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AP Top News at 5:51 p.m. EDT
[March 23, 2009]

AP Top News at 5:51 p.m. EDT

(AP Online Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dow up nearly 500 on bank plan, rise in home salesNEW YORK (AP) _ Wall Street got the news it wanted on the economy's biggest problems _ banks and housing _ and celebrated by hurtling the Dow Jones industrials up nearly 500 points. Investors added rocket fuel Monday to a two-week-old advance, cheering the government's plan to help banks remove bad assets from their books and also welcoming a report showing a surprising increase in home sales. Major stock indicators surged more than 6 percent, including the Dow, which had its biggest percentage gain since October. Although analysts were still hesitant to say Wall Street is squarely on its way to recovery after the collapse that began last fall, they said the banking and housing news bolstered the belief that the economy is starting to heal.

Obama admin. moves against bad bank assetsWASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration aimed squarely at the crisis clogging the nation's credit system Monday with a plan to take over up to $1 trillion in sour mortgage securities with the help of private investors. For once, Wall Street cheered. The announcement, closely stage-managed throughout the day, filled in crucial blanks in the administration's financial rescue package and formed what President Barack Obama called "one more critical element in our recovery." The coordinated effort by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. relies on a mix of government and private money _ mostly from institutional investors such as hedge funds _ to help banks rid their balance sheets of real-estate related securities that are now extremely difficult to value.

NTSB checks on plane overloading in Montana crashBUTTE, Mont. (AP) _ Investigators will examine whether a single-engine turboprop plane was overloaded when it nose-dived into a cemetery and killed 14 people on board who were heading to a retreat for the ultrarich for a ski trip, a federal official said Monday. The plane was likely designed to carry a total of 11 people, including two pilots, Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference. Officials said seven adults and seven children were killed in the crash Sunday; a relative said there were two 4-year-olds and the other children were ages 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

Suicide bomb blast kills 23 at funeral in IraqBAGHDAD (AP) _ A suicide bomber struck a tent filled Monday with Kurdish funeral mourners, unleashing a huge fireball that killed at least 23 people in a northern town where Kurds and Arabs are competing for power. Also Monday, Turkey's visiting president pressed the Iraqi government to crack down on Kurdish rebels who stage cross-border raids into Turkish territory from sanctuaries in northern Iraq. The provincial security office said 23 people were killed and 34 wounded in the suicide attack in the town of Jalula some 80 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad.

Alaska volcano Mount Redoubt erupts 5 timesWILLOW, Alaska (AP) _ Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano erupted five times overnight, sending an ash plume more than 9 miles into the air in the volcano's first emissions in nearly 20 years. Residents in the state's largest city were spared from falling ash, though fine gray dust was falling Monday morning on small communities north of Anchorage. The ash began falling around daybreak and continued into midmorning. They were supposed to end by noon. "It's coming down," Rita Jackson, 56, said early Monday morning at a 24-hour grocery store in Willow, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. She slid her fingers across the hood of her car, through a dusting of ash.

NJ officials ID woman found wandering mall in 1994TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A mute elderly woman known only as "Jane Doe" since she was found wandering in a New Jersey mall 15 years ago has finally been identified. Lt. Eduardo Ojeda of the New Jersey Department of Human Services police discovered recently that the woman is Elba Leonor Diaz Soccarras, who turns 75 on March 28. She has Alzheimer's disease and has been bedridden in a New Jersey psychiatric hospital for years. Her identity, partly obscured because she and her daughter had a falling out, was established thanks to tips from the public and Colombian officials.

Study: Lots of red meat increases mortality riskCHICAGO (AP) _ The largest study of its kind finds that older Americans who eat large amounts of red meat and processed meats face a greater risk of death from heart disease and cancer. The federal study of more than half a million men and women bolsters prior evidence of the health risks of diets laden with red meat like hamburger and processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts. Calling the increased risk modest, lead author Rashmi Sinha of the National Cancer Institute said the findings support the advice of several health groups to limit red and processed meat intake to decrease cancer risk.

Williams recovering in Ohio after heart surgeryNEW YORK (AP) _ Robin Williams was recovering at the Cleveland Clinic after heart surgery that his doctors deemed successful, his publicists said Monday. The 57-year-old actor had an operation to replace an aortic valve on March 13, publicists Mara Buxbaum and Chris Kanarick said. He was expected to make a complete recovery in the next eight weeks. "His heart is strong and he will have normal heart function in the coming weeks with no limitations on what he'll be able to do," said Dr. A. Marc Gillinov, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. "A couple of hours after surgery, he was entertaining the medical team and making us all laugh." Fla. student suspended from bus for passing gasLAKELAND, Fla. (AP) _ An eighth-grader was suspended from riding the school bus for three days after being accused of passing gas. The bus driver wrote on a misbehavior form that a 15-year-old teen passing gas on the bus Monday to make the other children laugh, creating a stench so bad that it was difficult to breathe. The bus driver handed the teen the suspension form the next day. Polk County school officials said there's no rule against flatulence, but there are rules against causing a disturbance on the bus.

Armstrong breaks collarbone, will have surgeryBALTANAS, Spain (AP) _ Lance Armstrong fractured his collarbone Monday during a race in Spain, leaving in question his participation in the Tour de France in July. The seven-time Tour champion wrote on his Twitter feed that he will have surgery in a couple of days. "I'm alive!" "Broken clavicle (right). Hurts like hell for now. Surgery in a couple of days. Thanks for all the well wishes," Armstrong wrote. In a statement released earlier Monday, the 37-year-old said he had "been lucky to avoid one of the most common cycling injuries" in his 17-year career.

Copyright ? 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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