On the brink of a painful government shutdown, the Obama administration readied furlough notices for hundreds of thousands of workers Friday as Republican and Democratic leaders accused each other of refusing to give ground on a deal to keep operations running. By midday Friday, most employees of the federal workforce had been told whether they had been deemed essential or would be temporarily laid off from work if lawmakers failed to reach an agreement by midnight. In the event of a shutdown, official furlough notices would begin going out by email, by written letter or in person.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon says a government shutdown would delay the $100,000 death benefit paid to families if a military service member dies in the line of duty during the shutdown. Families would get the money eventually, after the government re-opens.
BEIRUT (AP) — A mass protest calling for sweeping changes in Syria's authoritarian regime turned bloody Friday, with the government and protesters both claiming to have sustained heavy casualties as the country's three-week uprising entered a dangerous new phase. Human rights activists and witnesses said Syrian security forces opened fire on tens of thousands of protesters in the volatile southern city of Daraa, killing 25 people and wounding hundreds. But state-run TV said 19 policemen and members of the security forces were killed when gunmen opened fire on them.
BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO holds its fire as Moammar Gadhafi's forces advance 100 miles into rebel territory. It then blasts a rebel tank, saying it didn't know the rebels had any — even though footage of rebels with tanks had been on YouTube for weeks. NATO's leadership of the Libya campaign is coming under increasing criticism for mistakes and ineffectiveness. Nine difficult days of leading the air war have brought into sharp relief the confusion, ambiguity and constraints of the alliance's mission.
IBADAN, Nigeria (AP) — A Nigerian government official says at least eight people are dead after a bombing at an election office ahead of the first of the oil-rich nation's three elections. The government official, who requested anonymity, told The Associated Press on Friday night that local hospitals were overwhelmed by those injured in the blast at the Suleja office of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Parents screamed in anguish and clung to coffins Friday as families began burying 12 children gunned down in the halls of their elementary school. A black police helicopter dropped white rose petals over mourners and a nation was left struggling for answers. More than a thousand people gathered for the first funerals, held at a cemetery atop a hill overlooking the working-class neighborhood where the school shooting took place a day earlier.
WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — A stunning discovery of votes in Wisconsin could give the state's hotly contested Supreme Court race to the conservative incumbent in an election largely seen as a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's explosive union rights law. Adding another twist, the county clerk who said she incorrectly entered vote totals in the race has faced criticism before for her handling of elections and previously worked for a state GOP caucus when it was controlled by the candidate who stands to benefit from Thursday's revelation.
LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts woman charged with attempted murder for withholding cancer treatment from her autistic son testified Friday that she did not give him at least five months of chemotherapy medications because the side effects made him so sick she was afraid the treatments would kill him. Kristen LaBrie, testifying for the second day at her attempted murder trial, said she mostly followed doctor's orders during the first four phases of treatment for her son, Jeremy Fraser. But she said she stopped giving him his cancer medications during the final phase of his treatment because she "didn't want to make him any sicker."
NEWNAN, Ga. (AP) — Movie mogul Tyler Perry delivered on a Christmas promise when he handed the keys of a new four-bedroom house to an 88-year-old woman who lost her rural Georgia home to a fire. Rosa Lee Ransby and her seven grand- and great-grandchildren lost their home a week before Christmas.
NEW YORK (AP) — Tampa Bay Rays slugger Manny Ramirez told Major League Baseball on Friday that he is retiring after being notified of an issue that arose under MLB's drug policy. The commissioner's office announced Ramirez's decision in a statement, but did not say whether he tested positive for a banned substance. Ramirez previously served a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy while he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.