3:18 AM AKDT, May 30, 2012
New underground lab turns S. Dakota gold town into scientific hub in search for 'dark matter'
LEAD, S.D. (AP) — Nestled nearly 5,000 feet beneath the earth in the gold boom town of Lead, S.D., is a laboratory that could help scientists answer some pretty heavy questions about life, its origins and the universe.
It's hard to spot from the surface. Looking around the rustic town, there are far more nods to its mining past than to its scientific future, but on Wednesday, when part of the closed Homestake Gold Mine officially becomes an underground campus, Lead's name will be known in scientific circles as the place where the elusive stuff called dark matter might finally be detected.
Unimpressed? Consider this: It's sure to earn itself a reference on TV's"The Big Bang Theory."
"This year, 2012, is going to be a very significant year because we get to turn the ... detector on and know very soon whether we have actually found dark matter or not," said Rick Gaitskell, a scientist withBrown University who has worked alongside dozens of scientists over the past few years to move forward with the Large Underground Xenon experiment — or LUX — the world's most sensitive dark-matter detector.
For most people, dark matter is a term that made their eyes glaze over in science class. But for Gaitskell and scientists like him, it's the mystery meat of existence.
Syrian media criticize Western diplomatic protest, warn it may deal fatal blow to peace plan
BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's state-run media on Wednesday criticized decisions by the U.S. and other nations to expel the country's diplomats, describing the moves as "unprecedented hysteria" and warning they might deal a fatal blow to an international peace plan.
The harsh rhetoric came as Syrian forces bombarded rebel-held areas in the same province where a recent assault killed 108 people, activists said.
Survivors of the Houla massacre blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of the carnage as the killings reverberated inside Syria and beyond, further isolating President Bashar Assad and embarrassing his few remaining allies. The Syrian government denied its troops were behind the killings and blamed "armed terrorists."
Damascus had said it would conclude its own investigation into the Houla deaths by Wednesday but it was not clear if the findings would be made public.
The Houla killings prompted Western nations to expel Syrian diplomats in a coordinated protest.
Britain's Supreme Court backs extradition of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange to Sweden
LONDON (AP) — Britain's Supreme Court has endorsed the extradition of WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange to Sweden, bringing the secret-spilling Internet activist a big step closer to prosecution in a Scandinavian court.
Assange, 40, has spent the better part of two years fighting attempts to send him to the Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in sex crime allegations. He has not been charged there.
The U.K. side of that struggle appeared to come to a messy end Wednesday, with the nation's highest court ruling 5-2 that the warrant seeking his arrest was properly issued — and Assange's lawyer arguing that the case should be reopened.
Supreme Court President Nicholas Phillips, speaking for the majority, acknowledged that Assange's case "has not been simple to resolve," but that the court had ultimately concluded that "the request for Mr. Assange's extradition has been lawfully made and his appeal against extradition is accordingly dismissed."
Assange won't be sent to Sweden immediately no matter what happens. His lawyer, Dinah Rose, stood up after the verdict to say that court's ruling was based on evidence that was not argued during the appeal, requesting time to study the verdict further with an eye toward trying to reopen the case.
Judges sentence Charles Taylor to 50 years for supporting Sierra Leone rebels in civil war
LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Judges at an international war crimes court have sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison following his landmark conviction for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone who murdered and mutilated thousands during their country's brutal civil war in return for blood diamonds.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone found Taylor guilty last month on 11 charges of aiding and abetting the rebels who went on a bloody rampage during the decade-long war that ended in 2002 with more than 50,000 dead.
Presiding Judge Richard Lussick says the crimes Taylor was convicted of were of the "utmost gravity in terms of scale and brutality."
The 64-year-old warlord-turned-president is the first former head of state convicted by an international war crimes court since World War II.
40 years: Funky Winkerbean and creator graying together, giving cartoonist grown-up stories
MEDINA, Ohio (AP) — Like two aging baby boomers, "Funky Winkerbean" and creator Tom Batiuk have turned gray and have experienced their share of life's ups and downs in a 40-year run on the funny pages.
Batiuk, 65, has morphed his characters over the years from mop-headed beatniks to graying 60-somethings, much like the changes for Batiuk, his hair over his collar in the 1970s but now graying and cut short.
The story lines have changed, too, from high school hijinks and awkward teen dating moments in the early years to dealing with more adult issues like alcoholism, suicide and fighting cancer. His latest hot topic story line during May: two boys who want to go to the high school prom together.
