AP roundup of worldwide news

Journalists sentenced

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea’s top court convicted two American journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in a prison Monday, intensifying the reclusive nation’s confrontation with the United States.

The sentencing came amid soaring tensions fuelled by the North’s latest nuclear and missile tests. Many believe Pyongyang is using the journalists as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the unpredictable country for its latest military threats.

In a cryptic two-sentence report, the North’s state news agency said Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36 were sentenced after the five-day trial ended Monday. They were guilty of a “grave crime” against the nation and of illegally crossing into North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency said.

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Bomb hits minibus

BAGHDAD – A bomb tore through a minibus during morning rush hour Monday in a mainly Shiite area in Baghdad, killing at least nine people and wounding 24, Iraqi officials said.

The blast was a grim reminder of the major challenge facing Iraqi forces three weeks ahead of the June 30 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from urban areas.

The bomb was attached to the minibus in the southern area of Abu Dshir, a Shiite enclave in the mainly Sunni neighbourhood of Dora, police said.

The explosion left a crater at the entrance of the bus station where commuters were gathered to catch rides to different parts of the city.

Wreckage found

RECIFE, Brazil – With 17 bodies pulled so far from the Atlantic, Brazilian and French military ships have no doubt they’ve located the wreckage of an Air France flight a week after it disappeared en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

But what caused the Airbus A330 to crash with 228 people on board will remain a mystery – unless searchers can locate the plane’s black box data and voice recorders, likely buried deep in the middle of the ocean.

Two high-tech devices from the U.S. Navy that can detect emergency beacons to a depth of 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) are being flown to Brazil on Monday with a U.S. Navy team, according to the Pentagon. They will be delivered to two French tugs that will listen for transmissions from the boxes.

Bodies recovered Sunday raised the total to 17, after pilots participating in a grid search found 15 corpses in an area about 45 miles (70 kilometres) from where the jet sent out messages signalling electrical failures and loss of cabin pressure.

The first two bodies were found Saturday. Authorities also announced that searchers spotted two airplane seats, debris with Air France’s logo, and recovered dozens of structural components from the plane. They had already recovered jet wing fragments, and said hundreds of personal items believed to be passengers’ belongings were plucked from the water.

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Conservatives score

BRUSSELS – Right-leaning parties hailed European Parliament victories as a vote against stimulus spending and corporate bailouts, pledging Monday to forge ahead with conservative approaches to the economic crisis.

Socialists said they would rethink their platforms in the wake of heavy defeats.

A record low voter turnout – 43.4 percent – in voting that ended Sunday pointed to enduring voter apathy about the European Union. It was a discouraging sign for EU officials hoping Irish voters will approve stronger powers for the EU in a fall referendum.

Ireland is the only one of the 27 EU nations that must still ratify the reforms.

The European Union said centre-right parties were expected to take the most seats – 267 – in the 736-member parliament. Centre-left parties were headed for 159 seats. The remainder were expected to go to smaller groupings.

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Airlines losing

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The world’s airlines will collectively lose $9 billion this year – nearly double the previous projections – and face a slow recovery as the economic crisis saps air travel and cargo demand, an industry body warned Monday.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airlines worldwide, increased its loss estimate from the $4.7 billion it forecast in March, reflecting a “rapidly deteriorating revenue environment.”

Although there has been growing signs of a bottoming out of the recession, IATA said the industry was severely hit in the first quarter with 50 major airlines reporting losses of more than $3 billion. Weak consumer confidence, high business inventories and rising oil prices pose headwinds for future recovery, the association said during a two-day global aviation conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Revenues are expected to decline by $80 billion – an unprecedented 15 percent from a year ago – to $448 billion this year, and the weakness will persist into 2010, it said.

“There is no modern precedent for today’s economic meltdown. The ground has shifted. Our industry has been shaken. This is the most difficult situation that the industry has faced,” said IATA Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani. The Geneva-based association also revised its estimated loss for last year to $10.4 billion from $8.5 billion previously.

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Slayings planned

WICHITA, Kan. – Abortion providers say that threats of more slayings from a man accused in the shooting death of a high-profile Kansas abortion doctor proves the existence of a “violent, terrorist movement” coalescing around the issue.

Scott Roeder called The Associated Press Sunday from the Sedgwick County jail, where he’s being held on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller last week at the doctor’s church in Wichita.

“I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal,” Roeder said. When asked by the AP if he was referring to another shooting, he refused to elaborate.

It wasn’t clear whether Roeder knew of any impending violence or was simply seeking publicity for his cause. Law enforcement authorities, including the Justice Department, said they didn’t know whether Sunday’s comments were credible. And a leader of the anti-abortion movement derided the accused shooter as “a fruit and a lunatic.”

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