was the part about Michaele running off with a guy from a rock  band.

 

But more about Journey guitarist Neal Schon later. Seriously. After the  police stuff, and before the Montel Williams stuff.

 

Tareq reported Michaele missing very late Tuesday night, telling law  enforcement that his wife had been gone for six hours, the North Virginia Daily  reported. She’d called him from a cellphone with an Oregon number, he said, to  tell him she was fine and on her way to her mom’s house.

 

He said that after talking to his mother-in-law, who according to TMZ told  Tareq she didn’t know what was up with Michaele, he feared a kidnapping. The  former house-husband of D.C. told NBC that his wife’s “cryptic” behavior during  the call made him think she was trying to convey a message to him in code, the  way they’d play-acted in the past in case either one were, you know,  kidnapped.

 

“I swear to God,” Tareq told NBC, denying that the kidnap report was a  publicity stunt. “I’m missing my wife,” he sobbed, breaking down in tears.

 

The Sheriff’s Department in Virginia’s Warren County then issued a statement  Wednesday afternoon saying essentially not to worry – officials had been in  touch with Michaele and were confident nobody had been kidnapped.

 

“She seemed calm, was engaged in conversation, and assured the deputy that  she had left the residence with a good friend and was where she wanted to be,”  authorities said. She allegedly didn’t want her husband knowing where she  was.

 

Tareq Salahi told NBC a different story. “I think she’s being forced by,  whatever this Oregon phone number is, she’s being forced to say she’s OK,” he  said. “She’s being forced to to say this to the local authorities.” The couple  had frequently dealt with stalkers and death threats, according to Tareq.

 

But the best was yet to come.

 

It seems Michaele had actually run off with Journey lead guitarist Neal Schon  in Tennessee on Wednesday, according to TMZ, which got confirmation from the  band’s rep that “nobody kidnapped her and they are in Memphis together.” Mrs.  Salahi and Schon had even hung out together in the past, including with Mr.  Salahi at a party at the Salahi family’s winery. It was what the missus called  an “intimate and passionate relationship,” the celeb website said.

 

Of possible interest to those who graduated high school in the early 1980s:  Foreigner and Night Ranger were opening for Journey on Wednesday night in  Memphis.

 

The drama around the non-kidnapping came just ahead of Sunday’s scheduled  auction of Oasis Vineyards assets _ an auction related the winery’s 2008  bankruptcy filing. Though the Hume, Va., winery is not on the block, bids can be  placed Sunday in person or online on items including winemaking supplies,  kitchen and catering equipment, trucks and tractors, more than 200 cases of  various wines, and about 5,000 bottles of unfinished sparkling wine currently en  tirage. Oasis was founded in 1977 by Tareq’s parents.

 

Also on the Salahis’ dance card: A Sept. 24 event at the Oasis that’s being  billed as a charity fundraiser, with “a portion of proceeds going to benefit the  National Multiple Sclerosis Society.”

 

At least that’s how it’s now being billed, after Montel Williams’ legal team  sent a cease-and-desist letter Aug. 25 demanding that the TV personality’s name  and the name of his foundation be removed from any materials associated with the  $150-a-ticket event.

 

“I have never met, never spoken with, never been involved with anything to do  with these people,” Williams told the Los Angeles Times shortly after learning  someone had been marketing “A Hollywood Oasis – When Hollywood Glamour Meets the  Capital Region” with an assertion that he would be attending, and that a portion  of proceeds would go to the Montel Williams MS Foundation.

 

“It appears that the Salahis, whose bizarre behavior has been widely  reported, are attempting to piggyback off of Montel’s record of advocacy on  behalf of MS sufferers worldwide to advance the apparent re-opening of their  failed winery,” rep Jonathan Franks said in an Aug. 26 statement on Montel’s  behalf, adding that Team Montel had that day been contacted by multiple  governmental agencies investigating the group responsible for the event.  Williams’ people intended to co-operate with authorities, Franks said.

