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World briefly on Sept. 13

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POSTED: September 13, 2012 8:02 a.m.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Chanting "death to America," hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital and burned the American flag on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.

The protesters breached the usually tight security around the embassy and reached the compound grounds but did not enter the main building housing the offices. Once inside the compound, they brought down the U.S. flag, burned it and replaced it with a black banner bearing Islam's declaration of faith — "There is no God but Allah."

Before storming the grounds, demonstrators removed the embassy's sign on the outer wall, set tires ablaze and pelted the compound with rocks.

It was similar to an attack on the U.S. Embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Tuesday night. A mob of Libyans also attacked the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, killing American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

In Egypt, protesters were clashing with police near the U.S. Embassy in the capital Cairo for the third day in a row.

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Fallout of deadly attacks in Libya injects foreign policy into presidential race

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are trading tough words over the handling of foreign attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East, injecting foreign policy into a presidential campaign that has focused on a sour economy.

Romney accused the Obama administration of showing weakness in the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three American members of his staff. Romney blasted the initial statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as disgraceful and "akin to apology," adding later, "It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values."

However, the embassy statement came before the protesters had breached the embassy's walls and was not an apology but an affirmation of the American policy of religious tolerance and respect. A statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton minutes before Romney's was released condemned the attack in Libya and said there was no justification for such violent acts.

Obama made a somber statement in the Rose Garden condemning the attacks and announcing plans to deploy additional Marines at diplomatic posts overseas. In an interview with CBS News' "60 Minutes" later in the day, Obama said the episode showed Romney's penchant for having "a tendency to shoot first and aim later."

"It appears that Gov. Romney didn't have his facts right," Obama said. That night, during a rally in Las Vegas, the president said he had a message for the rest of the world: "No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America."

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House to pass 6-month spending bill averting government shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — As its last major act before leaving Washington for the fall campaign, the House is voting to put the government on autopilot for six months.

The temporary spending bill is needed to avert a government shutdown when the current budget year expires Sept. 30. At issue are the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies that are funded annually by Congress through 12 appropriations bills.

Thursday's vote represents a retreat by tea party House Republicans, since the stopgap measure permits spending at a pace that's $19 billion above the stringent budget plan authored by GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Instead, the measure permits spending at the higher budget "caps" permitted under last summer's hard-fought budget and debt deal between President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Republicans. Typically, short-term spending bills freeze agency budgets at existing levels, but Thursday's measure actually would permit an across-the-board 0.6 percent increase in keeping with the budget deal.

Ryan was scheduled Thursday to make his first appearance at the Capitol since being named to the GOP ticket. He'll vote in favor of the measure.

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Asia builds wave of casinos to draw region's new rich, raising debate on industry's merits

MACAU (AP) — In the Philippines, a $4-billion casino will soon rise from reclaimed land on Manila Bay. In South Korea, foreign investors are expected to break ground next year on a clutch of casino resorts offshore. And on the eastern edge of Russia, authorities plan a resort zone aimed at drawing Chinese high-rollers.

The projects are part of a casino building boom rolling across Asia, where governments are trying to develop their tourism markets to capture increasingly affluent Asians with a penchant for gambling. They're building glitzy, upscale Las Vegas-style resorts in a bid to copy the runaway success of Asian gambling hubs Macau, which rapidly became the world's biggest casino market after ending a monopoly, and Singapore, where the city-state's first two casinos raked in an estimated $6 billion a year after their 2010 openings.

The casino boom highlights how the gambling industry is being propelled by the region's rapid economic growth, with millions entering the middle class thanks to rising incomes that allow them to spend more on travel and leisure pursuits. But it has also intensified debate over the social ills and perceived economic benefits of the gambling industry.

"Definitely, the success of Macau has set off a chain reaction in what is happening in the region," said Francis Lui, vice chairman of Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group. "After the success of Macau and Singapore, of course you see more countries now assessing the pros and cons of having gaming as a driving engine for bigger economic growth."

"In the future the region is going to have more casinos."

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As Fed ends meeting, many expect bold action to try to boost economy and reduce unemployment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve ends a two-day meeting Thursday with expectations high for some new action to jolt the lackluster U.S. economy.

Many investors hope the Fed will take the bold step of launching a third bond-buying program. The goal would be to try to lower long-term interest rates and spur borrowing and spending.

Further bond purchases could also boost stock prices. Higher stock prices increase wealth and typically lead individuals and businesses to spend more.

Some economists think the Fed might put off any new bond buying but extend its timetable for any increase in its benchmark short-term rate. The Fed's current target for any rate increase is late 2014 at the earliest.

Fed officials began their discussions Wednesday and will conclude with an announcement Thursday afternoon. The Fed will later release updated projections for economic growth, unemployment and inflation. And Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference.

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As crisis swirls, Europe's minority youth face extra hurdle in job hunt: discrimination

PARIS (AP) — Europe is failing its youth, and none more than its ethnic and religious minorities.

As Europe slides back into recession, young graduates from the Class of 2012 across Europe are returning from their summer holidays and finding that even their hard-won university diplomas are no protection against rising continent-wide unemployment.

Nearly a quarter of young people in the eurozone are jobless — and for those from minority backgrounds, the hurdles are even higher.

