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

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Associated Press

Posted on December 8, 2013 at 6:02 AM

South Africans hold day of prayer for Nelson Mandela ahead of big stadium memorial

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans flocked to houses of worship Sunday for a national day of prayer and reflection to honor Nelson Mandela, starting planned events that will culminate in what is expected to be one of the biggest funerals in modern times.

"We felt it important that we should have a day where all of us as South Africans can come together and pray for our first democratic president and reflect on his legacy," President Jacob Zuma said at a Methodist church service in Johannesburg. "But it is also to pray for our nation ... to pray that we not forget some of the values he fought for."

Zuma said Mandela had forgiven even those who had kept him in prison for 27 years, and that he had opposed both white and black domination.

At the famous Regina Mundi Church that was near the epicenter of the Soweto township uprising in 1976 against white rule, Father Sebastian J. Rossouw described Mandela as "moonlight," saying he offered a guiding light for South Africa. Hundreds of people attended the mass.

"Madiba did not doubt the light," Rossouw said. "He paved the way for a better future, but he cannot do it alone."

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Storm that hit US midsection takes aim next at Mid-Atlantic region threatening sleet and ice

WASHINGTON (AP) — A powerful storm system that spread hazardous snow, sleet and freezing rain widely across the nation's midsection rumbled toward the densely populated Eastern seaboard on Sunday, promising more of the same.

Forecasters said the potent system already blamed for numerous power outages and thousands of weekend flight cancellations elsewhere, has Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states in its icy sights before the Northeast is up next.

Icy conditions were expected to last through the rest of the weekend from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee. And officials warned a major ice storm was possible in Virginia's Appalachian region along the busy Interstate 81 corridor .

In Virginia, state Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the storm had the potential to be a "historic ice event."

"This forecast is very concerning to us," Southard said. "I've worked multiple disasters, but I've never worked an ice storm with a forecast like this. It's just really important for everybody to take extra precautions."

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UN says Afghanistan slow in enforcing 4-year-old law protecting women

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The United Nations complained Sunday that Afghan authorities have been slow in enforcing a law protecting women against forced marriages, domestic violence and rape.

A report issued by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan found that although Afghan authorities registered more reports of violence against women under the four-year-old law, prosecutions and convictions remained low.

In a statement, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the law as a "landmark" and said it "was a huge achievement for all Afghans."

"But implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence and harmful practices, and prosecutors and courts slow to enforce the legal protections in the law," she said.

Afghanistan enacted its Elimination of Violence Against Women law in August 2009. It criminalizes child marriage, selling and buying women to settle disputes, assault and more than a dozen other acts of violence and abuse against women.

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Kim's powerful uncle vanishes from North Korean documentary, adding to speculation of sacking

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's uncle have been removed from an official state TV documentary, a disappearing act that appears to lend credence to Seoul's claim that Pyongyang's second most powerful official may have been purged by his nephew.

South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers last week that it believes Jang Song Thaek was likely sacked after the executions last month of two close associates, allegedly over corruption. The National Intelligence Service hasn't explained how it obtained the information, and skepticism followed the claim because of past intelligence failures in Seoul regarding the inner workings of the North's secretive government. But some worry that, if true, the purge of such a powerful figure could lead to dangerous instability.

On Saturday, North Korea's state TV repeated a documentary on Kim Jong Un's military inspection trips. Although Jang appeared throughout the version that aired on Oct. 28, images of him had vanished from the new version. North Korea has previously deleted the images of purged officials from state videos and publications, according to a South Korean government agency that tracks North Korean propaganda.

In one scene in the original version, the bespectacled Jang can be seen wearing a winter parka and standing behind Kim Jong Un as the leader shakes hands with a soldier. But Jang cannot be seen in Saturday's version, which has the same title and narration. Elsewhere in the older version, he is seen clapping his hands from a distance as a uniformed officer speaks to Kim. But the new version only shows what appear to be parts of Jang's right arm, chest and abdomen.

Pyongyang has said nothing about Jang's fate or the new version of the documentary. Jang was last seen in state media about a month ago.

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Venezuelans to elect mayors in test of president's strength after radical offensive

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro faces his first electoral test since being elected nearly eight months ago, as Venezuelans go to the polls on Sunday to judge his government's response to their nation's mounting economic troubles.

The vote for mayors and city councils in this deeply polarized country was bound to be competitive after Maduro defeated opposition leader Henrique Capriles by a razor-thin margin in the election held in April to choose Hugo Chavez's successor following his death from cancer.

