AP Top News at 9:26 p.m. EDT

Associated Press
A Libyan rebel arms ammunitions after retreating back east at the outskirts of the town of al-Agila, Libya Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday and were close to taking a second, making new inroads in beating back a rebel advance toward the capital Tripoli. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
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Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday and moved within striking distance of another major eastern city, nearly reversing the gains rebels made since international airstrikes began. Rebels pleaded for more help, while a U.S. official said government forces are making themselves harder to target by using civilian "battle wagons" with makeshift armaments instead of tanks. Western powers kept up the pressure to force Gadhafi out with new airstrikes in other parts of Libya, hints that they may arm the opposition and intense negotiations behind the scenes to find a country to give haven to Libya's leader of more than 40 years.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA has sent small teams of operatives into Libya and helped rescue a crew member of a U.S. fighter jet that crashed, and the White House said Wednesday it was assessing "all types of assistance" for rebels battling Moammar Gadhafi's troops. Battlefield setbacks are hardening the U.S. view that the poorly equipped opposition probably is incapable of prevailing without decisive Western intervention, a senior U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden reported "good progress" Wednesday in budget talks to prevent a government shutdown next week as congressional negotiators began work on a proposal for around $33 billion in spending cuts over the next six months — considerably less than tea party activists demanded. "There's no reason why, with all that's going on in the world and with the state of the economy, that we can't avoid a government shutdown," Biden told reporters after a meeting in the Capitol with Senate Democratic leaders.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Legislature has passed a bill severely limiting union rights for 350,000 public workers amid protests by several hundred demonstrators. It now goes to Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik), who's expected to sign it by the end of the week.

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all the talk of recovery, Americans are growing increasingly pessimistic about the economy as soaring gas costs strain already-tight budgets. But so far, people aren't taking it out on President Barack Obama, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows. Even so, the survey highlights a central challenge Obama will face in his campaign for re-election. The president will have to convince a lot of voters who are still feeling financial hardship that things are getting better.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's Republican leaders appear to be taking the same confident and bullish approach to implementing their divisive collective bargaining law that they took to passing it, suggesting they may ignore a judge's warning there would be consequences for moving ahead while challenges to the law are pending. Gov. Scott Walker and his allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature believe they are on solid legal ground as they push forth on a course that could deepen an already toxic crisis in the state's government.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare officials said Wednesday that the program will pay the $93,000 cost of prostate cancer drug Provenge, an innovative therapy that typically gives men suffering from an incurable stage of the disease an extra four months to live. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said the biotech drug made by Dendreon Corp. is a "reasonable and necessary" medicine. The decision ensures that millions of men would be able to afford the drug through the government-backed health care coverage. With government reimbursement, analysts estimate Provenge could rack up $1 billion in sales next year. The decision, which will be finalized by June 30, is important for Dendreon because most prostate cancer patients are 65 or older.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The killer whale that drowned a female trainer at Orlando's SeaWorld flawlessly performed Wednesday for the first time since last year's death, wowing thousands amid heightened safety that included a steel bar protecting the orca's trainers. Tilikum participated without incident in the marine park's signature "Believe" show for the first time since dragging 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau from poolside by her pony tail and drowning her during a performance Feb. 24, 2010. Trainers on the platform stood Wednesday behind the stout metal bar shaped as an inverted "U'' that was designed to prevent a whale from coming up out of the pool and biting and dragging a trainer into the water.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — TV's "Judge Judy" is hospitalized in Los Angeles for an undisclosed condition. A spokesman for 68-year-old Judy Sheindlin says the judge is "feeling much better" after being taken from her show taping by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Wednesday. Publicist Gary Rosen says Sheindlin will be released from the hospital on Thursday.

LONDON (AP) — No need to bell this cat: A gray-and-white tabby by the name of Smokey has cat-apulted to fame with purring so loud it has been recorded at a potentially record-setting 73 decibels. The British community college that measured the sound said it peaked at 16 times louder than that of the average cat. By some estimates, that is about as noisy as busy traffic, a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.

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