AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

South Korea: North Korea's satellite orbiting normally after launch that drew condemnation

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — A satellite North Korea launched aboard a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korean officials said Thursday, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.

Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch they say is nothing but a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

The launch of a three-stage rocket — similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California — raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.

The U.N. Security Council, which has punished North Korea repeatedly for developing its nuclear program, condemned Wednesday's launch and said it will urgently consider "an appropriate response." The White House called the launch a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security," and even the North's most important ally, China, expressed regret.

In Pyongyang, however, pride over the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Koreans clinked beer mugs and danced in the streets to celebrate.

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'Fiscal cliff' vexing official Washington as both sides show little inclination to compromise

WASHINGTON (AP) — Five weeks after President Barack Obama won re-election and gained more leverage to make GOP conservatives bend on taxes, the new balance of power is proving vexing for both sides.

Republicans still aren't budging on Obama's demands for higher tax rates on upper bracket earners, despite the president's convincing election victory and opinion polls showing support for the idea.

Democrats in turn are now resisting steps, such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare, that they were willing to consider just a year and a half ago, when Obama's chief Republican adversary, House Speaker John Boehner, was in a better tactical position.

With less than three weeks before the government could careen off a "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and sweeping spending cuts, Boehner, R-Ohio, said "serious differences" remain between him and Obama after an exchange of offers and a pair of conversations this week.

Neither side has given much ground, and Boehner's exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The White House has slightly reduced its demands on taxes — from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion — but isn't yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.

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Friends of man accused in Ore. mall shooting express shock, disbelief over rampage

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — To police and witnesses, Jacob Tyler Roberts was a gunman on a mission, shooting numerous rounds from a semiautomatic rifle as he stalked through a Portland mall, ultimately killing two people and seriously injuring another. To Roberts' shocked friends and family, he was just Jake, a happy, easygoing 22-year-old who liked video games and talked about moving to Hawaii.

"Jake was never the violent type," Roberts' ex-girlfriend, Hannah Patricia Sansburn, told ABC News. "His main goal was to make you laugh, smile, make you feel comfortable. You can't reconcile the differences.

"I hate him for what he did, but I can't hate the person I knew because it was nothing like the person who would go into a mall and go on a rampage," she said.

The Clackamas County sheriff's office said Roberts had several fully loaded magazines when he arrived at the mall Tuesday. Roberts parked his 1996 green Volkswagen Jetta in front of the second-floor entrance to Macy's and walked through the store into the mall and began firing randomly in the food court.

He fatally shot Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45, and Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, the sheriff said. Kristina Shevchenko, 15, was wounded and in serious condition Wednesday.

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Syrian state news agency says 16 killed in bombing near Damascus, including women and children

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's state news agency says a bomb blast near the capital, Damascus, has killed 16 people. It says at least half of those killed are women and children.

The SANA news agency says a car packed with explosives blew up on Thursday near a school in a residential part of the southwestern suburb of Qatana.

The report quotes medics from a nearby hospital as saying 16 people were killed, including seven children and "a number" of women. It says nearly two dozen people were wounded.

Anti-regime activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime in March 2011.

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Millions sought from pharmacy linked to meningitis outbreak, but compensation could take years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dennis O'Brien rubs his head as he details ailments triggered by the fungal meningitis he developed after a series of steroid shots in his neck: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, exhaustion and trouble with his speech and attention.

He estimates the disease has cost him and his wife thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses and her lost wages, including time spent on 6-hour round trip weekly visits to the hospital. They've filed a lawsuit seeking $4 million in damages from the Massachusetts pharmacy that supplied the steroid injections, but it could take years for them to get any money back and they may never get enough to cover their expenses. The same is true for dozens of others who have sued the New England Compounding Center.

"I don't have a life anymore. My life is a meningitis life," the 59-year-old former school teacher said, adding that he's grateful he survived.

His is one of at least 50 federal lawsuits in nine states that have been filed against NECC, and more are being filed in state courts every day. More than 500 people have gotten sick after receiving injections prepared by the pharmacy.

The lawsuits allege that NECC negligently produced a defective and dangerous product and seek millions to repay families for the death of spouses, physically painful recoveries, lost wages and mental and emotional suffering. Thirty-seven people have died in the outbreak.

