WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. economy that plodded along in the first three months of the year likely grew even less in the April-June quarter. And most economists no longer think growth will strengthen much in the second half of 2012.
Weaker hiring, nervous consumers, sluggish manufacturing and the overhang of Europe's debt crisis might be pointing toward everyone's big fear: another recession.
Against that background, the government on Friday will issue its first of three estimates of how much the U.S. economy expanded last quarter. The consensus forecast is that growth slowed to an annual rate of 1.5 percent, according to a survey of economists by data firm FactSet. The Commerce Department will issue the estimate at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
A quarterly growth rate of 1.5 percent would be the weakest in a year. It would follow a meager 1.9 percent rate in the first three months of 2012.
Much more growth would be needed to fuel stronger hiring. Economists generally say even 2 percent annual growth would add only about 90,000 jobs a month. That's too few to drive down the unemployment rate, which is stuck at 8.2 percent.
Facing an Olympic rift in London, Romney's Salt Lake City experience in 2002 comes into focus
LONDON (AP) — On a trip already marked by misstep, Mitt Romney has an Olympic history that could prove problematic: His stewardship of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City was not without controversy.
Romney and his wife, Ann, are set to attend the opening ceremony at the Summer Games on Friday, an event that punctuates the first leg of a three-nation tour that will take him to Israel and Poland. It's the first international swing for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has crafted an itinerary designed to showcase his diplomatic skills and political strengths.
The Olympic appearance carries special significance for Romney. His political career was born out of his leading role at the Salt Lake City Games, which were plagued by scandal before he was tapped to take over.
"I can't resist the pull of the beginning of the Olympics here," Romney told reporters Thursday. "My experience as an Olympic organizer is that there are always a few very small things that end up not going quite right in the first day or so — these get ironed out and then when the games themselves begin and the athletes take over, all the mistakes of the organizing committee — and I made a few — all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out and by the spirit of the games."
Romney's comments were aimed at downplaying his earlier suggestion that British officials might not be prepared to pull off a successful Olympics. In an interview with NBC News, he called London's problems with games preparation "disconcerting," and the remark sparked sharp responses from Britain's top officials.
Amid campaign of fear, Sudanese activists struggle to ignite uprising against al-Bashir rule
CAIRO (AP) — "I think my country Sudan has really hit rock bottom." Those were the last public words uttered by Usamah Mohamad, a 32-year-old Sudanese web developer-turned-citizen journalist, in a video announcing he would join protests against President Omar al-Bashir.
Mohamad, popular under his Twitter handle "simsimt," was arrested the same day his video was aired. For the next month, his family had no idea where he was. Finally they learned he was in Khartoum's high security prison and were allowed to visit him last week.
He was skinnier and darker, a sign he had been left to bake in the scorching Khartoum sun, people close to his case say. The family itself is saying nothing.
Mohamad and hundreds of others — no less than 2,000, activists say — have been detained the past month in a campaign unleashed by the Sudanese government. The crackdown aims to crush a new attempt to launch a protest movement calling for the ouster of al-Bashir, inspired by the Middle East's uprisings that toppled the leaders of Sudan's neighbors Egypt and Libya as well as Tunisia and Yemen.
Anti-government activists see al-Bashir's 23-year-old regime as the ripest in the region to fall. He has been weakened by the loss of oil-rich South Sudan, which became independent last year after two decades of Africa's bloodiest civil war. His regime has had to impose painful economic austerity measures to make up for the loss of revenues from the south's oil, sending inflation up to nearly 40 percent this month. The years-old rebellion in the western Darfur region continues to bleed the country. Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in that region.
Mysterious 'Victim 2' in Sandusky case comes forward
He was the victim whose horrific assault in the football team showers wound up costing Joe Paterno his job, severely tarnished Penn State's image, and brought accusations of a cover-up by high-level university officials.
Law enforcement officials dubbed him Victim 2.
Until Thursday, the boy was a phantom, absent from last month's trial of retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and thought to be unknown to prosecutors. His identity was one of the biggest mysteries of the child sex abuse scandal.
Now, for the first time, a man has stepped forward to claim he was the boy in the shower, and his attorneys have promised to sue the university.
"Our client has to live the rest of his life not only dealing with the effects of Sandusky's childhood sexual abuse, but also with the knowledge that many powerful adults, including those at the highest levels of Penn State, put their own interests and the interests of a child predator above their legal obligations to protect him," the lawyers said in a news release.
EYES ON LONDON: Seeking tickets, opening honors and a queen who loves cycling
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:
When Spain walks into Olympic stadium on Friday night for the opening ceremomy, they'll be led by Pau Gasol. The basketball star has been designated the nation's flag bearer, one of the highest honors an Olympic athlete can get.