 

The Salahis protested via TMZ that they were not responsible for the actions  of those who held events at their winery, placing blame instead on D.C.’s Most  Fabulous Magazine, which was affiliated with the event and had posted the  invites online. The mag is run by one Howard N. Cromwell, who has previously  represented the Salahis, serving as the PR contact when Michaele released her  dance track, “Bump It.” In May, she was down to serve as head judge for a  Memorial Day bikini contest publicized by Cromwell.

 

Though Cromwell’s DRAWOH LLEWMORC Omnimedia Inc. (DLO) had written to  Williams’ foundation Aug. 10 stating that the foundation would be the  unsolicited beneficiary of the magazine’s third-anniversary celebration, the  former talk show host did not reply or accept an invitation for any  representative of the foundation to attend.

 

“The use of Mr. Williams’ name without his permission is unacceptable, and  Mr. Williams’ attorneys intend to pursue all available legal remedies in this  matter,” Franks said.

 

In a letter to Williams’ attorney dated Aug. 26, Cromwell’s attorney said  Williams’ team was mistaken, and no materials had represented Montel as  confirmed to attend. “The charity event is . . . not a Salahi or Oasis Winery  event,” the letter stated. “Any misunderstanding or miscommunication is  therefore DLO’s responsibility, and not that of Mr. and Mrs. Salai or Oasis  Winery.” The letter also said Williams’ name had been removed from any DLO  websites.

 

Williams’ legal team had sent its cease-and-desist letter to the Salahis on  Aug. 25. On Aug. 30, Cromwell posted a link on his Facebook page to materials  again stating Montel was expected at the event. That offer of an “international  marketing & branding opportunity” had also been revised to reinforce  Michaele’s status as a person “who has MS.”

 

Michaele Salahi revealed her alleged MS diagnosis on “Fox & Friends” in  September, saying she’d left the White House state dinner not due to her and  Tareq’s lack of a seating assignment, but rather because she was suffering  MS-related fatigue. The two were spotted, however, hanging out at a hotel bar  nearby for hours after leaving the state dinner, ultimately allegedly skipping  out on the tab. Michaele has not publicly discussed any treatment she might be  undergoing for MS, which she said she’d been dealing with for 17 years.

 

Williams called it “egregiously offensive” that his name might have been used  to mislead people into buying tickets to an event he was not affiliated with.  “They might not have crossed the line enough” in this case, he said, but  “they’ve figured out how to skirt the law. I hope the next time they get  caught.”

 

Williams said he suspected his name came up as a result of success he’d had  recently on the D.C.-area charity circuit raising money for veterans causes.  Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999, the veteran of both the  Navy and the Marines also has worked on behalf of MS research.

 

Various state regulatory and law enforcement agencies in Virginia have been  looking into the Salahis’ activities, a source familiar with the inquiries told  the Los Angeels Times.

 

Incidentally, flattering quotes on Michaele Salahi’s website attributed to  the Times were in fact taken from an article written by Jocelyn Noveck of the  Associated Press.

 

Said Williams: “These people need to go away.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Party+crasher+Michaele+Salahi+kidnapped+runs+with+Journey+guitarist/5408409/story.html#ixzz1Y3Hy43kO

 

 

Egypt’s Mubarak to be tried over protester deaths

Hosni Mubarakhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110524/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt

By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press 34 mins ago

CAIRO – Egypt’s ex-President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial on charges of conspiring in the deadly shootings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him, the prosecutor-general said Tuesday, a major step in a country still rattled by protests and demands for justice.

The 83-year-old leader and his two sons also were charged with abusing power to amass wealth, enriching associates and accepting bribes, the prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement.

A date has not been set for the trial in criminal court. The prosecutor general spokesman Adel el-Said told The Associated Press the charges against Mubarak for his alleged role in the killing of protesters by security forces could carry the death penalty.

“The sons and the businessman have nothing to do with the charges of the killing of protesters,” he said. “Mubarak and some police chiefs are charged with that.”

Putting Mubarak on trial is a key demand of many Egyptians who have rallied to demand the ousted leader and his aides face justice. A close associate of Mubarak, Hussein Salem, also was charged. He is at large.

Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 and transferred power to the military after an 18-day popular uprising. At least 846 protesters were killed, according to a government fact-finding mission.

Mubarak has been in custody in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since last month. His two sons are in detention in a Cairo prison.

The Mubaraks and other members of the former regime have been the subject of legal efforts to bring them to trial since the ex-president was forced to resign on Feb. 11. Egypt’s former security chief and four of his top aides are already on trial in the shooting of protesters.

Earlier this month, Tunisia’s toppled president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was charged along with his wife of inciting violence in the bloody crackdown on the popular uprising there. Ben Ali has fled to Saudi Arabia.

But after the initial euphoria in Egypt of a successful uprising, protesters have become impatient and stepped up demands that reforms and promises be carried out.

Mubarak’s prosecution has been complicated by his health condition. He has been interrogated in the hospital, but an order by the prosecutor to transfer him to prison during the investigation was overturned on grounds the prison health facilities were not ready to receive him. He was never moved to a military hospital as suggested by the prosecutor.

Protesters took to the streets several times demanding a speedy trial for Mubarak and his sons.

The calls were aggravated two weeks ago by reports suggesting the military rulers might grant Mubarak amnesty. The reports sparked a wave of criticism and calls for mass rallies to demand justice. The anger prompted a quick denial from the military rulers.

The statement from prosecutor-general Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid on Tuesday accused Mubarak of having “conspired” with the former security chief and other officers to shoot and kill protesters who took to the streets starting Jan. 25. The decision comes ahead of a planned Friday protest dubbed “Egypt’s second revolution,” to demand Mubarak be put on trial and that all remnants of his regime be uprooted, including the hated emergency laws that remain on the books more than three months after his ouster.

Activist Hossam Hamalawi said the Friday protests will go ahead because there are other unmet demands besides trial for Mubarak. “It has to be a public trial, aired minute by minute,” he said. “It is not a legal process as much as it is a political one.”

Abdel-Meguid also charged Mubarak and his sons, Gamal and Alaa, with using their authority and power to enrich himself and business associate Salem.

Prosecution spokesman Adel al-Said said Mubarak’s sons are still being interrogated on other accusations.

The prosecutor had earlier ordered the freezing of the assets of Mubarak and his family. His 70-year- old wife Suzanne was released after she relinquished assets and property valued at $4 million. The move aimed to settle corruption allegations against her, but it was unclear whether she would still face trial.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_schwarzenegger_shriver_separation

LOS ANGELES – Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has acknowledged that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff, a revelation that apparently prompted wife Maria Shriver to leave the couple’s home before they announced their separation last week.

Schwarzenegger and Shriver jointly announced May 9 that they were splitting up after 25 years of marriage. Yet, Shriver moved out of the family’s Brentwood mansion earlier in the year after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the child is his, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

“After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago,” Schwarzenegger told the Times in a statement that also was sent to The Associated Press early Tuesday. “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.

“I ask that the media respect my wife and children through this extremely difficult time,” the statement concluded. “While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not.”

Schwarzenegger’s representatives did not comment further. A spokesman for the former first lady told the Times she had no comment.

The Times did not publish the former staffer’s name nor that of her child but said the woman worked for the family for 20 years and retired in January.

In an interview Monday before Schwarzenegger issued his statement, the former staffer said another man — her husband at the time — was the child’s father. When the Times later informed the woman of the governor’s statement, she declined to comment further.

The child was born before Schwarzenegger began his seven-year stint in public office.

Shriver stood by her husband during his 2003 gubernatorial campaign after the Los Angeles Times reported accusations that he had a history of groping women. Schwarzenegger later said he “behaved badly sometimes.”

In his first public comments since the couple announced their breakup, Schwarzenegger said last week that he and Shriver “both love each other very much.”

“We are very fortunate that we have four extraordinary children and we’re taking one day at a time,” he said at a Los Angeles event marking Israeli independence. Their children range in age from 13 to 21.

