Verdict coming for Russia's punk provocateur band

MOSCOW (AP) — Security is tight around a Moscow courthouse where three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot are to hear the verdict Friday in a trial that could send them to prison for seven years.

The case has attracted international attention as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent. The three women have been jailed since March after the band put on a brief guerrilla performance in Moscow's main cathedral, a so-called punk prayer entreating the Virgin Mary to protect Russia from Vladimir Putin, who at the time was on the verge of winning a new term as Russian president.

The women, two of whom have young children, are charged with hooliganism connected to religious hatred. But the case is widely seen as a warning that authorities will tolerate opposition only under tightly controlled conditions.

It also underlines the vast influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although church and state are formally separate, the church identifies itself as the heart of Russian national identity and critics say its strength effectively makes it a quasi-state entity.

Protests timed to just before the verdict or soon afterward are planned in more than three dozen cities worldwide.


NATO: Afghan local policeman kills 2 US troops in western Afghanistan in latest insider attack

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A newly recruited Afghan village policeman opened fire on his American allies on Friday, minutes after they gave him a new weapon as a present, killing two U.S. service members. It was the latest in a disturbing string of attacks by Afghan security forces on the international troops training them.

The killings in the country's far west marked the sixth time in two weeks that a member of the Afghan security forces, or someone wearing their uniform, opened fire on international forces.

Such attacks — virtually unheard of just a few years ago — have recently escalated, killing at least 36 foreign troops so far this year and raising questions about the strategy to train national police and soldiers to take over security and fight insurgents after most foreign troops leave the country by the end of 2014.

The NATO-led coalition has said such attacks are anomalies stemming from personal disputes, but the supreme leader of the Taliban boasted on Thursday night that the insurgents are infiltrating the quickly expanding Afghan forces.

Friday's attacker was identified as Mohammad Ismail, a man in his 30s who had joined the Afghan Local Police just five days ago.


Romney seeks money, not votes, in solidly Republican or Democratic states

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is spending much of this week in Alabama, South Carolina, Massachusetts and New York. He plans visits next week to Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico.

These states have one thing in common: None is seriously contested in the presidential race, so there's no real need to woo their voters. Romney is going solely to raise money, which remains a top priority even with the election less than 12 weeks away and President Barack Obama making extended visits to toss-up states such as Iowa and Ohio.

To be sure, Obama attends numerous fundraisers of his own. And Romney has spent significant time at public campaign events in swing states, and he will do so many times again before Nov. 6.

But the amount of time Romney is devoting to private fundraisers in noncompetitive states is notable. Even when he is in swing states, he sometimes attends only a fundraiser, without mingling with nondonors or appearing before local TV cameras, as he did Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Romney is pouring time into fundraisers even though he has outdistanced Obama on that front for months. The former Massachusetts governor reported raising more than $101 million along with the Republican National Committee in July. Obama's campaign and Democratic National Committee raised $75 million for the month.


Official says South Africa police killed more than 30 attacking miners in Lonmin PLC strike

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South African police officers killed more than 30 miners who charged them at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine, authorities said Friday, as a national newspaper warned that a time bomb ticking over poor South Africans has exploded.

Thursday's shootings are one of the worst in South Africa since the end of the apartheid era, and came as a rift deepens between the country's governing African National Congress and an impoverished electorate confronting massive unemployment and growing poverty and inequality.

They "awaken us to the reality of the time bomb that has stopped ticking — it has exploded," The Sowetan newspaper said in an editorial. "Africans are pitted against each other ... fighting for a bigger slice of the mineral wealth of the country. In the end the war claims the very poor African -- again."

Police ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi told The Associated Press on Friday that more than 30 people were killed on Thursday in the police volleys of gunfire during the strike, now a week old. The Star, a Johannesburg newspaper, said another 86 people were wounded. People were gathering at hospitals in the area, hoping to find missing family members among the wounded.

Makhosi Mbongane, a 32-year-old winch operator, said mine managers should have come to the workers rather than send police. Strikers were demanding salary raises from $625 to $1,563. Mbongane vowed that he was not going back to work and would not allow anyone else to do so either.


With Assange asylum decision, Ecuador's president seeks to stake claim to moral high ground

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Rafael Correa is a committed leftist and former lay missionary whose first run at elected office was his successful 2006 election as Ecuador's president.

