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Associated Press

Posted on May 4, 2013 at 10:02 PM

Updated Sunday, May 5 at 6:31 AM

ISRAEL-SYRIA

Syria says Israel strikes military research center

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian state news agency SANA, citing initial reports, says Israeli missiles have targeted a military research center near the capital Damascus.

A Syrian activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported large explosions in the area of the Jamraya research center early Sunday.

If confirmed, Sunday's strike would mark the third Israeli attack inside Syria this year. Israel has said it will not allow sophisticated weapons to flow from Syria to the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, an ally of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment early Sunday.

On Saturday, Israeli officials confirmed that a day earlier Israeli aircraft targeted a weapons shipment apparently bound for Hezbollah.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

Cooler weather aids fight against Calif. wildfire

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) — Calmer winds and a big cool-down in weather are helping firefighters gain control of a huge wildfire burning in Southern California coastal mountains.

Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says containment of the blaze 50 miles west of Los Angeles increased to 56 percent Saturday afternoon.

The fire has burned more than 43 square miles since breaking out near Camarillo (kam-uh-REE-oh) Thursday morning. High winds and hot, dry air quickly stoked the flames, but the normal flow of damp air off the Pacific returned late Friday and significantly reduced fire activity.

Flames have threatened thousands of homes since then but only 15 have been damaged.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters are battling the fire, assisted by water-dropping helicopters and planes.

OBAMA RETURNS

Obama back in US after trip to Mexico, Costa Rica

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is back in the U.S. after a trip that took him to Mexico and Costa Rica over three days.

Air Force One arrived at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, outside of Washington, about 6:45 EDT Saturday night. The president returned to the White House just after 7 p.m.

Obama had left the U.S. last Thursday.

In Mexico, Obama cheered advances in that nation's economy and voiced his support for an overhaul of U.S. immigration policies.

While visiting Costa Rica, the president urged leaders in Central American to integrate their economies, reduce their high energy costs and confront violence in the region.

NRA CONVENTION

NRA, gun control advocates say fight far from over

HOUSTON (AP) — The leadership of the National Rifle Association is telling its members that the fight against gun control legislation is far from over, with battles yet to come in Congress and next year's midterm elections.

But NRA leaders vowed that none of its members would ever have to surrender their weapons.

Proponents of gun control also asserted that they are in it for the long haul and are not disheartened by last month's defeat of a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun sales.

Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders spoke on Saturday during the group's annual member meeting, part of the yearly NRA convention being held this weekend in Houston.

Across the street from the convention, more than 60 protesters gathered.

TEXAS GUN DAY

Texas House members vote to ease the state's existing gun laws

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As the National Rifle Association holds its annual meeting in Houston, state lawmakers in Austin are also tackling the issue of gun owners' rights.

The Texas House has approved about one dozen measures to soften gun restrictions in the state, including a plan to allow college students to carry concealed weapons to class. That measure, which sparked heated debate, allows colleges to opt-out, which helped sway some critics.

Another measure passed during the Saturday session lets school districts appoint a school marshal. Their identities would remain confidential, but these workers would receive firearms training and have access to a gun in emergencies.

The 12 gun bills passed during the so-called "gun day" at the state capitol still face procedural votes before heading to the Texas state Senate.

AFGHANISTAN

8 coalition service members killed in attacks in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Officials say seven U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. The U.S.-led coalition reports five were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.

Later, the coalition reported that a soldier with the Afghan National Army turned his weapon on coalition troops in the west, killing two in the most recent of so-called insider attacks.

Another coalition service member was killed in an insurgent attack in northern Afghanistan.

The attacks come about a week after the Taliban announced the start of their spring offensive.

The renewed violence came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai acknowledged at a news conference that regular payments his government has received from the CIA for more than a decade would continue.

Karzai also said that talks on a U.S.-Afghan bilateral security agreement to govern future American military presence in the country had been delayed because of conditions the Afghans were placing on the deal.

