AP Top News at 2:15 p.m. EDT

Braving falling snow, a woman looks around destroyed factory in the rubble Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, five days after an earthquake-triggered tsunami devastated northeastern coastal towns in Japan. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, HONG KONG, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE
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Braving falling snow, a woman looks around destroyed factory in the rubble Wednesday, March 16, 2011 in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, five days after an earthquake-triggered tsunami devastated northeastern coastal towns in Japan.

Emergency workers forced to retreat from a tsunami-stricken Japanese nuclear power plant when radiation levels soared prepared to return Wednesday night after emissions dropped to safer levels. The pullback cost precious time in the fight to prevent a nuclear meltdown, further escalating a crisis spawned by last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami that pulverized Japan's northeastern coast and likely killed more than 10,000 people.

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — An American CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistani men was released from prison Wednesday and left Pakistan after more than $2 million in "blood money" was paid to his victims' families, defusing a dispute that threatened an alliance vital to defeating al-Qaida and ending the Afghan war. In what appeared to be carefully choreographed end to a crisis that had stoked anti-Americanism to new heights, the U.S. Embassy said the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the killings on Jan. 27 by Raymond Allen Davis.

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Soldiers and riot police expelled hundreds of protesters from a landmark square in Bahrain's capital on Wednesday, using tear gas and armored vehicles to try to subdue the growing movement challenging the 200-year-old monarchy. At least five people were killed as clashes flared across the kingdom, according to witnesses and officials. The unrest that began last month has increasingly showed signs of a sectarian showdown: The country's Sunni leaders are desperate to hold power, and majority Shiites are calling for an end to their dynasty. A Saudi-led force from Gulf allies, fearful for their own regimes and worried about Shiite Iran's growing influence, has grown to more than 1,000 soldiers.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The initial U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in July probably will include combat as well as non-combat forces, the top U.S. commander there told a House committee on Wednesday. Army Gen. David Petraeus mentioned no numbers, nor did he identify which combat units might be pulled out to begin what President Barack Obama has called a responsible winding down of the war by 2014.

NEW YORK (AP) — Four New York Times journalists have disappeared while reporting on fighting in Libya, the newspaper said Wednesday. Editors at the newspaper said they last heard from the journalists on Tuesday as they were covering the retreat of rebels from the town of Ajdabiya. Libyan officials told the newspaper they are trying to locate the four, executive editor Bill Keller said in a statement.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Boxing champ Muhammad Ali is asking Iran to release two American hikers held since 2009 on spy charges. Ali, arguably the most prominent U.S. Muslim, on Wednesday released to The Associated Press a letter he wrote to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February.

ATLANTA (AP) — U.S. life expectancy has hit another all-time high, rising above 78 years. The estimate of 78 years and 2 months is for a baby born in 2009, and comes from a preliminary report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The first humanoid robot ever launched into space is finally free. Astronauts at the International Space Station unpacked Robonaut on Tuesday, 2½ weeks after its arrival via shuttle Discovery. NASA broadcast the humorous unveiling ceremony Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Singer Nate Dogg, whose near monotone crooning anchored some of rap's most seminal songs and helped define the sound of West coast hip-hop, has died at age 41. Attorney Mark Geragos said Nate Dogg, whose real name was Nathaniel D. Hale, died Tuesday of complications from multiple strokes.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — As happy as Clemson and UNC Asheville were to win NCAA tournament games, there was no time to celebrate. A group hug with your teammates, handshakes for the opponents, a few postgame remarks and both teams were airborne.