Signs that Assad agents target Syrian activists and defectors in exile raise Jordan's worries
IRBID, Jordan (AP) -- Sultan, a 42-year-old Syrian anti-regime activist, knew he was being hunted, even in this northern Jordanian city where he had taken refuge. The attack came on a crowded street: Two men grabbed him and dragged him into a waiting car, shouting, "It's him!"
In the chaos, Sultan says, he recognized the car's driver: a Syrian intelligence officer from the Damascus prison where for three months this year Sultan was jailed and tortured for participating in protests against President Bashar Assad.
"We can finish him in seconds," one of the men shouted, Sultan told The Associated Press, speaking on condition that his full name not be used to avoid further reprisals.
In the car, they stabbed him with a knife, slashing his neck and head. But the car got stuck in traffic. When Sultan screamed and pounded on the windows, passers-by and police intervened and rescued him, arresting the four Syrian men in the car.
The attack, in early July, was the latest in a string of similar incidents in recent months that have raised fears among Syrian refugees that Assad's regime is extending its crackdown across the border into neighboring Jordan. Refugees and Jordanian officials believe Syrian regime agents are operating in the kingdom on a campaign to hunt down opponent and intimidate those who have fled.
US economy generates 163K jobs in surprising sign of resilience as rest of world slows down
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy generated jobs last month at the fastest pace since February, a sign it is resilient enough to pull out of a midyear slump and grow modestly even as the rest of the world slows down.
The 163,000 jobs employers added in July ended three months of weak hiring. But the surprising gains weren't enough to drive down the unemployment rate, which ticked up to 8.3 percent last month from 8.2 percent in June -- the 42nd straight month the jobless rate has exceeded 8 percent. The United States remains stuck with the weakest economic recovery since World War II.
The latest job numbers, released Friday by the Labor Department, provided fodder both for President Barack Obama, who highlighted improved hiring in the private sector, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who pointed toward higher unemployment.
"It's not especially weak, but it's not especially strong," said Scott Brown, chief economist at the investment firm Raymond James.
Investors focused on the positive. The Dow Jones industrials surged 217 points.
UN General Assembly denounces Syrian crackdown, criticizes Security Council inaction
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Syria's crackdown on dissent Friday in a symbolic effort meant to push the deadlocked Security Council and the world at large into action on stopping the country's civil war.
Before the vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reminded the Assembly of the fresh violence in the city of Aleppo and drew comparisons between the failure to act in Syria with the international community's failure to protect people from past genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia, and Rwanda.
"The conflict in Syria is a test of everything this organization stands for," Ban said. "I do not want today's United Nations to fail that test."
The vote came after the more powerful Security Council was stopped by a series of Russian and Chinese vetoes on resolutions that would have opened the door to sanctions on Syria.
The General Assembly vote was 133 in support of the resolution and 12 against, with 31 abstaining. Syria's ambassador angrily called the vote "a piece of theater."
Going out in style: Phelps rallies to win last individual race of career for 17th gold medal
LONDON (AP) -- Michael Phelps is turning his final Olympics into quite a victory lap, and don't fret about American swimming after he's gone.
Led by a pair of high schoolers, the post-Phelps era will be in very good hands.
In what amounted to a symbolic changing of the guard Friday, Phelps claimed the 17th gold medal of a career that has just 24 hours to go -- on the same night one teenager, Missy Franklin, broke a world record in the backstroke and another, Katie Ledecky, took down a hallowed American mark that was set nearly eight years before she was born.
"This has sort of turned into the youth Olympics," Franklin said. "There's so many members of the team that are coming up this year that are going to carry on this incredible generation."
EYES ON LONDON: Huge Chavez name drops, Saudi secures hijab, Dream Team challenge?
LONDON (AP) -- Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is fond of talking about 19th century South American independence leader Simon Bolivar, and found a way to do just that after fencer Ruben Limardo won a gold medal.
Chavez declared Limardo a national hero, and said he would present the athlete with the country's highest honor. The hero's welcome will include giving Limardo a replica of a sword used by Bolivar.
Obama, Romney seek foothold from better-than-expected jobs report; campaign messages unchanged
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sputtering along, the economy on Friday offered some hope but no illuminating help to voters who are mired in a weak jobs recovery and flooded with familiar promises from President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. The new employment snapshot seemed too mixed and middling to jolt a consistently close race.
Three months shy of Election Day, the latest numbers showed monthly job creation was higher than expected -- but unemployment rose, too. That gave each candidate political room to see only what he wanted, and to stick with the fundamental economic argument that he thinks will win the White House.
