AP News In Brief

Egypt's military rulers dissolve parliament, suspend constitution, promise elections

CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's military rulers took sweeping action to dismantle the autocratic legacy of former President Hosni Mubarak on Sunday, dissolving parliament, suspending the constitution and promising elections in moves cautiously welcomed by pro-democracy protesters.

The caretaker government, backed by the military, said restoring security after the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak was a top priority even as labor unrest reflected one of the many challenges of steering the Arab world's biggest nation toward stability and democracy.

Egypt's upheaval was also splintering into a host of smaller grievances, the inevitable outcome of emboldened citizens feeling free to speak up, most of them for the first time.

They even included about 2,000 police, widely hated for brutality and corruption under Mubarak, who marched to the Interior Ministry to demand better pay and conditions. They passed through the protest camp at Tahrir Square, where demonstrators hurled insults at them, calling them "pigs" and "dogs."

Egypt's state news agency said banks will be closed Monday due to strikes and Tuesday for a public holiday. Dozens of employees protested against alleged corruption at the state television building, which broadcast pro-Mubarak messages during the massive demonstrations against his rule.


Obama budget director says proposed cuts won't be painless, but GOP says they're not enough

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama will send Congress on Monday a $3 trillion-plus budget for 2012 that promises $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by freezing many domestic programs for five years, trimming military spending and limiting tax deductions for the wealthy.

Jacob Lew, the president's budget director, said Sunday that the new spending plan for the 2012 would disprove the notion that "we can do this painlessly ... we are going to make tough choices."

Republicans rejected that appraisal, castigating Obama for proposals that will boost spending in such areas as education, public works and research, and charging that Obama's cuts are not deep enough.

They vowed to push ahead with their own plans to trim $61 billion in spending from the seven months left in the current budget year and then squeeze Obama's 2012 budget plan for billions of dollars in additional savings in response to voters alarmed at an unprecedented flood of red ink.

"He's going to present a budget tomorrow that will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much," House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Boehner released a statement from 150 economists calling on Obama to take immediate action to reduce government spending.


Insults fly at conservative gathering: Is brief post-Tucson political time out over?

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama? Weak, a socialist and a liar. Liberals? Monsters and a cancer. Former Vice President Dick Cheney? Called a war criminal, "murdering scum" and a draft dodger - by people in his own party.

Just a month after the Arizona shooting rampage led to bipartisan calls for toned-down political discourse, incivility suffused the year's largest gathering of conservatives. Just like at most partisan get-togethers on either end of the ideological spectrum.

The brief political time out is over - if it ever really existed.

"All right, sit down and shut up," Cheney said after being greeted by hecklers when he made a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Supporters shouted down the insults with a "U.S.A." chant, and a visibly annoyed Cheney brushed off the outbursts.

Such incivility didn't overwhelm the conference, which is a rite of passage for presidential contenders, right-leaning media personalities and grass-roots activists. But it kept popping up throughout the three-day affair in speeches by names big and not so big.


Jay-Z, John Legend early Grammy leaders with 3 each; Eminem, nominations leader, gets 1

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jay-Z and John Legend were the early leaders at the Grammys on Sunday, as both were awarded three trophies each during the show's pretelecast ceremony.

Other multiple winners included Lady Gaga, Usher, Lady Antebellum, Jeff Beck and the Black Keys, who all won two apiece.

Eminem was the leading nominee with 10, but his chance of a huge Grammy sweep was diminished as he lost five of the awards in the pre-telecast ceremony. He still picked up one - best rap solo performance, for "Not Afraid."

Gospel legend Mavis Staples was a tearful winner as she picked up the first Grammy of her career, for best Americana album, for "You Are Not Alone."

"That was the shock of my life. My goodness. It's been a long time, a long time coming," she said, breaking into tears.

Neil Young also won his first musical Grammy (he had won for best boxed box set in 2009). "I'm not Mavis, but I'm close," he joked, as he held his trophy for best rock song for "Angry World."

Other notable winners included Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Cee Lo Green and Danger Mouse, who won producer of the year.


Love with a smile: Michelle Obama says laughter is the best glue to keep a couple together

WASHINGTON (AP) - Here's Michelle Obama's advice for couples this Valentine's Day: laugh with your partner.

She says it's what she and President Barack Obama do, and it seems to be working. Their marriage, although tested throughout the years by his political ambitions - for the Illinois Senate, the U.S. Senate and later president - is going on 19 years.

"I think a lot of laughing," the first lady said at a White House luncheon with reporters who asked about the Obamas' union. "I think in our house we don't take ourselves too seriously, and laughter is the best form of unity, I think, in a marriage.

