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TOP HEADLINES: NATO leaders solidify Afghanistan transition

Monday, May 21, 2012 | 9:19 p.m. CDT; updated 9:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 21, 2012

Here are today's top stories from The Associated Press.

NATO leaders solidify 'irreversible transition' in Afghanistan

CHICAGO — President Barack Obama and leaders around the globe locked in place their exit path from the war in Afghanistan on Monday, affirming they will close the largely stalemated conflict at the end of 2014 but keep their troops fighting there for two more years in the meantime.

Obama, presiding over a sprawling war coalition summit in his hometown, summed up the mood of all the nation by saying the Afghanistan that will be left behind will be stable enough for them to leave but still loaded with troubles.

"I don't think there's ever going to be an optimal point where we say, 'This is all done. This is perfect. This is just the way we wanted it and now we can wrap up all our equipment and go home'," Obama said. "This is a process, and it's sometimes a messy process."

Afghan forces for the first time will take over the lead of the combat mission by the middle of 2013, a milestone moment in a long, costly transition to control.

Ex-Rutgers student who spied on gay roommate gets 30 days in jail

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A former Rutgers University student who used a webcam to spy on his gay roommate was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail — a punishment that disappointed some activists but came as a relief to others who feared he would be made a scapegoat for his fellow freshman's suicide.

Dharun Ravi, 20, could have received 10 years behind bars for his part in a case that burst onto front pages when Tyler Clementi threw himself to his death off the George Washington Bridge.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman gave Ravi a month in jail, placed him on three years' probation and ordered him to get counseling and pay $10,000 toward a program to help victims of hate crimes.

"Our society has every right to expect zero tolerance for intolerance," the judge said.

Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan said he will appeal the sentence, calling it insufficient.

Suicide bomber kills 96 Yemeni soldiers

SANAA, Yemen — A Yemeni soldier detonated a bomb hidden in his military uniform during a rehearsal for a military parade, killing 96 fellow soldiers and wounding at least 200 on Monday in one of the deadliest attacks in the capital in years.

Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen claimed responsibility, saying in an emailed statement that the suicide attack was intended to avenge a U.S.-backed offensive against al-Qaida in a swath of southern Yemen seized by the militant movement last year.

The bombing left a scene of carnage, with scores of bleeding soldiers lying on the ground as ambulances rushed to the scene.

"This is a real massacre," said Ahmed Sobhi, one of the soldiers who witnessed the blast. "This is unbelievable. I am still shaking. The place turned into hell. I thought this only happens in movies."

Syria's violence spreads into Lebanon

BIREH, Lebanon — Syria's war barreled over the border with an angry, raucous funeral Monday for an anti-Syrian cleric whose killing set off a night of deadly street battles in Beirut and raised fears that Lebanon is getting drawn into the chaos afflicting its neighbor.

The violence is a reflection of Lebanon's political dysfunction, a legacy of years of civil war when the country became a proxy battleground for other nations. Lebanon walks a fragile fault line over Syria, which had troops on the ground here for nearly 30 years until 2005 and still has strong ties to Lebanon's security services.

To many observers, it was only a matter of time before the violence in Syria affected Lebanon. The U.N. estimates the Syrian conflict has killed more than 9,000 people since March 2011, when President Bashar Assad started cracking down on a popular uprising.

"The Syrian regime is seeking to sow chaos in Lebanon," said Khaled Daher, a Sunni member of parliament, during a fiery speech Monday at the funeral for Sheik Ahmed Abdul-Wahid, the slain anti-Syrian cleric. "But we will not be scared."

UN nuclear chief seeks 'progress' on wider Iran probes

TEHRAN, Iran — The head of the U.N. nuclear agency pushed Monday for a breakthrough pact with Iran to resume inspections into suspected secret atomic weapons work and possibly set in motion further dealmaking when envoys from Tehran and world powers gather later this week in Baghdad.

The mission by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano — his first to Iran since taking the post in 2009 — raised speculation about greater flexibility by Iranian officials as they struggle to balance the blows from Western sanctions and their insistence never to abandon the country's nuclear program.

But any Iranian cooperation — including possibly opening up a military site to U.N. inspectors — will carry reciprocal demands that the West may consider reaching too far, too soon.

Tehran has already signaled its goal before Wednesday's talks: Pressing the U.S. and Europe to roll back sanctions that have hit critical oil exports and blacklisted the country from international banking networks. The West's opening gambit, meanwhile, may aim at one of Iran's most prized advances — its ability to make nuclear fuel.

Supreme Court won't consider reducing $675,000 verdict against student who downloaded music

BOSTON — A former Boston University student who was ordered to pay $675,000 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the Internet says he will continue fighting the penalty, despite the Supreme Court's refusal Monday to hear his appeal.

Joel Tenenbaum, 28, of Providence, R.I., said he's hoping a federal judge will reduce the amount.

"I can't believe the system would uphold a six-figure damages amount for downloading 30 songs on a file-sharing system that everybody used," Tenenbaum said. "I can't believe the court would uphold something that ludicrous."

A jury in 2009 ordered Tenenbaum to pay $675,000, or $22,500 per song, after the Recording Industry Association of America sued him on behalf of four record labels, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Brothers Records Inc. A federal judge called the penalty unconstitutionally excessive and reduced the award to $67,500, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later reinstated it.


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