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Wednesday, July 24, 2013,AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Posted: Jul 23, 2013 4:00 PM

Updated: Jul 24, 2013 4:00 AM

Anthony Weiner faces another sexting scandal, this time with his wife at his side

NEW YORK (AP) When a heckled, harried Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress and apologized for the explicit text messages that had destroyed his career, a key figure was notably absent: his then-pregnant wife, Huma Abedin.

On Tuesday, there was Weiner again, making a public mea culpa for a newfound sexting scandal that erupted amid the mayoral run he hopes will rewrite his political future. But the Democrat was there to stay in, not bow out and Abedin was by his side.

"I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him," and the sexting matter is "between us," she said, a message that could prove important to shaping voters' views as they digest his latest admission.

After the gossip website The Dirty posted X-rated text messages and a crotch shot that it said the former congressman exchanged with an unidentified woman, Weiner acknowledged sending such messages as recently as last summer, more than a year after he resigned from the House because of similar behavior with at least a half-dozen women. With Abedin smiling at his side, he said at a news conference that "this is entirely behind me," and both made it clear they were moving ahead with his campaign.

"I want to bring my vision to the people of the city of New York. I hope they are willing to still continue to give me a second chance," a collected Weiner said. Then he went on to talk policy at a candidate forum on gay men's issues, where he was warmly received.

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Showdown looming, surveillance program backers fight off a challenge as White House weighs in

WASHINGTON (AP) The White House and congressional backers of the National Security Agency's surveillance program warn that ending the massive collection of phone records from millions of Americans would put the nation at risk from another terrorist attack.

With a high-stakes showdown vote looming in the House, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued an unusual, nighttime statement on the eve of Wednesday's vote. The measure by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., would cancel statutory authority for the secret program, a move that Carney contended would "hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counterterrorism tools."

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door sessions with Republicans and Democrats. Seven Republican committee chairmen issued a similar plea in a widely circulated letter to their colleagues.

An unlikely coalition of libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats says the program amounts to unfettered domestic spying on Americans. Amash and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., are the chief sponsors of an amendment that would end the ability of the NSA to collect phone records and metadata under the USA Patriot Act unless it identifies an individual under investigation.

Amash said his measure tries to rein in the NSA's blanket authority. Responding to the White House statement, the congressman tweeted late Tuesday: "Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?"

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Obama seeks to refocus public on issue he was sent to White House to solve: economy

WASHINGTON (AP) Seeking to focus public attention on the problem he was sent to the White House to solve, President Barack Obama is making a renewed push for policies to expand the middle class, helping people he says are still treading water years after the financial meltdown.

Obama will use a series of back-to-back speeches over two days to take another stab at selling the public on his vision of a thriving economy.

The first of those speeches comes Wednesday when Obama visits the Midwest to speak at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where he gave his first major speech as a freshman U.S. senator in 2005 during booming economic times. He is not expected to announce any new initiatives. The president also speaks later in the day at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. The third speech is set for Thursday at the Jacksonville Port Authority in Florida.

The White House is billing Obama's latest speech at Knox College as a major one, comparable in tone to the commencement address he delivered there eight years ago, also about the economy. Back then he talked about how the country can give every American a "fighting chance" in a 21st century transformed by technology and globalization.

The trio of speeches comes as Congress prepares to leave Washington next week for its monthlong August recess. These and other speeches planned for the coming weeks and months are designed to increase public pressure on lawmakers in hopes of avoiding showdowns over taxes and spending in the fall. The White House believes such stalemates will stunt the economy, which has added more than 200,000 jobs a month in the past six months. The new federal budget year begins Oct. 1 and the government will soon hit its borrowing limit.

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Gas well in Gulf of Mexico catches fire after blowout; 44 workers evacuated with no injuries

NEW ORLEANS (AP) An out-of-control natural gas well off the Louisiana coast has caught fire, hours after a blowout that prompted the evacuation of 44 workers.

Meanwhile, officials stressed that Tuesday's blowout wouldn't be close to as damaging as the 2010 BP oil spill, in which an oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 workers and eventually spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

No injuries were reported as a result of Tuesday night's fire, Eileen Angelico, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, told The Associated Press.

She said it wasn't known what caused the gas to ignite. It also wasn't clear early Wednesday how and when crews would attempt to extinguish the blaze. BSEE said earlier Tuesday that a firefighting vessel with water and foam capabilities had been dispatched to the scene.

Wild Well Control Inc. was hired to try to bring the well under control. Angelico said Wild Well personnel approached the well earlier Tuesday night, before the fire, but they determined it was unsafe to get closer when they were about 200 feet away from it.

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Encouraging priestly vocations is one of challenge for Pope Francis during his visit to Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Camilo Sandoval says he faces the choice of a lifetime: He can study engineering in college or he can devote himself to the church.

The 17-year-old from Chile is among the multitude of fervent Roman Catholics who have come to Brazil for the church's World Youth Day, and Pope Francis' success in drawing such youths toward the priesthood could be crucial to an institution that is starving for clergy to serve its growing congregations.

