AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 6:03 AM

With team on brink of Champions League elimination, Chelsea fires coach Roberto Di Matteo,

LONDON (AP) — Chelsea fired coach Roberto Di Matteo on Wednesday, one day after another loss in the Champions League left the defending champions on the brink of elimination.

Di Matteo, who took over last season after Andres Villas-Boas was fired, led Chelsea to its first Champions League title in May. But after a 3-0 loss to Juventus on Tuesday in Turin, the London club is in danger of becoming the first defending champion to fail to advance from the group stage.

"The team's recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season," Chelsea said in a statement on its website.

There was no immediate announcement on a replacement for Di Matteo.

Chelsea is in third place in Group E behind Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus. The Blues next face Danish club Nordsjaelland, but they could still be eliminated even if they win depending on other results.

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From West Bank, Clinton returns to Jerusalem for more truce talks on Israel-Hamas fighting

JERUSALEM (AP) — An official says the U.S. secretary of state has returned to Jerusalem for another round of meetings with Israeli leaders as she tries to wring an elusive truce deal over the Israel-Hamas fighting.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of the meeting.

He says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went back to Jerusalem after holding talks in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.

She'll be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in her attempts to help piece together a deal that would satisfy the two foes after eight days of fighting.

Clinton is due to travel later to Cairo, which is mediating in the crisis.

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Russian farmer strikes back at corruption by publishing his own newspaper

YARABAIKASY, Russia (AP) — When Eduard Mochalov tried to have the people who stole his cattle and pig farm brought to justice, he spent eight months in jail on charges he says were cooked up. He appealed to Vladimir Putin and even set himself on fire outside the Kremlin in protest, but still couldn't draw attention to his cause as his farm slowly fell into disrepair.

Now, Mochalov has found a new life as a crusading journalist investigating corruption in his native region, fueled by tips from disgruntled businessmen and government workers. Undeterred by a system where the law is selectively used to protect the powerful and crack down on critics, Mochalov has quickly earned cult status — not to mention the ire of countless local officials — throughout the small province of Chuvashia.

Roughly once a month, he publishes a free newspaper called Vzyatka, or The Bribe, which rails against what it calls "Chuvash kingpins" who steal from the province's budget. Headlines include "The Governor of Chuvashia's Family Business" and "If Nobody's Been Found Guilty, That Means They're Already In Power." The paper has proved so popular that with a print run of 20,000 he has trouble meeting demand.

Frustration with corrupt officials has skyrocketed under President Putin's rule. Twenty-nine percent of Russians believe that civil servants only care about using public funds to enrich themselves, a more than nine-fold increase since Putin took power in 2000, according to the Levada Center, an independent polling agency.

Corruption was a key motivation behind the unprecedented series of mass protests against Putin in Moscow last winter and spring, and remains a key rallying point for the opposition. Recently, the Kremlin has attempted to siphon off popular anger by launching a major crackdown on corruption, which has cost several high-level officials their jobs.

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India hangs lone surviving gunman from 2008 terror attack on Mumbai

MUMBAI, India (AP) — India executed the lone surviving Pakistani gunman from the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai early Wednesday, providing Indians much-needed closure over the three-day rampage that shook the nation's core and deepened enmity with neighbor Pakistan.

India blames a Pakistan-based militant organization for the attacks carried out by Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and his comrades that killed 166 people at a train station, a Jewish center and two luxury hotels in its financial capital. India accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of training, arming and sponsoring the attackers, allegations Pakistan denies.

Kasab, a Pakistani citizen, was hanged in secrecy at 7.30 a.m. at a jail in Pune, a city near Mumbai, after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his plea for mercy.

Indian authorities faced public pressure to quickly execute Kasab, and the government fast-tracked the appeal and execution process, which often can take years, or in some cases, decades.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the home ministry sent Kasab's mercy plea to Mukherjee on Oct. 16 and Mukherjee rejected it on Nov. 5.

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Taliban suicide bombers strike near US base in Kabul, killing 2 Afghan guards, police say

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two Taliban suicide bombers struck near a U.S. base in Kabul early Wednesday, killing two Afghan guards in the heart of a neighborhood filled with foreign forces and embassies. The attack came despite increased security ahead of a Muslim holy day that last year saw one the capital's deadliest attacks.

The bombers apparently meant to target the American base but were spotted by security guards as they approached on foot. The guards fired on the assailants, killing them, but not before one of the vests exploded, said Gen. Mohammad Daoud Amin, the deputy provincial police chief.

Two Afghan security guards were killed and five civilians were wounded in the morning explosion, he said.

The blast reverberated around Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. An alarm started going off at the nearby U.S. Embassy, warning staff to take cover. The neighborhood also is home to many high-ranking Afghan officials, international organizations and the headquarters of the international military coalition.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in an email to reporters.

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Obama trip yields quiet breakthrough that could shed light on whether Myanmar sought nukes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Little noticed in the warm glow of President Barack Obama's landmark visit to Myanmar was a significant concession that could shed light on whether that nation's powerful military pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program, possibly with North Korea's help.

