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

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Associated Press

Posted on February 23, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 24 at 8:00 AM

NASCAR fans at Daytona injured when large chunks of debris from car fly into grandstands

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — With the start of the Daytona 500 just hours away, NASCAR officials still have some cleaning up to do amid growing questions about fan safety.

The season opener will go off as planned Sunday less than 24 hours after at least 33 people were injured when a car flew into the fence during a NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway, sending a tire and large pieces of debris sailing into the stands.

"Just seeing the carnage on the racetrack, it was truly unbelievable," driver Justin Allgaier said.

The final-lap accident Saturday marred the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the eve of a spectacle often called the Super Bowl of motorsports. Late into the night, track workers were scrambling to repair a huge section of fence that separates fans from the high-speed track.

Speedway President Joie Chitwood III has a news conference scheduled for Sunday morning to give the latest update on repairs and any safety changes that could be made before the "Great American Race."

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In the line of fire: Daytona crash shows it's not just the drivers who face risks at the track

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The risks of racing extend beyond the drivers.

Fans can wind up in the danger zone, too.

A horrifying crash on the last lap of a race at Daytona International Speedway injured at least 30 fans Saturday and provided another stark reminder of what can happen when a car going nearly 200 mph is suddenly launched toward the spectator areas.

The victims were sprayed with large chunks of debris — including a tire — after rookie Kyle Larson's machine careened into the fencing that is designed to protect the massive grandstands lining NASCAR's most famous track.

"I love the sport," said Shannan Devine, who witnessed the carnage from her 19th-row seat, about 250 feet away. "But no one wants to get hurt over it."

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Lawyer says brother of Oscar Pistorius faces culpable homicide charge in 2010 road death

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The family lawyer of Oscar Pistorius said on Sunday that the double amputee athlete's brother is facing a culpable homicide charge for a 2010 road death.

Lawyer Kenny Oldwage would not confirm details of the case Carl Pistorius is facing, but Sunday's development compounded problems for the family after Oscar was charged with premeditated murder in the Feb. 14 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Carl Pistorius was allegedly involved in a crash with a woman motorcyclist and he was supposed to be in court last Thursday, as his brother Oscar was facing a bail hearing, according to local media reports.

Oscar Pistorius was released on bail Friday and his brother Carl was seen driving into the home of their uncle Arnold early Sunday in Waterkloof, a wealthy suburb of Pretoria, the nation's capital, where Oscar is now staying.

The problems surrounding his older brother Carl are the latest twist in a case that has transfixed South Africa and much of the world. Sunday's revelation of the culpable homicide charge immediately created a stir.

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As deadline looms, governors join White House to condemn automatic cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — With the deadline for action less than a week away, exasperated governors are joining a White House push to intensify pressure on Congress to prevent a looming budget crisis.

Both Democrat and Republican chief executives, gathered in Washington for the National Governors Association annual meeting, warned of widespread economic fallout should Washington lawmakers fail to reach an 11th-hour compromise.

"It's senseless and it doesn't need to happen," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, said Saturday. "And it's a damn shame, because we've actually had the fastest rate of jobs recovery of any state in our region. And this really threatens to hurt a lot of families in our state and kind of flat line our job growth for the next several months."

Indeed, some governors expressed pessimism that both sides could find a way to avoid the automatic spending cuts set to begin March 1, pointing to the impasse as another crisis between the White House and Congress that spooks businesses from hiring and hampers their ability to construct state spending plans.

"I've not given up hope, but we're going to be prepared for whatever comes," said Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican. "There will be consequences for our state."

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Kerry embarks on first official trip, bringing ideas on Syria to Europe and Mideast

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is embarking on his first official overseas voyage, bringing new ideas to capitals in Europe and the Middle East on how to end nearly two years of brutal violence in Syria.

Kerry leaves Washington on Sunday on a grueling nine-nation, 10-day trip that will bring him to America's traditional western European allies of Britain, Germany, France and Italy along with Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In addition to Syria, he will focus on conflicts in Mali and Afghanistan and Iran's nuclear program.

Kerry has said he is eager to discuss new ways of convincing Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and usher in a democratic transition in the country that has been wracked by increasing violence that has killed at least 70,000 people. He has not offered details of his ideas but officials say they revolve around increasing pressure on Assad and his inner circle.

Kerry begins his trip in London where he will see senior British officials on a range of issues, from Afghanistan to the status of the Falkland Islands, over which Britain is in a major dispute with Argentina.

He then travels to Germany to discuss trans-Atlantic issues with German youth in Berlin, where he spent time as a child as the son of an American diplomat posted to the divided Cold War city. He will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the German capital.

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SUV in shooting, fiery crash on Las Vegas Strip found nearby; 26-year-old man named as suspect

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The black SUV used as a getaway car in a pre-dawn shooting and crash that killed an aspiring rapper in a Maserati and two people in a taxi on the Las Vegas Strip was found Saturday as police named a 26-year-old man as the prime suspect.

Ammar Harris was being sought in connection with the shooting and six-vehicle chain-reaction carnage Thursday on the neon-lit boulevard near the Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Bally's and Flamingo resorts, police said.