"It's an amazing honor," Gasol said. "I feel very lucky and privileged to be carrying the flag and leading all of our athletes into the stadium. It will be a very memorable moment in my career."
Green acres: Intrepid homeowners weary of lawns browned by drought break out turf paint
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When this summer's drought turned her prized lawn brown, Terri LoPrimo fought back, but not with sprinklers: She had it painted green, making her suddenly lush-appearing yard the envy of her neighborhood.
The Staten Island, N.Y., resident and her husband, Ronnie, hired a local entrepreneur to spruce up their yard by spraying it with a deep-green organic dye. By Monday, the couple's property was aglow with newly green blades of grass and no watering needed to sustain it.
"It looks just like a spring lawn, the way it looks after a rain. It's really gorgeous," said LoPrimo, a 62-year-old retiree.
With two-thirds of the nation covered by a drought that stretches from coast to coast, residents and businesses in normally well-watered areas are catching on to the lawn-painting practice employed for years in the West and Southwest to give luster to faded turf.
LoPrimo paid $125 to green up her roughly 830-square-foot lawn. She said it was worth every penny to keep her home of 33 years graced by an attractive yard.
Crisis looms as Israel's military draft reform still up in the air days before deadline
JERUSALEM (AP) — With just days left before a court-imposed deadline to reform Israel's military draft law expires, the nation's political leaders are at loggerheads on how to resolve what has become perhaps the country's most pressing — and divisive — domestic issue.
The impasse over whether and how to scrap the mass exemptions from military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews has already cost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his largest coalition partner. With no obvious compromise in sight ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline, the issue has the potential to trigger the government's collapse and lead to snap elections.
The debate over the exemptions cuts along the nation's secular-religious divide. Israel's secular majority, which is required to perform two to three years of compulsory service, widely resents the exemptions, while ultra-Orthodox leaders have been equally adamant in their refusal to compromise, claiming their young men serve the nation through prayer and study.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to find a resolution that will please all sides, dissolved a high-profile committee that recommended largely doing away with the mass exemptions. That prompted his largest coalition partner, the centrist Kadima Party that joined the Cabinet in May with the explicit goal of ending the exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox, to quit the government.
Netanyahu now has presented a watered-down alternative that doesn't appear likely to be implemented either.
FACT CHECK: Claims that treaty would curb US gun rights are overblown
WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators at the United Nations are working to put final touches on a treaty cracking down on the global, $60 billion business of illicit trading in small arms, a move aimed at curbing violence in some of the most troubled corners of the world. In the United States, gun activists denounce it as an end run around their constitutional right to bear arms.
"Without apology, the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms," National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the U.N. this month. "Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition."
And treaty opponent John Bolton, who was President George W. Bush's ambassador to the U.N., wrote that gun-control advocates "hope to use restrictions on international gun sales to control gun sales at home."
But what both ignore is a well-enshrined legal principle that says no treaty can override the Constitution or U.S. laws.
In fact, a first draft of the treaty circulated in New York this week has been criticized by arms-control activists for containing too many loopholes. For instance, it doesn't include a proposed ban on ammunition trade. Gun activists are standing firm in near-blanket opposition to such a ban, as last Friday's deadly Aurora, Colo., theater shooting rampage heightens interest in the deliberations and raises the stakes.
Obama and Romney stress different issues to woo suburban women in Colorado and other states
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — If President Barack Obama wins swing-voting Colorado, and a second term as president, voters like Paula Burky will probably be the reason.
Burky, who has decided to vote for Obama, says, in her words, "He understands women."
Both Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, see women — specifically suburbanites from their 30s to their 50s — as critical to victory in Colorado as well as in other hard-fought places like Virginia and Nevada.
The state of the campaign in the sprawling Denver region illustrates how the fight is playing out across the nation, and how the candidates are seeking to woo these female voters in different ways.
Romney is decrying Obama's handling of the sluggish economy. Obama warns women could lose abortion rights with a Republican president.
Olympic-sized political and culture clashes inevitable given size and scope of Olympic games
LONDON (AP) — In a way it was inevitable, given the size and scope of the event that is taking place in this most multicultural of capitals.
But the Olympic-sized political gaffes and cultural goofs already registered before the games officially open Friday have proven one thing in the globalized planet of the early 21st century: Even with the best of intentions, organizing an offense-free Olympics is nearly impossible.
On Thursday, three issues rankled some Muslim activists:
—A "Welcome to London" street sign written in Arabic that was virtually indecipherable, with the characters written backward.
—A ruling that one of Saudi Arabia's two female athletes couldn't wear a headscarf for her judo competitions because of safety concerns.