AP News in Brief at 11:58 p.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on May 6, 2012 at 8:02 PM

Updated Monday, May 7 at 12:31 AM

Asia stocks plunge after Europe elections, disappointing US jobs data

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were pummeled Monday by weekend election results in Greece and France that heightened uncertainty about Europe's ability to solve its debt crisis.

Signs of a faltering economic recovery in the U.S. compounded the dour mood while oil slid below $97 a barrel. Japan's Nikkei 225 index plunged 2.6 percent to 9,134.26 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 2.4 percent to 20,582.24.

Election results in Greece sent tremors throughout Europe as voters punished the parties responsible for highly unpopular austerity measures instituted to prevent the country from defaulting on its massive debts.

No political party won enough votes to form a government — leaving the political and financial future of the recession-hit country in serious doubt.

Meanwhile, in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who had criticized the country's austerity program and wants to boost government spending.

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Markets could stumble as Greece's split vote, new French president add to uncertainty

WASHINGTON (AP) — Financial markets will likely stumble this week after elections in Greece and France cast a pall of uncertainty over Europe's efforts to solve its debt crisis.

On Sunday night, the euro plunged to $1.2988, a nearly five-month low.

Greek voters on Sunday voted mostly for two parties that want to change the nation's international bailout terms or even overturn its rescue deal, according to early projections of the election results. Greece won't have a government until parties with divergent worldviews can form a governing coalition.

Greek voters are reacting against spending cuts imposed on the recession-weary nation by the international lenders whose bailouts are keeping it afloat.

Also Sunday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy lost in a runoff election to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande. Hollande has criticized France's austerity program and wants to encourage growth by boosting government spending.

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France elects Socialist Hollande as new leader, Europe faces new direction

PARIS (AP) — France handed the presidency Sunday to leftist Francois Hollande, a champion of government stimulus programs who says the state should protect the downtrodden — a victory that could deal a death blow to the drive for austerity that has been the hallmark of Europe in recent years.

Mild and affable, the president-elect inherits a country deep in debt and divided over how to integrate immigrants while preserving its national identity. Markets will closely watch his initial moves as president.

He narrowly defeated the hard-driving, attention-getting Nicolas Sarkozy, an America-friendly leader who led the country through its worst economic troubles since World War II but whose policies and personality proved too bitter for many voters to swallow.

"Austerity can no longer be inevitable!" Hollande declared in his victory speech after a surprising campaign that saw him transform from an unremarkable figure to an increasingly statesmanlike one. He will take office no later than May 16.

Speaking to exuberant crowds, Hollande portrayed himself as a vehicle for change across Europe.

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Romney, Obama sling similar insults at each other to see what sticks; voters to have final say

WASHINGTON (AP) — He's a smug, Harvard-trained elitist who doesn't get how regular Americans are struggling these days. More extreme than he lets on, he's keeping his true agenda hidden until after Election Day. He's clueless about fixing the economy, over his head on foreign policy. Who is he?

Your answer will help decide the next president.

Is it Barack Obama, as seen by Mitt Romney? Or Romney, the way Obama depicts him? For all their liberal versus conservative differences, when the two presidential contenders describe each other, they sound like they're ragging on the same flawed guy. Or mirror images of that guy.

Will voters prefer the man waving with his left hand or his right?

Blame it on two cautious candidates with more traits in common than their disparate early biographies would suggest.

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Both sides in Sept. 11 case at Guantanamo predict long legal battle

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — The U.S. has finally started the prosecution of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, but the trial won't be starting anytime soon, and both sides said Sunday that the case could continue for years.

Defense lawyer James Connell said a tentative trial date of May 2013 is a "placeholder" until a true date can be set for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks, and his co-defendants.

"It's going to take time," said the chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, who said he expects to battle a barrage of defense motions before the case goes to trial.

"I am getting ready for hundreds of motions because we want them to shoot everything they can shoot at us," he said.

Saturday's arraignment lasted 13 hours, including meal and prayer breaks, as the accused appeared to make a concerted effort to stall the initial hearing, which didn't end until almost 11 p.m.

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Couple who fled Illinois Ponzi scheme conviction caught in Arizona 12 years later

TONOPAH, Ariz. (AP) — An Illinois couple who spent a dozen years on the run after fleeing a conviction for running a Ponzi scheme has been captured in a small community west of Phoenix, the U.S. Marshals Service said Sunday.

