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Friday, September 06, 2013 - Updated: 10:38 AM

Islamists take over south Egypt town

DALGA, Egypt (AP) -- The Coptic Orthodox priest would only talk to his visitor after hiding from the watchful eyes of the bearded Muslim outside, who sported a pistol bulging from under his robe.

So Father Yoannis moved behind a wall in the charred skeleton of an ancient monastery to describe how it was torched by Islamists and then looted when they took over this southern Egyptian town following the ouster of the country's president.

"The fire in the monastery burned intermittently for three days. The looting continued for a week. At the end, not a wire or an electric switch is left," Yoannis told The Associated Press. The monastery's 1,600-year-old underground chapel was stripped of ancient icons and the ground was dug up on the belief that a treasure was buried there.

"Even the remains of ancient and revered saints were disturbed and thrown around," he said.

A town of some 120,000 -- including 20,000 Christians -- Dalga has been outside government control since hard-line supporters of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi drove out police and occupied their station on July 3, the day Egypt's military chief removed the president in a popularly supported coup. It was part of a wave of attacks in the southern Minya province that targeted Christians, their homes and businesses.

Jobs data may drive Fed's bond decision

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Signs of improvement in the U.S. economy emerged this week, and the jobs report the government will issue Friday will show whether that strength is fueling consistent hiring gains.

The August employment report will be the most significant economic data to be released before the Federal Reserve meets Sept. 17-18. Many economists expect the Fed to decide then to slow its monthly bond purchases.

Analysts predict a solid gain of 177,000 jobs for August, above total but just below the monthly average this year of 192,000. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 7.4 percent.

Many economists were encouraged by data released this week. Reports showed that services companies are stepping up hiring and that a dwindling number of people are losing jobs.

Americans are buying more cars than at any time since the recession began in December 2007. And U.S. factories expanded in August at their fastest pace in more than two years.

Woman on death row may go free

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona woman who has spent more than two decades on death row after being convicted of having her 4-year-old son killed for an insurance payout is expected to be released on Friday while she awaits a retrial of the case that made her one of the state's most reviled inmates.

Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court set Debra Milke's bond at $250,000 a day earlier, saying there's no direct evidence linking her to her son's death other than a purported confession to a detective. And, the judge said, the validity of that confession is in doubt.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Milke would probably be released Friday. Defense attorney Michael Kimerer did not respond to questions from The Associated Press.

If she is freed, Milke's lawyers have said she plans to stay at a home that supporters bought for her in the Phoenix area. She has been imprisoned since 1990.

Prosecutors say Milke had her son, Christopher, killed to collect on a $5,000 insurance policy. Authorities say she dressed the boy in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989. She then handed the boy over to two men who were later convicted of taking the child to the desert and shooting him.

Report: NSA cracked codes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Security Agency, working with the British government, has secretly been unraveling encryption technology that billions of Internet users rely upon to keep their electronic messages and confidential data safe from prying eyes, according to published reports based on internal U.S. government documents.

The NSA has bypassed or altogether cracked much of the digital encryption used by businesses and everyday Web users, according to reports Thursday in The New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper and the nonprofit news website ProPublica. The reports describe how the NSA invested billions of dollars since 2000 to make nearly everyone's secrets available for government consumption.

In doing so, the NSA built powerful supercomputers to break encryption codes and partnered with unnamed technology companies to insert "back doors" into their software, the reports said. Such a practice would give the government access to users' digital information before it was encrypted and sent over the Internet.

"For the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies," according to a 2010 briefing document about the NSA's accomplishments meant for its UK counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Security experts told the news organizations such a code-breaking practice would ultimately undermine Internet security and leave everyday Web users vulnerable to hackers.

The revelations stem from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia this summer. His leaks, first published by the Guardian, revealed a massive effort by the U.S. government to collect and analyze all sorts of digital data that Americans send at home and around the world.

Zimmerman's wife files for divorce

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- George Zimmerman's wife filed for divorce Thursday, less than two months after her husband was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin and a week after she pleaded guilty to perjury in his case.

Shellie Zimmerman made the decision because of "disappointment," her attorney, Kelly Sims, wrote Thursday in a short email to The Associated Press. The 26-year-old Zimmerman told ABC's "Good Morning America" last week that she was having serious doubts about remaining married.

     

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