Hundreds of suburban residents flee wildfire burning in foothills near Los Angeles

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. (AP) An early season wildfire slowly chewed its way through dense brush near Los Angeles on Sunday, forcing more than 1,000 people from homes in the foothills.

More than 400 firefighters attacked the 350-acre fire, aided by two helicopters and water-dropping air tankers, said Elisa Weaver of the Arcadia Fire Department. Residents evacuated at least 550 homes Saturday night and Sunday, but none had burned.

"This is pretty serious," Weaver said. "Some of these areas have not burned in over 40 years."

Smoke and fire billowed near neighborhoods on the outskirts of Sierra Madre near Bailey Canyon Wilderness Park. The fire moved slowly as it fed on brush and was estimated to be 5 to 10 percent contained. It is expected to continue burning for another two or three days.

Obama says race not the reason he struggles for support among working class

WASHINGTON (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday that race is not the reason he is struggling to attract working-class votes and insisted he can win over uncommitted superdelegates by showing he is "best able to not just defeat John McCain, but also lead the country."

Speaking in a broadcast interview, Obama also brushed aside a challenge from Hillary Rodham Clinton to debate before the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. "I'm not ducking. We've had 21" debates, he said.

Trailing in delegates and the popular vote, Clinton has been stepping up the pressure on Obama for more debates before the upcoming primaries, which are crucial to her candidacy. She also has been reaching out to uncommitted Democratic superdelegates in hopes of capitalizing on her Pennsylvania primary victory.

Clinton's Pennsylvania victory was buoyed by support from working-class and white voters, but Obama dismissed the notion Sunday that race will be a factor in the presidential election.

"Is race still a factor in our society? Yes. I don't think anybody would deny that," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

Strike at Scottish oil refinery closes major BP North Sea oil pipeline

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) Hundreds of workers at Scotland's only oil refinery on Sunday began a 48-hour strike that has forced BP PLC to shut a pipeline system that delivers almost a third of Britain's North Sea oil.

BP said it had completed the closure of the Forties Pipeline System by 6 a.m., when 1,200 workers at the Grangemouth refinery in central Scotland walked off the job. The pipeline brings in 700,000 barrels of oil a day from the North Sea to BP's Kinneil plant, which is powered from the Grangemouth site.

Energy industry group Oil & Gas U.K. said the strike, over pension issues, could cost $100 million a day in lost production.

The main effect of the walkout was likely to be felt by the British Treasury which relies heavily on taxes from oil production and at gas stations in Scotland, some of which limited purchases in anticipation of the strike.

The government urged motorists not to hoard fuel, saying there would be enough to go around. It wants to avoid a repeat of scenes in 2000 when motorists were forced to line up at gas stations as truckers angry at heavily taxed fuel brought Britain to a standstill by blockading refineries.

US-protected Green Zone shelled in sandstorm; Sadrists reject government demands

BAGHDAD (AP) Suspected Shiite extremists hammered the U.S.-protected Green Zone Sunday in the fiercest salvo in weeks, apparently taking advantage of a sandstorm that blanketed the capital and grounded the American aircraft that normally prowl for launching teams.

Thunderous explosions resounded throughout the evening as rockets or mortar shells slammed into the heavily fortified area in central Baghdad.

Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, rejected terms set by the Iraqi government for lifting a crackdown against his Mahdi Army militia.

Sirens wailed in the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and much of the Iraqi government on the west side of the Tigris River. The public address system warned people to "duck and cover" and stay away from windows.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the area was hit by indirect fire, the military's term for rocket or mortar attacks, but said it had no immediate word on casualties.

Scientists use experimental treatment to restore some vision in those with rare eye disease

NEW YORK(AP) Scientists for the first time have used gene therapy to dramatically improve sight in people with a rare form of blindness, a development experts called a major advance for the experimental technique.

Some vision was restored in four of the six young people who got the treatment, teams of researchers in the United States and Britain reported Sunday. Two of the volunteers who could only see hand motions were able to read a few lines of an eye chart within weeks.

"It's a phenomenal breakthrough," said Stephen Rose, chief research officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which helped pay for one study done at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

If successful in larger numbers, experts said, the technique has the potential to reverse blindness from other kinds of inherited eye diseases.

"I think this is incredibly exciting," said Dr. Jean Bennett, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader of the Philadelphia study. "It's the beginning of a whole new phase of studies."

Wolf hunting begins across Northern Rockies, stoking extermination fears for the predators

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Tony Saunders stalked his prey for 35 miles by snowmobile through western Wyoming's Hoback Basin, finally reaching a clearing where he took out a .270-caliber rifle and shot the wolf twice from 30 yards away.

Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies have been taken off the endangered species list and are being hunted freely for the first time since they were placed on that list three decades ago, and nowhere is that hunting easier than Wyoming.