The strip debuted in more than 70 papers on March 27, 1972, and has grown to about 400. The first strip introduced the high school-age characters, including Funky ("I'm just an average kid") and Les ("I really want to be far out like Roland") and issues important to teens, including meeting a girl, getting a date and dealing with acne.
To Batiuk, delving back into the high school years with the gay prom issue underscores the generational changes and contemporary challenges his characters faced once he decided to let them begin aging along with Batiuk and the rest of us.
Romney clinches GOP presidential nomination, but Trump overshadows
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Mitt Romney has won the Republican presidential nomination after years of fighting, though his triumph was partially overshadowed by the celebrity businessman who helped him along the way.
As primary voters in Texas on Tuesday pushed him past the 1,144-delegate threshold he needed to win the nod, Romney was raising money in Las Vegas with Donald Trump, the real estate mogul who has stoked doubts about whether President Barack Obama was born in America.
It's the start of a weeklong push to raise millions of dollars during a West Coast swing as Romney looks to bring in as much cash as possible ahead of a ramped-up campaign schedule later this summer.
"Mr. Trump, thank you for letting us come to this beautiful hotel and being with so many friends. Thank you for twisting the arms that it takes to bring a fundraiser together," Romney told the approximately 200 people who paid thousands to attend the event at the Trump International Hotel. "I appreciate your help."
The Trump event and surrounding controversy overshadowed the Texas primary win that officially handed Romney the nomination, a triumph of endurance for a candidate who came up short four years ago and had to fight hard this year as voters flirted with a carousel of GOP rivals. According to the Associated Press count, Romney surpassed the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination by winning at least 97 delegates in the Texas primary.
Few takers for Obama's small-business health care tax credit; Congress unlikely to fix flaws
WASHINGTON (AP) — It seemed like a good idea at the time.
But a health insurance tax credit for small businesses, part of President Barack Obama's health care law that gets strong support in public opinion polls, has turned out to be a disappointment.
Time-consuming to apply for and lacking enough financial reward to make it attractive, the credit was claimed by only 170,300 businesses out of a pool of as many as 4 potentially eligible million companies in 2010.
That's put the Obama administration in the awkward position of asking Congress to help fix the problems by allowing more businesses to qualify and making it simpler to apply.
But Republicans who run the House say they want to repeal what they call "Obamacare," not change it.
On first trip out of Myanmar in 24 years, Suu Kyi visits impoverished migrants in Thailand
MAHACHAI, Thailand (AP) — Kicking off her first trip abroad in nearly a quarter-century, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi offered encouragement Wednesday to impoverished migrants whose flight to neighboring Thailand is emblematic of the devastation wrought on her homeland by decades of misrule.
"Don't feel down, or weak. History is always changing," she told an exuberant crowd of thousands southwest of Bangkok. Many held signs saying, "We want to go home," and Suu Kyi said her visit was aimed at learning how she could help them.
"Today, I will make you one promise: I will try my best for you," she said.
Suu Kyi, who arrived in Bangkok late Tuesday, left her luxury hotel and the skyscraper-packed capital Wednesday for the nearby town of Mahachai, home to Thailand's largest population of Burmese migrants. Thousands of Myanmar's downtrodden crowded around her and chanted: "Long Live Mother Suu!"
"I had only seen her on TV and in newspapers," said Saw Hla Tun, who left Myanmar's Karen state seven years ago and earns a meager wage carrying heavy salt sacks on his back. "I couldn't hold back my tears when I saw her."
Already saddled with college debt, students encounter another financial burden — card fees
WASHINGTON (AP) — It took Mario Parker-Milligan less than a semester to decide that he was paying too many fees to Higher One, the company hired by his college to pay out students' financial aid on debit cards.
Four years after he opted out, his classmates still face more than a dozen fees — for replacement cards, for using the cards as all-purpose debit cards, for using an ATM other than the two on-campus kiosks owned by Higher One.
"They sold it as a faster, cheaper way for the college to get students their money," said Parker-Milligan, 23, student body president at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore. "It may be cheaper for the college, but it's not cheaper for the students."
As many as 900 colleges are pushing students into using payment cards that carry hefty costs, sometimes even to get to their financial aid money, according to a report to be released Wednesday by a public interest group.
Colleges and banks rake in millions from the fees, often through secretive deals and sometimes in apparent violation of federal law, according to the report, an early copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
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