More purges may follow execution in North Korea PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - The execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle brought a swift and violent end to a man long considered the country's second most powerful figure. But while Jang Song Thaek is now gone, the fallout from his purge is not over. In a stunning reversal of the popular image of Jang as a mentor and father figure guiding young Kim Jong Un as he consolidated power, North Korea's state-run media announced Friday he had been executed, portraying him as a morally corrupt traitor who saw the death of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011 as an opportunity to make his own power play.
American missing in Iran was on unapproved mission WASHINGTON (AP) - In March 2007, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson flew to Kish Island, an Iranian resort awash with tourists, smugglers and organized crime figures. Days later, after an arranged meeting with an admitted killer, he checked out of his hotel, slipped into a taxi and vanished. For years, the U.S. has publicly described him as a private citizen who traveled to the tiny Persian Gulf island on private business. But that was just a cover story. An Associated Press investigation reveals that Levinson was working for the CIA. In an extraordinary breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts - with no authority to run spy operations - paid Levinson to gather intelligence from some of the world's darkest corners. He vanished while investigating the Iranian government for the U.S.
House GOP conservatives help propel budget bill WASHINGTON (AP) - After a sweeping vote by conservative Republicans controlling the House and President Barack Obama's Democratic allies, a bipartisan budget pact is in the hands of the Senate, where it will encounter stronger but probably futile resistance from Republicans. The modest package passed by the House on Thursday would ease the harshest effects of another round of automatic spending cuts set to hit the Pentagon and domestic agencies next month. Supporters of the measure easily beat back attacks on it from conservative organizations that sometimes raise money by stoking conflict within the Republican Party.
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New drug, study method show breast cancer promise SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A novel way to speed the testing of cancer drugs and quickly separate winners from duds has yielded its first big result: an experimental medicine that shows promise against a hard-to-treat form of breast cancer. The method involves studying drugs in small groups of people and using advanced statistical techniques to analyze the results as they come in, instead of waiting for all the data to arrive.
Militant rise galvanizes Assad's camp in Syria war DAMACUS, Syria (AP) - Ahmed Luay's second-eldest son, a soldier in the Syrian army, fell in battle with rebels just over a month ago. Three more of his sons are still on the front lines in the Damascus suburbs. Luay insists he's prepared to sacrifice them all in what he says is a war against a terrorist invasion. For Luay and other staunch supporters of President Bashar Assad, the rise of Islamic militants among Syria's rebels has crystalized a black-and-white vision of the bloody three-year conflict. The rebellion, they argue, has nothing to do with seeking democracy: It is a campaign by al-Qaida-linked fighters to impose an intolerant rule by strict Islamic law.
S. Africa investigates sign interpreter JOHANNESBURG (AP) - The South African government said Friday it is aware of reports that the bogus sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial once faced a murder charge, and said he is being investigated. Phumla Williams of the government communications office said the government is investigating Thamsanqa Jantjie and how he was selected to interpret at a memorial Tuesday at which he stood close to U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders.
AP PHOTOS: Signs of global devotion to Mandela Nelson Mandela became a hero around the world, as shown by the number of streets, schools, bridges and restaurants named for the South African leader. Here's a look at how Mandela has been honored in cities including London, Paris, New York, New Delhi, Montreal and Oakland. ---
Hawaii survivor: Plane lost power, then glided HONOLULU (AP) - The crash of a small plane off the Hawaiian island of Molokai was calm, orderly and none of the passengers seemed to be very distressed or have any major injuries, said a passenger who swam to shore. C. Phillip Hollstein recalled Friday that the plane had just taken off from Molokai and was making a turn toward Honolulu when it seemed like something on the plane broke.
Brisk sales raise Mega Millions jackpot to $425M DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Superstition didn't deter players hoping that Friday the 13th would bring them good luck in the recently revamped Mega Millions game, as heavy sales prompted lottery officials to boost the jackpot from $400 million to $425 million. Paula Otto, the Virginia Lottery's executive director and Mega Millions' lead director, said sales were 40 percent ahead of projections, prompting officials to boost the jackpot before the Friday night drawing.
Astronaut may get Christmas wish for spacewalk CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Space station astronaut Rick Mastracchio may get his Christmas wish for a spacewalk or two because of a broken cooling system. Mastracchio, an experienced spacewalker, said he's more than ready to go out and make repairs, if deemed necessary by Mission Control.