Since his term as California governor ended in early January, Schwarzenegger, 63, has hopscotched around the world, his wife nowhere in sight. While the “Terminator” star appeared confident about the future since exiting politics, cutting movie deals and fashioning himself as a global spokesman for green energy, Shriver, known for her confidence, seemed unsettled.

Shriver, 55, maintained her own identity when her husband entered politics, though she gave up her job at NBC. Their union was often tested in Sacramento, where the former action star contended with a rough seven years of legislative gridlock, a budget crisis and lingering questions about his fidelity.

Report: Syrian troops shelling residential areas

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110511/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press Zeina Karam, Associated Press 22 mins ago

BEIRUT – The Syrian army shelled residential areas in the country’s third-largest city Wednesday, sending people fleeing for cover in a sharp escalation in the government’s attempts to crush a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule, according to activists and witnesses.

Heavy tank- and gunfire rocked at least three residential neighborhoods in the besieged city of Homs, which has seen some of the largest anti-government demonstrations during the seven-week-long uprising.

“There were loud explosions and gunfire from automatic rifles throughout the night and until this morning,” a resident told The Associated Press by telephone, asking that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals. “The area is totally besieged. We are being shelled.”

More than 750 people have been killed in a crackdown on the unrest and thousands of Syrians have been detained, with about 9,000 still in custody, said Ammar Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

Syrian authorities are determined to crush the uprising, despite rising international pressure against it. Assad has dispatched army troops backed by tanks to Homs and other communities across the country, saying soldiers and security forces are rooting out “armed terrorist groups” and thugs he says are behind the violence.

Assad has announced a series of reforms, widely viewed as symbolic overtures to appease protesters since the movement began in the southern city of Daraa in mid-March and quickly spread nationwide.

On Wednesday, he was quoted by Syria’s private Al-Watan newspaper urging Syrians to cooperate with the government so that the reform process may continue. He also pledged a swift solution to the issue of detainees who were jailed during the unrest.

Wednesday’s shelling targeted the Bab Sbaa, Bab Amr and Jouret el Aris neighborhoods, according to activists in Damascus who were in touch with residents in Homs. The city also is home to one of Syria’s two oil refineries.

Syrian television quoted a military official as saying that soldiers and security forces were pursuing “armed terrorist groups” and arrested tens of fugitives and seized large quantities of weapons.

The official, who was not identified, said two soldiers were killed and five wounded during confrontations Wednesday.

Germany, meanwhile, said several European countries were summoning Syrian ambassadors and threatening new sanctions targeting the country’s leadership if it doesn’t halt the repression of protesters.

The European Union already has decided to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials, prohibiting them from traveling anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. But the first round of sanctions doesn’t target Assad himself.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said European officials will make clear that “a second package that also includes the Syrian leadership” will follow if Syria does not immediately change course.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also urged Syria Wednesday to allow an international aid assessment team to enter Daraa. He told reporters in Geneva he is disappointed the assessment team “has not yet been given the access it needs.”

Ban added he had been assured by Assad that the team would be allowed into the city.

Despite the government crackdown, small demonstrations and candlelight vigils were reported in several areas in the past few days.

Activists said three protesters were killed late Tuesday when government forces fired on demonstrations in Jassem, one of a cluster of villages near Daraa.

In the coastal city of Banias, where the army has also sent soldiers and tanks and arrested hundreds as part of military operation, rights activists said electricity, water and communications have been restored.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said authorities also released some 300 people Tuesday after making them sign a pledge not to state protests. But he said an army tank was still deployed in the city’s main square were protests were held in past weeks.

Abdul-Rahman said at least seven civilians, including four women, were killed during military operations in the city.

___

Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.

UN to send teams to Syria as 6 die in clashes

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110506/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Bassem Mroue, Associated Press 12 mins ago

SOFIA, Bulgaria – United Nation’s chief says Syria has agreed to allow U.N. teams to go into the country and check the humanitarian situation there.

Ban Ki-moon spoke in Bulgaria Friday, as Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters Friday, killing at least six people as thousands joined demonstrations across the country calling for an end to President Bashar Assad’s regime, witnesses and activists said.

