AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on June 30, 2013 at 5:02 AM

Egyptians gather at Tahrir Square at start of massive protests demanding president's ouster

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Egyptians demanding the ouster of Egypt's Islamist president are gathering at Cairo's central Tahrir Square at the start of a day of massive, nationwide protests many fear could turn deadly.

Sunday marks the first anniversary of President's Mohammed Morsi's assumption of power as Egypt's first freely elected leader.

Thousands of Morsi's supporters have staged a sit-in since Friday in an eastern Cairo district not far from the presidential palace, the focus of protests later on Sunday to demand his ouster.

The youth group leading the campaign to force Morsi out said it had collected more than 22 million signatures from Egyptians who want the president to go. It was not possible to verify the claim.

Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures.

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Obama to announce new power initiative for Africa; effort aimed at fulfilling Mandela's legacy

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — President Barack Obama on Sunday will announce a new initiative to double access to electric power in sub-Saharan Africa, part of his effort to build on the legacy of equality and opportunity forged by his personal hero, Nelson Mandela.

Obama, who flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town Sunday, will pay tribute to the ailing 94-year-old Mandela throughout the day. The president and his family will visit Robben Island, where the anti-apartheid leader spent 18 years confined to a tiny cell, including a stop of the lime quarry where Mandela toiled and developed the lung problems that are ailing him today.

The White House said Obama's guide during his tour of the island will be 83-year-old South African politician Ahmed Kathrada, who was also in captivity at the prison for nearly two decades and guided Obama on his 2006 visit to the prison as a U.S. senator. The president will also view the prison courtyard where Mandela planted grapevines that remain today, and where he and others in the dissident leadership would discuss politics, sneak notes to one another and hide writings.

Following the tour, Obama will deliver what the White House has billed as the signature speech of his weeklong trip at the University of Cape Town, an address that will be infused with memories of Mandela.

During that speech, Obama will unveil the "Power Africa" initiative, which includes an initial $7 billion investment from the United States over the next five years. Private companies, including General Electric and Symbion Power, are making an additional $9 billion in commitments with the goal of providing power to millions of Africans crippled by a lack of electricity.

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Israel shows no signs of yielding to Palestinians, but says it is ready to resume talks

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israel's prime minister is showing no signs of bending as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presses forward with efforts to restart Mideast peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday that he is ready to begin talks with the Palestinians immediately, but he made no mention of yielding to Palestinian demands to halt settlement construction or release Palestinian prisoners.

Netanyahu says he will not compromise on Israel's security and if a deal is reached, he says he will seek approval in a national referendum. A referendum is not required, and critics have said it would add an additional obstacle to implanting a deal that relinquishes territory to the Palestinians.

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Police: 8 people shot at Brooklyn party; woman in critical condition

NEW YORK (AP) — Police say four women and four men have been shot at a party in Brooklyn, including one woman taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Authorities say shots rang out at a party at a residence at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday. They say the woman and seven other people who sustained non-life-threatening injuries have been transported to three different hospitals.

Police say there is no immediate word on the extent of the injuries or the identities of those who were hurt.

Police say no arrests have been made and no suspects identified.

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As weddings continue in Calif., sponsors of gay marriage ban ask Supreme Court to intervene

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A wave of weddings were performed in San Francisco City Hall on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decisions to restore same-sex marriages to California, as defeated backers of the state's gay marriage ban filed a last-ditch effort to halt the ceremonies.

Less than 24 hours after California started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom filed an emergency petition to the high court Saturday asking it to halt the weddings on the grounds that its decision was not yet legally final. They claimed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals acted prematurely and unfairly on Friday when it allowed gay marriage to resume by lifting a hold that had been placed on same sex unions.

The motion was filed as dozens of couples in jeans, shorts, white dresses and the occasional military uniform filled City Hall to obtain marriage licenses. On Friday, 81 same sex couples received marriage licenses.

Although a few clerk's offices around the state stayed open late on Friday, San Francisco, which is holding its annual gay pride celebration this weekend, was the only jurisdiction to hold weekend hours so that same sex couples could take advantage of their newly restored right, Clerk Karen Hong said.

A sign posted on the door of the office where a long line of couples waited to fill out applications listed the price for a license, a ceremony or both above the words "Equality=Priceless."

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Ecuador flower growers still reeling even as Snowden asylum appears a dwindling possibility

PIFO, Ecuador (AP) — Gino Descalzi used to fret about things like aphids, mildew and the high cost of shipping millions of roses a year from Ecuador to florists in the United States. These days he's worried about a 30-year-old former spy stuck in the transit area of the Moscow airport, and he can't believe it.