Most of the state with the exception of the Yellowstone National Park area has been designated a "predator zone," where wolves can be shot at will.

For Saunders, killing that wolf was a long-awaited chance to even things out because he has lost two horses to wolves and blames the canines for depleting local big game herds.

"It's hard for people to understand how devastating they can be," said Saunders, 39, who ranches at Bondurant, Wyo., 30 miles southeast of Jackson, Wyo.

Scholarship illuminates more corners of Holocaust's abiding mystery Wallenberg disappearance

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) Budapest, November 1944: Another German train has loaded its cargo of Jews bound for Auschwitz. A young Swedish diplomat pushes past the SS guard and scrambles onto the roof of a cattle car.

Ignoring shots fired over his head, he reaches through the open door to outstretched hands, passing out dozens of bogus "passports" that extend Sweden's protection to the bearers. He orders everyone with a document off the train and into his caravan of vehicles. The guards look on, dumbfounded.

Raoul Wallenberg was a minor official of a neutral country, with an unimposing appearance and gentle manner. Recruited and financed by the U.S., he went to Hungary to save Jews. He bullied, bluffed and bribed powerful Nazis to prevent the deportation of 20,000 to concentration camps and avert the massacre of 70,000 more in Budapest's Jewish ghetto.

Then, on Jan. 17, 1945, days after Soviet troops moved into Budapest, the 32-year-old Wallenberg and his Hungarian driver, Vilmos Langfelder, drove off with a Russian security escort, and vanished forever.

Because he was a rare flicker of humanity in the man-made hell of the Holocaust, the world has celebrated him ever since. Streets are named for him. His face has been on postage stamps.

But researchers still wrestle with two enduring mysteries: Why was Wallenberg arrested, and did he really die in Soviet custody in 1947?

From games to virtual gifts, social networking applications popular but at what risk?

CHICAGO (AP) Sarah Brown is unusually cautious when it comes to social networking. The college sophomore doesn't have a MySpace page and, while she's on Facebook, she does everything she can to keep her page as private as she can.

"I don't want to have to worry about all the different online scandals and problems," says Brown, an education major at St. Joseph College in Connecticut. She'd like to control her personal information and keep it out of the hands of identity thieves or snooping future employers. "It's just common sense."

It sounds like her info is locked down and airtight. But is it?

Turns out, even the privacy-conscious Sarah Browns of the world freely hand over personal information to perfect strangers. They do so every time they download and install what's known as an "application," one of thousands of mini-programs on a growing number of social networking sites that are designed by third-party developers for anything from games and sports teams to trivia quizzes and virtual gifts.

Brown, for instance, has installed applications on her Facebook page for Boston Bruins fans and another that allows her to post "bumper stickers" on her own page and those of her friends. It's a core way to communicate on social networking sites, which allow friends to create pages about themselves and post photos and details about their lives and interests.

'Baby Mama' delivers with $18.3 million ticket sales to win weekend box office race

LOS ANGELES (AP) "Baby Mama," Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's comedy about surrogate motherhood, delivered the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office with $18.3 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The Universal Pictures laugher starring the "Saturday Night Live" duo crawled past Warner Bros.' "Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay," the goofy stoner flick that opened at No. 2 with $14.6 million.

With a third comedy, Universal's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," holding its own at No. 4 with $11 million, audiences looked to be flocking to theaters to get giddy.

"Comedy is definitely king right now," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Media By Numbers LLC. "Audiences are definitely showing an interest in going to the movies and having a good time and having a laugh."

Lionsgate's kung fu movie "The Forbidden Kingdom" starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li fell two notches to No. 3 with $11.2 million.

West's late 3-pointer, James' 34 points lift Cavs to 100-97 win over Wizards for 3-1 lead

WASHINGTON (AP) King James got his crown knocked off, was booed every time he touched the ball, went 0-for-3 in the fourth quarter and passed up a chance to take the winning shot.

And his Cleveland Cavaliers still beat the Washington Wizards.

LeBron James had 34 points and 12 rebounds, and dished the ball to Delonte West for a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left Sunday, helping the Cavaliers get past the Wizards 100-97 to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series.

After Cleveland's 30-point victory in Game 2, and Washington's 36-point margin in Game 3, these teams that know each other so well finally produced a gem of a game. Cleveland led by 15 in the third quarter, but Washington came back, with Gilbert Arenas capping the rally.

He made two free throws with 57 seconds left to get Washington within two points, and after James missed a jumper, Arenas' 8-foot fadeaway with 28 seconds remaining made it 97-all. James dribbled out the clock before finding West, whose career playoff-high 21 points included five of Cleveland's 13 3-pointers.

Arenas, who built a reputation for clutch late-game performances before having two operations on his left knee, then tried to pull Washington even at the buzzer, but badly missed a 3 try over West.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.