"It's another hammer blow to the struggling middle-class families of America," Romney said of the pace of job growth, assailing Obama's record from a Las Vegas trucking business. At the White House, Obama surrounding himself with some of those families, playing up 29 straight months that private employers have added jobs.
"Those are our neighbors and families finding work," Obama said. "But, let's acknowledge, we've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work."
Fittingly, the two men spoke over each other on television, holding events at the same time.
In stubborn flap over Chick-fil-A head's gay marriage comments, a side order of Southern pride
ATLANTA (AP) -- When President Barack Obama said same-sex couples should have the right to marry, it was national news for a few days before the presidential campaign and the country went back to business as usual.
Yet weeks after a fast-food executive doubled down on his opposition to gay marriage, debate rages on about equality, religious values and free speech. "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Wednesday, with supporters flooding the chain's franchises around the country, was countered with "kiss-ins" by same-sex couples at assorted locations Friday, long after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy's initial comments to a religious publication touched off the clash.
That's an unusual amount of staying power for what initially looked like just another skirmish over a hot-button question.
Coursing throughout the conversations on social media, in letters to the editor and in long lines to buy chicken sandwiches is the sense among proud Southerners that the outcry over Cathy's comments smacks of regional stereotyping. When public officials in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago tell a Southern icon such as Chick-fil-A that it's no longer welcome, and that Cathy should keep his opinions to himself, many in the Atlanta-based chain's home region hear more than a little northern condescension.
"Maybe the reaction is just because we're Southerners," said Rose Mason, who was lunching Friday at a Chick-fil-A in suburban Atlanta.
Report says military members brought prostitutes to Colombia hotel; let dogs soil rooms
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A dozen U.S. service members brought women, likely prostitutes, to their hotel rooms in Colombia and also allowed dogs to soil bed linens and building grounds shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in the country for an April summit, according to a military investigation that followed the announcement of punishments for the men.
The report provided to The Associated Press on Friday revealed new details about the conduct of the service members in the prostitution scandal that engulfed both military and Secret Service personnel.
Seven Army soldiers and two Marines have received administrative punishments for what the report described as misconduct consisting "almost exclusively of patronizing prostitutes and adultery." Three of the service members have requested courts martial, which would give them a public trial to contest the punishments.
One Air Force member was reprimanded but cleared of any violations of the U.S. military code of justice, and final decisions are pending on two Navy sailors, whose cases remain under legal review.
According to the investigator's report, the problems involving the servicemen came to light when hotel staff complained to U.S. officials that military members had female guests in their rooms after 6 a.m., a violation of hotel policy. They also complained that dog handlers allowed their dogs to sleep in beds, soil hotel linens and soil other public areas around the building. It's not clear, the report said, whether the dog problems were limited to military handlers, but officials said those issues were corrected right away.
The Onion's image of plane about to hit Chicago skyscraper sparks some public ire post-9/11
CHICAGO (AP) -- The satirical newspaper The Onion is attracting some public ire for an image that shows an airliner about to crash into Chicago's Willis Tower, the tallest building in the country.
The image, in a video on The Onion's website showcasing its stories, shows an airplane emblazoned with the company name Sears flying toward the iconic black skyscraper, which for decades was named Sears Tower and headquarters to the retail chain. A narrator intones, "Sears extremists fly a plane into Willis Tower."
The image generated more than 3,200 responses on The Onion's Facebook page by Friday evening, many denouncing the use of an image reminiscent of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
In response to questions about the criticism and using such an image, The Onion marketing director Grant Jones stuck with the newspaper's tone. He wrote in an email that, "9-11 must never be the fodder for jokes. Perhaps you didn't see the news that humor died after 9-11."
Jones called the blurb "a very important story," then added: "We're surprised other major news sources are not giving it the coverage it deserves."
Tropical Storm Ernesto crosses Windward Islands and heads into open waters of Caribbean
ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) -- Tropical Storm Ernesto dumped heavy rain on islands at the eastern entrance to Caribbean on Friday, crossing into the sea on a path that could take it to Jamaica and Mexico.
Dominica closed its international airport for a second day, while St. Lucia ordered businesses to close for half the day. A ferry that travels to Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia also temporarily suspended service.
No damage or flooding was reported on islands affected by the storm. Gusts of up to 50 mph (85 kph) were reported in some areas.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Ernesto was about 315 miles (505 kilometers) south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, late Friday.
It was moving westward at 18 mph (30 kph) and was expected to approach Jamaica on Sunday and strengthen into a hurricane by Monday.