"I'm thinking about being a priest," Sandoval said after arriving at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome, where much of the Youth Day celebrations will be held. "I feel fulfilled when I participate in vocation days; there is a closeness to God that attracts me. But I haven't decided."

All too many Catholics, from the church's perspective, have chosen the secular path.

Nearly 25 percent of the world's parishes don't have a resident priest, according to Vatican statistics. And while the number of Catholics in the world grew by 68 percent between 1975 and 2010 the number of priests grew by just 1.8 percent, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

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AP PHOTOS: Pope takes it easy while youth festival opens with Mass on Copacabana beach

Pope Francis took it easy Tuesday after his long flight to Brazil, attending a private Mass and meeting with church officials.

The World Youth Day festival got underway, with an estimated half million Roman Catholic faithful crowding onto Copacabana beach for a Mass under rainy skies.

Preparations also continued in the town of Aparecida, where the pope will go Wednesday to visit the basilica that holds Brazil's patron saint, the dark-skinned Virgin of Aparecida, and have lunch with bishops and seminarians.

Here's a gallery of images from the second day of Francis' visit to Brazil.

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Detroit's financial woes reveal tension between state pension laws, federal bankruptcy laws

As the once-proud city of Detroit humbles itself in bankruptcy court, its financial future may hinge on this key question: Is the city obliged to its past? Or can Detroit renege on its promises to thousands of retirees for the sake of its present city services?

The legal question at the heart of Detroit's bankruptcy filing has never definitively been answered by the nation's highest courts. But it could become increasingly important as cities from coast to coast are grappling with shortfalls in pension funds that left unchecked could force cutbacks to police, firefighters and other essential city services.

A federal judge overseeing Detroit's bankruptcy case is to hold his first hearing Wednesday, as Detroit spars with its employees over whether state lawsuits from pension beneficiaries can proceed.

Some cities, like Detroit, are located in states where pension benefits are guaranteed in full according to state constitutions, statutes or court precedent. Yet Detroit's emergency manager is asserting that those guarantees go away in federal bankruptcy court, leaving retirees in the same pool as numerous other creditors who may get mere cents for each dollar they are owed.

"There's not a lot of previous case law that tells us what's going to happen here," said Paul Secunda, a Marquette University law professor who specializes in labor and benefits issues.

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Britain's new prince spends 1st night at his Kensington Palace home

LONDON (AP) Britain's new prince has spent his first night at his Kensington Palace apartment the day after offering a royal wave upon being presented to the world's media for the first time.

The name of the new third in line to the throne hasn't been revealed yet. Bookmaker William Hill has George as the favorite name at 2-to-1 odds, with James at 4-to-1.

Images of the prince, his little hand peeking above a white crocheted wrap, blanketed the front pages of newspapers Wednesday. The Daily Mail offered a photo album image with the headline "Baby's first royal wave."

The prince slept through his debut public appearance though Prince William assured the media he had "a good pair of lungs on him."

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Crisis-weary Kuwait limps toward parliamentary elections with implications for nation, region

KUWAIT CITY (AP) From boycotting ballots to storming parliament, each time Kuwait heads into parliamentary elections the backstory seems to overshadow the vote.

Yet the revolving-door series of elections could have an impact not only on this tiny, oil-rich state, but also on fellow nations in the Gulf and the rest of the region.

For the election Saturday to pick a new 50-seat parliament the most empowered elected political body in the Gulf there might be another boycott, but the real question is whether the vote will ease the internal pressures on Kuwait's Western-backed ruling dynasty.

The challenges come from an emboldened opposition that includes groups ideologically linked to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and on the other, liberals angered by crackdowns such as prison sentences over social media posts.

Gulf Arab partners are closely watching the moves by Kuwait's Islamists, considered by the United Arab Emirates and others as part of wider networks seeking to bring down their pro-Western fraternity.

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Houses of the Rising Sun: Developers build homes that make more energy than they take

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (AP) Homes being built in this Hudson Valley cul-de-sac offer prospective buyers wooded lots, pretty views and oh yes the promise of thumbing your nose at the power utility.

These "zero-net energy" homes will feature thick walls, solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling systems, meaning families should be able to generate more energy over a year than they consume. These homes under construction 70 miles north of New York City have costly green features. But the builders believe they are in tune with consumers increasingly concerned about the environment and fuel costs.

And there are home buyers here and around the nation who are willing to pay more for savings down the line.

"I don't have to worry about $6,000 worth of utilities to run a house," said Gil Lobell, a current zero-net home dweller moving his family into a larger house in the new development. "I can use that money for other things, so we go on vacations because I'm not spending money on utilities. I don't worry about oil bills. I don't worry about electric bills. I don't worry about gas bills."

Zero-net homes require two things. They generate energy, typically solar, and they are designed in a way to reduce energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient appliances and insulation. Lots of insulation, in the case of these homes.

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