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World briefly on Sept. 10

POSTED: September 10, 2012 7:54 a.m.

CHICAGO (AP) — City officials vowed to keep hundreds of thousands of students safe when striking teachers hit the picket lines Monday and school district and teachers union leaders resumed negotiations on a contract that appeared close to being resolved over the weekend before the union announced both sides were too far apart to prevent the district's first strike in 25 years.

The walkout in the nation's third-largest school district posed a tricky test for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his city, as parents and school officials begin the task of trying to ensure nearly 400,000 students are kept safe.

School officials said they will open more than 140 schools between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. so children can eat lunch and breakfast in a district where many students receive free meals. The district asked community organizations to provide additional programs for students, and a number of churches, libraries and other groups plan to offer day camps and other activities. But it's not clear how many families will send their children to the added programs.

Police Chief Garry McCarthy said he was deploying police officers to those sites to ensure kids' safety but also to "deal with any protests that teachers may, in fact, have" while protecting their rights. He also was taking officers off desk duties and redeploying them to the streets to deal with potential protests — and thousands of students who could be on the streets.

Emanuel said he will work to end the strike quickly.

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APNewsBreak: Border Patrol halts one-way flights to Mexico from Arizona amid cost concerns

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. government has halted flights home for Mexicans caught entering the country illegally in the deadly summer heat of Arizona's deserts, a money-saving move that ends a seven-year experiment that cost taxpayers nearly $100 million.

More than 125,000 passengers were flown deep into Mexico for free since 2004 in an effort that initially met with skepticism from Mexican government officials and migrants, but was gradually embraced as a way to help people back on their feet and save lives.

The Border Patrol hailed it as a way to discourage people from trying their luck again, and it appears to have kept many away — at least for a short time.

But with Border Patrol arrests at 40-year lows and fresh evidence suggesting more people may be heading south of the border than north, officials struggled to fill the planes and found the costs increasingly difficult to justify. Flights carrying up to 146 people were cut to once from twice daily last year.

And this summer, there haven't been any.

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Romney, Obama test their post-convention stamina and their pipes on the road.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's challenge in the art of connecting with an audience has always been to meet the high expectations. For challenger Mitt Romney it has been to exceed the low ones.

Their party conventions now over, both men are entering the high-speed flat track ahead of them with new vigor. The two have their own distinctive alchemy with their crowds — Obama with his lectern-grabbing riffs and his "love-you-backs" and Romney with his jeans-clad informality in a ramrod frame.

They're not comparable. But each man, in his own way, heads into the final weeks of the campaign newly energized.

A look at their recent days on the trail.

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US watchdog questions Afghan army's $1.1 billion fuel budget, urges clampdown on spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — The watchdog for U.S. spending in Afghanistan says lax accountability in a $1.1 billion program supplying fuel to the Afghan National Army needs "immediate attention" before control of the program is turned over to the Kabul government in less than four months.

There's no proof the fuel is actually being used by Afghan security forces for their missions, meaning it's not known how much some fuel has been lost, stolen or diverted to the insurgency, according to a report released Monday by Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction John F. Sopko.

The report is the latest bad news surrounding a key element of the U.S. exit strategy for Afghanistan. Washington has spent billions of dollars on the international coalition's effort to train and equip Afghan forces it hopes eventually will be able to fight the Taliban on their own. The new report comes on top of growing questions in recent weeks about how recruits are vetted for the Afghan forces — questions prompted by a spike in insider attacks in which Afghan soldiers, police or impersonators have killed 45 international service members this year, mostly Americans.

The report also found:

— An audit of the spending is being hampered because someone shredded financial records covering $475 million in fuel payments over more than four years and officials inexplicably couldn't provide complete records for a fifth year.

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Lawmakers return to Washington with key objective: kick the can down the road

WASHINGTON (AP) — When lawmakers return to Washington on Monday, they face big issues, including taxes, spending cuts and the prospect of a debilitating "fiscal cliff" in January. Yet Congress is expected to do what it often does best: punt problems to the future.

With Election Day less than two months away, their focus seems to be on the bare minimum — preventing a government shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30.

Democrats controlling the Senate and their House GOP rivals also will also try to set up votes intended to score political points or paint the other side with an unflattering brush two months before the election. Their efforts are sure to be overshadowed by the presidential campaign.

Topping the agenda of substantive business is a six-month temporary spending bill to finance the government's day-to-day operations. The annual appropriations process on Capitol Hill collapsed about midway through the campaign season. The stopgap measure would give the next Congress time to fashion a full-year plan. There would be no more sure way of driving Congress' approval ratings even lower than for lawmakers to stumble into a government shutdown right before the Nov. 6 vote.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hope to present the measure this week, with a House vote as early as Thursday. The measure also will ensure a steady flow of money into disaster aid accounts.