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Congress could outlaw 'stalking apps' used by jealous spouses quietly tracking cellphone users

WASHINGTON (AP) — For around $50, a jealous wife or husband can download software that can continuously track the whereabouts of a spouse better than any private detective. It's frighteningly easy and effective in an age when nearly everyone carries a cellphone that can record every moment of a person's physical movements. But it soon might be illegal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected Thursday to approve legislation that would close a legal loophole that allows so-called cyberstalking apps to operate secretly on a cellphone and transmit the user's location information without a person's knowledge.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would update laws passed years before wireless technology revolutionized communications. Telephone companies currently are barred from disclosing to businesses the locations of people when they make a traditional phone call. But there's no such prohibition when communicating over the Internet. If a mobile device sends an email, links to a website or launches an app, the precise location of the phone can be passed to advertisers, marketers and others without the user's permission.

The ambiguity has created a niche for companies like Retina Software, which makes ePhoneTracker and describes it as "stealth phone spy software."

"Suspect your spouse is cheating?" the company's website says. "Don't break the bank by hiring a private investigator."

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Election over, Obama administration starts approving new federal rules put off during campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — While the "fiscal cliff" of looming tax increases and spending cuts dominates political conversation in Washington, some Republicans and business groups see signs of a "regulatory cliff" that they say could be just as damaging to the economy.

For months, federal agencies and the White House have sidetracked dozens of major regulations that cover everything from power plant pollution to workplace safety to a crackdown on Wall Street.

The rules had been largely put on hold during the presidential campaign as the White House sought to quiet Republican charges that President Barack Obama was an overzealous regulator who is killing U.S. jobs.

But since the election, the Obama administration has quietly reopened the regulations pipeline.

In recent weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules to update water quality guidelines for beaches and other recreational waters and deal with runoff from logging roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, has proposed long-delayed regulations requiring auto makers to include event data recorders — better known as "black boxes" — in all new cars and light trucks beginning in 2014.

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Google releases map app for iPhone nearly 3 months after Apple ousted the navigation system

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google Maps have found their way back to the iPhone.

The world's most popular online mapping system returned late Wednesday with the release of the Google Maps' iPhone app. The release comes nearly three months after Apple Inc. replaced Google Maps as the device's built-in navigation system and inserted its own maps into the latest version of its mobile operating system.

Apple's maps proved to be far inferior to Google's. The product's shoddiness prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to issue a rare public apology and recommend that iPhone owners consider using Google maps through a mobile Web browser or seek other alternatives until his company could fix the problems. Cook also replaced the executive in charge of Apple's mobile operating system after the company's maps became a subject of widespread ridicule.

Among other things, Apple's maps misplaced landmarks, overlooked towns and sometimes got people horribly lost. In a particularly egregious example flagged this week, Australian police derided Apple's maps as "life-threatening" because the system was steering people looking for the city of Mildura into a sweltering, remote desert 44 miles from the desired destination.

Google Inc., in contrast, is hailing its new iPhone app as a major improvement from the one evicted by Apple.

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Like 9/11 benefit concert, McCartney, Springsteen, more turn out for Superstorm Sandy victims

NEW YORK (AP) — Call the "12-12-12" benefit show "The Concert for New York City" 2.0. Eleven years after the benefit concert in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was held at Madison Square Garden, many of the same top musicians came together to raise money for those suffering from Superstorm Sandy, including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, The Who, Eric Clapton and Bon Jovi.

Those singers set a serious tone Wednesday night, wearing mostly black and gray onstage as they encouraged people to call and donate money to those affected by the devastating storm that took place in late October, killing about 140 people and damaging millions of homes and properties in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas.

Alicia Keys, who grew up in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, closed the night with her New York anthem "Empire State of Mind," as doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and others joined the piano-playing singer onstage. They ended the night chanting "U.S.A."

Keys was one of two women who performed at "The Concert for Sandy Relief." Diana Krall backed McCartney, who sang his solo songs, Beatles songs and played the role of Kurt Cobain with Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear during the nearly six-hour show.

Springsteen and the E Street Band kicked off the night, performing songs like "My City of Ruins," ''Born to Run" with Bon Jovi and some of Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl."

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Mo Williams' 3 at buzzer lifts Jazz to 99-96 win over Spurs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mo Williams' 3-pointer at the buzzer lifted the Utah Jazz to a 99-96 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night, snapping the Spurs' five-game winning streak.

Paul Millsap led Utah with 24 points and 12 rebounds, Al Jefferson scored 21 points and Gordon Hayward added 19.

The Jazz trailed by eight with a little more than 4 minutes remaining but fought back. Williams' winning shot was his only 3 of the night and he finished with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field.

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker each scored 22 points to lead the Spurs, who swept the Jazz out of the playoffs in the first round and had won 11 of the last 12 meetings.

Danny Green's 19-footer gave the Spurs a 96-94 lead and Millsap tied it with 40 seconds left.

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