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

November 19, 2011 - 8:35 AM

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam was captured in a southern Libyan city along with two of his aides who were trying to smuggle him out of the country, a militia commander said on Saturday.

Bashir al-Tlayeb of the Zintan brigades said that Seif al-Islam was caught in the desert town of Obari, near the southern city of Sabha about 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of Tripoli.

He didn't elaborate on how Seif al-Islam was captured, but said that he was brought to the city of Zintan, the home of one of the largest revolutionary brigades in Libya.

Al-Tlayeb said that it would be up to Libya's ruling National Transitional Council to decide where the former Libyan leader would be tried.

He also said there was still no information about wanted former intelligence director Abdullah Senoussi or where he is located.

Seif al-Islam is the last of Moammar Gadhafi's sons to remain unaccounted for.

___

Obama en route back to deadlocked DC after showing command on world stage in Asia

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — After a nine-day trip through Asia in which he showed command on the world stage, President Barack Obama is headed back to debt-deadlocked Washington, where he'll confront fresh reminders of the limits of his power at home.

Obama departed from Bali's international airport Saturday afternoon for a 21-hour flight that, factoring in time-zone changes, was to return him to the White House before dawn Sunday. He'll be arriving days ahead of a deadline for a congressional supercommittee to produce recommendations to attack the country's yawning deficit. But even though the president spoke to supercommittee leaders from Air Force One as he headed out of town and urged them to get a deal, the panel is no further along than when the president left: frozen along partisan lines.

If no agreement is reached steep cuts would be enacted across the federal government that both sides say they want to avoid, particularly to the defense budget. But no end game was in sight as Obama made his way back home from the other side of the globe.

Also awaiting him are presidential politics heading into the 2012 election year, something Obama largely avoided while traveling in Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia. And with his opponents on the attack over his stewardship of the listless economy, Obama will renew his largely futile efforts to get Congress to pass his jobs bill as he aims to cast Republicans as the ones to blame.

For Obama, it may amount to something of a harsh homecoming after playing proud host in his native Hawaii to a summit of Pacific Rim nations, and traveling on to two countries where he remains highly popular and received warm welcomes.

___

UN bashing is in style for Republican candidates, but would they work with UN if elected?

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — It seldom fails as an applause line for Republican presidential candidates: beating up on the United Nations.

Front-runner Mitt Romney says the U.N. too often becomes a forum for tyrants when it should be promoting democracy and human rights. Newt Gingrich pledges to take on the U.N.'s "absurdities." Herman Cain says he would change some of its rules. And Rick Perry says he would consider pulling the United States out of the U.N. altogether.

All that U.N. bashing has raised questions about whether a Republican victory could strain the relationship between the United Nations and its host country, the United States.

President Barack Obama's Democratic administration considers the U.N. critical to the country's interests, while Republicans traditionally have been disenchanted with the world body over America's inability to reliably win support for its positions. It doesn't help that U.N. members often criticize American policies, especially as they relate to Israel and the Palestinians.

That was reinforced last month when the U.N. cultural agency voted to approve a Palestinian bid for full membership in that body, and the U.S. responded by cutting off funding.

___

Egyptian riot police dismantle tents, arrest protesters to clear Cairo's Tahrir Square

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's riot police are dismantling tents and arresting hold-out activists as they clear out protesters from central Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Scuffles broke out on Saturday between the police and a small number of protesters, who had spent the night in the square following massive demonstrations the day before.

Police were seen beating activists who challenged them and an Associated Press cameraman saw police arrest three people who refused to leave.

Tens of thousands of Islamists and young activists massed in Tahrir Square on Friday, confronting Egypt's ruling military council. The military tolerates daytime demonstrations in the central square, a symbol of the country's Jan. 25-Feb. 11 uprising, but claims that long-term occupation paralyzes the city.

___

Activists: Syrian troops on offensive despite acceptance of Arab observers mission

BEIRUT (AP) — Activists say Syrian troops are storming a central town and a northwestern region in search of opponents of the government.

The attacks on the town of Shezar and the Jabal al-Zawiya region near the Turkish border come a day after Syria agreed in principle to allow Arab observers into the country to oversee a peace plan proposed by the 22-member Arab League.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees said the latest attacks occurred early Saturday.

Syria's acceptance came on Friday after surprisingly heavy pressure from the Arab League, which brokered the plan and this week suspended Syria from the 22-member organization for failing to abide by it.

___

Pope makes an impassioned plea to Africa's leaders to stop depriving their people of hope

COTONOU, Benin (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday in Benin called on Africa's leaders to stop depriving their people of hope and to govern responsibly, just hours before he planned to unveil a pastoral guide for the continent which attempts to use church doctrine to address Africa's problems.

The pope made his comments during a meeting with the ruling elite of Benin, a country that has provided a rare example of functioning democracy in the region.

The 84-year-old pope returned for the second time to Africa, the most rapidly growing region for the Roman Catholic Church. His first trip two years ago was derailed before he even set foot in Africa, after he told reporters on the papal plane that the use of condoms exacerbates the problem of AIDS. On this visit, he is steering clear of the sensitive issue in order to highlight a message he had tried to deliver in Cameroon two years ago.

