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World briefly on Sept. 7

POSTED: September 7, 2012 8:21 a.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — President Barack Obama's fall mission: Remind voters why they chose him in the first place, hope the economy doesn't get worse — and paint Mitt Romney as an unacceptable alternative.

"On every issue, the choice you face won't be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America," the Democrat said as he accepted his party's nomination.

His re-election is far from certain and his task is far from easy, despite the built-in advantages of incumbency.

In a sharp reminder of that, his administration was releasing its August jobs report early Friday, offering the latest snapshot on whether the country's 8.3 percent unemployment rate was improving. No president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with a jobless rate higher than 8 percent.

Over the next 10 weeks, Obama — the country's first black president — will push to make history again. In ads and speeches, he'll try to do it by casting the campaign as a choice: give his economic policies more time to flourish or bet on Romney's agenda that the president says would simply benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

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Modest US job gains may not give Obama much lift as campaign enters final stretch

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers likely added jobs last month, though probably not enough to push down the unemployment rate. A tepid report Friday on hiring in August would provide little momentum to President Barack Obama's campaign a day after his speech to the Democratic convention.

Analysts forecast that the economy generated 135,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained 8.3 percent, according to a survey by FactSet. That's below the 163,000 jobs gained in July, but an improvement from meager hiring in the spring.

In his speech Thursday night, Obama acknowledged incomplete progress in repairing the still-struggling economy and asked voters to remain patient.

But economists were encouraged Thursday after several reports suggested hiring could pick up in the coming months.

Fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, the government said. And companies boosted hiring in August, according to a private survey. A third report showed that service sector companies, such as hotels, retailers, and financial services firms, expanded at a faster rate last month.

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Weekend deadline for divided Obama administration to declare Haqqani network a terrorist group

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration faces a weekend deadline to decide whether the Pakistan-based Haqqani network should be declared a terrorist organization, a complicated political decision as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and pushes for a reconciliation pact to end more than a decade of warfare.

Enraged by a string of high-profile attacks on U.S. and NATO troops, Congress has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to give her verdict by Sunday. U.S. officials say there are disagreements within the administration over what to decide.

The U.S. already has placed sanctions on many Haqqani leaders and is targeting its members militarily but has held back from formally designating the al-Qaida-linked network a terrorist group amid concerns about hampering peace efforts in Afghanistan and U.S. relations with Pakistan.

Clinton, who is winding up a six-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific, was expected to send her report on the Haqqanis to Congress on Friday and announce her decision.

The U.S. long has branded the Haqqanis among the biggest threats to American and allied forces in Afghanistan, and to Afghanistan's long-term stability. A subsidiary of the Taliban, it is based in northern Pakistan but crosses the border to launch attacks, including a rocket-propelled grenade assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO compound in Kabul in September.

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French direct aid a break for Syria opposition, but rebels say it will hardly make a dent

PARIS (AP) — France's decision to send direct aid to Syria's opposition represents a break for the rebels after months of Western hesitation over fears that costly equipment intended for Syria's opposition could get lost or fall into the wrong hands. But even the French action, rebels and activists say, amounts to so little that it's all but useless.

France, Syria's one-time colonial ruler, began sending the aid without intermediaries last week to three regions of Syria where the regime of President Bashar Assad has lost control, in the first such move by a Western power, a diplomat said Wednesday. But it remains limited, primarily repairing bakeries, water systems and schools. And while apparently more than the indirect assistance extended by other Western countries, it's still far from the magnitude needed to make a difference, Syrian opposition activists said.

In the province of Aleppo, which includes Syria's largest city, and in the southern province of Daraa, activists said even the new French aid hadn't helped. When something is broken, it's locals who must fix it or just make do, said Mohammed Saeed, an activist in the Aleppo area.

"Instead of fixing water systems," Saeed said, "they should go and give food to 5,000 refugees stuck on the border with Turkey."

France has pushed to secure "liberated zones" in Syria amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent bloodshed. It has increased contact with armed rebel groups and started direct aid deliveries last Friday to local citizens' councils in five cities outside the government's control, the diplomatic source said, without disclosing the value of the assistance. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the French actions amid Syria's violence.

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Obama and Romney plunge into 60-day sprint to Election Day as incumbent pleads for patience

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Sixty days to the election, President Barack Obama is charging onto the campaign trail pleading for patience from hard-pressed Americans toying with the notion of change, and portraying Republican rival Mitt Romney as unproven.

Obama and Romney were shadowing each other Friday in New Hampshire and Iowa, improbable battleground states in the too-close-to-call race. The campaigning was sure to be dominated by a new report from the Labor Department on the nation's jobless.

Romney and the Republicans argue that three years of unemployment above 8 percent and minimal economic growth are valid reasons to fire Obama after one term. The incumbent contends that, having inherited one of the worst economic crises in history, he needs more time to turn the nation around.

"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have," Obama told Democrats at their convention Thursday night. "You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades."

Obama's concession that his work is incomplete runs smack into a harsh reality: No president since the Great Depression has been re-elected with such grim economic numbers.

