New jobs numbers likely to set tone for Obama and Romney as each looks for an advantage

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is bracing for another potential dose of lackluster economic news while Republican challenger Mitt Romney readies to take advantage of any weakness in the monthly jobs report.

The new unemployment numbers, due Friday morning from the Labor Department, will paint a fresh picture of the U.S. economy three months before Election Day. The closely watched report will also help set the tone for the next phase in the battle for the White House as the candidates race toward their party conventions and a fall campaign blitz.

In an unshakably static campaign, Obama and Romney will each seek to spin the report to their advantage.

The nationwide unemployment rate stands at 8.2 percent. That's down from a peak under Obama of 10.1 percent in 2009, but it's far too high for an economy trying to break out of the doldrums.

Another dour report would provide fresh fodder for the central premise of Romney's campaign: Obama's economic policies have failed and Romney's experience as a successful businessman would help him put the country on a clearer path to growth and job creation.


Uncertain economic outlook likely kept US hiring weak for fourth straight month in July

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. hiring was likely sluggish in July for a fourth straight month, held back by slower economic growth and an uncertain outlook.

Analysts forecast that employers added 100,000 jobs last month, according to a survey by FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 8.2 percent for the third straight month.

The Labor Department will report on July hiring and unemployment trends at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Friday.

Hiring was robust at the start of the year, but then slowed sharply in the spring and early summer. Employers added an average of 75,000 jobs per month from April through June, a third of the average monthly gains from January through March.

That's not enough new jobs to keep up with population growth, let alone satisfy the 12.7 million Americans who are unemployed and looking for work.


UN General Assembly resolution to tell Syria to lock down chemical weapons, stop tank attacks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — With the U.N. Security Council deadlocked over the Syrian crisis, the General Assembly prepared Friday to denounce Syria for unleashing tanks, artillery, helicopters and warplanes on the people of Aleppo and Damascus, and demand that the Assad regime keep its chemical and biological weapons warehoused and under strict control.

The Assembly was overshadowed by the resignation of former U.N. chief Kofi Annan on Thursday as the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria after his peace proposals failed.

The anti-Syria resolution was expected to easily pass in the 193-member General Assembly after its Arab sponsors de-fanged two key provisions in the original draft — a demand that President Bashar Assad resign, and a call for other nations to place sanctions on Syria over its civil war.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, meanwhile, told the Security Council on Thursday that U.N. military observers in Aleppo are seeing "a considerable buildup of military means, where we have reason to believe that the main battle is about to start." The rebels have commandeered tanks, and are bringing them into combat as Syrian warplanes strike back.

"Even in Damascus, I was there a few days ago, one could hear explosions regularly, interminably," Ladsous told reporters after briefing the Council.


Gay rights activists answer 'Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day' with national 'Kiss In'

ATLANTA (AP) — Gay rights activists and other supporters of marriage equality plan a national "Kiss In" at Chick-fil-A restaurants Friday to protest the fast-food chain owners' opposition to same-sex unions.

Participants are encouraged to come to the fast-food chains and kiss a fellow demonstrator of the same sex. One organizer, Carly McGehee of Dallas, said she hopes the event "helps LGBT youth who feel isolated and are victims of bullying."

The gatherings come two days after hundreds of thousands of customers, many of them conservative Christians, recognized "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" at more than 1,600 locations.

Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy stirred the controversy by confirming his opposition to same-sex marriage. The Southern Baptist Cathy family has long been known for publicly expressing its faith, including never opening their businesses on Sundays.


EYES ON LONDON: Athletics moves into the spotlight, crowds surge and a big weekend begins

LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:



It's track time.

The athletics events at the London Olympics finally kick off Friday after a week of sitting around and waiting. The showdown starts with the opening heats of the women's 100, where Carmelita Jeter represents America's best chance to break the Jamaica's Olympic rule.