The Obama administration sent a thinly veiled economic threat to this South American country on Thursday when it indefinitely delayed a decision to eliminate tariffs on imports of roses worth about $250 million a year. The move created leverage over the leftist government seen as likeliest to grant National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden political asylum that would protect him from U.S. criminal charges.

About the same time, a small group of U.S. senators made explicit threats of trade retaliation if Ecuador harbors Snowden. And on Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden asked Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to turn down any asylum request, although Correa described the conversation as cordial.

A week after Snowden began his stuttering, surreal flight across the globe, every passing day without him making progress toward Ecuadorean asylum makes the prospect look less likely. But the men who grow roses, asters and delphinia in the thin air of Ecuador's sun-soaked highlands are deeply concerned that, whatever happens to Snowden, they may turn out to be the most unlikely collateral damage from the geopolitical wrangle over his fate.

"This totally changes the financial panorama for our businesses and seriously affects the structure of our markets," said Descalzi, whose 280 employees produce some 22 million roses a year. "We're just shocked that an event so far from the political and economic life of Ecuador has caused so much commotion and worry."

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Heat wave intensifies across western US as temps approach 120 in Phoenix

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Forecasters called for more supercharged temperatures Sunday as a heat wave gripped the Southwest, leaving one man dead and another hospitalized in serious condition in heat-aggravated incidents in this sunbaked city.

Temperatures in Las Vegas shot up to 115 degrees on Saturday afternoon, two degrees short of a record, while Phoenix baked in 119 degrees. Large swaths of California sweltered under extreme heat warnings, which are expected to last into Tuesday night — and maybe even longer.

In Death Valley — known as the hottest place on Earth — temps reached 125, according to the National Weather Service. Death Valley's record high of 134 degrees, set nearly a century ago on July 10, 1913, stands as the planet's highest recorded temperature.

Las Vegas fire and rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said paramedics responded to a home without air conditioning and found an elderly man dead. He said while the man had medical issues, paramedics thought the heat worsened his condition.

Paramedics said another elderly man suffered a heat stroke when the air conditioner in his car went out for several hours while he was on a long road trip. He stopped in Las Vegas, called 911 and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

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Move over Messi: Soccer-playing robots dream of victory over humans at the 2013 RoboCup

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — With the score tied 1-1, it's gone to a penalty shootout in a tense soccer match between teams from Israel and Australia.

As the Australian goalkeeper in his red jersey braces for the shot, the Israeli striker pauses. Then he breaks into a dance instead of kicking the ball.

Perhaps he can be forgiven: He's a robot, after all.

Welcome to the RoboCup, where more than a thousand soccer-playing robots from forty countries have descended on the Dutch technology Mecca of Eindhoven this week with one goal in mind: beat the humans.

Eventually.

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July 4 in NYC: 'It Begins with a Spark' — and a happy face with a wink

NEW YORK (AP) — What's new this Fourth of July?

A happy face with a wink exploding over New York City as part of Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks 2013 — the nation's biggest display.

That's one of the spectacles being prepared to light up the sky on Thursday. Forty thousand shells were being loaded onto four barges in the city's Staten Island borough on Saturday in preparation for the massive celebration.

The exact location is kept secret for security reasons.

The barges will sit on the Hudson River for the show to be seen by an estimated 3 million people watching live in New York and New Jersey, plus millions more on television. Grammy-award winning musician Usher has created the soundtrack.

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100th Tour de France under way with calamitous comedy of errors and crashes on 1st stage

BASTIA, Corsica (AP) — Riders at the Tour de France know to expect the unexpected. But nothing could have prepared them for the mayhem that turned Saturday's first stage of the 100th Tour into a demolition derby on two wheels.

Seemingly for the first time at the 110-year-old race, one of the big buses that carry the teams around France when they're not on their bikes got stuck at the finish line, literally wedged under scaffolding, unable to move. The timing couldn't have been worse: The blockage happened as the speeding peloton was racing for home, less than 12 miles out.

Fearing the worst — a possible collision between 198 riders and the bus — race organizers took the split-second decision to shorten the race. Word went out to riders over their radios and they adapted tactics accordingly, cranking up their speed another notch to be first to the new line, now 1.8 miles closer than originally planned.

Then, somewhat miraculously, the bus for the Orica Greenedge team wriggled free. So organizers reverted to Plan A. Again over the radios, word went out to by-now confused riders and teams that the race would finish as first intended — on a long straightaway alongside the shimmering turquoise Mediterranean, where an expectant crowd waited to cheer the first stage winner of the 100th Tour.

Then, bam! Two riders collided and one of them went down, setting off a chain of spills that scythed through the pack like a bowling ball.

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