Jacinthe Adande, a 28-year-old Frenchwoman of half-Cameroonian origin, has struggled to piece together part-time jobs since she graduated from the prestigious Sorbonne four years ago with a literature degree. She's had to move back home with her mother in a heavily immigrant-populated suburb of Paris, and fights to remain upbeat despite her years of rejection. "I have to be positive," Adande said, "otherwise it's guaranteed depression."

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First of its kind, NYC proposal to crack down on super-sized sodas goes to vote Thursday

NEW YORK (AP) — One of New York City's most ambitious efforts to prod residents to live healthier appears poised to pass as a health panel takes up a plan to cut down sales of big sodas and other sugary soft drinks.

The Board of Health was set to vote Thursday on the proposal, which would bar sales of sugar-heavy drinks in more than 16-ounce cups or bottles in restaurants, movie theaters and some other settings.

The plan was expected to pass what could be a final vote, but it may not be the final word on a proposal that has drawn intense public interest. The Health Department has received more than 38,000 oral and written comments about the cola crackdown, proposed less than four months ago.

Championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the unprecedented regulation would follow other ambitious health moves on his watch. Some have proven to be national pacesetters, such as making chain restaurants post calorie counts; McDonald's announced Wednesday that it would start displaying the information nationwide next week, before a federal requirement that could force all major chains to do so next year. New York City also has barred artificial trans fats from restaurant food and taken aggressive steps to discourage smoking. Starting this month, dozens of city hospitals are asking mothers of newborns to listen to talks about why they should breast-feed instead of using formula.

Bloomberg and other advocates for the soda plan — who include a roster of doctors and such food figures as chef Jamie Oliver — see it as another pioneering step for public health.

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Analysis: Romney draws few GOP echoes in rush to criticize Obama after embassy attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mitt Romney is a Republican standard-bearer largely standing alone in his rush to criticize President Barack Obama after violent attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya.

Romney's quick swing at Obama — as the crisis was unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa — was glaringly at odds with the more statesmanlike responses Wednesday from GOP leaders in Congress to the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others Americans in Benghazi and to the U.S. Embassy breach in Cairo.

The old notion that politics stops at the water's edge still resonates in some quarters in Washington, if not in the presidential campaign.

"U.S. leaders should unite in redoubling our efforts in the Maghreb and Middle East, practicing the kind of stout diplomacy exemplified by Ambassador Stevens," said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., who mourned not only a diplomat but his former aide on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Hours earlier, the Romney campaign had seized on a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemning anti-Muslim religious incitement, casting the call for tolerance as another Obama apology for America even though it came before the protests turned violent. A defiant Romney later upped the charge against the Obama administration.

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Chicago teachers strike the latest fight about judging teachers by their students' performance

CHICAGO (AP) — Educators in Los Angeles just signed a new contract with the city's school district. So, too, did teachers in Boston. Both require performance evaluations based in part on how well students succeed, a system that's making its debut in Cleveland.

So what's the problem in Chicago, where 25,000 teachers in the nation's third-largest district have responded to an impatient mayor's demand that teacher evaluations be tied to student performance by walking off the job for the first time in 25 years?

To start, while Chicago's teachers have drawn the hardest line in recent memory against using student test scores to rate teacher performance, contract agreements in other cities — including those reached this week in Boston and Los Angeles — have hardly come quickly or with ease. They were often signed grudgingly, at the direction of a court or following negotiations that took years. And mayors and school officials have also won over reluctant teachers by promising to first launch pilot projects aimed at proving a concept many believe is inherently unfair.

"It has been a very tough issue across the country," said Rob Weil, a director at the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation's two largest teachers unions. "Teachers in many places believe that they see administrations and state legislatures creating language and policies that's nothing more than a mousetrap."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing hard to implement the new evaluations, and that is one of the main points of contention in a nasty negotiation between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, which president Karen Lewis has called "a fight for the very soul of public education." The strike, which has left approximately 350,000 students out of class as the city and the union also fight over pay and job security, entered its fourth day Thursday.

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New computer, straight out of the box, infected with malicious software, court documents show

WASHINGTON (AP) — A customer in Shenzhen, China, took a brand new laptop out of its box and booted it up for the first time. But as the screen lit up, the computer began taking on a life of its own. The machine, triggered by a virus hidden in its hard drive, began searching across the Internet for another computer.

The laptop, supposedly in pristine, super-fast, direct-from-the-factory condition, had instantly become part of an illegal, global network capable of attacking websites, looting bank accounts and stealing personal data.

For years, online investigators have warned consumers about the dangers of opening or downloading files emailed to them from unknown or suspicious sources. Now, they say malicious software and computer code could be lurking on computers before the bubble wrap even comes off.

The shopper in this case was part of a team of Microsoft researchers in China investigating the sale of counterfeit software. They suddenly had been introduced to a malware called Nitol. The incident was revealed in court documents unsealed Thursday in a federal court in Virginia. The records describe a new front in a legal campaign against cybercrime being waged by the maker of the Windows operating system, which is the biggest target for viruses.

The documents are part of a computer fraud lawsuit filed by Microsoft against a web domain registered to a Chinese businessman named Peng Yong. The company says it is a major hub for illicit Internet activity. The domain is home base for Nitol and more than 500 other types of malware, making it the largest single repository of infected software that Microsoft officials have ever encountered.

 

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