Nelson Grant Hallahan, 65, and wife Janet Hallahan, 54, were arrested by deputy marshals Saturday afternoon in Tonopah, an unincorporated desert community 50 miles west of Phoenix.

Matt Hershey, a supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal, said the Hallahans were living apart and were arrested at separate rural homes.

The agency said it received a tip about their location after they were featured on "America's Most Wanted" the previous night.

The couple pleaded guilty in Illinois federal court to bank and mail fraud conspiracy charges and money laundering. They didn't show up for their sentencing and have been fugitives ever since.

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Wife Skyping in Texas saw bullet hole in closet behind soldier who collapsed in Afghanistan

DALLAS (AP) — An Army nurse showed no alarm or discomfort before suddenly collapsing during a Skype video chat with his wife, who saw a bullet hole in a closet behind him, his family said Sunday.

Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark's family released a statement describing what his wife saw in the video feed recording her husband's death in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. It's not clear how the bullet hole got in the closet.

"Clark was suddenly knocked forward," the statement from the soldier's family said. "The closet behind him had a bullet hole in it. The other individuals, including a member of the military, who rushed to the home of CPT Clark's wife also saw the hole and agreed it was a bullet hole."

The statement says the Skype link remained open for two hours on April 30 as family and friends in the U.S. and Afghanistan tried to get Clark help.

"After two hours and many frantic phone calls by Mrs. Clark, two military personnel arrived in the room and appeared to check his pulse, but provided no details about his condition to his wife," the statement said.

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Biden says he's 'absolutely comfortable' with married gay couples receiving equal civil rights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says he's "absolutely comfortable" with gay couples who marry getting the same civil rights and liberties as heterosexual couples, a stand that gay rights advocates interpreted as an endorsement of same-sex marriage.

But the White House and President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, eager to avoid a debate on a hot-button social issue in an election year, insisted that Biden was not breaking ranks with Obama, who does not publicly support gay marriage.

Biden told NBC's "Meet the Press" that marriage should be about being loyal to someone you love, whether that marriage is between a man and a woman, two men or two women. "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," Biden said in the interview broadcast Sunday.

Gay rights advocates said Biden's comments signaled unmistakable support for gay marriage, which they said made him the highest-ranking member in the Obama administration to take that position.

"''I'm grateful that the vice president of the United States is now publically supporting marriage equality and I hope very soon the president and the rest of our leaders, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, will fall in line with the vice president," said Chad Griffin, a gay rights supporter and a member of the Obama campaign's national finance committee.

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US airstrike kills senior al-Qaida militant wanted in 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — An airstrike Sunday killed a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship, Yemeni officials said. The drone attack was carried out by the CIA, U.S. officials said.

Fahd al-Quso was hit by a missile as he stepped out of his vehicle, along with another al-Qaida operative in the southern Shabwa province, Yemeni military officials said. They were speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with military regulations.

The drone strike that killed Quso was carried out by the CIA, after an extended surveillance operation by the CIA and U.S. military, two U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The strike was authorized by the Yemeni government, which then made the announcement after the operation was complete, the officials said, part of the U.S. strategy to give the host government more public ownership of the operation being carried out on Yemeni soil.

The airstrike came as the U.S. and Yemen cooperate in a battle against al-Qaida in southern Yemen.

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Paul Pierce scores 24 points to lead Celtics over Hawks 101-79 for 3-1 series lead

BOSTON (AP) — By the time Avery Bradley, who is recovering from a dislocated shoulder, sank a free throw to give the Boston Celtics a 37-point lead early in the third quarter, Paul Pierce was done for the night, riding a stationary bicycle under the stands and trying to keep his sore left knee from stiffening up.

Ray Allen went to the bench soon after to rest his ailing right ankle. He grabbed a seat near Kevin Garnett, who is about to turn 36 and played 42 minutes in the previous game — surpassing 50,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs in his 17-year NBA career.

"We had a lot of things going on on our bench today with bodies," coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday night after the Celtics coasted to a 101-79 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series. "The whole game I kept looking down there (to see if) there were enough guys to put in the game."

Pierce scored 24 points in 18 minutes before heading to the stationary bicycle in the tunnel leading to the locker room, getting some much-needed rest after the Celtics scored 16 of the first 18 points in the second half.

Boston can close out the Hawks with a victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Atlanta. Game 6 would be in Boston in Thursday, if necessary.

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