He is also a U.S.- and European-educated economist who tempers his trademark impulsiveness with high calculation. His decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum Thursday was anything but an emotional roll of the dice.

Correa, 49, knew he would likely deeply offend the United States, Britain and Sweden and likely the European Union. He also knew he would be inviting commercial and political retaliation that might hurt his small petroleum-exporting nation of 14 million people.

No such retaliation has yet come, though Britain says it won't allow Assange safe passage out of the country. Sweden, where Assange is wanted for questioning for alleged sexual misconduct, summoned Ecuador's ambassador to issue a stern protest.

Offering asylum to the man responsible for the biggest-ever spilling of U.S. secrets was apparently too attractive for Correa to resist. It let him stake a claim to moral high ground, associating himself with a man whose loyalists consider him a digital age Robin Hood crusading against abuses of big governments and corporations.


AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low; some experts optimistic on global warming

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world's leading climate scientists didn't see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.

"There's a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources," said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.

In a little-noticed technical report, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, said this month that energy related U.S. CO2 emissions for the first four months of this year fell to about 1992 levels. Energy emissions make up about 98 percent of the total. The Associated Press contacted environmental experts, scientists and utility companies and learned that virtually everyone believes the shift could have major long-term implications for U.S. energy policy.


After adult autistic son denied heart transplant, Pennsylvania woman seeks to reverse decision

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania woman whose autistic adult son was not recommended for a heart transplant because of his illness and the complexity of the process, among other factors, said she wants to bring more attention to the decision-making process so that those with ailments or disabilities are not passed over without careful consideration.

Karen Corby said Thursday that her son, Paul, now 23, was denied a heart transplant from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania last summer over what it said were concerns about his "psychiatric issues" and "autism," among other factors.

One expert on medical ethics said it's legitimate for the mother to raise the point, but there's an even bigger one, too.

"The thing to keep in mind is if more of us would sign donor cards, there would be less pressure to reject anybody. It's the huge shortage of hearts that really drives this problem," said Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Paul Corby was recommended for the procedure because he was born with left ventricular noncompaction, a congenital disorder that left part of his heart less able to pump blood through his body. He was diagnosed with the ailment in 2008. He was referred to Penn Medicine in 2011 to discuss a transplant.


Crews make progress on wildfires across West but officials keep wary eye on weather forecasts

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — Crews in central Washington, rural Idaho and Southern California made gains on several wildfires, allowing some evacuees to return home and protecting two vacation towns from a massive encroaching blaze.

Firefighters stopped a fire about 75 miles east of Seattle from destroying more buildings in the past two days, fire spokesman Mark Grassel said Thursday. The blaze near the town of Cle Elum burned at least 70 homes, more than 200 outbuildings and about 35 square miles of wildland since it started Monday.

Crews focused on strengthening lines on the fire's stubborn north flank, where flames whipped through thick pine and fir forests in a steep, rugged area.

"They're really trying to button up that line so they feel more secure about it holding," Grassel said.

Firefighters' work allowed officials to lift some evacuation orders, although homeowners said they didn't feel out of danger yet. Unusually hot, dry, unstable weather was expected Friday and Saturday, with thunderstorms possible, Grassel said.


Young illegal immigrants get chance to stay, but challenges complicate path to college degree

MIAMI (AP) — Araceli Cortes had made up her mind: After being brought to the U.S. as a child, graduating from high school and attending some college in California, she was going to return to Mexico to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

She quit her job, bought an airline ticket and reserved a seat to take a medical school entrance exam.

Then, a week before her departure, President Barack Obama announced that young illegal immigrants like Cortes would be given the chance to remain in the United States and obtain a work visa. Cortes canceled her ticket and decided to stay.

This week, she and thousands of other immigrants began the application process. But she and many other student immigrants could face some tough obstacles.

"It's not giving me much," Cortes, 20, said. "It's just a two-year permit."


10-year-old boy dead, brother missing after current sweeps them into river in Yosemite park

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Authorities were searching a stretch of the Merced River for a 6-year-old boy after his older brother died when a current swept them away during a family outing in Yosemite National Park.

The boy is presumed dead. Other hikers pulled the body of his 10-year-old brother about 150 yards downstream from where family members had waded into the river to cool off Wednesday.

Their mother was hospitalized with a back injury after being pulled from the river, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said.

"She went into the river but made it out," Cobb said.

The names of the boys were not immediately released.