Ban said Assad agreed to allow U.N. humanitarian teams during a phone call.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters Friday, killing at least six people as thousands joined demonstrations across the country calling for an end to President Bashar Assad’s regime, witnesses and activists said.

Syrian authorities also detained Riad Seif, a leading opposition figure and former lawmaker who has been an outspoken critic of the regime during the seven-week uprising, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Five people were killed in the central city of Homs and one was killed in Hama, said a senior member of a human rights group that compiles death toll figures in Syria.

Like most activists and witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press, he asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals by the government.

“We were chanting, peaceful, peaceful, and we didn’t even throw a stone at the security forces,” said a witness in Homs. “But they waited for us to reach the main square and then they opened fire on us.”

From Hama, footage posted on YouTube showed protesters frantically trying to resuscitate a man lying on the ground with a bloodied face and shirt, while people shouted “God is great!”

The protesters turned out Friday despite a bloody crackdown on the uprising. More than 565 civilians and 100 soldiers have been killed since the revolt began in March, according to rights groups.

Rallies were held in major areas including the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs, the central city of Homs, Banias on the coast and Qamishli in the northeast.

“The people want to topple the regime!” protesters shouted, echoing the cries heard during the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

Witnesses also reported some of the tightest security seen since the protests began in mid-March. In the Damascus suburb of Douma, scene of intense protests over recent weeks, security forces cordoned off the area to prevent anyone from entering or leaving.

A witness near Douma said he saw a train carrying about 15 army tanks heading north Thursday evening toward the central province of Homs, another site of recent violence.

Another activist in Damascus said hundreds of people marched in the central neighborhood of Midan. In Banias, witnesses said more than 5,000 people carrying olive branches and Syrian flags also were calling for regime change.

They were among several demonstrations and marches planned for Friday, the main day of protests in the Arab world, for what activists were calling a “Day of Defiance.”

More than 565 civilians and 100 soldiers have been killed since an anti-regime uprising, inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, began in March, according to rights groups.

The activists said security forces set up checkpoints and closed some areas that experienced protests in recent weeks.

In the southern city of Daraa, where the army announced the end to an 11-day military operation Thursday, residents said troops were still in the streets, causing some would-be demonstrators to be wary of taking part in a planned protest Friday.

“There’s a tank stationed at each corner in Daraa. There is no way people can hold a protest today,” a resident said by telephone. “It means more killing. Daraa is taking a break. We don’t want to see more killing or face tank guns.”

The activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said a medical team reached Daraa on Thursday with trucks carrying humanitarian goods and medical supplies. The ICRC’s head of delegation in Damascus, Marianne Gasser, said helping people in Daraa is a priority “because it is the city that has been hardest hit by the ongoing violence.”

The ICRC had appealed to Syrian authorities earlier in the week to allow it to access to Daraa after being unable to reach the city previously while it was under siege by security forces.

Assad is determined to crush the revolt that has now become the gravest challenge to his family’s 40-year dynasty. He has tried a combination of brute force, intimidation and promises of reform to quell the unrest, but his attempts have failed so far.

Security forces have repeatedly opened fire on protesters during rallies around the country in the past week and last Friday at least 65 people were killed, according to rights groups.

The mounting death toll — and the siege in Daraa — has only served to embolden protesters who are now demanding nothing less than the end of Assad’s regime. There also has been growing international condemnation of the government’s tactics.

Syria blames the unrest on a foreign conspiracy and “terrorist groups” that it says have taken advantage of protests.

The uprising in Syria was sparked by the arrest of teenagers who scrawled anti-regime graffiti on a wall in Daraa. Protests spread quickly across the nation of some 23 million people.

Assad inherited power from his father in 2000.

___

Associated Press writers Zeina Karam and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut and Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.