"His location is unknown," police Capt. Chris Jones said of Harris, who sometimes goes by the name Ammar Asim Faruq Harris. Police say he has been arrested for working as a pimp.

Police released a photo that was taken when Harris was arrested last year on pandering, kidnapping, sexual assault and coercion charges. The disposition of that case was not immediately known.

The photo shows Harris with tattoos on his right cheek and words on his neck above an image that appeared to depict an owl with blackened eyes. Jones warned that Harris should be considered armed and dangerous.

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Suicide bomber hits intelligence agency office in eastern Afghanistan, kills 2

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A series of early morning attacks hit eastern Afghanistan Sunday, with three separate suicide bombings in outlying provinces and a shootout between security forces and a would-be attacker in the capital city of Kabul.

The deadliest attack was a suicide car bombing at a state intelligence site just after sunrise in the eastern city of Jalalabad. In that attack, a car approached the gate of a compound used by the National Directorate of Security and exploded, killing two guards and wounding three others, said regional government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai. The building was damaged in the attack, he added.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Shortly before the Jalalabad attack, an assailant detonated a van packed with explosives at a highway police checkpoint in Logar province, also in the east. That explosion wounded three police officers but no one was killed, said Deputy Police Chief Rais Khan Abdul Rahimzai.

In Kabul, meanwhile, police shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber who was trying to attack an intelligence agency office downtown, according to the city's deputy police chief, Gen. Mohammad Daud Amin. Intelligence agents spotted the bomber before he could detonate the explosives in his vehicle and shot him, Amin said.

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Italians vote in parliamentary elections that could determine future of a nation in crisis

ROME (AP) — Will Italy stay the course with painful economic reform? Or fall back into the old habit of profligacy and inertia? These are the stakes as Italy votes in a watershed parliamentary election Sunday and Monday that could shape the future of one of Europe's biggest economies.

Fellow EU countries and investors are watching closely, as the decisions that Italy makes over the next several months promise to have a profound impact on whether Europe can decisively put out the flames of its financial crisis. Greece's troubles in recent years were enough to spark a series of market panics. With an economy almost 10 times the size of Greece's, Italy is simply too big a country for Europe, and the world, to see fail.

Leading the electoral pack is Pier Luigi Bersani, a former communist who has shown a pragmatic streak in supporting tough economic reforms spearheaded by incumbent Mario Monti. On Bersani's heels is Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul seeking an unlikely political comeback after being forced from the premiership by Italy's debt crisis. Monti, while widely credited with saving Italy from financial ruin, is trailing badly as he pays the price for the suffering caused by austerity measures.

Then there's the wild card: comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, whose protest movement against the entrenched political class has been drawing tens of thousands to rallies in piazzas across Italy. If his self-styled political "tsunami" sweeps into Parliament with a big chunk of seats, Italy could be in store for a prolonged period of political confusion that would spook the markets.

While a man of the left, Bersani has shown himself to have a surprising amount in common with the center-right Monti — and the two have hinted at the possibility of teaming up in a coalition. Bersani was Monti's most loyal backer in Parliament during the respected economist's tenure at the head of a technocratic government. And in ministerial posts in previous center-left governments, Bersani fought hard to free up such areas of the economy as energy, insurance and banking services.

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Park faces North Korea nuke crisis as she takes office as South Korea's 1st female president

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Even before she takes office Monday as South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye's campaign vow to soften Seoul's current hard-line approach to rival North Korea is being tested by Pyongyang's recent underground nuclear detonation.

Pyongyang, Washington, Beijing and Tokyo are all watching to see if Park, the daughter of a staunchly anti-communist dictator, pursues an ambitious engagement policy meant to ease five years of animosity on the divided peninsula or if she sticks with the tough stance of her fellow conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak.

Park's decision is important because it will likely set the tone of the larger diplomatic approach that Washington and others take in stalled efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions.

It will also be complicated by North Korea's warning of unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity," a threat that comes as Washington and others push for tightened U.N. sanctions as punishment for the Feb. 12 atomic test, the North's third since 2006.

That test is seen as another step toward North Korea's goal of building a bomb small enough to be mounted on a missile that can hit the United States. The explosion, which Pyongyang called a response to U.S. hostility, triggered global outrage.

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Ronda Rousey tested, but beats Liz Carmouche with armbar in historic women's debut at UFC 157

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche made history just by stepping into the UFC cage. When Rousey recorded another savage victory with her signature move, she demonstrated why she could be a trailblazer in women's sports for years to come.

Rousey won the UFC's first women's bout Saturday night, beating Carmouche on an armbar with 11 seconds left in the first round of their bantamweight title fight at UFC 157.

Rousey (7-0) defended her belt with her seemingly inevitable move, forcing Carmouche to tap out after bending back her arm. Rousey raised both arms in victory while flat on the canvas after the longest fight of the mixed martial artist's ascendant career.

"Is this real life right now? I'm not sure," said Rousey, a former judo star with just two years of pro MMA experience.

Former UFC champion Lyoto Machida counterpunched his way to a split decision over Dan Henderson on the undercard at Honda Center, and bantamweight Urijah Faber beat Ivan Menjivar with an acrobatic rear naked choke late in the first round.

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