Myanmar announced it would sign an international agreement that would require it to declare all nuclear facilities and materials. Although it would be up to Myanmar to decide what to declare, it could provide some answers concerning its acquisition of dual-use machinery and its military cooperation with Pyongyang that the U.S. and other nations regard as suspect.

President Thein Sein's agreement to allow more scrutiny by U.N. nuclear inspectors suggests a willingness to go beyond democratic reforms that have improved relations with Washington and culminated in Obama's visit this week, the first by a U.S. president to the country also known as Burma.

David Albright and Andrea Stricker of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based nonproliferation group, said in an analysis it was a "remarkable decision."

"This latest move by Burma is extremely positive for its ongoing push for openness about the nuclear issue and for building confidence and transparency with the international community," they wrote.

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Mom who turned in son fearing he was planning movie theater attack says son 'born different'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The mother who reported her son to police after he amassed what she feared were weapons to attack a southwest Missouri movie theater during a "Twilight" showing said he had recently asked her if he was a failure.

Tricia Lammers made her first public statements Tuesday since the arrest last week of her 20-year-old son, Blaec. Authorities said he admitted planning to attack the theater in Bolivar and then a nearby Wal-Mart store, where he'd been arrested in 2009 after following around a clerk while armed with a knife.

Investigators determined he recently purchased two assault rifles and 400 rounds of ammunition.

During a news conference at the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Springfield, Tricia Lammers said her son had undergone inpatient treatment. She said her son has shown signs of Asperger's syndrome, borderline personality disorder and other conditions.

"He didn't ask to be born different. He grew up his whole life in (his sister) Kristyn's shadow. He wanted to be successful and be somebody," she said, KLOR-TV reported. "Just two weeks ago he asked me — both my kids still call me mommy — he said, 'Mommy, do you think I'm a failure?' I said, 'No, Blaec, I don't.'"

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Slow economic recovery forces Thanksgiving travelers to make sacrifices, rely on relatives

CHICAGO (AP) — Feeling the pinch of the sluggish economic recovery, many Americans setting out on the nation's annual Thanksgiving migration had to sacrifice summer vacations, rely on relatives for airfare or scour the Web for travel deals to ensure they made it home.

It's not just tight family finances making travel tough. Airlines struggling to save on jet fuel and other expenses have cut the number of flights, leading to a jump in airfares. Those hitting the roads face high gas prices and rising tolls. Now, with talk of the nation sliding off a "fiscal cliff" come January, many travelers said they're accepting that sacrifices for pricy holiday journeys have become the norm.

"You become immune to it, I guess," said Chris Zukowski, a 43-year-old locomotive engineer from the Chicago suburb of Huntley, as he hugged his wife and three children goodbye at Chicago's O'Hare Airport and lamented he could not afford to join them on the holiday trip to New Jersey.

"You have to cut back on things just to make sure that you can afford to do stuff like this, so they can go visit grandma," he said, referring to his son and two daughters.

If the nation's travel patterns are any kind of barometer for the state of the economy, the travel forecast for Thanksgiving week suggested a slight upward nudge as people and businesses recover slowly from the 2007-09 recession in which Americans lost nearly a quarter of their wealth.

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Eurozone finance ministers fail to reach deal on badly needed loan for Greece

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union officials failed Wednesday to reach a deal on giving Greece more aid, prolonging uncertainty over the future of the debt-hobbled country and the 17-member eurozone.

Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the meeting of finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro, said the talks which lasted nearly 12 hours will reconvene on Monday. It was the second consecutive meeting at which the ministers failed to agree on a deal, highlighting the depth of their divisions over how to handle Greece's huge debt problem without reaching more deeply into the pockets of their own taxpayers.

Juncker, however, said he was optimistic that a deal could be reached eventually.

"We are very close to a result. We see no major stumbling block," he said. There are technical issues and calculations to be made in coming days, he said.

But Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which gives Greece bailout loans alongside the eurozone, sounded a more cautious note, saying only "we have narrowed the positions."

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Elmo puppeteer resigns amid underage-sex allegations, leaving Elmo behind on 'Sesame Street'

NEW YORK (AP) — Even on "Sesame Street," where everything is famously A-OK, problems can arise for its residents.

And that includes the Muppets. Cookie Monster grapples with an eating disorder. Oscar the Grouch gets cranky. Mr. Snuffleupagus gets the blues.

But Elmo seemed immune to any of that. Since enjoying his breakout success more than two decades ago, the 3 1/2-year-old red monster has radiated good cheer, love and trilling giggles. No wonder everyone — adults as well as children — adore him.

The key to Elmo is "his innocence, his positiveness and his sweetness," according to Kevin Clash, the man who created him and once told The Associated Press, "I would love to be totally like Elmo."

Now Clash has been scandalously separated from Elmo and from "Sesame Street," the TV series where he reigned behind the scenes for 28 years.

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