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With conviction of Drew Peterson in 3rd wife's death, attention turns to missing 4th wife

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — She loomed over Drew Peterson's murder trial, though her disappearance and the suspicion that the former Illinois police officer killed her was never mentioned in front of the jury.

But after a jury Thursday found Peterson guilty of first-degree murder in the 2004 death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, now takes center stage.

"We are going to aggressively review that case with an eye towards potentially charging it," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow told reporters outside the Joliet courthouse shortly after jurors convicted Drew Peterson of killing Savio.

Peterson, 58, was only charged in Savio's death after Stacy Peterson vanished in 2007. She is presumed dead — though her body has never been found. Her husband is a suspect in her disappearance but has never been charged in the case.

Stacy Peterson's sister, in court to hear the guilty verdict Thursday, sounded optimistic that charges in her sister's case would soon follow.

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Judge's conviction of Mo. bishop for not reporting suspected abuse averts longer jury trial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge's conviction of the first American bishop criminally charged in the clergy sex abuse scandal spared young victims in the case from a longer, emotional jury trial and church leaders from embarrassing evidence, attorneys said.

The bench trial on misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspected child abuse, while still damaging to Bishop Robert Finn, wrapped up in a day Thursday, and the split verdict came in about an hour. Finn, the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic official charged with shielding an abusive priest, was convicted of one count and acquitted on a second.

Prosecutors dropped similar misdemeanor charges against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and the judge is expected to sign off Friday on the dismissed counts.

The charges stemmed from allegations that Finn and the diocese failed to report to authorities that pornographic images of children had been found on the laptop computer of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan.

"The advantages of the process we used was that all of the victims and the victims' families were spared a very trying process," Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Thursday. "These victims' families — and I've spoken with many, many of them about today's case — they were all ecstatic that this could end today, with their child's anonymity protected."

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Review: Kindle Fire HD screen, bolstered Amazon Prime offer, make new models more compelling

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Amazon's new Kindle Fire HD boasts a much more vibrant screen than the original tablet that came out about a year ago. That makes buying movies and TV shows to watch on the device a lot more appealing.

The screen is such a major improvement that I can't see why you would purchase the upgraded non-HD older model, even if it means saving $40. The new offering brings the new Kindle Fire HD into closer competition with Apple's market-leading iPad, which introduced a higher resolution screen earlier this year.

By the numbers, the difference between screens on the new and older model doesn't seem that big. The smaller Kindle Fire HD, with a screen measuring 7 inches diagonally has a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. Last year's 7-inch model, and the upgraded version with better innards unveiled Thursday, has a screen with 1024 x 600 pixels.

That doesn't come close to the latest iPad, which has a resolution of 2048 x 1536. Nonetheless, this upgrade feels like a big leap for Amazon. It means not seeing any of those annoying pixels, a welcome relief that feels even better when you consider the price. At $199, versus $499 for the latest iPad, I can see this being a popular stocking stuffer this Christmas.

Amazon has also made a couple of important design changes in its new HD models. For one, the speakers are now on both sides of the device when held in landscape mode, meaning you can watch movies in Dolby Digital Plus stereo sound without headphones. The old Kindle Fire had stereo speakers off to one side when held this way, and that hasn't changed with the upgraded version that now costs $159.

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One Direction barge in on Rihanna's party at Video Music Awards that lacked blockbuster moment

There may have been no signature moment at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, but there was a signature sound: the screams of teenage girls wild about One Direction.

It stopped just short of a British invasion, but the hunky teens in the boy band won three awards on Thursday night's show and barged in on Rihanna's party.

Rihanna kicked off things with a spicy performance to open Thursday night's show, then ended it by taking the show's top honor, video of the year, for her steamy hit "We Found Love."

"Doesn't my girl Rihanna look sexy tonight?" Katy Perry asked the crowd after the performance.

And the night's lead nominee did, showing up in a pixie cut and a figure-hugging, elegant scoop-backed white dress before changing into a flowing red outfit for her medley of new single "Cockiness (I Love It)" with rapper A$AP Rocky and "We Found Love." She brushed imaginary dust from her shoulder as she walked to the stage to thank fans and her creative team.

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After great drama with del Potro, Djokovic advances to US Open semifinal

NEW YORK (AP) — If the rest of the week goes the way Novak Djokovic hopes, he'll play two more matches at Flushing Meadows and end up holding the U.S. Open trophy for the second straight year.

Hard to imagine he'll play much better, or put on a more entertaining show, than he did Thursday night.

Djokovic made it to his 10th straight Grand Slam semifinal by beating No. 7 Juan Martin del Potro a 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a 3-hour, 6-minute tennis masterpiece that featured Djokovic deftly turning defense into offense, sometimes in the span of a single shot, and del Potro often shaking his head, wondering what the heck he had to do to get a point off this guy.

A match worthy of two former U.S. Open champions, playing in the sport's biggest stadium under the lights.

"I didn't expect anything less," Djokovic said.

 

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