___

Bassem Mroue can be reached at http://twitter.com/bmroue

Libya rebels claim control of Tunisian border post

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110421/ap_on_bi_ge/ml_libya

By KARIN LAUB and BEN HUBBARD, Associated Press Karin Laub And Ben Hubbard, Associated Press 37 mins ago

 

TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyan rebels said Thursday they had control of a post on the Tunisian border, forcing government soldiers to flee over the frontier and possibly opening a new channel for opposition forces in Moammar Gadhafi’s bastion in western Libya.

In the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya, meanwhile, relief workers and medical teams awaited the arrival of a passenger ferry carrying about 1,000 people — mostly Libyan civilians and workers from Asia and Africa — out of the besieged city of Misrata, the main rebel holdout in Gadhafi’s territory.

Also aboard the vessel were the bodies of an Oscar-nominated documentary maker from Britain and an American photographer who were killed covering clashes Wednesday. A day earlier, the ferry arrived in Misrata, delivering food and medical supplies to the beleaguered population.

The reported capture of the border crossing followed three days of intense fighting outside the desert town of Nalut, about 140 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of the capital Tripoli, said a rebel leader, Shaban Abu Sitta. The area was briefly in hands of anti-government forces last month before Libyan troops moved in.

Holding the Dhuheiba border crossing could open important supply routes for anti-Gadhafi forces and give the rebels another foothold in western Libya.

“Rebels are now manning Dhuheiba crossing,” said Abu Sitta, who claimed his fighters destroyed 30 army pickup trucks and captured 10 cars and some weapons.

Tunisia’s official TAP news agency said Libyan rebels had control of the post and at least 13 Libyan military officers, including two commanders, fled across the border. The report, citing a “high-level” Tunisian military official, said the Libyan officers were detained and the border post was closed.

A doctor with Tunisia’s Red Crescent, Dr. Mongi Slim, said the border post was in rebel hands and relief officials fear it could lead to a new wave of refugees.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

“The main worry now is an influx of families fleeing the fighting” in Libya, Slim told The Associated Press. “Before, when the post was under the control of the pro-Gadhafi forces, people had been crossing on little paths. But now it will be much easier.”

On the Ionian Spirit ferry — part of a maritime lifeline to Misrata — Libyan civilians and migrants workers packed the decks, hallways and every other available space. In the ship’s Panorama Bar, evacuees tossed mattresses onto the wooden dance floor. Women slipped behind a curtain to change.

The injured were brought to the lower level of the ship, where an 11-member medical team set up a makeshift intensive care unit.

Jeremy Haslam, a coordinator from the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said the boat has more than 1,000 evacuees including 239 Libyan civilians and 586 migrants from Niger and others from Africa and Asia.

He said some Libyans tried to flee Misrata aboard a tug boat, but were turned away because the vessel was overcrowded. Some managed to get aboard the ferry.

“We are carrying more than we are supposed to but it’s better than letting these people leave on a tugboat,” said Haslam.

The number of people seeking to flee Misrata has surged as Libyan forces expand their shelling to areas once considered relatively safe havens from attacks.

“Our neighborhood became a war zone so we had to get out,” said Faiza Stayta, who made it aboard the ferry with her husband and two children. “All the firing is random. You hear a rocket and how have no idea if it will come down on your house.”

The vessel carried the bodies of Chris Hondros, a New York-based photographer for Getty Images, and British-born Tim Hetherington, co-director of the 2010 Afghanistan war documentary “Restrepo” that was nominated for an Academy Award. The film was co-directed by Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm.”

They were killed Wednesday in an attack that also injured two other photographers. A statement from Hetherington’s family said he was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade. The ship also held the body of a Ukrainian doctor killed Wednesday from an artillery blast, said Haslam of the IOM.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, said the doctor’s wife was severely wounded by the shell.

He expressed his “deepest condolences for that couple. This is not just a couple, this is what Ukrainian people are showing to humanity to the world.”

The group is planning to send another ship to Misrata carrying 500 tons of food and medical supplies. The IOM said it has evacuated more than 3,100 people from Misrata.

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Hubbard reported from aboard the Ionian Spirit. Associated Press writer Hadeel al-Shalchi contributed to this report from Doha, Qatar.

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