"So we still find ways to have fun together, and a lot of it is private and personal. But we keep each other smiling and that's good," she added.

It also helps that Obama is "very romantic."


Where nothing is harder to find than a job: A look inside the poorest county in America

ZIEBACH COUNTY, S.D. (AP) - In the barren grasslands of Ziebach County, there's almost nothing harder to find in winter than a job. This is America's poorest county, where more than 60 percent of people live at or below the poverty line.

At a time when the weak economy is squeezing communities across the nation, recently released census figures show that nowhere are the numbers as bad as here - a county with 2,500 residents, most of them Cheyenne River Sioux Indians living on a reservation.

In the coldest months of the year, when seasonal construction work disappears and the South Dakota prairie freezes, unemployment among the Sioux can hit 90 percent.

Poverty has loomed over this land for generations. Repeated attempts to create jobs have run into stubborn obstacles: the isolated location, the area's crumbling infrastructure, a poorly trained population and a tribe that struggles to work with businesses or attract investors.

Now the tribe - joined by a few entrepreneurs, a development group and a nonprofit - is renewing efforts to create jobs and encourage a downtrodden population to start its own businesses.


Recycled NASA spacecraft to fly by sweetheart comet on Valentine's Day

LOS ANGELES (AP) - After a long-distance courtship, a NASA spacecraft is set to meet up with its celestial sweetheart - a comet half the size of Manhattan that had an encounter with another spacecraft not long ago.

The rendezvous between Stardust and comet Tempel 1 occurs on Valentine's Day some 210 million miles from Earth. Hurtling at 24,000 mph, Stardust will fly within 125 miles of the potato-shaped comet, snapping pictures along the way.

If successful, it will be the first time that scientists will have before-and-after images of Tempel 1, allowing them to observe any changes on the uneven surface.

In 2005, Tempel 1 received a not-so-loving visit from another NASA probe named Deep Impact, which fired a copper bullet into the comet on the Fourth of July that sparked cosmic fireworks and excavated a crater. The high-speed crash hurled out so much dust and debris that Deep Impact failed to see the manmade hole even as it beamed back dazzling pictures of other surface features.

Scientists hope to get a second chance with Stardust, which is expected to pass near the 2005 bull's-eye.


FTD, Groupon get complaints that flower deal wasn't sweet; offer refunds to end confusion

The online coupon site Groupon.com and the FTD flower company are giving refunds after getting complaints that a Valentine's Day flower deal wasn't so sweet.

Groupon customers were offered $20 off a $40 purchase from FTD last week. But some customers found the flowers were priced lower as sale items on FTD's own website. They complained on the Internet that FTD inflated prices for Groupon customers to make up for the discount.

But FTD President Rob Apatoff says that's not so. He says it was clear on the sites that the coupon didn't apply to sale items.

Still, Apatoff says his company will credit the customers' accounts to give them the lower price because of the confusion. Both companies also say they'll make full refunds if people aren't satisfied.


'The King's Speech' big winner at British Academy Film Awards, with 7 trophies

LONDON (AP) - Royal drama "The King's Speech" was crowned the big winner Sunday at Britain's top film awards - a sign that it may reign again at Hollywood's Academy Awards in two weeks' time.

The made-in-England story of King George VI and his struggle to overcome a stutter won seven prizes, including best picture and acting trophies for Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.

It had to share the crown jewels with Facebook-founding drama "The Social Network, which took three prizes including best director for David Fincher. Mind-bending saga "Inception" also won three trophies.

"The King's Speech" went into the awards as heavy favorite with 14 nominations - an unexpected British triumph that cost a reported 15 million pounds ($24 million) to make and has taken many times that at the global box office.

It beat "The Social Network," ''Black Swan," ''Inception" and "True Grit" to the best picture prize.


Junior! Earnhardt Jr. wins Daytona 500 pole, Hendrick teammate Gordon starts second

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - NASCAR is back - and so is Juniormania.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. reclaimed the spotlight in Daytona speedweeks, winning pole position for the Daytona 500 with a lap of 186.089 mph in qualifying Sunday.

It's a boost for Earnhardt, who is coming off a disappointing season and spent part of the past week facing questions about the 10-year anniversary of his father's death at the track.

Earnhardt acknowledged that qualifying at Daytona is far more about the car than it is about the driver.

"We had a great car today," Earnhardt said. "I didn't really have a whole lot to do with it, just had to hold on the bottom as tight as I could and the power and the body and everything does all the work."