"From this place, I launch an appeal to all political and economic leaders of African countries," Benedict said in the presidential palace in Benin's economic capital, Cotonou. "Do not deprive your people of hope. Do not cut them off from their future by mutilating their present. Adopt a courageous, ethical approach to your responsibilities."

The highlight of the pope's three-day visit is the unveiling of an 87-page document outlining the role of the church on a continent that has been shattered by war and whose people are deeply impoverished due in part to the corruption of their leaders. The thrust of the document is centered on how church doctrine, such as the principles of penance and forgiveness, can be used to help people stop the cycle of retribution.

___

US budget woes could threaten plans for NATO missile defense system in Europe

WASHINGTON (AP) — A breakdown in high-stakes budget talks in Congress could threaten plans for a missile defense shield in Europe.

Negotiators have shown little sign they will be able to meet next week's deadline for reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion. If they fail to agree, a new law mandates cuts throughout the federal government, including a big slice of the defense budget.

While it is not known what military spending would be cut, an expensive program aimed primarily at defending Europe is unlikely to be spared.

The U.S. sees the missile defense system, aimed at countering a threat from Iran, as part of its contribution to the NATO military alliance. With the United States often complaining that it makes a disproportionately large contribution to NATO, missile defense could be especially vulnerable to budget-cutters.

"A missile defense system for NATO? It's going to be hard to keep people committed if they think the U.S. is picking up the tab for Europe," says Kurt Volker, who was ambassador to NATO at the end of the George W. Bush administration.

___

Analysis: Renewed US ties may help Myanmar reduce reliance on mistrusted ally China

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first visit to Myanmar in a half-century by the top U.S. diplomat opens a door for that nation's military-dominated government to reduce its international isolation and dependence on a staunch but mistrusted ally: China.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Myanmar, also known as Burma, on Dec. 1-2, to meet with government and opposition leaders. It is the culmination of a two-year effort to engage with a repressive regime the U.S. had long shunned.

Washington hopes to encourage further democratic reform rose after Myanmar staged elections last year that ushered in a government of civilians, albeit dominated by a military structure that had directly ruled the country since 1962.

The new government also freed and began high-level talks with Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Obama administration's diplomatic overtures have a strategic intent, too, of seeking to expand U.S. ties in economically vibrant Southeast Asia as a counter to the growing influence of China.

___

Detectives re-investigating Natalie Wood case facing conflicting accounts of fateful night

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Natalie Wood's drowning death nearly 30 years ago came after a night of dinner, drinking and arguments but the question remains — was it anything more than a tragic accident?

Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht shared by Wood, her actor-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, actor Christopher Walken, have contributed to the mystery of how the actress died on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981.

Two sheriff's detectives are now diving into the mysterious events on the yacht Splendour, although whether they reach any different conclusions than their predecessors remains to be seen. They recently received new, seemingly credible information and heard from potential witnesses who weren't included in the original investigation of Wood's death, sheriff's Lt. John Corina said Friday.

But he said nothing has happened to changed the official view that Wood's death was originally an accidental drowning. Wagner, the star of "Hart to Hart," is not considered a suspect, he added.

Corina released few details about who investigators have contacted or plan to re-interview, but the inquiry will certainly lead them to speak with the three survivors of the trip — Wagner, Walken and skipper Dennis Davern.

___

Son says former Penn State coach Joe Paterno diagnosed with treatable form of lung cancer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Joe Paterno was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer the same weekend Penn State's football team played its first game without the Hall of Fame coach in nearly a half century.

His son, Scott Paterno, said Friday in a statement to The Associated Press that his father's doctors are optimistic the 84-year-old Paterno will make a full recovery.

The news came shortly after Penn State said the NCAA would look into the school's handling of a child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was fired by the board of trustees Nov. 9 for failing to do more than simply report to his superiors an abuse allegation against Sandusky.

"Last weekend, my father was diagnosed with a treatable form of lung cancer during a follow-up visit for a bronchial illness," Scott Paterno said in the brief statement. The medical exam came the same weekend the school played its first game since the 1960s without Paterno leading the Nittany Lions — a 17-14 loss to Nebraska.

"As everyone can appreciate, this is a deeply personal matter for my parents, and we simply ask that his privacy be respected as he proceeds with treatment," Scott Paterno said.

___

Woody runs for 4-yard TD in 2nd OT as Iowa St. hands No. 2 Oklahoma St. its first loss, 37-31

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Bedlam will still be a huge deal for Oklahoma State.

It just won't be nearly as big as it could have been after the Cowboys let their dream season slip away at Iowa State.

Backup running back Jeff Woody scored on a 4-yard run in the second overtime and Iowa State stunned No. 2 Oklahoma State 37-31 on Friday night, opening the door for a couple of one-loss teams to reach the BCS championship game.

The Cyclones (6-4, 3-4 Big 12) overcame a 17-point deficit to beat the Cowboys (10-1, 7-1), opening a path for either Oregon or Alabama to face LSU in a rematch for the title.

Oklahoma State will host Oklahoma on Dec. 3 in a game that will now likely determine the Big 12 title. The Cowboys have never won the Big 12, but there was a lot more than the league crown at stake before they were shocked by the Cyclones.