E! ONLINE HACKED

E! Online's Twitter, texting accounts hacked

LOS ANGELES (AP) — E! Online says hackers compromised its Twitter and text messaging accounts, sending out erroneous news alerts about Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie.

The Syrian Electronic Army claimed responsibility for Saturday's hack.

E! Online said it was working with Twitter to correct the issue, and that an investigation into the attack was underway.

The SEA has taken credit for a string of Web attacks on media targets it sees as sympathetic to Syria's rebels, including the BBC, Al-Jazeera English and the Guardian.

The group claims to have hacked the Twitter feed of The Associated Press last month.

KENTUCKY DERBY

UPDATE: Orb comes from behind to win Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Spectators who gathered at Churchill Downs on Saturday will certainly remember the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby.

More than 150,000 people watched Orb, who was way back in the pack heading into the final turn, pick up speed and power through a muddy track to blow past rivals one by one to the finish line.

The colt's 2½-length victory gave Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey and jockey Joel Rosario their first win in the racing classic for 3-year-olds.

Long shot Golden Soul was second with Revolutionary third.

Orb, the 5-1 favorite, ran the 1¼ miles in 2:02.89.

EGYPT-CHRISTIANS

Egypt's Christians celebrate Coptic Easter

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Egyptian Christians are marking Coptic Easter at the same church that was the site of sectarian clashes weeks earlier.

Worshippers, as well as Muslim figures opposed to President Mohammed Morsi, gathered Saturday at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo for the evening mass, which lasts several hours.

It is the first Easter Mass to be led by Pope Tawadros II as head of Egypt's Coptic Church. High-ranking police officials were among those seated as guests.

In April the pope criticized Morsi, an Islamist, for not protecting the church, which serves as the papal seat, when policemen fired tear gas into the cathedral's grounds during clashes between Christians inside and a Muslim crowd outside.

Egypt's Orthodox Coptic Christians make up 10 percent of the country's 90 million people.

OBAMA

Obama emphasizes trade with Latin America

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — President Barack Obama says the U.S. places great importance on its trading relationships with Latin America and will keep working to improve those ties and help the region become more competitive.

Obama says it's important because "we now live in a very competitive 21st century world."

The president spoke at a forum Saturday in Costa Rica on economic growth and development.

Obama said having the best education and regulatory systems and good coordination among the hemisphere's countries will help the region from falling behind others in the world.

Obama is back in the U.S. after a three-day visit to Latin America.

CLEVELAND VOLCANO

NEW: Minor explosion reported at Cleveland Volcano

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Scientists say there were two or three minor explosions at Alaska's Cleveland Volcano on Saturday morning.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey say satellites detected a small, low-altitude ash cloud and elevated surface temperatures at the summit. The Federal Aviation Administration said there are no flight restrictions as a result.

The volcano in the Aleutian Islands is 940 miles southwest of Anchorage. Its most recent significant eruption began in February 2001 and featured three explosive events that sent ash clouds as high 39,000 feet above sea level. It also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.

The most recent minor ash emissions were observed in November 2012.

SOLAR PLANE

Solar plane lands in Ariz., 1st leg of major trip

PHOENIX (AP) — The creators of Solar Impulse — considered the world's most-advanced sun-powered plane — say their cross-country journey will mark a milestone in aviation history.

But more importantly, Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg hope it will boost interest in the potential of renewable energy technology.

Piccard said Saturday there's so much people can do now to have a cleaner future.

Piccard is fresh off a 20-hour flight from San Francisco to Phoenix, marking the first leg of the trip across the U.S. in the solar airplane. Piccard landed the craft at Sky Harbor Airport at about 12:30 a.m., having used only three-quarters of the plane's battery power.

From Phoenix, the aircraft will travel to Dallas-Fort Worth airport in Texas, Lambert-St. Louis airport, Dulles airport in the Washington area and New York's John F. Kennedy airport. Each flight leg will take about 19 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

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