Capriles has refused to recognize the results, alleging fraud

Since then, Venezuela's economic troubles have deepened, with inflation touching a two-decade high of 54 percent, and shortages of everything from toilet paper to milk spreading while the black market value of the currency plunges.

Not surprisingly, disapproval of Maduro's rule had been rising, especially within the coalition of ideological leftists and members of the military that he inherited from Chavez.

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Survivors join thousands to recall Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 72 years ago

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — For the first time since the war, Alvis Taylor returned to Pearl Harbor and recalled the surprise Japanese air attack that plunged America into World War II.

He was serving as an Army medic when the Dec. 7, 1941 attack began. His superiors, who were doctors, rushed to hospitals to care for the wounded. He went to Pearl Harbor, about 18 miles south of his Army post at Schofield Barracks, with dozens of ambulances.

"I remember everything that happened that day," the 90-year-old Davenport, Iowa, resident said.

Taylor decided to return to Pearl Harbor for the first time since the war because the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America paid for him and his wife to make the trip.

He was among about 50 survivors of the attack and some 2,500 others who gathered Saturday on the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese air raid.

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Thailand crisis deepens as main opposition party resigns from Parliament before new protests

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's main opposition party announced Sunday it was resigning from Parliament to protest what it called "the illegitimacy" of the government. The move deepens the country's latest political crisis a day before new street demonstrations that many fear could turn violent.

Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut told The Associated Press his party could not work in the legislature anymore because the body is "no longer accepted by the people."

The minority Democrats are closely aligned with anti-government protesters who in recent weeks have staged the country's biggest rallies in years. The demonstrations are aimed at ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose democratically elected government came to power in a landslide vote in 2011 that observers said was free and fair.

The Democrats have not won an election since 1992, and some of their leaders appear to have given up on electoral politics because they cannot win. The protesters are demanding a non-elected people's council lead the country instead.

Thailand has been plagued by political turmoil since Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier, was toppled in a 2006 military coup. At least five people have been killed and at least 289 injured since the latest unrest began last month.

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Elections in Indian heartland upset Congress with likely boon for Hindu nationalist party

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's main Hindu nationalist party appeared to make strong political gains in four heartland states Sunday, as preliminary results showed the ruling Congress party sidelined in a race seen as a test before next year's general election.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, has waged a fierce campaign fronted by its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who has charmed businesses but worried critics that his rise could worsen sectarian tensions between India's majority Hindus and its 138 million Muslims.

Preliminary results released Sunday showed BJP trouncing Congress in the Indian capital, northwest Rajasthan and landlocked Madhya Pradesh. The race for central Chhattisgarh was neck-and-neck.

Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala called the results "disappointing" but conceded "we have lost" in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Modi offered congratulations by Twitter to Madhya Pradesh's incumbent chief minister "for BJP's wonderful performance," and to the party in Rajasthan for "the historic victory."

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As counterfeiters of wine get more sophisticated, the industry is finally fighting back

SAINT-EMILION, France (AP) — An FBI agent recently showed Arnaud de Laforcade a file with several labels supposedly from 1947 bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of France's finest wines. To the Saint-Emilion vineyard's CFO, they were clearly fakes — too new looking, not on the right kind of paper.

But customers may be more easily duped.

Regardless of his skill, the counterfeiter had ambition: 1947 is widely considered an exceptionally good year, and Cheval Blanc's production that year has been called the greatest Bordeaux ever. The current average price paid for a bottle at auction is about $11,500, according to truebottle.com, which tracks auctions and helps consumers spot fakes.

Counterfeiting has likely dogged wine as long as it has been produced. In the 18th century, King Louis XV ordered the makers of Cotes du Rhone to brand their barrels with "CDR" before export to prevent fraud.

But it is getting more sophisticated and more ambitious, particularly as bottle prices rise due to huge demand in new markets, mainly in Asia. After decades of silence, producers across the $217-billion industry are finally beginning to talk about the problem and ways to combat it.

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Mason rushes for 304 yards, 4 TDs as No. 3 Auburn beats No. 5 Missouri 59-42 in SEC title game

ATLANTA (AP) — Tre Mason struck a pose — a Heisman Trophy pose.

Looks like the Auburn Tigers running back will get a shot at something he wants even more.

A national title.

Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 3 Auburn to a wild 59-42 victory over No. 5 Missouri in a Southeastern Conference title showdown Saturday that resembled a video game.

Auburn (12-1) took care of business, then got the help it needed to claim a spot in the BCS championship. No. 2 Ohio State lost to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game, which likely pushes the Tigers up to face top-ranked Florida State in Pasadena. The Seminoles routed Duke 45-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

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