Alien-sounding lingo accompanies NASA's latest Mars mission; time to brush up on the language

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Fascinated by NASA's latest Mars mission and planning to tune in?

Well, good luck understanding the space agency's everyday lingo, which resembles a sort of Martian alphabet soup.

In the highly specialized world of spacecraft engineering, there are many moving parts and pieces — not to mention processes. Names and descriptions are often reduced to acronyms and abbreviations, which are faster to string together in a sentence but can end up sounding downright alien.

So if you want to know if MSL will nail the EDL and what it can do on different sols, you have to learn the language.

Even speakers admit the jargon is sometimes jarring.


AP Newsbreak: USDA to announce that US farmers markets surge under demand for local produce

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — As demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased, so too has the number of urban farmers markets sprouting up across the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce Friday that the number of direct-sales markets has increased 9.6 percent in the past year, with California and New York leading the way.

"Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation's food system," USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. "These outlets provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also to the communities looking for fresh, healthy foods."

After 18 years of steady increases, the number of farmers markets across the country now registered with the USDA is 7,864. In 1994, there were 1,744.

Organizations such as Slow Food, founded in 1989 to counter fast-food, junk-food lifestyles, first ignited consumer demand for fresh, local produce.


'There was blood everywhere:' 1 killed, dozens injured after Megabus crashes in Illinois

LITCHFIELD, Ill. (AP) — As a Megabus slammed into a bridge support pillar on an interstate highway in Illinois, the impact was so powerful that it flung 16-year-old passenger Baysha Collins from the upper-level seat where she was resting to a stairway leading to the lower level.

From there, she heard moaning from her fellow passengers on the double-decker bus, the front end of which was so mangled from the collision that emergency crews had to use ladders to rescue those trapped inside. At least one passenger was killed and dozens of others were hospitalized following the Thursday crash, authorities said.

"There was a lot of screaming and crying," said Collins, of Minneapolis, who was on her way to St. Louis to visit relatives. "There was blood everywhere. I was just in shock."

Aditi R. Avhad, 25, a native of India, was killed in the crash, Illinois State Police Trooper Brad Lemarr said late Thursday. Lemarr said she was headed to Columbia, Mo., but he didn't know where she was currently living or from where she was traveling. Authorities also did not know where she was seated on the bus.

At least 38 people — nearly half of those on the bus — were taken to hospitals or trauma centers, at least five who were transported by helicopter, Trooper Doug Francis said.


TJ Jackson steps up from relative obscurity as co-guardian of Michael's children

LOS ANGELES (AP) — TJ Jackson was one of Michael Jackson's favorite nephews. An heir to the family's musical talent and striking good looks, he is the son of Tito, one of the original Jackson Five. Largely unknown to the American public until now, he has been anointed as co-guardian of Michael's most prized treasures — his three children.

Suddenly, TJ is the chosen Jackson, the one designated to work beside Michael's mother to look after the welfare of his three cousins Prince, 15, Paris, 14 and Blanket,10, who will inherit the King of Pop's fortune.

He's stepping into a sensitive situation just days after a family feud went viral. But he appears to have only one interest at heart — the children.

"He has been very dedicated to these kids since Michael Jackson's death and he was involved with them before that," TJ's lawyer, Charles A. Schultz, said at a Thursday court hearing.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff, who appointed TJ to work with Katherine Jackson, said there is a strong bond between the 34-year-old T.J. and the children.


Gabby Douglas soars, becoming the 1st African-American to win all-around gymnastics title

LONDON (AP) — Gabby Douglas believed two years ago, when she convinced her mother to let her move halfway across the country.

Martha Karolyi became a convert over the winter, when the bubbly teenager with the electric smile developed the tenacity required to be a champion.

Under the brightest lights, on the biggest stage, that belief shattered a glass ceiling.

Even if the first African-American to win an Olympic all-around title didn't quite realize it.

"I kind of forgot about that," Douglas said with a laugh.