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Desperate to stop attacks by patients' relatives and friends, Indian hospital hires bouncers

NEW DELHI (AP) — Pradeep Kumar, a muscular man in shades and tattoos, pulls up on a motorcycle, ready for his job as a bouncer. Not at a nightclub, but at another workplace where violence is common in India: a hospital.

He and his burly colleagues keep the emergency and labor rooms from filling up with patients' often agitated relatives and friends. The bouncers are polite, yet so tough-looking that people think twice about ignoring their orders.

"These guys look like they walked right out of an action movie," said Pawan Desai, who brought his 4-year-old daughter to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital for treatment for a cut on her hand.

Working in an Indian hospital can be dangerous. In April, a week before DDU hired the bouncers, friends of an emergency-room patient punched a doctor in the face and broke his nose before going on a rampage with hockey sticks, swinging at windows, lights, furniture and medical staff.

The medical staff at DDU, a government hospital, had faced nearly one attack a month and had gone on strike 20 times over six years demanding better security. Since the hospital replaced its middle-aged, pot-bellied guards with bar bouncers, bodyguards, and wrestlers sporting muscles and tattoos, "there hasn't been a single incident," said Dr. Nitin Seth, the doctor who was injured in April.

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Where is China's next leader? Mystery absence of Xi sends rumor millions into frenzy

BEIJING (AP) — Where is President-in-waiting Xi Jinping?

Is he nursing a bad back after pulling a muscle in a pick-up soccer game (or maybe in the swimming pool)? Has he been convalescing after narrowly escaping a revenge killing by supporters of ousted Communist Party boss Bo Xilai? Was he in a car accident? Or just really busy getting ready to lead the world's no. 2 economy ahead of the expected leadership transition next month?

Chinese micro-bloggers and overseas websites have come up with all kinds of creative speculation as to why the current vice president has gone unseen for more than a week. During that span, Xi canceled meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Monday, it was the Danish prime minister's turn.

Xi's whereabouts during this sudden absence from the spotlight may never be known. One thing, however, is certain: China may now be a linchpin of the global economy and a force in international diplomacy, but the lives of its leaders remain an utter mystery to its 1.3 billion people, its politics an unfathomable black hole.

So when the presumptive head of that opaque leadership disappears from public view, rumor mills naturally go into frenzy.

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US opposes Jewish group's bid for penalty against Russia for withholding historical documents

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is opposing a Jewish group's bid to have civil fines levied against Russia for failing to obey a court order to return its historic books and documents — a dispute which has halted the loan of Russian art works for exhibit in the United States.

In a recent court filing, the Justice Department argued that judicial sanctions against Russia in this case would be contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests and inconsistent with U.S. law.

The Jewish group, Chabad-Lubavitch, based in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, has already convinced Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court here that it has a valid claim to the tens of thousands of religious books and manuscripts, some up to 500 years old, which record the group's core teachings and traditions.

Lamberth ruled the records are unlawfully possessed by the Russian State Library and the Russian military archive. And in 2010, he ordered the Russian government to turn them over to the U.S. embassy in Moscow or to the group's representative.

Russia, which doesn't recognize the authority of the U.S. court, has refused. It says the collection is part of Russia's national heritage.

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US hands over formal control of Bagram prison to the Afghan government

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. officials handed over formal control of Afghanistan's only large-scale U.S.-run prison to Kabul on Monday, even as disagreements between the two countries over the Taliban and terror suspects held there marred the transfer.

The handover ceremony took place at the prison next to a sprawling U.S. airfield in Bagram, just north of Kabul. President Hamid Karzai has hailed the transfer as a victory for Afghan sovereignty.

Bagram, also known as the Parwan Detention Facility, has been the focus of controversy in the past but never had the notoriety of the prisons at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Earlier this year, the image of the prison was tarnished when hundreds of Qurans and other religious materials were taken from its library and sent to a burn pit at the military base. The event triggered scores of deadly anti-American protests across Afghanistan and led to the deaths of six U.S. soldiers.

"We are telling the Afghan president and the Afghan people that today is a proud day," said Afghan army Gen. Ghulam Farouk, who now heads the prison.

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Peyton Manning masterful in Denver debut, leads Broncos past Steelers 31-19

DENVER (AP) — Now that they're teammates, Peyton Manning can celebrate when Tracy Porter returns an interception for a touchdown.

Three seasons ago Porter denied Manning a second Super Bowl title when he returned an interception 74 yards to seal the New Orleans Saints' win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Their Denver debut Sunday night was a success thanks to Manning's magnificent return from a year's absence and Porter's 43-yard interception return for a score that sealed their 31-19 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Broncos' final drive stalled at the Steelers 8 and Matt Prater's short field goal left Roethlisberger with 3 minutes to erase a 25-19 deficit.

"We wanted to get a touchdown there at the end and it was frustrating to have to settle for a field goal," Manning said. "Hate to give Roethlisberger a chance in the two-minute drill."

 

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